Monday, March 07, 2005

Meeting The Brass

Our small operation has received lots of attention lately - the good kind. I feel like stars are falling all around me with all of the Generals that have come through here lately. To start, we had a visit from the ranking post Commander, a Brigadier General (one star). He came to see our operation, since we use his land and some of his assets to transport and provide convoy security. I interface with his Deputy Commander on a daily basis, and he had given the General word that we were here doing a Theater Level mission.

I advised all of my soldiers prior to his visit to be prepared to answer his questions. In my 15 years of service I have been "fortunate" enough to be a staff officer for several Generals. I know they always like to talk to the most junior soldier on the ground, and what he or she says will reflect how well the guidance from above gets filtered down to the lowest level. I don't consider this a trick or bad practice.

If you think about it, if at every organization (military/civilian) the lowest ranking or paid person knows and understands the Corps Values and Competencies of the General or CEO, then it can be assumed that everyone is headed in the right direction. True to form, my guys snickered as the General passed my Master Sergeant and other NCO's and went straight to my Specialist to ask about our mission. My guys were nervous and literally seeing stars, but they did a fabulous job addressing the questions the General had. A few days later a Major General (two stars) came for the same type of visit. He was so impressed with our operation and the professionalism of my soldiers that he presented us with a "2 Star coin". A coin is an on-the-spot impact award that just says, "Thanks, and job well done." It is a privilege to get one, and my soldiers really appreciated its significance.

Things here are going well. I flew to Baghdad the other day from Balad. It is about a 45 minute helicopter ride, going 150 mph approximately 100 feet off the ground only raising to avoid power lines. It was a great ride, and I brought along one of my soldiers. This soldier wanted to re-enlist and to reward him for his loyalty, I proposed that he accompany me for a few days. I conducted the ceremony in the aircraft as we flew into Baghdad - a moment neither of us will ever forget. There were two Iraqi Nationals in the aircraft to witness and assist in the ceremony. They helped hold the American Flag that I brought just for the event. It is a short symbolic ceremony where the soldier recites his vow to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States."

I've memorized the ceremony over the years and was able to have the soldier repeat after me without any documents present. He signed a six year extension with the unwritten stipulation that he could serve under my command in the near future. I was honored with his request and will work to make that happen. The Iraqi Nationals on the aircraft took their own pictures and wanted a photo of themselves holding the American Flag. I feel as though the ceremony had as big an impact on them as it did the soldier involved. My soldier was able to stay in Baghdad for three days, and then he flew back to Balad. I am here for three weeks to fill in for my Commander while she is gone. This is my third trip to Baghdad. It is much bigger than most people realize, and from the air the city seems to go on forever.

There are a lot of key players from around the world who are here, so I get to see lots of influential people. Similar to Balad, we get the occasional mortar and explosion around the compound, but for the most part we feel safe.

I've received some really great pictures from my wife back home. The kids are growing like weeds and the two month old that I left more than two months ago is no longer a little baby. I can't wait to get home on my two week break to see them. This is my fourth major deployment since I've been in the Army, but the first one since my wife and I started having kids. What a difference it makes knowing that I'm missing this time in their lives. Still, with the incredible amount of support my wife and kids are receiving back home, to the kids my absence is almost seamless and that is OK by me.

My wife and I are able to communicate at least every other day, so I stay in the loop with what the boys are doing. I've said this before, but it is worth repeating: soldiers are trained to deploy, but no one trains the family to be home without us. My wife is an incredible lady, one I am very fortunate to have, and she is doing an unbelievably great job of keeping everything together back home. Thanks again to everyone helping out, your assistance is greatly appreciated and means more than you can imagine.

Take Care and God Bless.