Thornhill in Iraq–VII

I’m not sure how long it’s been since I last e-mailed – maybe a week. I’m really not even sure what day it is!  Anyway, I do not have a lot of new stuff to report as I am still settling into the job and have yet to travel outside the wire since my arrival.  That may change and, if it does, I’ll let you know after the fact.  I did get some inquiries about the food here so I thought I’d give you all a little insight on that.

We eat at the DFAC, which is Army-short for dining facility.  Makes sense!  Anyway, the DFAC is basically akin to a cafateria.  Both the entrance and exit of the DFAC are guarded by armed guards at all times.  These are ‘third country nationals’, mostly from war-torn parts of Africa.  Despite the certain horrors of their childhood and life back home, they are the friendliest and most polite people I have ever met.  They salute everyone entering or exiting the DFAC and always have a smile on their faces.  I make it a point to shake each guard’s hand every time I enter and exit the DFAC.  That’s not just me being me, which is most of it, it’s also making sure these guys have a favorable impression about Americans in general and me in particular.  They are part of the group who is responsible for the overall security of the FOB and all of our movements outside the wire.  I want to be on their good side!  That being said, a lot of these guys are here for the money – that is to say, they are working here in an effort to earn a level of income they cannot earn at home.  I imagine most of them will take their earnings home with them and live a much more comfortable lifestyle than otherwise possible.

The DFAC has a few rules.  First, you must ‘clear’ your weapon before entering the DFAC.  This involves the use of a ‘clearing barrel.’  Basically what each person with a weapon does is aim the weapon into the barrel and take a series of steps to ensure the weapon is unloaded.  The barrel is designed to catch that errent round safely, however, actually discharging your weapon into the clearing barrel will initiate an investigation!  Nobody wants that.  Next you pass by the guards and they check to make sure you are not carrying any bags, backpacks, or other containers.  No, this isn’t like college where they didn’t want you sneaking out with food.  In fact, you can take as much food out as you want (except for the 2 drink limit) and go through the line as many times as you want.  Anyone guess why no bags, etc. are allowed?  Remember a couple years ago when a suicide bomber entered a DFAC at Camp Victory (I think it was Camp Victory) and blew himself up?  That’s why.  No matter how hard you try, you can’t guarantee no bad guys will infultrate your camp.  This rule is designed to decrease the risk should one slip through.  The third rule is that you must wash your hands before entering the DFAC.  There are sinks located next to the entrance for this purpose.  I think all of these rules are good rules!

Once inside, it really does look like a cafeteria.  You grab a tray (non-disposable) and a disposable plate and plasticware.  Then you have a choice of two lines.  The main line offers a more highbrow selection, which has included prime rib (not really), shrimp, veal, crab legs, chicken, chinese, etc. along with the ancillaries like corn, rice, mashed potatoes, assorted vegetables, and the like.  The other line is the ‘short order’ line.  Daily it has hamburgers, philly sandwiches, grilled cheese, pizza, and hotdogs.  Occasionally it has buffalo wings, chicken strips, and my personal favorite…..corn dogs!  The corn dogs are there about once a week.  I love corn dogs.  These certainly are not state fair quality corn dogs but they’ll do.  When I am heading to dinner I always tell myself ‘I feel like having (whatever), unless they have corn dogs.  If they do, I’m having those!’

In addition to the two lines they also have a taco bar, a baked potato bar, a salad bar, and a fruit bar.  Yes, I have taken part in all of these and really do try to balance out my meal, especially on corn dog day!  They also have a variety of potato chips, bread, etc.  Wait, there is more.  They also have a sandwich bar where a guy, much like in the Subway tradition, will make you a sandwich of your choice.  I have not yet tried this out, but I’ll get there.  And finally, there is the dessert bar!  I have made a conscious effort to avoid the dessert bar and have succeeded so far.  I did peak though!  They have cake (including cheesecake), cookies, and pie.  They also have ice cream.  This comes in two forms.  You can grab individually wrapped ice cream treats (i.e. a Klondike Bar, etc.) or you can have a guy dish you out some genuine Baskin & Robbins ice cream.  Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it!

Drinks you say? Yes, there are coolers containing various drinks from a wide variety of milk and juices, to gatorade, soda, and fake beer.  I tried a non-alcohol Beck’s….not good.  There is also coffee, tea, and water.  In fact, all over the camp you will find bottled water on pallets for the taking.  Very important item to have, especially when it’s 125 degrees during the summer.  (As a quick aside – does anyone want to hear how cold I feel today because the temperature is only in the upper 60s?).

All of what I just told you is typical of lunch and dinner, but they also serve us breakfast around here.  At breakfast you can get scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, oatmeal, grits, hash browns, pancakes, French toast, dry cereal, bagels, muffins, and fruit.  You can also have a made-to-order omlet!  I have only done this once because generally the line is too long for me, but they are good!

One last thing – if you are up at midnight you can go to MidRats.  Basically this is the 4th meal of the day!  Actually, although I work normal (but long) hours, this is a 24 hour/day operation.  Some of the people working here eat lunch or dinner at midnight.

I almost forgot – it was Thanksgiving last Thursday and they did put on quite a spread.  Nothing like I could get a home, but it was a great try.  We had turkey, ham, stuffing, potatoes, green beans, corn, corn bread, etc, etc.  It wasn’t bad, but the stuffing looked a little scarey so I didn’t try it!

That’s it for now.  Keep the questions coming and I’ll see you soon.