Letters from Iraq

Editor’s Note : Norwich High School teacher Edward Erickson is currently serving for one year as a professor of political science in Baghdad. This is the first in a periodic series about his work with Iraqi instructors and his observations of the war.

By Edward Erickson

Foreign Correspondent

I work on the Iraqi Ministry of Defense’s Transition Team at their new professional development center in Baghdad. There are eight of us: five Americans, one Australian, one British and one French teacher. Our skills include international relations, budgets, human relations, computers/networking, and legal affairs. Two are lawyers.

We are part of a massive American effort to transition control of this country back to the Iraqis themselves. Our small part in this scheme is to develop courses and mentor Iraqi instructors so that by next summer the Iraq Ministry’s Professional Development Center can function without American help. My boss told me: “Your job is to work yourself out of a job.”

At the moment I’m developing a course called “The Role of the Ministry of Defense (MoD)” which is all about civilian control of the military, and how western ministries of defense operate. (In the USA, we call our MoD the Department of Defense.)

I live in the “Green Zone” of Baghdad, also called the “IZ” or “International Zone,” on a compound called the Forward Operating Blackhawk (FOB) base. It is guarded by a Peruvian security force. I live in what is called a dry trailer, meaning I have to walk to the shower and toilet. I ride a work bus, wearing my helmet and armored vest, to FOB Phoenix, where I eat and get my mail. FOB Phoenix is guarded by a Fijian security force. My meals are cooked and served by guys from India. A US navy guy delivers my mail. I work a six-day week and go through a guarded gate into the MoD complex next door.

At the MoD itself, I am entirely in the hands of Iraqi army security. I have a 52-year old translator assigned to me. His name is Jawad. The main threat to us, at the present time, is the occasional rocket or mortar round that is lobbed into the IZ by insurgents from across the Tigris River.

If you haven’t picked up on it, I am embedded in a work environment that includes a variety of ethnicities and that, in itself, is very inter

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