Friday, December 26, 2008

'Tis The Season...To Be Lazy!!!

I know it's kind of unlike me to go over 20 days without posting, but the laziness of the holiday season has managed to dissipate, not only my desire to exercise, but also my desire to do something as easy as type a "public email update." My apologies to all three of you (if there's even that many) who have been checking my blog almost everyday this month, but I just decided to take it easy!
However, if you are wondering how the trip to Europe with the wife was, please check her blog (www.tnarmywife.blogspot.com) as she has been more motivated to post about the many wonderful sights we saw and the food we ate. Don't ask me where she's getting the energy to do this, as we've both been sitting on the couch most of the holiday break; but it looks like she was on the laptop doing something productive while I was taking catnaps.
Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas holiday and already have your New Year's Resolution list taped to the fridge!
Happy Holidays and take care.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Europa

After 7 days of reintegration (minus the 4 day weekend we got for Thanksgiving), Leslie and I are about to head out on our celebratory excursion to France and Italy!
For those of you wondering what my "re-integration" program consisted of, it was nothing more than annual check-ups on medical, dental, personnel, and finance related issues. When a unit deploys, soldiers are basically re-stationed from Ft. Campbell to Iraq during the deployment and the re-re-stationed (?) back to the post upon their return. In short, we had to change all of our files to show that we are no longer in theater. Luckily no day lasted longer than a few hours and I was back at home for lunch everyday. Other than getting up at about 0515 every morning, it wasn't that bad of a process. Now Leslie and I can enjoy the fruits of our labor for the past 5 months with a trip BACK across the Atlantic (at least for me).
A customary policy within the military is to grant a period of roughly one month of optional leave to personnel who have been deployed for any length of time. Known as Block Leave, soldiers can take up to 31 days of consecutive leave days before beginning the "Reset" phase of a deployment life cycle. So, for the entire month of December, we do not have to work...well, those of us that are taking time. The only catch is that we are not just given 31 days of FREE leave; instead, we are required to use our regular leave days, or as many as we have accumulated. Active duty military personnel are given 30 days of leave every year, so if you've been deployed for a year, you're are essentially using up all the leave days you received while deployed. HOWEVER, if you took the maximum 18 day R&R leave while deployed, you really only have about 12 days to use. As a result, if soldiers don't have at least 21 days of leave (you are allowed to go in the hole up to 10 days), you can't take the whole month off. Such is the case for me, since I took about 3 weeks off after graduation from Officer Basic Course in Maryland before arriving at Ft. Campbell. Therefore, Leslie and I are only going on a 12 day trip and will return just in time for the holidays.
I hope this update finds all of you doing well and looking forward to a wonderful holiday season with your families. I seriously doubt that I'll be able to post an update while on our trip, because we'll be in the midst of enjoying some AWESOMENESS!!!
So, until then, I bid you a farewell.... and take care!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

One In The Books

Around 10am CST, I arrived at the Fort Campbell airfield to a host of eager 101st family members, including my wife and mother. It was such a good feeling to have the support of such a large group of people immediately after getting off the plane. Our welcome home ceremony consisted of a 3 minute speech by a General Officer, followed by the singing of the 101st Airborne and Army songs.
We were given about 15 minutes with our families before being whisked away on buses to the Squadron area, where we turned in our weapons and other sensitive items before grabbing our bags. I was chauffeured back to the house by my beautiful wife and am now about to pass out in front of the computer. It's been a long 64 hours since I left Iraq, with very little sleep and many thoughts of being reunited with loved ones. All of that has finally come to pass and I can now enjoy some down time with my wife and the television. I would like to thank all of you who followed me throughout this experience and the prayers you offered on my behalf. More to follow on the future of the blog; but for now, I'm just trying to enjoy catching up with, in the words of Golf Analyst/Comedian David Feherty, "She Who Must Be Obeyed".
Take care.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Last Minute Reflections

As of right now, we have a "soft time" for when we're supposed to depart. This simply means a tentative flight time, but it should turn into a "hard time" over the next several hours. While the exact time is still unknown, but could be within the next 24-36 hours (again, just a tentative timeline).
Much of my time over the past several days has consisted of watching movies, working out, a little reading and a fair amount of sleep. However, I find myself reflecting on what I've seen and experienced over the past several months. Although I wasn't here for the entire deployment, and showed up after the most intense fighting our Squadron has seen, I can still say that I came, I saw, and I actually got a t-shirt (that I had to pay for). I was able to experience some things that most other "Loggies" will never do. I went on the patrols with each of the 4 line units and got a sobering look at the realities of war. Some images will forever remain with me, for better or worse; but, most of all I have realized the importance of living life, regardless of the outcome. So far, I've made it through this deployment unscathed and have much to be thankful for. As I prepare to redeploy back to the States, just like those who have gone before me, a piece of me will remain here. It's tough to go to war and come back the EXACT same person you were before you left. I have changed, but I believe for the better.
Look forward to seeing many of you soon.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Changing Of The Seasons

I haven't mentioned this until now because A) I didn't want to jinx it and B) well, I just didn't want to jinx it.
After posting a message about the "rainy season", I'm happy to say that it hasn't rained since then! It's been quite a blessing because there were several things we had to get done in order to redeploy, particularly the cleaning of our home station equipment, and trying to get the mud off stuff when it's raining is like trying to trying to get taller by hanging upside down...it ain't gonna happen! Trust me, I've tried.
Another positive weather change is the significant drop in temperature, mainly at night and early in morning. While I'm not talking about "fleece" weather, I do have to put my PT pants and jacket on at night when walking to the DFAC. I've come a long way from the nights where I was soaked with sweat after doing the same thing only a month ago.
What I do not find here is any "changing of the colors." Over here, everything is the same color all year, so it's pretty difficult to tell when you're ending or beginning a season. About the only indicator is the heat. It's hot in the Spring and Summer, cool in the Fall, and cold in the Winter.
Although I've only experienced the Summer and "Fall" over here, I can pretty much guarantee you I was here for the worst part of this region's weather. I don't think I've ever been this hot in my entire life. Hopefully, I won't have to experience this again. Of course, if I end up going to Afghanistan, I'll probably be telling you that I've never been so cold in my entire life!!! You can't win 'em all.
Take care and see some of you very soon!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

One Step Closer

Well, this morning the first half, actually it was about 75%, of our company departed Camp Liberty for Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). As much as I wish I could've been on THAT flight, at least I'm one step closer to going home. There are several variables at play when preparing for departure, and unfortunately most of those decisions rest in the hands of individuals who are not a part of our unit. So, they could care less when we leave!
As I sit here and reflect on my journey, the absence of those soldiers whom I've spent most of my time here with is deeply felt. It is interesting how you can see people all day everyday and not realize their presence in your life until they are gone. The tent we've been staying in for the past couple of weeks is now half empty, and much quieter. Although I will enjoy these aspects when I go to bed at night, having fewer faces to look at and voices to hear seems to make the days longer.
This is going to be a long week.
Take care.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Empathetic Friend

What's the difference between sympathy and empathy? Some might argue nothing, that they are virtual synonyms of each other; however, I beg to differ. Sympathy is when you feel sorry FOR someone. Empathy is when you feel sorry WITH someone.
Throughout my time in theater, I have had a number of sympathetic friends. These people understand how much of a sacrifice it is to leave the comforts of home and go to war. Although, my time here hasn't consisted of the stereotypical aspects of "war", I can say that I have one empathetic friend. This person knows what I have gone through because he has gone through the same thing. This is the case for my good friend Barrett, whom I've mentioned before in an earlier post.
"In January 2004, Barrett was activated and deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In Iraq he served as a Team Leader and participated in over 60 ground combat patrols and 50 tactical convoys in the Al Anbar province. He earned both a Meritorious Mast and a Combat Action Ribbon for leading his men under enemy fire" (http://veteran.typepad.com/about.html). Sorry, but three years of graduate school has taught me the importance of citations. Don't want to get busted for plagiarism!
Anyways, just like me, Barrett had to put his graduate studies on hold to fulfill his military obligation. Moreover, his experiences in theater have provided me with the kind of encouragement and support during some difficult times. You might have read some of the comments he's left on my blog, all of which have made me laugh, think, and relax during those tumultuous times in my deployment.
There are many things that we will experience in life. Some good, some bad; however, we must never forget that there are a plethora of people in this world who have experienced the same thing. I believe that God allows certain things to happen to us so that we might use our experiences to help those in a similar situation. It's a relation gift He has given us. I thank God for my friend Barrett. He's given me more than just a few words of support, he's shown me the importance of passing along my experiences to those who come after me.
Thanks, buddy.
Take care.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mental Insurgents

Returning home for a soldier who's been in a combat environment, or even just in theater, can be a difficult transition. Those who suffer the emotional scars of battle have to deal with re-acclimating themselves to the normal grind of daily life, and even those (like myself) who didn't have to experience any horrific events also have to relearn how to interact with a civil society.
Last weekend, I was briefed on the different signs and symptoms that I and my fellow soldiers could exhibit upon returning to the States. Some might be some signs of irritability or lethargy, while more significant signs like isolation and suicidal thoughts are also likely to fight their way into the forefront of one's mind. The clinical physician who briefed us referred to these symptoms as "mental insurgents."
Just as we have been fighting a group of insurgents on the battlefield, leaving this environment leads to a new enemy combatant that must be fought in order to preserve our ability to function in society. Regardless of what a soldier experienced over here, it is significantly different from the lifestyle he or she leads back home. As a result, it's a matter of slowly transitioning from a hostile environment to a civil one that could lead to the deterioration of one's mental and emotional well-being. This is something I myself must be consciously aware of a guard against. Small things like being a busy restaurant, or getting stuck in a traffic jam could trigger a reaction that leads to self-destructive behavior. While I'm confident that my faith and the support from my family will aid in re-integration, there are many who do not have these forms of assistance. In addition to praying for the safe return of my fellow soldiers, I ask that you also pray for their mental and emotional recovery from being in theater. This can be just as important to the overall well-being of our military personnel AND their families.
Take care.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hurry Up and Wait

There's a mantra in the military that anyone with experience in uniform can attest to. Regardless of the task, you're expected to be there a certain amount of time before anything begins; yet, nothing ever seems to begin on time! The process could take as little as 30 seconds to complete, but you have to be there an hour beforehand. So, most of your day is spent waiting for your turn to come, then waiting for everyone else do get done.
Such is the case for my departure from Iraq. As early as last Tuesday, I began the process of handing over my responsibilities to the incoming unit SMO. Yesterday, he took official control of the motor pool and all maintenance procedures. In short, my job here (for the most part) is done; however, I still have to sit around and wait for my flight to leave. Now, the normal person might not be too upset at the fact that he/she can sit around and do nothing each day, but there's only so many things you can do to occupy your time. A bulk of my time each is will be spent trying to amuse myself, through movies, TV, Internet, reading and working out. While this might sound calm and relaxing, the worst part about this process is trying not to think about how long you've been here and just how close you are to being reunited with family and friends. The mental aspect is the most challenging part and one that takes discipline to overcome, as the hours slowly pass by each day. What is more, we are being told that at any moment, we could get word that our flight has been moved up and we must be ready to leave immediately. Thus, we have to be prepared, while at the same time not hopeful. Somehow, human nature likes to play a dirty trick on the mind because it's hard NOT to be hopeful for something you want to happen!!!
The days a coming and going in a somewhat expeditious manner; but unfortunately, they cannot pass soon enough. Please pray for patience and discipline as we hurry up and wait.
Take care

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Making A Difference

Although I stated a while back that I wasn't going to be political in this blog, and this continues to be a goal I aspire to adhere to; however, now that our country has officially spoken, I feel it only necessary to acknowledge the reality of our future.
As stated by many a political pundit, academician, elected official and so on, our country is in the midst of tumultuous times and there is no end in sight. President-elect Obama has been elected to the highest office in the world in one of the most critical times in our nation's history. Like him or not, there are a plethora of vital issues he must deal with immediately upon taking the oath of office. Some of you hope he succeeds in turning the country back around, while others hope he fails miserably. Regardless of your political affiliation and preference, I think one thing remains clear....YOU can make a difference.
Forget the fact that our Constitution is structured in such a way that the public elects individuals to represent them in all levels of government. Instead, focus on what you as an individual can do in your local communities, churches, schools, organizations. It's in these areas that you can make the kind of impact that changes the way our world operates. Whatever your important political issues, don't think for one second that by simply voting you have done your part. If you focus on social issues, concentrate your time and energy in finding ways to spread your message WITH LOVE. If your issues are something like energy or the environment, find ways to spread the message of conservation in those areas. All too often, we feel that we have stood up for what is right simply by taking a few minutes (or in some cases, hours) to cast our vote for a candidate who supports our interests and feel we've made a contribution. In short, this approach is a cop-out. If you feel strongly about these issues, don't stop at the voting booth, There are so many more ways for you to make a difference on your own, rather than waiting for elected officials to enact legislation.
For me, this election isn't about making history via race, age, gender, or the like. This election has shown me that the only way to make a difference is to get up off your seat and do it yourself. No one individual is going to change the world FOR you. Only YOU can do that.
Take care.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Making History

By now you've all heard how historic this election is going to be, regardless of who wins. Either we're going to have the first African-American President or the oldest President ever elected. I'm sure that's not something Sen. McCain wants to hear, but it's tough to shake the reality of the situation. This election is also going to be historic in that we are GUARANTEED to see the first U.S. Senator elected President since JFK.
For those of you old enough to remember the 1960 election (sorry Mom and Dad), we're talking about a drought of almost 50 years! For those of you who know me (even just a little bit), it shouldn't come as a shock to you that I'm posting about the election, as election "handicapping" has practically become my new favorite past time. However, it might surprise you to know that I completely forgot we were about to elect a new President. With all the preparations of redeployment on the forefront of my mind, I have been so preoccupied that it never crossed my mind until only a couple of days ago. It's kind of embarrassing to admit; however, you'll be happy to know that I already voted....back in September! I honestly think that after I submitted my absentee ballot, I pushed this issue to the very back of my mind.
The only comment I would like to make on the matter is this:
I personally do not think it's going to make much of a difference who wins today. Yes, there will be some incremental changes to our economy and foreign policy; but they are likely to be modest, as they have been for the past several decades. What DOES matter is how we react as a country and as individuals. People will observe your reaction to the results and are likely to form their own opinions of you as a person. My challenge to you is not to let the results affect your relationships with others, or discourage you from being active the political process. I still believe the people have the power in this country, but we also have the responsibility to do what is right, regardless of our personal preferences.
May we continually pray that we are on God's side, not that he is on our's.
Take care.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Transition

Well, just as we have gradually been making our plans to return to Ft. Campbell, our replacement unit is making their way to theater. Actually, their Boots On Ground (BOG) date was the middle part of last week. It's somewhat of an incremental process, where a few people show up to get a lay of the land and report back to the rest of the unit what to expect and how best to prepare for the process of getting everything organized and situated. About two weeks ago, the first phase of troops touched down and began making preparations for the rest of their unit to arrive, with the first main body showing up last Tuesday.
It's been interesting experiencing the "battle hand-off" between the incoming and outgoing units. Unfortunately, there are no Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for this process, so most of the time you're loosely adhering the transitional process of your predecessors. This is more important for the line units, who are responsible for fully briefing the incoming unit on the events that have transpired in their AOs, as well as the trends they have seen over the past year. On the support side, it's more a matter of just telling them where everything is and updating them on certain issues that have come about during our time here. Those individuals running the CROs will be briefed on those areas of concern to them, while maintenance focuses on informing the mechanics of the various malfunctions they are likely to face while operating the vehicles. Yes, this is all as exciting as it sounds (sarcasm emphasized).
Throughout the rest of my time here in theater, I will serve mainly as an "advisor" to those individuals replacing me in the motor pool, as well as the patrol leaders for the CROs. After a few days of that, they will officially take over and we'll be prepping for our one-way ticket outta here! We're getting closer, but we're still not done yet.
Take care.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Rainy Season

Well, despite all those prayers for no rain over here, I'm afraid to say that we're officially in this region's rainy season. Everyone who was here last fall said it didn't come this early, as it wasn't until mid to late November that this place turned into a huge mud pit, but it looks like mother nature sent her wrath a month early.
Coming from East Tennessee, I'm pretty accustomed to inclement weather. I remember wearing shorts and a t-shirt during baseball practice just before final exams in December during my sophomore year of college. I also remember the blizzard of '94 that occurred just after I started "Spring Break". The weather in ET is so unpredictable to people going to UT games usually bring a raincoat, sweater, sunscreen and a handheld fan! However, I would take that daily uncertainty anytime over the weather here.
Case in point, I woke up this morning and the ground looked like it had rained overnight. I couldn't be completely sure because when the dew falls here, it also looks like it just rained. I KNEW it had rained on my way to the DFAC because my boots were covered in mud before I even got out of the motor pool. Luckily, the sun was up and it didn't look as though it was going to rain again, at least not anytime soon. Around 0830, the sky was filled with storm clouds; however, about 15 minutes later they were gone. The temperature, on the other hand, had dropped about 10 degrees (which was actually a nice relief). By lunchtime, it was again pretty cloudy and spitting rain. It wasn't until around 1530 (330pm) that the clouds broke and the sun began to shine down.
In short, dealing with the rain and mud will be a constant battle from now until I leave. Does it bother me? A little. Yet, there's nothing that can break my will of getting home to see my friends and family next month. If this is what I have to endure in order to get home to them, then Jesus, bring the rain...and the mud.
Take care.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

DOWIECO (WARNING! This post may not be suitable for people with weak stomachs)

In Season 3 of the sitcom "How I Met Your Mother", Marshall and Lily invested all of their money on a condo in this "chic" new suburb of NYC called DOWISETREPLA. At the end of that episode, they found out how this up and coming area got it's name...it stands for DOwn WInd of the SEwage TREatment PLant. Needless to say, this wasn't the best plan to generate a return on their investment!
I bring this up because it's what comes to mind just about every time I'm out walking around post. As previously stated, portable toilets (modern day outhouses) are a very common aspect of Army life. Despite having what I call "poo trailers", which contain porcelain toilets, they are few and far between over here, so most individuals are forced to do their business in a port-a-jon everyday.
The company responsible for cleaning them out each day is called Ecolog and I think their slogan should be "If you call it waste, We'll pick it up!" because they are also in charge of emptying out the dumpsters all over post. It never fails, I'll be walking to and from the DFAC or going to the gym to work out and I'll catch a big whiff of the sewage truck as it's emptying out human waste from a port-a-jon and filling it up with what a co-worker of mine calls, "the blue juice", something he's threatened to drown himself in because he hates his job so much! It also doesn't help that I have one right next to my office, where they change out the blue juice twice a day. I have to leave my office for at least 15 minutes every time because the stench filters its way into my air conditioning duct! However, it has helped keep me on a pretty consistent routine.
Just like every other real man, I've smelled some pretty gross things in my life. It's practically a right of passage in fraternity initiations. Think about it, when two or more individuals are forced to experience the same horrific event, it brings about a common bond between them. I know some of you are shaking your heads in the affirmative right now, so I will move along.I will remember a lot of different things during my time over here; yet there are some that will stick with me forever. This smell is most definitely one of them! I've just learned to accept the fact that no matter where I am on this installation, I will always be DOwn WInd of ECOlog!!!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pray It Doesn't Rain Anymore!!!

Ok, I know a while back I mentioned how long it had been since I'd seen rain, and the refreshment I felt after a brief downpour we experienced. Well, I take back any desire I've had for it to rain over here, and for very good reasons.
Yesterday morning, I woke up to a nice, cool overcast day. I don't think it had been this cool since I got here, and not having the sun beating down on me during my walk to the DFAC for breakfast was quite a relief. Around 1130, one of my soldiers asked if I wanted to participate in a friendly game of motor pool baseball (pretty self-explanatory). I accepted the offer and after finishing up an email, I proceeded to walk out of my office/bedroom (we had to move out of our trailers so KBR could clean it for the incoming unit). At that time, the rain began to fall. It did so for only about 20 minutes and after it dissipated, we began our game. After playing for an hour, we finished up just in time for lunch, at which time it began to rain again. I'm not talking about a monsoon or anything of the sort, just a steady flow of rain; but the amount of water that was collecting on the dirt (now mud) roads was shocking! The entire post turned into one big sloppy mud pit in matter of an hour!
Now, I'm no agriculturally savvy individual, but one would think that such a dry climate would be able to retain an average amount of rainfall, but I'm convinced hardly any of this rain permeated the ground. It just sat on the surface and mixed with the dirt to form a thick layer of mud. As much as I've complained about having to walk on top of gravel, I was begging for a patch of gravel to walk on and at least knock of ridiculously large amount of mud on my boots. It was even worse when I had to walk to the shower trailer because now my only pair of running shoes was getting caked with mud clumps that couldn't be shaken off. It practically negated me taking a shower because I was kicking mud up on the back of my legs the entire way back!
So, if any of you were praying for me to enjoy that nice, cool rain that you've been experiencing lately, STOP IT!!!! The last thing we need here is more rain, especially since we're about to start having our equipment inspected for dirt and mud! Rain, rain go away and come again when I'm back at Fort Campbell and don't have anything to do, but sit in my living room and watch TV!Take care.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Crab Legs

I wasn't much of a seafood eater growing up. My mom's allergic to crab (bless her heart!) and dad had a bad experience with fish when he was a kid, so there wasn't much "meat from the sea" eaten at our house. We've always been more of a meat and three type of family; however things have started to change over the past few years.
The first time I lived in Maryland (summer of 2001 when I interned on Capitol Hill), I tried some crab and wasn't too impressed. It just seemed like a lot of work for such a small amount of food. That frame of mind has come and gone because now I can't get enough of it! When Les and I were in Maryland this past Winter and Spring, we ate so much crab that I'm almost convinced we single-handedly kept the Maryland Blue Crab industry in business! One time we had a crab pretzel, cream of crab soup, crab legs and a crab melt sandwich all in one meal!!! Man, that was a good day.
I'm mentioning all of this because I want to let you know that being over here isn't all that bad because every Wednesday night at my regular DFAC is Surf and Turf. Along with sirloin steaks, they serve crabcakes, shrimp, clams and crab legs. It's quite the "home away from home" feeling for me; however, this isn't something I've been able to take advantage of every week. Wednesday nights I go to a bible study, which is unfortunately at the chapel right next to another DFAC, and this one doesn't have Surf and Turf night. So, I've only been able to get my fill occasionally and instead been forced to eat dry chicken breast and overcooked vegetables. I hope this doesn't sound like I'm complaining, as any food is better than no food at all; but indulging in crab legs does seem to make the pain of being away from friends and family just a little bit easier to bear, especially when it's free! It's definitely not Joe's Crab Shack or Red Lobster, but it certainly gives me that little taste of home to get me through the week.
Take care and I hope I didn't make you hungry!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Children Wave At Us

Just about every time I go outside the wire, I, along with many other soldiers, always have that one thought, "What if today's the day?" It's a common thought, but one we must constantly battle in the deep recesses of our mind. We never talk about it to each other and we seldom ever give it another thought while out on patrols. Our thoughts are more concentrated on doing the right thing and making sure that our fellow soldiers are just as alert as we are. When driving by a car parked on the side of the road, or even when driving through densely populated areas, there is always the potential for something to go awry. However, there is one thing that for some reason gives me the comfort of knowing that I am safe while out on the streets.
Seeing a child or group of kids on the side of the street waving at me as I pass by them always seems to calm my nerves. While I am still fully aware that at any moment a bomb could go off, or a sniper on top of a building could take out one of my gunners, when I see a child waving and smiling at me, it's as if God himself is speaking to me through them, telling me that everything is going to be fine.
After returning to Liberty each time, I seem to find myself sitting at my desk, thinking about those children. What will they grow up to be? Will their lives be any different than they are now? Can they recover from these hardships and turn this country around? My sincere hope is that this war and the many things that they have seen at such a young age will not deter them from reaching their full potential. Moreover, I pray that their lives will not be filled with the same conflict and suffering that their parents are currently undergoing.
As cheesy as this may sound, Whitney Houston was right, the children are the future, especially in this country. If and when these children grow up and become adults, regardless of how this country turns out, I hope they all remember the American soldier who was waving back at them.
Take care and please remember to pray for the children of Iraq.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Officially Official

If you've been keeping up with this blog, you will remember a while back when I said there was a possibility that we would redeploy back to Ft. Campbell earlier than expected. You might also remember that I said it didn't look as if such a dream would come to fruition.
Well, just to let you in on how messed up things can be in the Army, we've now been given an official word that WE ARE COMING HOME EARLY!!! Yes, you're reading this right, we are coming back next month (November). In short, the powers that be here in Iraq said they didn't need our brigade anymore and their higher ups signed off on sending us back home early. We got the official word yesterday and I must say that things are definitely taking shape. Although we are just now getting the final word, preparations have been taking place since the end of last month in order to prepare for this possibility. I've had about 3/4 of my stuff packed away in a container for over a week now and we still have a significant amount of work to be done before saying our goodbye's to the Middle East.
I will be getting home before Thanksgiving (which I will have plenty to be thankful for), and the brigade will go on block leave starting in early December. Block leave is a 30 day window for soldiers to take vacation (should they so choose), but very little work is done during this period. However, it doesn't make up for the fact that a) most soldiers have been gone for over a year and b) we don't really get to take vacation during the rest of the year! So, whenever you hear that soldiers get 30 days of vacation a year, just remember that this includes weekends and holidays, not to mention the fact that we usually have to deploy in order to get time off when we come back!
Take care...and see you soon!!!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Armed Forces Network

I'm somewhat ashamed to say this, but the truth is that I love to watch television. I don't think you could categorize me as a couch potato (all the time), but most of my evenings are spent in front of the tube watching Prime time shows or ball games. The wife and I do a pretty good job of staying active and not wasting our day away on the couch, but there are specific times each week that we're in front of the television. However, those times are NEVER during our meals.
Unfortunately, while here in Iraq, I have only been able to watch television DURING my meals. It's the only time I'm around the tube, and even then I'm probably watching it in 30 minute intervals. The DFAC I go to regularly has some pretty nice big screen televisions that broadcast various events via Armed Forces Network (AFN). AFN consists of a dozen or so channels that one is likely to get back home, including, you guessed it, ESPN!!! Despite only getting a few times a day to stare at the big box, I've been able to keep up with all the major sporting events. For instance, this morning I got to watch the tail-end of the ALCS Game 5. I saw in real time J.D. Drew's winning hit that sent the series back down to Tampa Bay. At dinner every Sunday, I'm able to watch the first few plays of an NFL game, and the watch the highlights of them at breakfast the next morning.
Although I do get a chance to stay up to date on all the big games, it still doesn't compare to those calm, relaxing weekends where I can just hang out all day and watch football, even if the Vols are losing!
Take care.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Haji Movies

The act of illegally downloading music, movies, software, etc. (known as pirating) is a problem in the United States. I remember being back in college when Napster was the rave and people were always on their computers downloading various songs for free.
Although one is more likely to pay a fine for littering, or go to jail for drugs, than to get busted for piracy, it's still an offense. These illegal acts are also a problem in other countries as well, including (you guessed it) Iraq.
Known as haji movies, these versions are all over the place, sold in dozens of shops and stores all over the place. Here on post, you can walk into a "haji store" and by a "haji version" of your favorite new movie. Most likely, the version you are purchasing is one in which a person took a camera into a theater and set it up on the screen. How do I know this? Because throughout the movie, you can see shadows of people getting up from their seats, or they will have subtitles in a foreign language at the bottom of the screen! Yes, I admit, I have SEEN some of these versions; however, I refuse to BUY them (mainly because they're such bad quality).
These things sell for around $1-3 here, while purchasing the same movie back in the states will cost roughly $20. Thanks to some of my Soldiers, I've seen newly released movies such as Ironman and Batman the Dark Knight, as well as the entire Jason Bourne trilogy on one dvd! I hope this doesn't sound like I'm condoning the act of movie and music piracy, but at least I don't have to wait until they come out on dvd in the States to watch them!
Take care.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Re-Up!

One aspect of being an officer is that your are responsible for administering certain ceremonial sessions, such as an individual's enlistment, or RE-enlistment, also known as re-up.
This past Thursday I was asked by one of my soldiers, SGT Booker, to administer her re-up oath. This might not seem like a big deal; but for many, this is a serious commitment, since they're signing away the next 3-6 years of their life away! What is more, soldiers are allowed to choose any commissioned officer to administer their oaths, and I was flattered that SGT Booker asked me! However, I think it helps that I'm a) her platoon leader and b) the only officer she comes into contact with on a regular basis. However, I have already been asked by another soldier, in another platoon for that matter, to administer his re-up oath; so, I can't use the above as my only excuses.
A big campaign for the Army right now (well, since the war began) has been to retain as many soldiers - not necessarily good, quality soldiers - as possible, since most have the experience needed to operate in this type of environment. So, I'll be performing this task somewhat frequently during my time in the service. It's a neat process and one that makes you feel like you're actually doing something, even if it's just uttering a few words and having the person repeat after you!
Take care and enjoy the pics.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Camp Trash Can

Yesterday, I got to experience something that was interesting, depressing, shocking, and just plain odd.
In case you didn't already know, the military is one of many federal bureaucracies that uses a lot of stuff, and wastes a lot of stuff. With the war halfway through its 5th year, you'd think there would be a lot of garbage accumulated. Well, there is...and I got to see it.
Camp Trash Can is one of many waste depots in country, and all units on this installation send their trash to be dumped here. On a weekly basis, my platoon loads up the "trash truck", a M1083 Medium Tactical Vehicle (MTV), and we transport it to the dump.
While this area is just like any other landfill, the most interesting, yet depressing, aspect is that all the people who work there spend their day rummaging through the trash to find stuff of use to them. When we stopped the truck to let the security guards know what we were dumping, a passerby took advantage of our halt and proceeded to jump up in the back and grab a water cooler, filled with hundreds of nuts and bolts!
Most of what we were dumping was stuff that had accumulated in our welder's bay throughout the deployment; yet, this stuff was of great use to the local nationals who work there. There were two things I was thinking while emptying out the back of the truck: 1) I couldn't believe how much trash I was looking at and how much money all this would actually cost to clean up and 2) I bet "Survivorman" Les Stroud could build a lot of cool things with all this trash! Sorry, still a big fan of him.So, in short, I saw first-hand just how much stuff we are throwing away on an almost daily basis and the old saying is true, one man's trash is another man's treasure!
Take care.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

In Case You Were Wondering...

Since the ridiculous increase in gas prices over the past couple of years, you might have noticed a slight decrease in the numbers of SUVs and trucks driving out on the road. This doesn't mean they have been producing less, instead they have just been sending them somewhere else. Where might you ask? Behind my motor pool!!!
Yes, as you can see by the pictures, there are several hundred domestic trucks and SUVs sitting in a lot right next to where I work all day every day. Civilian cars are a very common aspect of transportation here and many people have taken advantage of their utility in this terrain. However, you should know that this entire lot was completely empty when I arrived, only to be filled to the brim a couple of months later...and only a few of them have moved!
Evidently, units are allowed to use/rent/rent/lease/borrow or something of the sort, these vehicles while deployed; yet, there are a multitude of hoops to jump through in order to obtain one of them. They are something of a luxury in that passengers do not have to wear their combat helmets while riding in them (as is the case in all military vehicles). I honestly can't tell you how long they will be here or if they will ever be used. But you can guarantee that if and when Coalition Forces withdraw all its troops, there will be a dramatic influx of American vehicles into Iraqi communities. With gas prices at about $.05 a gallon, at least someone will be using them and getting their money's worth!
Take care.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Goodbye Norma Jean, Hey There Delilah

Most men have a tendency to attach a female name to a piece of equipment they cherish. It might be a boat, motorcycle, car, or in my case, a rifle.
For those of you who don't already know, I was a late comer to theater and was subsequently forced to carry the outdated M16A2 rifle since joining the unit. All the highspeed M4's assigned to my company were already given to soldiers who had deployed with the unit, so I've lugging around this "musket" for the past 3 1/2 months! Yes, I could've been a jerk and demanded that one of my soldiers give me his, but I just couldn't justify doing that and felt that my time would eventually come.
If you're not familiar with either of these weapons, there's only major differences between them: the M4 is an improved modification of the M16 and is lighter and smaller due to its collapsible buttstock and shorter barrel. In other words, it's a few pounds lighter and about a foot shorter.
I know you're probably wondering why I'm all of the sudden choosing to mention this; well, due to some unfortunate circumstances, a soldier in my company is getting chaptered (read kicked) out of the Army. As luck would have it, I was given her weapon! Although I never really identified my previous rifle (we don't carry guns) as Norma Jean, it's kind of appropriate, as Elton John's ode to Marilyn Monroe is now considered a "classic" (implying that it's old). I hope none of you Sir Elton fans take offense to this. Honestly, that song and "Hey There Delilah" by the Plain White T's were just the first two things that came to mind when I was given the news of my even trade.
When I signed the hand receipt for my new "friend", I felt a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders....because a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders!
I really do hate the unfortunate situation through which I acquired Delilah, but I honestly feel like it was the best course of action for this soldier and the Army. I ask that you pray for this soldier finds the Lord and is able to get her life back on track.
Hope all of you enjoyed your weekend and are well refreshed for the upcoming week. Take care.

Friday, October 3, 2008

VBIED

Listen to any veteran tell a "war story" and you're bound to hear him/her start it off with the phrase, "So, there I was...". It's practically a requirement. Therefore, it's only fitting to begin this story with....
So, there I was, sitting in a nice air conditioned room meeting with all of the Squadron Executive Officers (XO's)....hold on...I've got to exaggerate in order to make this sound more exciting than it really is, as that's how just about every story is told nowadays.
So, there I was, sitting in a very small bunker, crowded with all the XO's, mud and blood all over our face, bullets whizzing over our heads....nevermind, this isn't working. Take three.
I was meeting with the Squadron XO's when all of the sudden we heard a pretty loud explosion. Around here, you're bound to hear at least a couple everyday. Most are controlled detonations (control dets), which is when an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team is summoned to an area where unexploded ordnance is found (UXO). However, this was louder than usual, which meant it was pretty close. Everyone in the room just dismissed it...after we got back into our skin.
I found out later that a checkpoint Coalition Forces go through about 50 times a day was attacked by a Vehicle Born Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED). In short, it was a car bomb. Although this isn't that out of the ordinary, what I find interesting is that had one of my company's convoys not had radio problems, they would've been somewhere in that vicinity when it exploded. Alan, the company Distribution Platoon leader, was transporting our Company Commander and First Sergeant to a JSS in sector, but stopped short of leaving the FOB due to an inability to communicate with all three trucks. If this happens, it halts the convoy and everyone is forced back to the command post to fix the problem. Had they not had issues and just rolled out the gate, there's no telling what would've happened to them.
I'm sure everyone has at some point in their life played the "What if" game and questioned the likelihood of their continued existence had some unforeseen circumstance not changed the course of events. Well, this is definitely one of those times for some of my soldiers and peers. What if they didn't have commo problems? Would they have been hit by the car bomb? There's never a definitive answer on that stuff, but by the grace of God they didn't have to find out. Luckily no one died....except for the driver.
Take care.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Long Live Cool Hand

He ate 50 hard boiled eggs while in prison, concocted one of greatest scams on a high ranking mob boss, and was the recipient of my father's favorite line in a movie, "You just keep thinkin' Butch, that's what you're good at."
These are my fondest memories of Paul Newman, the movie icon who died last week of cancer. My dad introduced me to Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (our favorite Western) and The Sting, all of which are some of Newman's greatest roles. For those of you who don't know, my father is a walking encyclopedia of movie knowledge and trivia. He can turn the television to TCM or AMC and tell you the name of the movie, the actors, the director, the year it was made, the company that produced it, and probably how much it grossed at the box office! It's actually pretty funny watching him do that, but he'll tell you that it helps to have an actual movie encyclopedia next to his living room chair!
While dad's pretty well versed on Paul Newman movie trivia, what me might not be able to tell you is that Newman really wanted to be remembered for his philanthropic legacy. He donates 100% of the profits from his food company "Newman's Own" to building camps all across the world for children with life-threatening illnesses, like AIDS and Leukemia. Although this company started off as a joke, it has evolved into a multi-million dollar business that has given over $250 million to charities, including $28 million to Safe Water Network (which Newman started) that provides safe drinking water to impoverished communities in places like India and Africa.
One thing "Butch" made clear before his passing was that after he is gone, his company would continue the practice of giving all its money away to his "Hole in the Wall" camps. For those of you not familiar with Hole in the Wall, you might wanna pick up a copy of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid the next time you're at the movie store. It's sure to become one of your favorites; but, don't forget that behind those piercing blue eyes and million-dollar smile was a philanthropic heart of gold.
Take care.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Cool Breeze

Just as many of you have been feeling the cooling effects of fall approaching, I too am experiencing a drop in temperature. Although it's not as dramatic as back in the States, things are beginning to cool off a little and it's making the days a little more bearable.
Despite officially going back to the day schedule on 1 Oct, my soldiers spent this past week working during the day in an attempt to establish a structure that suits both those we are supporting and ourselves. This drop in temperature has made it a little easier to accommodate such a change; yet, there is still a fair amount of heat consuming the middle part of the day.
Unlike back home, where we've all gotten used to daylight savings time, the rest of the world doesn't really adhere to this policy, so the sun is starting to rise and set earlier than when I first arrived. By around 0530, the sun begins to peak its head over the horizon, so as to provide some light for those units doing their morning PT. I on the other hand, do mine in the early evening, when the sun begins to set around 1730. The bulk of the day consists of temperatures in and around 95-100 degrees, but it's a welcomed relief from the 125-130 degrees we experienced less than a few weeks ago.
Don't get me wrong, we're still sweating pretty much all day long, but at least there's a breeze to keep us cool. The big, hard sun won't let us forget where we are, but there a few times where you can "feel" autumn, in all its splendor. In a few more weeks, I should be breaking out a fleece to keep me warm on my way to and from the motor pool, but I'll believe it when I FEEL it. Hope you are enjoying the fall, and please send me some pictures of the leaves if you get a chance!Take care.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Lingo

Just about every work environment in America, and probably the world, has developed and instituted certain terms or phrases that are idiosyncratic to its inhabitants. In Washington, you're bound to hear some that might seem foreign to you, while insiders see it as nothing more than common verbiage. Same for Hollywood, Wall Street (if it's still around anymore!), and most definitely the military. Having experience in both the Navy and the Army, I've come across an array of different terms that have all but absolved those I commonly used as a civilian.
Words like Roger and Negative, instead of simply saying Yes or No are used in practically every conversation; or rather than saying "Nevermind", a soldier will say "As you were" (or "Belay my last" if you're a sailor). When I first joined the service and heard these terms used, I thought to myself that I'd never succumb to using these silly terms instead of the ones I (and the rest of civilization) were more familiar with. However, this is one area that I've really had no choice but to adhere to. Instead of saying someone is a hard worker or an all around good soldier, some will say he's "high speed." If a person or situation is really messed up, it's a "soup sandwich", or he's "lost in the sauce." There's also the phonetic alphabet, which is a way of identifying a letter without simply saying it. B and D might sound similar to each other, but by saying Bravo or Delta, you've differentiated between the two.
Of course, there's the most (in)famous word in the Army....well, it's not really even a word. "HOOAH" is Army slang for just about anything you want to say. It can be used to say yes or Roger, hello or goodbye, I'm hungry or I'm tired, that's a nice shirt or is that cologne you're wearing? Ok, ok, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but it's bound to come out of a soldier's mouth at least 15 times a day. When someone is really energized about being a soldier, others will say, "he's really HOOAH." You can have almost an entire conversation with someone using only this term, although I doubt it will have any substance. While the other branches have their own term of endearment - USMC/OORAH, USN/HOORAH, USAF- YEAH!!! (just kidding) - you might find HOOAH on the bumper of a car, the window of a house, or even tattooed onto some soldier's arm!
So, when you see me again please don't look at me funny if one of these terms slips out while having a conversation. It's going to be a pretty tough habit to break when things are all said and done, but at least you'll know what branch I was in! Hope all is well and take care.
Juliet Charlie (see phonetic alphabet)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Paul and Laura

Most of you probably know that this past Sunday was the Emmy Awards. I've never been a big fan of watching awards shows in general, but I like to see the results. It's kind of like the box score of a ball game; you don't have to watch any of it to see who was hot, and who was not.
I mentioned in an earlier post that my friend Barrett sent me the John Adams miniseries and I must say that all of it was incredible. The writing, the acting, the directing, the cinematography, everything about it was top notch. Well, I'm obviously not the only one who thought this, as John Adams received three Emmys (that I know of) for best writing, best lead actor and best lead actress. Paul Giamatti got Best Actor in a Miniseries for his role as John Adams. Having been a fan of a lot of his work, he did a remarkable job with portraying our second President. Although Adams is seen throughout American history as unsuccessful and largely unimportant, the reality is that he played an intricate role in the establishment of our nation. If John and Abigail were truly the "one flesh" this series portrays, it would be hard to give Giamatti the honor and neglect Laura Linney's performance. There was a line in series by Thomas Jefferson, who stated that Abigail's opinions are thought to inform her husband's every decision. If this is the case, Linney's portrayal as Adams' better half is nothing short of remarkable and both actors are worthy of their honors.
Having spend two blog posts lauding this incredible work of cinematic art, I hope I've enticed you to watch the miniseries (if you haven't already), or at least provoked you to start learning more about that time in our nation's history. Many argue that these chain of events altered the course of history in a way never seen before, and probably never again. Regardless, I think the whole Adams miniseries crew deserve our respect and admiration. However, we cannot forget the "brains" behind the entire operation...the guy that wrote the book (David McCullough)!
Take care.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mama, I'm Coming Home....In January!

Well, it looks like we're not coming home any earlier than expected. We were supposed to get an "official notice" on when we'll be redeploying, but the only information that has come out is when we're supposed to start sending our first wave of people home.Going back to the States is somewhat of an inexact science. This procedure takes as long as three months to complete (including our equipment) and is broken up into several different segments. So, when I will be back on the ground at Ft. Campbell has yet to be determined. The entire 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) is scheduled to have everyone back sometime by mid-January; yet, even this has no definitive date (as you can see).
The first group to start heading home is called the ADVON party, and they're responsible for getting back so that they can begin to receive all the equipment and personnel coming back after them. They should be leaving sometime at the beginning of November (No, I'm not part of this crew).
After these individuals have gone through their re-acclimation training, as well as their maximum 30 day block leave, they will begin their responsibilities (which will be sometime in mid December).
Back here in Iraq, the rest of the unit will begin receiving and training the incoming unit on our what they will be doing for the next year. This is commonly referred to as "right seat rides". Essentially, our counterparts will observe us on our daily operations for 7-10 days and then take over, while we observe them for roughly the same time period and provide our suggestions and commentaries. Upon completion of this, soldiers will be packing their bags and heading back. However, we will have a brief layover (about 3-5 days) in Kuwait before crossing the Atlantic. I also need to mention that we are at the mercury of high flying, get the job done (on their time) United States Air Force, who has black out days on either side of Christmas and New Year's. So, from 24-26 Dec and 31 Dec - 2 Jan, we just have to hang out wherever we're until they're ready to fly us to our next destination. As of right now, my unit is scheduled to leave Iraq on 31 Dec, which pretty much means 3 Jan!!! On top of that, our days on the ground in Kuwait consist of going through customs, which means they'll check all of our belongings to make sure we're not smuggling anything from Iraq. Upon completion of this phase, we'll proceed with our trip back to the motherland.
Although this may sound somewhat structured and organized, I have been assured by many that it's not. One long, tedious, mind-numbing process that nips at your patience and sanity. What is more, if things go awry at any point in the process, such as another string of violence, we could be extended until things subside. This doesn't seem to be likely at this point, but Lord only knows.So, despite all this information, I still can't tell you when I'll be back. I'm pretty sure it will be sometime in the beginning or mid part of January, but I can say for certain that it won't be in November!
Take care.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Quid Pro Quo

As I stated in an earlier blog post, in many cases we are providing foreign nationals with more money than they could ever imagine earning in their home countries. Moreover, the Army no longer has to worry about recruiting soldiers to do jobs very few people want to do; however, the main question surrounding this issue is how much should we really be paying these contractors? If you look at the national deficit, you'll notice that a significant portion of it is directly linked to the war in Iraq. It's not that we couldn't fund such a war, it's that the people in charge of negotiating these contracts are reaping monetary benefits because of their connections with personnel in the military. Go to any contractor's website and you'll see that many of their board members or higher echelon administrators are themselves former DoD employees. The following is an EXAMPLE of how this process works.
Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Joe Schmoe is about 2 years away from retirement and is currently in charge of all construction contracts on FOB Liberty. KBR representative Mr. Smith is seeking to get the contract for installing 500 new trailers on post. Mr. Smith goes to LTC Schmoe and says, "Hey Sir. I've noticed that you're closing in on retirement and we were wondering if you'd considered working for us when you get out of the Army." "I don't know," says the LTC, "I haven't really thought that much about it, but I'd like to hear what you have to offer." "Well, you'd essentially be doing the same kind of work with us, but you'd be making about 3 times what the government's paying you right now," replies Mr. Smith.
What these two gentlemen don't talk about but is crystal clear is that if LTC Schmoe wants that cushy job with KBR, he's got to scratch their back....by awarding them with the contract of $7.5 million dollars to add new trailers. However, it's only going to take them about $3.5 million to actually provide this service because of their cheap labor. So, the extra $4 million gets divvied up to those at the top. Please remember that all of this money is your hard earned tax dollars at work, not private money that each company has invested.
In the field of Political Science, this is approach commonly referred to as the Iron Triangle, with the inclusion of Congress, who is responsible for providing DoD with the money to pay contractors for their services.
In conclusion (over a three blog post period), what we have here is a culture in which the government is paying private contractors to provide services to the military, using foreign nationals who will do the same work at lower cost; yet, somehow we're spending more money than ever before on sustaining our military presence and capabilities. And by the way, I'm not even going to get started on the equipment we use. I place my Herbie Hancock (see Tommy Boy) on receipts for parts that total up to $25,000 EVERY WEEK!!!
So, for those of you feeling pains in area where you keep your pocketbook, at least now you'll know where some of it is going! Take care, and sorry to depress, anger, infuriate, or confuse you!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Show Me The Money!!!

I know you're all picturing of Cuba Gooding Jr. doing his little dance right now, but these are the only ones that come to mind when thinking about the contractors. The following is not intended to be a direct attack on them, as there are many who are honorably serving their country in a manner that few are willing to do; yet, I cannot help but notice that the single greatest factor for their presence here revolves around the dollar.
Get on the internet and search for a civilian contractor job in Iraq and you're bound to see an assortment of different positions, with almost all of them boasting the salary being offered. It's not hard to understand why people will travel halfway across the world to double, or even triple their annual income. In virtually all cases, civilians do not go outside the wire, and instead work in environments parallel to what you work in back in the States. As a result, it's easy to see why so many different types of people work here.
During what I like to call 20th century warfare, civilians on the battlefield was pretty rare. When it comes to aspects of daily life, if you need to eat, buy something, or go to the restroom, soldiers were the ones responsible of the maintenance and supply of such goods and services. Not anymore!
If you think about it, we used to pay PV2 Snuffy a little more than minimum wage to serve food to the soldiers, or clean up after them; but not we're paying a foreign national to do that, and American civilian Mr. Snuffy is the supervisor. Sounds like a better use of the Soldier's time, right? Yes, but what about the money that we're paying these foreign nationals and Mr. Snuffy? Remember those civilian jobs boasting six figure salaries for one year's work? That's YOUR money. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, your tax dollars are paying civilians on the battlefield. However, we're not paying Mr. Snuffy the same amount as we paid PV2 Snuffy. We're paying BILLIONS of dollars to contracting companies who are employing foreign nationals for what you and I would consider an insult by American standards. Those American "supervisors" are raking in a decent amount, but the real golden egg lays at the top.
So, the next time you see an advertisement for a receptionist in Iraq making $120,000 for 1 year, that's what your tax dollars are funding! Take care....but, I'm not done yet!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

They Look Just Like You

Towards the beginning of my time here, I briefly mentioned the diversity of the contractors and their prevalence on Liberty. Yet, I feel more compelled to elaborate on just how odd I find their presence at times.
For instance, when I go into the DFAC, I am likely to find just as many, if not more, contractors than military personnel. Imagine walking into a store, like a supermarket, or simply going to a movie. You are likely to see a plethora of different types of individuals, ranging in age, race, and even personal appearance (i.e. dress). Now, take the image and supplant it onto the descriptions I've provided of FOB Liberty and that's what I see everyday!
I've seen, young and old, male and female, red and yellow, black and white (Jesus loves the little children of the world!) on this installation. I've seen middle-aged women who look like they would work at my mother's school, and college aged guys and girls like the ones I used to see walking around the UT campus. They dress just like they would in these environments too, with some wearing a t-shirt and jeans, or a collared shirt and khaki pants. It's strikingly odd how the diversity in the corps of contractors mirrors that of your normal, run of the mill setting back home, save the uniformed personnel intermixed amongst them. You are bound to see some of the eccentric people as well. I've seen guys with long hair and piercings all over them, as well as women with brightly dyed hair (red to be exact).
Many have come for the money (almost all), while some just want a taste of adventure or to get out of their mundane schedule back home; however, not all are American. As previously stated, some are from underdeveloped countries, while others are from the advanced countries like the UK, Germany, France, Australia, and Brazil. I've heard Russian spoken at my table a few times, from individuals who look and dress just like some of my friends back home.
So, if you think that the combat zone in Iraq is nothing but a bunch of Americans sitting in tents, waiting for the next attack to take place, thing again. Those days are long gone, replaced with a atmosphere of reconstruction and business by individuals from all walks of life. More to follow on the contractors....but, it's not very good.
Take care.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I Carry a Weapon to Church!

I know this might not seem as odd for those of you from the South; but at the church I attend here, we are required to carry our individual weapons everywhere we go, even our place of worship.Each battalion/squadron in the Army is assigned a Chaplain. He or she serves the many purposes that a normal pastor/priest/minister would in the civilian world, albeit with a little more uncertain environment. However, these individuals are not allowed to carry a weapon, and are assigned a Chaplain's Assistant, who is responsible for their well being on the battlefield.The service that I regularly attend on Sunday mornings is held at the "Engineer's Chapel." Four of the Five Chaplain's that participate are attached to an Engineer Brigade here on Liberty, while the fifth is one of my Chaplain's. As previously stated, being a Forward Support Company means you essentially answer to two different bosses, one being the battalion/squadron you support and the other the battalion to which you are assigned. The Chaplain for the Brigade Support Battalion, to which I am assigned, is a regular at this service.
Although I grew up in a Southern Baptist church, I wouldn't technically consider myself one anymore. Leslie and I have been members of a non-denominational church for the past 5 years now and this service is more catered to that style of worship than the more traditional one I grew up attending. Many of you may be familiar with the "Contemporary" terminology, as this service uses contemporary music; however, there are still some traditional components intertwined. First, we start off with one or two gospel songs (which is somewhat foreign to me) followed up by a time of praise and prayer requests. We return to worship music with a few contemporary songs, then proceed with the Sermon, delivered by any one of the five Chaplains. We conclude with the Lord's Supper and a hymn to close out our time together.
As you can see, this is a very diverse service; yet, it maintains the centerpiece of our fellowship, glorifying and honoring our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Although I wish there were more people attending, we usually get a solid crowd and I have developed a few closer relationships along the way. I am very thankful for this time of worship; however, it always makes me miss my wife and our home church even more. Chad, I hope you're still saving us a seat for when we return!
Take care and God Bless.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Stetson

Many of you might be asking yourselves why I, along with my Company Commander and First Sergeant, are wearing Cowboy hats in the picture I posted regarding my combat patch. Well, this is one of the Army's many traditions that dates back to the Civil War. Being assigned to a Cavalry Regiment means embracing its long heritage, something that the Stetson represents. Although not all Cav unit's don this traditional headgear, my Squadron Commander has made it a requirement for ALL leaders to wear a Stetson to meetings and ceremonies. Despite the fact that we don't ride horses anymore, we also still wear spurs with our dress uniforms! For many, this is a way to honor the heritage of their unit, despite the transformation of warfare over the past two centuries.
While this aspect of tradition is mainly for those individuals within the Armor branch, as a Forward Support Company we are considered part of this unit and encouraged (read required) to embrace the same traditions, i.e. wearing of the Stetson.The black and gold band around the hat represents the Officer Corps; at the top of it is my 2LT rank; and just below it is the crossed sabers with 75 (representing the 75th Cavalry Regiment) and a 1 (1st Squadron). You can see on the back of the CO's hat, there are some pins. These can either be our Branch Insignia's, or our Unit Crests. Soldiers are free to put almost anything they want on the back of theirs, which is why I have a big Orange T on mine!!! Although I am an East Tennessean, a place where wearing a Cowboy hat is a common practice among many, this is actually the first Stetson I have ever had, and one that carries with it a special meaning to me because it will always remind me of the things I have done here.
Hope this helps in understanding our culture!
Take care.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

7 Years Ago Today

I'm sure all of you can remember what you were doing on this very day when the events we now refer to as 9/11 took place. I had just begun my senior year of college and decided to go to the batting cage in between classes to get a little extra practice in. When I came back to my apartment, my roommate Mike said, "A plane just flew into one of the World Trade Center towers." I, along with the rest of world, sat and watched the shock and horror that had befallen our nation. Three weeks prior, I was in Washington D.C., finishing up my internship on Capitol Hill. After learning about the plane that flew into the Pentagon, my thoughts immediately went to my former co-workers. I grabbed my phone and called the office, praying that nobody would answer, out of fear that the Capitol Building might be hit next.
My next class was scheduled for 1030am, so I quickly got ready and walked over. My professor, a native New Yorker, began with an announcement that despite the events that had taken place, we needed to press on and continue our lesson for the day. Although this might seem somewhat strange and irrelevant, that was probably the most reassuring thing he could have done for a group of scared, unnerving college students. We all knew the world we lived in was about to change dramatically, just not sure how.
I think about that day often, as well as all the events that have taken place over the past 7 years that brought me here, to where I am today. I wish I could say that I joined the military because of 9/11, that I wanted to seek revenge on those who seek to harm us, but that would be a lie. I do, however, serve with a number of individuals who point to those events as their rationale for joining, some of whom lost a loved one on that fateful day. I thank God, not only for the sacrifices they have made, but also for their willingness to press on with life, despite their circumstances.
When I lost a friend of mine in high school, his wrestling coach stopped by one my classes and spoke on what Scott had meant to him. Noticing my unease, he looked directly at me and said, "The band of life marches on." Those words he uttered will forever remain with me.When you think about today, and the many images that run rampantly through your mind, take just a moment and realize all that has happened to you and those you love over the past 7 years. We have all seen success and failure, happiness and pain, rejoicing and sorrow; yet, the band of life continues to march on.
Take care and God bless.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

It Rained Yesterday!

For someone who spends most of his free time outside, I've never been a big fan of the rain. When I was playing sports, the rain usually meant no game, or it made playing more difficult. Also, if there's the potential for lightning, the last thing I want to be holding is an aluminum bat or a golf club!
Yesterday, I saw for the first time in over 80 days some rain, albeit briefly. I had just completed my 45 minute Operations Order (OPORD) for conducting the CRO and God said "Let there be rain." Unfortunately, I wasn't really able to enjoy any of it, as I was meeting with the SCO, who was in attendance to "critique" my organizational structure. However, when I went outside I could see the remnants of what looked to be a 3-5 minute downpour. About the only thing it did was compact all the dirt on the ground and cool the temperature off a few degrees, but at least it brought a smile to my face.
So many times I've taken the rain for granted, just wished it away so that I could carry on with my day. Yet, I have come to miss those rainy days, when all you want to do is lay around the house and relax, or possibly even sit out on the porch and just listen to the calm, soothing sound of it hitting the roof. I doubt I will ever look at the rain in the same way after this whole experience.
Take care....and enjoy the rain!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Combat Patch

If you've ever looked closely at an Army uniform, you will notice that soldiers wear patches on their shoulders. On the left shoulder is the soldier's Unit patch. This signifies the unit they are currently assigned to. Most of the time it's going to be at the divisional level; however, more and more are able to wear their battalion or even company insignia. Because I am in the 101st Airborne Division, I wear the historic "Screaming Eagle" patch, with the word "Airborne" just above the eagle, known as Ol' Abe.

However, it is on the right shoulder that a soldier's true pride shines bright, as this is where he or she wears the Combat patch. According to Army uniform regulations (AR 670-1), if a soldier serves a minimum of 30 days in a combat zone, he or she is allowed to wear the combat patch. Although in many cases it's the exact same patch, this signifies that the individual has served in a conflict zone, something practically every person in the Army has the ability to say nowadays. If you see a soldier with two different patches, this means that they deployed with one unit, but are currently assigned to another. There are thousands of people who fit into this category, with some continuing to wear their first (or even second) combat patch instead of the one to which they are currently assigned, mainly for personal reasons. One of my soldiers continues to wear his combat patch from the 1st Armored Division, as during his time there he lost his Squadron Commander to an IED. It's his way to honor his fallen comrades.

This past Wednesday, I was awarded my combat patch. Yes, it's about 40 days overdue, but nonetheless, I can now wear this patch on every uniform, for the rest of my time in the Army. Despite all the awards and medals that soldiers will accrue throughout their careers, I believe it's the combat patch that they wear with the most pride. It's an outward symbol to the world that we were willing, not only to GO into harms way, but also to LEAVE all the things we hold dear to us at home. Hope all is well and take care.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Gettin' My Swole On

Physical fitness is a trait I acquired a very young age. Playing three or four sports a year made it very easy for me to maintain an active lifestyle; yet, I wasn't much of a weight-lifter in high school. I graduated at a whopping 169lbs in '98, but was quickly introduced to the rigors of being a collegiate athlete. In roughly a year, I had put on about 30 pounds and developed what my wife likes to call "fat neck."
Unfortunately, those glory days are gone, along with my high metabolism, and keeping up my physical stamina has become somewhat of an arduous task. The Army has certain physical standards that all soldiers must adhere to, and thankfully we have a fitness center that enables us to do so. Two gyms are within a short walking distance from my trailer; however, I have taken to working out in the late afternoon, so I come from the motor pool. Not minding the jog, I run from the motor pool to the gym, conduct my workout, then run back. Push-ups, sit-ups, and a two-mile run are the three components of the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). However, doing only those three activities day in and day out would make even a routine-friendly guy like myself go crazy. Luckily, these gyms have the same variety of equipment one is likely to find anywhere in the States.
Not only is working out a requirement for Army personnel, it's almost become a favorite past time. You're likely to see both men and women pursuing their amateur body-building careers (I'm not joking) on a daily basis. You also have your social groups, who don't really come to workout, just to talk and look at members of the opposite sex. There's also this one guy that I love to watch workout. He listens to an ipod everyday, which I believe consists of only rap music, because he mouths the lyrics and makes hand gestures like he's in a video! Even better, he dances...in front of the mirror! In between songs, he also likes to look at his muscles and fix his hair. If you've ever set foot inside a gym, you know the kind of guy I'm describing. It's really quite entertaining!
In short, my gym, just like any other is full of its various stereotypes. It's a little annoying for someone like me, who just wants to work off that piece of cake I had a lunch before it settles into my spare tire; but, at the same time it kind of feels like home! Take care and enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

7 Days a Week

It's been about a month and a half since I began work as the Squadron Maintenance Officer, and I can assure that I have felt every bit of that time. While the days tend to go by somewhat expeditiously, it's the amount of time during the day that tends to drag on.
My day usually begins around 0645 and I make it down to the motor pool around 0745, conducting my personal hygiene and swinging by the DFAC for breakfast within that hour. Although I may try to vary up my caloric intake at my favorite meal of the day, one think that remains constant is my cup of coffee. There is virtually nothing that will stand in the way of me enjoying a hot cup of Joe before the temperature hits its normal 120 degrees at around 1100!
Each day may vary with regards to meetings or daily tasks, but I'm responsible everyday for briefing my superiors on the status of all our equipment, ranging from vehicles to weapons. This is done not later than (NLT) 1100 each day. For the remainder of the day I am either going to another meeting, trying to manage a mini-crisis, or just sitting around waiting for that mini-crisis to strike. It's not a hard laboring job, nor is it fast paced; however, those stressful times are enough to make me lose what little hair I have left! Aside from those days that I lead the CRO, I adhere closely to this above schedule.....EVERYDAY.
For staff officers, there is really no such thing as a day off. One day you might not have as much going on as the day before, but you're still expected to be at your desk or in your office everyday (unless you're deathly sick). Just about everyone that has been here longer than me is entitled to a leave period, roughly consisting of 15-18 days off back in the U.S. This is pretty much considered your time off while deployed. Platoons staying out at the JSS's have been able to get about 1-2 days a week back at Liberty for "refit". In other words, they get a day or two to stock up on toiletries, money, food, etc. before heading back out into sector. This is time they aren't required to work, but at times might be tasked with miscellaneous duties that take away from their leisure time.
My leisure time, if you can call it that, must be crammed in somewhere between the hours of 2000 (8pm) and 0700 (7am), as this is pretty much the only time that I am not in the motor pool, or at a meeting. Yes, I get my three square meals a day, something not enjoyed by my brothers in arms out in sector, so I can't complain about that. However, it would be nice to have just one day to sleep in! For those of you who get that luxury, next time you're waking up around 0930, wondering what you are going to do that day, just think of me....then go back to sleep! Take care.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Rumors

Despite the agonizing defeat of the Vols last night, I'm going to try my best to put together a blog post of some substance. So, if you don't feel like you've learned anything from this one, please chalk it up to my disgruntled emotions! I'm the kind of guy that if you tell me to do something, I need to know what criteria lead to its completion. In sports, I knew that I played until the final batter was out, or the clock ran out of time. In school, when I turned in the my final paper or test, I knew I was done for the semester. I need something to work towards, what the military and many other circles calls an "end state."

When I first found out I was going to be deploying here for the rest of the year, I was told that 15 January would be the completion of this deployment and we would be back home. However, due to some circumstances that have befallen our unit and the one replacing us, there is a possibility that we may be going home earlier than expected. As a result, rumors abound as to when this might happen.

Although I cannot say for sure if and when this might take place, all I can say is that such a topic is almost inevitably discussed among the many circles I come across. Soldiers asking if I've heard any new information, peers telling me what they heard someone else say about a meeting they went to, etc. If you've been here for while, or more than once, your mind starts to ponder the many things you aspire to do when you get home. All the things you want to do with your friends and family to make up for the lost time. It's almost enough to drive you to the point of exhaustion.

So, if you're wondering what might consume that thoughts of a soldier in my brigade everyday, now you have it. I was at a promotion ceremony yesterday and the Troop First Sergeant (1SG) said, "I've heard rumors that we're going home in November, December and January," he said in his loud, booming voice. "I can tell you this....we will definitely be going home in either November, December, or January." There you have it folks, the very words of a old Army sage. Take care.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Somber Day

For those of you who don't already know this about me, Fall is my favorite season of the year. Many might think that Spring is my favorite because of my passion for baseball. While I always enjoyed the game, it pales in comparison to my love of the many characteristics associated with Autumn. There are many signs that point to the changing of the seasons during this time of year and three of them I hold near and dear to my heart. First, the evenings begin to develop a cool, crisp breeze, where you're forced to put on a layer of sleeves to keep from getting the chills. Second, the changing of the leaves. At times, I don't think God has created a more beautiful sight than seeing the multitude of colors sprinkled throughout the landscape of East Tennessee. This final one is more idiosyncratic to my family, and something that I look forward to every weekend.....COLLEGE FOOTBALL, BABY!!!!
Yes, I admit it, I am a huge College Football fan; however, this is a trait that I believe I developed from my father. My dad was quite the "gunslinger" in his prime. Although his college career was cut short, I take pride in telling people that he was recruited by and signed with Ole Miss in 1971, following the end of the Archie Manning era. Moreover, my brother-in-law Jimmy played linebacker for two years at Marshall, before completing his career at West Virginia State University. About the only accolade I can boast of is being nicknamed Jesse "I won't fair catch the ball" Cragwall during my Senior year of high school.
This weekend marks the beginning of the College season, and even though my beloved UT Vols aren't playing until Monday, this weekend is one I look forward to every year. It is also my father's birthday today, one that will be filled with funny family stories, great food, and the flipping of channels from one game to the next. It's moments like these that I cherish and long for while being over here, but I know I'll get my fill of it next year when we are all back together again.Monday is also my best friend Jeff's bday, so let's hope the Vols win one for the Freightrain! Take care.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Johnny Boy!

Recently my friend Barrett, a former Marine and kindred spirit in all things patriotic, sent me one of the most wonderful gifts...the John Adams miniseries from HBO!!! I absolutely love it! I'm almost halfway through with it and I get chills every time the opening credits come on. Throughout my time studying the foundation of our great nation, I've envisioned what things must have been like back then and how the MEN, not the LEGENDS, interacted with one another. It is such a marvelous production and one I think accurate represents the "chain of events" that led to the creation and establishment of our nation and governmental structure. So much of our formal education regarding this time in history has become somewhat of a fairytale. It's almost as if our founding fathers were these larger than life characters who fought for our independence and magically created what we know today as the Constitution. At times, I've related it to the princess kissing the frog and POOF, he instantly becomes a tall, dark and handsome prince.
In truth, this is far from reality and this miniseries captures the internal and external struggles of all the men that played an intricate role in this grand process. I like to tell people that one of my ideas of heaven is being able to watch the history of the world on a huge big screen tv as if it were a re-run on TV Land; but, I might just be able to skip this part because the miniseries seems to mirror reality.
In short, I highly recommend this miniseries and I am tremendously indebted to my distinguished colleague from the great state of Tennessee! Thanks, brother. You're a good friend and great Patriot!Take care.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Taking the Reigns

Well, yesterday was a successful day. I led my first convoy and had very little, if any, problems taking on these responsibilities. The truth is that there is very little that I need to do, primarily since these soldiers have been doing the EXACT SAME THING everyday for the past 10 months! With the exception of the order we visit the JSS's and the types of supplies we take, the order of events is so systematic and routinized that most of the soldiers could do it themselves, and probably be better at it than me. However, when it comes to manages a crisis (God forbid), that's when the real test comes. While some individuals are naturally equipped with the reactionary measures needed to handle unforeseen circumstances, most of the training that I have been undergoing for the past year focuses on such an instance. Moreover, these events are what usually distinguishes the good soldiers from the bad.

Today Alan, the distribution platoon leader leaves for his R&R leave and this will open up more days that I will be responsible for leading the daily convoys. It's something I'm finding myself enjoying, mainly because it gets me out of the office and interacting with other soldiers. Yet, I still enjoy days like today, when I have some down time and can just relax. I often find myself thinking about how everyone is doing back home, especially with the changing of the seasons. I'm sure if I were back home, I'd smell College Football in the air! GO BIG ORANGE!!!!!!Hope your week is going well and take care during this upcoming holiday weekend.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

He's Back!!!

I am happy to report that I saw my friend Karl today back at work, and in pretty good spirits. He's about 25 lbs. lighter, thanks to not eating any solid food four roughly two weeks straight, and sporting a pretty wicked scar from his surgery. This is by no means that "cool" scar that most men long to have and hopefully it will very rarely see the light of day. Karl got back to Liberty two days ago and met back up with his platoon yesterday afternoon. He's already gone out on a couple of missions and is very excited about being back in the swing of things.

A word to the wise, if you're feeling really bad in your "digestive area" and it persists for a number of days, please don't hesitate and seek a doctor, as it could end up saving your life! Karl did everything right and yet still was close to incurring severe damage to his body.Thank you all for your prayers and words of support. I'm sure that they all played a role in his recovery. Let's just hope he's the LAST person that has to leave our Squadron for any immediate reason! Hope all is well on YOUR end and please take care.

CRO

Well, yesterday I finally finished my monthly Sensitive Items Inventory and I must say that it's a relief to finally get that off my plate. However, now I'm on to another additional duty, one that has a little more relevance to my job. Despite being an Ordnance (Maintenance) officer, the Army is in the process of "merging" three officer branches into one upon completing the Captain's Career Course. Quartermaster (Supply) and Transportation (self explanatory) officers, along with Ordnance officers, are now becoming the Multifunctional Logistitians; however, the only real change is in the name. Officers in each of these branches are already interchangeable at the 2LT level. As a result, along with being the Squadron Maintenance Officer, I will now lead the Combat Replenishment Operations (CRO) once or twice a week.

What does this entail? Well, I am in charge of the convoy that takes all the daily supplies out to the JSS's; not a very difficult task, but still somewhat time consuming. Moreover, this means going out into our AO, where the bad buys live and seek to attack us. Last week, my driver looked at me while on the road and said, "See that big hole in the bridge right there? That's where an IED hit my truck back in March."

So, throughout this whole adventure, I am taking on a plethora of different responsibilities and virtually none of them I have had any previous training on; but I guess learning and doing go hand in hand at times. Mom was right, you can't learn to swim unless you get in the water! Take care.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Additional Duties

Sorry for the long delay in posting. I know I said the same thing in my last post...from a week ago....but, I've been taking on some new responsibilities and been going through some preparatory training. Being an officer or senior NCO in the military means having to take on certain duties that are not directly related to your job, one of which I have for this month. Sensitive Items are pieces of equipment that vital to our success in combat and if it were to fall into the enemies hands, it could severely hinder out efficacy. These items include personal weapons, night vision devices, electronic warfare and communication equipment, among many others. To ensure that all personnel are keeping track of their equipment, I have been tasked this month with visually inspecting everything to make sure it matches what we have on our property books. Yes, this is just as toilsome in practice as it is in written form. I'm having to track down people I've never met in my company and say to them, "I need to see your sensitive items." Personally, if a total stranger, regardless of rank, said that to me, I would question their motives right on the spot. However, since this is probably the 8th time we've had to do this, I haven't been met with any resistance. It's something that happens on a fairly regular basis; yet, there are still times when we find someone who doesn't have the proper equipment, or is unable to locate it. Let me tell you how serious this is...when I was in a 7 week course last fall, a female soldier lost a SI and all training was shut down for 3 days! We resorted to kicking the gravel in the motor pool, as if someone had buried it to show her a lesson!

So, in short, the past several days have been spent scurrying around trying to find the serial number on every weapon, vehicle, and electric device in our company to make sure everything is where it was last month. Don't be fooled by the high speediness of the military recruiting commercials, half of being in the Army is just paperwork! Take care.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Did the Surge Work?

When I was a little boy, I loved watching the "Incredible Hulk"; however, I hadn't quite mastered the art of pronunciation and instead called it the "Bedda Hulk". Mom said I used to run out of the room during the transformation from Bill Bixby to Lou Ferrigno yelling, "He's hulkin', momma, he's hulkin'." A few moments later I would creep back into the room, checking to see if the scary part was over.What does this have to do with the surge? Well, over the past few weeks, the effectiveness of last year's surge in troops has been a big issue in the presidential elections and I feel that it's important to look at all the facts. Just like Dr. David Banner used to get angry and transform into a green, lethal killing machine, I too have my fits of rage and become the "Incredible Political Scientist." (Are you scared yet???) If there's anything that I've learned through my time in graduate school, it's that in matters of cause and effect, you cannot determine with 100% certainty that there is only one cause. In this case, one cannot accurately deduce that the surge in troops is the sole cause for decrease in violence in Iraq. Dr. Colin Krahl published an article in the July/August issue of Foreign Affairs stating that there are several other potential reasons for the regression of violence here, arguing "that Al Qaeda in Iraq had become more brutal and indiscriminate....declared the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq....demanded brides for its soldiers, enforced harsh fundamentalist social norms, and cut into tribal smuggling revenues." Such actions were not well received by many in the country and support for AQI's cause began to dissipate. These issues, along with many others, should be considered when determining the efficacy of sending more troops into a combat zone. Up front, I'm not here to persuade anyone to endorse a political candidate, stance, or opinion on the matter, only to encourage readers to look at the broader picture and not just listen to the 30 second soundbite from either campaign. This is important because many are suggesting the same response to the tumultuous conditions in Afghanistan, saying that by increasing the number of troops there, we are likely to see the same kind of success. WRONG! While it is possible for this to occur, one has to look at the other variables at play in the country to determine what measures to take.Did the surge help quell the violence in Iraq? Yes. How much did it help? Not sure. That's something even the greatest statisticians in the world probably couldn't even answer, and for the very reasons stated above. Such rationale is like saying that Ronald Reagan single handedly won the Cold War (which I've actually had someone say me!). You cannot prove such a case because there are too many variables that must be considered. Now that I've turned back into my little "butter bar" lieutenant uniform, I hope you understand the point I'm trying to make, especially when you being determining the veracity of any politician's comments in the news. Take care and sorry for the delay in posting.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More Prayer Needed!

Unfortunately, things aren't going so well for Karl. He's developed an issue with his intestines and is back on a stomach pump/IVs all due to the ruptured appendix/fluid buildup in his abdomen. It looks like he'll be in Qatar for a while. If he doesn't improve, there is still a possibility they'll send him to Germany. Karl is in a lot of pain and is really drained from all of this. Please continue to pray for him and his family.