AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- "Too many people died under Saddam," Kaleed said, as he turned to look at his brother, "We lost too many friends to him."
Despite death threats to anyone who joins the Iraqi Security Forces, three brothers enlisted in the Iraqi army together, hoping their contributions will help bring freedom from the insurgency terrorizing their country.
Ism'ael, Kaleed and Razak joined the army on the same day nine months ago seeking the same thing: financial freedom for their family and independence for their country.
Razak, who serves in the same company as Ism'ael and Kaleed, was in Numiniyah at the time of this article.
For many Iraqis, the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime three years ago followed by the insurgency's violent uprising left many Iraqis unemployed and pressed to find jobs; a factor which weighed heavily in the brothers' choice to serve.
"It's very hard to get a job right now; the only way to get money was to join the army," Ism'ael explained.
The three brothers, all in their early 20s, are fighting two wars as they struggle to come to terms with leaving their family in an effort to provide for them and protect them from the second, ever-present conflict with the insurgency.
"Mothers always worry about their sons, but we have to do what we have to do," Kaleed said, moments before his brother voiced concern for their family's safety.
"It's been tough to spend even one month in the army, away from our family," Ism'ael said. "Our family is not safe, you know?"
The brothers' unit, the Iraqi Army's 8th Motor Transportation Regiment, is receiving training from U.S. Marines and sailors here who are teaching the Iraqis about convoy operations and vehicle maintenance. The hope is that this training will help the Iraqi Army improve its logistics capabilities.
"We see the American service members sacrificing for this country and it encourages us in what we are doing," Kaleed said.
Agreeing with Kaleed, Ism'ael added that if the country is to ever be free, their fellow countrymen need to volunteer and serve; making the support of the Americans secondary.
Far from their families and homes in southern Iraq, they have found a new family that helps strengthen their resolve to stay and fight.
"These soldiers, they are like my family," Ism'ael said. "It's not just a job to serve my country; we are making it safe for my people, safe from the insurgency."
Many of their fellow jundi - junior enlisted Iraqi soldiers - joined for the same reasons and share similar motivations for service.
"It's not just a paycheck for many of them," Ism'ael said. "We are all in it for the same goal: to free this country."
Although their service helps them provide for their family, the men are tired of war and hope for a day when Iraq is at peace.
"This is better than nothing," Kaleed said, "Even though it is just a job, we feel good doing it and we will continue doing it until our country is free."
Ism'ael agreed, a faint sense of hope in the tone of his voice.
"We are very glad to be in this place, in the military. In the future, the situation can only get better," he said.
Ism'ael and Kaleed, along with their fellow soldiers of the 8th MTR share a mutual disgust for the insurgents.
"The insurgents are cowards; they never attack us face-to-face," Kaleed said, sitting amongst his fellow soldiers in a long, white tent filled with nothing but cots. "All they do is attack us and disappear."
His younger brother paused in thought and then agreed.
Email Cpl. Daniel J. Redding at firstname.lastname@example.org.