Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Preparing For R&R

Well, ten days before I leave LSAA en route to the States for my R&R. The anticipation to get home to see my family is overwhelming, to say the least. I've stated before that I underestimated how much I would miss the day to day events of my three sons, and even though I can never get that time back, I plan on making up for a lot during my two weeks at home. My wife and I have been working on a day by day itinerary, so that we maximize our time together. I'm sure it will all change as soon as I hit the ground, but it has been extremely therapeutic putting it together.

Our mission seems to have stabilized, which is a good thing, but that also means that the days are starting to crawl by. Activity in our area has lightened up recently. We've seen fewer mortars and rockets on post lately, despite what the news reports. Contact on our convoys remains about the same, mostly IED's and occasionally small arms fire.

The basketball team is still doing well. I played last week and pulled a groin muscle. I'd like to say it was doing something sexy like blocking a shot or going up for a slam dunk. But the reality is that it happened in the lay-up line before the second half started. My pride and my groin are recovering slowly.

We still don't have a definitive answer about our replacements. There are several rumors flying around. Some are good, meaning a shorter tour, and some are bad, meaning a longer tour. Things here can change so drastically in just a day that it is hard to tell what is going to happen until the moment actually arrives. I will just continue to have faith that the leadership is fully aware of our situation and is addressing the issue appropriately.

This tour has really opened a lot of people's eyes as to the role of the Reserves and National Guard in today's Army. We continue to hear the reports from Washington and their concern for retention and recruiting. What you don't hear a lot of is what is being done to help the efforts of those currently serving and the future soldiers that will make up the Army. I am concerned about how employers will begin to view someone applying to their organization as an active member of the Guard or Reserves. Employers will be keenly aware that this person could be called up with little or no notice to be deployed for one to two years, all the while the employer has to hold a slot for the activated employee.

It is a tough call for an employer - the irony between Patriotism and Capitalism. I just hope that everyone understands that without the ability that our Armed Forces currently possesses, they may not have the opportunity to be in business in the first place. So, if you are an employer of a Reservist or Guardsmen, or you are in a position to be an employer, thank you for your Patriotism! If you know of someone who employees an activated Reservist or Guardsmen, consider thanking them because they are truly serving and sacrificing for their country as well.

OK, enough "soap box" for now, did I mention that I get to go home in 10 days? I'll write again once I get home, and I look forward to seeing most of you during my short visit.

Until then, take care and God Bless.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Counting The Days

Even in combat soldiers find ways to stay entertained. My soldiers and I are participating in a basketball league that a few units on post started. During one of our games, an enemy mortar landed several hundred meters away. No one was injured by the blast, and we all took cover in the bunkers built beside the outdoor court. Minutes after the explosion, the "all clear" horn sounded, so we finished the game. We won 31 to 17 and advance to the next bracket. We are now 4-0 and have not had any more mortar interruptions. It sounds even stranger when I re-read the story.

I’ve mentioned the Army’s "Leave" program where we get to come home for two weeks. My wife, the boys, and I have a trip to the beach planned, and we are all really looking forward to it. (My wife and I met at this particular beach in the Summer of 1987 and have been together ever since.) I’m glad the Army has this program. It really breaks up the assignment and gives the soldiers a milestone to mark on their calendars. One of my soldiers is flying out on leave today. His excitement has everyone else excited for him and that much more anxious for their time to come.

We've been here now for over 120 days. Some go by faster than others, but the end of this tour is still a long ways off. It still kills me sometimes to think of the things I'm missing in my boys' lives. My oldest son (9) is ranked 7th out of 39 players in his golf league, my middle son (5 this month) is a terror on the T-ball field, and the youngest (6 mos) is growing out of diapers before my wife can get through her stock. My wife continues to amaze me with her strength.

A few weeks ago, she organized and conducted the memorial golf tournament we set up for my brother and she moved out of our house for Furniture Market, all in the same day. She did all of this while herding three boys around. What a woman - I am truly a lucky man. She had some great support from family and friends, so if I haven’t told you lately… Thanks Again. Still, I believe in the mission we have here and the soldiers that are carrying it out and I have faith that this separation from my family will be a positive experience for us in the long run.

My guys here continued to do great things. They've really accepted our mission and take it personally. That is all you can ever ask for in a soldier. It embodies commitment and loyalty and makes leading them that much more enjoyable. Our State Adjutant General (Two Star General) visited us a few weeks ago and got to see our operation here at LSA Anaconda. It was good to see him and the Command Sergeant Major, and he “coined” my group for doing a great job.

The weather is starting to get hot, and we reached our first 100 degree day here. The mornings start off in the 80’s and then it just gets “better”. At least in this part of Iraq we have a chance for cloudy days, unlike further south and in Kuwait where it is even hotter. Good thing the heat does not discriminate. If we are in it, so are the bad guys.

A few days ago several soldiers were injured when an IED went off in the carcass of a dead animal just outside our camp. We’ve been taught to look out for such traps, and I’m not sure what happened in this incident. The bad guys have stepped up the mortars here recently. No major damages or serious injuries have been reported. Six mortars hit our camp last night, but no one was injured and today it was business as usual.

I’ve just returned from another trip to Baghdad. I went this time for a leaders conference. My Commander put on a great show for the key players affecting the flow of mail to the soldiers in Iraq. The conference was a great success, and I’m constantly amazed at how much attention the topic of “mail” gets by the war fighters. I took my Air Force Tech Sergeant with me this time. He was blown away by the helicopter flight into Baghdad as well as the Palace. We returned to LSA Anaconda on a Chinook helicopter(UH-47). It was a long flight, three hours to go 45 miles. We flew north of Balad and made several stops to include a hot re-fueling. I brought back with me two soldiers that had gone to Baghdad to pull guard detail for a few weeks. They did a great job while they were there but were glad to be back at LSAA.

Not that I’m counting, but I have about 34 days before I get to go home on leave. That’s about 840 hours.

Take Care and God Bless.