A year in a war zone requires a sense of humor.
Examples from 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, based in northwest Baghdad since last November:
--the army is famous/notorious for the names it gives to what it does. This outfit has deployed on Operations Sniper, Flying Dutchman, Kantana, Tarheels and many others. But somebody politically correct up the food chain thought they'd gone too far when they named one op "Napalm Rain." Change it--might offend our Iraqi allies. The new name: "Operation Campfire Sing-Along."
--soldiers hate phony gung-ho guys. Somebody created a fictitious new "Ribbon of the Day," called the Motto Language Medal. Here's how you win it: "Soldiers who never say your rank and name, but always call you Warrior, Killer, High Speed, Hard-Charger or Motivator. They always end sentences with 'Roger!' or 'Hooah!' and are always Charlie Mikeing [CM--continue to march]."
--one American liaison officer with the Iraqi army and national police in the sector unleashed a steady stream of sardonic one-liners: "The Iraqi economy is run by one giant DMV." About how sloppy the upkeep was around the local Iraqi army base: "It's like the 'Little Rascals' set up an army." On the blue and white Humvees that the national police use: "Chevy trucks with redneck armor." On how Iraqis feel about 130,000 American troops in their midst: "If New England was occupied by Canadians, I'd still want 'em to leave." About the makeup of the present-day Iraqi army--composed of throwbacks regulars from the Saddam Hussein era, those who joined after the 2003 invasion and recent recruits: "It's a Frankenstein army." On the Shilka Russian-made self-propelled guns atop police Humvees: "They can be rusty and never cleaned and they still work--the national police stop at company-level maintenance."
--An American officer leading a patrol became disgusted with the static and breakups on radio communications between Humvees and their base: "The comm sounds like it has the ass today--maybe a bag of ass."
--When they see a pretty Iraqi woman not wearing an abaya or hijab--the long cloaks and veils worn by many Iraqi females--GIs call it "going topless."
And this story, which has made the rounds of some public affairs specialists, is probably apocryphal and certainly didn't happen with the 1st ID battalion. A U.S. patrol, searching a house, found $300 in cash on on a man in the house. A lieutenant, following protocol then in effect, put a hood over his head and questioned him. He then called up the line to report what they'd found--$300 and no weapons. His superior told him to take the guy's picture and let him go. "Sgt. Frye," the officer said. "Take some pics of this guy and let him go." A few minutes later Frye returned with a digital camera and gave it to the lieutenant. As he scrolled through the images, the lieutenant frowned. "Sgt. Frye, what did you do?" "I took his picture and let him go, like you said, sir." Apparently, the lieutenant would have preferred that Frye remove the hood before taking the photos. The patrol's HQ later displayed a frontier-style poster of the hooded guy with "WANTED" across the top.