The following is an exerpt of an ongoing blog site by:

“”Military Times staff writer Gina Cavallaro and photographer Rick Kozak are in Iraq, covering U.S. military operations. Gina is filing occasional updates to this Web log.””

This is from Army Times, and I thought it might be intesting for you to check out both the site and this blog, as she gives human interest accounts of life as a soldier in Iraq.  There are more reports from her on the Army Times Site, so please go and read them.  You may want to bookmark the site as they often have stories there we don’t see here.

I saw this morning that Ductape Fatwa had posted his diary ‘A US Reservist tells his story’;sid=2005/4/10/61635/0180
today and this may be a companion piece to go along with his diary, so I urge you to read his also.
So here is Gina’s story:

“”In ‘The Wild West,’ troops learn to live with the violence

Baghdad —March 9

Today we were awakened by the monstrous boom of a garbage truck bomb.

And that’s just what it sounded like, too. B-O-O-M!

If you could actually see the shape of sound, you could almost imagine what it would look like: a colossal, bulging orb. The magnitude of it lingers, then slowly disperses through the city blocks until everything goes silent.

Luckily, we didn’t see it and the three people who were killed and dozens who were injured probably wouldn’t describe it as an orb of sound.

It was the start of another day in Baghdad.

Later that morning the TV screen was filled with the images of the bomb’s deep crater near the Al Sadeer Hotel, across the river from the Green Zone, the secured area where the government is —which I’ve heard described many times as “heavily fortified.” That may be true to a certain extent, since you can’t go anywhere in the zone without the right badge for the right type of access. But, in January, two U.S. Embassy workers who probably had every access badge available were killed when a rocket sailed straight into their offices. And that one didn’t even detonate. If it had, it would have taken a lot more people with it.

At Camp Ramadi, in the area west of Baghdad that the troops call “The Wild West,” rockets and mortars strike like booming lightning bolts. There are sandbags and barriers to protect the buildings in which people live and work, but there’s only so much they can do. Nothing is impervious, and the bombs strike at all hours from all angles.

One day recently, during the lunch hour, we heard a BOOM! A rocket — thankfully, a dud — had blasted through three shower trailers above the protective barriers, sailing right past a soldier showering in the middle trailer. It missed him by inches.

At least one soldier was killed on Camp Ramadi when a live rocket exploded directly in front of him in a sandbagged area.

These attacks are what are known as “indirect fire” attacks, in which projectiles are launched from outside the line of sight. From a distance you can hear the launch and then you wait. Where will it impact? Running is futile; you could easily run right into it since you don’t know where it’s going to land. The soldiers have learned to live with it and most figure they will be struck if it is their time to go. Period.

But contact with the enemy for many U.S. troops has been a lot more personal than that. Soldiers will open up and talk about what they’ve seen, what it feels like to shoot someone, to see a dead guy.

Sometimes I wonder about the violence so many young soldiers and Marines have witnessed over here. I know there are reintegration classes, and counseling is available — mandatory in some cases — for everyone. Still, the macabre images of war don’t go away, especially when they are preserved forever on laptop computers, digital cameras, video cameras and memory sticks.

In one unit stationed in north central Iraq, a casual conversation with a group of soldiers in their barracks room turned, as it usually did, to attacks they had survived, people they had killed and death in general.

Mixed in with photos they showed me of their families, pets and motorcycles, were images of headless bodies, heads with no bodies and decomposing bodies, all of it flashing by on their computer screens or cameras as they searched for, say, their unit photo.

They laughed at a photo of one soldier asleep on his bunk bed and using his body armor as a blanket. They talked about the unmistakable sound of a bullet zipping past and teased each other about the looks on their faces when mortars rained down on their building.
During another part of my trip, I talked with a battle-hardened captain who was able to describe the most violent things with the greatest of ease, but grew soft and sad talking about a dead 8-year-old boy at a checkpoint. A group of tankers told me of watching a family burn to death in their car in Baghdad. A 21-year-old Marine, a mechanic, told me of being unable to help a crying woman who came up to him while he was on guard duty, holding her dead baby in her hands. He got all quiet when he told me how pale the baby was, then puffed up a little saying it would be a cool story to tell back home.””””

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