MARCH 2007

IRAQ

(SOME INFORMATION HAS BEEN EDITED FOR OPSEC PURPOSES)

 

March 11th

Friends and folks,
Life has been pretty decent these last few weeks.  We've done more of the same type missions and accomplished more than a little, but I can't really give many details.  Just know that we've been slowly depleting the area of bad guys and walking our butts off in the process.  We're up to 485 km walked after 58 missions and we haven't even reached the halfway point, but morale is still pretty high and we're doing what we can to rid the world of evil, haha. 

We've been doing a few missions with the Iraqi Army (IA) in the past few weeks and it's been rather eventful.  Well, in the words of many of my compadres here it's kind of like "herding cats", but we get the missions done and they learn a thing or two in the process.  Some are actually pretty proficient, but on the whole they need a lot of work.  Not to say they're hopeless, but you have to start somewhere, right? 

The temps are starting to rise with a vengeance and water consumption is now an issue again, but just like anything else we're dealing with it.  We've heard from "higher" that the missions aren't going to slow down because of the heat so I'm sure it'll be a hoot when it's up over 110 again soon and we're out there still doing the same ole same ole.  At least it's not raining anymore because that mud was just ridiculous here.  Grass and trees don't exist on any of these FOBs so you can imagine what it's like when all you have are dirt roads and dirt "yards" and dirt motor pools to park our trucks in, but we manage.  I take some of that back.  I did actually see a few trees just this morning on a different FOB we were at for something and I actually stopped walking for a few seconds to enjoy the shade and cool breeze.  My guys were like, "um, sir, what are you doing?  What's our time-hack looking like because we have to get back."  I just said, "Whatever it is, boys, it just got extended by 5 minutes.  Have a seat and enjoy this because it's the first time I, for one, have been able to stand in the shade of a tree that wasn't part of a palm grove in indian country and I'm gonna take full advantage of this."  I guess it's the little things that count.

We got a chance to sling some lead at a rifle range recently and now our rifles and such are all dialed in again.  Come get some, monkeys.  That's what we call the insurgents because the word "Hadji" apparently offends people and we, of course, can't have that.  Anyway, the range went great and our Squadron CSM even came out with us to check things out.  After my guys finished doing their thing at different distances we let him shoot a few rounds and he actually surprised the hell out of us when he put 2 of 3 rounds in a 4 inch square at 500 meters.  The third round was just a few inches outside the square.  Try doing that from a shooting position on top of a humvee in a 15 mile an hour cross wind with a rifle you've never fired before.  Not bad for a guy who has spent his entire career until now on tanks.

Erika is doing great in the states and prepping for her upcoming deployment.  We'll be able to see each other next month when I go on midtour leave and life will be grand.  She's been flying much more than she thought she would which is good.  Someday we'll be together and back home from "over there" and we're looking forward to it beyond words.  October 12th 2008 can't come soon enough.

The pictures I've attached are from the last few weeks of what we've been doing.

 Snipers/IA Joint Mission

The pic with my guys and the IA is from after one of our joint missions when we were back inside the wire and cheesing it up for the camera.  That's SGT H., their team leader, in the yellow tinted sunglasses and I wish all the IA were more like him.  Great guy.

 

Shooter and spotter

 

I see you...

The pics of one of my teams and yours truly firing the sniper rifle from the top of a humvee are from our recent range.  At the distance we were firing the ground was too low to see the target so we had to elevate ourselves.  I actually impressed my guys quite a bit too when I put 1 round in the square and 2 just outside it on the target at 500 meters.  Guess I get to keep my job.

 

Chatting with the locals

The pic of me and "Ahmed" is from a patrol we did where we were tasked with going out and talking to locals about certain things.  This particular man spoke extremely good English so we had a nice little chat for about half an hour and I learned quite a bit from him.  He finally had to get going to pick up his daughter from school, but he invited us to stop by anytime we're in the area.  I told him we'd most certainly be back soon.
 

Yup.

And finally, the picture of me and two of my guys with a water balloon launcher was taken from the top of our patrol base "out there".  We were just slightly bored and I happened to have the means to cure that.  We found a box of apples no one was going to eat and for about half an hour had some good clean fun up there.  Most of you remember the time I got in quite a lot of trouble at WP with a water balloon launcher, but this time Cadet K.B. wasn't there to write me up.  Ed, Les, and Jason know exactly what I'm talking about.  Actually, haha, quite a few of you were in on that little hobby of ours.

That's about all for now, but I'll write again someday soon when I get the chance.  Until then, thank you all so very much for the care packages and letters.  My guys and I appreciate them more than you know.  If you get a chance please write back and let me know how everyone is doing out there.  Hopefully I get to see a lot of you on leave next month.

-Tom

 


 

March 27th

Friends and family,
I found some free time this afternoon and thought I'd fill everyone in on what's been happening lately.  We're still patrolling quite a bit and crossed the 500 kilometer mark for distance walkea few days ago.

We’ve been doing some good things the last few weeks and the Anchorage Daily News actually made me and my platoon famous for something that happened awhile back.  The article can be found at:  
http://www.adn.com/news/military/iraq/story/8732878p-8634552c.html

I spent some time up in The Green Zone in Baghdad for a few days recently testifying in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq against some guys we detained awhile back.  They had some stuff in their backyard that can be rather unhealthy to us and now they’re on their way to Iraqi prison for a few decades.  The court system here isn’t really anything you’d expect like back home.  Yes, there is a judge, but that’s about where the similarities stop.  The “court room” is in an office just big enough for some chairs, a desk, and a couch in the back where the detainees sit during the process.  There is an American “prosecutor” if the case involves people we detained, a defense lawyer, an interpreter, and a scribe.  That’s it.  The judge asks you to ID the detainees and then give your testimony to what happened or what you found.  That’s it.  After the “trial” is over they go back into a holding cell for quite some time until the sentencing hearing which is in a pretty traditional looking courtroom.  We weren’t there for that part because we were out sight-seeing in the green zone.  That place is ridiculous.  Swimming pools, bus service, the old Presidential Palace, VIPs everywhere, a friggin movie theatre in the basement of the embassy, etc.  It’s rather "fobbitarific". 

The pictures I’ve attached are from my “travels” over the last few weeks. 

Crossed Swords

The pic of the crossed swords is from the place Saddam used when he wanted to show off his army on parade.  Now the reviewing stands have been pretty well trashed, but the marble floors and stadium seating are still there as well as the platform he stood on to fire off that shotgun into the air a few years back.

 

Iraqi courtbench

The picture of me in the Iraqi courtroom is from a few days ago.  That's not the room we testified in, but it's where the detainees receive their sentence.  It's an Iraqi run system with Iraqi officials.  We just supply the bad guys and let them take over from there.

 

I eat antitank mines for breakfast.  Fact.

The picture with the AT mine is from that cache we found that the ADN article was written about.  We had some time to kill before EOD showed up to blow what we had found so we entertained ourselves for a bit.  I tried juggling the 3 mines, but they're pretty hard to catch and hang onto so we dropped a few in the process.  Not really.  We didn't drop them much.
 

Sandbagging

The picture with the sandbags is from the top of our home away from home out "there".  It was time to fix up the sandbagged positions on the roof so we all did our part.  Anytime you're off the FOB and not inside a hardened structure you have to wear all that body armor because you never know...

 

Sightseeing the Baghdad way

The pic of me in the hand is from the crossed swords parade ground again.  We found a ladder inside the arm holding up the sword and climbed up to check it out. 
 

 Urban hidesite

And finally the picture of two of my snipers in an urban hide is from awhile back when we were overwatching an area where some stuff was happening.  That's Specialist C. and Specialist B..

That's all for now, but I'm sure I'll have more to share sometime in the future.  Thanks to everyone for the care packages and letters and well wishes.  I'll be on leave soon visiting Erika and the folks so I won't be writing much, but if you get a chance it'd be great to hear back and see how you're all doing.

-Tom

 


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