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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Good News from Iraq: 30 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Soldier sees Iraqi residents doing ‘really good things’.

ARAB JABOUR — In the seven weeks since its inception, the concerned citizens group here has made a significant impact on its community.

Former Iraqi army Brig. Gen. Mustafa Kamil Hamad Shabib al-Juburi, more commonly known as Gen. Mustafa, and Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, organized the concerned citizens group to establish a local security force responsible for protecting the community’s critical infrastructure.

In the process of defending the town’s mosques, vital roads, water pump stations and electric infrastructure, concerned citizens have also had success in combating al-Qaeda.

In the past five weeks alone, they have assisted Coalition Forces in finding more than 20 weapons caches and 10 improvised explosives devices, which prevented Soldiers from being killed or injured.

They have also been able to give valuable information to Coalition Forces concerning the locations and identities of al-Qaeda leadership in Arab Jabour.

Capt. Mike Fritz, project manager of the concerned citizens group for 1-30th Inf. Regt, said the group has been doing “really good things” for the community. Fritz, a native of El Cajon, Calif., is responsible for interacting with the concerned citizens leadership and making sure Coalition Forces know where the groups are working.

Interaction between the Coalition and concerned citizens groups is necessary to prevent incidents between Soldiers on the ground and local security forces.

The interaction also helps concerned citizens become accustomed to working alongside Soldiers in their neighborhoods.

To become part of the concerned citizens group, residents enter their vital information into a database that compares profiles of known insurgents.

Spc. Timothy Eugene Sheets, an infantryman and operator of the device used to catalog local citizens, said the system not only clears local residents to be members of the concerned citizens, but also allows them to register for future employment.

Sheets said in addition to cataloging citizens, the database helps reduce identity theft.

At last count, Fritz said more than 500 Iraqi civilians in Arab Jabour and its surrounding areas have joined the concerned citizens group. Even with its growing ranks and official recognition from the government of Iraq, the fight against al-Qaeda has not grown easier for the group.

In a Sept. 16 incident, concerned citizens working at a checkpoint in al-Buaytha were ambushed by suspected insurgents. Two concerned citizens were killed and another was wounded.

Later that day, Soldiers swept neighborhoods where the suspected insurgents were thought to be, and the concerned citizens present were a vital source of information. Coalition Forces and concerned citizens were able to identify 13 people suspected of involvement in the attack.

See more on the concerned citizens here and here.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Before I forget ... again

I sent off 14 more cards of encouragement to Soldiers' Angels Germany.

Running total: 439

"Do you want to go on a date with my husband?"

Um, yes, that is what one of my coworkers said to me first yesterday morning.

"Do you want to go on a date with my husband?"

**sigh**

Turns out she is going to be out of town and they have tickets to a big to-do hockey game thing.

Now while I did meet her husband a few weeks ago at a pool party, and he seemed to be good-looking and nice enough, and while it has been a long time since I have seen Jack Bauer, I thanked her and declined the offer.

I'm just not that into hockey. ;-)

Good News from Iraq: 29 Sep 2007

From The Long War Journal, Six months.

As the movement against al Qaeda in Iraq picks up steam in the provinces, the gap between the locally formed auxiliary police forces and the central government threatens to erode the gains in security made over the past several months. US military officers are warning that they believe there is a limit to the amount of time these groups will operate without receiving official recognition from the central Iraqi government.

In recent months, the Concerned Citizens movement (also called Iraqi Police Volunteers, Concerned Local Citizens, Concerned Local Nationals, auxiliary police and a host of other names) has spread from Abu Ghraib in western Baghdad province, to the "Triangle of Death" cities of Iskandariyah, Mahmudiyah, and Yusafiyah, and the Al Haswa, Arab Jabour, and Salman Pak regions in southern Baghdad province. Concerned Citizens movements have sprung up inside Baghdad, as well as in Salahadin, Diyala and Ninewa provinces, and even to the Shia regions of Wasit province.

Most recently, the Concerned Citizens movement has spread to Tarmiyah, which was once one of the most violence towns in Iraq. Coalition raids netted al Qaeda leaders and operatives in Tarmiyah on a near daily basis. Multinational Forces Iraq described Tarmiyah as "a stronghold for financing, planning, preparation and communications in support of al-Qaida. Kidnapping, ransom, extortion and murder against Tarmiyah residents funded the insurgent operations."

Tribal leaders organized an "awakening ceremony" on September 12. "They publicly recognized and denounced terrorist activity and called for volunteers to step forward to protect their families and homes." The volunteers have been organized as the "Critical Infrastructure Security Contract Force" and work with US and Iraqi forces.

The tribes have also organized in the northern city of Mosul, Iraq's second most populous city. Unlike most of the Concerned Citizens movements inside Baghdad and the regions close to the city, the Mosul forces have the support of the Iraqi government, according to Azzaman. "Sheikh Fawaz al-Jarya said the tribes will initially form two battalions whose members will be armed and financed by the government," Azzaman reported.

The sanctioning of the auxiliary police follows the example of Anbar province, where ten battalions of Provincial Security Forces were formed with the approval of the central government. These auxiliary police forces receive abbreviated training, as well as weapons, ammunition, communications equipment, and pay from the Ministry of the Interior.

....

The debate in the US over reconciliation lacks the proper context. Critics of the Iraq war claim reconciliation is impossible until the national government mandates the terms of reconciliation. But reconciliation is already occurring throughout Iraq at the local level as Sunni and Shia tribes and insurgent groups organize against al Qaeda in Iraq and Shia extremists. In the short term, this is more important, as the regions can demonstrate their sincerity by securing their neighborhoods and reducing al Qaeda’s ability to regenerate and stage attacks into the capital.

In order for reconciliation to occur at the national level, the gap of distrust between the central government and the local, volunteer security forces must be closed. Accommodations must be made for the volunteers to become a legitimate arm of the security forces, whether as part of the local police, National Police, or Army, or as in Anbar province, part of the provincial security forces.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Connections

I so enjoyed all your comments yesterday. I left work smiling. I drove home smiling the whole way thinking about how blue the sky was, how black the asphalt, how colorful -- navy blue, forest green, maroon, pearl, taupe, black -- the cars were.

On the radio, The World was airing a segment on climate change. My mind wandered to ice and the thought of someone showing me a piece of ice that was formed 4,000 years ago thinking that the notion of 4,000-year-old ice was profound. My mind twisted again to other old things that might be just as vital as water. The air we breathe. How many people have breathed these same atoms? Who has held this air in their lungs?

I have no idea if that is even possible to conceptualize. But for that moment, I felt more connected to the whole world, the past, the present than ever before.

Maybe you and I have shared the same air.

Good News from Iraq: 28 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Controlled burn yields cache.

ARAB JABOUR — A group of Task Force Marne Soldiers discovered a weapons cache Sept. 25. Soldiers of Company A, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, were conducting a controlled burn when they discovered the cache. A controlled burn is a fire set to remove vegetation insurgents use as hiding places for themselves and their weapons. The cache consisted of two 60mm mortars, two 60mm mortar primers, two 120mm mortar primers, 10 12.7mm rounds, 50 .50 caliber rounds, one rocket-propelled grenade, one Chinese-type RPG, one Chinese-type 69 RPG propelling charge, and five fuses. The cache was moved to Patrol Base Murray for investigation.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Height

Lately, it seems I am suddenly aware of the height of the people I encounter online.

Lemon Stand says she's 10 feet tall.

Claire grew to 5'4".

Even Mrs. Greyhawk is talking about her height (alright it was in an email to her husband who posted it, but still).

And there are others too that I won't mention here. But at 5'8" I am on the taller side of things for a woman. But I never really considered myself "tall." I grew up in sports and surrounded by tall people. I married a tall man -- 6'2" -- even though the "other Jack Bauer" is only 5'9 1/2". Put me in heels and I'm taller.

What I notice is that I seem to think that people are taller than they actually are. I seem to have a working assumption that most men are about 6 feet tall. Women, on the other hand, I assume to be of varying heights., but probably still on the tall side. For instance, I thought Claire was probably 5'10".

What's up with that? Do I just assume that people I identify with are like me and on the taller side of things?

Hmmm.

How tall are you?

Good News from Iraq: 27 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Iraqi Security Forces, U.S. Special Forces intercept, destroy IED resupply.

TAJI – Iraqi Security Forces, with U.S. Special Forces as advisers, intercepted a vehicle carrying improvised explosive device materials during a traffic control point operation Sept. 25 near Samarra.

Acting on intelligence reports, ISF set up the traffic control point outside the Samarra city limits to interdict a possible al-Qaeda in Iraq re-supply of IED materials. As a sedan approached the traffic control point it was observed pulling off on a side road about 500 meters away.

The forces immediately approached the sedan and searched it, discovering 35 155mm artillery rounds inside. After moving the sedan to a controlled area, an air strike was called in to destroy the vehicle.

No Iraqi or U.S. Special Forces were injured during the operation.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bear

Good News from Iraq: 26 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, ‘Bandits’ uncover weapons cache in Saklawya.

FALLUJAH — Soldiers scoured the orchard of a small Iraqi village with local community watch personnel. Moving with weapons at the ready and armed with the latest bomb finding material, the troops looked for a weapons cache used by the enemy.

The Soldiers of ‘Bandits’ Troop B, 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment and Iraqi Community Watch personnel patrolled along a road south of Patrol Base Texas where recent intelligence reported individuals were uncovering weapons in a nearby field.

They seemed calm as they methodically searched around trees and shrubs until one Soldier yelled that he found something.

“We received information from a local that people were coming in here, removing weapons from a cache and then transporting them on the back of a truck,” said Spc. Josh Sones, a cavalry scout with Troop B. “They obviously had more stuff still here, so we took a patrol here today to find out.”

The 21-year-old, Picayune, Miss., native said that upon arriving in the area, they began looking for signs that someone was in the area looking to find the cache.

“This cache wasn’t hard to find,” Sones said. “It was between two fig trees in an apple orchard. Finding something like this makes you feel like your making a difference here because you get a real good sense of accomplishment from finding it.”

Although the cache was not a large one, Soldiers are grateful to confiscate anything used by insurgents.

“It wasn’t a big cache but every bit helps out here,” Sones said. “Without weapons and munitions they can’t do anything to us besides peaceful protests.”

Capt. John Owens, Troop B commander added, “My Soldiers here are more than dedicated to establishing a safe and secure environment for the people living in our area of operations. They do their job everyday and do it well. This cache find is just another example of our dedication to re-establishing security.”

Uncovered from the weapons cache were items commonly used to build improvised explosive devices such as: gunpowder, fertilizer, copper wire spools, a timer, blasting cap initiators, batteries and a couple 120 mm artillery rounds.

In an effort to keep the materials out of insurgents’ hands, an explosive ordinance disposal team destroyed the cache in place.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Update on Bear

Bear seems to be doing well and recovering nicely from his surgery. I somehow missed the call from the vet last Thursday and his message until yesterday evening. The lesion was benign, but it was what the vet thought it was. Apparently, this type of thing is usually seen in dogs about 1-2 years old, rather than a 5-year-old dog. And it is usually caused by a virus so he won't get it again. Hopefully he didn't give it to Moo.

Bear should be fine so long as he doesn't lick himself raw around the incision. But that's about it.

Thanks for all the good thoughts and prayers.

Good News from Iraq: 25 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Iraqi Army captures improvised explosive device maker.

BUWAYR, Iraq – Iraqi Army Soldiers acted on tips received from the local populace captured a suspected improvised explosive device maker in northern Iraq’s Ninewah province, Sept. 20.

IA soldiers from 3rd Brigade, 2nd Iraqi Army Division raided the residence of the suspected IED-maker in the village of Buwayr.

“The Iraqi Army forces here are having a great deal of success in exploiting intelligence and acting quickly on tips and information,” said Maj. Lance Varney, executive officer, 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment. “We share information and when it’s time to execute the mission, they lead the way.”

Upon entering the house, IA forces captured the suspect and proceeded to search the residence and surrounding area.

Approximately 200 pounds of nitrates, used in homemade explosives, were discovered buried in the yard. In addition, a propane tank, pre-wired with detonation cord, ready to be employed as an IED and several electrical components, including remote controls, cell phone components, and a video camera, were also found.

All items were confiscated by the IA and removed from the site. The propane canister IED; however, was determined by Iraqi explosive ordnance disposal specialists to be unstable and could not be safely transported. It was destroyed in place by controlled detonation.

From Sept. 16 to 20, ISF and CF have killed 20 enemy fighters, captured more than 100 suspected enemy fighters, and seized numerous caches of small arms, ammunition, explosives, and IED-making materials in operations conducted across Nineveh Province.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Exciting News ...

The exciting news is that I will be attending the Blog World & New Media Expo in Las Vegas November 8 and 9.

Actually, I will sitting on a panel about blogging from the Home Front as part of the milblog panels being put together by military.com. There will be four milblog panels discussing a range of issues related to milblogging.

Here are the panels:

HEY, WHAT’S A MILBOG?
Moderator: Christian Lowe
Thursday, November 8 (1:30 – 2:30)

TO BLOG OR NOT TO BLOG:
MILBLOGGERS,THE DOD AND THE MEDIA
Moderator: Ward Carroll
Thursday, November 8 (2:45 – 3:45)

FROM THE FRONT
Moderator: Ward Carroll
Friday, November 9 (10:15 – 11:45)

MEANWHILE, BACK ON THE HOMEFRONT
Moderator: Andi Hurley
Friday, November 9 (1:30 – 2:30)

Some pretty exciting emails in my inbox to say the least, as the likes of Blackfive and Uncle Jimbo, Chuck Z., Jack Army, John Noonan from Op-for, Michael Yon (via video feed from Iraq), and Some Soldier's Mom -- just to name a few -- will be panelists too. I've never sat on a panel for anything before. This should be fun.

It will be good to meet some other milbloggers and to learn a whole lot more about blogging in general. Who knows, maybe I will come back and get me a design or something crazy like that.

See you in Vegas, baby! ;-)

... and the dilemma

So for the dilemma. As I have said before, I am not good with keeping secrets. The fact that I have managed to keep this blog from my mother is an utter miracle. My mother and I talk quite a bit and about all the things I have discussed here ... well maybe not to the details I have revealed in some of the comments. I would be surprised if anything she read here came as a complete surprise to her, except for the fact that I am discussing it.

Obviously, blogging is an important aspect of my life and increasingly so. Keeping this blog from mother is really beginning to weigh on my conscience. How can I not tell her about going to the Blog World Expo? Or if I tell her that I am going to Las Vegas, do I lie to her about why or fudge the truth about my motives for attending something like the Blog World Expo? I am really not good with lying.

I am interested in some feedback from you other bloggers.


Good News from Iraq: 24 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Coalition Forces discover more than 900 gallons of nitric acid.

ZAIDON, Iraq — Coalition Forces discovered 181 drums of nitric acid west of Baghdad Sept. 19.

Soldiers from Troop A, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), out of Fort Drum, N.Y., discovered the drums while conducting a cache sweep near the Zaidon area.

Each of the drums was estimated to contain about five gallons of nitric acid, totaling 905 gallons.

The drums were transported to a hazardous materials yard for disposal.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Good News from Iraq: 23 Sep 2007

From The Long War Journal, Arab Jabour: “This is al Qaeda Country”.

... Like in the Haswa region and elsewhere in southern Baghdad province, the local Iraqis began organizing their own auxiliary police forces to secure their neighborhood and eject al Qaeda.

In Arab Jabour, a man named General Mustaffa organized the group of Concerned Citizens. Mustaffa, a former officer in Saddam Hussein’s army, recruited locals in Arab Jabour as the US Army moved into the region during Operation Marne Torch in mid-June.

Mustaffa and his volunteers saw the opportunity to eject al Qaeda from their neighborhoods after years of living under the oppressive form of Shariah law. “Al Qaeda killed our sons, ruined our infrastructure, displaced families, used sectarianism violence against our people,” Mustaffa said in an interview with The Long War Journal. “They killed our vital workers: electricians, engineers, those who ran the water pumps.”

Mustaffa’s Concerned Citizens number 537 men of all ages. In Arab Jabour, the Concerned Citizens man checkpoints and provide security for schools, the water purification plant, and water pumps that fill the vital irrigation canals and supply water to the farmlands.

The Concerned Citizens wear orange and yellow road-guards vests, and carry their own rifles. Most carry the ubiquitous AK-47, but other more antiquated weapons were seen in their hands. Like in Haswa and elsewhere throughout Multinational Division Central, the US is prohibited from arming the volunteers. “We absolutely cannot provide them weapons or ammunition,” said Captain Eric Melloh, the company commander for Alpha Company during a joint patrol with Concerned Citizens near Patrol Base Murray. “Besides, they have everything they need.”

US soldiers have accepted the Concerned Citizens in Arab Jabour, despite the very high likelihood that several were shooting them just several months ago. During a patrol, the soldiers gave up bottled water while the Concerned Citizens offered fruit. Cigarettes and jokes were exchanged. “I’ll go home to Wal-Mart and get a bunch of those vests and hand them out,” one soldier said, remarking on the ability of the Concerned Citizens to identify IEDs and provide security. ...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Finally getting to the post office ...

I have had these cards for our wounded soldiers ready to go to Soldiers' Angels Germany for several days. I was planning on going on Wednesday, but the little incident with the stove the day before suggested that I might want to rest instead.

So today 28 more cards are finally going out.

Running total: 425

Candy, Candy, Tactical Gear, Candy

What more could a soldier want? I dunno. Blow shit up? Yeah, but I can't send explosives to Jack Bauer.

So here's what I am sending him today.

Altoids Mango Sours x 16. (I ordered these from Amazon, who wouldn't send them to APO addresses directly. Frustrating.)

Blue Force Gear, Vickers Combat Applications Sling.

Herban Essentials Towelettes. These smell really good. Lavender, lemon, and peppermint. Might be nice to have something to get rid of that gray grime called sand. We'll see how well these work.

Origins Check and Balances face wash. It is a sample size and it is a bit harsh for my sensitive skin.

Newman's Own Organics Mints. Wintergreen, cinnamon, peppermint, and ginger.

College Farm Organic Hard Candies in Vienna Roast x3.

Coffee Rio Original Roast candies.

And of course a butterfly card from me. :D

Good News from Iraq: 22 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Iraqi Security Forces, U.S. Special Forces destroy explosives cache in northwestern Iraq.

TAJI – Iraqi Security Forces, with U.S. Special Forces as advisers, destroyed a major explosives cache near Sinjar in Ninewah Province Sept. 19 while conducting operations to disrupt Al Qaeda in Iraq networks.

While conducting a vehicle interdiction mission, the combined forces discovered 20,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and ammonium phosphate concealed under a tarpaulin in a desert ravine.

These chemicals are major ingredients in the explosive compounds used to build vehicle borne improvised explosive devices.

After the Iraqi and U.S. Forces moved to a safe location, they detonated and destroyed the explosives in place.

The forces also destroyed three dump trucks containing 15,000 cartons of contraband cigarettes.

Intelligence reports indicate that Al Qaeda planned to use the contraband cigarettes to finance their terrorist operations.

No Iraqi or U.S. Forces were injured during this operation.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Wasssup???

I'm tired of talking about me.

What do you want to talk about?

Post whatever you like in the comments.*

I should be around much of the day to respond.


* Um, but if you post something I find offensive, I will remove the comment.

Good News from Iraq: 21 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Tip leads Ameriya volunteers to large cache.

BAGHDAD — Volunteers uncovered a large munitions cache based off of a tip called in by a local citizen in the Ameriya neighborhood of Baghdad Sept. 18.

Late in the afternoon Sept. 18, an Iraqi citizen from Ameriya walked into the volunteer force headquarters and provided a tip on a nearby weapons cache.

The civilian volunteer force, commonly referred to as the Farsan Al Rafidayn (Arabic for “knights between the rivers”) or FAR, dispatched a patrol and uncovered the cache.

Once the FAR volunteers arrived on the scene, a quick search of the residence uncovered a large amount of weapons, ammunition and improvised explosive device-making material.

In all, more than 60 mortar rounds, 50 pounds of homemade explosives, 10 blocks of TNT, three smoke grenades, 20 blasting caps, 100 rounds of ammunition and 22 portable radios were found.

The volunteers turned over all items to 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment Soldiers.

These items were transferred to an explosive ordnance disposal team for destruction.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

You know you are a milspouse when . . .

Time for a little levity ... at someone else's expense ... anonymously of course.

During a phone tree call a couple months ago, a young wife was asking me about Tricare coverage. (I am clueless about it really so don't bother asking me.) She was wanted to know if Tricare would cover her getting an IED implanted by a gynecologist. I told her I didn't think so and then told her why. She didn't even realize that was what she had said.

Yep. We live in a world where we discuss bombs more often than birth control.

Good News from Iraq: 20 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Operation Dragon Talon II nets arrests, cache discoveries. (How totally cool is that name???)

BAGHDAD — Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldiers and Iraqi Army troops continued Operation Dragon Talon II in the southern part of the Iraqi capital Sep. 17 with the capture of two individuals suspected of anti-Coalition activities and the confiscation of several weapons caches.

Troops from the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment “Dragoons” and 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team “Dragons,” 1st Infantry Division maintained pressure on extremist elements in East Rashid with clearing operations involved in a kidnapping cell in the Doura neighborhood of southern Baghdad Sept. 17. The individual is being held for further questioning.

Earlier in the day, 2-12th Infantry troops seized a pair of caches in Doura, consisting of an assortment of weapons and explosives, including AK-47 assault rifles, sniper rifles, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, loose sticks of TNT, homemade explosives and an assortment of improvised explosive device components such as wiring, timers, and batteries.

In West Rashid, Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, captured an individual suspected to be involved with an assassination cell. The unit also uncovered weapons, ammunition and cash in the operation. The suspect is being held for further questioning.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Just how tired, you ask?

I am so tired that yesterday morning when I left my house at 6 AM, I left the stove on. All day. It was still on at 3:30 PM when I got home. I never leave the stove on. Ever.

Now that is tired.

Good News from Iraq: 19 Sep 2007

From Reuters, Empty wards in Baghdad hospital offer hope. (h/t LWJ)

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A row of beds lies empty in the emergency ward of Baghdad's Yarmouk Hospital. The morgue, which once overflowed with corpses, is barely a quarter full.

Doctors at the hospital, a barometer of bloodshed in the Iraqi capital, say there has been a sharp fall in victims of violence admitted during a seven-month security campaign.

Last month the fall was particularly dramatic, with 70 percent fewer bodies and half the number of wounded brought in compared to July, hospital director Haqi Ismail said.

"The major incidents, like explosions and car bombs, sometimes reached six or seven a day. Now it's more like one or two a week," he told Reuters.

The relative calm at the Yarmouk hospital lends weight to U.S. and Iraqi government assertions that a security campaign launched around Baghdad in February has achieved results.

In one emergency ward at the hospital, in a Sunni Muslim district of west Baghdad which has suffered disproportionately from sectarian conflict, just two patients were being treated. Neither showed signs of serious injury.

At the hospital morgue, only two of the eight refrigerated rooms contain bodies, many of them dating to violence weeks ago.

Bloodstained floors in the empty sections were the only reminder of days when the morgue was so flooded with victims of bombings and shootings that the bodies overflowed, laid out on the ground outside.

"In the last month there's been a really noticeable reduction," said surgeon Ali Adel. "Now most of the cases that come to us are ... random gunfire and accidents".

"There are still cases (of militant violence) but compared to the last month, very few, thank God".

...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Update on Bear

Thanks for all the inquiries.

My baby bear (hence, his screen name) did OK yesterday. I picked him up yesterday evening after his little surgery. He has about a 6-inch incision on his inner right hindquarter. He is walking just fine. Ate breakfast this morning. I am assuming the after effects of the anesthesia will linger a bit. Last night he was glassy-eyed and a bit still this morning.

He had some trouble sleeping; he was wimpering. And I tried to comfort him. But it was a restless night for both of us.

Bear and Moo are spending the day inside resting. Hopefully Moo won't pick on him too much.

Endurance

Yesterday was a difficult day. I got up a little extra early after a few hours sleep so I could do some pesky day job work before I took Bear to the vet for surgery. So here we have little sleep, heavy workload, worrying about precious doggie. That's a lot for me under the best of circumstances. Throw in deployment, the fact that the arrival ceremony for the old unit was held yesterday, and still trying to adapt to changing routine and I was feeling a tad overwhelmed.

Perhaps it was because I was on the verge of tears all day. Perhaps it was the way the sky was ever still slightly lit after the sun had set, after the oranges and pinks had disappeared and the light blue blended with the approaching darkness. Perhaps it was the pride I feel in belonging to a community that is recognized for what it contributes. Perhaps it was all these identifiable things and so much more that I cannot express.

But as I drove back to the vet yesterday evening to pick up my precious Bear, as I turned a corner and saw the largest, longest flag proudly and perfectly dancing in the light breeze, I was struck. My jaw dropped open and the tears welled up at the sight of the grandness, the majesty of its movement. Its strength and endurance. The emotion of the day set in and I let it go.

As I drove back home still thinking of this vision, I thought, "I want to move with such enduring grace in this breeze."

Good News from Iraq: 18 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Iraqi boy leads troops to weapons cache.

BAGHDAD — A Multi-National Division-Baghdad unit discovered a cache of explosives and improvised explosive device-making materials in a western neighborhood of the Iraqi capital following a tip from a local boy Sept. 15.

A platoon from Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment (Task Force Patriot), was conducting a census operation in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Yarmouk when an 11-year-old Iraqi boy pointed out an abandoned house and suggested that insurgents had used it as a base of operations in previous months.

The Soldiers discovered two cache sites within the house after a detailed search. The contents of the two caches included four RPG-7 rockets, nine 57mm rockets, two 82mm mortars, one 130mm artillery round, one 122mm artillery round, one block of TNT, a foot of detonation cord, 52 AK-47 magazines and an assortment of IED-detonating devices.

An explosive ordnance disposal team responded to the scene and removed the explosives for detonation later in a controlled environment.

“We’re encouraged by the fact that a tip from an Iraqi child led us to this cache,” said Capt. Jayson Morgan, commander of Battery B and a Munday, Texas native. “It’s just another sign that our efforts in this community are paying dividends.”

Morgan said he will return to the neighborhood later this week to pay the family of the young boy a reward for providing such valuable information.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I can't wait to get back to "normal"

A friend wrote that in an email and it got me thinking.

What is "normal"? I don't know any more and that makes me very sad, probably because I've been feeling out of sorts these last few weeks. But thinking about normal reminds me how much I miss my husband. How we will have to rebuild our lives once he returns.

My initial reaction was that my "normal" life does not include my husband simply because he is not physically here. But that is absolutely not true. My husband is such an important part of my normal life. It is normal for us to IM in the evening for me when he first gets up in the morning. It is normal for us to email or IM during the day. It is normal for me to think about him constantly, to worry about him constantly, to love him constantly.

So while we are still trying to figure things out in this transition period, "normal" might be a tad more up in the air than usual. I just need to remind myself that we will adapt to a new routine, a new mission, a new normal.

Good News from Iraq: 17 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Iraqi National Police find cache in Rusafa District.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq — Officers with the Iraqi National Police recovered a weapons cache in the Rusafa District of eastern Baghdad Sept. 15.
The officers found a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and nine 120mm mortars. The weapons were turned over to the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team’s Special Troops Battalion for their explosive ordnance detachment Soldiers to destroy the weapons.
The discovery comes as U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces continue to sweep out insurgent strongholds in eastern Baghdad. This includes the establishment of Coalition outposts and joint security stations as part of the Baghdad Security Plan to pacify the capital.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq

Yesterday I watched an hour-long documentary on HBO called Alive Day Memories. Here is the description from the HBO website.

In a war that has left more than 25,000 wounded, ALIVE DAY MEMORIES: HOME FROM IRAQ looks at a new generation of veterans. Executive Producer James Gandolfini interviews ten Soldiers and Marines who reveal their feelings on their future, their severe disabilities and their devotion to America. The documentary surveys the physical and emotional cost of war through memories of their "alive day," the day they narrowly escaped death in Iraq.
Normally, I don't watch, read, or listen to pieces on the lives of our wounded. It has been very difficult for me to do so. So I avoided it. Until yesterday. What I saw were very brave men and women facing their injuries with dignity and grace, proud to be Soldiers and Marines.

I recommend watching this if you are able to do so. The entire documentary can be viewed online. Here is the link.

Good News from Iraq: 16 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, History in the making—Iraqi cadets are first commissioned air force officers in new air force Coalition.

CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Senior U.S. and Iraqi Air Force officials were here Wednesday to witness history in the making with the dedication of the Iraqi Air Force Training School and the commissioning of the 11 officer candidates of Class 67 into the Iraqi Air Force.

The commander of the Iraqi Air Force, Lt. Gen. Kamal Brazanjay, Brig. Gen. Robert Allardice, commander of the Coalition Air Force Transition Team, Col. David Penny, the 370th Air Expeditionary Advisory Group squadron commander and members of the Taji Air Base community saw the beginning of a new era one day after commemorating the September 11, 2001 attack on the U.S.

“Getting to this moment is a victory for the Coalition Air Force Transition Team and the 370th Expeditionary Training Squadron,” said Lt. Col. Kim “Felix” Hawthorne, commander of the 370th Expeditionary Training Squadron, the only unit of its kind in the U.S. Air Force. “To have the ability to open this institution in just a few short months is just incredible.”

Starting from nothing, CAFTT personnel found an abandoned, dilapidated medical supply warehouse and turned it into a learning institution known as the “Alamo.” Six months later, the school is moving into a former Ba’ath Party Headquarters, which once housed the Republican Guard.

“We took something that was a symbol of tyranny for this country and turned it into the future of the Iraqi Air Force,” said Lt. Col. Mark “Jed” Ponti, 370th ETS director of operations. “We are closing the book on the dark chapters of the Iraqi Air Force and beginning a new one with the first 11 second lieutenants in the new Iraqi Air Force.”

The new facilities are large and spacious and have the capacity to house all of the school’s programs in one location.

“Getting to this moment is a victory for the Iraqi people,” said Hawthorne. Our old facility served us well and we are excited to dedicate these beautiful, spacious buildings. We now have a campus with sufficient capacity to enhance the basic technical training for the Air Force Academy and the other schools.”

Beaming with pride at the dedication were Class 67 and Class 68. The members of Class 67 were the first cadets to use the facilities as they prepared to become the first graduates from this newly-developed institution.

Before they received their certificates of completion and commissioning, Hawthorne complimented the 11 candidates on their character. “They were invited to join the air force because of their academic excellence. Although challenging, they remained in the program because of their desire and commitment to rebuild the Iraqi Air Force,” he said. “Their efforts have helped form a solid foundation for training for the next generation of Iraqi leaders.

Three of the second lieutenants will go to Kirkuk to begin pilot training, while the remaining eight will begin their careers as maintenance and operations support officers. They are first line of leaders in the new Iraqi Air Force who will get to write chapters in their nation’s history.”

Brazanjay said that it was a great day and that there was a bright new future for the Iraqi Air Force. “Be loyal to your country and the Iraqi people,” is the advice he gave the commissionees. “Loyalty to your county is the secret of success for any nation. The person who is not loyal to his country is not loyal to his family or his religion. Be loyal to Iraq and not any other power.”

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Off to the vet

We are going to the vet this morning to follow-up on them "bad cells." I'll provide an update later today.

UPDATE 11:30 AM: Back from the vet. Our usual vet wasn't in so the substitute took a sample and the regular vet will look at it later today. So there is more waiting.

UPDATE 10:13 PM: The regular vet looked at the sample and didn't see much, but still wants to cut the lesion out. So Bear will go back on Monday to have that done. (I didn't post this earlier because I wanted to tell personally the 2 people I know in life who read the blog.)

Good News from Iraq: 15 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Soldiers, Iraqis clear out al-Qaeda along Tigris.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER — Coalition troops teamed with Iraqi policemen and concerned local citizens to rid a major road of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and al-Qaeda cell members during a two-day operation in Tuwaitha.

The purpose of the mission was to not just clear the route, but to also establish an Iraqi capability to keep the route safe for civilian and military traffic.

Capt. Brian Gilbert, of Boise, Idaho, commander of Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd (Heavy) Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, currently attached to 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, was met by about 60 citizen volunteers at his company’s combat outpost at the outset of the operation. The volunteers from Tuwaitha then led his Soldiers south into the village of Tuwaitha as they provided additional eyes during the route clearance.

This was in stark contrast to the reception 3-1 Cav. Regt. Soldiers had previously received in Tuwaitha.

“When they (3-1 Cav. Regt.) went down there before, the citizens were very non-compliant; no waving, no smiling,” Gilbert said. “There was nobody willing to fight (terrorists) and they encountered multiple IEDs.”

After clearing the route, Soldiers worked with volunteers and policemen from the 1st National Police Brigade to establish checkpoints with blast protection. The checkpoints will be manned by national policemen and Iraqi civilian volunteers from the local Concerned Citizens’ group. Concerned Citizen groups are made up of volunteers who commit to work with Coalition forces to decrease violence in their neighborhoods.

By manning the checkpoints, Iraqi Security Forces and local citizens will be better able to monitor and control traffic around Tuwaitha. Leaders from 3-1 Cav. Regt. are optimistic that national police and Concerned Citizens will help reduce violence in Tuwaitha following the expulsion of al-Qaeda elements from the area.

As night approached during the two-day operation, local citizens provided an empty house for the Soldiers to rest in and contributed personnel for security patrols throughout the night. Soldiers were also treated to meals provided by the local populace.

The route into Tuwaitha had been a dangerous stretch of road for Sledgehammer Brigade Soldiers with a history of roadside bombs. The clearing operation resulted in the discovery and neutralization of four IEDs along the route. Soldiers and Iraqis found two anti-tank mines, one mortar round and one large homemade explosive device in plastic containers.

Traveling on the road into Tuwaitha from Jisr Diyala has been a dangerous proposition for both Soldiers and citizens. In the days following the mission, Gilbert received feedback that citizens are now able to travel to Jisr Diyala to shop for the first time in six months.

Gilbert said he believes the common threat of al-Qaeda prompted the Tuwaitha citizens’ desire to work with the 3rd (Heavy) Brigade Combat Team Soldiers.

“Al-Qaeda is a threat to the locals and also a threat to U.S. Soldiers,” Gilbert said. “They wanted us to come down there and fight with them. So we did.”

Gilbert said 3-1 Cav. Regt. plans to clear out greater numbers of insurgents and help legitimize more Concerned Citizens groups.

“Now that they have cleared out AQI (al-Qaeda in Iraq) and established Concerned Citizens groups, we can provide medical operations and projects that will provide enduring employment,” Gilbert said.

Friday, September 14, 2007

More people getting it

Yesterday, 3 of my co-workers sent me a bouquet of red, white, and blue flowers thanking me for the sacrifices I make. Made me cry. And I mean really cry. Right there at work. Hiccuping, stuttering crying.

More people getting it.

Great Greta questions. Who can answer them?

The other day I found a great post by Greta over at Hooah Wife and Friends. The post is essentially a series of thoughtful and thought-provoking what if questions -- and not THOSE whatifs. Here is a taste.

What if the people who originally thought the war was was the right plan of action, continued to support it?

What if the American people demanded we stay the course until the mission was complete?

What if the terrorists knew that the will of the American people was united and would not rest until their heads were served on a platter?
I left a comment that she posted a great series of questions. Greta emailed me back sounding a little disappointed that no one had answered them. I think we -- and I mean all Americans in general -- are all too busy to take the time to reflect upon the possible answers. I think the more important thing at this point, at least for me, is the asking of the questions. The answers may never come or may never have satisfactory answers. The questions can always be refined. And Greta took the time to refine the questions.

Good News from Iraq: 14 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Citizens turn in weapons caches.

ARAB JABOUR – Concerned citizens in Arab Jabour and al-Buaytha found weapons caches and turned them over to Coalition troops Sept. 11.

Arab Jabour citizens delivered a weapons cache in a Bongo truck to the Soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Sept. 11 while they were conducting a picket line on a local highway.

Picket lines employ stationary security vehicles positioned on roads traveled by Coalition Forces to prevent insurgent activity.

An explosive ordnance disposal team was called to destroy the cache, which consisted of 250 12.7mm rounds, one 122mm rocket warhead, 31 rocket propelled grenades, 15 propelled chargers, one rocket propelled grenade launcher, one rocket propelled grenade mortar, two 60 mm mortars and other bomb-making materials.

In al-Buaytha, concerned citizens delivered a weapons cache to the Soldiers of Company A, 1-30th Inf. Regt.

Concerned citizens delivered the contents of the cache to the Soldiers while they were conducting a picket line on a road north of Patrol Base Murray.

The cache consisted of 16 57mm anti-aircraft rounds and was taken to PB Murray by an explosive ordnance disposal team.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Going beyond the death toll or How I have learned to deal with the news

Wendy at All Ahead Full posted the other day wondering if she was going to become a news junkie now that the GWOT is hitting home for her. Her post -- and Slightly Salty's comment about only being able to take so much of the violent news at a time -- really got me thinking.

I try to follow what's going on in Iraq closely -- well, as closely as possible for a person who is trying to 15 other things at once. It took me a while to get there, to that emotional place where I could read about the violence, the death, the destruction.

When Jack Bauer got to Iraq, I just wasn't in a space where I could handle the news about Iraq. I was barely keeping it together in my day to day life. In fact, it took several months after he got there for me to be able to start to learn about what was going on, to start to seek out information about the war, to go beyond the death toll, the tragic and painful stories of local Soldiers coming home in flag-draped coffins.

When I started posting the "Good News from Iraq" shortly after I started the blog, I did it as a mental exercise, a way to prove to myself in a tangible way that there was in fact something good going on in that country. To prove to myself that there was more to the story than the daily death toll I'd hear reported on the local news.

I slowly added to what I was reading. (My pesky day job was v.e.r.y s.l.o.w there for months on end, thus, lots of reading and blogging time.) Jack pointed me in the direction of The Fourth Rail -- which is now The Long War Journal -- as a good place to learn what was actually happening on ground in Iraq. He was right, of course. I added in more conservative commentary. That actually helped me feel more balanced and armed to read not only more liberal media report but to also discuss Iraq with anyone who raised the topic.

There are days when I just want to take a break from it all. Forget about the war. Not read, not hear, not see anything having to do with this war. Most Americans have the luxury of doing that any day that want to. Us military families cannot really do that.

Yep, I am still going strong

It has been over a week since I posted anything about cards of encouragement to our wounded Soldiers in Germany. I am still writing. Soldiers' Angels Germany is a great organization. Anyone interested in doing some service projects, big or small, can find something to do to help out.

I sent out 13 more cards yesterday.

Running total: 397

P.S. #400 is already written. ;-)

Good News from Iraq: 13 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Captives freed, kidnappers captured.

BAGHDAD — Two people were freed from captivity and four others arrested and charged with kidnapping after a tip-driven raid was conducted by soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 5th Division, 6th Iraqi Army at the Salhiyah Apartments Sept. 8.

According to Maj. Thomas Weiss, who is assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division and is the officer-in-charge of the District Joint Security Station in central Baghdad’s Karkh District, the tip was provided from the mother of one of the victims being held.

The tip was initially provided to the 5th Brigade, 2nd Division National Police, who oversee security in the area, and the mission of locating and freeing the individuals was then turned over to the 4-5-6 IA.

The soldiers performed a cordon and search of the apartment complex until they were able to locate and free the two individuals.

After reaching the individuals, the Iraqi troops realized that one of the men who they had been sent to free was actually wanted by Iraqi Security Forces for questioning. He was detained along with the four other men being charged with kidnapping.

The five detainees were turned over and processed by the 5-2 National Police.

Weiss said that the outcome of the mission goes a long way in building trust between the ISF and the people that they serve.

“The fact that the 4-5-6 was able to take a resident’s complaint and successfully conduct this mission does wonders in building trust in the community,” Weiss said. “It lets them know that the IA is responsive to their needs.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

6 months and a day

Well, it looks like I have been at this blogging thing for 6 months and 1 day. Seems to be going pretty well. "Meet" lots of great people (well at least you seem like great people online). Found some people who can relate to what I am going through as an Army wife dealing with deployment. Didn't think I was ever really going to be able to do that in person.

When I started this blog I didn't start my sitemeter right away. I wish I had. The other counter I have is almost 2K higher than sitemeter, but it is a pain to use -- I have to log on, and it only keeps track of the last 20 visits. But exciting news, my sitemeter just turned over to 10,000 visits. And of course, yours truly was the 10,000th visitor. I think I have only looked at the blog about 9,500 times and Jack Bauer has looked probably at least 200 times, so maybe there have been about 300 other visits. Maybe.

Thanks for making the last 6 months a much more interesting ride. Here's to 6 more months! Ching-ching!

Update on the Fitness Front

I started a new yoga class on Monday. After 14 months of Intro to Yoga, I am now in Yoga I. I am amused by the slow pace of Iyengar yoga. The new class is much faster paced, which is good.

My chair Pilates class was canceled. I was the only person to enroll. But I have decided to do private lessons during that time for the remainder of what would have been that class. So last night I got my butt kicked. Well, actually it was more like my hamstrings and triceps, but you get the picture. And despite my saying during class, "Oh, I'm gonna feel THAT in the tomorrow," I can miraculously able to move without any problem today. Pretty cool, eh? :D

Good News from Iraq: 12 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Fallujah harnesses sun's energy to light streets.

BAGHDAD — With a marked decline in insurgent activity in recent months, Fallujah is on the road to a much brighter future.

And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing a project helping shine light in that direction.

That work involves the installation of 740 new state-of-the-art solar street lights that are illuminating Fallujah’s main roadways. Currently, the city’s main east-west thoroughfare has the new lights up and functioning. Work in other parts of the city is continuing.

“Residents tell us how much that project means to their community,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project engineer Troy Swofford. “City leaders and the police are thrilled. It’s getting a lot of positive attention.”

Fallujah laborers are digging the holes, anchoring the 9-meter steel poles in concrete, and bolting on the solar panels and lights. Those fixtures, manufactured by a Florida firm, contain a photo-voltaic switch that turns them on at sundown and off at sunrise. The work got under way Aug. 7 and is scheduled to be completed in October. The crew is currently installing about 20 poles per day.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fallujah resident office is overseeing 57 projects valued at $117 million. Apart from the solar lights, Swofford is overseeing the $14 million upgrade of Fallujah’s 132kV substation, construction of two new 33kV substations (that work is nearly complete), new feeder lines connecting those substations, and supplies to rebuild portions of Fallujah’s neighborhood electrical network.

Swofford, who has worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for 20 years, deployed from the Charleston District. He signed up for a six-month tour but has already requested an additional year of duty.

“This is very satisfying work. You get to see the direct positive impact of our efforts. We’re helping people and the city leaders appreciate what we’re doing,” he said.

“What’s great about the solar street light project is that it will provide clear evidence of how this 21st century technology works in this climate. We’ll know its viability and other Iraqi cities may soon be following Fallujah’s lead,” he added.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Today

Just remembering, reflecting upon the events of the past six years.

I think it goes without saying that we will never forget.

Just going on about my life the best I can is the best way for me to combat that evil.

How much can you say in 30 minutes?

Or more accurately how much can you type in an IM session in 30 minutes? Well, for me it is apparently not enough.

Here comes the whining. I am used to IMing with Jack Bauer without an Army imposed time limit. If he didn't have anything going on, we could IM for hours, granted it usually came with several interruptions. Weekend mornings were great for this.

Right now he doesn't have internet access in his room so we are attempting to make the most of the time he gets at the internet cafe. It seems like by the time he gets on and we exchange pleasantries, we've got just a few minutes to say anything substantive to one another. It is actually shocking to me how fast 30 minutes can go by.

Lest anyone misunderstand, I know I am lucky to get any time with Jack Bauer, let alone any regular time. I am grateful for the time we do have together, and I know that many people do not have this luxury. This is just an adjustment for me. We'll get through it.

Good News from Iraq: 11 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Tip leads to east Baghdad cache.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq – Soldiers with the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division recovered a small cache during operations looking for a terrorist suspect in eastern Baghdad Sept. 10.

Soldiers with Company D, 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment discovered a cache in the New Baghdad District, based off of a tip from a resident.

The cache consisted of one double-barreled shotgun, one revolver with seven rounds, two cell phones and one AK-47 rifle with magazines.

The terrorist suspect was not found during the operation.

Tips from Iraqi residents continue to lead Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces to cache finds and terrorists.

U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces continue to drive into insurgent strongholds and combat outposts and joint security stations have set up tip lines to receive information while keeping callers’ identities unknown.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A literal shit storm

I know I have been experiencing quite a bit of ups and downs this last week or so, but this was the icing on the crap cake.

On my way to get my massage yesterday, on a lovely sunny and cloudless morning, it suddenly was pouring on my car. After the pounding on my car stopped, I noticed that the drops were all white. I cleaned off the windshield so I could continue driving. Once I reached my destination, I examined my car and found probably at least 50 drops of bird shit on my car. I had hit a literal shit storm.

Luckily, rain is predicted for today. Hopefully, it will rain hard enough to clean off my car.

Good News from Iraq: 10 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Marines, Iraqi Police rid Anbar of insurgents.

SAQLAWIYAH — The Marines of Company C, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, and local Iraqi Police recently swept through the farmlands outside Habbaniyah while conducting Operation Street Sweeper II, to rid the area of insurgents and their deadly tools.

“We are sweeping through the roads, houses and fields of our area of operation for anything suspicious,” said Cpl. Brian L. Pauluchuk, a team leader with 1st platoon, Company C. “We are trying to find any weapons caches or IEDs.”

The Marines woke in the middle of the night and rode in armored trucks to the operations start point. Arriving in the darkness, wearing full combat gear, night-vision goggles and carrying food and water for the coming days, the Marines were ready for what lay ahead.

Sgt. Luke A. Horkey, the squad leader of 1st squad, 2nd platoon, assembled his men and inspected them before the long trek. He explained the history of the area and why the operation was vital.

“This type of close contact operation is long overdue in an area that hasn’t been patrolled long enough by (other Coalition forces),” said the 25-year-old Plainfield, Conn., native. “If you let something sit long enough it will fester, especially here.”

Horkey, who is on his third deployment, led his squad through the communities, farms, fields, markets and to each and every house, searching for signs of insurgent activity.

The Marines of Company C swept through miles of sweltering heat and dangerous territory.

“Dismounted patrols allow the Marines to learn everything about their Area of Operation (AO),” said 2nd Lt. Jared V. Hidalgo, the commander of 2nd platoon. “They can see all of the little paths, landmarks, so they can better predict enemy movement, enemy hot spots and IED placement.”

There was another determined element involved in the operation; the local Iraqi Police, who also conducted mounted and dismounted patrols. These local men traveled up and down the roads, searching markets and villages for people they recognized as wanted insurgents.

Although the main objective of the operation was to clear the area of insurgents and the dangers they pose to both Coalition forces and Iraqi civilians, it also achieved another important objective. By conducting the operation, it allowed the Marines and IPs time in the local community, meeting the citizens and building a rapport with the Iraqi population. This rapport develops into the peace and progression that will allow the transition of responsibility in the Al Anbar province back to the local Iraqis.

“We create a presence when (the locals) see us patrolling and meeting with these families,” said Horkey, 25. “It lets them know that their own people, the IPs are stepping up to defend them and I think eventually if we keep this up, this area will become peaceful once again.”

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Good ...

Most importantly, Jack Bauer has arrived safely at his new assignment. Phew! That's a big load off my mind. Not just the traveling, but it means we get to settle into a new routine. Granted it may take us a week or so to figure that routine out.

My mother sent me a lovely arrangement of white orchids yesterday. I love orchids. And cut, they last for weeks. More lovely flowers for me. :D

... and the Bad

At the vet yesterday, well, not good. It looks like Bear's nasty looking spot might not be a simple hot spot or other ouwie. The vet scrapped it and looked at the cells under the microscope. He saw mostly white cells, but he did see some "bad" cells, meaning tumor cells.

Now, I may not have this exactly right, but this is the way I understand it. These tumor cells are seeing in both benign or malignant disease. Benign disease usually doesn't present as skin lesions. The malignant disease, however, can present as skin lesions. Of course, this could be a simple infection.

So Bear gets one week to make those bad cells go away with some antibiotics. And then back to the vet for a recheck next Saturday. If it is the malignant disease, then he would need a wide excision to remove the affected area. And that would be bad.

Good News from Iraq: 9 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, ‘Denali’ Squadron distributes seed to farmers.

AL RASHEED — Soldiers and community leaders distributed thousands of pounds of garden and farming seeds to the al-Rasheed Farmers Union Sept. 6.

The civil affairs team from 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, currently attached to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Inf. Div., coordinated the distribution with the members of the al-Rasheed Farmers Union.

Seeds included tomato, pepper, and watermelon. The seed distribution was the first in more than a month, and the civil affairs team stepped back to let local union leaders run most of the distribution.

“The goal is to get (Farmer’s Union members) independent and doing this without us,” said Capt. Kenneth Guglielmina, 1-40th Cav. Regt. civil affairs team leader.

To be eligible to receive seeds, residents had to have an identification card and show proof that they were landowners.

About 20 al-Rasheed residents showed up to receive seed; the rest will be sold by the Farmers Union.

The leadership of 1-40th Cav. Regt. is hoping the al-Rasheed Farmers Union will develop into a self-sustaining business that grows in the community.

“This is important to the economy,” said Maj. John Hixson, 1-40th Cav. Regt. executive officer. “If they manage their resources it can be effective to all the members of the union.”

If the al-Rasheeed union is successful, the civil affairs team is hoping more unions can be formed in nearby communities.

“The intent is to get a separate Farmers Union in Arab Jabour and perhaps Hawr Rajab,” Guglielmina said.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

I'm just pretending he's home

I turned on the Military Channel for background noise.

Off to the vet

It's a good thing these doggies are so darn cute and sweet and lovable! We're off to the vet this morning. Moo needs a booster shot, which is the reason I made the appointment. But yesterday I found a nasty looking spot on Bear, so he is going too. Poor Bear, he is not going to be happy. He hates wearing that Elizabethan collar to keep him from licking. :(

Good News from Iraq: 8 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Regional security stimulates economic growth.

BAGHDAD — Coalition security efforts here are making progress, a fact reflected in other areas, including an improvement in the economic environment. That relationship was cited by Ambassador Charles P. Ries, Coordinator for Economic Transition in Iraq and Minister for Economic Affairs, and Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, Multi-National Force-Iraq spokesman earlier this week at the Combined Press Information Center.

Maj. Gen. Bergner started the conference earlier this week by outlining the recent improvements in security here.

Overall the occurrences of ethno-sectarian deaths have decreased country-wide, evidenced by the lowest numbers of security incidents in over a year.

“In the coming months, Coalition and Iraqi forces will keep the pressure on the enemy, while also supporting important economic and reconstruction efforts in areas (where) we have already secured the population,” Bergner said.

Ambassador Ries said that greater economic stability is closely linked with the security of the country. “The improvement on the security side that General Bergner described is having an impact on the economic side.”

The Ambassador described several priorities his team will focus on in the up coming months. Their first priority is and will remain developing a sustained and sustainable economy in the areas being secured by the surge.

Most important in developing a strong Iraqi economy is allowing the Iraqi government to make most of the decisions involving privatizing businesses, budgeting and regulating energy industry.

The Framework Law is hydrocarbon regulation legislation for the country, which along with the Revenue Sharing Law, will be reviewed by parliament this month. If parliament approves those laws, they will set up a basic frame work for the country in regards to oil and gas revenue sharing.

In addition the electrical supply here has improved, Ries said. The country’s electric power generation capacity has increased 2000 megawatts over the last three years. Coalition forces are working closely with the Iraqi government to repair and maintain transmission lines damaged by insurgents.

The Iraqi government will make the final decision on privatizing electrical services, but in Baghdad many citizens currently receive their power from private generators on a cost sharing basis.

The bulk of private investment here is represented by 3.75 billion dollars being paid for cell phone licenses, another indication, Ries and Bergner say, that the economic and security situations are improving here.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Self Care

After having been physically ill for the past 24 hours (probably just physical manifestations of the anxiety I've been experiencing), I headed out this afternoon for some good self care. I had some "energy" work done -- get my chakras cleared, get the bad stuff out. And I went to Whole Paycheck for some good-for-me foods. And while I was there, I got myself some sunflowers.

For me, flowers are a complete, almost over-the-top splurge. But look how pretty they are. And that makes me smile so they must be good for me, right?

Operation Mom

Yesterday, I got a lovely card in the mail from my husband. And I know exactly where Jack Bauer got the card from: Operation Mom or more specifically, Debbi at Debbi's Dribble. One of the service projects Debbi does is to make and distribute blank cards to troops. Blank so that they can send card to their loved ones at home. Loved ones like me! :D

(I tried taking a picture of the card but it was too dark in here this morning.)

Perhaps if you are skilled in the scrapbooking arena, you might want to join in her efforts. Here is what Debbi has to say on the topic.

NO HALLMARK STORES IN IRAQ OR AFGHANISTAN!

I am a member of Operation: Mom, a support group for families & friends of active duty servicemembers. My only son (our only child actually) is in the US ARMY. We send packages overseas to the troops (we get names from families & friends and we also have contact persons overseas who share the contents with their units) & also put cards in the packages to them & for them to send home to their loved ones. Cards needed right now are Christmas, New Year, Winter cards plus All Occasion Cards (Love You, Thinking of You, Hello, Friend, Missing you, Birthday & kids cards for them to send to their children at home/something they can personalize) by first of September . Can also use donations of envelopes & cardstock always. This is tax-deductable!! Operation: Mom is a non-profit [501(c)3] organization. These cards should be blank inside for the service member to write inside to their loved ones (their words are better than anything you can stamp out usually), must be with regular envelopes...,,back of card tucked into envie (no clear ones please) & if you do do use dark paper please put light color insert so they can write on that (don't think they have gel pens handy). We always want Thank you cards from you TO the troops....with a personal note inside (thank you for your service, you are in my prayers, hope you come home to your loved ones soon, etc). Due to security issues these envelopes (envelopes are not required for the thank you cards to them if you don't want to put them in one) must be unsealed & if you would like a response (no guarantee on this as they are a bit busy over there but I have gotten responses from some & others have too) you can put your return address on the envelope or include your email address inside (I have been getting emails & I use my email addy as my Hallmark stamp on the back of the card). This would be a great way to use the swap cards you accumulate.

If you are interested in participating please email me with any questions you may have or to ask for the address to mail the cards to:
pfcrensmom-cardsfortroops at yahoo dot com

Good News from Iraq: 7 Sep 2007

Ah, yes! MNF-I looks to be updating its "Freedom Facts" section.

Electrical Production: In August, electrical production of megawatts exceeded 5,000 for 25 days – producing enough power for approximately 450,000 homes. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division is helping the Government of Iraq jumpstart its electrical infrastructure by infusing more than $4 billion dollars into the nation’s system. More than 500 electrical projects have been completed thus far in areas of generation, transmission and distribution.
And just for a little more info on this topic, here's the Freedom Fact from January 2007.
Electricity: Under the former regime, Baghdad got 24 hours of free electricity daily, while large parts of the rest of the country received none. By the end of 2006, the U.S. Corps Army of Engineers' Gulf Region Division had started 520 electricity-related projects and completed 220 of them. The area outside of Baghdad now averages some 12-14 hours of power per day.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Six months ago ...

I was flipping through my calendar this morning and noticed something. Right about this time of day six months ago, I was dropping Jack Bauer off at the airport, putting him back on a plane, sending him back to Iraq. Leave was over.

A few days later I started this blog.

My, how things have changed in six months.

"What IS your thing with butterflies?"

Yesterday, Green commented: "I've always wondered ... what IS your thing with butterflies?"

I thought I would share my response up front in a post ... in case you were wondering yourself.

Green - Butterflies are a simple symbol of a profound transformation. That's what I have been through. It is my way of honoring my transformation. Honestly, I never thought twice about butterflies before this blog. Now, they are everywhere. And I love it. It symbolizes what I have been through to be where I am today -- even if today happens to be a particularly sucky day.
And just so you know, I am doing much better today. This is a tough patch of transition for me, but I think much of what I was going through the last few days was a bit of anticipatory grief. Wheels are now in motion. I might as well enjoy the ride as best I can. Right?

Good News from Iraq: 6 Sep 2007

From MNF-I, Operation Comanche Swarm II uncovers weapons cache.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER — Acting on tips from concerned citizens, scouts from Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, recently detained three people and seized a large weapons cache east of Baghdad.

The 789th Explosive Ordnance Company, from Fort Benning, Ga., currently attached to 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, destroyed eight rocket propelled grenades, six 82 mm mortars, two fragmentary grenades, 21 mortar fuses, a 5-gallon fuel can filled with an unknown explosive, 20 detonating cords, two blasting caps and three rocket propelled grenade launchers.

Two AK-47 assault rifles, seven magazines and improvised explosive device-making materials were confiscated.

Third Squadron, 1st Cav. Regt., is a part of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, stationed in Fort Benning, Ga.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

All over the place

As you can see, I have been all over the place emotionally today. Happy, sad, laughing, crying.

I just wanted to thank you for all your comments and well wishes, they really helped. I am feeling much better this evening.

:D

A measure of my mood

I know when I am feeling down, even when I don't recognize it internally. There is one good measuring stick for me. I put on Sex and the City DVDs. Starting with Season 1. There are some 94 episodes of SATC. Since Friday afternoon, when I put in the first disc, I have made it through to Season 6, episode 5. Only 15 episodes to go to the series is over. Again.

Don't get me wrong, I don't just lounge around on my sofa, eating bon bons, and watch SATC day in, day out. I use it -- yes, use it -- mostly as background noise. Familiar voices, familiar friends, familiar laughs, familiar cries. I always cry in the last episode over the Charlotte storyline.

And somewhere in the last 5 days I did manage to get a bunch of stuff done, including going to work.

The Long War Journal

Did you see that Bill Roggio of The Fourth Rail fame has launched his new site, The Long War Journal?

Bill is growing a nice little nonprofit media organization and funding all sorts of embeds into Iraq -- including himself -- and elsewhere.

I hope you will join me in supporting independent journalism, even if is it just a couple of bucks. Come on, give up that afternoon latte just this one day and donate that $3+ to PMI. Besides, it will look better on your hips that way. ;-)

Bonus! It is tax-deductible.

Stifling a sneeze

Is holding in crying bad for you like stifling a sneeze?

I sure hope not, cause I will be in some serious trouble. And I refuse to be a blubbery mess at work.

My brain is likely to explode today.

Card Care Packages x2

I sent two packages of cards off for soldiers off to Soldiers' Angels Germany yesterday.

16 cards in each package. 16 x 2 = 32

For someone who never writes cards on weekends, I sure was busy.

Running total: 384

Good News from Iraq: 5 Sep 2007

I am in need of some seriously cheery news from Iraq. So I am pulling out the big guns here.

From MNF-I, Iraqi, U.S. Forces provide locals with medical, dental care.

BAGHDAD — Iraq and U.S. Forces sent a message to local Iraqis during a recent Cooperative Medical Engagement held here near Camp Victory.

The CME targeted Iraqis living in the nearby Iraqi Family Village and was held by Task Force Vigilant, Task Force 62, a medical brigade from Fort Lewis, Wash. and 210th Brigade Support Battalion.

“The Soldiers of Task Force Vigilant can be very proud of their efforts in setting the conditions under which over 20 Iraqi doctors, dentists, and medics could successfully treat over 600 local residents,” said Army Maj. Celestino Perez, commander of TF Vigilant.

“This type of mission is important in being able to rebuild a bridge between the Iraqi Army and U.S. Army from one side with the Iraqi civilians on the other side,” said Brig. Gen. Mahde, surgeon, Iraqi Ground Forces Command. “Through the good cooperation of many American units and the (IGFC), we are able to provide good healthcare to all the people of IraqiFamily Village.”

Mahde was one of several doctors onsite providing medical care to patients. According to Army Col. Patrick Sargent, commander, TF 62, the operation was led by the Iraqis with the United States playing a smaller role as coordinators.

“The interesting thing about this is we actually have Iraqi Army physicians and some physicians from the Ministry of Health supporting this operation,” Sargent said. “They are in the lead. We just provided the location and security.”

Doctors and dentists worked diligently throughout the day, seeing more than 500 patients and performing 27 dental operations. In addition to receiving medical care, each villager departed with goods – from bookbags and school supplies for the kids to clothing and hygiene items for the adults.

“There are a lot of families here who don’t have jobs and can’t afford to purchase many items, so they came here,” chief of IFV, Yahya Murad Mahmood, said.

Mahde said he believes the CME and future operations will do more than provide a quick fix to the Iraqis’ short term needs.

“Future Iraqi endeavors like this operation will move us ever closer to a strong, unified Iraq,” said Perez.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A confession

Saturday night I was packing up all the goodies outlined in the post below. I was writing out Jack Bauer's new address for the first time, I started crying. Just one more piece of evidence that he really isn't coming home now.

**Sigh**