Thursday, December 13, 2007

COB Speicher: First Impressions

December 13, 2007

I am here in Tikrit at COB (Contingency Operating Base) Speicher, and my worst fears have been confirmed. There are even fancier bases than FOB (Forward Operating Base) Warrior in Kirkuk, where I spent 4 ½ months last year, and this is one of them. Not that I wanted to rough it, but I wanted to believe I could rough it. Oh, and yes, there is still a war going on; peace has not broken out everywhere. Things are actually heating up around here, courtesy of the surge.
But it is hard to believe anything is happening anywhere when I am nestled in my trailer, which is bigger than my bedroom back at home in New York, and it’s wired for cable. During the day, the sun still burns and the air conditioner cancels out the sounds of any blasts or explosions that might be occurring in the city. At night it quickly turns chilly, and the air conditioner becomes a heater.
There are two full service dining facilities, a thirty minute bus ride apart from each other, and each has enough choices to make just about anyone happy. Even I, who complain about food as if it’s my job, have a hard time complaining about the food here. They do overcook the vegetables, though. And my personal pizza could have been a little hotter.
I have yet to leave the base, but I think that will change soon. I hope so. It is a strange feeling to be so comfortable in my trailer and so completely ignorant of conditions outside the base. It feels wrong. And I know some of the guys from the 101st Airborne Division whom I met in Kirkuk last year are here this year. They are spread out from Bayji down to Samarra, with Tikrit falling in the middle, and it sounds as though they are having a tougher time this deployment, facing greater risks, many doing without the luxuries we are afforded here at Speicher.
Big bases like Warrior and Speicher seem proof that we are going to be here a long time. With all of their amenities, I think we are meant to believe this isn’t so bad. There is a Pizza Hut, a Taco Bell and a Subway near the PX. Soldiers can have television and Internet service in their rooms if they want to pay for it. In some ways this is a war unlike any other, a war that may be remembered (or forgotten) by the quality of its distractions.
But in spite of the upgrades to the living conditions that make it seem unlikely anyone would be fighting anywhere, there are reminders everywhere of what we are here for. Soldiers carry their weapons with them wherever they go, keeping them near while they order a custom stir-fry at the dining hall or check their e-mail at the MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) facility. They will rarely be called upon to fire these weapons. It is not that kind of war. In addition to the ever present guns, are the sand-colored humvees that lurk in the parking lots and stir up clouds of dust when they rumble by, though for all of their bulk, they are often no match for the IEDs that have wounded or killed so many of our soldiers.
It is appallingly easy to start a war, but the amount of time, energy, and resources required to maintain a convincing presence in a war zone is staggering. It costs money to destroy a country; it costs money to rebuild it. And we are paying for both. Periods of calm create hope and optimism, but I see evidence of construction and improvements being made here at Speicher, and to me the sound of a bulldozer is not always the sound of progress, but simply the sound of digging in deeper.


twenty2ashes said...

My husband is there also, but he is a contractor. He works on the flight line. I so hope you are all safe, I'm always so scared. You will be in my prayers right along with him. I ran upon your blog when googling Cob Speicher out of curiosity of where my love is, and wondering about the conditions he is in and i found it very interesting. If nothing else your description of the base puts me at east at least a little that he is somewhat comfortable. Thank you for that. God bless.

twenty2ashes said...


If its ok with you, ill follow your blog so that i can keep up with things going on there. He doesnt like to tell me the truth all the time because he doesnt want me worrying. I'm home in Texas with our 4 yr old daughter though, and I go crazy wondering.