Reporters on the Job

No Straight Shooters? Correspondent Neil MacDonald spent a week with Iraq's 2nd Battalion, 2nd Brigade stationed in the Diyala Province. It was his second "tour of duty" with a battalion he'd last visited in February.

US troops are stationed in one corner of the base, and the Iraqis on the other side. But, says Neil, "there's a lot more mixing at the officer level and noncommissioned officer (NCO ) - level than in most equivalent units I've seen in Iraq. The Iraqi units that are doing better are the ones that have regular contact with US soldiers (page 1). And there seemed to be genuine respect on both sides."

Some of the Iraqi veterans told Neil that training in Saddam Hussein's Army used to involve lots of marching, but not a lot of shooting. "Soldiers were issued as few as 10 rounds of ammunition at a time and would reportedly have to pay for more themselves if it ran out. Bullets were strictly rationed through senior officers, who would skim off half of what was supplied for training to sell and make up for their low salaries," some of the Iraqi officers told him.

As a result, he says, Iraq has been a militarized country for years, but it's hard to find experienced soldiers who can shoot straight.

Africa by Moto: One of staff writer Abe McLaughlin's favorite things about reporting in Africa is riding on the back of motorcycle taxis. These cheap transport machines are great for dodging traffic jams in Africa's congested cities and potholes on its rural roads. They have different names in different places, he says. In Kampala, Uganda, they're called "Boda-bodas" - apparently because they were originally used to transport people across a no-man's-land between the Kenya border and the Uganda border.

On a recent trip (page 7) to Bunia, Congo, "motos" were the only way to get around. But they aren't without their perils. "We almost got run off the road by a herd of cattle," says Abe.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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