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Artistic talent boosts morale, pride

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – Since the beginning of U.S. Forces’ time in Iraq, units of all sizes and professions have upheld the tradition of painting T-walls to make their Soldiers’ presence known during a deployment and beyond. When word spread around the 103rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), headquartered at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, that the command would hold a competition to pick a design for the unit’s T-wall, one Soldier knew it would be right up his alley.
Spc. Joshua Polaschek, the support operations (SPO) fragmented order manager, 103rd ESC, and a Cresco, Iowa, native, quickly finalized and submitted a design he had originally created prior to arriving at JBB, and subsequently won the contest.
“And then the fun commenced,” said Polaschek.
The project took about two weeks to complete. The most time-consuming task was transcribing his design from paper onto the walls prior to painting, he said.
“I plotted it out with a crappy tape-measure, an old No. 2 pencil, a rock to scrape the lines, and a piece of cubicle wall I found to use for a straight edge,” explained Polaschek. “It took more time to plot the design than to paint it.”
After two weeks of balancing his daily workload with painting the T-walls, which stand at the entrance of the 103rd ESC Command Center, the project was complete. Polaschek said managing both work and the painting was not too much of a challenge.
“I still had to fulfill my duties as FRAGO manager…but after a couple of months with the job, you’re more comfortable, and the time management comes naturally,” he said. “[Painting] didn’t conflict with my duties, and the mission came first and took ultimate priority.”
On the T-walls, Polaschek painted the 103rd ESC patch prominently in the center. Subdued in the background, he painted both the Iraqi flag and the American flag next to each other. He said the reason he painted both flags is that he felt he should pay the Iraqis respect by including their nation’s colors as well.
In addition to the flags, Polaschek painted silhouettes of cows and windmills beneath the American flag, and camels and palm trees beneath the Iraqi flag; farmland and wind power are signature images- of his home in Iowa, and palm trees and camels are indicative of Iraq.
Polaschek said he looked at the T-walls that have been painted by other units, and he feels that some of the designs do not accurately portray what their respective units do.
“We’re smart and we’re a logistics unit…and I just wanted to portray that with style,” said Polaschek.
For many, the eye-catching 103rd ESC cactus patch that Polaschek painted on the walls instills honor in being a part of the unit.
“It definitely makes soldiers a little more aware and proud of the 103rd patch on their right arm,” said Staff Sgt. Scott Williams, the medical logistics noncommissioned officer-in-charge with the, 103rd ESC, and an Iowa City, Iowa, native.
Upon joining the Army Reserves, Polaschek said he never thought his creative side would be a part of his military life.
Polaschek, whose eclectic, artistic side led to him being voted least likely to join the military in high school, said, “I wanted to keep a bit of myself with the Reserves, but I still didn’t think [my art] would tie into it. But it’s fantastic. To be able to use this is a blessing. If I can represent the unit with what artistic ability that I have, that makes me even more proud.”
Other soldiers with the 103rd ESC find the painting to be a morale-booster that accurately portrays the unit and its purpose here.
“It’s an inspiration,” said Sgt. 1st Class Ray Calef, the public affairs non-commissioned officer-in-charge with the 103rd ESC, and a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native, who has known Polaschek for four years. “It provides a connection with what we have invested in this country. I like how it shows that [the U.S. and Iraq] are so different, but have so much in common within our joint effort to stabilize Iraq.”

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