News: Marines cast stresses away at Camp Baharia
Story by Cpl. Brian Reimers
By Cpl. Brian Reimers
Regimental Combat Team 5
CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq -- Pfc. Carlos J. Nayola doesn't have combat stress. That's because he's got a fishing rod.
"Fishing relaxes the soul and helps me get away," said the 19-year-old warehouse clerk from Lynn, Mass.
Nayola, along with a few of "New England's Own" Marines from 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, sit at the shore of Lake Baharia a couple nights every week. The murky water ripples its way to the lake's edge where it crashes in small waves on the rocky shore. There, sweat-stained Marines serving with Regimental Combat Team 5 laze away the evenings waiting for something to snag their attention.
"It brings a touch of home that much closer to Iraq," said Lance Cpl. Robert J. Veglucci, a 30-year-old field radio operator, from Shirley, NY.
The man-made lake, dug during Saddam Hussein's reign, was part of what the Ba'ath party called Dreamland, a vacation getaway spot for Iraqis loyal to the dictator. It was once filled with amusement rides and lighted streetpaths. Now, the bungalows that line the lake's edge house Marines. Driveways are filled with armored Humvees, heavy-barreled machine guns jutting out.
And the lake is now a draw for faithful anglers.
Marines in desert camouflage trousers and olive-drab T-shirts were silhouetted against the glistening water. It's a scene that repeats itself. As the orange desert sun dips, Marines tied away their stresses, knotting hooks and sinkers.
They use simple rods and reels, the sort that can be bought for a few dollars at a department store. They don't bother digging for bait. They just reach into the latest care package from home.
Small, greasy pieces of "Slim Jim" Spicy Smoked Snacks are ripped from the bright packaging and carefully threaded on to barbed hooks.
"One of the Marines who was stationed here before told me about the bait trick," Veglucci said. "I like beef jerky and apparently the fish here do too."
"It is actually kind of funny," said Lance Cpl. Eric T. Shaw, a 22-year-old supply administration clerk from Leicester, Mass. "I find myself eating and enjoying the same thing I am trying to trick the fish into eating."
A Marine repeated the ritual. He gripped a five-foot graphite pole and snapped it forward, sending the chunk of beef flying into the warm breeze over the water. A moment later, it splashed on the surface, then slowly sank into the hunting grounds of catfish, carp and eels among others lurking about.
It's not exactly the graceful casting about of a fly fisherman, but it's a combat zone. They enjoy what little angling they can dredge up. The Marines take their positions, leaned back on the water's edge. And they wait.
For some, it's therapeutic.
"Patience is the key," Veglucci said, who considers himself an avid fisherman back home. "You'll never catch a fish if you try to rush and that is the best part about it. It forces you to relax and your mind just drifts off."
"Sometimes I think that is the most fun part of fishing, when you are sitting there waiting for a fish to bite the bait," said Lance Cpl. Jason R. Yates, a field radio operator from Rockland, Maine. "Nothing else matters. It's just you and the water."