Shaving in Baghdad

From “Old Spooks and Spies”

I’ve always hated shaving in the Army. Or rather, I’ve always hated shaving in the field. There are few things less motivating than waking up when it is 33 degrees out and pulling a cold razor over your face. One thing worse than that is having to follow up by applying thick, light green and loam camouflage to your exposed, raw skin. You thought you pushed out enough camo from the stick to start applying, but alas, you just scraped cold metal aggressively across your nose. Now you are bleeding. Time to ruck up.

Thankfully, we don’t seem to use facial camouflage on a regular basis anymore.

I’ve been shaving with a razor and shaving cream for the past couple of weeks to help get my face used to infantry life again. I normally use an electric razor for convenience. As my face has gotten used to the razor again, it reminded me of how much I can enjoy a good shave the old fashioned way.

I wake up early. Weekdays or weekends, workday or not, I like to get up early to start my day. I’ve always been that way. During my first deployment, I was usually the first one in the platoon to wake up on any given day. Squads would run missions throughout the day and guys were always going to the towers to pull security, but we still managed to keep somewhat of a predictable schedule in terms of going to sleep and waking up. There was no set wake up time unless you had a mission or duty. Given that freedom, most guys would roll out of bed between 0800-1000.

I couldn’t do it. I love to sleep, but I hate the idea of missing the beginning of the day. That time when few are awake and you have a complete blank slate.

I’d roll off of my cot around 0630. I’d put on my uniform and grab my hygiene kit and canteen cup and head over the company water buffalo. This was my favorite part of the day. The majority of the company was asleep. The air was warm but not yet Iraq-hot, and the city was only starting to come alive. From our compound, we could hear the passing traffic and the general buzz of the city.

I’d set my kit up on the water buffalo with a mirror and start to shave. My platoon leader was another early riser and he was usually there too. We’d nod and sometimes exchange a few words, but we mostly kept quiet and enjoyed the experience of enjoying a slow, uninterrupted shave.

After hygiene, I would walk over to the company CP and say good morning to the RTO (he always had the best rumors). Our company first sergeant was a coffee guy and had the XO do a run to the battalion compound every morning to get fresh (as can be) coffee from the cooks. Sometimes I would be lucky and get there just after the morning coffee run and the coffee would be fresh, but more often than not it was whatever was left over from the day before. Tepid, but strong enough to give a caffeine kick before a workout in the makeshift gym.

Short, intense workouts with the same songs for a year on a generation one iPod.

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