Thursday, January 31, 2008

Across Three Januarys


The last day of the month.

I will go to work today and cross "31" off of my calendar, and another January will be behind me.

Just that much closer to Jack Bauer coming home.

Good News from Iraq: 31 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Busy Roadway Reopens in Baqubah.

BAQUBAH — A busy roadway was re-opened by the Iraqi government during a ceremony in the Shifta district of Baqubah, Iraq, Jan. 28.

Kharesan Street, a main roadway linking northern and southern Baqubah, was re-opened for use by civilian vehicles. The roadway was closed due to numerous attacks against civilians, Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces in the area, including improvised explosive devices and small-arms fire.

Once the area was cleared in a joint effort between the ISF and CF, the road was reopened.

“We celebrate this day by opening this road,” said Diyala Iraqi Police Chief Gen. Ghanem Al-Kurashi during a press conference before the ceremony. “We thank the people for cooperating with the Iraqi Police and the Iraqi Army.”

The ceremony was attended by General Ghanem, Baqubah Mayor Ahmed Hameed and local village leaders.

“Opening this road helps the people get to the markets and will help the city become stable,” said Ahmed. “We are especially thankful for the Iraqi Security Force’s assistance.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Han Solo

1977: Newport Beach, CA. Star Wars was playing and a former Navy man took his daughters, 10 and 5, to see it in the BIG theater. That was a life-changing event for me. It was the day I first fell in love. And his name was Han Solo. Sigh.

Oh, the fond memories. Yes, I fell in love at 5. Since that day, I have loved men. I think I love just about everything about men. The way they think, the way the walk, the way they talk, the way they dress, the way they smell. Maybe I should qualify my statement some more. I love manly men, scoundrels with a heart, bad boys who do good.

One thing is for sure, since Jack Bauer left over 2 years ago, there has been a dearth of testosterone in my life. It is very sad. Before Jack came home on leave in November, the biggest dose of exposure I had gotten was in Las Vegas hanging around the milbloggers. They did a very good job of acting like manly men and bad boys, but of course, deep down they are just a bunch of softies (shhhh, don't tell them I said that). So they totally qualified.

Unfortunately I am down in another testosterone low patch. No one at work qualifies. There are no men at Pilates, and the men at yoga, well, I just won't go there. And quite frankly, online exposure doesn't count.

Softball season isn't for months, so men aren't running around all hot and sweaty, and I am not about to start hanging out in bars just be around guys. Besides, I don't have that kind of time.

So what's a girl to do?

Good News from Iraq: 30 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, CLC turns in weapons cache (Baghdad).

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq – Concerned Local Citizens turned in a cache of rockets to Coalition Forces in the Rusafa Security District of eastern Baghdad Jan. 28.

Soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, reported the cache contained 10 rockets and handed it to the explosive ordnance detachment personnel at Bab al Sheik Joint Security Station for disposal.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On Cards

I started writing cards for our wounded Soldiers in Germany (through Soldiers' Angels Germany) back in May 2007 after AWTM posted about the opportunity and the need. I was just reading back through some of those first few posts. I would have never thought I would have written this many cards. At one point I was hoping to send 200.

This got me thinking about the roles we play in one another's lives. I doubt AWTM would have thought she would have inspired someone to write this many cards and how much this has helped me. And in the other direction, I am sure my cards have been read by more than a few Soldiers. But the impact any of my words have, I don't know. I hope a butterfly or two has touched someone, made someone smile, lightened the mood, eased the pain, the loneliness, the disconnection if for just a moment.

I sent out 30 cards on Saturday.

Running total: 751

Good News from Iraq: 29 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Iraqi Civilians Lead Troops to Explosives Cache.

RAMADI — Iraqi civilians helped Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces discover numerous caches 60 kilometers northeast of Ramadi Jan. 24.

Acting on information provided by locals, the Iraqi Army alongside Company B, 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment discovered four caches, including the largest cache found in the Thar Thar region in 2008.

The combined four caches included 2,550 pounds of homemade explosives; 10 pounds of plastic explosives; three mines; 1,500 feet of detonation cord; two mortar tubes; more than 300 rocket propelled grenade warheads; six 120mm mortar rounds; four 107mm rockets; and one heavy machine gun.

One cache of RPG rounds and mortars was found buried in a large water container in an abandoned sheep pen. Based on its location, the cache could have been used to supply insurgents in three provinces with munitions.

“The cache provided bomb-making materials and RPGs for the Saladin, Baghdad and Anbar provinces,” said Lt. Col. Michael Silverman, commanding officer, 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment. “It was big, new and the best attempt to hide them since I’ve been here.”

A military explosive ordnance disposal team destroyed the munitions on-site with a controlled detonation.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Did you hear it?

Did you hear the sounds of angels singing last night at about 2045 CT?

A miracle happened.

I folded AND put away, hung up ALL my laundry.

A miracle indeed.


Good News from Iraq: 28 Jan 2008

From AFP, 9,000 'Awakening' members ready for Iraq military training: US. (h/t LWJ)

BAGHDAD (AFP) — Some 9,000 members of anti-Qaeda "Awakening" fronts in Iraq have been screened and lined up for training as regular police or soldiers, the US military said on Sunday.

The number represents more than half the 16,000 or so Awakening members, many of whom are former Sunni Arab insurgents.

They have applied to join the regular Iraqi security forces after having been recruited by the US military to fight Al-Qaeda in their own backyard.

Military spokesman Rear Admiral Gregory Smith told a news conference in Baghdad that the rest were still waiting to undergo screening and for openings in police colleges and military academies.

"Around 9,000 members of the Awakening have been entered into a process in which they are in a queue to begin their training programmes," Smith said.

In western Anbar province, where tribal leaders in September 2006 launched the first Awakening group, effectively putting Al-Qaeda to flight, another "10,000 to 20,000 ... have already gone through a training programme and are serving as police officers or members of the army."

US troops have for the past year been working closely with former insurgents they call CLCs or Concerned Local Citizens, who are paid 300 dollars a month to patrol neighbourhoods and man checkpoints.

Their numbers have swelled to some 80,000 members of a total of 130 CLC groups countrywide, according to latest figures from the US military.

Of these, 80 percent are Sunni and 20 percent Shiite. In some neighbourhoods the groups are mixed.

Smith said only 20 percent of the 80,000 wished to join the security forces.

He acknowledged that Al-Qaeda had made attempts to infiltrate some of these groups but did not think it had made much headway.

"I don't think there has been a tremendous amount of infiltration of the Awakening groups," he said.

"There have been attempts to do so -- we recognise that. We also recognise that the Awakening groups are well-led, are well-civilised and (have) a strong tribal and communal connection.

"They know precisely who their members are -- our forces work very closely to weed out individuals who show the least signs of disloyalty to the overall efforts."

Al-Qaeda, he added, "clearly sees these Awakening groups as a threat to their existence" and could try to intimidate people not to join them or existing members to quit.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Care Package for the CTU Gang

I am sending off a couple of care packages to Jack Bauer and his gang at CTU. I got some positive feedback from the gang on the last shipment so I am trying to out do myself here.

Yesterday's care packages included:
5th season of the Sopranos

Then I hit Harry & David
Moose Munch - Dark Chocolate
Moose Munch - Caramel, Cashews, and Almond
Moose Munch Bars - Milk Chocolate; Caramel with Cashews and Almonds
Sesame Sticks (oooh how I love these things)
Crater Lake Crunch
Chocolate Truffles - Coffee
Chipotle Cheddar Cheese Straws
Classic Dipping Pretzels
Pretzel Dipping Sauce - Apricot, Mango, Wasabi
Chocolate Pretzels

Jolly Ranchers and Laffy Taffy (kids are so punny)

And I finally got fed up and I am sending the doggies. I let Moo put the one that looks like her in her mouth to get it more like her. And then I rub the doggies all over with them so I could pick up some of their dogginess to send to Jack. :D

Good News from Iraq: 27 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, CLC provides tip to cache, roadside bomb (Baghdad).

ABU GHRAIB, Iraq – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers, attached to the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, found a cache in an abandoned building approximately 20 km. north of the Abu Ghraib district Jan. 18.

The cache consisted of .50 caliber small arms rounds, 70 mm rocket warheads, a rocket launcher, a surveyor’s tripod, a motor base plate, other small arms munitions and various grenade parts.

Soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry , 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division acted on a tip from a Concerned Local Citizen, and found a deep buried improvised explosive device in the same area Jan. 19.

“Bravo Company’s cache and improvised explosive device finds highlight the pressure from Coalition Forces, the Concerned Local Citizens and Iraqi population against terrorists and the continued success in disrupting Al Qaeda in Iraq operations,” said 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment spokesperson Maj. Jon Pendell.

Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers are conducting offensive operations in support of Operation Phantom Phoenix to kill or capture al-Qaeda and other extremists in order to deny them rest and sanctuary in the city of Baghdad and the surrounding rural areas.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I'm getting old

My birthday isn't for a few months, but today, I am feeling old.

I was listening to NPR while running errands today, and I heard the cracking voice of an older woman talking about electronic voting machines. She meant to say "touch screen" but instead she said "touch tone." And that got me thinking.

Touch tone. When was the last time you heard anyone mention a rotary phone? Would anyone born after 1980 have any idea how to use one? I had a phone in my room growing up. It was a heavy, black rotary and it was not plugged into anything. But I remember how heavy it was, and assuming I could pick it up and swing it, it would have been broken bones for whoever came in contact with it.

Man, those were the days. Sitting on bed in my sun-filled yellow room with the orange carpet, dialing, literally, no one and talking for hours with out a care in the world. Or at least that's how it seems now.

What happened to the morning?

I forgot to set my alarm to get in time for yoga at 8:30 AM. I guess me and doggies needed extra sleep. We finally got out of bed at 11:30 AM. So I missed Weight Watchers as well. I can't remember the last time I slept that much.

Good News from Iraq: 26 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Concerned Local Citizens Work to Rid Their Areas of IEDs.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER — Concerned Local Citizens in Sabbah Nissan, a village southeast of Baghdad, led Soldiers from Battery A, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery to a weapons cache near the group’s headquarters last week.

Soldiers from the 789th Ordnance Company (EOD), from Ft. Benning, Ga., were called out to destroy the munitions along with remnants of an earlier cache turned in by the CLCs.

Since last November, CLCs have frequently taken the lead in uncovering extremist caches in the areas around FOB Hammer.

“It’s great to see the citizens of Iraq stepping up and taking charge,” said 1st Sgt. Michael Parker, from Geriee, Ind., first sergeant of Battery A.

The effectiveness of the CLCs in Sabbah Nissan has allowed Battery A more opportunities to provide water, food and school supplies to the 11 villages that the group represents and protects.

The cooperation between CLCs and Battery A is one of the reasons the area around FOB Hammer is secure, said Capt. Chas Cannon, from Moultrie, Ga., commander of Battery A.

“The Concerned Local Citizens provide us the ability to rid the roads of IEDs,” Cannon said. “They have expert knowledge on their neighborhoods and have prevented munitions from falling into the hands of extremist.”

The 1-10th FA is assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Me Day

Taking the day off work. Getting a massage and a pedicure. Hitting the salad bar at Whole Foods for lunch. Then probably taking in a movie. I am thinking 27 Dresses looks about my speed today. Then grocery shopping and a nice healthy yummy dinner. Ahhh. What a day.

Now I just need to rush around here, get the house in shape for the cleaning lady, shower. Gotta get running so I don't miss my relaxing time. :D

Good News from Iraq: 25 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, MND-C Soldiers find 2 caches in 2 days.

BAGHDAD – Soldiers of Company D, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, found two separate caches with 75 120 mm mortar rounds, one bag of mortar propellant and one bag of mortar fuses Jan. 17 and 18 near Jisr Diyala, south of Baghdad.

Company D Soldiers responded to two similar reports from Concerned Local Citizens, according to 1st Lt. Daniel Bell, from San Antonio, Texas, executive officer for Company D.

Bell explained local citizens found the caches and reported them to the Concerned Local Citizens, who in turn, informed Company D.

“This is definitely a step in the right direction,” Bell said. “We have good people in the area that are very proactive in finding things that they know need to be cleared out of their communities. They are not just doing it for themselves. They are doing it for the betterment of their country.”

Company D, 1-15 Inf. Regt. is attached to the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment and is assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Benning, Ga. The unit has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

I got nothing



Wipe out.

Sono stanca.

Good night.


Good News from Iraq: 24 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Farm Business Revival Holds Key to Anbar’s Economic Recovery.

RAMADI — Reviving agricultural enterprises that have deteriorated from years of sanctions, conflict and neglect is crucial to the economy in this region in western Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi officials here said.

“I’ve seen several (poultry) growers who have returned to production during my seven months here, and more will return as things continue to improve,” said Marine Maj. Daryl F. Remick, an agricultural planner with the Fallujah-area provincial reconstruction teams.

As a farmer’s son and poultry specialist, Remick is keenly aware that raising chickens is but a single link in a complex chain of activities that can make or break farmers. “We have to evaluate the entire agricultural value chain for al Anbar,” he said.

Assessing a value chain means considering not only what is taking place on the farm, but also looking at how farmers receive inputs, such as seed, fertilizer or poultry feed, and how they market the products they produce, he said. Identifying weak links in each agricultural product’s value chain is critical for making that industry profitable.

U.S. military civil affairs personnel and civilians embedded with provincial reconstruction teams interact with local communities, investigate where the value chains need upgrading and recognize restorable agribusinesses. When several enterprises fitting this description were identified by the Ramadi PRT’s embedded personnel, Navy Cmdr. Kevin Anderson, detailed to the State Department, and Marine Maj. Lee Suttee, a Marine Corps civil affairs specialist, requested members of the Inma Agribusiness Program visit the area. Inma is an Arabic word meaning “growth.”

The program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is working to restore Iraqi agribusiness, a sector estimated to support 27 percent of the population. During a recent two-day tour in and around Ramadi, the Anbar provincial capital, Anderson and Suttee escorted USAID’s Ron Curtis and David Smale and Inma party chief Herschel Weeks to several private-sector agribusiness investment opportunities.

The group listened as three farmers described the same “weak link” problems. Day-old chicks are expensive and often require costly shipping. Farmers must use costly imported feed of unknown quality. Immunizations and veterinary care are expensive, and disease-testing labs are unavailable.

“Inma wants to make sure that the feed and other needs are in place for the farmer to make money,” Weeks said, “and that there is a market for the products.”

During the summer, the provincial sheiks council requested PRT assistance in re-establishing a competitive local poultry industry. Available, affordable feed looked like the best first step in the process. Inma’s maize-growing demonstration project introduced hybrid seeds and precision planting to local farmers. Iraq’s traditional maize yield tripled, and by planting between the annual wheat crops, farmers used their fields off season and produced much-needed animal feed, Inma officials said. ...

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A dog's life

Man, do my dogs have it good. They slept in yesterday morning. On my bed. While I got up and did my morning routine. Usually they start moving around a bit the closer it gets to me feeding them, but yesterday, nope, they were happy to stay in bed until they heard the kibble being rattled around. Silly poochies.

Then they decided it was too cold outside. And they convinced me to let them stay inside where it would be nice and warm all day and the bed and the couches would be super soft and comfy. I told them they could stay inside on one condition: They had to fold the laundry.

So I went off to work, knowing that the doggies would be warm on a day when the temperature was not going to get above freezing and that my nemesis was going to be taken care of.

And after a long day of slaving away over a keyboard and after a tough hour of Pilates chair class, I was expecting to come home to a sparkling clean house, as if the doggies were going to team up with Mr. Clean.

So imagine my surprise when I came home to doggies all rested up and piles of laundry. And an unplugged computer. Hmmm.

Then they snuggled with me all night, as if nothing was wrong. It's a good thing these spoiled babies are cute.

Good News from Iraq: 23 Jan 2008

From Iraq Updates, Iraqi economic growth to hit 7 pct. (via LWJ)

Iraq’s economy is on track to reach GDP growth rates in 2008 of 7 per cent, driven by oil price movements, economic reforms and surging foreign exchange reserves, said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last week.

The upbeat assessment is based on a meeting convened in Washington between the IMF and the Iraqi Minister of Finance Jabr Al-Zubaydi, Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) Al-Shabibi, Minister of Oil Al-Shahristani and other senior officials from their banking community.

According to the IMF, “The fiscal stance [in Iraq] was successful in containing current spending, but fell short in the implementation of the ambitious investment program, which, combined with the difficult security situation, prevented the envisaged expansion of oil output.

“Rising oil prices, however, more than offset the production shortfall, thus helping to preserve fiscal sustainability. High inflation was sharply reduced by appreciating the exchange rate, tightening monetary policy, and controlling current government spending.”

An unexpected bonus was the rapid jump in net international reserves to A$23 billion, which are expected to climb even further during the year as Iraqi authorities make provision for massive inward investment flows in this year’s budget.

Offsetting the 7 per cent GDP growth is inflation which is in two-digits. But it’s now falling due to improved capacity. Meanwhile their currency is currently loosely pegged to the greenback on a “crawling” basis, meaning that even in Iraq you are not safe from sub-prime contagion.

On the governance front, the Iraqi authorities are aiming to strengthen public financial management and central bank accounting frameworks while also restructuring two of largest public banks. Meanwhile improving oil sector oversight arrangements are also on the agenda, especially with oil production expected to jump to 2.2 million barrels per day. These governance reforms include re-establishing the Iraq National Oil Company and reorganising the Ministry of Oil.

But in one of the IMF’s more bizarre statements, they complained that, “there are some delays in data provision and weaknesses that hamper economic analysis.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blue Monday

Well, it wasn't just me or my imagination. No wonder I was tired (and I actually fell asleep at work while typing). Yesterday was supposed to be the most depressing day of the year: Blue Monday. I heard about it on NBC Nightly News last night. (The link to the segment wasn't up at the time of this post, but I'll get it up later.)

I decided to take the night off from other work, Pilates, and household responsibilities, and I read a bunch of blogs and went to bed early. It was very nice.

Oh, and I am taking Friday off and getting a massage and a pedicure. Maybe like, Bon suggested yesterday that I go somewhere pretty and warm, so maybe I'll head back to the butterfly house and maybe the botanical gardens.

Teetering back up. :D

Good News from Iraq: 22 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Baswaris Set to Benefit from Job Training Initiatives.

BASRA — British and U.S. troops have been visiting a college in Basra to explore the possibility of reconstructing a facility that could in time lead to the the introduction of newly funded training courses for local Baswaris.

The Abu Al Kaseeb college is currently undergoing significant renovation and will have new training equipment installed to give pupils access to a wide range of key tools and machinery. The direct investment for this reconstruction is part of the Multi-National Forces' initiative which is intended to stimulate Vocational Technical Training.

The programme will result in thousands of young people from across Basra being trained in crucial trades such as construction, carpentry, electricity and plumbing.

Coalition funding from the Commanders' Emergency Response Program will provide modern training courses, with the first round of courses due to begin in the next two months. It is estimated that around 600-800 people will be trained in the Abu Al Kaseeb and Al Zubayr colleges every year.

Trainees will receive financial support for attending the course and will be helped to find employment in Basra. The course will range in length from several weeks to a year. There may also be student exchange opportunities with colleges in the UK and grants to buy tools once the course has been completed.

The aim of the scheme is to increase the number of skilled workers in the city which in turn will support economic development and reconstruction. This will help to alleviate problems of unemployment and the lack of skilled workers. It is estimated that around 50 percent of young men in Basra are currently unemployed.

“In addition to helping the Iraqi authorities bring safety and security to Basra, the Coalition Forces wants to ensure it supports the economic redevelopment of the Province. This programme will ensure there are modernised colleges with practical courses for young Baswaris,” said Captain Finn Aldrich, British Army spokesman. “These courses will not only train people in key trades and give them hope of finding employment but will help underpin the wider growth of the local economy.”

Monday, January 21, 2008

I'm tired

I think I am tired in every which way it is possible to be tired.

I am physically tired. I've started working out more often and more focused. I am trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour and sleep for a reasonable length of time.

I am intellectually tired. I am working on staying focused at work on some very complex, multifaceted concepts that make the war on terror seem simple and straight-forward. But I am intellectually challenged for most of my wakening day.

I am emotionally tired. I may be PMSing, but I am drained. And I haven't been keeping up with my blog reading that keeps me connected to people who understand and gives me the emotional support I need.

I am deployment tired. I am tired of IMing Jack Bauer; I want to be able to have regular conversations with him where I get to look him in the eye. I tired of shopping by myself; I want to run errands with Jack. I am tired of being the only one here to let the dogs out when they get woofie; I want Jack home to share the burden and for him to make sure that the doggies and I get walks like we should.

I am tired trying to balance of this teeter-totter. I think I just hit the bottom. Time to readjust and get back up in the air to see how long I can balance this time. I will say this, though. Every time the teeter-totter of my life hits the bottom, I learn something about myself. Even if it is as simple as recognizing that I am hitting the bottom.

Good News from Iraq: 21 Jan 2008

BAGHDAD – Iraqi Security Forces, working in conjunction with Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers, found a weapons cache during a combat patrol in southwest Baghdad Jan.8.

Iraqi Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division located a cache containing two 82 mm mortars, a SVIP rocket, a 155 mm rocket, a mortar tube, a hunting rifle, 10 feet of wire and 44 mortars of various sizes during a patrol in Saydiyah.

The munitions were taken to the unit’s headquarters for disposal.

Additionally, Concerned Local Citizens in Doura handed over eight 82 mm mortar fuses to Soldiers of Company D 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division attached to Task Force Dragon.

Explosive Ordnance Disposal personnel destroyed the fuses at a Coalition Force base.

“Finding these munitions takes them out of the hands of those who will try to hurt Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces,” said Maj. Kirk Luedeke, Task Force Dragon spokesman. “The ISF continue to prove they are dedicated to making their country a safe and stable place for its citizens.”

Sunday, January 20, 2008

More cards

I sent off some cards for Soldiers' Angels Germany yesterday. I bundled them up on Friday. And today I can't seem to remember right off hand how many I sent and had to figure it out. I think there were 12.

Running total: 721

This might be helpful

At least I found it a little helpful. My state is having its primary on Feb 5. I don't really follow politics too closely, so I need a little help to figure out who I am going to vote for. I found this quiz at From My Position some time back.

Select A Candidate

May you find this helpful if, like me, you haven't figure out everyone's positions on everything.

Good News from Iraq: 20 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, USACE Bringing Clean Water to Qadisiyah Province’s Al Badeer District.

AL BADEER — A water treatment facility being constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will bring clean water to thousands of people in the Al Badeer District of Qadisiyah Province.

The facility, a 50 cubic meter per hour water compact unit with a distribution network pipeline of six kilometers, is being built at a cost of $341,000, according to USACE Resident Engineer Su-Chen Chen.

She said the area has not had clean water since 1972 when a well constructed in 1967 ceased to function due to lack of maintenance.

The Abo Hussein water compact unit will provide clean water to an estimated 3,000 persons, a USACE project manager said.

Money for the facility comes from the Economic Support Fund, which is used for physical and tangible public welfare facilities and public infrastructure reconstruction projects.

Under a Local Economic Promotion Plan including the contract, about 20 percent of the project's cost will be recycled to the local economy by using local workers, subcontractors and suppliers, said Chen, who is the resident engineer at USACE's Qadisiyah Resident Office.

She said the contractor is a local resident and that about 30 unskilled workers are employed at the project.

The Qadisiyah Resident Office is part of the Forat Area Office of the Corps' Gulf Region South district. The district provides construction and reconstruction services in the nine southern provinces of Iraq. The district at last count has completed more than 1,360 projects worth over $2.68 billion in the last four years.

The plant is nearly half finished and is projected to be completed by mid-April. About 20 water compact units are under construction or in the project development stage in the GRS area of responsibility, a USACE program manager said.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


UPDATE 1225: Scroll to the bottom to see what happened. :D

End of week 2 of Weight Watchers Kick Start plan. And I am tired. I think I need to eat more. I did pretty good of sticking to near 20 points. I went to Pilates 3 times and I am off to yoga again this morning before weighing in.

Regardless of what the scale says today, I am going back to the regular Flex plan and eating my points. I've already started planning for the increase in food. I am thinking of whole-wheat mini pitas and red pepper hummus, increasing my tall latte to a grande, adding super yummy sesame sticks to my salads, and finishing the day off with a couple of kisses, uh, caramel kisses.

So come back in a few hours and I will let you know if the scale was good or evil.

UPDATE 1225: Weigh in? Lost 2.6 pounds. Total lost: 7 pounds. :D

Good News from Iraq: 19 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Iraqi Army raid leads to large cache (Al Kussyat).

TIKRIT, Iraq – A raid conducted by the 2nd Iraqi Army Division in Al Kussyat, netted a large weapons cache Jan. 16.

The 3rd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi Army Division’s raid was driven on information gathered from captured insurgents and resulted in the detention of two personnel.

The discovered cache consisted of five mortar systems, 300 mortar rounds, 500 lbs of TNT, 50 remote control devises, 26 Katusha rockets, 25 anti-personnel mines, 600 mortar charges and other various weapons including ammunition, wires and office copy equipment.

The cache was later destroyed by a 2IA Div. explosive ordinance disposal team.

3d Armored Calvary Regiment Intelligence Deputy Analyst, 1st Lt. Jasmine Walker, said, “Removing this weaponry from the arsenal of the insurgents will definitely hinder future large scaled attacks on Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces.”

Friday, January 18, 2008

Isn't that cheating?

It seems I hear about cheating all the time. People cheating on tests, on spouses, on taxes, on diets. Cheating is everywhere. There is one thing I always considered cheating, but I am changing my mind.


The wonderful Lemon Stand included one of her favorites in the care package. I set my misgivings aside and inserted the 4 discs into my car CD player. Granted it was an excellent book, especially for a milspouse who hasn't seen her husband in over a month, but I have to say, I have been missing out. I spend quite a bit of time in my car. I had, in just a couple of days of commuting and errand running, listened to the 4+-hour entire book. And now I want more.

I guess I don't consider cheating any more. Just think how much fun I can have commuting. Man, that sounds like a good idea.

The audiobook LS sent, Mercy by Julie Garwood, is described by Amazon as a "contemporary romantic suspense fiction." I had a big cheesy grin on my face this morning as I pulled up to the Starbucks drive-thru. A grin that I would not ordinarily wear at 6 AM, in a car, alone. The book was at a, um, heated point. The order-taker person noticed. I blushed. It was definitely a good thing. And fantasy is not cheating in my book.

So, who's got some good suggestions for audiobooks?

Good News from Iraq: 18 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Armor Regiment Soldiers Delivers School Supplies to Children in Khadra.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU — It’s a cold winter day at Al Ashbal primary school in the Khadra District of Baghdad. The broken windows and lack of electricity mean coats have to be worn inside the classrooms. Despite the cold, warm smiles appear as students see U.S. Soldiers walk in the school.

“Before today, the children had to share their supplies among their class,” said Muna Ibrahim Hussein, the school’s headmistress. “I’ve been having trouble getting all the supplies I need (for the students).”

Soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division visited the Ashbal primary school, Jan. 8, to distribute much-needed school supplies.

The Soldiers brought bags filled with notebooks, paper, pencils, pencil sharpeners, crayons, rulers and toys for the younger children. Soldiers also brought several dozen soccer balls, a favorite of Iraqi children.

While bringing supplies was the highlight of their mission, Soldiers had more than just pencils and pens in mind.

“This school hasn’t received the attention it needs …” said 1st Lt. Ehren Linderman, from Myrtle Point, Ore., tank platoon leader. “We brought the battalion civil affairs team to help us assess the school for any repair projects we can start.”

The civil affairs team, tasked with repairing infrastructure, is looking for a way to rebuild the school.

“We’re looking at putting a small contract together to repair the broken windows, doors and walls at this school,” said team member Staff Sgt. Michael Batdorf. “Basically, anything we can do to help these students focus on their studies and not the elements.”

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A good reminder

Yesterday's Note from the Universe is a nice little reminder, if not a duh moment.

2008 Tip for the Advanced Metaphysician

To begin living like you've never lived before, Butterfly Wife, begin living like you've never lived before.


The Universe

P.S. Today, Butterfly Wife, is good for me.

Good News from Iraq: 17 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Three IEDS found, destroyed in Adwaniyah.

BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division Center Soldiers removed three improvised explosive devices from a road in Adwaniyah Jan. 16.

While on patrol, Soldiers with 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, currently attached to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Inf. Div., discovered a pressure-plate IED consisting of two 80 mm mortars and three three-liter bottles of unknown bulk explosives.

While investigating the IED, the team discovered two additional pressureplate IEDs.

Those IEDs were linked to a total of four 57 mm mortar rounds.

All IEDS and components were detonated in a controlled detonation by an explosives ordnance disposal team.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


"Leap and the net will appear." - Zen proverb

That was on the cover of a card I sent to Jack Bauer yesterday. Many times, I pick up the "Quotable" cards for a little inspiration. And this one didn't fail. It really got me thinking.

Here is what I wrote to Jack:

I've decide that the saying on the front of this card is an excellent motto for military spouses. It certainly has been a good one for me. When we started this adventure, I thought I had to build my own net, from scratch, and I couldn't find the traditional materials. Then I decided to leap online. And wow! The net appeared and it is limitless. While not traditional in most senses, I do know that there are people, my net, that have got my back. And they can knit cute hats to boot. Doing good here.
Actually, I think I found the trapeze bar. ;-)

Good News from Iraq: 16 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Field Artillery Unit Delivers Water to Residents of Thumaniyah.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER — Soldiers from Battery A, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, delivered water and held a medical clinic for the citizens of Thumaniyah, a small village south of Baghdad, Jan.12.

During their first visit to the village, the Soldiers delivered 400 cases of drinking water and treated 160 women and children at the local school.

“We picked out a spot we’ve never been that the council told us was pretty neglected,” said Capt. Chas Cannon, from Moultrie, Ga., commander of Battery A.

During the operation, Cannon talked with local residents and heard some of their issues firsthand.

“The main thrust of the operation was to deliver water, but since school wasn’t in session we used two empty classrooms to set up a small clinic,” Cannon said. “Our medics were able to help treat a lot of ear, throat and nose infections.”

Battery A has been working with the Sabbah Nissan council to help villages in the area in need of water and supplies. According to Cannon, many of the villagers around Sabbah Nissan feel they are overlooked by the local government because of the villages’ small size.

“As long as the council keeps requesting us, we’ll keep going,” Cannon said. “We’re looking out for people not getting attention.”

The 1-10th FA is assigned to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

and the gifts just keep coming

After having spent a lovely day at work playing with Gumby and Pokey and filling in my Wreck this Journal, I came home, using my compass of course, and found another package waiting for me. This time from the wonderful Sarah. And much to my surprise, she knitted me a hat! And she sent me dozen cards for Soldiers' Angels Germany. WoW!

Here's a picture of me. A "friend" said I looked like a burglar. Hmmm.

Thanks again, Sarah. :D

Good News from Iraq: 15 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Corps of Engineers Oversees Complex Basrah Children’s Hospital Project.

TALLIL — One of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) largest projects in Iraq is 76 percent complete and is on track for construction to finish this summer, according to the Gulf Region South district commander, Col. Stephen Hill.

The Basrah Children’s Hospital will be a state-of-the-art acute and referral care hospital that focuses on pediatric oncology. The 19,800 square meter complex includes a 94-bed main hospital building, two utility buildings, warehouse, oxygen plant, steam autoclave building, and a 36-bed residence hall. The two-story hospital building includes two operating rooms, two special procedure rooms, emergency room, specialty clinics, pediatric and neonatal intensive care unit, dental suite, and training classrooms.

“This project is one of the largest in Iraq,” Hill said. “It’s a multi-national support system focusing on one goal and that is to provide this hospital for the children of Basrah and Iraq.”

The international community has focused on the hospital and its importance to Iraq because of the infant mortality rate in the region, which currently stands at 13 percent, one of the highest in the world. The structure boasts a multi-national coalition behind its construction, according to Hill.

The project is funded through multiple sources, including the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund; Project HOPE; and the Spanish government through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). ...

Read the rest here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

and even MORE packages

This time the package was for me. The wonderful woman we know as Lemon Stand and her four wonderful daughters sent me a package full of goodies. Just for fun. How totally cool is that? :D

They sent a ton of funness. Really a veritable TON. Here are some of the goodies.

1. Bunny Suicides: A postcard book. I might have to send some of the postcards to Jack Bauer.
Hysterical! Here's a link to some more of this sick humor.

2. Bath & Body Works, Mandarin Lime Body Wash and Body Lotion, and Pink Grapefruit Moisturizing Hand Soap. I LOVE citrus.

3. Darwin Awards and The Fortune Cookie Book. Great additions to my collection of small books in my library. Um, my library is in the bathroom.

4. A small compass with a carabiner attachment. I attached it to my purse. I wouldn't want to lose my way. And now it will be impossible. Unless done on purpose.

5. Wreck this Journal. This looks totally awesome. It is a journal meant to be destroyed. Each page has something different on it. Random page from the book: "Collect Fruit Stickers* here. *Stickers you find on bought fruit." I cannot wait to get started.

6. Blue sticky gel fish window decorations. Perfect for my bathroom window.

7. Mercy by Julie Garwood audiobook. This should help with the commute.

8. Emergency supply of chocolate. :D

9. Yoga To Go mini kit. This should be great, especially when I am traveling and not remembering what I am supposed to be doing.

10. Bare foot chic. It is a create your own foot jewelry kit. I fear it might be smarter than me, but I will let you know what I come up with.

11. Spa manicure kit. Definitely need this. And need to do it regularly.

12. Gumby and Pokey bendy dolls. I am taking them to work for bad days.

13. Lemonade Kit. Excellent. I am sure it is never too cold for lemonade.

14. Funny sticky notes. Much better than the boring yellow ones I deal with at work.

15. A journal that on the cover has this great quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, today is a gift."

I must reiterate my message again to these wonderful women.

And again WOW!!!!!! This is so cool. Thank you ladies. You certainly brightened my week and the weeks to come. And I will think of you fondly as I am reading the Darwin Awards while in the bathroom. :D :D :D

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Cards for SAG

It seems that my card writing campaign is slowing down some what. But it is still going strong.

On Saturday I sent off 13 more cards for our wounded Soldiers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center as part of Soldiers' Angels Germany's efforts to make sure "no Soldier goes unloved."

If you are unfamiliar with this wonderful organization and would like more information, please be sure to check out their website here. They have many year-round projects (on their website, scroll down a bit on the right-hand column), I am sure there is something there for everyone who is interested in helping out.

As for my own card campaign, I sent off card #700 in this last batch.

Running total: 709

Good News from Iraq: 14 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Iraqi Army Distributes Wheelchairs to Those Most in Need.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE RUSTAMIYAH — Villagers gathered as Iraqi Army (IA) Soldiers distributed wheelchairs to disabled Iraqi citizens in Schmook Village, Jan. 3. IA Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, handed out 50 wheelchairs to disabled Baghdad residents, many of whom are military veterans injured in the Iraq-Iran war, said Maj. Steve Smith of the 1st Bn., 4th Bde., 1st IA Div. Military Transition Team.

As IA Soldiers distributed the wheelchairs, Soldiers from the 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, who accompanied the IA troops, said they saw many smiling Iraqi faces.

The wheelchair distribution in Schmook Village is the first of two such humanitarian efforts in the area. Another 50 wheelchairs will be given to villagers next week, said Smith. Another project is in the works to fix the local swimming pool, which has been out of use for about three years, he added.

“It’s not only a swimming pool for the kids, but it is a therapeutic pool for the amputees,” said Smith, adding that the Schmook villagers were “very grateful” to receive the wheelchairs.

The villagers in Schmook who needed and received the wheelchairs can thank Iraqi Army Col. Ahmed Ehbrahim Bedor for the operation, claimed Smith.

“He provided security, he set up the locations for the chairs, brought families forward and greeted them and ensured that everyone that deserved a chair got a chair,” said Smith.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Care Package for my Soldier

A care package for my Jack Bauer. I sent this out yesterday.

  • Almonds and cashews from Trader Joe's
  • National Geographic
  • Newman's Own Organics Ginger and Cinnamon Mints
  • Starbucks coffee. I needed to fill up the box and I didn't want to drive far to get Kaldi's. And apparently that was a good idea. Jack is sharing his coffee quite a bit
  • Chocolate-covered espresso beans and caramels from Starbucks. I figure it is still cold enough out here and in Iraq that there is a slight chance that they won't melt. It is just an experiment.
  • Laser pointer, per his request.
  • Jolly Ranchers.
Quick, easy, thrown together. I think he, and his officemates, will like the change in coffees very much. And they can have fresh breath afterwards too. :D

Good News from Iraq: 13 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Coalition Forces Find Prison Facility, Weapon Caches in Diyala; 15 Detained.

BAGHDAD — Coalition forces detained 15 suspected terrorists during a multi-day operation Jan. 7 - 10 to disrupt al-Qaida in Iraq networks in the Diyala River Valley. Coalition forces conducted operations in the Sherween Village area targeting al-Qaida in Iraq networks associated with media and foreign terrorist facilitation networks.

Reports indicate the region has become a safe haven for terrorists due to continued pressure from Coalition and Iraqi forces pushing al-Qaida networks out of central portions of the country and into the Diyala River Valley.

Recent operations in the Diyala River Valley have uncovered a significant amount of weapon caches, as well as execution sites, and torture and detention facilities.

With the help of numerous Iraqi local citizens, Coalition forces discovered four weapon caches, a former al-Qaida in Iraq prison and torture facility, and an improvised explosive device-making facility during the four-day operation.

Local Iraqis confirmed the use of the prison facility by al-Qaida in Iraq, but said it had not been used recently due to the presence of Coalition forces in the region. In addition, Coalition forces also destroyed four buildings that were found rigged with explosives and a river-crossing point that was being used to facilitate the movement of terrorists.

During the four-day operation, Coalition forces also uncovered and eliminated several IEDs on various roadways.

Fifteen suspected terrorists were detained over the four days for possession of weapons, explosive materials, and confessions to being involved in terrorist operations.

“We will continue to dismantle the terrorist networks that threaten the security and safety of all Iraqis,” said Navy Capt. Vic Beck, MNF-I spokesman. “We will not allow al-Qaida in Iraq and other extremists to take back the hard fought gains that the Iraqi and Coalition forces have made.”

Saturday, January 12, 2008

UPDATED: Weighing in

UPDATE: Scroll to the bottom to see what happened. :D

So today marks one week since I returned to Weight Watchers. I was really really good all week. I tried the new Kick Start program, which is essentially 20 points a day. (My normal points value is much much higher than that.) That was actually not possible for me to do. I was between 21 and 23 points all week. And I worked out three times so when I factor in the exercise points, I did manage to have a net result of about 20 points a day.

Lots of planning of the meals. I've been eating salads for dinner. I really don't like cooking for one. I hit the salad bar a few times a week and package up individual salads so that it is all ready to go. I just add a few grape tomatoes, some crumbled blue cheese, a little kosher salt, a little fresh ground pepper, a nice olive oil, a splash or two of balsamic vinegar. Toss and shake and POOF, it's ready. Super easy. Also excellent with a sliced-up pear thrown in.

Lunches have been Kashi frozen meals. Healthy, wholesome, and easy, they are high in protein and fiber and tide me over nicely. A couple of clementines finishes it off nicely.

Breakfast consists of two nonfat Cascade Fresh yogurts--all natural, sweetened with fruit juice--and a banana.

Some deli turkey, carrots, and a Starbuck's skinny 3-pump caramel latte made for great snacks this week.

The result? Come back in a couple of hours and I will update this post on whether I was successful. I gotta go to yoga first.

UPDATE: Weigh in? Lost 4.4 pounds. :D

Good News from Iraq: 12 Jan 2008

From Reuters, Snow falls on Baghdad for first time in memory.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Snow fell on Baghdad on Friday for the first time in memory, and delighted residents declared it an omen of peace.

"It is the first time we've seen snow in Baghdad," said 60-year-old Hassan Zahar. "We've seen sleet before, but never snow. I looked at the faces of all the people, they were astonished," he said.

"A few minutes ago, I was covered with snowflakes. In my hair, on my shoulders. I invite all the people to enjoy peace, because the snow means peace," he said.

Traffic policeman Murtadha Fadhil, huddling under a balcony to keep dry, declared the snow "a new sign of the new Iraq."

"It's a sign of hope. We hope Iraqis will purify their hearts and politicians will work for the prosperity of all Iraqis."

The streets of the capital were largely empty as big, thick, wet flakes fell on Friday morning, a weekend day in Iraq. The temperature hovered around freezing and the snow mostly melted into grey puddles when it hit the ground.

But it was still lovely, said Mohanned Rahim, a baker: "This snow will bring pleasure to the people of Iraq. It's beautiful!"

Friday, January 11, 2008

Horses not Zebras

I try not to talk too much here about how often Jack Bauer and I get to IM. I know it is more often than what others get.

Last night I was expecting him, but he never came online. I didn't stay up waiting just in case he had overslept or more likely he was having Internet problems.

"I suppose he could be dead, or seriously injured." These thoughts crossed my mind. But I couldn't dwell on them. They make me ill. So I let them keep on crossing on and out my mind. If it's happened, it's happened. And the dreaded knock on the door or phone call will come. Not a darn thing I can do about it.

And this actually seems to work for me. I slept great last night.

When I woke this morning, sure enough, there was an email from Jack, explaining that the Internet wasn't working in his room. This situation reminds of a medical diagnosing saying, which I'm going to butcher, "when you hear hoofbeats, think horses not zebras." I could have easily gone looking for the rare and worse case scenario--the cancer, the death--rather than the most likely explanation for Jack's absence--a simple headache. And the most likely scenario turned to be the case.

Read this post whenever thoughts go crazy. Differentiate between what could happen and what most likely did happen.

Good News from Iraq: 11 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Iraqi Police Help Secure Homes of Displaced Citizens.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER — Members of the Narhwan emergency response team (ERT), specially trained police officers from Narhwan and Al-Ma’amil, cleared homes in the abandoned town of Sha Buu’t, Jan. 3. Scouts from Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, attached to the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, provided security for the operation. Iraqi policemen, accompanied by the 59th Military Police Company, from Fort Carson, Colo., searched the houses for insurgents and weapons caches.

Lt. Col. Mark Sullivan, from Huntsville, Ala., commander of the 1-10th FA estimated more than 1,500 citizens in small villages around Narhwan have been displaced by insurgents operating in the area.

“They are all very anxious to return to their homes,” Sullivan said. “Five hundred people were displaced from Sha Buu’t and about 1,000 more were displaced from Khazaliyah, a short distance from here. We are going to help them return, but it will be a very deliberate process. We are going to make sure it is done right and everything is secure for them to return.”

Sheik Hussein, leader of the Concerned Local Citizens (CLC) group in Khazaliyah, was on hand with his CLCs to witness the operation and receive building supplies to construct checkpoints.

“Today was an operation to clear this entire area and eliminate any caches so the Concerned Local Citizens can set up their checkpoints,” said 1st Lt. Darrell Jones, from Allen, Texas, a platoon leader in the 59th MP Co. “The Concerned Local Citizens will occupy and hold these areas after we sweep them.” ...

Read the rest here.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Sky

I get up when it is dark and head out to work as the sun rises. I travel east, north, west, and south. I am witness to the awakening morning sky. The golden pink sky blends with the dark blue-gray clouds. A few miles down the road the sun is higher and the clouds begin to dissipate. The sky is coral as the sun brakes over the eastern horizon. As I head west, my rearview mirror holds the bright color as I face the still sleeping suburbs. By the time I park my car, the sun has stretched its arms and the sky is the palest blue.

I then spend the next 8.5 hours with a view of the ceiling and a filing cabinet.

I usually leave work mid-afternoon while the sun is at reasonable height, hours before sunset. Yesterday, as I ran my errands, the hours dragged on. At one point I was heading down the street going due west. The entire sky was filled with small puffy pink clouds, a pink fire. I stopped to get gas and stared in amazement. Just the sheer expanse of the color was impressive.

Days when my mood is a little dark are immediately lightened when I see such beauty.

Good News from Iraq: 10 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Citizen tip leads Coalition to cache (Baghdad).

BAGHDAD – Acting on a concerned citizen’s tip, Soldiers from Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment, reported finding a weapons cache in the 9 Nissan district of eastern Baghdad while returning from a patrol Jan. 9.

The cache contained copper plating, two explosively formed projectiles, two rocket-propelled grenades, one AK-47 assault rifle, five 105 mm mortar rounds, eight anti-personnel mines, wire and three artillery rounds of undetermined size.

The Soldiers confiscated the cache without suffering any casualties or incurring any damages to equipment.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Envy Bug

Really, I am not one to get jealous much. But I must say I am a tad envious of a few of my fellow bloggers: Their husbands are coming home soon.

Jan is oh so close to being able exhale.

Marine Wife has got an end in sight. And both MW and Penny have been told "Don't send any more mail."

Slightly Salty is talking about getting her husband back in small doses as his deployment draws to a close.

I am genuinely happy for these women and their families. I know my turn will come soon enough.

Good News from Iraq: 9 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Giant Step Forward: Iraqi Police Assume Security Mission in Anbar Province City.

COMMAND OUTPOST BAGHDADI — How many Marines does it take to secure Baghdadi? Last year, it took an entire company. Then, as the situation improved, that number dropped to a platoon. And now, with the onset of 2008, the grand total is zero.

The Marines of 2nd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, have completely pulled out of Command Outpost Baghdadi. Fortunately for local citizens, their replacements are already hard at work.

In a monumental step toward Iraqi sovereignty, the Baghdadi police force has taken sole responsibility of security within the city limits -- the first to do so in all of Anbar Province.

"In the past, battalions were measured on how many battle positions they established during a deployment," said Marine Lt. Col. J.J. Dill, commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. "It showed they were moving out into the community, partnering with (Iraqi security forces) to make things happen. But in this stage of the counterinsurgency battle, it's not how many we put up, it's how many we take down."

The transfer of authority comes as a direct result of the Baghdadi police force's validation, which is determined by U.S. and Coalition forces.

"It's a checklist of where they're at," explained Marine Capt. Craig T. Douglas, commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines. "Can they run their own investigations, conduct security patrols? Are they self-sufficient?"

With their own battle space, the Baghdadi police face their toughest challenge yet. Douglas said they're ready for the mission. "They want the bad guys out of here just as much as we do," he said. "With logistical support from the government of Iraq, they should be OK."

If the Baghdadi police need emergency assistance, the Marines won't be far behind.

"We'll still be in an overwatch capacity," Douglas said. "But they know that, one day, we'll be gone. They'll need to be able to do things for themselves."

When the new police station is complete, it also will host city council meetings and other government functions.

"Many people back home think the 'Anbar Awakening' happened overnight," Dill said. "But where we're at today is the culmination of four years' worth of hard work and dedication by Marines and Iraqis, alike. I want this city to stop looking like it's under siege. This is a huge step toward the return to normalcy."

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Military Spouse Confession

I finally washed the sheets from when Jack Bauer was home on leave. He left four weeks ago.

Good News from Iraq: 8 Jan 2008

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

BAGHDAD — Concerned Local Citizens (CLC) in Tuwaitha, a village southeast of Baghdad, discovered on Jan. 1 one of the largest weapon caches found since the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team deployed to the Mada’in Qada nine months ago. The cache consisted of two five-gallon jugs of homemade explosives, seven 85 mm rockets, one 73 mm rocket, ten 82 mm mortar rounds, two 57 mm mortar rounds, two 60 mm mortar rounds, two rocket-propelled grenade launchers and two 40 mm explosive projectiles.

“Every time a Concerned Local Citizen brings in ordnance it saves Soldiers’ lives,” said Maj. Desmond Bailey, from Wetumpka, Ala., the operations officer for 3-1st Cav. Regt.

“This demonstrates that more Iraqis are on the side of peace.”

Last fall, Company D conducted Operation Tuwaitha Sunrise, which partnered the unit with CLCs in an effort to drive insurgents from the area.

“The Concerned Local Citizens program is highly successful, which is clearly evident based on the amount of ordnance discovered by the Tuwaitha CLCs,” said 1st Lt. Timothy Eng, from San Jose, Calif., an engineer in Headquarters Troop, 3-1st Cav. Regt.

The 3-1st Cav. Regt. is assigned to the 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.

Monday, January 7, 2008

How can it be Monday already???

Seriously, I want to know how it got to be Monday. I am really perplexed by this. Where in the world did the weekend go? I was busy the whole time. I don't think I stopped for 5 minutes on Sunday. Yet, the laundry barely made it out of the dryer, the paperwork piles higher and higher, and the doggies remained unwalked despite record-breaking heat of 73 degrees. I didn't get to making dinner until 8:30 PM. I was even cleaning up the kitchen while IMing with Jack Bauer.

Can someone please tell me how I can get some more hours into a weekend?

Maybe I could figure out a way to get stuff done while I sleep. If I figure it out, I will let you know.

Good News from Iraq: 7 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Adhamiyah Iraqi Security Volunteers find weapons caches.

BAGHDAD – Local Iraqi Security Volunteers discovered two large weapons caches Dec. 29 in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah neighborhood, adding to a spike in the number of weapons caches found since the ISV began operating in November.

The two new discoveries bring the total number of weapons caches found to 48 since early November when volunteers first began manning checkpoints and other guard positions in Adhamiyah.

Within the first month, the ISV contributed
to a 300 percent increase in the number of weapons stockpiles uncovered, said Capt. Phillip Dow, a spokesman for the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, the U.S. unit based in Adhamiyah.

The latest in a series of discoveries began Dec. 29, when volunteers manning a checkpoint position discovered a buried cache containing more than 85 57mm anti-aircraft projectiles. The volunteers notified U.S. Soldiers from the regiment, who responded to transport the weapons to a safe location.

Less than two hours later, another group of volunteers reported finding a cache buried in an open area behind the cemetery of the Abu Hanifa Mosque. The cache consisted of 20 anti-personnel mines, three 152mm projectiles, and one 120mm mortar round.

ISV units have helped uncover multiple caches in the vicinity of the Abu Hanifa Mosque over the last two months. The stockpiles are remnants from the time when the mosque was a safe haven for local Sunni insurgents and foreign fighters, according to Maj. Ike Sallee, the 3rd Squadron, 7th Cav’s operations officer.

“Before we had the ISV, the terrorists had more freedom to operate. Now, with the ISV committed, we are pushing them out of their sanctuaries and keeping them on the run,” Sallee said. “The terrorists are realizing that Adhamiyah isn’t a safe place for them anymore.”

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Stepping Up

I rarely post about death and destruction in Iraq. There are plenty of place on the Internet to get that. But here I am, about to go to bed, when I came across this story: Three Iraqi Soldiers throwing themselves on a suicide bomber in Baghdad to subdue him. (via The Long War Journal)

I get so tired of hearing people around me say that the Iraqis aren't stepping up. When I tell them that they really don't know what they are talking about, they look at me as if I'd been sniffing some crazy glue or drinking the Kool-Aid.

I could go on and on about the unreported and underreported stories of the Iraqi security forces by the mainstream media, but what I recommend to anyone (and everyone) is to simply go to The Long War Journal, click here to read short updates on Iraq, click here to read feature articles on Iraq. Don't want to read so much? Try this article with several graphs depicting the decrease in violence in Iraq. Or try this article on the "Concerned Local Citizens" groups popping up all over Iraq; these are the local people organizing to secure their villages and neighborhoods, letting the bad guys know that violence is not welcome.

And, of course, if you like the information you got there for free, consider making a tax-deductible donation to PMI, the nonprofit organization that brings us this great information. The donation button is in the upper right hand corner of every page.

Thank you

I realized that the other day when I posted about the cards I last sent off to Soldiers' Angels Germany that I forgot to thank someone. Sarah had given me 28 cards while I was at SBL3. Those were the ones I sent off.

Thank you very much, Sarah. You chose some great cards.

(Excellent scarf, by the way! You are so talented.)

Good News from Iraq: 6 Jan 2008

From MNF-I, Soldiers Provide Humanitarian Aid for Iraqis in Need.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARHORSE — The Soldiers of 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division from Fort Lewis, Wash., have seen their share of combat since deploying to Iraq in April. Raids, clearing operations and air assaults are what these combat Soldiers have prepared for and are executing daily in their new area of operation, Diyala province.

But the Soldiers of 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment played a different role at Forward Operating Base Warhorse during a humanitarian aid mission to assist the citizens of northern Hashmiyat.

“This was the first humanitarian mission my platoon has run,” said Sgt. 1st Class Keith Sekishiro, 2nd Platoon sergeant, Troop C, 2-1 Cav. “We have been doing a lot of missions lately with the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police; not necessarily humanitarian missions, but assisting them in providing their own security in their towns and villages.”

Northern Hashmiyat was recently controlled by al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI). Troop C kept a heavy presence in the area, but since 4th Stryker Brigade’s move into Diyala, the AQI presence in Hashmiyat has been diminishing.

The Concerned Local Citizen (CLC) groups began taking over responsibility of the security in the area. CLC checkpoints arose around the villages. CLC groups are like a Neighborhood Watch program in the United States.

“We used to provide a heavy presence there,” Sekishiro said. “But the CLCs have been successful at providing their own security for the past month.”

Last month 2nd Platoon escorted a convoy of CLC trucks from the village of Hashmiyat back to FOB Warhorse. Once back on Warhorse, the CLC trucks were loaded with 10,000 pounds of rice, 10,000 pounds of flour and 180 litters of cooking oil.

“The CLC checkpoints in northern Hashmiyat distribute the food to the local villages in the area,” Shekishiro said.

“It’s common for Iraqis to make bread every morning,” said Ali Mustafa Abu Asah, a leader in the CLC organization of Hashmiyat. “The rice helps nourish our people and we use the oil over the rice.”

Working side by side with the Iraqis helped build relationships, as well.

“We had fun doing it,” said Spc. Christopher Nollenberg of 2nd Platoon. “We taught them a few English words and they taught us a few Iraqi words.”

“Relationships are key when working with the CLCs,” he added. “If we don’t have good relations, they aren’t going to give us information in order for us to do our job.”

“We are very grateful to the Coalition forces for this food,” Abu Asah said. “We are trying to work with Coalition forces in order to keep our villages and roads secure from al-Qaida.”

Although a change from the daily combat operations, missions like these could prove to be just as fruitful.

“Hopefully, they will see that we are trying to help them, and hopefully they will try to help us,” Nollenberg said. “This is my first HA (humanitarian assistance) drop. It’s a good change of pace. We can’t be out there chasing the bad guys all of the time. Sometimes, we have to help the people in other ways. Hopefully, they will see that we are trying to help them and they will help us catch more bad guys.”