Home from Iraq -- for two short weeks

Another soldier born and raised in Carson City returned safe from Southwest Asia three days ago. This time, however, it's only temporary -- Army Spc. B.J. Brown will be headed back to Iraq on Oct. 14.

"Two weeks is going to go by so quick," said Brown, wearing desert camouflage fatigues at his father's work.

He's home as part of the military's largest leave program since the Vietnam war. The morale-boosting program provides 15 days off for all service members serving 12-month tours of duty in Iraq and neighboring countries.

Brown, who serves with the 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery with the 4th Infantry Division, was supposed to be home in June.

"It went from 6 months to a year -- I don't know how that happened," he said with a crooked smile. "First I was supposed to be back in June. Then they moved it back to July, then October, then January and now March."

But it's not so bad over there, he tells himself.

"It looks better than it used to. In my eyes it does."

He's gone from washing his body with bottled water to stand-up showers, from all prepackaged "Meals Ready to Eat" to two "real" meals a day and more permanent satellite phones for calls home.

"It's better than being stuck here at my dad's car lot washing cars," he laughed, looking at Dad, Valley Chevrolet Pontiac Fleet Manager Bill Brown.

"I've saved every newspaper since he went over there," his dad said.

The 23-year-old specialist says he's seen some interesting things while deployed, from 5-inch spiders with four fangs to Geraldo Rivera getting a chair thrown at him in the mess hall.

"I was just sitting there eating when I saw this chair flying at him," he chuckled. "I guess he asked the wrong question. So he didn't stay too long."

Brown, a "63 Bravo" or diesel mechanic, fights the heat by sleeping on the hood of his 5-ton truck. Temperatures soared as high as 156 degrees but they're dropping now, he said.

Most of the casualties in his unit have been from accidents, not hostile forces, he said.

"We didn't see much combat -- The 3rd Infantry and Marine Expeditionary Unit took care of most of that for us."

His unit still follows strict rules when driving from their base in Samarra to pick up parts at airports in Baghdad or Balad. Each convoy has a minimum of 10 vehicles with military police in front and back, a medical unit and the ability to call in air support. They also travel with crew-served weapons such as 50-caliber machine guns, Mark 19 automatic grenade launchers and the M249 machine gun Brown operates.

A few Saddam Hussein loyalists continue to cause trouble, he says -- like the recent rebel prisoners he guards in the hanger some nights.

But for now Brown, who grew up playing Babe Ruth baseball on Governor's Field, is happy to relax and have a home-cooked meal.

"Tonight we're having spaghetti and garlic bread," said his dad.

Brown will hang out with friends, maybe visit his Carson High School auto tech teacher Bill Barbie and prepare to head back overseas.

His experience with the Army has taught him some lessons.

Bill Brown recalled a rare phone call from his son while he was in Iraq.

"He said, 'When I get home, I will never complain about anything ever again.'"

"Yeah," said his son. "Don't take your life for granted."


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