Wednesday, February 28, 2007
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
It was almost too good to be true, and almost hard to believe, but the Buffalo Bills NFL Cheerleaders came for a visit to FOB Iskan, Iraq yesterday. They flew in on Blackhawks, nine lovely females dressed in velvet cheerleading bills outfits, but no pompoms... They stayed for about three hours, signed some autographs, posed for some pictures, ate lunch with a couple lucky soldiers, and flew away into the hot Iraqi mid-day sun.
Honestly it was more weird and ironic then enjoyable. First, I would rather have a visit with my wife any day, of course. Second, I haven't really seen a women in almost 5 months, much less one all dolled up in makeup, smelling nice. I will admit, after living with 800 stinky Paratroopers, in a filthy Iraqi country, beside an environmental eye sore of a power plant, these ladies did smell nice. Then back to the fact we haven't seen women in months, we all resorted to acting like teenage middle school boys, blushing, hesitant to talk with any of them. About the only words I could mutter walking down the Autograph line were "my name is Sam", "yes, I'm a Bills fan", and "my parents and entire family is from Buffalo"... Then we moved to the back of the room and cracked jokes under our breath as we watched our buddies walk down the line acting nearly as stupid as us...
So enjoy the pictures, laugh at my state, and have a nice day...
From: Chamberlain, Samuel C. 2LT USA HHC 1-501 PIR S-3
Sent: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 12:50 PM
To: CHAMBERLAIN, JAY F. (OTD)(CON)
I never thought when I was a kid walking on the USS Stennis it would be flying planes over my head while I’m deployed to Iraq.
1-501stPIR BN Engineer
Troop 170 was present for the commissioning ceremony and open house in Norfolk, VA, 9 December 1995. See photos above. Sam is in the red hooded sweatshirt.
ABOARD THE USS JOHN C. STENNIS — The aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis bypassed routine port visits on its way to the Middle East this month, aiming to rapidly bolster U.S. carrier presence in a region whose instability is heightened by Iran’s pursuance of nuclear weapons.
For the first time since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. Navy now has two carriers in the Middle East. But Iran is not the sole reason for the extra air and sea power, U.S. Navy leaders say.
“We consider this moment in time unprecedented in terms of the amount of insecurity and instability in the region,” Vice Adm. Patrick Walsh, commander of Naval Forces Central Command, told reporters during a Feb. 19 news conference. “So beginning in Somalia and working our way to Lebanon and the eastern Mediterranean as well as Afghanistan, Iraq … and with regard to Iran, there are unprecedented levels of instability in the region.”
The Stennis’ Air Wing is in its first week of flying close-air support missions into Afghanistan, in addition to scouring the region’s waters for suspected weapons smugglers and pirates. The carrier, backed by a strike group, minesweepers and more than 6,500 sailors and Marines, arrived in the region Feb. 19.
The Stennis’ arrival absorbs some of the strains placed on the USS Eisenhower and gives Navy leaders more options on the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, maritime security operations, bilateral exercises and monitoring Somalia, said Navy Capt. Bradley Johanson, the Stennis’ commander.
“The presence of two carriers … gives them more assets to spread evenly for the different missions,” Johanson said Saturday.
But the mounting tension between the United States and Iran isn’t taken lightly, Walsh said, according to a transcript of a Feb. 19 media session.
“Specifically, the concern with Iran is the combination of the rhetoric and the exercises has taken on a very bellicose and pugnacious tone,” he said of recent Iranian military exercises and talk of using mines in the Strait of Hormuz to stymie commercial traffic.
“What I have described to you are the episodes that have taken place over the course of the past few months, and the trend line with Iran is one that is very concerning and troubling.”
Johanson recognizes the strain that the mission — and lack of port visits thus far — has placed on his crew of roughly 5,000 sailors and Marines. And he hopes to give them a reprieve when the ship returns to its homeport of Bremerton, Wash., later this summer.
“Typically, our deployments are six months, but we expect to go a little more than that,” Johanson said.
Next in line is the USS Nimitz.
“Preparations for Nimitz should not come as a surprise,” Walsh said. “There will be a temporary period when there is another carrier here to relieve the Eisenhower.”
He could not say whether the U.S. military intends to maintain a two-carrier presence.
“I think we would evaluate the situation at the time and see if it made sense to have an additional carrier here or not,” Walsh said.
A key mission of Carrier Air Wing 9 at the moment is to provide close air support for ground troops in Afghanistan, which taxes the crews.
Flying missions from the carrier, circling in the Arabian Sea south of Pakistan, then flying inland to Afghanistan, is a demanding, “long commute to work,” said Navy Capt. Sterling Gilliam, commander of the eight squadrons that make up Carrier Air Wing 9.
Pilots — whose training usually has them flying between 90 minutes and two hours — are adjusting, said Lt. Cmdr. Jeremy Brunn, 35, an F/A-18 C Hornet pilot.
“Now we’re flying six to seven hours and that’s tough on the body, mentally and physically.”
But, Gilliam said, “they have the mental toughness to deal with it, and we manage it, mindful of fatigue and crew rest.”
Monday, February 26, 2007
Be Thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle if Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway if Thou wilt be my Guide.
O let me feel Thee near me! The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me, around me and within;
But Jesus, draw Thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin.
O let me hear Thee speaking in accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion, the murmurs of self will.
O speak to reassure me, to hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen, Thou Guardian of my soul.
O Jesus, Thou hast promised to all who follow Thee
That where Thou art in glory there shall Thy servant be.
And Jesus, I have promised to serve Thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow, my Master and my Friend.
O let me see Thy footprints, and in them plant mine own;
My hope to follow duly is in Thy strength alone.
O guide me, call me, draw me, uphold me to the end;
And then in Heaven receive me, my Savior and my Friend.
Words: John E. Bode, 1868, alt. Bode wrote the words for his daughter’s and two sons’ confirmation service. At the time, Bode was a pastor in Castle Camps parish, Cambridgeshire, England. It was published in the appendix of Psalms and Hymns of the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, 1869.
Music: Angel’s Story, Athur H. Mann, in The Methodist Sunday School Hymnbook (London: 1881)
We sang this wonderful hymn yesterday at St. Pauls Lutheran Church, Morgantown, WV, while visiting Molly for the weekend.
The first course brought tears to my eyes.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
I'm asking You God, to give me what You have left.
Give me those things which others never ask of You.
I don't ask You for rest, or tranquility.
Not that of the spirit, the body, or the mind.
I don't ask You for wealth, or success, or even health.
All those things are asked of You so much Lord,
that you can't have any left to give.
Give me instead Lord what You have left.
Give me what others don't want.
I want uncertainty and doubt.
I want torment and battle.
And I ask that You give them to me now and forever Lord,
so I can be sure to always have them,
because I won't always have the strength to ask again.
But give me also the courage, the energy,
and the spirit to face them.
I ask You these things Lord,
because I can't ask them of myself.
- Lieutenant A. Zirnheld, circa 1942
Translated from the original French by Robert Petersen
Thank you Jon WB3ERA and Helen for your earlier comments.
I just had to add this prayer as one of my daily posts.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Here is his response.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NLT)
Blessed are those who trust in the Lord...
They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with
roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees
are not bothered by the heat or worried by long
months of drought. Their leaves stay green,
and they go right on producing delicious fruit.
Another Thursday in Iraq. I'm taking today off, thankfully no one's come looking for me yet... It's been a while since I had an entire day off, without going in for something.
I woke up to rain this morning. I think its the first rain in a while. The rain also brought cooler day temperatures, it was getting rather warm the last couple days. Like hi 70's.
The construction engineers left a couple days ago, so I've been just a little less busy. But my friend and co-worker Lt Rolly Holcomb leaves Sunday for R&R, so I will have to do his job while he's gone. He is going home to his family (parents, brother, sister, nephew) in South Dakota/Iowa border. His Mom's a town doctor, and Dad's a sort of entrepreneur farmer/construction worker. Rolly has become a pretty good friend these last several months since deploying. He reminds me a little of Zach, but not quite as free spirited outdoorsish.
Have a great time in Motown, I love hearing about what you get to do while in my old stomping grounds. Please say hello to Riegel, I really haven't heard much from him since deploying...
It looks like my R&R date will be 22 March. Basically I will leave FOB Iskan on the 21st, fly to FOB Kalsu, wait a day there, then fly to BIAP (Baghdad International Airport) wait at BIAP a couple days for a flight to Kuwait, hopefully there will be an civilian charter waiting in Kuwait, but that could also be a couple days wait, from Kuwait I will probably stop in Germany, then fly to either Houston or Atlanta, those are the two points of entry for troops coming back home on Leave. There I will hop on a plane for Alaska. Total it takes between 5-7 days getting home, and 5-8 days to get back. Those days don't count against the 15 days leave we get. It seems like such a long way away. I will probably bring a small assault pack (day pack) with my laptop, iPod, shaving kit, and that's it. Then just the cloths I'm wearing. I can't wait to strip off these ACU's for 15 days and slip into my old regular civilian cloths...
Have a good visit with Molly.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
The Ash Wednesday Lutheran liturgy marks the beginning of a penitential discipline which climaxes in the absolution and peace of the Maundy Thursday liturgy. The mood is penitence and reflection on the quality of our faith and life; its goal is participation in the Lenten discipline, which, by its focus on the mystery of redemption, should strengthen us by bringing us anew to the gift of our Baptism. "Lent" is from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning "springtime" and so is to be understood as the holy springtime of the soul, a time for preparation, planting, and growth.
Ashes are an extraordinarily rich symbol rooted in ancient customs and practices. Ashes, in a Jewish and Christian context, suggest judgment and God's condemnation of sin; frailty, our total dependence upon God for life; humiliation; and repentance. We are reminded forcefully of the words of the committal in the burial service, "...earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." For one day those words will be said over us.
Moreover, ashes suggest cleansing and renewal. They were once used as a cleansing agent in the absence of soap, and on Ash Wednesday the ashes have sometimes been understood as a penitential substitute for water as a sign of Baptism. Water both stifles and refreshes. drowns ans makes alive, so the ashes also tell of both death and renewal. A Further example of death and renewal shown by ashes is the ancient custom of burning the fields in the spring to destroy the old and to prepare for the new.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Thou who hast made thy dwelling fair
With flowers beneath, above with starry lights,
And set thine altars everywhere,--
On mountain heights,
In woodlands dim with many a dream,
In valleys bright with springs,
And on the curving capes of every stream:
Thou who hast taken to thyself the wings
Of morning, to abide
Upon the secret places of the sea,
And on far islands, where the tide
Visits the beauty of untrodden shores,
Waiting for worshippers to come to thee
In thy great out-of-doors!
To thee I turn, to thee I make my prayer,
God of the open air.
“Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have.”
“But there are advantages to being elected President. The day after I was elected, I had my high school grades classified Top Secret.”
Monday, February 19, 2007
Feb 16, 2007
BY Spc. L.B. Edgar
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq (Army News Service, Feb. 16, 2007) - The goal of coalition forces new security strategy is to clear, control and retain Baghdad's neighborhoods, said the Multi-National Division - Baghdad commanding general during a press conference here Feb. 16.
Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil Jr. outlined the security strategy for his division in a live satellite press conference between Baghdad and reporters in the Pentagon press briefing room.
The security plan includes an increase in Iraqi and coalition forces in Iraq's capital, a push to rid the city of violent extremists and the creation of joint security stations throughout Baghdad, Fil said.
Once the streets are cleared of extremist elements, the coalition and Iraqi security forces will assert control of each neighborhood and move further toward transition, he said.
"After an area is cleared, we move into what we call 'control operations.' Together, with our Iraqi counterparts, we will maintain a fulltime presence on the streets. We'll do this by building and manning joint security stations," said Fil, who assumed responsibility for MND-B three months ago. "The effort to establish these joint security stations is well underway."
As Iraqi security forces assume control of the day-to-day operations of Baghdad's joint security stations, coalition forces will move out of its neighborhoods, but still respond to requests for assistance from Iraqi security forces if needed, he said.
In addition to the joint security stations, Fil said the new strategy will also have an economic component to spark the Iraqi economy.
"During these three phases, efforts will be ongoing to stimulate local economies by creating employment opportunities, initiating reconstruction projects and improving the infrastructure," he explained. "These efforts will be spearheaded by Neighborhood Advisory Councils, District Advisory Councils and the government of Iraq."
Though optimistic the plan will succeed in pacifying Baghdad, he did acknowledge it will take time for the new strategy to bear fruit.
"It's important to remember that all of this will take time, and the mission is going to be tough. It will take time for additional forces to flow in. It will take time for these forces to gain an understanding of their areas and to establish relationships with local leaders and the citizens," Fil said. "We are here for the duration. The Iraqi people have not given up their hope for a prosperous and peaceful Iraq, and we should not give up on them."
The most critical factor of the plan hinges on the Iraqis taking responsibility for their own security, Fil said.
"Iraqis are moving forward. I see it firsthand everyday, and I see the commitment of our Soldiers to finish the mission we started here," he said. "Ultimately, the Iraqis have to want to make this work as much, if not more, than we do."
Fil pointed to some of the Iraqi success stories.
"The province of Al Najaf was turned over to Iraqi control, and the plan to bring security to Baghdad was revised significantly, most notably with the standing up of the Baghdad Operational Command and the influx of thousands more Iraqi and U.S. Soldiers to the effort here," he said.
Fil also called on Americans to continue supporting the troops already in Iraq and those on the way there.
"Our Soldiers remain committed to this mission - to help Iraqis realize their full potential. Our nation has made a huge commitment in terms of resources, but more importantly by sending its sons and daughters, husbands and wives here to assist, and fight as necessary," he said. "I'm extremely proud, as you all should be, of the dedication, service and sacrifice of our nation's finest. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice. We will be forever indebted to them and never forget their devotion to duty."
Fil reminded Americans of the tough road ahead toward success in Iraq, but said the price was worth the cost.
"It's important that we stay the course, to defeat those here with a radical ideology, who would take away our freedoms; freedoms that have been earned at a high cost by those who have gone so nobly before us," he said. "I have no doubt the radical groups we are facing here, left to their own devices, would spread their barbaric methods far beyond the borders of Iraq. We all see their brutality firsthand everyday."
Following his opening remarks, the general took questions from the Pentagon press corps. He told reporters progress in reducing casualties of car bombs, also known as vehicle-borne IEDS, was being made.
He also said there has been a significant reduction in the number and effectiveness of attacks on coalition forces since the troop escalation and current operations began.
One of the challenges Fil said the coalition must overcome is Jaish Al Mahdi, also known as the Mahdi Army, led by radical cleric Muqtada Al Sadr, who reportedly left Iraq once the operations to secure Baghdad began.
"We're watching the same reports you are, wondering why he would not be with his people at this, I think, critical time," the general noted. "We'll have to leave that up to his people to determine what that means to their commitment to him and his leadership."
In closing, Fil said the security of Baghdad and success of Iraq depends on the continued effort of coalition forces to secure the Iraqi capital and an increased role for Iraqi security forces.
"I'd like to say that while there certainly are challenges, this plan can work, Iraq can have peace," he said. "It will work if our country remains dedicated to this mission and Iraqis place their nation before the personal interests that have divided them."
.002th of a second, maybe 3 feet
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Monday 5 Feb was a day that Sam will remember for a long time. Upon finishing an engineering mission to Patrol Base Jurf, he and a group were walking along a canal, returning to the Euphrates river and the boat ride home. They were attacked by an Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device (IED). It was a miracle no one was injured. Here is an email he sent me a couple of days later.
Yeah, the IED was very close; it really raddled me, physically, and emotionally. I’m over it now. I went to the aid station the next day, just to get it on my medical records should anything come up. They said my pupils were a couple millimeters off in size, not sure what that’s from. My ears just stopped ringing yesterday, but there was no damage to my ear drum. I only had a headache the day of, and the day after. The next morning it felt like I had been hit by a train. Other the minor soreness, my back ached, they said it was a small muscle spasm. I got some mild muscle relaxers, and it feels better. I think I was only about 12 feet away.
I went to bible study last night, what Chaplain really said hit key. He was also in an IED attack while visiting some Geronimo paratroopers over in Fallujah. They pound in our head trust your equipment, trust your guys, trust your training. Sure, that’s all fine and dandy, but I really asked myself “how and why did I survive that IED Monday?” Last night, God spoke to me through Chaplain. All that trust in your equipment is just false pride. We were studying the book of Obdiah, the Edomites had this great high and mighty fortress, they had so much selfish false pride, but they had no trust in the Lord, they were over run, and thrown into Babylonian Captivity for 70 years. Without trust in the Lord, above all, that training, equipment, battle buddies are all useless. Don’t deny your training, but not let it think you’re so much better than the enemy. Some dumb farm boy terrorist scum bag buried decade old 130mm artillery rounds, probably too rusted to be used for anything else, in the ground, with a half broken remote control device. Compared to what we carry, it was old and derelict, yet it still detonated a few feet away from me and my fellow paratroopers. I just wanted to express that. So yes, keep the prayers coming, they work, more than any body armor the military can issue me...
"A Name in the Sand," by Hannah Flagg Gould (1789-1865),
is a poem to correct our ready overestimate of our own importance.
Alone I walked the ocean strand;
A pearly shell was in my hand:
I stooped and wrote upon the sand
My name--the year--the day.
As onward from the spot I passed,
One lingering look behind I cast;
A wave came rolling high and fast,
And washed my lines away.
And so, me thought, 'twill shortly be
With every mark on earth from me:
A wave of dark oblivion's sea
Will sweep across the place
Where I have trod the sandy shore
Of time, and been, to be no more,
Of me--my day--the name I bore,
To leave nor track nor trace.
And yet, with Him who counts the sands
And holds the waters in His hands,
I know a lasting record stands
Inscribed against my name,
Of all this mortal part has wrought,
Of all this thinking soul has thought,
And from these fleeting moments caught
For glory or for shame.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Ok, cool, I appreciate the heads up, that's what buddies are for. So I head for the second shower trailer, head in, and oh yeah, umm, nice warm water. It's been over two days at least since my last shower, so I'm really enjoying this one. I do the whole hair washing thing (what little hair I have since it got cut off). Now I'm doing the whole soapy lathering thing. I've proceeded to cover myself from the neck to my toes in soapy lather, when boom, the pipes knock for a split second, and the water stops.
The guy in the shower next to me starts screaming expletives and pounds on the wall. I am a bit more optimistic, thinking "maybe it will turn back on", I turn the knobs a bit, but I'm totally covered with soapy suds, and there is nothing at all coming out of the faucet head. "OK, I don't think its going to turn back on", "please, please, please be a little bit of water left in the first shower trailer next door"... So here I am, covered in soap suds, thanking God I hadn't washed my face yet when the pipes died, walking across the gravel walkway between shower trailers, shower shoe flip flops squeaking and sliding from the soapiness.
One of my buddies sees me and rather than laugh at me, you can see the horror on his face, "oh dude, that sucks". "Yeah, I'm not to happy about it". I get into the first shower trailer, it's empty, Is it empty because the showers are also broken, or is it just empty because its 10am? I hop into one of the stalls and "OH YEAH, THE WATER WORKS!!!", "but, OH NO, it's only freezing cold water....", "OK Sam, suck it up, just get to soap suds off, and get out you wimp!"
So that is reason #187 I hate Iraq. (Do you like the inner monologues in quotes?) Anyone who has been in a shower stall when the water dies, left mid wash, covered in soap suds, knows how much that sucks.
Welcome to Iraq, my life.
January 15, 2007
The Improvised Explosive Device (IED) is relatively new to the theatre of war as a mainstream weapon. It was first used en masse by Belarusian guerillas against German supply trains during World War II. Since then, explosive devices have been used to great effect in a number of asymmetrical conflicts. The IED has achieved main weapon status in the current Iraq War, and as usual, some ingenious improvisations have evolved to overcome them. As ludicrous as it may for a soldier in body armour to be carrying a weapon such as the one pictured, that’s just what is happening in beautiful downtown Baghdad at present. The U.S. Army has found that KIDdesigns’ Silly String, which shoots out a very lightweight foam string, is very effective at detecting tripwires without detonating the IED at the end of the wire - the foam is light enough to drape across the wires and thus identify them.
WASHINGTON -- BAE Systems has leveraged the combined strengths of its global land business to create its new 6x6 Mine-Protected Vehicle, to be unveiled Monday to military leadership at the largest U.S. industry event showcasing technologies and capabilities for the U.S. Army.
Drawing on decades of extensive expertise in developing, building, fielding and supporting mine protected vehicles and high-survivability combat vehicles, BAE Systems is featuring its RG33L at the Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting & Exhibition in Washington, DC on Oct. 9-11.
"BAE Systems is a world leader in developing and fielding high performance mine-hardened and mine-protected vehicles to armies around the world," said Raj Rajagopal, vice president and general manager for BAE Systems' Ground Systems line of business. "Using the latest in design and modeling and simulation tools in Benoni, South Africa and in Santa Clara, Calif., we were able to rapidly prototype and produce the first RG33L. The company has proven capability in rapidly producing and fielding highly survivable vehicles for the military."
BAE Systems is offering its production-ready mine protected RG33L vehicle to meet urgent requirements. The company has multiple tactical wheeled vehicles in production now and skilled employees with mine hardened vehicle production expertise in low-cost, low-risk U.S. production facilities.
The RG33 is a next-generation 6x6 mine protected vehicle that offers more volume under armor than any other C130 transportable mine protected vehicle and incorporates the latest designs in protecting against improvised explosive devices. The RG33L incorporates a monocoque V-shaped hull design leveraging knowledge gained in recent and ongoing conflicts.
RG33L builds on proven, fielded designs over a wide range of vehicles, and is a flexible, production-ready mine protected vehicle available today. BAE Systems brings more than 35 years experience in mine protected wheeled vehicle expertise, and decades developing highly survivable combat platforms for U.S. and allied militaries, and the RG33L leveraged developments at company locations in Benoni, South Africa and Santa Clara, Calif. in the U.S.
The RG33L is equipped with a hydraulic ramp, a gunner's protection kit, a robotic arm, survivability gear, and dedicated space for equipment stowage. In addition, the vehicle is remote weapon capable and network enabled.
RG33L features additional systems to enhance survivability, such as modular add on armor kit provisions, TRAPP transparent armor that provides excellent visibility and situational awareness, and run-flat tires. The vehicle is equipped with multi-positional mine protected seating and air conditioning.
The vehicle delivers enhanced blast protection and may be equipped with a tailored armor package. RG33L is available with base protection against medium machine gun or small arms fire and mine blast protection at a level equal to or exceeding any fielded mine protected vehicle - and the platform is designed with a power train equipped to handle upgrades and enhancements.
The vehicle is mission configurable for Infantry Carrier, Ambulance, Command and Control, Convoy Escort, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and other roles, and is recoverable by another RG33L. The vehicle features on-board exportable power for C4I and other mission equipment.
BAE Systems supports its vehicles with outstanding life-cycle support/through life management.
About BAE Systems
BAE Systems is the premier trans-Atlantic defense and aerospace company, delivering a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, information technology solutions and customer support services. BAE Systems, with more than 100,000 employees worldwide, had 2005 sales that exceeded $28 billion.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Wednesday, February 14, 2007 3:17 PM
What are you having for your dinner with the Breens and Ryans?
Tonight is going to be a late night for me. I get my turn walking around the FOB checking the guard towers, for 24 hours, ugh, hopefully I can sleep most of tomorrow after being up all day and night...
I did get Pastor Carbaugh's letter, it was very nice, I really appreciated it. We're supposed to get more mail in tonight on a late night Logpac. Should I be expecting something from the Webers?
I heard about Cyndi and Wayne, I also got an e-mail from Amy while she was visiting her parents.
Almost time for midnight chow! Yummy, I think they're serving breakfast at midnight tonight, oh the joys of easy living in a combat zone.....
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Fort Richardson teachers, students cope together when parents deploy
By GEORGE BRYSON
Anchorage Daily News
Published: February 13, 2007
When bad news strikes in Iraq, the shock wave can reverberate all the way to Ursa Major Elementary School -- the larger of two grade schools at Fort Richardson -- where the war manages to touch nearly everyone, students, teachers and parents alike.
About 340 of the 400 children enrolled there have fathers (and a few mothers) who have served in Iraq in the past year, mostly as part of the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, that deployed from Fort Rich last fall.
Parents left behind usually try to shield their kids from disturbing war news, says school counselor Pam Christianson. But Ursa Major kids are adept at translating the code.
"There doesn't even have to be a tear in your eye for them to know that Mom is really scared," she says. "They can just feel it."
But military kids have worries too, says Fort Richardson adolescent counselor Mark Mortier. Especially the younger ones, and they don't hold things inside the way older students do.
"Their feelings are just right out there," he says. "If they're upset about something, somebody is going to know about it right away."
At Ursa Major, that pretty much describes what happened last fall when about 3,800 members of the 4/25th shipped out, with teachers saying goodbye to spouses, kids saying goodbye to dads.
The send-off had an immediate impact on the school, says Ursa Major PTA president Holli Cherry: "There were at least three kids a day who were just crying."
Kindergarten teacher Starla Watson (whose own husband deployed to Iraq) reminded her students about the "safe place," a pillow-lined corner in her classroom where they could go if they ever felt sad -- and several of them quickly took her up on the offer.
"Each day my 'safe place' had someone in it -- holding a teddy bear, giving someone a hug, taking deep breaths, trying to relax," Watson says.
By comparison, older kids tended to quarrel more with their friends, or get mad at their teachers, as the stress of new routines took their toll, says Christianson, who recently received the school district's "Denali Award" for outstanding service.
So she's been encouraging them to write about their feelings in "Deployment Journals," or participate more actively in one of the many group counseling sessions she provides at school.
Sitting on the floor of her counseling office last Tuesday were 10 students, all from the upper grades. "What's the hardest time of the day when you miss your dad the most?" Christianson asked them.
"Especially at dinner time," said 4th-grader Mackenzie Fox, noting that's when her dad isn't at his place at the table.
"I think about him when I go to bed," said 6th-grader Luriam Agosto. "I pray for him every night."
Third-grader Mikeal Giles, however, said he missed his Dad "all day long."
"Is there anything you've done that makes you feel better?" Christianson asked. "Nope," Mikeal said. "Not even one thing?" she asked. "No," he said.
But other students in the circle quickly chimed in. One thing that made him feel better each day was going to Ursa Major, one boy said. A girl agreed. Her school work and friends help to take her mind off her missing dad.
She hears that a lot, Christianson says. Ursa Major is almost like a big support system, with everyone in the same boat. About 85 percent of the students there have a parent who has been deployed in Iraq, she says. Some have parents who've served in a war zone more than once.
Some of the teachers and staff members at Ursa Major are married to deployed soldiers too -- like Family and School Services coordinator Adele Daniels, who has a husband now serving on his sixth overseas mission (dating back to a 1989 combat mission to Panama). Everyone at the school tries to reassure each other, Daniels says.
"I remember saying to a couple of kids: 'My husband is going with your daddy, and they'll take care of each other.' It sounds a little corny, but it's true. And it made them feel better."
It makes her feel good as well, says Cherry, the PTA president. When her own husband left (on his third deployment) she once again found comfort at Ursa Major, where three of her children attend school.
"Your family immediately transforms, and this becomes your family," she says. "It's her kids and my kids, and we're all a family unit."
Having a parent deployed in Iraq can be an emotional roller coaster for children, says Mortier, who regularly counsels older students attending nearby Gruening Middle School and Eagle River High School. But he's found military kids to be fairly resilient.
"And that's what we see during deployments. We see kids and families drawing upon that resiliency, that ability to bounce back. ... They have some bad days, but then they press on."
Coping with a war has been made a little easier in the past decade with the advent of cell-phone and Internet communications, Ursa Major families say. Some receive e-mail messages from Iraq almost every day.
"There is so much more contact, and that really helps kids," Christianson says. "The scary part is when there is a blackout, and there is no communication. And that's when I'll start seeing kids in my room. And they'll say to me: 'I haven't been able to talk to my dad for three days, and I'm really worried about him.'"
Though it's only been gone four months, the 4th Brigade has already suffered 23 fatalities, nearly as many as the 26 fatalities the Stryker Brigade (which also deployed from Fort Richardson) recorded in 16 months in Iraq. Last month, eight soldiers from the 4th were killed in a single day.
Such terrible news, of course, sets the telephone wires ringing at Fort Richardson. So far, few of the fatalities have involved spouses or parents, but that's small consolation. A death in the unit touches them all.
Not long ago, in her kindergarten's afternoon sharing hour, Watson says, a boy brought up the subject of his father's recent combat injury in Iraq.
"He said, 'My dad was blown up ...' and at first it kind of took me aback," Watson says. "But the other kids didn't seem to be all that affected by it.
"He said he was sorry that it happened. He said: 'I'm helping take care of my dad now.' So the other kids just said: 'OK' -- and patted him on the back."
Thus the roller coaster continues, Mortier says. Right now, some of the 4th Brigade soldiers are returning to Anchorage for two weeks of R&R (an uphill burst of euphoria) followed all too soon by their inevitable second departure (another downhill slide).
Beyond that, everyone has eight more months to go.
Back at the Tuesday talking circle, the students were asked what they planned to do when their dads finally got home to stay. Several of them mentioned going together to an indoor water park in South Anchorage. Others mentioned leaving on trips.
Mikeal Giles, the third-grader, said he planned to play a lot of games with his dad.
Third-grader Adrian Estrada said he and his family were going to "celebrate every holiday he missed."
"That is such a cool idea," said Christianson. "I've had kids say, 'You know what? We're going to have Valentine's on one day and Christmas on another day, then all the birthdays.' "
But fourth-grader Mackenzie Fox may have summed it up best. "We're just going to do everything possible," she said.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007 11:33 AM (EDT)
I got Fari's care package, and Pat Mussey's. Please let them know, they're perfect. Tell Fari I love the cashews, that's my new favorite nut. And Pat I like the Hershey kisses with peanut butter, I've never seen that before.
Today I've been mainly in the office all day. Working some logistics, engineering construction stuff, trying to get this patrol base built in Jurf As Sukhr.
I went out yesterday with the visiting engineers. It was a pretty good mission, well, nothing happened, so that's great. We got back in time for dinner, even better. I did see the cutest dog in Iraq. A little puppy digging through some trash alongside the road in a village called Bahbahani on the west side of the euphrates river, north of Musayyib.
Tonight we're having a boring AAR of the first 100 days thus far. I guess it will be good, but its 96 slides long, I'm betting it will take 2.5 hours, maybe more. I've come to hate meetings, all of them.
I went for a great run this afternoon. It was only two miles, but I ran hard, and want to start getting more miles in daily. Its been a long time since I ran daily. I try and hit the gym nightly, riding the bike for 20 min of cardio, but lately I have been so apathetic. Its just a stage...
Well that's about it for here.
Have a good week.
"The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?"
Dave Dravecky the major league pitcher who lost his arm to cancer said,
"...Growing up, I had always been at the center of attention. That was exactly how I wanted it. My performance had been for me, and no one else. I had to be the star.
That kind of motivation can keep you going strong, so long as you succeed. But it's not so good for dealing with failure, or with forces beyond your control. Seeing Jesus Christ as your audience shifted the pressure off yourself. You did your best to bring glory to God, not yourself. If you lost(a baseball game), the loss would hurt, but it wouldn't change anything fundamental. Gos would still be there."
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever.
Monday, February 12, 2007
To the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Civilians of Multi-National Force-Iraq:
We serve in Iraq at a critical time. The war here will soon enter its fifth year. A decisive moment approaches. Shoulder-to-shoulder with our Iraqi comrades, we will conduct a pivotal campaign to improve security for the Iraqi people. The stakes could not be higher.
Our task is crucial. Security is essential for Iraq to build its future. Only with security can the Iraqi government come to grips with the tough issues it confronts and develop the capacity to serve its citizens. The hopes of the Iraqi people and the coalition countries are with us.
The enemies of Iraq will shrink at no act, however barbaric. They will do all that they can to shake the confidence of the people and to convince the world that this effort is doomed. We must not underestimate them.
Together with our Iraqi partners, we must defeat those who oppose the new Iraq. We cannot allow mass murderers to hold the initiative. We must strike them relentlessly. We and our Iraqi partners must set the terms of the struggle, not our enemies. And together we must prevail.
The way ahead will not be easy. There will be difficult times in the months to come. But hard is not hopeless, and we must remain steadfast in our effort to help improve security for the Iraqi people. I am confident that each of you will fight with skill and courage, and that you will remain loyal to your comrades-in-arms and to the values our nations hold so dear.
In the end, Iraqis will decide the outcome of this struggle. Our task is to help them gain the time they need to save their country. To do that, many of us will live and fight alongside them. Together, we will face down the terrorists, insurgents, and criminals who slaughter the innocent. Success will require discipline, fortitude, and initiative - qualities that you have in abundance.
I appreciate your sacrifices and those of your families. Now, more than ever, your commitment to service and your skill can make the difference between victory and defeat in a very tough mission.
It is an honor to soldier again with the members of the Multi-National Force - Iraq. I know that wherever you serve in this undertaking you will give your all. In turn, I pledge my commitment to our mission and every effort to achieve success as we help the Iraqis chart a course to a brighter future.
Godspeed to each of you and to our Iraqi comrades in this crucial endeavor.
DAVID H. PETRAEUS
General, United States Army
Sunday, February 11, 2007
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-
then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning
you to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands, so that you
will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
"Because he loves me," says the LORD,
"I will rescue him; I will protect him,
for he acknowledges my name.
He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation."
Saturday, February 10, 2007
I heard exactly what I needed to hear on the radio this morning as I was driving to work. I had gone to bed exhausted last night both physically and mentally. This morning as I drove to work the Casting Crowns song "Praise You in this Storm" was playing on KLOVE. I have heard it many times before, we own that album, but this morning I really listened and it was totally what I needed to hear.
Praise you in this storm
words by Mark Hall/music by Mark Hall and Bernie Herms
I was sure by now, God You would have reached down
and wiped our tears away,
stepped in and saved the day.
But once again, I say amen
and it's still raining
as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain,
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away.
And I'll praise you in this storm
and I will lift my hands
for You are who You are
no matter where I am
and every tear I've cried
You hold in your hand
You never left my side
and though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm
I remember when I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to You
and raised me up again
my strength is almost gone how can I carry on
if I can't find You
and as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
and as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise
the God who gives and takes away
I lift my eyes unto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
I lift my eyes unto the hills
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
There are so many good lines in this song. But one I particularly like is "I’ll praise You in this storm And I will lift my hands For You are who You are No matter where I am." As I drove, tears rolled down my eyes and I just starting offering praise up to the Lord. He is God, wherever we are, whatever we are going through. That is such a beautiful thing. It also comforts me to think that God is with Sam just as He is with us even though we are apart and our help comes from the Lord the maker of Heaven and Earth! Wow! Amen.
Thursday, February 8, 2007
The RG-31 has become the multi-purpose vehicle of choice of the and other peacekeeping and security forces. It is finding favour with nongovernmental organisations requiring a vehicle with a non-aggressive appearance to protect their personnel against the threat of landmines.
RG-31 Charger - US Army version of the Mk3 and Mk5 with a Detroit Diesel engine
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
by Rudyard Kipling
One man in a thousand, Solomon says,
Will stick more close than a brother.
And it's worth while seeking him half your days
If you find him before the other.
Nine nundred and ninety-nine depend
On what the world sees in you,
But the Thousandth man will stand your friend
With the whole round world agin you.
'Tis neither promise nor prayer nor show
Will settle the finding for 'ee.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em go
By your looks, or your acts, or your glory.
But if he finds you and you find him.
The rest of the world don't matter;
For the Thousandth Man will sink or swim
With you in any water.
You can use his purse with no more talk
Than he uses yours for his spendings,
And laugh and meet in your daily walk
As though there had been no lendings.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine of 'em call
For silver and gold in their dealings;
But the Thousandth Man h's worth 'em all,
Because you can show him your feelings.
His wrong's your wrong, and his right's your right,
In season or out of season.
Stand up and back it in all men's sight --
With that for your only reason!
Nine hundred and ninety-nine can't bide
The shame or mocking or laughter,
But the Thousandth Man will stand by your side
To the gallows-foot -- and after!
"This Kipling poem, which reminds us that loyalty and reliability can sometimes be a rare commodities, echoes Ecclesiastes 7:28 in the Bible “one man in a thousand have I found.”
William J. Bennett, The Book of Virtues
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Some time in March Sam has told us he will become a Engineering Platoon Leader and move FOBs. His platoon will have counter-IED and road mine sweeping responsibilities and could use vehicles like the 23-ton, Buffalo. MTF
The Buffalo heavily armored EOD vehicle follows the South African monocoque capsule protection concept with US manufactured automotive platform, offering protection from IEDs and up to 45 pound landmine explosion under any wheel and 30 pound mine explosion under the center line protection. An upgrade package offers protection from Self Forged Fragmentation (SFF) mines. The vehicle is used with US forces in Iraq for route clearing and counter IED activities. Since their deployment to Iraq in 2003 the Cougar and Buffalo vehicles employed with explosive ordnance disposal teams and engineers units have taken about 1,000 IED hits without a loss of life.
The Buffalo uses steel wheels and disc rollers which allow the vehicle to be driven over and detonate anti-personnel mines without sustaining damage. As a result, unusually large numbers of mines can be neutralized in a short period of time. The vehicle retains all round (including roof) ballistic protection from 7.62mm NATO ball cartridges. This armor is upgradeable to protect against Dragunov AP cartridges. In a recent incident that involved a Buffalo vehicle which ran over an anti-tank mine, the blast tore off a wheel and destroyed an axle on the vehicle. There were no casualties to the crew inside the Buffalo and the vehicle maintained its mobility and drove itself out of the minefield. It was repaired overnight and was back in operation the following day.
The operator uses the Ironclaw to probe debris and dirt from around the questionable device and also has an extra set of eyes mounted on top to help decipher the identity of the object. Working hand in hand with a television screen inside the vehicle, a 200X Zoom video camera has a bird’s eye view of everything. It has the capability to help the crew see clearly.
The Buffalo seats six, with the driver and operator at the front and the four remaining soldiers behind them designated for eyes. The crew is seated about 10 to 12 feet off of the ground and will also have access to an extra set of searchlights that are maneuvered from inside the vehicle. With the lights, the camera, and the 30- foot arm, they will be able to search anywhere they feel there is a threat.
"Inside Iraq" chronicles daily life in a war zone through the words of Iraqi journalists in McClatchy's Baghdad Bureau as they risk so much each day to survive. These are unedited first hand accounts of their experiences. Their complete names have been withheld for security reasons.
Feb 4, 2007
Posted at 11:24 AM Permalink
The archeological sites, loss of knowledge and treasures
A Poem of Love
Three Hearts Beating
written in love
by Valerie Barten Chamberlain
first came my knight in shining armor
brown eyes like deep pools
filled with love, wisdom, compassion, strength
armed with honor, integrity, devotion
my rock, my believer,
my defender, my knight
defender of my heart, my knight...
then, and now to be shared...
with the world... with his princess...
along comes the lioness – blonde hair flying
blue eyes dance with light
full of courage, determination, strength
angel of our soul
conqueror of our hearts... beauty deep
my mind is her mind – no sea can part
like a lion – she stands tall and
my lioness with the blonde hair flying
now welcome my little strawberry
how sweet is thy presence...
fruit of the spirit
light of our light – miracle child
to know her is to love her –
basking in her sweetness
never far away from our thoughts
gift of love...
a shining star on all that know her –
to know her is to know a smile...
my little strawberry... belonging to all of us
Honor... Courage... Spirit...
Then on that Halloween Eve
and forever in our life...
God honors us...
My heart lives in these places,
these moments...their story lives on...
Monday, February 5, 2007
Sunday, February 4, 2007
“The major deterrent to war is in a man's mind.”
“There never is a convenient place to fight a war when the other man starts it.”
“This is the great reward of service, to live, far out and on, in the life of others; this is the mystery of Christ, - to give life's best for such high sake that it shall be found again unto life eternal.”
“We have to go in places no body would ever think of going into were it not for the necessities of war.”
“Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”
David G. Farragut
“There are no extraordinary men... just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.”
“A piece of spaghetti or a military unit can only be led from the front end.”
George S. Patton
“Better to fight for something than live for nothing.”
George S. Patton
“Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.”
George S. Patton
"The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave."
"Victory belongs to the most persevering."
"From time to time, the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots."
"Army: A body of men assembled to rectify the mistakes of the diplomats."
"The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his."
"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
Saturday, February 3, 2007
I was flipping through the tv guide for the Military Channel and recorded a show called "Iraq Confidential with Jesse James". Sounded very interesting.
I have always enjoyed the Discovery Channel's "Monster Garage" which is basically centered around Jesse James's ability of custom car and motorcycle building. Yeah, he's rough, covered with tattoos, irreverent, potty mouthed, but he is an amazing craftsman, talented artist and he's married to Sandra Bullock.
Plus, he wanted to do something for the troops and see first hand what this war in Iraq is all about. Turns out that the Discovery Channel almost fired him for pushing the issue. So he spent a lot of is own money to ship 10s of thousands of dollars worth of custom car parts so that he could build an off the wall Humvee. Yes, he did the celebrity thing, he flew in Blackhawk helicopters, fired M240 machine guns from the door, had his picture taken and visited the hospitals on base. He was there to build a hot rod Humvee, help build troop moral.
Who knew we would see the softer, concerned, supportive side of this guy. A he-man who had tears in his eyes when the commanding officer awarded him with an American flag that flew over the air base while he was there. A mechanic so upset with tears in his eyes when he realize that his 1000 HP, wheelie popping monster wasn't going to run for the troops because they forgot to put oil in the transmission before they started the monster. Tears in his eyes for his co-workers and by now a friend to the Army and Air Force enlisted soldiers who worked side by side for a week.
And me, sitting in my warm and safe home in Virginia with tears in my eyes, running down my cheeks watching it all. Missing Sam, loving Sam, proud of Sam and knowing any one of those hard working and dedicated soldiers could be Sam.
God bless America and Jesse James for his efforts and his tears.
Thursday, February 1, 2007
by Henry van Dyke
Long, long, long the trail
Through the brooding forest-gloom,
Down the shadowy, lonely vale
Into silence, like a room
Where the light of life has fled,
And the jealous curtains close
Round the passionless repose
Of the silent dead.
Plod, plod, plod away,
Step by step in mouldering moss;
Thick branches bar the day
Over languid streams that cross
Softly, slowly, with a sound
In their aimless creeping
Like a smothered weeping,
Through the enchanted ground.
"Yield, yield, yield thy quest,"
Whispers through the woodland deep;
"Come to me and be at rest;
"I am slumber, I am sleep."
Then the weary feet would fail,
But the never-daunted will
Urges "Forward, forward still!
"Press along the trail!"
Breast, breast, breast the slope!
See, the path is growing steep.
Hark! a little song of hope
When the stream begins to leap.
Though the forest, far and wide,
Still shuts out the bending blue,
We shall finally win through,
Cross the long divide.
On, on, onward tramp!
Will the journey never end?
Over yonder lies the camp;
Welcome waits us there, my friend.
Can we reach it ere the night?
Upward, upward, never fear!
Look, the summit must be near;
See the line of light!
Red, red, red the shine
Of the splendour in the west,
Glowing through the ranks of pine,
Clear along the mountain-crest!
Long, long, long the trail
Out of sorrow's lonely vale;
But at last the traveller sees
Light between the trees!
“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
“Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft.”
“A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues.”
“A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.”
“A man who is good enough to shed his blood for the country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.”
“Every immigrant who comes here should be required within five years to learn English or leave the country.”
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
“There can be no fifty-fifty Americanism in this country. There is room here for only 100 percent. Americanism, only for those who are Americans and nothing else.”
“We need the iron qualities that go with true manhood. We need the positive virtues of resolution, of courage, of indomitable will, of power to do without shrinking the rough work that must always be done.”
by Olive Walters
Life is a journey
A journey of time
Where a heart needs another
To give it a shine
We're all on a journey
With two paths to take
One that is right
And the one that can break
With many a set back
We'll find hard to bear
It's love and true friendship
That will help us to care
For a heart that is lonely
Can fill up with strain
Like a plant that can wither
Without sun and rain
So together when sharing
Surely we'll find
It's the treasure of life
That can give peace of mind