Military 101: What It's Like In Iraq

By Andy RyanFOX News Channel Employee/Army Reservist

In the last year, nearly every American adult has visited a doctor, obtained a prescription, or dealt with health care insurance.

In the last year, nearly every American adult has made an adjustment to their 401k (or other retirement account), obtained a loan, or opened a new bank account.

These every-day experiences help us better understand events that affect our lives. Because of their personal episodes, an individual is able to say "yeah, I understand what they are talking about" when business, legal or medical matters are being discussed.

Now apply this same standard to military matters. In their lifetime, how many American adults have spent a night on an aircraft carrier, shot a 50 cal or flew in a C-130? Of the U.S. population over 18 , approximately 11.6% are veterans or currently serving in the U.S. military and can probably answer some of these questions in the affirmative.

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So while nearly every American can relate to business, legal or medical matters, the same cannot be said for military matters. This is not to say non-veterans cannot understand military matters, but it does drive home the point concerning how many American are potentially clueless on military matters. When the U.S. is involved in two wars, every American should have a basic working knowledge of the military so they can make an informed decision. Would you blindly make a decision concerning business, legal or medical matters?

How about Iraq? What do YOU know about the country of Iraq? Outside of news stories, do you think most Americans know what it is like there? We know the percentage of Americans who have worked in Iraq during the war, either as a civilian or service member, is merely a microcosm of the U.S. Consequently, the amount of Americans who know first-hand what is it is like in Iraq is scant.

Since my return, I have been inundated with questions about Iraq from family, friends and colleagues. The questions range from "what's it like in Iraq"to "why do so many service members want to return to duty in Afghanistan or Iraq"to "what's it like to be away from family friends for a year."

By far the most popular question, and most difficult to answer, has been "what's it like in Iraq?"The very broad "what's it like in Iraq"usually leads to 163 subsequent questions. After a horsed voice, I have somehow quenched the curiosity of most people when trying to answer this initial question. So, this is what it is like in Iraq ...

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Imagine your town, Anywhere City, U.S.A., suffered a catastrophe unlike anything you have seen in your lifetime. You don't have regular supplies of food or water; no means of consistent employment; lack of a stable government; rival gangs or similar entities competing for control of areas; little or no medical supplies; and the possibility of disease is imminent. Oh, I forgot to add in that a military force (foreign or non-foreign) has come in to secure your area. Sound awful? It is!

Now imagine living in this environment day-in, day-out; unless you keep your wits about you, it can be depressing and stressful. The mental anguish incurred by average Iraqis can be demoralizing. Yet, just like any other citizens of the world, Iraqis don't give up on hope; they live and pray for another day.

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The mental and physical challenges for troops are equally demanding. Most troops leave the semi-secure environment of a fortified base to work in these conditions every day. As civilians, our work day can sometimes be counted in hours; for a soldier needing to be alert at all times, it is counted in minutes or seconds. Imagine the stress an average American would endure if they worked in those conditions; yet, a joke and an indescribable camaraderie helps get most service members through one more day.

Yet with all this despair, ironically Iraq is a land of opportunity. Just as you would hold out hope for resurrecting Anywhere City, U.S.A.after the catastrophe of all ages, I hold out hope for Iraq. The infrastructure has a sound foundation; the people have a rich culture and tradition; and the country has economic potential. So although I saw despair daily, the glimmer of hope shines brighter each subsequent day.

This is what it is like in Iraq.