Conditions on the Front Line

Dec. 9, 2004 9:30 a.m.
Husaybah, Iraq

Four of us in a room here, but Marines know how to get along in small spaces. When we came in, the Chief Warrant Officer sat on the floor in a corner and went to sleep sitting up while we got our equipment ready.

"Real eggs today," an officer said to us on our way in to chow.

"I heard they got real eggs today," a corporal said to us on our way out.

I hadn't noticed. I was just a visitor to this world. I had the eggs and a cold biscuit, but passed on the Cheerios because all they had was strawberry, chocolate, or banana flavored milk.

Then I left the table, stood outside, and had a cup of coffee in a paper cup with three non-dairy powdered creamers and two packets of sugar, that were wet from the morning dew and stuck in clumps. I moved so the sun hit me. Another perfect blue morning. I added another sugar, stirred it with a plastic knife and looked out at the camp. Nothing was moving in the mud. Somewhere it was Sunday morning.

Chow gets worse the closer you get to the fighting. The first thing to go is ice cream, then salads, then vegetables. Then you go to A-rats. Then MREs.

In Homer's "Iliad" the best fighters get the choicest cuts of meat. In the military it's the reverse, the conditions are hardest for those who have the hardest fighting.

Sometimes I hear stuff I've never heard before. Sgt. Cress is in charge of keeping me safe so he's always with me. We started to walk towards the live shot position last night, then I broke off from him.

"Piss call?" he said.


It was a piss call, a new phrase for me, and a trip to the "piss tube." They are three-foot white tubes at about a 45 degree angle in to the ground that you urinate into. I encountered my first tube in Fallujah, and like most men, enjoyed having a target. The tubes here are covered with a mesh screen, which creates minor splashing, hence the process is not so satisfying.

Ordinary things in a war zone are more deliberate. To take a dump here you have to put on your flak jacket and helmet, go outstide and walk a few hundred yards to a wooden stall and sit on boards over a hole. It is not something you do casually.

E-mail Steve

[ed. note: Click the video tab up top to view Harrigan's reports from Iraq.]


Like many other parents, I thank you for taking such risk and heading out there. I have a son in the 1/7 and he said that you were there and would try to connect with you. He didn't, as he is guarding a bridge and is really down in the dumps about the food and all. I know from personal experience, the quality of the food improves the spirits.

Anyway…. Thank you so much!

— David




This is the first news report I've seen from Husaybah and Baker Company and I am so happy to see where my son has been living since last September. Thank you for making the trip to Husaybah - you are the first journalist I know of who has done so. My son is Lance Corporal Shane with 1st Platoon. He loves being at the front and I am so proud of him.

Proud Marine Mom


You're an Honorary Marine Already! I have noticed a change in your reportage since you've been embedded. You've become more like them over time and I think that's what makes your BLOG so compelling - It's real. Keep honing your perspective in this way. More Americans need to know what it's like for our guys over there, even if we don't like what we hear.

Safe and Warm in Minnesota thanks to our BMAWIU
(Brave Men and Women in Uniform)

Hi Steve,

Thanks for writing a story about Husaybah. My son Andrew is the Navy Corpsman attached to the 1/7 Baker Co 2nd platoon. If you see him please tell him we miss him and can't wait to see him when he gets home. We appreciate the story on the brave sailors and Marines on the front lines.

Thanks again, Phyllis

Thank you for being over there and telling it like it is. Your blogs make me smile because I miss the testosterone around the house... I'm thinking about one of those piss tubes for the back yard when my husband gets back.. it will be easier than trying to housebreak him again!

Thanks again and my thoughts and prayers are with ALL of you every single minute of the day!

Christina in Killeen, TX

Thank you for going to Husaybah and Baker 1/7. My son, Lcpl Nick is there with the 2nd platoon. If you see him please tell him that his spot is saved for next deer season. Updates and mail service are late from 1/7s AO, so we were glad to see your report this morning. Everyone back here wants the latest and I tell them what I can. Merry Christmas to the REAL AMERICAN HEROES.

Tom "Pops"

My eldest, a Force Recon sergeant, just returned to the States after serving at Al Qaim and elsewhere along the Syrian border. His younger brother, a Lance Cpl at Camp Ramadi, shipped out two days later.

Thank you so much for your reports. You're following my heart...

Marine Mom Twice

My husband is a Marine officer that was deployed to Iraq during the war and thankfully he came home safe and sound. He is very concerned about his fellow Marines and the public perception of their work. The other day he came home and showed me your ramblings. He had a huge smile and said "most of the time he writes about nothing, but some how the article tells exactly what it to be in war, to be a Marine." He never misses a day.

So thanks, Shelby

Steve Harrigan:

I have to chuckle when I read your vignettes from living with the Marines. I was a Platoon Commander in 1/8 in 1964-1965 and I can hear the voices resonating in your writings. You and Rick Leventhal have both caught the edge of what Marines are like. There are few who do. Your efforts are admired and appreciated.

Semper Fi,

Steve Harrigan currently serves as a Miami-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2001 as a Moscow-based correspondent.