Doing your job while deployed to Iraq has challenges in its own right, many of which I have discussed in this forum previously. Most people take their down time; however, work out, sleep or watch TV. There are few folks here who really seem to carpe their diems. I suppose this is true of any place. The vast majority of us develop at least some sense of complacency, and choose to idle our remaining waking hours, and stretch out our non-waking hours. Still, a small minority will strive to make the most of every minute of their days, sucking every drop of life from the cup.
The differences here are striking insofar, as the experience is finite. The time in this very odd life circumstance is, for many of us non-professional soldier types, fleeting and unique. In addition, we practically live on top of one another here; we eat together, share showers, work together. It is simple to notice those who color outside of the lines, and use more than the standard palette, so to speak. In fact, the military is probably one of the less forgiving institutions with regard to nonconformity, so creativity comes with a price.
But for those who are creative, there are wonderful myriad adventures afoot in a new or rebuilding country. One of my colleagues and friends, not unlike many young physicians recently emerging from a decade or more of self-imposed scholastic asceticism, suffers from an impressive cultural naiveté. I truly respect this person; however, for aggressively seeking exposure to what there is here to see. This physician sought out and befriended special operations troops, helicopter pilots, infantry command, and a variety of contract workers. There were times at the firing range, the helicopter rides over Baghdad, an opportunity to drive a tank, and made to order food in the back kitchens of the dining hall; a doctor, who otherwise was never required to leave the hospital (with exception to tending to personal duties, etc), developed alliances, yet more, friendships, with folks who most of us would never have the opportunity to know, much less summon the courage to pursue.
I really want to drive a tank too.