Hawijah is in the Muhafazat Diyala province of Iraq and approximately 30 miles southwest of Kirkuk.
There are approximately 70,000 people in and around Hawijah with an estimated 98% Sunni Population.
U.S. and Iraqi forces have experienced numerous lethal attacks in the area from Sunni insurgents. As of March 2006, the area of Hawijah was considered one of the most dangerous in all of Iraq.
FOB McHenry is about 40 miles southwest of Kirkurk. As of May 2005 FOB McHenry was home to around 500 US soldiers.
McHenry is used as a staging ground for many of the operations in nearby Hawijah, known as one of the deadliest towns in Iraq. In March 2006, Soldiers in 1st Battalion 327th infantry regiment at FOB McHenry were finding 3-5 road-side bombs a day. From November 1, 2005 through March 2006 medics treated 120 trauma cases. Nine members of the brigade as of March 2006 have died in combat in Hawijah proper. At night, FOB McHenry is mostly dark as to make attack against soldiers at the base difficult.
Life at FOB McHenry is much different then many other more modernized U.S. bases in Iraq. While many bases in Iraq utilize outside help from various contractors, McHenry is mostly a self-sufficient base. The base produces its own electricity using large, trailer-sized generators. Chow is made by military cooks and about 150 loads of laundry a day are cleaned in industrial washers by U.S. personnel.
FOB McHenry has a medical aid station, three sea huts (wooden multi-purpose buildings), a military dog training course, air-conditioned containerized housing units (CHU), gym and a modified post exchange (PX). Soldiers have access to phone, mail and internet services.
In the area of the base there is a significant sand fly fever problem, with a seven percent incident rate for soldiers as of May 2005. Sometime in 2004 sand fly fever was rampant enough on base to have a huge impact on operations. Sand fly fever is a result of bites from a sand fly and the more a person gets bitten, the more susceptible they are to sand fly fever. Symptoms can include a 103-104 degree Fahrenheit fever, headaches, chills, muscle aches, malaise and nausea. Fortunately, the fever is not contagious. On average, sand fly fever can sideline a soldier from three to 14 days. A bite from a sand fly can also lead to a potentially fatal disease known as leishmaniasis, which has an incubation period of up to one year. The skin version is nasty, but it won't kill you; the other, which manifests internally, can prove fatal if not properly treated. Soldiers are instructed to treat their uniforms and bed nets with permethrin, and to use repellent lotion on exposed skin. Those steps plus properly wearing their uniform to cover as much skin as possible can decrease bites by 95 percent.
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