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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

More Cards

Sent off 14 more cards to Soldiers' Angels Germany today.

Running total: 236

Precious time.

Another month is finishing up. Just time to pause and reflect a bit. I am amazed at the journey I have taken in the last 19 months. But I am also looking at the amount of time I spent with Jack Bauer in the last night months. Six months after we got married, we packed up and moved from the West Coast to the middle to attend law school. We spent all day every day together. And by the time we had made it through the bar exam and started jobs, it had been a full 3 years. It was a precious gift that at the time we both recognized.

But I never imagined the universe would want to balance that back out someday.

I actually sat down yesterday and tried to add up all the days we have spent together in the last 19 months. Here's the breakdown.

2006: 36 days
2007: 15 days

It was more than what I had thought. Luckily, while he was in preparing his unit in Westville, we were able to spend some time together - even if it was at my aunt's funeral in California. Eleven of those days in 2006 were from him taking 2 weeks of training about 2 hours from Middleville and we were able to coordinate time upfront and weekends. Precious time.

And looking ahead. Twelve months to go, we think. His current unit will leave and he will move to the new unit. He is looking forward to the assignment and I am excited for him. I love to see him feel passionate about his work. That will help the time pass for both us. I am staying extremely busy these days. Exciting opportunities are presenting themselves for me too.

So the next leave, no telling when that will be, I will do what I can to take off as much time as possible, so we can have every day together. More precious time.

Good News from Iraq: 31 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, ‘Operation Iraqi Heart,’ U.S. Special Operations Forces, Army Civil Affairs aid Al Anbar child.

BAGHDAD – Even though she’s surrounded by war, Dalal is not much different than
other children her age. She likes jumping rope and Cinderella and enjoys reading and drawing. Her favorite classes are religion and language and she recently completed second grade -- earning perfect marks in all her studies. But, unlike many of her peers, the 8-year-old Iraqi has also fought a life-threatening battle from within since birth.

Due to the efforts of a U.S. Special Forces medic and U.S. Army Civil Affairs
noncommissioned officer, all of that changed recently and Dalal was granted a new
lease on life.

July 23, Dalal received an operation in Amman, Jordan, to correct a heart defect
known as Tetralogy of Fallot. The congenital disease causes a decreased flow of bloodto the lungs, as well as mixing of blood from separate chambers of the heart. Left unattended, Dalal’s prognosis could have been death around the time she hit puberty.

“We had to close a hole in one area of her heart and patch and enlarge another
area,” said Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Khaled Salaymeh shortly after the operation. “She was fully awake shortly after the surgery and doing excellent.”

Dalal’s journey to the operating room began in Western Iraq several months ago.

“The previous (Special Forces) team here discovered her,” said Army Staff Sgt.
Joe Murtaugh, a U.S. Special Forces medical sergeant assigned to the Al Anbar
Province.

“Her father had an electrocardiogram from when she was 3 years old diagnosing
her with the condition. Since so much time had passed, they had him take her to where she could get another test and the diagnosis came back the same.”

While reviewing Dalal’s medical records, Murtaugh found an e-mail address for
the International Organization of Migration in Jordan and contacted them for assistance.

“They directed us to several contacts but the most important was Marikay (Army
Staff Sgt. Marikay Satryano). She took care of all the logistical details in Jordan and
even arranged for three organizations to cover the $8,000 cost of Dalal’s Surgery.” ...

Read the rest of the story here.


Monday, July 30, 2007

"Uncertainty Itself is Pain"

I was listening to NPR on my commute this morning, when I heard this piece about how adaptable humans are and how we are probably the most adaptable species there is. Something the interviewee said stuck with me throughout my drive.

"Uncertainty itself is pain."

I think that says a lot about living with anxiety. And certainly explains why it is that, from time to time, my something hurts.

Sounds of the Homefront

I read this post by Triple E over at Oh! That's Gonna Leave a Mark about thinking she hears the sound of her husband's car coming up the driveway. At the time the only thing I could think of was that I always seem to want to call Jack Bauer on my way home from work. Well, obviously I have not been able to call him since last September when he left the States, but that has not diminished my desire to do so.

But I got to thinking a bit more about this later.

I hear sounds and think Jack Bauer must be close. Except rather than being in person - we don't have a driveway nor do we have a second car - these sounds all come from my laptop.

Pings, dings, and dongs. Each sound tells me he might be online.

Jack Bauer and I use Skype as our primary method of IMing - definitely has great emoticons. It makes distinctive noise when someone comes on, and despite being in other room, I can hear it, and I quickly stop what I am doing and go check to see if he is on.

Skype also has different sounds for the entry of a message: one for outgoing and one for incoming. It is that incoming sound that makes me smile every time I hear it.

The third sound is from Google chat. It is VERY loud and actually an unpleasant sound. It is most jarring when I am on Skype with Jack and someone else is trying to IM with me in Google. (Besides that is terribly confusing and anxiety-provoking cuz I am afraid of typing the wrong thing to the wrong person. That is another post for another day.)

Lastly, there is the sound when email arrives. A lovely sound indeed. Someone is reaching out to me.

These are the sounds I hear as I move around my silent life. The sounds I hear that remind me that my best friend is not by my side. The sounds I hear that bring me as close to him as I can be at this time. The sounds I have chosen to accept as a substitute for his voice, his presence.

And I hear then all the time, even when they aren't actually there.

Pings, dings, and dongs.

Good News from Iraq: 30 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, Balad F-16s destroy terrorist training camp.

BALAD AIR BASE — F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing here destroyed an al-Qaida training camp southwest of Baghdad July 21.

In a coordinated attack, joint air terminal controllers on the ground cleared seven F-16s to drop 500-pound and 1,000-pound guided bombs on the terror complex near Karbala.

The precision-guided weapons destroyed the target, degrading al-Qaida's ability to mount attacks on the Iraqi government, coalition forces and innocent civilians.

The destruction of the terrorist facility is part of aggressive and comprehensive operations to hunt down, capture or kill terrorists trying to prevent a peaceful and stable Iraq, said Col. Charles Moore, the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group commander. ...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Sandal Solution

Well BFF dragged me out to go sandal shopping . Good thing too cuz I might have never replaced those broken black sandals. Here is a fairly bad picture, but at least it is something.


And a Package TO the Sandbox

Here's the latest installment of what I am sending to Jack Bauer.

Candy, candy, candy. I figure this is most likely one of the last shipments to him at Camp Ramadi. Not having much of a sweet tooth himself, he can share it with his guys and send it out on missions for the children.

Gotta throw in a few other things for good measure.

  • Chinese Feng Shui Hand Carved Jade Luck Charm for Good Health. Why the hell not?
  • Herban Cowboy Shave Cream (100% Healthy & Vegan) and Milled Soap (70% Organic). They were free samples given out at Whole Paycheck. (I would have inserted a picture here of the products in use, but the pictures were split into a top half and a bottom half. Sorry ladies, you will just have to click to see the HOT men using these organic vegan products.)
  • Magnetic Yoga. Which consists of 63 square magnetics of different poses. He is hoping to do yoga with me when he gets home.
  • A magnet of a shar-pei with the quote, "Did you ever stop to think, and then forget to start again?"

So what candy and how much?
  • LifeSavers Fruit Tarts
  • Altoids Mango Sours
  • Jolly Ranchers, 3.75 lb bag
That's a lot of candy. The box weighed almost 10 pounds.

Good News from Iraq: 29 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, Local residents lead Soldiers to huge weapons cache.

PATROL BASE INCHON — The rural areas south of Baghdad have long been a trouble spot for Coalition Forces. The fertile land was given by Saddam Hussein to Baath Party members and close friends, and the ties made it a hotbed of terrorism.

Increasingly, however, residents are combating terror in their areas.

On July 23, a local Iraqi man came to Patrol Base Inchon, near the Euphrates River, staffed by Company D, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., and elements of the 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division. He told troops that several other residents had chased a group of anti-Iraqi forces away from a weapons cache. He asked Soldiers to remove the weapons.

Several local residents guarded the cache and placed a fluorescent marking cloth to alert helicopters that they were not hostile.

Soldiers of Company D moved out to find the cache and were met on the road by some of the local residents, who guided them to the cache, which was next to a canal.

The cache contained 210 57mm rockets, 25 82mm rockets, eight 120mm mortars, a large rocket, and a bag of homemade explosives.

An explosive ordnance disposal team detonated the contents of the cache with a controlled explosion.

Although most rockets and mortars found in caches are not suitable for firing as intended, they are commonly used as improvised explosive devices.

“It’s a significant breakthrough in one of our most problematic areas,” said Maj. Kenny Mintz, 2nd BCT’s operations officer. “We have had a series of people turn in caches in the Qarghuli tribal area, which has historically been a source for supplies for IEDs and munitions for terrorist attacks.”

Mintz, a San Diego native, said he feels the change in residents’ behavior is due to a realization that al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations are not what they had bargained for.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Package from the Sandbox

Let's see what we've got here from Camp Ramadi.

Actually, let me start by saying that there is a hole in the box, as there has been in EVERY box that has come from Jack Bauer. Hmmm. It must be a military thing, because most of the packages delivered here aren't full of holes.

Here is the list of books:

  • No True Glory by Bing West
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  • Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court by Jan Crawford Greenburg
  • A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 by Andrew Roberts


A sweat-covered shemagh, thinking I would like to have Jack Bauer's smell. You should have seen the extremely unpleasant face I made when I pulled it from the plastic ziplock bag and smelled it. (OK, so I did ask for it.) I think I'll let it air out a bit. I did put it around my shoulders and wrapped it around me head -- in the proper manner mind you. Maybe I will be able to feel him instead. Don't I look mean? That's me, the badass in the shemagh and a camisole.









A pair of Iraqi panties. Yes, Iraqi panties. What makes them so different from American panties you ask? Why the pocket in the front, of course. Yes, a full-size pocket. Had to take a picture. He tells me that he got these in the "Hadji" shop. Oh, and look there is even a butterfly on it. :D And a dragonfly too. ;-)












And last but not least, inside the panty pocket was a coin. A General Peter Pace coin. Not nearly as cool as the circumstances under which Homefront 6 received hers, but nonetheless it is now MINE. (**use LOTR "precious" voice**) OK. I'm not really that possessive but I am honored to have the coin.

Good News from Iraq: 28 Jul 2007

From DefenseLink, Improved Ninewah Security May Mean Fewer U.S. Troops in Future.

Insurgent attacks in Iraq’s Ninewah province have dropped significantly, and if the trend continues, fewer U.S. troops will be needed in the region, an Army commander in the area said today.

A sign of the improved security situation in the province is the fact that the province -- which includes Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city -- will transfer to Iraqi provincial control sometime next month, said Army Col. Stephen Twitty, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade, during a briefing with Pentagon reporters via telephone. The Ninewah provincial government has made great strides and can stand on its own with minimal help, Twitty said. “We have a very mature provincial government here,” he said. The coalition provincial reconstruction team in Mosul and the brigade staff will continue to coach and mentor the provincial government. “In nine months I have seen this government mature, so they will be able to operate pretty much independently and run the provincial government pretty much independently,” Twitty said. On the security side, the two Iraqi divisions in the province are already under the command of Iraqi Ground Forces Command. “We still continue to see a need for the (provincial reconstruction team) to be here and will probably see a need for some type of coalition forces up here,” Twitty said. “That may or may not be a robust force like I have, and it's going to be based on the security situation here.” He said the security situation is showing great promise. When his brigade moved into the area in December, there were between 15 and 18 attacks per day. Today, that number is down to between seven and nine. “But we must not call victory yet, and we must continue to look at the situation up here,” he said. ...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Fun Fact

**language alert**

I love to curse. This does not mean that bad words are flowing out of my mouth just because I can use them. But a well-placed expletive can really drive home the message. My boss yesterday was saying that he got really upset in a meeting and said "fuck" in frustration at what he and our group were being asked to do. Me being ever the word consultant, I told him that since he doesn't say that much, the recipients should get the point that he was very upset.

IMHO, cursing is overused and inappropriately used, drawing away the power of the words. For example, in the first season of the Sopranos in the episode "College", there were two coked-out losers being asked to whack Tony. One of them smartly decides that is a bad idea, but she tells the the guy asking in a most peculiar way where to go: "Fuck you, fuck wad." It came off as ridiculous, which was probably the intention of the writers. But my point is that using a phrase like that in everyday setting is too much, and lessens the umph of the word.

I tried watching HBO's Deadwood once, and only once. Within the first 10 minutes, they had used "fuck" so many times, that the word had completely lost its meaning. What's the point? I found that so aggravating I couldn't watch any longer.

All that said, the grand f-word is my favorite word in all the English language. It is certainly one of most diverse words we have. It is used as a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb, a command, and probably everything else that I cannot think of at the moment. (I would give examples of each but that seems like overkill. You got the point.)

So there you go. An army wife cursing like a sailor.

Glad I ain't selling my house

Wow! After yesterday's maket tumbles, I am sure glad that I am not facing the sale of our house this year. Hopefully, there will be something of a recovery by this time next summer.

I can always dream.

And work on getting my house in the best shape possible.

Good News from Iraq: 27 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, Operation Fardh al-Qanoon achieving good results.

BAGHDAD -- ... “Operations for Fardh al-Qanoon during the last five months have achieved many successes and we have many indicators by which we can judge the operation,” [Iraqi Army Lt. Gen. Aboud] Ganbar, [commander, Baghdad operations, Fardh al-Qanoon,] said. ...

The number of unidentified bodies has decreased by 90 percent. Improvised exploding device and mortar attacks have decreased to 40 percent and car bombs have decreased to 15 percent, according to Ganbar.

“We have noticed commercial movement in Baghdad after long suspension,” Ganbar said. “Work in the government offices has started to be organized and many projects
are carried out in Baghdad along with many services.”

Ganbar also reported that the school year that just ended at all of the Baghdad schools had been one of the least violent in recent memory with no violence reported during the final examinations. He also said that services at medical facilities have increased by
300 percent.

The commanders spoke of the progress Iraqi security forces have made since the beginning of operations and is building faith of the Iraqi people in their military and police forces. ...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

And even MORE cards

Are you all sick of hearing about me and my cards? Too bad! :D Cuz they just keep on coming! When I am on a roll, you better watch out.

So MaryAnn, here come 14 more cards your way.

Running total: 222

Victory Caucus

I just found this great relaunched site: Victory Caucus. Maybe I am slow on getting there, but I am there now. They have some great metrics to show the progress in Iraq, links to our great independent journalists, and all in an easy to use format.

What more could a girl want?

OK, besides whirrled peas and her husband beside her. ;-)

Good News from Iraq: 26 Jul 2007

What is the surge doing in one neighborhood in Baghdad? From Michael Totten, In the Wake of the Surge.

... “This is not what I expected in Baghdad,” I said.

“Most of what we’re doing doesn’t get reported in the media,” [Lieutenant Wolf] said. “We’re not fighting a war here anymore, not in this area. We’ve moved way beyond that stage. We built a soccer field for the kids, bought all kinds of equipment, bought them school books and even chalk. Soon we’re installing 1,500 solar street lamps so they have light at night and can take some of the load off the power grid. The media only covers the gruesome stuff. We go to the sheiks and say hey man, what kind of projects do you want in this area? They give us a list and we submit the paperwork. When the projects get approved, we give them the money and help them buy stuff.” ...

The whole piece is worth your time to read.





Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Postcard From Pups to Pop

Today, the doggies wrote a postcard to their dear doggie daddy. And I thought I would share it with you, cuz it is just so cute when they do this. :D

Background: I am way too busy to anything in my backyard except spray the "bad" weeds with Round-Up. The "good" weeds are big tall grasses. They get to stay to help keep the dirt level down. The good weeds are taller than my 70-pound Bear.

Dear Daddy,

Mommy has made us a real fun garden to play in. The grass is really tall and makes funny noises when we run through it. We even have small creatures to chase around. It is great. Not like the fancy-schmancy botanical garden on the front of this postcard.

Love, Moo & Bear

P.S. Woof!

MaryAnn's Animal Story

Wonderful MaryAnn at Soldiers' Angels Germany sent me this story after she received a box of stuffed animals from me.

**tissue warning**

Anyway, we're working away in our freight room when a Soldier came in - not a patient. Said he worked at the legal office next door and one of the Platoon Sergeants at Kleber MTD told him if anyone could help him, it was us.

He was looking for a wooden box for one of his family cats who had just died. A feral cat had come out of the woods and attacted his family pets. One of his cats took on the intruder, suffering injuries which resulted in severe infection and ultimately, cost this little feline hero her life.

He said his wife was devasted, and he looked pretty bad himself. They were on their way to the vet's to pick up their cat and he almost broke down when he said he refused to put her in a tupperware or carboard box. A bit self consciously, he said he hoped we didn't think it was silly. I pointed to Molly, the Red Cross dog working with us that day, and told him we were animal lovers and understood completely.

Unfortunately, we didn't have a wooden box. I just wanted to do something for him, so I asked if we could offer a little stuffed animal to bury with his beloved pet. He perked up a little and said that would be wonderful.

So I brought him into the other room where your box was and started looking through it. I found a little mouse and held it up, at which point this guy completely lost it and started sobbing. I gave him a hug, and the mouse, and he left, wiping his face on his t-shirt.
Made me cry. Made Jack Bauer cry too.

Good News from Iraq: 25 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, Iraqi doctor jump starts immunization program.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE AL RASHEED — Imagine taking over an immunization program lacking the proper equipment, the knowledge of who needs shots, or the vaccinations or staff to give them.

That was exactly the case when Dr. Saad, the 9th Iraqi Army Division's chief surgeon, took over the health center immunization program at Al-Rasheed Forward Operating Base in eastern Baghdad.

Nothing was in place. There were only small amounts of medicine and no database determining who had been vaccinated or when. Amazingly, in just a short period of time, Saad has changed all that.

Saad started his immunization program from scratch. It's not like the Iraqi soldiers stood in line with their yellow immunization cards waiting to be vaccinated from medicine kept cool in a refrigerator. Even though he started to receive small amounts of medication, electricity is limited, affecting the medicine, and the soldiers were not too keen about receiving the shots either. ...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How about them Cards?

Nope, not baseball, even though I live in Middleville (which could be Mudville this time of year), I am talking those little piece of encouragement I try to get off to Soldiers' Angels Germany.

I am getting bad about remembering to tell you about it. But I sent some 16 cards out last Friday, including #200.

Running total: 208

Good News from Iraq: 24 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, IA, U.S. Special Forces detain alleged terrorist finance chief in Ninewa Province.

TAJI, Iraq – Elements of the 2nd Iraqi Army Division, with U.S. Special Forces as advisors, detained a high level financier of an Al Qaeda affiliated group in the Nimrud District of east Ninewa Province during an intelligence driven operation July 22.

The targeted individual is alleged to be responsible for financing numerous attacks against innocent Iraqis and Coalition Forces. Those attacks include the May 2006 kidnapping of a Mosul food supply director, a March 2007 IED attack in Kanash Village, and the October 2006 and December 2006 IED and small arms attacks against two Coalition bases.

Iraqi Forces seized $20,000 worth of Iraqi currency and assorted documents and computer equipment during the operation.

No Iraqi or Coalition Forces were injured during the operation.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Horror of horrors! My psychologist is moving out of state! This is soooo sad. :(

I know I will be just fine without her, but she was one of those people who I was really counting on being here for the next year. Of course, things happen for a reason. She would not be leaving my life unless I was able to cope without her.

I have learned so much from being around her. And I haven't even spent that much time with her. I do have a few months left with her.

Geez. This is really bumming me out. But I will be fine. Just one more thing to contemplate.

Hitting the Wall

I hit the wall yesterday. I think the decision and then the busy week with yoga (it added up to 13 hours) followed by a busy Saturday all caught up with me yesterday after breakfast out with a girlfriend.

I came home, IM'd wth Jack Bauer for an hour or so, tried to do some stuff around the house, and then turned the corner and POW! I ran smack-dab into the middle of the wall. I took a 2-hour nap. I got up for about 30 minutes, moved some laundry around, IM'd a bit with a friend, and then POW! I ran right back into the wall. (Man, that hurts.) So I took another 2-hour nap.

When my body says it is time to rest, I guess I need to listen.

Harry Potter will just have to wait.

Good News from Iraq: 23 Jul 2007

From Badgers Forward, Letter from the Raider Brigade Commander.

...

Security here in Ramadi continues to improve as the Iraqi police and army forces work daily to keep the population safe. When we arrived in February, we were averaging 30 – 35 attacks per day in our area of responsibility. Now our average is one attack per day or less. We had an entire week with no attacks in our area and have a total of over 65 days with no attacks. I attribute this success to our close relationship with the Iraqi security forces and the support those forces receive from the civilian population. The Iraqi police and army forces have uncovered hundreds of munitions caches and get intelligence tips from the local population every day.

...
Go read the whole thing.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Decision: He Stays

Well, since I told you yesterday that Jack Bauer and I did an interview with local TV, I suppose I should tell you that was in part about our decision for him to take that next assignment in Iraq.

So that's what we decided: He stays. Orders have not been cut yet, so things could change. But that is the path we are going on.

He does not think he will be able to come home in between assignments. The unit is active duty, arrived in June and is scheduled to return stateside next August.

I have gotten a number of interesting questions about this from civilians. Here are a few:

  • Will you be joining him? (As if he were in France on a business trip.)
  • So he's getting a promotion?
  • So he's getting a raise, a bonus?
  • Why can't he negotiate some of that?
Just in case you were ever doubting the general lack understanding about military life and culture by the vast majority of our countrymen.

Of course, this means that I need to reframe. I have boxes packed already. I think I just need to keep packing. Now I have 13 months to do it. Hopefully, the housing market will turn around a bit between now and next summer.

Where's my copy!!!!

Those Harry Potter books have been out for HOURS and I don't have my Amazon.com guaranteed-delivery-today copy! What a travesty!

Wait, aren't I the one who is always complaining that this country has no patience? We leave if there is a line at the drive-thru Starbucks. We curse queues at the DMV. We hate to wait. So why should I be surprised that the general public and the politicians cannot seem to muster the courage and patience to wait for GEN Petraeus's report due in 8 weeks?

Maybe some of these people should take a page from the real milspouse handbook. We are really good at waiting for what's most important.

But I digress. I still want my book now. But I know I can wait a few more hours until the mailman gets here.

Good News from Iraq: 21 Jul 2007

I love cows. I think they are cute and stinky and they taste soooo yummy! So I couldn't resist this fine tidbit of good news. :D

From MNF-I, Cavalry troops aid Iraqi farmers.

ABU HILLAN — An important part of the Iraqi reconstruction effort is helping the local residents; and that could range from providing them medical care to keeping their live stock healthy.

Soldiers of Troop C, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., recently provided assistance to the local populace in Abu Hillan, Abu Sheikan and Safirah, three villages south of Baghdad.


Soldiers of Troop C’s mortar platoon, the Tactical Psychological Operations Team, and Maj. Kevin Wellington, a veterinarian who serves with Multi-National Corps-Iraq, provided veterinary assistance to the farmers living in and around the three villages.


After the tremendous success of the previous veterinary operation in Abu Shiekan, the word spread among the residents about the support provided during the visit.


Soon, residents of Abu Hillan requested a similar mission in their area.

Early that morning the Soldiers loaded a trailer full of fencing, water and veterinary medical supplies and went to Abu Hillan to support this request.


When the patrol arrived at the Al-Salam Clinic, they cleared all the area buildings before putting up improvised animal pens. While the pens were being built, Soldiers traveled around the area announcing the opportunity to local farmers.

By 8 a.m., the holding pens were established and the message had been delivered.


The initial response from the area was minimal, with Wellington only conducting examinations on three cows in the first two hours.


But as the morning progressed, the trickle turned into a torrent. Several local farmers began to arrive with several herds of sheep, more cows and horses. The number of animals was so large that all Soldiers not pulling security were asked to help the residents with herding and controlling the animals.


“Being from the city, I never had to hold a sheep in my life before,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jose Soriano Jr., a platoon sergeant from Trp. C., “But the operation went very well.”


Wellington gave each animal flea-and-tick and de-worming medicines and advised the owners on general care procedures.


The operation was physically demanding in the heat of late morning, but worth the effort, said Wellington. More than 200 sheep, 10 cows and four horses were treated in the last hour.


Healthy animals are an important part of the farmers’ lives, and essential to their economic survival, so veterinary care is critical to the Agrarian community.


“The community responded well,” said Capt. John Breslin, a platoon leader with 1-89. “This increased goodwill and rapport with the locals.”

Friday, July 20, 2007

Friday Fun Fact

This week Jack Bauer and I did an interview with a local news TV news station. It was our second. OK. So they mostly wanted to hear from him, but I got a few words in. They interviewed Jack via Skype, but I insisted on meeting at a local park. The house is just toooooo messy to have anyone over here. (My cleaning lady is out with a broken leg. Ouch - to her and me!)

Good News from Iraq: 20 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, Lifeblood pumped into farming community in Mrezat.

BAGHDAD — There was no network news coverage, no front page spread, but local leaders of Mrezat, a small agricultural village in a northern section of the Adhamiyah District, shed tears of joy as water pumped from the Tigris River and passed attendees of a ceremony to mark the opening of a new pumping station in the community. In Mrezat, water is the lifeblood of the people. The agrarian community subsists primarily on palm-date groves, which are grown throughout the year. Without proper irrigation the groves wither and date production ceases. Mrezat’s refurbished irrigation pump brings the needed water from the Tigris’ base to the farmers’ crops.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Hot Chocolate in July

Yep. It is hot chocolate in July. Yesterday was the hottest day of the summer so far and today I am drinking hot chocolate.

No, it's not a particularly cool day. Just felt the need for chocolate and that's the only form it was coming in tonight.

I made it with skim milk so thats gotta be worth something, right? :D

Good News from Iraq: 19 Jul 2007

From WaPo, US: Top al-Qaida in Iraq Figure Captured.

BAGHDAD -- The U.S. command said Wednesday the highest-ranking Iraqi in the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq has been arrested, adding that information from him indicates the group's foreign-based leadership wields considerable influence over the Iraqi chapter.

Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, also known as Abu Shahid, was captured in Mosul on July 4, said Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a military spokesman.

"Al-Mashhadani is believed to be the most senior Iraqi in the al-Qaida in Iraq network," Bergner said. He said al-Mashhadani was a close associate of Abu Ayub al-Masri, the Egyptian-born head of al-Qaida in Iraq.

Bergner said al-Mashhadani served as an intermediary between al-Masri and Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri.

...

In Web postings, the Islamic State of Iraq has identified its leader as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, with al-Masri as minister of war. There are no known photos of al-Baghdadi.

Bergner said al-Mashhadani had told interrogators that al-Baghdadi is a "fictional role" created by al-Masri and that an actor is used for audio recordings of speeches posted on the Web.

"In his words, the Islamic State of Iraq is a front organization that masks the foreign influence and leadership within al-Qaida in Iraq in an attempt to put an Iraqi face on the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq," Bergner said. ...


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

This week brought to you by ....

How I am typing, I haven't a clue, because I think my arms fell off after yesterday's yoga and Pilates classes. But I figured out what is going to get me through this week.


This week is brought to you in part by ...


Caplets



Good News from Iraq: 18 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, Iraqi Soldiers participate in first ever advanced infantry course.

BAGHDAD — Soldiers from 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division participated in the first-ever advanced infantry course, dubbed the "Commando Course," at the Iraqi Army compound in Mahmudiyah, Iraq.

The course, planned and designed by non-commissioned officers of 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., was developed to give the IA Soldiers advanced infantry training skills. The class began July 8 and the Soldiers are scheduled to graduate Aug. 7.

“We thought it would be a great idea to offer something a little more advanced to the (Iraqi troops),” said U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Tony Grinston, 2-15 command sergeant major. “So we developed the Commando Course, which offered advanced training in areas such as marksmanship, physical fitness, map reading, land navigation and troop-leading procedures.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

#200

Very exciting! I wrote out card #200 today, and even wrote in small print on the back "200". It will go out with the next shipment later this week.

:D

Ooops! I forgot to tell you ...

I sent 14 more cards to Soldiers' Angels Germany on Friday! :)

And to all of you who have been sending cards too, keep up the great work!

Running total: 192

I am pooped!

Yoga yesterday morning kicked my tushy! I'm surprised that I can move at all this morning. But gotta go back for more.

And I have chair Pilates this evening. I might not be able to get out of bed tomorrow morning! :O

Good News from Iraq: 17 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, Security forces gaining strength, generals say.

BAGHDAD—Army Brig. Gen. Qassim Atta Al-Moussawi, Fardh Al-Qanoon spokesman, and U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Mark I. Fox, a Multi-National Force-Iraq spokesman, held a press conference Sunday on the progress of Iraqi Security Forces.

Fox detailed how Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces are working together in various locations throughout Iraq. Coalition forces have helped train and equip more than 349,000 ISF soldiers and added 8,700 Soldiers since June 24. Fox says the ISF is getting stronger every day.

“The steady growth of the ISF, combined with the additional surge in Coalition forces is making a difference on the ground,” Fox said. “We’ve seen a significant drop in the number of Iraqi citizens murdered in Baghdad; the overall levels of sectarian violence have decreased; and a record number of weapons caches have been seized – largely because of tips and information received from Iraqi citizens – citizens who want their neighborhoods back and want to see an end to the terror and hatred fueled by al-Qaeda and other extremist groups.”

...

Monday, July 16, 2007

Yo-ga, Yo-ga, Yo-ga!

This week is all about yoga. This morning I am starting a yoga intensive. It is every morning this week, 6:30-9:00 AM. I need to take this in order to move to the next level of yoga. I have been taking Intro yoga for a year. Hard to believe. But here I am and I am going to learn something new this week.

And in order to do this I am taking 1/2 days of vacation everyday. Actually, Friday I am taking off completely (we have half days on Friday during the summer) and getting a pedicure! =)

Good News from Iraq: 16 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, Car-bomb factory discovered, destroyed in Qanat Banat Al Hasan.

CAMP TAJI, Iraq — A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device factory was discovered and destroyed by Coalition Forces in a rural area west of Saab al bor, Iraq July 14.

While conducting a reconnaissance mission in the Qanat Banat Al Hasan area, west of Saab al bor, troopers from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment discovered a large car bomb factory containing 2,000 lbs. of ammonium nitrate, 1,000 lbs. of nitric acid, 10 large shape charges and two trucks already rigged for detonation.

After cordoning off the area, the Soldiers destroyed the factory using artillery fire. There were no injuries in the destruction of the site. An investigation has been launched to determine who was using the facility.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What a day, what a day

The unexplained:
I seem to have a huge, tender, black & blue bruise on right forearm that I have absolutely no idea how it got there. Yesterday, in the middle of the afternoon, it was just suddenly there. I would think that with that significant of a bruise I should remember hitting something. And no I wasn't drinking. Hmmm.

This missing:
Remember those ultra-cool Maui Jim's I love and that are permanently attached to my head? Well, apparently they need a little vacation, and I actually ventured out without them for the first time since January 26. I felt naked and like I couldn't see as well. Kept missing what I was looking for. Hmmm. (There vacay was short-lived cuz I foung them when I returned home and now they are safely situated exactly where they should be for 9 PM: on top of my head!)

The gross:
When I left the house early, I went outside to the garage to find a dead gray mouse placed on the step to the garage. Yuck!!! I took my favorite shoe off and used it to fling the mouse off into the weeds. Unfortunately, part of the mouse stuck to the step!! Double YUCK!! (And yeah, I am still wearing my broken sandal.)

What a day. Now I get to IM with Jack Bauer while I watch Army Wives. :o)

Good News from Iraq: 15 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, Surge progress may lead to troop reductions in northern Iraq, general says.

BAGHDAD — Now at full strength, the U.S. troop surge in Iraq is showing “definitive progress” and the number of forces serving in Iraq’s Multi-National Division-North could be halved by summer 2009, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon said.

A reduction of U.S. forces under the general’s command could begin as early as January 2008, he told Pentagon reporters via videoconference.

Mixon, commander of both Multi-National Division-North and the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division, is responsible for six Iraqi provinces in northern Iraq, including the city of Baqubah -- site of the ongoing Operation Arrowhead Ripper.

He said he has given U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander, Multi-National Corps-Iraq, a plan indicating a possible reduction of force in Multi-National Division-North during 2008.

Mixon said the current debate over troop withdrawal should revolve around reaching a strategic “end state.”

“It seems to me that we should first decide what we want the end state to be in Iraq, and how is that end state important to the United States of America, to this region and to the world, and then determine how we can reach that end state, and how much time that will take,” he said. “To me, that seems to be the most important thing, because there will be consequences of a rapid withdrawal from Iraq.”

“It cannot be a strategy based on, ‘Well, we need to leave,’” he added. “That’s not a strategy, that’s a withdrawal.”

...

Getting back on track

I am getting back to my blogging routine here today. So keep checking back.

And as far as the BIG decision, I'm going to tell my family and friends first. Sorry. You'll just have to wait.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Contemplation

Well, it has been almost 36 hours since the other shoe dropped. Lot so thinking going on. But "thinking" has always been a problem for me. I think too much. So I've tabled the weighing of the pros and cons. I know what they are. Jack knows what they are.

I've explained to a few people around me what's going on. There is no way around it when their first reaction is a resounding "NO!" Usually followed by a "he can't do this to you." 'Splaining is required. And I can persuade folks in my calm voice why this is OUR decision and why there is much to think about for us. I've said a number of profound things over the last day and a half, things that really reinforce how much I have changed in the last 18 months. The practicum of all the talk.

I've thought about this, talked about this, cried about this a lot over the last 36 hours. I am exhausted. I just took two-hour nap.

So I am shifting this stewing pot to the back burner. In a few days, when we need to make a decision, I will take this off the stove and we what's in it.

And whatever the decision is, it will be the right one for us.

Oh yeah. thanks for all the comments. Both Jack and I found them helpful and insightful.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Reality Check

Well, I knew this was a possibility, but ...

I woke up this morning to an email saying that Jack Bauer is being recruited to stay in Iraq for another 12-15 months. This is a serious offer and we are seriously discussing it.

Instead of a company command, he would be at the brigade level coordinating route clearance missions. He would not be running missions with the guys (i.e., he would be "safer" than the job he has now). For the sake of this conversation, we are assuming that the assignment would start immediately and he would not be able to come home in between.

I will not deny it. The money is excellent and certainly a motivating factor. But it is not the only one. A sense of duty and obligation and keep us going and supporting the mission. Of course, there is the whole notion of ultimately making our country, our families safer in the long run.
But can we, Jack Bauer and I, handle it? Being apart for another 15 months? We've already been apart for 18.5 months. He can tell me that he can do, and I know that he will make it through. It will be tough for him, but he is obviously a tough guy.

As for me. I could not stop the tears as I read the email this morning. We chatted for about 40 minutes and the tears kept coming. I am sure that I will cry some more later today. But I cry out of sadness that I would not see him for, well, who knows how long, maybe early next year. I cry becuase I miss being with him and want to hold him in my arms and tell him how much I love him. I cry because we have to do this, this war, because we are willing and able, and that so many people get a free ride and sacrifice virtually nothing.

Can I handle another 15 months apart? Yes. No question about it: I can handle it.

In our chat this morning, Jack said: "If you need me to come home say the word." My response was that I don't "need" him to come home. I "want" him to come home. I've wanted him to come home since the day he left.

So I am asking you all for your thoughts on this. Are we totally nuts for contemplating this? I look forward to your comments. I need to hear from you on this.

Remember to Smile

Here in the middle we had a lovely day yesterday. A nice respite from the summer heat. It was all of 84, low humidity, partial cloudy. A perfect day to walk the doggies.

Seriously lacking in excuses, I took the doggies out and was all caught up in my thoughts when I walked passed someone. I was jarred that I was violating my own park rule #6.

Now it had been at least a week since I took the doggies out for a walk, but my goodness, how easily I forgot to simply smile at the people walking by me. (It must have been that strange California air that caused some sort of reversion.)

But no problems. I gritted my teeth and forced a smile at every single person who walked by. And I didn't curse too loudly (I think I muttered "Criminey!") when a guy on a fast-moving bike zoomed by us on the right.

And by the end of the walk, I was much more relaxed and smiling was much easier. Fake it 'til you make it.

Good News from Iraq: 12 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, Tipsters lead to capture south Baghdad’s most wanted terrorist, cache.

AL-DHOUR, Iraq — With two well-timed phone calls, Iraqi civilians made some Soldiers’ day July 9.

The first tipster called Troop C, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., and alerted them to a cache south of the village of Al-Dhour, Iraq, south of Baghdad.

The troop responded, located the buried weapons, and was only five minutes into the process of digging them up when they got another call.

A man claimed he had the 2nd BCT’s top high-value target and would deliver him to coalition custody. The man and Capt. Adam Sawyer, Troop C commander, agreed on a pickup site.

The Soldiers hastily re-buried the cache and moved out, and when the vehicle arrived, they stopped it and took the most wanted man and two other men into custody.

Some of the Soldiers were still able to see the cache from their vantage point - and were surprised to see a civilian pickup truck stop there and begin hastily loading the weapons into the bed of the truck.

They engaged the vehicle with an M-240 machine gun, and the men tried to flee, but the Troop C Soldiers detained them all – and called an explosive ordnance disposal team to destroy the weapons.

Sawyer a native of Reading, Penn., was jubilant about the operation.

“All of this was possible because of sources we’ve developed, through local-national engagements and working with the residents of the area,” he said. “It’s our work with the people in these areas, our relations with them, paying off.”

The primary target is allegedly responsible for shooting down an AH-64 helicopter in April 2006, the abductions of two Soldiers in June 2006, and complex attacks on patrol bases and terrorist acts against both Coalition Forces and Iraqi civilians.

Additionally, he is believed to be the leader of an al Qaeda network, known to prey on the general public through intimidation and murder against those resisting compliance to the AQI demands and decrees

One of the detainees had been wounded in a previous engagement, and was taken to a coalition hospital for treatment. The other six are being held for further questioning.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Where do you get your news?

Well, if you are like a lot of Americans, you watch the news on TV, read articles in the paper and maybe online. But where are you getting your news and analysis on what's going on in Iraq and other fronts on the war on terror?

I thought so! You go to The Fourth Rail, too.

Well it looks like our friends over there are trying to take it to the next level. And doing it as a nonprofit org to boot.

So go make a tax-deductible donation today. My family has. Has yours? ;-)

Butterfly Kisses from a Reader

Thank you, Bette, for sending me the link to the lovely picture.

From Shorpy.

Good News from Iraq: 11 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, ‘Arrowhead Ripper’ continues clearing out insurgents.

BAGHDAD — Iraqi Army and Coalition Soldiers from Task Force Lightning continued offensive operations in and around the capital of Iraq’s Diyala province Monday, as Operation Arrowhead Ripper continues to deny resources to al -Qaeda terrorists in the area.

Soldiers from 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, and 3rd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division, discovered and disabled five vehicles being prepared as car bombs and caches containing pipe bombs, sniper rifles, and other explosives and bomb-making materials.

During another joint operation in western Baqubah, Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, and Iraqi forces disabled three IEDs and discovered a cache of small arms. Also included in this discovery was an al-Qaeda safe house containing a large amount of medical supplies and equipment. The medical supplies taken from this safe house were distributed to the local civilian population.

“In western Baqubah, Arrowhead Ripper has met our initial tactical objectives and then some,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek, deputy commander for operations for Task Force Lightning and Multi-National Division-North. “Not only have we cleared out the active al Qaeda operatives in the western part of the city, but more importantly started to return fundamental life and normalcy to the citizens in that part of the city -- food, water, fuel -- those things that are essential to the trust and confidence of the people in their government.”

Iraqi and Coalition Soldiers continue to conduct successful engagements throughout the capital denying al-Qaeda operatives resources and safe havens.

...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Intrusive Thoughts

I was over at Spouse Buzz where AWTM has a post up about reunion and reintergration that will be discussed on Spouse Buzz Radio on Thursday. In a comment, AWTM mentioned that "intrusive thoughts" will also be discussed. And that got me thinking.

Wow. I used to have those. Let me start by saying that intrusive thoughts are those little crazy thoughts that just pop in your head. We all have them. (Actually, my comment seems a little insensitive about being "messed up" and I apologize if I offended anyone.)

Intrusive thoughts become a problem when they cause anxiety (in my case), or when someone decides to act upon them. They are part of OCD, which I have some characteristics of, but never fit enough for a diagnosis.

For me, years ago when I was at the big job still, I was having intrusive thoughts frequently (maybe a couple times a week) and I was very worried that I was going to act upon them. My psychologist at the time assured me that I would not. But he up'd my meds. And that did help. They stopped coming as much. They did not increase in frequency when I went off my meds.

I still have them when I am feeling really stressed, but now I am convinced that I will not act upon them.

Oh and just what were these thoughts of mine? I am only sharing because I think it might help just one person feel better. So here are the 3 that I remember, years later.

  • Rip off all the Margaret Furlong angels I have hanging on the wall and smash them.
  • Drive my car into the cement barrier on the freeway while I am going 55+ miles per hour.
  • Take a kitchen knife and slit my cat's throat (uh, yeah, that is really scary shit; even today, it makes me cry!!)
I still have all my Margaret Furlong angels. I have only been in one accident in the last 5 years and that was not my fault (I was stopped in traffic and a 16-year-old hit from behind). And my kitty is still very much alive, unharmed, if underloved at the moment (I'll just say that she is not as spoiled as the doggies).

So there you go. If you are having thoughts like this frequently, tell someone who can help. If you don't have a therapist or doctor, try Military One Source. Of course, you can always email me.

Broken Down Updates

So my favorite sandal broke, but that's not stopping me. I don't care. I am wearing it anyway.

Oh and I mentioned to someone somewhere about how I was too lazy to unplug the sat TV receiver to reset it so the remote control would work properly. This has only been going on for about 6-9 months. Well, I had to do yesterday, cuz I couldn't get any signal at all. Now the remote is working again. All I have to do is remember how to use it. Go figure!

Good News from Iraq: 10 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, Two-day clearing operation in Mansour nets cache, community support.

BAGHDAD — Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldiers, in conjunction with the Iraqi Army, conducted a two-day clearing operation in western Baghdad last week.

Task Force Patriot, the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, partnered with the 2nd “Falcon” Battalion, 5th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Infantry Division for the two-day operation, known as Operation Patriot Strike. ...

More than 100 Iraqi troops participated in the clearing operation. ...

While Soldiers found no members of an IED cell, American and Iraqi troops did discover one cache of weapons and contraband. Additionally, the combined forces confiscated more than a dozen other illegally-owned weapons, mainly AK-47 assault rifless and pistols, and are confident that they have cleared the area of all illegal material.

Initially worried that the early morning hours of the operation would upset local residents, Patriot Soldiers instead found that the residents were receptive and opened their homes, eager to cooperate.

“The people seemed happy to let us search their houses. They fully cooperated with us as a way to prove that they are on our side,” said Sgt. 1st Class Rickie Jackson, a St. Louis native and platoon sergeant for Battery A, 2-32nd FA. Jackson added that the locals gave his platoon several tips about insurgents possibly operating in the area.

“This was an absolutely tremendous performance by our Soldiers and the soldiers of the Falcon Battalion,” said Lt. Col. Mike Lawson, commander of Task Force Patriot. “In just two days and despite the sweltering heat, our combined forces cleared over 500 homes. This will go a long way toward convincing the people of Hateen and Yarmouk that we’re here for their safety.”

Monday, July 9, 2007

Flying Butterfly Cards

When I was flying out to SoCal on the 4th, I was stuck on the plane for an hour before we took off. I decided to be as productive as possible during that hour. So I wrote 16 cards for Soldiers' Angels Germany. And today, they are getting mailed out.

Running total: 178

Confessions from the Mother

Over the weekend, my mother said the funniest thing to me. I have always been a tense person. In my mother's office, she has a portrait picture of me as a 2-year-old clinching my fists. I assume that was the best of the of the lot. My mother knows I am in therapy and I have made a tremendous amount of change in my life and how I view the world.

Me: Mom, don't you think I was a little tense then. [Me pointing at the picture.]

Mom: Yeah. Knowing what I know now, I should have gotten you into therapy then.

Me: [ROTFLMAO trying to picture a 2-year-old in a therapist's office.]

Great. I was just 32 years late to the game. I guess I did some catching up pretty quick.

Good News from Iraq: 9 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, Village residents lead troops to caches.

BAGHDAD — Residents of a village south of Baghdad, long a terrorist hot spot, led U.S. forces to major weapons caches near their town July 6.

Local villagers from Qarghuli took Soldiers of 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), out of Fort Drum, N.Y., to a series of 12 caches – and the insurgents responsible for them.

A local man who claimed to have knowledge of a large cache complex approached the patrol and walked the Soldiers from site to site, pointing out each cache. He then took the patrol to two men, whom he said were responsible for collecting and hiding the weapons.

One cache contained a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launching kit still its original box; six fuses for 82mm mortars, an 82mm round prepared as an improvised explosive device, two re-sealable plastic bags containing maps, books, a guard roster, a set of ballistic eyeglasses, two bags of homemade explosives (HME), a rocket launcher with two tubes, a rocket engine, a videotape and photos.

Another contained nine 60mm mortar rounds with 11 fuses, about 55 blasting caps, a block of HME, seven empty 60mm mortar shells, an RPG fuse, 18 feet of detonation cord, a ten-pound bag of black powder, and 28 rocket tips.

Another contained nine 120mm mortar rounds, two AK-47 rifles, two 105mm rounds, 20 pounds of HME, 20 AK-47 magazines, and several mortar fuses.

Another held 61 60mm rounds, five 120mm rounds and seven charges for the 120mm rounds.

An extensive cache contained a 107mm rocket, five hand grenades, a video camera, a 105mm round rigged as an IED, three grenade fuses, a front plate to a radio, two handheld walkie-talkies, 66 sticks of dynamite, 20 pounds of black powder, 20 blasting caps and 20 pounds of HME, 20 feet of detonation cord, a pressure plate for an IED, a sniper instruction CD, a long-range cordless telephone and a homemade boat with two paddles.

Another contained 43 mortar fuses, two AK-47 magazines, 18 load-bearing vests, a cellular telephone and battery, and 10 mortar primers.

Explosive ordnance disposal teams destroyed the explosives and several other items were seized for further examination.

The area where the caches were found is approximately one kilometer from the site of the May 12 attack where four U.S. Soldiers and an Iraqi soldier were killed and three U.S. Soldiers were captured. One of the Soldiers was later found dead in the Euphrates River, the remaining two are officially listed as “missing-captured.”

Residents, fed up with the violence plaguing their neighborhood, have repeatedly revealed al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists in the area to patrolling Soldiers. ...

Sunday, July 8, 2007

My favorite shoe broke

Why is it that at the most inconvenient time, like in the middle of the airport, my favorite black sandal (the right one is my favorite, not the left one) broke. I was planning on wearing them the rest of the summer. [Insert whiny voice here.]

Poor me. :(

Home At Last

"There's no place like home. There's no place like home."

I am so glad to be back in my nice, quiet, uncomplicated life. (Uncomplicated? Did I say that? Hmmm.)
So let's see what I did the last few days.

Friday

  • Went shopping with my mother, who bought me a pair of capris and a bunch of make-up.
  • Split a Sante Fe Burger at Ruby's with my mom for lunch. Yum!! Throw in some chili cheese fries and a strawberry shake, and you make for tummy ache.
  • Did some work on the project, and clarified a few things. OK. So really it was the first stumbling block, but we all recovered nicely and progress was made.
  • Thought I lost my cell phone and my mother called all over to all the stores we had been to that day looking for it. What a great mom! (After the project crisis was averted, I made everyone be quiet as I called the phone. Eventually found it in the sleeve of my shirt which I had hastily taken off when dealing with aforesaid tummy ache.)
  • IM'd with Jack Bauer.

Saturday
  • Got up early and read blogs.
  • Played with PhotoBooth with me and the nephew. Sent pics to Jack Bauer.
  • Went to the beach at Corona del Mar. The beach I grew up going to. Built a sandcastle with my nephew and got about 100 buckets of water (today I am sore).
  • Ate Chinese food for dinner.
  • Fell asleep on my sister's couch at 9 PM, for which my sister scowled at me. Apparently, I am supposed to have more energy. Not when you are not used to dealing with a high-energy 3-year-old.
So all in all a busy trip. But I did not kill anyone, or beat myself up. Everyone was not nearly as annoying as I was expecting.

Good News from Iraq: 8 Jul 2007

From NYTimes, Showcase and Chimera in the Desert.

RAMADI, Iraq

Sunni merchants watched warily from behind neat stacks of fruit and vegetables as Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno walked with a platoon of bodyguards through the Qatana bazaar here one recent afternoon. At last, one leathery-faced trader glanced furtively up and down the narrow, refuse-strewn street to check who might be listening, then broke the silence.

“America good! Al Qaeda bad!” he said in halting English, flashing a thumb’s-up in the direction of America’s second-ranking commander in Iraq.

Until only a few months ago, the Central Street bazaar was enemy territory, watched over by American machine-gunners in sandbagged bunkers on the roof of the governor’s building across the road. Ramadi was Iraq’s most dangerous city, and the area around the building the most deadly place in Ramadi. Now, a pact between local tribal sheiks and American commanders has sent thousands of young Iraqis from Anbar Province into the fight against extremists linked to Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. The deal has all but ended the fighting in Ramadi and recast the city as a symbol of hope that the tide of the war may yet be reversed to favor the Americans and their Iraqi allies. ...


Saturday, July 7, 2007

Good News from Iraq: 7 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, IED ring broken by Operation Bastogne.

... “Operation Bastogne was designed to capture members of an improvised explosive device cell operating along Highway 1 and other roads in the north Babil province,” said Capt. Stew Lindsay, a native of Freeport Penn., and commander of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

“This particular area was plagued by improvised explosive devices,” said Capt. James Browning, a native of Waynesboro, N.C. and commander of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment. “There were four or five IEDs within a kilometer of our objective. We have to operate in this area day in and day out so we definitely wanted to clean out the area.”

...

Once the task force reached their targets, they began a simultaneous raid on several houses in the area.

“We captured 10 personnel at the objectives,” said Lindsay. ...

In addition to capturing the IED cell members, the operation captured hundreds of rounds of 7.62mm sniper ammunition, IED making materials and an instruction manual on how to construct IEDs.

Following the operation, the effects on Chaka III were instantly noticeable.

“The immediate impact on the area was quite apparent. In the last 24 hours, where we generally have four to five IEDs and several indicators of insurgent activity, there have been absolutely none,” said Browning. “There might be attempts at reprisal attacks, but I think we have crippled the IED cells in our area.”

Friday, July 6, 2007

Vacay Update

Yesterday's highlights, or lowlights as the case may be:

  • Trip to San Diego County was uneventful, but long. Didn't do anything exciting, so I guess it cannot really be a highlight. Sorry.
  • Got into a bit of blog talk with my mother. Hmmm. She ask if I considered blogging. Dangerous territory. Yikes! I changed the subject.
  • Took a couple of really cute pics of me and my nephew with his new birthday present.
  • Did some of my super secret project stuff. (Am I building enough tension in that, or what?)
  • IM'd with Jack Bauer a bunch.
  • Emailed friends.
  • Had pork ribs for dinner.
  • Had lunch a great taco stand down on Hwy 76 in/near Vista. (Oh, how I love authentic tacos. Open the southern border!! I need more tacos!) So this was actually the highlight of the day.
I told Jack Bauer that I was in bed blogging and he asked if I was live blogging sleeping. Humphf! I wish I could. You would see what crazy dreams I have.

Friday Fun Fact

Just cuz I am on vacay doesn't mean that I am gonna skip out on the Friday Fun Fact. Here's a good one.

Since my LASIK surgery in January, I can almost always be seen with a pair of Maui Jim Makaha sunglasses on my head. If I am not wearing them as eye protection, then I am wearing them to told back my hair. I wear them usually first thing in the morning until late at night, long after the sun has set. (Although I don't think I've actually worn them to bed. Not yet anyway.) I'll take them off twirl them around, play with them, adjust them so that my hair looks just right. This is something that I have never done before as I always wore glasses. I love my sunglasses. :D

Makaha

Good News from Iraq: 6 Jul 2007

From MNF-I, Iraqi Army Forces destroy IED factory near Karmah.

FALLUJAH – Iraqi Army Forces discovered and destroyed an al Qaeda improvised explosive device factory during an early morning operation northeast of Fallujah July 2.

Iraqi Soldiers located the factory, which contained homemade explosives, nitric acid containers and numerous other hidden explosives, on a remote compound in the vicinity of Karmah. Ground forces destroyed the homemade explosives in place and, after clearing the area, utilized close air support to destroy the complex.

The destruction of the terrorist IED factory will greatly inhibit al Qaeda in Iraq attacks in the Fallujah and Karmah areas leading into Baghdad.

Coalition Forces were present as advisors. No Iraqi or Coalition Forces were injured during this operation.

Just cuz it's pink

Military Mommy (AKA Michelle) is a hoot. She decided to pass a Rockin' Girl Blogger award on to me. And because it was Michelle and it's pink, I am doing it. (OK, I might say that about a lot of my readers, but, well, you know what I mean.)

But I could never get my favorite 5 down. I visit each of the blogs I have listed for different reasons. Depending on my mood, and what I need, I visit with different frequencies at different times. In your own way, if your name is over there, you rock in my book. And if your name isn't over there, well, maybe I haven't found your blog yet. ;)


Thank You Michelle for nominating me for this incredible honor.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Silence is golden

Everyone is out of house. It is amazingly quiet. I've got about 20 minutes to myself. Ahhhh!

Here's a picture of me with my morning coffee. My dad was in the Navy a million years ago. Jack Bauer and I picked up a mug for him a few years back when we were in Annapolis.

Army is much cooler than Navy! :D

Sneaky, sneaky

I'm sneaking away right now.

Shhhhhh.

Quiet time here in the morning. Thank goodness my body still thinks it is 2 hours later.

Ooops! Here comes someone. Gotta go hide.

Bye.
:o)

Good News from Iraq: 5 Jul 2007

This is just too cool to pass up. From MNF-I, Naturalization, re-enlistment ceremony held on America’s 231st birthday.

BAGHDAD — Hundreds of Soldiers became citizens of the country they risk their lives for, while others decided to extend their time in service to continue the fight against terrorism.

The U.S. Army conducted a naturalization and re-enlistment ceremony at Camp Victory on Wednesday.

Over 160 Soldiers became U.S. citizens at Camp Victory’s Al Faw Palace, while 600 servicemembers serving around IraqAmerica’s 231st birthday. re-enlisted on

Becoming a U.S. citizen is a life-long dream come true for the newly naturalized Soldiers.

...

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Hitting the skies

I'm off to visit the family in SoCal. Blogging might be kinda hit or miss, but I will have my laptop with me so I can escape all the craziness.

Good News from Iraq: 3 Jul 2007

I'd pretty much given up hope of every hearing anything positive from MSM again about Iraq. Everything has to be qualified. Further, I've been hearing very little about Operation Phantom Thunder in the MSM. So when I heard this piece on NPR's All Things Considered, it was like a breath of fresh air.

Commander: Troops Flush Al-Qaida from Baquba

It's been about two weeks since U.S. forces launched an offensive against al-Qaida fighters who held control of the city of Baquba, about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad, the capital of Diyala province in Iraq.

About 10,000 U.S. troops are now posted in and around Baquba, along with about 1,500 Iraqi army forces.

Brig. Gen. Mick Bednarek is commanding the operation, and he says al-Qaida fighters have been cleared — or have fled — from the western part of the city.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Happy Birthday!!

Happy 231st Birthday!

Oh! Didn't see that coming.

I have been feeling good lately. GREAT actually. I feel like I've got this deployment thing down pat now. Work has finally become busy after 6 months of sitting on my tush. I've got the house-as-project going now. And I have a special little project going on the side that I am super excited about. Quite frankly, I've been feeling high. High and busy.

So this evening I am at my chair Pilates class, working my butt off, totally absorbed into myself and my body. Feeling fantastic about all the crazy things I can do with my plus-size body. We finish class I there is a small gathering of people from the reformer class all around one reformer. I don't think much about it. I clean up my equipment and start to put it away, when I notice that one of the students is holding another student upright. The woman being held looks to be passed out. The instructor, Tracy, is on the phone sounding like she is talking to a 911 operator.

Wham!!! I was hit right in the chest. A welling up of emotion overwhelmed me, right there in the studio.

You see, I used to be the person who would have immediately rushed over, taken charge, and told everyone what to do. That's the ER nurse in me. She's still there apparently, cuz there was a voice inside me said that's what I needed to do: GO HELP! But I couldn't do it. I just could not go over there. I could feel myself becoming emotional rather than focused and analytical - and emotional is not good for crisis management. And that scared me. So I hurried up and left before I started crying.

I drove home contemplating why that scene in the studio upset me. The only thing I could think of was a loss of control. I think I have spent so much emotional capital on maintaining myself and trying to prop up Jack Bauer for so long through this deployment that something had to give. And I don't have the reserves left to spend on someone else's crisis.

Now, that's not to say that if this woman had passed out right in front of me that I would have dropped her like a sack of potatoes, or that if I had a family crisis (and family to me includes my BFF and her family) that I couldn't handle it. Like we all do everyday, you handle your life as it comes to you.

But I don't need to be seeking out crises to manage. I got my own, thank you very much. My plate is full. I cannot take an extra serving of mashed potatoes without making myself sick.

And on my way home, I saw the ambulance coming.

Everything will be fine. I'm sure of it.

Good News from Iraq: 3 Jul 2007

From Fox News, Rebuilding Ramadi, Iraq.

RAMADI, Iraq — This week, we’ve been told repeatedly about the recent successes in Anbar Province and its capital, Ramadi. Every soldier and Marine we talk to who’s been deployed here before seems genuinely surprised that the level of violence and attacks against the U.S. troops has fallen to virtually zero. At least three officers have told me they’d be willing to walk down the street without body armor on, such is their confidence in improved security. One senior commander is even very keen for me to go and eat ice cream at the market with him. . . .

Now if we could get the economy going again there . . .