- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2003

TIKRIT, Iraq Supper time has become a double treat at a Marine base outside Saddam Hussein's hometown: Not only is there fresh meat, but it's from Saddam's personal hunting preserve.
The Tikrit South airfield, where Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 set up base in this week's campaign to take the city, is on the edge of a preserve where Saddam and favored guests once hunted gazelle.
Now, Marines are venturing into the woods to hunt the animals, which stand about waist-high. They haul back the carcasses as a welcome substitute for the prepackaged Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) that have been their staple.
"It was delicious. I don't know if it's because we've been eating MREs for two months, but everyone's enjoyed it a lot," said Cpl. Joshua Wicksell, 26, of Corpus Christi, Texas.
Cpl. Wicksell's review may be biased. He's the cook and has been putting his two-year culinary arts degree to good use in an unexpected setting.
Each of the squadron's platoons has been limited to killing one gazelle a day to make sure the herd isn't depleted.
The marines are using 9 mm pistols to hunt after initially being forbidden to use firearms for fear that gunshots in the woods might be mistaken for enemy fire.
"We hunted them with rocks, as Stone Age as that sounds," Cpl. Wicksell said. "We gutted them and skinned them and pretty much carried them over our shoulders barbarian-style."
The preparation is almost as primitive: a fire pit dug in the ground, covered by a radiator grill from one of the Marines' trucks.
Cpl. Wicksell tenderizes the meat with a fork and rubs in salt, pepper, sugar and seasonings scavenged from MREs. To cut the meat's gaminess, he adds some juice from oranges, which have started coming to the Marines now that supply lines are secure.
The gazelle gastronomes nonetheless feel a touch of elegance because of the meat's fine quality.

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