Iraq bazaar brings culture to Soldiers

Story and photos by Spc. John Stimac
139th MPAD
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION- Q-West, Iraq — A souq bazaar at Q-West Sept. 26, gave Soldiers an opportunity to buy souvenirs of Iraq from Iraqis escorted on post for the event.

Maj. John B. Herd, Mayor Cell officer in charge of Morale, Welfare and Recreation, with the 2nd Battalion, 198th Combined Arms, said the rough translation for souq is Iraqi marketplace.

“This is an event for the Soldiers to buy some authentic Iraqi items and interact closely with the Iraqi vendors,” said Herd.

Items on sale ranged from traditional Iraqi garb to carpets and rugs.

Capt. Allen Legere, officer in charge of retail and the Iraq-Based Industrial Zone, with the 16th Sustainment Brigade, said the souq is held monthly.

“Since the villages are a little farther away from post, as opposed to other contingency operating locations, it is harder to have these kinds of events here more often,” said Legere.

Herd said the souq takes roughly two weeks to plan.

“This is a coordinated effort between all units on post,” said Herd. “We have to supply medical support, security, maintenance and vendor relations and event promotion. There are a lot of things to consider when we plan these types of events.”

Herd said members of the finance team also assist, by converting U.S. dollars into Iraqi dinars.

“The preferred method is to pay with the dinar, however, many of the vendors will take dollars to accommodate the Soldiers who buy items that do not cost as much,” said Herd.

Salih Wasmy, the head vendor at the souq who also owns SW Supply, an IBIZ and Army and Air Force Exchange Service-supported vendor, said he enjoys the monthly bazaar.

“I have about 12 guys who come to work with me,” said Wasmy. “Many of them are my family and we are here every month to sell Arabic goods to the Americans.”

Wasmy, who resides in Qeyara, a village near Q-West, brought his camel along for the day.

“I brought the camel with so the Soldiers can take free pictures with it; they seemed to enjoy it last time so I made sure I brought him back this time,” said Wasmy.

Herd said this was an opportunity to bring local nationals on post and establish working relationships with them.

“That is what it is all about, promoting communications with the members of the outlying villages,” he said.

Wasmy, who has worked in the area for five years, said he likes working with the Soldiers.

“Working here has greatly helped me and my family,” said Wasmy. “Everybody in my family looks forward to coming here once a month and working here and talking with the Soldiers.”


news photo
Sgt. Carlos Rivera, with the 1174th Transportation Company, out of Memphis, Tenn., and a Loretto, Tenn., native, looks at some items for sale at the souq bazaar on Contingency Operating Location, Q-West, Iraq. Rivera said he looks for items he cannot get in the states. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Stimac)

news photo
Capt. Allen Legere, officer in charge of retail and the Iraqi-Based Industrial Zone, with the 16th Sustainment Brigade, and Salih Wasmy, the head vendor at the souq-or Iraqi marketplace-talk over the day's itinerary on Sept. 26, at Contingency Operating Location Q-West, Iraq.