Iraq: through the eyes of a soldier

By Elizabeth Brachelli
April 27, 2006

Barbaros Orion Fox

Being nearly blinded by the sun in 135 degree weather with the sun beating down, Senior Airman Barbaros Orion Fox stepped off a plane into Quatar. It was then the realization of the war hit Fox. He was entering a war zone for the next five months.

The beginning of Fox’s five-month tour that started in September, first landed him in Quatar. Fox had to switch flights with other first-time airmen to reach the Balad air base in Iraq. The air base that Fox was heading to was 40 miles outside of Baghdad and in the middle of the Sunni Triangle, which Fox called “the worst part.”

The Sunni Triangle is a triangular area of Iraq that’s inhabited by mainly Sunni Muslim Arabs, the group that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein belonged to. Voluntarily signing up for a tour to Iraq to work on aircrafts, do convoy duty and act as security, Fox was taking risks with 20,000 other members of the Air Force and Army.

Fox said, “I was nervous, but I tried to keep my composure. I was with first-time airmen. I thought to myself, ‘What the hell am I doing here?'”

After landing in Quatar, Fox then jumped on to a C-31 to head to Balad air base. Fox recalled reaching the air base, stepping off the C-31 and going to a dormitory that housed 130 troops. That night as he tried to sleep, he heard six bombs going off.

Since Fox has been in Iraq and after hitting the three-year mark for the war, there are currently about 133,000 troops in Iraq. There have been a total of 16,653 wounded and 2,332 deaths from the start of the war according to the Department of Defense. It was also reported by the New York Times that about 900 Iraqi civilians died in March, up from about 700 the month before. Also, 29 American troops were killed in March, the second-lowest monthly total since the war began.

Fox had to survive bombs going off everywhere. During his tour, he experienced being in alarm red 69 times. Alarm red means being in imminent danger. When Fox became aware of the alarm, he knew it meant to hide under the bed or find safety immediately.

Fox said, “When there was an alarm red, it meant to take cover.”

As Fox went through everyday, he spent his time on base and he described it as being nothing but dirt, sand and dust. It had regular buildings and outside of the fence were trees. Iraqi children were sometimes seen playing in the river outside of the base.

Although Fox spent most of his time working long days on base, in his spare time, he went to the gym. Fox described everyday being the same. He recalled going to the movies just one time while in Iraq. Troops had other restrictions as well. Having sexual relations with women and drinking alcohol while in Iraq were forbidden. Most of Fox’s free time was spent volunteering at the hospital. On his off days, he spent eight to nine hours a day volunteering in activities such as mopping the floors in the hospital. Most of the time, he would be mopping up blood.

Fox said, “Everything was in the open. It didn’t matter if it was the enemy or not.”

The hardest for Fox was seeing the children who were injured. To reach out to the children, Fox organized a drive to collect beanie babies. He collected so many beanie babies, the hospital had to ask for him to stop bringing the donations in.

Since Fox’s tour was during the holidays, he celebrated as much as could and he explained that little things pulled him through such as care packages and letters.

Fox said, “Little things like that got you through. The military makes the best of it.”

He was most touched by a letter that he received from a father, who was an executive of a company, with two children. The family wrote to Fox thanking them for his efforts and they wanted to show their appreciation. Fox saved all the letters he received and wrote as many people back as he could.

Despite the many risks in Iraq, Fox made it home safely in January. He is now in Aviano, Italy where he is currently stationed and he is continuing his work on aircrafts.

When asked if he would do it again, Fox said, “I was glad to be there. I would do it again. It makes you realize how short life is and it gives you a sense of purpose.”

Posted to the web by Shane Evans

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Elizabeth Brachelli

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