BAGHDAD, Iraq Pfc. Justin Bellatti smiled and waved as flocks of pretty
young women strolled past his patrol at Baghdad University.
Bellatti's unit, the Baumholder, Germany-based 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry
Regiment, was in charge of providing security at the university last week
during a series of lectures by instructors from the U.S. Military Academy at
West Point, N.Y.
Providing security and girl watching is pretty good duty, and the troops
of Company A knew it.
"A lot of guys try to talk with the Iraqi girls. I just try to concentrate on
the job," Bellatti said. "It's overwhelming. They are very beautiful."
But flirting is forbidden.
Iraqi culture forbids women to flirt, and U.S. troops are under orders
against close relationships with Iraqis.
Still, they find ways to interact with a quick glance, a smile or a wave. In
some cases, they wander toward each other for brief conversations. Eyeing a
group of smiling women, Spc. Carl D'Agostino, 25, of Springfield, Ill., took a
long drag off his cigarette, breathing out smoke with a sigh.
"They have some gorgeous women here," D'Agostino said, shaking his head.
The soldiers are on campus to provide general security, said Lt. Col. Pete
Jones, battalion commander.
"There's no fraternization," said Jones, 42, of Houston. "We treat everyone
with dignity and respect."
But even Jones, a 1985 West Point graduate, knows that American soldiers and
Iraqi students are bound to mingle.
Some Iraqi women think the American guys are cute, said Aisha Emad, 22. But
she and her friends avoid soldiers, fearing others will say they are trying to
sleep with the enemy.
"We may say things between each other, but we never tell the soldiers," Emad
said, as her smiling brown eyes darted between a group of Iraqi men watching
nearby and the soldiers standing beside her. "They are invaders."
Iraqi men use the rudest terms to say that female students want sex with
Americans, said Ali Fareed, 24. Many of his friends are angry and jealous of
soldiers on campus, Fareed added. But he said he enjoys chatting with soldiers
and understands that it's normal for young adults to be curious about each
"It's an ordinary thing. I'm not jealous," Fareed said.
While Iraqi women are not allowed to flirt with the Americans, the Iraqi men
on campus had no trouble calling out to Spc. Erin Romero, 21, of Lake Tahoe,
Romero, a fair-skinned, blond-haired woman, ignored the comments.
"They say, You're beautiful, an angel,' " Romero said. "It's just they are
not used to women with blonder hair, bluer eyes and lighter skin."
In a parking lot outside the biology department, Juana, a 20-year-old Kurd
with dark skin and bright eyes, approached an armored Humvee with her friend
Evaan, 19. The women said they have longed to meet American guys.
"Why do you carry this Army rifle?" Juana asked Bellatti, her smile turning
to a frown. "I'm scared when I see this."
Bellatti thought for a moment, then turned to Juana with a soft smile and a
shrug. "Someone higher ranking told me to carry it."
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