Monday, March 31, 2008

Got cheese?

I am in a seriously whiny mood.

I just want this whole deployment to be over.

I just want to have my house be perfectly immaculate and ready to sell and have a buyer lined up.

I just want there to be enough hours in the day to do yoga and pilates and walk the dogs.

I just want my day job to go away.

I just want my super secret job to give me everything I need.

I just want Jack Bauer to be home to talk to, to hold, to snuggle, to just be with.


Ahhhhhh. That feels a little better.

Good News from Iraq: 31 Mar 2008

From The Long War Journal, In Pictures: Iranian munitions seized in Iraq (see the slideshow that accompanies the entry).

As the US and Iraqi Army battle the Iranian-backed Mahdi Army and the Special Groups terror cells in central and southern Iraq, the US military in Baghdad has released further information on Iranian-made weapons seized in Iraq. The US has seized numerous weapons caches in the past, with lot numbers and markings clearly linking them back to Iran. Iran has denied any involvement with sending weapons to Iraq, yet it has not explained how these Iranian-manufactured weapons are appearing inside Iraq.

The explosively formed penetrator, or EFP, is one of the signature weapon made by Iran and used by the Mahdi Army and the Special Groups against US and Iraqi forces. The EFP warhead is formed when explosives are detonated behind a machined, metal concave disk. This forms a molten projectile slug that can penetrate the thickest of armor. Iranian-made 107mm rockets and various sizes of mortars are also seized inside Iraq on a regular basis.

The latest Iranian-made weapons cache was seized by US and Iraqi soldiers during a routine operation in Mahmudiyah on March 28. The soldiers found 15 EFPs, more than 100 EFP components, detonation cord, fuses, a bag of homemade explosives, hundreds of rounds, and Iraqi National Police uniforms and rifles.

Iran established the Ramazan Corps in western Iran to manage the covert war inside Iraq in early 2003. The Ramazan Corps is an arm of Qods Force, the special operations branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. The Ramazan Corps is responsible for smuggling weapons and cash into the Mahdi Army and the Special Groups terror cells, as well as recruiting and training Iraqi operatives.

For more information on the Special Groups and Iran's role in the Iraqi insurgency, see Iran's Ramazan Corps and the ratlines into Iraq and Targeting the Iranian "Secret Cells." For more information on the Mahdi Army, see Sadr calls for Mahdi Army cease-fire and Dividing the Mahdi Army.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Slowing down

I've been going a million miles per hour lately, working too much, drinking too much caffeine, not sleeping well, not doing all the things I do to take care of myself. My recent "me day" was nice, but I didn't completely submit to the relaxing atmosphere.

But things have changed in the last couple of days. Work has lightened. Now I just need to ease off the caffeine and get back to some of good habits that make deployment a little easier than just trying to battle my way through.

So yesterday after yoga, I decided to go for a drive and listen to a book on CD. That seemed to be the most efficient way to break myself off of the computer. Then I took a nap. Then I watched one of the greatest movies ever, the one that made me want to be a writer when I was just 12 years old: Romancing the Stone. I watched that movie all the time as a child, every time I got sick I watched it, and I would watch it back to back, hours on end. I can still recite the lines. It made me smile, and more importantly, it made me really relax and laugh.

This morning I slept in until 10 AM. And I think I might take another nap.

This resting stuff is real nice. Too bad I had forgotten about it for a few weeks.

Good News from Iraq: 30 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, Water Treatment Facility Reopens, Clean Water Flows.

CAMP STRIKER — A ribbon-cutting ceremony March 26 marked the opening of the Mushada Water Treatment Plant, north of Mahmudiyah, a facility that will benefit thousands of area residents.

Col. Muhammad, commander of 3rd Battalion, 25th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, and Col. Dominic Caraccilo, commander of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), attended the ceremony and spoke to visitors about the event.

Following the speeches, Muhammad cut the ribbon to open the plant and those present were given a guided tour of the facility, including the pumps, water tanks and administrative buildings.

The plant restoration took five weeks to complete and was paid for by Commander’s Emergency Response Program funds.

More than 30 workers and 20 skilled tradesmen worked together to complete the renovations. They replaced pumps, cleaned and sealed water tanks and fixed the electrical wiring inside the plant. Workers restored the buildings, did landscaping and installed two 5,000-gallon fuel tanks capable of powering the entire facility for six months.

One of the buildings will provide office space for an engineer from the South Baghdad Water Department and other facility employees. Another building will house the engineer and his family. The landscaping around the facility is designed for the family living on-site to grow their own vegetables, irrigated by the water tanks.

Capt. Gary Goodman, the project purchasing officer for 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT), and the unit’s bilingual, bicultural adviser, Dean Mechael, met with the contractors, monitored progress and offered help throughout the process.

Mechael, an Iraqi-born professional engineer from Farmington Hills, Mich., said he’s proud of the work done to repair the plant, adding the renovation will improve the quality of life and the health of the local citizens.

The facility is capable of producing 2.7 million gallons of potable water and 3.5 million gallons of non-potable water each day. Before the restoration project, Mechael said, the facility was working at only about 10 percent of its capacity.

Currently, 60,000 Iraqis are serviced by the facility. Future plans include adding a water distribution system that will provide water to 250,000 people or more.

Since the pipe construction for water distribution won’t be completed for some time, Goodman, a native of Mahanoy, Penn., said part of the restoration project included adding water pipes outside the plant so people can come with jugs or water tanks and fill up for free.

And most importantly for the local residents, the water is safe to drink.

“They did a water test to test the hardness of the water and compared it to the water in Baghdad,” Goodman said. “The water in Baghdad has an 18 percent hardness rating; this place has 2 percent, so this is actually much cleaner than the water that’s in Baghdad.”

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Ahhhhh. The Weekend.

After some insane work hours for the last few weeks, I am finally able to rest, kick up my feet, put my head back, and relax.

Man, does it feel good.

Like being able to breathe fully after getting over a chest cold.

I hope to be seeing more of you all this weekend.

Good News from Iraq: 29 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, Water Purification Station Opens, Provides Fresh Water for Thousands.

FOB KALSU — A new well-water purification station opened in Al Buaytha March 25, north of Combat Outpost Murray. Since arriving in Arab Jabour 10 months ago, Coalition forces have assessed challenges facing the area. A serious concern was the lack of access to clean water; completion of this station addressed that need.

The water purification station, named Esaalat Salam or ‘Pump of Peace’, is capable of providing 1000 liters of clean water per hour and can serve a 400-square-kilometer area.

The station is one of three wells with a purification system in the region which is roughly the size of Baltimore, Md., and patrolled by Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. In addition to the wells, residents have access to 13 water purification units which draw water from the Tigris River.

While 2nd BCT Soldiers worked with local contractors to get water purification stations and wells back into operation, they also delivered water to residents to combat water-borne illnesses.

Spc. Raymond James Etheridge, a water treatment specialist with Forward Support Company F, 1-30th Infantry Regiment, said in addition to his normal duties of purifying water for Soldiers at COP Murray, he and his fellow Soldiers transport drinking water to storage tanks positioned around the 1-30th Inf. Regt. area of operation.

Maj. Douglas Allan Betts, commander of Company A, 415th Civil Affairs Battalion, out of Kalamazoo, Mich., currently assigned to the 2nd BCT, said the water tanks are a temporary solution to the need for clean drinking water.

Betts, a native of Battle Creek, Mich., said there are 30 water tanks, which Soldiers fill on a weekly basis.

To establish a long-term solution to the water purification problem, Betts said he and other Soldiers in the 2nd BCT are working to establish ties with the ministry of water and the ministry of health.

“Right now what we’re working on is getting government of Iraq officials at the appropriate level involved so that when Coalition forces leave this area they are up to date on what the projects are, what’s been fixed and what they need to do to maintain them,” Betts said.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Spring has arrived!

Yay!! Spring has sprung.

The daffodils are here! The daffodils are here!

The grass along the highways is beginning to bloom yellow.

You know what that means?

Not much longer until Jack Bauer comes home.

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

Good News from Iraq: 28 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, MND-C Soldiers conduct air assault, destroy weapons cache.

BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Center soldiers from 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, conducted an air assault mission near al-Lej to gain additional information on terrorist activity near the town, southeast of Baghdad, March 24.

Soldiers secured four buildings, finding two buried refrigerators and one large hole that may have been used by terrorists to store munitions. Company leadership directed attack aviation helicopters from 1st Battalion, 3rd Aviation Regiment, Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, to a possible cache site that could not be safely cleared by soldiers on the ground. Aviators then engaged and destroyed the potential cache site with no injuries to Coalition forces or civilians.

In the search, soldiers discovered Sunni terrorist training literature containing depictions of Coalition force vehicles and aircraft.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

How tired you ask?

So tired that I keep trying to push up my glasses.

I haven't worn glasses in over 14 months.

That's tired.

Been working waaaaayyyyyyyy too much.

Thus, light blogging.

Good News from Iraq: 27 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, ISF, local citizens join forces to capture senior AQI leader in Ta’ Mim province.

KIRKUK, Iraq – Iraqi security forces collaborated with local Iraqi citizens to capture a senior al-Qaeda in Iraq leader March 24.

The senior leader and five other suspected terrorists were stopped while traveling on a road southwest of Kirkuk. This capture follows the capture of al-Qaeda’s “top emir” in Kirkuk March 20.

The suspected terrorists are believed to have conducted numerous acts of intimidation against innocent Iraqi citizens. The senior leader is believed to be linked to militant operations in the Ta’ Mim province. These acts have resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians as well as disrupting efforts to improve the lives of the citizens of Kirkuk.

“You can run but you cannot hide from us, the Iraqi Police force, the Iraqi Army, or the citizens of this province,” said Col. David Paschal, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division. “We are committed to hunt down those who want to disrupt the reconciliation and rebuilding efforts here and bring them to justice. Time is limited. I urge those who want to reconcile to do so, soon.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Good News from iraq: 26 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, MND-C Soldiers discover large weapons cache near Lutifiyah.

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – Multi-National Division – Center Soldiers discovered a weapons cache near Lutifiyah, Iraq, March 25.

The cache contained 225 60 mm mortar rounds, 50 57 mm anti-aircraft rounds, 10 120 mm rounds, four 155 mm rounds and one 105 mm round.

MND-C Soldiers turned over the cache to the Iraqi Army.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Dear Doggy Daddy

Moo and Bear couldn't sleep the other night so they got into my stash of postcards to Jack Bauer and wrote him a note. I was kind enough to mail it yesterday. Here's what they had to say:

Dear Daddy,

We can't wait any longer for you to get home. Mommy only gave us each one special treat for Easter! Although Moo did help herself to a 1/2 can of fat-free refried beans!


Moo and Bear

What a silly bunch of doggies. We are all so excited for Jack to be home soon.

(Note: Bear would love to play in that much snow. He wouldn't know what to do with himself!)

Good News from Iraq: 25 Mar 2008

From Michael Totten, The Liberation of Karmah, Part I.

KARMAH, IRAQ – Just beyond the outskirts of Fallujah lies the terror-wracked city of Karmah. While you may not have heard of this small city of 35,000 people, American soldiers and Marines who served in Anbar Province know it as a terrifying place of oppression, death, and destruction. “It was much worse than Fallujah” said more than a dozen Marines who were themselves based in Fallujah.

“Karmah was so important to the insurgency because we've got Baghdad right there,” Lieutenant Andrew Macak told me. “This is part of the periphery of Baghdad. At the same time, it is part of the periphery of Fallujah.” ...

Al Qaeda in Iraq waged a vicious murder and intimidation campaign all across Anbar Province as though they were an army of arsonists and serial killers. ...

Today Karmah is no more violent than Fallujah – which is to say, hardly violent at all. ...

Read the whole thing here.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

THE last coffee shipment

I did it. And I am done.

Yesterday, I sent out the last shipment of coffee to Jack Bauer.

Now, I am officially retiring from the care package business.

Well, at least for this deployment go round anyway.

Enjoy, Jack Bauer. You've got 5 pounds of Highlander Grogg coming at you.

Good News from Iraq: 23 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, Soldiers Continue Work to Maintain Security Gains in East Mosul.

MOSUL — Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, are working the latest phase of the fight against al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) by living among Iraqi citizens at Combat Outpost Knight in eastern Mosul, and gaining their trust by constant patrolling and interaction.

“We conduct atmospherics gathering, talk to the local populace and see what their needs are, what their security level is,” said 1st Lt. Larry Gwinn, of Richmond, W. Va., a platoon leader with Delta Company, 1- 8 Inf. Regt. “We are working toward the next phase of operations where we bring projects into the local community and help legitimize the local government.”

Gwinn also stated that sanitation workers had already been hired through the local government and were making a difference in the community. In addition, he noted several other contracts were in the bidding process for community improvements.

“It’s about hearts and minds. We check and see how many schools are around, doctors, retired Iraqi Army, people that want to help us help them,” added Spc. Jamel Staton of Brooklyn, N.Y., also assigned to Delta Co., 1-8 Inf. Regt.

This requires frequent patrols that originate from COP Knight. The COP is a small fortified base that allows Soldiers to stay close to the surrounding neighborhoods and act as a quick response force for citizens if needed.

The 1-8 Inf. Regt. Soldiers, based out of Fort Carson, Colo., rotate into COP Knight every four days. While at the COP, Soldiers complete required duties that ensure the functionality and security of the COP.

The rhythm of COP life goes on relentlessly for the Soldiers as they move from patrols to the COP and back to patrols. The cycle only breaks on the end of the fourth day when they return to Forward Operating Base Marez, the main Coalition base in Mosul.

A return to the FOB does not mean a break from missions for the Soldiers from 1-8 Inf. Regt. It merely changes their location for a different but still busy schedule. The fight against AQI does not take four-day breaks, or any time off, for that matter.

“We pull PMCS (Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services) on all our vehicles; tanks, MRAPs and Humvees, get those fueled up and greased down, order parts if we need to.” said Staton. “We also run missions from FOB Marez, usually just into a different sector.”

Staton added that he and his fellow platoon members could accomplish whatever was required, regardless of the condition or mission, “We are always going to make do … we are Soldiers first and foremost.”

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 22 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, National Police Find Weapons Cache in Eastern Baghdad.

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi National Police seized a substantial weapons cache March 18 in eastern Baghdad.

National Police from 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st NP Division, received a tip from a concerned citizen in the area on a large amount of weapons being stockpiled.

The NPs acted on the tip and found 34 107 mm rockets, 44 60 mm mortar rounds, 18 81 mm mortar rounds, 10 rocket-propelled grenades, 38 107 mm rocket fuses, 10 completed rocket sleds and another four partially constructed sleds, three RPG launchers, one 82 mm mortar tube, one 60 mm mortar tube, two RPK machine guns, one Dragonov sniper rifle, numerous 7.62 ammunition rounds, four washing machine timers, four electronic boxes, a large bag of wire and miscellaneous types of batteries.

An explosive ordnance disposal team from Multi-National Division – Baghdad secured the cache and safely transported the weapons to a MND-B operating base.

“Areas in eastern and southern Baghdad have seen an increase in indirect fire attacks, and the confiscation of the rockets and mortars will deplete terrorist and extremist elements of weapons to conduct attacks against innocent civilians and Coalition Forces,” said Brig. Gen. Mike Milano, deputy commanding general for MND-B and the 4th Infantry Division.

“Iraqi Security Forces continue to successfully hunt down and attack al-Qaeda in Iraq and extremists operating with the intention of harming innocent Iraqis,” he said. “By informing the ISF of these weapons, the local Iraqi undoubtedly saved lives by his actions.”

Friday, March 21, 2008

"Me" Day

I am taking the day off from work, well day job work anyway. I am heading off to the spa for some much needed pampering. A pedicure, a massage, and a facial. After that, assuming that I haven't been relaxed into a coma, I might, well, I am not sure what I might do, but I will try to keep it easy for a little while.

Good News from Iraq: 21 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, Iraqi Army, U.S. Special Forces recover large weapons cache (Hawijah).

BALAD, Iraq – The 4th Iraqi Division Army, advised by U.S. Special Forces, recovered a large weapons cache linked to al Qaeda in Iraq during an operation in Hawijah, Kirkuk province, March 16.

Acting on intelligence reports, Iraqi Scouts and U.S. SF conducted a combined patrol where a cache was reported to be hidden.

This operation led to approximately 150 munitions and explosive devices being uncovered, along with more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition and a large amount of AQI propaganda.

Also recovered were several pamphlets on improvised explosive device construction. The propaganda, comprised of DVDs, cassette tapes and pamphlets, and other documents linked the cache to AQI and foreign fighters traveling from Syria into Iraq.

The cache included four suicide vests, 24 rocket propelled grenades, 61 60mm mortar rounds, nine 120mm mortar rounds, 45 81mm mortar rounds, two 155mm artillery rounds, five grenades, two pressure wire initiation systems, six RPG launchers, two machine guns, a 60mm mortar system, 100 feet of detonation cord, blasting caps, several cell phones and radios for initiating IEDs, and more than 100 pieces of material used for constructing IEDs and their initiation systems.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Another step closer to the end

Another measure that it is getting close to the end of this deployment thing ... the end of the Super Hero stamps.

I have been using Super Hero stamps to send cards to Jack Bauer. First, USPS came out with DC stamps and now they been using Marvel series. I love the idea of using super hero stamps to send cards to my hero. :D

But I am just about out of them. In fact, I will use up my last one tomorrow.

So who is the last super hero to be sent to Jack? Why Captain America, of course. :D

Good News from Iraq: 20 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, MND-N Soldiers Take Mosul’s Pulse.

MOSUL — Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment in Mosul are working to assess and help improve services for basic needs such as schools, healthcare and security.

“Essentially we go out and speak with key people at schools, neighborhood healthcare clinics, shopkeepers and local leaders,” said 1st Lt. Larry Gwinn, a platoon leader with the Regiment. “We get to know the people and what their needs are; this will help up us as we enter the rebuilding phase.”

Gwinn said sanitation workers were already hired through the local government and were making a difference in the community. Several other contracts are also in the bidding process for community improvements.

“The Soldiers on the ground are fighting the enemy on several different levels. This phase of the fight helps the citizens, and helps the Iraqi Security and Coalition forces through mutual cooperation,” said Capt. Melody Faulkenberry, spokesperson for Multi National Division – North.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What happened to the mattress?

So the other night, Moo dog decided she really didn't want all the candy wrappers she had eaten, so she decided to, um, deposit them on the bed. After they had been in her stomach for two days. Nice. So thoughtful of her. And always fun for me to wash my only mattress pad at 8:30 PM. Hmmm. (Yeah, I really should get another mattress pad.)

But as I was standing at Jack Bauer's side of the bed ripping the sheets off, I noticed something. My side of the bed was much lower than his. I thought that was really odd. Then it hit me. My side of the bed has seen two more years of sleep than his side has. Whoa! That was an eye-opener. It's one thing to talk about what two years has done to me, but it is another thing to see it sagging there.

Quick frankly, it is Moo's fault. My side of the bed is her favorite for sleeping. And apparently Jack's side is for, well, other activities. :D

Good News from Iraq: 19 Mar 2008

From AP, General goes shopping to highlight calm.

ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq - The top U.S. commander south of Baghdad stepped across a pile of trash to talk to an Iraqi man. "What do you need?" asked Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch.

Mohammed Ahmed smiled back and gave his wish list: better public services, smoother streets, more electricity.

"And security?" Lynch replied.

"Security is good," the man explained, pointing out that he got his chickens from Hillah, about 30 miles to the south along a highway that was prowled by bandits and killers a year ago.

Lynch's stroll last week through Iskandariyah — once part of the notorious "triangle of death" south of Baghdad — was most noticeable for its nonchalance.

Lynch took off his helmet, smoked a cigar and meandered through a marketplace on a visit intended to showcase the dramatic drop in violence in the former Sunni insurgent belt.

The trip also sought to tap into the same upbeat tone expressed in Baghdad on Monday by Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee. Both cited the drop in attacks — in areas such as Lynch's zone — as evidence that the insurgency is weakened and internal rivalries are being worked out.

But bloodshed in southern Iraq brought a different message. A female suicide bomber attacked a group of Shiite worshippers Monday near a mosque in the holy city Karbala, killing more than three dozen people.

"The enemy is still out there. We never said they left ... But it's not the same," Lynch said on Saturday in Iskandariyah, about 30 miles south of Baghdad. "I'm very comfortable walking down the street. That is how you get a sense of what is going on. You need to get on your feet and you need to move."

Children ran around their legs as chicken vendor waved at Lynch — who lost five soldiers to a suicide bomber last week on a Baghdad street corner within a couple of miles from where Cheney and McCain met with the Iraqi leadership.

"We have a lot less problems than we had even three or four months ago," Iraqi police Col. Ali al-Zahami said.

As recently as Christmas Day, one of the U.S. Army captains accompanying Lynch last week was sitting in a ring of Bradley fighting vehicles a nearby field still smoldering from a fight with insurgents. For a visiting reporter familiar with the area's violent days, the easygoing market scene had a surreal tinge to it — something would have seemed an impossibility.

"It's not OK yet, but it is improving," Lynch said of the security as he examined some cherry red tomatoes.

Earlier, he walked by an intersection where a suicide bomber on Feb. 25 killed at least 40 Shiite pilgrims heading to Karbala.

"We still had almost nine million people walk on that pilgrimage. What does that tell you?" Lynch said.

Violence has dropped nearly 80 percent from a year ago in the area Lynch controls, about the size of West Virginia. Many of the former insurgents and militiamen are now part of U.S.-funded Sunni and Shiite groups — called the Sons of Iraq or Awakening Councils.

Now, some Iraqis are looking ahead to a day when U.S. forces will scale down their influence.

"We are a rich country and are now selling oil for more than $100 a barrel. We have to get our government to help," Sabbah al-Khaffaji, a city council leader and local plant manager, told a meeting of the group as he pointed to Lynch.

Lynch walked unannounced into the meeting comprising both Shiite and Sunni leaders. Their main topic of discussion: repairing a local Sunni mosque.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What a supportive husband

Warning: Girl talk ahead. And probably TMI.

So I have been complaining to just about anyone who will listen about how I am getting old and my cycles are changing. More cramping, etc. I was complaining -- OK, mentioned in passing -- to Jack Bauer this last weekend about this while we were chatting. Topic changes, we move on in the conversation. Then seemingly out of the blue, he says ...

Just think you only have one more "cycle" to go through alonethen I will be there for you to be grouchy with


Well, that is definitely a way to mark time that I have not considered. So I guess next month, I'll have a Happy Period, with e-cards and everything. Yes, e-cards!

So more girly stuff. A little bird recommended Bust magazine to me. I checked it out and found these totally cool panties!

Good News from Iraq: 18 Mar 2008

From Badgers Forward, Five Years Burning Down the Road.

I ... receive[d] an email from the Army Office of Public Affairs asking me to share the following information. Now normally when publishing information like this I would post a link to document it, however the Office of Public Affairs did not provide one to an official site. I checked the Gulf Region Division Press Releases and could not find one that listed this, so my assumption is that I get to be the primary resource for this data.

The U.S. Army released its latest figures on the relief and reconstruction efforts in Iraq, in the lead up to the five-year anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

-- The U.S. Army has rehabilitated and constructed nearly 1,100 schools, providing classrooms for more than 324,000 students.

-- By early 2009, Army projects will have completed 137 new primary healthcare centers that will serve a population of 5 to 6.5 million Iraqis.

-- A strong emphasis is placed on training and education to better prepare the Iraqi people to manage and sustain their infrastructure.

-- An estimated 4.1 million more Iraqis now have access to clean, drinkable water that they didn't have before.

-- Cities like Fallujah have their first sewage treatment plant. Before 2003, raw sewage in most of Iraq was discharged into rivers and waterways.

The nation-building programs are having a real impact on the lives of Iraqis by helping to jumpstart the country in several critical areas including education, healthcare, security, infrastructure, democracy programs and training.

Check out this downloadable video for an inside look at these efforts to strengthen and rebuild the country.

Monday, March 17, 2008

What a day

A few weeks ago I had a really bad day. Jack Bauer asked me to postpone blogging about it and for the sake of OPSEC, some facts have been altered. Otherwise, this is the post I wrote at that time, including my standard beginning of "yesterday."

Yesterday, well, it was just not my day. Started off with having to "deal" with a difficult person via e-mail, then got into a tense discussion on a sensitive subject with friend, all before I got out of my pajamas. So I started the day on edge.

I finally made it to work, late. Started e-mailing with Jack Bauer, when he sends a message saying they just had a rocket attack close to where he was; casualties unknown.

And then nothing for 25 minutes. He comes back with a short message that there were only minor injuries.

And then again nothing for about an hour. I cried for that hour. I cried so much that 10 hours later my eyes were still hurting from crying.

Jack was alright. But this is not all that dissimilar to the incident that happened in the fall. Back then, I complained I couldn't cry about it. This time I cried and cried. This difference this time I think has to do with the fact that I do not think of him as being in all that dangerous of place, well, at least compare to where he was. At his last assignment, I think I had an enormous barrier in place to deal with this kind of thing. But once he took the new assignment, and I settled in to the day-to-day officeness of it all, I let that wall down.

More stressful work-related stuff came at me later in the day. I did what I could and left early.

On my drive home, I reflected on what a tough day it had been. Then I realized I was sitting in my very comfortable, warm car having just left the grocery store where I didn't worry about whether I had enough money to buy what I needed and I was heading home to be greeted like a rock star by two wonderful doggies who were inside my warm and safe house filled with so much abundance. And you know what, the day didn't seem that bad after all.

Good News from Iraq: 17 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, Girls’ School Gets Computers, Furnished Internet Center.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA — While the school’s infrastructure may be behind the times, students’ education has been thrust into the modern era.

The Al Kut Girls Secondary School received an Internet center complete with 10 computers and furniture. The school, established in 1932, educates 1,000 females, grades 10 to 12.

The center will be used by female students throughout the province, said the school manager, Zahrah Aljdrey. Students will now be able to do research and work on projects. The center will also allow the girls to complete exams they would otherwise have to travel to Baghdad to take.

Aljdrey said the computers will help students get a better education and will give them the opportunity to learn about different cultures.

For Sgt. Amanda Timmer, the Wasit Provincial Reconstruction Team head of women’s initiative and program manager, the project provided her with a feeling of satisfaction.

“It was great especially after talking with the girls and seeing how optimistic and energetic they were,” Timmer said. “It was as if they could sense that the world was at their fingertips. Like they knew they were the future of Iraq.”

“They already had the initiative, but this gives them the tools to help accomplish their initiatives and ambitions,” she said.

The project was a cooperative effort between the Wasit PRT, the Wasit provincial council and the Iraqi Director General of Education.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 16 Mar 2007

From MNF-I, Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics team recovers weapons cache in Al-Iskandariyah.

BALAD, Iraq – A Hillah Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics team recovered a weapons and munitions cache in Al-Iskandariyah as the result of a tip from a local citizen March 13.

Following up on a call from a citizen to the ISWAT tip line, a Hillah ISWAT team conducted an Iraqi-only operation and recovered what they believe to be an al Qaeda in Iraq weapons cache for use against Coalition forces bases in north Babil.

The cache consisted of nine 122mm rockets, two 122mm artillery rounds with detonation cord, one 152mm artillery round with detonation cord, and four artillery fuses.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 15 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, Significant caches found in Anbar.

AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq – Iraqi Police discovered two significant weapons caches in Anbar Province over the past seven days.

The first cache was discovered west of Rawah, March 7 and the second in Fallujah March 11.

Hassa IP, near Rawah, discovered and reported a weapons cache on a farm. A Marine unit launched a mounted patrol to investigate the report. Marines confirmed the discovery, and an explosive ordnance disposal unit’s support was requested.

At the site, a young sheep herder directed Marines to three more caches. The boy claimed to have seen the farm’s owner bury items at night with a bulldozer. The caches had all been emplaced within the week but the majority of the items buried were unserviceable.

The first cache consisted of 42 PG9 rockets; Chinese 60mm HE mortar rounds; Russian 82mm HE mortar rounds; 1,200 7.62 x .39 mm rounds; 1,300 non-electric blasting caps; 47, 14.5 mm rounds; 720 Russian PD fuses; 264 PG15 Propellant Cartridges; 80 Russian hand grenades; a Russian AT-3B Sagger guided missile; a Russian AT-3C Sagger guided missile; and a couple Russian practice Sagger guided missiles.

The second cache consisted of 300 electric blasting caps, 300 improvised squibs, Russian PD fuses, Russian 82mm HE mortar rounds, 200 Spanish PD fuses, 188 Yugoslavian PD fuses, 250 non-electric blasting caps, and 28 Chinese 107mm HE rockets.

The third cache consisted of 41 Russian 82mm HE mortar rounds, 19 Chinese 60mm HE mortar rounds, and a DShK tripod.

The fourth cache consisted of DShK anti-aircraft guns, Chinese 100mm HEAT-T projectiles, and a Russian practice Sagger guided missile.

A follow up cache sweep conducted by EOD March 9 resulted in the discovery of seven additional cache sites in this area.

The first cache consisted of 82mm mortar tubes and 60mm mortar tubes.

The second cache consisted of 39 Russian mortars; 82mm HE; 2,000 7.62x54mm ammunition; and 2,000 7.62x39mm ammunition.

The third cache consisted of 10, 70mm HEAT PG7M Russian rockets; 64mm HEAT PG-18 Russian Rockets with launchers; 82mm HE O832D Russian mortars; 24 85mm HEAT PG7 Iraqi rockets; 73mm HE OG9 Russian projectile; 40mm HE OG7 Bulgarian grenades; 100 14.5x114mm ammunition; 73mm HEAT PG9 Russian rockets; 1,000 7.62x39mm ammunition; 100 electric detonators; 30` leg wires; and 60, 1.25 lb TNT Blocks.

The fourth cache consisted of a machinegun and 500 7.62x54mm ammunition.

The fifth cache consisted of 255 82mm HE O832D Russian mortars, 55 73mm HE OG9B Bulgarian projectiles, 73mm HE OG9 Russian projectiles, 40mm HE OG7 Bulgarian Grenades, 34 250m spools of black detonation cord, 1,000` red detonation cord, 200 Russian fuse projectiles, PIBD GPV2, 150 Russian Fuse projectiles, PD GO2, 37 PG15 propellant cartridges, 150 14.5x114mm ammunition, 160mm mortar primary cartridges, 200 electric blasting caps, 160mm mortar long range charge increments, 200 non-electric blasting caps, 130mm Illumination S2 Russian projectiles, 152mm HE M88 former Yugoslav projectile and a 130mm HE OF482M Russian projectile.

The sixth cache consisted of an RPG-7 launcher.

The seventh cache consisted of 70mm HEAT PG7M Russian rockets, 85mm HEAT PG7 Iraqi rockets, 68mm HE 26P French rockets, 251 60mm Type 83A Chinese mortars, 105 82mm HE O832D Russian mortars, a 64mm HEAT PG-18 Russian rocket, 23 57mm HE S5M0 Russian rockets, a 75mm HE bounding Type 69 Chinese rocket, 425 PG15 propellant cartridges, a 73mm HE 346E Russian projectile, 34 40mm HE OG7 Bulgarian grenades, 235 Chinese mortar fuses, PD MP4, a 100mm Illumination Type 71 Chinese mortar, 21 160mm HE F853A Russian mortars, 200 UZRGM grenade fuses, 1000’ yellow detonation cord, a 64mm HEAT PG-18 Russian rocket with launcher, RPG-7 launchers, 22 pounds of stick propellant, 40 pounds PE-4, 25 pounds aluminum-based HME, 230 160mm mortar increments, 160mm base propellant cartridges, 50 Chinese mortar fuses PD MP1B, 100 Russian fuse projectiles PD GO2, 3,600 7.62x39mm ammunition, 600 9.3x74mm ammunition, 300 .22 Caliber ammunition, 500 9mm ammunition, HE F1 Russian hand grenades, a AK-47 Russian assault rifle, an MG3 German machine gun, an MG42 German machine gun, an SKS Russian carbine, a PPSh Russian submachine gun with drum, a PKM Russian machine gun receiver, a RPD Russian light machine gun, Sterling British submachine guns, a G3A3 German battle rifle, binoculars, night vision scope, mortar sights, sniper sights, a non-functioning suitcase IED and 60mm mortar tubes.

Hassa IP has taken the owner of the farm into custody.

The Rawah combined cache find items weigh more than 2,600 pounds. This combined cache totals more than 8,800 items.

The Fallujah IP discovered another weapons cache while conducting an intelligence-driven dismounted cache sweep of a city residence March 11.

While searching the residence, Fallujah IP discovered the weapons cache in a room hidden behind a false wall. Inside this concealed room there were two spider holes that contained additional items of the weapons cache.

The weapons cache consisted of Iraqi fragmentation grenades, an RGD-5 Soviet hand grenade, British hand grenades, RKG-3 HEAT Soviet hand grenades, Yugoslavian hand grenades, Soviet hand grenades, 29 Soviet bomb HEAT/fragmentation PTAB-2.5kg, 48 PTAB fuse I-351AMs, 93 fuses, French 68mm rocket SPAMVs, 19 57mm HEAT S-5Ks rockets, a 70mm SA-6 Soviet guided missile, 22 73mm HE Soviet RPG OG-9s, 73mm Soviet PG-9s, 73mm PG-9 Soviet practice rockets, 70mm HEAT Soviet PG-7 rockets, 70mm practice Soviet PG-7 rockets, 44 rocket propelled grenade motors, 75mm APERS/bounding Chinese Type-69 rockets, 30mm HE Yugoslav rifle grenades, 40mm M62 illumination Yugoslav rifle grenades, 39 82mm HE mortars, Recoilless rifle propelling charges; 2,500 electric blasting caps, a couple pounds of PE-4, 500 mortar increments, several pounds of loose propellant; 5,000’ yellow detonation cord, 75’ red detonation cord, several pounds of various chunks solid propellant, striker release UZRGM Soviet grenade fuses, several pounds of unknown HME, 55gal drums containing small arms ammunition, RPG launchers, assorted rifles, a Sabot round, bayonets, miscellaneous Iraqi Army uniforms and uniform items, various leather and nylon tactical gear, mortar sights, RPG sights, rifle scopes, thermal battery, license plates, Motorola CP340 hand held radios, a Multi-tester ASWAR model DT-830D, US communications batteries Ultra Life, telephone car charger, Senao LRCT hand set batteries, LRCT base stations unwrapped, LRCT hand sets, 9V GETTOP batteries, a box of latex gloves, washing machine timers, unknown documents, a Soviet striker release UZRGM and a cassette tape.

An EOD team collected the weapons cache for disposal.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A knife for a butterfly wife

What more could a butterfly wife want than a pink Benchmade pocket knife. Mind you, the Benchamde logo is a butterfly. And I did just severely slice my thumb with a knife.

Good News from Iraq: 14 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, Salman Pak market opens for business.

COMBAT OUTPOST CARVER — A new market opened in Salman Pak March 11 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by leaders of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, local citizens and council leaders.

The market consists of seven stores including two restaurants, a supermarket, an electronics shop, a photo shop, a sweets store and a cell phone store.

Capt. Mathew Givens, projects planner for the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, said planning for the market began last December when 1-15th Inf. Regt. Soldiers in the area saw run-down shops where the new market now stands.

Givens, a native of Columbus, Ga., said the stores had potential to be revitalized and turned into a thriving shopping area.

“We chose the area because there is so much going on and it is at the beginning of the main part of town,” Givens said. “The JSS (joint security station), the government building and the Salman Pak Fire Station are right across the street. It’s in a central location.”

Leaders of the 1-15 Inf. Regt. provided store owners with microgrants enabling them to refurbish their stores.

“The electronics store owner bought more work tools,” Givens said. “The cell phone store owner bought a display case. (The restaurant owners) bought refrigerators and tables and chairs so people can sit outside and eat. They were also able to design their own store front signs. Out in front of the market is one central sign with all the store names.”

Fathil, owner of the al Ressala restaurant, said before the project, his store was too small and lacked necessary equipment.

“With the microgrant,” he said through a translator, “I bought more equipment, the sign, a storage shed and tables and chairs. People like to come here now because they can sit out front of my restaurant and eat and rest.”

Construction of the $240,000 refurbishment began in early February, Givens said. In addition to the stores’ interior renovations, the outside of the market was painted and a raised, cement walk with a rubber, non-slip coating was added to the front of the building.

Givens said while the market is not 100 percent complete, each store is fully operational. He said lights and cement garbage cans will be emplaced soon.

Givens attributes much of the success of the project to the improved security in Salman Pak.

“We could not have done any of this without the improved security in the area,” he said. “Before, the market was dead. No one wanted to shop here because it wasn’t safe. Now they are coming back because they feel safe.”

After the opening ceremony, Salman Pak leaders were invited back to COP Carver for a luncheon hosted by Lt. Col. Jack Marr, from Minneapolis, commander of the 1-15 Inf. Regt.

Before the chicken, lamb and rice spread was served, Marr welcomed Gen. Jassem, commander of the 9th Iraqi Army Division, and Gen. Abdullah, commander of the 1st Brigade, 9th IA Division, whose unit recently assumed responsibility of Salman Pak from the outgoing 1st Brigade, 1st National Police Division.

Jassem said he wants people to come visit the Mada’in Qada to see the improved security.

“The efforts of the good people in the area are not lost,” he said through a translator. “People ask me, ‘Is the area safe?’ … I tell them, ‘Yes, it’s safe.’”

The 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., and has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Day of Rest

I have given myself a present. A good 10 hours a week from Friday. How do I want to spend this Me time? Massage? Probably. Pedicure? Definitely.

But what else? A facial? A mud wrap? Walk in the park? Read a book? Take a nap? Do I want to structure my time or just go with the flow?

I am totally open to suggestions and would love to hear what you might do with 10 hours, a car, and a budget of say $400.

More cards

I sent 13 cards to Soldiers' Angels Germany for our wounded soldiers.

Running total: 841

Good News from Iraq: 13 Mar 2008

From Reuters, Fallujah Fun Run.

I always like to bring stories from Jack Bauer's old stomping ground. It is a slideshow so you will want to click and look at the few pics that are there. And it seemed really appropriate given this latest "heading to the finish line" theme I got going on. :D

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ready for a rest

Yesterday I was typing out my response to a friend who asked how I was doing. And it got me thinking a little more on this post that I had already started.

How am I doing? Just a simple question. But she was really asking -- not fake asking that we do all the time when we come across someone we haven't seen in a while -- and she knew that there would not be a short or simple answer. Not from me.

But this is what I wrote, name changed of course.

I'm doing good. Depends on the day mostly. Jack Bauer is on track to come home like we planned. I can't wait. Really, some days I just feel like giving up and feel like I will be stumbling across the finish line. Other days I feel great and strong and feel like I have a sudden burst of energy that will get me that much closer to the end. But today is a good day.
I realize, and maybe I am just slow in coming to this, that I have been super "on" for the most part for the last 26+ months. I am tired of being so "on" all the time. My light is dimming. I need to converse some energy to make it the last mile of this deployment race.

Some more me time is in order. Now I need to figure out how to schedule it.

Good News from Iraq: 12 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, Haditha girl returns home after heart surgery in U.S. (Note: Just about every major news outlet has carried this story. I am just behind the times on this.)

HADITHA, Iraq – A two-year-old Iraqi girl returned to Haditha March 7 after undergoing open-heart surgery at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University.

Ala Thabit Fattah, the girl’s father, and several family members traveled with Marines to Baghdad International Airport to meet Amenah, who departed Iraq Jan. 22 with his wife.

“I am very happy. I was very worried that my daughter would not come home alive,” Fattah said. “I am very grateful for the great treatment the American people gave to my family.”

The family then flew to Al Asad Airbase in Al Anbar Province, where they boarded an MV-22 Osprey for the final leg of the voyage to Haditha.

Back home, the family served a dinner in her honor.

“I’ve got four children, two boys and two girls myself; I was very happy to see a father, mother and child reunite,” said Maj. Kevin Jarrard, Company L’s commanding officer and the architect behind the medical effort.

Marines from 3rd Battalion, 23rd Marines, which is assigned to the Camp Pendleton-based Regimental Combat Team 5, discovered Amenah on a routine patrol through the city. They noticed her extremities exhibited a bluish hue whenever she exerted herself. The battalion surgeon, Capt. John Nadeau, recognized the gravity of her condition and coordinated arrangements with the medical staff at Vanderbilt to perform a surgical procedure to remedy her heart defect.

The 35-year-old Gainesville, Ga., native, Jarrard choreographed the international effort to transport Amenah to the United States and oversaw the entire operation. His wife, Kelly Jarrard, raised the funds to finance the journey on both ends.

“Thank you is just too small of a word to express how I feel,” said Amehah’s mother, Maha Muhammed Bandar.

When Amenah arrived at Vanderbilt, doctors discovered, among other things, her heart was turned backwards. Nevertheless, the Feb. 11 operation was success, and Amenah spent the rest of her time in America recovering.

The progress wrought in Haditha by the Marines and their Iraqi partners over the last several years fostered an environment in which a humanitarian operation of this nature was possible.

“Haditha got really bad in 2005. All of the government facilities (hospital, Iraqi Police) were useless because insurgents controlled the town. If anyone spoke out against the insurgents, they would either threaten the person or kill them,” Capt. Samir Miflih, a local government official who attended Amenah’s homecoming. “At the end of 2006, the Marines who used to be here helped organize the police system again and encouraged the people to return to work.”

Haditha is now a reviving city on the verge of Coalition force demilitarization and Iraqi lead with regard to security and municipal governance. This city’s success is the result of this cooperative effort, such as with the care of Amenah.

“I am very thankful for Jarrard, Nadeau, and I consider all the Marines in Haditha father to Amenah, and I will do anything as a return favor for the generosity of the Marines helping my family,” said Fattah.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Huh. Well what do you know about that.

I've been here for a year. Holy moly.

Here's the post that started this blogging journey.

What a year. Made some great friends. Made some great connections. Wrote a lot -- almost 1,000 posts. Had a lot of visitors -- over 30,000 (yeah, I came to sitemeter after I started with the other stat counter). Did a lot of expressing how I really feel, good, bad, ugly, silly, happy, sad, deep, senseless, coded, frustrated, scared. I've shared highs and lows. It's all good though.

I haven't gone back over many of my old posts, as I like to keep moving forward. And I honestly haven't made the time to slow down long enough to really look back.

Thank you all for being here, supporting me through it all. Your comments have meant the world to me.

Good News from Iraq: 11 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, Women’s Engagement Team Hears Concerns of Iraqi Females.

AL TAQADDUM — A team consisting of five female Marines from the 1st Marine Logistics Group and two female interpreters recently conducted a census patrol in a nearby town here.

The Iraqi Women’s Engagement Team (IWET) was able to meet and talk with the local Iraqi females one-on-one, segregated from men.

A variety of topics were discussed, from any assistance they may need to how the American military has helped them make a better way of life.

“It was an eye opener,” said Sgt.Veronica Deleon, 26, a member of the IWET, from Bassett, Calif. “We realized Iraqi people are ordinary individuals that want an opportunity at life and a future for their children, just like we do.”

The IWET was able to meet with more than half of the female adult population of the town.

Before enjoying a traditional Iraqi meal and Chai, the IWET questioned the Iraqi women about what issues they may need assistance with.

The items brought up repeatedly were the need for better electricity, financial assistance, medical facilities and chlorine tablets for their drinking water.

Regarding the electricity, they said they only have power a few hours each evening. The U.S. military recently provided them a generator, but they can’t afford the fuel to run it. An elderly lady from the town said, “The Americans helped us. They got us the generator, the least we could do is provide the fuel.”

Many of the women have husbands who have either been killed or are detained. Because of this, the women are in need of financial assistance.

One woman said her husband has been missing for over a year. He left behind seven kids whom the wife is trying to provide for. She said the Iraqi government gives her a bit of money each month, but the amount falls far short of what she needs.

There is also a great need for permanent medical facilities in the town. The Iraqi government provides a “traveling doctor” who visits every now and then, but the women expressed their need of a permanent facility, to include a doctor specialized in female needs.

“The closest medical facility is in Tourist Town,” one said, “but that’s too far to walk for those of us who don’t have cars.”

She mentioned a young boy in the neighborhood who fell off a roof a few months ago. He is in need of surgery for damage done to his eye and a hole remaining in his ear. “We can’t get him to Syria because we don’t have a car and if we were able to get him there, we can’t afford the actual surgery.”

The American military, when brought to its attention, nearly always assists with incidents requiring minor medical attention. On many occasions, seriously injured or ill Iraqi citizens have been transported to Coalition hospitals and even to the United States for treatment.

Another young boy in the town had recently submerged his hands in hot cooking oil. “The Americans, you helped him. He is doing much better. Thank you very much for helping him.”

They also expressed their need for jobs. Since a few of their husbands are missing or detained somewhere, the women want to work to raise money for their children to eat. Several were excited, upon hearing of a possible job opening in a hotel in nearby Tourist Town.

Another woman, whose two sons had recently received jobs in Tourist Town cleaning, said things are looking much better in Iraq. “With the American’s help, Baghdad is even getting better.”

“I am really thankful for the projects in Habbaniyah. Both my sons have jobs because of you. The Americans always help me. The Americans care for us more than our own people. They give us mercy.”

“(The visit) made us aware of why we are here and how important it is to conduct these missions so we can continue to earn and keep their trust,” said Deleon.

Editors note: the names of the Iraqi women and children are withheld for their protection.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The LAST big care package

I swear this is it. No more big care packages to send after this. Maybe some coffee but that's about it. Meaning, THIS.IS.IT!!! Woohoo!

Jack asked for flavored nuts from Trader Joe's. Let's see what we got ...

  • Traditional Thai Lime and Chile Peanuts
  • Thyme for Rosemary Nuts x3
  • Capitola Cashews (cashews, pineapple, peanuts, lemongrass, chile, sesame seeds
  • Habanero Pistachios
  • Sweet, Savory & Tart Trek Mix
  • Salty, Sweet & Nutty Trek Mix
  • Sesame Honey Almonds
  • Black Peppered Cashews
  • Wasabi Tamari Almonds
  • Roasted & Salted Whole Cashews
  • Thai Lime & Chili Cashews
That's like a lot of nuts. I sure hope Jack Bauer and the CTU Gang like them.

But of course, I included a few other things from Trader Joe's ...
  • Cape Gooseberry Fruit Bar
  • Mango Fruit Bar
  • Dried Rainer Cherries
  • Ginger Chews
I also hit Target ...
  • Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment
  • Archer Farms (Target Brand) Chocolate Chip Pecan Petite Cookies, Double Peanut Butter Chewy Soft Baked Cookies
And I had to throw in some College Farms Organic candy to fill the nooks and crannies ...
  • Chocolate Mint x3
  • Luscious Lemon x3
  • Strawberries & Cream x3
  • Vanilla Caramel x3
And a few magazines ...
So that is it. The end of the BIG care packages. And one step closer to him being home. :D

Good News from Iraq: 10 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, Weapons Found Near Babbahhani.

FOB KALSU — Based on a tip, Coalition forces found a weapons cache containing (20) 100 mm guided Cobra missiles near Babbahhani, March 4.

Soldiers with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, currently attached to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, made the discovery.

“We have to continue to take steps to create a better environment for the Iraqi people and Coalition forces,” said Sgt. 1st Class Xavier Perdue, from Philadelphia, 2nd Platoon sergeant.

The old and unserviceable missiles were disposed of by an explosive ordnance disposal team via controlled detonation.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Flowers for Lemon Stand

Since she did such a nice job of virtual flowers for me, I thought I'd return the favor.

Here are Flowers for Lemon Stand.

Get well soon.

I miss your lemonade.

Take care, my friend.

A friend in need

Our friend Lemon Stand is under the weather and unable to blog. I don't know about you, but I sure do miss reading her funny positive outlook.

I posted over over at her place. If you would like to leave her a note to let her know we are thinking about her, I'll be sure to pass it along.

Good News from Iraq: 9 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, East Rashid Goes to Voting Booth.

BAGHDAD — In the United States, “Decision ‘08” is getting into full swing with political parties holding primaries and caucuses in states around the Nation. In southern Baghdad, the story is no different as the people of East Rashid held elections this week to determine who will represent them to the Government of Iraq.

The people voted on seven representative positions: chief, first vice, second vice, terrorist casualties, security, essential services, and a mediator for the people.

Brig. Gen. Saad, the executive officer for the 7th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi National Police Division, said the neighborhoods having a security representative will help his shurta (police) better do their jobs.

“It will be easier for the people to contact us,” he said. “They’re going to be able to give us information and tips that we can use to guard them.”

On March 5, Southeast Rashid held its elections, and the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 10th Iraqi Army Division Commander, Lt. Col. Hadar, had advice for the elected officials.

“Take care of your people and serve the people in your neighborhoods,” he said. “Today is a big step toward bringing reconciliation to everybody in the neighborhoods.”

Saad, whose unit is largely Shia operating in a Sunni area, said his police will now serve as an intermediary between the people and the Government of Iraq, which will help the representative council.

“We will pass their information to the prime minister office,” he said. “They will provide whatever this council needs so they will have the ability to do their jobs.”

Even though the newly-appointed representatives were the winners of the elections and it is still a process in progress, Hadar told the people of his area they were the real winners.

“Today is a great day, and it does justice to the people living in the area. The Iraqi government, Iraqi security forces, Coalition forces, and the good people living here have already sat down together for reconciliation,” he said after the elections were complete. “This is a big victory for all of you because you will have the people from your area represent you and take your voice to the government. This gives you the power to solve your problems.”

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A friendly reminder

When you are moving your clocks forward this weekend, replace the batteries in your smoke detectors.

Good News from Iraq: 8 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, Sons of Iraq Turn in Cache.

FOB HAMMER — The Sons of Iraq (SoI) of Sabbah Nissan, a village southeast of Baghdad, recently brought in a large weapons cache to Soldiers of Battery A, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery at FOB Hammer.

This was the most recent of 13 weapon caches the SoI have brought to Battery A since the inception of the SoI program in Sabbah Nissan.

The cache consisted of 28 rocket-propelled grenade motors, five 125 mm artillery rounds, two 60 mm mortars, one 125 mm HEAT round, one 82 mm mortar, one rocket-propelled grenade warhead, two fuses and a 155 mm round.

“The Sons of Iraq have given us two caches this week,” said Spc. Andrew Watson, from La Porte, Ind., Battery A. “They have given us about one a week, but this was one of the largest.”

Watson said that the Sabbah Nissan’s SoI performance has improved consistently since they began working with the battery.

“At first, they weren’t very organized,” he said. “Many of their leaders had previously served in the Iraqi Army and they have used that training to instill more professionalism in the group. They have been trained and have come a long way from where they were. They are a lot more proficient in everything they do now. They have seen how we set up water drops and vehicle searches and are doing a good job of doing those on their own now.”

Pfc. Robert Meadows, from Jacksontown, Ohio, Battery A, said residents in the area have become more comfortable with 3rd HBCT Soldiers and believes that has allowed Battery A and the SoI to find more caches based on information provided by them.

“The people here are very friendly,” Meadows said. “The children in the area wait for us along the side of the road and salute when we drive by. The adults wave when we are out. I’d say we have a good relationship.”

Many of the Soldiers believe the area is improving and will continue to do so in the future.

“I think things here will keep improving after we leave,” said Spc. Alex Katsan, from Grafton, W. Va., Battery A. “We are helping them less and less every time we go out. I can see them standing up and doing things on their own without our help.”

Watson pointed out the SoI improvement as an example of progress happening in the area without the 3rd HBCT’s assistance.

“Sheik Kassam (leader of the SoI) is willing to work with us because he knows that we will do what we say we will and we are only here to back up what he is trying to do,” Watson said.

The good relationship that Battery A has built with the local population, he said, will only help further the progress of the area.

“The people here are working hard to secure their area and improve their quality of life,” Watson said. “Anything we have done to help them has been appreciated. I think they will continue to turn in caches and keep the area safe so they can keep moving forward.”

The 789th Ordnance Company (EOD), from Ft. Benning, Ga., currently attached to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, secured the cache for future disposal.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Well, well, lookey here

So I am starting to pick up a bit more around the house, making dents in my piles of paperwork. In fact, I made enough progress this week that the cleaning lady was able to do her job.

She cleaned underneath my ottoman, which surely she had been frightened to move for the last 3 months.

She found a pair of earplugs, a travel-size bottle of lotion, a paper clip, and ... the Kama Sutra card deck that I bought for fun while Jack Bauer was home. Nice. I had wondered where those had gone. :D

Good News from Iraq: 7 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, The Thunder Rolls: Taji Rail Lines Open for First Time Since 2003.

CAMP TAJI — The railroad lines of the Taji Qada, north of Baghdad, have laid dormant since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, but as a result of the efforts of Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers, the first train let loose a thunderous blast of its horn March. 5, as it slowly rolled through the gates of Camp Taji.

"This particular train … is part of a proof of principle,” said Cpt. James Kerns, a Harrison County, Ky., native, who serves as the assistant operations officer for the Base Defense Operations Command (BDOC), Multi-National Division – Baghdad. "(This mission was executed) to facilitate the Iraqi railroad infrastructure improvement so they can, in the future, utilize the train and rail system to carry goods."

With a functioning rail system, the Iraqi Security Forces can benefit from the results as well as the people of Iraq.

"It's an enduring mission. The Iraqi railroads are being put back in, and it's going to change the face of Taji," said Maj. Henry McNealy, a Dewey Beach, Del., native, who serves as the operations officer for the BDOC. "It'll become a consistent train; hopefully, over time, the infrastructure of Iraq will be rebuilt."

The train is a big piece of getting Iraq back on line, McNealy added.

"Every year, something big usually happens – last year it was getting the oil lines back up – the electric lines running again, and this year it'll probably be getting the rail going all the way from Mosul to Baghdad – being unimpeded by criminal elements, al-Qaeda in Iraq or special groups,” he explained.

Soldiers of the 2nd Bn., 11th FA Regt., took part in the operation by providing security alongside their Iraqi Army counterparts.

The leg work, as far as conducting, maintaining and navigating the locomotive to Camp Taji, was performed by the Government of Iraq with minimal Coalition assistance, said Kern.

"We're facilitating the force protection requirements to bring the train in safely," he explained.

Among the benefits the Government of Iraq is likely to gain, one of the greatest is getting more equipment from place to place without putting Iraqi or Coalition forces on dangerous roads.

"This is going to help out a lot if the train makes it every time. If you have two or three guys in a truck, you'll have 50 guys driving a bunch of smaller trucks. (With the rail system operational), you'll have less guys out there on the road and less chances of casualties happening," said 1st Sgt. Dwalyn Dasher, a Jesup, Ga., native, who serves with Battery A, 2-11 FA Regt. Battery B provided the bulk of the force protection measures at the Camp Taji train yard.

In addition to contributing to military operations throughout the country, a functioning rail system also provides the potential for a larger benefit for the average Iraqi.

"It'll bring business into the area; it's going to bring economic goods into the area, and it’s going to allow the Iraqi Army to facilitate and sustain their own operations in the future,” Kern said. “Hopefully, in the not-so-distant future, improve security operations for the Iraqi Army by allowing them to bring military equipment into the area and more sustainment items to Camp Taji and further north into Iraq.”

Despite the short-lived spectacle of watching the green and yellow locomotive slowly roll through the almost-abandoned railroad gate, the bellow of the engine's horn echoed yet another promising addition to the growing list of successful changes taking place to benefit the future of a free Iraq.