In February, the U.S.-led war in Iraq brought them together, putting them in the same dust-caked humvee for one of the riskiest missions American troops face: highway patrol 60 miles north of Baghdad.
Every day at 2 p.m., McNaulty, 21, steers his humvee out of the base, with Scott, 28, in the passenger seat. For eight hot hours, they drive together back and forth along the 18-mile stretch of road, scanning it for roadside bombs or cars that look as if suicide bombers might be driving them.
Through the bulletproof glass of their humvee, McNaulty and Scott watch the same landscape: fishing boats that once plied the Tigris River rusting by the side of the road, warehouses destroyed in U.S. air raids in 2003, the snail-shell spiral of Samarra's 1,200-year-old al Malwiya minaret on the horizon, farmers selling watermelons at a rest stop that says, in misspelled English, "Welcom."
They eat the same bland Army meals, they shower in the same container, and the omnipresent desert dust saturates everything they wear and own. Both have mothers who disapprove of their military service and of the war in Iraq.