The summer months were some of the busiest Tom's unit had- again, the only messages he had time to send home were to family members.  He sent another  public update in September. 


September 15th

Happy September to y'all,

Time is moving along and we're getting closer to that day when we finally fly out for good, but until then we're ridding the world of evil one day at a time.  We do what we gotta do and try to have a little fun once in awhile in the process.

Since the last time I wrote quite a lot has happened.  We were relieved of our patrol base out "there" when another unit came over as part of the "surge" so now we've got a slightly different area to work in.  We still do our fair share of missions, but the scenery is just a little different.  Same type of palm trees and mudbrick houses (except for the occasional ridiculously nice house).  We're over 800 kilometers now for the total distance we've walked in this wonderful country and we've still got a few months left.  I told the boys when we cross the 1K mark we’d have a near-beer keg party. 

During the month of July I served as the acting XO for my Troop because the guy normally in that position was on midtour leave.  Instead of patrolling with my guys I was stuck on the FOB taking care of the logistics for our operations and it was a rather educational experience.  Not very hard, but educational.  As long as you stay on top of a lot of different issues that have very little to do with one another and make sure “stuff” happens when it needs to you’re good.

The month of August wasn’t such a great time for us.  I don’t know how many of you read the article about our unit called ‘The Insurgent Counterinsurgency’ in the NY Times on September 2nd, but it should give you a good idea of the stuff we’ve been doing and the risk involved.  That particular article is about another Troop in our Squadron, but we all work in the same area.  One of my guys was hurt and sent home because of an IED a few weeks ago.  Given that all our patrols are dismounted we take extra precautions to protect ourselves from IEDs, but once in a long while Hadji gets the better of you.  We were literally within seconds of being back ‘inside the wire’ from our mission and BOOM.  He got a piece of shrapnel in his forearm and will make a full recovery in due time, but he’s home for good now.  The good news is that on that mission we had found a small cache of weapons and ammo and computer hard drives ‘they’ had been using against us.

I haven’t gotten to see Erika very much since she’s been here, but once in awhile I miracle myself to her FOB for a short visit.  At least we get to go the mess hall and have breakfast together once in a long while.  She hasn’t been getting the flight hours she would like, but in the grand scheme of things that’s a good thing because it means people aren’t in need of a Medevac flight.  We’re trying to figure out a way to get her enough hours to maybe work as a Life Flight pilot in the civilian world someday, but that’s a long long time from now.

The temperatures are starting to drop a few degrees every week or so, but it’s still stupid hot outside and patrolling during the middle of the day isn’t easy.  The governing factor behind all our daytime patrols is the amount of water we have to carry given the distance we have to walk.  2 gallons is pretty much the minimum we need for any excursion of any kind.  The next time you have to walk from the far end of the Wal-Mart parking lot to get to the entrance just have a coke and a smile for us. 

I found out something rather interesting a few days ago.  The 75th Ranger Regiment is now considering, on a very limited basis, Armor Officers for service in their reconnaissance elements.  Given the schools and experience I have under my belt I figured I’d look into that and see where it leads.  That’s just the type of world I like.  A unit with people that actually want to be there and care about their job and their guys more than anything else.  We’ll see how it turns out so keep your fingers crossed. 

As always I attached a bunch of pictures to this email so if it clogged your inbox, I’m sorry, but they’re all good ones. 

Hadji couches

This one was taken during one of our recent missions when we were held up because of something and needed a place to wait for a little while.  We ‘borrowed’ this ridiculously nice house and hung out on their couches until it was time to go. 


Chinook ride

This one was taken inside a helicopter on our first air assault mission a few weeks ago.  J. “Big Country” A. is my FO and the go to guy if we need artillery support and S. is the interpreter we had attached to us that night.  The pilot was actually a guy named Shawn Naigle and that’s cool because he and I were in the same Beast Squad during our first summer at WP. 


Yup.  Really.

The picture of the TV is from inside a house we raided a month or so ago and I found it rather amusing that the Arabic world has its own version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.  There’s your proof. 


Crusader Troop Flag

The flag in the next picture is the one I had made to fly over our Patrol Base, but literally 3 days after I put in the order we got word we were giving up our position out there so now it just flies over our barracks here on the FOB. 


 Iraqi sunrise

The sunrise picture was taken from the top of a house we were using and it was the first time all summer that dust wasn’t obscuring our visibility at that time of the day so it turned out pretty well.


Racked out terp

R. is the interpreter I take out on patrol with me 95% of the time and he’s exceptionally gifted, but he’s also very good at finding a place to rack out when he’s not bridging the language gap. 


Erika and Tom

The picture of me and Erika is from one of the rare times I made it down to her FOB.  That was taken just before I got in my vehicle to head back ‘home’.


On the rooftop

The one of me looking through my rifle optics is from that same rooftop as the others.  We were looking for certain things and anytime a particular whatever would go by we’d keep a close watch on it.  Normally we stay concealed and out of sight, but that day was supposed to be overt or ‘in your face’ for Hadji. 


Canal crossing

The one of me crossing the bridge is to show you a little more of what the land is like in our area.  There are canals everywhere and crossing them can be a little tense because that means you have to use bridges ‘they’ built and we don’t like doing anything at all on ‘their’ terms.  We take extra care to ‘clear’ them as we get there, but it’s still not a good feeling. 


5-ton ride

The last picture is of me, my PSG, and SSG E. (from Jacksonville, for all you Razorbacks out there) on the 5-ton truck to get a ride somewhere.  Yes, that’s a Monte Cristo cigar in my hand and since this deployment started I’ve had a cigar of some kind before every single mission.  Me and my guys are all still alive and kicking so it must be working. 

That’s all for now.  If you get bored, write back with some Labor Day Weekend stories or anything else from the ‘real world’.  It’s always nice to hear how people are doing back home.  


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