Special Reports

A reporter couldn't ask for better roommates in Iraq

Sgt. Chris Irizarry of Boise and Spc. Kevin Harrington of Lewiston were my roommates at Patrol Base Barbarian.

The Army has moved Statesman photographer Kim Hughes and me from the patrol base in Kirkuk where Bravo Company is stationed back to the main base at Kirkuk Regional Air Base – known as KRAB and as FOB Warrior. We're with the 116th's Alpha Company for the next few days.

So I have new quarters at KRAB, but I couldn’t have had a better roomies than I had in Irizarry and Harrington at Barbarian.

We got off on the right foot my first night at Barbarian -- actually my first morning. I kept waking up and thinking it was time to get up, but neither Izzy or Harry were up and it was still dark, so I rolled over went back to sleep.

Someone finally came into the room and told me Kim Hughes wanted to know if I was ever going to get up. I checked the time. It was about 10 a.m.!

Izzy and Harry had quietly gotten up hours ago, and I discovered the windows in the room were painted over so it stayed dark unless someone turned a light on. My kind of place.

Like me, they're both night owls and late sleepers. We joked about having to get up so we wouldn't be late for our morning nap.

Izzy and Harry bickered constantly, but it was never mean-spirited. When one was the down, the other picked him up.

"You're kind of grumpy today," Izzy said. "Do you need a hug?"

They made me laugh constantly, busted my chops and laughed when I busted theirs back. They humored me by acting interested in my old Navy stories. They shared their junk food with me.

I half-jokingly called this trip my G.I. Joe Fantasy Camp, and Izzy and Harry were like my camp counselors. They showed me how to strip, clean and reassemble an M-4 carbine, an M-240 machine gun and a 9 mm Baretta pistol.

When we went on patrols, I watched them closely. As long as Izzy and Harry were still joking -- and it seems they always were -- I knew everything was under control. Their humor became my safety barometer, and any time I got nervous, Harry was quick with a wise crack that eased the tension.

I spent two weeks with them, but it seems like I've known them a lot longer. No matter where I stay next or who’s there, I doubt it can be any better than hanging with Izzy and Harry.

— Roger Phillips

We wrote a longer story that you can read on our Dateline Iraq page about Sgt. Brent DeVall and how it’s hard for him and his wife, Jaime, who’s back in Caldwell, to be so far apart.

Here are some details about the patrol DeVall’s squad went on Saturday.

DeVall and his fellow soldiers walked for two hours and five miles through Oruba, asking residents for information about recent bombings.

The patrol periodically stopped so the squad leader, Staff Sgt. Seth Hobbs of Burley, could ask, via an interpreter, questions of local residents.

Had they seen anyone firing mortars or burying homemade bombs?

Did they know of any insurgents in the neighborhood?

Would they please report anything they see?

Whenever Hobbs stopped, DeVall dropped to one knee and scanned the area.

Insurgents weren't likely to attack a squad in daylight because they would be seriously outgunned, but occasionally someone will spray bullets from a rooftop.

As the patrol wore on, the temperature rose and the burden of DeVall's 50 to 60 pounds of gear started to wear on him.

"One of the hardest things to do is keep your head up and stayfocused," he said.

No one attacked the patrol, but no one provided any tips either.

Soldiers say they usually don't get information when they're on patrols, but sometimes people come later to the base or a police station and provide information.

— Roger Phillips

On Iraq's Election Day Jan. 30, Sgt. Brent DeVall was in Baqubah.

Insurgents had promised to turn the day into a blood bath for U.S. soldiers and any Iraqis who tried to vote.

DeVall said it was his most trying day in Iraq.

"The low point was the morning of the election. We woke up and heard all the gun shots and explosions," he said. "I knew I had to go out there."

DeVall not only witnessed Iraqis making history, he helped them make it.

Election Day turned into the high point of the deployment for DeVall, he said.

"I lived through it," he said. "It was a long day, but I learned more from that day than any I've had since I've been in the military."

DeVall said he's seen a difference in the Iraqi people during the 116th’s three-plus months there.

"I honestly asked (an Iraqi) guy and said 'Don't lie to me, are thingsbetter?' And he said 'yes.' "

— Roger Phillips