Archive for the ‘Bundles’ Category

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.

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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.

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.

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.

It’s about scale

June 26, 2011

Let’s see.  Some things that I have learned this week.

1.  Treadle sewing machines are in need.  I think that, to a “T”, all of the teams in AF see the need for them.  They are a game changer.

2.  They would need to be sustainable.  I don’t know about you. but I look forward to a time when there are fewer or little or no US Forces in Afghanistan.  So, local parts, local repairs, local services for the machines will be important over the longer term

3.  There are a bunch of others working on putting more sewing and fiber-related goods into Afghanistan, in support of the CSTs and FETs.  Check here to see. They have a whole other scale of effort underway.

4.  And yes, there are folks looking at the economic aspects of it, too.  Like Thunderbird.  Really — that Thunderbird.

5.  it’s way to hot here.  I went for a run last night, leaving around 8pm, and it was still 107 degrees.  10 miles and some time later, after I’d cleaning up, it was still 97 degrees.

So, that’s what’s weighing on my mind these days.  Bundles, super secret projects (#6 should kick off in about a week), and sewing machines.  Oh, and that work these — there are still some angry / pissed off / violent people here in Baghdad, and we’re doing our best to help our battle buddies in the Iraqi Security Forces as they work to advance the security both of the city and the region.  Never a dull day, never a dull day….

You can’t rain on my parade

June 23, 2011

I am going to be unstoppable today.

1.  I got up a weeeee bit early today and went for a run.  I’d intended to run last night, but it was still cook-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk hot at 2100 / 9pm, and that wasn’t going to work (as compared to 0400 / 4am today, when it was in the high eighties Fahrenheit / around 30 degrees Celsius).  A quick six mile run through the quiet of pre-sunrise, and I had restored my balance in life.

2.  There’s an airborne operation that’s suppose to kick off today.  Our good friends in Afghanistan — are you ready for this? — are planning to drop a bundle of bundles out of a perfectly good airplane sometime today.  The world has come full circle — my dad use to say that he lived vicariously through me, and now I’m living vicariously through bundles of fabric.  Who knew.

3.  July is almost here.  Keep putting those bundles in the mail — we’re looking to surge sewing, knitting, and quilting goodies to Afghanistan through July, so there’s still plenty of time.  (Leave a comment below if you need the address).

4.  With July, I promise, will come the start of the next Super Secret Project.

5.  I’ve had a special request for a specific little bit of help, from one specific team out in one specific far corner of Afghanistan.  Is that specific enough for you?  I’m looking for just a couple of people — maybe 5 at most — willing to put together some super heavy bundles.  There are a few kids in Afghanistan, apparently, who like to draw and color and doodle.  Let me know if you’re in — there’s a special address and everything.  Operation Noodle Doodle, I think it should be called.

So, go have a good day.  Go be unstoppable (just don’t get all riled up and invade another country or something).

Say hello to Lita

June 19, 2011

You’re going to want to swing by here and take a read of what Lita said in an awesome comment.

I also received a few SSP5 Operation BBD packages. These donations will be sent to a refugee camp in Kunar Province. The refugee camp has been there for many years and the hundreds of refugee children adore receiving the small tokens of friendship.

Thank you, Lita — so very nice to hear from you, and thank you for such nice words.

Sunday morning update

June 19, 2011

So, it’s been a busy week.

Bundles are arriving in Afghanistan, and the crew there is building the first shipments for onward movement.  And the more Super Secret Bundles have arrived, too.  It’s been a busy, busy week.

Buuuut, I got some photos in the mail.  And some awesome, awesome notes of encouragement.

So, back to a quiet Fathers Day. I’m watching a horrible movie, and doing some research on manual / hand-crank sewing machines.  Really — that’s how I spent Sunday mornings in Iraq.  And yes, my own dad would agree with both my choice of actions and even my movie selection.

My own quilt life

April 24, 2011

I was writing a CV last night.  I think I last did something like that in 2004, when I was here in Iraq (my second stint — this is #4 now) and was asking the Army if we could break up — take a break, stop seeing each other, date other people.  (The Army said no).

In my work, in service to the Army, there are no resumes.  There’s no pitch you make, well, not often anyway.  The Army sends you someplace, you drop your gear, and they point at something that needs to be gone.  And then you just go do it.  Some time later, they’ll tell you it’s time to go, so you gather up your gear and you do.

That time is fast approaching for me.  It would be this fall and winter, if I wasn’t in Iraq again.  It might be the spring, but I’m asking the Army to reconsider and to let me stay a little bit longer so that the kids can finish the school year.  But what this does give me is a few more options for where and how the Army might use me next.  And it means I may be able to influence things.

Thus, the CV.  Left to its own devices, I am sure the Army would wait until it was time to reassign me, then look around to see if there was a vacant spot somewhere, and send me there.  Think musical chairs.  If I want something more than just an empty chair, I need to do something about it.  There are special programs, special assignments, internships, fellowships — all kinds of little nooks and crannies that are hidden in the shadows and there for those who will look for them and stalk them like gave.  One I’m chasing, or at least exploring as an option, is a small program with not a lot of Army folks.  The CV is a way in through an intermediary.  Of course, the official Army way is through my personnel records, but hey — I can make a CV if I need to.

Why tell you this?  Because I had one extra line on the second page, and was at a loss for what to put.  I’d cited my years overseas and my exposure to and comfort with other cultures.  I’d mentioned that I was a runner.  So, I listed that I run the Iraqi Bundles of Love project.

Now, new readers might scratch their heads and think, “Well, duh.”  But long time readers will know that, really, the Army and I don’t talk about IBOL.  In 2009, I mentioned to my boss that I had a side project going, outside of work.  His response?  If I wanted to sleep less, fine — just don’t let it interfere with my work for him.  I had to go back to him once more, when I needed to ask the Army for a couple of helicopters, and that meant my meeting with his boss — it’s always good to inform your boss when you’re going to meet with his boss.

But really, IBOL has been below the radar.  Me and other Soldiers on this end have just quietly made things happen, without asking permission and certainly without being sanctioned.  I’ve done my best to find the balance between not waking the dragon (the Army) with the need to talk about IBOL and to get things done.

And if you’re wondering why this is an issue, well, there are rules about these kinds of things.  If the Army is involved, or were to be involved, IBOL would be a whole other beast.  It’s a Sunday morning, I’m in my CHU listening to dj BC, writing this on my laptop in the quite solitude of my Sunday morning.  There’s no committee, no requests, no approvals, no forms, no staffing.  IBOL thrives because, well, because it’s underground.  Like your cousin with blue hair — you can see it, everyone can see it, but it’s not really something to bring up at a family reunion.

In 2009, our local newspaper in Hawaii did an article on IBOL.  I wasn’t referred to as a source, I was cited by name.  And yes, that press clipping popped up in my HQ.  Kind of hard to conceal something like that when it’s the hometown newspaper for our unit.

But this week, the newest issue of Quilt Life is hitting the streets and showing up in mailboxes.  I hear that a few people read it, and my wife certainly is a fan of it.  Not only does it feature a very nice photo of my family and I, it has both a short write up on my lovely wife and a two-page spread about IBOL.  Kristin and I had had the good fortune of being introduced to Alex Andersen when we were at the International Quilt Festival last year, and she put me in touch with the Quilt Life crew.

Now, I think I’m not going too far out on a limb when I guess that not too many Army generals read Quilt Life.  Their wives?  OK, maybe some of them read it.  But it’s exposure on a slightly broader scope than I had thought IBOL would ever get.

I guess if my ugly mug can show up in something like QL, I ought to be OK putting it on my CV.  And I guess it really does validate that I had no idea what I was doing when I started IBOL — I thought success would be 10 or so bundles.  Kinda crazy.

Anyway, enough with all that.  We’re still pushing bundles into Fallujah.  The goal is to get things into the mail this month.  Yes, that means this week.  Really.  If you’ve dawdled this long, time is slowly running out.  And by slowly, I mean hurry up, you’re almost out of time.  From what Jared has told me, yes, bundles are creeping into Fallujah.  The count so far was pretty low — I think he had 20+ on the ground — but the path from you to him is a much longer and more complicated one than has been in place for other iterations of IBOL.  He points and see a stream, I point and see a trickle.

What’s next?  What are we going to do after Fallujah?  Well, that’s a good question.  We’re entering into a tough stretch — we’re going to start off ramping more and more units, we’re going to keep closing more and more sites, we’re going to keep reducing the US presence here in Iraq as we ace to the end of 2011.  Maybe it’s time for a change, too.

I’ve been in touch with the folks in Afghanistan.  I’ve talked, since IBOL started, of wanting to find a way to export the goodness of IBOL to Afghanistan.  Call me biased, but I see some good in IBOL, and I see ways in which it could be applied.  But I’ve been struggled with ways to do it, short of my actually having to go to Afghanistan myself and doing it.  I think, though, that we may have a plan.  The summer push for bundles may end up being ABOL, instead of IBOL.  And that’s a very good thing.

Bundles into Fallujah

April 17, 2011

If you’re curious, the first of the bundles have arrived in fallujah.  Superman Jared told me this weekend that the first dozen or so had arrived.  “Are there more en route?” he asked.

Yes, Jared.  There are more en route.