By Jennifer Farish
FORWARD OPERATIONS BASE DUKE, Iraq – For soldiers stationed here, life is safe but at many times boring.
Most of the troops are responsible for base security, meaning they spend hours staring into the vast desert for any signs of trouble.
For these men and women, who are trained and prepared for combat, the days of inactivity bring a feeling of relief at being primarily out of harm's way. At the same time, a feeling of stir-crazy seems to permeate the tents where soldiers spend hours playing video games and watching movies.
Although most of the soldiers feel happy that their families do not have to worry so much, many of them feel their talent and training is being wasted.
One soldier told me it is frustrating to be so far from home and unable to really fight the enemy.
Another said the peace that surrounds this area just feels like the calm before the storm – moments that could lull the soldiers into a false sense of security.
For the families at home, it must be comforting to know that their loved ones are seeing little action and are charged primarily with maintaining peace in a generally peaceful region.
But the soldiers here are clear in the fact that they want to be side by side with their “brothers” who are facing dangerous missions and clearing out insurgents in other parts of Iraq.
We don't feel like we are doing anything, one of them said.
In my limited capacity as a civilian, I can understand that feeling. At the same time, I would offer a word of encouragement to these troops and their families.
You are doing something very important. You are showing the rest of this country how good life can be when terrorism is not tolerated and people are allowed to live peacefully and free.
More than once, I have heard the Najaf area labeled as a model of what U.S. forces hope the rest of Iraq can become. It is a success story in many people's eyes, and by keeping the peace here, these soldiers are maintaining a very important foothold that hopefully will be used in the coming months to spread the same peace throughout this country.
Contact Jennifer Farish in Iraq at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.