Posted on: Monday, April 5, 2004
Stray animals are part of the family in Kirkuk
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
KIRKUK, Iraq Kirkuk Air Base is going to the dogs. And geese. Even hedgehogs.
Soldiers here for a year have started adopting stray puppies wandering around the sprawling base as one more way to bring the familiar back into their lives more than 8,000 miles from home.
|Rat B. finds a resting place next to a 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment soldier's gear. The puppy was adopted by the battalion's Charlie Company, 2nd Platoon, otherwise known as the "Rats."
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The 2nd Platoon Rats of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, picked up a black and white fuzz ball, and named him Rat B., whose infantry-inspired last name is not being printed.
Rat B. was followed by another pup. She also was named Rat B., with a separate infantry-inspired last name.
The two Rats had the run of a portion of the old bakery the platoon lives in on the Dark Side of the air base, so named because of the frequent power failures.
Air Force dog handlers on base checked out the dogs.
The 3rd Platoon temporarily adopted a couple of hedgehogs, which have since been returned to the wild.
The 1-21 tactical operations center has two adult geese and four growing goslings Mr. and Mrs. Aflack, and Huey, Dewey, Louie and Aflack Jr.
Meanwhile, soldiers at the Bravo Company safe house in town inherited a friendly camp dog that had been tortured by its former Iraqi military owners.
The dog's ears were cut off and it had been burned and stabbed, but it found a good home, first with the 173rd Airborne Brigade and then with Bravo Company.
Not all has gone well with the Rat pups, though. The pooches were dognapped from an outside fenced-in pen. A missing-dog flier now hangs in the bakery with their picture.
"Have you seen these puppies?" a note reads. "If so, please return to the Ratz."
A break from the action
Second Platoon, 1-21, has been heading out into the city from Kirkuk Air Base sometimes day and night for up to eight hours at a crack as the rotating quick reaction force, and to set up traffic-control points and observation posts to watch for insurgents.
But the Rats also get to have a little bit of fun, and on a recent day, it was a Mexican barbecue.
The platoon bought 15 to 20 pounds of chicken in town, and Spc. Rafael Ochoa, 22, of Los Angeles, and Sgt. Jaime Oliveros, 24, of Pacoima, Calif., cooked it up on a grill outside the Rats' home.
"I've been wanting to do this for a while," Ochoa said. "It's a celebration of us (being) settled in."
There was Mexican banda music on the CD player, dried peppers on the chicken, cigar smoke in the air, and horseshoes in a pit nearby.
"When it comes to Mexican barbecues, it's about bringing family together," Oliveros said. "Here, it's the same concept, getting the whole platoon together."
"I must say, today was my best," Spc. Kevin Smith said later as the barbecue wound down. "I don't know what tonight will be like, but today ... "
That night brought a raid in town with Special Forces troops from 12:45 till 4 a.m.