A nice long shower, some Chinese food ... and no gunfire: She’s home in Plymouth
Connick said Tuesday that she is still getting used to not having a 9-millimeter handgun on her hip.
She doesn’t miss the frequent mortar blasts and gunfire at Camp Anaconda, just north of Baghdad, where she was stationed, because over time it became just background noise.
“You get used to hearing explosions and gunfire. We took mortar fire maybe three times a week, two or three rounds at a time. They didn’t hit anything,” Connick said.
Then there was the gunfire, just off the base, “from aircraft chasing the bad guys.”
Connick’s unit, the 719th Transportation Battalion, worked with civilian contractors who transport food, tools, building materials, fuel, repair parts and more for the military.
“The only thing civilians don’t carry is ammunition,” she said.
Connick, 42, blogged home to The Patriot Ledger while in Iraq, writing about her personal experiences and conveying the message that not everything is bad for the U.S. troops there.
Camp Anaconda is surrounded by a high, barbed-wire-topped chain link fence, and there is more barbed wire running parallel to the fence just inside the base. There was no going beyond the fence and mingling with the locals.
But Connick said Iraqis she met – people who had been hired to work for the military – were not eager for the U.S. forces to leave. She recalled an Iraqi contractor who feared that he and the locals he hired to do handyman work at Camp Anaconda would lose their livelihoods.
Her work enabled her to see a great deal of the country, mostly by air. She said the sandy landscape “is like being on another planet.” She said the heat is oppressive, “and when it rains, everything turns into a bed of mud.”
Connick grew up in Quincy’s Houghs Neck neighborhood. She joined the Army ROTC program in her freshman year at Suffolk University, and she entered the service when she graduated, in 1988.
She spent six years on active duty and was a platoon leader and company commander in Vicenza, Italy, and a company commander at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. In 1994, she transferred to the Army Reserve.
Connick’s son, Joel, lives with his father in Texas. She and her husband, Stu Cox, moved to Plymouth in 1990.
Cox, a union ironworker, is a retired Army Special Forces sergeant. His son, Brandon, 24, is an Army specialist serving with a civil affairs team near Baghdad.
Cox worked in Iraq in 2003 and in 2005 for civilian contractors in security and construction.
Connick said the U.S. should not give up on Iraq.
“This is not an overnight thing... It might be 10 years, it might be 15 years – nobody knows – but to pull out too soon, the consequences will be a disaster.”
Robert Sears may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.