One-and-a-half months of pre-deployment training
and six months of deployment have finally ended for Airman
Jeff Smith, who is home from Camp Bucca, Iraq. His unit, the
15th Security Squadron based at Hickam Air Force Base, joined
with the 18th Military Police Brigade and the 105th MP Brigade.
Smith was one of 13 soldiers from Hawai‘i who worked
at the U.S.-built Camp Bucca prison as a security guard.
Camp Bucca’s prison holds more than 6,000 Iraqi prisoners.
It is a holding place for detainee’s who are waiting
to be charged with crimes against humanity, mostly done during
Saddam Hussein’s reign. “We transported the detainee’s
from Camp Bucca to Abu Graib,” Smith explained, “Where
they would go to court in Baghdad.” Most detainee’s
were just waiting for their war crimes or humanity crimes to
be processed. Most are Sunni Muslim, Saddam’s people.
They are the minority in Iraq, but the majority of detainees
in the prisons,” said Smith.
Smith’s job was no joke, as many incidents that occurred
while he was at Camp Bucca made national news. One was a 600-foot
tunnel dug under the detainee’s compound discovered by
U.S. officials. Other smaller, connecting tunnels were found
According to Smith, the detainee’s used a handmade shovel
constructed from a cut-down bucket fastened it to a bamboo
stick that was used to hold up their tents. “You never
knew what kind of weapons they had until they used them,” Smith
Detainees at Bucca were housed in tents while the permanent prison structure
was being finished. The tents had dirt floors. They would flush the extra dirt
down the toilets in order to get rid of it. Civilian workers noted that their
sewer trucks were being jammed with dirt, so that was one of the signs that something
“They sent one guy in to see if there were any weapons hidden inside the
tunnel,” said Smith. “It was big enough for him to crawl through.
The Army filled the tunnel in, but only on the inside of the prison,” he
Camp Bucca would make national news again when detainees escaped by crawling
under the fences to get to the parts of the tunnel not yet filled in.
The Iraqi prisoners were treated pretty well according to Smith. “They
had family visits twice a month and contractors brought in ethnic food for each
of their meals.” As the permanent structures were completed, prisoners
were able to live in barracks-style housing, 50 to a bunker. They wore yellow
jumpsuits and bracelets with their picture on it. Each prisoner was assigned
an Internment Serial Number by the U.S. Army. At role call, every few hours, “They
would line up in numerical order, and we would make sure they were all accounted
for,” Smith said.
Smith’s typical work day was from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. He switched to days
the last month and a half he was in Iraq. He would have six days on and one day
off. His unit’s job assignment was broken down into two parts: TIF (Theater
Internment Facilities) Patrol would guard the prison and Force Protection would
patrol the town around Camp Bucca. Smith was always TIF. “One night I did
get to leave the prison on duty though,” he recounted. “Because an
Iraqi prisoner had died from natural causes and we had to get ice to store his
body so he would not smell.”
Off duty, the soldiers had MWR (Moral, Well-being, and Recreation) tents with
big screen TVs, a gym, and Internet connection.
Overall, Smith was glad he went, “It was an experience I am really glad
I got to have, but if I had to go back, I would want a different job,” he
Since he has been back, Smith has had a hard time finding housing. He has been
staying in lodgings on Hickam Air Force Base until he finds a place. Smith had
14 days of R&R (Rest and Relief) before returning to work.
Smith most likely will not be able to complete his classes at HPU; the deployment
has put him behind, and his job will likely take him off island before he can
finish his degree on campus. He still hopes to get his degree from HPU, because
he has done the majority of his college work here.