From the Frontlines: Happy Birthday, Pat

I don't know how you feel about birthdays, but where I come from (especially around seven siblings), they are huge! Just celebrating the fact that you are still alive and kicking is good enough. Having friends around you to rib you about getting older is even better.

Well another birthday has passed for yours truly. It was just a regular day here in Baghdad, Iraq - on mission - visiting an important Iraqi leader in Taji. He is responsible for making sure Iraqi engineers are trained to keep the streets safe and learn how to effectively conduct engineer operations to improve the lives of the Iraqi population.

The commandant of the Iraqi Army engineer school in Taji, Col. Falah, says it best when he talks about the hope he has for soldiers (Jundee) who attend and learn the engineer trade. He says he wants all of them to succeed and will go the extra mile to make sure that happens.

Our trip is called a key leader engagement because it included (from left to right in picture) Col. Falah, Col. Maria Zumwalt, commander of the 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, our commander General Owen Monconduit, 1st "Ironhorse" Brigade Combat Team and Lt. Col. Hatem, commander of the 11th Iraqi Engineer Regiment. Hatem is leading the way in getting his soldiers trained on newly fielded equipment. He is an energetic and effective leader. I see great things for him in the future.

My "birthday" trip to Taji also comes at a time when the 225 Engineers are getting ready to depart Iraq with a pledge of new hope and continued cooperation that our replacements will carry on during their upcoming tour here.

So in a sense, I like to think of my birthday this year as the birth of a new promise for these people that we will leave behind. My wish for them is for peace and prosperity and a strong government of faithful leaders who will build on our successes and give people of Iraq that new hope for a peaceful tomorrow.

Just a few more weeks to go. We are Army Strong. Thanks for all of your prayers, emails, letters, care packages and love.

God bless.