Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Project Valour-IT Fundraiser

So the big competition has begun. Of course, I am supporting the Army Team. So in the interest of time, I am just copying and pasting from Badgers Forward (hope he doesn't mind, but I see no need to re-invent the wheel here).

Project Valour-IT, in memory of SFC William V. Ziegenfuss (Captain Chuck Ziegenfuss' father), provides voice-controlled software and laptop computers to wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand and arm injuries or amputations at major military medical centers. Operating laptops by speaking into a microphone, our wounded heroes are able to send and receive messages from friends and loved ones, surf the 'Net, and communicate with buddies still in the field without having to press a key or move a mouse.

Valour-IT's online fundraising competition begins today! Let's see who can raise the most money to help reconnect our wounded warriors with the world!

WHAT: Friendly fundraising competition for Valour-IT.
WHEN: October 29th through Veterans Day, November 11th .
WHERE: Based in the blogosphere, spreading everywhere else.
WHY: Because giving wounded warriors with hand and arm injuries access to a computer supports their healing and puts them back in touch with the world.
HOW: Blogger teams will be divided along military branches, with civilians "up for grabs."

The lines are drawn by service rivalry:

Non-military bloggers should choose a branch the Army to support.

Following intuition

Tuesdays are busy for me. I have several things going on in the evenings, and yesterday I threw in a hair appointment to the mix. By the time I finally got home at 9:30 PM, I was tired so I didn't write my usual post. I headed off to bed saying, "I'll post a Note from the Universe in the morning."

I woke this morning wondering if the Note would be at all relevant to how I have been feeling. Now, I do recognize that these notes are kinda like fortunes and there is always room to read in to whatever is there. So let's take a look at what was in my inbox this morning.

The veils begin to lift, Butterfly Wife, once defenses begin to fall.
Be vulnerable.

The Universe

P.S. Fear only hides the truth, Butterfly Wife.
Huh. Most of the notes are not written this way. They are more like the "power of positive thinking" kind of thing. I guess this is me getting exactly the message I need. The "universe" is just funny that way I guess.

Good News from Iraq: 31 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, Ramadi parade celebrates unity, security.

RAMADI — The last parade held in downtown Ramadi was by insurgent forces in the fall of 2006 when the city was gripped in daily violence.

Times have changed now as government officials and city locals recently held a parade down Route Michigan here. Capt. Aaron Southard, Information Operations officer for 1st Brigade Combat Team, said the parade speaks volumes when considering the former violence that plagued Ramadi.

“The Iraqis were able to conduct this event without any attacks or influence from terrorist organizations because stability is to the point now where events like this can happen,” he said. “It’s really surreal; the most recent parade was conducted in the fall of 2006 by al Qaida in Iraq. It shows that the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) is growing daily if not hourly.”

The parade was a celebration of the contributions of Sheik Abdul Sittar, who was killed last month, and for the ISF, who were instrumental in defeating al Qaida in Al Anbar province.

“The ill-intentions of al Qaida in Iraq, and their path line, which was anti-Iraqi, triggered a change here,” said Gen. Nasier Abadi, Vice Chief of Armed Forces of Iraq. “All across Al-Anbar and other provinces people are rising up and revolting against al Qaida.”

He said that although Anbar was the first province where people awakened to fight against terrorists, it’s definitely not the last.

“You can see the same thing happening in Diyala where the sheiks are organizing and getting the people to stand up,” Abadi said.

The voice of the people could be heard as city officials and ISF joined in the singing of the country’s national anthem and clapped along to the beat of the Ramadi Police band. As the security forces marched along the streets in crisp, clean uniforms, cheers from the side caused a strut in the stride of many of the troops.

“This is a day to celebrate what’s possible when local political leaders, government leaders, and tribal leaders work together for their people,” said Lt. Gen. James Dubik, Multi-National Security Transition Command commanding general. “This is a reflection of the success of operations and with the awakening of the people.”

The success of Ramadi, Dubik said, can be attributed to the rapid growth of the security forces in the city.

“The police force here have been a tremendous help in the security of Ramadi,” he said. “(In Anbar) they’ve grown from 11,000 to 21,000 in a few months, which is a huge success for Coalition and Iraqi forces here.”

As the last vehicle passed by, it reaffirmed the unity and commitment the ISF have for the people of Ramadi.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Fall & Rise of the Butterfly

So how did this little butterfly, who so proudly struts around, fall?

Well, it all started one Friday morning just over 2 weeks ago. Actually, it all started a couple of months ago, but the juicy stuff started "one Friday morning just over 2 weeks ago." I had an "episode" at work. I was talking to someone over my shoulder (rude, I know) and when I straightened my head back out, everything when black. It was like going backwards in a tunnel. I said outloud in a calm voice, "Everything's going black." The person I was talking to had no idea what I was talking about. My vision quickly returned, and brought with it a headache, lightheadedness, nausea, and a bizarre sensation in my neck that I describe as fullness, like I had high blood pressure or something. Those symptoms lasted for hours and eventually went mostly away.

I had an appointment already scheduled that afternoon with my holistic chiropractor/acupuncturist. I told her about this episode. She had me move my head around to check the patency of the vessels in teh neck. Sure enough, when I turned to the left, the same way I was so rudely talking to someone earlier, I became dizzy and calmy and nauseous and not good. She told me to get that checked by my internist.

So all weekend, I tried to take it easy and not move my head too much. Hmmm. Monday morning I called my internist's office for an appointment, which I was able to schedule for the following Wednesday. I decided to work from home that day. And by noon, I was beginning to notice that I was seeming to have trouble catching my breath. By 2 PM it was getting worse. And within minutes my heart was pounding faster and harder than I had ever felt before. BOM.BOM.BOM.BOM.BOM.BOM. I was still breathing the same. BOM.BOM.BOM.BOM.BOM. t just kept going. BOM.BOM.BOM.BOM. I picked up the phone. I hit "talk" and moved my thumb over the "9", but I did not press it. "I am only 35," I rationalized with myself. I hung up the phone. BOM.BOM.BOM.BOM.BOM. It kept going. So I picked up the phone once again. I hit "talk" and moved my thumb of the "9", but again, I did nto press it. "!" I figured I could think my way out a heart arrythmia. (Secret: I have one of those minds like the people on Heroes; it is THAT powerful; so beware.) BOM.BOM.BOM.BOM. Something was changing. BOM.BOM.BOM. Was this it lightening up?

It stopped the crazy rhythm. But my chest hurt something awful, like I just ran for my life for the last 2 minutes.

WTF was that? I called the doctor's office back. "Uh, you say you were an ER nurse? And you picked up the phone to call 911, twice, and hung up both times? Um, yeah. You probably should have finished that call." They sent me over to the hospital for "After Hours" care. I explained all my symptoms to the nurse practitioner and had an EKG, blood test, and a head CT. Nothing. The physical exam: my blood pressure was up a bit and I could not walk heel to toe. The NP talked to my physician and dischraged me home with instructions to take it easy for the next few days and to limit moving my head from side to side too much. (Mind you I had to drive home.)

I followed up with my doctor on Wednesday. He ordered more blood tests and a 24-hour heart monitor. No nothing. Personally, I think it is stress. Especially since once I slowed down, all the symptoms seem to disappear. Go figure. (See, I told you I had a powerful mind.)

So what I am to do? I have been taking it easy and sleeping more and that seems to have mostly cured what was physically going on. Kind of starting over again with the things that have helped me get to where I am emotionally. Reading my good books. Slowing down mentally and physically. Being kind to myself. Trying to listen to my own advice. All that good stuff.

And like any good butterfly, I am simply picking myself up, dusting myself off, and getting back on the path of life. Which if you are a butterfly is limitless. :D

Good News from Iraq: 30 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, Coalition Forces discover large weapons caches (Hawr Rajab).

HAWR RAJAB, Iraq – Coalition Forces discovered two weapons caches that contained enough material to make an estimated 200 complete improvised explosive devices in Hawr Rajab Oct. 26.

Soldiers of Troop C, 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) 25th Infantry Division, currently attached to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, discovered the caches of improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades.

The caches were near a canal crossing east of Forward Operating Base Falcon, an area that has been a point of origin for indirect fire attacks on the FOB.

Finding the caches will help to combat the IED threat in the area. “The IEDs and parts that we found could have easily been placed to attack our convoys. Hopefully this can help to stop those attacks,” said 1st Lt. Eric Rudberg, Troop C platoon leader.

Some of the electronic devices were taken by Troop C for further investigation. An explosive ordnance disposal team conducted a controlled detonation to destroy the caches.

In the same area of operations Oct. 26, concerned citizens found and brought two separate ordnance caches to 1-40th Cav. Regt. troops at Entry Control Point 20, a patrol base in Hawr Rajab. The caches included two fire extinguisher IEDs filled with unknown bulk explosives, two RPGs, two 57mm rockets filled with UBE, one 60mm mortar round and nine two-liter bottles of UBE.

EOD conducted a controlled detonation of the ordnance.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A change of artistic direction

I have decided I have had enough of just doing butterfly cards. Granted there is a very large selection of butterflies on card out there, after 500 cards I am wanting more. So I bought some non-butterfly themed cards. Here are some ...

Not to worry. I still have plenty of butterflies left in me. ;-)

Also, I am thinking about changing my butterfly stamp. Maybe something a little more subtle. But this looks more like a dragonfly. Hmmm. I'm not sure that is the stamp for me. I probably need to do some more looking.

Saturday I sent out some of these non-butterfly cards along with some butterflies. 15 of them.

Running total: 515

Good News from Iraq: 29 Oct 2007

From Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq Public Affairs, by way of Op-For, on the recommendation of Sarah, Iraqi Army at Besmaya Installation Support San Diego Fire Victims.

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Members of the Iraqi Army in Besmaya collected a donation for the San Diego, Calif., fire victims Thursday night at the Besmaya Range Complex in a moving ceremony to support Besmaya's San Diego residents.

Iraqi Army Col. Abbass, the commander of the complex, presented a gift of $1,000 to U.S. Army Col. Darel Maxfield, Besmaya Range Complex officer in charge, Multi-National Security Transition Command Iraq, to send to the fire victims in California.

The money was collected from Iraqi officers and enlisted soldiers in Besmaya. In a speech given during the presentation, Col. Abbass stated that he and the Iraqi soldiers were connected with the American people in many ways, and they will not forget the help that the American government has given the Iraqi people. Abbass was honored to participate by sending a simple fund of $1,000 to the American people in San Diego, to lower the suffering felt by the tragedy.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Care Package filled with ...

I'm running out of ideas for care packages. Let's see what's going out today.

National Geographic Sept 2007. Cover story is on Pakistan.

From Trader Joe's
Just a Handful of Almonds x2.
Fancy Mixed Nuts
Dried Bing Cherries
Dried Black Currents
Dried Sweetened Hibiscus Flowers
Dried Lychees (I have no idea what these taste like)

From Whole Foods

Cherry, Cranberry, and Peach Fruit Strips (he is probably not going to like these, but what the heck)
Newman's Own Organics, Ginger Mints x2

From Starbucks
After Coffee Mints Cinnamon
After Coffee Mints Vanilla

From Origins
Peace of Mind: on-the-spot relief
Checks and Balances: frothy face wash
A bunch of samples: Plantidote Mega-Mushroom Body Cream and Face Serum; A Perfect World Skin Guardian and Moisturizer; Modern Friction face scrub
And some handouts on what the products do.
All in a zip-lock bag.
And directions on how to use it all. :D

From Build-A-Bear Workshop
A Fuzzy Bunny Pen, from my shopping trip to get my little inner bunny. I even wrote the customs for with the pen. :D

Good News from Iraq: 28 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, More Soldiers, new firearms, better procedures, strengthen Iraqi Army.

BAGHDAD — Vast improvements to Iraq’s national Army are leading to a force that will eventually stand on its own, a Coalition commander said today.

“They’re increasing their capabilities to be able to do that every day,” Army Brig. Gen. Robin Swan told online journalists and bloggers during a conference call from Baghdad. Swan heads up the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team with Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq.

“From my foxhole, from a training, from an equipment standpoint, from an operational standpoint, the way that they’re fighting today, the way that they’re standing firm in their ground, really conducting some sophisticated operations throughout the country, most notably, certainly out in al Anbar province, but also up in Ninevah and here in Baghdad as well, so a lot of great improvement on that line,” he said.

Although the Army’s logistics system is in its infancy, the general explained, parts of the system are improving.

“From the standpoint of unit-level logistics, they’re getting better,” Swan said.

Setting up bases where Iraqi Soldiers can pick up supplies or even overhaul vehicles, as they can only at Taji national depot now, will take as long as 18 months to accomplish, the general said. That is why Coalition experts are embedded with Iraqi Soldiers to help determine solutions that make sense to Iraqis, he said.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

On today's agenda, we have ...

I slept in until 9 AM. It was awesome. The doggies were so snuggling sweet (i.e. quiet), it was wonderful. Maybe it was that I read them a bedtime story last night. The Velveteen Rabbit. Sad to say, it was my very first time reading it. Now the doggies and I feel real. :D

So here's my to do list for the day.

1. Sleep in.

2. Make list (Wendy does this just so she can have something to cross off immediately. I LOVE it!)

3. Post Good News from Iraq.

4. Try on, remove tags, and put away ALL news clothes that came in the mail. (I haven't done this big of a clothes shopping in at least 4 years.) Anything that isn't staying here gets mailed back immediately.

5. Review and edit something for Jack Bauer.

6. Mail care package to Jack Bauer; finish post on the package.

7. Miscellaneous editing.

8. Nap

9. Read book that mysteriously appeared at my doorstep yesterday. :D

10. IM with Jack Bauer.

That should keep me busy, dontcha think? Have a great day everyone.

Good News from Iraq: 27 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, Shbara and Shamiyah get clean water.

CAMP ECHO, Iraq – Villagers in Shbara and Shamiyah now have clean water thanks to the efforts of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Civil Military Cooperation Group, which handed over two completed water treatment facilities to the Qadisiyah Province Oct. 23.

The new facilities, which cost about $270,000 to construct, will provide potable water to approximately 4,500 villagers in the area, improving living conditions and sanitation.

“It should be emphasized that cooperation between Coalition Forces and local society is much better thanks to these projects,” said Lt. Col. Tomasz Wolszczak, Polish Army and CIMIC Group commander.

Since January 2007, CIMIC specialists have carried out 70 projects costing approximately $8.7 million to improve Iraqi infrastructure and self-sustainment capability.

Additional projects undertaken by the CIMIC Group include Operation Oil Drop, an operation designed to provide a safe and secure environment for the local residents of Ad Diwaniyah, and assistance for small business development and the economy in general, as well as delivery of humanitarian aid and efforts to decrease unemployment.

Recently, Operation Oil Drop provided the schools of the Nahda district with necessary supplies such as 600 school sets for pupils, 32 family packages for school personnel, gas cookers, liquid soap, air conditioners, soccer balls, carpet and heaters. Teaching kits were also given to teachers. Citizens continue to receive other items including electrical generators, cleaning chemicals, mattresses, food and cosmetics.

The CIMIC Group will continue to provide financial support for small businesses and institutions throughout Ad Diwaniyah Province.

Haji Shbara is located approximately five kilometers south of Al Hamzah and Al Shamiyah is about 30 kilometers west of Ad Diwaniyah.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Note to Self: SLEEP

One thing I definitely need to do is get more sleep. I've been up for over an hour and all I want to do is go back to sleep.

I have been trying to get by on 5-6 hours a night for too long. I really don't know how you moms do all you do with so little sleep. My body has completely rebelled. My mind is going loopy. I can't keep doing tired things like leaving the stove on all day or driving past my exit to go home.

I'm really going to need to figure this out. And soon.

Dear Doggy Daddy

I was at the post office the other day mailing off my cards. And there on sale was a cute Lady & the Tramp postcard. You know, the one of them nibbling on the same piece of spaghetti. Very cute. So of course, i had to get it for Jack Bauer. But I let the doggies write it. I helped ... just a little.

Dear Daddy,

Mommy thought you'd like this postcard. We like it too. We think it looks just like you and mommy. But mommy says she's a butterfly. We like to chase butterflies.

We've been snuggling up with mommy at night since it's started to get cold here. We all like that. =)

Moo and Bear
P.S. The Cat says she needs Daddy lovin' not doggie lovin'.

Good News from Iraq: 26 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, Citizen’s tip leads to Iraqi National Police discovery of 52 rockets (Baghdad).

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq – Iraqi National Police with the 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st National Division discovered a large weapons cache in the southeast district of New Baghdad in the Iraqi capital Oct. 24.

A tip from a resident led the policemen to the cache, which consisted of 52 122mm rockets.

This is the second find in less than a week for the Iraqi Security Forces.

Five days ago, Iraqi Soldiers with the 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division recovered a cache that included an assault rifle, magazines, rocket sleds, timers and remote detonators, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, Iraqi Army uniforms and sulfur in eastern Baghdad.

“We have been receiving a great deal of tips from local residents regarding enemy activity, as the citizens of Iraq are tired of the violence. The vast majority of Iraqis want to live in peace and have now turned on the handful of insurgents that are causing trouble,” said Lt. Col. Dean Dunham, deputy commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

“This tip and cache find is yet another great example of the Iraqi citizens’ resolve for democracy and the outstanding progress of the ISF.”

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Batting 500

That's right folks. I sent out card #500 to Soldiers' Angels Germany. Woohoo!

I gotta tell you, it feels realllllllllllly good. :D

And I did it just one card and with no expectations for myself. (I think there is a lesson in there that I am in DESPERATE need of learning.)

Running total: 500

When did fall get here?

We've been trucking along here in the middle, enjoying the very warm fall weather, high 70s, low 80s. Ahhh. When I left for work on Tuesday, it was a most pleasant 73 inside. Then yesterday morning I woke up to a cold house; it was 64.

The leaves are doing there best to keep up with the change. And much of the area is awash in golden yellows and oranges. I love the fall color. I did not grow up with fall color on the West Coast.

Fall makes me think of beginnings. The start of the school year, even if that actually occurred a couple months ago. (Students, you can now start applying yourselves!)

I think the fires in California are also making me think about beginning anew. What else can these people do when they have lost virtually everything? (And btw, my family appears to be in a relatively safe place, although my mom says the smoke is very, very bad and causing health problems.)

So here's to beginning anew.

Now if only my new fall sweaters would hurry up and get here. :D

I had to turn the seat heater on in my car. Another sign of fall.

***UPDATE #2***
I had to turn the heater on at home this evening. I wuss'd out when it got down to 60 degrees. Not like last year when I waited until it was 54 degrees INSIDE before turning on the heater. I'm getting soft in my old age. :D

Good News from Iraq: 25 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, Provincial Reconstruction Teams: The ‘Civilian Surge’.

BAGHDAD — The recent surge of troops and embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams (EPRT) to Iraq is providing unprecedented opportunity for Iraqi citizens, a Coalition commander said today.

“It really wasn’t until the EPRT, the ‘civilian surge’ … and the surge forces arrived that we began to make what I will call measurable progress along our lines of operations,” Army Col. Mike Garret told online journalists and “bloggers” during a conference call from Forward Operating Base Kalsu. ... Garrett commands the “Spartan” 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, deployed from Fort Richardson, Alaska. ...

Garrett said he originally had doubts about the effectiveness of the embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team in his area because of the group’s small size. “But I tell you, what I found almost immediately as I was introduced to the team leader who was a senior foreign service officer who had served in Vietnam, … he was focused on the right level,” Garrett said. “He was focused at the local levels of government here, and he brought with him and his very small team expertise, that we quite honestly, didn’t have.”

Garrett said he was impressed at the speed with which the EPRT assigned to his unit acted. “They didn’t come into the brigade and talk about projects that would show progress a year or six years from now,” he said. “They talked about impact that we would be able to see in 30 days.”

One such program carried out by the EPRT working with Spartan Brigade had immediate impact on Iraqi farmers in the mostly rural provinces where Garrett and his Soldiers patrol.

“We were providing seed, farm equipment and other things to help our farmers maintain their farms,” Garrett explained. “What the EPRT has done for us is to take these agricultural unions, push them more towards a business-like approach. Now they are buying their own seed, they are setting prices for their produce, they are buying farm equipment that they can maintain and rent out to other farmers.”

By enabling small groups of Iraqi citizens to become self-sufficient, Garret said, EPRT members form a crucial link in a chain that reaches from tiny agricultural communities all the way up to the capital of Baghdad.

“One of the purposes of the EPRT was to increase capacity at the local level and then try to link the local to the provincial levels of government,” Garrett explained. “And then the provincial reconstruction teams, which are located throughout Iraq, had the mission of linking the provincial levels of government with the local level and national levels of government.”

While Garrett and his team had facilitated economic development programs like a small business training class taught by an Iraqi professional, he said EPRT members have kicked off many other imperative initiatives such as micro-grants for Iraqi entrepreneurs.

“What they’ve done is taken it to the next level,” Garrett said. “The EPRT has been very, very important to us, and they’ve made a very big difference in terms of our ability to make progress in the governance and economic lines of operations.” ...

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I must rest so I can fly free

I must rest so I can fly free.

I h
ave been piling too much on one side of the scale, as though I were testing my own strength that resides on the other side. Just how much weight -- tasks, chores, activities, jobs -- could I place to counterbalance my emotional capacity.

I found my tipping point. I was piling stuff on one side while neglecting the other.

Now where to cut back. If only it were simple. How to balance the "love to do's" with the "need to do's" while building the strength within to do it.

I must step back so I can see what is truly important, so I can see me.

Good News from Iraq: 24 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, Lieutenant helps renovate Iraqi orphanage.

BAGHDAD — The high point of 1st Lt. William Bass' deployment to Iraq so far wasn't a raid or some other combat operation; it was the sight of two little girls playing on a brand new swing set.

It was an important moment for Bass, because it represented the payoff for three months of hard work to improve conditions at the Al Zuhor Girl's Orphanage in northern Baghdad's Adhamiyah district.

"Seeing that, that was all the gratification I needed right there. It felt really good," Bass said.

Not long ago, the orphanage was falling into disrepair from lack of maintenance, and the girls spent their days shuttered inside with no place to play. But thanks to Bass, a fire support officer with Troop C, 3rd "Saber" Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, the grounds received a $100,000 facelift, turning it into a state-of-the-art facility.

"With these kinds of projects, you get to make a lasting impact," said Bass, a Washington, D.C., native.

The orphanage is home to more than 50 girls between the ages of eight and 16. There is also a separate facility for special-needs children on the same property. Many of the children at the orphanage lost their parents due to the murders, bombings, and other violence that has plagued Baghdad. Others were orphaned by disease or simply because their parents could no longer take care of them, Bass said. ...

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Lemonade! Get your fresh lemonade!

Sorry, the lemonade is not here. But I did do my best to make some. It's available over at The Lemon Stand.

Here's the link. Go check it out.

It's a party! And you're invited!

I am having a party. It is a pity party slash bitch session. And anyone can join me. :D

I know there are things that we all whiny and bitch about but only to ourselves. Some of those things just seem too whiny and too bitchy to say aloud. Well, OK, at least for me, it seems that way. Maybe you all are completely open with your bitching.

I say, let's have a great bitch session. And if you want, sign in anonymously so you can really have at it.

I'll start.

Deployment is getting old. I want my husband home now! I am a pouty little girl and I am going to sit right here with my arms folded and my lips pursed until he gets here. Oofa!

And I hate my pesky day job this week and it is likely to only get worse. Double oofa!

And I want to be able to do it all just like I was promised when I was a little girl. Not fair that I can't. (To be explained later.) I am going to stomp around the living room with my arms crossed and my lips pursed until I CAN do it all, or fall asleep. Not fair, not fair, not fair!!!

Who else wants to play??? :D

Good News from Iraq: 23 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, Army Engineers work to improve Maysan’s electrical system.

MAYSAN ــــ The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is hard at work on $20 million worth of projects to improve the electrical system throughout Iraq’s Maysan Province.

Maj. Steven Herda, resident engineer at the Corps’ Basrah Area Office, said the construction of seven “33/11” electric substations in Maysan will provide a more reliable and up-to-date electric transmission infrastructure.

Herda said the existing electric substations are aging and suffer from a lack of maintenance and spare parts, causing them to break down or not operate at full capacity. He said the new substations will enhance the ability to supply power across southern Iraqi Maysan Province encompassing the area north of Basrah and east to the Iran-Iraq border.

“These projects are important because in all areas of Maysan there are problems with the transmission lines and substations that the people rely on for power,” said Herda, whose office is part of the Gulf Region South district of the Corps of Engineers. “The new substations will provide increased transmission capacity and the up-to-date equipment should provide reliable service for many years to come.”

The projects improve distribution capacity rather than provide additional power, Herda explained. “The purpose of a substation is to step down electric current from high voltage transmission lines to lower voltage lines, and then send the lower voltage electric power out to users in the neighborhoods,” he said.

“These projects will provide more reliable power to homes and business in the region, benefiting more than 785,000 residents,” said an Iraqi deputy resident engineer in the Basrah Office.

Read the rest here.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Morning Ritual, Morning Reminder

Over 13 months ago, Jack Bauer and I said our pre-Iraq good-byes in a parking lot near Chicago O'Hare airport. We both had long drives ahead of us, but we were not quite ready to leave. We found a Starbucks near the hotel we had stayed at for the previous three days.

It was one of the few awkward times of our marriage. We were both nervous about all the uncertainties that were ahead of us. I couldn't sit still. So I walked around the store browsing all the coffee paraphernalia and examining the coffee mugs. I found two mugs that struck my fancy. They were similar, but not identical: one black and one white. I thought how special it would be for us to drink from those cups throughout the deployment. I did everyday. He tells me he did the same.

When Jack Bauer's next assignment started to loom large, I thought about getting us new similar or matching mugs. The mugs we had been using have a rubber bottom, and after months of tough love in the dishwasher, the bottom of mine was beginning to rebel and peel off. Jack Bauer assures me that his mug is fine. (What? No dishwashers in the TOC?) But I still wanted/needed to get a new mug for me. The old one had served it purpose and it was time to move on, to move forward and face this current assignment. Now, what to get next.

Yesterday, I had breakfast with a girlfriend and she solved my dilemma for me. She brought me a Starbucks mug. For me, about me, with the lovely and whimsical mermaid from the company's logo.

The last assignment was about us, getting us through, getting our family situated and stable despite the miles apart. I've said that for this assignment I am going to spend more time on me, but I have yet to do much about that. But now is the time. And my new coffee mug will be a part of my morning ritual to remind me.

Good news from Iraq: 22 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, ‘The Mother of all Truck Stops’ nears completion.

TALLIL — Tucked away in a corner of this spacious former Iraqi air base is an emerging complex that might be considered the Mother of All Truck Stops, replete with a large petroleum reserve facility, a dining facility, a fire station, and space for sleeping quarters.

Work on the $24.1 million project began last December. Yet as Paul Christianson, project manager for KBR’s Design & Construction unit said, “Few people on base know what we’re doing out here.” KRB is partnering on the job with Kulak Construction Co., a Turkish firm.

Tommy Nason, construction representative with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said that “three-fourths of the project has been turned over already, ahead of schedule.” Nason is with the Adder Area Office of the Corps’ Gulf Region South district.

Located within hailing distance of Main Supply Route Tampa, the Tallil project is a key link in the supply chain that starts in Kuwait and runs the length of Iraq. Christianson said the project team completed a similar facility in northern Iraq last year with the Corps' Gulf Region North district. ...

Read the rest here.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Helping out a friend

My dear friend Lemon Stand is having Internet problems and asked me to help her out. I've got a new post up over there. Well, actually, it is an old post from here, but it has been bothering me lately.

So go read!

Continuing to Count Cards

Yesterday, I mailed 16 more cards of encouragement to MaryAnn at Soldiers' Angels Germany to give to our wounded Soldiers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

Running total: 485

Good News from Iraq: 21 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, Joint humanitarian, medical operation meets residents’ needs.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU — Coalition forces, Iraqi Army Soldiers and concerned citizens combined efforts to hold a humanitarian assistance and medical operation in Hawr Rajab, Oct. 13.

The operation was made possible by a recent shift in the area as local residents have come forward to work with Coalition troops to rid their neighborhoods of insurgent activity.

“The problem that we had in the beginning is that we didn’t have the support of the community leaders so in essence we were fighting the entire town,” said 1st Lt. Daniel L. Doverspike, a platoon leader for Troop A, 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment.

Doverspike said that by gaining the respect of local leaders, 1-40th Cav. Regt. Paratroopers gained an ally in the fight against insurgents, resulting in safer neighborhoods for both parties.

The Paratroopers provided oversight as food, personal hygiene items, and toys were distributed to more than 500 residents.

Residents received food items, children received toys, and inside the concerned citizens’ headquarters those who sought medical treatment were seen.

Sgt. Michael J. Cavallo, a combat medic with Troop A, said that he received more than 200 people through his triage station and sent more than 50 in to see both U.S. and Iraqi medical personnel for further assistance.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Disclaimer: No posts or comments have been paid for by Listerine or any of its affiliate companies; the views expressed herein are solely those of the blog owner and do not necessary represent the views or claims of the Listerine company.

BUT I love those Listerine Whitening Quick Dissolving Strips. I just finished the 2 weeks worth and these things are just amazing.

Maybe I'll do another round.

:D :D :D :D :D :D :D

Good News from Iraq: 20 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, Paratroopers capture six from IED cell.

BAGHDAD — Paratroopers captured six members, to include two lieutenants, of an improvised explosive device cell responsible for attacks against Iraqi security and coalition forces in North Babil, Oct. 17.

Paratroopers from Company B, 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, detained the men during Operation Salcha, an early morning raid.

“The men were members of an IED cell,” said Capt. Eric Nylander, commander of Company B. “The cell is a part of the al-Qaida network in North Babil.”

“Last week, we arrested the leader of the cell,” Nylander continued. “After tonight’s operation, we have captured most of the cell’s senior leadership.”

Nylander believes security in the area will visibly improve since Paratroopers have begun to target the cell so effectively.

“I think we will definitely see a decrease in IEDs,” Nylander said. “I think it will also embolden the local population. We are seeing an increase in Concerned Citizens Program participation and the people are standing up for themselves.”

The two lieutenants were implicated by numerous sources for their involvement in several IED attacks along Iraq’s Highway 1, as well as the bombing of another roadway east of Haswah. That incident completely severed the road, making it impassable.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dinner with Girlfriends

Last night I had a dinner with a three girlfriends from my old big job. It was nice to catch up with them. We talked about kids and jobs and Britney Spears' parenting skills and going green. Everything from toxic shock syndrome to farts.

But it was just interesting to see how much I still have in common with them. I always seem to think that I have changed so much and am engrossed in this war and the military so much. Yet, we all have a common bond. Only one of them is still at the job where we all met. The other three of us have moved on. Get together 4 women who can bitch and complain about the old bosses and you've got a happy bunch of ladies.

So when I am thinking I am so different that people can't understand me, so caught up in my little military world, I need to pause and reflect about how much I do have in common with the people around me rather than simply noticing the differences.

Good News from Iraq: 19 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, Reconciliation key to defeating al Qaeda in Iraq.

WASHINGTON — The United States has dealt al Qaeda many significant blows in Iraq and elsewhere, President Bush said here Wednesday. Military gains against al Qaeda are encouraging, but the situation cannot be won militarily, and that is why the U.S. continues to work with the Iraqi government on reconciliation and political development, Bush said at a White House news conference.

“We’re making progress, but I fully understand those that say we can’t win this thing militarily,” Bush said. “That’s exactly what the United States military says. That’s why it’s very important that we continue to work with the Iraqis on economic progress as well as political progress.”

Bush noted that reconciliation is happening at the local level in Iraq, as people realize they can make a better future for themselves. This local reconciliation eventually will affect the national government, he said. Meanwhile, the United States is encouraging the Iraqi government to pass important legislation to move the country forward.

When asked about the possibility of the Turkey parliament approving military action against Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq, Bush said that he and commanders on the ground agree that such a move would not be in Turkey’s interest. The Iraqi government understands that this is a sensitive issue, he said, and the Iraqi vice president was in Turkey Wednesday to assure leaders there that Iraq shares their concerns about terrorism, but that there’s a better way to fight it.

During Bush’s news conference, media outlets reported that the Turkish parliament voted to approve the military action.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Are we there yet?

I am tired of sending packages to my husband. I just don't want to have to do it. Don't get me wrong. I will continue to send him packages for the entire time he is over there.


But as I was filling out the custom form yesterday, I was thinking, "You know, it would be really nice if I didn't have to send this."

Some day. Some day. Some day.

Until then I will just continue to get to know the ladies at the post office.


****UPDATE: 10/18/2007 1401****
Reasa suggested that there might be an online Custom Form. And there is!!! Here's the link. It requires a phone number (yeah, right). I just filled in zeros and it accepted it that way. I will just have to try that out next time.

A quick package

The coffee consumption in Iraq continues to be high.

Yesterday, I sent Jack Bauer 5 pounds of Kaldi's Sumatra Mandheling coffee.

And a bunch of Jolly Ranchers. I hope they don't melt.

Good News from Iraq: 18 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, Tips lead to arrests in Salman Pak.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER — After receiving tips, Coalition forces detained three people in Salman Pak, Oct. 11, during Operation Belleau Wood, a raid to find insurgents linked to al-Qaida cells operating in Iraq.

Soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, detained the men after they were identified as al-Qaida members responsible for improvised explosive device placement along a road frequently used by the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. The Soldiers also cleared 13 houses during their search.

Maj. John Cushing, from Rochester, Mich., the 1-15th Inf. Regt. operations officer, believes the recent organization of concerned citizens in the Salman Pak area has helped residents feel safer and therefore more likely to come forward to identify insurgents and their activities.

“Local Iraqi Sheiks, in very dangerous areas, are coming forward and are willing to provide critical information concerning extremist activities in our area of operations,” Cushing said. “Local Sheiks and Coalition forces are working together and doing what it takes to improve security in insurgent infested neighborhoods.”

“Belleau Wood was great for Hardrock (Company A) and 1-15,” Cushing continued. “As a result of this operation, three extremists were detained which further disrupted an IED cell along a major route that Coalition forces travel each day.”

The 1-15 Inf. Regt., is assigned to the 3rd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

1 degree of separation

I've gotten a couple of hits recently for people doing searches for Richard Engel and AFS. Now both do happen to be mentioned here, but not in relation to one another. But there is a connection.

I always thought Richard Engel looked familiar. Then Jack Bauer happened to be watching the Turino Olympic coverage when he heard Richard Engel say that he had been an exchange student. In Italy. About the same time I was there. I tried to find my list of AFS participants to Italy for 1990-1991, but it is lost to me at this time. I tried google searches and turned up nothing.

Then a few days ago and again yesterday, I happened to get a google search for "richard engel afs." One of the other search results was this document from AFS with an interview of Engel. Low and behold, I do believe that Richard Engel and I were in Italy at the same time.

So yep. The short, blond kid named Richard who went to Sicily from NYC that I remember is NBC's Richard Engel. Fascinating. I only remembered him because I thought he was really cute. :D

Cards Update

So baseball is over for the Cards, but card season in this house knows no bounds.

Yesterday, I mailed off 12 cards of encouragement to Soldiers' Angels Germany.

Running total: 469

Good News from Iraq: 17 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, Iraqis help their own with humanitarian aid.

BAGHDAD — Iraqi Army (IA) Soldiers and a Concerned Local Citizens (CLC) group brought much needed aid to nearly 500 families in the small town of Hawr-Rajab, Oct. 13.

While U.S. forces provided security, the humanitarian aid operation offered medicine along with school and household supplies to the town’s residents. The event was made possible only after the Hawr-Rajab CLC group reached out to the IA to remove the insurgent threat from the area. Hawr-Rajab was considered a tier one IED site only three months ago, meaning it received five or more IED attacks a week.

The leader of the CLC group, Sheik Ali, credits the town’s positive reversal to the willingness of the IA and U.S. forces to accompany the CLC on joint patrols. The reversal is also due to the daily security the Coalition forces provide, Ali said.

After receiving household, school, and medical supplies from members of the IA, any citizen could request to have a free medical screening performed by the Iraqi medical staff on hand. Patients received care for conditions ranging from kidney stones to shrapnel wounds, while others simply asked for information or sought advice.

The most telling sign of the resident’s ease around the IA Soldiers was the large presence of children. The children were overjoyed by the toys that were handed out and several laughed and joked with the Soldiers while waiting their turn. With the new school year starting in a few days, many of the children went through the line multiple times for much needed school supplies. Later in the day, some of the IA Soldiers helped the children by carrying boxes of supplies that were too big for them to hold.

While the town has much further to go before it becomes truly safe, progress is being made. Shops have reopened to sell fresh foods and needed items. Citizens are very proud of the changes they have caused in their town, and maintain hope for a bright future.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I promise I am not a freak OR I'm just your kind of freak

Sarah posted this over at her blog. LMAO! That being my JLo-sized "A". :D :D :D :D

Your teeth are fine.

Dear Butterfly Wife,

I have no idea what you're talking about with needing to whiten your teeth. I certainly didn't notice that when we met. I was too busy feeling like a fool because I couldn't figure out how to read the menu at the coffee shop. I can never read coffee shop menus, and since I didn't want to look like a dunce, I pretended that I didn't really need to eat any breakfast. So I starved and then made my husband take me to a gas station on the way home and get me some food.

I didn't notice your teeth, I just noticed that my husband, who generally doesn't like conversation with anyone, seemed to be having a good time talking to you about Iraq. That's an awful big compliment in his book.

And you're wearing make up in Vegas? Crap. I am so out of my league here.

Oh and also, the weight thing? Hogwash. From reading your blog, I expected you to weigh 300 lbs when I met you. You look great. Don't be so hard on yourself.

Can't wait to see you again in Vegas!

P.S. You need to copy this post and put it up on your own blog so your readers can hear somebody saying that you have nice teeth and a normal sized butt. They're going to picture you as a freak of nature if they go by your description of yourself.

So there you go. I don't weight 300 pounds and my teeth are fairly white and straight (thank you junior high braces). And I wear make-up. And I even shower once in a while. And I wear clean clothes. Not so much of a freak.

Geez. I guess I'll just have to post pictures from Vegas. More proof that I actually exist.

How much is too much?

Worrying. I am worrying about worrying Jack Bauer too much. And I know he does the same. We like to worry.

I know every couple is different, but where is that magical line that should or should not be crossed when it comes to telling your deployed loved one about what is going on at home?

I've had a couple medical scares in recent days. I am not sure what is going on. (I'll let you all know when I know.) But I am keeping my worry-wart warrior informed. Would I have told him about this 6 months ago when he was closer to the tip of the spear? Probably. But I think that is just the kind of couple we are. Not that I think there is a singular right way.

I got to thinking about how much our guys tell us. Before he left, we agreed that he could tell me anything. And that he would tell me everything he was able to.

So I asked. "Have you told me everything I should know?"

"No." Further discussion ensued. Nothing he said surprised me. I'm not worried about what he told me. It is all in the past. And those aspects that may be carried over, the lasting effects of combat, we will deal with together, just like everything else.

On the spectrum of deployment worry sharing, is there a finer line between needless and needful worrying than when he is by my side? And how in the world do I determine where that line falls?

Good News from Iraq: 16 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, Water project to provide clean drinking water for 10,000.

FOB Echo, Iraq – In terms of size, a water project launched recently in the village of Abo Jbah in southern Iraq is just a drop in the bucket compared to other water initiatives being pursued across the country.

But the Abo Jbah project, undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is a very big deal for the people who live in and around the village located near Diwaniyah in Qadisiyah Province.

It will provide an estimated 10,000 people with clean drinking water for the first time, according to John Hughes, a project engineer with the Qadisiyah Resident Office of the Corps of Engineers.

"There’s a need, obviously,” said Hughes, who added that the Corps is ready to move when such projects "show up on our doorstep," as this one did.

“Here in the heartland, each of these smaller projects does just as much good as a big project,” said Col. Steve Hill, commander of the Gulf Region South district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A recent visit to the freshly landscaped site by Hughes and Hill included an inspection of the area, an exchange of greetings with a village elder, and a gift of a couple soccer balls to local children by Hughes, a veteran of 22 years service with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

The project will provide a 50 cubic meters per hour water compact unit and a six kilometer water distribution network. Work began earlier this month and is scheduled to be completed in March 2008.

The Abo Jabah project is budgeted for $392,250.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Those wacky Weblog Award people faked us out. And I mean that in the nicest way possible. :D Uh, the wacky part.

Since we're not quite ready to begin selecting finalist slates, and because there's always people late to the party, I'm extending nominations for all categories until Wednesday. [emphasis added]

Last day for nominations!

The 2007 Weblog Awards
Just a friendly little reminder to get your nominations in for the 2007 Weblog Awards. And to plus-up those who are already nominated. Just do that by clicking on the plus sign. That let's the finalist selection committee headhouncho guys know that you really, reall like the blog.


AWTM has done a great job of nominating milblogs in non-military categories. Let's see the finalists stacked with milblogs!! Wouldn't that be awesome?!?

Oh, and you can always go plus-up me from Best New Blog while you are there. (I am shameless.) I'm facing some stiff competition from 128 other blogs, but at the time of this posting I had the 4th most plus-ups. A few more wouldn't hurt, I am sure. Thank you for your support. :D

"I've missed you."

Before Jack Bauer and I started dating, we were very good friends. Of course, I was madly in love with him from the day I met him, but it was not meant to be at that time. So we were friends. And I tried so hard to never let him know how I really felt about him. Ahhh. I was young.

At Christmas one year, I went home to my parents to celebrate the holiday. After a few days apart, I sent him an email. Simple. "Hi, how are you? Having fun with the family here. Blah. Blah. Blah." But then I closed it out different than I might otherwise have.

"I've missed you," I wrote.

And apparently that is all it took. Later, he told me that when he read that simple sentence, he knew I liked him more than just as a friend.

Those words -- I've missed you -- mean a lot to me. And I think about them frequently now that he is not at my side.

When this deployment first began, I thought I would not utter them. Instead hold on to them and save them for the last moment. As if they would have some super magical powers that would rain down balloons and confetti when they finally slipped my lips.

That notion lasted only a couple of weeks. I had to tell him I missed him. I couldn't not tell him. It would have been like lying not to tell him.

And to you, Jack Bauer, I've missed you.

Good News from Iraq: 15 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, EFPs, weapons caches discovered in eastern Baghdad.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq – Soldiers with the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division discovered two explosively formed penetrators and recovered two weapons caches in the Karada District in eastern Baghdad Oct. 13.

In addition to the EFPs, Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment, based out of Fort Carson, Colo., found 17 mortars, four rockets, three rocket-propelled grenade warheads, one AK-47, one machine gun, and four Iraqi Army uniforms at the two sites. An explosive ordnance disposal detachment destroyed the EFPs in a controlled detonation.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I did it! I did it! I did it! AGAIN!

I folded AND put away one of the perpetual baskets of laundry.

**UPDATE** 10/6/2007 2228. I just folded and put away ANOTHER basket of laundry that has been lying around f.o.r.e.v.e.r. This one only looked full because it had a mattress pad in it. Empty nonetheless. Yay! :D

10/14/2007 2145.
****END OF ALERT****

Why is it . . .

... that sometimes after you eat a little something, you are hungrier than before you ate? I never understood that.

Not cooking for one

I went to the fridge the other day and was astonished at what I saw: very little.

  • 2 cups of Rachel's yogurt: pomegranate blueberry and plum lavender honey
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 quart of skim milk that I am unlikely to open, but I like to have on hand anyway, just in case
  • 5 slices of part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 2 slices of Virginia ham
and 20 bottles of water and 3 large Nalgene bottles filled with water.

Obviously, I needed to do some shopping. But even then I just filled it up with more of the same. And added some salad from the salad bar.

Deployment cooking for one has become too tiresome. I am so busy now I really don't have the time. I am so busy I don't even have time to write this post. ;-)

I think I am going to need to get some more food in the fridge before Jack Bauer comes home. Hmmm.

Good News from Iraq: 14 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, Citizen volunteers vastly improve security in Iraq’s Diyala Province.

Violence in Iraq’s Diyala River Valley has been slashed in half thanks to citizen volunteers, a coalition commander said today.

“Currently in Diyala, we have 4,000 local citizens who have decided to reject al Qaeda and other extremist organizations as well as militia, and they’re now helping in the protection of their own neighborhoods,” Army Col. David Sutherland told online journalists and “bloggers” during a conference call from Forward Operating Base Warhorse near Baqouba, Iraq.

Sutherland commands the 3rd “Greywolf” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, deployed from Fort Hood, Texas, and assigned to Multi-National Division-North. Since November of 2006, he and his Soldiers have been working with Iraqi security forces to drive al Qaeda out of a vast area that stretches from Baghdad eastward to the Iranian border. Increasingly, that mission has depended on Iraqi citizen volunteers.

“The local citizens now understand that the future of Iraq can be better if they get involved in ridding this area of the al Qaeda influence and participate in the development of their own democracy, which they’re also assisting in defining,” Sutherland said.

Concerned Local Citizens (CLC) are essentially neighborhood watch groups that patrol Iraqi communities and report suspicious activity to Coalition and Iraqi security forces, the colonel explained.

“They are also providing actionable information on the location of weapons caches,” Sutherland explained. “They even point out al Qaeda fighters, locations of house-borne IEDs, vehicle-borne IEDs, deep-buried IEDs, and this is all making a difference.”

Members of these groups take an oath, sign a contract and are vetted to make sure they are not insurgents hoping to infiltrate the organization, the colonel said. If a member does not live up to the agreement, they are kicked out or even arrested, as were a concerned local citizen leader and 16 of his followers this week who were accused of raping a young Iraq girl, extorting money from fellow citizens and maintaining weapons caches.

“The people of the neighborhood and other CLCs from other neighborhoods are the ones that gave us the information (to arrest them),” Sutherland said. “We will enforce not only reconciliation agreements, but we will enforce the CLC agreements, as well.”

Using CLC groups to build Iraqi confidence and restore security that was shattered by terror groups is crucial to reconciliation in Diyala, the colonel explained.

“Unlike al Anbar, which is predominantly Sunni, in Diyala we have 25 major tribes from all sects: Sunni, Shiia and Kurdish. And we also have over 100 sub-tribes within this province. All are competing for resources and for power,” Sutherland said. “Reconciliation in Diyala attempts to eliminate all the rifts in the society that al Qaeda about 18 months ago attempted to exploit.”

So far, 250 tribal leaders have signed reconciliation agreements, the colonel said. Only three tribes have yet to sign, and that is due only to their remote locations, Sutherland said.

“Basically the tribal leaders are realizing that if they don’t participate, they’ll be left behind as security and services improve,” he said. “Reconciliation goes on between not only tribes but villages, within families, across religious sects, and even between the police and the Army.”

The bottom line, the colonel said, is that Iraqi citizens are realizing that the only way to stabilize their communities and reconcile their country is to stand together against extremists.

“For thousands of years they’ve lived together, and they’re sick and tired of the violence,” he said.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Lesson #2 in trackbacking

Stephanie rocks ... still!

Update: Stephanie, being the awesome wonderful lady that she is, taught me how to use trackbacks in blogger. You will now see a "links to this post" link next the the comments button. Rumor has it that this only works for links to other blogspot blogs. Also, I can trackback to other links using the Wizbang Standalone Trackback Pinger.

I'm soo vain, I probably think this post is about me ...

Nothing quite like the prospect of meeting a bunch of strangers that I supposedly "know" in some fashion to be a sufficient motivator to make me improve my appearance. Yes, I am vain. And I am going to be Vain in Vegas.

In recent weeks, I have purchased new make-up -- foundation, powder, eyeshadow, more lip glosses -- and actually started wearing it to work.

I've got a new 'do -- sassy -- and will get it trimmed up and touch up the highlights -- red and blonde -- before the trip.

I started using Listerine Whitening Quick Dissolving Strips. And boy do they work. In less than a week, I have probably taken off two years of coffee drinking; still have another week to go. And they are soooo much better than other strips that aren't quick-dissolving. I highly recommend them.

Now if I could only lose 50 pounds and a couple of dress sizes and get a whole new wardrobe, well, I would be in heaven. But that just isn't going to happen.

So I will just have to be happy with whiter teeth. :D

Good News from Iraq; 13 Oct 2007

From MNF-I, Coalition general notes progress in building Iraqi Air Force.

Building an Iraqi air force will take years, but the service already is contributing to the counterinsurgency effort in the country, the chief of the Coalition Air Force Transition Team said Oct. 11.

The Iraqi air force has made tremendous strides since January, Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert R. Allardice told defense experts today via a conference call from Baghdad.

The Iraqi air force now has around 1,200 personnel and about 50 aircraft. The force is involved with intelligence and surveillance missions today, but “they will be shooting rockets next year,” Allardice said.

The general leads a coalition group of 325 people helping the Iraqi air force rebuild itself. In the late 1980s, Iraq had the sixth-largest air force in the world, with more than 1,000 planes, he said. Operation Desert Storm and a decade of sanctions obliterated that force. In 2003, no Iraqi aircraft flew against the coalition, and the training infrastructure had been dismantled. “Air force personnel scattered to the wind,” he said.

The Iraqi government needs the air force to fight the insurgency. The Iraqi army has taken precedence in the rebuilding effort, but in the last 10 months, the air force has taken off. “In January 2007, the Iraqi air force flew about 30 sorties a week,” Allardice said. These sorties were largely surveillance and reconnaissance missions, with an occasional cargo flight thrown in.

“This last week the Iraqi air force flew 231 sorties,” the general said. “Over the last four weeks, the air force flew an average of 180 sorties per week.”

Iraqi airmen fly a mix of helicopter and fixed-wing missions. “They have a small but growing impact,” Allardice said.

The general said he sees the number of Iraqi airmen quadrupling in the next year and the number of aircraft more than doubling by October 2008.

Ultimately, the Iraqi air force will have between 6,000 and 12,000 servicemembers, depending on the number of planes it has. ...

“The purpose right now is to build an air force that has the capabilities for the counterinsurgency mission,” Allardice said. ...

The Iraqi air force is having an effect just by its presence. Allardice said that when he flies over Baghdad in a coalition helicopter, people look up and look away. But when he flies in an Iraqi helicopter, all of which have the Iraqi flag painted on the bottom, “it’s amazing to watch the Iraqis look up, see the Iraqi flag and start waving and jumping up and down.” ...

The Iraqi air force is doing “rudimentary work with (Iraqi) ground forces.” While the helicopters are armed, they do not provide close-air support. The choppers do provide medical evacuation capability and are superb for reconnaissance work. “What we are doing is working with them to move troops to the battlespace and then provide operational overwatch for the (Iraqi) troops,” Allardice said. ...

“Every day, as they become more successful, they take on more of the mission,” Allardice said. “It still will take years to establish the service, but I think we can move faster than I first thought. They will be shooting rockets within six months. I would be shocked if they aren’t.”