This is a post to show what a normal day in my life is like here at Joint Base Balad Iraq. I don’t claim that everyone’s day is just like mine. But this is the only life I’ve got, and so one day I took a lot of pictures, depicting a normal day for this JAG attorney here at JBB.
My day normally starts around 6AM. The sunlight wakes me up, as it gets light around 5:30AM. There’s nothing to do in my containerized housing unit (CHU), and so I throw on my physical training (PT) clothes, and walk out to start my day:
Here is the row of CHU’s where I walked pretty much every day this year, on my way out the door:
I normally go to the bathroom at the Rec Center. Even at 5:30 AM, there are always people in there using the wireless internet here. I just use the bathroom, shave, and then continue on. The first major stop of my day is at the H-6 Cyber Café, where every single day I make a call to my family back in California. Here is a shot of me at a row of phones around 6:30AM:
They also have computers at the Cyber Café, and 2-3 times per week I have a Skype video chat with my kids, so they can see me while they talk with me. I will miss this place, I’ve come to be friends with the Nepalese attendants at the café, and exchanged greetings with Mr. Sarvan, Mr. Rajendra, and Mr. Bijou every day when I arrive and depart.
After keeping in touch with home, I then go over to the gym for a workout. Living in Iraq can be very healthy, as I work out at the gym most every single day. My favorite workout is the elliptical machine, because I can exercise while watching TV:
I always see helicopters fly right over head, or F-16 fighters taking off or landing. On one day in particular, I saw a big fire, perhaps from the burn pit where they dispose of trash. This might account for the constant smoky smell in the air here:
You’ve certainly noticed that the T-walls are everywhere here. Their purpose is to protect us against mortar or rocket blasts.
I usually eat breakfast at DFAC #2. Most days, I sneak a few pieces of bread out of the DFAC and feed them to my friends the birds. Previous posts contain plenty of DFAC pictures before, so no need to repeat that here.
After breakfast, I return to my CHU where I clean up a bit, and if I have time I might even spend a half hour reading a book. Work starts at 9AM, and so I must leave in my ACU uniform before then. I ride my bike the 3/4 mile to work every day, along Pennsylvania Avenue, the main drag of JBB:
By the time I arrive at my office, I’m usually starting to sweat. During summer, it is often 100 degrees and very sunny even at 9AM. It’s starting to cool down a bit, but the morning bike ride tends to be the hottest part of the day for me.
So I arrive at my office about 10 minutes early every day. It’s cool, clean, and air-conditioned, with an indoor bathroom that has running water. It’s not that different from any office in the US, really. Here is me in my office:
Office hours are from 9AM to 6PM every day. I see clients, and help them with their legal problems, mostly divorce. I also help with any other legal or military administrative issue that people might want help with. I’ve probably seen 750 or so divorce-related clients over the past year, and about 1400 total clients this year. I do my best to help every client.
Lunchtime is noon. During winter, I’d often ride my bike to DFAC #1 for lunch. When it became hot, I ceased that, and started eating at the office, just to avoid getting roasted in the intense mid-day sun. On Sunday’s I wear my PT gear, which includes a short-sleeved shirt. The sun is so intense at mid-day, you can almost feel your skin cooking. So anyway, I usually stay in the office and relax a bit during lunch.
After 6PM, when I’m finished with my work for the day, I typically eat dinner at DFAC #3. It’s a fair bike ride away from where I live, but not that far from where I work. You’ve seen photos of this in previous posts also. But I will let you read a tribute I wrote to DFAC #3 recently. I posted this on the base website, to the amusement of many at JBB:
After dinner, I can choose from the various activities in the evening. Someone commented that JBB is like a cruise ship, with a buffet meal at all meal times, and a host of fun activities hosted by the staff. At one point, almost every night of my week was filled with some meeting or activity, but now I’ve got about half my nights free. Usually, I head over to the USO or the East Side Rec Center to relax a bit. I might watch a movie at the theater. Or just go home and read the Stars & Stripes Newspaper. Normally I am at the USO for at least a half hour every single day. I consider it my living room, so to speak. Like the Cheers bar, all the staff members at the USO know my name. Here is a shot of a normal night at the USO lounge:
After the evening’s diversions, I head home to my CHU. Riding a bike at night is a bit dangerous, but I’ve not had any accidents all year long. You must wear a bike helmet while riding. At night, a reflective belt is required whether or not you are riding a bike (hence the flashes in my night-time photos of soldiers). They do not have street lights in most places on JBB, so the streets can be very dark. Even though my bike has a front and rear light, it’s hard to see much of the road at times. I head home, pay a visit to the Cadillac Ranch, and normally go to bed around 10PM.
And that’s a normal day in the life for me in Iraq. I feel lucky to live on a nice base, and have a steady routine. Many soldiers live in much worse conditions, and have to change their schedule daily. Even worse, many soldiers must work outside in the intense heat of the day, or go on missions along the dusty roads of Iraq with people occasionally road-side bombing them. They are doing the hard work here.
My legal job, and the lifestyle I’ve been dealt, is really not that bad, so you’ll never hear me complaining about living conditions on JBB. Some call JBB “Pogadishu,” a riff on the phrase “pog” which somehow stands for folks who don’t do any dangerous combat-related duty, and that is a fair description of 98% of the people who live on JBB.
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