A note from an Englishman written inside a Camp Victory 'sauna' (porta potty):
"No to the Euro. Keep the Pound."

I thought that was funny. Even here in Iraq, someone from England is concerned about their national currency.

I've received a few packages and email from people back at home, etc., and I want to thank you. :) It's always nice to get something, even a card. There are some people at work who don't ever get anything, though, so if you would like to send them something just let me know and I'll give you their names (the address would be the same). I'm still looking into how to get beanie babies to the local children -- I'm not allowed to go out and walk around, but I'm sure someone is.

Looks like the election is stirring up a lot back in the States. I'm kind of glad to be missing it. It all makes me sick, all the bickering and smashing. I have to deal with a lot of that here, with Iraqi politics, too. I just wish I could find the one answer to these peoples' problems. Having the U.S. pull out right away certainly isn't it.

Well... I have some more assessments to write up. Let me know how we're doing in the Olympics. I don't have a lot of time/opportunity to watch. I did laugh yesterday, though, when one of the guys in my shop asked, "Did Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France? Wasn't that this week?" At least he was happy when I told him he did, for his sixth time.

I continue to ride my bike around, and I'm getting better at jumping over the speed-bumps. Have you ever tried riding a pot-hole laden dirt road at night, without much for a flashlight? It's a little scary, and you end up very apprehensive. I changed my shift from 8am-8pm to 7am-7pm so I won't have to do that anymore. Last night was the first time I got home in daylight, and I watched the sunset. It was gorgeous. With the hot, dusty horizon, the sun is blazingly orange as it sets behind palm fronds. The sun rise (I accidentally called it the "sun morning" for some strange reason today when I was very tired) looks almost exactly the same. I took some pictures last night, which I hadn't done in a while.



American perspective can change here in Baghdad:

Last night as Monica and I were leaving the shower trailer, we heard a popping noise. She said, "Oh, look, fireworks!" Up in the sky were red trails of light streaming toward us. It was pretty, but alarming. I asked if they were tracer rounds or flares, and we both started walking as quickly as we could back to our trailer in our wet flip-flops (try running in those). Half-way there, she says, "You know, those are just flares. We send off flares signifying that there's a convoy headed out." Immediately I thought that didn't make sense, since that would let the enemy know a convoy was leaving the Post. I kept running back to the trailer as the red streams of light soared above. When we got to our door, some men from her Company were standing around watching the light show. I asked, "Are those just flares?" They said, "No, those are tracer rounds. You can hear the fire-fight. It's not that far away." I looked at Monica who said sheepishly, "I thought you'd sleep better if you thought they were just flares." We watched, a little concerned, as the tracer rounds increased in number. I commented on
the fact that what goes up must come down... Another person approached and said, "Iraq just beat the Aussies in football." Suddenly it dawned upon us that we weren't watching a firefight but a celebration.

This morning at Church a man stood up to say he wanted to praise the Lord. He held up a bullet and said it came through his trailer last night during the celebratory shooting.

It makes me laugh. Yes, I know this is dangerous, but there's nothing we can really do about it. I'm sure someone is trying to teach the Iraqis the dangers of celebratory shooting, but it's such a long-lived custom in this region and could take a while. I can't worry, I can't get afraid. If I start, I'll never be able to do my job. All we can do here is laugh, albeit nervously.

Today our power went out for nearly an hour, which meant the A/C was cut off. I can't imagine what it must have been like to work in Northern Africa during WWII. The power came back on, work resumed, and "groundhog day" continued. (Every day is the same here.)

As I bought a bike today (my third one this year), I should soon be speeding around the Post and won't have to worry anymore about walking home alone in the dark. :)


My Grandpa Lincoln died the other day from what I think was a heart attack. It's been difficult getting ahold of anyone who knows anything (like my mother). Everyone went to California for the funeral... and I'm very far away in Iraq. I hope, above all, my grandmother makes it alright though this.

Work has been insanely busy. I didn't know I had it in me to work straight through for 13 hours without taking any real breaks. I've taken over phase one editing of the daily product we disseminate every evening, and it can keep me very occupied. Not only do I write my own assessments, but I gather everyone else's, quality check it, and send it on. We have our senior analyst do a sanity check on the actual assessments, of course. (Good thing, since I'm so new here and hardly know my area enough to make insightful assessments.)

I received an email yesterday saying they had given me a trailer, only.... they had given me the title "Major" and had me down as a man. I don't know who thought a person with the first name "Amber" would be male, but there it was. They had me rooming with a male major. I quickly called and found they had realized their mistake, but were still going to give me a trailer. I moved all of my stuff out of my tent and made my way to the trailer. (I was allowed to borrow the car, which helped immensely.) Finally, I met another female 1Lt. Believe it or not, she talks more than I do. I was so relieved to learn she was very open, friendly, and helpful. We talked until it was very late, which made me think of sleep-overs from when I was younger. We occupy 1/3 of a trailer, and each have a twin-size bed, a night stand, and a locker (just like the ones in the hallways of High Schools across America). Not much to store clothing in, but I'll eventually buy a set of drawers. I also will need to get a bike, because work is about a mile away now, at least. Anyways, my living conditions have improved -- with one exception: we're very close to the perimeter of the base now, and right next to the Helo MediVac landing pad. With obvious reason, our trailer shook often throughout the night and morning because of the nearby helicopters and mortar rounds that were hitting no too far away. I didn't care -- I was just too happy to finally have a bed.

They cancelled our days off, until further notice, because we have so much to do. I was upset when I found out, but got used to it. Every day is the same here. At least I'm busy! Sundays are the only days that have a slight break because I get to go to church, and that takes one hour out of my routine. A great hour. I was thinking yesterday how normally I don't want to waste a morning going to church, but here -- I wish we had church every morning.

Wish I had something insightful or meaningful to say, but I don't. My brain leaks out at work, and by this time of day, 5pm, I can barely put thought together. I still have 3 hours of work, too.


I have a some-what funny story: On Tuesday, I got some sleeping pills from the doc b/c I wasn't sleeping well on my cot (plus it's noisy in my tent of 20+ females). I slept very well that night... so well, in fact, I didn't even know four mortar rounds had hit somewhere nearby, waking everyone else up and shaking the tent. The mortars really aren't that frightening because we're all used to them, but are surprising. We had one hit yesterday while I was typing a report at work, shaking our trailer, and it made me jump. Someone exclaimed, "outgoing!" which is the usual remark. Of course we never shoot out mortars, but it makes people feel better. The first thing we do after we hear something like that is see if EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) has scheduled to disarm something at that time (isn't it nice that they let us know?). The only time I get concerned is when the mortars sound far away at first and then get louder and louder. According to what I've heard, though, nobody's been killed by mortars here at Camp Victory. Their aim is horrible, it seems.

People I came here with have finally started receiving mail, so I'm hoping I get packages soon! :)

I have to get back to work... I get hundreds of messages a day I have to read. Sometimes it slows down, and sometimes there's a rush. (Especially if something has happened.) Sorta like working at a restaurant.

I'm getting used to the 110+ heat, which is good. Still, it's not too much fun walking the 3/4mile to lunch and back in the full sun. By the time I get back to work, I've lost so much water!



I have been working SO MUCH the last few days. A 12 hour shift is really a 13 hours shift due to shift changes, etc. I read and read and read and read. By the time work is over, I generally walk home and crawl into my luxurious cot, then pass out. I've been told I get a day off next Thursday, and then the week after it'll be a 1/2 day off, and will rotate like that each week. Thursday seems so far away...

I am really enjoying being here. Work is extremely demanding, and I feel like I won't ever get ahead, but I love it. It's real intel! I'm reading reports and articles, and making assessments (or trying to at this stage). For the last few days I'm just trying to make sense of the chaos in this country. There are so many people I have to know by name, and who they're related to, and where they are.... Since this wasn't the area I studied in college, EVERYTHING is new to me.

Well I have to go. One of the men that works in this computer lab just told me I have to get rid of my water bottle. The sign says no drinks, but everyone knows that water bottles are ok. I can't believe that. It's rediculous. I threw a fit, and now I have to go.

I'll write the next time I have a moment free.


My address here is:

1Lt Amber Brinson

MNF-I (C2)


APO AE 09342

....don't forget to add "USA" at the bottom if it's coming from a foreign country. :)


I was going to put some pics on here, but it's not working.... if anyone wants some, email me. I know it's the tedious way, but that's what happens here on Army posts in Iraq.

I must be getting used to the heat. I'm not saying it's easy walking 100 meters outside at noon, but I don't feel as faint doing it anymore. I'm also getting used to the temperature in our tent. I put a work order in about the a/c not working and was pretty much chided by the maintenance man that "that's just the way it is." At least we finally got the lights to work. Although we had a few, for me to do anything I had to wear my headlamp.

Yesterday we formed up to find out they still hadn't assigned anybody jobs, and were given the days to "take care of things." Maj Dimech, SSgt Johnson, and I went to the Palace to take 'happy shots.' As I had said, it's gorgeous. We walked around everywhere, including around the third floor's balcony. The view was astonishing, and since this area of Iraq is flat, we could see for miles. There was deffinitely a battle fought here because some of the watch towers looked as if hit with 50 cals and grenades, and one of the bridges was pretty much broken apart. We spent about an hour opening little wooden doors (usually access to some sort of climate control system), climbing ladders that led nowhere, and acting like kids on an adventure. It was exciting. The excesses of the Palace really do make one think -- it was built after 1991, obviously with money that was meant to feed the population. The bathrooms really are made of marble, and the ceilings aren't just painted...they're carved, too.

Once we left the Palace and ate lunch, Maj Dimech and I rode the grey line bus to Victory Base North, where the "big" PX is. The bazaar is there, and I had heard they had shoulder harnesses for sale. (I had a suspicious feeling that my web-belt was part of my back problem.) We were told the bazaar pretty much just had cheap trinkets and fake military reproductions. Once we walked in (about two GPMedium tents put together), we were surprised. They had those trinkets, but they also had some very nice copper pots, tea sets, leather-ware, Iraqi currency, and other various items. It sort of reminded me of a souq in Bahrain, on a much smaller scale. They had everything from brass cups to batteries. I did find myself a harness for my M9. They only had two to choose from for lefties, so I picked the cheapest one. It's brown, and much more comfortable than what I was wearing. They also had a photo center set up, not unlike those old western portraits they have all over California, where you dress up in period clothing and get your portrait taken. Maj Dimech said we'll have to do that some time for our co-workers back in the States. After we were done I walked over the the BurgerKing trailer (yes we have BK) to get a milkshake. No milkshakes in Iraq, sorry. Just whoppers and fries, pretty much. Much disappointed, I got some gatorade from the PX and we caught the grey line back to our tents.

This morning we formed up again to find out the jobs weren't sorted out. I walk to the Chapel with another AF Capt. Having church in Iraq was ... different. For one thing, I had never seen so many heavily armed worshippers in my life. Have you ever been to church where everyone had either an M9 pistol or an M-16 rifle? There was an overflow, so we had the doors open and some people sat out on the porch. Since the door was open, it got rather warm in there, and those out on the porch actually got it a little better. I had forgotten my water bottle and was nearly dying by the time communion came around. Because General Order 1 states we will not consume any alchohol while in theater, I assumed it was grape juice. What a surprise. I was was thinking "grape juice, mmm, liquid" and instead it was, "oh my, that's wine" and it felt like straight vodka as it slid down and warmed me up (which I didn't need help with by that point). I walked back to my tent quickly and drank an entire bottle in about two minutes.

At noon we met up in the DFAC (what the Army, for whatever reason, calls the galley, chow hall, or dining facility) and they dispersed our jobs. Some people are working at the prison (yes, the infamous one) and will be moving out that way, some working in the international zone and moving out there (formerly the 'green zone'), and most of us will be working in either the Palace or some trailers nearby. I, unfortunately, don't get to work in the Palace. I don't even know where I'll be, but it's in one of those trailers I just mentioned. I'll be working in the Geo-Political cell. I don't know what I'll be doing, exactly, but I hope it keeps me occupied. I've heard that when you first get there, it's like standing along a river looking at people drowning in the water, and you don't know what to do, then suddenly you fall in and you're one of the drowning. Wonderful. :)

Well it's my time to get off the computer. This was long. Phew!

~ Amber