Monday, January 12, 2009

Camp Bucca... and beyond

Today we flew a Black Hawk helicopter over the Iraq border to a base called Camp Bucca

 As you can imagine, the ride was pretty incredible.  I totally want one of these things!  They are a total rush to ride in and I'm pretty sure I could get used to this being that this was just one of several trips we will be making in them.  Surprising how steady they are.
 We signed autographs and this lovely guy bought us all Bucca Bears!We even got to go over to the px- which is like a mini mall on base- they have a drugstore and then a small bazaar that Iraqi merchants sell customary good in such as bootleg dvd's (which is a huge problem as there is no regulation on piracy) and of course, hookahs!  I Price as Right model a few...
There is also a detainee center there where violator and criminals are being held.  They have taken in roughly 13,000 detainees who are there for anything from extremist action to subtle violence.  Under the acts of the Geneva Convention however, one of the rights of these detainees is visitation by their families.  There is a visitation center there where families are bussed in up to twice a month and allowed to visit with wives and children.  Here we pose with some of the wives waiting.
They've also built a small playground outside for the kids.
The visitation center.  Its pretty interesting actually... the reason they are called detainees and not prisoners is because once the Iraqi government takes over, these people will be tried fairly and either released or sentenced under Iraqi law.  As of now, the US Government is providing a blueprint for this kind of humane treatment of criminals awaiting trial.  They are given classes in civics and in the history of Iraq, as many of them are illiterate.  They are also allowed to conduct their daily prayers and have a separate food facility to accommodate their religious eating patterns.
From what we learned, the return rate for these folks after being released is apx. 1%, which is an astonishingly low number considering how much higher it is for convicted criminals in America.  Anyway, its a hopeful proof that the system of rehabilitation and humane care is working there.  This is all an attempt to restore extremist balance into the culture of Iraq as our troops begin to pull out over the next 3 years.  The parole system they are implementing is also interesting in that the families are involved.  Should a released offender continue to commit acts of violence, etc. and be caught again, it is a large shame on the family... which in this Iraqi culture carries a very large burden of embarrassment, hence helping families keep their own "in line" so to speak.
When we got to Bucca we all wrote on the wall they have out front...
My signature
Its amazing how many people you meet from all over the US.  This guy was from Lubbock, TX!!  Go Red Raiders!!

The Sargent Major gave a great power point presentation before lunch all about Bucca, what they are doing there, and the work the US Military has done thus far.  I liked this slide because it showed a "You Are Here" arrow, which I thought was funny.  Just like the Fashion Square Mall!
Us and our lovely group of girls who showed us around all day and made us laugh!!  They were so so sweet and cool.
Finally after a long day we headed home.  But not before another helicopter ride and a cool look through some night vision binoculars.
Oh and last but not least- what base is complete without Rock Band???  That's right... its a staple.  And these guys are good.  Rock on with your badselves.
Rachel demonstrates how not to wear her helmet.. backwards.  Sure is cute though Private Benjamin!