IBOL, and Life

October 16, 2011

IBOL ]I[ came and went, as did Ramadan.  It was a strange month in which to be in Baghdad, both for the holiday celebrations that shaped the events of the country, and the ongoing debate over whether there would be a continued US Forces in Iraq after 2011.

The hundreds of bundles sent to Afghanistan, as part of the 3rd iteration of IBOL this year, were met with open arms and dropped from airplanes to locations all across that country.  Ditto for the special project bundles.  Ramadan was a great, great month, and with all my thanks, I am happy to say a very productive one.

But that being said, I’ve closed the shutters on IBOL.  After Ramadan had blown through Iraq like a hot breeze, I packed up and snuck home to a tropical island for some much needed R&R.  And to surprise my son, for his birthday and in conjunction with Lifetime’s TV show, Coming Home.  Supposedly, they’re off editing it now, and supposedly, they’re planning to use our sordid tale.  They said something about us being funny or something.  I’ve no idea when it will air, but really, I’m more interested in getting home to watch it with them in my own living room with my family at my side.

Will there be an IBOL 4?  I’m not planning on it.  I think to do another one, I’d have to head back out to the wilds again, and with all things being equal, I’d just as soon sit and sip mojitos. Do I still think about it?  Absolutely — I read articles like this one and think to myself, hmmm, I bet we could help him out.  But for now, I I’m more focused on closing up Iraq.

If you need me, I’m on Iraq.  Enjoy your late fall and the seasonal changes.

IBOL ]I[

August 5, 2011

I heard from Afghanistan today.  Between IBOL / ABOL, and the Super Secret Projects, the bundle count was about 400.  Well, just shy of 400 right now.  More are en route, I know, but it’s a bunch.

Thank you.  That’s awesome.

Ramadan

August 2, 2011

Ramadan is here.  The new moon is out, signaling the start of the new lunar month.  It’s been a long time coming.

And with the arrival of Ramadan, comes the end of this round of IBOL, er, I mean, ABOL.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for all of the help with ABOL this year.  It’s been awesome.  I owe you all some more photos, and soon.

What’s next?  Bundles move to Iraq via the US Postal System.  The folks in Afghanistan keep distributing them. And I keep sweating — it’s been 120+ during the day, and a mere 90+ at night.

I haven’t seen a bundle count for Afghanistan, but between the bundles, and the school supplies, and yes, the beanie babies — I would call this year a big, big success.

Maiwand sewing training

July 27, 2011

Got some photos in email today.  Pretty sweet.

But, before I forget, yes — there is still time to put bundles into the mail.  The goal remains to try and get stuff into the mail this month — well, this week.

But now, photos.

On Norway

July 26, 2011

I know, I know. I’m normally such a happy, cheery kind of guy.

Norway, though, has me sad.  Such sorrow.  Such a tragic loss.

And so much hatred.  It still baffles me, after all these years and all of these adventures, to find people with such hatred in their heart.

This attack, these deaths, perhaps mean something different for me – my wife and I have ties to Norway, friendships, that span more than 15 years.  We’ve had grand adventures there, been treated like family there.  Shared meals and tales.

It is so sad.

One last week

July 24, 2011

Well, good morning.

Back in 2009, during the first go-around of IBOL, my boss use to give me some grief about working on IBOL.  If you have time enough for that, he’d say, you have time to hunt the car bomb makers.  Those were dark days still, a time when some very angry people really were making and setting of what seemed like a car bomb a day.  Truck bombs, too.

For me, though, it wasn’t just about getting to the car bombs before they went off, it was about keeping people from making them.  The bundles were a big part of them.  Reconnect the people to their leaders, re-establish the link between those with grievances and those who are in a position to address them.  Bundles, I saw, were a part of that.

These days feel somewhat like that again.  As the US draws down her personnel, and begins to end the advise and assist mission that brought us here in partnership with the will of the Iraqi Government and her people, it’s time to be vigilant and safely bring our men and women home.

My boss says that when you’ve been shot, it’s not time to cure cancer.  I’m not worried about Iraq; she’ll be fine.  But we will not go gentle into that good night.

Which leaves the ongoing efforts in Afghanistan.  And this last week of putting stuff into the mail, so that it might arrive in our Gregorian month of August, also known as Ramadan.  These bundles won’t cure cancer, not by a long shot.  But they are tools, very simple tools, to help with that.  While I labor away here in Baghdad, helping to close up shop and helping to ward off those who would do us harm, Please put those last bundles into the mail.  Ramadan will be upon us soon, and with it, the goal of using bundles during this, a season of giving and introspection.

The road ahead in Iraq

July 17, 2011

I was hoping to offer up an update on how things are going in Afghanistan, with the deliveries of bundles and super secret projects.  But we’ve been missing each other.

But boy, can I talk about Iraq.  Did you see the news earlier this week, about the new Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visiting Baghdad to talk to the Iraqi Government about the road ahead for US/Iraqi relations.  Well, the road ahead for a US Military role.  There are a few other good articles worth reading, too — here and here.  It’ll be interesting to see if this big debate over the road ahead if resolved in the coming two weeks, before Ramadan.  I bet not.

I do thing, though, that we need more cute puppies on the battlefield.  We’ve got a retired military working drop who now ha the mission to visit Soldiers and make them feel better.  That’s about the most awesome job ever.  Good doggie, good doggie.

Tough week here in Baghdad

July 10, 2011

Sorry for being so quiet this week.  Been a tough, tough week.

I had high hopes for the weeks, actually.  Sunday was a nice pre-4th BBQ, complete with a pig roast (we can talk about the appropriateness of a pig roast in Iraq later, ok?).  The 4th was a nice day — I covered down on the office with a few others while my boss and a lot of the Joes headed out for some festivities with our Iraqi counterparts (and no, there wasn’t a second pig roast).

And then the week just got rough, with the low point for me being an attack that took the lives of two Soldiers from 116 Cav.

Like I said — tough week.

It’s Sunday, and that means Skype with the family, and some extra sleep (every little bit counts) and other important things – like dropping off dirty laundry.

Though silent here, I’ve had some great conversations this week with some of you — Super Secret Projects 5 and 6, and the bundles in Afghanistan.  It’s good to hear that people are having fun rounding up bling.  Who knew huh?

So, thanks.  And here’s to a better week.

SSP6 (and some feedback)

July 3, 2011

I think it was the NY Times that described June as having had the greatest number of US Forces killed in Iraq in a while — a couple of years or something.

So, yeah — June has been a tough month.  We fight for king and country, but we also fight for those to our left and to our right.

Buuuuut, I do have to say — bundles have been flowing into AF.  I should see if I can call the AF crew tomorrow, for a check — there are few benefits to being in Iraq, but free calls to Afghanistan is one of them.

I did get some feedback from the folks on the ground in Afghanistan.  “Please send bling” was one of their requests.  Actually, the quote was “If available, they suggest sending some bling-bling to fasten to the clothing. The ladies enjoy decorating their clothes with mirrored items, fake stones and sequence.”

I think that’s certainly reasonable.

I also think this should be a bit inspiring:

Other feedback included great cheering over the inclusion of thread and needles “and things,” though I’m a bit unsure what that means.  Perhaps pastries.  “Threads are good, sheer-type fabric is good for head scarves and things, patterns fabrics are good, even velvet-type fabrics are really popular here (even in the summer heat!)  Needles for hand-embroidery, pins, sewing machine needles, and trim (beads, lace, thin ribbons) and bolts of fabric big enough to make a standard shalwar chemise would be great, too.”

More Female Engagement Team news, here.  Very neat article, here.  And a neat video, here.

And last, but certainly not least, if you’re looking for a little something else to do, it’s time for Super Secret Project 6.  Leave me a comment if you need the bundles address, or if you want more details on the SSP6.  It’s gonna be fun.

Sometimes, it’s more than awesome

June 28, 2011

You know, it’s not all horrible over here.

I spent Monday on the road, heading out to go see another unit.  It just so happens that we went by air, and that I got the best seat in the house, and that our path took us over the marshes.  Dumb luck on my part, but it made for a pretty awesome day.

No, that’s not a road but a waterway.

See?  Boats, not terrorists.  Not even speeding boats, just boats.

Want to know the best thing about today?

Ann and Diana (Diana and Ann?) and their nine boxes / 45 lbs of love.  It made my day.


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