MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq -- Payday at Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah, Iraq is a special event for Soldiers of 120th Combined Arms Battalion and Company E, 230th Brigade Support Battalion, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team, as the few places to shop there take cash only.

Pay is posted electronically to the Soldiers' bank accounts at home and finance technicians visit the base once per month and can give Soldiers up to $600 in cash.

Ten minutes after finance set up in the Morale, Welfare and Recreation lounge used as a pay office July 24, Soldiers lined up around the corner to wait their turns.

"You watch what you spend," said Spc. Terry Autry of Elizabethtown, N.C., a driver with Company D of Wilmington, N.C., one of the first Soldiers in line for pay.

The lack of stores and limited amount of cash has one benefit, "I save a lot more when I cannot be tempted," said Autry.

Soldiers can shop in a one room plywood post exchange, which is part of the MWR building. "Soldiers walk out of finance and walk in here," said Sgt. Richard Leathers of Jacksonville, N.C., a clerk with Company E, 230th BSB, headquartered in Kinston, N.C.

The exchange was started through a loan of about $50,000 worth of items; all profits are used to buy more goods. Toiletries, nutritional supplements, energy drinks, snacks line the walls.

Change at the exchange is made with small paper disks good for 5, 10, and 25 cents at the exchange. Often Soldiers will tell clerks at the exchange to "keep the change" and it is donated to morale and welfare funds. The exchange does about $24,000 in business monthly.

The FOB also has Iraqi-owned businesses which include a cafAfA and two small stores offering snacks, a large selection of DVDs, televisions, satellite receivers and other consumer electronics. All are cash only.

"(The shops) provide interaction with local Iraqis," said 1st Lt. Danny Fitzpatrick of Charlotte, N.C., a scout platoon leader with Headquarter and Headquarters Company from Wilmington, N.C. "It helps build the local economy, they buy from Iraqi businesses."

The Iraqi stores provide a welcome variety from the dining facility and exchange offerings. "It makes life easier," said Fitzpatrick.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16