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Traveling with the US Military Police in Iraq
Articles: What our US soldiers are facing today
Exclusive: the Military Support Cigar Chronicles
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Author's notes about these
Military Support Cigar Chronicles

While not necessarily beating the drum for the cigar industry, it is a reality that smoking cigars is one of the few pastimes permitted soldiers in Iraq. Under Coalition command policy - General Order #1 - troops are forbidden to consume alcoholic beverages, and, it goes without saying, illegal drug use is prohibited and thankfully minimal. Partially as a consequence, most all soldiers either smoke cigarettes or cigars or use smokeless tobacco products. Of the three I personally consider cigars the most benign.
There is camaraderie among military people - even when old-timers like me interact with the younger generation - that transcends age, race, sex, or time served. Cigar smoking in Iraq played a large part in renewing that spirit for me and in building bridges across generations.
So I'm offering for your enjoyment a few stories from my too-brief time spent with the soldiers and thereby hope to give you a brief glimpse into life with the military police in Baghdad and beyond.

— Gordon Cucullu


Gordon Cucullu's new book on the daily lives of American soldiers -- this time, those who serve at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba:

Inside Gitmo cover


Bad Air - Cigars at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Rustamiyah (aka "Rusty")

Colonel Bogdon
Lieutenant Colonel John Bogdon, call sign "Star 6," commands the 95th MP Battalion in East Baghdad's mean districts.

Evening tradition at FOB Rusty, home of Colonel John Bogdon's 95th MP Battalion, includes cigars and non-alcoholic beer (soldiers are not permitted alcoholic beverages in Iraq) on the screened outside patio adjacent to Bogdon's room. The atmosphere is informal, with Bogdon typically holding court. Participant's views are expressed openly, opinions shared, and jokes told.

Neither rank nor position can save your from criticism if the group thinks you are out-to-lunch. It helps to have a thick skin at these sessions. "Wimps not allowed," ought to be posted at the screen door entryway.

One of the less desirable characteristics of the base is its proximity to two huge Iraqi garbage dumps. "They burn everything here," Bogdon says. "Plastic, metal, paper, who-knows-what.  It all gets burned. Day and night. And when it blows over Rusty it is nasty."

One whiff of the air there confirms his hypothesis. When the smoke is blowing right - or maybe definitely wrong - the air quality becomes so noxious that it is vomit-inducing. I'm told by the NCO designated to watch over me, Sergeant First Class Todd Busch, that some units based here are adding letter to soldiers' medical files indicating that the air is so awful that future respiratory issues - should they occur - might be traced back to time spent at Rustamiyah.

As if bad air is not sufficiently discomforting, nearby insurgents take advantage of smoke and sand clouds to lob IDF into the compound when the air is so polluted that counter-battery "eyes in the sky" are ineffective.

In classic Bogdon fashion he summarizes the situation: "This may be the only place on earth where the air you drag into your lungs from your cigar is healthier than what you breathe outside!"

— Gordon Cucullu

In the aftermath of an insurgent rocket attack, soldiers at the 18th MP Brigade befriended this wounded seagull.
Click the photo to read the article
"A Seagull Named Rocket."

The author with Iraqi General Ali Adnan (center) and US Army Colonel John Bogdon (right). Click the photo to read "Building Bridges to the Iraqi Police."





Military Support

Short Stories Index

A Seagull Named

Smoking - Under Fire- Can be Hazardous to Your Health

Building Bridges to
the Iraqi Police

Bad Air in
FOB Rustamiyah

Life in the Red Zone
with the Nat'l Police

After the Patrol -
Conversations at
Joe's Cafe

A Gift from
St. Jorge Tobacco

Check back regularly
for future additions...



Chuck Norris graffiti I was surprised in Iraq by the adulation afforded to Chuck Norris. He is clearly today's Army's live action hero. Not only did latrine graffiti laud Norris (see a sample on the left), but an informal distribution called The Daily Chuck is sent around highlighting various attributes of the great man. Each page of the Military Support Cigar Chronicles therefore includes a quote
circulated by soldiers during my May 2008 trip to Iraq.

Chuck Norris can talk about fight club.

The contents, images, and all features of this website. are copyright 2008-2009 by Gordon Cucullu, all rights reserved.
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