Archive for the ‘Volunteers’ Category

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.

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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).

Some photos

June 15, 2011

If you’re looking for the address for IBOL / ABOL, just leave a comment anywhere here on the blog, and I’ll email you.

I’d telly u that I’ll email you in the next 60 seconds, but actually, sometimes it takes a day or two (sorry — sad, but it’s true).

And now, the important stuff.  After a long day at the office (15 hours), little beats turning on the email and finding stuff like this.

The owl, by the way, is the COOLEST of them all.

Bundles in Afghanistan

June 3, 2011

I have to be careful when I write these titles — for the life of me, I always spell Afghanstan wrong on the first try.

So, anyway, where was I?  Ah, yes.  Bundles in Afghanistan.

I’m at work this morning, trying to fight the good fight, when the phones rings.  I answer it, and to my surprise, it’s Afghanistan calling.  Good grief, the bundles have already started to arrive.  It’s 3 June, and the first five have already made it half way around the world, through the military postal service, and to the front door of the Cultural Support Team’s new ABOL World Headquarters, which is probably a foot locker or half-empty wall locker.

And, true to form, the folks there could not resist the appeal — they opened them up, just to take a look.  And true to form, the first five that arrived were wrapped as nearly all bundles are — a big piece of fabric surrounding all the goodies, held together big a big piece of ribbon.

So, it’s good, good news on this happy go lucky Friday.  Kind of hard to have a bad when you learn that our collective effort is starting to show dividends.

And, as always, let me say thank you. thanks for all who have stepped forward and offered to help, and a special thanks to those whose bundles have started to arrive.  The folks in AF have said they’re going to try and fling some cards into the mail — hopefully, they’ll fare better than I have over these past couple of years, try as I may.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to put something together about patterns.  I have a funny photo to share, and it should serve well to illustrate a few key points about sewing patterns.  But first, a few hours of sleep and an 18 km run in the run with some paratroopers.

Super Secret Project 5

May 30, 2011

Let’s not mess around this time. IBOL –> ABOL kicked off yesterday, and it’s already time for a SSP!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am looking for a few volunteers to help with Super Secret Project 5, Operation BBD.

  • No, I am not going to tell you what Operation BBD stands for.
  • Yes, the BBD part is important — and it’s a secret.
  • I am hoping to find a platoon of folks ready, willing and able to help with this most super, most secret side project.
  • It’ll be fun.  It won’t involve angry ferrets.
  • Target audience is folks whose kids are a little bit older now, but who still have too much of their old stuff laying around.  There’s a certain kind of something in demand in Afghanistan, and this Super Secret Project is to try to do something about that.

Sound mysterious?  It should.

Interested?  Leave me a comment or shoot me an email and I’ll send to you all of the Super Secret Details.  (insert maniacal laugh soundtrack).

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.

IB♥L3D: The Big IB♥Lski

March 27, 2011

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for all the extra support in recent weeks with things like helping Japan and starting Super Secret Project 4.

It is time, though, to get back to the business at hand — bundles of love.

With some awesome folks in our area, I am happy to say that it’s time to start surging bundles into a new area:  Fallujah.

It will work a lot like the other ones:  make a bundle, put it in the mail, we’ll get it and distribute it here in Fallujah to areas in need. The goal this time is to get stuff into the mail during April.  Should be easy enough, right?

Leave a comment here or, for those of you who have helped before, just send me an email and I’ll send to you the details.  I’ll also try to add more details here, as time progresses.

Quilts for Japan

March 20, 2011

There’s a link here, that might be of interest to some of you.

Quilters Newsletter has long enjoyed a friendship with Patchwork Tsushin, a leading Japanese quilt magazine. So when Editor in Chief Naomi Ichikawa emailed to say her magazine is collecting comfort quilts for those impacted by the recent earthquake in Japan, we wanted to join the effort. QN will gather quilts from U.S. quiltmakers then forward them to Naomi and her staff, who will deliver them to those in need.