Weapons ranges keep skills sharp. This one is just a few clicks off the FOB.

And because it's off base, a gun truck pulls security while others practice firing.

The view from the top of a HUMVEE turret.

Firing rounds from the M240 Bravo machine gun. This fires 7.62 millimeter rounds and replaces the old M60.

Staff Sergeant Gray calls out targets for the gunner on the M240 SAW light machine gun.

Its amazing how one section of Kirkuk is green and fertile -- and other sections are barren desert.

Junk car hulks litter the land. There's a lot of rubble in the town just outside post. I would later learn (from the book Assassin's Gate) that this used to be a Turkoman village called Taseen. The Turkoman, like the Kurds, were forcibly removed under the old regime's "Arabization"' policy.

A wider view of the same area as the previous photo.

This is someone's home. That's it. No running water. No A/C -- and this day was very hot well over 100 degrees. It's almost nomadic.

Children wander near where we are practicing shooting -- they want to collect up the empty brass to sell once we are done. They will fight over it when we leave -- a mob mentality that I was stunned to see from such young children, the result of extreme poverty.

Some bring in donkey carts to haul off the ammo.


These Arab children's parents were moved from Southern Iraq 18 years ago under Saddam's "Arabization" policy. Since the overthrow, the Kurds and Turkoman who lost their homes are back reclaiming the land. It sheds light some of the delicate politics that are heatedly debated in Provincial Council meetings. These poor kids are victims of circumstance.

But this little guy still wants to show boat for the camera.

Many kids do not even have shoes. They are literally dirt poor.