CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq --
It’s early Sunday morning, the sun is just beginning to rise, and Master Sgt. Troy Buss walks across the desert sand with a fishing rod in tow.
Having deployed at least once during each Iraq operation since Operation Desert Shield in 1990, Buss never imagined he would fish in a man-made, Iraqi lake formerly used by Saddam Hussein and his Baath party elite.
Buss, a 43-year-old operations chief from Bonduel, Wis., with Company W, Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, spends at least an hour fishing at the lake here each Sunday to unwind
“Fishing is something we do in Wisconsin to relieve stress,” Buss said. “I call it a break back to reality. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to come here (to Iraq) and relax on the lake.”
Buss said he is able to make his weekly ventures to the lakeshore due to a sharp increase in independent operations of the Iraqi Security Forces since the transfer of provincial Iraqi control to the Iraq government in August.
Buss and Marines in his unit have transitioned into to an over-watch position as Iraqi Security Forces have begun to take over and conduct their own operations.
The increase of the Iraqi Security Forces ability to operate independently proves that the Marines partnered with their Iraqi counterparts have made a difference in the al Anbar Province, he said.
Even if there was a lake near him during his previous deployments, there would not have been any time to enjoy it, he added.
“Back then we didn’t have a chance to do anything but operations,” said Buss.
Several other Marines aboard the camp have also enjoyed spending time at the lake.
“Fishing is something to look forward to each week and it makes time go by,” said Lance Cpl. Dustin Riesterer, a 21-year-old mortar man from Manitowoc, Wis., with Company W.
Riesterer, who deployed here a year ago, said operational tempo has changed drastically in the little time he was back stateside.
“I credit the change to the Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army stepping up,” he said. “It’s quiet enough to have just a little time to ourselves. I didn’t expect to have any leisure time—last year operational tempo was non-stop.”
The Marines say there is just enough time to fish once a week, but even that is a sign of Iraqis’ dedication to a becoming a self-sustaining, democratic nation.