Last week, The Independent‘s news reporter Ben Preston began answering a question he’s had for years: What’s life like for those rebuilding Baghdad and beyond in the midst of the ongoing Iraq War? So against the advice of friends, family, and colleagues, Preston embarked on a month-long embedded tour of Iraq with the U.S. Army’s 425th Civil Affairs Battalion, which is based in Santa Barbara. Why? “I’m hoping to take a look at some of the economic work that is being done here,” he explained. “I knew that coalition forces from all over the world were here, but seeing how many non-military people are working here, it becomes apparent that many people have become economically dependent upon the rebuilding process.” Despite all the horror stories we hear about daily life in Iraq, Preston reports that everything’s relatively mellow. “I expected it to be more dangerous,” said the Isla Vista resident, “but aside from a distant explosion and some small-arms fire, nothing major has happened.” Let’s keep it that way. Follow Preston’s continually updated blog online at independent.com/iraq.