Soldier's Diary: A Day in the Iraq Life of Captain Dan

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.

23 August

It's 2130. Here is a recap of the day with some lighthearted commentary on the side. Some days are like this, others are a lot more intense (see the IP recruiting mission entry), others not so much.

0445: Wake up. Trying not to wake my roommate, I head out of the room and get to the shower trailer for a shower and shave. For my other normal morning routine, I use a Port-a-John, as the bathroom trailer burned down about three months ago. The shower and bathroom trailers are luxuries we have near our living quarters. In the company areas, and for those out on patrol, other means are used, including plastic bottles when necessary. Sometimes you can spot them on the routes throughout sector.

It's easy to criticize for the bottles, but when you are riding through Baghdad, you don't exactly have the opportunity to pull over to a gas station or a rest stop to take care of business.

0530: After taking care of personal hygiene. I head over to the Green Bean for a triple mocha with an extra shot of espresso. It's going to be a long day and caffeine will play a large role. Spending $4.50 on a drink and uttering the words "extra shot," it's almost disappointing that you don't get a buzz from the drink; but at 6,000 calories a sip, and being labeled a 'fufu coffee drinker,' it can't be beat.

0600: I arrive at my company's motor pool. All of our containers are opened up with equipment laid out for customs inspections. We have packed up most of our gear, along with anything that is not necessary for our remaining time to be shipped home. The customs inspections are to ensure no contraband is taken back, as well as to ensure equipment is clean and free of dirt and debris. For my company, most of today and tomorrow will be focused on the inspections.

1030: Inspections for today are complete. I head back to my company HQ and upon arriving, the first thing I do is guzzle a bottle of water. It's a 15-minute walk, or a little over a mile, from the company HQ to the motor pool. Today will be another 115-degree day; but it's a dry 115.

Walking up to my company, I run into another commander within the brigade. He had his inspections three days ago, and like me, is concentrating on preparing his soldiers for departure. Simultaneously he has his missions to run. Getting home is a priority, packing up is a priority; the day's mission is a priority, equipment maintenance and readiness is a priority. I feel his pain.

1145: I head to the chow hall for lunch with my XO [executive officer]. Not many choices today; like most lunches in the chow hall, I hit up the sandwich bar. Knud finishes off his lunch with a bowl of ice cream, something he does at most meals. He is a runner and a member of the Fort Campbell 10-mile team; he eats a lot of junk but very quickly runs it off.

1300: Following lunch, I talk with my MP platoon leader. He has a squad out on mission, and just had another return; the rest of his soldiers are either pulling maintenance or taking care of administrative tasks. They normally have at least a squad out each day traveling the routes of southern Baghdad. To date, they have performed over 600 missions, all of them in a cool professional manner, never once leaving out a small detail.

Traveling on the roads in South Baghdad is not an easy nor safe task. They have been hit a couple of times and nearly every member of the platoon has earned the Combat Action Badge for having faced enemy fire. We have some infantrymen attached to the platoon; they have all earned their Combat Infantryman Badge.

1730: Dinnertime. Tonight I grab a bite to eat with my first sergeant. It's a short meal, the conversation is minimal — mostly work-related talk about what we have coming up.

1900-2030: I have found on days in the FOB [forward operating base], this has been the best time to hit the gym. We have two on our FOB, treadmills, elliptical machines, free weights and other equipment. There are no gym fees, and having seen the infrastructure of this country first hand, I assume our gyms are some of the best in Iraq. We're at war, but you would be surprised at how soldiers find time to get their workouts in. Some do it real early in the morning, others in the afternoon following a patrol, others before they call it a night.

Tonight I skip the gym time to work with my HQ section to prepare the remainder of my containers for tomorrow's final inspections.

2130: Back at the office, I stopped by the motor pool, as those who had their inspections later in the day were finishing up. At the office, I run into the battalion CSM [command sergeant major] who was in Mahamadiyah for most of the day checking on our soldiers who are down there. After making some small talk I head over to my desk and go over some evaluations and awards that require my review and signature.

One of my squads performed the security for the mission to Mahamadiyah. The day started early for them as well, up at the crack of dawn prepping HMMWVs, inspecting equipment, cleaning weapons and going over their actions on contact. As I write this, they are still up cleaning their equipment from the day's activities.

2200: A check of e-mail, followed by sending this column out. It's the last thing I will do today prior to heading to the trailer and getting ready for tomorrow, which will be a near replica of today.

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