Special Reports

Bravo Company soldiers rock the Casbah

They’re called Stop Loss, and they make beautiful noise from their hideout, practice room and recording studio – the Third World Cantina.

Stop Loss is a garage band formed by Bravo Company soldiers. It's made up of Sgt. Lucas Kaserman of Boise on drums, Spec. R.J. Slade of Salt Lake City on bass and, on guitars, Spc. Wesley Jones of Jerome and Sgt. Matt Torres of Boise.

They play energetic and loud metal, blues and assorted hard rock in the Cantina, a spare room with mattresses lined against the walls to dampen the crushing sounds.

"It's our home away from home," Torres said.

The bandmates were strangers before the deployment, but as soon as they found out about each other, they started talking about getting instruments and starting a band.

They wrote instrument companies and said they were soldiers in Iraq. They asked for discounts on equipment, but didn't get any offers.

"We started calling our wives and frantically asking for money after we figured out there wouldn't be any freebies," Kaserman said.

They mail-ordered an electronic drum set, two electric guitars and a bass and several amps, then started playing.

Except for Kaserman, who toured with a Christian rock band, their roots are pure garage band.

"I played in a slam-ass punk band in Detroit," Jones said.

"I played in a crappy garage band once," Torres said. "Then I got deployed to Bosnia and the band broke up."

Slade had barely played an instrument before the deployment. "He kind of got thrown into the mix," Torres said. "We told him he was going to learn how to play whether he liked it or not."

The band's name comes from the military policy of requiring an involuntary extension of service. Except for Slade's, all their enlistments will be up before their deployment ends. But they have to continue their service until they return to the states at the end of their year in Iraq.

In the meantime, they find a release from the stresses of Iraq through their music and have become a band of brothers of a different sort.

— Roger Phillips

The call to prayers is a daily occurrence at Patrol Base Barbarian -- actually, a five-times-per-day occurrence. The call is broadcast overloudspeakers across from the compound, and the first call to prayersis at 5 a.m., which coincidentally ends the night-time curfew.

There are three more calls during the day and the final one at sunset.During the 116th's training at Fort Bliss, Texas, the Army played call to prayers over the base's public-address system. It was a scratchy recording that sounded like someone stepping on a cat's tail.

But in Iraq, call to prayers is a softer, soulful, operatic chant. It's soothing and gentle. It's a signal for the Iraqis to pray. But they don't stop what they're doing and kneel. They usually go to a mosque to pray, not out in public.

But if they can't get to a mosque, sometimes they will pray where theyare. In one instance, I watched as an Iraqi herdsman kneeled in a field and prayed while his sheep grazed around him.

— Roger Phillips