LIFE IN THE SANDBOX
Hello friends. It's getting warmer here and very, very dusty as the winds kick up. Car wash business would be brisk!
Here is a daybreak picture of the sun trying to shine through. This is what we see almost every morning here in Baghdad. It looks sort of overcast.
Funny thing is, we do not get much rain, but when we do, it rains dirt. I am not kidding. Ask anyone. (smile)
Life in the sand is very active. What's the saying, so much to do-so little time?
Daily operations are buzzing with activity. There are so many public affairs missions to accomplish, and yet, we remain on schedule.
Training the Iraqi Army is the name of the game as we near the June 30th security agreement, where most of our forces are expected to leave the larger areas.
I interviewed an Iraqi Soldier this week at a training site in Al Rasheed. His name is Aly Saleh. He is a very bright young man who says he cares about the future of his country. He told me (through an interpreter) that he is very happy to receive this training on new equipment like the armored Buffalo trucks with a long arm and the Talon robots.
The robot is strong enough to drag a soldier, as demonstrated by SSG Kasandra Deutsch of Pineville, La. Both the Buffalo arm and the robot help to track IEDs. That training will prove very important in the future of their country. Just read the headlines. There are still insurgents out there trying to make life miserable by planting bombs.
That brings me to some unsung heroes of the 225th Engineer Brigade. The PSD (Personal Security Detachment) is one of the most important groups of Soldiers here. Guys like Specialist Kyle Clark (pictured) are skilled reconnaissance experts. They ARE the trained eyes and ears in our armored vehicles during convoy operations (see pics of urban Baghdad).
They are the best at what they do, tracking any potential threat along the way. Specialist Clark, and so many others in the PSD, puts his life on the line so that we can get where we need to go throughout our area of operations,which includes the streets of Baghdad. They clear the way, and for that, THEY are just some of the unsung heroes of this operation. I pray for them and you should, too. Heck, I pray for me too, but when I am with them, I feel like I am in good hands. God watch over the PSD!
The same goes for the pilots of the Blackhawk helicopters that get us safely to our destinations. I recently flew on a mission with Lt. Col. Hatim, commander of the 11th Iraqi Regiment. The 11th and other Iraqi Regiments are being trained by Coalition Forces - including the 225th Eng. Bde. - on various engineering tasks to help rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq and protect citizens as well.
HISTORY RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES
This week, along with running day-to-day operations with my team of public affairs gurus and going out on missions, I helped coordinate media visits from USA Today and CNN. One of our units, the 4th Engineer Battalion, which is in charge of route clearing operations, is leaving soon for a mission in Afghanistan. This is one of the major stories of this war. It's a historic transition that is taking place. There are some other units originally deployed to one war zone (Iraq) that are being send to another war zone (Afghanistan), but this is one of our units, so it hits home with us. USA Today's story is out now. Here's the link to it:
CNN will release a story after they travel from Iraq to Afghanistan with the 4th very soon. I helped coordinate that move and the recent CNN visit here. The Associated Press is getting ready to do a story as well. I look forward to their report. You will more than likely have an opportunity to see it on KSLA.
I wish nothing but the best to all the members of the 4th Engineer Battalion on their new mission. God Speed.
EASTER SUNRISE SERVICE ABOVE BAGHDAD
Easter Sunrise Service was held on the roof of our brigade headquarters.
It was a nice service filled with music provided by some of our Soldiers, prayer, and sermons from various Chaplains. Prayer does so much to help Soldiers along out here. We constantly have to focus on mission. Services like this are comforting and reassuring. My favorite photo is the close-up I took of a soldier holding a Bible. And I couldn't help but notice a Mosque nearby was part of the backdrop of this service. Kind of a unique way for religion to come together on a special day like Easter.
MEDAL OF HONOR VISIT
Two Medal of Honor recipients dropped by for a visit to the 225th Engineer Brigade this week. They are very nice gentlemen who displayed acts of courage during the Vietnam War. It was a true honor to stand in their presence. The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded and there are only 97 living recipients today. Col. Robert Howard (center in photo) and Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Littrell are heroes.
I won't get specific about their stories, but I ask that you read about them. Our country owes them a great deal of gratitude, especially these Soldiers who came home to a divided nation that did not honor them with dignity.
2012 SUMMER OLYMPICS PREVIEW?
Now for a boost in morale. It's Iraq versus the USA in soccer. Yesterday, our guys got a major beating in a friendly game of soccer a soccer team from Iraq. We think it was their Olympic team. Final score: 10-2. We beat them last month in basketball, so the Iraqis had revenge on their minds for this MAIN EVENT. It gave us another opportunity to get to know them on a different level - building trust - and that's what it's all about here.
That's all for now. Please keep your emails coming. I will post some of them. I appreciate your thoughts and prayers. The prayers are lifting all of us up here in Baghdad. I tell my fellow Soldiers that viewers in the Ark-la-Tex are behind them 100 percent. God bless.