One Soldier's Life In Iraq

November 19th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: One Soldier's Life In Iraq

Washington Post
November 19, 2006
Pg. M2

By Josh White, Washington Post Staff Writer
RABIYAH, IRAQ--When Casey Atkinson, 19, of Odenton signed up to join the Army in June 2005, he knew he was going to be deployed to Iraq. It would be a good way to "experience the world some," he said, and to get away from home.
Now a private first class assigned to Apache Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment -- part of the 25th Infantry Division based in Hawaii -- Atkinson said Iraq is not at all what he expected. He's based at Combat Outpost Heider, a tiny U.S. post just a few yards from the Syrian border crossing in northwest Iraq. His post, in a relatively peaceful area of the country, has shown him that Iraq isn't always filled with the images of war people back home see on television.
Married in March, Atkinson said he misses going to Hawaii's beaches with his wife and watching street races in Silver Spring with his pals. He talked about life in Iraq during an interview Oct. 30 at the Syrian border.
Does anything get routine or typical here, or is every day different?
Mostly every day is different. That's the thing that kind of keeps you going here, you know. You're always wondering about the next day, what's going to happen the next day.
What's a normal day for you?
For the past three weeks we've been doing tower guard, where we sit in a tower for six hours. We're looking for anything suspicious.
What's the best part of your job?
Going out to the communities and associating with the kids and the people like we did today. That's pretty cool, and I like doing that.
What's the worst part?
There's a lot of worst parts. I would say just the hours of working. It's almost like nonstop.
Is it not what you expected?
No, it's not what I expected at all.
What did you expect?
I expected more fighting, actually. I would kind of like to see it, just to experience it. I've just seen a couple IEDs [improvised explosive devices], but no small-arms fire or anything like that.
Have you ever fired a round or engaged the enemy?
No, sir.
Does that surprise you?
Are you ever able to relax, or are things pretty stressful all the time?
Things are pretty stressful all the time.
What do you do to try to relax?
Sit down and listen to music. If I have my iPod on me, I'll just listen to my iPod.
If you could get the USO to bring one musical group or artist over here to perform for you guys, who would it be?
I'd have to say the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. They are an older group, but everyone still likes them.
From your perspective, what is the biggest thing that is most underreported or misreported or misunderstood about the war, back home?
When people watch the news back home, they think they know everything about the war, and they really don't. It's much calmer than it looks like on the news. There's much more good stuff going on over here than bad stuff. People don't realize that at home. It's not all fighting.
Besides family and friends, what do you miss most about home?
Street racing. Me and my buddies would go down and street race down in Silver Spring. I didn't have a car -- well, I did have a car, but it was a piece of [junk]. My buddy had a Honda Civic. Sometimes we would go and just watch, get together in a big parking lot and just show off cars and their systems.
Do you think the war is worthwhile, that this is a worthwhile effort?
I'm not President Bush or anything, and I don't know as much as him, but it just seems like a big hassle. Now they're starting that civil war thing. There's no way to stop it. The insurgents are going to keep on coming and keep on coming.
What was the last thing you did for fun in the States before you deployed?
I went to the beach with my wife in Hawaii. Just to relax, spend time with her and get away from everyone. It really eases your mind.
If you were home right now, what would you be doing?
Probably be at work still or out with the wife somewhere.
If there was one thing that you would want people to know about life here for you, what would it be?
It's not as bad as people think it is.
How's the food?
The food sucks. You just had the pork chops, right? It's hard. That's the way meat is most of the time, hard and dry. It just don't taste right. At FOB [Forward Operating Base] Sykes in Tall Afar, that food is great compared to this food.
Does that bother you at all?
Nah, not really, as long as I get food in my stomach. What they said when we first came over here was that we were going to be eating MREs [Meals Ready-to-Eat] for a whole year, so when we got here and there was a chow hall, sir, we were pretty happy.
What's your favorite MRE?
I'd have to say the cheese tortellini or manicotti.
Have you ever had Iraqi food?
Yes, I've had the chicken and rice; it was very good. . . . I had what they serve the Iraqi army . . . pea soup with bread and cheese and jam, strawberry jam. And for lunch they'll serve potatoes with rice and some kind of goulash stuff with some bread. It's good, it's really good. They eat healthy. I was surprised, definitely.
What's the first restaurant you're going to go to when you get back home? And what are you going to have?
Probably the Olive Garden. And probably shrimp Alfredo. With a salad, of course.

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