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Downtime in the desert

Hurry up and wait, or so the idiom goes ... especially when you're a US soldier in Iraq.


Archery is a big enough hobby among deployed soldiers that one prominent bow company offers bows at substantial discounts to soldiers deployed overseas.

Holding the line

Perhaps more than anything else, pastimes for deployed soldiers are conceived as a way to feel at home in a foreign land.

For U.S. Army Capt. Kyle Davidson and Capt. Greg Canady that meant finding a way to fish.
While soldiers stationed at some of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces in Baghdad cast lines in the lakes there, when Davidson and Canady got news that they were deploying to Baquba they weren’t sure what they’d find, if anything.

But the two found a couple of small creeks passing through base in which they catch at least one fish each time they’re out. They say the fish — mostly catfish and carp — aren’t edible, but the experience of being alone with wildlife working a line is enough.

“One time we were walking back to the truck and we put the rods in the back and we were like, ‘This feels good,’ Davidson said. “It feels like you’re not here as much.”

More fun than a Humvee

“My girlfriend smacked me in the back of the head when I got back home. She couldn’t believe I spent $400 on an RC car,” says U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Rick McCown, a convert to remote control car racing since arriving in Iraq.

McCown first saw an elaborate track for remote control cars in 2004, when he visited Joint Base Balad, one of the largest U.S. bases in Iraq.

At the time such a hobby would have been an impossibility for a combat trooper like McCown. “There were guys with office jobs that could do this kind of stuff,” he says. “But we were on the road everyday, by the time I got done I sent an email and went to bed.”

But when his unit arrived at Forward Operating Base Warhorse, a medium-size facility about 60 miles north of Baghdad, for their tour that started late last year a group of soldiers decided to bring some of those large base amenities to their corner of Iraq.

Remembering the RC car racetrack in Balad, a group of soldiers in McCown’s 2-8 Field Artillery battalion got permission to turn an unused part of the base into an offroad course for gas-powered RC cars that they had shipped to Iraq.

The final product was the result of hours of online research and about a month of on-and-off volunteer labor. The course uses sandbags to define lanes, has jumps, and even an elevated platform for RC car operators to stand on as they navigate the track.

The hobby is not for the casual observer, however. Gas powered RC cars start around $400 and some soldiers have spent $1,500 to $2,000 on their cars. The vehicles also require constant maintenance and repair.

More GlobalPost dispatches from Iraq:

Iraq marks full sovereignty with a parade

Iraqi "independence day" arrives

In Iraq, festivities and mixed feelings