Archive for the ‘IBOL3D’ Category

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.

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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.

Fallujah and Bin Laden — things I never thought I’d say together

May 2, 2011

Just a couple things – it’s late, I’m tired, and all that good stuff.

1.  thank to all of you for the nice notes and emails today, regarding the recent military operations in the Afghanistan / Pakistan areas, in order to capture / kill Usama bin Laden.  I do appreciate your kind words and well wishes.  The jokes of the day was, of course, “Thanks, but you do realize I am in Baghdad, and that’s nowhere near Pakistan, right?”  All jokes aside, it’s good to see operations go smoothly, it’s good to see our Joe’s make it in and out OK, and it’s good to see that they hit the objective and the target was there.  Intelligence drives operations, or so they say.

2.  Fallujah.  Wow.  thank you, all of you, for all that you have done to help with Fallujah.  With it being rather remote, bundles will surely take some time to make their way to Fallujah.  But that’s OK.  You all are awesome for helping.

3.  I’m gonna take a short pause.  I’m going to have to let my foot off of the gas for IBOL for this month, and work on, well, work.  No, it’s no bin Laden’s fault; my battle buddy is on R&R, and I’m swamped.  Asking people to put bundles into the mail by the end of April was no accident; I saw this train wreck coming even back then.  So, bear with me while I bear down and try — try! — to do the work of two.  This should be interesting — the wailing and gnashing of teeth you hear is likely me.

4.  OMG, OMG, OMG.  June will being the next round of IBOL.  The big push, pre-Ramadan (which kicks off around 01 August, depending on the moon — really).  Why is it OMB?  I won’t be IBOL.  Yep — sealed the deal.  We’re pushing stuff to Afghanistan.  Maybe a little bit more to Iraq, we’ll see, but we have AWESOME plans for Afghanistan.  Get ready to get giddy, it’s gonna be a ball.  If you’ve enjoyed the secret projects, or enjoyed helping Iraq, or found solace or goodness or reward in helping with IBOL, I suspect you’ll find the same or more when you hear how this is going to play out.

But first, some sleep, some work, a little bit of food, and even some running.  Yes, besides all this, I am back out there running, and making noise about making a run at the Kauai marathon in the fall.  I’m too busy these days to run a fever, yet somehow I got it in my head to train for some longer running.  Egads.

But sleep.  That’s next.

And thanks.  Thank you all for tagging along on this mighty adventure.  Thank you for helping out in ways I never dreamed possible.

Super Secret Project 4

April 28, 2011

Hiya, everybody.  So, here we are, coming down to the wire for getting bundles into the mail for Fallujah.  End of the week, if you can — getting things in the mail by the end of April means stuff should make it out to the far reaches of the world, or Fallujah, by mid to late May.  So, there’s still time if you’re putting the final touches on something or are just really, really quick about it.

And if you’re not super quick, and you’d find yourself missing that deadline?  Fear not.  I’m closing up the details for the next go around.  We’re take a small pause with the ending this month, catch our breath and, for me, sleep a little bit, and then kick off the next surge.  Will it be good?  Nope — it’ll be awesome.  Stick around, check in from time to time, or, if you’re brave, there’s an email subscription option over there on the right side of the page — you’ll get updates to the blog right there in your email in box.  Think of it like the flood of AOL CD’s you use to get in the mail, just not annoying or bad for the environment.

So, we have one last thing to talk about.  SSP4.  Time to be straight about it.

Super Secret Project 4 has been about babies.

Really.  Babies.  Yes, the hard-core killer Army guy behind IBOL has a soft spot for babies.

Who: The SSP4 Platoon
What:  Receiving blankets
When:  Now through the end of April
Where:  Kurdish region and Kirkuk to start, for onward usage across Iraq
Why:  Because helping babies is pretty awesome.  And by pretty awesome, I mean totally awesome.

Jessica from preemptivelove.org contacted me about IBOL a while ago, and pitched the idea of doing something together.  Preemptive Love operates out of northern Iraq, but they also do work in an Nasariyah, near my beloved marshes. It’s worth going to their site to read about what they do.  Anyway, they have access to different places, and different groups.  While IBOL3D has been about helping widows in places like Fallujah, SSP4 is about the little ones.

So, we came up with a plan.  With some recruited volunteers, folks have been sending their hand-made receiving blankets to Kirkuk, for onward movement to the Preemptive Love folks in Sulaymaniyah.  Jessica and crew will bring them along on their medical missions, and share them with families and new babies.  Which is pretty awesome, I think.

To all of you who helped with this, thank you.  These types of side projects are kinda fun.

And for all of you who helped out, by all mean, now is the time to come out of the woodwork and leave a comment about.  Share your stories, share your photos, tell tall tales if you must.  Because there are a lot of you, and a lot of neat stories that you’ve shared in emails about what you’ve done with this side project.

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.

The dangers of Iraq

April 18, 2011

If you think life in Iraq is easy, I can tell you it isn’t.

And if you think life will be just perfect on the US Forces leave, well, it won’t.

CNN and other news agencies are reporting on two suicide car bombs that are said to have detonated at the International Zone in Baghdad, what was once called the Green Zone.  The reporting seems to all indicate that the bombers set off their devices outside of the IZ itself.

So what? Well, the IZ isn’t controlled by the US Forces.  It’s controlled by the Iraqis.  And outside the IZ?  That’s just called Baghdad.  That’s where the Iraqis live and work and carry on with their lives.

These weren’t car bombs that killed mass amounts of Americans, or sent a message to the US population.  They were an attack that wounded and killed Iraqis, that reinforced the fact that even after the American Forces depart, there will still be strife and conflict in this land, likely for a very long time.

Should US Forces stay?  Would that make a difference?  That’s not for me to decide — hell, that’s not even for me to think about.  That’s an issue for the Iraqis and their elected leaders.  In a sovereign nation, these are the things that weigh on the minds of the people and the shoulders of their leaders.

But know this – it was a tough day to be an Iraqi.  Night has fallen, the moon is out, and it’s quiet near where I am.  I know that out here in the city, families mourn while others care for their wounded loved ones.  That won’t change in 2012, when I am home with my family.

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.

350?

April 13, 2011

I meant 400.  Apparently, counting is not my string suit.  That, or I can’t read my own handwriting.  The Baghdad 500 surge has brought it about 400 bundles.

And yes, Super Secret Project 4 is still underway.  Wonderful, awesome response from probably 50+ folks.

Oh, and for the record, I don’t think it’s cool for anyone to leave their alarm clock set, and to leave their room.  Some yahoo has had their alarm going off, unattended, for what I am guessing is a good long while.  I’m back in my room now, with enough time to blog this, get changed and go to sleep, but even old-deaf-IBOL-guy can hear the beeping coming from however far away it is.  Phooey.  Party foul.

The Baghdad 500

April 13, 2011

So, how’d we do?

We did just fine.  Box count for Baghdad right now stands at about 350, with some more in the mail.  I suspect we’ll max out around 400 by the time they’re all here.  Short of 500, but still a fine set of some awesome bundles for use in some of the tougher neighborhoods here in the city.

So, thank you.  Very generous of you all to help out.  We do appreciate it.