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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

she's ALIVE!!!


I am going to leave this at the top for a few days. Please scroll down for new material.


I just got off the phone with our friend Lemon Stand. She is alive and kicking and in good spirits and good health. Just super duper busy and continuing to have computer and internet access problems. And yes, she has taken her blog down with no current plans on returning.

Please feel free to leave any well wishes/hellos/etc. in the comments and I will be sure she gets them. :D

Originally posted April 26, 2008 at 6:19 PM

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"It is harder or easier?"

That's what Jenna asked in response to my post yesterday about Jack Bauer's impending departure from Iraq.

And the answer is:

Way, way easier.
In fact a month ago, I was thinking I would be stumbling across the finish line, maybe crawling, feeling like I would just give up and be a pile of mush when he gets here.

But right now, I feel fantastic. I've got my sexy little airport outfit all set to go. I'm getting my haircut and colored next week. I'm super busy at work. I'm super busy thinking about all of the next steps we are doing and selling the house. And I am still trying to do things that are good for me (e.g., yoga, pilates, eating well, meeting up with girlfriends, getting enough sleep). I think these last few days are going to fly by.

So for me, yes it has gotten much easier. Much to my surprise.

Good News frrom Iraq: 29 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, INP, MND-B Soldiers confiscate weapons in New Baghdad.

BAGHDAD – Iraqi National Policemen from 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st National Police Division and INPs from 2nd Bn., 4th Bde, 1st NP Div, along with Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, confiscated weapons in various locations in the New Baghdad Security District of eastern Baghdad April 28.

During Operation Lions Roar II, a combined search operation, the combined forces confiscated numerous weapons and gear, including 38 AK-47 assault rifles, three SKS rifles, a pistol, four helmets and four vests.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fingers not toes

I can count on my fingers the number of days Jack Bauer has left in Iraq.

Just fingers, not fingers and toes.

And not my fingers and toes AND doggie toes and noses and tails.

Just MY fingers. :D

Good News from Iraq: 28 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Sons of Iraq Find Weapons.

FOB KALSU — Members of the Sons of Iraq (SoI) turned over a weapons cache to Coalition forces south of Baghdad, April 25.

The SoI members reported finding the cache, which consisted of (47) 57-mm projectiles, two propane tanks filled with homemade explosives and one rocket, at the Maskar Bunker Complex in Arab Jabour.

Projectiles like those recovered have been used in the recent past to make pressure-plate improvised explosive devices, said Capt. William Lyles, assistant operations officer for 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga.

This is the third time this week SoI have turned munitions over to Coalition forces at Combat Outpost Murray, including a 500-pound bomb turned in April 24, said Lyles, a native of Hampton, Va.

“The SoI have contributed greatly to the improved security in the Arab Jabour area,” Lyles said. “Their tips and intelligence have led to the arrest of several al-Qaeda in Iraq insurgents. They’re truly doing everything they can to work toward long-term stability in the area.”

The weapons will be destroyed at a later date.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A list for today

One of the last weekends without Jack Bauer here. The thought of him being here is still very abstract.

Today is a list day.

  • Make list
  • Laundry: got it started; got it moving around; got what's done folded and put away - and continues to be (woohoo!!)
  • Pick up back yard: it started to rain! tomorrow will have to do
  • File paperwork
  • Write cards for Soldiers' Angels Germany (41 written so far)
  • Buy swimsuit from Lands' End (free shipping this weekend); also tried on all dress clothes and ordered some dress pants
  • Fill one large garbage bag of trash/muck/crappola; even changed the airfilter
  • Miscellaneous editing
  • IM with Jack Bauer: IM'd this AM; hoping for a PM session too.
That should be enough for one day, don't you think?

Good News from Iraq: 27 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Internet Connects Iraqi Students with World.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA — An initiative to connect Iraqi students and teachers with the rest of the world via Internet is underway in Wasit Province.

The Wasit Provincial Reconstruction Team, in concert with the Wasit Director General of Education, started a yearlong initiative in March called Access to Information. The program will provide local schools and libraries with books and resources and open Internet centers to selected secondary schools, universities and municipal library headquarters in al-Hayy and al-Kut, said Vanessa Beary, the PRT public diplomacy officer.

he program started with the opening of an Internet center at the al-Kut Girls Secondary School, March 10, and continued with others at Open University April 18 and a similar opening April 20 at the 14 July Boys School. All of the centers contain 10 computer stations, Internet service, furniture, an air conditioning unit and a generator.

The Open University Internet center will serve approximately 1,000 teachers. It will also serve college professors selected to attend a 14-week online train-the-trainer course, taught by the University of Oregon for English instructors. The course focuses on new language-teaching techniques.

In addition to the Internet center, Open University received several books on behalf of the Advisory Center Organization to supplement the university’s student library. The offering included a Teaching of English as a Foreign Language book used to prepare for the TOEFL test. Higher education schools administer the test to measure English proficiency by non-native English speakers.

The Internet center at the 14 July Boys High School in al-Kut, which was established in 1996, will service 1,000 students. Two future Internet projects are aimed at Badrah and Jassan in the coming months as part of the strategy to close the gaps in outlying areas, Beary said.

Beary wants this to be more than just a project, but to have an impact on the entire community.

“It’s good to have at school for me,” said 16-year-old Caef Raad, a student at the 14 July Boys High School. “I can chat with other people and study on the Internet.”

In addition to the Internet centers and book distribution, the initiative includes refurbishments at district libraries, providing furniture and establishing TOEFL centers in the future.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 26 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Coaltion Forces Aim to Boost Fish-farming Industry in Mahmudiyah.

CAMP STRIKER — A Task Force Marne initiative to revitalize Iraq’s fish farms is in full swing in the Rakkasans’ area of operations.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) began a comprehensive assessment in February of hundreds of fish farms throughout the Mahmudiyah Qada.

“Fish farming was one of the top three agricultural businesses in Iraq,” said Maj. Robert Bertrand, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT), civil military operations officer. “Right now the farming has diminished significantly due to the war, but as capacity building is increasing, fish farming is becoming more and more important.”

The overall goal of the fish industry revitalization is to improve the local economy, establish a system that Iraqis will be able to sustain for the long-term and create employment.

When the fish industry is revived, the hope is for numerous jobs to be created. “We’re perceiving that … approximately 5,000 to 10,000 jobs within the qada can be created with just increasing fish-farming capacity to pre-war levels,” said Bertrand, a native of Seattle.

Coalition forces are working closely with embedded provincial reconstruction teams and the Iraqi Private Sector Growth and Employment Generation, an implementing partner of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Each battalion is conducting its own assessments to identify existing or potential fish farms in its area of responsibility. Concurrently, fish farming associations and unions are being formed and requests for funds from the government of Iraq are being submitted.

Some existing farms are only operating at partial capacity due to financial constraints. “Many of the farms have a desire to return to full capacity (and) have requested assistance through the GoI and coalition forces for an initial supply of feed and support for small end items, such as water pump repair parts and replacements,” said Maj. Alaric Robinson, Company A, 411th Civil Affairs Battalion, supporting the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT) at Patrol Base Dragon.

One Qarghuli Village sheik has faired well in fish farming without much assistance from coalition forces or the government of Iraq. Sheik Ali Hussein Hassan has been in business for five years. He raises carp, silver and glass fish and sells the fish live at an open market in Baghdad. Hassan said the process is fairly simple.

“We put the nets in the water first, then drain the water from the pond and collect the fish. From there we put them into the trucks and take them to Baghdad,” Hassan said. Trucks with makeshift aquariums in the back are used to transport the fish.

Hassan’s fish farm has two ponds and employs six members of his family.

“We would like to get (existing fish farmers) working with other fish farms, perhaps, and working with the government of Iraqi as well,” said Sgt. Joshua Seymour, a Trumbull, Conn., native, Co. A, 411th CA. “Agriculture is a big part of this area; helping them make more from what they have is going to really help stabilize their economy and their environment.”

One obstacle is a shortage of water.

“Large quantities of water are needed, and the water is often in short supply,” Bertrand said. “That’s tough to deal with.”

He said steps are being taken to ensure that two primary rivers, the Euphrates and Tigris, are being drawn upon to provide necessary water for both irrigation of agriculture and running the fish farms.

Bertrand said a relatively small investment is required to get most fish farms up and operational, but a large return is expected. Counting on a high level of consumption among Iraqis, he said the fish should sell well.

“The current diet in Iraq is meat with every meal, but fish is cheaper and people really do enjoy it so we see an advantage of getting more out to the markets,” he said. “As the security grows, the prosperity’s going to grow.”

Friday, April 25, 2008

Big Week

Additional certainty was obtained this week. We know where we are going. I need to come up with a witty name still. I'll give out when I get there.

Oh, and that list? Well, those locations may or may not have been what we turned in. So our destination may or may not be among them. Man, I'm sneaky. :D

Good News from Iraq: 25 Iraq 2008

From MNF-I, Tip leads to discovery of 12 rocket launchers.

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Coalition forces found and recovered 12 Iranian-made rocket launchers south of Baghdad following a tip from a local resident April 23.

The rocket launchers, designed for 107mm rockets, were discovered near a reported launch site. This site appeared to be targeting a nearby forward operating base.

Initiation wire attached to the launchers indicated they are of Iranian origin. The same type of wire has been found at previous launch sites.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 24 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Soldiers deter IED strike, detain emplacers (Baghdad).

BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained three Iraqi men in the early morning hours of April 23, after two of the three were spotted emplacing an improvised explosive device on a main supply route.

Surveillance assets witnessed two men emplacing an IED on the shoulder of the road April 22.

The surveillance assets then saw the men on a nearby rooftop, over-watching the IED position as a Coalition convoy approached.

Multi-National Division – Center Soldiers with 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division worked with 3rd BCT, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), to stop the convoy before it struck the IED and to pursue the men who planted the roadside bomb.

Shortly after midnight April 23, Battery D, 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery, confirmed the bomb’s location, stopping the convoy before it hit the pressureoperated IED.

The suspected criminals were seen moving through an open field toward a house.

Soldiers from 8th Cavalry Regiment pursued the men and raided the house.

They detained the two suspects along with another man who was in the building.

Currency worth approximately $80,000 dollars - including $30,000 in U.S. dollars - was found with the detainees. The detainees are being held for questioning.

The IED was detonated while under examination by the route clearance team from 320th Field Artillery, 3rd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT).

No injuries or damage resulted from the detonation.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Adventures in Real Estate

I met with the real estate agent yesterday. The adventure really begins now.

Actually no major renovations were suggested so that's a good start. I think everything else I knew: clean up the basement, landscaping, some touch-up painting, reglaze the tub, little things around the house to make the whole thing "perfect". All manageable. The agent was great. She gave the names of lots of people to call to get these things done. Hopefully the house won't suck up too much cash in these next few months.

Of course, the whole thing, the idea of selling this house, getting the house ready to sell, Jack Bauer coming home, the end of this deployment way of life, an impending move, diving into active duty life, well, it can be a tad overwhelming at times, especially in these last few weeks before Jack gets home. So I started to cry while the agent was still at my house. I hope I didn't freak her out too bad. I tried to reassure her that it wasn't just the house that was making me cry.

So time to get started. :D

Good News from Iraq: 23 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, IA, Rakkasans find cache during combat patrol.

BAGHDAD – Iraqi Army and Rakkasan Soldiers found a weapons cache during a combat patrol in Hakara, Iraq, April 19.

After receiving a tip from a local citizen, the cache was collected by Iraqi Army soldiers from 25th Brigade, 6th IA Division and Multi-National Division – Center Soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

The cache contained 239 23 mm anti-armor rounds, two 62 mm illumination rounds, two DSHKA machine guns, one DSHKA receiver and one rocket launcher.

The munitions were taken to an IA compound in Mahmudiyah.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why hadn't I discovered this sooner?

Normally the TV is on at my house, but the volume is down so low that I can't actually follow what is going on. That changed when my dad arrived. It might has well have been HGTV or the Military Channel the entire time. Mostly it was HGTV.

Now, you would think that with an impending move and this old house, I might have been watching HGTV this entire deployment, but no. Never really occurred to me. I am not really a house fixer person. That's why others are trained in these things. But nonetheless, the home improvement channel was on for the last week and on full volume. So I watched.

As it turned out, the sound might as well have been down because I wasn't really listening anyway, I was mainly just looking. Did you know that there are a bunch of hunky men on HGTV? Man, I should have been watching all these fix-it-yourself shows if only for the sexy carpenters, like this Carter Oosterhouse here. And who knows, I might have been able to avoid calling the Magtag repair man.

Just one more thing to note for the next deployment. :D

Good News from Iraq: 22 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Coalition forces find and clear two AQI IED weapons caches in Jazeera Desert.

BALAD, Iraq – Coalition forces discovered and destroyed two al-Qaeda in Iraq weapons caches during a reconnaissance patrol in the Jazeera Desert, recently.

The two caches included more than 125 improvised explosive device components, such as blasting caps, batteries, pressure plates, cordless phone chargers, IED trigger circuits, steel IED canisters, copper plates and springs.

These are the second and third weapons caches found in the Jazeera Desert in less than a month.

Both caches were destroyed.

“We are continuing our efforts to disrupt AQI’s networks and degrade their ability to carry out attacks against innocent Iraqi civilians and Iraqi and Coalition forces,” said Col. Bill Buckner, Multi-National Corps – Iraq spokesman.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Cat

Phew! The week is over. The parents are gone. But they took The Cat.

The Cat has lived with me for more than 10 years. She lived with my sister then my parents for her first 1.5 years. She is just taking a vacation in sunny SoCal for the next 6 months. She'll get a lot more attention than she has over the last 2.5 years. She'll have my parents, sister, nephew, cousin, and grandmother to give her all sorts of lovin'. Plus she'll have the run of the house and won't have to worry about the doggie beasties coming to play or eat her food.

We did this so that way the doggies and I can go be with Jack Bauer when he goes off to school this summer. We plan to stay in some cramped quarters, and dogs and cat that don't get along just wouldn't have worked. I feel like a bad kitty mommy, but I think this will be a good move for us to keep most of us together for the longest period of time. We'll get The Cat back when we get settled at our new location.

Good News from Iraq: 21 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Large cache discovered in Ta’Mim.

KIRKUK, Iraq – Coalition forces discovered another large cache in Ta’Mim Province, April 18. This find brings the overall total cache discoveries in the province this month to 17. This cache included more than 300 mortar rounds in more than 8 different sized class from 152 mm to 60 mm. “Kirkuk becomes more secure everyday. The recent cache finds help to solidify the overall security gains in the region.” said Maj. Peggy Kageleiry, military spokeswoman for Multi-National Division-North. The cache was safely destroyed.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 19 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto: Deployed Dad Meets Baby Boy via Robot.

FORT SAM HOUSTON TEXAS — A robot, normally used by doctors to perform work remotely, recently allowed a Soldier in Baghdad to virtually interact with his newborn son in Texas for the first time.

An RP-7 Remote Presence Robotic System, a wireless, mobile, remote-presence robot that allows a doctor to be in two places at once, allowed Army Staff Sgt. Erik Lloyd to meet his seven-day-old boy Blake, April 10.

The RP-7 can move untethered, allowing a remote physician seated at a control station to freely interact with patients, family members and hospital staff from anywhere, anytime.

In this case, the robot gave Lloyd the opportunity to interact with Blake and with his wife, Kristie. Because of his deployment, Lloyd had missed Blake’s April 4 birth.

Lloyd is assigned to the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research here, and he is currently serving with the Deployed Combat Casualty Research Team, located with 86th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad.

While Lloyd looked through a computer screen in Iraq, his wife and members of the institute’s staff gathered around an RP-7 in a conference room at Brooke Army Medical Center here, to introduce the Soldier to his baby boy.

“So, who do we have here?” said Lloyd from Baghdad, panning the monitor of the robot around to see everyone gathered around the 5-and-a-half-foot tall robot.

Lloyd used a joystick connected to a laptop to control the robot’s advanced digital camera to zoom in and focus on his son. The camera’s high resolution, which normally allows a physician at the control station to read monitor screens or printouts, allowed the Soldier to clearly focus on his son’s features.

“Hey! Is he asleep? Poke him to wake him up. Hold his head so we can get a picture from our end,” said Lloyd playing with the controls and making the most of the robot’s capabilities.

Between the “ooohs” and “aaahs” over the 2-week-old infant, Lloyd kept a grin on his face and eyes on his son. He asked Kristie questions about his son and conducted conversations with other members of the group in the room, while using the robot’s controls to look at people around the room.

“He’ll be walking and potty trained by the time I get back, right?”, joked Lloyd, who is due to return home in six months.

Lloyd said he was delighted to have the opportunity to see his son in a way that allowed him to have control over the interaction.

“It was such a wonderful experience to be able to actively interact with my wife while she was able to show me our son for the first time,” Lloyd said. “I was able to control the robot and actually move around the room a bit to get a different perspective than what a conventional video camera would have allowed.”

Lloyd said he was grateful to his leadership and his units for allowing him to have this experience.

“I am very appreciative of the command groups, both here at the 86th CSH and the Institute of Surgical Research, for allowing me to utilize this amazing piece of technology. It is really a wonderful feeling to be part of two commands that know how to take care of their Soldiers and their families in a time of need.” Lloyd said.

“It was an awesome experience. I am far from the first father in this conflict who has missed the birth of their child … however, with this technology I was in a small way allowed to feel more like I was part of a family than I had been … since he was born,” Lloyd said.

Kristie said she was also impressed with the robot’s capabilities and what it allowed her husband to experience.

“I talk to him every day, and he demands pictures all the time. We use a Webcam but the connection isn’t good,” Kristie Lloyd said. “But this was great. Erik was playing with the controls and trying to figure out how to use the robot.”

Unlike Lloyd, Army Maj. Kevin Chung, medical director for the Burn Intensive Care Unit at Brooke, is an expert on using the robot. So much so, in fact, that members of the staff have nicknamed the robot “Chungbot”. Chung uses it from home, while on leave, temporary duty assignments, or while at conferences from outside the state in order to have access to the Intensive Care Unit. When outside the ICU, Chung is available to the ICU via the robot.

Chung said Lloyd was “amazed at the technology and the clarity of the video link” and really benefited from the experience.

“The interaction they had was amplified by his ability to move the robot around and zoom in and out with the camera. He was able to see his son close up. Granted nothing is better than being there in person, but given the circumstances with him being half a world away, this technology allowed him to be ‘remotely’ present with his newly expanded family.”

Chung added that “the entire session was very emotional for all those who had the opportunity to witness the remote interaction.”

Friday, April 18, 2008

Good news from Iraq: 17 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Rocket Cache Found by Coalition, Iraqi Security Forces.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU — With a tip from a local citizen, Coalition and Iraqi Army forces discovered a large cache of rockets in West Rashid, near Forward Operating Base Falcon, April 14.

The cache consisted of 18 107 mm rockets, some still in their original packaging, and 20 rocket-launching stands.

A Soldier standing guard at FOB Falcon was approached by the citizen with information on the whereabouts of the rockets. Upon receiving the tip, Soldiers from 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division and Iraqi Soldiers from 5th Battalion, 25th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division conducted a joint patrol and found the cache.

The rockets were in an area assessed to be a historic point of origin for attacks against Coalition forces and Iraqi Security Forces.

The rockets were taken by the IA to FOB Falcon for further investigation. The IA called their U.S. Army military transition team to get an assessment from an explosive ordnance disposal team.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Having Fun

Yesterday, I was having a conversation about having fun with a friend who works insanely hard. The work is greatly rewarding so the complaining is kept to a minimum. But I know that I have been working insanely hard lately and not having so much relaxing fun time.

A couple of weekends ago I took a break from whatever I was doing and took a drive to get myself a diet coke. The weather was gorgeous and my book on CD was at a good point so I drove through the park. Then I realized there were all these people in the park hanging out. "Where do they have the time to do that?" I wondered. Which led to, "Why am I not in the park on this lovely day?" Hmmm. Highly suspicious. That's when I know I need to change something, when I see what I want to be doing and I am not doing it. Certainly there was nothing stopping me from pulling over and lying down on the grass. Well at least a large dose of self-consciousness stopped me. But since then, this whole "fun" thing as been nagging at me.

More fun. I probably shouldn't wait for Jack Bauer to get home to have some fun. But that may have what I was subconsciously doing. Waiting, waiting, waiting.

I am taking a couple of days off later this week. My parents and I are talking about taking a drive to a nice, famous, little town north of here for the day. Enjoy a little history. That could be fun. Maybe I will read a book outside lying in the grass under a shady tree this weekend. That would be fun.

Good News from Iraq: 15 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Sons of Iraq Assist Soldiers, Discover Weapons Cache.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER — The Sons of Iraq in Nine Nissan, a village east of Baghdad, led Soldiers in Battery A, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, to a weapons cache buried at a remote location near FOB Hammer, April 10.

The cache was destroyed by Soldiers from the 789th Ordnance Company (EOD), from Fort Benning, Ga., currently attached to the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, at the site.

The cache contained 18 rockets, 14 mortars, 10 105 mm shells, 10 103 mm shells and two tank rounds.

The SoI in Sabbah Nissan have found and led the 3rd HBCT to multiple caches since their group formed two months ago.

Earlier that day, Soldiers from Battery A and local Iraqi leaders conducted a humanitarian mission to deliver food, medicine, water and supplies to the people of Najidat, southeast of Baghdad.

Leaders of the Nine Nissan council had requested aid for the small village at their regular meeting earlier in the week.

The 1-10 FA 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, April 14, 2008

Packing and Painting and Parents

So my parents are in town to help me around the house. Hopefully, we'll be able to get the upstairs -- essentially a large finished attic -- all squared away this week. One less thing for Jack Bauer to do when he gets home.

Yesterday we went through a lifetime of stuff that hasn't moved for five years. Papers, books, photos, office supplies, silk flowers, childhood memorabilia, Jack's baby pillow, ammunition, you know, stuff. We got it all packed into strage bins. The plan is to get the stuff out of the big room so we they can give it a fresh coat of bright white paint. My dad is an expert painter. :D

We are going to try to have some fun this week too. Might have to take in a few sights that they haven't seen, walk the dogs, and enjoy having someone cook for me.

Good News from Iraq: 14 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Port City is Open for Business.

UMQASR — UmQasr, a port city southeast of Basra, is filled with daily activities, as Iraqi workers load export and unload imports last week.

“The estimated flow of goods into Iraq is 60,000 tons with 15,000 passing through UmQsar,” said Todd Stratton, Task Force to Support Business and Stability Operations in Iraq.

“The single largest commodity is food such as wheat, rice, sugar and other food items,” Stratton said. “The port is a critical gateway to supply the Iraqi nation with food imports.”

According to Stratton, the port has a grain silo that can process 7,500 tons a day with 5,000 tons being hauled away.

“A ferry comes to Dubai a few times per week,” Stratton said.

Iraqi Security Forces provided a secure working environment for the Iraqi dock workers to perform their daily jobs.

The Passenger Hall at the port is nearing complete refurbishment, and will soon be fully-operational for passengers and merchants alike.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The LAST card


I have been pretty good about sending cards to Jack Bauer. Usually 3-5 a week. Lots of postcards, quote cards, blank cards, cute cards, love cards, funny cards. I am sure there were some repeats in there. Some simple, just saying hello. Others deeply profound. All dated. I hope to go back through them some day. Sometimes I'd have him tell me what I wrote since it had usually been a couple of weeks by the time he got them. I liked it when I was surprised by what I wrote. :D

But yesterday that all came to an end. I sent the last card. I bought the last batch of cards a couple weeks ago. After having been on the constant lookout for cards for the last two years, suddenly stopping seems odd.

Just another slow, small adjustment. And another step closer to him actually being home.

Good News from Iraq: 12 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Third cache discovered within seven days (Kirkuk).

TIKRIT, Iraq – Iraqi Soldiers discovered three weapon caches of various munitions and explosives northeast of Kirkuk, April 10.

The caches included 60mm Chinese mortars, 82mm Chinese mortars, 57mm Chinese projectiles, 120mm Chinese mortar high explosives, 60mm Iraqi mortars, more than 50 85mm Iraqi rocket motors, 105mm Iraqi projectiles, 40mm projected fuses, 130 Russian projectiles, Russian fuses and an 85mm Russian projectile.

The explosives and weapons were likely to be used against Coalition forces, Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi citizens. This is the third large cache found in this area within a week.

The cache was in an area previously known to stockpile munitions.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 11 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, ISF, SOI Discover 11 Weapons Caches in Northern Iraq.

TIKRIT — Iraqi Security Forces and Abna al-Iraq, or Sons of Iraq, have discovered 11 weapons caches in northern Iraq April 7 and 8.

Over the two days, five caches were discovered in Diyala Province along with two caches each in Ta’Mim, Ninewah and Salah ad Din Provinces.

The caches consisted of rockets, mortars, projectiles of different sizes and hundreds of pounds of improvised explosive device making materials.

“As security continues to improve, so will the number of caches discovered. Both ISF and the Sons of Iraq are leading the way for the safety and security for the people of Iraq,” said Maj. Peggy Kageleiry, spokesman for Multi-National Division – North.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Oh the places you'll go

What do you all know about any of these locations for assignments? From the military spouse perspective, what do you think?

Fort Bragg
Europe (yes, it is phrased as
just "Europe")
Fort Huachuca
Fort Irwin
Fort Sam Houston
Fort Riley
Fort Gordon
Fort Bliss

Good News from Iraq: 10 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, ISF, SOI discover 11 weapons caches in northern Iraq.

TIKRIT, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces and Abna al-Iraq, or Sons of Iraq, have discovered 11 weapons caches in northern Iraq April 7 and 8.

Over the two days, five caches were discovered in Diyala Province along with two caches each in Ta’Mim, Ninewah and Salah ad Din Provinces.

The caches consisted of rockets, mortars, projectiles of different sizes and hundreds of pounds of improvised explosive device making materials.

“As security continues to improve, so will the number of caches discovered. Both ISF and the Sons of Iraq are leading the way for the safety and security for the people of Iraq,” said Maj. Peggy Kageleiry, spokesman for Multi-National Division – North.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 9 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, ISF Find Large EFP Cache.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU — A tip led Iraqi Security Forces to the largest explosively-formed penetrator cache found to date in Multi-National Division – Center’s area of operation, April 2. The munitions were discovered in a 6-ton truck in a garage in al Qasim.

The cache contained more than 1000 EFP components, more than 3000 pounds of explosives and 45 Katusha 107 mm rockets and stands. Also included in the cache were more than 10 devices used to detonate improvised explosive devices, 250 PKC rounds, 10 60 mm mortar shells and one 60 mm stand.

The rockets are believed to have been manufactured in Iran.

“The ISF continue to confiscate the lethal tools of the enemy, disrupt the enemy’s freedom of maneuver, and apprehend key members of the (criminal) leadership,” said Capt. Michael Ranado, battle captain for 31st Military Transition Team, 4th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division. “The IP (Iraqi Police) and IA (Iraqi Army) have successfully provided security for the people of the Babil province and continue vigilantly to do so.”

The cache was moved to the Joint Coordination Center in Hillah.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Softball

Heh. Nice weather here is Middleville yesterday.

I finally started back to my beginning pilates mat class. On my way home, there were some men out playing softball. That made me think of this post back in January when I couldn't wait for softball season to start. I guess if it gets bad in the next few weeks I could drive by with my windows rolled down and catch some of that testosterone floating on the air. Heh. We are down to just a few weeks, so I doubt that will be necessary.

But as I drove by the playing field and saw the men pitching and swinging and running, I thought about how silly -- that good silly -- I have been about missing Jack. And I giggled the rest of the way home. :D

P.S. Like I said yesterday, emotional rollercoaster. Just wait 5 minutes and I am sure to read something that will make me cry.

Good News From Iraq: 8 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Iraqi Soldiers Find Caches Near Shakariyah.

CAMP STRIKER — Iraqi army soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 22nd Brigade, 6th Iraqi army division recovered caches containing more than a dozen mortar rounds and components near Shakariyah on April 2.

A local Iraqi approached the intelligence officer for 3/22/6 IA div. with information on the location of two weapon caches. An IA scout platoon accompanied the officer and citizen to the site where the munitions were found.

The caches included one 121 mm mortar, one 120 mm mortar, 12 60 mm mortars, 42 82 mm mortar fins, two rocket-propelled grenade warheads and a box containing 119 rounds of rifle ammunition.

Monday, April 7, 2008

On crying

I remember a time last fall when it seemed that I couldn't or refused to cry. Well that wall has come down. I am pretty sure I have cried everyday for the last week. I slowed down my work and my eyes opened up and dripped down my face. Tears of joy at friends' husbands coming home. Tears of pride in the human spirit watching The Lord of the Rings. Tears of frustration of things not going my way.

From the sounds of it, I am experiencing something pretty normal. That this last month or so is tough for many of us. An emotional roller coaster I think someone called. Well that's me. At least I am aware of it now and know that I am not the only one. I might as well try to enjoy it for what it is.

Just one more sign of it being close to the end.

Good News from Iraq: 7 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Salvadoran Battalion Delivers Medical Supplies in Kut.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA — The Salvadoran Cuscatl├ín Battalion delivered $4 million in medical supplies to the al Kut Director General of Health Warehouse April 1.

“It is very important to provide more resources to the people of Iraq. We want to provide supplies to those who need it,” said Col. Walter Arevalo, commander of Cuscatl├ín Battalion X.

Even though there is a heightened security risk, Arevalo said he felt honored that his Soldiers were called upon to fulfill this mission.

“It is important for the hospital to be able to provide support for people who need it,” he said. “The supplies will help them provide that support, and a lot of people need to get medical attention.”

The supplies, donated by the International Red Cross, are for Iraqis affected by the recent upsurge in violence by criminals.

The Iraqi Security Forces in Wasit province clashed with criminals for five days. According to Iraqi Police reports, seven Iraqis were killed and 14 were injured. Eleven IPs were killed, and 42 were injured. At least 43 criminals were killed, and more than 40 were injured.

The al Kut medical facilities generally have a small quantity of supplies and are in dire need of blood, said Dr. Ammar Bashar, director general of the al Salam Emergency Medical Clinic. Al Kut’s limited medical supply was further depleted when the Kut Ministry of Health provided Basra with medical supplies to treat Iraqis injured in the uprising there, said Bashar.

The donated supplies will replenish what was used during the civil unrest in the city and will increase supplies on hand.

The warehouse will distribute the supplies in the following weeks to three medical facilities in al Kut. One is a 150-bed emergency clinic and the other two are 400-bed hospitals, Bashar said. The supplies will be used for emergency and specialty care.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Another homecoming


Stephanie's Marine husband is home.

He was deployed not too many months after they got married.

Now their honeymoon can continue.

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

Good News from Iraq:6 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Iraqi, Coalition Engineers Join to Rebuild Combat Outpost.

MOSUL — On Sunday March 23, Combat Outpost (COP) Inman, a new COP in West Mosul manned by the 2nd Iraqi Army (IA) Division, suffered a blow that al-Qaida in Iraq had intended to be fatal to the strategic post; a suicide-truck-bomb crashed through the gates at approximately 7 a.m., detonating in the main compound, killing 13 Iraqi Soldiers and wounding 35.

“All the damage the terrorists have caused to the people and their homes, I do not understand these men, why would they do that?,” said Nami Ibhrahim, a Soldier in the 2nd IA Division, clearly more concerned about the damage to the surrounding area than to the COP.

Despite the COP being devastated, the IA Soldiers did not abandon their post. They held it in anticipation of the help they knew would come. The help came in the form of engineers from the 2nd IA Division and the U.S. Army 232nd Engineer Company, which arrived to start reconstruction of COP Inman just five days after the bombing.

Both engineer elements completed projects in other parts of Ninewah Province and then made assessments of the damaged COP. The units gathered supplies and equipment as rapidly as possible, arriving on the scene within hours of each other.

Work commenced as soon as heavily armored front end loaders, road graders and excavators were unloaded from their trailers on the evening of March 28. IA infantry Soldiers eager to help improve security of their post also chipped in by helping to string Hesco barriers and unload supplies during the night.

In the morning, the heavy equipment took over the operation, as dismounted operations were stopped as the sun came over the horizon due to an elevated sniper threat. The front end loaders the IA brought to the project tripled the expected output for filling the newly strung Hescos.

The IA and Coalition Soldiers were completing the project in a very rapid fashion, working as one unit. If one unit, they seemed veterans, as the loaders quickly fell into a rhythm; one picking up fill material, one filling Hescos and one moving between the Hescos. If all the equipment had been the same type, it would have been an impossibility to distinguish one unit from another based on performance.

“The IA has been great…last night they were stringing Hescos (barriers) with our guys,” said 1st Lt. Nathan Foust of the 232nd Engineer Company, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. “We had their two bucket loaders…all day helping with the filling. We only had one (bucket loader) out here, so it was a huge help, it would have taken a lot longer without them.”

Lt. Foust’s compliments of the IA engineers were echoed by members of his platoon. Any engineer in any Army would be happy to have the compliments of this group. 3rd platoon has been a major part of the COP building program which is ongoing in Mosul. They have constructed seven COPs in the previous two months, in the most difficult of circumstances. The unit has experienced all the hazards that fighting terrorists has to offer, bar none.

However, the unrelenting schedule and associated dangers has not affected the morale of the platoon.

“They are doing real well, their morale has been unbelievable, I couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Foust proudly. “The NCOs have really been on top of it, they are great. The Soldiers are all solid, they all work very hard.”

IA and Coalition engineers, as well as IA infantry, continued to work around the clock to rebuild the COP. The Soldiers took steps to improve security, develop the defensive characteristics of the roads and to re-level the surface inside the perimeter.

“By rebuilding we are showing the people that we have the will to continue this fight, to win, that we will not abandon them,” said Ibhrahim, a Soldier in the 2nd IA Division. “We will carry the fight, wherever they make it, we will win. With all my friends in the IA, I will stay and fight, forever if we have to. I am from Diyala and he is from Baghdad, but together we are the IA.”

In a testament to both IA and Coalition resolve to complete this mission, the job which was slated to take three nights took only two. The two units parted ways, hoping not to meet again under similar circumstances, but nonetheless proud of what they had accomplished and the respect they had earned.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

"A Soldier" is Home


Our friend A Soldier's Wife has her husband home again.

She's had an especially tough deployment marked with medical problems.

But her soldier is home and in her arms again.

Oh happy day!

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

Good News from Iraq: 5 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Informant’s Tip Leads to Multiple Enemy Weapons, Munitions.

FOB KALSU — In the early morning of April 2, Iraqi Army (IA) Soldiers with 5th Battalion, 25th Brigade, 6th IA Division, questioned a suspected insurgent who said he knew the location of buried weapons.

"For the past couple of weeks the IA had been hearing about a guy who used to work with al-Qaida and he stayed in the area and he didn't flee like the rest did," said Staff Sgt. Ronald Satterwhite, a section chief with Battery B.

The man admitted to knowing the approximate location of the weapons cache.

According to IA Soldiers, he needed his brother's assistance to find the exact location. The brother is another known collaborator with al-Qaida.

The Soldiers of Battery B, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 2nd BCT, 3rd Infantry Division rolled out of Joint Security Site W-1, informant in tow, to pay his brother a visit.

Satterwhite, of Glenville, Ga., said he and his fellow Soldiers had been trying to speak with the brother for two weeks but were unable to find him each time they went to his residence. Tonight, fortune favored Battery B.

"We just got lucky, he immediately knew what we were going after ... it didn't take too much talking to him to get him to take us to where they (the weapons) were," Satterwhite said.

With both brothers assisting, it was a matter of minutes before the Soldiers were digging up the first of five weapon caches.

At the first cache site, beside a road in the dirt wall of a canal, they found three separate weapon caches consisting of (45) rocket propelled grenade warheads, (300) PKC heavy machine gun rounds, (37) mortar and projectile fuses, one DSHKA .50 caliber machine gun with (500) rounds of ammunition and one anti-personnel mine.

In a farm field adjacent to the road, the informants also dug up a complete 81 mm mortar system.

While the Soldiers waited for an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team to arrive they learned the informants knew of a few more weapons stashes.

Walking just south of the first cache site, the brothers stopped first in a field to pick up an RPG launcher next at a farm house where they also located machine gun ammunition.

They next took the Soldiers to a culvert to dig up another 81 mm mortar tube, then to a buried (55) gallon barrel containing a PKC machine gun and (2000) PKC machine gun rounds.

The Soldiers collected the additional weapons and returned to meet the EOD team who was already at the site of the first cache preparing the find for disposal.

All weapons and munitions found were gathered and destroyed by an EOD team controlled detonation.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Thomas Sullivan Magnum

1980-1988: Formative years in this woman's life. Ages 8 to 16. Many of those years were spent watching Magnum, P.I. In fact, I distinctly remember what I was doing the night of the last show: I was working at my first real job. I may have had my record it on video tape.

But, ah, Thomas Sullivan Magnum. Definitely one of those manly men, scoundrels with a heart, bad boys who do good. Oh, yeah. Definitely one of them.

Yesterday, Jack Bauer emailed me this:


with this note of his own:
Anyone that isn't down with the Tigers hat, .45, mustache, Ferrari, and short shorts is no friend of mine. :)
I think if he could, Jack would live in the 80s forever. And I say that with the biggest, proudest smile on my face. I can't wait for him to get home. So we can watch reruns of Magnum together. :D

Good News from Iraq: 4 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Abu Amer Residents Receive Medical Treatment.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU — Residents of Abu Amer, a small village in the Wasit province of Iraq, received medical assistance March 28 from Coalition forces during a medical civil action program designed to provide basic primary care.

Using a school as a makeshift clinic, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, attached to 1st Battalion, 76th Field Artillery, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, secured the area before announcing, via loudspeaker, the opportunity for residents to receive health care and humanitarian assistance.

Once word of the MEDCAP was broadcast, people began to pour in from the streets, forming a line just outside the school.

Maj. Howard Curlin, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion surgeon; Capt. Jacob Turnquist, 4th BCT surgeon; and Maj. Marilyn Lazarz, an Army public health nurse with Company B, 415th Civil Affairs, led the team examining, diagnosing, treating and advising the patients, along with the help of nine medics.

At the initial screening station, combat medics, assisted by translators, interviewed each patient for medical history and previous treatments and noted his or her ailment on a slip of paper. Then the medics measured each patient’s vital signs—pulse, temperature and blood pressure.

“The locals who were seen at the medical event were grateful for the medical care provided to them by the doctors, medics and nurse,” said Lazarz, who has been a public health nurse for 18 years. “Coalition forces continue to build relationships with the locals and continue to make a difference in their everyday lives.”

As the day continued, medical personnel saw 212 patients, ranging from infants to elderly, with various ailments. Medical issues ranged from common joint and back pain to infections and gastrointestinal disorders.

“We’re only equipped with a limited supply of medications,” said Turnquist, a pediatrician by trade. “We know going in there that we’re potentially going to see hundreds of people.”

Most of the medications handed out were over-the-counter medicines, said the Rockford, Ill. native. Cold medicines, multivitamins, antibiotics and topical medicines for rashes were also distributed.

Each patient received an evaluation, treatment, medicine if needed and humanitarian assistance—food, soccer balls, beanie babies, candy—donated by various Soldiers in the support battalion, said Capt. Casey Woody, commander of Company C, 703rd BSB.

“We went in there assessing what the people were coming in with, what complaints they had, what their age range was and what their demographics were,” Turnquist said. “That information itself is helpful hopefully down the road when we can provide that to the Ministry of Health to see if they can get more long-term medical support to that area.”

Overall, Woody felt the MEDCAP achieved its objective.

“I’m proud of my Soldiers and how they conducted themselves,” said the father of two from Plymouth, Mich. “If you can help a person, it’s a good feeling. I think we’re doing a lot of things, and we’re working in the right direction with the ePRT (embedded Provincial Reconstruction team) and civil affairs … We know we’re not going to fix this problem in a year, but we want to get them on the right start.”

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Short-timers setting in

I cut out this Note from the Universe and taped it to my computer monitor at work.

What if the word "work" was changed to "dance-with- life," Butterfly Wife? And instead of it being viewed as an alternative to fishing or a way of "paying your dues," it was seen as a chance to meet a parade of new friends, discover your own untested potentials and unpolished gifts, and open avenues for abundance to come pouring into your life?

Yeah, I bet lottery sales would plummet.

The Universe

P.S. Not to mention the office parties, donut runs, and "free" pens, Butterfly Wife ... cha, cha, cha!

So my intent is to look to discover my "untested potentials and unpolished gifts" while I am still here in Middleville.

Uggg. Yes, my eyes are rolling and I am making gagging gestures here. And I sneer at the computer screen every time I read that "note."

Maybe if I just throw myself into work full-on, neck-deep, pretend I know what I am doing the time will make it go by faster. Maybe that's what I'll do. But I am going to sneer at least once a day.

Good News from Iraq: 3 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, 15 caches, IED factory discovered in northern Iraq.

TIKRIT, Iraq – Iraqi Army and Coalition force Soldiers discovered 15 weapons caches and an improvised explosive device factory in northern Iraq April 1.

The weapons and ammunition discovered included one 155mm and three 120mm rounds, one 122mm Illumination round, 14 107mm rockets, 58 82mm and 12 60mm mortars, along with other small-arms munitions.

More than 60 pounds of explosives and improvised explosive device making materials were also discovered among the caches, while the IED factory contained more than 3,500 pounds of additional explosives.

The caches were found in both Diyala and Salah ad Din Provinces, and the IED factory was discovered in Ninewah.

“The joint efforts between the Iraqi Army and CF are paying off,” said Maj. Dan Meyers, spokesman for Multi-National Division - North. “These continued finds will no doubt help to keep the people of Iraq safe,” Meyers said.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Gremlins vs. Angels

Monday I ran my Sunday errands. Grocery shopping, pet store, etc. I came home to a cluttered counter and placed a few bags on the stove, ran back out to the car, and came inside and dropped my load on the floor in shock. Moo had jumped up and accidentally turned on the front burner. It was still clicking, flame on high. Luckily, I had not placed anything on THAT burner.

Once I assured myself that I did not burn the other bags, I cried a good hard cry muttering "Thank you Jesus" over and over. (Um, I am not really the type of person who goes around muttering "Thank you Jesus" over and over. So this really got to me.)

Yesterday afternoon a little bird reminded me that I had attempted to burn down the house before. That got me thinking about deployment gremlins that come and do bad things around the house and otherwise mess up life while the spouse is gone. I am sure I have had my fair share. Actually, if I wanted to, I am sure I could come up with a long list of them.

But I'd rather think about all the times where my deployment angels have been watching over me. Times I am aware of, like this past Monday, and times I will never know about, like when I take a totally random route to some place I always go (I like to think that those are the angels making me avoid an accident).

Thinking about deployment angels rather than deployment gremlins certainly makes me feel like I live a blessed life, even during the more challenging times.

Good News from Iraq: 2 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, SOI prevent suicide attack.

TIKRIT, Iraq – Members of the Sons of Iraq, or Abna al-Iraq, engaged a suicide bomber before he could detonate his explosive device in Kirkuk Province April 1.

Iraqi Police and members of the SOI engaged a man wearing a suicide vest on Market Street in Hawijah, preventing any casualties.

The SOI are an armed neighborhood watch group in Kirkuk and are part of the Isnad, meaning “unity” in Arabic, movement.

“The quick reaction by these local heroes prevented a possible tragedy,” said Maj. Dan Meyers, a U.S. military spokesman in northern Iraq.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Guess What?


You know what today is?

It is the first day of April.

You know what that means?

That means Jack Bauer is coming home next month!

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

Good News from Iraq: 1 Apr 2008

From MNF-I, Iraqi Army leads push to restore security in Mahmudiyah.

BAGHDAD – Iraqi Security Forces are taking the lead in securing the city of Mahmudiyah against criminals.

Iraqi Army soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 25th Brigade, 6th IA Division are securing the city’s neighborhoods with support from Red Knight Rakkasans of 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

This effort, which began March 27, has already proven successful.

A cordon and search resulted in the discovery of a significant weapons cache in the Qadasiya Apartments March 28.

The cache included 17 explosively-formed projectiles (EFP), 192 DSHKA rounds, Iraqi National Police uniforms and 18 assault rifles, more than 100 EFP components, a demolition charge, detonation cord, fuses and a bag of homemade explosives.

“At this point, it has been a very impressive operation on both the Iraqi and Coalition fronts,” said Lt. Col. William Zemp, commander of 3-320th FA. “Reports say that the EFP IED (improvised explosive device) materials were to be moved into the city of Mahmudiyah.”

The IA has detained nearly 200 individuals for questioning in an effort to curb the violence and criminal activity.

“You have to be proud of the progress being made so far,” said Col. Dominic Caraccilo, 3rd BCT, 101 Abn. Div. (AASLT) commander.

Brig Gen. Ali Jassim Muhammad Hassen Al Frejee, commander of the 25/6 IA Division said removal of criminal groups is key to the continued security of the Mahmudiyah Qada.