December 4th

Hey everyone,
Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and I hope you all have a fantastic New Year’s Eve.  I probably won’t have a chance to send out another email between now and then so there you go.

Things over here South of Baghdad (the official phrase we’re instructed to use for giving our location in this country) aren’t too bad.  My platoon has been given a pretty easy week and a chance to recover from the last 25+ days of almost continuous operations.  At last count we’ve walked well over 150 kilometers on 15 dismounted patrols and we know our area, as all good Scout Snipers should, better than anyone.  So far we’ve seen pretty decent results for our efforts, but, of course, I can’t say exactly what those are.  Just know that the Denali Cavalry Squadron, Crusader Troop, and my Sniper Platoon are making you all proud.  The Squadron Commander and Brigade Command Sergeant Major have both gone on patrols with us and commented on how well my guys have been doing.

Most times we roll out prior to dusk and go crawling, sometimes literally, around our area looking for certain things and taking appropriate action should the need arise.  We’ve become very good at emplacing in our ‘hide sites’ and thus far not one has been compromised.  That is, no one other than our own friendly units has ever known where we are.  Even then our brothers in arms can never find us unless we want them to.  The vegetation in this part of the county is very thick in places so it’s not hard at all to disappear for days on end.  Palm groves, canals closely bordered by thick reeds, dense and very tall grass, and patches of various types of crops make it very easy, relatively speaking, to do our job. 

The weather has been pretty good to us in the last month except for the cold at night.  When you have to remain still for hours on end and the temperature is in the 30’s it gets pretty difficult to stay warm, especially after soaking everything from the waist down walking 10 km through muddy fields, but it’s all worth it. 

I did get to see the second half of the Army/Navy game this past weekend and, while it was a shame to see us lose, we put up a helluva fight (until the 4th quarter) and we’ll be back next year.  I just feel bad for the ‘06 and ‘07 classes that never got to see an Army win their entire time at The Academy. 

Since everyone wants to see pictures I’ve attached quite a few. 


The Sniper Section

The picture with everyone on the Humvee is of the permanent members of my platoon, the original sniper section.  (Every 6 weeks I have a different squad attached to give me an almost full-strength platoon.)  From left to right on the bottom row are SPC F. from Ohio, SPC S. from Washington, and PFC A. from South Texas.  F. is a former high-school wrestling champ and one of my spotters.  S. is the brain of the platoon and will make the rank of SGT within a few short months.  A. is F.’s shooter and the one I call my Bulldog.  He’s fiercely loyal and will attack anyone he sees as a threat in any regard.  In the middle row is SGT H. from North Carolina, SGT H. from Michigan, and yours truly.  SGT H. is my Alpha team leader and a huge NASCAR fan who just had a baby girl a month before we deployed.  SGT H. is my Bravo team leader and the ‘lady’s man’ singer/songwriter of the platoon.  In the top row is SPC B. from Washington, SSG G. from Maine, and SPC T. from California.  B. has 2 previous deployments under his belt including Kosovo and Afghanistan and, as my other spotter, is the 2nd most experienced member of the platoon.  SSG G. is my platoon sergeant and the subject-matter expert of us all.  He’s been to both the Army and USMC sniper schools as well as a host of other government sniper courses and even trained with multiple foreign armies.  Despite all that he’s very laid-back and has a terrific sense of humor he probably picked up while attending Boston College.  T. is my other shooter and bar none the best marksman of anyone in the Brigade. 



The picture of LTC O. attaching 1LT bars to our uniforms is from our Squadron promotion ceremony.  This promotion is the best in the Army because I don’t have any more responsibilities or duties, but I get a pay increase and I’m no longer a ‘dumbass butter-bar Lieutenant.’  So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.


Team Setup

The picture of the sniper team leaning against the dirt mound is pretty typical for how my teams set up with a shooter using a scoped rifle and his partner using a powerful spotting scope.  This one is of A. and F..  Normally we’re MUCH more concealed than in that picture, but in that particular instance we were 600 meters from the nearest man-made object of any kind and concealed behind a wall of high reeds we could see through.  



That’s me looking through the binos with A. by my side at one of our observation sites.  We thought we had seen John Kerry somewhere out there in the distance, but then we remembered that John Kerry is too smart for that.


Id and Hemi

The picture of A. feeding the two dogs is from inside an Iraqi Army compound.  We named them Id and Hemi, after our two favorite acronyms here.  IED and HME (home-made explosive).


The FO

The picture of the individual in the palm grove is PFC A., the Artillery Forward Observer attached to my platoon to control indirect fire and close-air-support if needed.  He’s a ‘good ole boy’ from Georgia and could probably bench press an uparmored Humvee if he wanted.


Iraqi cow

The pic of the cow in the field is just that.  You’re welcome, Sarah.


Tom - TC

And finally, the pic of me in the vehicle is what I look like as the TC (truck commander) and convoy commander when we’re on our way outside the wire.  That’s me.  Crusader 3-6.

Hope everyone is doing great and having a spectacular holiday season.  I’d love to hear all about it if you get a chance.  Our unit Family Readiness Group (FRG) sent a TON of stuff over and our dayroom looks like the North Pole right now.  We won’t have any time off and we’ll be patrolling straight through Christmas, but that’s how it goes when you’ve got a Muslim insurgency to deal with.  Thanks much for all the emails, cards, letters, care packages, and well wishes.  They mean more than you realize and definitely bring a smile to my face at 3:30 in the morning when it’s 36 degrees and we’re soaking wet from having walked through Achmed’s flooded field to get where we’re going.  Hehe, good times.  :)

Until next time, take care and send a reply if you have the time.  It’s great to hear from everyone and see how you’re all doing.




December 26th

Merry Christmas!

It’s not exactly the ideal setting for the holidays, but we’re making do with what we’ve got.  It’s a rather brown Christmas for us because of all the rain and mud so getting around the FOB can be quite comical at times, but we generally get where we’re going.  How anyone could live in this country longer than a few years is beyond me.  The Cradle of Civilization?  Haha, maybe back then, but now it’s definitely something else.  We call it Hadji’s House of Fun. 

We’ve been having all kinds of fun doing missions over here.  No, seriously, it’s almost entertaining at times!  Sure, walking everywhere instead of driving and then quietly moving around at night to get where you’re going can get to you after awhile, but it’s what we do when we’re out there that makes it all worth it.  If nothing else, we get to see some pretty cool explosions of the stuff we find and don’t feel like carrying back.  Here’s a video of one I took with the camera my parents got me.  This is two 100 lb soviet bombs, a 155 mm shell, and 60 blocks of C4 going off all at once. in the 

That’s taken from 100 meters away and even with us behind a building you can tell from the overpressure wave that it was a good one.  EOD let us set it off and so one of my team leaders, SGT Hoover, got the chance.  My favorite part is when he screams ‘fire in the hole’ 3 times and then holds the trigger, but nothing happens for a few seconds  ‘Well, maybe.  BOOM!!!!!  Hehe, funny stuff.  Oh, and when EOD says ‘man, that was big.  I mean that was really big!’  you know it’s no small little pop.

When it kicked over from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day I was at what we call an objective rally point or ORP about to send out teams to do an area recon.  It just kind of made me laugh because normal people were out with their families and friends doing typical holiday stuff and here we were, 17 guys in the middle of nowhere, midnight, cold and a little bit wet, Santa Claus flying overhead somewhere, and we’re in an ORP about to send recon teams out to snoop around.  Made me laugh.

Erika and my family hooked me up with some pretty sweet gifts for Christmas this year.  I got just about everything I asked for and I've got some making up to do for next year for everything they got me.  I think we may have a new contender for who makes the best desserts because my mom used to take that prize every year, but this white chocolate and cherry fudge Erika sent is pretty phenomenal.  Great great stuff.

I got my first Officer Evaluation Report or OER a few weeks ago.  Man oh man, if I can get some more like that they’ll make me somebody important someday.  And then look out.  Of course, I’ve got quite a few other things to worry about for now so I’ll focus on those.

The family is doing well.  Erika’s spending time with her family in NC and then driving to NY today to see some more folks and check out some things for the little shindig we’ve got planned in October ‘08.  The Martins (and Hoods) are doing well in San Antonio.  Mom and Dad had the house fixed up REAL nice and it looked great from the pictures I saw.  I’ll be
there soon enough.

I’ve attached a few pictures to this email, just like the others, so hopefully you all get a kick out of those.  Just some more snapshots of what it’s like here.


Apache close air support

The pic of the Apache was taken one day while we were out walking and had them overhead looking out for us. 



The one of me in the hidesite was taken during one of our day missions a few weeks back. 


IED crater

The IED crater pic was taken a few weeks back as well.  That's the result of EOD blowing up a found IED that was deep-buried.  No one was hurt. 


Handing out Werther's candy

The Iraqi kids really like those Werther's so I got a picture with them.  I'm very well stocked on those candies, thanks to everyone and their packages, so I don't need anymore for awhile, but thank you very much.

Hope everyone is doing well.  I’m trying to write back and reply to all the care packages and letters as fast as I can, but believe me I do appreciate them all very much.  Merry Christmas, again, and Happy New Year.



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