CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq — While serving my tour here, I have been fortunate that I have never really been in harm’s way. That is something I am proud of, because I have been able to see more of this country than most.
Most people I work with are worried about going outside the wire. They prefer the safety and comfort of staying put at the airbase, Al Taqaddum.
I prefer the challenge of going off base. I want to experience everything I can while I am out here.
I have been lucky to visit three bases, aside from where I am stationed. Each time I have gone to one of these places, I volunteered. From the way I see it, it is better to let a volunteer go than to send someone who does not want to go.
My first visit was to Camp Habbaniyah. I actually went twice and spent four weeks in all. My first trip was to help clean up the camp. We worked in the middle of the night taking down buildings and clearing out to build soccer and football fields for the camp. We also set up barriers to block entrances to the base, which would act as a buffer in case of an improvised explosive device, an IED.
Because we were off base, we had to wear our flack and Kevlar gear the entire night. Though there is a curfew, hostiles will take any chance to take out some of our people.
The second week was easier. Half the guys put up a building around an existing frame, while others fixed up a road.
I also spent three days in Ramadi. The joke about this place is the name. Everyone called it “Ra-muddy.” The place was like a swamp of mud. Five minutes there, and I couldn’t see my boots anymore. The best part of being in Ramadi was the trip — traveling on a main Iraqi highway and seeing the outlying sights was cool.
Finally, there’s Fallujah. I spent more time at this base than any other. In my 27 days there, we worked maybe 17 or 18 days.
Our job in Fallujah was to fix two roads. We could have finished it a lot sooner, but getting security was a problem at times. Both roads are off base. That means flack and Kevlar gear.
Both roads were also near Iraqi populations. Because each Iraqi house is allowed one AK47 and one magazine, we had to be extremely careful. Luckily, we never had any incidents. In fact, the few times we even saw the people, they were trying to hide. It was like they didn’t want to be anywhere close to us.
I enjoyed all my trips. Each had its plusses and minuses, and I took a ton of photos while out there. The only bad thing is my family; every time I volunteer for one of these off-base assignments, they get worried.
I understand they miss me and care what happens, but this is something I have to do — I can’t just sit around all day and do nothing. I am here in Iraq for a reason. I want to go out and help anyway I can.
My dad won’t like it, but there is one more place I want to visit before I come home in a month. However, the likelihood of me making it to Baghdad is not very high.
Jason Farmer lived in Tracy from 1985 to 2000 and is an aviation medical tech with the U.S. Navy, now deployed in Iraq. He has written Letters Home to Our Town since 2001. To reach Jason, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To write your own Letters Home, e-mail email@example.com.