November 10th

Hey everyone,
Life really isn't so bad over here.  We're almost completely set up and switched out with the outgoing unit and we're already conducting patrols, all of them dismounted, throughout the farmlands just SE of Baghdad.  We've had a few success stories already, and my CO has a great understanding of how to get at this whole "insurgency" problem.


Tom and the CO

Kicking down doors and locking down neighborhoods isn't always the best way to fight that kind of enemy and he knows it.  Instead we walk around, see what we can see, do some things, observe some things, talk to some people, take pictures of stuff, and just do our best to let the locals know we're there for them.  The Sunni/Shia issue is central to most of their problems so it's rather challenging to play the part of a neutral security force, but we're figuring it out.  Just talking to them and hearing them out seems to do a little bit of good and soon enough they'll start seeing tangible results.

We see some pretty strange things when we're out on patrol.  At times it looks like you're walking through a South Dakota cornfield while elsewhere, just a few kilometers away, you feel like you're walking down an Arkansas dirt road.  Some places it looks like a scene straight out of Black Hawk Down and in some places there's just a whole lot of absolutely nothing.  The people are almost all farmers and no matter the time of day they're always outside working their butts off.  Tending their crops, mending fences to keep the cows in, or manually plowing their fields is what we normally see.  In some areas we have to keep our guard up much more than we'd like but in others the locals are extremely friendly and love talking to us.  The little kids really like Werther's candy, too. 

Of course, we all know this entire country is a hostile area and we're careful not to take anything lightly, but that's just part of it.  Like our CO says, "You have to have the attitude that everyone is your best friend, but in a split second you have to be able to switch gears and level everything in sight if needed."  It's not easy, and we've had to "switch gears" like that twice already, but that's the way it goes. 

When we're not patrolling we're either working out, sleeping, prepping for the next patrol, or taking a tiny bit of time off to write emails or call home and stuff like that.  The FOB has a decent gym and the chow hall is pretty fantastic.  Tonight is surf and turf night and no matter which meal you can always get as much as you want.  Every Friday night I usually load up on the lobster and steak.  It's great great stuff.  We need all that food too because, being that we're in the dismounted troop of this Cavalry Squadron, we walk EVERYWHERE.  Sure, we may ride a few miles to a vehicle drop-off (VDO) point, but then we dismount and walk really really far with a lot of weight.  It may not look like it in the pictures I've attached, but we carry upwards of 90 pounds of gear.  Between the body armor with the side plates, water, ammunition, radio plus spare batteries, weapon, and all the extra little stuff, it's a LOT.  We've had a lot of time to work out in the gym so I'm up to 215 pounds now and yesterday, after we got back from patrol, I stepped on the scale before I took my gear off and it said 306.  That's minus the water I drank throughout the day as we were walking.  My sniper teams get their fair share of patrols too.  We'll walk somewhere, stepping off right at dusk, and we'll be given an area to go check out.  I'm free to use any route I want to get there and we'll sneak in, emplace, see what we can see, do something if needed, and then slip away without anyone knowing we're there.  The guys love it because they get to do what they're trained to do and I love it because all I have to do is get them there and back.

When all is said and done, I'm glad we're over here.  99% of the people are thrilled to see us walk through their areas and they stop working in the fields to wave and talk to us.  Our interpreter says they're all happy to see us and when we start seeing real results for our "efforts" in this area I'm sure they'll be even happier. 

Overall, things are pretty good.  Erika has been hooking me up with some awesome care packages and this latest one had a little something extra from my parents.  Mom and Dad, you did REAL good with that one.  Wow.  :)  From what I hear, Erika is almost completely settled in Savannah with her new apartment and she's just getting started at her first real unit as a Medevac Pilot.  We're still counting down the days until our wedding and then life is gonna be grand.

Hope everyone is doing well wherever you are.  As always, please send a note when you get a chance so I know what everyone is up to.


P.S.  These pictures are from us out on patrol.  The one of me on the "throne" is from inside one of Qusay Hussein's former mansions.  The others are just random pics taken while we were walking or stopped for something. 


The "Throne"


Southern Baghdad on foot


Iraqi kids outside a house


Iraq Homepage

December 2006



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