Life at FOB Bernstein near Tikrit is, well, rustic. There are no MWR facilities with gyms or televisions like at some other bases. And while they do have internet and phones, the base has had substantial problems with the system crashing. (They are currently in the process of upgrading the system.) Forget about indoor plumbing. They do not even have chemical latrines, but rather use sunken PVC pipes for urinals (this is a Cavalry and Infantry forward base--there are no women), and have wood outhouses with toilet seats over metal buckets for, shall we say, other tasks. The mail was delayed for a couple of weeks this last time, and they are still waiting for some equipment and personal effects that was sent over in large seaborne containers when they left the States. When the mail finally did arrive this last week, the soldiers described it as being like Christmas. Packages and letters from loved ones, friends, and neighbors filled the cots. In addition to letters from people they know, the DOD distributes mail addressed to "Any Soldier" among the troops. It was good to see from the letters how communities were coming together. For example, a Lieutenant from North Carolina got a package from one of his neighbors, who explained how the other neighbors on the block were helping the soldiers wife by mowing the lawn, and doing repairs around the house. The mail service and the internet service are supposed to be improving soon, and this will be good for the soldiers. While they understand that they have it much better in terms of communication than their brethren who fought in previous wars, it is nonetheless difficult to be out of touch with their families for extended periods of time.