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Thursday, July 31, 2008

BW and JB on the radio tonight

A must-listen tonight on SpouseBUZZ radio. Jack Bauer and I will be on to talk about reintegration. We still haven't gotten our story worked out so we might be ad libbing the whole thing. Who knows what might fly out of my mouth when I don't have the ability to edit it. This may be a critical moment in our reintegration process, and you all are invited to witness it! :D

The show is on TONIGHT at 9 PM EDT. To listen click here.

The SpouseBUZZ chat room will also be open for those of you who chat. I can't talk and chat at the same time. It is a learned skill, like walking and chewing gum, that I never mastered. I can't wait to hear some of your questions.

See ya on the radio. :D

Good News from Iraq: 31 Jul 2008

From North Shore Journal, Kentucky Fried Chicken Sizzles in Fallujah.

Only a short time ago the city of Fallujah served as stronghold for insurgents. Daily skirmishes, improvised explosive device detonations and public unease made operating a business in the city very difficult.

Today, with improved security throughout the region, the low price of 4,000 dinar, or $3.50, will purchase a full meal at the recently established Kentucky Fried Chicken in the Hey Al Dubat area of the city.

The KFC is the first to open for business in the city. Before improved conditions in the city, insurgents threatened business owners, demanding money to support acts of terrorism.

After a quick visit to the Fallujah Business Center during routine operations July 16, Marines with Regimental Combat Team 1’s Security Platoon and with Information Operations, talked with employees at the franchise to evaluate its success.

“We stopped to check up on the KFC to see how things were going,” said 1st Lt. Michael C. Bryant, platoon commander with Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, RCT 1. ”You can tell that the area is returning to normal, especially when you see fast food places in the area doing so well.”

The restaurant has several employees, and three that work full time. Employees there serve an average 25 customers per day.

The Marines often take time to assess economic progress and gauge community activities during missions in the city.

After several short conversations with employees and patrons, the Marines ordered food to take back to Camp Fallujah for lunch.

“I think it is awesome to see a business doing so well in Fallujah, and not have to worry about safety or corruption,” said Bryant, a 25-year-old from Colorado Springs, Colo.

Security over the past several years has reached an all-time high in Fallujah and many of the surrounding areas. The increase can be accredited to coalition forces conducting patrols and security missions, as well as Iraqi police and Iraqi army retaking control of a majority of the Anbar region.

“I remember when I was here last in July 2004 and things were much different than they are now,” said Sgt. Steve J. Arnoux, a 25-year-old vehicle commander from Browning, Mont. “When we would go out on convoys in the city, the attitude was a lot different. It seemed like we were just waiting to get ambushed. Now we stop at KFC.”

Citizens of the area can now work steady jobs, where as prior conditions kept many from even coming to work on a daily basis.

“I love the work here, because we have the opportunity to go to work every day,” said a KFC employee.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Da gym

Shortly after arriving here in C-ville, I learned that those attending the course and their spouses get free FREE! access to the local Gold's Gym. Nice, very nice. I like the idea. But completely intimidated about actually going. I can't remember the last time I was in a gym with weights and cardio equipment and locker rooms and aerobicizing, muscle-bound, thong-showing, George Hamilton-tanned college girls.

Well, yesterday I went.

Some background on how I got there. The school has many courses going on at once (as I assume other schools do too). In attendance at one of the 2-week courses is a fellow soldier Jack Bauer met in Iraq, and who is still deployed. He was sent from Iraq to attend this course and is going back the day after it ends. That soldier's wife came to town for the week. A wise woman, she has been here before, knew to take advantage of the Gold's Gym. And she was kind enough to no-pressure me into checking it out with her. I took it as a sign that I really needed to get structured workouts again. (My yoga and pilates videos sit unopened here.)

So off to the gym I went to do BodyPump. Not that bad actually. All of the moves are based on free weightlifting, which I did as an undergrad for crew (yeah, I lifted in the same gym with the same weight coaches as PAC-10 football players), so the moves were all familiar to me. I kept the weights light so I could get familiar with the routine AND be able to walk today, which I can do.

Not bad at all. I think I might go back tomorrow for more torture.

And, yeah, that's not me in the picture. Not me even after 1,000 BodyPump classes.

Good News from Iraq: 30 Jul 2008

From MNF-I, Non-governmental Organizations Take Lead.

BAGHDAD — Iraqis continue to take more of a lead within their communities, helping improve the economic stability and education levels of their Iraqi communities.

These Iraqis are a part of non-governmental organizations that gain funding through various agencies to fund facilities and training programs within their community.

NGOs work to get Iraqi citizens education and job skills leading to employment, said Staff Sgt. Kristy Van Lanen.

One way for them to gain funding is through the Iraqi Assistance Center in Baghdad, where citizens pitch their proposed project in hope it gets approved and funded by Coalition forces.

Nearly once a week, Van Lanen, meets with the director or assistant director of the various organizations at the IAC to discuss their intentions and what they plan to bring to the community.

Many of these organizations are headed by highly educated individuals with only one expectation in mind.

“Many of them are teachers or professors at local schools or universities,” Van Lanen said. “They are very intelligent and have a good idea of how to help the people in their community.”

Van Lanen, who serves with the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion, has many proposals come across her desk, however, she declines those she doesn’t see as legitimate. However, most are genuine proposals focused on helping their Iraqi brethren.

While meeting at the assistance center, Soldiers and citizens with proposals talk about the focus, the cost and the circumstances surrounding the project.

Once she feels the NGOs have all their proposals in order, and a valid chance to make a positive change within northwest Baghdad, she sends the project application for approval to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).

“I took the initiative to contact and work with local NGOs, because I feel they are a necessary step in improving the current conditions of Iraq,” said Van Lanen. “I believe that if we empower the women and young adults, we can make a difference here. However, we have to educate them and give them skills so that they may take a more active role in society. It is in this way that we will make Iraq a better place to live.”

There are many projects currently going on within 2nd Brigade’s area of operations, much in part to the endless effort of the NGOs.

According to Maj. Timothy Collier, the brigade’s civil affairs officer, the brigade is really trying to push NGOs into the very troubled spots – areas in which they feel problems exist.

“There’s a lack of opportunity in the city right now,” said Collier. “Through the recovery efforts there are jobs that are starting to filter out, the economy is starting to pick up, but it’s moving at a slow pace.”

However, the area is not at a situation right now where one can get a job anywhere, and where shops are continuously open, said Collier.

“The government of Iraq is still working through the rebuilding and the urban revitalization process that they definitely want to pursue,” Collier added. “We are looking at the NGOs to provide some economic employment opportunity and training to some people that right now may not have all the background.”

These projects are giving Iraqis the chance to explore employment opportunities and better their lives.

“[NGOs] really do see their neighbors in need and are really trying to do something and are pursuing this as a way to improve their situation and their neighbor’s situations,” Collier said.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More fresh meat

First, it was the "I don't wear belts" fresh meat.

Now we've got more. Heh.

Last week Jack came back from 5:45 AM PT ticked off that one of the newbies fell out of running formation before they even left the parking lot. This newbie, it turns out, feels the platoon sergeant is riding him too hard, which in turn means that he came complaining to Jack Bauer. When Jack mentioned the falling out, this was the newbies response:

"I don't like running in formation."
Sigh. At least this is a different piece of fresh meat.

Oh, and update on the belt newbie, he has apparently fallen in line and is doing just fine.

Good News from Iraq: 29 Jul 2008

From MNF-I, More than 500 reconcile in Tikrit, ad Dwar.

TIKRIT, Iraq – More than 500 Iraqis have reconciled with Iraqi Security and Coalition forces since late June in the cities of Tikrit and ad Dwar combined.

In Tikrit, where the people were once very loyal to Saddam’s former regime, more than 200 people have cleared their names and safely rejoined Iraqi society over the past 10 days.

Since late June in ad Dwar, more than 300 have pledged to accept the laws set forth by the Government of Iraq.

This follows the successful reconciliation that has swept across the Salah ad Din province, starting in the predominately Shi’a city of Balad in May, and then areas to its south near the Joint Base Balad. Nearly 700 people in those areas have chosen to reconcile with the GoI.

“Reconciliation has given local criminals who were tired of hiding an honorable way to come forward and publicly announce their newfound loyalty to the Government of Iraq,” said Capt. John Gabriel, commander of U.S. forces responsible for a large portion of Tikrit. “It has had a profound impact on the morale of the citizens in our area and is a guiding light to secure a fruitful future.”

Monday, July 28, 2008

Lt. Chef's Italian Feast

Yesterday evening, the Residence Inn was turned into the Pensione di Residence when one of the new lieutenants created an Italian Feast. Lt. Chef used his little kitchenette and the hotel's commercial oven to prepare some 6 different dishes: Chicken Florentine, Pasta Carbonara, Baked Penne, Meat-Stuffed Shells, Vegetarian Shells, Cold Pasta Salad, and some fresh baked bread. It was good, very good. He made a ton of food. Good thing he invited about 20 people to help eat it all. It was a nice opportunity to see Jack Bauer's classmates in one place.

Rumor has it that before attending law school Lt. Chef graduated from culinary school. This reminds me of how varied my own law school class was. We had fellow classmates with undergraduate degrees in history, political science, journalism, photography, nursing, business, just to name a few.

Rumor also has it that Lt. Chef wanted to join the JAG Corps so much that he lost 100 pounds to be able to do so.

There are many more stand-outs here in Jack's class. I hope to bring a bit of their stories to you.

Good News from Iraq: 28 Jul 2008

From MNF-I, Ameriya Technical High School Offers Opportunities for New Generation.

BAGHDAD — The $615,000 renovation and expansion of the Ameriya Technical High School in the Mansour District of Baghdad will soon provide vocational technical training for high school students.

“This school is very important,” said Mohammed Abdullah, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region Central district’s International Zone project engineer. “It will have a great impact on the families who cannot afford to send their children to universities. They will learn a profession to earn a living.”

As the executor of the contract, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region Division, over-watch the contracting and construction management and provide quality assurance of the over-all project, while local contractors do the construction.

The renovation of the main building where the classical education is taught began in August 2007. Architecturally, the 43-year-old building with 32 classrooms was re-plastered inside and out, walls were painted and tiles were repaired and replaced. All windows were inspected and replaced where necessary, as was the fence around the school which was raised to 2.5 meters. External lighting was added and the tiled recreation area between the buildings was extended.

Electrically, the building was upgraded and hooked into the city’s electrical grid. A new generator and fuel tank were installed to allow continuous operation of the facility and each classroom received fluorescent lights, as well as a new heating, ventilating and air conditioning window units that cool in the summer and provide heat in the winter.

Renovations were also made to the school’s plumbing and then connected to the city’s water and sewage systems. Restrooms were repaired, new fixtures were installed and four new one cubic meter potable water tanks were delivered for the roof, as well as sunshades to cover them.

In addition to renovating the existing building, two additional out buildings were constructed on site, adding four large classrooms for technical training and additional restroom facilities.

Abdullah said construction for this project was slow due to the security situation. Four months after the renovations to the main building were complete an insurgent group moved into the school. He explained that construction of the out buildings continued but, “workers were hard to come by because of the security issues.”

With the troop surge of U.S. forces in 2007, the security situation improved in Baghdad and the insurgents moved out. Assessments of the facility were made and modifications were added to the contract to repair the damages the insurgents left behind.

“This particular construction project is a tangible representation of perseverance and commitment to the reconstruction of Iraq,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Eloy Alcivar, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region Division. “Our GRD team does not terminate a construction project because challenges emerge. We find solutions to continue on delivering construction for the Iraqi people.”

Ameriya School is now 87 percent finished and scheduled for completion by the end of the year. Desks, computers and other school supplies are starting to arrive.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Life Lessons from the Doggies #1

Today we took the doggies on a real hiking trail.

Lots of vegetation.

Narrow path.

So tempting for a boy doggie.

Life lesson from the Doggies #1: Some things are just begging to be pissed on.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Nothing exciting

When your day is filled with naps, cooking lunch, trying to not burn down the hotel, doing laundry in a public place, and walking doggies, well, it just isn't that exciting.

We're off to visit the home of a founding father today. Should be fun and educational. Maybe I'll even take my camera.

Good News from Iraq: 26 Jul 2008

From MNF-I, Water Treatment Plant Benefiting 20,000.

BASRAH — Al-Zierji, a town located in northern Basrah Province, has fresh drinking water for the first time ever.

“This is one of seven USACE water projects in the province,” said James Hodges, chief construction representative with the Gulf Region Division’s Basrah Area Office. “The $1.2 million reverse-osmosis plant is providing potable water for more than 20,000 Iraqis. It was completed June 20 and is now fully operational, producing 200 cubic meters per hour.”

Salah Ali, chief of engineering with the Basrah General Directorate of Water, said he is very pleased with the opening of the new facility, located alongside the Shatt Al-Arab waterway. It is connected to the national power grid and also has its own generator, ensuring 24-hour continuous power.

“It means a healthier environment for the entire community,” he added.

According to James Mills, area engineer with the Basrah Area Office, “This project and other essential service projects we’re overseeing are important because they positively impact Iraqis every day. With proper maintenance, these facilities will enrich Iraqi lives for decades to come.”

With a huge smile, Um Mohammed, a mother of six children, said, “We were anxiously awaiting the completion of this project. Now we don’t need to use raw water from the river or walk miles to buy bottled water. Clean water, for the first time, is reaching our homes. All we have to do is turn on the tap.”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Coffee

I attended my first coffee last night. I drove with a couple of the other wives whose husbands are in the same course as Jack Bauer. On the way back to the Residence Inn, I was trying to say that it wasn't what I expected but I wasn't really sure what I was expecting. Oh, sure I read the entire chapter on socials in Today's Military Wife, but all that really told me was the success of the gathering depends on who is running it. I suppose that is true for most events.

So what was it? A gathering of spouses -- all women, all mothers -- whose husbands are teachers, administrators, directors, etc. of the school and the spouses whose husbands are attending the basic course. It looks like there are about 13 spouses here for all or part of the course; 4 of us attended the coffee. Basically, it was a social hour. We talked, we ate, we drank. And what I wasn't expecting, we laughed. A lot. The hostess, an Army wife for 25+ years, was hysterical.

The women were all very nice and very helpful, including one who was a tax preparer for H&R Block. All were a wealth of knowledge and experience.

I am glad I went.

Oh, and I didn't see anyone drinking coffee.

Good News from Iraq: 24 Jul 2008

From MNF-I, Najaf Airport Provides Boost to Iraq’s Southern Provinces.

BAGHDAD — Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki waved to cheering crowds July 20 as he stepped off the first plane landing at Najaf International Airport.

The celebration marked the opening of a new airport that will facilitate travel, boost business opportunities and increase tourism.

"The Najaf airport is a starting point for competition among provinces and local governments to make extraordinary progress toward reconstruction. … We were determined to face the terrorism that was about to destroy Iraq,” Maliki said. “The strong will of the federal government has fought and defeated it in all of its forms.”

Iraqi Soldiers and police officers maintained control over the mass of media and photographers who came to record the historic event. Children laughed and waved Iraqi flags. Men and women posed for pictures, hugging one another, kissing cheek-to-cheek with greetings. Musicians played enchanting melodies, and singers sang with spirit.

Najaf is one of the holiest cities for Shiia Muslims. The city is renowned as the site of the tomb of Imam Ali Talib, whom Shiias consider the prophet Muhammad’s heir. The site is believed to be the third-most-popular destination for Islamic pilgrimages, after the Saudi Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina.

The airport will employ hundreds of people, from security guards to customer service representatives. The airport also will create new opportunities in the economy for hotels and restaurants, travel agencies, banks, currency exchange, and even agricultural processing to feed Najaf’s new visitors. Officials hope the airport will attract businesses and investors.

“The benefits of this facility will ripple throughout the local, provincial, regional and national economy,” said Angus Simmons, team leader for the Najaf Provincial Reconstruction . The PRT helped to facilitate construction contracts and linked airport officials with a U.S. transportation advisor who specializes in airport management.

The new airport is part of a multi-billion dollar project led by the investment firm Al-Aqeelah, based in Kuwait. The firm plans to build thousands of new homes and hotels in the city. A total of $80 million has been committed to the airport’s construction, $50 million of it already invested in the project.

“I would say the Najaf people and the leadership here at the provincial level have a very national viewpoint on what this airport does for Iraq,” said Army Col. Jefforey Smith, deputy commanding general for support for Multi-National Division - Center and the 10th Mountain Division.

“About the only other way you could have gotten into this part of the country previously was by vehicle. There’s no train system that comes through here,” Smith said. “So this airport is going to be huge, not only for Najaf, but … it will affect the other major cities in the province of Karbala [and others] north and west of here.”

The airport will help not only the province of Najaf to prosper, but also will benefit the neighboring provinces of Karbala, Babil and Qadasiyah. Before now, the closest airport was in Baghdad, hundreds of miles north of these areas.

“I think it’s a positive time — it’s a good time — to open this airport,” Smith said.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

This Army life is tough

Now we are on to Day 3 of school here in C-ville and Day 3 of my life as a full-time Army wife. Let's see what I did yesterday.

5:10 AM: Wake up and stumble into bathroom wondering why I am awake.

5:20 AM: Walk in the dark through jungle between Residence Inn and the campus with doggies and Jack Bauer. Still wondering why I am awake. Make way across paved plain to the Stairs of Cirith Ungol.

5:27 AM: Huffing and puffing and wondering why I got up for this. Say good-bye to Jack and the doggies and I wander off to explore.

6:40 AM: Get back to Residence Inn. Collapse into chair with cup of coffee. Lapse into coma waiting for Jack Bauer to return to room for breakfast.

7:05 AM: Raid hot breakfast bar. I must appear like a total pig, hot and sweaty, no make-up, hat-haired, piling food high on a single plate. Return to room and give most of the food to Jack, except the yummy cheese mini muffin. Yum!

7:45 AM: Say good-bye to Jack and crawl into bed, hot and sweaty, and lapse into another coma.

11:00 AM: Finally get out of bed, even hotter and sweatier, shower and make lunch for Jack Bauer. He even thinks the wraps are store purchased because they were wrapped so tight, but I had a lot of experience watching Josie, the wrap goddess at my last job, perfecting the tight wrap.

1:00 PM: Finalize grocery list and go shopping. Now the shopping center is literally across the street from the Residence Inn but I need too much to carry. So I drive. Spend the next 2.5 hours buying postcards for the niece and nephews, eye cream from Origins, an incredible butterfly box (see photo, much prettier in person), clothes hangers, a chest of drawers, a lime juicer (a don't-leave-home-without-it item). Oh yeah, and groceries.

4:30 PM: Traverse jungle, paved plain, and the stairs in the humid heat of the day to attend "ice breaker" at Jack's school. Spend next hour making small talk. Nearly collapse on my way back to Residence Inn from exhaustion.

6:30 PM: Make dinner in tiny kitchenette. Spend next 3 hours doing something, maybe cleaning tiny kitchenette, maybe watching super-cute doggies sleep, maybe watching Jack read, maybe read emails. No clue. Obviously I lapsed into another coma.

9:00 PM: Wiggle way into bed and fight for space with Jack Bauer and Moo.

9:30 PM: Win tug-of-war with sheets. Moo loses and heads to the couch to sulk. The much smaller Bear takes her place. Heh.

9:56 PM: Turn off Hannity (hot) & Colmes (not) and read funny book sent to me from AWTM last fall (yeah, I am finally reading that book. Love it! Definitely need it while getting house ready to sell.)

On today's agenda? My first "coffee." Time to really crack open my copy of Today's Military Wife, 5th Edition, so I can find out what a "coffee" is when it taking place at 7 PM.

Good News from Iraq: 23 Jul 2008

From MNF-I, Baghdad Police College Graduates Largest Class Ever of 1,698.

BAGHDAD — 1,698 officers, the largest class ever, graduated from the Ministry of Interior’s Baghdad Police College here July 20 and took the loyalty oath to uphold the rule of law and protect the citizens of Iraq.

The new course is known as the 1st Qualification Course. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki spoke of this initiative during Basrah operations as a means to promote both reconciliation and new jobs for former government employees and other recruits who met the qualifications. To become lieutenants in the police force, the graduates must complete the retraining and certification in the four-month course. Most were college graduates.

Due to their prior work experience, the average age of the graduates was higher than that for most police courses and ranged from 21 to 57. Forty-four percent of the graduates were from the southern provinces of Basrah and Maysan.

The graduates will be assigned throughout the Ministry of Interior in security and administrative positions in the Iraqi Police, National Police, Border Police and Traffic Police.

“You will share with your police brothers the challenges to defeat terrorists and continue to reduce crimes in every province in Iraq,” Minister of Interior Jawad al-Bulani told the large group of graduates. “Your work will give the citizens hope and security in a free and democratic Iraq.”

Bulani noted that the Ministry of Interior employees by “their great sacrifices have brought peace to many areas such as Samarra, Kut, Basrah, and Amara. The people are feeling and appreciating this new security. Many have made sacrifices to realize our dream for a peaceful and democratic Iraq.”

He also told the graduates by “your professionalism and loyalty, you will increase the Iraqi people’s confidence in the Ministry of Interior forces.”

“Keep your loyalty to your country and carry out your responsibilities with honor, you will keep Iraq free and keep liberty for the people. Your duty always is to defend Iraq and the people of Iraq.”

The four-month course included instruction in English, the new Penal Law, police operations, criminal investigations, administrative duties, forensics, human rights and anti-terrorism.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 22 Jul 2008

From MNF-I, Upgraded Substation Provides Reliable Power to 300,000 in Al Kut.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA — The people of al Kut are receiving more reliable electricity, thanks to the upgrade of the Old al Kut substation 33kV switch gear, which increases the availability of power for transmission and distribution.

Two sections of the antiquated substation were replaced and came online approximately two weeks ago. Government officials celebrated its completion during a ribbon cutting ceremony, July 16.

“The people of al Kut have noticed a significant increase in the power available,” said Staff Sgt. David McFate, a team leader with 411th Civil Affairs Team. “One person told us that they went from having just minutes of electricity a day to several hours.”

Most significantly, the improvements to the substation increased the reliability of power distributed to approximately 300,000 people in al Kut, nearly half of the population.

“The new switchgear was a one-for-one swap with the original equipment that was installed in 1973,” said Kevin Olsen, United States Army Corps of Engineers, and Project Manager for the al Kut substation. “The new equipment provides quicker power on for the three substations the circuit breakers feed.”

Modernizing the substation equipment helps speed up the process of troubleshooting when the power goes out.

“Now the substation switches are easy to check and reset, and much more reliable,” said Maj. David Fedroff, USACE Wasit resident engineer.

The one-year project is just one of a number of projects USACE, the people of al Kut and Wasit province, the Wasit Provincial Reconstruction Team, Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition forces have accomplished together.

“The PRT continues to help the people of Wasit and work with the people of Wasit to get their essential services established or restored,” said Bob Kagler, Wasit PRT leader. “We look forward (to) working with the Iraqi and local government in tackling these challenges together.”

Although the new switchgear improves the reliability of the electricity to the city, the electrical infrastructure still poses many challenges.

“Unfortunately, the distribution network still needs a lot of work,” Fedroff said. “You can see that driving around town, with the wires hanging from every pole in every direction.”

These essential service projects would not be possible without the improved security situation in al Kut and the cooperation with the ISF, said Lt. Col. Timothy Bush, 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment commander.

“The best projects are the ones that are decided by the people and enabled by security that is provided by the people,” Bush said.

The situation continues to improve for the people of Wasit, one project at a time.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Live from C-ville, It's BW!

After a little insanity getting the house finalized, after getting on the road with the doggies and my mother. after spending the night on the road and driving in 6 states, and after splatting a billion bugs -- mostly butterflies, ouch -- on the windshield, we arrived at the Residence Inn in C-ville, our new home.

Settling in here will take a few days and some creativity. There is no chest of drawers in this extended stay hotel room. But, ha! A couple of the storage containers I packed in fit right under the bed and will make do for now.

Then there is the issue of the missing oven. Yeah, no oven in this kitchenette. It's a good thing Jack Bauer got a great deal on a great wok. I foresee many stir-fry dinners in our near future.

But not setbacks, but rather part of the adventure.

This morning was the first day of class here for Jack. The doggies and I got up with him at 5 AM and walked to the top of the 86-step flight of stairs to get to where Jack is doing PT every morning. Then we headed out for an hour-long walk around campus. (Yes, campus, not post. We are at a public university.) I hope to get to know this campus better than the last 2 universities I attended.

On the agenda for today? Laundry, continue to organize room, get pedicure (I am in desperate need), make lunch and dinner, love doggies and Jack.

And the house starts showing tomorrow. :D

Good News from Iraq: 21 July 2008

From MNF-I, Two Tons of Seed Delivered to Farmers.

CAMP TAJI — The Fertile Crescent portion of Iraq is notorious for its strong agricultural heritage throughout history. It has long blessed residents and their livestock with a plethora food.

Unfortunately, in recent history investments and resources were diverted away from farming and food production, leaving Iraq's agricultural resources in utter despair.

Efforts to replant fertile areas in the Taji Qada, northwest of Baghdad are now underway. The Abernisha Village recently received two tons of hybrid maize seed to help start a new history of food production in the area.

Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team “Warrior,” Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, accompanied Daniel Skotnick agriculture advisor, and Abdullah Al Asoum, economic bi- lingual, bi-cultural advisor with embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team Baghdad-5, visited a farm in Abernisha Village to monitor the progress of the delivered seed, July 13.

The seed, donated by Inma, a company sponsored by United States Agency International Development, is going to be used for growth of high quality feed for livestock. The organization is working to revitalize agriculture production along with rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq.

“The maize program is the first step in establishing hybrid maize production in Iraq,” said Asoum. “Hybrid strains are cultivated for specific characteristics, such as drought resistance. When cross-pollinated the resulting hybrid exhibits the desired characteristics.”

This program will offer job opportunities to hundreds of farmers in Baghdad’s neighboring provinces, he added.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Princess and the Pee

We are on the road to Cville. Dogs are traveling pretty darn well for their first trip. No problems on the road. At the hotel, once they decided that they didn't need to woof at everything that walked by the door, they settled down.

One problem. The princess Moo hasn't peed since we left Middleville almost 21 hours ago. Hmmm. She's acting fine, and even drinking water, not too little, not too much. I think she is just being a princess and isn't ready to pee until she is good and comfortable.

But if that is my biggest problem on the road, I'll take it.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Wow!"

You know that with a list like this, the only words I really wanted to hear from the real estate agent were "Wow! This is great!"

I guess our hard work paid off because that's what I got. :D

The house looks great, if not entirely BW living friendly. But I don't live here any more. I don't think I can say I live here when I am living out of a suitcase. But you know what that means? I'm on my way to see Jack Bauer. :D :D :D

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

As the List Turns

As the World Turns was a favorite soap opera of mine growing up. Dramatic people living all sorts of adventures and lovers being kept apart and reunited depending on the direction of the wind.

Not that my life is all that exciting in these days, but there is definitely the separation from my love thing going on.

The adventure lies in THE LIST for now. So enough I will be hitting the road, setting off on new adventure, in a new town.

Until then, it is back to THE LIST, which somehow invade my dreams last night. Can't imagine why that happened. Go figure.

Good News from Iraq: 15 Jul 2008

From MNF-I, Al Doura Refinery Looking for Alternative Energy Sources.

BAGHDAD — In the Doura district of Baghdad, security is improved near one of Iraq’s older oil refineries.

Al Doura refinery, a rusting relic of Saddam’s pervasive neglect of oil infrastructure, wouldn’t seem to be the likely bastion of wind and solar energy for Iraqi leadership.

Dathar Al Hasan Taheen, directorate general and general manager of Midland Refinery Company for the Ministry of Oil, has many responsibilities at al Doura. Most of his hours are spent trying to keep the refineries under his charge producing diesel and gasoline to feed the nation’s growing thirst for petroleum products.

His other principle challenge is getting enough crude oil from the Basra oilfields of southern Iraq. For his refinery operations to operate efficiently, he must have abundant supplies of raw crude to generate refined products.

The directorate general deals with all too common pipeline flow disruptions - spurring from maintenance neglect, insurgent attacks and common thievery. He also manages daily logistical issues associated with trucking gasoline to Baghdad area petrol stations.

“Going green isn’t just a trend in the U.S. and other western nations,” said Taheen. “I am an oilman so I should be interested in all types of energy. We think we are a little behind in researching and developing alternative energy sources; we are an oil producing country but this is no reason not to look toward the future.”

Of particular interest is tapping into wind and solar energy sources. With the assistance and mentorship of engineers from the Gulf Region Division, Taheen thinks he has a plan that can be implemented.

“The people of Iraq need more power and what Dathar Taheen is proposing is going to supply more power,” said Gary Vogler, GRD energy sector engineer who worked with Taheen since 2003. “If the electricity is directed to the refinery there will be more power on the grid for the rest of the population. Also, in the rural areas that have little or no connectivity to the grid, the solar panels and wind farms he wants to bring to Iraq could help satisfy these isolated pockets’ quest for power.”

With Vogler’s assistance, and guidance from officials with Multi National Force – Iraq’s Energy Fusion Cell, Taheen is assembling a team of resource professionals that can assist his move from the drawing board to implementation.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The MASTER list

We are on the downhill slope of this getting the house on the market thing. So that means that it is time for a list, the list to end all list, the master list, of things that must be done before 2:30 PM on Wednesday. That's when the realtor is coming to take pictures.

  1. Make list
  2. Paint dining room We got one coat one. Hopefully that will be enough. Only time will tell. Looks like it just needed touch up in a few areas, meaning, the original touch-up areas. Arrgghh! Done!
  3. Paint the drawerfront and doorbell cover
  4. Paint gouge upstairs (hmmm, wonder how that happened)
  5. Touch up basement floor
  6. Stage and clean house
    1. Kitchen: move cart to dining room, clean floor and tile on walls, clean ceiling fan, vacuum window sill, clean oven
    2. Downstairs bathroom: wash shower curtain, clean out medicine cabinet
    3. Room of 7 Doors: clean wood trim, clean floor, touch up paint
    4. Stairwell: clean wood trim, vacuum, dust light
    5. Entryway: clean wood trim, clean floor, organize closet, clean storm door, decorate table
    6. Dining room (the TV room is becoming the dining room for staging): clean wood trim, clean floor, touch up paint, organize, vacuum window sills, clean windows, restain window sill, throw away coffee table, clean chandelier, move microwave, toaster, coffeemaker to basement, tie up cords, clean up paint, decorate baker's rack, lock dining room table, clean up microwave cart
    7. Living Room: clean wood trim, clean floor, organize, vacuum window sills, vacuum couch and chair, clean light fixture
    8. Office (the dining room is becoming an office for staging)
    9. Downstairs bedroom: empty closet, make bed look pretty, clean off book shelf, clean off chest of drawers, clean wood trim, clean floor, clean fan, vacuum window sill, clean windows
    10. Upstairs bedroom: spot clean carpet, vacuum, clean fan, clean window, vacuum window sill
    11. Upstairs bathroom: clean, empty medicine cabinet and under sink
    12. Attic: vacuum, move lamp, straighten up boxes
    13. Basement: move stuff around, vacuum, set up metal shelves, touch up floor paint
    14. Back yard: clean up after dogs, leave gates unlocked, sweep sidewalks, get one stepping stone
    15. Front and side yards: clear sidewalk, sweep porch
    16. Garage: clean out, sweep
  7. Call DirecTV, AT&T, free paper to cancel service
Yeah, the last two items could easily be long lists unto themselves. It may come to that. Yeah, it came to that.

I may have to change the name of this blog to BW's List Blog.

Good News from Iraq: 13 Jul 2008

From MNF-I, Pressure on al-Qaeda in Iraq increases, networks degraded.

BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained two wanted men and 10 additional suspects Saturday while pursuing al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders and operatives in central and northern Iraq.

In Sharqat, about 90 kilometers south of Mosul, Coalition forces captured a man wanted for allegedly conspiring with al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leaders in northwest Iraq. Three additional suspects were detained.

Farther south in the Tigris River Valley, a wanted man believed to be involved in the AQI foreign terrorist facilitation network was captured near Balad, about 80 kilometers north of Baghdad. Coalition forces detained five suspects in Baghdad for allegedly aiding foreign terrorists in the city.

Coalition forces detained two suspected terrorists during an operation targeting an extremist group with ties to AQI senior leaders in Karmah, about 40 kilometers west of Baghdad.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fresh meat + Army = Blog fodder

So Jack Bauer is off at school and there are many people with no prior service experience whatsoever. None. One week ago they were civilians, and POOF! the next day they were officers in the US Army. Crazy, I know.

But this craziness means that there are lots of frustrations for my poor husband. Like yesterday. Everyone had to show up wearing their ACUs for the first time. Jack, assigned as a platoon leader for the course, went around and adjusted patches and whathaveyou as needed.

Later in the day, they were at medical and had their ACU blouses off. That's when the fun began. Where were all the belts??? Excuses ranged from "I hadn't gotten it yet" to "I forgot to put it on." But the one that takes the cake was "I don't wear belts." He knew it was part of the uniform, but just decided it wasn't his style.

Oh yeah, I am sure that guy will do well in the Army.

Good News from Iraq: 12 Jul 2008

From MNF-I, Iraqi Citizen Leads IA, CF to Large Cache.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA — Iraqi Army scouts led American special forces and explosives ordinance disposal personnel to a large cache of explosives near Numaniyah, Iraq, early July 8.

An Iraqi citizen reported the cache and guided the convoy to the specific site.

Destroyed were more than 1,300 57mm anti-aircraft shells, 60 100mm high explosive artillery shells, 6 tank shells and several shell casings which, while not necessarily explosive, still contained hazardous primers.

The cache, located in a remote area outside the city, was safely destroyed at the site by Navy EOD personnel and explosives experts from Forward Operating Base Delta. EOD personnel said the cache appeared to have been an old site, with no particularly new munitions.

Iraqi Soldiers, under the supervision of coalition personnel, prepared the site and completed the controlled detonation without incident.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I'm changing the name of this blog

This blog will henceforth be known as

Butterfly Wife's Painting Blog!

Yeah, well, maybe not. But the paint, taping, brushes, rollers, extender poles, plastic drapes have invade my life so pervasively it seems the painting is all I can think about, day and night.

So here's an update.
  1. Kitchen: Done. Need to paint a drawerfront and the cover for the doorbell.
  2. Bathroom, downstairs: Done.
  3. Bathroom, upstairs: Done even gave it a second coat yesterday.
  4. Stairwell: Done.
  5. Room of 7 Doors: Done.
  6. Basement cabinets and door: Done.
  7. Entryway: Painting it today. I think I caught a break finally. Looks like it was such a close match that it only needed one coat. About time.
  8. Dining room: I am waiting for my mom's opinion on the color situation. She gets here tomorrow.
  9. Living room: Touch-ups done.
  10. TV room: Still need to do touch-ups.
This leaves the following for the professional painter (no, not the homeless painter):
  1. Bedroom ceiling and closet
  2. Kitchen window and door
  3. Bathroom window and doors
  4. Basement windows
Now, if only I could get the painter to call me back. We are leaving in less than a week. Come on guy, call me back. You are making me nervous. I need your professional help super bad.

**UPDATE 1234 PM**
The painter is coming on Tuesday to better assess my needs. Phew!

Good News from Iraq: 11 Jul 2008

From Reuters, Tiny Iraq navy to flex muscle as oil guardian.

UMM QASR, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraq's fledgling navy of battered patrol boats is bulking up for a greater role in protecting the country's economic heart, its offshore oil terminals, officials said.

Putting on muscle to protect the two terminals that account for 90 percent of Iraq's revenues, the tiny navy is aiming to boost manpower by about a third to 2,500 in two years and greatly expand its fleet, now centered on five Chinese-made Predator patrol boats.

More control over its wreck-ridden waters at the head of the Gulf is another sign of Iraq's determination to secure its oil infrastructure and reserves, the world's third largest.

A military crackdown three months ago on Shi'ite militias restored government control over Basra province, site of the navy's riverside base at Umm Qasr.

"We're continuing to work year by year on what will come next. The Iraqi navy will be transformed into something bigger than it is now," operations chief Commodore Ahmed Maarij, a 25-year navy veteran, told Reuters on Monday.

The navy's goal is to take on more duties from U.S., British and Australian warships that now patrol the two terminals, the al-Basra facility, capable of loading four tankers, and the single-berth Khur al-Amaya.

The fleet's tiny size means only one Iraq vessel at a time can make the four-hour voyage out of the muddy Khur Abdullah waterway to the terminals to join the patrol.

Iraqi marines, also expanding under the navy growth program, are stationed on the terminals.

"That is the key strategic piece. They are the maritime heartbeats of Iraq," said Captain Phil Warwick of Britain's Royal Navy. Warwick is head of a U.S.-British team training and assisting the Iraq navy and marines.

VULNERABILITY

The oil terminals' vulnerability was underscored in 2004 when suicide bombers launched boat attacks that killed three U.S. sailors.

The navy also has a major role in security at Umm Qasr, entry point for 80 percent of Iraq's imports and running at capacity since the military crackdown in Basra improved security. Iraqi marines provide land security for the port.

Under the expansion plan, Iraq is buying 15 patrol boats from Malaysia, set to arrive in July 2009, and five patrol ships from Italy, along with other equipment. The purchases are to be completed in 2011.

"Essentially, we're going to double the size of the navy overnight. And for any navy, or any armed force, that's quite a challenge," said Lieutenant Commander Charles Maynard of the Royal Navy, the training group's operations officer.

With a desert wind kicking up a chop on the Khur Abdullah waterway, Iraqi sailors aboard the patrol boat Sorraq drilled on intercepting boats, putting out an engine fire and raising and cleaning the anchor and chain.

Many of those training were in their 30s or older, veterans who had served in the navy under Saddam Hussein.

"Some of the crew are going to get to go to other countries to train on the new ships. Everybody is excited about that," said Sergeant Kadhim Zubair, 42, who ran the training session.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Shadows and light

If I were in the mood and had the time, I would write some profound post about what all this painting is teaching me about myself. Fortunately for the readers, I am not so inclined at this time to rattle on about how the shadows reveal more about who I am as a person. Blah, blah, blah.

I will say though is that turning off the light in the room being painted and letting the light from other rooms be the sole illumination shows the flaws in my paint job.

Sometimes, when you want to be bright white you gotta turn off the light to see what is really there.

Up to my eyeballs in paint

I am covered in paint. I've gotten paint in my hair, my mouth (need to learn to keep it shut, heh), and my eyes. Yes, paint in the eyes doesn't feel too good.

I am currently working on the stairwell. It sucks. It is such tight quarters, I keep brushing my butt against the walls. I had to give up last night at 8:30 before my arms fell off. But I got to finish up today and figure out how to get up in the far corner. Tape, a corner brush, and a pole extender just might do it.

Then it is onto the Room of 7 Doors.

Gotta get busy.

And the pic is Carter Oosterhouse, the handyman hunk. Yum! (Yes, Jack Bauer has been gone far too long again.)

Good News from Iraq: 10 Jul 2008

From MNF-I, IA soldiers seize weapons in Sadr City.

BAGHDAD – Iraqi Army soldiers working to secure the area in the Sadr City district of Baghdad uncovered weapons caches July 9.

At approximately 2 p.m., Iraqi Army soldiers seized four 120 mm mortars, an 82 mm mortar, a 60 mm mortar and four 30 mm rockets. The weapons were later turned in to Mulit-National Division Soldiers at a joint security station.

At approximately 7:15 p.m., soldiers with the 44th Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division, found 171 copper blocks.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 9 Jul 2008

From MNF-I, Iraqi Police Deliver Food to Zuwarijat.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA — Iraqi Police distributed bulk food products to citizens of the Zuwarijat district of al Kut as part of an outreach program to increase confidence in Iraqi Security Forces July 3.

Supplies distributed at the event included rice, packets of noodles, canned goods and shelf-stable milk.

“The overall purpose of the humanitarian aid drop is to show that IPs are improving relationships with the community by distributing food that some cannot afford to purchase themselves,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Martinez of the 511th Military Police Co., from Fort Drum, N.Y. “It helps with improving the trust of the people in their ISF.”

The event built on gains the ISF made with the populace since first operating in the area in late April. Security gains were evident immediately after occupying three security stations in the district.

“The security of the area has improved tremendously,” said Martinez. “There has not been a lot of activity from the area since the integration of IPs and IA in April.”

This move into Zuwarijat marked the first time the ISF in Wasit province established a lasting presence in a district. Zuwarijat was chosen because it had historically been a Jaysh al Mahdi stronghold.

Just days after the occupation, people of the district began bringing food and water to the stations, and the ISF began to see an increase in tips from the populace, said IP captain, Hayder Adnan Ali Al-Saidy.

The progress was immediate, and the cooperation between the Iraqi army and IP continues to contribute to build security, said Martinez.

“Instead of working as two separate units they are functioning as one, which has helped improve the neighborhood a lot,” he said.

After the food distribution, elements of the 511th, which helped provide security for the event, visited the three security sites in the district to evaluate the needs of the ISF members and assess the state of the stations.

The people in the district did raise concerns about the delays they encounter at security checkpoints.

Staff Sgt. Erik Golden, of the 511th MP Co., emphasized the need to remain professional and for the police to work as a team to 1st Lt. Oday, commander of station 14 in Zuwarijat.

“We tell them ‘we’re here to save you and for your protection,’” Oday said. “Some are happy with our help, some are still angry. We can’t satisfy everyone.”

He remained positive about the lasting presence in Zuwarijat.

“There’s a good kind of people here,” he said. “Some are angry, many are nervous, and others are very confident when they deal with us … Some are happy we are here to help protect them.

“We’ll do our jobs,” he said.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Let me ask you this

Is it bad to eat ice cream for lunch and bacon for dinner?

Granted I am in the middle of a move and need to eat up some of the food in the house. And of course Jack Bauer recently left making the ice cream indulgence a must -- it may have come into the house after he left. Maybe. I'm just saying.

Yeah, ice cream and bacon seem perfectly reasonable given the circumstances.

Now only if I could find bacon ice cream at the grocery store ...

Good News from Iraq: 8 Jul 2008

From Stars and Strips, Pilot program helps 'Sons of Iraq' learn literary skills to land jobs.

HAWIJAH, Iraq — Raad Hussein, a 16-year-old "Sons of Iraq" security volunteer from Qabzoah, a village in the largely agricultural Hawijah district just west of Kirkuk, dropped out of school when he failed the third grade. Not surprisingly, he can barely read.

"Because of the demands of the lifestyle, we had to go out into the field," he explained.

Hussein’s job prospects would be slim without the "Sons of Iraq," but that program is drawing down. A new reading and writing program that he joined after the program’s official opening celebration Saturday could help his job prospects, though.

"Sons of Iraq" is a U.S.-funded program that pays armed civilians to man checkpoints along key roads in their areas. Commanders credit the group with security gains across the country, but transitioning "Sons of Iraq" members to long-term jobs will be crucial to maintaining that security. Many of the volunteers had been so-called economic insurgents — desperately poor residents who planted bombs and attacked coalition forces only because insurgent leaders paid them to do so.

Leaders have been busy working to find new jobs for these men so they don’t revert to taking money from foreign fighters. Yet many in the program, especially in rural areas, don’t have the education to land other jobs. Commanders in other parts of Iraq estimate that as many as two-thirds of the volunteers aren’t eligible to join the Iraqi Army or Iraqi police, both of which require basic literacy.

The National Literacy Pilot Program aims to bridge that gap. It’s teaching reading and writing to 500 "Sons of Iraq" members around the Hawijah area from June 15 to Oct. 15. The students continue to receive their "Sons of Iraq" salaries while they attend class.

"It’s an excellent opportunity to learn and get paid," Hussein said, noting that he makes about $250 a month. "I’m a ‘Son of Iraq.’ It [the program] will allow me to read the IDs and not look like an idiot."

The Hawijah district has about 7,500 "Sons of Iraq" members, while northern Iraq as a whole has about 30,000.

Planners hope to expand the pilot into a nationwide program if the first session goes well. They are already looking at opening it up to 2,000 students in the first expansion, said Lt. Steven Johnson, a civil affairs team chief with Company A, 443rd Civil Affairs Battalion.

Teachers in the program have been handpicked. Hassen Ibrahim Mahmood, for example, brings 19 years of teaching experience to his Hawijah classroom. By trade a first grade teacher, he teaches students ranging from teen-age to middle age, although most are young.

"I expect that he [the student] will learn a lot," Mahmood said. "Because they have the ability to learn, they will be better than third grade [by the end of the program]."

Some students aren’t attending class regularly, however. Khalaf Ibrahim Ali, a "Sons of Iraq" commander, said on any given day, an average of six or seven students in a class of about 50 were absent. Students are only allowed to have four absences during the entire program, and teachers have already kicked out four for skipping class. Lt. Col. Chris Vanek, the U.S. commander in the Hawijah district, told Iraqi leaders to make sure their men got to class.

"It’s very critical, especially with this pilot program, that everybody attends," said Vanek, the commander of 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment. "It’s critical because everybody’s watching this program — everyone in Iraq. If we blow it, we blow it for all of Iraq."

But most of the students are excited about learning to read and write. Maher Kais has been in the program since it began June 15. The 18-year-old never went to school and could not read and write at all. But he’s proud that he can write his name, father’s name and grandfather’s name — the Iraqi version of a full name — after just three weeks in class. He’s looking forward to the time when his skills are fully developed.

"It will give me a great confidence in myself, trying to improve myself and get a different job," Kais said.


Monday, July 7, 2008

Gone but 3 days

So Jack Bauer has been gone for 3 days now.

Flashback to Friday when he left. He packed his car in the morning but did not leave until middle of the afternoon. I tried to relax and take it easy with him, but I was restless. I started getting things ready to paint, plastering holes, moving the fridge. All the while, Jack was following me around the house. I think he just wanted to be with me. And I just kept moving about. I finally asked him if he wanted a project to do. Uh, yeah. That didn't go over so well.

That's when I realized that I was just trying to keep myself busy so I wouldn't have to deal with him leaving again. I mean, I just got him back. It's not fair that he has to leave again so soon. Humphf! So we talked about it.

And then he left.

And I was alone again.

Now while I am feeling like a pouty little girl, I am trying to keep busy. At least I have plenty to do just around the house to make the next 10 days go by quickly. Painting, cleaning, organizing, etc. will take more than 10 days, but that is all the time I have.

And then I will be back with Jack again. And all will be right with the world. Or something like that.

Good News from Iraq: 7 Jul 2008

From MNF-I, Hawijah’s literacy program gains national attention in Iraq.

HAWIJAH, Iraq – Iraq’s Deputy Minister of Education, Nehad Al-Juburi, and the Prime Minister’s Education Advisor, Zaid Chaid, paid a historic visit to Hawijah to bring national attention to its pilot literacy program July 5.

Five-hundred Sons of Iraq members in four of the sub-districts of Hawijah, Iraq--Zaab, Abassi, Riyadh and Hawijah city--are currently participating in this program, which teaches students at a 3rd to 4th grade reading level.

“Education is the foundation to rebuilding,” Dr. Nehad told the audience, which included close to 100 of Hawijah’s SoI students in the program in Hawijah. “You should be proud of what you are accomplishing here and know that you are setting the example for your country to follow.”

According to its Ministry of Education, 5.6 million Iraqis are illiterate. Thirty percent of Hawijah’s population falls into that category.

The pilot program was envisioned by Gen. David Petraeus, the commanding general of Multi-National Force – Iraq, and is being facilitated by Soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. Its initial design is to prepare SoI members for transition into the Iraqi Security Forces. The application process for both the Iraqi Police and its Army requires applicants to be literate.

The program kicked off in Hawijah, June 15, and is already fulfilling the dreams of some participants.

“I do not have the words to explain this great feeling I have when I was able to write and show my family my name for the first time,” said Abdulkarem Khalif Faris, 24.

“It was like flying. I want to thank God and my government for this chance.”

Faris had to quit at the elementary school level to help his family farm in the agricultural based economy. He hopes to apply to the IP Academy in Kirkuk City when the four-month program ends.

Hawijah Mayor Sabah Khalaf Ali praised the combined efforts of the CF and ISF for the security gains measuring around a 90 percent reduction in violent attacks against CF, ISF and citizens in this region which will now allow the country to focus its efforts on jobs and education,” he said.

“It’s only fitting on the day after our nation’s birthday I quote one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, who said that education is a gift to the people,” said Col. David Paschal, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division commander.

Lt. Col. Christopher Vanek told the SoI students in attendance to be proud of their accomplishments, referencing the security increases over the past 10 months that were key to the area’s selection by Gen. Petraeus.

“Your city and district have been chosen as the model program that may eventually educate millions of Iraqis nation-wide,” Vanek said.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark R. Zamzow, Deputy Chief of Staff, Strategic Communications, Multi-National Force-Iraq, attended along with other GoI representatives from Baghdad to include Dr. Ala Mekki, Chair of the Education Committee of the Council of Representatives, Dr. Raja Hamdun Abdullah al-Qadoo, Member of the Education Committee of the Council of Representatives and Dr. Hamid Yassin, Director of Vocational Education, Ministry of Education.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Back to Painting

It seems like it will never end. But I still have much painting ahead of me.

  1. Upstairs bathroom except once I turned off the light in the room, the light from the hallway revealed how bad of a job I did. If I have time in the next 10 days, I'll go back and hit it again. I painted a second coat.
  2. Stairwell What a serious PITA!
  3. Room of 7 Doors (aka round hallway)
  4. Entryway
  5. Kitchen
  6. Living room and TV room touch-ups
  7. Dining room
Maybe by the end of the day Tuesday. What do you think my chances are???

UPDATE: Thursday, July 10.
Still working on all this painting. I'm pacing myself. This is exhausting work. Uggg.

Good News from Iraq: 6 Jul 2008

From LWJ, Freeing a sheikh pays dividends in Tarmiyah.

TARMIYAH, IRAQ: A “keystone moment” in the recent turnaround to a relative calm in Tarmiyah was the February release of local tribal leader Sheikh Sa’ed Jassim, held for 11 months in US detention.

US Army Captain Christopher Loftis helped make the decision to free Jassim, but only after Jassim’s son persuaded Loftis that his father would improve the relationship between Americans and Iraqis in this area 25 miles north of Baghdad.

Letting Jassim go home was a risk. It appears to have paid off.

Loftis’ unit, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion/14th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, arrived in Tarmiyah in December 2007. Jassim’s son Imad had stood up the local Sons of Iraq security group in October, but he told Loftis, unless his father was released, he didn’t think he could or would much longer lead the group. The Sons of Iraq are one of several such civilian town watches patrolling Iraqi communities against al Qaeda and other threats. For about $300 a month, paid but not armed by the US, these local Iraqis man small checkpoints across the city. ...

Although the unit that preceded Alpha Company also supported Jassim’s release, Loftis was initially unsure of Imad’s assessment of his father’s influence in the area, and how significant his release would be. He certainly was not eager to help release a man caught financing the local activities of al Qaeda in Iraq and detained by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior in late 2006.

“He financed al Qaeda in Iraq,” Loftis said. “He took US money for civil contracts and some of that money went to al Qaeda in Iraq.” It can be seen in black-and-white, but in Iraq nothing ever is.

Before that, two of Jassim’s sons were murdered by al Qaeda, which controlled the area in 2007. The money given was, in every way that matters, protection against further violence to his family. It didn’t keep him from detention, but mitigated the circumstances enough for the US to help secure his release. ...

While some might blanch at the release of an al Qaeda financier, Loftis said it’s merely part of the gray area of reconciliation that rules Iraq. ...

It doesn’t mean the prisoner Jassim vouches for suddenly is a fan of the US, but the insurgent group he once worked for might now be one providing men to a local Sons of Iraq group. Not an ally, perhaps, but not exactly an enemy anymore.

Jassim’s release was an emotional event, Loftis said. At first, there was difficulty securing it, with various yes’s and no’s going back and forth. Loftis said 1st/14th Battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Boccardi, on his advice and that of others, personally went to Baghdad to petition the Iraqi justice system for Jassim’s release. ...

Set free in town out of the back of a Stryker, Jassim walked down the ramp to an adoring crowd of more than 2,000 people, Boccardi said. Lambs were slaughtered for feast, and the crowd cheered, Loftis said. Since then, Jassim has been a powerful and significant local figure, with his son an important Sons of Iraq leader.

Jassim’s influence is clear. At meetings, he takes the head seat, and groups pause to give him honorifics when he walks in. He acts like a sheik, visibly confident in movement and behavior.

However, he does sometimes go too far. Walking around a cluster of buildings near Bhukary Hall, the compound in Tarmiyah where American and Iraqi soldiers stage from to man a nearby checkpoint, Jassim tries to give an Iraqi Army officer orders about cleaning the area. The soldier is unmoved and unimpressed.

“He [the Iraqi officer] doesn’t work for the sheik,” Loftis explained. He is not a king in the area, just a man with powerful and significant local influence. To the Iraqi Army, Jassim is a notable local leader, but just one of many. The Army’s job is overall security, not worrying about every local citizen, no matter the man’s tribal power.

“They respect him, and they’ll be polite. But they don’t take orders from him,” Loftis said.

That doesn’t stop Jassim from making his opinion clear, both to the Iraqis and to the Americans.

“Sheikh Jassim is a realist,” Loftis said. “He’s taking a stand for Sunni rights in Iraq. Working with the US is not a problem for him.”

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Gone Painting

Jack is out of the house and on the road. Time for a list for a day when I need to be really productive.

  1. Make list of things to paint today.
  2. Paint downstairs bathroom. Now I know why people in mental institutions are crazy. It's from looking at all that white paint. Also now the off white tile in the bathroom looks like crap. Oh well.
  3. Paint kitchen.
  4. Paint upstairs bathroom. I got it prepped at least.
  5. Paint upstairs attic window.
  6. Paint entryway.
  7. Paint touch-up spots in dining room. Will take a few coats.
  8. Get yellow paint. I went ahead and did some of the touch-ups in the living room to see if the color match came out right.
Well, I think that should keep me busy for a few hours. Any and all painting advice is welcome.

**UPDATE**
9 PM: So it was an ambitious list. The downstairs bathroom was much more difficult than I thought it would be. Still have a few days left to get all this painting and more done. But I am pooped so I am done for the day.

Good News from Iraq: 5 Jul 2008

From MNF-I, Al-Qaeda in Iraq networks degraded.

BAGHDAD – Coalition forces dealt another blow to terrorist networks Saturday, detaining nine suspects during operations targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq’s senior leaders and operatives in northern Iraq.

Associates of an alleged al-Qaeda leader led Coalition forces to an area near Bi’aj, about 130 kilometers southwest of Mosul, where they captured him and another wanted man. The alleged leader is assessed to oversee terrorist operations in northwest Iraq, including finances, attacks and the movement of foreign terrorists. One additional suspected terrorist was detained.

Two wanted men are in custody after Coalition forces targeted them during a raid in Bayji, about 160 kilometers south of Mosul. The men are believed to be members of a bombing network that operates in the Tigris River Valley. One of the men captured is also suspected of facilitating the movement of foreign terrorists into central Iraq. Coalition forces detained four additional suspects in the operation.