Monday, July 30, 2007

"You Fear 'em, We Clear 'em"

APO AE 09312-0573
04 July 2007

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Chamberlain,

On behalf of Alpha Company and the 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, I would like to extend my sincere gratefulness for your support of those deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the Global War on Terrorism.

A little background about us. We are an airborne Combat Engineer Company which supports the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division out of Fort Richardson, Alaska. We are a very new unit, as we recently built an entire airborne brigade from the ground up, and deployed in a little over a year.

As the only Engineer Company that supports approximately 3500 Paratroopers, our mission is to conduct route clearance of the roads within the North Babil Province of Iraq, situated south of Baghdad. Yeah I know it doesn't pass the common sense check - we actively seek Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and roadside bombs on a daily basis. We have effectively coined the term "You fear 'em, we clear 'em." I have some phenomenal equipment that keeps us safe, and some exceptional Soldiers and leaders who execute the mission without flaw.

I will tell you that your son is performing phenomenally under fire, while leading his men into combat. He is making his family, especially his parents, very proud. It is very difficult to join such a close knit family as the Sapper Company, and take over a platoon in mid stride during our arduous combat rotation. He has integrated perfectly, and is a solid performer on continuous route clearance missions. When my wife and I met your family at Eklutna Lake, I told you I would be Sam's commander one day; it is a relief to have him as an officer leading one of my platoons.

The t-shirts were an outstanding idea and I genuinely thank you and appreciate your dedication. You and your friends had a direct impact on our mission. I believe it is the families back home who are the ones making the biggest sacrifice. I ask that you keep us in your thoughts and prayers for the Men who are on the forefront of the Global War on Terrorism. Please feel free to contact me directly via my email if you have any other questions or correspondence.

U.S. Army
Company Commander

LT's New BAE Truck

I mentioned in an earlier post that Sam had received a new BAE manufactured RG-31. He sent this photo on Sunday.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Almost Peaceful ........ Almost!


Another day in the life in a combat zone. Out on patrol this morning, we watched the sun rise above the farm fields. Cows grazing, men tending there fields, repairing water pumps and ensuring water was irrigated through canals to there crops. It was almost 100 degrees at about 7 am, by noon it will reach about 130 degrees F.
My platoon was doing a recon mission along a untraveled road, assessing if we could repair the route for future operations. As the sun came above the horizon there was this mist hanging above the ground. For a split second it sort of makes this place feel peaceful.
Later we heard automatic machine gun fire in the distance, followed by a couple explosions. It was several kilometers away. Someone was in contact, but not us today.

Peace be with you.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

A 5 am Wakeup Call

Most 5am telephone calls that wake you out of a dead sleep are terrorizing. We all have experienced those calls.

This morning's 5 am call from Sam was prefaced with restlessness. I was really half awake wondering what was going on. Why couldn't I sleep.

That call, that glorious ring that cut through my fog and in an instant I was wide awake.
"Hi Dad", the quite, manly voice on the other side of the world said. "Are the girls still in Buffalo?" he asked.

Sam was in the middle of a day long mission in Hilla the capital of the Babel province. For some unexplained reason his mission brought him to the Embassy and they discovered that the phones in the lobby were free to use. He explained that it was so nice to dismount, remove his armor and leave it in his truck. To be in a building with "other" contractors, even women in western cloths.

He was quite, but then he disclosed that a LT friend of his had been injured the other day by an IED. Seriously injured by an IED that was placed just after his platoon's sweep the road. Just 90 minutes later and his friend was injured.

Un-Godly hot was his description in an email sent Friday...

"It's out of control hot over here right now, like around 135 each day. Today was pretty bad, but yesterday was really bad, its funny how you can feel the difference between 115, 125, and 135, because there is a difference. Its hard to believe that I will ever be this hot again in my life. Even drinking water after a while just isn't enough, the human body just isn't designed for this kind of heat. I had a mission scheduled for this morning, it was a 4km dismounted clearance movement, but it ended up being canceled, unfortunately I didn't know until after getting up with all my guys around 3am and checking in with the TOC. But it's been a complete day of errands and admin, plus mission prep for upcoming ops. Not to worry, I have another mission bright and early tomorrow morning...."

Tomorrow morning. Saturday, 1 pm his time in Hilla. He was calling from near the ruins of Babel. I asked," how do you tell the difference between ruins, modern and old?" He said Hilla was relatively free of sectarian violence was quite beautiful. "They just look older, " he said "and I drove right by them during this mission."

Imagine that. As I sit here at my computer, writing my prayers for 9:45 am service tomorrow, Sam is half a world away near the ruins of Ancient Babylon. Fighting for our way of life. Upholding the rights of these ancient people to change from a dictatorship to self government. Our proud and gracious Son is a small part of a much bigger picture.

"I know the plans I have for you," says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me in ernest, you will find me when you seek me."
Jeremiah 29: 11-13

A Prayer to a Listening God

O God, we labor in the heat of the day,
and so often the labor feels hopeless, unproductive, useless ....

And yet, you hear our silent cries.
You give us one another
to speak that which we in our pain cannot speak.
You give us your Word
that utters those things we cannot find the words to say.

And not only do you give us the words to speak,
but you also turn your ear to us and hear us,
even when all we have strength to whisper is,
"Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer."

For you have promised to hear us.
You have promised to turn your face to shine upon us.
You have promised to be our shade
when the heat of the day saps our strength
and the well of hope runs dry.

And you have promised,
even in the silence,
to give us the sweet sound of peace.

--John McCullough Bade
From "A Prayer to a Listening God," in Will I Sing Again? Listening for the Melody of Grace in the Silence of Illness and Loss by John McCullough Bade (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2003, p. 46).

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Gift to Receive

To pray means to open your hands before God. It means slowly relaxing the tension which squeezes your hands together and accepting your existence with an increasing readiness, not as a possession to defend, but as a gift to receive.
--Henri J.M. NouwenFrom With Open Hands (Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Marie Press, 1972, p.154)

A Lutheran Prayer For Courage

This prayer comes from the Lutheran Book of Worship (Augsburg, 1978).
It suggests that each of us is called by God to be a pioneer
forging our own unique path as we discover and develop our God
given nature and talents.
For some the path may be relatively straightforward; for others it may bring pain and struggle. But we all need faith and courage as we travel into the unknown future: perhaps we could take this prayer with us on our journey?
Lord God,
You have called your servants to ventures
of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with good courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that your hand is leading us
and your love supporting us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
St Michael & All Angels Parish Church, Shefford, UK

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More Bridge Photos

Here are some more photos from June 10. The last one shows a armored Caterpillar D9 bulldozer from Sam's platoon, working to clear the road after a suicide truck bomb was exploded near the bridge.

Breach Hell

So, one of my Squad leaders, Staff Sergeant Nick Swanson, has a cousin that is a christian rapper based out of Minnesota. His cousin decided to write a song about my combat engineer "sapper company" while here over here in Iraq. Attached is the final product, its pretty awesome. "BREACH HELL" is our company motto, since breaching is what combat sappers do best! I hope you enjoy. Feel free to pass around and share.

Breach Hell, 425th BSTB Company Theme Song

"……Keep you head up on the battlefield, I know the mission is real, but so is God and He’s look after you’ all. Look at that flag on your arm, the red white and blue. We appreciate you and everything that you do. Every morning I awake in these here United States, and ain’t nothing blowing up no terrorist showing up. I know its cause of you’ll out there hold’em them off. Freedom comes with a heavy tab you’ all and you’ all paying the cost. And for that dog my hat comes off. Giving honor where honor is due to our American troops. This is my thanks and I am sending a ????? to the Brigade Special Troops Battalion and Sgt Nick Swanson……"

Across The Miles

I submitted several photos to my BAE Systems corporate, online newsletter. They are interested in the driFIRE t-shirt project we have started. They morphed two of the photos together. They were particularly interested in the fact that Sam's platoon uses several BAE manufactured RG-31 vehicles for their daily missions.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Rappahannock Sunset - The Lord is my Light

Psalm 27
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation
whom shall I fear
The LORD is the stronghold of my life
of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evil men advance against me
to devour my flesh,
when my enemies and my foes attack me,
they will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.

(Click on any image to enlarge)

I spent 6 hours cat fishing on the Rappahannock Friday afternoon, evening. It turned out to be a beautiful evening. So easy to fish while floating down river with the current. Until you realize its 9 pm and and you've got a one hour, 2 1/2 mile paddle back to the dock, up stream. Yes I caught 2 Channel Cats, one about 4 pounds and one about 5-6 pounds,

Friday, July 13, 2007

Bin Laden Search Frustrates Officials

By Bill Gertz
July 12, 2007
Washington Times

Senior U.S. intelligence officials yesterday defended unsuccessful efforts to capture al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden who they say has eluded a global manhunt for years by hiding in tribal areas of Pakistan under the protection of local leaders.

"We share your frustration," Thomas Fingar, deputy director of national intelligence, told Congress yesterday. "Being No. 3 in al Qaeda is a bad job. We regularly get to the No. 3 person."
But capturing or killing bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, has been difficult because their security practices are "very good" and they are hiding in an area "that is more hostile to us than it is to al Qaeda," Mr. Fingar told the House Armed Services Committee.

During yesterday's hearing on global security threats, three U.S. intelligence analysts told the committee that al Qaeda terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons remain the most serious menaces to American security.

Mr. Fingar said U.S. intelligence is becoming worried about al Qaeda finding "safe haven" in Europe because it increases the danger of terrorists getting into the United States.

On Iraq, Mr. Fingar stood by the conclusions of a January U.S. intelligence assessment that said an 18-month withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country "almost certainly would lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict in Iraq, intensify Sunni resistance of the Iraqi government and have adverse consequences for national reconciliation."

Mr. Fingar said al Qaeda leaders know that turning on cell phones, even in mountain redoubts of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, has led to the death or capture of other terrorists.
He noted that the appeal of al Qaeda's Islamist extremist ideology is strong and has protected bin Laden and al-Zawahri from U.S. offers of reward money or other incentives aimed at locating the men.

CIA Director for Intelligence John Kringen said his agency thinks bin Laden is alive and "probably in the tribal areas of Pakistan."
"In terms of your frustration ... the challenge we face is those are ungoverned spaces in which the Pakistani government doesn't control much of that — very tribally based," Mr. Kringen said, adding that bin Laden does not communicate or interact directly with anyone for long periods of time.

The officials were questioned by Rep. Robert E. Andrews, New Jersey Democrat, about why bin Laden has not been caught in the more than 2,000 days since the September 11 attacks killed 3,000 Americans.

"Now, I don't equate capturing or killing Osama bin Laden with victory in the war against al Qaeda by any stretch of the imagination," Mr. Andrews said. "But I also understand that the psychological value to the American people and around the world and the strategic blow that it would strike to al Qaeda around the world is obviously of great significance."
Mr. Kringen said that in some cases, Pakistani tribal leaders "are the very people who are protecting him."

"We've had rewards out for bin Laden for a long period of time, and economic motivation is not a principal driver of how they behave," he said.

The CIA analyst said it is very difficult to "turn" people in the region into agents willing to work for the U.S. government in locating the al Qaeda leaders.

Bitterness into Sweetness

Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. John 4:14

Bitter, undrinkable water. What a horrible thing to find after three thirsty days crossing the desert! It would almost be better to find nothing at all. The people of Israel seemed to think so. They complained, saying, “What shall we drink?” (Exodus 15:24).

This was not a prayer or a reasonable request. It was a whine. It was the same kind of whine we often make when we blame God for dry, bitter periods in our lives. Yet God was kind to the people of Israel. He showed Moses a log—a tree that would change the bitter water into sweet. Then people could drink as much as they wanted.

The tree was not magic. God’s power did the miracle. The tree was a sign that looked forward to the cross of Jesus, our Savior. Jesus alone takes away the bitterness of our lives and makes them livable, even sweet. His suffering, death, and resurrection make all the difference. He satisfies our thirsty hearts. We will still experience dry and bitter days. But even these times belong to Jesus. He sweetens them and gives us His water of eternal life.

Dear God, give me Your living water in Christ, and through Him, make all my bitterness sweet. Amen.
Portals of Prayer - A Daily Devotion from Concordia Publishing House
Devotional Reading for: 7/13/2007

Spartan Heros

Sam asked me to add this new page dedicated to the heroes of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division known as Spartans.

Within this site is the unit history. Very interesting reading.

Sam's present assignment:
The 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion (BSTB) was formed 21 October 2005. The Warrior battalion consists of an Engineer company, a Military Intelligence Company, a Signal Company as well as various other combat multipliers.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Combat Engineer - Sapper

I'll have to ask Sam about this one.
I came across this description on on the origins of the name "Sapper"
"Sapper" got its designation from the 800-1500's engineers who constructed siege engines and dug tunnels on site using standing trees as their primary construction material... hence the oozing sap covered them regularly giving them a recognizable visual indicator of their specialty.
Here is another discription.

Dawn of the Army's Sappers
A SAPPER is "a soldier employed in working at saps, the building and repairing of fortifications, the execution of field-works, and the like." A 'SAP' is "the process of undermining a wall or defensive work,", "the process of constructing covered trenches in order to approach a besieged place without danger from the enemy's fire,", or "a covered trench made for the purpose of approaching a besieged place under the fire of the garrison."

Generals in the 16th century learned that trenches and tunnels dug towards the walls of an enemy's fortification could provide protection from defensive fire. Either large guns or explosive charges could then be employed at close range to breach the defenses and cause a climactic and decisive end to the battle. Technological advances allowed the development of these heavy bronze and cast-iron artillery pieces which the generals moved into postion under cover of the trenches. The trenches were dug with a small hook shaped spade which was called in French a "sapier" and when these trenches were used for the attackers advance, they were called sap trenches, or "saps". The men who dug these "saps" were affectionately called SAPPERS; and a legacy was born. The SAPPERS who were called upon to place explosive charges under the enemy's fortifications were called MINERS.

Desiring soldiers in the Continental Army who were skilled in such fashion, The Corps of Sappers and Miners were created by a General Order of none other than General George Washington on the Second of August, 1779. The SAPPERS and MINERS, having already been formed into companies the previous Summer were already receiving their introduction to the Sapper Guild. They were an Elite group and as they are today, they were placed under the direction of the Corps of Engineers. Their purpose for existance was to prepare defenses and attack and break through enemy defenses.

The SAPPERS of the Continental Army were the first troops into the British lines at the decisive battle of the American Revolution;The Battle of Yorktown in October 1781. At Yorktown, the SAPPERS assembled fortification materials, erected gun platforms, transported cannons and ammunition, and cleared the way in their customary manner for their Infantry brothers in the classic assault on Redoubt Number 10. This victory would not have been brought home had it not been for the SAPPERS; and there would have been no United States of America.

God’s Guiding Presence

Exodus 15:13
"You have led in Your steadfast love the people whom You have redeemed."

What does God want me to do? Where does He want me to go?” Most of us have asked these questions. We long for a road map that tells us exactly what is coming next in life.

As the Israelites left slavery for a future in an unknown land, they depended heavily on God’s direction. In the day, they followed a cloud. At night, fire filled the cloud so that they could see by it.

There is an important difference between the cloud of God’s presence and a modern road map. Without a map, the Israelites could not run ahead of God or anticipate where they would be six weeks later. Instead, they could move only at God’s speed, in God’s direction, as He led them by the cloud.

As we follow Christ, we have no guarantees about where we will be ten years from now or what we will be doing then. Our trust is centered in Jesus Christ Himself, who is our guide. Through Christ, God has pledged that He will watch over us and will bring us where He has promised—no matter how strange or hard the journey. After all, Christ has already traveled through death into life again for us. He will bring us safely through life and into God’s presence forever.

Dear God, help me trust and follow You whether the path is enclosed in darkness or in light. Amen.
Portals of Prayer - A Daily Devotion from Concordia Publishing House

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Support Still Keeps Coming

Hello - I was told by a friend of the story on the Free-Lance Star about your son and his unit and the t-shirts that you want to send them. I read the actual story Monday online. I must say that I immediately felt bad for even thinking how hot it was here on that 100 degree day - and I was actually dressed for the weather (and not in combat gear and body armor). I have put a check in the mail to help with the purchase of the special t-shirts. I will pray for the safe return of your son to you - as well as the other thousands of brave troops who are there as well. I hope my small contribution makes a difference. God Bless.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

2007 Tour de France Photos

The Belgian weather is less welcoming as heavy rain suddenly starts to fall, making conditions difficult
The Ariège Pyrénées (stages 13 and 14) may be the best place in the world to road bike
(click to enlarge image)
Team CSC control the peloton and after allowing the leaders to go 13 minutes ahead, start reeling them in
The riders stroll through the London streets towards Tower Bridge, where the pre-race starts
The peloton, nerves of steel

Monday, July 9, 2007

Soldier Trades Teaching for Infantry Life

Cpl. James Hogan (center right, wearing baseball cap), a native of Superior, Wisc., speaks to the Northwestern High School Tigers football team, also of Superior, Wis., during his last season coaching in 2004. Hogan now serves with Company A, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), out of Fort Drum, N.Y., and coaches Iraqi soldiers on infantry skills. Courtesy photo.
Monday, 09 July 2007
By Spc. Chris McCann
10th Mountain Division Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE YUSUFIYAH — College money, job experience and lack of employment opportunities are usually some of the motivators Soldiers cite for joining the military.

But Cpl. James Hogan left a job he loved, teaching high-school history and economics in Superior, Wis., to enlist in November 2005 to be a part of American history.

“I was teaching history and about the wars, and I felt it was my patriotic duty to serve, like the guys who went before me,” Hogan said. “I don’t want to sit on my deck at 60 years old and tell people I had a chance to serve and didn’t.”

Hogan graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Superior, and began teaching at a Catholic middle school, then at a high school in Maple, Wis. In addition to teaching American history, he taught economics, criminal justice, social science and sociology, and coached football, girls basketball, and track and field.

But he gave it all up to join the Army.

“The students were surprised. Some were sad, and some were probably happy,” he said, laughing. “I always wanted to teach, and I was no good at math, I don’t like science, and my vocabulary is terrible. But I love politics and history, and I love this country.”

Hogan works with Company A, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), out of Fort Drum, N.Y. His unit is the military transition team that has been training 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with them day in and day out,” he said of the Soldiers in his company.

“From the different personalities, meeting people from all over the United States, I’ve learned a lot. I really respect everyone in the Army, whatever they do, but these (infantry troops) are the ones putting in blood, sweat and tears.”

A willingness to be on the ground and on the front lines is a respect-earner. One of his heroes, he said, is Theodore Roosevelt.

“He really solidified my desire to join the Army,” Hogan said. “He quit the Navy to join the Army and then formed the Rough Riders, because it always bugged Teddy Roosevelt that his father didn’t fight in the Civil War when the country needed him.

“I like his maverick spirit, he did what was in his heart, and he sure wouldn’t be making decisions based on poll numbers if he were president today.”

Hogan has a rather maverick spirit himself, which serves him well with Soldiers both older and younger than him.

“I’m 33 years old,” he said. “In civilian life, I would have been teaching some of these guys, but they’re teaching me the ways of the infantry here,” he said. “It’s tough being older, especially as an enlisted Soldier. I didn’t become an officer because that’s not what I wanted. I’ve had responsibility. I just wanted to be a grunt. And it’s tough to get smoked by a guy nine years younger, but that’s when you just have to swallow your pride.”

Hogan plans to return to teaching – and coaching – when his term of enlistment ends, but he’s toying with the idea of going into the chaplaincy.

“I’m a man of faith,” he said. “I want to study scripture more in-depth, and I want to serve Soldiers in a more personal way. Guys have been laying it all on the line here for five years now, and the turmoil and struggle and separation from family is hard. I feel I could help, and give strength to them to hang in there.”

If he doesn’t choose that road, however, he said what he’s learned in the Army will serve him well as a teacher.

“I think I’ll get more respect as a teacher – I can bring in my photos and things from Iraq, and that would be really good. If I go into the chaplaincy, I’d like to be an Army Reserve or National Guard chaplain so I could still teach.

“It’s an honor to serve my country alongside all my fellow Soldiers in uniform,” Hogan said, “and I’m thankful for the opportunity to do it.”

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Sam's BAE RG-31

Mine Protected Vehicle
The RG-31 Mine Protected APC is a 4x4 armoured vehicle with a combat mass of 10 220 / 11 500 kg.
The all-steel, welded armour, monocoque hull protects the crew against small arms fire and anti-tank mine detonations.
In standard APC configuration, this air-conditioned vehicle carries a crew of 10 (driver plus 9).
A large rear door and two front doors ensure speedy and easy exit and entrance. With automatic transmission, permanent 4x4 drive and a two speed (high and low) transfer case the RG-31 is easy to drive, both on and off road.
With a modular interior layout the vehicle can be configured as an APC, command vehicle, ambulance, surveillance vehicle and for many other uses.
RG-31 is the mine-protected vehicle of choice of peacekeepers.

Amazing Shirts!!

Excerpts from an email we just received
OpSec (Operational Security) prevents me from copying the email in it's entirety.
Mom and Dad,
7 July 2007

It has been a while since I sent you an e-mail, at least one with any depth to it. I have been away from the internet for a while. Chaplain still hasn’t fixed the internet in our rooms, and I’m usually too busy to use the internet in our company command post. I just got in from a mission, actually I got back from dinner, but before that I was on an all day mission....

Your shirts are amazing. Or I should say the shirts all your friends, church, and Fredericksburgians in general bought us are amazing! My guys, and the other three platoons were thrilled to receive them. I have worn them for two missions already. They really shine when you take off the hot body armor, and your body dries out quickly. Because, no matter what you’re wearing underneath, having 75lbs plus of body armor and equipment is hot.

I had a free morning a couple days ago to take my guys to the range. We showed up with a wide variety of weaponry, Dad, you would have had fun. It reminded me of one of those redneck shooting videos you had. We brought my M9 (9mm pistol), M4’s, an M14 with new Leopold Mark 4 sniper scope, M203, M249 SAW, M240B, 12ga “sawed off shotgun’s”, and closed the mornings fun with several belts from my M2 (“ma deuce”) .50 cal machine gun mounted on a humvee gun truck. It was fun, and good training. The only weapon we didn’t shoot in my platoons arsenal was the MK-19 (Mark nineteen), a 40mm grenade launcher, firing approx 50 rounds/minute. I always mount in on my truck, since it’s the most casualty-producing weapon around. I also got to zero my PEQ4 laser using NVG’s before the sun came up. Then zero my M68 CCO red dot scope. I taught myself to fire using both eyes open with the CCO. Its odd at first, but once you get the hang of it, I really like the technique. I had never fired an M2 before, and had a good time shooting up the range with that caliber machine gun. I would hate to be on the receiving end of that weapon….

Dad, I’m not sure you know this, but the vehicle I mainly ride in is made by BAE Systems. There is a BAE Systems data plate with serial number on the side of it. It is called the RG-31. Have you heard of them before?

Well that about wraps it up for me. I miss you guys, and can’t wait to see you all.


Who Killed the Americans in Karbala?

Thursday, Jun. 14, 2007
Who Killed the Americans in Karbala?
By Mark Kukis/Iskandariyan, Time

January's attack on U.S. forces at the Iraqi government complex in Karbala has become a kind of epic unsolved mystery among troops at Forward Operating Base Iskan, where soldiers from the unit involved are based. There is no shortage of theories among the roughly 30 troops who were there as to whom was responsible for the attack. Many soldiers believe the attackers, who appeared wearing U.S. military uniforms and speaking English, were Iranian operatives from the notorious Quds Force. Some think the assault party that entered the complex in a convoy of SUVs was a rogue cell of the Mahdi Army. Still others suspect the hit team was a kind of all-star insurgent squad, with skilled fighters from the Mahdi Army, Iran and the Badr Brigade, another Shi'ite militia.

While much has been said about the attackers who stormed the compound from the outside, little has been revealed about the possible involvement of Iraqi Police who were inside at the time. But the final report of the official military investigation into the incident says there is some evidence to suggest that Iraqi Police who'd been working with U.S. forces in Karbala for over a year helped orchestrate the attack.

"There are indicators that information was exchanged between the attackers and the Iraqi Police [IP] prior to this attack," says the report, a copy of which was obtained by TIME. "Senior IP leadership at the station knew the coalition battle drills, and often watched them practice. The attackers knew exactly where to find the officers and which rooms were occupied by the Americans. The back IP gate was left unlocked and unmanned, and the Iraqi vendor and civilian workers absented themselves just prior to the attack."

What's commonly understood about the attack is that a crack team of gunmen sneaked into the Karbala police station, where about 30 U.S. soldiers were normally at work on training programs and other initiatives aimed at building up local security forces. The attackers, who carried U.S.-style weapons, killed one American soldier after getting into the compound and then abducted four others, executing them a short distance away as the attackers fled, evading capture by abandoning their vehicles and shedding their bogus American uniforms and mock weapons.

Findings of the investigation suggest that at least some of the Iraqi Police the Americans were training ultimately turned on them prior to the attack and perhaps cooperated in it. And many of the soldiers who were there definitely feel betrayed by Iraqi Police they had grown to trust to some degree. U.S. troops who fought the attackers Jan. 20 say many of the Iraqi Police on hand did nothing to help them during the fight and seemed indifferent afterward. None of the Iraqi security forces on hand sustained any injuries, according to the report. The attackers fired only on the Americans.

"No one was shot," says Sgt. Michael King, describing the Iraqi Police immediately after the attack. "No one twisted an ankle. No one jammed a thumb. Nothing." The investigation report adds that one senior Iraqi Police official even seemed happy after the attack as he talked into a cell phone and walked among the wreckage of the aftermath laughing.

The military has shown its report to the families of the soldiers killed in the attack but not released the findings publicly. Military officials say they are still at work trying to kill or capture figures thought to have had a role in the attack party that came from the outside. But so far there have been no arrests of Iraqi Police suspected of involvement.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Unexpected Visitor

July 2, 2007, 1700, from my back yard deck. photo by Jay C., I had just arrived home on the evening of the 2nd and was on the back deck with Valerie when this unexpected visitor arrived overhead. (Nikon D40, 300mm (450mm for digital), 200 asa, f5.6 @ 1/1600)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Mount Marathon, Seward, AK Can You Imagine??

Celebrating The 4th

(Click on any image to enlarge)
Nikon D40, 8 seconds @ f16, ISO 1600My firework photos from the display, The Inn at Kelly's Ford
1.6 seconds @ f16, ISO 1600 Sam and Gretchen, wish you were here
3.0 seconds @ f16, ISO 1600
3.0 seconds @ f16, ISO 1600

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

America, Why I Love Her

John Wayne, my hero.
(click here) to hear his special 4th of July reading.

Coverer of Our Shame

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Galatians 3:27
Have you ever tried to sew leaves together to make clothes? I have. I can tell you that it doesn’t work too well! Grass thread soon breaks and the leaves fall off. No wonder Adam and Eve were hiding in the bushes!
But that is exactly what it’s like when we try to cover up our own sin. We make excuses for our behavior. We try to pretend it didn’t happen. We may even lie about it—to others and to ourselves. But it never works. The truth comes out, the excuses fall off, and we’re left covered in shame.
When we have sinned, we need God’s help and mercy. We need God to do for us exactly what He did for Adam and Eve—to make clothing for us that will stay on us and completely cover our shame and guilt.
But that clothing comes at a price. An innocent animal in the Garden of Eden died so that human shame could be covered with animal skin. In the same way, our Lord Jesus Christ laid down His own innocent life for our sakes. Through His death and resurrection, He took away our shame forever—because He loves us.
Baptized into Christ Jesus, we are no longer ashamed. As Christians, we have been clothed with Christ and clad in His purity. Thank You, Lord!
Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for covering my sin and making me Your own forever. Amen.
Portals of Prayer - A Daily Devotion from Concordia Publishing House
Devotional Reading for: 7/3/2007

Monday, July 2, 2007

Fear is good for Mount Marathon first-timers

2006: The men's field of Tuesday's Mount Marathon race heads up the rocks at the base of the mountain.
Mount Marathon organizers plan a safety meeting the night before the race in an attempt to prevent competitors from taking falls like William Andariase, 13, of Anchorage, endured last year. Said veteran runner Flip Foldager,
Race committee's show lets rookies know to err on the side of caution.
Published: July 1, 2007
About 8 Tuesday night, the lights will go down inside Seward High School and video viewing of human carnage from past Mount Marathon races will commence.
The assembled race rookies, who must attend the safety meeting to secure their race bibs for Wednesday's 80th edition of the race, will watch a short video that emphasizes the toll the mountain will take on unprepared or reckless runners. They'll see clips of runners suffering wicked face plants and others tumbling down the perilous cliff face at the bottom of the 3,022-foot mountain.
And then veteran racer Flip Foldager will do his part to freak out the newcomers.
"If you have not been on the mountain, if you haven't practiced it, if you don't know where you're going, you should not be here,'' Foldager told the rookies last year.
There's a Boy Scout lesson in the tough love: Be prepared.
With loose boulders, sharp shale, dangerous cliffs and assorted perils awaiting -- that's particularly true on the harrowing descent of a slab of pain that averages 38 degrees -- the uninitiated are vulnerable to unforgiving falls. And that's why Foldager, who is also a member of the race committee, aims to scare rookies straight.
"I'm fairly gruff about it,'' Foldager said last year. "I tell 'em, 'It's not a cakewalk.' That's my angle. I want people to be a little scared. If you're not scared, you're going to do something dumb.''
No one has ever died in a Mount Marathon race, but runners have suffered broken bones, brutal bruising and cuts that require stitches. This is a race that features an ambulance stationed at the base of the mountain and a medical tent at the finish line.
The safety meeting has been a race staple about a decade. In that time, the field has mushroomed to about 350 in both the men's and women's races, and 200 in the junior race. Packed fields on the narrow trails create traffic that make safety especially critical -- one runner's mistake may turn into another runner's mishap.
As KTUU Channel 2's Jason Moore, who helps conduct the safety meeting and produced the video with Foldager, told last year's rookies, "There are countless opportunities to injure yourself.''
The video shows various sections of the course. Former women's contender Kjerstin Lastufka negotiates those sections in a training primer. Weather conditions, clothing and gear options are also discussed.
The video ends with footage of the thousands of spectators who line Fourth Avenue downtown and cheer racers -- the elite, the middle-of-the-packers and the tail-enders -- to the finish.
"Keep in mind,'' Moore told the rookies last year, "if you come down on a stretcher, you'll miss that awesome experience.''
After the video Tuesday night, Foldager will address the rookies -- offering tips on how to avoid mishaps, how to keep small rocks out of shoes, how to wrap ankles and generally how to make the journey as safe and successful as possible. And he reminds junior racers that he will be at the base of the mountain for their race.
"All you have to do is call my name,'' Foldager told the juniors last year. "I'll come help you.''
As stern and serious as Foldager can be addressing the rookies, he said he doesn't recall spooking anyone so badly that they sprinted for the exits.
"I've had people come up and express doubts, but I don't remember anyone coming up and saying they're not going to run,'' Foldager said.
Another great race of Alaska. The foot race is held every July 4th up and down the 3,022 foot peak of Mount Marathon, overlooking the Kenai Peninsula in the city of Seward Alaska. The race is a climb and descend on Mt. Marathon. It's a mile and a half up and a mile and a half down, complete with cliffs, waterfalls, and a wonderful view. The first race was held in 1915 over a bet on who could climb the mountain the fastest. Claims were made that they could do it under an hour. Today the race is broken down into many different races. Mens, women's, juniors and teams. There is of 200 to 300 runners. Lottery drawing is used to pick participants. Participants come from all of the world to run in this race in Seward.
Sam has said several times it's on his list of things to do.