The Cadillac Ranch

The aim of this blog is to show what life is like here in Joint Base Balad, Iraq. I’m grateful for all the folks who have written me and told me that they found this blog useful in that regard. Last week, a mother of an airman here wrote me and mentioned that she found this blog useful so that she could relate to life for her son who is also serving here at JBB.

 To that end, this is a subject that everyone on JBB must deal with in some way or another every single day. The term “Cadillac” has an unclear origin, but appears to refer to the trailers used for showers and toilets. I base this conclusion off of the “Attack Response Procedures Joint Base Balad, Iraq” (very interesting reading, with photos too! ATTACHED HERE:  Attack Response Procedures), which refers to “Taking a shower in Cadillac” and “Relieving yourself in a Cadillac.”   The term is not widely used, and I usually refer to these as either the shower trailer or restroom trailer. Here is what these look like at night time:


The above picture is my favorite shower trailer. It’s not the best quality shower, as the water tends to collect and not drain properly. But it is usually fairly empty, so one doesn’t have to compete with a crowd in this particular trailer. Here’s what it looks like inside this shower Cadillac:

 Inside shower

There are 6 shower stalls in this trailer. Larger trailers can have 12 or more. Obviously, they have separate trailers for men and women. There is also an equal number of trailers, which is somewhat unfair because men outnumber women by a ration of 5-1.

 My favorite shower stall is this one (on the right):

 My favorite shower stall

I like it because the shower head is not broken, and it does not collect too much water in the basin. I wear thick shower shoes to and from the trailer. A friend of mine said that he’d rather eat something off the floor of a highway rest stop than take a shower without shower shoes here. In the past, there have been some soldiers who have gotten electrocuted in these while taking a shower, due to faulty wiring. It’s a terrible tragedy for someone to die in Iraq for such a preventable reason. An electrocution has not happened for a long time, most likely as a result of a determined effort to get licensed electricians out here to regularly inspect facilities in Iraq. In fact, every month or two, someone comes into my CHU (containerized housing unit) and checks all electrical plugs and wirings, so I’m sure the wiring in these Cadillac’s is also regularly inspected.

The toilet Cadillac is a similar idea. Instead of showers, they have toilet stalls lined up with sinks in the common area. Here is what it looks like inside one of these:

 Toilet Trailer


There are trailers like this in the middle of every housing area on post. There is a crew of Nepalese workers who clean these Cadillac’s all day long. I’d imagine it is a lot of monotonous, unpleasant work to be a janitor doing that job, without ever having a day off. These guys get paid very little, perhaps $500 a month at most, but apparently that is much more than they’d make back in Nepal. Also, the working conditions here are probably safer.

Anyway, that is the story of the Cadillac here at Joint Base Balad, Iraq. It’s not too bad, really, and I’ve become used to walking 75 yards from my housing unit to the trailers. It’s really much better than Kuwait, where there is an odd chemical smell in these trailers. When I get home next month, one thing I am truly looking forward to is to be able to get out of bed, and use the toilet or shower without wearing shoes and walking for two minutes.


4 Responses

  1. Perhaps “Cadillac” refers to the degree of luxury – these facilities (with running water, flush toilets, indoor plumbing, etc) are a far cry from rough wooden latrines and half-barrels of waste being mixed with jet fuel and burned to dispose of them…

  2. Having been in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm, your pictures of the “mums” brought back a lot of memories, especially since we had to clean them. As Navy Nurses, we had 3 trailers, 2 for women because there were about 20 more female nurses. At least you have doors on the toilets, we had curtains. There was one big shower room at the back of each trailer with 5 or 6 shower heads, 3 sinks and 3 toilets for lots of women. We needed to watch out at night so we wouldn’t inadvertently go in the male “mum.”

    Thank you for your service.

  3. I like your blog better than anything in the media. It is honest and refreshing. Your family really miss you now but when your daughters are adults, your blog will be a priceless memory to read for many generations. Thanks Brian!

  4. I’ll have to differ with your perception of amenities for men vs women. For us there were only 2 small shower trailers and 1 small toilet cadillac in most of the areas of H6 while the men got two large versions of each. In some areas of H6 there were many women (I think the ratio in the hospital is higher than other units on the base). I liked the smaller showers (older) because the stalls had two parts with a folding door on the outer and the curtain inside (I posted a picture a few months ago during my tour).

    Did you have a room to yourself? Lucky!!!!

    I heard that DFAC 2 sucks now. Good time to be getting out.

    Thanks for sharing your life in Balad.

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