Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

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.

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….

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.

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 and areas of higher rates of attacks

March 5, 2011

But it’s kind of a big one.  We’re at 191 right now, and I think more were arriving this afternoon.

191 — that’s a pretty respectable number folks.  I need to try and get over there for some more photos at the IBOL World Headquarter Shipping Container of Awesomeness.

Thanks to all of you who stopped by and are helping with the poll.  Right now, widows are in the lead but by a hair (and yes, it does seem funny to type that — add that to the list of “things I never thought I would type.”)

In the poll, I asked about where bundles should go.  In Army speak, it’s a question about methods of delivery in order to achieve desired effects (or something like that.)  The question isn’t an accident; wondering to which portion of the Iraqi society would you most want to see the next round of bundles go speaks to a core issue with IBOL — what are we trying to accomplish.

Good friend Robin was caught a bit off guard, I think, when I included “Areas with a higher rate of attacks on Americans” in the list of answers.  Why would one want to reward an area where Americans are attacked at a higher rate?  Well, that’s actually kinda of what IBOL is all about — getting Iraqi security forces out into their communities, to talk to people (and maybe hand out bundles) at times other than 2 AM and under conditions other than when the security forces are coming to take someone off to jail.

From time to time, I rhetorically ask my Soldiers:  What would it take for you to take up arms against a government?  How bad would things have to be before you’d risk your life and the lives of others you love, in order to violently lash out at others?

If you couldn’t get a job or hold a job, or had no prospect for a job?
If you watched graft and corruption gobble up the money that would otherwise be your salary?
When nepotism and patronage keep you and your friends / family from even being considered for work?
If your family members were slowly starving to death?
If your children were sick from having to use unclean water?
If there was no hope, no prospect for medical care for even the most simple of health needs?
If that other group continued to attack and / or kill your family and loved ones, with repercussions?
If your elected officials will not listen?
If they instead arrest anyone who complains?

What if it was all of those things, and more?  Would that be enough to get you to take to arms, to try and force change, to try and force someone — anyone — to listen to you?

Going to an area where there are more attacks — on Americans, or on Iraqis — is about working to undo that.  Putting people back in touch with those charged with their security, with those changed (to some degree) with hearing their grievances and issues.  I am not advocating driving into an actual firefight and throwing bundles at gun-toting, bullet-spraying insurgents, but rather putting the Iraqi Security Forces into areas where people have enough grievances to drive them to take to acts of violence, or to at least turn a blind eye to those who would to harm to us or the Iraqis.

Me, I’m kind of happy to see that the widows are doing so well in the poll, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about this, too.  It is, after all, a big part of the underlying goals and objectives of IBOL.


Growing IB♥L3D: I need your input

March 2, 2011