From the Frontlines: Big meetings & lending a hand

Hello everyone.

I didn't get a chance to wish all of you who are mothers a Happy Mother's Day, especially after the tragedy that struck at that time when we lost one of our soldiers, so on this Father's Day, I will just say I appreciate all of our mothers and fathers who make/have made great sacrifices for all of us. I did send my mom a card and sent dad an email message. Dad reads my blog from Lafayette anyway, so Happy Father's Day, Pop! Your son is doing well. Send ice! Just kidding.

Here in Iraq, we have two pairs of fathers and sons serving in the 225th Engineer Brigade.  Jerry and Taylor Crooks (pictured) and Rodney and Curtis Nordby are spending Father's Day hanging out. The funny thing is that they probably spend more time together in the combat zone than they do when they are at home. You know how things get when you are so busy with life at home.

Within the past few days, the 225th engaged in some very important talks with our counterparts in Iraq as we continue to prepare for the June 30th Security Agreement deadline when combat soldiers are to be out of the major cities.

Iraqi Army engineers held a conference that we attended at Adnon Palace in the International Zone. The palace was formerly the home of Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Adnon. The major conference discussion centered on preparedness, partnership, training, and operations. Without getting into great detail, mostly because of operational security reasons, the discussion was very useful and both sides will improve their efforts because of it. The work obviously does not stop with talk. Our engineers have their plates full with projects like clearing routes of IEDs, cleaning out debris from roadsides, general construction, and civil capacity (water, electricity, sewage service for us and Iraqis). We have plenty to do and will drive on well after June 30th.

Yours truly sampling authentic Iraqi food at the Iraqi Engineer Conference. Despite the look on my face, the food was actually really good. I admit that there's no comparison to Louisiana Cajun dishes, but that's just my opinion.

Brig. Gen. Owen Monconduit listens to discussion with Iraqi engineer leaders during the Iraqi Army Engineer Conference.

Yesterday, we had a humanitarian mission in Beladiyat in eastern Baghdad. We provided security and transportation to haul dozens of wheelchairs to Iraqi citizens in need. The wheelchairs were donated by American businesses. It's an effort that's led by Brad Blauser, an American volunteer who may soon be featured as a "CNN Hero" for his wheelchair project.

The sight was a bit chaotic and overwhelming to your heart. In the blazing hot weather, Iraqi fathers and mothers were carrying loved ones to the wheelchair distribution sight. Most of the recipients were infants and children. One of the children I met (see photo) was 11 years old. Doctors performed spinal and brain surgery on him when he was younger, but sadly he still cannot walk. He still smiles though, so there is hope. I was so proud of our soldiers taking part in putting together some of the wheelchairs for these recipients and showing them how much we really care. All in all, it was a very good day. We returned to headquarters safely which is always a good thing.

Until next time, God bless.