Internet search results show soldiers are thinking of home

Life in Iraq isn’t necessarily what you think. While there are tough conditions for those outside the gates, life on the large camps that shares some startling similarities with major U.S. military installations at home. On Camp Anaconda, for example, you can visit a library, shove some fast food fare into your mouth and burn your quads at the gym. Of course, the occasional mortar does get through the defense systems … these communities do sit right in the middle of a war, after all.

Among the amenities now available at major camps in Iraq is internet access, and Google Insights shows the interesting search objectives of the 140,000 military personnel and civilian contractors serving over there.

Most searches are linked with special occasions, such as holidays and personal celebrations (e.g., birthdays and anniversaries). “Christmas gifts,” “gift shop,” and “Valentine’s gifts” are among the top search terms for Americans serving in Iraq, according to a recent study. A “regional interest” index calculated by Google Insights pegs these search terms at 100 (based on a maximum value of 100) or English speakers in Iraq, compared to 80 for the United States and 58 for Great Britain.

It’s pretty clear that the internet helps our troops act on concerns they have about what is happening at home (no surprises there). Thanks to fairly plentiful online access, they have an easier time of participating in the normal activities that we take for granted, such as buying birthday presents.

For people stationed on the larger posts (such as Camp Anaconda), it’s possible to gain satellite internet access in the barracks, though this option can be expensive. Free internet access is offered through Military Welfare and Recreation (MWR) centers on these installations.