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Rep. Jim Avery, left, of Crestwood is shown in Iraq with another member of his National Guard unit.

Avery arrives in Iraq with National Guard unit

Editor's note: Rep. Jim Avery, R-Crestwood, has been deployed to serve in Iraq for a year with the National Guard's 1140th Engineering Battalion and he graciously has offered to write articles for the Call about his experiences. This is his second article and the first he has written since arriving in Iraq.

Eighty-five degree temperatures with no humidity might sound like a resort in paradise to some people.

I can assure you that everyone in my unit would agree that we are not in paradise.

Due to operational security reasons I am not allowed to be specific about my exact location.

The last time you heard from me, my unit was waiting to travel to the Middle East. After a 20-hour flight, we finally made it as we started our mission in Kuwait. I was at a base camp in Kuwait for almost a week before we left for Iraq.

Many people in our unit got to fly to our current location; I was chosen to ride in the convoy. I have to admit I was a little concerned because most of the soldiers who are being killed in Iraq are being killed while they are traveling in a convoy.

Finally, the time had come to put our training to task. Our convoy consisted of about 15 to 20 vehicles. Luckily the nine-hour trip was uneventful. After arriving at our new base camp, the first thing I wanted to do was shower and sleep.

The convoy did have some memorable moments that I will never forget. As soon as we crossed the border to Iraq, we went through a small village.

This village consisted of very small homes made of bricks that were loosely put together. It looked as if you could push most of these homes over with your hands.

There were children all along the roadside waving and yelling "Candy! Candy!" Most of the adults stopped what they were doing to wave, some just went about their business as if we were not there.

One other thing that really got my attention was the number of American-made cars the people in Iraq drive. I think Chevy had a sale of 1985-1990 Caprices here in Iraq. Eighty-five percent to 90 percent of all of the cars that I saw on the highway while on the convoy were either Chevy Caprice or Chevy Suburbans.

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that. At first I was a little concerned because I thought the same vehicle kept passing us. Then I realized they were all different cars.

The base I am currently on is a massive base in Southern Iraq. I am glad to be here to witness firsthand how Saddam ran his military and treated his people. This base has many old bunkers that obviously had been blown up in the first Gulf War.

When I run every day I pass by an old concentration camp. According to rumors this base is a place where Saddam had his enemies tortured and killed. A close observation of many of these buildings would support these rumors.

From what I have seen so far, the people of Iraq are very happy to have us here. I will move closer to Baghdad in the next week or so and I will update you on the conditions there.

I appreciate the kind letters and e-mails I have received from many of you so far. If you are interested in sending me an e-mail or would like to get my e-mail updates with additional pictures, please contact me at

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