In Baghdad, a Christmas patrol
Monday, December 25, 2006 · Last updated 11:41 a.m. PT
By WILL WEISSERT
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq — The sun was just beginning to rise, bringing a dim glow on a cold and clear Christmas morning in Baghdad, but the U.S. Army mission was late.
The Stryker armored vehicles were supposed to have rolled from Forward Operating Base Loyalty 11 minutes ago, at 6:30 a.m., yet soldiers were still milling about outside the green machines, shivering in bulletproof jackets and Kevlar helmets.
“Load up!” bellowed Jeffrey Huggins, battalion sergeant major for the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment.
The men began climbing into the back hatches of the Strykers, but not fast enough for Huggins: “Load up means all of you get in your trucks! It doesn’t mean stand there and look at me!”
As soldiers began searching homes, some Iraqis greeted them with smiles, offering sweet tea and fried bread.
“Merry Christmas, mister!” one man said as soldiers, their boots caked with mud from the unpaved street, clomped into his house.
Other locals bristled. “Why you come?” one woman demanded in broken English. “We have nothing.”
After a few hours, the mission was suddenly suspended. Several hundred people had taken to the street near a mosque, complaining about the house searches.
“No, no, America,” they chanted in Arabic. “Yes, yes, peace!”
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