Revisited: Forces in Iraq stuck indoors

BAGHDAD, Iraq (June 26) – Commanders of U.S. forces stationed in Iraq have begun complaining to Pentagon officials that “we really have our hands full” now that combat troops have been ordered off the streets of this nation’s cities.

Top brass in Washington acted to drastically reduce the visibility of the 130,000 soldiers in country to comply with agreements to turn more control over to Iraqi security forces by the end of June. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates noted that “it’s really hot outside, and we don’t want our fighting men and women to get overheated.”

“I know it’s summertime and everybody wants to be outside,” Gates said. “But we have to use good judgment so we don’t risk widespread thirstiness and heat rash. There aren’t that many hoses for soldiers to drink from in the urban areas, and they’ll just keep on playing in the sand and forget to keep up their fluids.”

Army General Ray Odierno said it was his job to comply with orders from the top, but noted pointedly that keeping that many divisions indoors while the locals were able to burn off energy in the 130-degree afternoon heat was a “special challenge.”

“They’re really under foot here,” Odierno said. “It’s only been two days and already they’re driving the general staff crazy. It’s natural that they want to blow off their youthful energy, but I’m not getting any younger. I have a splitting headache.”

“Will you lieutenant colonels please knock it off over there?” the general was then heard to say. “I’ve just about had it up to here with you guys.”

Other top military officials who spoke off the record said that the scheduled arrival next week of three C-130 cargo planes filled with Wii consoles and an estimated 13 tons of the popular “Dance Dance Revolution” game should go a long way toward keeping the confined troops busy. Plans were being laid for several week-long sessions of Vacation Bible School in August in one of former dictator Saddam Hussein’s occupied palaces, and a “ball crawl” was also being setting up in an adjacent swimming pool.

Odierno said he understood that the removal of American forces from the streets of Baghdad and other large cities was critical to the establishment of true Iraqi sovereignty. He also acknowledged his forces still needed to remain nearby in case they had to bolster local police in fighting any renewal of the now-largely-dormant insurgency.

“Maybe there’s something good on TV,” Odierno said. “Or I could get out some of those old board games we put up in the attic last winter. I’m really running out of ideas though. This is not a ‘Scrabble’ kind of crowd.”

The general said, however, he remained confident that summer would soon be over and that armed personnel will probably be invading Iran in the fall, and he had to admit he’d hate to see them go.

“I just hope we can find some good ‘back-to-combat’ sales,” Odierno noted with a sigh. “A lot of our people are probably going to be at least two sizes bigger by then and will need all new gear. I complain a lot about them being all over the place now, but I know I’ll miss them when they’re gone.”

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