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.

Thornhill in Iraq–VI

LCBA Member Ian Thornhill of the U.S. Attorney‘s Office in Cedar Rapids has been deployed to Iraq as a member of the Navy Reserve. He is going to be working on a task force that is helping to re-establish the Iraqi criminal court system. The LCBA will be posting his email updates, with permission.

I have a few photos of my living quarter:

Row of living quarters. Mine is about ½ way down on the right.

This is my home away from home. No one told me what “TA” stands for. I‘m going with “Talented Attorney!” And, yes, that is a combination heating & cooling unit!

Inside view from the front to the back. Shower is not pictured but is on the right in the bath room. See that fancy knob in the middle of the toilet tank? That the flush mechanism. Pull up & hold to flush – I spent a good 2 minutes trying to figure that out!

Inside view facing the entry door. Yes, that is a fridge in the bottom right hand corner. No Internet, phone, or T.V. in here though. Again, over here this is high class living.

Thornhill in Iraq–V

LCBA Member Ian Thornhill of the U.S. Attorney‘s Office in Cedar Rapids has been deployed to Iraq as a member of the Navy Reserve. He is going to be working on a task force that is helping to re-establish the Iraqi criminal court system. The LCBA will be posting his email updates, with permission.

Sorry for the delay. Here are a few photos I promised to send. The one of me is at the Baghdad Airport shortly after I first arrived. The next one is of my office.



Thornhill in Iraq–IV

LCBA Member Ian Thornhill of the U.S. Attorney‘s Office in Cedar Rapids has been deployed to Iraq as a member of the Navy Reserve. He is going to be working on a task force that is helping to re-establish the Iraqi criminal court system. The LCBA will be posting his email updates, with permission.

Hello all,

I have been assigned to a team that is working on major crimes investigations dealing with Iraqi on Iraqi crime. Obviously I cannot give you the details but we are talking big stuff here. I still haven’t quite figured out my job yet except that I will not be doing much pure lawyering, rather, I will be coordinating and actively participating in the investigations. Right now I’m just trying to get settled in and get up to speed on the criminal process here and some of the pending cases. I feel fortunate to be on the team I’m on. There is a potential for some high profile stuff. Much of the task force will be turning over in the next month and I believe I’m going to be the 2nd most senior guy (by rank – not because I recently turned 40!). The work will be challenging and the bad guys are REALLY bad guys. I’ve prosecuted a lot of people – people who have done bad things – but I never believed any of them were evil. The stuff I’ll be dealing with here is evil. The real reward will be doing justice – or at least getting the ball rolling in that direction.

O.K., enough of the dark stuff. I can’t remember if I told you what my daily schedule is so I’ll do it again. The work day is 0730 to 2000 (8:00 p.m. for you civilians) Monday through Saturday, and 0900 to 1800 (do the math yourself this time!) on Sunday. I will get a half day off every 2 weeks and one full day every month, although I’m not sure what I will do with the time. Also, during that 12.5 hour day I am permitted to eat and encouraged to work out.

There are 3 main luxuries (and I use that term loosely) here – the dining facility or DFAC for short (the military shortens everything except the lines!), the gym (not the Y but not too bad), and the laundry. Of those, only the gym requires me to do the work myself! Paula thinks I’m on vacation – no kids and someone cooking for me and doing my laundry!

I can’t go into the make up of the personnel on this FOB but every day I see soldiers either heading out or returning from missions in the “red” zone. These kids (many are just kids) are upbeat, professional, dedicated, and most of all, true heroes. It is truly a privilege to be out here with these men and women. They are doing far more dangerous stuff than I am. I’m told Baghdad has quieted down significantly since the summer. I still occasionally hear gunfire and explosions, but it’s apparently nothing like they experienced here a few months ago. Let’s hope that relative calm persists while I’m here.

I know I promised some more photos – that will have to wait until next time. Keep the e-mails coming. I’ll be happy to answer any questions I can, but keep in mind, there is a whole lotta stuff I can’t talk about, so don’t be mad if I tell you that.


CLE approved for November LCBA meeting

State CLE credit in the amount of .5 hours has been approved for the  November 2007 LCBA meeting as follows:

Program Name:   Appellate Court Update
Start Date:   11/15/2007
End Date:   11/15/2007
City:   Cedar Rapids
Class Type:   Standard(live)
Total CLE Hours Approved:   .5 (includes ethics hours)
Ethics Hours Approved:   0
Activity Number:   46950

Thornhill in Iraq–III

LCBA Member Ian Thornhill of the U.S. Attorney‘s Office in Cedar Rapids has been deployed to Iraq as a member of the Navy Reserve. He is going to be working on a task force that is helping to re-establish the Iraqi criminal court system. The LCBA will be posting his email updates, with permission.

I have attached another photo of me, although it’s not a very good one – blurry. Not my fault as I didn’t take it! Any way, this is me sitting on a throne in Al Faw Palace (read more here I was told this throne was given to Saddam by Yasser Arafat. And yes, photos were allowed, I’m no rule breaker!


Ian Thornhill in Iraq–II

LCBA Member Ian Thornhill of the U.S. Attorney‘s Office in Cedar Rapids has been deployed to Iraq as a member of the Navy Reserve. He is going to be working on a task force that is helping to re-establish the Iraqi criminal court system. The LCBA will be posting his email updates, with permission.

Hello everyone,

Well, it certainly seems real now! I have arrived for duty in Baghdad. I am assigned to the Law & Order Task Force located at FOB (forward operating base) Shield, which is in the Sadr City area of Baghdad. I flew in from Kuwait yesterday morning, arriving about 8:00 a.m. local time. I was one of two lawyers in the group of Navy people I have been training with for the last month who are assigned here. We were greeted at Baghdad International Airport by a member of my new command. After spending a little time at Camp Victory, which is near the airport, we proceeded to convoy to the FOB. The command I am with has security provided by a private contractor (not Blackwater) and we traveled not in military vehicles, regular vehicles (suburban types), of course, up armored. The trip consisted of two legs in the “red” zone and a middle leg in the green zone. The “red” zone portions were uneventful (truthfully), but please note from hear on out, I will not be sharing any information that might involve me having any close calls or “exciting” convoys. There is no reason to unnecessarily worry any of you. I will share this, though, you can certainly tell this is a war zone. On the drive I saw plenty of military and private security folks doing their job. I also saw plenty of damaged or destroyed buildings, etc. There are also a ton of concrete walls and barriers both inside and outside of the bases. I have also heard some gunfire and there was a somewhat distant explosion (probably an IED) this morning during breakfast. Part of the drive took us through a fairly heavily populated Baghdad neighborhood. I was surprised to see so many people out on the streets. They looked like they were carrying on with life the best they could. Needless to say, our convoy moved fast and does not allow anyone to get close to us. The cars we did encounter seemed to know the drill and gave us plenty of space. Also, unlike back home, pedestrians do NOT have the right of way here.

I spent a good part of the day yesterday getting checked in and settled. I have today off and will report for work tomorrow at 0730. I will do some more checking in then and find out exactly what my job will be. I will fill you in on that stuff later.

The best part of my now 1 day of war experience was the assignment of my living quarters. I (and most of the people at this Task Force) have our own 8′ x 20′ trailer that comes with its own bathroom, including a shower!!! This is 5-star living over here, and in fact, this is the best living arrangements I have had in a month. The three weeks I spent at Ft. Jackson in South Carolina, I was in open-by berthing with 20 other guys. We had 4 showers, 4 sinks, and 8 toilets. It got worse in Kuwait! There I was in a tent with 10 other guys. The toilets (mostly porta-potties) were close, but not too close and there was a shower trailer about 150 yards away. We were in the middle of the desert – so all the water was trucked in and held in containers for the showers. Limited water meant limited shower time! My last 2 days in Kuwait we spent even deeper in the desert with 40 people sleeping in one tent and no showers! I think they do that on purpose – so you look forward to coming to Iraq! I have some photos of my living spaces which I will pass along some other time. I am also waiting for a package from Paula that includes a crisp, new Hawkeye flag (thanks Rich) that I will proudly display in my new home.

Well, it’s time for me to go for now. Thanks again to all of you for the e-mails and well-wishes. Keep them coming!

Talk to you soon.


Bench-Bar gathering & 50 Year Recognition Ceremony January 8, 2008

Save the Date! The Annual Linn County Association Bench-Bar gathering will take place on Tuesday, January 8, 2008, during late afternoon, at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.   The program will consist of a free one-hour CLE, followed by a reception to recognize 50-year members of the LCBA.   Further details will be announced in the next Scriptum.   Please contact Scott McLeod at for any questions regarding the Bench-Bar gathering, and Steve Pace at for any questions regarding the 50 year recognition ceremony.

Applications sought for law clerk position, Northern District of Iowa

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa is seeking applications for an elbow law clerk to Chief Judge Linda R. Reade to begin approximately January 14, 2008. The position will be located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.     Incumbent will be hired for the period commencing in January, 2008 until August 1, 2008, with the possibility of an additional year.   Applicants should submit a resume and cover letter outlining their qualifications by not later than December 1, 2007.

Continue reading “Applications sought for law clerk position, Northern District of Iowa”