Wasting Away in Mortar-Rita Ville

My COB (rhymes with sob) was pretty much out in the middle of nowhere, which was exactly where you wanted to be if you ever found yourself in a warzone. We shared our COB with armies from other countries, which made life there an interesting sociological study. Take a large group of people from different socioeconomic, cultural, political, and national backgrounds. Confine them to a relatively small base thereby forcing them to interact. Add the stressors of separation from family and loved ones. Finally, mix in the ever-present risk of a sudden and brutal death. This basic plot is a TV producer’s dream. Now, convoy in a bunch of alcohol and hot tubs while substituting all of us military types with attractive individuals lacking social graces and morals, and voila! You have MTV’s new reality blockbuster: Pimp My COB.

I would have watched it.

The dining facility was the melting pot of our COB. Every day, I ate side by side with Romanians, Poles, Brits, Ugandans, and Australians. The Ugandans provided security into, within, and out of our COB. It was disconcerting to know that outsourcing was not limited to customer service calls. But considering where I was, I preferred the Ugandans to protect me. The Ugandans had a reputation of shooting first and asking no questions.

Not surprisingly, the Aussies seemed to have had the most fun there. Although they denied it, I think they had weekly keggers in their camp. Their denial was not helped by my discovery of a 40-oz can of Fosters™ outside their camp. It was hard to fathom that anyone could have had fun in Iraq unless they were plastered. Up until a few days after my arrival, I thought “Bloody Wanka” was an official rank in their Army. The Aussies also had the most interesting uniforms. They looked like desert camouflage polka dots. The Aussies would have been practically invisible on a Twister® mat. The Romanians’ and Brits’ uniforms resembled a pattern you might have considered for shower curtains. I think they would have looked really nice next to the urine color grid.

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