Chaplain (Capt.) Bruce Wagner, the 115th Brigade Support Battalion chaplain from Copeland, Ala., reels in his first catch of the day at the pond where he regularly fishes at Camp Taji, Iraq.

CAMP TAJI, Iraq - The sound of fish jumping and splashing around captured the attention of those present at the pond, taking them away from the gun fire in the distance. The pond, surrounded by various trees, provides Soldiers here with an oasis needed from the reality they face daily.

"Being able to continue it in such a stressful time allows me to relax and not think about anything else," shared Sgt. Jonathan Dillenberg, a standardization instructor from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. Dillenberg is a Fort Worth, Texas native and was accustomed to going fishing roughly six times a week. He tries to make it to the pond at least three times a week after a shift.

Some visit the pond for the atmosphere. Some fish, others watch and even more feed the fish.

"The fish are definitely fed well," said Dillenberg. The troops catch the fish for sport and return them to the pond.

Chaplain (Capt.) Bruce Wagner, the 115th Brigade Support Battalion chaplain, brought his fishing rod in hopes of such an opportunity. Wagner, a Copeland, Ala., native, used to go fishing with his family regularly.

"I'm looking forward to getting back home and fishing with my little 10-year-old son," he said. "I'm trying to keep my skills sharp until then."

The numerous bottom feeder fish that occupy this pond and the few obstacles that the pond presents definitely keep the skills of the fishing Soldiers sharp.

"They bite kind of soft," Wagner said, "so you have to pay closer attention."

Dillenberg said success is all in "setting the hook."

Everyone uses something different for bait. Among the variety are mixed veggies, tightly packed bread and Slim Jim sausage.

The fishermen are also wary of the underbrush that bites harder than the many fish in the pond. The tall grass surrounding the pond was recently cut down significantly. Dillenberg credits the fish not biting much to the sudden disturbance to their habitat.

"I don't see anyone catching anything right now, but I don't see anyone complaining either," Wagner said. The troops still remained with cast lines, taking advantage of the calm and using the time to reflect.

"It doesn't even matter if you really catch anything," Wagner said, "just coming out and relaxing is what counts."

Page last updated Wed October 10th, 2007 at 09:43