On every street corner, behind every door of every house, U.S. Cavalry troopers could be facing death — a Sunni gunman or a Shiite sniper.
They're caught in the middle and focused on coming home alive and in one piece.
It's always on your mind," says Sgt. Charles Smith with the 1st Cavalry Division. "You always want to go out there and bring everybody back."
But the reality is increasingly brutal: Attacks on U.S. forces and Iraqis are at an all-time high.
On Thursday, at least 60 Iraqis were killed in Baghdad alone. Another four U.S. servicemen were reported killed as well.
"Public enemy No. 1 against my force is the roadside bomb," says 1st Cavalry Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Jeff Peterson.
Counter-measures are improving, but so are the insurgents, who are using more EFPs, or shaped charges — those enhanced roadside bombs that can lay waste to any armored vehicle.
It's why, commanders say, the number of Americans dead in Iraq is now just shy of 3,000 and rising.
"We're very much aware of enhanced IEDs," says chief U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell. "The concern we have with them — we look at that very closely."
And as President Bush looks very closely at different options on what to do next, soldiers here are divided too on how to salvage a win. Or even a draw.
Some say a surge of U.S. troops will just mean more casualties, while others believe more trainers, not combat troops, will allow Iraqi forces to take over the fight sooner.
"We've just got to keep going it until it's done," Smith says.
But few of these troopers believe that's anytime soon.