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Manuel L. Quezon


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Life In Iraq

In the search to find a good and high-paying job - that good job happens to be in the most dangerous place in the world – Iraq. But Iraq is not all about war, missiles, car bombs, hostage-taking and violence. It’s also about good work, camaraderie, challenge, training ground for professional & personal growth,….and fun. Yes, fun in the war zone. This ain’t a joke. Please read on…..

The author posing with bunkers (not NFA rice)

Despite the risk, people are applying for dangerous duty with Houston-Based Kellog Brown & Root (KBR). In Houston, Texas - applicants came from all over with resume' in hand, to a job fair like no other. Some sent off their applications on-line, just to take their chances and take up the challenge of working in a war zone in exchange to earning a monthly salary of thousands of dollars – tax free.

But for a Filipina like me working overseas for over 4 years now – having given the opportunity to work for KBR is my biggest break ever and one of the greatest blessings I have ever received from the Lord.

Iraqi traffic

I accepted the challenge of working on a whole new different kind of environment afar from the comfort of the conventional office world for a couple of reasons. Sure, financial consideration has a lot to do with it! But the primary reason of joining KBR is that I feel honored to be a part of a great mission of rebuilding Iraq and be a part of history - in general. A story that I can share with my children and grand children… the future.

When my family and friends learned that I’ll be moving to Iraq as part of our project’s full blast operation, everybody couldn’t believe that I’ll have the courage to go to a place always associated with violence. Of course, nobody has ever agreed with my decision but can’t do anything about it. People knew how hard-headed I am. If I say I wanted something, they knew I’ll really go for it no matter what the cost.

With Major Trina Peterson at a baseball game

So, as stubborn as I am, with my goals in place – I head off to KBR’s south camp. The place? Basrah, Iraq.

On that day when we were scheduled to head off to Basrah, I may be stubborn but deep down inside me is the frail little ME. When I got in the car to put on my hard hat and bullet-proof vest, I started to feel fussy but still managed to compose myself.

I’ve always been told not to sleep while traveling. But a sleepy head like me will always forget that once I get in a car and always feel like I’m in a swing. But for the first hour of travelling, I kept myself completely awake until I we had our convoy team who will secure us till we get to the camp.

An Iraqu mosque

Knowing that we had a security team who are really tough and dependable (Thanks to the Gurkas!), I’ve fallen asleep and missed the chance to see the interesting sight of abandoned tankers and other rotten military armaments scattered by the roadside. Yeah, I missed that because I’m a sleepy head.

Watching concert at the British Camp

But when my friend and officemate woke me up and told me about it, I immediately grabbed my digital camera and took shots on anything I find interesting like wrecked houses, Iraqis by the roadside, dump site of smashed vehicles, bridges, etc. But while taking pictures, at the back of my mind remained the vigilant ME. I keep on hoping and praying that there’s nobody hidden at the base of the bridge and by the roadside who will just shoot us or throw a grenade towards our direction. I’ve been praying so hard. “God, please not now. I am not ready yet. I still haven’t fulfilled my mission yet. I still have a lot of dreams.” And God, listened to my prayers. We got to the camp safely.

Samalamig, Iraqi version

Since the very first time I arrived at the camp, I have been to Kuwait and back to Iraq for 2 times already. So far, thru the grace and mercy of God, I’m still in one-piece….alive and kicking!

Talking about camp life …. our life up here is pretty close to the life of people out there in the city. Wanna bet?

We may be living in the middle of a desolate tract of Iraq’s vast desert but we have almost everything that y’all have down town. But of course, it’s also because we stay in a compound where the world’s strongest army subsist in,(US and UK) plus the Italian Army.

Posing with the Big Boss

We have a housing accommodation with complete amenities coupled with an incomparable ‘Moral, Welfare & Recreation’ facilities, 3-meals a day with menu prepared by a par excellence Canadian chef… we have 2 PX shops where we can buy souvenir items about Iraq war and get other cool stuff at a much lower price. Aside from that, we also have couple of bars inside the compound for people who wants to unwind, relax and have fun after office hours.

Pictures, pictures and pictures will boldly show how much fun we have up here working and staying at the camp.

But of course, it’s not all fun in here. It’s like a package deal ….. you have to have the guts to overcome the fear of possible attack from elsewhere; a steady will to survive and take up the challenge as it comes each day..... and eventually gets to see your money from your ATM in 6 figures monthly!

The spoils of war

Com’on, life is really fun! It’s just how we take things and move on with our journey to fulfilling our goals and mission in our lives.

The seņoritas with a seņor

Vangie M. Daton
Project Controls Department
KBR PCO Oil Program
Basrah, Iraq


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