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Friday, November 30, 2007

So how will you recognize me ...

By my butterfly necklace, of course.

See you tomorrow.

:D :D :D :D :D

Good News from Iraq: 30 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, Rural Community All Smiles About New Healthcare Center.

BAGHDAD — If you build it, they will come. And when a new primary healthcare center (PHC) recently opened between Baghdad and Fallujah, come they did in record numbers. Dr. Mohammad Gassan said at the old clinic they were seeing 75 to 150 patients daily. Today they are treating 250 to 450 patients daily.

“Some mothers are walking miles to bring their sick infants here,” he said. Through word of mouth, residents have heard that a new facility has opened with new equipment and they want the very best for their families, so they are willing to come from long distances to get here, he continued. “With the weather getting cooler, the most common ailment we’re seeing is upper respiratory infections including colds and flu.”

The clinic is open six days a week, 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Continue reading here.

Planning

With a little more time home, Jack Bauer and I have started discussing our future plans. Where we would like go, our next steps after this deployment, how the things we've put in place might pan out, some of those things that we've only been able to discuss in abbreviated conversations online.

I am realizing that it is in fact much easier to have those kinds of talks in person than while trying to IM. Go figure.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Heading off to SBL3

Jack Bauer and I are hitting the road to make it to SpouseBUZZ Live on Saturday. I'm trying to remember the last time we took a road trip this long together. I think it has been at least 5 years. I think both of us are out of practice in the long car trip with someone else. We're allowing ourselves extra time to get there rather than just driving straight through.

We are looking forward to meeting those of you who are able to attend.

And for those of you who are not able to attend, you can still be a part of the experience. SpouseBUZZ Live is being covered live online. Click here to learn more. There will be a chat room and everything. (It sounds like you may need to register for the virtual experience.)

Maybe you'll see us there after all. :D

Sleeping

Having finally been off of work for a few days and having someone to feed the doggies in the morning, I have been able to catch up on some sleep. Yesterday I slept in until 10 AM, and then I stayed in my pajamas until nearly 4 PM. It was wonderful.

I wish I could say as much for Jack Bauer. He's had to deal with a 9-hour time change, a different sleeping arrangement, barking dogs, a snoring wife, changes in diet and routine. All playing a factor in his ability to get a good night sleep. He's had to take cat dog naps where he can. Here he is sleeping on Moo's couch. Good thing she made room for him. She's such a sweet girl.

Good News from Iraq: 29 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, ‘Baghdad Day’ Celebrated at Zawra Park After Four-Year Lull.

BAGHDAD — For the first time in nearly four years, residents from across Baghdad recently gathered together to honor their city’s heritage and celebrate the once-annual holiday known simply as Baghdad Day.

The celebration, which was held at Zawra Park, featured music and art native to the city, as well as displays depicting historical Iraqi dress, traditions and occupations.

“From what I understand, it was done before the war and the last time was before 2003, so this is a big day for them,” explained Capt. Amy Cronin, the special projects officer for the 15th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

Cronin, a Carlisle, Pa., native, and her unit have been providing support to the Zawra Park complex, which includes the Baghdad Zoo, since March, and were invited to take part in the festivities by the park’s director.

“We asked them if they needed any help with security, and as far as funding to get anything ready, but they did it all on their own,” she said.

The highlight of the morning was an address by the country’s Prime Minister, Nouri Al-Maliki.

In his speech, Maliki emphasized that the citizens of Baghdad need to continue to work hard every day toward the goal of restoring Baghdad to a peaceful city.

He also promised the crowd more improvements to the city in the coming year, as Baghdad is slated to receive $800 million for reconstruction projects in 2008.

“I feel like this is history-making right now, especially with Maliki here,” Cronin said. “I think he had a great message to the folks out here. He really urged the Iraqis to step up and work hard to take Baghdad back, and really his message was that it’s just in the hands of the Iraqis, so the harder they work the quicker they’re going to get Baghdad back.”

Even the youngest members of the crowd appreciated Maliki’s message. Ibrahim, an eight-year-old boy, said he and his family came to Zawra Park to visit the zoo, but hearing Maliki’s speech was the most exciting part of the day.

“I like the celebration here,” he said. “I hope for good things for Iraq.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

More cards

I let Jack Bauer out of my sight today. He went to run errands including to the post office to mail 17 more cards of encouragement to Soldiers' Angels Germany.

Running total: 638

Laughing

Yesterday we did some more driving around and hanging out. And laughing. Jack Bauer has a pretty dry sense of humor, so he might just crack a smile with most funny things. Me? I cackle and snort and laugh loudly.

We've been back cracking jokes. The kind of things I would never admit to laughing to, those "politically incorrect" jokes. And I can be pretty darn crude, in the right company of course.

Last night we were watching the Simpsons and he let out some pretty good belly laughs. It made me smile. I can't his laugh on IM. It sure is good to have him home.

Good News from Iraq: 28 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, Iraqis Construct Fallujah’s First-Ever Sewage System.

FALLUJAH — Nearly 450 Iraqis are currently working to get Fallujah’s first-ever sewer system operational by next summer. That number is expected to soon grow to a construction force of 700 Iraqis. The $85 million project includes a collection system, trunk mains, pump stations and a wastewater treatment plant processing 40,000 cubic meters daily (10.5 million gallons).

“People are happy because our community is safer now and there are more American projects creating jobs in different areas,” said Awaf Abdul Rahim, construction manager at the wastewater treatment plant. “It’s helped Fallujah’s unemployment. When the security situation improved earlier this year, we were inspired to work hard. Our construction crews became more serious and active and are now getting more done.”

Peter Collins, with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is the project manager overseeing the work. “The long term benefit is huge. At the moment Fallujah’s raw sewage is flowing into the Euphrates River, polluting it, impacting communities downstream who depend on it as a drinking source,” Collins said.

Apart from the Iraqi work force, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has 35 Iraqi engineers visiting the various project sites daily, checking on the quality of the ongoing construction and encouraging worker safety.

Collins says the new treatment plant will have the capacity to serve Fallujah’s needs until 2025, even if the community has a 50 percent growth in population (from 200,000 to 300,000 residents).

“People in Fallujah may not fully appreciate the impact of this project because they have never lived in a sewage-free city. Next year there will be no wastewater flowing in the streets and their children will be able to play safely outside,” Collins said. “It represents a monumental step forward and that’s what motivates us as we work to achieve that goal.”

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Trip to the Butterflies

Jack Bauer has been complaining that it is cold here. (I mean really, is 40 really that cold for someone named Jack Bauer?) So I took him to the warmest place I could think of: The Butterfly House. It is a tropical conservatory with as many as 60 different butterfly species. And about 1500 butterflies. It was about 80-85 degrees in there and about 90% humidity. After about 30 minutes, it was too hot.

But most importantly, I got photos. Nice of Jack to come home and bring his digital camera. (Maybe I'll get a digital SLR some day.) One butterfly landed on me shortly after we walked in and it stayed on me until we left. I had to shake it off so we could leave. (Can't take the butterflies with you when you go. Go figure.) I still haven't been able to figure out what kind of butterfly it is.

Oh, and I almost forgot. I found some new, small butterfly stamps to mark my cards to Soldiers' Angels Germany. Woohoo! :D

Another Note & a New List

I remember lying on my bed as a child, staring up at the textured ceiling, making patterns and watching them move. I spent a lot of time day dreaming. I even made a list of all the things I was going to do in my life. Speak 5 languages fluently. Visit every continent. Lots and lots of travel. I think I have always associated adventure with travel, but then I did grow up thinking that Indiana Jones was the epitome of what a man should be. And luckily I married an older man who is even handsomer and smarter and tougher than Indiana Jones (snakes don't bother Jack Bauer).

So this morning, I am reading my emails and my Note from the Universe. And yep, I couldn't help but laugh.

Remember long, long ago, when you were considering living the "Potential Adventures of Butterfly Wife," among an infinite array of other choices, how you suddenly turned to me and asked deadpan, "How much trouble could I get into, anyway?"

Do you?

Do you remember my reply, Butterfly Wife?

I told you it would depend on a good number of factors, not the least of which would include climate change, geological pressures, celestial weather patterns, the star you're born under, political friction on the street, worthiness, luck, fate, or the mood I'm in.

At which point we both burst out laughing so hard we almost needed stitches.

Like a hyena,
The Universe

P.S. Butterfly Wife, NOTHING can keep you from the life you want. You are soooo worthy.

My initial reaction was to wonder where I had put that list I made as a child. But better yet, I think I will just make a new list. Let's see. What to add. Hmmm. This might take some time.

The New Adventures of Butterfly Wife.
  • Live in a foreign country.
  • Learn another language.
  • Make someone smile everyday.
  • Write a book.
  • Sell a photograph.
That seems like a good start. What would you put on your list of New Adventures?

Talking

Yesterday we ran a bunch of errands. Whole Foods for lunch, Borders to buy our nephew a birthday card, the post office to mail the card, 3 Dog Bakery for more doggie treats, Costco to get tires.

Lots of driving. Lots of talking. That kind of talking that goes beyond the "hi, how are you" prevalent in many of our IMing sessions. That kind of talking that gets at those things that are hard to type, challenging to commit to written words. That kind of talking that seems too complicated, too boring, too self-indulgent to discuss with a spouse in a war zone. That kind of talking that when I hear his tone or see his expressions I know to ask more, or to back off completely.

When we only have a limited amount of time to communicate in our "normal" day, there is only so much detail I go into. But instead of a few minutes, we now have days to talk. And without the pressure of filling every second of the silence.

Good News from Iraq: 27 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, Iraqis Line Up to Join Iraqi Police Auxiliary Forces.

CAMP LIBERTY — It has been a long, hard deployment for Soldiers serving here. Threats of improvised explosive devices, snipers and chaos seemed to hide around every corner.

Yet through it all, the rates of attacks against Coalition forces and their Iraqi counterparts are dropping. The Associated Press reported U.S. commanders as saying violence is down 55 percent since the surge of 30,000 troops arrived in the city.

Is this decrease a matter of more Soldiers patrolling the troubled streets of the Iraqi capital? Or is it because more Iraqis are standing up to the extremists to take their part and end the cycle of violence?

Amid the myriad reasons for the decrease, one thing is certain; Iraqis are lining up by the hundreds to join Iraqi Police Auxiliary Forces.

These forces, in spite of being paid less than Iraqi Policemen and who may one day becoming full-fledged police officers, are tasked with protecting their own neighborhoods or “muhallahs”.

Nineteen troops from 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, along with their Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) brethren held recruitment drives to sign up volunteers in the Hateen and Yarmouk neighborhoods, Nov. 17.

At the Nov. 17 drive, sponsored by Battery A, more than (175) recruits volunteered; while at the Battery B drive in Yarmouk, (47) participated in the recruitment.

“It is extremely important,” said Dana, Ky., native Sgt. Michael Webb, a petroleum supply specialist from Battery A, 2nd Bn. 32nd Field Artillery, who manned the final out processing station at the event. “We are giving back to the Iraqi people. It is very important for them to help take care of themselves.”

During the drives, the recruits had to pass through a security checkpoint, undergo a brief medical screening, a biometrics check, an interview with local ISF commanders and a physical fitness test before they could see Webb to get their final processing.

“This was planned for a couple weeks,” the 32-year-old said. “We have been able to move people through efficiently through good communications.”

He added that there was a good deal of interpreters at the event which helped speed it along.

One of the most important steps in the process was ensuring no recruits had a suspicious background.

“We do biometrics checks to see if they come up on any list,” said Staff Sgt. Steven Guiffre, a military policeman with the 401st Military Police Company who oversaw the taking of fingerprints and retinal scans. “This helps eliminate those you don’t want as a policeman.”

The data gathered is put into a computer database which checks to see if the person is who they claim to be, and if they are suspected of criminal activity.

The Waterbury, Conn., native whose unit helps train Iraqi police officers said it is important for Iraq to have a strong police force.

“You don’t have a totally free society with the Iraqi Army pulling security,” he said. “Let the police take care of the towns and let the Army take care of the country.”

To ease any sectarian tensions, any male over the age of 17 was allowed to volunteer, regardless if they were Sunni or Shia.

“Everybody is allowed to volunteer as long as they live in the area,” said Bloomington, Ind., native, Staff Sgt. Patrick Whaley, the battalion’s Civil Military Operations platoon sergeant. “This is a good step in the right direction for the Mansour area, especially Hateen. It gets the locals working with the (Iraqi Security Forces) as they police their communities.”

The 37-year-old father of a 19-year-old private said during the Hateen recruitment drive that a few months ago the idea of this many people showing up would have been laughable.

“We had more than (175) people show up today,” he said. “Six to seven months ago, you wouldn’t even have had half that many.”

While the numbers seem small compared to larger neighborhoods like Saydiyah or Doura where the numbers reached up into the high hundreds, the IPA will soon hit the streets to help rid the city of criminals.


Monday, November 26, 2007

More cards

So nice to have Jack Bauer home. I get to share with him the things that I have started doing in the last 8 months, like writing cards of encouragement for our wounded Soldiers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. I dragged took him card shopping at Papyrus. (He suggested some lingerie type cards. I passed.)

Today we went to the post office and mailed off 15 cards to Soldiers' Angels Germany.

Running total: 621

Remembering

It seems that for the last 8 1/2 months I have done very little thinking about living with Jack Bauer. Our life together during this time has been about communicating, chatting, IMing, doing the basic staying in touch with each other's lives. I haven't had to worry about literally stumbling over his shoes.

But that physical interaction, that physical presence is something that I must admit I really didn't consider until the day before Thanksgiving, the day he came home. I braved the crowds at the grocery store and I began to remember things I hadn't thought about for months and months. He likes pate. He likes Mi Mama's tortillas. He likes wheat beer with fresh lemons. He likes red wine. All things that don't make it into my care packages to him.

Now that we've had a few days together, the little things are coming back. The way he likes to fold some of my laundry. The way he just seems to get up in the middle of a conversation and put himself to bed. The way likes his eggs fried and likes blueberries in his waffles. The way he let's the doggies lick his fingers while he is eating dinner.

These are the precious little things that make him who he is but that 7,000 miles and months apart attempt to separate us from who we are.

Good News from Iraq: 26 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, Soldiers seize 3 caches in Rashid.

BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers found three caches during operations in the Rashid district Nov. 22.

While on patrol, “Warriors” of Company D, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, attached to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div., found 25 82mm mortar rounds hidden in a hole in the Doura area of the district.

At approximately noon, “Tuskers” of 4th Battalion, 64th Combined Arms Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Stewart, Ga., attached to the 4th IBCT, found a Dragonov sniper rifle, four shotguns and a rifle in an abandoned house in southwest Rashid.

Earlier that day, scouts of Troop B, 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, found an AK-47 and three mortar fuses hidden in a bush outside a home in the eastern side of Doura.


All the weapons found were taken to Coalition bases for disposal.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Late Night Confession

I will admit what I did. And I would be very tempted to do it all over again. It was that gooooood.

It took me 2 days, but I did eat an entire box of Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's (an Oreo copy) with "real candy cane pieces and rich cocoa in every bite." Yummm.

Hey, I let Jack Bauer have a small bite of one. Doesn't that count for something? :D

Here's the full description from the package:

We've taken two crisp chocolate wafer cookies and coupled them with a smooth vanilla cream to create this delightful sandwich cookie. But we didn't stop there. The cream is studded with pieces of real candy canes. Out tasting panel (devoted as they are) sampled many different versions of this cookie in order to find just the right mix of refreshing peppermint and rich chocolate. It's our exclusive little gift to you. Serve them as an accompaniment to a piping hot cup of cocoa for a wintertime indulgence.
I guess I will have to get some more to go with a "piping hot cup of cocoa." Oh darn. The things I have to do in order to indulge myself this winter. :D

I love ...

... watching him smile and laugh.

Not all doom and gloom

We are still pretty much taking it easy. Yesterday was spent making reservations for the SBL trip, uploading Jack Bauer's photos, chatting with friends, playing with PhotoBooth (even got a couple of me that I really like). He went and ran a couple of errands on his own. We went to PF Chang's for dinner.

And most wonderful of all, we went to Papyrus for cards for Soldiers' Angels Germany and I got his opinion on the cards I've been sending. Nice to get the male perspective on things from time to time.

Today will be more hanging around the house, uploading photos (yeah, he takes a lot of pictures), playing with PhotoBooth, me dealing with my laundry issues. We had breakfast with the BFF. We'll probably make plans for the rest of the week. Maybe go grocery shopping for the ingredients to make waffles in the morning.

It is so good to have him home.

Waiting

I feel like I am waiting on something, maybe that sign that he needs help. Waiting for the sounds he makes as he sleeps to become the stories I know he hasn't told me. Waiting for the crowded restaurant to become too loud, too chaotic and we leave mid-meal. Waiting for the traffic to become too frustrating and he snaps. Yet, hoping those days never come.

Good News from Iraq: 25 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, Another Overhead Line Project Turned Over to Ministry of Electricity.

DUHOK — The Duhok-Aqra 132kV overhead line was handed over to the Ministry of Electricity here recently, with one circuit fully energized to supply a mobile substation at Aqra.

In an area of northern Iraq with historically low electrical availability and capability, the new overhead line significantly and immediately benefits people in more than (100) Kurdish villages in and around the Aqra area.

“For many years, the people here have depended on diesel generator sets, receiving commercial power less than two hours per day,” said Gary York, resident engineer at the Duhok and the Erbil Resident Offices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division.

“And, the benefits will be further increased when the new substation in Aqra is complete and a second circuit is energized next March,” York added. “It’s been a (17)-month project, but the people of Aqra are certainly enjoying a better life today than they were last month.”

York said an estimated (30,000) people now average (10) – (13) hours of electricity per day. Because the $18 million project brings the power flow from Turkey directly through Duhok substation, it can now support the substation in Aqra.

According to sources at the Gulf Region Division in Baghdad, Turkey has a great deal of interest in maintaining this arrangement with Iraq for commercial and economic benefits. Iraq also receives power from Iran and occasionally, Syria.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Activities ... or lack thereof

There is not much on the agenda ... yet. Thursday, the day of arrival, we picked up dinner, ate, and slept. Yesterday, we went and got mani-pedi's, talked, ate, slept. It feels great to catch up on sleep and basically do nothing.

We are starting to make lists of all the things we'd like to do while he is home. Who we'd like to meet up with. Places to go. Things to buy. And we have this little trip to Fayetteville, NC in there too. I think our time is going to fill up fast.

Yes, definitely good to have him home.

Watching

I cannot stop looking at him, watching his gestures, the way he moves. Some of it easily remembered and familiar. Some of it recalls nothing, but makes me wonder of what is to come.

The way he focuses at the computer screen, reading the news of the day, and sighs in disgust. How he walks about the house while on the phone, opening the fridge, but removing nothing. Sleeping, apparently soundly, but making jerking movements and strange sounds. Peering out the window searching for some sound that caught his attention. Standing facing the street while we shop in a store. On attention as we go outside our wire.

"Is that what he used to do?" I ask myself.

I will never know. It is what he does, at least for now.

Good News from Iraq: 24 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, CF, Concerned Local Citizens remove caches, unexploded ordnance from Arab Jabour.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – Coalition Forces and Concerned Local Citizens worked together to remove a total of five caches and three unexploded ordnances from Arab Jabour Nov. 19-20.

CLCs reported two UXOs and a cache Nov. 20 to Soldiers from Company D, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, out of Fort Stewart, Ga.

The cache consisted of 41 100mm projectiles, five 120mm mortars and one 120 mm illumination mortar.

Soldiers with Company C, 1-30th Inf. Regt. discovered two caches, one Nov. 19 and one the following day, while conducting operations in support of Operation Centurian V.

Those caches collectively contained three grenades, one 100mm mortar, one 120mm mortar, one 122mm mortar, five 60mm mortars, four 57mm projectiles, one 125mm tank round, 45 rounds of 7.62 ammunitions, one AK-47 magazine, five pounds of propellant and 300 plastic explosive detonators.

Soldiers of Company A, 1-30th Inf. Regt., also supporting Operation Centurian V, discovered a cache and one UXO Nov. 19 and another cache the following day.

The caches discovered by Co. A contained a total of 10 feet of time fuse, 22 blasting caps, one mortar primer, four pounds of PE-4, a type of C-4, explosives, five pounds of propellant, five feet of fuse cord, one fuse, one camcorder, one cell phone, two Iraqi calling cards, batteries, four CDs, two washing machine timers, five dual tone multi-frequency boards, a spool of crush wire, a notebook with writing and a video tape.

All ordnances were destroyed in controlled detonations by an explosive ordnance disposal team while the other items were taken back for further investigation.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Listening

When I was in Las Vegas, I was listening to a conversation that I thought Jack Bauer would have completely embroiled in. And it was like he was there.

Now he is here, having that conversation on the phone with a good friend. And it is wonderful listening to his mind work. Listening to his speech patterns. Listening to him curse.

And it is like everything is the way it is supposed to be.

They remembered him

I was a bit concerned that the doggies wouldn't remember Jack Bauer and that when he came home, they would just jump around for a few minutes like they do with any stranger and then settle down and ignore him.

Well, that didn't happen. They remembered him. And went nuts for a good 20 minutes and couldn't get enough of him. They were jumping up on him, giving him kisses, putting their paws on his shoulders, following him around, running all over the house excited. And of course, there was the snuggling. Moo would not stop snuggling with him. I could barely get her to move over so I could get some snuggles.

Yeah, they remembered him alright. :D

Good News from Iraq: 23 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, Spartans Look to Lend a Hand to National Museum of Iraq.

BAGHDAD — When what was supposed to be simply a short meeting turned into a grand tour of the National Museum of Iraq, some 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers got to see a part of early civilization that was beyond their imagination … in some cases, artifacts which dated back to more than 5,000 years ago.

Lt. Col. Kenneth Crawford, commander of 2nd “Spartan” Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, and Diane Siebrandt, a U.S. State Department culture heritage liaison officer, set up the “monumental” meeting with Dr. Amira, the museum’s newly-appointed general director, recently.

“What we did was huge,” said Siebrandt who works closely with Iraq’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities.

After meeting with Dr. Amira and her other director generals, Crawford and a few lucky Soldiers from his personal security detail received the first tour of the museum and its exhibits since the early part of the war. The doors were closed to visitors April 23, 2003.

“I was in awe on what I saw in there,” said Crawford, a San Antonio native. “I don’t know – in my life – aside from the Ishtar Gate in Berlin, which was the oldest thing I’ve seen – this was even more special. You come here, and you’re in the cradle of society.”

During the Ottoman Empire, archeologists and fortune finders were granted digging permits and were able to keep any find. According to Siebrandt, it was during that time when most of the Mesopotamia artifacts left the country.

After World War I, and the fall of the Ottoman Empire, it was a British traveler, Gertrude Bell, who started supervising many of the excavation sites and brought to light the importance of having a sense of cultural awareness.

The museum, which was originally opened in the early 1900’s by Bell, was known then as The Baghdad Archaeological Museum. Many of the exhibits contain artifacts once belonging to her private collection.

The museum was open to the general public until 2003, when looters and vandals used the war to steal many priceless items, according to Siebrandt.

Since then, the museum and its staff have closed its doors to almost everyone. So the meeting and subsequent tour of the exhibits currently under construction was a surprising treat for the few who were able to see it.

Since December 2006, the State Department and Coalition Forces tried to start the dialog that might start the process of reopening the museum to the Iraqi people.

“We just were never able to get dialog started,” said Siebrandt. “With Doctor Amira, I met with her and talked about [Lt.] Colonel Crawford (coming to the museum). It was all about getting the right person in.”

For Crawford, whose unit does a lot of civic projects throughout the Karkh Security District, getting to help the museum reopen to the public is important.

“It’s an icon … not just for Karkh or Baghdad, but for Iraq,” Crawford said. “This showed a big step toward joint relations. It was nice to just get our foot in the door to ID areas of the facility we can maybe help with – the end state of getting the museum open to the public.”

Crawford said there is a “plethora” of things his battalion could do to maybe help with reopening efforts. During his time in the museum, Amira and her staff addressed issues such as the water damage caused by water leaks, security, dedicated power source, and some others he and Amira planned to discuss in future meetings.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Suddenly I see

Sitting looking at the computer, everything seems clearer now. The letters seem sharper, images brighter.

A few feet away sits Jack Bauer typing away on his laptop, sighing in his usual fashion, making his typical gestures, focused one minute, laughing the next.

It is the most beautiful thing I have seen in 8 months. And I feel at peace.

And he is arrived

and off getting his luggage. :D :D :D

T -30 minutes

Hair is coiffed. Make-up is impeccable. Hot outfit is sufficient.

I am at the airport. I made it through security. And now I just have 30 minutes to be freaking out.

And yes, I am such a nerd that I brought my laptop to the airport to blog while I waited. :D

T -120 minutes

I don't think I have ever showered and shaved my legs so fast.

Still to do before I leave:

  • Make list
  • hide laundry baskets
  • Make-up
  • Hair
  • Dress (Wouldn't want to get to the airport naked)
  • Take out trash (I got most of it)
Then I get to drive to the airport, attempt to clear secruity (Jack Bauer doesn't know I am going to try to do that), and wait. :D

T -160 minutes

Oh boy, He got on the earliest flight possible. He'll be here 5 hours earlier than scheduled.

Yep there is laundry that will need to be folded ... later. Much later

Gotta run!

:D

T -x hours

Ahhhh, cofffffeeee. Nothing quite like nice hot cup of coffee in the morning of the first snowflake. I'm all bundled up in Jack Bauer's flannel PJ bottoms, one of his favorite t-shirts, and his red super-old fleece.

Nothing quite like thinking about him hard enough to actually make him call. Jack has landed in ATL and is just waiting to see if he can get on an earlier flight

I made some serious progress on the list from yesterday. I just have clothing and trash to handle. Not a big deal ... unless he gets on the earliest flight. Oh, boy, I better get busy.

Just a few more hours. :D

Happy Thanksgiving

When I was young(er), before we ate our Thanksgiving dinner, we would go around the table and each say one thing we were thankful for.

Since I am not joining the rest of my family this Thanksgiving around the dinner table, maybe my virtual family might join in this little tradition and say what you are thankful for this Thanksgiving Day.

Me first. I am thankful for an incredible support group of military spouses who have helped me get through the last 8 months. (And that Jack Bauer is coming home today.)

(And lest AWTM accuse me of stealing from her and her great gracious gratitude posts at SpouseBuzz, :P)

So what are you thankful for this holiday?

Good News from Iraq: 22 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, Iraqi Security Forces detain 81 suspected extremists, confiscate weapons caches.

CAMP ECHO, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces, assisted by Coalition Forces, detained 81 suspected extremists and confiscated several weapons caches in Diwaniyah, Iraq, during Operation Lion Pounce Nov. 17 to 19.

Maj. Gen. Othman Ali Farhood, 8th Iraqi Army Div. Commander, outlined the successes of Lion Pounce in a press conference at Camp Echo, Iraq, Nov. 19.

“The northeast quarters of Diwaniyah, where the operation was conducted, were under control of criminal and militant groups,” General Farrod said.

He further highlighted the IA’s success by stating there have been no casualties or equipment damage associated with the operation to date.

Maj. Gen. Tadeusz Buk, Multi-National Division – Central South Commander, said Operation Lion Pounce was the first large-scale operation led by an Iraqi Army general (Farrod), who commanded not only IA Soldiers, but also Iraqi Police units.

“The results of the operation show that it was well-planned and prepared,” said General Buk.

Sheikh Hussein Al Bderi, Chairman of the Provincial Security Committee, highlighted sound cooperation between local government, Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces as key to the operation’s success.

He added that new security stations will be built to maintain order and security in the region upon the operation’s completion.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

T -24 hours

Jack Bauer is set to arrive in Middleville in approximately 24 hours. Now, I am not going to make things perfect around here and I am going to be blogging, so I might as well start with a list of the things I need to do in the next 24 hours.

  • Make list (thanks again Wendy, this idea still kicks butt.)
  • Grocery shop and get some of Jack's favorite things
  • Strip bed
  • Wash mattress pad and blankets (I even took off the dirty, torn, extremely unattractive, not-me dust ruffle that I have been tired of looking at for at least 2 years)
  • Make bed with flannel sheets
  • Fold and put away laundry
  • Clean off dining room table (I even set the table)
  • Take out trash
  • Clear off top of Jack's dresser
  • Make room in bathroom for Jack's stuff
  • Straighten up kitchen
  • Iron sexy top to wear to airport
  • Get a full night's sleep
  • Pick up Thanksgiving dinner at 1100 tomorrow
  • Get ready for airport pick up
  • Pick up Jack Bauer at airport
That should keep me busy enough. Maybe. There is always blog reading to catch up on, just in case I run out of the things to do.

What I AM doing

Sunday night in the SpouseBuzz Chat Room, someone asked me if I was going to be taking a break from blogging while Jack Bauer is home.

The answer is a resounding NO. I plan to blog MORE while he is home. :D

Heck, I'm going to be off of work so I am going to have all this free time, right?

But seriously, you've been with me through the bad times, so you might as well be with me through the very good times, too. I do plan to bring you as much of the excitement of this leave as absolutely possible ... within reason. heh.

Oh, and be sure to take a break tomorrow from all the fun of dealing with relatives who want to tell you how to cook and football that seems endlessly keeping others from helping out and come over here and watch me get all ready to pick up Jack Bauer at the airport. Woohoo!

Delinquent Cards

I just realized it has been quite some time since I last sent some cards of encouragement to Soldiers' Angels Germany for our wounded warriors. But that doesn't mean that I didn't have any to send. Just been super busy.

While I was out in Vegas, Sarah gave 30 lightly holiday-themed blank cards. Some had red and green ornaments and other had blue snowflakes. I got all 30 of them sent off yesterday in addition to 16 others I had. So a total of 46 cards went out.

Huh, I guess that took me over 600, and I didn't even realize it.

Running total: 606

Good News from Iraq: 21 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, MND-B troops capture explosively formed penetrators, rocket cache (Baghdad).

BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad troops captured two individuals believed to be part of a terrorist cell and a cache of explosively formed penetrators, rockets and other munitions in southern Baghdad Nov. 17.

Soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment “Black Lions,” 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, conducted the successful operation after several individuals were observed fleeing from a suspected point of origin of a rocket attack in the Aamel neighborhood of West Rashid. They were tracked to a house and immediately detained. A subsequent search of the building revealed the sizeable cache.

Confiscated by troops assigned to Attack Company were six complete EFPs, three 107mm Iranian-made rockets, more than 30 mortar rounds of various calibers, 12 57mm projectiles and other explosives and bomb-making materials.

The suspects are being held for further questioning.

Soldiers assigned to the 4th Battalion, 64th Armored Regiment “Tuskers,” working closely with Iraqi Security Volunteers in the Saydiyah neighborhood of West Rashid, seized four separate caches of weapons and explosives after receiving tips from area resident Nov. 18.

The troops seized a complete 82mm mortar system, more than 40 pounds of homemade explosives and several AK-47 assault rifles and pistols.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What I am NOT doing

Jack Bauer is due home any day now. And of course, there is the big holiday the day after tomorrow. In years past, and still humming below the surface, Thanksgiving would be enough by itself to have sent me into a stress-filled fit, and the thought of a big homecoming would be enough by itself to have sent me into an anxiety-induced paralysis of inaction.

So what am I NOT doing to avoid losing my mind?

First, I am getting take out for Thanksgiving. Maggiano's is doing a Thanksgiving Day Menu. I just placed our order. Oh, let's see that took 5 minutes. The picking up of the meal will take a little while longer, about 45 minutes total round trip. But I am willing to do the hard work of driving on Thanksgiving to make it happen. So Thanksgiving dinner is taken care of. One less thing to worry about. Oh, you want to know what we are having?

  • Roasted butternut squash and prosciutto
  • Goat cheese and olives
  • Fresh tomatoes & basil
  • Chopped salad
  • Spinach salad
  • Traditional roast turkey with giblet gravy, cranberry relish & focaccia sausage stuffing
  • Country-style baked ham
  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Baked ziti & sausage
  • Mushroom ravioli
  • Pumpkin praline cheesecake, and
  • A warm apple crostada.
That might be enough.

Second thing I am not doing to lose my mind, I am not worrying about making everything perfect. OK, besides the fact that I will never be able to reach perfection. There are going to be piles of papers left to be filed. The backyard is going to remain untouched and its, um, natural state. The front yard is going to have leaves that need to blown into the street. There are going to be things that simply need to be put away that will be remain out.

And as surely as the sun will rise, there will be some piece of laundry that will need to be folded, hung up, or put away. I wouldn't want Jack to feel like he was in someone else's home. :D

Good News from Iraq: 20 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, Half-Ton Weapons Cache Found, Destroyed Following Iraqi Citizens’ Tip.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU — U.S. troops uncovered and destroyed a weapons cache containing seven pressure plates Nov. 16 and 17 in the area of Mahdiryia. The plates are used to detonate a form of improvised explosive device (IED) that is specifically targeted against Coalition and Iraqi troops on foot patrol.

The cache find was the first indication of these “dismounted” IEDs being used in the area of Mahdiryia. They are already heavily used by al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) the communities of Hawr Rajab and Arab Jabour to the north.

Soldiers from Battery B, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery (FA) Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, out of Fort Stewart, Ga., were led to the weapons cache by a member of the Concerned Local Citizens group in the vicinity of Patrol Base W-1.

The commander of Battery B, 1-9th FA Regt. said this is the first time he’s seen this type of IED, one specifically designed to target foot patrols.

“We haven’t had any sign of dismounted IEDs,” Capt. Dave Underwood, from Harrison, Ark., said. “But I knew I’d see them soon.”

The cache was hidden outside a small farm house. In addition to the pressure plates, there were a dozen 120 mm mortars, one 82 mm mortar, a 60 mm mortar system with firing tube and base plate, a bag of mortar fins, and a DSHKA high-caliber machine gun.

Getting the IED-making material out of an area known for insurgent activity made the mission a success, said the Soldiers of Battery B.

“IEDs are the biggest killers in Iraq,” said Staff Sgt. Ronald Satterwhite, a Glenville, Ga. native. Getting the pressure plates was the best part of the find, he said.

“You took over a thousand pounds of weapons out of the hands of al-Qaeda,” 1st Lt. Blake Faller, from Long Island, N.Y., told his platoon after the mission.

Two other caches were discovered by U.S. Soldiers Nov. 16, again through the assistance of a Concerned Local Citizens group.

The first consisted of one rocket propelled grenade round. It was found by Soldiers of Company D, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, 3rd Inf. Div.

The second included five 60 mm mortars and one 155 mm artillery round. It was located by Paratroopers of Troop A, 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) 25th Infantry Division, out of Fort Richardson, Alaska.

The munitions found in all caches were destroyed in controlled detonations by explosive ordnance disposal teams.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Making me proud

Jack Bauer received an email recently from a new 2LT looking for advice branch transfer to engineering from quartermaster and what was the role of a 2LT searching out IEDs. Jack included me in on his response and it made me so proud to call him my best friend and husband. Here is what he wrote (yeah, I changed the names):

LT "Newman"

The route clearance mission is primarily a platoon mission that gives a platoon leader a tremendous amount of autonomy. You will have chance to really hone your leadership and combat skills. You will plan route clearance missions to support a maneuver commander. You will have the opportunity to use some of the newest and most unusual equipment in the Army. You will have the chance to deny the enemy an important strategic weapon, save Soldiers and civilians lives; you will be one of the unsung heroes of the battlefield. You and your Soldiers will fight to be recognized that you enabled all the great success that will go on around you. You will have an IED go off several meters from you in your Buffalo and you will be scared to death. You will get home and hug your wife knowing that you are the luckiest guy in the world to be married to her and finally be home. You will see everything a Soldier sees in combat.

Or you can be the Food Service Officer at a big fob.

Best of luck with what ever you choose.

Stay safe and keep your head down.

Jack Bauer
That response seemed so gutsy to me. Here is what I wrote back to Jack Bauer:
Damn, your awesome.

I love you more than you will ever know.

I am infinitely proud of you, your work, your leadership, your courage, your generosity of spirit and knowledge.

In short, you kick ass.

And I get to sleep with you. What more could a girl want?

See you in just a few short days.

~BW
Just a few short days indeed. The countdown continues. :D

Good News from Iraq: 19 Nov 2007

From Michael Yon, Come Home.

... Today, Muslims mostly filled the front pews of St John’s. Muslims who want their Christian friends and neighbors to come home. The Christians who might see these photos likely will recognize their friends here. The Muslims in this neighborhood worry that other people will take the homes of their Christian neighbors, and that the Christians will never come back. And so they came to St John’s today in force, and they showed their faces, and they said, “Come back to Iraq. Come home.” They wanted the cameras to catch it. They wanted to spread the word: Come home. Muslims keep telling me to get it on the news. “ Tell the Christians to come home to their country Iraq.” ...

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any fighting. I can’t remember my last shootout: it’s been months. The nightmare is ending. Al Qaeda is being crushed. The Sunni tribes are awakening all across Iraq and foreswearing violence for negotiation. Many of the Shia are ready to stop the fighting that undermines their ability to forge and manage a new government. This is a complex and still delicate denouement, and the war may not be over yet. But the Muslims are saying it’s time to come home. And the Christians are saying it’s time to come home. They are weary, and there is much work to be done.
Really, you should read the whole article and view the rest of the pictures. Hope and peace are growing, yes, in Baghdad.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Did I see that correctly?

I am watching the AMAs and Kid Rock comes out to present some award. And he says he would like to thank all the men and women in our armed services and then the audience stood.

A standing ovation? From "the industry"? Thanking our military men and women?

Maybe I hallucinated.

Movies? What are those?

So I am starting to think that I might have an actual date with Jack Bauer soon. I am so freakin' excited. What if we had like a real date night, with movies and dinner and everything? I'm not sure I even remember how to do that.

It is so sad. I used to follow the whole movie scene. But, gosh, now so many other things so much more important.

What movies are out? Has anyone seen anything good lately or excited about something coming out?

Scene of what's to come

As I was drifting off into nap land the other day, my mind began playing the homecoming scene of this coming week. More specifically to that first hug and kiss, sweet and tender. I awoke feeling energized and with a large knowing smile across my face.

Last night I am sitting around, balancing our checkbook, watching TV, when I noticed the romantic diamond commercials. I realized that in a few short days, that will be me sitting across from my husband in the car, him holding my hand.

For the last 8 months, I think I have tried to block identifying with these scenes, maybe as self-preservation. I mean really, who wants to feel their heartbreaking whenever a diamond commercial comes on?

But the end of my drought is in sight, and I am dropping my front and allowing myself to empathize with the romantic love so common in our culture.

Good News from Iraq: 18 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, Market Thriving, Economy Improving in Baghdad Neighborhood.

BAGHDAD — Only seven months ago the Sugasimche (Fish Market) area in the Raabi neighborhood of the Adhamiyah district was filled with a violent, criminal element that struck fear into residents who didn’t feel safe to walk the streets.

But a change for the better occurred thanks to the persistent efforts of paratroopers from Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, who have worked with local security forces to restore the market area, making it once again a center of commerce for residents throughout Adhamiyah.

“When we first got to the neighborhood months ago it was a dangerous place to go,” said Clemens, Ore., native, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Burpee. “We focused our efforts in the neighborhood and took out the insurgents living in the area. After that, we enticed people to come. We built and refurbished schools there and provided security through the Iraqi Security Volunteer program. Now safety is a reality in this neighborhood. If you come here during the day or night, you see a lot of people shopping.”

The paratroopers still conduct daily patrols with Iraqi Soldiers and Police to build relationships with residents. Since 319th Soldiers have already built a strong bond with citizens in Raabi, the more residents see Iraqi Security Forces walking the neighborhoods with paratroopers, the more trust they will have toward the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police.

Burpee said that what his team and their Iraqi counterparts are doing is setting an effective security plan in place so the local people can feel safe. He believes that security is the main reason more stores are open and more people in the neighborhoods are showing up to shop. They made the actual market more inviting to improve commerce.

“If we don’t keep businesses opened up, the economy is going to collapse, there’s going to be no money circulating,” said Burpee. “We just got to keep working with our counterparts the Iraqi Army and Police and get them to the level they need to be, so we can transition this place to them and the local nationals still feel safe and willing to shop.”

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Giving Thanks ...

A few days ago I got an email from one of the wonderful people I met out in Las Vegas informing me about the America Supports You Thanksgiving campaign.

This holiday season, America Supports You is giving you a new way to send your thanks to the troops - by text message! When you send your message of thanks to 89279 (TXASY) between November 17th and 22nd, you'll receive a special thanks in return. Also, we'll be displaying those messages on our ASY Thanks widget far and wide across the internet. Just another way that you can support our brave military men and women around the world.
You may have noticed the widget on the sidebar. Check back and watch the magical, hopeful messages that appear thanking our fighting men and women for all they do so that we may have peace this holiday season.


Good News from Iraq: 17 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, 1,000 Iraqi Patients Seen During Medical Mission.

AS SANAWAH — Working side by side with the Iraqi Army (IA), Coalition forces recently provided medical assistance to more than 1,000 people in the Albu Ewhaid Village on the outskirts of As Sanawah.

“I think it went great. Our providers were working side by side with Iraqi Army doctors and medics to provide the proper medical care to the people in the village,” said Capt. Assad Raza, a Fontana, Ca. native and the 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 82nd Airborne Division medical planner.

The event showed the villagers and the IA 1st BCT’s commitment to serving their medical needs.

“This is the first cooperative medical engagement (CME) we have done as a brigade since we got to Iraq and it was a dynamic event,” said Doctor (Maj.) Michael Tarpey, a Chicago, Ill. native and the brigade surgeon for 1st BCT.

Due to the remote location of the village, limited medical care has been available to its citizens in the past.

“I think we helped them out tremendously, because in some of the locations within our joint operations area some families hadn’t received any medical care in a long time,” said Sgt. 1st Class Vincent T. Johnson, an Atlanta, Ga. native and senior healthcare non-commissioned officer in charge for 1st BCT.

In addition to the medical care provided, Iraqi Soldiers were handing out water, blankets and toys to patients. Coalition forces were also giving out items that would help the people feel comfortable.

“We also provided some of the children with shoes, clothing, toys, food, water and a number of things that would make their lives a little bit easier,” said Johnson.

They also had a number of wheelchairs for patients who needed them.

“We offered and handed out a number of wheelchairs and I’m sure that helped them out because we had a few people who had to be carried in by family members,” said Johnson.

This well-orchestrated event by the IA, Muthanna Provincial Reconstruction Team and Coalition forces benefited the populace while creating a greater bond of fellowship and trust.

“We provided comprehensive medical care to the indigenous people and we also had the opportunity to win the hearts and minds of the people in that particular area,” said Johnson.

The IA might not have the best equipment or materials, but they have the motivation and determination to care for their people.

“They have the will to give the proper care to the community… there is progress, but there is still room for improvement,” said Raza.

While several organizations were involved in the planning, gathering of supplies and execution of the CME, the IA was in the lead because they wanted to provide the essential treatment for their citizens.

“The Iraqi Army was the main presence there and the base of the event for the people. Not to mention the real significant contribution they made to the command and control for the security of the event and the provision of medical care,” said Tarpey.

Although the CME required hard work by all involved, being able to treat families and see them smile was the ultimate reward.

“It was a great day to be a medic. I don’t know when we will have another one (CME), but I hope the command sees this as an asset and puts more on the calendar,” said Johnson.

Friday, November 16, 2007

What to send for Christmas

Some Soldier's Mom, who I had the pleasure of meeting in Las Vegas, has but up a great post on what to send, what NOT to send, when to send Christmas stuff to our soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen.

I cannot imagine being in a combat zone, thousands of miles from home... on Christmas... and not having one present to open...
One of her suggestions is a lightweight fleece blanket, and I know Jack Bauer loves the one my parents sent him last year for Christmas. SSM has some great ideas for packages if you are looking for new ideas for something to send anytime of the year too.

Be sure to check out her post here.

Good News from Iraq: 16 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, Concerned Local Citizens Group Turns in Large Weapons Cache.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU — A Concerned Local Citizens (CLC) group found a large weapons cache in Arab Jabour, Nov. 12. The cache was so large that three controlled detonations were needed to destroy it.

A CLC reported a buried weapons cache to Company A, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. The CLC led Company A Soldiers to the location of the cache where several barrels containing the munitions were buried.

The cache consisted of (24) 60mm rounds, (25) 82 mm mortar rounds, two 120 mm mortar rounds, three 122 mm projectiles, three rifle grenades, one 60 mm mortar tube, (20) bundles of propellant, (20) pounds of homemade explosives, (40) feet of detonation cord and an anti-tank mine.

After assessing the cache, an explosive ordnance disposal team was called to destroy it.

Throughout Iraq, the CLC groups have made a noticeable impact on the insurgency. The information they provide results in more weapons found and terrorists captured every day. These brave volunteers are taking a stand for the stability, safety and development of their country.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Employer Grants Military Spouse Leave

My mother recently recently sent me an email about a newly enacted California law.

AB 392 - Urgency Legislation, Military Spouse Leave

Governor Schwarzenegger signed AB 392, which requires employers with 25 or more employees to give qualified employees as many as 10 unpaid days off when their spouse is on leave from military deployment. A qualified employee is one who works for more than 20 hours per week whose spouse is a member of the Armed Forces, National Guard or Reserves who has been deployed during a period of military conflict. The employee must provide the employer with notice within at least two business days of receiving official notice that their spouse will be on leave from deployment that s/he wishes to take leave. The employee must also provide the employer with written documentation certifying the spouse will be on leave from deployment. This is an urgency statute, so it is effective immediately for all employers with 25 or more employees.
Since my company claims to have uniform benefits across the country and we employ people in California, I thought I would see what our VP of HR would have to say about this. She said that while the company did not have this benefit at this time, she thought it was something the company would do because it is very supportive of military and military families. The VP forwarded it on to corporate HQ for review. I figured I would never hear from them again.

When I returned from Las Vegas, I had an email saying that the company would implement the policy, but that it would not be in place in time for the leave I was requesting. But that I should work directly with the VP in order to assure that I was able to take the time off I wanted while my husband is home on leave.

So when Jack Bauer comes home on leave next week, I will be off the entire time he is here. Almost 3 weeks together. Our total days together in 23 months will grow by almost 45%. To 65 ever-blessed days together.

Good News from Iraq: 15 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, Former Insurgent Leads Coalition, Iraqi Forces to Huge Weapons Cache.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU — A former member of an insurgent group led Coalition forces, Iraqi Army (IA) and members of a Concerned Local Citizens group to a weapons cache site here in the early morning hours of Nov. 13.

The citizen, who reconciled with U.S. and Iraqi troops, knew where the cache was because he helped bury it sometime ago. He said he is now helping Coalition forces because he is tired of al-Qaida trying to force him to work with them. He said al-Qaida imprisoned him and tortured his friends for not joining forces with them.

The Soldiers from Battery B, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery (FA), 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and IA found refrigerators that contained numerous rockets, mortars and ammunition.

Finding and destroying a weapons cache of this size will help slow enemy attacks in the area, said Capt. David Underwood, Battery B, 1-9th FA commander. He added that the find boosted the troops’ morale.

“They were pumped; they wanted to go look for another cache,” Underwood said.

Underwood called the night’s mission a success. “Anytime you can find something like this, it’s big,” he said. “It was a huge night for us.”

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More on people who get it

Talking with people who understand what it means to have your husband deployed was just amazing. I feel like I have had an experience that can't undo. Like awakening.

It is really nice to be around people who know what it is like to have a loved one at war. Who know what it is like to have people ask uneducated questions about the war and repeatedly say "I don't know how you do it." People who know what it is like to have people that you know primarily online. I don't have to explain myself to them. Because they already know, they already understand.

And that level of understanding is just breathtaking. Especially, when for the last 22 months, I swear I have not met another person who gets it.

I was thinking about my earlier statement that this trip may have been more refreshing and spiritually energizing than the retreat. I figured out why. The people I met in Las Vegas are the community I most identify with. The wonderful women I met at the retreat are the community that help me cope, but they don't really understand me.

Good News from Iraq: 14 Nov 2007

From NPR, Sunni Tribal Leaders Demand Government Support.

Sunni tribal leaders from Iraq's Anbar province, who have joined the fight against al-Qaida, are demanding greater recognition and support from the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.

The sheiks want Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to appoint people they have nominated to replace the Sunni ministers who have boycotted the Cabinet.

Click here to listen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Answers to life's persistent questions ...

So yesterday I opened the floor to questions about Vegas. Here are my answers and I am sticking to them.

Reasa
asked: (1) So you really are opening this up? (2) Is it scary to think of what people might ask?

BW: (1) Yes. (2) Nah, but of course, I don't have to actually answer anything I don't want to.
Non-Essential Equipment (who is probably the one reader who I would expect to ask the MOST off-the-wall question) asked: (1) What did you do with all the hooker flyers that you were handed in the street? (2) And what blogger didn't look like their online photo?

BW: (1) I never walked along the strip, not even one step so I didn't get any flyers. Cabs, cabs, cabs. AWTM would have a more interesting answer to this question. (2) You mean besides me? ;-) Right off hand, I would say Christian Lowe (and if I link to the guy any more, he is going to think I am stalking him) because in the photos he put out he was all covered up. A close second must be Telfon Don from the picture on his blog, but I had seen other pictures of him elsewhere (such as Cool, Calm & Collected, Badgers Forward) so I recognized him instantly.

Andi: What, exactly, was that we saw in the cab ride on the way to the airport?

BW: I was IMing with one of our fellow attendees on Sunday evening and described the scene this way: "A homeless, obese, black woman clean herself with the newspapers." The response: "image ... I ... can ... live ... without ..."

Here's what really happened. Saturday morning, about 11 AM, Andi and I share a cab to the airport, when we stop at a light. I am sitting facing Andi and I become insanely distracted by the sight of this woman described above standing on the sidewalk facing away from the street. She is wearing some sort of white terry-cloth strapless wrap garment and is taking newspapers from the free ads bin, wadding them up and rubbing herself all over -- and I mean ALL over, her ALL appeared to be getting quite clean as well -- and then throwing the used papers into a nice little, gathering pile in the bushes.

I don't shock easily and quite frankly, I did not find this shocking. It was just not what I was expecting to see on a Saturday morning cab ride to the airport. A girl's gotta do, what a girl's gotta do. ;-)

LAW: about the Jude Law guy.....

BW: OK. This is pretty straight forward and not much more to tell. AWTM and Sarah and I start heading over to do our little panel. AWTM is taking random photos of people, uh, just cuz she can I guess. And there are these 2 guys standing around in the bloggers lounge area maybe 30 feet away from us. And I just keep looking even as we turn the corner and start walking away.

"Hey, that guy looks like Jude Law," I say to the ladies. And they slow down, and look at each other with disbelieving looks on their faces.

"Uh, no, he didn't, BW," they chuckle at me. "Oh, wait. It has been 8 months since you've seen Jack Bauer. That explains it."

I swear that the guy actually did look like Jude Law. But then I could have just been tired, and 30 feet away, and in serious need of seeing my husband. The countdown continues.


So that's about it. Anyone else? Got any more?

Good News from Iraq: 13 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, Sunni, Shia, Iraqi Army Leaders Meet on Neutral Ground.

CAMP STRIKER — More than a dozen sheiks and other influential leaders from southern Baghdad congregated on neutral territory Nov. 10 here on Camp Striker.

Among the leaders present was the mayor of Mahmudiyah, Mouyad Fadil, and Lt. Col. Mohammed Fatkan al Farhan, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division.

The roundtable was hosted by War Rakkasans of the 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). The Rakkasans’ goal was to provide a place on neither Sunni nor Shia territory to discuss moving forward for the security and future of Iraq.

The aim was to bring sheiks from different religious sects to sit down together and create a plan to move forward, said Capt. Seth Palmer, 1-33rd Cav. Regt. Additionally, there is hope that the meeting will open the door for future dialogue, Palmer said.

The forum was opened and facilitated by Col. Dominic Caraccilo, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT) commander, and Lt. Col. Brian Coppersmith, 1-33rd Cav. Regt. commander.

“We’ve recognized the importance of the sheiks. The importance of the tribes is absolutely decisive to the success we will achieve here in Iraq,” Caraccilo said. “For so long you have heard empty promises and we have heard empty promises, and together we’ve promised each other to do better and it’s time now to fulfill those promises.”

Sheik Kadem Shibli lauded the American hosts for recognizing the sheiks’ position in the Iraqi culture. “The sheik is very important in this region,” he said through an interpreter. “Tribes are the infrastructure of our Iraqi community. We are ready for any form of cooperation and support for building a better Iraq and to eliminate all the danger,” Shibli said.

Sheik Kadem Nwar Alamen insisted that there is no friction between Sunni and Shia – that they are all brothers.

“We’re all Muslims here and we’re all under Iraq’s flag and we have one Qur’an. We should not discriminate,” he said. “I don’t believe there’s any difference between Sunni and Shia.”

Common concerns voiced were the security of Iraq, detainees, the need for schools, medical care, fertilizer and economic development. Everyone in attendance agreed that security is central to any plan of action.

“We’ve lost many Soldiers. You’ve lost many family members,” Caraccilo said. “We’re at the point now where I think we can work together to make this place much more secure, that way it can prosper economically and as a government.

“It is with sincerity we conduct our missions day to day,” Caraccilo added. “And we do it alongside great Iraqi Army officers and Soldiers and alongside very good government leaders.” ...


Monday, November 12, 2007

You got questions?

I might have answers.

I am sure some of you might have questions about my trip to Las Vegas. If you post questions in the comments, I will (maybe) attempt to answer them.

Disclaimer: Site owner reserves the right to refuse to answer any question on any grounds, and the site owner further reserves the right to, um, adjust the truth to protect the identity of innocent victims.

A glimpse of the future

At one point on Friday night, I was listening to a conversation between Bill Roggio and Christian Lowe, both having done embedded reporting, thinking that this is the exact kind of the conversation that Jack Bauer would have been completely in the middle of. I can even picture his body language and hand gestures.

I just shook my head. It was like Jack was there, and I was with him. And everything was the way it is supposed to be.

Good News from Iraq: 12 Nov 2007

From MNF-I, Iraqi Volunteers Flush Terrorists Out of their Neighborhoods.

FOB KALSU — A Concerned Local Citizens (CLC) group played a key role in removing insurgents and their resources from the Hawr Rajab and Arab Jabour regions, Nov. 8.

In Arab Jabour, the group brought a large weapons cache to Soldiers of Company D, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga., conducting operations in the area.

The cache consisted of (200) heavy machine gun rounds, two gas masks, three former regime Iraqi Army uniforms, five former regime Iraqi Army flak vests, a notebook, two rolls of command wire, a 57 mm projectile, half a stick of dynamite and one roll of detonation cord.

The rounds, dynamite, projectile, detonation cord and command wire were destroyed in a controlled detonation. The other contents of the cache were collected and taken in for further examination.

“This shows that they (CLC) are doing what they can to safely secure their neighborhood,” said Capt. William Lyles, 1-30th Inf. Regt. battle captain. Lyles, from Hampton, Va., added that the citizens are doing a good job of turning in items insurgents would use.

In Hawr Rajab, a CLC group turned in a 57 mm mortar round to Paratroopers of Troop A, 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th BCT (Airborne), 25th Inf. Div., Fort Richardson, Alaska, at Enduring Control Point 20.

The round was destroyed in a controlled detonation.

Also in Hawr Rajab, Soldiers of the 5th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division detained three individuals. The three men were identified by a CLC group as al-Qaeda members and known improvised explosive device emplacers. The men were detained along with (12) magazines with approximately (100) rounds of AK-47 ammunition.

The men are being held for questioning.