Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Base life chaotic, unnerving

Note from the desk of the opinion editors:

It is easy for us to forget the sacrifices American soldiers serving abroad make to represent our country. In a charged partisan climate in which the actions of civilian commanders are scrutinized and used as fodder in mudslinging campaigns, we can overlook the thousands of ordinary Americans making us proud in extraordinary conditions.

This is the second part of a series that will appear every Monday this semester where we will publish the journal of Liz O'Herrin, a UW student who kept record of her experiences in Iraq and has decided to share them with the readers of The Badger Herald. We present this journal in hopes that you can gain insight to a small piece of the Iraq experience for American servicemen and women.


15 MAY

They tell us (after we hit the deck from an incoming mortar shell) that we shouldn't walk alone at night on base. We, as in females. I have many thoughts on this matter. How am I supposed to track down another female to go eat when I want to? To go work out when I want to? To go shower when I need to? Females aren't exactly crawling around this joint. I can't figure out if I should feel insulted or not. I'd be lying if I said I didn't. Screw you, you deploy me here and tell me it's not safe for me to walk alone to get a bite to eat, because I'll probably get raped by one of our own? Much faith you must have in your female counterparts as military members.

The army girls who live next door got issued rape whistles.

At work today, we went out into the Munitions Storage Area to swap out bombs on a trailer. A desert butterfly perched on my leg as I was riding through dusty terrain on the ass end of a truck. It looked like one of those cauliflower butterflies that I never paid attention to in my mother's garden as a kid. Not very pretty, kind of ordinary. But here, so close to me, it was beautiful. Peaceful, even, with its white flitting wings. I looked at it like I used to watch the sparrows in basic training: envious of their ability to come and go as they pleased, unthreatened by their surroundings. "Go far away from here," I urge it silently.

My senses are overwhelmed by the acrid smell of burning trash, the constant whirring of chopper blades, the deafening afterburners of fighter jets, the scorching sun.

Walking around on base is like going through the gauntlet. The Army guys don't pay much attention to us Air Force girls. They stare, but they never say hi. Even if you are the only soul within 500 feet, they won't look up at you as you pass. They stare you down in advance, but their eyes avert when you get close, as if they are indifferent to your presence. It's unnerving. Air Force guys always smile and say hi. You're not that hardcore, army guys. A simple hello won't kill you. I understand they don't really like us because of branch rivalry, etc. but we're on the same side, remember?

Today at work I was the only one on my crew who could tell the physical difference between two different kinds of bombs. This is not supposed to happen. This could be trouble. We are all still adjusting and everything is chaotic.

I have no sense of direction. It has taken me nearly a week to figure out where the chow hall is from my pod.

I've been here a week and I feel as though it's been at least three. I wish I knew more people here. I wish I had deployed with troops from home, people I can relate to.

I wish friends from home would write and email more. But I would never verbalize that desire, lest I sound needy. You don't want people back home to think you're not doing ok, beause that just makes it harder on everyone.

17 MAY

I volunteered at the hospital today. It's a new deployment rotation, and no one seems to care much that we are there to volunteer. The medics are new and don't know how to put us to work. I wandered into an ICU and asked if they need help.

"We got a guy that just crapped himself. Wanna clean it up for us?"

I swallowed hard. I knew he was being a dick.

"Sure, I'll do whatever you need done."

"…I'm just kidding."

I held back the urge to toss obscenities in his direction.

Finally I found an ICU where nurses were glad to see us. Apparently some don't realize the volunteers, for the most part, have just gotten off a 12-14 hour shift of working our asses off in the sun. In a few weeks, their minds will change.

I filled saline solution in syringes for a long time. Next to us, an old Iraqi civilian came out of the O.R. They transferred him to a bed next to me. He laid there naked, wrinkly. I.E.D. blast victim. Mostly intact, but staples and stitches covered his body.

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