Repellant Needed

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Send flea and tick repellant. That plea from members of the Alabama National Guard's 877th Engineer Battalion, serving in Iraq.

In letters home, the Guard members say they are being attacked by ferocious Iraqi sand fleas. The Alabama battalion is stationed outside the city of Mosul, in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq near the Tigris River.

Mike Crawford of Company C told his wife in Jasper that the sand fleas are killing him. Sherrie Crawford says her husband wanted to put flea collars on the outside of his boots.

The Pentagon has cautioned soldiers against using flea collars because of their potential toxic effects. With more than 600 members, the Hamilton-headquartered 877th is one of the largest National Guard units serving in Iraq. The battalion arrived in the Persian Gulf about six weeks ago. Battalion members' relatives say they also are hearing complaints about insufficient drinking water.

Karen Tucker, whose husband, Tim, is part of Company C, says the soldiers have been getting only two bottles of water a day and are having to buy additional supplies, and ice, from Iraqis.