BAGHDAD – Editor's note: U.S. Army Capt. Dan Sukman is serving a one-year deployment to Iraq. For previous entries and his bio, see the Soldier's Diary archives.
Nothing too special to report today. It's Tuesday, and for some reason I have always hated Tuesdays. Maybe it’s because Mondays are always filled with everyone’s weekend stories and by Tuesday it’s just another day of work. Either way, this is a good opportunity to talk about our living accommodations.
Routine days normally start at about 0600 to 0630 hours waking up in the tent. The tents we sleep in are not camping tents per se; rather, they are large 20-man tents on a concrete pad with air conditioning/heaters in each corner. There are only eight of us in my tent, all junior officers (captains and lieutenants), so there is plenty of room.
The tent is also covered by a tarp for the rainy season, and definitely comes in handy when the rains come. We have lived in the tents for about six months but are scheduled to move into two-person trailers within the next week or so.
Life in the tent is not too bad. Thankfully, none of us snore. The sound of aircraft outside can get loud, but most nights we are all too tired to notice. We do not spend much time in there other than to sleep.
One of the officers in my tent is Capt. Robert Shaffer. Among the staff he is probably my best friend. Rob is our brigade engineer and has tons of responsibility, from construction projects that improve both soldiers' and Iraqis' standards of living to planning routes of travel for units in the brigade. He has done a tremendous job over the past six months, and has probably played a part in saving numerous lives with his attention to detail in the planning process.
Rob graduated with an engineering degree, and followed college with an assignment to the engineer branch of the U.S. Army. He was commissioned in 1999 and so has been in the Army about a year longer than me. His first assignment was to Germany where he, like so many of the soldiers assigned there, deployed to Kosovo. He was in the theater of operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom I for four months and once again finds himself here for this rotation.
Rob has a lovely wife and a daughter and son. His son was born about a month ago, while he was here in Iraq performing his job like he does every day. It was probably the happiest I have ever seen him. He walked office to office handing out “It’s a Boy” cigars, and for those who don’t enjoy a cigar, he had candy cigars to distribute. If you don’t think a year is a long time, talk to someone who missed the birth of his firstborn son and his daughter's first steps. If you still don’t believe it, I've got some shares of Enron to sell you.
Rob and I are lucky because we both have an office to work in where we have pictures of our family posted on the walls. Soldiers who don't have offices and spend most of their time on patrol carry family pictures in their patrol caps, helmets, wallet or on the dashboard of their HMMWV (high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle), just like generations of soldiers before them. In war, some things never change.
Nothing significant to report over the past couple days, as we say in our briefings, but I have a couple of minutes this morning. We have TVs in our dining facility, and last night we saw on the news the large operation going with the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. They are a spot-on unit with a tremendous reputation, and I am sure they will be successful in this mission.
We got some good things happening this weekend. Our new TMC (troop medical clinic) will be opening this afternoon. The TMC is like a small emergency room, and provides the latest in medical care to soldiers living on FOB Striker. It's a good-news story and represents the culmination of a lot of hard work.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day.