Thursday, January 31, 2008

Graduation Time

My Class, roughly the 36th to come through this training, graduated the Military Transition Team course today.

As I have mentioned previously, I feel better prepared for what is to come than when I left for Afghanistan in 2004. Sure, some of that comes from experience, but I also had better training this time around.

The cadre of of our training company, led by Captain L___ and his merry band of NCOs; SSG G____, SGT S____ and SGT B____ amongst others, made sure we got the straight info and advice. There also seems to be a sense that people "get it" - what we need to do and how. It is a combination of our cadre having recent experience, the civilian instructors often being retired military (with OIF experience) and the steady percolation through the Army system of the changes in Iraq [many of you may have followed them via Michael Yon, Greyhawk, Michael Totten and others].

I am off on a 4 day pass tomorrw, so it may be only one more update before I fly out to Iraq. From there - we'll see what I can do to keep everyone up with events during this fascinating time in Iraq's history (well, to be sure, ours too).
P.S. I don't care how much the moustache is admired over there, I can't grow one that doesn't make people laugh, so I will remain as you see me - clean shaven. Ha.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A few words from the Boss

So sayeth the CinC during the State of the Union address:

Our military and civilians in Iraq are performing with courage and
distinction, and they have the gratitude of our whole Nation.
The Iraqis
launched a surge of their own. In the fall of 2006, Sunni tribal leaders grew
tired of al Qaida's brutality and started a popular uprising called "The Anbar
Awakening." Over the past year, similar movements have spread across the
country. And today, this grassroots surge includes more than 80,000 Iraqi
citizens who are fighting the terrorists. The government in Baghdad has stepped
forward as well — adding more than 100,000 new Iraqi soldiers and police during
the past year.
While the enemy is still dangerous and more work remains, the
American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined
just 1 year ago:
When we met last year, many said containing the violence was
impossible. A year later, high profile terrorist attacks are down, civilian
deaths are down, and sectarian killings are down.
When we met last year,
militia extremists — some armed and trained by Iran — were wreaking havoc in
large areas of Iraq. A year later, Coalition and Iraqi forces have killed or
captured hundreds of militia fighters. And Iraqis of all backgrounds
increasingly realize that defeating these militia fighters is critical to the
future of their country.
When we met last year, al Qaida had sanctuaries in
many areas of Iraq, and their leaders had just offered American forces safe
passage out of the country. Today, it is al Qaida that is searching for safe
passage. They have been driven from many of the strongholds they once held, and
over the past year, we have captured or killed thousands of extremists in Iraq,
including hundreds of key al Qaida leaders and operatives. Last month, Osama bin
Laden released a tape in which he railed against Iraqi tribal leaders who have
turned on al Qaida and admitted that Coalition forces are growing stronger in
Iraq. Ladies and gentlemen, some may deny the surge is working, but among the
terrorists there is no doubt. Al Qaida is on the run in Iraq, and this enemy
will be defeated.
When we met last year, our troop levels in Iraq were on the
rise. Today, because of the progress just described, we are implementing a
policy of "return on success," and the surge forces we sent to Iraq are
beginning to come home.
This progress is a credit to the valor of our troops
and the brilliance of their commanders. This evening, I want to speak directly
to our men and women on the frontlines. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and
Coast Guardsmen: In the past year, you have done everything we have asked of
you, and more. Our Nation is grateful for your courage. We are proud of your
accomplishments. And tonight in this hallowed chamber, with the American people
as our witness, we make you a solemn pledge: In the fight ahead, you will have
all you need to protect our Nation. And I ask the Congress to meet its
responsibilities to these brave men and women by fully funding our troops.

Thanks, and your welcome, boss.

Friday, January 25, 2008


I hab a code. Sumone brod a code back wid dem from the weekend. Now I have it.

Not a good way to get ready to go to the desert...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's Okay, It's Frozen Over By Now

Tuesday morning a water main broke near Ashland and Montrose (I grew up a couple miles west and a half block south of there) in Chicago.

The street flooded in reminiscence of the Great Chicago Flood of '92. I don't think this one was caused by careless city workers though.

Back in '92 it was suggested another star be added to the Chicago Flag. One of the current stars commemorates the Chicago Fire (1871, not the MLS team) and one is for the Fort Dearborn Massacre so there is precedence.

I think we should wait for the Olympics and let that be the fifth star. After all, if we didn't add one for this year's Bears' season I don't think a lesser disaster like a flood would rate a star.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ma Deuce don't love me

Maybe she (the M2, .50 cal machine gun or "Ma Deuce" as she is known) knows that I have eyes for the M240B. And I have been seen in the company of foreigners.

Helmet defilade! Helmet defilade! Can't see me, can't hit me. Of course, since I am not such a good shot with this weapon, I may not hit them...darn.

See how happy I look after shooting that last series of targets?!? Bleah.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Photo for the day

Taliban attack at the Ritz

What better way than to make a political statement than attacking a symbol of the new Kabul. They were going after NGOs and other westerners working to rebuild their country. We need a troop surge here and kill those who need killing.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

They're Off (Again)

Major John didn't want to talk about it, but I do. I have to say, "Wow." The send off for the portion of the 108th Sustainment Brigade who are being deployed was done very well.

When we left for the Mobilization station early in 2004, I felt the way I imagined the Baltimore Colts did when they slunk out of town in the middle of the night.

This time the armory at North Riverside was more crowded than I had ever seen it, maybe even more so than when we came back. American Veteran Motorcycle Riders Association (AVMRA) Chapter 7 (CSM Medina and his wife are members) was there handing out stuff and helping our FRG sell tee shirts, the American Legion was making pillow cases and the USO was there passing out goodies.

Among the dignitaries, I spied the Adjutant General of Illinois, MG Enyart, the Assistant Adjutant General, Army (number 2 guy in the state) BG Celletti and Judy Barr Topinka (former Illinois State Treasurer).

They didn't have a lousy tape recorder playing a bad copy of the National Anthem; they had a real singer who would have made Wayne Messmer proud.

As I mentioned the American Legion was there. They have a special program going on. They send teams out whenever a unit is deploying and they take photos, of the soldier, of their families or both and they iron-on the photo to pillowcases. The soldier can then take along their family when they go or the spouse can continue to "sleep with" their loved one until he or she come home. It's great.

The Berwyn VFW and Chapter 7 of the AVMRA have adopted the 108th.

I don't happen to have any photos of the event myself, but WLS channel 7 was there and they did a nice piece that you can see here.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Back to Fort Riley

My leave came to an end on Sunday. I would rather skip talking about that - too sad.

However, we did get right back into the last of our training today:

Convoy briefing (before we leave for the range).

Getting a chance to try out the AK. Easy weapon to use - but I sure wouldn't want to try to hit anything more than 100 yards away...

The most popular person at the range? Not the guy with the high score. Not me.

The "roach coach" driver who showed up around lunch time...heh heh.
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