Wednesday, May 30, 2007

4 Women, 5 Dogs

Gretchen and friends on Kesugi Ridge.
High flying puppy with his backpack on

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Pumpkin in the Pothole - Sam's Mission

A row of armored vehicles — RG-31s, a Humvee and a Buffalo — are ready to leave on patrol.
I came across this April 6, 2007 article on the Anchorage Daily News site. It is a perfect discription of part of Sam's present mission in Iraq.

The Pumpkin in a Pothole

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Amazing Triathlon Results.

Gretchen you are amazing!! ;-)
The Golden Nugget Woman's Triathlon drew 1112 entries.
Gretchen finished 135th overall and 33rd/171 in her 25-29 age group.
Her overall swim, bike, run time was 1:22:24.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

No Fobbit Here

Incomplete Soviet Power plant, 2/10th Mtn, Patrol Base Dragon. photo by S. Chamberlain
Wednesday, May 23, 2007 1:52 PM (9:52 pm Baghdad time)

I do get all of your e-mails. Actually I haven't checked my e-mail in a while, so they tend to build up, but hopefully tonight I will get to read them all. I have an early mission tomorrow morning, so I can't spend too much time on here.

My schedule is very different from before. Pretty much 5-6 days a week are spent outside the wire on missions. They could last from 4 or 6 hours, up to 14-16 hours, I even had one mission last week out over night at a patrol base, about 36 hours of work. Then when we're back on the FOB I only have one real priority, maintenance of my equipment. There are always little admin things, and one planning meeting a week, but the rest of the time is spent working out, sleeping, eating, or watching DVD's. Some days I might only get 3-4 hours of sleep in between missions, while other days I will get 12 hours. It all depends. It certainly has made the last two weeks go by faster. Hopefully the next 6 months go just as fast.

The FOB I live on now is very different. There are a lot more people, and most of them never leave the FOB, we call them Fobbits. Guys like me are supposed to resent them. Most of my guys do, since we leave the wire every day, seeing the "real Iraq", while for them this is pretty much 9-5....

Under armor shirts would be great if that’s what you guys want to do.

Care packages are still great. So far it looks like all my guys get nice care packages, but I'm still getting to know them. Snack foods are definitely a plus, because of our mission schedules we usually only get one meal a day in the chow hall, sometimes none. So without care packages we would eat MRE's on missions, instead we vegg on the numerous snacks in our care packages.

Well, more later.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Iraqi Insurgent Linked To Iran, Hezbollah

Rowan Scarborough
The Examiner

Iran and its surrogate terror group, Lebanese Hezbollah, trained the Shiite insurgent who led a brazen attack that killed five American troops in Karbala on Jan. 20, according to internal military documents obtained by The Examiner.

U.S. special operations forces killed Sheikh Azhar al-Dulaymi, the insurgent leader, Saturday in the Sadr City section of Baghdad as he made a last stand on a roof top.

Dulaymi had been one of the most wanted men in Iraq. The U.S. command says he masterminded the assault on a government compound in Karbala, south of Baghdad. Dulaymi's men killed one U.S. soldier at the scene and executed three others they had kidnapped.

The command has long suspected that Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps aided Dulaymi. The military documents state that intelligence collected during the manhunt not only confirm this link, but also showed Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terror group responsible for killing hundreds of Americans since the early 1980s, trained him.

The Bush administration has said it cannot prove at this point that Iran's ruling mullahs or Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have ordered the Guard Corps to send special operators and powerful roadside bombs into Iraq to kill Americans.

But the direct involvement of Tehran's agents and Hezbollah in Dulaymi's terrorist cell indicates a deeper Iranian involvement than previously known.

"Clearly, Dulaymi was doing Iran's bidding," said Robert Maginnis, a retired Army officer and a military analyst. "This case is clear evidence that the Shia agents opposing coalition actions are more diverse. The presence of terrorist-trained killers like Dulaymi indicate that the battlefield is far more complex than many previously believed. And that battlefield reaches from Iraq to Lebanon."

The briefing documents say both the Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah trained Dulaymi's insurgents in "how to conduct terrorist-style kidnappings."

Iranian agents first entered Shiite-dominated southern Iraq shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim, in April 2003. Since then, Iranian involvement has increasingly grown to the point that the United States believes it is an important part of a growing Shiite insurgency.

On the operation that killed Dulaymi, the documents say that tips from local Iraqis and interrogations of captured insurgents led the military to his hiding place.

In one house associated with Dulaymi, troops found a "torture room" and stocks of artillery shells typically used to build roadside bombs, known as improvised explosive devices.
The Karbala attack and kidnapping on Jan 20th resulted in the loss of four Fort Richardson solders from the 2-377th PFAR;
Lt. Jacob Fritz, 25, Verdon, NE,
Spc. Bryan Chism, 22, Prairieville, LA,
Pvt. Shawn Falter, 25, of Homer, NY
Pvt. Johnathan Millican, 20, Trafford, AL


Monday, May 21, 2007

Best Job In The Army

A quick note from Sam. He is VERY busy with his new Sapper/Engineering platoon. This is the first email in two weeks. Gretchen received a 20 minute phone call from Sam Sunday morning.
Monday, May 21, 2007 12:15 PM (EDT)(20:15 Iraq Time)
...... I have led a couple missions on own now, its pretty cool. Honestly, I have THE best job in the US Army. I have the job Generals and Battalion Commanders wish they could go back and do all over again. Its not easy, but its sooo different from my last.
The hardest part of my job is making decisions.
More to follow, I have a lot of e-mails to read.
Love, Sam

All-female Triathlon Encourages Racers Of All Abilities

Gretchen swam, biked and ran her first triathlon.
Anchorage Daily News
Published: May 21, 2007

Some crossed the finish line looking like they were barely winded by the 500-meter swim, 10-mile bike ride and 4.1-mile run they'd just completed.

Others looked sufficiently fatigued but still triumphant at having conquered a taxing course.

Still others came across looking like they hoped the defibrillator in the medical services tent next to the finish line was fully charged.

And as one finisher after another completed the Gold Nugget Triathlon, more departed the staging area at Bartlett High on bicycles or arrived to begin their arduous journey in the pool.

That's how it went for hours upon hours under gloriously sunny skies with just a hint of wind Sunday. Around 1,200 girls and women, mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters suited, saddled and laced 'em up for the 25th edition of the Gold Nugget.

continue article ~~~~

453 First-timers entered
36 Average age
71 Oldest finisher
6 Youngest
25 Gold Nugget Triathlons held
1:01:34 Lori Deschamps' winning time
8 Stationary bikes set up outside the pool for warming up
48 Number of swimmers in the pool at any one time after the top seeds finished
5 Number of U-Hauls transporting bikes back to the staging area after competitors transitioned to running

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pray We Must!!

Isaiah 55:6 + 11

6 "Seek the Lord while he may be found:
call upon him while he is near, ...

11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I propose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which it was set.
I found this wonderful reference and passage on Ethan Corban's Carepage.
Our prayers for both Sam, battling in Iraq, and Ethan battling cancer here at home are so similar, Gods will be done. Healing and protection, strength and wisdom, and above all God's grace. I have appreciated Scott's faith and willingness to listen and share what he and Tanya are going through. We are on parallel courses on our faith journey as we both face these major adversities. Valerie and I draw strength from knowing that God is our side. As Jesus told us in Matthew 6:34, we try not to worry about tomorrow, but to take each day on it's own, for today has enough worries to content with.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Success Begins In The Mind

USS Constitution, Baltimore, MD, May 2007. She been in the fight for a long time. photo by, J. Chamberlain
"This is what the Lord says to you:
'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.
For the battle is not yours, but God's.' "
2 Chronicles 20:15

The third step to living at your full potential is to discover the power of your thoughts and words. Whether or not you are aware of it, a war is ragging all around you, and the battle is for your mind. Your enemy's number one target is the arena of your thoughts. If he can control how you think, he'll be able to control your entire life. Indeed, thoughts determine actions, attitudes, and self-image. Really, thoughts determine destiny, which is why the Bible warns us to guard our minds.

Almost like a magnet, we draw in what we constantly think about. If we dwell on depressing, negative thoughts, we will be depressed and negative. If we think positive, happy, joyful thoughts, our life will reflect that and attract other upbeat, positive people. Our life follows our thoughts.

And our thoughts also affect our emotions. We will feel exactly the

way we think. You cannot expect to feel happy unless you think happy thoughts. Conversely, it's impossible to remain discouraged unless you first think discouraging thoughts. So much of success and failure in life begins in our minds.

Set your mind on the right course. Start every day by agreeing with the psalmist, "This is the day the Lord has made, and I'm going to be happy. I'm going to go out and be productive. This is going to be a great day." Magnify your God, and go out each day expecting good things.


“Scriptures and Meditations for Your Best Life Now”,
Joel Osteen

Mother's Day

We enjoyed a very pleasant Mother's Day. We met Maggi at the Baltimore Inner Harbor and shared a wonderful lunch at the M&S Grill. Unfortunately, Molly was on the road home from WVU and couldn't join us. We all travel to Delaware for Maggi's UD graduation on Memorial Day weekend.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Amateur Radio in Iraq Suspended

Amateur Radio activity shut down in Iraq (Mar 13, 2007) -- Iraq Amateur Radio Society (IARS) President Diya Sayah, YI1DZ, has informed ARRL that all Amateur Radio activity in Iraq has been suspended until the security situation there improves. He says the suspension affects both Iraqi citizens as well as any foreigners -- including military personnel and contractors -- who have been on the air from Iraq. The request to halt all ham radio activity and the issuance of licenses in Iraq originated with a letter from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as part of a new security plan, Sayah said. He received subsequent confirmation via the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research to shut down ham radio activity, although he allows for a possible misunderstanding on the part of government officials as to the nature and purpose of Amateur Radio.

Monday, May 14, 2007

FOB Kalsu

(click to enlarge)
I hope you can see the two points on the first map, FOB Iskan, Sam's original base and FOB Kalsu where he is commanding his platoon from. The image is from Google. Small world, even at war that a son would end up in a place half way around the world named after a patriot from his parents home town NFL football team.

"FOB Kalsu, named in honor of First Lieutenant James Robert Kalsu, a Buffalo Bills defensive lineman killed in Vietnam on 21 July 1970."

My Peace I Give To You

Eklutna Lake near Anchorage, AK photo by J. Chamberlain July 2006
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled,
and do not let them be afraid.

John 14:27
David Schaal
..... What does this imply for us? For me, it is a reminder that even in the midst of life’s trials and difficulties, Christ’s peace can be experienced. The challenge, of course, is to pay attention to our relationship with Christ in the midst of lives that are often hurried, harried, and hassled. In such a context, it is critical for the church and its members to engage our world with great energy and vigor, while at the same time carving out priority time for reflection and prayer. No relationship can be healthy if we do not invest time in it. Hence, our need to be intentional about making time for meditation and prayer in order to cultivate an inner stillness in the midst of busy living. In so doing, we become more able to sense how Christ is present in the midst of the world’s need, and thereby become more able to receive the peace of Christ, even in the presence of great turmoil.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Super Early Monday Morning ~ Dear Gretchen,

Date: Mon, 14 May 2007 02:09:16 +0400
Subject: super early monday morning here


I wish I could hear your voice. And I'm sorry I haven't called you yet. I hope you haven't worried.

I've been at Kalsu almost a week now. There is a lot to learn here, new people, a new job, my way around a new FOB, etc....

Despite being very nervous about taking charge of a platoon finally, its really good to finally be here. Once I learn this job, its ways, and my guys, I think my last year on staff will only help me in the long run, maturity wise.

The main reason I havent called or e-mailed is time, location, and availability. My sole purpose this past week has been meeting the guys, going on mission, learning the equipment, beating up Lt Berliner with questions before he hands the platoon over to me, etc. Second there are only two tents on this entire FOB where you can use phones and internet, being mothers day, they are all very full, even at 2am (which it is right now). You ask why I'm up so early, well I got up early to try and use the phones, and we have a mission in a couple hours.

I would say I have a little more free time then before, just because I don't work a set schedule like being on staff with the 501st. I'm either on a mission, preping for another mission, cleaning up from the previous mission, doing maintenance on my vehicles, or short little business errands. Then I have time to sleep, eat, workout, and any other personal things. The commander is big on two things when you're not working, get SLEEP and GYM time. I admit there have been a couple days with less than 4 hours sleep, but other days make up for it with 10-12 hours sleep. We roll out at all hours of the day.

The guys in my platoon run the gamit. I have 21 Sappers/Engineer equipment operators. My platoon is the only one (3rd platoon) in the company to have light equipment operators in it. That means I'm in charge of things like graders, dozers, bucketloaders, and bobcats. In the long run its good because it really mixes up my mission, rather then only doing route clearance, like the other two platoons, I also get to do missions with my equipment moving dirt, cleaning up roads, and building patrol bases. I think my youngest is 19, and the oldest in his 30's. They are from all walks of life and corners of the US, and beyond. My platoon sergeant seems really good. I'm slowly getting to know him, but we'll be roommates once Berliner moves out, and I move in.

Well gotta go, hopefully we can talk or e-mail soon.


Word From Sam, At Last

Sunday, May 13, 2007 5:57 PM (2 am Sam's time Monday morning)
Dear Mom,

HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I wish I could call and wish you a happy mothers day, but right now the wait for phones is crazy long. I will try hard to call soon. This new FOB has A LOT more people then my last, at least 3-4 times as many, and its growing more each day.

I'm still in the "Left Seat/Right Seat" phase of my transition to platoon leader. Right now I'm just trying to get a feel for the various types of missions, and different vehicles we use. I will lead my first patrol in two days, then the current platoon leader passes the buck to me two days later, and its all mine. I have sooooo much to tell you guys about this job, this place, this adventure of being a platoon leader. All I can say for now is its COMPLETLY different from where I was before.....

Hopefully as I get more moved in and established here I will have more free time, equaling more time to call and e-mail. There is also internet available in my room, at a fairly fast connection speed.

Don't worry about me, I'm learning a lot, enjoying the change in jobs, and taken care of by a very experienced platoon.


Monday, May 7, 2007

Dan Had One Helluva Guide!!

Dan's first 16" Rappahannock Smallmouth
(click on images to enlarge)
Dan's second 16" Rapp. smallmouth.
Both fish caught on his new Zebco rod and reel and a Case 4.5"

Don't ask.
My three didn't add up to one of his.
I was using the Case 3.5" Lil Stix in Clear Pepper with my ultralight rig on 4# line.
I can say, Dan had one helluva guide tonight.
We put into the river at the Mott's Run ramp and worked the pool along the Stafford shore.

Bike for Women in Alaska

Hi Family,

I rode in the Bike for Women today with 500 other Alaskan Women! It was a great ride, 9 miles on a course of rolling hills with some gentle S curves. I am loving the bike that I got last summer. This was only my second time out riding this season and my first ever bike race. Moving to AK sure has been a year of firsts! Do you realize that I have lived her almost a year exactly? Sam and I arrived in Anchorage the first week of May and he reported to Ft. Rich. It is weird to think I have lived in Alaska for 12 months and Sam has lived here 4. I have so many places to show him when he gets back!

Here are some pics of me before the race today. The other lady in the picture with me is Sue, one of the teachers I work with at Abbott. She also did the Ski for Women with me and we have registered for the Run for Women. We are going for the triple crown! They actually give you a little patch for doing all three!
Am I surprised that her jersey color matches her bike color? Jay

Iraq ~ Freedom Facts

In Iraq, approximately 270 km (162 miles) of village roads have been completed. These projects are directly contracted with local firms and assist in the economic development of smaller communities. The Village Roads program is expected to be completed in July 2007 and will provide 424 km (255 miles) of improved roads.
In 2006, medical care improved in Iraq with the renovation of 15 hospitals. Each completed facility sees approximately 500 patients per day for a total of 11,000 patients nationwide.
In 2006, education opportunities improved for Iraqis with 838 of 849 schools completed. Each completed school serves approximately 400 students for a total of 335,200 students nationwide.
Completed Gulf Region Division water treatment projects have provided the capacity to serve an additional 2.2 million Iraqis with potable water. At the end of the program, the added capacity could serve approximately 5.2 million Iraqis with potable water.

Christians Fleeing Violence in Iraq

Monday, May 07, 2007
Fox News


Despite the chaos and sectarian violence raging across Baghdad, Farouq Mansour felt relatively safe as a Christian living in a multiethnic neighborhood in the capital.

Then, two months ago, Al Qaeda gunmen kidnapped him and demanded that his family convert to Islam or pay a $30,000 ransom. Two weeks later, he paid up, was released and immediately fled to Syria, joining a mass exodus of Iraq's increasingly threatened Christian minority.

"There is no future for us in Iraq," Mansour said.

Although Islamic extremists have targeted Iraqi Christians before, bombing churches and threatening religious leaders, the latest attacks have taken on a far more personal tone. Many Christians are being expelled from their homes and forced to leave their possessions behind, police, human rights groups and residents said.

The Christian community here, about 3 percent of the country's 26 million people, has little political or military clout to defend itself, and some Islamic insurgents call Christians "crusaders" whose real loyalty lies with U.S. troops.

Many churches are now nearly empty, with many of their faithful either gone or too scared to attend. Only about 30 people attended this Sunday's mass at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in the relatively safe Baghdad neighborhood of Karradah, and only two dozen took communion in the barren St. Mary's Church in the northern city of Kirkuk on Sunday.

As many as 50 percent of Iraq's Christians may already have left the country, according to a report issued Wednesday by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a federal monitoring and advisory group in Washington D.C.

"These groups face widespread violence from Sunni insurgents and foreign jihadis, and they also suffer pervasive discrimination and marginalization at the hands of the national government, regional governments, and para-state militias," said the report.

Islamic extremists have also targeted liquor stores, hair salons and other Christian-owned businesses, saying they violate Islam, the report said.

"This is not the culture of Iraqis or the nature of Iraqis. We have lived during centuries together in a respectful attitude and friendship," said Luwis Zarco, the Catholic archbishop of Kirkuk.

In much of the Middle East, Christians are a largely tolerated minority that have achieved a measure of business and professional success, but they are sometimes viewed with suspicion by their Muslim neighbors.

In Saddam-era Iraq, the country's 800,000 Christians — many of them Chaldean-Assyrians and Armenians, with small numbers of Roman Catholics — were generally left alone. Many, such as Saddam Hussein's foreign minister and deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, reached the highest levels of power.

But after U.S. forces toppled Saddam, insurgents launched a coordinated bombing campaign in the summer of 2004 against Baghdad churches, sending some Christians fleeing in fear.

A second wave of anti-Christian attacks hit last September after Pope Benedict XVI made comments perceived to be anti-Islam. Church bombings spiked and a priest in the northern city of Mosul was kidnapped and later found beheaded.

In the recent violence, residents of the Baghdad neighborhood of Dora said gunmen knocked on the doors of Christian families, demanding they either pay jizya — a special tax traditionally levied on non-Muslims — or leave. The jizya has not been imposed in Muslim nations in about 100 years.

One man, Arakan Admon, was wounded in a drive-by shooting last week when his family ignored the threats, relatives said.

In response to the threats, about 70 percent of Dora's Christians have fled, police said.

"The terrorists want to turn Dora into a base to attack other Baghdad neighborhoods," said Christian lawmaker Younadam Kana. "Criminal gangs made use of the situation and they started to kidnap Christians and demand ransom. It is a coalition between terrorists and criminals."

The southern neighborhood is a Sunni insurgent stronghold that has seen frequent U.S. shelling under a security crackdown against the sectarian violence.

In the northern city of Mosul, men began knocking on doors last month, demanding that Christian families pay a $3,000 tax that would be used to fight the U.S.-led forces, local residents said. Some paid; others fled.

Mansour, a 63-year-old retiree, said that while many other Christians left, he chose to stay in his Amariyah neighborhood in western Baghdad. He was hoping that the Baghdad security plan, which U.S.-led forces launched on Feb. 14, would improve the situation.

"But the opposite happened," he said.

Mansour was kidnapped March 11 by gunmen who identified themselves as Al Qaeda. After 15 days in captivity, his family paid the ransom and fled the country, leaving their home and electric appliance store behind, Mansour said in a telephone interview from Syria.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Sam Getting His Platoon

I have a new address now since I will be switching FOB's in a couple days.

1LT Samuel Chamberlain
425th, A/BSTB
FOB Kalsu, #40573
APO, AE 09312-0573

Take Care!

Friday, May 4, 2007

A Proud and Sad Day

The FBI's 911 Memorial, on the grounds of the FBI Academy, Quantico, VA
Yesterday was the National Prayer Day here in the United States of America. A proud day for me to take the opportunity to exercise my right to pray, in public, at a government facility, with my fellow believers.

Truly, yesterday the Lord gave me the strength I prayed for as I bowed my head and read out loud, the names of the 32 men, from the 4th Brigade, 25 Infantry Div, who had sacrificed their lives for me. Yes, for me, so that I could stand on FBI property, around the granite, 9/11 Memorial and pray for their families and loved ones. I asked for God's grace and healing love be brought to their hearts. At 7:30am, He gave me the strength to complete that prayer.

At 9:30am He gave me even more strength to read the names again, around the FBI’s Engineering flag pole. I read the 33 names. Yes, now 33 names of the men whos brave and valiant hearts had been lost, so that I could proudly call myself an American.

It was a proud and sad day.

Dear Breens ~ A Note From Sam

FOB Iskan, built around a Soviet constructed electric power plant. photo: S. Chamberlain 26 Feb, 2007
Dear Breens,
Tuesday, May 1, 2007 7:42 AM

Thanks for keeping me in your thoughts and prayers.

Iraq is getting warmer and warmer each day. I think the current day time temp is in the low 90's, night time cools into the 60's and 70's. It will keeping getting warmer until July and August, the hottest months will be around 120-130 degrees. That's pretty hot, then add about 70-80lbs of gear we are required to wear on missions just as basic combat load (body armor, ammunition, etc...)

We lost a good paratrooper this past weekend. He was a medic, and died rushing to help two other paratroopers wounded by an IED.

We haven't gotten any care packages in about a week, but mail is supposed to arrive on a LOGPAC (logistics patrol) tonight. Mail Call is definitly the best day of the week. The popular item right now from back home is Girl Scout cookies. You wouldn't believe how many boxes of cookies are laying around this place, some people will put 15-20 boxes in a package, at $4.50/box, that's incredible, but we sure do love them, and more then anything, they remind us of home.

Our XO (Battalion Executive Officer) likes to boost morale with "fun run's" around the FOB for different holidays, and one of the LT's has gotten various organizations from back home to sponser t-shirts, so this week we're having a "cinco de mayo" 5k, last month it was "the leprachuan lap", we also had a "jingle jog" and "turkey trot". The runs vary from 2miles, 5k, the longest has been 10k. One lap is about 2.1 miles around the FOB perimeter, and is paved.

Well that's about it for now.

Great to hear from you guys. Have a great summer.


Thursday, May 3, 2007

Christmas in Iskandariyah, Iraq

I Googled 1-501st PIR today and found this older story. I just had to share it. The bold, red paragraph at the bottom may explain the photo.
Christmas in Iskandariyah, Iraq

ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq - It wouldn’t qualify for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but the award-winning float for the first annual ‘Geronimo Santa Parade’ was a labor of love.

The troopers of Company D, 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, brightened up all of their fellow Geronimos with their entry: a Humvee with antlers instead of reindeer and an armored personnel carrier instead of a sleigh, connected by engineer tape for reins.

The Santa Parade was the highlight of a day’s worth of activities for the paratroopers on Forward Operating Base Iskan, allowing them to spread some holiday cheer.

The winners also received three passes for some rest and relaxation in Qatar.

The agenda also included caroling on Christmas Eve, a Christmas run called, the ‘Jingle Bell Jog,’ Christmas movies, a Christmas service, and a special Christmas dinner in the mess hall.

It was a full agenda, not including the multiple combat missions that consumed large elements of the task force.

Paratroopers from the 1-501st PIR woke up early Christmas morning to start the day off with some good, old fashioned physical training – the Jingle Bell Jog.

Staff Sgt. Michael Iozzo, from Company C, was the first place finisher for the second 501st race in a row.

“I got called out, so I had to show up and defend my title,” he said.

Each participant received a Jingle Bell Jog t-shirt, a keepsake for them to remember a unique Christmas on FOB Iskan.

After an outdoor Christmas religious service led by Chaplain Dan Hardin, the paratroopers prepared for their big parade. All residents of FOB Iskan, to include the civilian contractor team, decorated floats for the battalion’s Christmas parade.

1st Lt. Thomas Angstadt, said that a lot more paratroopers showed up than expected.

“We had a really good turn out,” he said.

The highlight occurred when one of Santa’s elves, who happened to be a scantily clad male soldier, jumped out of the Company D sleigh and hugged Command Sgt. Maj. Bernie Knight.

With the movie, A Christmas Story, playing all day in the battalion’s movie room called, the Bastogne Room, there were plenty of activities.

“It was just like it is at home, and we kept it running all day,” said one trooper from Company A.

Paratroopers enjoyed the holiday festivities, as well as a traditional Christmas dinner. Even Lt. Col. Salah, the Musayyib Iraqi police chief, showed up to help Lt. Col. Robert Balcavage, commander of the battalion, serve chow to the Paratroopers.

“I didn’t expect there to be this much food,” Salah said. “It is all very beautiful.”

Throughout the festivities, the Geronimos didn’t slow down the operational tempo for the holiday. They just extended the holiday timeline and had a second, make-up Christmas Dec. 27 for those who missed the one on Dec. 25 while out on patrol.

The day came to a close with a Geronimo Bonfire, where paratroopers shared war stories, sparkling grape juice and near-beer. Several smoked carefully hoarded cigars they had been saving for a special moment.

The troopers of Company D celebrated their three Qatar passes for winning the Santa Parade float contest.

But most of all, the paratroopers of Geronimo stood together this holiday season, wishing for home but making the best of what they had.

U.S. Troops Help Train Iraqi Police

Sgt. Christopher Benjamin, 3rd Platoon, 127th Military Police Company, watches as Iraqi policemen handle the flow of traffic at a checkpoint south of Baghdad, March 22. Benjamin, a native of Tampa, Fla. is visiting the checkpoint as part of his platoon's mission as a police transition team. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Marcus Butler
Joint Police Force Works Toward a More Secure Iraq
U.S. troops help train Iraqi police.

By Sgt. Marcus Butler
4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne),
25th Infantry Division

ISKANDARIYAH, Iraq, March 30, 2007 — The future security of Iraq starts at the ground level with the Iraqi security forces. In order to prepare the Iraqis for this responsibility, soldiers in transition teams have been working around the clock all over Iraq.
Soldiers of the 127th Military Police Company are ready for this challenge.

Based out of Forward Operating Base Kalsu, the headquarters for the 127th has platoons throughout the battle space for the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Narrow Gate of Life

The gate at Machu Picchu, Peru
The words of Jesus

Matthew 7:13-14

13 Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many.
14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Let the Lord Build Your House

The path upward toward the Lord, 30 March 2007, photo by J Chamberlain
Psalm 127 (NIV)
A song of ascents. Of Solomon.

1 Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.

2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.

4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.

5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

Saints in Armor ~ Ben Stein for President

Ben Stein, The teacher in Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Saints in Armor
By Ben Stein
The American Spectator
Published 1/27/2006

I see that my fellow Stein, fellow journalist, and fellow troublemaker Joel Stein is at it again. He has written a piece for the L.A. Times in which he says he does not support the troops in Iraq. He mocks those who sport yellow ribbons, as many do, but he goes much further. He says the American soldier in Iraq is largely responsible for the war and for his own risks, injuries, and death. He does not like the war in Iraq, and he says if American soldiers would simply refuse to go fight or would quit and come home, the war would be over. If they don't do that, he does not support them and it's their own fault if they die. (This is my understanding of his piece. I may be wrong and I hope I am.)

So, here is another Stein's view:

The most heroic, ethically courageous, morally resolute men and women in the world today are the Americans, British, and other forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are fighting the most evil men and women currently on the world scene. The American Army soldier, Marine, Navy sailor, Air Force warrior, and Coast Guardsman fighting in Ramadi or Mosul is fighting men and women who kill children and old people for sport. The men and women of the United States military are fighting the remnants of a regime so evil that it pioneered the use of torture against children -- just for the amusement of Saddam and his family. The men and women whom Joel despises rid the world of a dictator so twisted and murderous that he openly admired Stalin and Hitler and sought to match their level of atrocities. The men and women who wear the uniform fought, bled, and died to rid the world of the most dangerous man on the planet in the most flammable place on the planet. They died to save a slave people from the genocidal control of a mad killer who thought nothing of gassing his own people, of wiping out entire regions, of setting up special rape rooms to allow his henchmen and his sons to rape women at will, who amused himself by pouring gasoline down the throats of totally innocent people and setting them on fire.

Counting his war against Iran and the murders of his own people, Saddam killed millions. He tortured many thousands more. Now his minions and holdouts are doing the same with bombs and sniper rifles to stop progress towards a humane society and to turn back the clock to a Hitlerite Iraq, despite the clear truth that 99 percent of the Iraqis want a free, lawful, democratic Iraq. (I guess Joel Stein thinks somehow it's those poor saps' fault, too.)

The man from Iowa or South Carolina, the woman from Mississippi or Idaho or Oregon or New York or California or Washington, D.C. or anywhere in America who leaves the comfort of home to fight against an evil as monstrous as what did happen and what is happening in Iraq are great warriors. But they are something more. They are saints in body armor, men and women of staggering moral virtue in a time and place when those words mean very little in the modern world. Their lives have the most meaning of any lives being lived on this earth right this moment.
Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He also writes "Ben Stein's Diary" in every issue of The American Spectator.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Count Your Blessings

Count Your Blessings
by Dr. Charles R. Swindoll

Psalm 95

Sometimes when you don't feel like praying, or you're consumed with needing to speak to the Lord but can't gather the words, try that old standby-count your many blessings, count them one by one.

It's amazing how you can get carried away from worries and woes and self concern when you start naming out loud what you're thankful for. Right away your focus shifts from your needs to the Father's graciousness and love. Try this:

LOOK UP . . . thank You, Lord . . .

for Your sovereign control over our circumstances
for Your holy character in spite of our sinfulness
for Your Word that gives us direction
for Your grace that removes our guilt

LOOK AROUND . . . thank You, Lord . . .

for our wonderful country
for close family ties
for an opportunity to help others
for a place to live, clothes to wear, food to eat

LOOK WITHIN . . . thank You, Lord . . .

for eyes that see the beauty of Your creation
for minds that are curious, creative, and competent
for memories of pleasures and recent accomplishments
for broken dreams and lingering afflictions that humble us
for a sense of humor that brings healing and hope

He is worthy of our highest praise and gratitude. To Him goes all the glory.

If you can't pray, make a personalized list of blessings.
Reprinted by permission. Day by Day with Charles Swindoll, Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2007, W Publishing, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 174. All rights reserved worldwide.

National Day of Prayer, 3 May 2007

2007 Prayer for Our Nation
Written by Dr. Charles R. Swindoll

Almighty God, we pause to reflect on Your character as we seek wisdom for such a time as this.

In these unsafe days,
You remain all-powerful and able to protect;

In these uncertain times,
You remain all-knowing, leading us aright;

In the unprecedented events we're facing,
You remain absolutely sovereign.
Our times are in Your hands.

Therefore, our dependence on You, is total, not partial
. . . our need for Your forgiveness is constant

. . . our gratitude for Your grace is profound

. . . our love for You is deep.

We ask that You guard and guide our President
and all who serve the people of these United States.
May uncompromising integrity mark their lives.

We also ask that You unite us as truly "one nation,
under God." May genuine humility return to our ranks.

And may that blend of integrity and humility
heal our land.

In our Lord's name we pray,


The Things She Does aka Beware of Women With Power Tools

My handy work (Click on images to enlarge)
We want out, we want out!! Oskie on Left, Jasper on right
The bibs make the woman
With Sam gone I am challenged to take on all new roles. Tonight after a very frustrating weekend of two sneaky husky pups repeatedly escaping, I tried out a bit of carpentry. I am far from handy, but here is what I came up with. Those dogs better not try anything now! Sam laughed when he heard I built a wall. He is sure they will find another way to get out, but hopefully I have made it harder!

Welcome to FOB Iskan

April 27, 2007. Front gate, FOB Iskan, Iraq
April 27, 2007, Sam's pimped out ride Here are a couple of recent photos that Sam sent. I am not sure what is going on with the mega front loader but it makes a good photo op.
(click on image to enlarge)