Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sandstorm? Yeah, I guess so...

Oh, you mean this sandstorm? The one that made the world seem orange tinted, opaque and obscured, right!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Having Drawn Breath

I am back at the Iraqi Army location where I normally work. I managed to spend a couple of days at a much larger, British run place - while it wasn't exactly a vacation (I ended up doing a bit more work than I had anticipated) it was nice to be someplace where everyone spoke English - of a sort, heh heh. I am still working on comprehension of some of the stronger Scottish accents and terms.
Now comes the work of incorporating the lessons the Iraqi Army has learned from Basrah. Also, tying up some loose ends (they still are running some ops) and making sure everyone is up to date with equipment and such. Should keep us busy for a while to come.

Back to work guys!

Monday, April 28, 2008

Past Crimes and Present Chicago

I walked by the"Distinguished Professor" Bill Ayers while on the UIC campus the other day. I was in uniform walking with some of my ROTC Students. I recognized him and pointed him out to them. Told them who he was and explained how great our country is by providing he and his Wife, Bernardine Dohrn with coveted teaching jobs no matter how violent their pasts or their continued hate for their upper middle class lives in Hyde Park are. Bill Ayers Teaches Education at UIC and Bernardine is a Law Professor at Northwestern, they must hate everyday they struggle over to bourgeois Starbucks during their commutes in their bio fuel cars. They are both working on the inside, not Teaching but indoctrinating idealistic Student Teachers etc. in their models of Social Activism. I spent many years of my youth in Germany surrounded by spoiled children of the wealthy spouting revolution while ignoring the working class and laughing at our perceived simple ways. They always loved slumming with the Amis.

Mayor Richard M. Daley supports him.....

I also know Bill Ayers. He worked with me in shaping our now nationally-renowned school reform program. He is a nationally-recognized distinguished professor of education at the University of Illinois/Chicago and a valued member of the Chicago community.

Nationally-renowned?????? 49% of our Students drop out of High School and 6 out of 100 that go to College actually earn a Bachelors. Good Job Bill, I hope you donated that consulting fee to local soup kitchen.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Guards! Seize him!

I always wanted to order some guards to "seize" someone. I'd have asked these fellows, but they wouldn't have understood me. I guess I need to learn "seize" in Arabic...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Iraq Archelogical Find!!!

The Iraqis moved a desk into our little "ready room"... and something was left in one of the drawers. I present to you, an ancient wonder revealed!


Fortunately, a translation was already inscribed...

Postscript: "stimulates Bile Secretion" Yeah, as if Iraq is short of bile right now...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nothing Improves Morale Like Victory

They did well in Basrah. And they are happy about it. They are the men of the Iraqi Army. Good job guys!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Iraqi Army Memorial Service

The Iraqi Army lost some men, including a Brigadier, during the recent fighting around Basrah. Yesterday began a three day period where a memorial/rememberance would be held for a portion of the day. I was invited to attend, and was allowed, even encouraged, to photograph any part of the event.

We came to the place it was held, where banners were hung announcing the mourning.

We entered with a group of Iraqi officers and sat along the walls of the room, with more chairs in the middle.

At that point, one of the officers spoke, briefly. He was preparing the room to hear a selected passage from the Koran. Passages were playing from the loudspeakers, and some of the soldiers would also recite aloud themselves. The people in the room held their hands open and palms up, to receive the recitation. Afterward everyone greeted the newcomers and each other with "allah bil Khair" (God bless/welcome). A server came by and gave each person a glass of cool water. Then, the platter of cigarettes. The packs were arranged quite artfully in two concentric circles, a few individual cigarettes pulled out in various spots to facilitate easy extraction. I gave a polite refusal (you place your right hand over your heart)

And then the coffee. A server with two cups, Turkish coffee and if you didn't waggle your cup side to side (Iraqi gesture for "no more, thank you") you got a second splash of the stuff.

Iraqi tea (the bottom 20% of the glass is sugar) was then served to everyone as well. After a bit of reflection time, another group entered. Repeat all of the above, with extra "allah bil Khair" for good measure. Once the place was full groups of soldiers or NCOs and officers would go and salute or speak to the two Major Generals; the incoming commander, and the outgoing division commander.
I was the American-on-the-scene. I stayed for some time before following the British contingent and expressing my condolences to the outgoing commander, through our interpreter (my Arabic isn't quite up to that level yet). When I also spoke to the incoming commander, the interpreter was silent. Just as I turned to look at him and find out what the problem was, the new commander replied in perfect English that on behalf of the soldiers, NCOs and officers of his division he was honored to have me here. Whoah.
We left the room as replacements for us were ready to come in.
Different than the way we do things, but not so alien as to be totally unrecognizable as to what I would have called "a visitation".
Post script: I failed to mention that I watched the incoming commander, every so often, during the time I was there. I can only describe the look on his face as one of deep thought about his situation. I could almost feel the sober reflection radiating off him, and I shan't ever forget that look.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

So, what did I do today

Lets see...I helped the Scots move a radio antenna, set up my own satellite antenna, worked with an Iraqi G-4 on some supply and transportation situations, had an Arabic lesson from our interpreter, ate three dinners (normal one at 5, accepted an invitation from the G-4 for another at 7 and finally one of the G-1 officers at 8 - Centurion, bring me a feather!) tried to help the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Air Force coordinate some moves, work with a G-3 officer on two upcoming operations.

Yeah, it is after midnight here - I'm tired.

Truth Hurts......Why Theo van Gogh was killed.

When you are weak you attack those weaker. Women are evil and scary.........

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The view this morning

My camera couldn't focus past the back ramp... too bright this morning. Not to worry, the crew could see out, heh heh. I was escorting some Iraqi Army officers and NCOs, as we just happened to be going to the same place. We made quite a comic scene when we all exited with a some fairly heavy bags. Not easy to tote much when you are already in 65lbs+ of armor and gear.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A bit of bad news from...Charikar?

I read this (hey, I am at the computer right now, I can't spend all my time with the Iraqi Army...) and was dismayed. Charikar was always a very friendly place when I was there. I hope the reason the car was found there was coincidental to the disappearance of these two good people.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Going Somewhere?

Consider your choice of commuter airlines well. I, myself, choose Merlin.

The British aren't exactly running a commuter service - but lately it feels like it. Their Merlin helicopters go everywhere I need to, so I have been along for the ride.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Bagram, four years later

I returned to the scene of our past triumphs and hard work a few weeks ago. I was waiting for the arrival of the Good Boy Club to take me to my temporary B-Hut. 1st Army was there to meet us instead. Base OPs is now the building of the Force Pro Company. Everything inside that represented the first six rotations has been painted over and erased. That is fine, I could still see the evidence of our hard work all over the base while we were there. We did that mission well Major John. I did find this tiled unit patch outside of the Havey Tower on the way to the Dragon DFAC.

Malalai Joya suspended from Parliment

Malalai Joya, an afghan MP, was thrown out of Parliment last week for doing what she does best. She has absolutely no fear and she speaks her mind. She refuses to see advantage to our efforts in building a new Afghanistan by supporting the same people who destroyed it during the civil war. She is from the western province of Farah and she is contantly in conflict with her fellow MPs pointing them all out as criminals and tools of the Warlords making profit over the needs of the Afghan people. I fear for her safety.

New Faces, New Places

Some of my new best friends...heh. These British soldiers make sure your humble correspondent stays as safe as possible.

Right now things are OK - I have been busy, busy and busy. But today, Allah willing and the wadi don't rise, I can catch up on things. I just wanted to let everyone know I am still out there. The interesting stories will alas, have to wait some time to come.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

33rd Leads the Way

I attended the regional Family Support Conference this last weekend and I have to say that there is a great deal of command emphasis on family support in the 33rd IBCT.

It is very refreshing to see that kind of focus from higher command. This is a program, if done correctly will be a tremendous asset to the families of deployed soldiers (and the 33rd is taking almost a third of the state with them) as well as an asset to the soldiers themselves.

When I went with the 33rd to Afghanistan (with CSM Bones and Major John) it was just the HHC of an ASG and it wasn't even used that way. On top of that there was no, none, zip, zero… support for the families. We had enough trouble trying to figure out what our jobs were and how we were going to do them with too few people. We didn't need the stress of worrying about our families back home.

The last thing a soldier needs to worry about when they're getting shot at is the leaky faucet at home (believe me, I've tried).

Now they have Family Assistance Center Representatives around the state to provide support and guidance to the families, including making a monthly phone call to a family member designated by each soldier. The 33rd has one better than that with the Family Readiness Support Assistant who helps the Family Readiness Groups of each individual Company.

Several Company Commanders even attended the training this weekend. Many of them attended with their FRGs or at least their FRG Leaders.

I applaud the efforts of the 33rd IBCT in this facet of keeping the soldiers safe and I give kudos to the leadership for making this a priority and providing the tools to get it done. The FACRs and the FRSA are state employees so the credit there goes to the Adjutant General (MG Enyart) and the state staff (JFHQ), but there seems also to be emphasis by the Brigade Command team.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Real Heroes # 2

On Valentines Day there was another school shooting at Northern Illinois University by a crazy person off his meds. Nothing new here. What caught my eye was the heroic efforts of a young man named Daniel Parmenter. When the killer walked into the lecture arena with his weapons, Dan used his body to cover that of girlfriend, Lauren Debrauwere. She survived the fusillade, he did not. Another act of courage and sacrifice by a free person to protect others. Were do these incredible young people come from?
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