Greetings From Baghdad "Cleaning Latrines For The Glory Of The Empire"

Greetings From Baghdad "Cleaning Latrines For The Glory Of The Empire"

A Story by Calwarr

A lighthearted, semi factual, look at Army life from the inside.


Howdy friends and neighbors! I would like to share with you a series of letters, written to my parents while I was serving in sunny southern Baghdad.

I noticed all my friends that wrote consistently tended to write solemn, serious commentary. They would explain in great detail the dangers and hardships that they faced daily in the fight to survive on the modern battlefield, seemingly in the hopes of scaring the bejesus out of their family and friends.

I decided to go another route. Using a combination of quick e-mails and letters, I decided to give them the lighter side of army life. Yep I lied a lot. With a little distortion and creativity enhanced by lack of sleep and 140 degree heat, the Greetings from Baghdad series was born.

So now without further ado I present to you…….

Cleaning Latrines for the Glory of the Empire

Greetings from Baghdad, where every day is an olfactory adventure. Yes, today we will explore in depth one of the most important, most utterly terrifying missions the United States Armed Forces undertakes. The kind of put up or shut up, suck it up and drive on, hairy chested, separate the men from the pinko communist tree hugging, draft dodging, tofu eating, Bambi worshipers…… Sorry I completely lost track of what I was talking about. Oh yeah, we have to clean the latrines every day and it is a REAL drag.

Please excuse my overenthusiastic intro, but this is a subject that I have real feelings about. I worry about this way more than rising gas prices, global warming or even Martha Stewart’s ankle bracelet. (Besides I hear those are in this summer.)

Early each morning, and let me tell you the Army has a pretty radical view of what early means, especially when compared with.. say my little brothers idea of early. Each platoon has to give up five privates for latrine duty. My team is tasked to 1st/Black Platoon, who, as coincidence would have it, have exactly five privates. So we get to clean the latrine seven thrilling days a week.

Perhaps you naive civilians think that soldiers by nature are neat and considerate. Perhaps you have been lighting up reefers the size of highway flares. The average young soldier is between seventeen and twenty two, and has gone directly from Mom and Dad’s house to the Army without a stop at charm or etiquette school. The only etiquette they concern themselves with is whether to blow their noses on their sleeves or simply to plug one nostril and blow a “snot rocket.”

During my tour of duty in Iraq I have witnessed, not one but two snot rocket contests. I mentioned to the soldiers engaged in the second contest that I found their little game disgusting, to which they replied, “Hey it’s our room, mind your own business.”

Some reading this are thinking, “Wow two young men playing a game consisting of hurling body fluids competitively, that’s gross!” However I know that my father keyed in on a different detail, THEY WERE DOING IT IN THEIR ROOM! Not only were they blowing snot out of their noses, getting quite a bit on themselves I might add, but their intended target was the floor of the room they shared. I pointed this out but they just said “Duh, we have tissues.” Hard to argue with that kind of logic.

So I guess you can imagine how things go in the latrine. After the first month of wiping urine off the walls, the floor the ceiling, virtually everywhere BUT the urinal, I considered hanging a poster on the wall with the five principles of basic rifle marksmanship.

  1. Steady Position

  2. Sight Picture

  3. Breath Control

  4. Trigger Squeeze

  5. Jiggle Control

OK, so I made that last one up, but lord gussy these boys need help. Also since our sector in Baghdad is basically a huge open sewer, you can’t imagine the filth that gets tracked in on a daily basis.

As bad as all the things I have mentioned truly are, none of them are the worst part of cleaning the Bravo company latrines. Not by a long shot. No sir, not even the buckets overflowing with used toilet paper.

Yep that’s right, for some reason the Army thought it would be a good idea to hire Iraqi contractors to install the plumbing. They managed to install a system so fragile that flushing toilet tissue causes it to reverse flush and spew, (expletive deleted) (Wow I feel like Nixon) all over the place. So each day we empty these sweet smelling buckets and clean them, and that still is not the worst part.

The worst part is that it is totally pointless. The Department of Defense has hired a huge workforce mainly from India called KBR to take care of laundry service, the dining facility, and JANITORIAL SERVICES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We have to hurry to clean the latrines in the morning before the KBR guys get there.

You would think this would please them but I think they are worried about their supervisor finding out and losing their jobs. When they first came to find the area already cleaned they just wandered around about an hour looking concerned, but after a while they started arriving earlier and earlier, trying to beat us to the punch.


I foresee a “Westside Story” type rumble in the latrine, broom verses broom, squeegee, verses squeegee. When will the failed Bush administration act to end this useless conflict? We DON’T WANT to clean the latrine, they WANT to clean the latrine, and the soldiers get yelled at for even suggesting that we let the workers do the job that the tax payers money is paying for.

I heard the company First Sergeant tell one of my friends that manual labor builds character. Our First SGT is a vigilant man. He always shows up at random times just in case someone is not building character fast enough. So it looks like barring a merciful mortar attack that destroys the latrine, I will be there every morning. Really I am not even sure that that would do it, we would probably mop the rubble.

So whenever you start to brag about your son overseas fighting the evils of terrorism, or think that this romantic adventure in uniform is going to my head, please remember that I start every day with a healthy dose of humility that no air freshener can spray away.

© 2013 Calwarr

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I find this very well-written and entertaining. For what it might be worth, this is the first bit of writing of its type that I've read, and did so because I saw that it was light-hearted. Similarly, I wouldn't indulge in anything about Vietnam until years later when the rawness had waned. I imagine the conditions you experienced were horrible, and making light of it is the best way to go. As for the filthy habits of young men, I'm quite familiar with that, having spent 20 years in the Navy. Not only are they pigs, but they're destructive, too, and I've seen brand new facilities torn to hell in no time by them. One small error here--"They only etiquette...."

Posted 7 Years Ago

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Added on June 19, 2011
Last Updated on September 21, 2013
Tags: Army, Iraq, Soldier, Funny, Satire, Journal, Letters, US army, Baghdad



Clarksville, TN

Greetings and salutations, it's your friendly neighborhood Calwarr here. I am a professional soldier, father and snappy dresser. I have always had the writing bug and lately have decided to spend more.. more..


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