Winning What Counts

 

Written by 1LT Neil MIller

Published May 10, 2004

   

Some soldiers from the 116th Enjoy some engaging conversation over dinner at the Camp Buckmaster dining facility.
U.S. Army Photo by 1LT Neil Miller

Some soldiers from the 116th Enjoy some engaging conversation over dinner at the Camp Buckmaster dining facility.

At the end of another hot dusty day building roads in the desert of Iraq, you will find members of the 116th Engineer Company gathered around a cooked meal at the Camp Buckmaster dining facility. Joined by workers from different Department of Defense civilian contractors, the chow hall is a favorite gathering place to relax and share stories in this ad hoc miner’s camp.

       After chow, soldiers here basically have two choices: get cleaned up, shoot the breeze and go to bed, or play soccer, get cleaned up, and go to bed. If you walk through the tents, you can usually find a movie playing somewhere as well. Some soldiers have recently discovered the entertainment value of watching camel spider matches. It’s not out of place to hear a crowd roar, gathered in a tent, while these arachnid gladiators fight it out.

        The days have started to push the mercury up higher and higher. One hundred and twenty degrees Fahrenheit plus seems to be a daily occurrence by mid afternoon. The nights get downright chilly. Soldiers sleep under blankets and sleeping bags and occasionally switch the air conditioning units in the tents over to heat to take the chill off.

        Down at the makeshift athletic field you will find a ball and a dozen or so Iraqi security workers engaged in a very competitive but friendly game of soccer. From time to time they are joined by soldiers who are done with their day’s work and dinner. After an hour or so of chasing the ball back and forth, the sun dips below the horizon and Venus appears in the Western sky. A short time later the royal blue Iraqi sky darkens a bit and the stars begin to appear outlining the familiar legendary symbols of Orion and the Big Dipper.

 As the soccer game winds down and the Iraqi security workers ready themselves for the change of the guard, a soldier will reveal a camera and all of a sudden there is a new main attraction in town. After several minutes of smiles, handshakes, poses and pictures, it’s ‘ma salama’ and back to work for the security team and to bed for the soldiers. Another good day is done rebuilding Iraq and winning what counts; the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, one at a time.

Soldiers from the 116th Engineer Company pose for a team photo with their Iraqi security force friends.
U.S. Army Photo by 1LT Neil Miller

Soldiers from the 116th Engineer Company pose for a team photo with their Iraqi security force friends.

Hakeem Abid moves skyward to meet the soccer ball
U.S. Army Photo by 1LT Neil Miller

Hakeem Abid moves skyward to meet the soccer ball

with his head.