View Full Version : Soldiers become merchants for Marines

03-08-04, 08:01 AM
Mideast Notebook: Soldiers become merchants for Marines

By Steve Liewer and Scott Schonauer
European edition, Saturday, March 6, 2004

One soldier’s trash is another Marine’s treasure.

Soldiers ending their yearlong tour in Iraq are getting rid of a lot of stuff, and Marines are buying it up at bases such as Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq.

The 3rd Marine Air Wing is replacing the Army’s 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment this month, and soldiers are unloading a lot of things they do not plan to take home.

Troops are getting rid of GPS handhelds, satellite phones, camping gear, TVs, DVDs and fridges at discount prices. On weekends, soldiers can sell some of their items at a flea market for only soldiers and Marines.

For example, satellite phones, which retail around $1,000, have been advertised for $400 by soldiers.

Phone lines long

Word has reached Camp New York of an interview that aired on American Forces Network in Germany disputing the difficulties of long lines at the holding camp in Kuwait, which Stars and Stripes had reported Feb. 18.

The denial about lines has caused soldiers’ heads to shake and eyes to roll. They are the ones who have stood in those lines, wearing full body armor in the hot sun.

It’s true that most lines have shortened considerably in recent days. That is partly because the mayor’s cell on the camp has extended the chow hall hours, added short-order kitchens, and brought in two more fast-food trailers to supplement the single Subway shop. And it is partly because of field training, which took most of the 1st Infantry Division soldiers out of the camp for up to three days at a time.

For the past week, soldiers still in camp usually could expect waits of less than 20 minutes at the chow hall. At some times, those who go early or late can walk right up and get their food. At the fast-food trailers, it is possible now to get a Subway turkey breast sandwich or a Burger King Whopper in less than 30 minutes.

The place where lines remain maddeningly long at Camp New York is the AT&T phone tent. Soldiers report waiting between two and three hours, even in the middle of the night, to make a call from one of the 18 working telephones in a camp with more than 9,000 soldiers. It is their only contact with home: The camp pulled the plug on its Internet café before the current influx of troops, so e-mail isn’t available. They can’t receive mail yet because 1st ID units won’t be getting an address until they move north.

Since rules require “battle buddies,” a soldier calling his sweetheart or his mother must take a tentmate with him to stand in line. They come back to the tent keenly disappointed if Mom or Sweetie isn’t there when they call.

Bikes in demand

Question: What has two wheels, a rifle and wears desert camouflage?

Answer: A U.S. Marine at Al-Asad Air Base.

Marines arriving at the base are buying up bikes by the dozen. Marines arrived less than two weeks ago, but many have learned quickly that a bike is a valuable thing on this sprawling base 180 kilometers from Baghdad.

Cpl. Evan Woods, 24, of Tucson, Ariz., who is with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261, said the bike helps him get from his living space to his work space nearly four miles away. He doesn’t like to depend on the base bus.

“I got the bike just because it’s going to be a lot easier for me and guys at my shop to get to and from the flight line,” he said. “The bus system they have going on here — I think it’s a good thing — but still we’ve got so much going on and if there is some sort of an emergency with our aircraft or anything we can’t be sitting around for a bus to take us over there.”

Last Saturday, an Iraqi vendor on base sold more than 40 new bikes in minutes for $50 each. It wasn’t long before the dusty base became infested with Marines biking to dinner, to the gym or to the flight line.

Gunnery Sgt. Keith Williams, 38, of Fort Valley, Ga., a maintenance controller with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261, said buying a bike is worth the money. He planned to use his bike to get to work and to places like the post office and laundry facility.

The spanking new bikes come with one caveat: They aren’t built for Marines. Many of the wheels have bent under the load of Marines weighted down by body armor and rifles.

— Reporters Steve Liewer in Kuwait and Scott Schonauer in Iraq contributed to this report.