Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sam's Firefight on Video

Here is a 18 minute video taken over a three day period, 7-9 Oct 2007 part of the 1-501st PIR's Operation Grecko part IIIA. I am pretty sure there are several scenes of Sam's platoon, in support of Blackfoot Co. (the Buffalo clearing a damaged HUMVEE from the road 2:05; Sam's command RG-31 along side a HUMVEE firing, 4:28). At 5:50 it looks like Sam leading an unmounted patrol, walking an Iragi road. This may be the operation that Sam so vividly discribes in his firefight essey when two of is him men were wounded on 7 Oct.

Video of typical mission, 1-501st PIR

Sam's platoon has done a lot of missions in support of the 1-501st PIR.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

All is well in North Central Iraq

An Army 105mm Howitzer is fired from FOB Kalsu (not Matt's FOB) Click on image to enlarge
For the last few weeks it has been rather hard to check email, part due to lack of time and the other due to lack of connection. See, you have to wait in line for a computer usually, and then you find out it is slow as hell and takes you the better part of your time (30 minutes per session) to even load a page, let alone get an email out.
So here we are now with a connection in our command post...still not available whenever you want to, but connection all the same.
Hope everyone is doing well. We are approaching 2 months done with our 15 month deployment. A long way to go, but keeping busy with my duties as Fire Support Officer for an infantry company. Actually, I have very little to do with fire support and much to do with operations, admin, information operations, etc. I try to keep things running when I can and take the bullet when I have to.
I've been "outside the wire" quite a bit considering my actual duties. I mostly assist the company commander with engagements of local leaders and the population of the many villages we are responsible for. I rather enjoy it. I've met a lot of interesting people so far.
My duties here are not what I expected, and certainly much different that I would have done in the Air Force, but in the long run the right choice.

I'll write more when more happens.
Warm regards to all.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Think Thanksgiving

As some Alaska families say their tearful goodbyes, others look forward to a homecoming by Thanksgiving

Published: October 24, 2007
Anchorage Daily News

That's when most of the 3,500 paratroopers of the 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team -- stationed in Iraq for more than a year -- should begin returning to Anchorage, a Fort Richardson spokesman said Tuesday.

While no dates or times have yet been set, the entire brigade is expected to return in three phases, arriving here between early November and mid-December, according to Capt. Chris Hyde.

"With a brigade, it doesn't exactly move on a dime," Hyde said Tuesday.

While Fort Rich is preparing to welcome soldiers home, Alaska Army National Guard families this week are saying goodbye.

The guardsmen will patrol at a forward operations base and protect convoys, according to McHugh Pierre, spokesman for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Among the Fort Rich paratroopers scheduled to return to Anchorage next month, the first to arrive in about two weeks will be a small advance "torch party," about 200 to 300 soldiers, who'll prepare Fort Rich for the brigade's homecoming, Hyde said.

Then the core of the unit -- about 3,000 troops -- will begin arriving home around the third week of November in a long process that will take a week to 10 days.

They'll depart from Kuwait and arrive in Anchorage in single planeloads carrying about 300 troops a day. Some days 600 soldiers might arrive.

"I would say the bulk of the 4th Brigade should be back by the very latest by the first week of December," Hyde said.

Finally, a third group of about 200 to 300 soldiers -- a contingent of sweepers responsible for getting all of the brigade's planes, vehicles and gear loaded on ships at the debarkation point in Kuwait -- should return to Fort Rich by mid-December, thus completing the brigade's 15-month deployment.

Oftentimes the mission was fraught with peril for the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division -- a unit that was created at Fort Rich in 2005 and deployed to Iraq in September 2006.

On a single day in January, eight of the brigade's paratroopers lost their lives when four soldiers were killed by ambush and four more by a roadside bomb.

They'd been patrolling dangerous areas south and west of Baghdad as part of the brigade's overall mission to work with Iraqi security forces to deter sectarian violence and defeat terrorists and insurgents.

As of this week, 53 brigade members had lost their lives in Iraq. About 350 more had been wounded.

In recent months, however, the U.S. fatality rate in Iraq had fallen and the overall security picture had improved, partly due to the 2007 surge in troop levels, according to Col. Michael Garrett, the brigade commander.

"We really have benefitted greatly from the surge," Garrett said during an Oct. 10 teleconference with Alaska journalists. "Progress in security has led to progress in governance and infrastructure.

"What has happened over the past couple of months has made me more optimistic as I look toward the future of our mission and the unit that will follow us."

Looking forward to the brigade's return to Alaska, Garrett said the Army wants to identify "high-risk soldiers" who might need psychological care after they get back home. A welcoming-home ceremony for the brigade will probably be staged on base in mid-December, Hyde said. Then most of the troops will depart the base on a one-month-long "block leave" of absence for rest and relaxation with their families.

In late January, they'll resume duty at Fort Rich -- at least through the conclusion of the brigade's first "three-year life cycle," which ends in May. Some soldiers with longer enlistments or those who choose to re-enlist will remain with the brigade after that, as new soldiers begin to arrive at mid-year.

The earliest the 4th Brigade could be redeployed in Iraq would be December 2008, Hyde said. It's also possible that the Pentagon would want the brigade's second generation to train together for 12 months first, in which case a second deployment might not occur before May 2009.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Anchorage Rush Hour

A cow moose crosses Milky Way Drive at its intersection with McKenzie Drive in West Anchorage on a cloudy morning last week.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sapper Cigar Club

So, here's a couple photos from my weekly, daily, whenever the hell we feel like it "Sapper Cigar Club". It started with smoking cheap cubans bought off the Iraqi market, then we moved up to buying our own humidors and cigars online. Yeah, cigars ain't the healithiest thing, but when you have bomb's going off, bullets whizzing by your head, and mortars & rockets crashing down beside you on a daily basis your health sort of takes on a whole new meaning. Plus, its a nice way to unwind and relax at night.

The first rule of Sapper Cigar Club is No Shop Talk, meaning no talking about work.



Monday, October 8, 2007

Psalm 18 - A Comfort In The Night

1 I love you, O LORD, my strength.
2 The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.
4 The cords of death encompassed me;
the torrents of destruction assailed me;
5 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.
6 In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.

16 He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
17 He rescued me from my strong enemy
and from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the LORD was my support.
19 He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

25 With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
26 with the purified you show yourself pure;
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
27 For you save a humble people,
but the haughty eyes you bring down.
28 For it is you who light my lamp;
the LORD my God lightens my darkness.
29 For by you I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30 This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the LORD proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

31 For who is God, but the LORD?
And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who equipped me with strength
and made my way blameless.
33 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your right hand supported me,
and your gentleness made me great.
36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet did not slip.
37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them,
and did not turn back till they were consumed.
38 I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
they fell under my feet.
39 For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs to me,
and those who hated me I destroyed.
41 They cried for help, but there was none to save;
they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them.
42 I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
I cast them out like the mire of the streets.

46 The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be the God of my salvation—
47 the God who gave me vengeance
and subdued peoples under me,
48 who delivered me from my enemies;
yes, you exalted me above those who rose against me;
you rescued me from the man of violence.

49 For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations,
and sing to your name.
50 Great salvation he brings to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.
A phone call in the night. Two men wounded but not Sam. Fear, worry, tears and a need for the Lord's strength and grace turns us to randomly open the Bible for comfort.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Thank You For The T-shirts

(click on any image to enlarge)

Friday, October 5, 2007

August 29th Mission Photo

(click on any image to enlarge)

Sgt. 1st Class Beau Shaw, platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon, Company A, 425th Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th BCT (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, watches as a grader clears debris and vegetation from the side of a road near Forward Operating Base Kalsu, Iraq, Aug. 29. Shaw, a native of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and his platoon are conducting route sanitation missions as part of Operation Cotentin which is focused on improving assured mobility of Coalition Forces and Iraqi Security Forces. (Photo by Sgt. Marcus Butler)
This is a photo of Sam's Platoon.

Albatross in Alaska

This video remained me of my one and only flight in an Albatross. Valerie and I flew from St. Croix to St. Thomas and back for the day. Imagine an aluminum john boat with wings going 80 mph over the water. That is what is sounded like inside as you took off and landed. Got to love that Alaskan scenery too.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

1 Year Today

Dear Mom and Dad,

I got your four boxes of dri fire t-shirts in the mail today. How many did you order? I think we got about 150. I was able to distribute two to everyone in the company, minus a couple of the XL guys, they only got one. The dri fire guys also sent us 12 baseball caps which I passed around to all the PSG's and PL's.

Today celebrates (well, I guess you could say celebrates) one year deployed from Alaska. I departed Fort Richardson on October 3rd, 2006, and today is October 3rd, 2007. What a year. So we had a big company bar-b-q to celebrate. This morning began with a huge company photograph since first platoon came down from Baghdad, and an awards ceremony. Then all afternoon we played flag football. Tonight we're having a big bar-b-q with burgers, chicken, and steaks. A relaxing day of sorts. So, it was good that first platoon was here to get there t-shirts.

I will e-mail you a copy of the company photo we took this morning to distribute among all your friends and family that have supported us. I think every church newsletter needs a copy.

Thanks again for the never ending love and support you have given me and my Sappers.


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Dogs Know!!

YouTube - Iraqi Dogs hate Iraqis'? Part 1

These stray dogs were at a Baghdad police station . For some reason they're protective of the American Soldiers .

Part 2

Don't tell me dogs don't know. They are our best friends and can be our worst enemies.

UNO and the Jundi

Dear Friends and Family,

I just thought you would find these photographs funny. I returned late last night (just after midnight) from spending two days down south providing a QRF (Quick Reaction Force) for another mission (can explain more later). We were staged at an Iraqi Army outpost on the outskirts of Karbala. It all started with a brand new deck of UNO cards, thanks to a care package from Gail Dudley. My guys were deep into our first hand with several curious "Jundi's" or Iraqi Army soldiers peered over the wall at us, trying to figure out this odd card game we were playing. Finally they worked up the courage, (YEAH RIGHT, Jundi's are suspicious of everything and as precocious as a 12 year old with ADHD). We let them watch a few hands before inviting them to sit down and play. What began as a friendly experiment turned into an all day affair teaching probably half the battalion how to play UNO. By the afternoon many had broken away for their naps. All faithful Muslims are deep into Ramadan right now, fasting all day, leaves them hungry, ornery, and tired by the afternoon. A few loyal players stayed and played into the hours of darkness before kicking them away to continue our mission and move out. One Jundi, 51 years old, said he had seen people play cards on the television, but never got to play himself. How did we explain the rules, well, UNO isn't the hardest card game to learn, but we had a lot of help from my interpreter Sam (seriously, my terp's nick name is Sam, his real name is Sayid, but he goes by "Sam"). After a while Sam got tired of explaining the game over and over game, but they picked it up well. The hardest part was changing colors after a wild card was played, we tried to learn the colors in Arabic, and they tried to learn them in English, but finally we just ended up pointing to the appropriate color on the card.


Monday, October 1, 2007

Photos From Home

Jasper's view from his favorite mountain, Mt. Baldy
(click any image to enlarge)
Gretchen's rosey cheeks after a Mt. Baldy hike
Ladies night out.
A 30th birthday only comes once.

Last Day For Packages - Oct. 5th

Sam's Company Commander reports that October 5th should be the last shipment day for any boxes to Iraq. The brigade will be departing early to mid November (exact date unknown for OPSEC)

19 December 2007 Redeployment Ceremony at the Sullivan Arena in downtown Alaska.

Alpha Mail, Company Newletter

 SFC Shaw overwatching the sanitation along RTE Christy west of FOB Kalsu, while the D-7 dozer (operated by SGT Hooper) clears debris and grass.Notes from Sapper 36 (Sam) and Sapper 37
The fall has continued to bring hot temperatures and a busy mission schedule for the Sappers in Third Platoon. Despite the heat we have executed a wide variety of missions from route clearance and sanitation, to force protection upgrades of local patrol bases, and even a bridge demolition. Our most important mission is the route sanitation of roadways within the Brigade’s Area of Operation, allowing all who travel these routes safer passage. I would also like to congratulate all the promotions we’ve had in the platoon this summer and fall. Staff Sergeant Beau Shaw was promoted to Sergeant First Class and Corporal Brian Clayton was promoted to Sergeant. Private First Class Manuel Perez, Hoang Pham, James Apgar, Collin Black, Matthew Chappuies, Jonathan Araiza, and Brandon Johnson were all promoted to Specialist. As we remain focused on the day to day missions it’s fair to say all Sappers look forward to returning home to there families. It is important the Sappers remain vigilant, thank you for the love and continued support we receive from families back home.
“The Alpha Mail” Vol XII
Alpha Company, 425TH BSTB, 4TH BCT (ABN), 25TH ID