Thornhill in Iraq–X

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 know it’s been a while since I have written. Believe it or not, things have been extremely busy around here. At least when you are away from family, you don’t feel so guilty about working 12+ hours a day! I’m still doing fine. I will catch you up on some stuff that has been going on.

On Christmas Eve we had a Christmas party for the entire task force. We held it outside on the basketball court and had one of the Iraqi civilians who works with us cater in athentic Iraqi food. It was good – many thought it was great. I’m just not much into trying new/exotic foods. I had a bad experience with lamb once and those things are hard to forget!

I have attached a photo of me from the party. I am holding a book I received in the ‘white-elephant’ gift exchange. I’ll tell you why I no longer have the book in a minute. As you can see, I am proudly displaying the colors. Many of my colleagues joked that they were happy to see me in such bright, sniper-enticing clothing! Don’t worry, we’ve had no snipers since I’ve been here and the party was not in the line of sight of any tall structures. Besides, there can’t be that many Iowa State fans living in Baghdad!

Back to the gift exchange. Many of you have probably done this – we have done it in the past at my office. Everyone anonymously wraps a gift. It could be a good gift, it could be a not-so-good gift. Then everyone draws a number from 1 to whatever. Number 1 picks a gift and opens it. Everyone who follows can either choose to pick a gift or take a gift that has already been unwrapped and displayed. If the gift that you opened gets taken by someone, you then get to choose whether to open a new gift or take one from someone else and so on. We included a rule (because we are lawyers, etc. and like rules) that once a gift was ‘stolen’ twice, it was off the market and the 2nd theif got to keep it. Anyway, this wonderful book was taken from me…and so were two other ‘good’ gifts that I got thereafter. In the end I got stuck with a fruitcake and some candy! One of the local vendors was watching the festivities with his young daughter (about Donovan’s age) so when we were done, I gave the little girl the candy and the fruitcake. I’m not sure if giving her the fruitcake will help or hurt our image with the locals!

You may be wondering what gift I put into the mix. Well, as luck would have it, my wonderful co-workers at the U.S. Attorney’s Office sent me a care package that arrive a few days before Christmas. In amongst the many great things they sent me was the horrible white elephant gift I got stuck with there last Christmas! It was a candy dot maker. Believe it or not, that thing got stolen twice! By the way, I have a pretty good idea who included that in the care package and I will get even!

New Years here was uneventful. I didn’t even stay up until midnight. Good thing too as the local custom is to shoot off their guns into the air to ring in the new year. Those rounds have to come down somewhere! I did not want to be roaming around outside for that.

The other picture attached here is me standing in front of a wall that separates the farthest perimeter of our compound from ‘the Red Zone.’ There is a busy street on the other side, I know because I looked over it. Notice the coat – it’s been cold here. The forcast for tonight calls for snow! During the same day this photo was taken (between Christmas & New Year’s) I got to tour the prison which is also part of the complex in which I live. It is an Iraqi prison, not a Coalition prison. Being in coalition custody is certainly better, but there are international advisors that are working with the Iraqi prison system to make it better. There are a lot of people being held by the Iraqis for local crimes who have not yet seen a judge for the first time. Some of them have been in ‘pretrial’ confinement longer than the maximum sentence for their alleged offenses. Our task force is also working on that problem and having some good successes. It really is a sad reality.

I have also taken a few more trips outside the wire to either go to the IZ (International Zone) or other military bases. I just cannot get used to wearing body armor and traveling in an armored vehicle in order to get anywhere. I am really looking forward to hopping in the car and driving my kids to Dairy Queen, with the windows down, when I get home. With a little luck, I should be able to do that in a little over 4 months!

Talk to you soon,


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