Things were pretty busy during the month of January, so the only emails Tom was able to send home were personal notes to family members.  His updates picked up again in February.


February 1st

My apologies for the lapse in update emails.  “Shiite” happens, I guess.  We’re doing well, overall, and getting things done in our own little way here.  We’re going into our 5th month in country which means we’re almost halfway there so pretty soon I’ll get to go home and see Erika and the rest of the family for a few weeks and life will be good. 

Erika has been doing well at Hunter Army Airfield and she’s getting more time in the cockpit of those Blackhawks than she expected while exceeding the expectations of everyone around her.  She’s doing great and I’m proud of her.  We set a wedding date of October 12, 2008 at West Point and we’re looking forward to inviting anyone who can make it.

I can’t really tell many specifics about what we’ve been doing here in Iraq so I’ll just tell a few stories to give you an idea of what it’s been like. 

About a week ago my platoon actually got to do some door-kicking in a raid because there weren’t many other missions for us to do and I discovered that I’m not superman like I sometimes think I am.  Basically what happened is that Hadji wouldn’t open the door so I helped him by punching out the glass and reaching through to undo the latch from the inside.  I forgot that the gloves I wear do NOT have kevlar sewn into the knuckles like they do the palms so I got to sport a bandage on my finger for a few days afterward because of my stupidity.  We did get the door open and found some interesting stuff inside.

About a month ago we were walking out of an area we had just conducted a raid in and had to take a certain route through a notoriously bad part of our area because of something that had happened along our primary exfil route.  We had just blown up some of Hadji’s “toys” he might have been hiding to use against us and it was time to leave.  My platoon always leads our scout troop in and out of an objective so my guys were at the front of the column.  As we got about 500 meters down the road I heard the bullwhip *CRACK* of a few rounds going past me and then a volley of return fire from my guys.  A few seconds later one of the only two guys in front of me yelled out, “I’ve got a man hit in the chest.”  I heard the other kid from the same location laughing his head off because, as I found out once I got there, he had taken a round on the very edge of his front body armor plate and, minus a few tiny cuts in his arm from the bullet fragments, he was perfectly fine.  I told him to knock off the laughing and carrying on and worry about the shooter and he quieted down.  I moved up to the front with the guy that hadn’t been hit and we starting moving up to lead out for the rest of the troop.  Nothing really exciting happened until we got back to the FOB and took off our gear when all of a sudden I heard someone from just down the hall yell out, “HOLY $#!&!!!!”  I walked down to see what was going on and saw this same kid who had taken a round in his armor earlier just staring at his undershirt and the two brand new 7.62mm holes in the sleeve of it where the bullet had miraculously passed through his uniform but not touched him.  And they say guardian angels don’t exist…

Not very many of our missions are like that, but once in awhile we have a little excitement.  Most times we walk for awhile, observe an area or support the rest of our troop as they do a mission, and walk back.  One day at a time and pretty soon we’ll be out of here. 

The pictures I’ve attached are from things we’ve been doing lately.



The picture of me and SGT H. is taken from the upstairs of some random local national’s house we were using for the morning during a raid.  Our guys had to provide overwatch of the area so we borrowed this family’s house for their 2nd story balcony to observe from.  SGT H. and I were taking advantage of the cushions they had up there.  The family was pretty accommodating, but they were even happier when we broke out the M&Ms and granola bars for the kids because if they’re not happy we’ve got serious problems.


Shooting Position

The one of me and one of my teams amongst some rocks was taken awhile back and just shows what we kind of look like when we’re not really trying to hide.  That’s SPC A.“Billy” B. as my shooter and SPC J.“Sink” S. as his spotter.  Great great guys.

So far we’ve walked 370 kilometers here in the farmlands SE of Baghdad and we’ve seen some pretty interesting things while doing it.   Here’s a CBS article about our troop during an operation in northern Arab Jabour, the town we’re assigned to patrol.  My teams aren't in any of the pictures, but we were out there.  The reporter wasn’t the greatest, but she made our troop famous so we’ll take it.   

There are a lot more pictures and interviews on that so feel free to check it out. 

Thank you very much to everyone for the care packages and letters and cards.  I’m trying my best to write back as fast as I can, but we’ve been having all kinds of fun walking the countryside in our spare time.  Please tell anyone whose email address I do not have that I said hello and thanks for the well wishes. 

Take care and hopefully I’ll be seeing you all soon.




February 13th

Family and friends,

The last week or so has been relatively quiet, all things considered.  We’ve done a few more missions, but not much has been happening in our area of operations.  Some Apache helicopters scored a victory for the good guys awhile back when they shot up a truck full of bad guys, but other than that it’s been almost boring.  We got to see the video of that engagement taken from the cockpit of the helicopters and it was rather entertaining.  The radio transmissions between the 2 helicopters and our headquarters went something like this:

“You see anything?”
“No.  Wait… that guy has a weapon!!!  That guy right there in the back!”
“You’re sure?” 
“I’m positive.  Request permission to engage.”
“Roger, engage.”
“Roger.  (30mm chaingun firing) dunkdunkdunkdunkdunkdunk… There he goes right there! Hit him! dunkdunkdunkdunkdunkdunkdunk…”

“See anyone moving?” 
“Negative.  Target destroyed.” 

And when the smoke cleared on the ground that was all she wrote.  I guess those attack aviation jokers aren’t so bad to have around after all. 

We’ve been going some places and doing some stuff the last few days.  Mostly it’s been pretty quiet, but we found some bad guys with stuff buried in their backyard last night and they weren’t happy at all when we put those flexcuffs on and took them back to the FOB for detainee processing.  We found some stuff in and around their house and it got our attention when my guys kept bringing in other items they’d found.  I can’t give any specifics, but it was enough to detain these guys.  Basically the conversation between myself, using my interpreter, and the eldest guy in the house went something like this: 

“I know you have contraband in and around this house.  Tell us where it is and we won’t destroy your home looking for it.”
“I have nothing.”
“I know you’re lying to me because we’ve already found something.  This is your last chance.  Where is the rest of it?”
“I have nothing.”
“Fine.”  “Fellas, tear this place apart.  If it’s closed, open it.  If it’s full, empty it.  If it’s standing, knock it down.  Everything.  Look inside, behind, on top of, and underneath every single item in and around this house.  These are shady guys so don’t feel bad about wrecking this place.” 
“Hell, yeah!  Roger that, sir!!!!”

After seeing the carnage my guys were wreaking on his house the guy finally spoke up and admitted to one of the items we found, but we kept going and found a lot more he claimed no knowledge of.  Whatever, dude.

I completely understand the whole counterinsurgency doctrine and what it takes to, as the overused catchphrase goes, “win the hearts and minds” of these people.  I get it.  If an individual is a good person or is straight up with us we respect that and treat them as humanely as possible while carefully searching their house.  We give candy and little trinkets to the kids and sometimes we actually help clean up the house if we’re stuck waiting on an objective for other things to happen before we can exfil.  We’re not storm troopers just kicking in doors and terrorizing the locals.  Where that does not have as much bearing is when we have a specific target or individual to go after because of a specified threat and in that case we’re gonna wreck the place looking for anything hidden there, especially when I’ve already found something and he keeps lying to my face.

That’s just how it goes over here.  We take it one day at a time and hopefully this place will turn out ok in the future somehow.

As always, I’ve attached a few pictures for you to see what kind of stuff we’ve been doing. 


Pre-game cigar

First up is a pic of me with my pre-game cigar I have before we roll out on mission.  My guys actually get mad when I don’t have time to have one because we’ve all gotten a bit superstitious and since no one’s gotten hurt on any of our missions they figure it must be good luck. 


Overwatch site

Next is a picture of me, B., and T. in an urban hidesite we set up to overwatch an area some people were doing some stuff in.


Burning Sh-tuff

The third is a picture of some guys from my attached section taking care of some business at the patrol base we operate out of.  That’s the Army’s version of outdoor plumbing and those guys looked like they were having way too much fun so I snapped a picture.

Sit-down with local

The last one is a picture of me talking to a local whose house we had just searched and found some stuff he wasn’t supposed to have.  There wasn’t enough there to detain the guy so I had a little chat with him and explained why it wasn’t cool to have things like that in his house.  In the background is my bulldog, SPC A., and my interpreter, Johnny.  He’s an awesome terp and gets pretty fired up when he knows the people are shady or they start lying to him.  He wears that mask so none of the locals recognize him and also because he thinks it make him look cool and tough.  Johnny Nitro.  He’s an awesome guy and he’s 6 months away from attaining a green card to come to the US.

That’s about all for now, but if you get a chance write back and let me know how you’re all doing.  I know I’m still missing some email addresses so if you know of someone I’ve left off and have their address please forward it my way.  Thanks again for all the well wishes and care packages and I’ll be home soon enough to thank you in person.



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