November 10, 2008

From the Front: 11/10/2008

News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

In their own words:
Scott Kesterson: A Moment to Reflect - I need to take a moment to add a few comments about the soldiers I am with. I pride myself in telling the stories of the men and women that are deployed, with as little bias as possible. With a degree in History and a Photojournalist, there is nothing greater in my view than recording the candid and often vulnerable moments that define us as people. The palette I have chosen at this juncture in my life is war, a challenging and at times treacherous environment that offers a view into the human soul in its full breadth of multiplicity and contrast. I enter each of these embeds with the understanding that I am here to record their story, good and bad, as it happens and as they experience it. As part of that, I work hard at holding my own opinions close. In the past few days there has been a torrent of anger and hate written in response to a blog titled, “The Other Side of Paradise.” I wrote that blog in two parts, showing two dif-ferent reactions to the election. (READ MORE)

Annex B: Getting Around: The Victors - Life on COB Adder involves a lot of getting around the COB. Our living areas are a pretty good hike from the PX , our motor pools, headquarters building and our chow hall. Getting from one place to another can be somewhat of a pain unless you are one of the lucky few that has transportation. Back home most of us have cars or trucks that we can get in anytime we like. Its something unique to Americans to have so many sets of wheels on demand. Here in Iraq few of us have that luxury. Usually someone whose job requires a vehicle or if their rank is high enough to warrant one actually gets a 'Victor'. Let me address nomenclature right now. In typical Army fashion we have abbreviated and slanganated terminology to describe the various forms of transportation. Let me explain. A Victor is a vehicle. Victor is the phonetic word for the letter V. V is short for Vehicle, translated to Army-nese it is ‘Victor.’ (READ MORE)

Back on the Homefront: The end is in sight!! - Finally!! I had just asked Micah yesterday if there was any more information he could give me about when he'll be home. He just said there would be a newsletter coming out that says the 2nd week of December...ok, that gave me a little hope, but I wanted the "official" word. I actually got a call from the FRG phone tree while on the webcam with Micah, but told him I'd call the lady back. As soon as I got off the computer, I called her back and she had quite a bit of news for me...yeah!!! She said that right now, they ARE due back sometime the 2nd week of December, of course, depending on storms, travel, etc. I AM SO EXCITED!! She said she'll be calling when they leave Kuwait, when they arrive at Ft Hood and then when they'll actually be coming to Michigan for the ceremony. I just can't believe it, finally a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: More daily living - On those not-outside-the-wire days, I knock out NCO bidness. I wander around and talk to the guys who have stuff I need, shoot the breeze with the other "attachments" (those of us not assigned to this particular battalion, but who are nonetheless here to help), struggle to make phone calls (DSN to VOIP? VOIP to cell? Cell to DSN?) and generally handle the small stuff. Once that's done, I drift back to AO Abby, fire up the coffeepot, dig out something I haven't read yet, and settle in. Yep. That's my chair, on my porch. In front of it is my coffee cup, and immediately to the right is my ammo can ashtray. I like my porch, which is fortunate, because I think I shall be spending a lot of time there. Of course, there are some drawbacks. Those of you who've been there know what's coming, right? (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: "Unofficial" MRI report - Ok, I know you are all on the edge of your seats awaiting news about the MRI. We will NOT have an official report until tomorrow when the MRI doctor comes in to read it, however, Rob's doctor gave me his "unofficial" results. When he looked at it, he said that he only saw the initial injuries and nothing new (that HE sees) has formed. His initial injuries were a spot on the top and back of his head. To him, it looks like these injuries are superficial and not deep. Again, this is not the official news but extremely uplifting to us!!!!! When I get the official report, I'll pass it on. I also have some more really exciting news. I went to see Rob early this morning and he was opening his eyes!!! Now, he was not looking at me and was not focused on anything, but he had them open and was blinking. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: The Trouble With WaPo - If we are to believe the Washington Post, the Iraqis are so useless that their security forces don't have a prayer. The message from this article is let's just leave them behind and get the hell out of Iraq. These security forces are sectarian, they drive too fast, and so on. Sure Iraq's a little better than it was, "[b]ut the Iraqi units still depend heavily on Americans for training, logistics and other assistance." With violence down dramatically, the story says, "U.S. forces are trying to boost the confidence and image of the Iraqi security forces by mentoring and training troops and officers, and by mounting public-relations campaigns." You know, like propaganda. Why? Because "U.S. military officials hope to teach the Iraqi security forces, which often used a heavy-handed approach under the dictator, not only good technical skills but also democratic values." What a waste of time, the story says. (READ MORE)

IN-iraq: "I miss the experience of being on an impossible task" - Joint Base Balad, Iraq- Sometimes what one experiences in a little over a year can seem to fill two lifetimes. You’d have to say Lieutenant Todd Baldwin’s journey to Iraq began at Virginia Military Institute. He played football there. He grew to love the deafening roar of the crowds, the feel of pads crunching and teammates who carried values of leadership and service on and off the field. When his roommate joined the National Guard he said he began to think about joining the Army himself. “I was attracted by the leadership aspect,” said Baldwin, 25, of West Des Moines, IA, who had a scholarship to play football at VMI. He didn’t join the Cadets until his Junior Year. From then on, everything seemed to speed up. Baldwin was made captain of the VMI team, and then he graduated and prepared to deploy to Iraq with the 101st Airborne. (READ MORE)

The Left Captain: Bandwidth - The relative calm for us has continued since early October. In the last 39 days we have done three missions to outlying outposts and two trips to Bagram. We have two more missions scheduled in the latter half of November. Contact with the enemy seems to have quieted down but I'm not sure why. I have an open invitation to attend daily battle update briefings—these are meetings that review current combat operations and current intel related to our immediate area and adjacent regions. When I first got here I consistently attended these meetings, partially to familiarize everyone with my face, but also because I wanted to know what was going on, as if knowing would make it easier for me to navigate the deployment. Since late September I have avoided them. Everyone now knows me and I no longer want to know what's going on. (READ MORE)

Navy Gal: Looking back - As my time in Iraq is quickly approaching the end I have found myself looking back over the past 9 months. From the training in Williamsburg, VA to the crazy trip up to Iraq to the hotter than hell months spent in Iraq it has been a wild ride but a worthwhile one. I signed up for this deployment not sure what to expect and I'm leaving as an Iraq veteran. I'm one of "those" people now. Granted, I'm not an M-4 wielding, ACU wearing soldier, but I did experience some aspects of war. I may have spent most of my time making sure nothing infiltrates American soil, but that doesn't mean that my job wasn't any less important. I have come to realize that now. It has been an honor and a privilege to send these guys and gals home to their families while the rest of us stay behind and carry the torch for them just a little bit longer. (READ MORE)

Micahel Yon: In Time of War - 10 November 2008 - The Iraq war is over. Barring the unforeseen, the darkest days are behind, though we are still losing soldiers to low-level fighting with enemies that are true “dead-enders.” Last month we lost seven Americans in combat in Iraq. Peace, however, is not upon us. Another thirty or so Iraqis died today in suicide attacks. Nobody suffers more at the hands of Islamic terrorists than other Muslims. A new President will soon begin to make critical decisions about Iraq and Afghanistan, the economic crisis at home, and countless other matters. While the Iraq war began, then boiled and finally cooled before President-elect Obama will be sworn into office on January 20th, 2009, the Afghanistan-Pakistan spectacle is just getting started. He was always a fierce opponent of our involvement in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Notes from Iraq: 07NOV08--Louie and the Irishman - Soldiers sometimes take in dogs and cats here in Iraq as pets or unit mascots. We try to justify this practice, saying that they'll keep mice away or alert us of dangerous persons. But, to be honest, many Soldiers just have big hearts. So when I explain that the majority of my team surrounded a connex (big metal bin used to store equipment), which was about to be moved by a crane, in order to capture the kitten hiding underneath, note that we did this out of love for this kitten. We spent most of the day loading all of our trailers and connexes onto flat-bed trucks to be moved to our new base. It would be a shame if our new base were overrun by mice, eh? Our team medic, Sergeant Luis Montes of Washington state was less than thrilled with our team mascot, fearing parasites and diseases. (READ MORE)

Playing in the Sandbox: Fall Back - And all of a sudden, it was over. One moment we were sitting around in Kuwait, the dust and sand still touching every fabric of our lives. Then, as we flew over Germany, brilliant green grass and autumn tinted trees came into view. Red tiled houses dotted the countryside, a dark mist settled into the valleys between the rolling hills. We were back. As I walked down the steps of the plane the air felt crisp and cool. A light rain drizzled, in my mind the very same rain that was with us at Warhorse, then Balad, and down into Kuwait. I like to think it followed us back just to make sure we got home safe. (READ MORE)

Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army: Another post... - Well, thank you all to those who keep showing your support to my brother and I! Thank you! Another post...well, that's about all this is. I really don't have much to say right now. I'm kinda waiting on something to hit me. I'd love to write about flyin squirrels and how much I like them and how much they make me happy everytime I see them, hear them, or think about them. Flyin squirrels are just that incredible. I would say I love talking to them, but then you'd think I'm just crazy...I mean, how many people do you know that have flyin squirrels? Well, I guess I'm the first. And I love mine. She's great!! She's cute and cuddly, sweet and adorable...yep, I know, it's weird, but I love her. Any-who....I miss my dog too. If you kept up with the post for some time now, I talked about how I couldn't wait to go home and take my dog to Lowe's. Well, we did that. (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: Between the Handshake and the Fuck - I did not smoke while composing this. I’m hollow inside. I have a little space for Lieutenant Walter. She bounces around in there, careening of the walls of this tiny space inside my body. She enters my thoughts randomly during the day. Sometimes, when I awake, I look at my clock and choose to linger in bed if I am not late for my shift. I imagine what it would be like if she were sleeping next to me. Perhaps her back is turned to me. My eyes follow her spine all the way down to the cleft of her buttocks. Or when I am on shift, I imagine that she comes to the BDOC. She is wearing her PT uniform. The dark hair on her arms holds a promise of what is to come. I tell the personnel in the BDOC to go to dinner. What was that NCO creed? Pleasure, profit or personal safety? She approaches me as I sit in my chair, excited that we could be caught at any moment. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Al Hillah, Iraq — How do you measure success? - “Regarding the $7 million newly-renovated Al Hillah Maternity and Children’s Hospital, located in Babil Province, it’s more than bricks and mortar — it’s all about saving lives,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Representative Edward Jones. Like many USACE military, civilian and contract employees serving in Iraq, Jones will soon return home knowing his efforts directly benefitted thousands of Iraqi families. (READ MORE)

Ameriyah SoI members transition to improve local businesses - BAGHDAD – Selected members of the Sons of Iraq in Ameriyah applied for micro grants at Joint Security Station Ameriyah Nov. 9 in order to start a different kind of transition. This type of transition will require the members selected to work together in order to share ideas and build community within the business owners in Ameriyah. (READ MORE)

Latvian army concludes mission in Iraq - CAMP VICTORY, Baghdad – Members of the Latvian army concluded their mission in Iraq during a ceremony Nov. 8 at Camp Victory. Maj. Gen. Paul E. Lefebvre, Deputy Commanding General, Multi-National Corps – Iraq, and various other distinguished visitors, to include the Deputy Commander of Latvian National Armed Forces, Brig. Gen. Juris Kiukucans, attended the ceremony and addressed the Latvian soldiers. (READ MORE)

Sab al Bour residents ‘see light at end of tunnel’ - CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Only a year ago, reliable electricity in Sab al Bour was just a dream. As of Nov. 8, residents in this small agricultural city are literally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, according to Shaykh Nadeem Hatem al Tamimi, an influential leader in the area. Outside the city’s new electrical substation, the shaykh spoke literally and metaphorically about the town’s emergence from darkness. (READ MORE)

Iraqi men join ranks of NP at ceremony - ADHAMIYAH, Iraq – A brief ceremony on a joint Iraqi Security and Coalition forces compound marked the culmination of five weeks of training for more than 20 men as they became members of the Iraqi National Police. “I’m very proud to protect the people of Iraq,” said Kadhr Mahmoud Druish, a recent graduate, and now a member of the Quick Reaction Force of the Sayafiyaa Battalion that operates in the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad. (READ MORE)

1,330 families return to Baghdad area - BAGHDAD – Iraqi officials recently announced 1,330 Iraqi families have returned to the three districts in 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division’s operational environment since being displaced due to violence. The Ministry of Migration and Displaced Persons tracks the return of the citizens on a week-to-week basis. They released the figures, which reflect the number of families who have registered with the ministry since returning to their homes. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces disrupt terrorist networks, detain four suspects - BAGHDAD – Four suspects were detained by Coalition forces during operations targeting terrorist networks in Iraq Sunday and Monday. Coalition forces continued to pressure AQI networks in the Mosul area Sunday. There, forces captured a wanted man believed to be an AQI foreign terrorist facilitator and weapons smuggler. (READ MORE)

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