BAGHDAD (Multi-National Force Aca,!" Iraq, Sept. 14, 2007) -- Combat stress can take its toll on troops in Iraq. Finding productive ways to relieve stress during their free time can be beneficial not only to the individual, but to others as well.

For Pfc. Kelly O'Connor, 329th Chemical Platoon Chemical operations specialist, Task Force Phantom, painting helps her relieve stress and brings her unit together.

Pfc. OAca,!a,,cConnor said she doesn't usually paint pictures with straightforward meaning. It started at her trailer where she usually paints abstract pictures at her room.

"It is just a hobby of mine," said the Orlando, Fla., native. "I paint on plywood outside my trailer."

Despite that, one day Pfc. OAca,!a,,cConnor began painting on a concrete barrier in front of their motor pool office.

To display part of their mission in Iraq, which is transportation, the painting portrays a Rhino vehicle on top of the country of Iraq with four Humvees for security.

As part of the picture, she plans to include the names of the platoon's 30 members, a reserve unit from Winter Park, Fla.

Sgt. 1st Class Walter Ebbert, a senior non-commissioned officer in the 329th Chemical Platoon, supports Pfc. OAca,!a,,cConnor's constructive form of stress relief because it has not only affected her in a positive way, but her chemical comrades as well.

"It is a good stress relief for her," the Fort Walton Beach, Fla., native said. "In addition, it helps the Soldiers of the unit who support her."

The support she receives from the painting was welcomed with open arms, Pfc. OAca,!a,,cConnor said.
It has served as a way for the unit to spend off-duty time together and connect.

"My unit seems to really like it," she said as she added water to bright blue paint and stirred it. "They sit on the bench behind me and keep me company while I paint."

Sgt. 1st Class Ebbert believes the platoon's members get a great deal more out of the painting than Pfc. OAca,!a,,cConnor, who is modest, realizes.

It has deeper meaning for him and his unit, and he said it gives him a good feeling to know units and troops after them will see the picture.

"The painting represents our mission," he said. "We have conducted multiple chemical missions, but our main effort has been transportation and convoy. When you first look at it, it may seem like just a meaningless painting, but it is a picture that tells the story of our tour in Iraq."