Not even the birds twitter in Maysan Province

While Embed with the 1st Calvary Division at Hunter in Maysan Province I got a taste of what it is like for those in the military who are roughing it. No “surf and turf” on Friday night (lobster tails and overcooked steak provided by KBR are served on the larger bases every Friday). An American presence was introduced to the Maysan Province to stop the flow of 

weapons and insurgent across the Iranian border through the marshland in 2008. The 1st Calvary out of Forthood TX. was tasked with building two bases from scratch, Hunter and Gary Owen and to train the Iraqi border police.

When they arrived in August they slept outside with sand flies and camel spiders. They have been battling the elements ever since. While consuming a less than nutritious diet
and coping with frustration caused by teaching lacksidasisical students instead of fighting an enemy in a combat situation as they were trained to do. The most dangerous bullets they have had to duck were those from an Iraqi officer who didn’t put his safety on. The IP sprayed the company commander’s legs with bullets when greeting him with a handshake. PAO/Medic Schenk referred to going to breakfast as getting “plate of disappointment,” illustrating that many have kept a sense of humor.

All at Hunter have found their own way to cope while accomplishing their mission. Everyone has a stash of rations tucked away. Including the medic who is a good source for hand sanitizer. Their deployment is almost up and their mission in many ways a success, home is on all of their minds. Numerous caches of weapons have been confiscated since they beefed up security in the area. While many bases are being turned over to the Iraqis early summer, Hunter and Owen are still growing.

Maysan Province is home of the Marshland Arabs, a nomadic people who live off the land. Their environment was practically destroyed by Saddam Hussein, when he drained the marshes after the uprising in 1991. The marshes began recovering in 2003 when many of the dams were broken, re-flooding the area; however there has been a drought the last two years and the area is becoming barren again. The troops patrol the villages and take note of the peoples needs. The PRT (provincial reconstruction team) working in the area is trying to provide people with basic needs, which are numerous here.

At the border forts built during British colonial rule, the troops give lessons ranging from how to search cars to how to give an IV. The daily visits include a lot of tea drinking and hanging around. Lacking is enthusiasm from the IPs to learn and fuel for the generators so the forts are often with out electricity. Water buffalo, donkey, dogs and cats add to the mix. The marshland and encroaching desert make for a picturesque background to document the action. (or lack there of).

The drought over the last two years and water control issues stemming from Iran and Turkey have once again made life for the Marshland Arabs difficult. Through a translator a family told us their children were sick and requested water. In larger villages, there was an outbreak of cholera that killed at least four children. Boats line the side of a dried up stream. It is hard to image this land was once thought of to be the Garden of Eden.

Returning to The rirbase at Tallil I read about a new initiative introducing Twitter to Iraq. The U.S. State Department is sponsoring a “New Media Technology” delegation to “explore new opportunities to support Iraqi government and non-government stakeholders in Iraq’s emerging new media industry.” Since the Provincial reconstruction teams have their hands full with projects dealing with clean water and electricity I don’t see the implementation of Twitter before the 2011 pull out.

“Breakfast time … Lots of helicopters … Met the president of Iraq … Amazing palace,” wrote Jack Dorsey, Twitters cofounder. Even he had trouble finding a place to go online during his mission to introduce Twitter to Iraqi officials The people of Maysan Province are lucky if they will get to hear birds “tweeting” since the water is all drying up. Jack Dorsey and the others in his group wont be leaving the Green Zone, I bet. He won’t get a chance to see Iraqi’s pressing needs as he “ tweets” away at the presidential palace.


10 thoughts on “Not even the birds twitter in Maysan Province

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