While convoys are travelling through Iraqi territory, they frequently encounter many children who aren't in school.
They have a tendency to swarm around convoys if they stop looking for handouts.
They're commonly referred to by military personnel as "Street Urchins".
Kirkuk Air Base has an operation called "Operation Crayon".
It isn't exactly publicized by the mainstream media, but is publicized through other means. Donations are received from generous people in the USA. Donations are primarily clothes and school supplies.
Volunteers at Kirkuk Air Base then divide these items into individual bags. When enough donations are received a convoy is formed to take these goods to local school children.
The children of course are always thrilled! It's unfortunate that positive things of this nature aren't more prominently highlighted.
Not far from Kirkuk is the "Eternal Flame". It's a significant Christian and Muslim holy site. The flame is said to have been burning for over 2,500 years now. It's the flame referenced in the Book of Daniel, chapter 3:
What you see here are more remains of the headquarters.
Recently the Kurds have been moving back into the area, after many years of SEVERE suppression. Needless to say, they're considered "friendlies" for the most part.
You can't see it well in the picture, but even though they don't have running water, they all have satellites and TV.
They'll come up to the perimeter, knowing no English except "Go Bush" or "Thank you USA". Holding their hand up in a thumbs up (not a thumb forward, which is an insult). It's a pretty good feeling!
Tested the zoom on my camera to get as close of a shot as I could here. You can't see it well, but folks are starting to move into the stands of the old stadium.
We got the binoculars out and could see kids waving at us. Kinda interesting really. The children are very enthusiastic and friendly.
They'll stand just outside the perimeter, wave, smile, ask for water and just generally try to be friendly.
There isn't a heck of a lot left of it now, but what you see here is the remains of the Iraqi Ba'ath party headquarters.
This was actually the headquarters and control area for all of northern Iraq. In the background you can see what used to be a large stadium.
The stadium wasn't the primary Iraqi olympic team training area, as I originally was told. It was however an alternate training ground, which is rumored to have been a frequently visitid area by Saddam.
I'm told Saddam really liked to watch his olympic soccor team play here.
Entirely too close to the room I sleep in is the Kirkuk Air Base Mosque and military graveyard. We aren't permitted to go in either, out of respect.
Of course the locals can't get to it right now either...
I'm told, but can't get confirmation or specific names, that a famous descendent of Mohammad is buried here.
As a gesture of good will, the USA recently awarded a lucrative contract to local contractors to completely refurbish this Mosque.
The mound in the picture used to be a Command and Control bunker for the Iraqi leadership of Kirkuk air base. During the first gulf war the US Air Force hit it with what we think was a JDAM or like missile.
While the exact details are a bit sketchy, apparently we took out the bunker while a number of very high ranking Iraqi military personnel were in the bunker.
The green, rounded structure on top of the mound is a memorial to them. The small rectangular green piece to the right of it lists the names of the personnel who perished in the bunker.
Right outside one of the Iraqi schools, the teachers decided to paint a mural. Unfortunately they forgot to use spell check ; )
Couldn't resist posting one more picture inside from inside an Iraqi school. They kids seem to be having a blast!
As with all travel in Iraq (at least for now) it is highly encouraged to "tour" in groups.
Oh, the flames also stink the place up. It wouldn't hurt to bring something to plug your nose...
It's said that the flames cannot be extinguished. If you stomp one piece of flame out, another flame will rise nearby.
Unfortunately some of the remaining factions aren't as friendly. This of course requires us to be a bit vigilant.
Don't try this one at home ; )
This sign, I'm told, is a list of names of the folks who perished in the bunker.
If you can read this, please feel free to let me know who they were.