Since the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. military has built a series of titanic bases, where troops can get Pizza Hut delivered, sip an iced mochaccino, surf the web wirelessly or enter salsa dancing competitions. In my limited experience, these places are greenhouses of ennui and existential angst; the comforts of home only make the residents more despondent.
At Echo company’s compound, the only air conditioning is for the computers in the operations center. The shower is a bucket. The toilets consist of a few sandbags and a wooden box, positioned over a hole. And when the Marines here leave the base on patrol, it’s a virtual guarantee that they’ll encounter Taliban trying to kill them. In 57 days here, Echo has received enemy fire on 44 of them. Which, strangely, suits the Marines here just fine.