Best Regards from Baghdad

My One Year in Iraq

PRT Salah ad Din

February 1, 2007 - Many, MANY thanks to Peter Lord and Christian Redmer, currently in the PRT in Salah ad Din, for the following information about life in COB (Combined Operating Base) Speicher.  They were the first to step up to the plate and contribute something about life in the hinterlands.  Here is their contribution, word for word:

PRT Salah ad Din is located north of Tikrit on COB (Combined Operating Base) Speicher.  The base is the center of military and civilian operations in Salah ad Din and presently home to around 10,000 soldiers.  This number may increase as smaller bases are closed. 


Base facilities include three dining halls and three gymnasiums.  There are also several MWR (morale, welfare, and recreation) centers which include televisions, pool tables, and other recreational facilities.  Libraries per se do not exist; however, there are numerous bookshelves where one can trade books.


There are KBR (Kellogg, Brown and Root) operated laundry facilites located throughout the base and that will wash clothing at no cost.  There is a 72 hour turn over.  Be aware, however, that these facilities are hard on clothes, and it is not recommended to bring anything that you will want to wear after your tour.  Also remember that there is a tremendous amount of dust and sand, so clothing wears out quickly.  There is also a shop where clothing can be pressed for a small fee. 


There is a military medical facility which can handle most medical emergencies.  However, longer-term and more severe cases are flown to larger facilities.


Speicher also has a decent sized PX (comparable to the embassy PX), a smaller PX on the other side of the base, as well as Burger King, Taco Bell, Subway, Pizza Hut, and beauty/barber shops.  There is a bazaar and numerous rug shops where one can buy miscellaneous crafts/souvenirs. 


The weather in Salah ad Din varies tremendously throughout the year.  During the winter, lows hover around zero degrees in the evenings and the mid-50s in the day.  During the summer, day-time highs often reach 130 degrees. It’s recommended that PRT members bring layered clothing – since the dress code is business casual, it’s most convenient to wear fleeces, sweatshirts or sweaters that can be taken off if necessary. 


PRT members currently have a room in a trailer and a shared bath.  There is no internet access in the trailers.  Most personal usage of the internet / communication with home is done from the office.  There are also DSN phones in the PRT from which US-based calling card phone calls can be made.


COB Speicher derives a great deal of security from its relatively remote location.  Compared with Baghdad, there are fewer mortars and indirect fire incidents.  However, traveling between Speicher and Tikrit, a trip that generally takes about one hour, is extremely dangerous, and many of the buildings where the PRT conducts meetings have tenuous security situations.  Traveling between cities in the province generally must be done in a helicopter.  The general security environment can be described as non-permissive.


Additionally, it should be noted that the PRT receives little to no support services.  Everything from fixing computer networks to cleaning bathrooms and emptying trash is done internally, i.e. by members of the PRT.  It is also difficult to obtain necessary office supplies, equipment, and other services.  While Washington and Baghdad have stated that PRTs are a priority, the tangible benefits are not evident.


Living and working at PRT Salah ad Din is not like working in Baghdad.  There are fewer luxuries (such as internet, televisions, and phones in the trailer), and there is a clearly dominant military culture.  However, PRT management is very supportive of its members, and, with tempered expectations, COB Speicher can be a productive working / living environment.

Again, many thanks to Christian and Peter!!!