Friday, August 29, 2008

Labor Day Weekend in Margaritaville, maybe

Jack Bauer has a four-day weekend. And we have no solid plans. He has classmates that are traveling all over the country. Our biggest plan might be traveling to the local movie theater.

Two days ago, Jack came home at lunch and asked if we wanted to go to a Jimmy Buffett concert. My response was, "Yes" and "More information, please." Location: here in C-ville. When: unknown. Cost: free. Sure, I was a little surprised to hear that Jimmy Buffett was coming to this small town, but heck, free tickets are hard to pass up to a local event.

Yesterday evening, Jack picked up the tickets. Upon examining them, I was surprised that there was no location, no city name mentioned. Just the name of the venue. Hmmm. After a couple of google searches, I popped over to Margaritaville to see about tour dates. And what do you know, no C-ville for Mr. Buffett this weekend. He is about 80 miles away. At least it is just up the road here.

So I start looking for seating chart of this venue. And I notice the tickets are lawn seating. Am I really up for a nearly two-hour drive to sit on the grass for 90 minutes only to drive two hours back to the hotel? Sure, I like Jimmy Buffett as much as the next person, but do I like him this much?

Has anyone been to a Jimmy Buffett concert before? What are your recommendations?

Good News from Iraq: 29 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, Pool Reopening Symbolizes Return to Normalcy in Northern Baghdad.

“One of the first patrols we went on was to go assess this pool,” said Army Capt. Clint Rusch, a Multinational Division Baghdad fire-support officer.

Rusch, who along with his unit began operations here in early February, described the scene at the compound. Putrid-smelling water filled the three pools. A concession stand was decrepit, and an outer wall was crumbling, he said.

After that initial patrol, Rusch conferred with Army Maj. Olaf Shibusawa, Steel Company’s civil affairs officer, and started hatching a plan of how to make changes there.

Major renovations included repairing the outer wall, remodeling shower rooms and refurbishing the concession stand. Once the other details were decided upon, a contract was awarded and work began in early March. But after hostilities flared up in Sadr City in late March, work was halted for five weeks.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony Aug. 26 marked the official reopening of the complex, but its doors have been able to remain open for business during refurbishment, collecting about $2 per admission. The accompanying pool hall also remains open and is a popular hangout for residents.

“Our contractor didn’t want to drain the pool completely when kids are still using it, so he was able to set it up so the kids could swim while construction was going on. They were working 24 hours a day on the project,” Rusch said.

“The perfect end state would be that the project becomes self-sufficient – it doesn’t require any American influence to be able to continue,” Rusch said. “We want the community to have the ability to experience a part of childhood that every kid should have,” he said.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The muddy slide

It has been raining here for the last two days straight. And the temps have been in the mid-60s. All this gray weather reminds me of the Pacific Northwest I left nine years ago. I've even had to pull out my sweaters and set aside my bathing suit and sandals.

But yesterday I did not let the rain stop me from walking the doggies. On our way back, I foolishly walked straight up the steep path that just the day before had been dirt. Yeah, you can see where this is going. I got up close to the top and the doggies stopped to sniff something, so I stopped. And then the ground rebelled and my feet started to slide back down the hill. I tried to quicken my pace, seeing that Bear's paw were slipping too, but to no avail. And as if it were a slow-motion reel, I let out a yelp as I went down on all fours and continued to slide down the muddy red clay path. After a few feet, I came to a stop. Not hurt physically, all I could do was laugh. A few failed attempts to right myself mid-path, I then crawled off to the little bit of grassiness under a pine tree before I was able to stand up and assess the mud damage.

New white and red Adidas running shoes? Covered deep into the laces.

Black yoga pants? Covered from the knees down.

Dog leash? Completely covered, but at least I never let go of my precious babies.

Hands? Mud piled on so thick you'd think I was about to give myself a mud bath. fleece cover-up that kept me warm during the walk? Untouched.

Getting in touch with nature? Priceless.

Good News from Iraq: 28 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, Soldiers Offer Microgrants, Security While Patrolling Streets of Sha’ab.

BAGHDAD — He sees a lot of potential in northern Baghdad.

During a routine patrol around the area, he points to several areas that need improvements – a park here, a new store sign there; even Sons of Iraq (Abna al-Iraq) checkpoints are on his radar for upgrading.

“(We’re) showing the people that we care about them, and we care about the future and trying to put money into the environment – treating them with dignity and respect – trying to get them out of their homes into a safe, secure environment so they feel comfortable with us,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Maynard. “Once we do that, they can start living normal lives.”

As the patrol drove around the Sha’ab neighborhood that surrounds Forward Operating Base Callahan, Maynard pointed to the areas that he sees room for improvement as well as those that have improved in his three weeks here.

In the eight months prior to arriving at FOB Callahan, Maynard and the other members of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, were responsible for entry control points in Baghdad’s International Zone.

After an abbreviated relief-in-place of the counter improvised-rocket assisted mortar patrol mission from a 4th Inf. Div. Scout/Sniper Platoon, Maynard and his Soldiers hit the ground running – and with microgrant applications in hand.

In slightly more than three weeks, Maynard has processed nearly 30 applications, which he hopes will help to revitalize the small businesses off the heavily traveled roads here. Four previously submitted grants have been approved in that time, and shop owners were quick to put that money to use.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

America Supports You Freedom Walk

Honor the victims of 9-11 and pay tribute to our veterans, past and present.

Walk with friends and family in the America Supports You (ASY) Freedom Walk.

The Grammy Award winning Oak Ridge Boys will perform at the close of this year's national walk.

The America Supports You Freedom Walk starts at 9 a.m. at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery and will finish at the Pentagon South Parking lot.

Sign up to participate for the ASY National Walk here. Deadline is September 5 at 6 p.m.

Not in the D.C. area? Find a local walk near you here.

Bring your family. Invite your friends. Spread the word.

Good News from Iraq: 27 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, Conference Focuses on Future of ISF.

BAGHDAD — Leaders from Task Force Mountain, Multi-National Corps - Iraq and other units working with the Iraqi Security Forces met with Iraqi Army commanders for a one-day conference, Aug. 20.

"What we are trying to do is identify force generation needs. We are looking at the way ahead," said Capt. Steven Chadwick, an ISF coordinator with 10th Mountain Division.

The conference focused on manning, equipping and training the ISF to be a more effective and self-sustaining force.

"We already know where we are going to be in six months. We are looking two years-plus, trying to figure out what we see the IA looking like, what challenges we are going to encounter in getting to that end state," said Chadwick.

As insurgent attacks have slowed dramatically in the past ten months, new IA units have stood up at a rapid pace. The coalition troop surge gave the ISF a chance to accelerate their growth, said Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick, commander of Multi-National Security Transition Corp - Iraq.

"The [IA] knows how to conduct operations," said Chadwick. "They know how to clear rooms; they know how to conduct a cordon and search. They do that all the time, and they are doing that on their own, like in [recent operations in] Amarah. They are conducting major combat operations, like up in Diyalah right now, with minimal coalition support."

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Women's What Day???

For group PT this morning, Jack Bauer did a 5K run for what he told me was Women's Appreciation Day. He came back all hot and sweaty and told me to staying in bed, he part in appreciating me. He mentioned he got a water bottle that reads, "W.E.D. 2008" in bright red letters.

"I don't know what the 'E' is for," he said perplexed.

Still in bed an hour later, I mumble good-bye to Jack through sleeping lips. And there I remained for the next three hours, appreciating myself and getting some obviously needed rest. The doggies helped, too, with neither one wanting breakfast or to go out. Obviously, they were doing their part in appreciating me. (What wonderful doggies!)

About 45 minutes before Jack got back to the room for lunch, I wiggled my way out from between the still sleeping dogs and finally touched my feet to the floor. The dogs didn't move. (Are these the same dogs that used to make me get up at 7 AM on the weekends while Jack was deployed?) I enjoy the quiet time and appreciate that there is a day for appreciating me.

Jack opened the door and the dogs finally stirred. He gets them their kibble and I run out to get us lunch. While eating our tacos from Chipotle, Jack casually mentions that he is expecting an e-mail for Women's Equality Day. Well, that explains the "E."

"Equality Day?" I ask. "Wait, that means instead of me sleeping, I should have been out there running with you."

Then I looked it up. This is the day that commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.

So while Jack is going to continue this as Women's Appreciation Day (he even did the lunch dishes), I am going to appreciate all those women who fought and suffered for us to have the right to vote in this upcoming presidential election.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 26 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, INP confiscate weapons caches in southwestern Baghdad.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces, working with Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers discovered two weapons caches Aug. 25 in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad.

At approximately 11:15 a.m., Iraqi National Police of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd National Police Division, captured 37 60 mm mortar rounds in the Furat community located in southwestern Rashid.

The INPs transported the ordnance to a combat outpost for transfer to Company C, 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division..

At approximately the same time, Iraqi citizens turned in two rocket propelled grenades and a 57 mm rocket to the NP headquarters in the Risalah community in the southern Baghdad’s Rashid district.

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 24th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, found a cache in the Saydiyah neighborhood at approximately 9:15 p.m. The cache consisted of two 60 mm mortar rounds, three soda-can roadside bombs, one rocket-propelled grenade round, two electrical blasting caps and two timers.

“The Iraqi Security Forces, working with Coalition forces in Baghdad, contributed immensely to the Rashid district’s decrease in the levels of violence,” said Maj. Dave Olson, 1st BCT Spokesman, 4th Inf. Div., MND-B. “The Iraqi citizens consistently help both the ISF and Soldiers of the 1st ‘Raider’ Brigade in providing a safe and secure environment by furnishing tips on enemy activity and weapons caches.”

Happy Birthday, Mom

You are always generous with your love, patience, and time. Have a wonderful day at the beach.

Here are a few of your favorite things.

Good News from Iraq: 25 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, Members of Successful Security Program Take Steps to Join Police.

FORWARD OPERATION BASE WAR EAGLE — Members of the successful Sons of Iraq security program began the transition from neighborhood guardians to full fledged members of the Iraqi Security Forces at Forward Operating Base War Eagle, Aug. 22.

The screening process took place at War Eagle where Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers facilitated the transition of Iraqi citizens to the Iraqi National Police by evaluating applicants and job packets for the would-be members.

The screening process consisted of the applicants taking a test to determine suitability, a physical fitness test, identification verification and medical screening.

“Once we assemble the packets they are sent through Iraqi channels to be vetted, if they are approved and deemed appropriate candidates, the applicants will receive a class date and will attend the Iraqi Police Academy for approximately four weeks,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Smith, a squad leader with the 300th MPs.

After four weeks of training, the recruits will graduate and become members of the national police and be assigned a duty station in their home district.

“It’s good to see the local population wanting to step up and get involved, and it will help us get out of here faster for them to take the point,” said Staff Sgt. John Plossick, a squad leader with 4th Inf. Div.

For Miqdam Hasan Mihihsim, a member of the SOI from Shaab in the Adhamiyah District of Baghdad, the reasons to become a national policeman are his family and his country.

“It’s an honorable job to serve our nation as an Iraqi, but the salary will also help me support my family and will guarantee my families future,” said Miqdam.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Today's Adventures

First up. Brunch with the class leader and his wife. Should be more of a good time, assuming they have recovered from Friday night.

Then it is off to the nearby national park with the doggies. I don't think the doggies have been to a national park yet. I am sure they have been looking forward to pooping and peeing in one for ages.

So just an average weekend of getting dressed up on Sunday morning and then changing for an afternoon of playing in the dirt.

Good News from Iraq: 24 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, 101st Soldiers unearth weapons caches in Salah ad Din.

SALAH AD DIN PROVINCE, Iraq – Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (AA), along with Iraqi Security Forces, discovered a series of major weapons caches in Salah ad Din province over the past several days.

Acting on tips from local citizens, soldiers found a bevy of serviceable weapons Northeast of Balad and Southwest of Samarra, which ranged from sniper’s rifles to highexplosive ordnance.

Soldiers from the 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment were led to a weapons cache near Balad City on Aug. 19. The cache consisted of different sizes of mortar and artillery rounds, mines, rocket-propelled grenades and launchers, explosives and bomb making materials, a sniper rifle and anti-coalition propaganda. Three individuals were detained in connection with the sizable cache.

South of the city of Samarra, soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 17th Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division, turned in a large cache consisting of 87 155 mm rounds and 30 68 mm rockets, along with explosives and other bomb-making materials.

Also on Aug. 19, Soldiers from the 1st Special Troops Battalion in ad Dwar were led to a cache site consisting of chemical suits, gloves, boots and masks. The cache also housed electronic materials used in the making of explosive detonation devices, along with over 885,000 Iraqi Dinar and $6,500 in U.S. currency.

“There is no doubt that the weapons found around the province in the last several days, were intended to be used in attacks against Iraqi and Coalition Forces,” said Lt. Col. Thomas Hauerwas, 1st Brigade Combat Team executive officer. “The people of Salah ad Din, are tired of the senseless bloodshed and are leading ISF and CF to more and more weapons caches in the region,” he said.

“Iraqis are seeing the Iraqi Security Forces as a more capable and professional force, leading people to put more faith in their ability to provide security from extremists who use fear, hatred, and violence to advance their cause,” said Hauerwas.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Reception AAR

Time for an after action review of yesterday's spouses luncheon and Blues Reception.

The luncheon is lovely. I meet some very nice ladies who came in for the yesterday's events. Food and conversation are good. One experienced wife suggests getting gel inserts for the dressy heels since we will be standing literally for hours.

The ladies in charge do an impromptu demonstration of the receiving line. The servicemember introduces himself and his wife to the adjutant, but does not shake his hand. The adjutant introduces the servicemember and wife to the general, who introduces his own wife. Now the demonstration had the general's wife introducing the servicemember and wife to the next party in the receiving line, and so on and so forth. No problem. They remind us that the receiving line is not the place for a lengthy conversation. I leave the luncheon confident I can handle the receiving line.

(On the way back to the hotel, I stop off at the grocery store for gel inserts. The store is incredibly busy for a Friday early afternoon. There is hardly any place to park, and the otherwise very nice C-ville drivers are now grouchy. The students are coming back fast and furious this weekend. School starts on Tuesday.)

Flash forward to the evening. After walking the doggies and hanging in the pool for an hour, I squeeze and jump and twist my way into my Spanx and reinjure my wrist hooking up the waistnipper. (Apparently, that dress-trying-on injury need more time to heal.) Hair coiffed, make-up set, I study my look in the full-length mirror. Something was missing so I grab some pearls, partially to cover the inadvertent necklace tanline that has been created over the last few weeks. Perfect. And we head out the door.

Then the fun begins. I sit down in the car and my breath catches. Ouch! The waistnipper starts digging into my fleshy ribs. As we make the short drive to the school, I grow increasingly concerned about us sitting through a long dinner. (Maybe a little pooch in the front of the dress would have gone completely unnoticed and I am wearing this crazy painful thing for nothing.) It seems we park as far away as possible from the door, so the gel cushions get an early test. And they completely fail. I grimace the whole way and wonder how I am going to stand for hours in these killer heels. Other thing I notice, the deep v-neck likes to become deeper and wider as I walk. I am not used to revealing this much cleavage. A tug on the left shoulder seems to help bring the material back together. A little. Oh boy, I should have put a safety pin in my clutch. This will make for an interesting evening if ol' lefty keeps trying to sneak out.

Luckily we are near the front of the line so I'm not in too much pain or too disrobed by the time I am shaking hands. I give a discreet, quick tug on the left shoulder of the dress before I turn to shake the general's hand. Of course, the receiving line doesn't actually happen the way the ladies lunching said it would. After the general's wife, I am on my own for introductions. Interesting though. The general is a talker and Jack Bauer gets held up in the line, but I just keep moving forward. It's not like I don't say anything other than "Hello, how do you do?" I just keep my chit-chat brief. Everyone is very gracious. At the very end of the line, there is a "girlfriend." I feel bad for her; no ring but still has to be in a receiving line, yikes.

All hands shook, I arrive at the end of the line and wait for Jack. Our photo is taken and then we are on to the rest of the reception up in the fifth floor hall, with each step becoming slower and more painful and me grumbling "I hate these shoes," all done with a smile, of course.

At the reception, some of the first people we chat with are Cool Wife and her husband. I have a small glass of punch in my left hand, which I am holding fairly close to my chest. Her husband points in that general direction and asks, "What's that?" I lean over to Cool Wife and ask if her husband is referring to my breasts or my drink.

I meet many of Jack's instructors, all seemingly very funny, or at least they think they are. For everyone being all dolled up, the evening is very relaxed. (Our law school had a big reception like this every year, and last night's event had the same feeling: a cool but dressy drinking-dining date.) We circulate about the room, enjoy hors d'oeuvres and drinks, stopping at the tall bar tables long enough for me to get a sufficient break to shift some weight off of my feet if only for a few seconds. How could I have ever liked these shoes?

After the sun sets, we walk out on to the the balcony and enjoy the evening view and decidedly pleasant air and, ahhh, chairs. I give my feet a break but the waistnipper pokes back into my ribs. (I am really going to have to do something about this. The next fancy dress needs to be worn sans nipper.) Sitting down, the dress definitely wants to open wide in the front. I keep fidgeting with the left shoulder trying to discreetly wrangle ol' lefty back into a slightly more acceptable state of coverage. It is a losing battle.

With dinner reservations at 9 PM, we gather up the posse and turn to walk out when the general stops with one of our members, the class leader. First of all, what is the general still doing there? Second, why is he such a Chatty Cathy? And third, what's with the perfect timing of grabbing the class leader as we are heading out to our fancy dinner?

Dinner is at a local steakhouse with the class leader, his wife who flew in for the weekend, and Jack's platoon sergeant. Mrs. Class Leader is a riotous blend of southern graciousness, conservative politics, and beer. She and I hit it off perfectly. She even loves may snorty laugh. We talk so much over dinner, I can't even remember if the steak is good. Now the mashed potatoes are divine as is the creme brulee.

Dinner over, we get outside, and I can't stand it any longer: the shoes come off. By this time, the nipper, having been adjusted several times in the ladies' room, has folded itself over and is creating an unsightly pooch (hmmm, wasn't that the EXACT thing I was trying to hide with this hideous thing?)

Anyway, we get back to the hotel, change clothes, and meet up in the lobby for more gabbing. Mrs. Class Leader brings down some beers in her D&B tote. The news is on, covering the democratic VP pick. We talk and laugh (and I snort) until 1:30 AM. Neither Jack nor I can remember the last time we stayed up that late.

The night over, it was a successful evening. Especially since my left nipple never made an appearance.

Good News from Iraq: 23 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, Government 101: Seeds of Democracy in Western al-Anbar.

RUTBAH — City and village leaders from around the region gathered at the Rutbah City Council building here Aug. 18-20, to learn the fundamentals of running a democratic government.

“It does my heart good that when I showed up here and started talking to the leaders, we discussed education and government and not once talked about security,” said Lt. Col. Russell E. Smith, 44, battalion commander, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5, from Rochester, N.H. “This is a huge step in this area because it proves that we’ve turned a corner and are now focusing on rebuilding western al-Anbar [province].”

During the training, the leaders gathered inside the conference room to learn the basics of operating a government. The men learned structure, organization of councils and economic strategies. The training started in December 2007, and the leaders meet for three days every two months to ensure they are best equipped to handle their positions.

“A lot of these men come from different tribes and different backgrounds,” said Mark B. Humphries, 54, a liaison officer with the U.S. State Department from Webster, Texas. “When they enter their office, they must take off the tribal robe and perform as public servants for the whole district. They’re still adapting, and our job is to help them through the transition.”

The training was set up in a three-level process. The first was teaching Coalition forces Iraqi law. The second was teaching Iraqi leaders to be leaders, and the third was teaching councilmen to be councilmen. Although the training is only in its second phase, the leaders have already begun to make a difference.

“So far we’ve been able to solve the electricity and water problems in the city,” said Qasim Marai Awad, mayor of Rutbah. “Progress happens step by step, and we hope it continues.”

2nd LAR and other Coalition units will continue to support the leaders of western al-Anbar province until the local government is established and running at full capacity.

“I want to thank the Coalition forces for supporting the classes to improve the leadership,” said Qasim. “It’s good for the government to have new ideas on how to improve everything.”

Friday, August 22, 2008

Coffe, Lunch, Reception

In less than 24 hours, I will have coffeed, lunched, and been received.

It all began last night with the local spouse club's big welcome coffee. (Last month's coffee was a welcome for the spouses accompanying the OBC soldiers ; it was a small affair.) It may have been labeled as a coffee but it was just more like a buffet dinner. Good thing we were told that there was going to be a ton of food and dinner beforehand was probably unnecessary. The group is all about fun and they have probably 15 different groups to have fun with: beading, scrapbooking, sewing, book club (we were expressly told that you do NOT have to read the book! How sweet is that?), hiking, dining, lunching, hospitality, and on and on. So when we come back here there will definitely be stuff to do. It is a small military community and these women are making the most of it. I wonder if other posts are this?

Today, we have a luncheon for the OBC spouses. Really not sure what to expect, except for food. (These ladies talked a lot about eating last night. They say when you come for the grad course, it is like the freshman 15. Good thing Gold's Gym is free. I need to get back there. And I definitely need to get back to Weight Watchers. My pants aren't fitting so well. Uggg! I guess this means I can't eat those super yummy cream cheese mini-muffins or chocolate covered donuts for breakfast anymore. Or I could workout for four hours a day. But I'm not in shape to do that. So I have to give up the donuts. Damn.)

And then tonight it is a Blues Reception, receiving line and all. According to Today's Military Wife, the spouses in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps go before the servicemember; in the Air Force, the servicemember goes first. (What's up with that, AFW???) Luckily, we are in the Army, so when it is my turn, I am to "smile, extend [my] hand, greet the first person by name, introduce [myself], and say 'How do you do?' Then move on to the next person." And as I read on ... Shoot! No cigarettes or drinks in the receiving line! How uncivilized! (please take note of sarcasm) I suppose these things need to be stated. Not everyone had National Charity League as a teenager. But at least I get to wear my fancy dress and then bitch (only to my husband, of course) about how my once incredibly comfortable shoes that I loved wearing to court are now killing my feet and how could I have ever thought they were even the slightly bit comfortable, I will never know.

Maybe we'll head out afterwards in our finest and have a fashionably late dinner with some of our new friends.

But for now I need to get ready for lunch and find some pants that fit. Wish me luck!

Good News from Iraq: 22 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, Kindergarten school in Ghazaliyah reopens after refurbishments.

BAGHDAD – Following months of refurbishments, the Al Yasmeen Kindergarten School in the northwest Baghdad neighborhood of Ghazaliyah reopened during a ceremony Aug. 17.

The school was previously closed due to extensive damage throughout the facility.

“A year ago, I could not even enter this school. There was a lot of damage and nothing worked,” said Mrs. Naneey of the Al Yasmeen Kindergarten School. “Now we have a brand new school.”

“The refurbishments included such things as trash removal, a fresh coat of paint for the classrooms and the building, refurbished bathrooms, new carpet, a playground and equipment for the gymnasium,” said Capt. Joseph Sincere, with 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Multi-National Division – Baghdad.

There was also extensive damage to the roof as well as missing or broken windows that needed to be replaced, said Sincere. New water tanks were also installed as well as new furniture for the administrative offices.

“I felt good about this project, in particular, because it is the only kindergarten in our [area of operations],” said Sincere. “Being able to offer these young children a good start at an education is important to me.”

The schools headmistress, Affef Auilt Kren Adbalg, said she remembers the days when the school had neither power nor water.

“We could not run a school,” Adbalg said.

“I am very happy with the work that has been done,” said Maj. Hussein, Iraqi Army commander with the 4th Battalion, 22nd Brigade, 6th IA Division. “I want everyone to know that the Iraqi Government is very concerned about the future of this generation.”

The squadron will continue to work with the Government of Iraq in opening additional schools in the Ghazaliyah area.

“Since the beginning of our squadron’s operations in this area, there have been complete refurbishments of five schools,” Sincere said. “We also have five ongoing projects and eight that are being planned.”

Thursday, August 21, 2008

SpouseBUZZ Live: Norfolk

SpouseBUZZ, the mother of all milspouse blogs, is having a live event in Norfolk, VA on Sept 6. I think I've registered twice for it. (That's what happens when there is no confirmation e-mail.)

I attended the SpouseBUZZLive event in Fayetteville, NC in December with Jack Bauer while he was home on leave. It was that important to me to meet up with some truly wonderful women.

And just like SemperFi Wife was also doing today, I was wondering who might be showing up to this event?

Good News from Iraq: 21 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, Operation Iraqi Children Delivers in Baghdad.

BAGHDAD — Anxious but appreciative orphan children in the Salhiya District of Baghdad had something to smile about when Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers arrived, Aug. 13, to hand out school supplies as part of an assistance mission named “Operation Iraqi Children.”

During the engagement, Soldiers from the 18th MP Brigade lent a hand in the delivering of the school supplies to the local orphanage, as Soldiers from the 42nd Field Artillery Regiment and policemen from the Salhiya Iraqi Police teamed up to help the children prepare for school.

Operation Iraqi Children, which began in 2003 and was founded by Laura Hillenbrand and Gary Sinise, is designed to distribute donated school supplies to needy children in Iraq, Afghanistan and Djibouti.

“Operation Iraqi Children is a wonderful way for the people of the U.S. to help the children of Iraq, and by doing so, we are helping our Soldiers, who are working so hard over there,” said Sinise, on the Operation Iraqi Children Web site.

The IP and MND-B Soldiers will hand out more than 3,000 school supply kits that were donated to the children in Baghdad. The kits contain: a pencil bag, composition books, notebook paper, colored pencils, large eraser, a small pencil sharpener, pencils, ruler and scissors.

“The kits have been a huge hit with the local children,” said Capt. Nate Brookshire, 716th MP Bn. “The kits have also given the maneuver units and Police Transition Team a positive avenue to interact with local children with our Iraqi counterparts.”

The 716th PTT has handed out more than 400 kits since mid-July to the children in Salhiya while on community policing patrols with the Salhiya IP.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Tweaking the Layout

As you can see, I am finally taking the plunge and getting a template. Thanks to the SSB for helping me get it up.

But as you can see I lost most of my sidebar. :(

But don't worry. It is an opportunity to start over! As for the blogs I previously linked to, if I see your URL in my sitemeter referral info, I will try to get you back in there. Please feel free to send me your URL.

Also I welcome all feedback on the new layout. Let me know if there is something you really like or don't like.

If you don't want to leave a comment, feel free to e-mail me at AT Just change the "AT" to "@" and you are good to go.

And one more thing . . . . The inspiration for this comes from A Cup of Tea with Friends. I love her new layout. So thank you Rose_Michelle. :D

My Inbox

I've received some interesting e-mails yesterday. I thought I would pass this information along this morning.

From Some Soldier's Mom:


Many of you will remember the horrible story late last year about the Brit's Military Rehabilitation pool having been closed due to lack of funding and support from the British government... wounded British soldiers who were
rehabbing at a pool being asked to leave because there were some at the pool who found the sight of the wounded veterans to be too upsetting to themselves and their children.

Well, two Brits (Bryn & Emma) with a group of their friends decided to raise money for a new pool and gym for the wounded:
Last October, Emma and I, together with a small team of friends, decided to do something practical to help the wounded coming back from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The original idea was to raise £500,000 by doing a bike ride. Our offer of help was welcomed by General Sir Richard Dannatt who directed us to Headley Court, the Rehabilitation Centre, where they urgently need a new swimming pool and gym complex.
well, here's what a small group can accomplish:
Our non political appeal for help was heard by thousands and a simple idea grew into a tidal wave of support. As a very small team we were unable to lay on many fund raising events ourselves so the ethos has been to ask everyone to ‘do their bit’, to lay on an event and send us the money. That simple approach and the very obvious need has caught the imagination of thousands of ordinary, decent people and I am delighted to say that with the help of Royalty, Celebrities, the Armed Forces and The Media, we have received over £8 million so far. The first £6 million is put aside for the pool complex, the plans are submitted and by next year, the wounded will have their own pool.
But they have a WONDERFUL (and gargantuan) fundraising opportunity... and they need some help in spreading the word -- for sponsors to help cover the costs (so there w/b more money for the wounded) AND for [free] publicity for the event itself... If you're into Rugger at all (um... Rugby for the unitiated...), this will be an exciting day!!
The RFU has given us Twickenham Stadium on the 20th September this year. The Legends of rugby have agreed to play in a once in a life time match. We will see the great turn out in Help for Heroes shirts; Dallaglio, Johnson, Gibbs, Greenwood, Lomu, Phil de Glanville, Ieuan Evans and many more, as well as the stars from the three services and other top players. It will be a great day and, here is the point of this, if we can fill HQ, that is 82,000 seats, we can make £1Million for H4H and that will all go to the wounded.
There's more information about the organization at their Help For Heroes website... and you can find info on H4H RUGBY CHALLENGE HERE.

These soldiers have fought beside our American Heroes... let's see if we can help a bit from this side of the Pond.... with some publicity and perhaps some American sponsors who would like to extend our thanks!

From Military Spouse Magazine:
Military Spouse of the Year Award Now Accepting Nominations

Nominate an Outstanding Military Spouse to Be 2009 Honoree

PITTSBURGH, August 19, 2008 - Military Spouse magazine (MSM) today announced that it is now accepting nominations for its 2009 Military Spouse of the Year (MSOY) award, sponsored by USAA. The MSOY honoree represents the millions of military spouses who are unsung heroes maintaining the homefront, giving back selflessly to their communities, and providing support to our nation's troops. Often, these spouses also have full-time jobs and raise families.

In recognition of their countless contributions, MSM will honor one exemplary military spouse from each service branch and also select one overall winner. The 2009 MSOY will be announced and honored nationally in the June issue of Military Spouse magazine and at the second annual MSOY Awards Ceremony to be held during the week of May 4, 2009 in Washington, DC, in conjunction with National Military Spouse Appreciation Week. The winner will make additional public appearances, write a monthly column to appear in Military Spouse magazine, and maintain a blog during his/her reign, which will last through May 2010.

MSM and its readers will select the winner based on his/her inspirational representation of all military spouses. Nominees must be the spouse of a current member of the U.S. armed forces. Criteria for selecting the recipient include: impact on community change, volunteerism, personal sacrifice, education and career pursuits and other military spouse-related efforts. Last year's award generated hundreds of nominations from across the country, culminating in the selection of Army wife Chelle Brewer as MSOY 2008 (

MSM encourages individuals to submit a nomination for either themselves or an eligible nominee of their choice. To submit a nomination, individuals must complete the nomination form online at The nomination period runs from today through October 8, 2008. Judges will review all submissions and select ten finalists from each military service branch, after which readers will select one branch winner. Judges include a hand-selected portion of MSM's "Who's Who of Military Spouses," a list of influential military spouses.

"This award is MSM's opportunity to thank all military spouses for their invaluable contributions, in addition to recognizing them for the challenges they overcome every day," said Babette Maxwell, Military Spouse magazine co-founder and executive editor.

I run, a site showcasing the real life experiences of women and their life-learned advice, and we are searching for a military wife who wants to get a makeover before her husband or boyfriend returns from being deployed. I was hoping you might be able to help us find a deserving candidate by either posting an announcement to your readers/community or sending this information around to your circle.

We'll be shooting in Los Angeles, hopefully beginning in September or October and finishing things up when the couple is reunited. The chosen woman will have her story featured on and will win a complete mind and body makeover, including a new hairstyle, a new fitness instructor, a new wardrobe and personal counseling to prepare her mentally for her husband's return.

Anyone interested is invited to submit a brief note explaining why she wants to be a part of this project, if she has children, when her husband is scheduled to return home and which branch of the military he's in. We also ask that candidates confirm with their husbands that it's okay for them to participate, since he will have to be on camera during the reunion, and that they send in a recent photo. Submission materials should be sent to

Good News from Iraq: 20 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, ISF discovers munitions cache in Rashid.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq – Policemen from the Iraqi National Police discovered a munitions cache Aug. 19 in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad.

At approximately 12:45 a.m. policemen from 1st Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd NP Division, discovered seven 107 mm rockets, three 107 mm mortar rounds, 17 90 mm mortar rounds, 13 60 mm mortar rounds, six anti-armor grenades, one anti-personnel rocket propelled grenade, one homemade bomb, 100 explosive fuses, approximately 200 rounds of ammunition, and a two-way radio charger in the Risalah community.

The NPs turned all munitions over to Soldiers from Company C, 4th Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, which is attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad at a combat outpost for proper disposal.

“The 1st ‘Raider’ Brigade and ISF interact daily with the Iraqi citizens of the Rashid district,” said Maj. Dave Olson, 1st BCT Spokesman, 4th Inf. Div., MND-B. “The Raider Brigade with our ISF partners continues to provide a safe and secure environment for the people of Iraq. We are in the process of assuming tactical over watch as some of the ISF units assume the lead in southern Baghdad.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Dress

This Friday we are attending a Blues Reception, which is apparently a cocktail hour type thing. According to Today's Military Wife -- my guide to all things a military wife needs to know -- receptions that "start after 6 PM are always formal." And by "formal," the author means that "long gown or tea-length dress, super-dressy cocktail suit, a luxury coat" should be worn. I did not bring anything even vaguely resembling that description with me, um, not that I actually own anything like and just happened to leave it back in Middleville. So that means shopping.

But of course, I dread shopping for special occasion outfits. First of all, the sizes are usually all messed up. Two dresses of similar design but separated by more than one size can both fit me. Then there is the cut. I need a dress that covers my knees completely. Shorter lengths just make me look shorter and fatter, which is obviously unacceptable. The neckline must be low so I can best asset: My knockers. Obscenely low or too revealing is also unacceptable. I can't show up to a military event worrying about whether my left nipple is going to slip out.

A few days ago, I was in the social room -- AKA the laundry room -- chatting up with some of the wives. We are discussing the upcoming reception and what we are wearing. Having nothing dressier than khakis, I ask about where people are shopping. One newbie's wife mentions that JC Penney is having a sale. I silently groan. JC Penney? When was the last time I stepped foot in a Penney's and actually bought something? Before I met Jack a dozen years ago, perhaps? Then I start thinking, am I really that much of a snob? And as a newly unemployed person, can I afford to have such an attitude? I don't think so.

Sunday night, I got online to see what Penney's had for little black dresses. Not bad. Looks like they have a wide range of styles that will fit my needs, including a variety of sizes. But I am nervous about ordering something online when I can't tell what the material is like, what the fit will be, and how it will look on me. And I can't afford to buy several dresses then return all but one. There is a Penney's here in C-ville at the small mall. I guess I could go a try on dresses.

Which brings me to yesterday. I rush to get laundry done in the morning so I have plenty of time to devote to the dress hunt. As soon as Jack leaves after lunch, I finish folding the laundry -- yeah, I folded AND put it away, amazing, I know -- and I grab my Spanx and head out the door to brave of the the back to school crows at the mall. Just better to get it over with.

Once at Penney's I spot three or so racks with nothing but little black dresses hanging on them. Perfect. Now what are the sizes they go up to? Hmmm. Looks like about one to two sizes smaller than I think will fit. But I grab all the v-neck dresses in the largest sizes they have -- eight of them -- and prepare myself that they will all be too small. After squeezing and jumping and twisting my way into my Spanx -- I think I hurt my back -- I wiggle my way into the dresses, which then get sorted into the definitely maybe and the definitely no. So far they all fit but the dresses have revealed a tummy situation. Hmmm. Maybe it was all those nights of eating Qdoba Chips and Queso for dinner right before Jack got home from Iraq. We'll need to do something about that.

The fitting rooms are just outside the lingerie department. Surely they have some sort of medieval torture device that will make my tummy smaller. I grab a device cleverly called a "waistnipper" and sprain my hand trying to get the 14 eyes hooked. Then wiggle back into the dress in the number one spot. This dress, unlike the others, is a little fancier than a typical little black dress. This one has a taffeta skirt with an underlayer of tulle, making a little puffy and a great eye diversion from the tummy situation. With the waistnipper and the Spanx and the puffy skirt, I think it will work.

I resolve the lack of appropriate bra with a quick trip to Lane Bryant. And I don't have to worry about jewelry. I brought my entire old-fashioned-sewing-box-turned-jewelry box with me. I'll find something.

So in less than two hours, I found a perfect dress. I can't wait for Friday. Now I just need to work on my tan.

Good News from Iraq: 19 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, Educating Tomorrow’s Leaders in Ramadi.

RAMADI — In most parts of the world a school house stands as a symbol - a symbol of education, of growth, of innocence.

But in al-Anbar province, school houses had been used early in the war as a domicile for malicious acts conducted by insurgents against Coalition forces, not for educating the future leaders of tomorrow.

In a November 2006 Washington Post article, Abdul Sattar Jawad, the former dean of the College of Arts at Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, wrote, “The mass [violence in the country] underscores the chilling fact that the most dangerous place in Iraq is not the mosque, the marketplace or the military checkpoint, but the classroom.”

In sharp contrast to Jawad’s dim description of the country, the region is now rebuilding. Restorations and reopening of schools are taking place daily in Iraq, with Ramadi seemingly leading the way.

The Industrial High School in Ramadi was the latest school to open in the city.

“It’s great that the city was able to get this school opened up,” said Khalid Abdul Salam, an assistant to the Director General of Schools. “The school is going to be a wonderful institution not only for the students, but for all of Ramadi. As the youth of the city continue to earn an education, they will assist the city and the province in making their country prosperous.”

The structure required heavy renovations as it was badly damaged during the war. The combined efforts of Civil Affairs Detachment 2, the International Relief and Development team and the Director General of Schools made the renovations possible.

The project was a high priority for the city as the school will serve as an institution for young males seeking to learn valuable trades. Educators there will teach the students construction and electrical work, along with a variety of other skills.

“Education is the key to any society’s advancement,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Eric Jett, a team leader with Civil Affairs Detachment 2. “This school will allow young people from all across al-Anbar to come and learn a trade. It also has the added benefit of getting the young males off the streets and giving them something productive to do. This school will give them opportunity to become functioning members of society.”

Monday, August 18, 2008


After dealing with elk snot and the threat of camel and llama spitting, I am in desperate need of cleaning the car and my clothes.

Gotta do some laundry this AM. Please let the laundry room be empty. I don't have time for it to be crowded.

This afternoon I have to go shopping for a cocktail dress for a Blues Reception this Friday. I found a cute dress online at JC Penney. Hopefully they have it at the store and in my size.

Gotta run, folks!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Valley

(photo taken by someone other than the blog owner)

With yesterday's Run for the Fallen, we opted not to doing any sightseeing the rest of the day. Jack studied and I worked on my tan by the pool.

Today we are off to see the historic and beautiful local valley and take in the nature things. Well, as natural as African animals can be in an enclosed area on the East Coast of the US. But we'll be able to feed them so it should be fun. May even get a picture or two.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Jack ran really hard yesterday, some seven miles, much of it uphill, barefoot in the snow. OK, so maybe not the last one, but he did finish sweaty and bloody (he forgot his anti-chaffing Body Glide. Ouch!). And he made the local news. Heh. That's my husband! He's so cool. And I am very proud of him. :D

Good News from Iraq: 17 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, ISF, MND-B Soldiers seize weapons caches throughout Baghdad.

BAGHDAD – Iraqi Security Forces and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers seized weapons caches throughout Baghdad Aug. 15 and 16.

At approximately 3 a.m., Soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, during a combined operation with soldiers with the 36th Brigade, 9th Iraq Army Division, found five AK-47 rifles, three AK-47 magazines loaded with ammunition, two Siminov rifles and a hand grenade near the Amir joint security station in Baghdad Aug. 15.

Approximately four hours later, while conducting a mounted patrol of the East Rashid area of Baghdad, Soldiers with Company D, 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, acting on a tip from a local resident, seized two 155 mm mortar rounds and a 60 mm mortar round.

At approximately 11:50 a.m., Policemen with the 8th Brigade, 2nd National Police Division, working in the New Baghdad area of Baghdad, seized three rocket rails from the bed of a truck at a security check point. The rails were transported to a local joint security station While conducting a forces patrol with the local Sons of Iraq in the West Rashid area of Baghdad, Soldiers with Company A, 1st CAB, 22nd Inf. Reg. found four Chinese-manufactured 87 mm mortars, three 60 mm mortars, two 57 mm mortars and three Chinese-manufactured 107 mm mortars at approximately 12:05 p.m.

In the Al-Mansuriyah area of Baghdad, just after 2 p.m., IA soldiers were escorted to a weapons cache by a local resident. They seized the weapons and transported them to their base, where an MND-B Explosive Ordnance Disposal team conducted a controlled detonation.

The cache consisted of two 120 mm mortar rounds, an 82 mm mortar round, five 25-pound amounts of propellant, a PG7 rocket, 1.5-liters of TNT explosive material, 15 electrical blasting cord caps and 18 feet of detonation cord.

In an abandoned house in the West Rashid area of Baghdad, soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 24th Brigade, 6th IA Division found six 60 mm mortar rounds with detonation cord attached to the top of each round at approximately 3 p.m.

At approximately 7 p.m., Soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion. 27th Infantry Regiment, 2nd SBCT, 25th Inf. Div., acting on a tip by a local Sheik, seized an improvised-explosive device that had been attached to the Sheik’s car. While the Soldiers were investigating the incident, they also seized a 57 mm rocket and a rifle On a search for weapons caches based off a tip from a local resident, Soldiers with Co. B, 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, found four boxes of .51-cal. ammunition in the Ghazaliyah area of Baghdad at approximately 12:30 a.m. Aug 16.

“These continued efforts both by Iraq Army and MND-B Soldiers provide the local residents, Iraq Security Forces and Coalition forces an opportunity to pursue peace,” said Lt. Col. Steve Stover, spokesman, MND-B and the 4th Inf. Div. “This is invaluable for these people – this country – right now.”

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Run for the Fallen

Have you all heard of this?

Run for the Fallen


Beginning Flag Day, June 14, 2008, a dedicated team of runners will run across America from Fort Irwin, CA to Arlington National Cemetery, one mile for every Soldier, Sailor, Airmen, and Marine killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom. For ten weeks, team members will mark each mile with an American flag and signcard in an apolitical reflection of remembrance of each service member.

Jack Bauer and one of his classmates are taking part in this run this morning. And soon it will be heading to DC for those of you who are in that area.

Good News from Iraq: 16 Aug 2008

From The Wall Street Journal, The War in Iraq Is Over. What Next?

The war I witnessed for more than five years in Iraq is over. In July, there were five American fatalities in Iraq, the lowest since the war began in March 2003. In Mosul recently, I chatted with shopkeepers on the same corner where last January a Humvee was blown apart in front of me. In the Baghdad district of Ghazilia -- where last January snipers controlled streets awash in human waste -- I saw clean streets and soccer games. In Basra, the local British colonel was dining at a restaurant in the center of the bustling city.

For the first time in 15 trips across the country, I didn't hear one shot or a single blast from a roadside bomb. In Anbar Province, scene of the fiercest fighting during the war, the tribal sheiks insisted to Barack Obama on his recent visit that the U.S. Marines had to stay because they were the most trusted force.

The war turned around in late 2006 because American troops partnered with Iraqi forces and tribal auxiliaries to protect the population. Feeling safe, the population informed on the militias and terrorists living among them. Then, in the spring of 2008, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki attacked the Mahdi militia of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr that controlled Basra and half of Baghdad. The militia crumbled under pressure from Iraqi soldiers backed by coalition intelligence and air assets.

The threat in Iraq has changed from a full-scale insurgency into an antiterror campaign. Al Qaeda in Iraq is entrenched in northern Mosul, where it may take 18 months to completely defeat them. By employing what he calls his "Anaconda Strategy," Gen. David Petraeus is squeezing the life out of al Qaeda in Iraq. The mafia-style militia of Sadr has been splintered.

The competition among Iraqi politicians has shifted from violence to politics, albeit yielding a track record as poor as that of our own Congress. After failing for two years to deliver basic services, both Shiite and Sunni politicians are stalling on legislation to hold provincial elections because many of them will be defeated. While irritating, these political games have not blocked U.S. gains.

Americans should praise rather than slight our military's achievements. Civil war has been averted. The Iraqi army has thrown the militia out of the port of Um Qasar, thus ensuring stable oil exports. Al Qaeda fought to make Iraq its base in the Arab Middle East. Instead, it is being hunted down.

Iran has emerged as the major threat to stability in Iraq. While its goal was to control a weak Iraq after the American army was driven out, Tehran overplayed its hand. Iran supplied the rockets to attack Iraqi politicians in Baghdad in April and supported Sadr's militia. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shiites died fighting Iranians in the '80s, and those memories are still fresh. In southern Maysan Province, American and Iraqi units are waiting to hunt down terrorists returning from Iranian training camps. Iraq, backed by some American forces in remote desert bases, is poised to emerge as a regional counterweight to Iran.

Yet the progress in Iraq is most threatened by a political promise in the U.S. to remove all American combat brigades, against the advice of our military commanders. Iraqi volunteers working for a nonsectarian political party in Baghdad asked me, "Is America giving up its goals?" It's an unsettling question.

With victory in sight, why would we quit? The steady -- but not total -- withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq is freeing up forces to fight in Afghanistan. But Afghanistan is not the central front in the war on terror. Al Qaeda is hiding in Pakistan, a nation we are not going to invade.

The Iraqis aren't yet confident enough to stand entirely on their own; al Qaeda's savagery still imposes too much fear, while Iran is training terrorists next door. In counterinsurgency, the people must know they are protected. Gen. Petraeus has proven that intimidation can be defeated by placing American soldiers among the population. Wars are won by confidence, but also by procedures that take time to mature; and the Iraqi offensive against Sadr's militia in Basra last April revealed an atrocious Iraqi command and control system.

We are withdrawing as conditions permit. For instance, in the infamous Triangle of Death south of Baghdad, Col. Dominic Caraccilo has spread his rifle companies across 22 police precincts. Over the next year, he plans to pull out two of every three companies, leaving the population protected by Iraqi forces, backed by a thin screen of American soldiers.

If implemented on a countrywide scale, this model would reduce the American presence from 15 to five brigades over the next few years. They can be comprised of artillerymen, motor transport and civil affairs as well as infantrymen. By calling these residual forces "Transition Teams," we can remove the political argument in the U.S. about the exact number of combat brigades, and allow our commanders flexibility in adjusting force levels. This change of names rather than of missions is a way to save face and bring Americans closer together.

The problem is not American force levels in Iraq. It is divisiveness at home. While our military has adapted, our society has disconnected from its martial values. I was standing beside an Iraqi colonel one day in war-torn Fallujah when a tough Marine patrol walked by. "You Americans," he said, "are the strongest tribe."

But we cast aspersions on ourselves. The success of our military should not be begrudged to gain transitory political advantage.

In 1991, our nation held a parade after our military liberated Kuwait. Over the course of more than five hard years, our troops have brought stability and freedom to 25 million Iraqis, while crushing al Qaeda in Iraq. Regardless of disagreement about initiating the war back in 2003, Americans should unite to applaud the success of our troops in 2008.

A stable Iraq keeps faith with the million American soldiers who fought there, sets back Iran's aggression, and makes our enemies in Afghanistan and elsewhere fear us. It's time we stopped debating about yesterday and displayed national pride in our soldiers.

Mr. West is a former assistant secretary of defense and combat Marine. His third book on the Iraq war, "The Strongest Tribe: War, Politics and the Endgame in Iraq," is out today from Random House.

Friday, August 15, 2008

That kind of day

Yesterday was shaping up to be an iced venti caramel macchiato followed by a pint of B&J's Americone Dream kind of day. Let's see what's been going on.

0319: Moo dog starts a big "I need to go out NOW" kind of barking. I yell at her to shut up. (Yes, that is my highly ineffective method of dog management.)

0320: Moo is still barking. I'm still in bed.

0322: I drag my butt out of bed, search for clothes and shoes, while Moo is still barking. I begin to worry that the neighbors are going to start complaining to the front desk.

0325: Still looking for shoes. Damn! This is why I usually keep them by the bed. Yelling at Moo to be quiet seems to have paid off as she is now quiet assuming that she'll be going out momentarily.

0330: Ah, outside in the warm humid night air. Boy, do I just LOVE to get sticky in the middle of the night. Uggg. We walk to the grassy area that has just been watered. We walk all over the grass sniffing every.single.blade. And nothing.

0335: We try another patch of grass with a tree. Maybe that will be more enticing. Bear, naturally being a boy, finds the tree an acceptable target. Moo? More nothing.

0340: I give up and drag them back inside to the air conditioned civilization and to get some more sleep. Right after I relieve myself. I head into the tiled bathroom and SPLASH, SPLASH. There is water on the floor. Again. For at least the third time. I feel for the light switch and feel water coming down the doorframe. Crap. I put a towel down to catch the water so no one slips when he gets up.

0345-0520: I toss and turn in bed as Moo sleeps quietly on the couch. Darn dog. Why did you make me get up???

0521: DRIP, DRIP, DRIP. I sit up in a panic thinking the bathroom ceiling is leaking. I flip on the light and the water is leaking into the ceiling, not into our bathroom. What is the guest upstairs (who I swear has a pet rhinoceros) doing? Not paying attention to the water apparently. I shut the door to the bathroom in hopes that will keep the noise down on the off chance I can get some sleep.

0700-0900: BEEP, BEEP, BEEP. The alarm goes off. Jack Bauer gets breakfast. And I start my grouchy day in earnest. First, I get to complain to the desk. Engineering doesn't get in until 0900. Then there are the carpet cleaners. They were scheduled to come Tuesday and Wednesday, but no, they are such good planners, that they didn't get but 2/3rd of the hotel done in those two days. But now they are knocking on my door to see "if it would be OK to clean your carpets today." As if I really had some choice here. I should have said, "Well, I picked up all the stuff off my floor, including my husband's ruck sack filled with 30 pounds of crap, on both Tuesday AND Wednesday and today I don't feel like doing it." Alas, I played the nice, subservient, happy, smiling, overly accommodating guest and picked it all up, again.

0920: Bear starts whining while I was in the middle of a bit of work. He isn't moving toward the door. He is just lying there, giving me the poor puppy dog eyes, "it is horrible that Moo is my big sister" kind of look. Poor dog. Get over yourself. Moo is bigger and doesn't whine.

0930: Engineering shows up. They only way to know what is going on is to spend some time opening up the ceiling. Yep, that means we are given the "option" of changing rooms. Oh, Jack is just going to love this. I tell the hotel staff that I will discuss with Jack at lunch and let them know.

1015: Worn down from all the Bear whining, and with my voice going from yelling at him, I take the dogs for a walk. Finally, everyone poops and pees and shuts up.

1130: I head out to the grocery store to get a few things for lunch. The idiots are out in full force.

1215-1230: Jack and I eat lunch. He tells me I've been grouchy a lot lately. And of course, nothing makes me grouchier than someone pointing it out to me. *sneer* I mention the changing of the rooms "option" and Jack, disgusted, leaves it all up to me. Jack cuts his lunch time short to work on an assignment, but maybe he just doesn't want to be around his apparently chronically grouchy wife. Humphf.

1245: I check out the rooms available to us to see which would be best for the doggies. I let the front desk know and they tell me it will be later this afternoon before the room is ready. Fine. I'll do something else for the next few hours.

1245-1345: Waste time on Internet.

1345: The cool wife I got pedicure with weeks ago called me to see if I wanted to hang by the pool. Definitely!!

1400: On my way out the door, the front desk calls to tell me the room is ready. Later this afternoon my ass. Too bad. It will have to wait at least an hour while I pool hang.

1600: I drag my well rested butt in from the pool and Cool Wife offers to help me move! Sweet!

1800: Ahhhh, stuff moved into new room. And to think Jack Bauer complains about ME having too many shoes. He has sooo many more here than I do.

1900: Out of sheer frustration and exhaustion, I make the mistake of ordering Domino's for dinner. (Poor Jack pays for it the next morning running O-Hill. Sorry, my love.) Jack's got his assignment done and is in a better mood. (I think he's been the grouchy one. :P)

2000: Waste time on Internet.

2100: Crawl into bed, slightly less grouchy than when the day started, and watch Olympics as long as possible while falling asleep 15 times before finally giving up (how un-Olympic) and turn off the TV.

I did somehow make it through the day sans latte and B&J, although I did have a touch of chocolate hazelnut gelato, which seemed to hit the spot. So what started off as a bad day turned out to be OK. We've got a room closer to the outside door and it faces the garden so one one is walking outside. And I got to work on my tan. (Yeah, I am pretending I am 20 again.)

Good News from Iraq: 15 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, Tikrit, ad Dwar see reconciliation numbers reach 600.

TIKRIT, Iraq – The number of individuals seeking to clear their names and reconcile with Iraqi Security and Coalition forces in the greater-Tikrit area has reached over 600 as of Aug. 13.

The people from the areas of ad Dwar, al Alam and other small towns and villages near the Salah ad Din provincial capital of Tikrit, have contributed to the large numbers of persons reconciled.

“There have been over 60 separate tribes represented and these people have now become a part of the future of Iraq,” said Maj. Phillip Borders, 1st Special Troops Battalion operations officer. “They can sleep peacefully in their beds tonight knowing that they will not be detained for the offenses that they have committed in the past.”

The number of persons who have reconciled throughout the Salah ad Din province is now approaching 1,500.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Say Cheese!

This afternoon I am going to get my new active duty ID. I am really excited about it because I'll have proof in hand that I am an active duty Army wife. Woohoo!

But what to wear? Is the photo black & white or color? I'll probably just go with a dark collared shirt.

Then what kind of facial expression do I give? A straight-on cheesy smile? A head tilt cheeky smile? A brow raise and a slight lip curl (a trademark of mine)? Or the deadpan mug shot? Oh the choices!

What do you all think?

Well, I can't smile without getting bags under my eyes! Shoot! Just to prove that I am not a bag-eyed lady, here is a pick of a real eye along with the ID.

Good News from Iraq: 13 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, Southern Kirkuk Civil Service Corps established.

KIRKUK, Iraq – The official announcement of the establishment of the Southern Kirkuk Civil Service Corps was made during a commencement ceremony held at the Kirkuk Convention Center, Aug. 11.

The 12-month program is funded by Coalition forces and will employ 500 Iraqi citizens from four districts in over 20 villages within the Kirkuk Province. Those selected during a previous application process include 250 former members of the Sons of Iraq, according to Lt. Col. Dennis Sullivan, commander, 2nd Battalion, 22nd Inf. Regt., 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division.

“The blue print took six months to develop,” Sullivan said, referring to the rigorous selection process which had Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 22 Inf. Regt. and those assigned to the 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division conducting background checks and facilitating the paperwork that ensued.

The program has already provided 100 jobs to local citizens to work in administrative and teaching capacities.

The ‘Triple Deuce’ battalion facilitated the program with a paid local staff made up of college-educated citizens from Kirkuk, to including 26 women.

“As a clear indicator of the security gains in the area, we can now focus on rebuilding the infrastructure in areas once plagued by insurgents, and investing in its future—the employees and students represent some of the finest examples of citizens of Iraq,” Sullivan said during the ceremony. The other districts benefiting are Taza, Yaychi and Daquq.

The student workers will receive paid vocational classroom instruction and on-the-job training geared toward construction-related skills such as painting, carpeting and masonry. The projects will focus on the infrastructure needs of the communities such as schools, municipalities and other civil service related construction.

“One hundred and sixty-nine construction projects have already been lined up for these students,” Sheikh Mohammed Mizhar Al Shamhari, the CSC program manager told the audience attending the ceremony. “They will be involved in rebuilding their communities while learning a skill that will help them rebuild their lives too,” he said.

The list of dignitaries attending the milestone event included Maj. Gen. Mark P. Hertling, commanding general, Multi-National Division-North and 1st Armored Division, Col. David Paschal, commander, 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Kirkuk Gov. Abdul-Rahman Mostafa and key Iraqi Security forces leadership as well as local and provincial government officials.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 12 Aug 2008

From MNF-I, 'Women of Tomorrow' Gather in Ramadi.

RAMADI — As Ramadi transitions from an insurgent stronghold to a calm and recovering city, the women of the city are also taking steps to better their future.

More than 50 women from the emerging city gathered for the “Women of Tomorrow” women’s conference at the Ramadi Sunni Endowment Center August 2-4.

During the conference, women discussed common issues in today’s Iraqi society, and were also introduced to and officially welcomed the Females for Ramadi Council.

The council will serve in an advisory role to the city’s mayor concerning issues pertaining to women and children, said Lt. Col. Sandra Rodriguez-Brown, the executive officer of the Embedded Provincial Recovery Team 2-Ramadi, who is partnered with 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1.

Organizers of the conference shaped several lectures and discussions around opportunities that are available to women in the region, and also discussed poverty issues and steps women can take to support their families.

Rodriguez-Brown said a large percentage of women in Ramadi are unable to support themselves and their family. For some, she said, religious traditions prevent them from working, and others are lacking proper education to attain jobs. Until recently, there has been little guidance and support for the city’s women. Some have turned to begging to make it through each day.

“Many of the impoverished women only ask for money because they have no other alternative,” said Halima al-Nueimi, a 56-year-old woman from Ramadi, and the city’s department head of Women’s Affairs. “Before the event started, I told the organizers we need to find time to educate the women of Ramadi.

“We can’t just give them money,” she added. “That will only fix their problems for a month or two. Instead, we have to teach them how to make their own money. With more educated and trained women, the standard of living in Ramadi will continue to increase.”

Al-Nueimi said she hopes the women walked away from the conference with a feeling of self-responsibility.

“I want them to be more willing to help themselves,” she said. “The widows and the divorced women need to find a way to earn a living and rise above their current situation.”

The quality of life in Ramadi has steadily increased during the past two years, as the region has embraced peace and turned away from violence.

“There’s no way we would’ve been able to hold this event a couple of years ago,” al-Nueimi said. “We couldn’t even go into the streets without being threatened by the terrorists. I would just lock my doors and stay inside my house the entire day.”

Now, Iraqi Police have assumed security responsibilities in the city and Coalition forces are serving in an advisory role to the growing force.

Iraqi policemen from the Qatana neighborhood of Ramadi provided security for the event.