LawReader correspondent SSG Kathleen Stafford reports mortars hit almost every day. Iraq Special Forces invades womens shower.

LawReader Columnist, SSG Kathleen Stafford reports from Iraq.


Hello Judge Billingsley


I have been a bit busy the past few days.  I flew down to Balad Iraq to Camp Anaconda.  I was deployed there before.  The facilities here are better, i.e. sidewalks, paved streets, gravel instead of sand and dirt, and things are within walking distance.  But the downfall to being here is the mortars that are tossed in on a regular basis.  There were three mortars that hit the camp the first night here and at least one or two every night since.  A couple were close enough that I feel my hooch shake from the impact.  I am not even sure how to describe the feeling I had when the first round came in and shook me awake at 0400.  My chest felt as if someone was sitting on it and choking the breath out of me.  I had forgotten what it was like to feel that type of fear.  I just prayed  for safekeeping for myself and everyone else. 


The room that I am staying in while at Balad was the victim of a rocket attack.  I have taken some pictures that I will get together for you.  There are holes all over the walls and ceilings.  The individual that stayed here was not in at the time, but I was told that if he had been he probably would have been seriously injured if not killed.  One piece of shrapnel went completely through the door into the hooch across from it. 


Camp Speicher has been hit a lot the past few months as well.  Most of the hostile activity is being blamed on Ramadan, which is to end on 24 Oct.  The higher ups are hoping and saying that things should calm down once Ramadan is over with.  I don’t know about Speicher, but I can tell you that in Balad two years ago the insurgents tossed in a round at least once a day.  We will see, I know Bagdad has suffered a lot the past few months.  I have saved a couple of papers for you to read, will send them to you when I get back to Speicher. 


You asked some questions of me in your last letter.  I’ll attempt to answer them as best as I can. 


We do not have satellite or internet in our rooms as of yet.  I know they are working on it and hopefully soon.  I am missing the Packers and Cowboys games.


The chow halls at Speicher are set up to feed 6000 soldiers a day, and there are I believe currently 4 chow halls and working on building 2 more.  The food is pretty good.  The cooks are third country nationals.  I don’t know if they are sent to cooking school or not, but they do a pretty good job.  And you can eat as much or as little as you want. 


I carry a 9 millimeter Beretta which I qualifed as a marksman and a M16 rifle which I qualified as a sharpshooter.  We have to carry our weapons with us at all times.  Most times it seems to be an inconvenience, but reality is…you never know if you will need to use your weapon or not.  So inspite of the inconvenience, I carry mine and make sure I have enough ammo.


My job titles are Platoon Sergeant, Acting First Sergeant and Flight Operations NCOIC.  In flight ops I am responsible for assigning missions to pilots and aircraft, keeping track of where they are, making sure they have all the equipment necessary to complete their missions to include any and all survivability equipment should the aircraft go down, I am also responsible for making sure all flight hours are logged in for the pilots and the crew that fly with the plane. 


Halliburton is the parent cooperation of KBR.  KBR does most of the work around here.  I was amazed to find out that KBR was the contractor that put the latrines and housing areas together because the craftsmanship is horrible.  They hire local nationals or TCN’s (third country nationals) to do the work with a KBR rep. as the foreman.  I would have thought that because the majority of the foremen are Americans that the work would have been up to standard.  The workers do not get paid but about $400 to $500 a month, versus the KBR foremen.  Amazing, how much these people get paid, twice as much as a soldier does.  If not more.


Some of the contracts go to third country businesses.  Like those that work to clean out the porta johns, the beauty shop, barber shop.  The businesses in turn hire helpers and pay them less than $500 a month.  I know the spa is run by Turkish.  I spoke with a Filipino woman that gave massages and she said she makes $300 a month plus her tips.  I asked her how she found out about this work and she explained that she and a couple of her friends were working at a hotel in the Phillipines and the owner of this business came in and talked to them about going to work for him. He said that he would pay them $300 a month and assured them they would make a lot in tips because Americans are very generous and would tip them well.  The girls signed a 3 year contract with him.  They have not been home to see their families yet.  There are a couple of young boys that work in the laundry that are from Napal.  They make $400 a month, and for them that is a lot.  But when I asked them about staying once their contract was up they both said “No Way?.  They do not like the bombs. 


Before leaving Speicher, I saw a couple of the Iraqi Special Forces soldiers.  Not sure why, but I got a chill up my spine just looking at them.  I do not trust them I don’t care who trained them, after hearing that they walked into the female showers and stood there watching…and when asked about it claimed it was a mistake, I just don’t trust them. 


Not much else going on right now.  I’ll talk with you later.



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