With all the fighting that's been going on in places like Fallujah and Najaf, it's easy to get this image in our heads of an urban vietnam where forces of both sides are roaming around the streets constantly on the verge of battle; Places like Baghdad, however are still massive cities with millions of people and thousands upon thousands of troops. When you walk down the street, there'll be hundreds of people out, vendors selling things, men smoking and drinking tea, children playing, running up to ask for candy. For every soldier that dies there can be a thousand patrols in Baghdad, and a hundred different convoys; the scariest thing is that when it happens you can't be truly ready. You can't be poised for an immenent strike every time you go out because you can only be in a 100% defensive posture for so long.
The funny thing is, I always felt far safer on foot then in vehicles, and many soldiers will tell you the same thing. When your on foot, it's difficlt to target more than one soldier at a time. Our spread out formations mean that explosives can't hit more than one of us; plus, our accuracy isn't affected much by the 10 to 25 meter incrememnts between men wheras the average Iraqi man with a hip fired AK-47 won't hit anything past 25 meters. Vehicles however are juicy targets: they're large, they hold 3 to 5 people within 2 meters of each other and they travel on narrow pathways. Still, the sheer number of soldiers present and the massive, and neccessary volume of convoy traffic makes vehicle bombings and ambushes nearly impossible to prevent; to the average soldier who may ride 15 times a week they seem both isolated and innevitble; too infrequent to alter your routine, too common to allow you to relax.
For most soldiers, life is a daily routine; one of complicated interactions, balancing peace and order; one of difficult emotions and a constant struggle to find some kind of normalcy and comfort. A life led waiting, always ready in the back of their minds for that incedent that could change their lives forever, or end it completely.