Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Michael Yon

At a very dangerous intersection in Mosul, there has been another huge explosion. A large American Stryker vehicle burns and it looks like no American soldiers have survived the burning wreck. AK-47 bearing men, when it appears no American threat remains --accompanied-- by camera crews, soon converge on the scene. Making like great victors, they shout and leer, firing “victory” shots into the air. This scene will make great propaganda for aspiring terrorists! But this clip will never make it onto Al Jazeera TV…it is actually was a cleverly designed trap sprung by the Americans. Our snipers start taking out those who won't surrender. The damage, explosion, and sand-bag dummies with uniforms were the perfect ploy.

Michael Yon is quite the journalist here in Iraq. His stories, like this one, are astounding. He goes just about anywhere the soldiers go, riding shotgun, er…with camera and keyboard that is, straight into danger. Much of Iraq is moving forward in the healing process, taking advantage of the stabilizing situation. But Mosul is one of the remaining hotspots and unarmed Yon is here, reporting in top, honest form.

I highly recommend a read of some of his experiences. He records it as it is, the mindset and professionalism of the American soldier, as well as some mistakes inevitable in war. And, the cunning, cowardice, and avarice of the terrorist and their tyrannical nature, all laid out in straight-shooting form. If you want an unfiltered look at the realness of this war, he is on the frontlines. I hope you will pay him a visit and experience for yourself the nature of this battle and the honor of the American soldier.

His link can be found permanently in the right column near the top of my blog. HOT TIP: If you go to his blog, scan down, and right-click on the title of his article called “The Battle for Mosul: Reality Check” you can download a 30-second video of soldiers driving along and experiencing a failed IED attack. Caution: the language is uncensored (but runs about PG+), but it gives you a taste of what our boys face. Watch at the end of the video as the soldiers keep their heads and immediately approach two suspicious on-lookers…

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Iraqi "Cops" and "Oprah"

My own little city of Kirkuk has a TV show about COPS. How they catch the bad-guys and, well, get killed themselves. Viewers can call in and cheer or complain. See the news article here: NEWS This is an incredible sign of the new freedom, the great change in the way things are done in Iraq. Note this last quote from the TV station’s manager Mohammed:
"After liberation, many things changed. Many dreams were realized. We use freedom and democracy," he said. "Our duty is to show people that freedom."

There is also a radio show by and for women in the Baghdad area called “Cup of Tea.” If you know anything about the historical place of women in Middle-Eastern culture, you know this is UNBELIEVABLE progress!!! Here is quote from an article about that show:

Three years ago, Majda Jabouri earned a small living as a housekeeper, the only job she could find after being imprisoned because of her family's opposition to the regime of then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Today, she hosts a popular daily call-in show on Radio Almahaba, Iraq's only station dedicated to women's issues, called "Cup of Tea." Most episodes are devoted to relationships, parenting, and other topics that would be familiar to any "Oprah" viewer. The show is also a product of its environment: a recent episode dealt with women's feelings of jealousy and powerlessness when their husbands take second wives
. Link: Cup of Tea
Iraq may be a new example in the Middle East to make a better life for women here. Things like this could never occur in the old Iraq. And another sign of the failure of the terrorists to daunt the people of Iraq!
Time for soccer or volleyball for American/Iraqi forces bonding Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Very Sheik

Good News time!! Lately I’ve been sharing local direct word-of-mouth news from my friends here in Kirkuk. Soldiers like Sgt. Scown are not unique in the way they bond with the local leaders. Respect flows in both directions. But I’d like to take a moment to share wider-spread news:

Another great American soldier whose success working with Sunni’s for a better Iraq has earned himself, from local tribal leaders, the title of American Sheik. Read his interesting story here: American Sheik

The amazing news continues. As the promise of stabilization in Iraq increases, Iraq is in the process of implementing many infrastructure projects: Two new huge airports, a national cell phone business, and huge foreign investment by countries like Iran, Japan, and even South Korea go into the billions of dollars in developments, to name a few.

Morale is up amongst soldiers as they begin to see the fruition of their efforts. Iraqis seem to be catching the vision of working together to take advantage of freedom, with reports of Sunnis, no less, defending their Shiite bretheren from Al Zarqawi-sponsored terrorists and chasing them out of local neighborhoods!

Good news is just not interesting to most media outlets, but there are some things you should know. I think you owe it to yourself to spend 10 minutes to check out this summation of the OTHER Iraq news at the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal.
What the locals say Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Bunker Bucks

When something gets lobbed into the base by the bad-guys, the siren goes off. We have to trot off to a bunker and then we all report in by radio. When the all-clear code is given, we go back to "normal activity," which in the case of last night, was sleeping!

The calls often last 1/2 to an hour but can go much longer. If it is outside work hours, it counts and goes on the clock. The extra pay is affectionately referred to as “bunker bucks.”

In other local news, our “other” employee-vehicle (not the bus) lost a second air conditioning compressor to the heat; the bearings burned up again. So here is a picture of your favorite AoA mechanics working on our own vehicle. Gotta have that A/C!

And finally, we have seen clouds! That’s right, and temperatures have dropped down to as low as 105 in the day and around 80F at night. A taste of Fall and milder days ahead. It appears we may have survived the Iraq Summer. But it’s not over yet.
archive bunker photo Posted by Picasa
AC repair Posted by Picasa
another spare time project Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Heart and Mind: American Soldier

I met Sgt. Scown again today after church. He described the capture of a man who set an IED (improvised explosive device) into the road to kill those sympathetic to the cause of a free Iraq. They mentally prepared for a terrible mindset, to kill or be killed and for explosions and worse. They stormed his residence, only to find him alone, sleeping through it all out in the yard. Tensions let down, let go of the killing mentality. Back to being the friendly neighborhood peacekeepers. Arrest the man and bring him in.

As you can imagine, it is very hard on the mind and heart to do that. Most of the time the soldiers on their patrols and duties in overseeing the rebuilding of Iraq (not from the war, but from Saddam’s thirty years of abuse and neglect) project a friendly, “smiles and waves” demeanor and connect as friends with their Iraqi counterparts. But they have to be ready to put on an attitude of grit and force in an instant, like hitting a switch, Scown says. It seems almost like having multiple personalities.

In comparison, Scown relayed how when a bomb goes off near Iraqi militia units, they sometimes start firing at everyone in the vicinity, sometimes wounding and killing innocents. Their fear and anger is uncontrolled and random. The American soldiers have far more restraint, by rule never firing unless fired upon and the assailant is clearly identifiable.

Considering that these people here have been solving their problems with each other for thousands of years by killing each other, you can imagine what an impact it might make when they experience the benevolence and control of many American soldiers. It has to profoundly affect you when soldiers, who have power to do anything they want to you, bring you food, build your town up, train you to defend yourselves, and only kill your enemy when they are sure it is your enemy!

Certainly it will have some effect, maybe even a great effect, on the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people: That is, the great heart and mind of the American soldier.
Villagers Posted by Picasa
asking for info Posted by Picasa
boom-boom Posted by Picasa

Villagers are often asked to turn in the locations of ammunitions, bombs, and bombers. Some shells in a farmers field are found. They will be taken and blown up so that the terrorists cannot use them in IEDs.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Moving Right Along

Sergeant Scown has just given me an update: The update is: there is no update. That is, things continue to progress the way they have been. There have now been 640 schools built. Water and power supplies continue to get more reliable. The IP are becoming better and better trained. The bad guys are getting more and more of their roots pulled out. Unfortunately, they also are getting smarter and more lethal. But they are continue to lose the battle for the hearts of this people.

Sgt. Scown’s duty is patrol. The enemy can’t get comfortable or come out in the open because he never knows when Sgt. Scown or other soldiers will come by on patrol. Sgt. Scown has two eyes. With one eye he looks for trouble, for bad guys, ready to fight back if attacked. With his other eye, he looks for ways to build Iraq. This town needs a power plant, that town needs some leadership training. This school needs some books, that child needs some shoes. Waves and smiles from his boyish face for those who will return them.

Scown told me of going into a town that was completely demolished by Saddam. The remnants of that village still live in the rubble. A boy that appeared to have a bronchial problem was treated for his malady. Unfortunately the child remembers all too well the soldiers that came and took his father and brothers way, never to be heard of again. They were Saddam’s hacks and the trauma returns to his mind: he is too young at first to differentiate between good and bad guys.

Even Scown notes that, although he is involved in the vast improvements in living conditions and circumstances, he is still amazed at the great progress in the short time that he has been here. I am happy to hear that. His visage gets concerned as he looks toward the Fall elections though. Kirkuk, although mostly quiet, has Iraq’s second most important oil sites. Three political parties vie for control: Turkish Iraqis, Kurds, and Arabs. Up here it is more hereditary lines than the southern political/religious shades of Shiite and Sunni in the South. Elections here have the potential to be quite interesting...

But for now, the improvement is steady and coming along quickly. It’s not pain-free, but it is moving in the right direction. Not bad for a non-update! I think you will really enjoy a visit to Sgt. Scown at his new blog: Sgt. Scown
Sgt. Scown takes a brief rest during Operation Crayon Posted by Picasa
A dark school room brightened by Operation Crayon Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ka-BOOM!

The soldiers were driving along, but this time there were not other soldiers in the back. Instead, 7 Iraqi nationals rode along to help. A Very loud explosion occurs. One Iraqi national feels the impact in his back… Not all stories have a happy ending, but this one does. He is OK! They all are. The next day, a soldier brings the vehicle into our shop. They want a new armored panel. We are only too happy to oblige, and emit oohs and aahhs about the averted disaster. Fortunately the armor has served its purpose once again! Look close and see the big pieces of metal shrapnel, a shell casing, that remain from the bomb. The Iraqi national that was sitting with his back against the panel that was hit is probably thanking Allah right now. Yes, this time, there is a happy ending. Check out the pictures that follow.
A huge piece of Shrapnel hit this panel on the rear gun box, but did not penetrate. The replacement panel is by the wheel. Posted by Picasa
Removing damaged panel Posted by Picasa
Shrapnel pieces and the removed panel Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

A Moment in the Day in the Life of...

...a soldier. Thought you might enjoy it if I pass along this message I received from Specialist Rapp--just a snapshot out of the life of a soldier here (his un-edited words follow, not mine):

Okay, check it out. We did the funnest thing the other day. We were driving to another town and we had a huge bag full of toys and we were throwing them to little kids on the side of the road. Anyway, we got behind this huge truck that wouldn't pull over. That makes us kind of nervous because it could be something as small as them not noticing us, or as large as the bomb they have strapped to their car. So we were honking at this truck to get off to the side of the road. That's when we saw the little girl sitting in the back of the truck. We got super excited and yelled at our gunner in the turret, "Hey, to your right, to your right. The little girl." He thought we were talking about the truck, so he picked up a rock to chuck at it. That's when he saw the little girl and he got really excited. So we handed him a bright, lemon-yellow lion with red streaks in its mane. At that time we were going about 50 mph and the truck was only going 40, so we were just about to pass it. But the gunner heaved it just in time and landed it at the foot of the little girl. I was pointing to the front, so I didn't see it, but the gunner said the eyes of the girl got huge and she started jumping up and down. We felt awesome.

Anyway, just so you know that we're still having fun over here and doing some good, we hope, while we're at it.

Sincerely
[Specialist Rapp]
a doll for a girl Posted by Picasa
stuffed animals for pint-sized Iraqis Posted by Picasa


Donated by great Americans, delivered by soldiers.