View Full Version : Letters from the front....

2003-04-27, 15:24
Sgt Rock has asked me to share his letters home with everyone, so this was the best place I could think of. I'll type out his letters cause he says he can't stand his writing and I'm sure you'll all be grateful that I am...lol.

I came home to three letters in my mailbox from him, after spending the last week in Alabama with my folks. So far I've gotten two of them typed out so I'll go ahead and post them here in the next two posts.


2003-04-27, 15:26
Iíve been thinking of you all the time since I got here (well, even before that) and Iíve finally got some time to sit down and write. It feels funny writing letters again since these days I can usually call from most anywhere or even get you an email. It must be over a year since I last actually wrote you and that was probably at NTC.

Iíll tell you first what it has been like. First we went to North Fort where we spent an extra few hours because our plane was late getting in. Once we finally got to Allex, there was a problem fueling the plane, so we spent an extra hour there. Then we finally took off and were suppose to mid air refuel but weather was bad so we ended up landing in Gander, Newfoundland, Canada. I tried to call but there were problems. Then we flew to Morone, Spain where we were supposed to do a 4 hour layover which gradually turned into a 36 hour layover. It wouldnít have been bad except they kept getting us ready every couple of hours and then changing the flight time at the last minute. But, eventually we got off the ground and flew to Kuwait and arrived here about 1930 on the 2nd of April, only about 40 hours behind our published ETA.

We are in Camp Champion right now while the Squadron continues to filter in. Our trucks are all ready to go except for ammunition which we get tomorrow I think. We should be getting into Iraq in a couple of days but Iím not completely sure what the mission is yet. It has changed back and forth a few times since we got here.

News from up North sounds pretty darn good, and Iím confident the troop will bring everyone home safely (as possible Ė sunburn and blisters are starting for some). Lightning (troop) has been doing the convoy escort duty thing a while and have only had one vehicle accident the whole time and no combat injuries at all. It is sort of like I was expecting, the Iraqi soldiers will not attack a Cav escorted convoy because we have too much stuff to shoot at them, they instead prefer the MP escorted convoys, and then they usually are attacking the support wennies because they are scared and donít do well at reacting to contact.

Incomming mail has not started and I donít know when it will. It isnít a big issue for getting stuff for the guys Ė we brought plenty, But it is a morale thing.

I need to go, but I will mail this letter out then start a longer one to send. This was to keep you up to date and to send out my love. Tell everyone I love them and maybe re-type this letter and send it out (My handwriting is getting bad with lack of practice) to the family via e-mail.

I love you all and miss you all very much. Be safe!

SGT Rock

2003-04-27, 15:30
Sorry it has taken me so long to write. In my last letter I told you when we were going, but since then things changed (go figure). I am now about 60 miles inside Iraq at an old airbase the Army now owns. One of the platoon Sgt's found a mail drop point so Iím writing this letter quickly since we leave soon. I just wanted you to know Iím doing fine and so is everyone else. I miss all of you so much and hope this war is over soon. I will start a longer letter tonight so it is ready on the next mail drop.

Also let the wives know we are all doing very well except for all the dust, hot water, and sun. Weíre all eating well (MREís) and have lots of hot water for drinking. No one has gotten hurt or sick, so in that, we are lucky. So far the biggest hazard is traffic Ė there are hundreds of Army supply vehicles heading north and the Iraqi people in this area seem ok with it, thank goodness.

Love you,
SGT Rock

2003-04-29, 01:22
As promised, Iím finally getting around to writing you. So far there hasnít been any incoming mail but that is mainly because we are getting irregular supply Ė we scrounge from other units as we go. Outgoing mail basically works because we have found units that have outgoing and incoming from their homebase. Hopefully we can get something normal set up in about a week.

Today we pushed further north to near a town called As Samawah. We are preparing to do Recon and patrols north into an area where they have had some problems along supply lines with irregular fighters. But, according to the planner there may not be anyone there anymore because Iraqi government seems to be unable to fulfill the promised money to suicide bombers.

Last night we were able to get the shortwave radio going and find some English language channels like BBC and VOA so we can get some news. The comedy of the day is to hear what the Iraqi News is saying about the war and know what is really going on. Sometimes the stuff they say is so outrageously silly and obviously a lie it is amazing.

Our daily routine isnít very routine, but we seem to mainly start operations at about 0230 in the morning. Before you get all amazed at how early this is, this is on GMT or the time in England which is known as Zulu time in military language. Zulu time is about 3 hours off here, so 0230 is 0530 locally. So we go off at about 0230 and move to a new location and prepare for the next mission. So far the missions are only movement to the next point. Sundown is about 1520, so we get a break from the sun after about 13 hours of running. The mornings are nice and cool, but about 0900 it starts getting hot. It isnít too bad yet, but summer also isnít here.

Iraq is so hot (well not yet) and so very dry. It is even more dry than El Paso. Everything south of here looks like something out of those ďEnd of the WorldĒ movies. Even the air base we were at looked like a trash dump. The US Army is spending a lot of effort to get it cleaned up. As you move north things start to get better, but the entire country is one huge trash dump. Driving through some of these towns is like being in some kind of movie with all the nasty squalor you can imagine. Most of the area is highly irrigated so the towns often look like a bunch of mud brick buildings surrounded by muddy ditches with trash all in and around them. Add to that sheep, goats, some fowl, and lots of mangy ugly mutts and that about gives you what a town looks like. The people donít seem to do much except sit around and watch the sheep and goats. As we drive along you see lots of men, women, and children along the road. Some wave, some donít. A few seem glad we are here but most seem to not care or be just ignoring us. The kids all seem glad to see us, but most are begging for MREís, so maybe that is why. As we drive through, there is lots of traffic along the roads. Iíve seen lots of Tomato trucks and a couple of lemon trucks, but I donít know where they are coming from since I havenít seen any farms so far either. As we drive, we are always nervous about the trucks and cars because of drive by shootings and car bombings, but so far nothing has happened. But despite that, we are staying vigilant for some jackass to start something.

Iím running out of real food! Iíve got some burnt peanuts and some snickers left, but not much. MREís are all we have. I would kill for some ramen and some tortillas. I used my stove last night to make some coffee and quite a few people came over. I seem to have the only stove that can work off gasoline. Everyone else brought propane or butane stoves but cannot find any. My biggest problem with my stove is I donít have a fuel bottle to carry fuel in. I need a small (about one quart) metal fuel can. I keep an eye out when I can.

Other that that, Iím pretty comfortable and well off. Well except for missing you and the kids. And mountains!! Iraq is like Louisiana in 2 ways Ė flat and lots of sand. If we had some pine trees here and some rednecks, it would almost be Louisiana. At least at NTC I can admire the mountains. Here I have yet to find anything pleasant to the eye. My thermorest mattress is ok, but I really miss my hammock as well. I guess Iíll learn to live with out. I could also use a pad for under my butt because this Hummer seat is too thin and my legs and butt keep falling asleep.

I keep avoiding getting all mushy in these letters because it is easier for me not to even think like that yet. Donít feel like Iím not missing you, because I am, but for now I donít want to get into the heartsick lonely letter business for my own good. I do think of you a lot, but I try to keep it to what I should try to describe and how to try and do that. Mostly a lot of this is boredom or menial 1SG business in getting supplies or admin stuff done for my troops.

My main hope is that this war gets over soon and that we donít end up staying in Iraq very long. My biggest concern right now is that we end up getting stationed here a long time as the police force which in my opinion is a bad idea since we donít even speak the language. The best thing we could do is get out troops out of here as quickly as possible and let the Iraqi people got on with their business. As I sit here and listen to BBC it sounds like we did a successful raid upon Baghdad. If we are lucky, Saddam and his sons will get turned over ASAP! Of course the Iraqi Minister of Information said we are being slaughtered. Of course our tracking system shows me in real time he is full of crap. I hope tomorrow you can see 3rd Infantry soldiers walk in right in the middle of his brief and take him into custody and show how full of crap he really is. Of course that would be the end of some of my entertainment, but I guess I can live with that.

Iím working on a top 10 list of things to do when I get home. These are not in any order, nor is it a final list, but is a start:

1. Hug kids & wife (kisses too)
2. Drink large glass of tea with lots of ice
3. Eat Gibsonís Pork sandwiches
4. Take kids camping/hiking
5. Visit Fairhope, Decatur, and BíHam
6. Go to Trail Days in Damascus, VA
7. Hike on the AT somewhere

Like I said, it isnít in order and it may change. Iíll just need your help making some of it happen, and some may be combined so they happen at almost the same time.

This letter is getting longer than I originally planned, but who cares? Iíve started and stopped it about four times so far just today. I figure Iíll try to write with every spare moment I have today and hopefully find a spot to send mail from tonight Ė maybe at the 82nd Airborne Divisionís main area which is close to here.

I sit here and wonder how everything is going at the house. Is the grass getting cut? Is the website doing ok, is Troll getting things done ok without me? Etc, etc. I hope you can write me as much detail as possible. I want to know everything. I really wish I were there to help handle things and just be there, it would be a lot more fun than being here. But since I canít, please keep me in the loop. Send pictures, letters, etc.

Quick news flash = apparently we are in the presidential palace in Baghdad and his palace in Basra is being looted by the locals.

Speaking of that, these people can strip something faster than you would believe. On the way here, we saw a few broken down Army trailers and HUMMVís that were left on the road Ė stripped down to almost nothing. There have also been a few civilian buses and trucks broken down along the road Ė also stripped clean. Before we came north, we were told there were broken down along the road and we were hoping to fine some of the few parts we might need in some, but they are so stripped down it hasnít happened. I wanted to get another seat cushion, armored doors, a cargo trailer, and a fuel bottle for my stove Ė doubt Iíll have any luck at this rate.

By the way, have I told you this place sucks?

Another news flash = the Iraqi news said we are committing suicide in the gate of Baghdad Ė Laugh out loud!

I just looked out the window and verified this country still sucks.

8 April 2003
After I finished writing last night we got 160 infantrymen from the 82nd Airborne attached to the troop, plus close air support team, Psy Ops, and a civil affairs team that included an ex Iraqi officer that is a member of the Free Iraqi Force or something like that so we could start clearing towns. Unfortunately they donít have support yet, so we ended up cross loading some of our food and water to them.

After that a big sandstorm hit and blew stuff everywhere. The funny part is the wind was very dry, so dry you could feel it, but as this dry wind would blow you would also get occasional raindrops. I didnít get a lot of sleep.

This morning we started moving again, following the bank of the Euphrates River northwest and even got to finally see the river. It was an interesting trip. We found some mines but no enemy at all. We eventually stopped and did a talk thru with the infantry on how we would do the clearing of a town coming up tomorrow Ė Al Najef. While we were there, the SCO (Squadron Commander) told us that they think Saddam and his sons were killed today in a restaurant in Baghdad. I hope so, and I hope it means we will be finishing quickly.

After that, we regrouped and went to a small town to do a clearing mission as a practice for tomorrow. We arrived and our scouts did an initial recon around the town, then the PSY OPS came in with their speakers saying some message in Arabic while we secured the entrance roads into the town. Then the Civil Affairs guys with the Iraqi came in and talked to the Shiek, Iman, or whatever the village leader is called. AH64 Apache helicopters came in and buzzed the village while my Mortar Team set up outside the town. Then after all that, the infantry started going through to look in all the likely places for any irregular forces that may be hanging out. This area is Sunni Muslim and their Iman (like a pope) told the followers to support the Americans and be friendly. Se we have had a lot of cooperation and everyone seems friendly.

Something else I think I should mention in all fairness to the Iraqi people since I have said how much (repeatedly) that this place sucks. They seem to have a great sense of family. Everywhere I go I see children and adults walking together and doing things together. I feel sort of guilty watching these men and boys that I havenít spent as much time with the boys as I should. I also feel that way about the girl but around here you donít see the fathers and daughters hanging out at all. One thing I see regularly is a small truck with extended cab with all the seats full of men and boys, while in the back are the wives and daughters. In that respect I donít care for how I see women treated here, so I often feel more at ease about my attitude to women on the whole if that makes any sense. But getting back to what I was initially talking about. These people for the most part walk everywhere. You can be a mile or two from the nearest house in the middle of the desert and there might be a guy walking down the side of the road in sandals, or even barefoot. But most likely you will see two to four people walking along and talking to each other. I wonít add it to my list of top 10, but one of the things I want to do more is go walking with the kids and hopefully you. These people with all this poverty, war, deprivation, and repression for the most part seem happy when they are out walking and visiting each other. If these people can deal with all that and still smile and laugh together, I want some of that. I love hiking and backpacking and like taking the boys and girl, but I donít see this as the same thing.

OUCH! Darn gnats. The flies, gnats, and other insects are getting bad.

So after we finish pretty much, the operation starts to turn into a parade or air show for the locals. They start to stand around in crowds and watch, some even come up and talk to us. This one guy in about his 40ís (although it is hard to tell, he could be 20 for all I know) comes up in broken English and tells us where he lives, that he has 6 wives, and that the Iraqi army is not here. He points out of town and says they are out in the desert somewhere and the towns people are scared. We tell him we have been out in the desert getting them and we wanted to make sure none were hiding out in their town to cause trouble. Eventually we had to leave from the town and went north, right on the outside, between their houses and a wheat field. Something that also happened while we were in town is the Iman did the call to prayer and we had the helicopters pull back out of the way so the locals could hear. At the evening prayers I guess you call them, the Iman did his sermon by PA (kind of like retreat at night on post, except much longer). According to the CA (Civil Affairs) guys, the Iman told the village that it was time for them to act like good muslims and work with the Americans, that we were respectful of their people and town and as proof we made the helicopters move back and stopped operations during prayer time. He told them Saddam and his regime were evil and their time was at an end, not to support them or believe their propaganda or something basically like that.

Today I talked a little with Akned (sp?) the interpreter who said it was on the radio that the Americans have the entire west side of Baghdad and that the Iraqi soldiers are throwing down their weapons. He said that the Americans had intelligence about where Saddam was, so we sent in rockets (probably cruise missiles) and blew up where he was supposed to be, but no confirmation yet if they actually got him. My shortwave is back with supply, so Iím not in the loop now. You probably get better information from CNN most days than I do. And, by the time you get this, it is liable to be 3 week old information. But I thought it would be a good idea to try to paint a picture of a lot we see, hear and do on a daily basis here. Maybe it would be a good idea to read this to the kids or send it out in email. Please donít photo copy and send it out, my handwriting absolutely sucks, although Iím getting a lot of practice lately. I guess computers with word processors have made me a little lazy and rusty.

I have decided to finally close this letter out for fear I may exceed a weight limit of some sort. Iíll start another in a couple minutes.

I love you and miss you all greatly, more than words can describe. I wish I knew when we will be done so I can count down the days but I donít know. Keep faith that it will be over soon.

SGT Rock

Note italic parts are edited from the original version.

2003-05-04, 13:12
Yesterday we moved in and cleared a town where the Bath Party had a military like HQ set up in a school and a small complex. Inside were mortar rounds, chemical suits with nerve agent antidotes, and some other assorted crap. While the scouts were up with the infantry doing that, we sat in a small clearing at the edge of town on the Euphrates River which was very nice. We watched small boats pole up and down this small side stream and Kingfisher birds diving into the water to catch fish. Across the street is some sort of shop and the guys that run it brought some pita bread over to one of my scouts and gave it to them. Later they brought him some strong coffee or tea, and about noon actually brought some more pita bread and some sort of huge beans cooked in the pods. I tried the bread and beans which were very good. I am more impressed by the Iraqi people every day. They are friendly, generous and seem to be very family oriented. If some of that oil money could get spent on some basic stuff like water, sewage, schools, and electricity instead of chemical weapons, bio, and an over-sized army for such a small country, then the Iraqi people and the country would be great.

Last night we finally got a resupply, and I got my radio back. Apparently we have most of Baghdad and the entire government is missing. They were pulling down Saddamís statue and busting it up. They sounded so happy. Amed (or whatever his name actually is) was smiling the biggest grin he could. ďWas that from Baghdad?Ē he asked me. When I told him it was he was ecstatic. I told him that the BBC said Saddam may not have been killed and he said it didnít matter, someone would get him if he wasnít dead yet. He also said he thought Saddam was probably out of Iraq a month ago anyway.

This morning we had a report of looting in the village, but it looked like they were taking Iraqi army rations from a warehouse, so we let them. No sense in causing trouble without good reason. This morning they are also reporting looting in Baghdad, but we donít have the forces to police the city there yet. Since I started writing we have had a report of a US plane going down in or near Baghdad, but it wasnít clear why, and a report of a Toyota truck running one of our check points with Iraqi soldiers (armed) in the back. Another report has some well dressed guy claiming to be homeless inside the military compound. He said they were letting him live there. He was later seen on a cell phone or had radio Ė so we are looking to catch him.

Our supplies have started to move north of us to an old Iraqi military compound to set up, so we should move north again soon. The plan as I understand it is to keep going north and clear supply and communication lines from any Bath or paramilitary groups. We will continue to look for and destroy the military stuff Ė today we are planning to detonate hundreds of RPG & mortar rounds found in the school, but of course we will move them first!

Watching the Iraqi people and the joy they are expressing, talking to Amed, and listening to the radio from Baghdad is making me feel a lot better about what we are doing here. I hear ďexpertsĒ from other Islamic countries concerned at how a strong Islamic country could not stand up to the US better, and I believe it is this: Except for a few ďthugsĒ (like a mafia almost) no one Ė not even the military, wanted Saddam. Because of the systems, it was almost impossible for the Iraqi people to do anything about it. It was also impossible for anyone in the country to express that view to others outside Iraq without fear for their safety, or that of their family. Saddam tried to portray himself as a popular leader to those outside his country, and many (especially other Islamic countries) bought it. When the war started Ė they surrendered or just left and went back to the farm. Then the ďFedienĒ (spelling?) came in and enforced by execution some of the fighting. But once the leaders started leaving or losing, then the farmers and good Iraqi people voted with their feet. Now even without the Regime, the Iraqi people are peaceful and are going about their business for the most part Ė this has not turned into the lawless old west by any means. Maybe some of the Islamic experts should stop concentrating on this being outsiders against Islam and needing to defend the religion, but on getting a jack ass out of power and letting Iraq be what it wants to be. Iím no expert, but from my foxhole Ė that is how it looks.

By the way Ė we got rain today. About 10 drops hit me as I wrote this!

So the war is not over, but it is winding down. My hope is someone in power that isnít stuffing money into his pants and looking for a cab to Syria will go on, claim he is left in charge, and surrender on behalf of the regime so the leftovers will meld in and fit in or leave. Even better would be for someone to tell us where all the crap is so we donít have to keep searching and so some unaccounted for chemical or biological weapons ending up out there in the wrong hands. Imagine some escaping Iraqi general needing cash and holding a grudge against the US selling some nerve agents to the Taliban or other terrorists would serve both their needs and hurt us in multiple ways.

Jump forward to 11 April Ė Friday.
Thursday afternoon we drove up to Najaf and took over what was fedaeen (spelling?) training camp. The fedaeen is Saddamís version of the Gestopo, except not nearly as good or efficient. They left this post (which is about as big as the Squadron Motor Pool) and the town looted it. Every window was broken, all the light bulbs were stolen, all the plumbing, electrical switches, food, etc. All that was left was a bunch of uniforms, boots, helmets, canteens, etc. Every bit of it is crap. The Regimental HQ moved into the camp HQ and we turned the training grounds into a motor pool and fight line. The Sergeant Major came up with a plan for us to use their barracks, but they were so nasty and rat infested none of the soldiers wanted to sleep in there. So we are staying on our trucks in the motor pool at night. We burned all the uniforms and equipment because we had a problem with civilians getting detained because they were wearing uniform pants they looted from the camp. We had one incident where a white Toyota (remember a couple pages back) with soldiers and AK47ís riding by getting shot at by our guard force Ė but it turned out they were the new local militia/police force the Special Forces trained. After that, the SF escorted them in town so we wouldnít kill them. That night we heard gun fire and the news said the son of some returning exile that was supposed to be a part of the possible new government was captured and killed by some of the people in town Ė probably ex Fedaeen. Inside the camp we found the training records for the graduates of this school Ė complete with pictures. So we turned them over to S2 so they could use them to identify possible agitators out there. But most likely a lot of the graduates died in Baghdad where thousands of Fedaeen were killed trying to kill M1 tanks and Bradleyís with AK47ís and school buses.

The next day (today) we drove all the way to Halil which is where the ruins of Babylon are and Babylon University is. Halil had women in normal clothing and acting more like I expect Ė but not many. On the way to Halil we found 2 destroyed rocket launchers, one ADA gun, and 3 surface to surface missile vehicles with what looked like those Al Sommude rockets. We also found more RPG rounds, 82mm Mortar rounds, and a mine field. It looked like south of Halil was a pretty big battle, with destroyed buildings, destroyed cars, and craters. 2 craters were so big I could have put 2 HUMMVís in them and still had room. In Halil, there were a few large statues Ė or rather what was left of statues of Saddam. A few buildings that had Saddamís face engraved were chiseled and shot up. Pictures of Saddam were around the place, but they were all torn, broken or had graffiti painted on them. Every where we go people say ďGo USAĒ and ďFuck SaddamĒ (Iím not kidding) I also get lots of ďHello Mister!Ē I even had a teenage Iraqi girl ďflash meĒ. She pulled down her veil and smiled at me twice from a passing car! Iíve never felt so flirted with. Maybe she wants to be my second wife Ė just kidding. Iím still amazed by the good nature of the Iraqi people to us. I only hope they donít expect a lot from us in a short time. I would hate to see the relationship turn from good to bad. I worry that one of a couple of things may happen. One is some soldiers starting acting like jack asses and the Iraqi getting offended. Before you get the wrong idea, we should still be forceful and do our job the right way, but we shouldnít act like conquerors or act without consideration of the people Ė today I had to tighten up one of my soldiers because he was waving at the Iraqis but was saying stuff about how he wanted to screw their sister or something like that. He and the other soldiers there thought it was funny, but there are a few Iraqi that speak English. The other thing I worry about is religious fanatics that come to Iraq to stir up trouble and fight their Jihad. I was listening to an Afghan on BBC today that said that was a huge problem for the Afghanis during their war with the Russians. They wanted help and didnít mind it, but there were some religious fanatics that turned it into their own personal holy war which complicated things for them and eventually led to the problems with the Taliban because the Taliban were almost all foreign Muslims that tried to create Afghanistan into a country they wanted, not what the Afghan people wanted. According to a report I heard, the Palestinian groups like Hamas sent over suicide squads to help, but even the Iraqi Regime didnít want them and sent them home. Some of the Palestinians were pissed they didnít get to martyr themselves and were talking about trying to come over and do it anyway. The Iraqis have asked them not to but the Hamas people canít believe good Muslims would ask them not to martyr or fight the Jihad.

Anyway, I personally wish that the Bush people would stop playing the spoiled brat about ďtheir warĒ and decide to let the UN take over the peacekeeping. If the French and Germans are wanting to support that Ė then come on over and let us go home. I donít want to spend the next 2 years on peacekeeping duty here.
Well, Iíll wrap this letter up tonight and get it out in the morning, then start another. I want to get some sleep before leaving out, the Squadron Commander was talking about having us leave out before daylight just so we donít establish a set pattern for the Iraqis to get used to Ė especially those that might want to do something.

I miss you very much. Its times I have to sit around like now that bother me the most. When we are out doing something, then Iím occupied, but sitting around lets my mind wander to what I would rather be doing with you and the kids. I see these families together (mom in the back Ė ha ha) and realize how much Iím missing right now. Iíve got hugs and kisses Iíve missed from my kids, watching movies together, going on walks and drives together, reading books on long trips to the kids as we travel, etc. I cherish it and miss it. Itís hard to act like a tough 1SG when I think like that. I canít wait to get home to all that again as soon as I can. I know you are having a hard time at home without me and I feel guilty for that. I hope it gets easier. Please give the kids a big Ė long hug from me, I want to do it so bad myself now I can barely stand it. I wrote earlier saying I wouldnít get like this and now I sort of wished I hadnít. Iíve got an unknown amount of time left here and I canít go around feeling sorry for myself all the time. Please keep everyone in the information loop on this because I already donít get enough time to write you let along everyone I should.

Please take care of yourself and the kids for me. I worry about you often. I better go.

SGT Rock

2003-05-04, 20:46
words in italics are edits

Things are basically still going about the same. Yesterday we went to (or rather near) Karbala, then back over to Hillah (I think in my last letter I was mistakenly calling it Hilil) then back to Najaf. We have a camp in Najaf that we were supposed to stay in again last night. But when we got back from patrol, we got a Frago to go out and stop the Iraqis that were looting an old Iraqi ammo complex (a Frago is a Fragmentation order Ė something that changes your mission) and then higher HQ was worried they might get a hold of something bad. So we ran up here and chased them all off. Two of their cars broke down so I used a pull chain to pull start one, and dragged the other close to town for them, they were very grateful Ė I guess under the old government they would have been shot.

During our patrol yesterday we stopped to check out a soda factory that happened to be near a heavily defended place (not anymore) to see if maybe there was a weapon cache there. As we were trying to get in, the caretakers of the factory came and were very afraid and worried. It turned out that the 3rd Infantry had used the factory as a base during the big sand storms a couple of weeks ago. They had heavily damaged a lot of the inside, taken a truck, drank a lot of the sodas, and apparently stolen some of the video equipment. They had left trash everywhere and the caretakers were worried we were going to do the same. It was disgusting the ways that the unit that had come through there had acted and the commander and I were embarrassed. The interpreter and civil affairs told them how to claim the property loss with the Army and the commander and I apologized. We told them if is was Ghost Troop we would not have let that happen. The Iraqi were very grateful to us and even offered to have us over for dinner. Of course we had to refuse, but hopefully the Iraqi in that area will hear we donít all go trashing stuff for no reason.

Anyway, back to where I am now. After we cleared all the locals from the ammo complex, we checked it as best as we could in the dark, then stayed here overnight. I would rather be out here in the desert doing a mission than be back in the ďcampĒ pulling guard and trash details, and so would my soldiers.

So this morning at first light we started doing a Recon of the entire complex and an inventory. While the scouts checked the fence to see how much had been stolen and was down, I took some mortars and civil affairs to check out the HQ and administrative buildings. It looks like whatever unit attacked here cleaned it up (tactically) pretty well, but left tons of trash everywhere.

The complex that looked like where troops are housed had lots of burned up AK47ís and a couple of 14.5mm quad machine guns that are used for anti-aircraft fire. It looks like that area had the hardest attack.

So now we sit around here watching huge supply convoys heading north. I guess we are doing our job because no one is messing with them. We are starting to get better re-supply ourselves of food and water. We still have problems getting oil, parts, and ammo, but it is suppose to be getting better soon. Apparently the problem isnít a lack of stuff, it is a problem with allocation. All the stuff in the logistics yards is aimed for the 3rd ID and the incoming 4th ID & 3rd ACR. No one wants to support the XVIII Corps soldiers and units attached to V Corps. I guess the XVIII Corps commander was at the camp yesterday while we were out and he is going to get that fixed. One of the things that is supposed to mean is incoming mail finally. That would be nice since I am running out of coffee and might start getting low on film soon. I broke my camera somehow. Now I canít read the LCD display other than number of exposures and the lens cover doesnít seem to open right. I hope it is still focusing correctly because it still advances so Iím still taking pictures with it. Iím going to start looking for a small box so I can send the film home soon. I may need a cheap camera in the near future.

We have been told we should go north soon. There is still a brigade of the Republican Guard out there somewhere they cannot find, and a couple of major cities up north they feel the rats deserting the ship may have run to. At least a mission to stay busy would be nice. For now we sit in the middle of a large bunker complex with swarms of flies buzzing us. Flies donít even get phased by DEET, I need to find something that repels these jokers.

You may be glad to know I have only had the start of one migraine headache since I have been in Iraq. Iím staying healthy except my butt and legs that go to sleep while sitting in this HUMMV seat while on these long patrols through the Iraqi countryside. I prefer the country to the cities because the cities are so dirty and crowded. When we go into towns, the smell and filth hit you right away. Small kids run around in it and even play in piles of rotting garbage. At least the towns still have power and water. At night they are still lit, the people with hoses watering their yards, and I even see gas stations and shops open. Ice cream and ice vendors are even out in the street. I have heard about looting and chaos, but I donít see it anywhere Iíve been. I bet there is some price gouging going on, especially when an Iraqi only makes about $2 a day, and an American will pay $1 for a Coke. Iíve told all my troops not to buy as have other units so we donít help ruin the Iraqi price system for the locals who cannot afford those prices. I donít know how long that will last.

Last night I took my first bath in a week. I used that bucket and got totally naked in the back of my truck to scrub down, then changed uniforms. I had worn the other since Friday last week. I then used the bucket to do a load of laundry. Lest you think Iím totally nasty, I wipe down every night with baby wipes and change socks, underwear and t-shirt every couple of days. Water was scarce for a while and that was all I could do given our time and water. At least when I backpack in the mountains there are streams to get in occasionally.

I sure hope someone has already sent me coffee and it comes as soon as we start getting incoming mail. I have started bagging the grounds so I can re-use them for a second pot of coffee. The coffee is getting weak, and I only have enough fresh for about six more pots. Something else nice would be CDís with MP3ís on them. I have hundreds of songs and funny stuff on the 3 CDís I have and like to put them in the CD player that also reads MP3 format. If anyone is interested in doing it, it must be a normal DOS file type system final burn, no proprietary file system like NERO or Adaptec can use. I also may eventually need AA batteries since our supply system isnít working properly yet, normally we get A for some of our night vision devices and such. I have yet to pull out the laptop computer and probably wonít, even as a stand alone for quite a while. I donít think we plan to get that established for any foreseeable future date. In a way that is good because I can do real 1SG stuff with the soldiers instead of becoming a PAC clerk and email slave to the CSM.

Today we were standing around and talking about the probably future missions and figured we may never see Baghdad. We figure after the war everyone will say ďDid you go to Baghdad?Ē and when we say no, they will think we never saw anything despite seeing almost every other large town in Iraq. We also may be the only guys in the Regiment here for the actual war. We thought it might be funny if at the end of all this only a couple hundred guys in the Regiment had combat patches and theater medals. Honestly I could care less about the patch or any awards, the only award Iím looking for is the ďAll Body Parts Still Attached and BreathingĒ award. I doubt they have one because it isnít listed in AR 670-01, but Iím still going to try and earn it. Another worry is the government turning Iraq into a rotation place like Kosovo, Bosnia, or some other place like that. With only a few years left I donít want to be rotating in every 6 months to play fly patrol. I say that because Iím killing flies right now at the rate of about 1 every 2 minutes and they keep coming like there is no end, sort of like shelter mice. At least a cool wind is blowing (it is 12:20pm local) and there are some clouds to the south. The RCO was here earlier and said severe thunderstorms are possible.

In case you are passing these letters on Ė RCO is the Regimental Commander a full bird Cornel. I guess I should also clarify some other abbreviations and acronyms.

RCO = Regimental Commander
CSM = Command Sergeant Major
1SG = First Sergeant (me)
CO = Troop commander (a Captain)
PAC = Personnel Administrations Center
AK47 = Standard Soviet made rifle used by Iraq
14.5mm = a four barrel anti aircraft gun that can also make Swiss cheese of a HUMMV
HUMMV= High mobility, multipurpose wheeled vehicles. The modern Jeep.
3rd ID = 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, GA. Same division as Audie Murphy was in
4th ID = 4th Infantry Division form Fort Hood, TX
3rd ACR = 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment from Fort Carson, CO. My old Regiment from El Paso before they moved. AKA Brave Rifles.
2nd ACR = 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment from Fort Polk, LA. My Regiment. AKA 2nd Dragoons, the oldest continuous active regiment in the Army.
AR 670-01 = Army Regulation on wear and appearance of uniforms.
V Corps = Fifth US Army Corps. Made of units like 3rd ID, 4th ID, and 3rd ACR. Many of these units donít normally belong to V Corps, but have been organized under them for this war.
82nd Airborne = 82nd All American Division of mostly infantry
101st Airborne = 101st Screaming Eagles Division of mostly helicopter assault infantry.
XVIII Corps = 18th Airborne Corps. This is the Armyís rapid deployment corps. It is made up of the 82nd, 101st, 2nd ACR, and other light units.

I think that covers a lot of that. If anyone wants anything clarified just ask.

Anyway, back to the letter. Damn flies are driving me nuts.

I have been hearing on the news that the Secretary of Defense is already claiming that the technology overmatch is what is winning the war, and to some degree I agree, but the truth from talking to the Iraqi people is they just didnít want to fight. There are still lots of people here, guns and ammo could be gotten by almost anyone, but the truth is they didnít want to die for Saddam for the most part. If the same situation was here (USA), picture this. The Iraqi government set up in Mexico and threatened to invade. We would attack first and ruin his world, but even if we didnít, every front line unit would line up along the border and do the God awfullest engagement area development the world has ever seen. And even if he did cross, we would fight like Hell! But even if he got through, every American with a rifle would be picking off the invaders. Add to that what exists here Ė imagine every factory, school, or whatever surrounded by 10í walls with guard towers (it is really like that here), so every street all the sudden has forts along both sides with good fighting positions for anyone to use. Now add to that a supply of mortars, rockets, ammo, machine guns, grenades, etc. at every school and government building (yes that too is here) and a population that above the age of 18 has mandatory military training and experience with a lot of these weapons. An invading army coming into America if it had that much arranged everywhere would be a nightmare to any invader Ė especially the south. Yet given all that potential, the Iraqi have just left and gone about their business or surrendered! A few die hards have tried to defend Baghdad, but I bet most of them did so at the barrel of a gun Ė like in the movie ďEnemy at the GatesĒ. I think to discount the total unwillingness of the Iraqi people to put up with it is a major disservice to them and to the real reason we are winning. Maybe if Saddam was half as loved as he claimed, we would still be fighting at least large scale guerrilla attacks, but we are not. But the opportunity certainly does exist for any Iraqi of the right mind.

Enough of that. Iím have a good time sitting here writing this letter and listening to music. Heck, with these MP3ís I canít figure out what some songs are or why I downloaded them in the first place. Some I donít think I ever listened to, or at least not more than once. I have heard some bluegrass, then the next song is a Christmas song, then right after that a classic rock song followed by classical music and jazz. This CD may get old after a while, but for now it is like flipping through radio stations not knowing what will come up next. HA Ė a rap song just came on! Boy, what was I thinking when I got that one? I am listening to it all though, it feels more ďnormalĒ that way somehow.

I know this letter is getting very long, probably going to be one of my longest yet. And what surprises me the most is Iíve not taken a break from writing since I started. I guess this is the closest I get to talking to you and hopefully you pass these on somehow so others can get this. I often wonder as I write what the rest of the family think if they read it? Has SGT Rock lost his mind? Is it really like that? I didnít know SGT Rockfelt that way, etc. I think it will be interesting to talk to people and family later after I get back and hear what they think of my observations. I didnít intend to start writing these letters as a journal of my experience during the war, but I sort of feel like in some way Iím in a piece of history that is being made as I write it down. Iím not a reporter or a government spokesman with an angle I need to put on anything for my bossí agenda or an editor to satisfy. In the end I guess I see what I see and write what I feel.

Enough of that crap too. God I miss you and the kids. Every day I wonder what Iím missing. How are the kids handling everything?

I figure M worries Ė tell him to not worry at all. Tell him his dad loves him and is staying safe, probably safer than when I drive to Alabama in a rain storm.

W is probably dealing you fits, tell him Dad said to mind his mother or Iíll spank him when I get home :). Iím sure he misses me, but I donít know if he really has a good grasp of what is going on or what Iím doing.

As for K, Iím sure she mostly worries about graduation and talking to D. Tell her she cannot get married until I get back. I have to be there with Stetson and spurs for the wedding to give away the bride! Besides, his dad should be deploying here in about 3 weeks as I figure it. As far as I know there isnít a change to the deployment schedule for the rest of the Regiment.

As for you. I miss you so very, very much. At night I lay on the hood of my HUMMV and stare up at the clear dark night and bright stars and think how nice it would be to share this with you. The night sky can be quite beautiful here, but not as beautiful as you. I hope you remember to stay on your diet and not snack so much. Keep drinking water and get some walking in while Iím gone. I want to take some walks with you when I get back. In an early letter I talked about how people walk together, fathers and sons, men and boys, but something I never see is women and men walking together Ė usually the women are behind the men.

I know Iím losing weight, maybe I can invent the 2 MRE in the desert diet plan. Iíll sell it in books and make a million dollars off it. It will include a diet pill, the anti-malaria pill which is sure to suppress appetites. By the way, I still havenít lost my mind from taking those. This weight loss plan is working for everyone in the troop by the way. Of course we could eat 3 MREís, but no one really wants to.

If you can believe this, I have drained this pen about Ĺ way in only 2 weeks. The flies are still annoying, and the music is still very eclectic Ė I just listened to Irish folk music, funk, comedy, and finished off with the theme to the Olympics. Man what was I drinking? LOL

Iím starting to think like a starving hiker, but it is more out of boredom with MREís than with calorie deficit.

While I am on that, I cannot wait to get back to the mountains of Appalachia, they are so much opposite to where I am it is like opposite ends of the poles. To sit on a high mountain with cold spring water and feel the breeze on my face while under the shade of trees. Watching hawks soar or hearing birds playing in the background. Itís like heaven to think of that. I honestly wish I could retire and hike like that as soon as I get off this deployment but know I canít yet. But seeing how the Iraqi people can be happy without anything makes me feel I could be happy doing just about any job as long as I have my family with me and Iím in a place where I like to be. Iím seriously considering starting to look at retirement right at about 20 when I get back. Start looking for a job where I can be in the mountains and spend more time at home or out with the kids instead of out in the field training or deployed. Maybe it is just being away on deployment making me sentimental; maybe it is the flies, heat and dust; maybe it is sitting around a warehouse one too many times waiting for someone to fix something or do something so I could get on with my job; or maybe it is missing you and the kids so much. Staying in to make Sergeant Major doesnít seem so important right now. I donít know, but maybe Iíll get back and come on assignment to some semi normal position like ROTC or something and get a few years of sham time (darn flies) to sort it all out. But I could submit retirement request as early as September 2004 for a September 1, 2005 retirement, and actually be out and retired as early as the end of May 2005. As I write this, it seems awful close to now. In that time, I could still make Sergeant Major, but would have to stay in until 2007 as planned. Is it worth it? I donít know. Maybe it is time to grow up and settle down (maybe grow up isnít the right word).

Iím still happy being 1SG, but Iím not sure I can keep going off to the Middle East every time the president wants to do something somewhere. Itís not as easy as going down and beating up a bully down the street, in the end you have to look these people in the face and do more. It would be like killing the neighbor next door because he abuses his family, but end up having to take total responsibility for the family after you did it. Sure we liberated Iraq, and it is a good thing, but some of these people lost their families in the process, and we did it. How do you look them in the face knowing that? I guess the world just isnít as nice a place as some believe it is or should be. On the other hand, I do what I can in my sphere of control to ensure my soldiers donít trash the place, and in that way I guess I can still try to make a difference. The Commander and I see eye to eye on this thank God, and it makes it a little easier. The Squadron Commander has also been very adamant about the same thing. At least in our Regiment I can be happy with current leadership. But not all units are like this and we have had some problems with other American units just out to kill, destroy, and use whatever they can. Maybe Iím being overly sensitive Ė after all it is a war, but I see no need for excess in any of that. It is no small thing to take a human life, destroy their home or livelihood, or steal the only means of living because you can. I know I will be able to live with what I have done so far, and I intend to ensure my soldiers act with honor so they can too. I will still do whatever it takes to get everyone home, but Iím not going to compromise my integrity because of the situation either.

Sorry I got off on a tangent again. I really donít mean to. Donít worry about me either, I will not hesitate in a fight. I will come home and do what it takes to get my boys home too. Speaking of that, in the two weeks since we deployed, Iíve seen less discipline problems, less family problems, and less needing sick call than I ever have in any other two week period since taking control of Ghost troop, even including block leave. I guess the family problem thing is a combination of you and the Commander's wife handling things and the lack of soldier contact with them. The lack of discipline thing is probably because no one has a lot of opportunity and the low medical thing is probably because they wouldnít get out of work anyway. We have people getting sick, but they still have to go on mission, so why complain? I imagine once mail starts flowing in we will have some issues.

This pad was given to my by AAFES at the deployment point Ė that and a box of envelopes. Well I still have most of the envelopes but there is only one sheet of paper after this left on the pad, and except for 2 sheets of paper, Iíve only used it for writing you. I guess that is a good thing. I hope my handwriting is getting easier for you to decipher, heck I may even be getting better at writing. Since this is the last sheet of paper, I will finish this letter up and start another one later. Iíll try and get this one off soon.

I just want to finish up saying how very much I miss you all. I look forward to getting back and seeing you and the kids, but not just them, but everyone in the family. A lot of visiting is in my future after I get back. It will be so great to see everyone again and go back to living normally again. Maybe even settling down for a while. Fort Polk may only see me for a short time after this if I get my way and can move on. ROTC sounds better every day.

I gotta go before I run out of room. I love you!

SGT Rock

2003-05-04, 20:49
Time for a change of paper and writing utensil. Perhaps Iíll make less mistakes with a pencil, probably not.

Last time I wrote you, I was still guarding an ammo point from the Arabs. Now another unit has taken that over and we are back to our patrol schedule. Yesterday when we got relieved, we came back to Najaf and took a down day to catch up on maintenance of weapons and vehicles. My heater core was leaking, but since I donít use the heater over here, I just had them bypass it. I also had some other stuff done like putting in a power inverter so I can run 110 volt stuff in my truck. Right now I have my amplified speakers for my computer hooked to my CD/MP3 player listening to ďHorse with No NameĒ by America, pretty apt for the situation Iím in.

Today we did a patrol back down to As Samawah and back. We were supposed to watch the road for about an hour in one location, but the sandstorm we are having is too heavy, so we came back in and are doing priorities of work. Iím telling you this because by the time you get this letter it is old news and not a secret. Hell, most stuff that happens here is on CNN within an hour.

Tomorrow is our last day here. We are doing another patrol north, but Iím not sure where. Thursday we are supposed to go to Baghdad. Once there, we are supposed to clear an airfield to make a base and relieve some Marines in there, then start ďstability operationsĒ whatever that ends up entailing.

We still have not started getting mail which is a bummer. One thing everyone keeps asking about is mail. I canít wait myself. Every day I beat up the Support Platoon Sergeant to see if it is in yet. We have started to scrounge, and so far I have half a case of Ramen cup-o-soup, a 13 ounce can of coffee, two dozen AA batteries, about one quart of stove fuel, and all the bottled water and MREís my heart desires. Honestly there isnít much new to tell here yet. Maybe by the time I mail this off tomorrow there will be a few exciting things to add.

Speaking of mail, some guys here have had problems mailing stuff home. Apparently the 13 ounce limit is pretty strict. There is also problems with people sending mail to Germany. They addressed it to a Strasse instead of an APO. We got a chance for some people to make morale calls, so I prioritized them so guys with issues like pregnant wives and such could go first. The CO and I are last on the list, so donít kill me if I donít get to call between everyone else calling and missions/business. First I want to take care of the soldiers first, and I donít know how well I could handle hearing your voice right now. I miss you so much it hurts. I promise once I get to Baghdad and get a better set up and a more predictable schedule to call. Anyway Ė I bring that up because apparently there have been problems for family mailing packages here too. I think it was a size problem or something like that. If you find out something about that, please send it out to the family and post it at my site on the off chance someone out there wants to send me something.

Speaking of the site, please donít forget to renew my site stuff. I would appreciate it if you also regularly posted some of this on the board, so my friends know what is going on here. Thanks! Think of it as practice for you helping post my Thru-hike journal once I finally get to go.

Speaking of hiking and such. I was reading ďOn the Happy Side of MiseryĒ by Model T Tate, and I just got to a part where he met this hiker with MREís, a big dog, and a Drill Sergeant hat on the Long Trail portion of the AT. Apparently Model T was hiking during 1990, because this guy had to leave the trail because of the first gulf war. What a coincidence because just a little while earlier I had been talking with another soldier about hiking the AT and how I had to cancel a planned AT section hike this year because of this one. I planned to mail the book back once Iím done with it since some of the kids or you (or both) expressed an interest in reading it. Now I donít know if it will be deliverable because of the weight. I may build a simple set of scales to let soldiers know if an item is too heavy. It wouldnít be hard, a water bottle weighs about 1 ounce, add 11 ounces of water for a total of 12.44 ounces. Then all I need is a lever arm of equal weight on both ends for a counterbalance scale. 11 ounces of water is 55 soda cap fulls of water. I just canít stopÖLOL! Even in a combat zone Iím geeking out. Actually, as I understand what the problem is: you can send packages heavier than 13 ounces, you just have to put the right amount of stamps on it to cover the postage, at that point it cannot be free mail. Iím probably the only person in the Squadron that brought stamps.

Now it is 0150z waiting for the sun to come up in about 30 minutes and the sandstorm had gotten worse. Last night I went to sleep in a calm but dusty place Ė safe on the hood of my truck. Sometime around 2200z we started getting harder winds which made sleeping a bad experience. This morning when I finally crawled out of my fart sack, dust was extremely thick and stuff was trying to blow away as I put my boots back on. I feel all dried out and tired this morning. Iíve already drank a liter of water trying to hydrate. I made a pot of coffee before bed last night and have it awaiting my urge for caffeine inside my thermos, but I have to get hydrated first.

I havenít listened to the news for a couple of days because Iíve been busy, but also because reception has been poor, maybe it is the storms. I even got some rain yesterday Ė just enough to get spots on my windshield.

Today we are going to get ready for tomorrowís movement and include some safety training. Yesterday, five soldiers within the Corps area were killed, one accidentally killed in an accidental weapons discharge, 2 playing with a Frag grenade, and 2 when their vehicle rolled over. Luckily no one in the Regiment has been hurt, but two days ago one of my guys almost got shot by Eagle Troop when they had an accidental discharge inside the perimeter after coming off of a mission. So a huge part of the training is ensuring these guys understand weapon clearing and weapon status. It is something they are taught in basic, and every time we go out training but for some reason there have been problems. In Ghost we have had two accidental discharges Ė one when a soldier was loading a MK19 on the start of a mission and didnít know he had already cycled a ghost round. Both grenades landed about 10 meters from a house as I was watching Ė I thought it was 60mm enemy mortar fire and called contact. The other discharge was when a guard on the tower was clearing his M240 machine gun and didnít ride the bolt forward slow enough.

So now Iím sitting here in one hell of a dust storm getting ready to close this letter since the mail runs out of here in about 30 minutes. Visibility is down to about 10-20 meters most of the time, sometimes as low as 5 meter. I would much rather be in a thick fog bank socked in on a mountain top. I love you all very much and miss you more each day. At least the war seems to be winding down, hopefully we can transition to full peace keeping and get home soon. I want to start making up for missed time as soon as possible. Again, I love you and give my love to everyone.

SGT Rock

2003-05-11, 00:51
words in italic are edits

Here I am again fighting boredom and insects. The flies are getting worse and now the gnats are becoming a pain in the butt.

Last night is when I talked to you on the phone to give you an idea of my timeline. I was highly surprised you havenít received any of my letters (except for the postcard from Spain) because I have been mailing letters for over two weeks now. The first one I sent was from Kuwait which was right by the airport Ė so you should have gotten that one within a week or two at the most.

Yesterday we did some work on the perimeter of the camp so we can secure it better. Right now the Marines are still responsible for the camp so we cannot take over. But in a couple of places Iím taking over there were no clear fields of fire, interlocking fields, and places where the civilians could get right up to the guard posts. So I got a chainsaw and some concentino wire and had my soldiers fix it because we take over as it starts getting dark tonight. Iím not used to Marines being so sloppy about things like that, but it has been disturbing. Some of my Marine friends would probably be surprised at these guys lack of discipline. They crap everywhere, and almost none of it is buried. They have crapped in just about every room in this complex that isnít occupied.

The day we got here they had 40 + cases of vomiting and diarrhea Ė probably sanitation. They walk around in whatever they wish it seems Ė some are only in shorts and flip flops. I can be walking around the defensive positions and a Marine will be right there surface laying a turd right next to the trail. They did dig straddle trenches but all I see in there is piss and trash. I have set up a shower and 3 seat toilet to try and fix the problem in my little area, but the flies are on the crap, then the soldiers, then their food Ė etc. I now have three soldiers with stomach ailments. The Marines leave tonight sometime, so in the morning Iíll make a detail to bury some of their crap. Another problem is the Marines and local civilians. The Marines have been having trouble lately with civilians not listening to them and getting all the way up into the wire (some stick their hands and heads actually in the wall to call to the Marines) so they can sell the Marines souvenirs and sometimes alcohol Ė and the Marines let them. I never see Marine NCOs on the perimeter checking it out, and when the Marines want to get the civilians to get back, they cannot most of the time. Iím going to fix that in my sector. The Marines did a good job in the fight, but since then have been some of the looters and have encouraged some of the problems with their actions. I have been told these guys are reservists so that may be part of the problem.

Another issue is there are about 5,000 of then and we are only 500 or so. Despite the claim we are sending more troops in Ė we are also taking troops out. We have an area of about 3 million (as Iím told) of the poorest Iraqi with guys looting, political fighting, and general mayhem to be pacified by 500 soldiers including all our mechanics, support, and staff. I hope this means we are transitioning to an Iraqi led police force, which I donít because we havenít seen any, or there are more follow on forces to help out coming.

An interesting thing is we have lost Eagle troop and gained an infantry company from 3rd ID. It is the same company that attacked into Baghdad airport a few weeks ago. Their 1SG told me they were sitting on the airfield after destroying all kinds of stuff there Ė listening to the BBC. According to BBC, 400 Americans were dead and about 50 American vehicles were destroyed at Saddam Hussein International Airport. He said it was pretty funning because they joked that maybe there were two SH International Airports because there wasnít any dead Army soldiers on that airport. I figure the source for that story was the Iraqi news agency. The 1SG said about an hour later the BBC reported that the information was incorrect Ė go figure.

Today as we were preparing for patrols, the Iraqi looters behind our compound found some copper wire they wanted to steal, but it was heavy. So some genius decided to burn it to get rid of the heavy plastic insulation. It created a fire 50í in the air with a couple of explosions that shot over 100í Ė this all about 800 meters or so behind our trucks Ė I got some pictures.

Then I got to go on my first patrol in Baghdad with the CO. We ran through some back streets and went to an old Iraqi Army Helicopter post where the Marine Regiment has their headquarters. We got some info from them and some maps, since they are pulling out tonight to go south and load ships headed for home. Then we drove to some points to verify some weapon cache that the Marines are trying to get removed prior to pulling out. The Marines may be nasty and undisciplined, but I would rather have them around for the fire power until other forces arrive. It seems like the US government is saying one thing about troops in Baghdad, and doing something else. Freaking politicians.

So now Iím waiting for the Marines to pull out so we can move around and clean up the AO. I just hope my soldiers donít pick up bad habits (Iíve had to make a couple of corrections on my troops) from the Marines. We should get power here in a couple of days, and maybe running water after that. But I feel we well move in a week or two so this factory can open and put some Iraqi back to work.

It was great hearing your voice last night; I had a hard time keeping it together. Unfortunately I didnít have much time, the connection was crappy, and all the background noise was interfering. I wanted to talk a lot more and get more details about things. I wanted to talk to the kids and hear their voices. But unfortunately that wasnít possible. Hopefully we get something going within a month or two to make it easier. With normal power and phone service restored to Baghdad it might be possible. Iím still healthy although today I have felt like crap for some unknown reason. I look forward to getting my meeting done and getting some sleep tonight. I wish I had a hammock!

Tell everyone I miss them and I am looking forward so much to getting home. I have this fantasy about going to North Carolina Mountains and enjoying a family camping trip together. The cool, moist mountain air next to a campfire Ė playing in a creek and watching the stars at night Ė that is what I would really like to do. This place is really dragging on me today; hopefully I can get my AO fixed then get out on some missions to make time go faster.

Life just doesnít seem right to me right now, and I know it is because Iím over 6,000 miles away from those I love. Please stay safe and healthy for me. You are the most important thing in my life.

SGT Rock

2003-05-30, 00:14
Well now Iím finally in Baghdad and have truly been shot at, well, sort of anyway.

We stayed at the camp in Al Najaf yesterday preparing for the move to Baghdad today. In case I never mentioned it, there was shooting every night in Najaf. Apparently the locals are protecting themselves from the Fedayeen leftovers and some looters. Some are also sort of figuring out who is in charge the hard way. Before we left, Najaf had a police force, fire department, and looked like they might be trying to get some of the trash off the streets. To help finish up, there was an operation done by the Special Forces and the 101st in town that included artillery Ė but that wasnít where we got shot at.

This morning we started moving north to Baghdad and passed through a lot of destroyed tanks, APCs, trucks, artillery, etc. But in the towns, life was still going on including the market places where the main highway always seems to go through Ė and where there is always traffic jams and too many people standing around. I get nervous going through them because we are easy targets in those areas and fighting back would be difficult. In a couple of places we had some run ins between locals driving like jackasses and my trucks. It seems a reasonable person would not try to cut off a truck twice its size filled with armed soldiers and a machine gun mounted on top, but the Iraqi donít seem to understand they will lose. They get mad when they get bumped, but who cares. We just yell and wave at them and keep going. Hopefully they will eventually figure it out.

So we finally make it to Baghdad which was a traffic mad house. We are assigned to the poorest part of town Ė Saddam City. You may have heard of in on CNN or Fox news. So here we sit across the street from the worst slum in the entire country where the most of the looter come from. Apparently most of the locals are armed, but mainly shoot at each other Ė often over looted stuff. The Marines have been here a few days and we are supposed to take over this sector from them so I believe they can leave the country Ė but Iím not really sure what their next mission is. It is supposed to be 1st MEF, but I personally havenít talked to any of the Marines yet. If I remember right, that is Trail Yetiís old unit. Since we have arrived there has been constant shooting by the locals including automatic weapon fire. The Marines donít shoot back because they would basically be shooting at a neighborhood. We are on the back side of the compound which is a cigarette factory Ė and the compound is surrounded by a wall. But two Marines have been shot Ė one just got his kevelar helmet scuffed, and the other got hit in the arm by a ricochet, but should be fine.

Something interesting to note: We are all wondering about this trade embargo that has been in place against Iraq for the last 12 years. We see brand new Mercedes cars, new West German multiple launch rocket systems, Russian tanks, Syrian, Jordanian, and Chinese ammunition and even good old US tobacco in crates fresh from Virginia. Where is all this stuff coming in from? There was an oil for food program that supposedly Saddam took the food and traded it or sold it for arms and stuff Ė and I believe that could be very true.

So here I am at the factory that smells like a tobacco shop with gunfire coming from the other side just relaxing and waiting to see what the morning will bring. We are supposed to do a ďright seat rideĒ with the Marines a couple of days to get to know the area and operations, then do a ďleft seat rideĒ with them while we run things while they advise. It is the normal way to rotate units on peacekeeping duty. So I figure the ďwarĒ part is basically over and we are just facilitating the return to a new government. I hope this can turn into a UN thing and let some of those countries come over and do the peacekeeping part so we can get home. I donít know where CNN and Fox are doing most of the war coverage, but I guess if stopping looting and peacekeeping are the hot story you may see some of us soon since this seems to be the dirty spot of the city. I guess it was too much for MPs so they have Marine infantry and Army Cavalry to do it. I hope we get some infantry attached to us to facilitate clearing some of these buildings if necessary Ė we can do serious damage from the Hummv Ė but we canít drive in a house.

Through the night last night (it is now Friday) there were gunshots and tracers in the sky. The shooting stopped about 0230z this morning. But the respite was short Ė at about 0500z it started again (z time is 3 hours off local, so 0230 is 0530 local). Then the shooting was just sporatic single shots. Things went calm this morning while we talked about re-supply, perimeter defense, set up porta-potties (homemade ones using plywood and 55 gallon drums) and getting some laundry done. Then all of the sudden a gaint explosion happened on the perimeter. Everyone scrambled to go REDCON 1 and we were totally ready in 30 seconds, but it turned out EOD was clearing some stuff on the perimeter and the warning didnít get down to the troop level until after the explosion went off.

The commander, XO, platoon leaders, and some of the attachments are off to another compound to get briefings from the Marine staff about our area of operations. Today we will not go out of the compound, and we may not for a couple of days. So right now we are getting administrative stuff done and trying to get some personal stuff done. Fighting boredom is the current challenge. Since we have the building, some are practicing room entry and clearing houses.

The general feel is Baghdad is getting back together and we are just going to do as little as possible to interfere with internal politics. Our area apparently does not want to be a part of Baghdad anymore, Saddam City would rather be a separate entity Ė but we could care less about that. All we care about is getting the job done and going home.

I figure Iíll finish this letter up at two pages and send the film home with it. Hopefully everything comes out alright because one roll had a problem, and the other was in the camera when it broke. Please get doubles made and send me one copy Ė keep the other at home. If the pictures donít come out, then the camera is screwed Ė in that case send me a new one Ė a cheap and simply 35mm Ė but not disposables Ė they exceed the weight limit too easily.

I miss you terribly. I hope you are missing me as badly as I do you. I hope to get a letter someday (estimates put it at another 2 Ė 4 weeks) and have some news from the rear. Donít forget if there is ever anything important to have Red Cross send a message Ė they can get simple messages through. Hopefully we get showers, laundry and telephone set up soon. It would be so nice to hear everyoneís voice again, although I may have to call at a very poor hour your time Ė but if I do I want to talk to as many kids as I can. So I wrap this letter up to start another. Hopefully the unconventional wrapping doesnít cause a problem.

I love you all very much and miss you more than I can say.

SGT Rock

Also just so you all know... I have a camera on its way to Rock now.

2003-05-30, 00:23
As you can see. I have my computer up and working. We are now set up in the water processing station of the cigarette plant: Iíve included a flier from the plant as a souvenir. (This letter was typed out)

Yesterday we took over from the Marines. They were even nastier than I had expected. Next to their sleeping points (within inches) I found where they had been crapping, often unburied. No wonder they had over 60 cases of dysentery so bad that they had to evacuate the marines back to the States (this according to one of their Gunny Sergeants). I had a team of soldiers with shovels going at it for the last two days trying to clean the area up. They also looted the cigarettes and some of the property just as efficiently as some of the local Iraqi people, and tore up quite a few things for simple amusement. Iíve seen Iraqi battle positions that were better kept than this place was.
Also yesterday it actually rained. It rained enough that the entire ground was wet at the same time. It rained on and off all day, which kept it nice and cool. My ďofficeĒ is in the control room of the pump house, so the building Iím in is still nice and cool even in the hottest part of the day. I donít have electricity except for the generator nor do I have an Internet connection. Regiment has a SIPERNET connection, which is a DOD WAN that parallels the Internet. If they can get that connection run around to the rest of us, then I will have limited Internet access ó hopefully at least e-mail and or IM capability. It seems funny to be typing on a computer ó heck even doing paper again. But it is also weird not having an internet connection on this laptop ó I keep wanting to open IE or my e-mail to look for stuff.

The rest of the city is getting electricity ó you can tell because the locals celebrate every time they get power by going outside and shooting all their guns. Last night we thought we were under attack, but it turned out they got electricity across the street. But it did turn into an attack on a few positions for themó like shooting up the gas station near here for some reason. Since yesterday, we have had a lot of Celebrations. The sounds of gunfire and ricochets are so numerous it sounds like a weird sort of rain going on out there. I donít know what all they are celebrating each time, but I guess it is different parts of the town across the street (Saddam City) getting power. I hate to see what they will do when running water gets turned on. Maybe they still have some mortars or ADA guns out there to celebrate that one.

Since the Marines have left, we have also taken over the police duties. I think I mentioned that we are 500 +/- cavalrymen replacing 5,000 +/- marines in an area of about 3,000,000 people. There is not a real Baghdad or Iraqi government yet, nor is there a real police force. Anytime something is happening that a police department would handle, we get called ó and we do not have the structure to deal with that most of the time. We have been securing military compounds, cleaning weapons from schools, and stopping robberies. I think I mentioned that all the schools in the country were turned into military compounds by the Bath party at some point before the war - as were other non-military buildings. It seems weird considering there are also military compounds everywhere. The only logical conclusion is they were trying to hide the arms in places they thought we wouldnít bomb like schools and hospitals. But as I as saying, we cannot keep up with all that is going on. We have looters in a compound directly behind our camp we keep running off. It doesnít matter what we do, the only solution would be to guard everything ó which is impossible. At times they are stealing stuff, which seems valueless other than it is there. It often looks like they are stealing just because they can, and to do it before someone else gets it.

Other interesting things that have happened in the last day and a half are we have come within about 10 minutes of capturing the 3 in command of the Arm Fox Troop broke up a bank robbery, we chased a couple of Bath guys trying to bully a crowd and shoot civilians, we hake been breaking down road blocks that the Fedayeen erected thought the area to stifle traffic, etc. Some of the things that Saddamís people did donít even make sense for a government to be doing. People all over are very grateful that we are here, and that is comforting. The only ones that are not are the ones that had power and status under the old government and some of the Palestinian people that have moved here and consider us a lackey of Israel and are doing a lot of the inciting for the terrorist attacks that have happened here. Often we have people coming up and telling us their wife, husband, brother, son, etc is tied up in one of the military compound. Unfortunately for them, all those people were killed. In one compound we found, records that were not destroyed documented about 600 killings of prisoners. We were directed to an underground prison for political prisoners but it is empty. Anyone that may have been there and missing does not exist anymore. Iím not saying that they were released either. Whatever you may have heard about Saddam and the Bath party being evil ó it is true. Every day we still have people trying to tell us about the prison or a missing loved one they feel is still in a Fadayeen dungeon somewhere, but they are all gone ó unfortunately for them. It is no wonder some of the Iraqi exiles and defectors didnít mind that we had to blow up a lot of stuff to free this country, it is not nearly as bad as what Saddam and his people have done within their own borders.

Add to all that, people that couldnít worship (including other Muslims) the way they wanted, that the Bath lackeys owned all the industry and kept the profit (this was Udayís factory) and the way this country was exploited. Even though this country is second only to Saudi Arabia in oil production capability, it is one of the lowest in terms of education, infrastructure, living standards, etc. I hope the next government can do a better job of it. Maybe letting the Germans and their form of democracy getting in here would be a good idea. They seem to have a good balance of capitalism and socialism, which could really help these people. Iím afraid that if the US keeps total control, a lot of large business contractors will get the wrong system in place here. A point of interest is that the Muslim
clerics of a certain sect want to form an Islamic government, but luckily they are in the minorityóat least here they are. The other Muslims, Christians, Hindus, etc would like to avoid that and have a representative government. It will be interesting 20 years from now to look back and see how it turned out. As I understand it, there is a party trying to get a constitution going to set up how they will do that. But, just remember some of the worst dictatorships started constitutionally.

I have heard a couple of different rumors about how long we are to be here. One (my favorite) has us home in or around June! In that one the mission is to be taken over by MPs and multinational forces. The other says 6 months, but the time doesnít start until the entire Regiment is over here. If that one were true, then it wouldnít be until about Thanksgiving until Iím home. I really hope the June one is correct. If it is, I want to take the family camping to either Standing Indian in NC or to Mount Rogers in Virginia. We can visit family in route and make a fun, long, family trip of it. I would even be willing to get a camper from MWR to make it more enjoyable for you, and maybe your parents would like to join us in their camper. I sit here and remember how much I used to love those mountain trips to NC, and I was about Mattís age for a lot of them. I would like to spend that kind of time with the kids getting them out there even if it isnít hiking. Iíll do what it takes to make you comfortable. I could settle for the Arkansas Ozark Mountains, but that wouldnít take us near family, and I like the Appalachians better.

I also read that the combat pay and the separation pay have gone up. I hope you are saving up some of that for me so I can replace the jeep when I get back. Iíll take the Jeep and do some work on it in the spare time since I have the garage cleaned out. That way if K wants it, I can let her take it to Alabama with her (as long as you concur). A lot of what it needs is simply labor with some parts and shouldnít cost much. An oil change, new spark plugs, cap, and wire; new filters, belt and an adjustment to that power steering pulley; there may be other things I canít think of now, but it can be done. I would like to get something small and economical without being too tiny. Maybe something like a Honda Civic (if they still make those). Iíll look at that more when we get back.

I personally have been staying healthy for the most part. Iím averaging about one migraine headache a week, and given what we have going on, that isnít bad. I havenít got any of the maladies that seem to have been going around with the Marineís sanitation policy. I hope with the measures we have put into place we can avoid that all together.

Another cool bit of news is the Squadron started receiving mail. Yesterday the first mail arrivedóone package for a guy in Hawk Company. No one else has received any in the Regiment, but at least it has started getting here. The people that went to pick it up said there were 20 CONNEXs (a 6í x 6 x 10í box) full of mail they were trying to sort with 30 people from the postal unit, and another 8 arrived while the were there. They expect to get about 8 a day, as I understand it, so I figure a slew of mail is due to arrive soon. I hope you have gotten some mail since we spoke briefly the other day. They have moved a postal unit north of Karbala I think. I didnít even know they had such units. Iím looking forward to seeing what I got. Iím hoping for coffee, ramen, candy, and letters with pictures. Anything else will be nice. I hope to get surprised.

Another bullet storm just started. Power must be on in another place. As I sit here, one of our patrols received some harassment fire but no one is hurt. The Iraqis cannot shoot for shit. Sitting in this camp for hours watching flies is boring. I may go out again tomorrow so I can see some of this stuff they are capturing first hand. Not for any thrill or anything, but to make time go faster and to get a better understanding of what my Troops are doing or seeing.

Nothing new is really on BBC, and I cannot get VOA at this location, at least I havenít found a station yet. News is getting less about what is happening inside Iraq unless the interpreter tells us. It is strange after living with CNN and FOX covering the War 24 7 before I left to not hearing anything except a couple of sentences about the war in the news. I wonder how much you hear over there. I guess if I were in your place I would be trying to get the news all the time just to see if someone I knew was on there.

Again, please share (as you see fit) these letters with the family and friends. Please save them, someday it will be interesting to read what was happening at this time in history.

Iím going to close this letter out for now and get on to doing some work. Iíve got some NCOERs to process and get the system rolling again. I also promise to start some new letters soon for you and everyone else. Please continue to take care of yourselves and give everyone my love. As soon as I know anything, I will let you know. I also want to remind again that if there is any vital nests that needs to get here ó use the Red Cross to get it here in a timely manner. I hope the FRG is working well for everyone back there, please tell me if there are any issues that need the SCOís or CSMís attention.
I love You all!

SGT Rock

2003-06-01, 18:30
Last night I mailed off another letter, hopefully you are getting some of these. We still havenít seen any mail and it has been about a month since I last saw you and the kids. It is getting easier to deal with the separation but it is still lonely without you.

I canít remember exactly what I have told you about our recent events, but lately we have seen some of the non-government organizations (NGOs) start to take over and do the relief work. The Baghdad police have started to do their jobs, power is on most of the time, people have running water, the phones are on, and most of the services from before the war are starting to get going. Looting has been going down but hasnít stopped, and there have been a few incidents with Bath and Fedayeen hangers-on doing some isolated stuff, but nothing major. Schools have even re-opened and the Secretary of Defense is touring the area to see how things are going. For the most part, life in Baghdad is back to pre war levels except that they have less government ďinterferenceĒ in their lives. Iím not totally sure how much it was, but the locals we see in our areas seem happy. The plan now is to try and get the power, water, and phone to stay on all the time, which according to some of the locals hasnít happened since the beginning of the 80ís when Iran and Iraq started fighting (I think is was 1980 or 1979). So in that respect, there is some work left to do.

One thing the locals have been amazed to learn is they donít have to pay for water or power. The oil profits and the ability to process energy makes all that free to them, but apparently they were paying before now. We have also been repairing roads and bridges that hake been down for years. The NGOs are distributing aid to the people that have totally lost everything or do not have jobs. A lot of the Iraqi industry is going again (except this cigarette factory) and people are getting paid. The government employees that have come back to work are getting paid from the confiscated money found at the presidential palace and some of the Bath Party headquarters.
As for us, they are saying we may stay here at the factory a month or two, and then move to a centralized post, like at the Baghdad International Airport (formally Saddam Hussein International Airport) where they are moving supplies and troops in. I finally saw some of these supposed peacekeeping troops brought in to stop the looting ó they are support people chilling out over at the airport with mail, a PX, phones, showers, portable toilets, laundry, and some even have air conditioning.. We still use burn barrels, sun showers, and do laundry in buckets. The people at the airport will not directly support us, we have to scrounge and beg since they are all directly tied to a unit and we are just an attachment that many donít even know exist. When the rest of the regiment shows up sometime next month, spends two weeks in Kuwait, then spends a week getting here, then we may get real support. We sure hope so. It would be nice to get some incoming mail, a phone call occasionally, and some other basics. I have been able to work T Rations into the schedule, so at least in Ghost Troop we get showers, hot chow once a day, and have a secure place to sleep and do laundry. Other Troops have some of this, but as places go, we are doing well. It would be different if we were fighting into Baghdad right now, but for the most part, the war is over. I donít mean to be sniveling, in fact I think we have it good, but it drives me nuts the way this system is working.

Enough sniveling about that, tomorrow I hope to get out of the wire and go on patrol. It will be nice to see how things are going in sector. I ride with the commander in his armored HMMWV when I go because it has a gun and some small arms protection in case I might need it. But today I finally got my armored doors Iíve been trying to get. Iím still looking to get me a gun rack and machine gun for my truck.

We have two 60mm Russian mortars, 4 RPG launchers, and one RPKT machinegun we have captured outside my door. We turned one of the mortars into a guide-on holder, which looks pretty cool. I would take a picture but I only have a few left on the roll. If you can get some more film to me I would appreciate it. I asked you last letter for a new watchband, but one of my soldiers made me a new one from parachute cord wrapped like he does when he makes bull ridding rope and it is pretty cool. I really donít need a new one right now anymore. Iíve also figured out how to run my Coleman Peak I Multifuel on denatured alcohol because I scored 6 gallons of it by pure accident but have had problems getting gasoline or white gas. The thing is, we are doing with what we have for now. Some of this will make cool things to put away and remember one day. I hope to keep all the maps from the operation so years from now when grandkids or friends ask about the war, I will have a few things they can see (except the weapons of course).

Please, when you write, tell me everything going on back there with all the family and friends you know about. It is hard to even know what to ask anymore since I have been out of the loop so long. I sit here and try to think of what should be going on. I think Karen should be graduating soon, and I wonder how high school is going and if graduation is on track. As I remember it she was on track again after having some self-inflicted problems. I also wonder if she has gotten enrolled into the course she has been talking about and where. I wonder how Mart finished off the school year since he has been doing so well lately. I hope he keeps up at it. And I wonder if William has started losing any of his baby teeth, seems like that should start happening soon. Of course there are a hundred things I wonder about daily, but it would take me forever to write it all down, and Iím sure I would forget some until the next time I wonder about it.

It is now 30 April 2003, and I have big news: I GOT MAIL!

The story: There I was, it was the 27 of April and I was scrounging at the Baghdad airport and found the mail point. While I was there I talked to the mail unit. They told me the name of the unit, the place, and even the name of the NCOIC at the mail unit to talk to. They also gave me a name of another unit to call that could get me in contact with them if I could find a phone so I wouldnít have to drive there. I decided to drive there on the 28th, but then the big ďSaddam Birthday ThreatĒ had us cancel in case there was trouble (of course there wasnít any) and then the following day I couldnít because the escort was tied to another mission. So today (the 30th) was the day I planned to go talk to the mail people. Last night CSM Waters devised this plan to go to the same site for the same reason, so in true political fashion I let him think it was a new idea and offered to go with him and provide the escort. So this morning I got the convoy together and lined up, and then we went an hour south of Baghdad to an old Iraqi chemical factory (maybe they made chemical weapons there, hmmmm.. ) where the Army has set up a huge logistics base. We went to another mail unit that for some reason the Squadron and Regimental chain of command has been bugging for our mail. They said they would call us if the mail came to them (again) then I asked them what the process for mail getting here was. Apparently that was a difficult question because the answer was: ďIt doesĒ. After a few minutes of trying to clarify this, we finally went out to the sorting yard to look around, and sure enough, there actually was some mail for us there ó 4 bags! So we loaded that up and I talked to the people with my supply sergeant. The suggested we go to V Corps mail yard as well. This was an interesting turn of events - who is this V Corps mail unit? Well, it turns out this unit was across the street, and they were the postal unit I had been told about on the 27th. So my supply sergeant and I went over to talk to them, and sure enough, they said they had just sorted a MILVAN full of mail for us and had it ready to go on a truck (a MILVAN is a 20íx6íxlOí container that goes on a flat bed). The guy that told me this was even the SSG I had been told would handle our mail. He said it would be ready for us to pick up in Baghdad tomorrow at the Airport (the one 3 ID burned down yesterday on accident) and since it was such a large amount I didnít want to try and get it. So we returned with the four bags, one was for my troop. I received four packages. Three were from my aunt and were labeled 3,4, and 6 of 8. The fourth was a package from one of Helenís friends in Salt Lake City labeled 1 of 4. All contained some goodies, which I set up for sharing with the troops here at my TOC (Tactical Operations Center). I plan to write some thank you notes tonight and tomorrow. The morale in the troop from just this small bag has increased greatly, that and the news more is on the way soon. I canít wait to see some letters and hopefully some photos soon! Also the 13 ounce weight limit is lifted, the only restriction is on this end - 13 ounces and under is free, 14 and over costs, but we can send heavier packages. I saw some at the mail center in duffle bags and foot lockers.

So with that, I will close this letter out and set it for the mail tomorrow. Then I will get on with the thank you letters for. If any of you are reading this: THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

dixicritter,I love you so much and hope that tonight I can get to the phone. If I canít it isnít a big deal. As 1SG I can get on other times than the soldiers and I want as many as can get to it to call home tonight. As I always write you, please take care of yourself and the kids. Stay in contact with everyone and stay busy. Get out and see people, donít just sit around the house and get depressed. It has been a month now, and hopefully the rest will fly as fast as this last one has. Sure it seems long now, but some day we wi1l look back and say it wasnít that bad. Hug the kids for me and send me some pictures!

SGT Rock

2003-06-24, 14:33
It has been another couple of days since my last letter. I hope you liked it.

Since I wrote, we had the electricity turned on, but it goes out daily. They also turned on the water for the factory at this pump house, but now my troop area suffers minor flooding whenever the power is on. The water supply to the outside world may not be working correctly. The guy that came to turn on the power and water was a nice guy. He told us how all good people from Baghdad are happy to see us, and that even the people that used to be for Saddam act like they have forgotten who Saddam was. While he was here he was reading the Stars and Stripes Newspaper and was going to leave it, but since it was old, and we had a few copies. I let him take it. He was very happy, but asked me in a low voice ďWhat I really need is the sex magazine, do you have the sex magazine?Ē I hated to tell him no because it as so funny. If I would have had one, I would have given it to him right there just to see how he acted.

The next day (yesterday) I finally got a chance to get outside the camp again and went on patrol with the commander in the western side of Baghdad. We first went to a school where over 11 - 40í truckloads of ammunition were kept. We calculated the truck capacity to he about 50 tons, so that makes 550 tons of ammunition in the one place. We have removed some of the ammunition already, and had the loose stuff piled up. The trick yesterday was to hire locals to load one of their trucks since we donít have the manpower or equipmentóplus we want to employ them to clean their country while infusing cash. Anyway, we got 3 flatbed trailers, which wouldnít work, so we sent it back. Then they got a small truck (about a 5 ton capacity), which wasnít nearly big enough. Eventually a 50 ton truck showed up and we got that loaded. They cleared two truckloads out, so there are about 4 truckloads left in the compound now. The problem now is some kind of sewer line went out in the area, and the rest of the trucks are stranded in a dry spot surrounded by very bad mud. Today we are trying to get a tank recovery vehicle to go in and drag the trailers out to where the semi tractors can hook up and get them out. Something interesting about this as well: apparently these trucks belong to about 560 people if everyone is telling the truth around here. While I was there no fewer than 15 people came by and claimed that the trailers belonged to them and they all had papers to prove it. They all just wanted to come in and get them real quick if we didnít mind. Of course we told them no, since they ha ammunition on them, and the American Army claims all ammo in the country as ours until further notice. The guys that ha been guarding it told me they get about 5 guys an hour during the day doing that. Figure about 8 hours x 5 per hour = 40 per day x 14 days, it comes out to about 560 owners or so.

After that, we went to another site that was an Iraqi air defense site. They had multiple air defense missile systems, ADA guns, and some artillery. The Air Force had destroyed most of the vehicles, but the position was in the middle of an Iraqi neighborhood and had the ammunition hidden inside peopleís houses. The surgical air strikes took out the guns with minimal damage to houses, but now there are houses full of ammunition all over the place. There was also one small bunker complex where ammo was stored that as not hit. The Iraqi people have been dumping the ammunition on the ground to steal the boxes, so now there are thousands of rounds on the ground. Looking at the area, the EOD guys estimated it will take about 100 workers and 50 trucks over about 2-4 days to get all the stuff out of there.

On the way there, someone did a robbery right in front of us, so we turned around and chased them with out trucks. The guy that got robbed said they had guns, so decided we needed to get those guys to prevent them from being a hazard to the other Iraqi. They jumped a fence into a neighborhood, so I went with the soldiers over the fence looking for them. We cleared a couple of houses, but they got away.

Also on the way to the second site, we passed an Iraqi Air Force base that the EOD guys were clearing the ammo from. Tremendous explosions with secondary explosions were going off. If it hadnít been real and all those explosions scattering other explosives, it would have been cool to watch. As it was, we pulled back about 5 KM so we could be safe, but still had some stuff landing near us.

We ended up back at camp and time to chill out. Except for a few final things, the camp is almost like I want. We even got some T Rations that I plan to cook up tonight for the soldiers. We found some big pans for heating them in, and have dug a fire pit with grating to hold the pot on. T Rations are like giant sardine cans. All you have to do is boil big pans of water and put the tins inside the water until the tin is heated, then pull it out and put another in. I think it is some sort of pork enchiladaó Mexican food!

We still havenít gotten mail, and it is becoming an issue because it keeps getting put out that there are two CONEXs of mail waiting for pick up, but when the mail run goes, it isnít for us. This sort of thing happens about every two days. I quit telling my soldiers about incoming mail ó I said when I have a mailbag, it is here. Unfortunately the CSM and the SCO go around camp telling everyone.

The phone has also been a problem. It seems that the staff changes the rules about the usage on a whim without telling anyone. Iíve had some soldiers get up at midnight to go wait in line for an hour just to be told that they cannot use the phone for varied reasons that change nightly. In my morning meetings Iím told it will be fixed that night, but every morning it is a new soldier with a new story. Iím not the only troop with this problem. Iíve told the CSM about it and how much dissention it is causing in my troop, and the other lSGs backed me up. I would almost rather not have the damn thing. The CSM said he would come up with a plan and try to make the phone usage a little more evenhanded across the squadron.

Life here in camp is getting monotonous. Getting out of camp wasnít any better, but at least it was a little different. I hope we get some better accommodations and some sort of rest cycle. It isnít hard what we are doing, but it is all day, ever day. It would be nice to have a day once ever couple of weeks to just sleep in and screw around. We do have a DVD movie theater set up in camp, but I havenít gone there because it is when I get a lot of my real work done for the Troop.

I get almost nothing done during the day except kill flies. Iíve gotten up into the 50ís today. The floor around my desk is littered with dead fly bodies, and there are about 20 of them hovering around me at any one time. I tried to take a nap today but the flies trying to climb in my mouth, ears, landing on my head and hands were maddening. In the end I gave up. I could use a nap because I was up to 2300 fixing my guard and then getting up at 0200 with the Troop. Again, all times a Zulu time. So 2300 is actually about 0200, and 0200 is 0500. But back to the bugs: At night there are mosquitoes, which have left me with welts all over because they are a lot smaller than the Louisiana ĎSkeeters and I didnít realize until too late hat was going on. Now I sleep with my bug net over my position. Either way I have insects attacking me.

All I think about during the day (besides my family) is getting out of here and back to the cool, clean mountains. I cannot wait to get back to the states and get out camping again! At least when we do that, I can sleep without worrying about the guards doing their job correctly LOL.

Ouch, someone just got shot at again on the radio. Luckily the Iraqis cannot shoot for shit or we would be in trouble. A SFC in the troop needs a new windshield on the TCs side, but that has been the closest anything has got to getting hurt from enemy fire. The rest of it has been flying tools in the maintenance section and fingers getting shut in the hatch. There is a company that claims they get into contact every time they go out, but we are out 24/7 and havenít had anything real, just ďhappy bulletsĒ and flying debris. The term ďhappy bulletsĒ is from the Muslims shooting their guns in the area every time they get happy ó like when the power goes on. We got lots of that until the CA (Civil Affairs) explained that the NGO (Non-Governmental Organizations) would not come in if there is a bunch of shooting (NGOs are organizations like the UN. Red Cross/Red Crescent etc.) because the do not feel safe. We still get a little of it, like the other day when there was a report (from the company that always feel they are in contact) that there was a riot going on at a gas station. There were lots of people and cars around the station and weapons fire. So the translator, CA, a scout section, and an infantry platoon went there to deal with the riot, they found a bunch of Muslims that were happy to be buying gas again.

Now it is the 26th, yesterday we started having dust storms (definitely not a sand storm) and at about 2100 Z we had thunderstorms, except mud came down instead of water. My poncho liner got soaked before I decided to get out my bivy bag. I kept thinking this wouldnít last long, but when the thunder started, I decided to go with the bivy. That worked pretty well since I was already up off the ground. This morning everything has this reddish yellow haze around it and most of the stuff is coated with a mud dust brown coat of rain/mud. And then, this morning, we received a FRAGO for everyone to change to local daylight savings time, so now we are at 9 hours ahead of home. I feel like Iím in a Twilight Zone episode ó getting very little sleep last night didnít help.

Rumor and some official info mixed has it that the 4th Infantry is prepared to move north from Kuwait, and are coming up to relieve the 3rd ID. We should be staying here to continue patrolling our area after they get here, but then the mission is unknown after the rest of the Regiment closes on Baghdad. The rumor is that the powers that be are concerned about damage from the armor in town and may have the division stay out of town and do who knows what while the regiment stays in the town and does all the work. The other possible plan is to get a bunch of HMMWVs from somewhere and have the division dismount their armor somewhere and do everything from these loaned HMMWVs. Either way, there isnít a rumor about when we come home under either plan. There is, however, official word that the stop-loss and stop-move may get lifted or changed, so we may be losing soldiers from the unit so they can get out of the Army like they were originally scheduled to or move to another post like they were originally scheduled to. I hope they make us priority for fill if they do that, otherwise Iíll be in even worse shape for completing the mission. It is frustrating at this point, because we are 10% of the force that came here despite what is being said on the news about people moving in. The division we are attached to is not supporting us for anything. We have not got mail, we are short on rations again, and we have not received any repair parts or supplies through a normal re-supply yet. Almost a month in country and everything is still chaos when it comes to being supported. Top that off with people at division always getting mail, eating real food, having water and food coming out of their ears, and CONEXs full of spare parts they donít want to share because some dip at division doesnít want to support us. The Support Platoon Sergeant, the S1 captain, and my Troop XO are doing a hell of a job scrounging, and my maintenance sergeant is doing miracles with RTV and JB weld. So far we only have one truck that is in danger of being cannibalized and that is because of a charging problem. There may not be any combat awards needed for our soldiers, but some of the logistics guys and support soldiers are very deserving. What really gets me is the positive face being put on some of this stuff. Three weeks ago the marines were only getting one to two MREs per day and only one liter of water, and it was true. The infantry I had attached was in the same boat, but there are people out here with supplies that will not give it up. I would love for a congressman to come see this. The Division and Corps commanders did come by here, but all they got to see or hear about was the mission to restore Baghdad, not the logistics. They, of course, were surprised by the amount of area and people we were in charge of controlling and the number of people we have to do it with, but there has not been a change to the districts we are assigned.

About four hours ago a whole cup of coffee was spilled on my laptop! I shut it down immediately and took it apart after I came back from a meeting. It took me all this time to get it fixed, but now it is back to the original condition except for one screw I couldnít find. It was pretty hard doing it with just a Gerber Multi Tool. I think I will apply to be the Gateway service rep for Baghdad.

Something you could send me to pass the time would be my Medal of Honor CDs and maybe some DVDs since we have the ability to play them. This would give us some other distractions during the down days. We have three or four computers and a DVD player in the Troop, and we are trying to get a 52Ē television for my ďDay RoomĒ. We have some DVDs but they are mostly military type stuff and some dumb action flics. It would be nice to get some comedy movies. Maybe Iíll get the Troop a membership to a DVD of the month club type thing so we can get a selection built; I figure it would be a good use of the unit fund money I brought. So far all we have are some board games, a few dumbbells, and a basketball. We should be able to get more entertainment for the troops since it looks like this is going to be a long-term peace keeping mission. Along those lines, the commander is making a strong case to keep this factory since it is the highest point in this part of town. Apparently the Marines got sniper fire daily until they moved here and cleaned off the roof. Now we can make the case that the place would get looted and create a hazard to the locals and us from snipers if we leave. We have also been working to clean this place up, and many of the visitors and our guys that have been around say we have one of the nicest bases in Baghdad. I guess I believe them. At least my end of the camp is getting better every day.

Now it is the 27th, Today I went to Saddam Hussein International airport on a scavenger hunt to see if we could get supplies that are left over from other units that they do not want. We did get some stuff like toilet paper and HMMWV parts, but nothing we really needed badly. I also got a lead on where the Regimentís mail may be, so tomorrow Iím going to try and get down there for another scavenger run and see if I can find the Regimentís mail and bring it back (at least Ghost Troopís mail) here.

Yesterday evening the ammo consolidation point where we are taking a lot of the old Iraqi ammo blew up. It seems the Iraqi teenagers found some flares and thought it would be fun to shoot flares. At least one landed inside the ammo point and started a fire. All the stuff is either gone or burned to a hazardous condition. So EOD is now clearing it all out.

Today we are stepping up the security because tomorrow is Saddamís Birthday. They have intel that there may be terrorist attacks on his birthday by Baath party hangers on and some of the Hezbollah terrorists from Syria. They have chemical threats, car bomb threats, vest bomb threats, riot threats, etc. The locals in our area think it is silly; no one they know would want to celebrate Saddam.

So Iím going to close this letter out so I can send it out when I try to track down the mail. One request is a new watchband. I just broke mine about 10 minutes ago trying to take it off. I will try to make something in the interim to hold my watch to my arm (maybe duct tape).

Please take good care of yourself and the children. I canít wait until I see them again. I especially canít wait until I see you again. I wish I could tell you when I will be home, but I donít know a thing. Also, please continue to send my letters, or at least part of them, so that the family and friends can see what is going on. At least now that I have the computer and you can get well written and spell grammar corrected letters to pass on. Please keep in contact with my family as well as yours. I know I canít be there, but at least the kids and you can see them and talk to them regularly. Iím grateful we both have such great and supportive families, it makes being away and out of the loop easier knowing that they are there for yíall.

I love you, very, very much, and miss you greatly. I have a meeting to go to know. so Iíll close this letter on that.

SGT Rock

2003-06-26, 21:06
Yesterday is the day I called you and woke you up. For me it was a day I spent in camp fixing some of the admin stuff like NCOERs and fixing up some camp stuff. It was a mostly quiet day. Later on that evening I got a chance to go on a night operation, but I will get to that.

To start off, there was a report of no mail at the Battle Update Brief (BUB) last night from the S1. CPT Schrick gave the guy a bunch of crap because he called someone instead of going like he was supposed to. I was planning to go down there today, to get the mail again if the Jackass didnít want to do his job. He is starting to truly piss me off.

So last evening the commander decides it is a night patrol night because there was a note given to Eagle Troopís XO stating that two mosques were arming to attack US soldiers and they were in our area. Our interpreter and CA guys looked at it and figured it was someone trying to settle a score over here and trying to use us, or a Baath member trying to make Americans look bad when we attack a mosque. But we decided it would be a good place to cruise through late at night. Normally I sit here ready to run the ambulance out if there is a problem, but the CO asked if I would like to come along on this one I jumped at the chance to get out.

We rolled out and were still on our way into sector when our Red platoon reported gunfire in their area where they were securing a power plant substation. They said it was a white four-door pickup truck that had a few adult males that drove by at a high rate of speed after they did the shooting into the air. We started heading that direction when Eagle Troop reported a man coming to one of their vehicles stating that his father had been car jacked. The father and the truck were last seen driving into our sector ó the truck was a white four door pick up GMC 1998 model. So we started looking for it.

About 5 blocks up the road a large group of civilians flagged us down and told us the direction the truck headed in. Well, they tried, all at once, in Arabic. It was chaos. They wouldnít just let one guy tell, all of them HAD to get in on it. It took at least 5 minutes to just get a real direction last headed. So we took off again and got flagged down by another group telling us that some Baath guys had just robbed a mosque and which direction they were heading. So left to try and find the truck. After some searching, we pulled over to regroup.

Then this white four-door pickup comes past our trucks without lights. We immediately have the lead guy stop the truck and get the three men out of the truck. Inside was a bag full of money and an AK47. Now before you get the wrong idea: almost ever one here has an AK47. Saddam passed out something like 4 million rifles of various makes, most AK47s, to the civilians so they could help defend the country from invading Americans But they have been used to protect the people from Bath members and Fedayeen ó a couple of towns we went through actually organized militias to keep the Fedayeen that were coming to force them to fight out of the towns. So anyway there are three males in a white four-door pickup truck with a loaded AK47 and a bag of money.

So we take them out of the truck and isolate them. The CA and interpreters take them off one at a time and question them (By the way, the CA Major with us is a lawyer) and they all give different stories about selling a car for the money. I clear the weapon and ensured it hadnít been fired recently, then counted the money, over 1 .5 million dinars. Before you get excited about that too, the exchange rate is about 2500 dinars to the dollar, so this huge bag of cash was worth about $600. Of course in Iraq, you can get a very nice house for about 15 million dinars, or about $6,000. So we confiscate the money and rifle, and then zip-tie the men. One starts crying and tells us how he has a pregnant wife and small child. He breaks down and tells us they were on their way to buy some stolen cast iron.

After some debate, we decide to release the guys; after all, it isnít that much money and they havenít really done anything wrong. So we tell them we are releasing them, and then one (the crying guy) tries to kiss the Majorís feet ó REALLY! But all he got was a mouth full of dirt as he laid face down kissing dust ó yuck! We give them the money back and they are totally shocked. I guess under Saddam they would have been shot, or at least been lucky to leave alive but lose everything. We gave them back all their money and their truck, then told them to go get the lights on the truck fixed (they didnít work, that is why they were driving without them), but we kept the AK47. If they wouldnít have lied to us, they could have kept the AK47 too since we arenít out to confiscate personal property and there isnít a law against automatic weapons here.

After that, we headed back. On the way a guy riding a bicycle and carrying an AK47 went past us, and Green platoon stopped to confiscate his rifle. The commander got pissed and made them give it back. They got too gung ho from the previous incident I guess and thought we would get some more rifles or something.

Anyway, we get back to base, and I have a chair full of mail. Apparently after the commander got pissed, someone made the S1 go get the mail (it is 1.5 hours one way). I got about 4 packages. So I decided not to go on a mail hunt today. One of the cool things about the mail was the fact I had run out of shampoo, needed a bowl, and someone swiped my Alabama Fire Sauce off my desk. Well my aunt sent me some Habanera Tabasco, a Tupperware bowl, and some Dr Bronnerís mint soap. That was perfect timing. There were lots of other goodies like snickers, lasagna, freeze dried veggies, fire balls, and trail mix that I appreciated, but it is interesting that when you really need something, it can show up just when you least expect it to.

On to this morning. We have a tasking to our troop to provide an escort of two gun trucks on every supply run, which is run once a day óthere and back. This morning we sent them out at 0700 as ALWAYS, and about hour later the S4 (the head logistician) calls and wants to know where our convoy escort is. We tell him it has already gone out with the supply convoy. He asks who was in the convoy (he ought to know) and we tell him about the medics, S1, support platoon, supply trucks. etc. So he tells us he needs a two- truck escort for another supply run. We tell him we cannot support it, he seems a little miffed, but who cares.

Enough of that crap. My building is now air conditions courtesy of the Iraqi guys running the place. Apparently the water control system runs off an old microprocessor that overheats easily, so we have to keep the doors closed and the air conditioner blowing at about 70 degrees in here. Life can really suck some times.

It is now the 5th. Last night the XO sat down the S4 and the Support Platoon and ironed things out, hopefully this ends all the problems. At least until the rest of the Regiment shows up around the 20th. At that time, a lot of the re-supply will come from sources that are located on this side of town from a Regimental LSA, and the Support Squadron will do all this running around to gather supplies and bring them here.

Iím going to wrap this letter up. I have a few thank-you notes left to write for the packages I received the other night. Iíve gotten a few done but have to get this done now or I never will. In case someone reads this letter before they get my thank you notes, they are coming!

Please take care of yourself and the kids. I want so much to see them again. The more I think of camping with yĎall, the better it sounds. Iíve been getting up every morning dreaming about being in the cool mountains instead of the hot desert. I canít wait to be back home and enjoy the simple act of waking up in my own bed and going downstairs and drinking coffee in my own kitchen with my family. I love you all very much and miss you all.

SGT Rock

2003-06-26, 21:56
Today was a really hot one. The temperature was at least 100 F. Normally we would have tried to get the guys off the street during the worst part of the day, but today was a busy one. We have gotten 26 of the 42 schools open with students attending, and the other 6 should be going by the end of the week. The power also stayed on 24 hours straight (and it is still on), which hasnít happened in months around here. I would say things are getting better.

A growing concern I have had since the administrative duties within the Squadron and Regiment have been sliding was that the CO's end of tour award, his campaign award, and his Dragooning ceremony was all being forgotten. In case you didnít know, we had a similar problem in the rear with that, so the XO and I wrote the commanders end of tour award for the SCO and put his name on it. So last night I wrote the CO's campaign award and then chased down the Adjutant, sure enough ó no one has even started it and he leases in a few weeks. I did a little arm-twisting, and now things should be on track. At least on our end (the Troop) got the CO his guidon although we would normally get him the streamers and do a framing. I donít know what to do about all that, maybe after get back I can get the Draper Award streamer made and sent to him. I wish we could do things right, but I guess it is a bridge too far from here.

I have been busy trying to write thank you notes and get the board done over the last two days (It is now the 7th, fast forward a couple of days here). Yesterday I received a stack of packages and letters. I have been trying to get thank you letters out with all the other things going on here. It has been hectic, and add to that a former Ghost Trooper that wrote and wants to send packages to support the troop. But Iím not the only one, we had a whole 5 ton truck full of mail that my supply picked up for the squadron. The number one priority for the squadron admin staff the last couple of weeks was to find the mail, yet little old Ghost Troop seems to be the only one that finds it regularly and in quantity. I try to tell people how the mail works, but they want it to work another way, so often they are calling the wrong people who tell them that there isnít mail for us. I think it would be like living in Leesville and calling the De Ridder Post Office to ask why your mail isnít running. True it is a post office, and they can find out, but it is the wrong one. The CSM even started putting out how the mail works at a meeting the other day to try and say why we werenít getting regular mail yet, and I had to tell him that he had it all wrong. I tried to explain it to him, but again, people want it to work one way when it really works another. I canít figure why it is so hard for some people to grasp. Anyway, my supply is going to go get it again tomorrow.

Enough on that. It may seem like I complain about the mail a lot, but the system is broke and it shouldnít be.

My stove stopped working correctly the other day, so I totally disassembled it. It took me some work, but I eventually got it fixed. It looks like there was some gunk built up in the system that needed to be cleaned out, while I had it apart, I cleaned it good and sealed the threads with tape to stop some of the leaks that sprang up at the valve. I think some of my hiking friends that use alcohol stoves might be interested in this. My Coleman Peak 1 has been running off pure denatured alcohol for two weeks now. It isnít supposed to be able to this, but it can.

The thing is, the stove only has about half the BTUs as gasoline would, but it does work. Also, since alcohol has a higher vaporization point, it takes more time for it to prime itself. The fuel line crosses part of the burner to pre heat and vaporize pressurize the fuel as it passes from the control valve to the fuel jet. With gas, the lower vaporization point means the fuel vaporizes easier, and since there are more BTUs in gas, it creates that heat faster. In the Peak 1 Multifuel, the stove doesnít need a lot of the priming that a MSR stove does.

Now with the alcohol, it takes some extra priming to get the fuel line heated enough to vaporize the fuel and get the line pressure up, it takes a lot more pumping to get the pressure up after lighting with alcohol than it does with gas using the Peak 1. Sometimes I have to relight the stove because it goes out once or twice as it builds up the heat to vaporize the alcohol.

The reason I am using denatured alcohol is interesting. All the way up to Baghdad we were able to get gasoline. The Peak 1 is made to use white gas, but it can use gasoline. Gasoline leaves a lot of soot that white gas doesnít. I figure this is because of the octane added, as well as the other additives that they formulate in for cars. Once we got to Baghdad and the supply system really broke down, started scrounging. One day we were at Baghdad International Airport looking through a class II yard. and the XO says ďHey 1SG, can your stove burn alcohol?Ē

WhyĒ I ask.

ďBecause there is a box with six gallon cans of denatured alcohol over here.Ē

I immediately grabbed it up and need to go look for more. I didnít bring any alcohol stoves because I figured it would be easier to get gas than getting alcohol. Now I have gallons of alcohol and canít get gas. Since I started using alcohol, the stove has actually gotten cleaner. Some of the soot that had been crusted on there for years is now almost completely gone. I am trying to get some gasoline still. My plan is to try and blend the fuel to maybe a 50/50 mix so I can get the benefits of both fuels. I think I may be able to get some soon.

I have also made about 6 alcohol stoves so far. I have perfected a stove that works well with a canteen cup. It is a standard Pepsi can type stove, except that it only has 8 burn slits cut into the sides of the can. The cans are slightly taller than my normal Pepsi can stove and the slits are about 1/4" apart so that they form two sides where the burners are, and the rest of the can is intact. The process is this:

1. Fill stove with an ounce of alcohol.
2. Light stove. In about 30 seconds the flame transitions to the side burners.
3. Place the canteen cup on top of the stove (it is its own stand) so that the sides that hang over are directly over the two sides where the burner slits are. That way the flame still contacts the bottom of the cup.
4. Put the windscreen around the cup and stove.

The windscreen is made from two soda cans. Cut the walls out, and then make some notches and tabs so that the two hook together on one side. Leave the other side alone so that it is always open. The inside of the cans is the inside of the windscreen, and they wrap themselves back into can shape when not in use. When placed around the cup, they fit around well, almost like a heart. The two bulges are around the sides of the can and create a perfect gap for allowing airflow while containing the flame. The system is very simple.

(There was a drawing here of the process that I couldnít get to scan correctly.)

I built a couple of the stoves, but the third had trouble getting primed. Luckily there was some old insulation that had fallen off some pipes, so I was able to make a variation with a fiberglass wick like some of my stoves back home ó great results. I was going to make a large Cat Stove so I could use it for making coffee with my perk pot, but since Iíve been able to get the Peak1 to use alcohol. I didnít see a need for it.

It is now the 8th. and I really should close out this letter and send it. I wrote all that last night after drinking fresh coffee I had just made on the fixed Coleman Stove. I was so glad to get it fixed, I was about to write it off and to find a way to order a new one or have you send my MSR and a new bottle.

Today we finished the promotion board. We started it yesterday, but there is a virus going around and one of the board members contracted it and ended up on an IV during the last soldierís interview yesterday. So we adjourned for the day and finished this morning. It was the 1SG of Fox troop(our old neighbor from Knox).

While that was going on, we had area beautification day. Last night the SCO came through and saw us doing mission prep and was appalled at some of the trash and stuff here. We explained that the operations had kept us to just a few guys in the perimeter at night and there was a lot to be done. So he stopped us from running any patrols last night and today so we could get the area fixed up like we wanted. We finished about 80% today, and should be able to finish tomorrow. Hopefully the site will keep getting better and the guys will get some rest.

I also got mail today. I got a letter from mom with Atomic Fireballs, two from you, and one from your college friend. One from you was dated 1 April, and the other was 9 April with a card about getting back home. Donít worry, Iím not taking undo chances on anything and Iím looking forward to getting home as soon as possible.

Something of notice, it seems that packages make it here faster than lettered mail. I donít know why that is, but Iíve been getting packages up to the l6th mail date, then today I got letters from the 1st. The mail guy said he had noticed that as well.

The last few nights (before last night) have been pretty warm. The temperatures got up around 100 in the day, so at night there is still a lot of radiant heat trying to dissipate, so it is still pretty warm at night until early morning. Yesterday morning it rained about 30 seconds, then last night it got windy and cool, very nice! Today it never got really hot, only in the 80s. I hope it continues this way for a while: Iím not looking forward to the heat. The locals tell us it gets to about 65-70 Celsius here in the summer, which is about 120 F if I remember correctly. I also hope you find the hammock I wanted. That should help me keep cool and fairly bug free here. Please send more DEET, fly bait (Iím not sure what that is, but the infantry guys say it works), and something like a fogger to chase off the insects. The bugs are getting bad. The flies will cover you in nothing flat. The joke here is: Dear Santa, this is 1SG Engman from Baghdad, please bring me a fly swatter, one that wonít hurt when I hit myself in the face.

Iíll wrap this letter up and get it out on the next run. Take care of yourself and keep writing me a lot. Take care of the kids and if they want to send letters again like last time ó please do! That was a cool treat I could use more of. Remember I love you and hope to see you soon.

SGT Rock

2003-06-27, 12:29
I started to write you yesterday, but I came down with the virus or dysentery or whatever was going around camp. I spent the entire day flat on my back trying to get over it. This morning Iím a little better, but not totally. This isnít fun at all. Iíve been to the latrine 5 times in an hour. Iím trying to get some soup and crackers down. I donít plan on going anywhere or doing anything today unless it is absolutely necessary. Iím hoping to be well enough tomorrow to get out of camp and go on patrol. Otherwise I sit around camp and supervise stupid details.

The night of the 8th, we got a call to go to an engineer platoon that was being overrun by about 300 rioters, but when we got there it turned out that there were 300 or so pedestrians that wanted to use the bridge they were building. The engineers let them cross and there were no problems at all. But somehow it had got to us that there was a riot. Things like that seem to happen a lot around here. I think we need more interpreters. An example of where that would be handy happened yesterday. Green platoon was out patrolling and called the commander said that there was an 800-1000 man riot going on with lootings and beatings. When the commander got there, there was a bus blocking the road in and huge crowds. The commander called and asked they send ever available truck from the squadron because of Greenís report and the crowd he was seeing. About 30 seconds later he called back and said disregard. It was Friday and he noticed that they were all carrying prayer rugs: they were getting reads for worship. While he was there the crowd got the call to prayer and started praying. The last thing we need is a ďWounded KneeĒ type incident. Wounded Knee was a battle where two cavalry regiments (including Custerís 7th) attacked and killed a large group of Indians during a religious ceremony because they thought the Indians were getting ready to revolt. They mostly killed women, children and old people.

Oh, something I should mention. I have been writing notes and letters thanking people for writing me. I lost part of your college friend's address because I ripped the corner of the envelope and a piece of her address is no longer attached. Tell her thank you for me. Iím hoping to get caught up today, because this evening should be he next mail run and I will have a lot more to get out if tonight is anything like what I have been getting. As I was sitting here writing that I just got another letter from you that was misdirected. It was postmarked 28 April and had some pictures from your trip to Alabama and some stuff of K and the boys. K's pictures looked like they didnít come out that well. The letter was delivered to camp on the 8th, so only 1 and Ĺ weeks for it to get here ó not too bad. I figure by the time the system gets sorted out it should take about a week for something to get here.

We are starting to get the systems around the country working. It turns out the electrical system for the country is a string of bad equipment and is going to have to be replaced ó at least a lot of it. We went 24 hours the other day with good power, then a couple of days later we went without power for over 24 hours. Some parts are Russian, some German, and some French. A lot of it doesnít work with each other, so that causes problems throughout the system. Add to that where it was destroyed either intentionally in some cases, or accidentally in other cases, and there is a major problem somewhere at any time of the day. They arenít lacking for fuel to power the generation system, so once we get some standardized system going, it shouldnít be a problem.

I now have that mail works, we have showers, toilets, hot food once a day, power much of the time, are doing PT occasionally, and can make an occasional short phone call home, the next issue the soldiers are wishing to know or have resolved is when are we going home? It would be nice if we could at least get a target month to plan for. The rest of the Regiment is due to arrive on about the l5th and then the area we can barely patrol will be saturated with soldiers. The plan is for us to leave the areas we currently have to go to Squadron, and we will consolidate on the northern parts of the Squadronís current sector. The commander got the plan this morning from the SCO. Right now we have an MP company attached to us to work with and train the Iraqi police department and to hopefully keep them honest. The Regiment has an Infantry company attached to us with Bradleys but we are going to lose them when the 3rd ID moves south. Hopefully we get another infantry unit attached because they have a lot of guys to respond to emergencies. You may have heard a couple of soldiers from the Cav got shot and one killed on the 8 but that was the infantry unit attached to us.

I donít know if I mentioned this before, but we now have an embedded reporter with the squadron. He isnít any big name you would know: he is a reporter with the Christian Science Monitor. You can normally hear their radio news on NPR, so if you listen to NPR regularly you may eventually hear a report from here. We also had a reporter from the New York Times do a large newspaper article on Baghdad and he told the commander he would e-mail a copy to his wife because the commander was either quoted or mentioned. He offered to let the commander use his satellite phone, but he declined since all the troops wouldnít get a chance to use it.

The commander has only a few weeks left in the troop and Iím glad he can take the chance to get out of here. It is nice that he can move on to Tennessee after getting his command time done. I envy him, that part of Tennessee is great. I only wish I could be going there myself. Iím hoping I can get an assignment like that once I leave here. It would be nice to get to a place I enjoy being stationed at with a job I like, then maybe settle down and get a house. Since we will only have the boys with us (most likely) when we move, then could probably get a three bedroom easily on my VHA and might even look at buying if we can get the loans on everything but the car paid off by then.

I see where you have a plan to get K her license and your brother is going to give her the car in exchange for babysitting (with some work of course). I like it. Iím proud of her and think it is a good idea. Make her promise to visit my mother regularly too. I know it will do a world of good for mom, and the drive between Decatur and Birmingham is a good stretch without a lot of hazards for her to get used to driving distances.

I hope you check my e-mail regularly. Please print off any you think I may want to read and send them. I also hope you are keeping up with the sites for me. I would love to have put the stuff on alcohol in a Peak 1 and the soda can stove for the canteen cup on myself. It is a cool experiment that keeps me in the hiking mood. I was having a conversation with some of the NCOs the other day about what we wanted to do when we get home. One of the other guys brought up that would get mad if his wife wanted to go camping since he will have been doing it for six months. I said I was the exact opposite ó I want to go camping because I can enjoy it more when I do it right. Like I have said, I want to get to the cool mountains so bad right now. Maybe some of my net friends can send me some AT pictures for my board, or you could print me some of the WhiteBlaze photo gallery to send.

I took all the pictures, postcards, cards, and some other stuff I have received over here and put them on the wall next to my desk. It is nice to be able to look over and see family faces smiling at me. My two favorites are the boys sitting eating a snack on our hike and K in her prom dress. I guess I missed prom this year. I will also miss motherís day, which is tomorrow, and K's graduation. I may miss our anniversary (most likely) but donít know yet. Please take lots of pictures and send me some.

Maybe if M gets good at doing grass, he could go around the neighborhood looking for yards to cut for cash. There should be enough deployed soldiers whose wives would be interested in someone doing it for them. Seems like he could make some money at it. I used to do that when I was his age.

W, just beat him. Iím sure he needs it. Just kidding. Give him a big hug from dad and tell him I will come home someday, so donít worry.

It is the 11th of May now, last night was pretty uneventful. Today was the first day Iíve got to do PT since I got here, and I didnít go very hard. Iím still trying to get over this bug completely. Today Iíve been eating some real food, not just crackers and ramen.

I didnít get to go out with the commander today because my meeting ran over on time, but we did get some things accomplished. Iíve got to get out of this place as soon as I can however, just to maintain some sanity. Otherwise this place would become like that movie ďGroundhogís DayĒ where the same day keeps repeating itself.

Iíll close out this letter this morning and start another. I should be able to get it off in tomorrowís mail run. Please continue to write me a lot, and continue to take care of yourself and the kids. I want to come home to everyone safe and healthy. Send me stuff you think I might be interested in reading please! The book selection here sucks, but not only books, newspaper articles, e-mails, etc. I want to stay as informed as possible. I love you all and think of you all the time.

SGT Rock

2003-06-28, 14:56
We have had a string of poor mail since I last received your letters and pictures. It seems they are trying to get all the mail they have backlogged for certain units out before they leave. Units like the 101st and the 82nd are their priority for now. We have received a few, but for some reason it is a lot of old mail where someone scratched out our APO and replaced it with another. It is finally finding its way to the correct place.

Last night our Red platoon was patrolling through the same area where we were shot at the night prior. This time they identified where the fire was coming from and went into the house. Inside they found a guy that had been recently shot in the leg and was healing and another adult male. There was also the wounded guys wife and kids. The people acted like they didnít know English, but when the soldiers searched the house, they found $61,600 US dollars in a stack. Suddenly the guy speaks English and claims that is his money he found. They continue to search and also find 1 million dinar which has gained in value since we have been infusing the area with cash to back it up. 1 million dinar is about $1,000 US now, but it is a huge stack when you look at it. They also found an AK47 with a rifle grenade adapter and a spare adapter, a bayonet, and an RPG carrying case. The AK47 was almost new and in very good condition, and had recently had a lot of rounds fired through it. We think that they got the guy that has been shooting at us because it was the same MO, they waited until the convoy passed and shot at the rear vehicle with a burst of automatic weapon fire.

They detained the men and brought them in for questioning, and the S2 Intel weenie took their first story that they found the money and havenít shot at anyone and decided that they probably got the money while robbing a bank or something a few weeks back. The money was still in stacks, wrapped in the bank bands and had Swiss bank stamps on them. Of course we told him he was nuts, this weapon had been fired, and in that exact same spot we had contact twice in a row with the same MO. The SCO agreed, and the money and individuals were taken to the joint holding area to be arraigned by the Iraqi courts. Tonight that area was quiet. There may be others, but this was one of them for sure.

Today the rest of the Regiment started coming in. Our SPC friend came to see me and brought me the holster I ordered months ago that you sent with him. Thanks, I was wondering if I would ever see that thing and really needing it bad. The holster I have been using doesnít fit well because I need it to fit over my flak vest or over my chest without the vest, so Iíve only been leaving one strap to adjust when I should adjust three to make it fit right, the end result is it doesnít work well either way. With the new holster I can just leave the pistol on my BDU belt. The only problem now is the BDU belts stretch now, and it pulls funny. I need you to go to clothing sales and get me a new belt. They have this type of belt that is often called a riggerís belt. It is wider, made of nylon like web bear, and has a different buckle. They usually have them on the same isle with the soap and alarm clocks. If you canít find one, ask the people there for a riggers belt, they should know what it is.

Starting on the 18th, we are changing sectors to 22, and losing two sectors: 24 an 30, which we have had for quite a while. We also had 9 for a while, giving Ghost Troop the biggest sector in the Regiment. Now we get to consolidate on one small area as well as lose about 4 sites we have been required to provide static security on which saps our patrol strength. The only concern is that 22 is where Fox Troop has been getting a lot of contact recently including the three man motorcycle attack (they were all three on the same bike) and the soldier shot in the hand ó well really the finger.

I received my NCOER back today with some corrections. It is going to be a good one. CPT Schrick was trying to keep from making it too high. When he had done 1SG O's NCOER last year, the Sergeant Major had him tone it down because he thought it was a little over rated and it was only his first report, he said you shouldnít overrate a guy on his first to give him room to improve. But on mine he actually had him pump it up. I have 4 of 5 excellent blocks, the only one not excellent is PT, and I would have to have gotten another 20 points on my PT test to have pulled that one. The SCO had also added his senior rater comments. My head size got two to three sizes bigger. Here are some of the comments:

o promote ahead of peers
o select for United States Army Sergeantsí Major Academy now
o recognized as the best First Sergeant in the Squadron
o displayed exceptional technical and tactical proficiency in combat
o displayed unlimited potential, will make an excellent Command Sergeant Major

Of course I know it is all true, but he left out ďwalks on waterĒ, and ďroutinely sought after by God for adviseĒ. Also, 1SG O is still on orders, so maybe I will move to HHT here in a few months, but probably not, 1SG M is really politicking hard for that job even though he pretends to not want it. I donít know what would be good or bad, but it could help me get selected in 2005 for Sergeant Major.

Enough blowing my horn here, back to the war. It has been a while since the Marines left and we have been working hard to keep order, but now our numbers will be about six times what they were including our own support. It will be interesting to see if it makes a real difference and what we will be able to accomplish now. We have been working hard and crime seems to be declining, and social services are rising. If we can get stable to one area and work at it habitually, then maybe we can really get things done. It is nice to see that you are making a difference.

It is now the 16th. Last night was hot, very hot. It has been that way a few nights now. I donít remember the desert being like that, but the heat is oppressive. I lay there at night under a mosquito net in shorts trying to cool off. I think when my hammock gets here (if ever) it may solve that since they are a lot cooler to sleep in than laying on an insulated pad on top of something that has been soaking up heat in the sun all day. For now I have still been sleeping on the hood of my truck.

Today was also another mail run. It was disappointing again ó one package for the entire Troop. The worst part is we had such good mail flow for a while and now nothing. I know based on what you have told me and what others have written that there is supposed to be a lot more letters and packages on the way or already here, but I havenít seen them. Iím not the only one with this problem. I wish someone with some rank could get this under control: this is totally unacceptable.

Another thing of note is the 3rd ID, which was supposed to be leaving, is now stuck here with us longer. They do not have a date to go back set. Apparently the story goes something like this, President Bush wants to kick Saddam out. He and Rumsfeld get this plan to make it happen (with crappy logistics I might add, it might have lost the war if it had lasted longer). The Army tells them at the end it will take about 200,000 troops to secure just Baghdad, but the deep thinkers at the White house decide we can do it with one division and their support (about 25,000). The war is over - they start withdrawing troops. But the looting and other problems cause them a black eye. Islamic fundamentalists, which are in the majority, want a government we didnít envision and are causing PR headaches for the whole ďWe WonĒ campaign. We start guarding everything and are tasked beyond our ability to control. Some high falutiní retired military guys with connections get the job to run the government operations and nothing goes as planned. Now the retired guys are fired, the Secretary of the Army has resigned over this, and the soldiers are left holding the Tar Baby.

We now have lots of soldiers running around post with the entire Squadron here plus an infantry company and an MP company. The number is something like 1100 or so. The place seems crowded compared to what we had been used to. At least the mission set will be changing here in a couple of days so that we can get more real work accomplished and our soldiers can get more rest. We may also be getting a phone and LAN drop within the next week. Heck, I may be able to e-mail you before you receive this letter. Donít hold your breath on that though.

Iíll close out this letter and send it off. We now have a mail platoon and mail should go out daily. I sent an ammo can of mail out every other day for over a month, so hopefully the families are at least getting what we send. I love you all and miss you so much. I had a 5-minute pity party for myself today, but Iím OK now. Take care of the kids for me and hopefully I can call sometime to be able to talk to them too.

SGT Rock

2003-06-29, 23:38
Today was pretty boring except for going over the new security requirements. It looks kind of screwy, I donít think the planners and commanders are interfacing with the security planners here. It seems funny that my soldiers are working 14 hours, getting a 8 hour shut down, and have about 2 hours left over for PT and hygiene. The new guys getting here are getting a 24-hour duty where they work 8 hours on and 6 off then get a full 24 hours off before doing it again. Iím confused and it isnít going to be pretty.

Anyway, hopefully we sort it out tomorrow. The fact is I can only abide by whatever the commanders figure out. Tomorrow is a mail run and I want to go and see if I can figure it out, but the security piece in tomorrowís meeting will be huge. I guess the meeting will win over the other. I would much rather go get the mail and let the meeting sort itself out.

It is now the 18th, Iím glad I went to the meeting. We got things worked out, and they told us about having the phone worked out. So this afternoon I called you and woke you up at about 0300 your time. Iím sorry I woke you up, but I couldnít wait to talk to you. I promise to call tonight and speak again. It was so good to hear your voice this afternoon. I wanted to say more but it wasnít private at all, and I needed to get back to work. Iím trying to set up something where people have some privacy and set reasonable controls to allow people to use it without interfering with the missions. I think I can have it worked out so that soldiers get a 10 minute call every four days. The calls will all be local to Fort Polk unless the soldier can work out a phone card or collect call. We think that the AT&T collect system will work, but we donít know how to make a calling card work since this isnít a normal touch-tone phone. We also should have some LAN drops soon, but not one for every troop. I donít know if they will ever get that. We should get a computer for the Squadron for soldiers to send e-mail, but one computer will be for ó 100 soldiers.

It has been getting very hot lately; with a few days over 100, max has been about 112. I now have air conditioning almost all the time, and the warehouse for my soldiers stays in the 70-80 range, so we have ways to get out of the heat when we need too. We received our tents and cots this week, but we moved the soldiers with cots into the warehouse. The warehouse smells like tobacco all the time, so not everyone wants to stay or sleep in there. We are going to set up some tents for those people. I moved my cot into where the HQ is set up, so I no longer sleep on the truck. The only real benefits are the cot is cooler than the hood of my truck was after a long day and I donít have to set up and tear down every day. I can now leave my cot up with the mosquito net. This would have been nice when I was sick.

One request I would like to make to people out there is to send some good paperback books. The books here are the few that the soldiers brought, and most are war books. I would like a good story that isnít about the military right now. We get the same thing in the movie theater that the unit set up. They brought a DVD player and figured out how to get it running in the factory conference room, but all the DVDs they have are a few that some soldiers with portable DVD players and laptop computers with DVD players brought. Most of the movies are war movies. I have yet to go to a movie at the theater.

We also had a PX open on post today. It has a VERY limited supply. I have not been there myself to see, but I hear that it is small. I have also not been in a PX since I was in Spain about 48 days ago. I gave $20 to the Troop XO to pick up some ramen and film. I told him to hold onto the change in case I needed something else and he was headed to the PX. I still have about $60 in my pocket of the $100 I had when I left on 30 March. Too bad I canít live this cheap when Iím home.

The XO just called and said todayís mail was a huge score: I canít wait to see what comes. ďOh well the Wellís Fargo Wagon is a cominí down the street. Oh please let it be for me!Ē

OK, the mail is here, nothing from you, but I received five packages. Itís all good stuff, but some notables are the pictures and Coffee, the jerky and grits, and the ramen from multiple people. I have got some ramen and grits, but the selection was one flavor only, and now I have some variety. Another cool thought was the books. I was just writing that something new to read would be nice, and now I have a book on UFOs and another ďThe Right Stuffí. There seems to be a space theme. Coincidence? I think not. Could it be that aliens are influencing this deployment or maybe just my mail? Hmmmmm...

I hope my Aunt has another package coming soon, the hot sauce supply is running low. Iím also building immunity to it. The Habanero Tabasco hardly fazes me anymore: I put about 10 shakes into my ramen or grits just to taste good. And the stuff in the mess hall is like ketchup these days. I wish I had some more of that Alabama Fire Sauce, that was good stuff. I know from my Aunt's last letter (the last one I received anyway) that there is some more boxes on the way. I hope they get here soon and there is more sauce in it.

It is now the 19th, and my initial joy at a working phone has turned into despair. The last completed call happened about an hour after I talked to you. Since then we have had someone almost constantly trying to get through without success. We called the Send and talked to the Send operator who informed us there are only two call nodes for the theater that can get a connection to DSN lines. There were about 2 attempts in an hour by the soldiers over here to call the states when we talked to him. Iím still trying to figure a plan that works. Yesterday we were told that the satellite phone would be put off limits except for emergencies, but now it is back on for Wednesday nights for our troop again until the phone gets more reliable.

Last night, one of my SSGs got a letter telling he was a father 11 days ago. We got him to a phone. Apparently there was a Red Cross message sent, but it never got to us. The answer his wife was given, as I understand it, was this; the Red Cross e-mailed the commander and was told we were moving, so he was un-locatable. That sounds highly fishy since we havenít moved in about a month and we do not have e-mail, and I have never heard of the Red Cross sending the message by e-mail.

We received another Red Cross today on one of the SPCs. Apparently his wife had a baby on the 14th, and the message just got here 5 days later. I sent him off to use the satellite phone to try and contact her. He has been trying the past few days without luck. She must have been at the hospital and no one is at their place. I didnít ask the details then. I just congratulated him and sent him off for the phone.

I called again this evening and after a few hours of dialing I got through. You were not there: you were at a friend's house apparently. K wasnít making a lot of sense, and add the time delay into that; it was an almost incomprehensible conversation. I got cut off about the same time I ask her to put W on. The call only lasted about 30 seconds to a minute. I tried calling back for about an hour and couldnít get through. Last night I also found out there are only about 130 DSN lines out of the country for right now.

Iím going to close this letter out and send it off today with the outgoing mail. They are making another trip, this time back up to Balad. Apparently the Regimental S1 found some mail that had been sent there. Heís having them hold it until we get there, and that unit is still accepting outgoing mail. Our new mail platoon will be getting trucks sent directly from the receiving point in Kuwait. Hopefully this will get the mail down to the one to two week timeline like we were supposed to be on. I think I found out what screwed up the mail we were getting - this platoon getting into theater. When they got here, they started consolidating all 2nd ACR mail and holding it at Kuwait until the platoon got set. That should now be fixed, and I expect a flood of mail again in a few days.

I love you all and miss you all greatly. I hope you are still sharing these letters with everyone so they know what is happening. I put some effort at the beginning and the end of the day to try and write something so everyone knows I am OK and thinking about them. It may seem like I donít have much to write, but the truth is it is pretty much the same old thing every day with only a few events or changes day to day. I hope K's graduation goes off fine this week and you get a good visit with my Grandparents and your parents. Tell K Iím proud of her and congratulations for me since it looks like I wonít get to call anytime soon. I wish I could be there myself, and hopefully it wonít be much longer until they get us a timeline as to when that can be. Please take care of yourself and the kids so everyone is safe and healthy when I return.

SGT Rock

2003-07-12, 12:47
It has been about a week since I last wrote you. I have been a little unmotivated to send you mail after talking to you and finding out It has been over a month since you received my last letter. Iíll keep writing but it looks like we may get to read some of these letters together if things keep up this way. I recently received three letters from people I know from the Internet. HOI and ATTroll are two but the third says they know me, but remained anonymous. Troll sent me a new logo he plans to use on the site. HOI sent some postcards from the trail and national parks, and the anonymous writer sent me a National Geographic Adventure magazine which was pretty cool. I have already written ATTroll, and plan to write the other two as today I am taking a down day to catch up on laundry, administration stuff, and letter writing.

Over the last few days we have had a few events going on. I think I mentioned that we are assuming a new area. Well the other day Green platoon is on site guard at a power distribution station. They cannot leave the site or it will no longer be protected. Well anyway, they hear some gunshots coming from the nearby traffic circle. A bunch of Iraqi civilians come over pointing that direction and saying Ali Baba, which means thief around here. Since he cannot leave the site, he sends an NCO with an escort over to see what is happening and send a report. Two MP vehicles also arrive and arrest the guy. Turns out he was trying to car jack someone and got shot in the foot. The bullet went in his heel and out the top of his foot mangling it up pretty good and he couldnít escape but it was also not imminently life threatening.

The Ali Baba had an AK47, so the MPs confiscate it and search him. The interpreter they have with them finds out the guy lives on that block, so they check his house and find two more weapons, 6 magazines, and some bags of gunpowder. They confiscate all this stuff then take the prisoner to the site where Green is sitting and tell them they donít have the ability to transport him. I tell them to tell the MPs that neither do we, and that Green platoon cannot leave the site, that the MPs need to clear out one of their back seats and take the guy. Greenís platoon sergeant lets them leave the Ali Baba anyway, but take all the stuff (evidence) the confiscate. We tell Green since he has the guy, that when his relief gets there he has to personally walk the guy through the system. Part of the problem is that he (the Ali Baba) will have to go to court, but the dumb-ass MPs have taken off with all the evidence the Judge will need.

So back to the situation, Green has even less room than the MPs, so they strap the Au Baba to the hood of the truck like a deer in hunting season. You would figure at this point that this would be a bad thing ó an American Army HMMWV driving down the market with an Iraqi strapped to the hood. But apparently this Ali Baba as notorious in the area, so Green platoon actually gets cheers and flowers thrown at them as they drive around with him up there. They get him treated and the doctor says the guy will most likely loose the foot. The detainee center takes the guy with a sworn statement from the Green platoon sergeant and they complete the mission.

Later on that night I go out on a night patrol with this same platoon (Green). So I was in a great mood that night. I thought that there wouldnít be anything that could happen that night that could ruin it.

We get out driving through the neighborhood and it is very quiet. We stop and talk to a couple of people and finally we run into a guy that tells us that there are three Ali Babas living in an apartment across the street. All three have AK47s. So the commander calls Green to get a stack ready to do a building entry. The four guys show up, two donít have any night vision mounted on their helmets and are carrying 9mm pistols. We look around and only two of the four vehicle gunners have any night vision mounted for the crew serve weapon. The commander is pissed and calls off the raid. We are not going to send guys with pistols against three armed men with automatic rifles. We take the platoon back and the get lost in the town. I was livid.

After got back I jumped that platoon sergeantís ass. I could not believe he had four hours to prepare for a mission and wasnít even remotely ready. He also said that the dismount entry team was made from guys that had gone through some training, and that they were now crew serve weapons gunners and didnít have M16s or M4s, only pistols. He hadnít trained anyone else (this training was about a year ago) nor had he made any plan for redistributing weapons. I wanted to fire him on the spot, and that makes the second time in a month for this guy to totally screw up important missions. I decided he needed personal attention since his rater is not making an effort to fix the problem, so I pulled him in and counseled him personally, gave him some directives and specific instructions, and put him on notice that he will loose his job if he doesnít stop acting like the senior enlisted soldier in his platoon and start acting like a platoon sergeant.

Yesterday I told the CSM, and he is in the loop about this, and I told the commander what my plan was. He is backing me on this. I just hope that this platoon sergeant gets on the ball before someone gets hurt, and I hope the new commander backs me if he screws up after the change of command. But enough of that crap.

We have one lieutenant that just got here in March that may have to be EVACed out for a bad back. He is older for a second lieutenant - 31. It seems something he did a while back has been aggravated by wearing all the armor and gear we walked around in when we first got here. If the problem does not clear up he will need surgery, and that means Germany then the States.

Tomorrow we start inventories for change of command. There should be about five days of inventory as we rotate the platoons through the compound to get their stuff accounted for. Then on the 1st we will have some sort of change of command.

I promise to try and write more often. Just maybe there will be a sudden flood of mail back home, just like occasionally happens here. It has been a bit of a puzzle because I can see how there would be a problem getting mail to the right unit with the way the postal system seems to track units and send mail around here. But going back to the States, the mail system should be very straight forward. Truck picks up mail, truck takes mail to Kuwait, mail flies to NY, and then mail gets sorted and delivered.

My clothes are wearing out. Today I ripped the crotch out of a pair. So I did laundry, then waited for the clothes to dry so I could wash the ripped pair I was wearing. Now Iím waiting for that load to finish so I can start hand sewing the crotch in my only other pair of desert uniforms. This sucks. I keep waiting for that box you say that you sent with the socks, underwear and T-shirts to show up. I have ruined a few pair of socks, one pair of underwear, and two T-shirts are ready to become weapon-cleaning rags.

Well I finally got my laundry finished and sewed my pants. I did a pretty good job of doing a double stitch line by hand, luckily it was only a couple of inches or so of seam that blew out. While I was sewing, a large load of mail came in, but a lot of it as return mail that came back. It seems that some of our packages need customs stamps and we havenít had them or been using them this whole time. A couple of packages containing mail might not make it too you as soon as they should. Neither has come back to me yet, but I expect they will eventually so I can fix them. That really sucks. Another problem is some people (including me) have been putting ďfree mailĒ and ďMPSĒ on the letters. But they have started returning that mail because they should only have ďFree MailĒ written on them. ďMPSĒ is only for mail going from APO to APO.

I got some more coffee and ramen, as well as some other odds and ends like a coffee grinder. So far I havenít gotten any beans that need grinding, but I hope that is a sign that some are coming. (He has since gotten coffee beans)

A cool thing I should mention is meeting one of the Sheiks the other day. We were doing a day patrol and were trying to find a warehouse being used by the World Food Program, or rather, was going to be used. They needed us to find a local sheik that was sort of the de facto local leader since the Baath party collapsed. We were looking around and stopped to talk to the locals. They didnít know about the warehouse, but they wanted us to go to an area that Ali Baba was causing trouble - that turned out to be the guy shot in the foot. That really made us some good points in the eyes of the people in our sector.

Anyway, they told us where we might find the warehouse. So we go there and find a bunch of guys with AK47s standing around a warehouse complex. We (the commander and I with one guard) find the Sheik and his entourage working in there. Normally a Sheik is an older guy, but this guy was in his 30ís, but very well spoken and very concerned. I must preface this by saying that a lot of the times, these modern sheiks use their positions for personal gain, and are generally a form of religious mafia. But this man was (or seemed) very concerned about the people. He was paying for the guards (which is a necessity around here) as well as paying laborers to clean out the warehouses that had been looted and trashed to prepare them for food shipments. Instead of some thug looking guys as his advisors, the two men were dressed like casual everyday Americans in slacks and polo shirts. They seem to have a very good system set up for receiving and distributing the food aid that was coming into the area. He did not need us to provide security (which is a blessing as stretched as we currently are) but he did want us to escort the food aid in since we have armed trucks, then to just patrol close to the area on distribution days. His guards were well disciplined, and the place was a lot cleaner than most of the other parts of the country.

The new area we are going into is still poor for the most part, but they seem to be peaceful and doing their best to bring up the standards of living. The unit that we took it from has left lots of ammo in the school yards, didnít do much to improve security of some of the sites, and has been shooting a lot of people in that area claiming they were being shot at. We have found it to be pretty peaceful most of the time and have not had any direct confrontations from the locals. We think, based on some of our previous dealings with this unit, that most likely the unit itself was undisciplined and didnít spend a lot of time trying to understand the culture. For instance: to stop a car, Americans are used to the hand raised, palm facing forward, and in emergencies, waving the arms over your head. In Iraq and Arab countries, this is a form of greeting. The sign here to stop is palm to the ground making a motion like dribbling a basketball. One night this unit shot and killed a small child in the back seat of a car because they were ďfleeingĒ the checkpoint the unit had set up. But when we worked with them, we found that they were still trying to stop the Iraqis with the standard American signal. Most likely the Iraqis didnít know they wanted them to stop, and the boy died for nothing. I think I mentioned this incident earlier in another letter but asked you not to publicize it. I guess it wonít hurt anything. There was a similar incident in Kuwait at the beginning of the war, and there have been a few during the war where a vehicle didnít stop at a checkpoint and people were killed for fear of a car bomb attack. There was a flyer that went out about how to stop and Arab, but apparently not ever one paid attention to it. I think a lot of the problems here are caused by cultural misunderstandings.

Also in this sector, we hake taken over guarding the power substation (the one I mentioned earlier in this letter). The old troop in this area reported drive by attacks almost every night. But since we got there, there has not been one single incident other than Ali Baba getting shot. We were told we would be attacked there at 1300 today, so we had some extra platoons in the area, but nothing happened.

Yesterday was also the 167th birthday of the Regiment. The 2nd ACR has been on continuous active service since May 23rd, 1836 when they were organized to fight the Seminole Indians in Florida. Ever since then, we have had the 2nd Cavalry in one form or another somewhere serving the country. For the birthday, the spur holders (like myself) wore Stetson cavalry hats and spurs all day as our uniform. I had a picture taken of myself, hopefully I get that roll done soon and it comes out OK since the camera has been acting funny. Me in my Stetson with sunglasses, DCUs, spurs, and my pistol strapped to my thigh in that new holster, there is also the old faded Troop guideon in the background. That night we had a talent show for entertainment of the Squadron, and PFC W from our Red platoon on first place for singing ďGod Bless the USAĒ. He did a very good job, especially considering no music to go with it and a crappy PA system to sing over. We have three Iraqi that work at the water plant here full time. We have gotten to know each other a little, and I give them stuff like soap, bottled water, MREs, tooth brushes, etc. We affectionately call them ďThe Water BoysĒ. Anyway, they saw me in the Stetson and spurs and got this big smile on their face, they knew we were ďCowboysĒ I guess was the reason according to the interpreter.

I talked to the CSM and asked him if he thinks I should try to take a Headquarters Troop as the First Sergeant, or move on to another assignment. He said I should try to stay another year and take an HHT (Headquarters and Headquarters Troop for yíall non Cav people out there). The good thing is this would line me up for Sergeant Major in the secondary selection zone (if I do well at it) but the bad thing is another year after taking the job stationed at Fort Polk. I just wanted to get you ready for staying at Polk until probably about August 2004, 4.5 years of swamp and pines without mountains. The first list I would be eligible for Sergeant Major would be around August 2005, but by then I could be at an ROTC assignment or something like that. With my luck it would be an assignment as an Armor 1SG OC at JRTC, Fort Polk, another two years there, at least we wouldnít have to clear quarters LOL.

I think time is coming to close out this letter and get it on in the mail. Hopefully I get more things to write about in the next couple of days in this ďGroundhogís DayĒ existence that I have fallen into. Please continue to pass on my letters and I will continue to share the packages sent to me with the soldiers in the Troop. Take care of yourself and the children. I love you all and miss you all. I canít wait to see everyone and tell my war stories: ďThere I was...Ē
SGT Rock

2003-07-12, 23:57
I just mailed off a tape yesterday, but I got to thinking about things to talk about with you while I was on the thing. About midnight I looked down to see how much tape was left and it had already stopped. I backed it up and listened to what I was saying when it quit and realized I was rambling on for about a half an hour while it didnít record anything LOL.

Yesterday I went out of the compound to check on some of my soldiers and to setup for a take down. The other day, a civilian came to the S2 and said his son was the local Fedayeen commander and had beaten him up because he would not help attack some Americans. He wanted to take us to his house so we could arrest his son. The two live in our sector, so we got alerted to get a team ready to go take him down. Well, we get people claiming a personal enemy is Fedayeen or Baath all the time, so we were suspicious, it was either an ambush, or that the two had a domestic and the old man was looking to get back at his son.

The commander told the S2 that he just wanted to have the old man show us where the house was and tell us what his son looked like and what kind of car he drove so we could watch him then decide when to get him. The S2 is a staff weenie and thinks he knows better how to do things, but also thought this guy was on the level. Supposedly the old man had told him about machineguns and RPGs as well as explosives and cash at the house the son was using for his attacks. This to us was an even bigger reason not to go to the house to get the guy while he was home, get the guns and him separated and take them separately. The S2 let the old man leave without getting that information and set up a meeting the following day so we could go out and get him.

The next day (yesterday) we decided to set up a CCP (Casualty Collection Point) in case we had to shoot the guy. We set it up at a power station that we secure about 1.5 miles from the house neighborhood and wait until the S2 got the old man back. Once he showed us the house and car, we found out the supposed Fedayeen suspect was asleep because he worked nights. So the commander immediately took a four-man team in and woke him up the hard way. They cuffed him and searched the house where the found a light machinegun (RPK), an AK47 rifle, 1000 rounds, 6 magazines, and about 2 million denari. The supposed Fedayeen turned out to be a son that was also Ali Baba (he had stacks of what looked like looted merchandise). The son said he (the father) used to threaten to turn him into Saddamís Army, and now that we are here, he had threatened him with turning him into us. So the BIG MISSION turned out to be us getting a thief because his father was pissed at him and used us to get back at the guy.

While the team was there, someone on the street pointed to an old man with a cigarette cart selling on the street and told them that he also had a gun. Blue platoon was there, so they started to move to the man, who started running away. They chased him, and he eventually stopped the cart and started to pull another AK47 out. At that point he got tackled and they took him into custody as well. But the interpreter started going nuts saying that he knew this man and he was a good man, why were we doing this. Of course the answer is the guy is running, and then pulled an AK on American troops. The bad part is we had some reporters with us that now have a picture of SSG F choke-slamming an 80-rear-old man with a rifle. Well, it isnít that bad, but it could have been.

Yesterday we got these two reporters from New York. I think they are with the NY Times, but I forgot to ask. They were only with us for about a day, and mainly they took pictures. We fed them MREs and they seemed to have been eating them a while because they didnít ooh and ahh over them. They seemed to know their way around the heaters and what to expect from the accessory packets. I took them up on the roof of the office building so they could try to see the city through the smog. Then I showed them some of the camp amenities so they could see how we live. Apparently we are doing a lot better than most of the other American camps in the area.

Today we had the third day of change of command inspections for the new commander. After the inspections, I started trying a catch up on my letter writing. In the past few weeks I have fallen off a little. Today I have already written four different people and have a list of about nine more to go. The night before last I got two packages from D & C, M A, H, and an anonymous donor that has sent me a Sierra Club Magazine that includes an article about the rebuilding and restoration of Afghanistanís ecology after the wars there.

I havenít read it yet, but look forward to doing so. The ecology over here has been trashed. There are aid organizations moving in to fix the schools, power, hospitals, police, military, etc. but maybe there needs to be a UN organization that comes in and helps establish and clean up the environment. There are cases of Iraqiís pouring out hazardous waste on the ground and eventually into the water supply in order to get a barrel for hauling water - not the brightest idea. There have been cases of finding highly dangerous radioactive waste left exposed right in the middle of Baghdad neighborhoods, and some soldiers have been evacuated hack to Germany for exposure to chemicals or radioactive waste. The puzzling thing about the waste (other than why it is in neighborhoods for storage) is where this stuff came from when there are not any nuclear power plants, nor can You produce these quantities of waste that are this hazardous from stuff like medical equipment. The only solution I can come up with (this is my opinion) was it was purchased waste for the purpose of making dirty bombs, but it was most likely looted by someone not knowing what it was and left on the ground in this landfill like areas in the middle of neighborhoods. The stuff is very dangerous and can inflict a fatal dose of radiation in only a few hours of exposure at close range. Right now it is being monitored and guarded from a distance.

Who knows where exactly it originated, but in an area our troop no longer occupies we found a bunker with thick metal doors and built in radiac meters. There is a possibility that there were radioactive experiments being conducted in the area, but this only a theory. This stuff may have come from anywhere. Again, it just shows to me how little Saddam and the Baath party cared for their own people by the danger they were willing to place them in, in an attempt to develop weapons of mass destruction that the had absolutely no need for, unless you consider killing our own countrymen with those sorts of things a legitimate endeavor.

Right now what I really want is some of my own jerky. I get lots of carbs in my diet these days, but not as much protein as I probably should. Lately I have received about three or four packages of jerky, which I am devouring quickly. It sort of got me to thinking about that part of my diet. A large problem is a lot of the meat meals absolutely suck, so I eat a lot of starchy foods like pasta, crackers, breads, or grits, and donít get all the protein I should. I suppose I can ask for more jerky to be sent, but I really prefer my own. I guess another alternative would be to ask H how she handles this as a vegetarian. Maybe she could give me some pointers.

I figure heath wise I could probably do PT twice a day with my current schedule, but I want to avoid repetitive stress injuries. The running shoes I brought are about shot, so I would like you to send me another pair. There should be an almost new pair of running shoes in m closet. If you canít find them, then go to the clothing sales store and pick me up a pair of Nike Air Pegasus size 9 Ĺ. That is a shoe I know fits and has a cushion sole. I only run about two miles at a time because the smell and pollution make me sick if I go much longer, at least for now anyway. To keep in trail shape I have started doing lunges and squats with weights. For weights I use this 50-pound bar we found in the factory. I also do shoulder shrugs with a 50-pound water can in each hand to build up my shoulders and back. I do other things like abdominal crunches, pull ups, and push ups, but I would much rather be where I could put on a backpack and walk up a mountain. It looks like Iím down into the 140ís, but since the only scale we have here is an old Iraqi bathroom scale that reads in KG, I cannot be sure of itís accuracy. 68 KG should be about 149.8 pounds.

Speaking of that, this morning when I was running this morning there was a lightning storm. I saw lots of cool lightning that was not hitting the ground, but arcing from cloud to cloud. We got a few raindrops - well mostly mud drops. I had some clothing on the line outside that was trying to dry, so I pulled it in before it got dirty again. We are supposed to get an Iraqi laundry service starting tomorrow since the Army cannot get a laundry unit up near here for some reason. We had an Army unit for a while, but they left. Now for $2 you can get two shirts, 2 underwear, 2 pairs of socks, and one uniform done, and they will even press the uniform. I may have finally found something to spend money on. I still have $60 left of that $l00 I left with on 30 March. I spent about $25 in Spain, and about $15 here a month ago on ramen and film. I may need you to send me about $40 in $1 bills so I can do laundry for the next 5 months.

There is a system to get casual pay over here, $200 a time. So I still have that to fall back on if I need it. There isnít anything like a cash machine, nor would I try to use one given the Iraqi system - my credit card number would probably get hijacked if I tried it over here. So if you see a $200 decline one month, it means I got a casual pay that month. I have been told that the casual pay that was given out last war didnít get deducted until the soldiers returned, so that is something else we may need to watch out for. Oh, and donít send me a check over here. I wouldnít be able to cash it most likely.

Yesterday we also had two congressmen from New York come to visit. We sent some people from New York to eat lunch with them. The V Corps CSM was there beforehand to answer questions (read: keep soldiers from starting a congressional investigation). He explained why incoming mail is a problem, when AT&T should get here, some issues with AAFES and other things. The mail situation is bascially this: Before the war, they processed about 240 tons of mail a day and sent it out. Then the ground war started and they stopped sending out mail while they used the transportation assets for things like food, water, ammunition, repair parts, replacements, etc. But while they were doing that, 240 tons of mail kept coming every day. Now the ground war is over and units have stabilized. The mail is now stacked up and they are trying to get it out. Other problems are that some mail got misdirected and has been accumulating waiting for more ground transportation assets to get it back to an already overloaded distribution hub to ship the correct destination. They are getting a mail battalion that will set up in Baghdad and receive direct air shipments of mail from the US and send it out to the correct units. A lot of the other issues are that we were some of the first units in, and the soldier support stuff hasnít caught up.

Then the Congressmen came in and they had MRE lunch with the soldiers. They said that the war is not over and America is in for the long haul. That the complex problems in Iraq could not be foreseen and it is going to take longer than any planner thought prior to the war. That the country is proud of us, but we should realize we would be here for the long term and not to expect to lease until there is a unit to replace us. Then they finished with ďVote for BushĒ. Apparently they were Republicans. We called the bullshit flag on this end because the lowest private could have told you this was going to be a difficult mission and take time. I guess we should not get our hopes up to rotate out soon considering there are only two active Army divisions left in the US to replace everyone over here with, and there is still the Afghanistan mission. Iím just fed up with what seems like incompetent political action on the part of the administration, then them acting like it was all the militaryís fault for not foreseeing it or stopping it. I often thought in that respect the Republicans understood the military better than the Democrats óthe military is for breaking things and killing people, not creating governments and feeding the hungry. Donít get me wrong, we do everything we can and wonít give up, but I know think that at least GWís people are clueless as to actual military capabilities, or just donít care and are tagging us with the hard job. Anyway, I personally will not vote for him next year. Maybe the Republicans can find someone to run against him (not likely) or the Democrats can find someone better than Al Sharpton to represent them. Hell, maybe Iíll vote third party. Anyway, I personally have a lot of problems with the way this war has been handled from jump, so figure I would air them out now. Vote LIBRATARIAN! Just a joke. I donít know what the spin is over there, but there are a lot of disgruntled soldiers that voted for Bush because they didnít like Clinton and didnít want Gore to carry on, and liked old Bush or Regan and were hoping for someone like that and feel that we have elected Rumsfeld and Cheney by default and GW is sort of a figurehead for them.

Enough politics, I probably alienated a lot of people that read these letters, but I figure as a scout I should only give information as I see it and not stay completely quiet on things that I feel people should hear from over here.

Today we found out that 1st AD has started taking over from 3rd ID and they even started handing out weapons to Iraqi power stations so they could guard themselves. Hopefully this works out better because the 1st AD commander is changing the assigned sectors (again) but this time it should be based on population. This is important because the Regiment (and for a while just the squadron) was guarding and patrolling about half the population of Baghdad while the entire division had the rest. The areas were broke down based on area coverage. Now they are talking about putting the entire squadron on what was known as Saddam city but is now called Satyr city (or something like that). Compared to the area we once covered, this is about 1/10th the size of our original area covered, and only about 1/4 the size we have now. But we are also losing some of our fixed sites for security and we will concentrate more on apprehending criminals. We just received some paperwork we have to train the soldiers on that is basically an arrest report as well as working on collecting evidence. The plan is to help the MPs capture them, and most likely do most of their work they donít want to do - a lot like we have been doing lately, so no change.

Anyway, there is now a rumor going around that the Congressmen said we would be here until April, so if you hear that rumor, they never said that. They said that we were in for the long haul, and that the mission could take years with units rotating like they do to Bosnia and Afghanistan. The other competing rumor is we come back in August, but donít believe that one either. The truth is there is no rotation scheme set up yet and there isnít even a basic design for it to fit in with the re-construction of the Iraqi government. Some areas in the south have already been turned over to Iraqi control, but here in Baghdad they are having too much trouble trying to establish a government that isnít as corrupt as the last one.

It is now the 28th, and I will close this letter out soon and get if off in the mail. Last night was pretty quiet. There w as a grenade attack against a three-truck convoy south of us by some guys in a sedan. Three soldiers were injured and the attackers got away. Today we thought we had them, but it turned out to be a messed up ambulance.

Today we get a FRAGO to guard every propane and gas station in our sector. This shut down a lot of our ability to patrol. I donít know who is in charge of these FRAGOs, but it seems like sometimes it must be a teenage girl the way they change their minds every 6 hours.

Iíve got to go now, but I promise to start another letter late tonight or early tomorrow. Please continue to take care of yourself and the kids. Tell them all I am proud of them. K is now an adult and M is doing a great job taking care of things for me while Iím gone. W is growing up to be a big boy so fast. I promise to take both the boys hiking when I get back, and K too if she will go. Heck, D can even come along. I canít wait to get home and see you all, and hold you all in my arms again.

SGT Rock

2003-07-13, 12:23
I toasted my laptop yesterday. I spent the entire day trying to fix it without luck. I think the motherboard is shot. We opened it up and did a little investigation and it supports that theory, basically that the I/O controller chip probably overheated. The CPU still heats up like it is thinking, the disks spin up, the fan goes, and the battery charges, but it doesnít get anything going like the screen. SFC M was helping me, he said there was a SIS model chip that was notorious for that, and we eventually came to the conclusion that this was the problem.

So I swapped the hard drive into another computer long enough to get some of the data I needed off of it, and then put this computer back together. Looks like we will be operating off one laptop for the rest of the war. I guess we can live with that. At least my HD and files are still intact. When we get back to Polk, it should be fairly easy to re-establish everything.

Change of command is coming up soon and we have been getting the grounds cleaned up and ready. The ceremony should be pretty short and then back to work. Inspections are almost complete and we are just finishing up a few property issues and will do the personnel inventory Sunday morning. CPT S will be flying home on Tuesday. I wish I were coming home that soon.

Today we have been taking the 1st AD commanders through our area so they can assume control of it, then we are collapsing down to a small area inside the part of Baghdad formally known as Saddam city (after the jerk, it was his idea) and is now known as Sadar city after an Islamic cleric that was killed in 1999 by Saddamís secret police. Sadar city has about 1.8 million Iraqis living in it and is the poorest part of the city. The area is not very pro American; they are mostly Shite Muslims and have ties to Iran. There is supposedly some Hezbola operating in there that are tied to an Iranian Hezbola movement but also have some ties to Lebanon.

There is a new police chief in Baghdad who is retired Army and was the 64th Colonel of the Regiment. He is trying to help establish the Iraqi police force. Apparently the plan for Iraq is this: first establish law and order. Then get the courts rolling. Get the oil flowing to pay for improvements in infrastructure, and while that is all going on, to get a citizen action group formed that will help address local issues. When law and order are established, when basic services are met, and when the Iraqi have figured out how to work in that system and what to expect from it, then get elections of some type rolling. Apparently in Bosnia they tried it the other way around and it caused a lot of division along religious and ethnic lines as people used existing factions to create power bases. The idea is to get the people used to a free, diverse society and try to prevent fracturing along religious or ethnic lines.

For now Iím just trying to get some stuff for soldier quality of life established around here. We have taken over an empty warehouse and have been cleaning it out. There were stacks of burned trash and old furniture in there from where the cigarettes were looted, then the trash was burned in an attempt to destroy the building by the looters, then junk and furniture that was confiscated was taken there by us in order to get furniture for some of the schools. Most of the school furniture was given out to the schools, but stuff like rugs, tables, gambling equipment, entertainment centers, etc. were left behind. What was usable has been taken by the soldiers and formed into little ďliving roomsĒ. Tomorrow I should get electricity and lights fixed. Then I will get some fans and a refrigerator put there, and eventually I will get a swamp cooler system to cool it. The plan is to keep American soldiers there even after we move out (when we move - who knows?) and keep this base of operations going in the strategic part of the city. If we leave, this place would most likely get looted, but it would also open up the highest ground on this side of the Tigress River to any idiot with a rifle to shoot from. Of course the Iraqis cannot shoot for crap, but it wouldnít stop them from trying. There is no such thing as an Iraqi sniper, but there are people that come over from Syria, Lebanon, Iran, etc that may take marksmanship seriously. The Iraqi and Imperial Storm Troopers probably use the same marksmanship system.

So we are improving the place even more. I have been told that we will not have to move out of the water pump house because it is important to the Squadron operation and keeping us in here means we can keep an eye on it and control it. It will be nice to keep this air-conditioned building as the Iraqi summer starts getting really hot. So far it just makes it up to about 115 degrees or so.

Tonight we briefed the new commander about the soldiers, our operations, and some of the day-to-day issues we have. It was not a productive encounter. I foresee him wanting to make all these separate staff weenies happy because: ďcome one First Sergeant, we have to help them out. I know what it is like to be a staff guy that no one wants to supportĒ. I told CPT S this about a week ago and he said he didnít think that would happen. But after tonightís meeting, he sees what I mean. I just got a haircut and tomorrow Iíll be knocking out some laundry so I can have a clean, fresh uniform for Sunday. I had some soldiers cutting the grass and cleaning up in preparation today and it looks pretty good considering where we are. I hope that it makes some sort of impression on him. Maybe Iím being overly negative, but I have seen this sort of thing before and I feel it coming again.

Today not a lot has happened yet. But the commander is taking out the new guy for a night patrol to see what the area is like in the evening when the weirdoes come out to play. Last night we captured four motorcycles and one AK47 from people violating curfew. I mentioned earlier that we had the new Iraqi chief of police that is an American standing up the Iraqi police force. He had gone out with another Troop the night prior and was not happy with how non-aggressive those guys were. Last night he was happy and having a great time with some high-speed chases, foot chases, and confiscating the motorcycles. Lately there has been a push to get motorcycles because there is intelligence that the Fedayeen hold outs are using and plan to use motorcycles for grenade attacks on convoys. They did one on our Squadron already that I mentioned a few letters back that resulted in no American casualties but three dead idiots on a motorcycle.

It is now the 31st, Last night was pretty quiet for us, but 3/2 ACR killed two men at a checkpoint. There was also a murder a few nights ago of four men that were once Saddamís Bodyguards. There was an attack by a command detonated mine a coup1e days ago on a HMMWV in 3rd ID that destroyed the vehicle but the soldiers were OK, and people dropping explosives on it from an overpass attacked another HMMWV at about the same time. It killed the gunner and some of the crew and blew the HMMWV 80í. We also got a report of a truck moving through this side of Baghdad doing hit and run mortar attacks. The report is incomplete because they should have been able to at least tell us the mortar type by the size of the craters and other information about the areas, but that was all we got.

Today the new commander signed for all the property. CPT S has been taking him around the area and showing him the new are of responsibility and giving him pointers on how to handle it today. This morning he came to me and told me he was here to support me however I needed it, so maybe CPT S had a heart to heart with him last night. He told me he was going to talk to him about me, and how I work, but that he didnít want to do it in front of me in case what he had to say might make my head swell.

As I sit here writing, I hear that White has caught a guy with a couple of guys in an apartment that had an RPG, some grenades, and some rounds for the RPG. They apparently also have some political posters on the walls and they are closing the site and trying to get some MI assets in there with interpreters to see what it is. They are still searching the area to see what is there and find local residents to see if they can get some more information about these guys. Iím not sure why they went to this house to begin with. I donít remember them planning a take down today.

This morning I woke up at about 0500 thinking of you. Instead of lying there feeling sorry for myself I decided to go for a 4 1/2 mile run. I made it about 3 miles then decided to stop. My running shoes are an old worn pair I brought just to meet the packing list requirements. I never thought I would be running this much. But the reason I stopped and the reason Iím bringing it up is I asked you to send me some running shoes in an earlier letter, please send them before I screw up my shins. After I quit, I did a bunch of squats, abdominal exercises, and some presses to work my shoulders. I did about l-1/2 hours of work out, then made coffee and took a shower.

Speaking of coffee. Lately I have received a bunch of coffee. Apparently some people answered the call when I sent a letter back in mid April saying that I was recycling grounds to make coffee. I now have a lot of coffee I got thru the Army system, as well as all the other coffee the family has sent. It is a real blessing to have that many people looking out for you as I do. I now have an Action Packer (remember that plastic storage box I got at Wal Mart?) full off ramen, candy, coffee, nuts, etc. The only few things Iím getting short on now is some laundry detergent (the Army system broke on that) some cheese crackers (not the peanut butter type), hot sauce, and jerky. I received a lot of jerky, but ate it all fairly quickly. Of course, whatever I get is always good. I really like getting pictures in the mail. Iím working on covering all the walls around my cot in pictures of family and cool hiking locations. I also have the picture W colored for me, the postcards people have sent - including the blank ones, some cards, K's graduation invitation, and that stuffed bear cub who is climbing a power conduit like a tree. As soon as I find out when we are supposed to leave I plan to add a countdown calendar.

This morningís run was very pleasant because it rained on me while I was out there, The last couple of days here have not been too terribly hot, mostly cooler (only in the 90s) with dust storms and a very infrequent sprinkle of rain. Last night we had enough to get all the vehicles wet, then have the dust adhere to the outside. We didnít need to paint our stuff sand color because it ends up that way, at least until you drive fast enough to blow most of the dust off. The cool temperature this morning, the early pre-dawn work out, and the cool mist of rain almost made it feel like a normal day back home. It would have been better if the local imam wouldnít have started howling while I was out there. I went for a walk this afternoon because it was still somewhat pleasant, and he did it again. This time it was someone with a very high pitched, creaky, wailing voice, which sounded like someone doing an appendectomy on a cat with blunt spoons. Someone should cut off his microphone privileges. No PT for me tomorrow morning, the PAI formation is at 0650, then a 0730 award ceremony for CPT S . After that we have a 0800 change of command in front of the Troop. After that, there is supposed to be a reception. The new commander is spending some money with a local caterer - I hope I donít get sick again.

Well it looks like White platoon didnít catch anyone. A local priest tipped them off to a couple of local troublemakers. He took White Platoon to their apartment, which they raided, but they didnít find the guys. Hopefully the can catch these guys as they come home later. That is, if someone in the neighborhood hasnít already tipped them off. At least these guys are toothless for the time being. Maybe they can set up something to find these guys. Most likely they are Fedayeen.

CPT S was cleaning out his stuff and giving away a lot of things. He gave me his Action Packer and two disposable cameras with 800-speed film. I guess I can take some low light pictures with those, but they also have flashes. At least I know I can get some shots. Iíll shoot some up and send them back when I have a chance. I hope to get out some tomorrow, or at least the next day since my change of command and a lot of the administrative stuff will be caught up or ahead so I donít have to spend time sitting around here. Getting out makes the days seem to go a little faster.

IT is getting late and I plan to close this letter out soon and get it into the mailbox. Tonight I got two packages, one from DebW with some goodies and some print outs from the web site and a package from D and C with some smoked salmon in it. I plan to wait for the second package that is supposed to have crackers and horseradish sauce in it. It will make a neat treat some evening sitting around here. I have to write them a thank you letter when I get some time, hopefully tomorrow. I really enjoyed reading the threads DebW printed and sent.

Today our scouts did a joint patrol with the MPs who brought an Iraqi police officer in uniform and his AK47 to learn and help. Apparently they all went on a foot chase after an Ali Baba and the Iraqi police officer came around a corner and was attacked and cuffed by the same MPs that he was riding with. We are still trying to figure out exactly what they were trying to teach him with that trick. It reminds me of what J.N. told those MPs at Ft Bliss: ďSo youíre not really a soldier and youíre not really a cop. So what the heck are you?Ē We have decided that the MPs are clowns. We are having a joint MP operation tonight called ďCougar CrackdownĒ we have renamed ďCougar Clown shoesĒ in their honor. I will probably have some stories for tomorrowís letter from the crap that happens tonight out there. I just hope they are funny and not tragic. We joke that the Iraqis could steal a building from in front of them and they wouldnít do anything, but let one soldier take a drink of alcohol and walk towards his car and they will see that and be on the guy for DUI in a heartbeat. I once thought MPs were the solution to helping the Iraqi police, now I see them as a big problem. Maybe the guys coming to relieve these jackasses will be better. I can only hope. The MP Company, and its battalion are being relieved in about a week.

On a positive note, the 1st AD from Germany is now working in our area and they are eager to do a good job and are acting very professional. I hope they keep it up and Iím glad that a unit comes here acting this strong and representing the Army well. It is a breath of fresh air. We have the 1-37 Armor and attached Infantry Company. The infantry company is the group taking our old sector. They are supposed to be getting the new up-armored HMMWVs for patrolling and park their tanks and Bradleys. To some this is a sign that they are replacing us since we are not scheduled to get improved up-armored HMMWVs at all. Supposedly (according to the rumor) we are being moved up on the Stryker fielding schedule and should be starting around the beginning of the next FY. Iíll believe that when I see it.

So Iíll close this letter out and wish you a good night, as well as a good night to everyone you share this letter with. I thank everyone that keeps sending notes and packages a great thanks and good wishes. I hope to be home before the end of the year and enjoy the time back there visiting family and friends. I think about you all and often wonder what yíall are thinking and doing back home. I only wish I could be back there this summer visiting instead of being here. This is not fun at all despite our best attempts to have some fun while we are here.

I love you honey. Take care of yourself and the kids. Hug them and tell them that I love them and miss them. I will be home as soon as I possibly can and I will be safe.

SGT Rock

2003-07-13, 14:22
Last time I wrote you I said we were going out on a night patrol to enforce Cougar Clampdown. Well, it was a peaceful night. Nothing special happened. We stopped lots of vehicles, but we didnít find any weapons or contraband. Mostly we found people going to or coming from one of the two hospitals in our area. We also caught a member of the new Iraqi Tribal Congress driving home from a meeting with the American liaison. He was a nice guy and we let everyone go, we were just trying to get the word out and look for real trouble makers. We did start to detain some teenage boys up very late that gave us some strange stories, but it turns out the detention center was not accepting any new detainees and either the planner in our unit did not find that out or neglected to tell anyone, or the MPs neglected to tell anyone outside their organization.

Tensions in the unit are rising a little. A couple of soldiers have gotten into fights and there has been a few times when the soldiers have gotten a little out of line with the Iraqi civilians. So today we are taking some of the platoons off mission and having them do maintenance and chill out a little. CPT M and I are going to look at the patrol schedules and see if we can get some R & R in the schedule for a platoon, at least a part of a platoon a day, so they can rotate into a break every 4 to 8 days. Just some time for resting and getting away from the tension of dealing with the Iraqis occasionally, even if it is just half a day.

It is now the 8th of June 2003. Yesterday we went to one of the presidential palaces in Baghdad to pick up some interpreters, a civilian from the State Department, and one of the officers in charge of helping to set up the new Iraqi government so that we could go have a local election for city council representatives. That was an experience.

The presidential palace is right along the Tigress River. The bridge leading to it was featured on some of the news reports, it is the bridge with the crossed scimitars over it in the center, it is called the 14th of July Bridge. I think it has something to do with a revolution to overthrow the British in the 50s. At the entrance to the palace compound, the buildings are collapsed or have giant side impact craters from cruise missiles. The gates are impressive iron gates that are all twisted and broken. You pass all sorts of buildings that were once nice, but most are now unusable and unstable from explosions. They were the barracks for the Special Republican Guard and most were taken out by single strikes from precision guided bombs and missiles.

As you get close to the actual house, you can see 4 giant bronze heads of Saddam Husein wearing some sort of Arab battle helmet with this muscled neck that was obviously not his, it would belong on a pro football player. The heads are on the highest parts of the house, about even with the top of the blue dome that is on the center of the house. They are about 30í tall each. It gives you an idea of how he saw himself. Everywhere in the compound there are pictures and mosaics of Saddam, but most were destroyed and defaced.

The gardens around the house are lush and immaculate. The house has tall columns; multiple grand entrances, and a circular drive out front. The entrances right now are all guarded by Gurkas with MP5 sub machineguns. As you enter, the walls, floors, and ceilings are all covered with intricate tiles. The second floor walkways have views down to the first floor and are covered with intricate latticework made of mahogany (at least that is what it looks like from the ground). The lighting is chandeliers spaced every 5í Ė 10í, some are 10í tall and 5í in diameter, but many others are a lot larger than that. The hallways are long and have vaulted ceilings. At the centers and at intervals there are domed ceiling junctions that must be about 60í high. All of this is covered in ceramic tile work that would cost a fortune. The rooms I peaked in were huge and could be banquet halls in a nice hotel.

Coalition forces are now using the Palace as a sort of headquarters for some of the operations to rebuild the government. There are military units there for protection, but the majority of the people there are civilians, and there are many people there from other countries. As we were waiting outside the compound to get in, a Korean ambassador, or at least some of the people from the Korean Embassy came there, and there were a lot of UN vehicles in the parking lot, as well as some from various NGOs (Non-Governmental Agencies).

Looking at the lavish furniture and decorations in the palace gives you an idea of how a lot of the money from the Iraqi government was spent. This is only one of a dozen compounds in Baghdad, and he was supposed to have at least two more in every province of Iraq, as well as a few vacation homes in the mountains north of Baghdad. Comparing the Palace to the White House is like comparing a mansion to a middle class home. Add to that the pictures of Saddam that used to be all over the palace, you can see what kind of ego this guy had and how important he thought he was. There are still some mosaic pictures embedded in the walls of the palace, but they have been covered by tarps, so I cannot tell you what they looked like. I forgot to bring a camera, so I hope to someday get back and get some pictures.

They have set up a catered dining facility (which was closed) and a couple of shops in the palace now, some of the areas are like food courts in some smaller American malls. We stopped to buy some cokes, and paid $1 a can for 10-ounce cans of Saudi Made American Coca Colas. We walked around and could smell clean people, and noticed that whenever we stopped that people would avoid us. We didnít know why, maybe it was that battle hardened look and slung weapons with combat gear in such a nice place, then one of the soldiers said: ďDid you notice that around clean people, we smell worse than goatsĒ. It was then I realized that even with daily showers and hand washed laundry every couple of days, we were still as grungy as thru-hikers.

So we leave the Palace and head back to our sector to hold the election. The plan is to get to a local school and brief the voters on the election, then have them vote. They are electing a 9-person counsel to represent them at larger meetings. The problem is we cover an area that contains about 400,000 people and the schools are very small, so there is a limited crowd we can work with. We open the doors for about an hour and let some voters in, but we search them all in case some try to bring in weapons. We did have one very short demonstration from a group that wanted their sons to vote, apparently they thought in a democracy everyone votes and the rule that we have is 18 or older. It looked like a local tribe trying to stack the deck for the local Sheik to get on the counsel.

So they get briefed, then we bring them in two at a time to vote on separate tables. We try to have a rule for secret anonymous ballets, but it seems not everyone can read or write, so many come in together to help each other vote. The idea that you can vote for who you want is still a little alien to them. It seems that they are used to only having one person to vote for, and he must always get 100% of the vote. We also had to tell them not to put their names on the ballet, I guess you had to do so that Saddam could track who needed ďre-educationĒ. So the Iraqi would come in and help each other remember who to vote for, and everyone got three votes. The top 9 people would get elevated into position.

The voting took about 1 Ĺ hours, and then the counting started. The ballots were all in Arabic, so only the interpreters and a civilian from the state department could count them. It took about 4 hours to count 500 ballots, and it didnít help that the power went out for three of those hours. While that was going on, the candidates kept trying to get in and help count votes. We would constantly run them away, and then have to come back and get them out again.

The time we waited gave us an opportunity to talk with some of the locals that were there and waiting, and the interpreters. It was very nice to learn something about their culture that way. One of the men was in the Iraqi Army but escaped. He said that they only had two punishments in the Army. For enlisted soldiers it was death, and for officers it was torture and imprisonment, then maybe death. They also found it fascinating that we all shave, and that some people even shave their heads, to an Iraqi this is torture. I also got reminded not to cross my legs and show the bottom of my feet, this is very disrespectful over here. An older man was there and he said that Iraq had the most powerful Army in the area back in the 70s and 80s. That the Americans would not have won if we came back then because soldiers were loyal to the people. The Saddam started changing things (he took over in 68) and over the years the Army turned bad. He said that the Iraqi men did not want to fight us and were glad that Saddam was gone because no one liked him. He said in a few years, the Iraqi Army will be strong again. I agree with him, it seemed to me that the Iraqi soldiers did not want the fate of Saddam to be their fate. They still had lots of weapons, ammunitions, good positions, and the men to make this war hard. We didnít win such a lopsided victory because we were so much better; we won because there was no will to fight.

I also talked to our interpreter about the Iraqi people and Baghdad because he was very articulate and outgoing. He has a MA in Translation from Baghdad University. He teaches some undergraduate courses and was looking at becoming a teacher at the university. He said that he didnít want to do that because under Saddam, a teacher at the university was forbidden to travel outside the country. I told him that this seemed ridiculous because in our country we would encourage a student studying a foreign language to visit that country and maybe even live there for a while. Apparently he had only ever taken one vacation his whole life, and that was to northern Iraq to see the mountains. It seems that Saddam and his people were worried about outside influences. He has an uncle that is a poet that lives in England that the family thought was dead because they had not seen or heard from him in about 14 years. Just this week he saw an article from an English paper or magazine that his uncle had written about the overthrow of Saddam. I encouraged him to travel to England someday to see his uncle now that he could travel freely.

He told me another problem was he was from a poor neighborhood. He is in his mid twenties and still lives at home with his three brothers and sisters. His oldest brother is married and lives with them, and his other older brother has a MA in political science and is working with the coalition to establish a government. The whole family lives in a home that is 144 square meters. He told me that he and all his brothers had to work their way through college and support the family as well. I told him that maybe he should try to get a teaching job in America after the new Iraqi government gets going. I told him American Teachers didnít make a lot of money, but he could probably get a job teaching Arabic starting at $30,000 a year. He said that would be like 30 million denars a year, a lot of money over here. At least he could send some home to help. It reminded me just how close some of these Iraqi families could be.

I asked him about the man I had met south of Baghdad during the war that said he had seven wives. He told me that was impossible and laughed. He said that it is a stereotype that Arabs all have many wives. He educated me that the Holy Koran tells a man that he can have up to four wives, but that means that he could marry, one could die, and he could marry again. Maybe one gets sick and cannot be a good wife, so he can take another, and he may divorce a wife and take another, but most Arabs only have one wife. He also said that sometimes rich, older men will marry again and have two wives at the same time, the original wife, and the new young wife, but that is rare, most men cannot afford two wives. I asked him if he were married or planned on it. He said that with his studies and work he had never taken the time to look for one.

He then asked me why I didnít take off my body armor. At the time I was wearing my Kevlar vest with ceramic steel plates that weighs about 20 pounds. He thought it was because I always had to be ready or something like that. He said we are in a quiet neighborhood and surrounded by buildings, that I would be safe. I told him that since my men outside had to wear their armor, I wear mine. I explained that leaders in our Army try to always follow the same rules and share in the hardships of their men to be effective leaders. He then asked me if it was because this Major was there and I did not want to risk getting in trouble with him. I told him that I can do whatever I wanted and the major didnít matter, nor was he in my chain of command. I said that my soldiers would do what I told them because they worked for me and not the major.

At this point he was a little confused. So I tried to explain to him that even though I was only an enlisted soldier, that I had a lot of authority and power. I explained that in our military there were soldiers, there were officers, and there were NCOs. He understood part of this apparently the Iraqi have a squad leader and a platoon sergeant, but nothing really above that. I explained my boss was CPT Mescall, that there were officers under me that really out ranked me, but did what I said because of my wisdom and experience (laying it on thick now). I told him I had been in the Army for 18 years now, and that blew his mind. He wanted to know why; did I really like the Army? I explained that the American Army values experience soldiers and doesnít rely on officers to make all the decisions. I told him that they pay us well to stay in and take pretty good care of the soldiers. He was just totally amazed that anyone would like the Army enough to stay in that long, apparently Iraqi officers donít even stay in very long. That an enlisted soldier could make a career and gain that much authority was a new concept. I then told him that there were enlisted soldiers that were even high ranking than me, and we could stay in up to 30 years.

We also talked about the Muslim religion a little. He told me that Muslims could eat pork, but only if nothing else were available. Then he mentioned alcohol as we were talking about some of the drunks we had seen picked up recently. He said a good Muslim was forbidden to drink, but a good Muslim wouldnít be shooting with an AK47 at his uncles house either (that is another story). We talked a little about the shrines of Nejaf and one south of that to Ali, the nephew or cousin of the Profit Mohammad that was the 4th Caliph. A Caliph is a - leader that is both the head political leader and the head religious leader. Apparently Saddam wanted to be one of those - or maybe Saddam would have eventually declared himself a god like the old Egyptian Emperors.

We also talked about Iraqi food. He wanted to know if I had ever tried Iraqi food, and I told him I liked the lamb and pita bread with the tomatoes. I asked him what the large beans were I had tried, and he had no idea. I told him I liked baklava and stuffed grape leaves, but those were about all the Iraqi food I had tried. Hopefully they lift the restriction on local food. Right now we cannot eat anything cooked locally. They were going to try and set up a restaurant or at least a food stand inside the front gate, but it has been a force protection issue not to allow a lot of Iraqis inside the perimeter at one time, and unless they have been checked out. We just got a civilian laundry service, and they occupy one room for four hours, twice a week. The interpreters we employ are not even allowed inside the front area unless they have an escort.

Another Iraqi man there that spoke very good English asked me if I wanted to go home. I said yes, of course. He asked me if I had a girlfriend. I told him I am married, and I didnít have a girlfriend. He then asked me how many wives I had. I told him that I only had one, and one American wife was more than enough for a man. He asked me if I had any babies. I said I have three, one 17, one 13, and one 5. He asked if they were boys. I told them the oldest was a girl, and he looked at me like God had cursed me and said he was sorry. I told him I have two boys, 13 and 5, he said that was a great thing. I must be very proud. What a country! Sorry K, over here you are a curse on your father. Speaking of women, we had a total of two women vote that day, and no women ran for office. One of the interpreters was an Arab American woman from Maryland. Women may someday get a better status in this country.

There was also that Sheik I mentioned earlier that was there. He made a lot of noise when he came through to vote. He told the interpreter that he would end up on the counsel because he had 1000 tribesmen to vote for him (I didnít see them). The Lt Colonel that was there and spoke Arabic talked to him. He said the sheik said that he thought this democracy thing sounded good, but he wasnít going to let it in his house.

There were two elections that night. But the other one they had a larger area so they were voting for 23 positions. Only 24 people showed up, so they allowed them to choose who wouldnít be on the counsel, and then they closed up, in some ways Iím glad ours didnít go like that. It was a very good night sitting and visiting with the Iraqi people.

The other story: I mentioned it above, but the night before this, one of our platoons had to hunt down a guy for shooting at his uncleís house. The situation was Red platoon was patrolling and were stopped by some excited Iraqis. The older man in the group told them that his nephew had just shot at his house and thrown some flash grenades (they only stun, not kill) at the house as well. He told them that he knew the car and where the nephew lived. They went to the location and sure enough, there was a car that matched the description and it was full of fresh spent AK47 casings. They got the guy, but they could not find the weapon: the logical explanation was they ditched it since we constantly pull over cars and impound weapons these days. Some other Iraqi males accompanied him, and all of them were drunk. They went to take him into custody and he put up a fight and ended up a little beat up by the soldiers that were apprehending him. He then started crying and admitted to the shooting, but it was because the manís nephew was married to his sister and divorced her after having four children, leaving her without income and home. So as a payback he was causing trouble for them. He wanted to know if the soldiers could do anything about this guy divorcing his wife, they had to explain that they donít enforce those kinds of laws. I not sure how the system works that a man becomes another manís nephew if his sister marries the manís nephew, but it must be some Islamic thing. The story took a turn when they couldnít find a holding area to take the drunk Iraqi drive by shooter. The MPs had shut down the detention facility again. They ended up bringing him back here and putting him under guard in a storage cage for propane tanks that was a temporary enemy POW holding facility until the following morning when they could get him to an MP substation.

Just yesterday at that same substation an MP went outside to relieve himself at the latrine when an Iraqi stuck a pistol in through a crack in the wall and shot him in the chest at point blank range. The MP was wearing his vest and now has a souvenir of a 7.62mm Tokarev pistol round imbedded in the armor plate. Those things work. A couple of days ago in the rich part of town (where most of the attacks seem to happen) two soldiers were ambushed by a man with a pistol. One of the soldiers was killed because he didnít have his neck guard on and the bullet went into his neck, bounced off a bone, and went into his chest. The other soldier was shot directly in the chest. He took out his own pistol and shot the attacker, killing him. I wear my neck guard by the way. Some donít because they think it is uncomfortable, but I donít see it. The vest is about 20 pounds and it is hard to run in. Occasionally we lose some suspects on foot because they play soccer for sport and can sprint like deer, and we have on boots, helmets, gear, and 20 pound jackets with rifles. But we would rather lose the occasional Ali-Baba than lose a single soldier. Lest you think that these vests only stop pistol rounds, those plates have stopped 7.62mm rifle and machinegun bullets. The Kevlar vest part is only good against shrapnel, shotguns, and pistols, but the plate stops a lot. I wonder if you get a bruise from getting shot do you still get a purple heart? I donít plan to find out.

Well, it appears Iím dragging out another letter about what is going on here to the point that it is time to close it out. I hope it is an enjoyable read for those of you out there keeping up with the goings on over here. I certainly hope that soon we will get a re-deployment schedule for the soldiers implemented and we can all get hack home to our families. It will he nice to see you all again and do the things together that we sometimes take for granted. I love you all and please take good care of yourself.

SGT Rock

2003-07-20, 14:55
Hello from Baghdad again. Life here is ďGroundhogís Day as usual. Todayís high is 113į F (45į C) and the crime rate during the heat of the day has fallen drastically. Go figure. Reducing patrols in the worst of the heat has become a temporary adaptation to the heat and the threat. It seems to be the custom here to conduct normal business from about 0700-1200, then again from 1900-2300 to avoid the hottest parts of the day. Schools even let out at 1100, I guess since they donít seem to be air-conditioned at all this makes good sense.

Not much has changed since I last wrote you. The new commander is doing well (thank goodness) except for a couple of small things I hope to continue to work on. Iím glad that he is listening to my advice and is staying out of the logistics business and focusing on the tactical side of the house. Some of my worries are unfounded and a few minor ones have been realized, but they are minor and Iím glad for the troopers that he seems to be working out.

One big change for us is the 3rd ID MPs have moved out of the MP/Police stations and has been replaced by an Army Reserve MP unit. Normally I cringe at the reserves because some units donít practice their craft regularly. But these guys are on it! They have a lot of MPs that are also police officers back in their other life, and these guys also just did a deployment to Bosnia and have a lot of experience running such an operation. They have made me feel a little ashamed to be worried in the first place. Our working relationship with these MPs at the station has become pretty darn good. Whereas the old MP Company would rarely take prisoners, the new guys take people and store them even though they have less to work with. Right now there are five prisoners there, and the prisoners are telling the guards (unsolicited) that they like shooting at the brown because those guys run away, but they stay away from the green trucks because they shoot back and chase guys. By the way, the brown trucks are the MPs, and the green trucks are our old beat up Cavalry gun trucks.

See, about 5 days ago (give or take) an MP was shot inside the perimeter at that station. Someone walked all the way up to the wall, stuck a gun through it, and shot an MP in the chest while he was relieving himself. The police station is two stories tall, has a clear field in front, a soccer field in back, and open streets to either side. The MPs have positions on the roof, and should be able to see and engage anyone coming or going, but somehow the soldier still got shot and the attacker got away. I had been to the station and did an initial assessment way before this happened. I found two MPs (male and female) sitting together burning the poop and holding hands, no one visible on the roof, and the gate guards letting anyone in. Another Platoon Sergeant that went by said the MP on one of the gun positions was sleeping with his head on top of the HMMWV and only woke up as they drove by on one of his assessments; very poor security. Anyway, luckily for the MP his body armor stopped the bullet as it hit in his chest, so he is OK. But after that happened we got tasked to evaluate the station for security so we could take over the stationís security. I was mad as heck (replace heck with something else) that the MPs couldnít protect themselves with an entire company and we would have to baby-sit them. But it turns out they were being replaced by this platoon from the Reserves, so they would not have the manpower to do it and run the station. So we took on the task, started a good relationship, and now have better service from the MPs in our part of town. Anyway, we are all happy for the change here.

The MPS that once had the station are now doing joint patrols with Iraqi police officers, which is another point of loathing we are glad to be rid of. See, the Iraqi police station in our area (the same one I was just talking about) doesnít actually patrol. They have about 20 guys standing around drinking tea and smoking cigarettes all day, and that is their main job it seems. They donít go out unless someone comes to them and makes a complaint, then they MIGHT go check on it. We started getting them to ride with us on patrols, but we wouldnít take them if they were not in uniform, now you never see one in uniform ó they all say theirs is at the cleaners. It isnít just our station with that problem, other stations have a same report, looks like they found a way to keep sitting around drinking tea and smoking. One troop took a guy and when they started walking, he took off his badge and insignia so no one would know he was a cop. On one of our patrols, the police officer quit and walked away while walking a patrol in the market. We are glad to be doing less with these guys. If there is one thing this country needs in order to make the transition to their own government it is a police force. And as things are going, it seems to be the hardest to crack the code on.

The 1st AD has been taking over from the 3rd ID over the last couple of weeks. Hopefully they get a turn over complete and we see them start to re-deploy. We know we cannot leave until the 3rd ID gets out because they were the unit that started the war with the Marines, fought up through the open desert (that didnít get a lot of press. not like the Marines, probably because they didnít take a lot of casualties like the Marines did) through the Karabala Gap, and took Saddam International Airport, then drove right into the Presidential Palace with the Iraqi News Minister denying they were even there. The Company we had with us were great guys, C company (Chawg) 3/7 Infantry. They captured an Iraqi Republican Guard Regimental HQ on the Airfield and found the entire defensive plan listed on a map, which they promptly turned in. A few hours later they were driving to the Presidential Palace, hitting the units depicted exactly where the map said they would be while en-route. The day they attacked the palace they destroyed over 50 armored vehicles in direct fire contact. But despite all that, they were always humble guys, which in my experience with Infantry, is unique. Anyway, hats off to those boys. I hope them good speed when they finally get the word to go.

1st AD is getting here and is extremely professional, almost to the point of anal-retentive distraction. But maybe that is the kind of thing Baghdad needs at this point. Another, more positive, way to look at it is that they are total professionals that believe in setting and enforcing standards: and as a First Sergeant I can see why that is important. But dealing with the change from guys that had relaxed and learned to live with the Iraqi, to a new command still feeling their way into the country is a little annoying. We had just all gotten over cases of the Iraqis Revenge, gotten the ban lifted to eat local food and were scouting out restaurants in sector, and along comes the new command and puts a ban into place. Someday I will come home from months of living in Iraq, someone will ask me how is their food, and I will have to say that I donít know. ARGH!

Over the last couple of days I have received some cool packages and I have been remiss in sending out some thank you letters because Iím busy with other things. R sent a great box with a new camping stove she has been playing with, lots of food including this KILLER black bean burrito stuff that everyone just loved. I got some pictures from D & C with the fall of Baghdad on TV (I was in Al Samawah or Al Najaf when that happened) and the picture of my picture in front of their house. I received a box of assorted coffees from Highway that is all gone now. And an anonymous friend renewed my ATC membership, which included a T-Shirt and a 4í tall wall map of the AT, which is now on my wall with the parts Iíve hiked highlighted. The guys in the TOC love the map, some of them started pointing out where they are from and some places they have been that the AT passes through. They asked me if that is the new Troop Ruck March route when we get back. Yes.

Of course the mail is still a weird sort of thing. I received three things today. One was from my cousin M that was sent on the 29th of March, one was a package sent to me by an old Ghost Troop First Sergeant for the soldiers that was sent May 31st, and the package from the ATC that was mailed on 29 May. On the other end (since I know you are not home as I write this and havenít seen it yet) there has been a couple of reports from my soldiers that their wives just received a mass of mail in one to two days that was dated over a one month period. All we can figure is some mail unit was just collecting it and letting it build up before they sent it. I hope everything I sent made it OK since there were a few rolls of film in all that. The medal I sent back was an Iraqi version of the ďLiberation of KuwaitĒ medal. It was the victory medal Saddam gave his soldiers for being victorious in defeating the invaders back in 1991. Of course he lived in a separate reality.

But a good improvement is the phones and computers. We now have a LAN drop in the TOC, but it is slow as Christmas. It took me 30 minutes to send you that one e-mail, and about 20 to send the second one. If the LAN continues to work, and maybe if it improves, Iíll figure out how to just take this computer over there and attach these letters to an e-mail for instant sending. Our day to use the computer is on Wednesday, every Troop gets a day on it, so it will be about weekly for me reading and responding. I think that would be a great way to correspond, snail mail sucks for most things except pictures and packages. The connection has been blocked from surfing, and since it is so slow, surfing really isnít an option anyway.

The phones have been expanded to include the satellite phone again, and there was a plan to get each Troop their own phone so we could control it. That has not happened yet, but we hope to see it soon. There is supposed to be an AT&T phone center getting set up at Baghdad International Airport soon for moral calls. It will cost money, but it would be worth it. The problem for us is we are on the exact opposite side of Baghdad, so it isnít very convenient to drive 45 minutes just to stand in line for hours, but this is a start. Hopefully there will be more phone centers soon.

Oh, an idea we have here is to try sending weekly (give or take) newsletters sent as an attachment via e-mail of what is going on over here so you can forward it out to the FRG members. By the way, I have gotten more than a few soldiers saying to tell my wife thank you for the GREAT JOB you are doing. The e-mails you have been sending out and the phone calls you have been making seem to have a positive influence on the families and a lot of people appreciate it. CPT M hopes you can get his wife involved because she is Korean and feels very isolated from people here except for other Korean people that live in the area. Another thought is some sort of get together when we get back. Maybe when we get back there can be a barbecue or something at Alligator Lake. I also told the commander that I want for you to get the ďOrder of Joan of ArcĒ when we get back, he said that shouldnít he a problem. If you get a chance, see if Mrs. D has a copy of her nomination letter from when she got hers. If she does, send me a copy so we can start the nomination packet from here. Honey, all the soldiers appreciate what you have done so far. Keep up the great work. Iím proud of you. Some people have said their wives wouldnít get involved in the FRG until you started doing it.

In other news, there have been attacks against American soldiers across the country, and we are on heightened alert. For the most part these attacks are pretty ineffective, although a few are deadly. In one of the funnier ones (at least to us) some Fedayeen hold outs attacked an Ml tank column with 17 RPGs and were promptly obliterated. Score: Americans 27, Fedayeen 0; a little while later 74 sympathizers were rounded up and are now being interrogated to get some information. The local Iraqi people here hate Saddam and are just as likely to kick the butts of such people themselves. The former Saddam city has absolutely no love for Saddamís people and it shows. So far criminals are all we have real trouble from around here. Other parts of the city and country are dealing with holdouts and imported terrorists. The imported terrorists are still my biggest concern for our sector.

I went over to Al Rasheed Airfield a couple of days ago and saw CPT P who said he will be leaving in about September for the Commanderís Course. He was looking good and gave a positive spot report about you at his promotion party. I remember you writing about that, but that seems ages ago. I have been gone for 76 days now, which doesnít seem like a lot, but sometimes it feels like it. Anyway, if he makes it back before we get home, please go see him for me. Iím glad he is staying in: he is a good officer and the kind of guy we need to retain. Someday he could make General, he has what it takes. He may not make four stars though because he has what it takes LOL.

Speaking of four stars, I saw in Stars and Stripes that Rumsfeld ainít happy with the senior generals. Apparently he doesnít like that they contradict him publicly and are often right. He tried to get legislation passed that would give him greater control over Generals careers, but it was voted down (wisely) because the congress decided they didnít want officers owing even more of their career progression to politicians. The system may not be perfect now, but giving that much control to one man would create a bigger atmosphere of butt kissing to the politicians. The Army has tried to do a pretty good job of making a system where one man, or a few men cannot screw the entire thing up very easily, letís try to keep it that way.

Well, it is about time to close out this letter and send it off. I still have about three thank you letters to write for the packages I have received this week. If I donít ever get around to it (which is not in the plan) let me thank you now for the support you have sent to me, and for my soldiers because a lot of it is shared up here by all of them. It does mean a lot to them when they are away from the comforts of home and the normal contact they typically enjoy with their families. To know that people are still concerned and support us is important to the morale of the soldiers.

Please take care of yourself and the kids. I cannot wait to see you all again and Iím hoping that we can make it home by thanksgiving. That would he a realistic goal in my opinion. I love you all and can barely stand being away.

[i]SGT Rock]/i]

2003-07-20, 14:59
Yesterday I got a package from you. It had that new stove and pots which I have not played with yet. I REALLY loved the photos! They are great, and the soldiers that have seen them were all looking for their wives in the pictures of the FRG. My favorites were the ones of K's Graduation and the hike I had with the boys. Thank you so much for doing that. On the other hand, two blank tapes? You should have at least filled one up before sending them. I kept rewinding and fast-forwarding to see if I was missing something on them. What a psyche out. But overall, thank you.

Today we had an operation to shut down a new market that we have had reports include black marketing, stolen goods, and weapons. So we get a plan to go down there and run them out. The problem is we started at 0600 and the majority of vendors donít come until about 0900. So we started sweeping down the street at dawn when absolutely no Iraqi was awake except the interpreters that we brought. Riyadh, the good interpreter I was telling you about, was confused as to why we would start so early. I told him the plan was to catch them asleep. So we walked around for hours as the vendors started coming out to set up. They were afraid we were shutting down the entire market, we kept having to tell people we wanted the illegal guys, that they were OK to sell sodas, ice, car parts, cigarettes, CDs, etc. In Iraq that is how a lot of shopping is done, not in malls and stores. Vendors bring in carts or set up beside the street and sell like they are at a flea market.

Eventually the MPs we brought turn it into a check point so they can pull over trucks to see if any were transporting stolen items. We caught one guy with a 2-ton truck full of cut up power lines. I donít know if I have mentioned this (I probably have) but since the war, a large problem with getting regular power is that the people keep stealing the power lines to melt and sell the copper. We can spend a million dollars to put in new line just to have the Iraqis come in afterwards and cut the power line down for a thousand dollars of copper. There have been cases of people cutting the lines to their own house to sell, and then complain to the power company that they have no power. The power company men get blamed a lot for people not having power, but the main problem is the electrical companies do not produce enough and the people steal the parts from the power grid.

Back to the story I was going to tell about the truck. This truck is pulled over because it is full of stripped power line cut up into short sections and doesnít have any license plates. The Iraqi police tell the infantry guys we have with us for this operation (Red Platoon, Bandit Company, 3/7 Infantry, good guys) that this guy is an Ali Baba. So we arrest him and take his truck full of wire. After about an hour or two we closed down the operation and were moving to take him and his truck back, when another person that looked about 16 showed up and said that the truck was his and he wanted to keep it. We told him that the truck would be free to leave as soon as we took the wire out of it. So I had the interpreter check the paperwork for the truck to see if it was legitimate so the man could claim it. He checked it out and said the license plates were gone so he could not tell. Then the guy claiming to be the owner said he removed them so they would not get stolen. I asked the interpreter if that made any sense since everyone else had their plates on in town except for stolen government vehicles. The interpreter, Riyadh, said this was a government truck. So he asked the ďownerĒ why he had it. All of the sudden it is not his truck, he only hired the man we had already arrested to transport his wire. So we asked the man we had already arrested. He said the truck was his uncle or cousinís and he wanted to be let go so he could get his cousin to prove it. So then we asked the other guy (the one that looked 16) why he was moving a truck of stolen wire. He said he bought it from another man and didnít know his name or where to find him. So to make things fair, we arrested them both. They were both lying; they both were involved in a stolen government truck and stolen power wire.

After we figured all that out, we started to take them back and saw a big column of smoke coming from the market we had just left. So we went back to investigate and found people selling stolen microscopes and fake IDs only 30 minutes after we left. We confiscated the microscopes and the ID sellers got away before we could get to them. So we are planning to go back tomorrow. This time after the markets are opened and established.

Oh. CBS was filming the operation today. So by the time you see this, I may be on CBS news, but probably not.

Starting yesterday, we are only getting powers two hours at a time. Some General gave the order to the power companies to limit us, as well as the other neighborhoods in order to be fair. Of course the Palace where the Generals and state department hang out always gets power. Maybe they would be more interested in fixing the problems quickly if they only got power in two-hour blocks. We still have generator power for some of our lights, computers, and radios; but the air conditioning, water, and a few other things run off local power.

This evening I was looking at my pocket calendar and was looking at some of the entries I started making back on the 24 of March, instead of writing future events. I started writing down things that happened that day. Here is the list for your perusal:

24 March ó Got FRAGO to move to Kuwait
25 March ó load trucks.
26 March ó SRP
27 March ó Classes. MRE Pick up. Draper Award Photo. Note: My Troop was this years Draper Leadership Award winners. This means we are the best Troop in the Regiment. That is why we were picked for some of the lead missions for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
28 March ó CDE/JSLIST Issue.
29 March ó Move to airfield. Close out Troop S&A. Pictures.
30 March ó Manifest
31 March ó Land Spain
1 April ó Stuck in Spain. Got to eat at Subway.
2 April ó Finally leave Spain. Land in Kuwait.
3 April ó Combat load vehicles. Move ammo.
4 April ó OPORD. Close tents.
5 Apri1 ó SHOWER. Move north. Pick up ammo and go to Udari range. Camp on border.
6 April ó Move to Tallil air base and LOGPAC.
7 April ó Move to As Samawah. No re-supply. Link up with 82nd
8 April ó Clear Al Farj. Set on north side of town. 40mm fire and mines!
9 April ó Clear Abu Sukhayr. FRAGO to assist Eagle clearing Al Faysaliyah. Low on water!
10 April ó Use 300 blocks of C4. Move to Al Najaf and burn stuff.
11 April ó Patrol to Al Hillah. Destroy anti aircraft gun and see FROG 7 missiles.
12 April ó Patrol to Karabala and Al Hillah, then FRAGO to move to ammo holding area. Saw US looted soda factory. Did laundry and got a bath.
13 April ó Sit at ammo holding area and run off looters.
14 April ó Rest Day. Near AD accident.
1 5 April ó Patrol south to As Samawah. 5 soldiers in Corps killed in accidents.
16 April ó Bad dust storms. Prep to go to Baghdad.
1 7 April ó Drive to Baghdad and set up in tobacco factory.
18 April ó BIG EXPLOSION! Set at factory.
19 April ó Called Kristi
20 April ó RECON are with CO. BIG FIRE! EXPLOSION!
21 April ó Take over area from Marines. First mail. Rain all day.
22 April ó Shopette opened at the airfield.
23 April ó Power and water on finally. Got a nice letter from home.
24 April ó Patrol Baghdad with commander. Big yard full of 57mm. Blown up ADA.
25 April ó made hot chow for 1st time.
26 April ó Ammo point burned down.
27 April ó Scrounging at Baghdad.
28 April ó Saddam Birthday. Nothing happened.
29 April ó Squadron formation. Got armored doors. Built ammo pad.
30 April ó Scrounge run to LSA Dogwood with CSM. WE GOT MAIL!
I May ó Imam meeting. Reduced flack vest in camp.
2 May ó one month in theater. Found more mail at Dogwood (again) drove to Balad.
3 May ó Called Kristi and woke her up at 0700. Night patrol.
4 May ó went with S4 and Spt platoon to try and get crap fixed.
5 May ó Lumber run to secret police compound. Wrote CO award.
6 May ó Prepare for board.
7 May ó Promotion board. 1SG with IV in arm.
8 May ó Promotion board II. Nuclear stuff found. Guy from Infantry killed.
9 May ó Got Sick! Green called contact on crowd of worshipers.
10 May ó Still sick. PX comes to town.
11 May ó New showers built. Johnson and Kunigan.
12 May ó Area beautification. MP shot. RPG found during drive by. Pro American rally. SXO fairwell.
13 May ó Night Patrol with CO and got shot at.
14 May ó Fox soldier shot in hand. MILVANs arrive. Red catches shooter. $61,600. SXO departs.
15 May ó Start setting Regiment into base. Got my holster.
16 May ó No mail, Boring day.
17 May ó Move into warehouse and set up cots.
18 May ó DNVT phone works. Called home.
19 May ó BIG mail drop day.
20 May ó Called home and talked to Karen. Got cut off
21 May ó Move into new warehouse. Night patrol new area 22. Called home. got cut off again.
22 May ó Went on night patrol and almost relieved a platoon sergeant (again). Green got punked by MP with Ali Baba.
23 May ó Regimental birthday. Big mail day. Counsel PSG.
24 May ó PSG relieved (another troop)
25 May ó Got tape from home. Made tape for Kristi and the kids.
26 May ó Captured Ali Baba accused of being Fedayeen. Saw Sampson. PCI Green. Time Reporters.
27 May ó Nothing happened. Groundhogís Day.
28 May ó Nothing happened again, but I yelled at EVERYONE!
29 May ó Computer died. Couldnít fix it.
30 May ó Picked upl6 AK47s. Talked with new CO.
31 May ó Practice Change of Command. Woke up 0500 and ran three miles.
1 June - 0700 Dragooning. 0800 Change of Command. Changed guard towers (again).
2 June ó Ride with new CO in area. RECON new power station. Got big packages of mail.
3 June ó Sat around bored most of the day. Fox Troop Change of Command. Pre-Board.
4 June ó All passed board. FBI Raid. Night patrol and caught Fedayeen. Found field expedient explosives.
5 June ó Caught soldier sleeping on guard. Two Iraqis stabbed at a propane station.
6 June ó Soldier discipline, lock and load.
7 June ó Elections at school. Night patrol. CO briefs soldiers.
8 June ó Stayed in camp with migraine. Run by something.
9 June ó Took CSM to Al Rasheed then went to Palace to pick up finance, then back to CSM for patrol to propane. Got sleeping bag.
10 June ó Nothing ó Groundhogís Day.
11 June ó RCO Farewell dinner. HWB shoot man at gate.
12 June ó RSS Run. HEMIT hits a mine.
13 June ó Full moon night mission in sand storm on Friday the 13th but nothing happened.
14 June ó HWB Change of Command. Talked to wife in Decatur. Mailó got ATC renewal from anonymous friend.
15 June ó Patrol in AM with CO. Prep for mission.
16 June ó 0600 raid the market.

There is what I have been doing for the last 85 days. It is not all-inclusive, but the following day I write what seemed to be the highlight of the previous day as I looked back on it. Looking back at the calendar, life got boring about the 2lst of April when Groundhogís day started. Of course there are some days were something interesting happens, but the next day we wake up and do it all again. Sometimes I may patrol and not mention it, some days I look back and feel like the most important thing that happened was receiving a letter despite getting shot at.

Today while we were at the market, Riyadh bought the commander and I some chi, which is a strong sweet tea. It reminded me of Ice tea before you let it cool: very good. He has also been bringing some of his home made Iraqi food to work to give us so we can try it since we are not allowed to buy from local vendors yet. The bread is basically pita bread he called something else, I think it was sopa. He also brought these small breaded things that are about the size of chicken nuggets that are meat, raisins, and onions, which I cannot remember the name of at all right now. I will have to start writing them down. But anyway, they were delicious. I would have never thought about putting those three things together in the same food. We have thought about giving him money to buy us or cook us Iraqi food so he can ďgiveĒ it to us so we can eat it legitimately.

We were talking about an article in Stars and Stripes where Rumsfeld was working with the UN to try and get an international peace keeping force here. This does not sound like the Rumsfeld of just a month ago. We started talking about past UN missions and somehow the French came up. Turns out the Iraqi people hate the French a lot as well. Riyadh told us that before the war, his family and neighbors would listen to the news and get mad whenever the French or Germans would get in the way of the war starting. They wanted the war to start and were relieved to hear we were starting the war anyway. Apparently they donít mind the Germans here that much, but the French are hated here. We told him that the Americans donít care for the French either, that the joke was the French had already planned to surrender to Saddam in case the war started but didnít have time since the war ended so quickly.

We all showed him photos of our families (great timing on those photos) and he was amazed by the forests and was also amazed my daughter had already graduated. He told me I am not old enough to have a daughter graduating. He was also interested in the photos of our travels since we started the mission, he was especially interested in hearing about our travels and thoughts about other countries since he has never gotten to travel himself.

Speaking of that, I thought maybe you might want to know what some of those photos are. They are not in correct order, but in the order that they appear in the book you sent. Iíll try to describe the photos a little in case they are hard to figure out.

There are two pictures of the passenger compartment of a C5. The seats are above the cargo bay and all face the rear of the plane.

The Moose, the mural, the two of the C4 with snow in the background, and the one of people walking on the runway were all taken in Newfoundland, Canada.

The picture of CPT S and SSG S were taken in Morone, Spain, as was the picture of me with the mountains in the background.

The tent with me out front was taken in Kuwait at the airport on Camp Champion.

The picture of a flat, empty desert, and the other with the same sort of background and a curb is Kuwait. Everything that isnít the town looks like that.

The picture with the tree and the face of Saddam was at the entrance to Tallil Air Force Base.

The large fortress looking mosque is a burial place of some Martyr. I cannot remember the name. It was visible for miles and we used it as a landmark for a few missions.

The picture of the truck in a field with a helicopter flying in the background is Al Farj, the first town we cleared. Those men and that truck are my mortar section prepared for fires to support the mission.

The picture of the telephone pole is Iraqi desert. The picture is screwed up because of the broken camera.

The river is a picture of Al Sarat (the Euphrates). It was the best place we ever set. A nice site we sat two days while we cleared a couple of towns and bridges.

The mural of tanks was an anti Israeli fantasy painted on the wall of a Fedayeen training compound we stayed at for a few days in the town Al Najaf.

There is a picture with a goat walking by a road; this is a place along the Euphrates where a battle happened earlier. One side of the bridge was gone and there were some destroyed armor vehicles there.

There is a picture of a sandy red desert with a line of trucks going by, this was us on a combat patrol along highway 8 during a sandstorm on the 15th of April.

There is a picture taken from under a shelter at a line of trucks with a pair of armored vehicles at one end. This was the first day at the Cigarette factory. The vehicles are USMC Amtracks.

There are a series of about three pictures that show the fire behind the cigarette factory that happened on the 20th of April.

There is another desert picture: this was from the patrol to As Samawah where we had to stop for a herd of camels. You can see the camels as they started to cross the highway.

The Sunrise picture was taken on the morning of 13 April over the top of one of the ammo bunkers we had just run the looters out of the day prior.

The picture with about five HMMWVs under a gray sky is also from the ammo point, this one was taken on the as a storm approached.

There is a picture of the commander briefing the platoon leaders by his truck. His truck has the M60 with the AN/PVS-4 night vision scope mounted on it. This was also from the 13th.

The two strange pictures of the ground is a picture of a HUGE bomb crater. I tried to get a good picture as we drove by, but it was hard to get it right.

There is a picture of a rocket launcher next to a building beside the road. This one is a German artillery rocket system that was disabled near the soda factory I mentioned. There was supposed to be an arms embargo against Iraq, but somehow they got this fairly new system.

The line of trucks on the left side of a picture going around something is another angle on that monster crater I was trying to photograph.

A picture with some palm trees and a green background shows the fertile fields where irrigation has been built in the desert near Al Najaf.

The picture of little kids waiving is near Al Najaf.

The pictures of houses with trees and a dirt road was a small town north of Al Najaf. Just to show what their homes look like.

A bad picture from a bridge. My camera was screwing up because the lens cover isnít always opening fully.

The three pictures of three trucks with large missiles are FROG7 rockets that can carry either conventional or chemical weapons. We left these trucks for someone else to destroy. DONíT PLAY WITH WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION!

The picture taken on the side of the road with five men standing around an odd trailer is a picture of some of my mortars after a long patrol. This was taken in the town of Al Hillah after we passed the university and right before the ruins of Babylon. We were the first Americans in that town.

That is it.

The other photos are cool. The photos of the hike with he boys brought back memories. I also really liked the pictures from K's graduation. It was great to see how good everyone looks. Part of the enjoyment was seeing all the colors in the background and in peopleís clothing. I canít wait to get home and see you all in person. Here everything is so drab. I think desert living influences the Iraqi idea of color, because you rarely ever see anything brightly colored; lots of black, white, gray, tan, light blue, brown, etc. Riyadh was highly impressed by the red brick of our quarters. He said he loves that. You donít see red brick here, at least not any that I can remember seeing.

I guess Iím started to get a little long winded. Well, it really isnít that bad, mainly just a couple of long lists that make up most of this letter. We are supposed to get another large mail drop tomorrow; Squadron HQ was trying to borrow a truck for tomorrow to get it since it is so large. But we have another mission we need the truck for, so hopefully they find something else to go get it in. A 5-ton truck full of mail is quite a lot. It is great to have a family I can depend on for all the generous support they give. I have been sharing all the coffee, ramen, sausage, candy, cereal, etc with the troops because the packages are so many and so big I couldnít possibly eat all that stuff.

I love you all and hope to see you real soon. Take care of yourselves...
SGT Rock

2003-07-20, 15:02
It has been a couple of busy days since I last wrote you. The two days ago we had Regimental Change of Command practice and then a small patrol. That night I had talked the commander into spending the night in camp in order to he rested and move out in a timely manner the following morning for the Regimental Change of Command. That night though White got into a fire fight and shot two men. There I was, lying in my bed listening to the radio when a situation report came in that they had engaged three men and had hit two. One was killed instantly and the other was injured. None of our soldiers were hurt. So I got my truck ready and an ambulance from the medics so we could go out and evacuate the casualties.

Our soldiers had a report of four men with AK47s in a burned out building. So they went down to the building and cleared it, finding no one. Then they went to an adjacent burned out building to see if the report was wrong, again they found nothing in the building except empty beer cans and whisky bottles. But when they cleared to the roof, they saw three men with AK47s on top of a trailer next to the building. They left two men on top watching the men, and then took a team down to go capture the men. They had two soldiers climb onto the cab of the truck and found that the three men were sleeping. The interpreter yelled up to them not to move, that American Forces were there and not to touch their weapons. One man grabbed his rifle and charged it then began to level it on the soldiers. He was hit twice, and his rifle was also hit twice; he died instantly. Another man grabbed his rifle and was shot twice, once in the arm, once in the hip. The third man didnít move or do anything and was not shot.

After they shot the men, people from nearby came and told the soldiers that these men were security guards. They were in possession of AK47s that were not licensed, were outside the building (they must have them inside or we take them), and two of them made moves that were considered hostile. The man that was not shot was very happy to be alive and kept telling us that he heard the interpreter saying that we were US forces, so he did not grab his weapon because he knew we wouldnít hurt him unless he did so. It didnít feel good at all for this to happen, but the guards were stupid. They should have been awake - at least one of them, they should have kept the weapons inside the store they were guarding, and they should never have charged and pointed weapons at US soldiers.

So we treated the wounded man. Luckily we had our medics, but even luckier was that one of our night interpreters is also a doctor. Apparently he can make more money as an interpreter for $15 a day than he can as a doctor. He still volunteers mornings at a local hospital. We treated the wounded man, and then took him to an Army hospital. The deceased was put in my truck and we transported him to a hospital where he was transferred to an Iraqi ambulance. We then escorted the ambulance to the morgue for this part of town. The third man arrested and taken to the MP/Iraqi police station. By the time we got done it was about 0400. I took a 1-1/2 hour nap, and then went to the Regimental Change of Command.

After the Change of Command, we came back and I took a ďCougar Nap TimeĒ which is what we call it in Cougar Squadron when we take a siesta during the day after a late night mission. I woke up that afternoon and was preparing for going out on another night patrol, when Red Platoon calls in that they have shot another man after a traffic stop, and that the bullet ricocheted into the leg of our own interpreter. So I gather up an escort team and my truck to go out on this one again.

The story this time was that the platoon was in traffic when a car full of males in their teens and twenties pulls up beside them in a nice car (nice by Iraqi standards). When the soldiers look over at the car, the car peels out and starts running ó then they notice it has no license plates. So the soldiers are chasing this car that is flying down the road. They have no chance of catching up, but then the car comes to a jammed intersection and gets stuck in traffic. The soldiers pull up and start taking the guys out of the car. The driver starts reaching into his pocket for what may be a weapon, and the soldier taking him out of the car shoots him in the shoulder. The bullet hits the street and ricochets into the leg of the interpreter.

The soldiers treat both men, and then take them to the hospital. They impound the car and arrest the men. When they search the car, they find about 2 million dinar and about $1,400 in American money, but donít find anything illegal or any weapons. They then take all that to the MP/Iraqi police station where I meet them. We search the bags of money with the police interpreters and find licenses for importing and bills of sale. It turns out that the men were two groups: one selling the car, and the other buying the car. The driver was selling the car and took off when he saw us because he said he was afraid of Americans. So another two men got shot, and they didnít have too. The driver of the car was treated, and then arrested for resisting arrest or something like that. The rest of the men were released and their property was returned to them.

Our interpreter will be OK, but he will need a few days off and some skin grafted onto his wound. We plan to pay his medical bills since some will have to be done in an Iraqi hospital. He is a tough old guy in his late 60s. After he got shot, he sat down and just wanted a cigarette. He wasnít mad, didnít act hurt, and after the doctor treated him, he just wanted to know how soon he could come back to work with us. He loves his job and looks at it as a service to his country. He wants badly to clean up Iraq. He lived in Chicago for a long time when he was working in an import export business, and he likes hot dogs and beer.

Also last night we found out about a USO tour coming to Baghdad. We got the word to get as many soldiers as possible to the airport for the show. So we set it all up and I took about 60 soldiers from the Troop over there this morning. The show was supposed to start at 1130, but at about 1145 the only thing they got going was a band made up of soldiers. Iím not sure where they were from. Maybe they were a USO band or something from the Soldier Show. Finally about 1415, the celebrities showed up. The main act was Kid Rock. He brought some rappers I had never heard of, Shelly Rite, Gary Zemies (LT Dan from Forest Gump, I hope I spelled his name right), a couple of pro football players, a Laker, and coolest of all was Jessie James from Monster Garage. Kid Rock did some Skynard, Zeppelin, and some of his own stuff, and was the star of the show. Jessie James didnít say much, but I wanted to get his autograph the most of any of those guys. Gary Zemies was cool; he introduced a couple of women who are widows from the World Trade Center. The women brought a piece of the World Trade Center to pass around so that the soldiers could touch it. He also said something that I have thought about a few times. He said that in twenty years, we would be able to come back to Baghdad and see a free Iraq that we helped to bring about, just like the soldiers that landed at Normandy can do now. I hope that he is right, it would be nice to come back in twenty years and go to some of these places that are just totally run down and see how the Iraqi people can fix it up once they get the freedom to set the course for their own lives and communities.

The show was held inside a large aircraft hanger, and they must have had about 5,000 soldiers in there, and it was standing room only. It was hot, very hot. You could tell who worked in air conditioning or didnít get out much. Everyone was soaked through with sweat, and some were not taking the heat well. Most of the people there were dying with their DCC tops off, soaking wet with sweat in their brown T shirts. I never took my top off, and had a backpack on for the entire six hours. Our guys said at least they were out of the sun and didnít have to wear body armor. They would rather do 6 hours standing around in there than two hours in the hot afternoon at a propane station in combat gear. A propane station mission usually runs four to six hours. Some soldiers at the concert were passing out or needing IVs after only a half hour. Wimps.

Tonight I am not going out on a patrol, but I have my stuff ready in case something else happens. We have a reporter from some newspaper going out tonight, so I think it will be quiet. The reporters always seem to come at the wrong times for them to see anything exciting. Two nights of action in a row like that is enough, we should be through our allotment of strange stuff for the rest of the month.

Today I also spent the first money at the PX since I left Spain about 80 days ago. I broke my sunglasses (required gear here) and bought a pair for $10 at the little shopette they are running here on Camp Marlboro. I was hoping to make it at least three months without needing a PX run.

Oh, Burger King is now open at Baghdad airport. The line was 2-1/2 hours long, and I donít miss it that bad. Besides, I heard they ran out of meat today. Apparently there are some people desperate enough to spend that long in line to get a burger. One guy bought 17 and paid something like $75. Burgers here arenít cheep I guess. I can see doing it myself right now. I really canít see needing a BK fix that bad.

I was looking at the calendar from about January, and it showed block leave starting on Saturday, boy I miss that. I was planning to go up around Hot Springs and/or Damascus for a little hiking. That would have been nice. I also found in my files here I found a copy of my thru-hike plan that I had drafted about last fall. It had me leaving about March 10, and on June 20, I would have been already around the Connecticut/Massachusetts border. If I adjusted the start date of this deployment (30 March) with my original start date, and this deployment was my hike, I would be somewhere in Pennsylvania probably eating ribs with friends. Either way I would be more than Ĺ way through my hike. I still want to do that when I retire (or maybe when I leave here if the Army buys off on it), but the hardest part will be separation from you and the kids. It has been the worst pan of this deployment.

So Iíll close this letter out for now and get back to work. Iíve got a bunch of administrative stuff to catch up on as well as a few letters to write to others like Rosaleen, Highway, your parents, etc. I keep getting further behind for my thank you letters and I feel bad about that. At least with the system we have, people can know that I did finally receive their packages and letters even if I donít get a thank you out right away.
SGT Rock

2003-07-20, 15:07
It has been about a week and a half since I last wrote you a letter. I did talk to you a couple of days ago on the phone and sent you one short e-mail, but as usual that was mostly about FRG stuff. You are doing a great job on that by the way. A lot of the soldiers are constantly telling me what a great job you are doing for the families back home. Maybe someday you should train FRG leaders for post since we seem to be locked in for a while longer now.

Here is the deal: CSM W has recommended to CSM B that I take over HHT as the First Sergeant when we get back from Iraq. This is a step up, and a thing that is almost required in order to make Sergeant Major, so Iím for it. The bad part is that we will be there at least another year from the day I take over HHT. Add to that the new Stryker vehicle fielding which is supposed to start next year and will lock everyone in the Regiment that is there when it starts for another two years on post, it looks like we could be at Ft Polk until October 2006 or 2007. That is unless I retire before that or get selected for the Sergeantsí Major Academy. Then we could leave before that, and that would mean moving to where we want to be at retirement, or moving to El Paso for about nine months of school with the Sergeantsí Major Academy. I think I have a 90% or better chance of getting HHT since I am the First Sergeant for the Draper Award Troop. I did volunteer, and the current HHT 1SG, the SCO, the Squadron CSM, and SGM all recommend me for the job. I would be surprised if I didnít get the job at this point. The CSM was up front with me that if I got HHT though, that I would be locked in for a long time at Ft Polk. I guess I can live with that. At least it is in the south.

You may have heard about the recent attack that killed a soldier from the Cav. Here is the story in a nutshell. It was about 2000-2100 at night; the Regimental S3 (the operations guy) was traveling with his escort back to the Regimental TOC. At an overpass that is also the exit ramp off of Army Canal Road to the Secret Police Compound where Regiment is located, a car was sitting on the side of the rod with the hood up like it had mechanical problems. The driver flagged down the convoy to tell them he was broken down and as going to get help with his car. As he walked off, he started laughing, they thought it was odd, so were getting back into their trucks when the explosion happened. Inside the tire or wheel well, someone had placed a 152mm artillery shell and must have replaced the fuse with plastic explosives and an electric blasting cap to make an improvised command detonated mine. The explosion sent shrapnel that tore through the vehicles from one end to the other. The interesting part is that the Kevlar body panels and the glass were not penetrated ó a good reason to leave the doors on the vehicle and one reason I have put armored doors on my truck. The gunner on one of the trucks was killed. The Major was the most seriously wounded and will probably be medically retired from the Army. The interpreter was the second most critically injured, but he should survive. Two other soldiers were injured, one has been sent to Germany with the Major, and the other was treated at the Regimental hospital and should be OK.

Tomorrow morning we are having a service for the Corporal that was killed. His family was not at Fort Polk, so it took a couple of days to notify them. The Regiment has a policy to shut down the phones and e-mail systems across the entire regiment so that news like that does not leak out by the ďGrapevineĒ and get told to the family the wrong way. So we have been in a blackout for a couple of days over this. It is an inconvenience over here, but I think it is the right thing to do for the family to be notified the right way of the loss of their loved one.

Today I went to the Palace again. One of our soldiers reenlisted and wanted it to be there. It is an Army policy to try and do the reenlistment with the officer of the soldierís choosing and at the place and time he would like it done. So we went to the palace to Saddamís parade grounds I guess you would call it. If you remember from old news footage Saddam presiding over military parades where there were these HUGE 100í tall scimitars forming archways over the street, that was where it was. Since the symbol for the Cav is crossed sabers, we set it up so he could have the biggest set of crossed sabers at his reenlistment. I should be sending home some pictures as soon as I finish the roll. The sabers form a monument to the fallen Martyrs of the Iran-Iraq war. There are stacks of helmets at each base of the monument ó four in all. There is supposed to be a helmet for every soldier killed during the war.

After the reenlistment, we stopped at an Iraqi food stand that has opened at the palace. We were able to get some lamb kabobs with tomatoes, onion, pickles, bell peppers, and French fries. They cook them right in front of you, and the ďgrillĒ is a section of a large I beam that is laid on its side so that the charcoals are on the bottom, and the skewers are placed across the sides of the I beam. A small fan runs at one end so it fans the coals using the I beam as an air channel. It was interesting and I got a picture of that as well. Besides the kabobs, I have tried guss which is an Iraqi gyro, baklava (it is a lot like Carolineís), kuppa which is about the size of a hush puppy but is made with lamb, raisins, and onions, and I have tasted the pita bread they use here. Today an interpreter brought us a platter of carp, but I was so full from eating I couldnít eat any more, and carp doesnít look like the best fish for eating.

Other interesting recent events: The people of Baghdad mostly want to go on with their lives and get back to work, but there are a few ex Baathists that continue to cause problems. Recently they have taken hostages from the families of our interpreters, they have blown up oil pipelines, attacked power stations, killed Iraqi citizens that run power, sewage, or water, and have been sabotaging the sewage system. Then they use radio, newspapers, speakers, and fliers to say the Americans are turning off the power to punish the people or are swamping them in sewage as retaliation for whatever. It was something the old Regime used to do, and it is something that the ďFreedom FightersĒ are doing to get back at the people for not supporting them but blaming us for it so we look just as bad as the old regime. We are working on stopping them, hopefully soon.

It isnít as simple as helping this country to rebuild, there are many people out there like fundamentalist clerics that want us to fail so they can step in and claim that they are the only ones to truly help the people and have an agenda to impose an Islamic fundamentalist state. So often these religious leaders are the ones behind killing their own people or making their own people live without power and in sewage just so they can make us look had. In the southern part of Iraq, some of the Imams have taken over the University of Al Hillah and imposed an Islamic dress code, have removed any reference to western culture in the curriculum. They are also expelling any student that references western culture in their research papers or exam answers. I donít know what position the US is in to change that, some things we have to let the Iraqi people decide on if the democracy is to ever work.

In this area, one of the local Imams that we were trying to work with and support was planning a war against us and had stockpiled weapons, explosives, and was secretly organizing attacks when we caught him. One of his tricks was to steal medical aid shipments so the hospital would run out of medicines. We found a whole storehouse full of medical supplies he was keeping from the hospital. People die over here from lack of basic medical care and their own spiritual leaders are causing it to happen at times. This same Imam was providing ďsecurityĒ at the hospital with some of his armed men. One night we were there, the doctor asked us in secret if we could have them removed because they were stealing cars and extorting money from patients that were coming to the hospital.

Last night we had a drive by attack on our police /MP station along Army Canal road. The suspect vehicle was a black BMW with tinted windows. We chased it but lost it. When we did finally find a car with the same description, there were no weapons or ammunition, but there was some literature in the car about killing Americans from the Iraqi Army. We caught another car later that matched the description and had some weapons in it, so they are in custody. We continue to fight the good fight against these idiots daily.

I think the amount of resistance to the rebuilding of Iraq has taken the senior leadership off guard. The police force is so ineffective it is sickening. The other day we had some men come to the gate saying that their neighbors across the street had kidnapped their daughter; that they had gone to the police station, and the police said they couldnít help them. The men came to the cigarette factory and told our unit. We went out and had to practically drag two Iraqi policemen out of the station to get them to do their job. All they could focus on was the lack of cars, the lack of radios, the lack of enough guns, etc. not on the fact that a child may be in danger. We got out there and it turned out the two families had been feuding and had exchanged gunfire. The little girl was already home and safe, so we threatened to arrest the heads of both households unless they stop. The Iraqi police will not arrest anyone unless they have an order from a judge, so they often will not arrest anyone since they donít have access to a judge on the scene. It is a bad way to run a police force. We finally got them all uniforms and have spent about $10 million on a new communications system for them. We have given them lots of AK47s and pistols, and we are trying to get them cars, but it is never enough for them. There is always something else they need to do their job, and since they donít have it, they sit around their stations drink tea and smoking cigarettes.

Part of the problem seems to be the priorities of the Coalition office responsible for the re-building. We turn in the big problems are sewage, power, and propane. But the priorities so far have been building soccer fields, libraries, re-arming the ineffective police, and building political action committees. The power has been a priority and a problem because of recent attacks, but we hope they get that on track soon. The people that were going to do the library in our sector have been convinced that the sewage system would be a better project and are now looking at that, which is a good thing since the building they were looking at making a library now has raw sewage filling the basement.

One recent development that has helped was the authorization of money to the troop level. At times we would go out and find that the problem could be fixed by a $3 gasket or a $10 hose or something, so we would come back to camp, report it, and the problem would get ďTrackedĒ which meant nothing was actually being done, but someone was aware of the problem. Often we would scrounge ourselves for parts, fuel, mechanics, clothing, etc to help out the local hospital, sewage guy, or whatever so that the problems could get fixed, but we couldnít solve it all. Now we get about $500 at a time so we can buy needed parts for them, pay people to get some things done, or basically do whatever it takes to fix the problems at the lowest level. It has helped greatly, and I hope that the same thing is being done across the city because is hurts the Americanís reputation if they are told about problems but never fix them, and it helps our reputation when we can solve problems quickly that have been around for months or years.

I received some more graduation pictures from G & P; I have most of them up where I can see them. I have quite a collection going on now on the wall beside my cot. By the time I leave, there will probably be enough to fill a couple of scrap books. It is great getting the pictures of the family so I can feel a little more connected while I am over here. The care packages continue to arrive on a regular basis and I keep on sharing the stuff with my soldiers. One of the lieutenants has been getting rice, seaweed, and Spam that he uses to make some sort of Hawaiian sushi thing (he is from Hawaii) that tastes great. If people could send rice, Spam, or maybe some of those packages of Liptonís dinners that are like rice and beans, Spanish rice, pasta alfredo, etc. Stuff that you can make by just boiling it in water, well that would be greatly appreciated. The ramen gets spread around as well as the coffee. Nothing has gone to waste except some chocolate that a mouse got into. D & C sent some sort of chocolate covered almonds that ended up a huge hunk of chocolate with almonds in it, and someone else sent some Heath Bites which also melted into one large chunk. They were all still edible, but I thought yíall might find it as funny as I did.

I guess I need to close this letter out and get it off in the mail tomorrow morning with the mail run. There was no mail today since the mail unit takes Sundays off. Hopefully the mail tomorrow has some cool letters and pictures in it. I love you all and hope to be home soon. Please take care of yourselves.
SGT Rock

2003-08-01, 18:21
It has been about a week and a half since I last wrote you. I have been spending a lot of time in camp lately because the patrols have become routine and boring for the most part. Things are happening in the Regiment that seem exciting, but nothing really here. We have started another month of this deployment, bringing this up to the 101st day since I left home. Things are getting quiet for the most part, and a lot of our time has been spent getting Iraqi guards, police, and city counsels to do their work.

On the first of July we had our second attack. The Regimental surgeon was driving with another HMMWV but without any gun truck escort. There were a total of three soldiers and one civilian interpreter in the convoy, and of the three soldiers, only one had a rifle. They did not have anyone pulling rear security, and my guess is they were not very situationally aware because none of them could even say exactly what happened. An explosive device attacked one of the trucks. They couldnít say if they hit a main, if there was an explosive that went off by the road, if a grenade or something similar was thrown at them, or if an RPG was shot at them. All they know is one of the trucks suddenly exploded as they were driving to a hospital out of our sector. The driver of the vehicle received burns and the civilian was injured, but neither was killed or seriously wounded. This was also the second attack on the Regimental HQ; although the distance and method of attack makes it unlikely that the two attacks were connected.

We also had our second suicide in the Regiment this week. Last week a soldier killed himself over financial problems. This week a soldier killed himself over marital problems while he was on the phone with his wife. I feel sorry for their families, it was something that should have been avoided. We have been closely monitoring our soldiers in case of something like this, but most of our problems are guys getting so mad they want to beat people up (mostly Iraqis at propane stations) not kill themselves.

Over the last month we have been eating better. Part of this was our mechanics figuring out how to fix a refrigerator trailer that had been broken for quite a while. The Iraqis were using it as a storage trailer when we found it because it had been broken for so long. But now we have a place to refrigerate real food, so not everything comes from giant cans anymore. People have been putting weight back on again, and I am up to about 160 myself. The schedule has been a little hectic and I havenít been getting PT like I used to, but I have worked with the new commander to fix that, and hopefully we can keep the soldiers from getting fat over here.

The compressor for the air conditioner in the pump house has gone out. Currently I am trying to get it fixed, but Iím having problems getting the contractor and the moneyman to coordinate for the repairs. For now I am sweating my butt off and hoping we donít toast another computer in the heat. The pump house has a 1980ís era computer system to control it and it is susceptible to heat, so the entire compound will benefit if I can get the darn thing fixed. For now I have gone back to sleeping outside to beat the heat that the building holds and the system generates. Iím missing my hammock and I hate that I told you not to send it, right now it would be very handy to have.

This Fourth of July, the Squadron Commander wanted to do something for the soldiers. So he got us near beet, hotdogs, hamburgers, sodas, and fireworks. We started off with a sports competition including boxing, volleyball, basketball, football, horseshoes, and boxing. The teams that did well for the most part were the units that stay in camp a lot. The line troops all had something they did well (we took horseshoes), but for the most part it was Howitzer Battery and HHT winning the events. For lunch we had sodas, hotdogs, and hamburgers, then for dinner we had real steak. The commander and I cooked about 200 of the steaks cooked for the soldiers on the compound. It almost felt like home to be grilling steak and drinking an ice cold near beer while standing around in shorts and a t-shirt. Then at about 2100 the squadron set off fireworks from the top of the 5-story building we are using for the squadron HQ. They werenít the greatest, but it was a nice touch. Most of the soldiers got to participate because the Squadron stopped all unit patrols and only kept the fixed site guard requirements out. They even modified the uniform so soldiers could spend the day in shorts and t-shirts using their PT uniforms.

With the latest attack, the Regiment ordered some changes to the convoy and patrol requirements. Up until now, the Regiment only required two trucks minimum for a patrol or convoy. The Troop and recently the squadron required three trucks with a minimum of two of those have a crew serve machinegun mounted. Now Regiment has the same requirement, which is smart. Many of the attacks like the two soldiers captured and killed were trucks by themselves, or a couple of soft targets like ambulances or cargo HMMWVs rolling without real security. There is a $20,000 bounty on soldiers, and any criminal with a gun could earn a lot of money without planning too just by finding one of these soft targets to hit.

Anyway, one tasking we picked up was to escort the PSYOPS (Psychological Operations) team around. They have two armored HMMWVs with speakers mounted on the top so they can broadcast information to crowds; they do surveys, and other crap. They are part of the problem with recent lack of convoy security as they are seen regularly riding around without body armor or helmets, sleeping in the turret, and shopping on the side of the road without security out. The first day my soldiers went out with them, they stopped for haircuts at a local barber and spent two hours in there so all their guys could get haircuts inside the air conditioned barber shop while my guys guarded their trucks on the side of the street in 110+ degree heat. When I found out about that this morning I went over and chewed that Staff Sergeantís ass off in front of his soldiers. I told him my soldiers were not his personal bodyguards or valets, they were his security augmentees. I am not going to let my soldiers escort him while his soldiers shop and go to restaurants, they must go out with a task and purpose, and do not deviate. If one of my soldiers got hurt or killed while he was screwing off, I could never forgive that. I told him the next time it happens, my soldiers will leave and he can explain to the SCO how a two-hour haircut constitutes a patrol. After that the PSYOPS chain of command got another unit to escort them.

Some people just donít get it. I mean it. A lot of the ďconvoysĒ getting hit are guys screwing around not taking security seriously and even pulling over on the side of the road without setting real security just to buy some overpriced sodas. It is just not worth the taste of a hot coke (or even a cold one) to get shot or blown up. One of the recent attacks happened when some soldiers walked away from their vehicle and didnít leave anyone with it or even keep an eye on it. When they came back the vehicle was on fire in a serious way, burning to the ground. We constantly preach to our soldiers that anytime you roll out the gate, it is a combat patrol; there is nothing administrative about any movements here. We tell anyone we escort the same thing, and often have to reinforce it because all the commands in the theater are not on the same sheet of music. The other day I was driving back from the Airport and was passed by soldiers in every variation of the uniform you could imagine, acting like they were the extras in a Vietnam was movie with pirate rags and t-shirts being the most common uniform. I hear from a lot of these types that the uniform and flak vest is just too hot, but every day me and my soldiers wear that thing through the hottest parts of the day in the blazing sun on the streets of Baghdad, I just donít have sympathy for that sort of mentality, it will get soldiers killed because some leaders are too weak to enforce standards. About that, it is funny that there is one compound that shall remain nameless where the soldiers joke about the CSM there. She goes around making uniform corrections on soldiers from outside her unit while her soldiers drive around in every variation of the uniform imaginable. The winner so far was a guy riding a John Deer 6 wheeler wearing running shoes, DCU pants, a civilian T shirt, and a backwards baseball cap under his Kevlar.

I may sound a little bitter, but I see it as degradation in the discipline of my Army. I take such things personally. I was sad to see some of the problems that the Marines we replaced had because I have always had a positive experience with the Marines being a highly disciplined unit, the Army has been a hit and miss organization over the last few years in my experience, and now it seems that a lot of units are mostly miss. I would like to tell myself that it is because they are reserve units, but I know a lot of them arenít. I do know that a lot of what I see are in the non-combat units, but that is no excuse in my view. I just hope the future of the Army includes a rededication to the basics of discipline and fitness. The longer I am here, the more apparent that the adage about the only two things you cannot get in combat are fitness and discipline, you have to develop those before you deploy and bring them with you. I still see way to many overweight soldiers in a place where losing weight is too easy.

Enough preaching, Iím beginning to sound like a broken record on some of this. It must be the First Sergeant in me.

This week we also changed command at the Squadron level. LTC Armstrong left and has been replaced by LTC Hoffman. LTC Armstrong was a good leader. His command carried us through numerous tough training exercises including last summerís JRTC rotation. The path he set in our training was almost perfectly tailored to what we finally ended up doing and he should be commended for the command atmosphere he created. He believed just as I do that the best way to take care of a soldier is to train them, not to give them lots of free time and unit picnics. He and his wife Nikki have made a great team for the Squadron, and I hope to work for him again someday in the future.

Because of his tenure, we have less discipline problems and better morale than many of those other units in our Regiment and Army that believe that soldierís motivation comes from free time and easy training schedules. It just justifies many of the things I have believed over the past 18 years, mainly that soldiers who know the standard, are trained to standard, and are held to a standard are the truly effective and disciplined soldiers; not the ones that are coddled. Soldiers need to be kicked in the butt during training and yelling at them when they need it isnít bad. Hurt feelings are better than dead soldiers. An ounce of sweat in training saves a gallon of blood. Woops, the First Sergeant is getting out again.

Yesterday I got a package from H, a couple of Archeology Magazines from a friend (A.T. Walker), and a letter from Mrs. T. It was nice hearing from Mrs. T again, and her package I received a few days before was great, more trail mix to keep me in nutritious snacks. The Archeology Magazines had a couple interesting articles about the War and itís impact on the archeology projects and museums of Iraq. One was from before the war, and the other was after the war, which gave a good perspective on what people thought would happen and what did happen. H sent another ďBurrito KitĒ which was enjoyed by all. I have found making it with some jalapeno cheese dip is a great way to go thanks to a tip from Rosaleen (another hiker friend). H. V. recently sent a bug net for my head, which has become obsolete. My efforts to clean up the area we live in have reduced the insect population considerably (that and the new large frog population). I havenít seen a mosquito in weeks, and the fly population is less than Louisiana. M H sent a bag of coco puffs and a notebook that were dated from a long time ago, which were a nice touch. She must have read I was out of paper.

As for things I need. I donít actually NEED anything right now. Everyone has been so generous and supportive. What I would like are maybe some drink mixes like Tang and tea mixes. Dixicritter's parents sent some lemonade, which I had never thought about, but when I added that to some cold water it was heaven. I also really enjoy the tortillas and bean dip Helen sent. It was such a hit with the guys and left over tortillas can be used with anything like jelly, Nutella, rice, etc. If someone wants to send something, jalapeno cheese dip, dehydrated refried beans, olive oil (tortillas dipped in this rock), Italian dressing and parmesan cheese (mixed with ramen to make pasta salad), tortillas, Nutella, flavored rice, and other things would be great. Some Chinese food and chopsticks would be a dream!

Mrs. T and some others have asked about sending stuff for soldiers that may not be getting packages. We have been getting lots of sundry packets that have baby wipes, toothpaste, Chap Stick, shampoo, etc. We have also received a lot from a couple of churches and have set up grab boxes for the soldiers that never seem to run dry with candy, food, books, etc. Everyone has received packages and letters, but anything you send is appreciated. I guess the one thing people are running out of that we may still need is laundry soap since the Army laundry system is currently on its butt.

I donít know if dixicritter has mentioned this to the family yet, but we have started putting out a weekly Troop newsletter from the commander and I to the families back home. This will hopefully help put a lid on some of the rumors and gossip that is creating problems back home. So far I have written two of them covering things like the soldiers work schedule and what they actually do on a daily basis, the living conditions, mail, phones, internet connections, soldiers leaving theater to get out of the army, special combat pay, and major events that have happened over here. The feedback so far has been positive, so I hope to continue doing it until we leave.

Here is an excerpt I thought might be nice to include:

"Everyone here continues to perform to standard day after day despite being away from home and missing loved ones back in the United States. I could not ask for a better group of individuals to go to war with. You should all be proud of your soldiers and the work they do here every day.

We continue to make progress every day. Sometimes it is slow or it feels slow, but in less than three months in Baghdad, Ghost Troop has opened about 100 schools, cleared over 400 tons of ammunition from schools and government buildings, confiscated close to 100 illegal weapons including mortars and anti-tank weapons, drastically reduced crime, stood up an Iraqi police station with about 300 police and two satellite stations, established two local community councils, established a civilian guard force at multiple sensitive sites, cleared unexploded ordinance, helped fix sewage systems, supported the re-introduction of the World Food Program to Iraqís worst ghetto, cleared and helped numerous clinics and hospitals, and many other numerous, thankless little projects on a daily basis to stabilize Iraq. The soldiers of Ghost Troop wrote history in 1991 by destroying a Division of Saddamís best Armor units. This time Ghost Troop is writing history by turning Saddamís worst ghetto into a place where people can be free and raise families safely for the first time in decades. Your soldier may say he is just sitting behind a machinegun, pulling guard, or doing KP duty, but every day the effort adds up."

And it is all true. In 1991, Ghost Troop under then Captain Sartiano destroyed a battalion of Armor in less than 30 minutes and with Eagle and Iron Troop, finished off the Iraqi Republican Guard counter attack that was supposed to hit the flank of V Corps. This battle known as ďThe Battle of 73 EastingĒ, which armor officers study as the standard for how to conduct combined arms maneuver and attack. Someday when they teach how to re-build a community, they will point to Saddam City in Baghdad, the place no unit wanted to go in, and say the Cav did it again. My favorite quote when we took this area from the Marines (who wouldnít even patrol into the sector that was Saddam City) was by LTC Armstrong; ď500 Cavalrymen are replacing 5,000 Marines, that means we will all have to work 5 times as hardĒ. The man wasnít known for his math skills, but it summed up what we were up against.

Something I have been considering is homecoming. If we come back during the school year, it will be almost impossible to pull pitch and go on a two week trip to see everyone. What I propose if that is the way things happen is take a long Christmas vacation to see everyone, doing the circuit of Alabama north to south or south to north. Anyone that would like to come to Louisiana prior to Christmas is invited to do so. I think we should try to take a couple of long weekends prior to that and do some family trips places close like the mountains of Arkansas for a family camping trip.

Well, I guess I have been long winded enough for one day. Iíll have this letter out tomorrow with the morning logistics run. Hopefully it gets home in about one to two weeks. There was a problem with outgoing mail apparently that seems to be fixed per my last conversation with dixicritter. I love you all and hope to see you all real soon.

SGT Rock

2003-08-10, 11:58
It was shaping up to be another eventless week that I looked for something to talk about, but then things sort of took off. Starting Saturday the l2th, we got a FRAGO to guard EVERYTHING in sector. Apparently some civilian that has never been out of the palace compound got a hair up his butt and decided that things just were not being guarded enough, so we had to send a guard force out on everything we ever guarded and had replaced our men with Iraqi security forces, and we had to guard some stuff we had never guarded before. So all the sudden that evening American soldiers showed up everywhere in sector and started pulling security on the sites. We had been told this might happen the day before, but we figured the order was too asinine to be real, but then it hit, so we cranked up the air raid sirens and ran the trucks out figuring we would be totally burned out in about 48 hours since we had to use EVERYONE to guard EVERYTHING in our sector. There were a lot of surprised Iraqi Security force guys when all these Americans showed up at all these different sites; but they were even more amazed when an hour later they all left the sites when the order changed.

Then two days later they turn on the new back up generator to test it. There was still city power, so the generator was augmenting the power to the compound. Apparently they donít have all the systems on post powered normally because some pump system for water that doesnít run through our pump house came on strong and flooded out the water system to the point we had man hole covers lifting up off the ground from the pressure. It was kind of funny to watch ó a 50 pound man hole cover jumping around and finally lifting up and floating on a small water gusher right out in front of our HQ. Later on that day, Green platoonís platoon sergeant was rear-ended by a fruit truck and got fruit mess all over the back of his truck.

But the culminating event for that day occurred that night when someone attempted to car-jack a vehicle over near our MP Police station. Blue platoon was in the area and heard gunfire. When they went to investigate they drove up on a house party with lots of people in the streets, and three armed men running to a car shooting. They held off firing back until the car was clear of the crowd (about 200 yards) then shot at it with 5.56mm and .50 cal, damaging the car but somehow the car kept moving despite the damage. They drove around the hospital in the area looking to see if someone would come in with casualties, but the only casualties were from another shooting ó a man with a bullet in his neck.

The next night (we are on the 15th now), White platoon heard shooting and responded. As they go near they heard a lot of shooting and reported about 30 tracers (there is 1 tracer to about every 5 rounds normally). It was near one of our hospitals, and some guards were shooting in the direction of the power station in the area. The power station is the one we were guarding until lst AD took over, and it also has Iraqi guards with AK47s. So we check it out. It looks like the guards at the hospital were shot at, so they returned fire. The guards at the power station thought they were being shot at, so they returned fire, and a firefight sort of got started. No one was shot though.

Then the 16th came. This is the day you may have heard of from previous e-mails and phone calls. The How Battery commander was coming back from a meeting near the UN compound and thought he saw an ADA gun inside a walled compound. He stopped with his escort and then heard a woman screaming something to him in Arabic. He led his team through a hole in the wall to go into the compound, and a guy on the other side of the wall shot him basically point blank in the chest with an AK47. Bulldog 6 (the How Battery commander) was wearing his vest with plate and it stopped the bullet, but it knocked the wind out of him, bruised his chest pretty good, and made him puke, but he did return fire but missed. He was taken to the Regimental field hospital for a check up, but was sitting at a meeting four hours later laughing about it. I trust these vests more and more every day. People are learning to trust these new heavy vests. They may complain about a lot of things, but the vest isnít one of them, unless of course they are a person sitting around a base camp and never thinks they are going to get shot at ó this was actually something someone complained about in a letter to Stars and Strips: ďMy vest is too heavy and hot. Are they trying to kill soldiers?Ē Phssss, get a clue dumb-ass.

Later that night, Fox Troop caught a man in his 20ís naked in his car with a 14-year-old girl. When they hauled him out of the car and off her, he claimed she was his sister. They took him to our Police/MP station to turn him over, as well as the car and the girl. Their father came to get them and the car. When he found out that the son was arrested, he slapped his daughter. The soldiers on the site arrested him. Apparently he blamed the girl for his son getting in trouble. SICK!

On the 17th, SPC P re-enlisted to go to Hawaii. He wanted to do it at the 100í tall sabers at the Iraqi war memorial for the Iran-Iraq war. We went there and performed the re-enlistment, then tried to go to the Iraqi food place on the compound, but they were out of food. So we went to the Al Rasheed hotel, which has a restaurant and is guarded by the Army. The place was very overpriced, a 10-ounce glass of ice tea was $2 and there were not free refills. I got a bad omelet for $6. They had a gift shop that included clothing. jewelry, coins etc.

Something I have been looking for is some Iraqi coins to make new rowels for my spurs. It is an old cavalry thing to make rowels for spurs from Mexican coins from the first Mexican war back in the 1800s. I figure since this is my war, I would make me some from Iraqi coins, but I havenít been able to find any. According to Riyadh, they stopped making coins after the last gulf war because metal was scarce from the embargo. Well I found some coins that are probably not worth one cent in currency value, but they are the exact right diameter and they even have 8 points around the edge, so I paid $2 for two of them to make the new spur rowels.

Another thing they had were dresses; some fancy embroidered ones that are apparently worn by the women at special occasions like weddings and such (but not by the bride). They were about $50-$60 each, and they were used. I was looking at them and Riyadh told me his sister is a tailor/dressmaker and could make such dresses. I asked him to have her make me one to send to dixicritter, he said that would be no problem.

After lunch, we packed up and headed back to camp. On the way back we heard a contact report from Blue platoon at the MP Police stations saying there was heavy fire in the area and they were being fired upon. We were trying to get some scout/attack helicopters in there to help them with the contact when the Squadron put out a call to be advised that there would be heavy celebratory fire because it was put out by some Imams that the US forces had just captured Saddam Hussein. When the choppers got on site to the MP/Police station they didnít see anyone shooting at the station, just people shooting up in the air. As we drove back people were dancing and clapping, waiving and yelling ďGood BushĒ at us. But it turned out that the report was a false one. There is some thinking going on that maybe this false report was put out so that people could shoot at us and we wouldnít return fire thinking it was just celebratory fire landing near us.

Then that night (as if we havenít had enough fun) we raid a house based on some information from an informant. The house had a large extended family (a little over 20 people) living there. But the fun part was they were counterfeiting Iraqi money. They had set up a print shop in the back of the house to make 10,000 dinar bills.
It looked like the system was basically this:
1. They took rolls of real Iraqi money paper and real Iraqi money security strips and heat fused them together. It looks like they looted a mint or bought the stuff black market.
2. They would take the paper with the strips and cut it into sheets. Then they would use laser printers to print on the paper ten 10,000 dinar notes.
3. They would run these sheets through another printer that had a device that put serial numbers on them. It was a cool device that changed the number every time it made a pass over the sheet, so the numbers would not all be the same.
4. They would then cut the bills off of the sheets.

We found about five boxes full of hundreds of sheets of these 10,000 dinar notes. There was estimated to be about 1.5 billion dinars in them. That would be about 1.5 million dollars give or take. We also found 20 million real dinar (about $2,000 US) in nice neat stacks. They had a money counter machine for doing that. They also had stacks of real US dollars in denominations of $20, $50, and $100 bills. The total count was a little over $280,000 US. We also came across white powder and some brownish gray stuff. The MPs that come by checked it and said it was cocaine and heroin. One of the interpreters who is also a doctor found needles and some vials of something he said was use by addicts to mix with the drugs for injecting.

We also found ammunition, magazines, sawed off stocks, and spent brass from AK47s. We threatened to arrest the women as well if they didnít tell us where the guns were hid. They gave them up ó we got a .32, a 9mm, and two AK47s. We also found a Chinese RPG sight, but no RPG. The men said their 10-year-old son had bought it for a toy ó RIGHT.

The house was full of laser printers, old cartridges, toner, computers, security cameras, etc. They had 10 brand new TVs of the same make and model, many still in the box. They also had three or four brand new washer/dryer combinations in the place ó they looked like they were intended to wash the money in to make it look old.

We took the two cars, all the money, all the drugs, the weapons, arrested all the men, took all the computers and printers, took the device for adding serial numbers, took the security strips for the money and their ink, and their security cameras. We destroyed the printing equipment and left the paper (it was a huge roll that was so big it weighed hundreds of pounds and there was no obvious way we could tell they used to even get it into the house to where it was) and called it a night.

On the 18th we had a slow day. That day we got a briefing from the new SCO (Squadron Commander) about how things were going, his philosophy, and the near future. Of course the big question is when are we going home. And as usual the answer is ďI donít knowĒ. The brass at the top still hasnít figured out an exit plan for this war.

On the 19th we got our very first new troop. He is a fresh replacement straight from OSUT at Ft Knox. He is a single guy, 19D named M. I asked him why he joined, and he said because his sister is an MP and told him he couldnít hack the Army. We laughed (pretty hard too) and told him that by the time we left Iraqi he would have a lot of stories of bad MPs he could use to taunt his sister with.

Later that day another false report was put out by the Imams (seeing a trend here?) that we had surrounded the compound of the senior Shiite cleric in the country down in An Najaf and had him under house arrest. This is the same guy that a day or two before had called for forming an Islamic Army and a separate Islamic government for Iraq and for his followers not to recognize the new government the coalition was forming. His minions were putting this out and were calling for protests again the US. Of course the US was not doing any of this, but later it prompted the US to tell him he better retract this stuff or face possibly getting kicked out of the country. We did have a protest, but it was only about 20 guys. According to Riyadh, whoís brother was actually at the rally (his brother is a Shiite, a MA in Political Science, and a part of the new government) he did call for the Army, but most people will not follow him and will consider him an ally of Saddam if he fights against the coalition.

On the 20th not much happened here except I got some packages from you and HOI. Both of you sent some great stuff. HOI sent some DVDs and a GREAT assortment of hot sauces. I have set up a sort of library here of hot sauces so people that want to fix up the Army chow can come try a bottle of something and give it a little kick. I have also started to build a troop DVD library for the soldiers so they can check out movies. With ours, and the one the Squadron is trying to get together we should have a good selection in no time.

On the 21st nothing of not happened. On the 22nd though, it was our 15th wedding anniversary. I had ordered some flowers off the Internet; I hoped you would like them. See, the connection here is so bad that we have the graphics turned off to try and speed it up a little so I have never actually seen the flowers I ordered. They said anniversary arrangement, so I got them hoping it was good. Also on this day, SSG H, the guy that caused me and the commander so much trouble since December was convicted of indecent acts with a minor and was sentenced to 3 years, reduction to E1, forfeiture of all pay and benefits, and dishonorable discharge. PVT C, who we were trying to kick out for months was finally discharged. But the biggest news was the coalition killed Uday and Qusay Hussein.

We got a net call that day that it had happened and was also on Fox News (the only news channel we can get, and not the best of reporting I have ever seen) that they were killed somewhere up north. The celebratory fire was immediate and intense. It was the most intense fire I have seen the whole war. The sky was a fireworks show of tracers and flares going up all over the part of town once called Saddam City in celebration of their deaths ó no one here loved them at all. The bullets were falling down at a pretty frequent rate and we could hear them hitting the roof and sometimes the vehicles parked out front. In the morning we found a few of the slugs. I can wait to see what it will be like when we really do get old Saddam.

On the 23rd we got new soldiers into the Squadron. I wasnít supposed to get any, but one of the soldiers is a Staff Sergeant that just made the Sergeant First Class List. He was going to take a platoon in Fox Troop, but I have a Staff Sergeant that also made the list that will get promoted first, so the CSM sent my Staff Sergeant to Fox and gave me the new guy. It turns out the new guy is SSG P. SSG P was once PFC P, one of my soldiers I went to Kuwait with in 1993, and whom I sent to the SGT board in 1994. I was also one of his PLDC instructors in December 1994, and ran into him again in 1999 when he was a BNCOC student. He is a great NCO and I think we got a great deal on him. He just got out of SF Qualification course after eight months. He would have been graduating soon, but his wife talked him into quitting since SF guys donít get a lot of family time ó well now look where he is. I have him in Red Platoon so he can take over when the current Platoon Sergeant leaves.

Then today, the 24th I went to RSS at AL Rasheed to mail off those German sleeping bags, your dress, and some film. I was also going to send home an AK47 bayonet, but for some reason we cannot mail those. I could mail a knife twice as big and sharp (the bayonet doesnít even have a sharp edge) but not a bayonet. I can carry it on my person on a plane home when I do get to come home some day. I think M should get one of the sleeping bags. W could have the other, but since it is man sized I donít think he would like it. I plan to get them something from over here but Iím just not sure what. I did get a sample of Iraqi coins that probably arenít worth a lot, but they are at least an interesting souvenir that we can have some day to pass on to our kids and grandkids from the war.

I also got my rifle fixed today ó the rear take down pin was worn out. Since we have been getting more missions where we have to occasionally take out my cargo HMMWV for carrying the evidence, prisoners, or whatever. I have gotten a M16A2 with an M203 40mm grenade launcher attached to carry since my truck does not have a crew serve weapon mounted. With this and my M9 pistol I am armed to the teeth when I go out. The M16A2 is a very dependable rifle and the M203 is so simple and powerful it is amazing. The M9 pistol on the other hand should be replaced as soon as the Army gets the chance. I have had a few times where the magazine fails to work, the rounds donít move up as the weapon tries to feed. I am not the only one that has experienced this in theater, and the problem was even mentioned in the Army Times. The manufacturer attributed it to poor maintenance, but you know how well I take care of my weapons and you know this could not be the case ó I have cleaned and lubed all my magazines and under load them so I will not wear out springs. I would love to get my Ruger .45 ACP, but ammo could be a problem. I hope some day the Army gets rid of the M9 Beretta and replaces it with something like the M23 which is a .45 caliber H&K with a 13 round magazine. The SF already uses this gun, so it shouldnít be a problem to switch.

Well, I have been long winded as usual and it is now the 25th. Last night (yesterday for you) we got the Armyís new plan for re-deployment, which basically destroyed all hope of an early return. It looks like we will be here until April 2004. Of course I have had this sinking feeling that something like this would happen. The things we can continue to effect in our slice of Baghdad are getting less and less. It is getting to the point where we absolutely need outside help to fix the remaining problems in the zone. There is millions of dollars in sewer repair needed, the buildings that need repair need professional help, the hospitals need modern facilities, etc. Part of the problem is the civilian contractor hired to do all this by the people running the show ó BEKTEL. The jerks up there let us do all this ground reconnaissance to find the problems, but do they fix anything? Nope, they take a month off. Then they come back with absolutely no plan or contracts set up and have to start from scratch all over again. Nothing had been fixed and nothing is getting fixed, but Iím sure they are getting paid. Now they are looking at the things again after the ĎMuch needed breakĒ and have to start fresh to figure out what to do and who to contract to do it. Meanwhile the Iraqi are blaming us and using soldiers as target practice to take out their frustration for the seeming lack of progress. I guess ďseeming lack of progressĒ is wrong, there has been no progress to fix this stuff since we have been here except some soldiers helping to fix sewer pumps and paying for oil, parts, overshoes and other needs - sometime from their own pockets to make it happen. Iím sure someone is getting rich of BEKTELís contract. The Iraqi people find it hard to believe we can defeat the entire country in 21 days but cannot get sewers working after 3 1/2 months.

Add to that the OCPA ó the Office that Canít Produce Anything. Here are a bunch of PoliSci majors that have camped out at the palace (poor them) and most have yet to leave the compound. These guys are making the plans to stand up a new government, but most havenít even seen what the real city even looks like. We have soldiers and young officers that are out trying to teach people about democracy and set up local governments while the ďexpertsĒ sit in air-conditioned palaces sucking bottled water and eating catered food. According to a couple of the officers that have gone there for ĎtrainingĒ from them, many of these ďexpertsĒ are volunteers working on their doctoral thesis in political science. Iím sure they have great theories and will get great jobs some day with resumes listing building the new Iraqi government while they never actually accomplish anything but tying up soldiers who have to guard their pampered butts. Iíve been told that these guys even have the audacity to blame the military because things arenít going as fast as they think they should. If I sound a little bitter, it is because I am I hate hidden agendas and hypocrisy. Enough sniveling, Iím sounding like a disgruntled private now.

Today a few officers and enlisted from outside the Troop, and even a guy from outside the Regiment asked if I was the guy doing the Squadron newsletter. I asked the one major what he was talking about, he told me that his family have been reading a great website that one of the soldiers has where they tell what is going on here daily. I said that it was probably me and thanked them for the compliments. Apparently the site is becoming a hit with families of service members that canít get anything through the real news. Iím glad that we can do this for them. I never meant it that way, but if it helps then it is a good thing.

But it isnít just me that they are commenting on. SPC M specifically asked me to thank you for getting his wife squared away with the mold problem in the quarters. Apparently they had been trying to get that issue resolved since before we got alerted for deployment without success. There continues to be great comments about the positive things you are doing to help the spouses and families back home with simple answering question and doing the newsletters all the way up to taking some of the wives out occasionally to get out and socialize.

I also got some packages recently from H.V., C.S.(one of H's friends), and an old Ghost Trooper that are sending good stuff like magazines, books, and DVDs. We are getting quite a troop library built up for the soldiers to enjoy. The soldiers are really starting to appreciate all the little contributions here and there that are being made by the folks back home to improve their quality of life.

Well this letter is long enough. Iíll close it out for now. Tomorrow we are raiding a house so I should have some more cool stuff to write about.

I love you,
SGT Rock

2003-08-10, 12:19
I started to write this as a letter but decided that since we were getting phones and computers that maybe I would try to cut and paste it into e-mail for you. Hopefully it works and you get this tonight as I write it.

Have gotten two letters today, one was from you and the other had a letter from M and W inside. It made my day to get letters better than any package could have. For one thing I am swamped with packages for now. I can barely keep up with eating what people have sent me. I keep giving away vast amounts of whatever I can, but I still have plenty.

I mailed you two letters a couple of days ago, so you wonít have either of those letters yet as I write. The letters are a normal one with the day-to-day stuff and the other is a personal letter. I will also try to e-mail you one of our personal letters tonight if I can. Hopefully that works.

It has been about 5 days since I finished that last letter and I have gotten some DVDs from H.V., and HOI but have yet to watch any of them. I have also gotten a letter from H with a package. It is great to hear from all of them. I hope when I get home H and I can work out a hike maybe out west. I would love to see some of those high mountains and sleep up high. Besides their letters, I have gotten a lot from various people sending books and magazines, which have helped to form a troop library for the soldiers. The magazines are especially well received because they often have articles about stuff happening right now back home and around the world. News from back home is basically limited to the daily situation report and satellite FOX news, which I have come to abhor as the absolute worst news channel on the planet.

I would tell you what is going on right now, but because some of what we are doing and about to do is time sensitive and part of an ongoing operation, I cannot. But by the next update I should be able to say something. You may hear about it on the news, then again you might not. Even if you do, it may not specifically mention 2nd Cav.

So what else is there to talk about? Well the newsletter addresses the majority of the real news about the camp and what we are doing here and the issues with the new rotation schedule. It says everything but I sort of left this out: The article from the Army says ďBy AprilĒ which could still mean before April Ė but I highly doubt you will see us home before March. I sort of feel like the senior leadership decided to dodge making a decision or having to work hard on Iraq by just putting us all here a year. It makes it easy not to try to make things happen faster if you are not under pressure to bring troops home faster. A decision postponed is a decision you donít have to make.

Again, Rumsfeld is a jackass because his vision of reality is off in Magic Land where you can conquer the entire world with 8 brigades of light armor and be home in six months. He doesnít understand land warfare and doesnít really care to (he is a reserve swabbie that didnít make it past the middle field grade ranks). I just fear the senior leadership of the Army (where he seems to have the most confrontation with) will be hamstrung by his firing or forced resignation of any decent with his warped vision of reality. If we would have attacked Baghdad with LAVs (Strykers) instead of M1 Tanks, there would be hundreds more American casualties. The Russians learned a hard lesson in Chechnya and ended up fielding makeshift personnel carriers made from cannibalized tanks, not the other way around like Rumsfeld would like to do with the Army. He has some basic ideas I can relate to like getting back to individual soldier training at the basic level; but the whole ďrely on lighter, more technological forces with a smaller ArmyĒ doesnít pass the common sense test. It canít all be done with shock troops, but just like was displayed in the ďCharge of the Light BrigadeĒ the rapid success of the light, fast units will not stand if it isnít followed up with heavier support to take advantage of the success. Tsun Tzu (the famous Chinese General that is credited with a lot of military wisdom and sayings that still stand today) said about the same thing, only he said it thousands of years ago. Even the SF guys will tell you that they canít do everything. Remember Somalia? Even those guys wanted M1 tanks, but the Secretary of Defense said no, and that was only a small peacekeeping mission. If Rumsfeld has his way you wonít even be able to get M1s in a large war because there wont be any. Sorry about that. Iím not a tanker and never want to be, but you gotta have stuff like that in the inventory to win wars, you canít win a golf game with just a bunch of putters in your bag. Moral is high here because the soldiers are keeping it high themselves and try to stay away from the news. The absolute worst thing for morale most days is hearing Rumsfeld talk. The frustration from hearing him say things about ďsmaller forcesĒ, ďthis isnít a guerilla warĒ, that ďwe wonít need a lot of troops hereĒ, his initial low estimate for peacekeeping forces, his insistence that we could be out by March, etc. He sucks.

But anyway, Iím sorry I keep on ranting about that. BTW, I think FOX loves Rumsfeld. On to your letterÖ

I keep getting more ďthank youĒs to pass on from the soldiers for what you are doing to keep the families informed, to prevent isolation by occasionally visiting with them, empowering them at the FRG meetings, and taking some out to lunch. The soldiers really appreciate your efforts. I have started getting thank you messages from people outside Ghost and even outside the Regiment (some of the attachments) about the FRG newsletters and updates you send out via e-mail and on the web site. I guess I need to make sure I watch what I say and try not to create enemies with some of the other units over here by having someone read something I wrote. I can piss off anyone I want face to face, but I would hate someone to take one of my personal rants the wrong way Ė except maybe Rumsfeld.

I am glad you liked the letters I have been sending. I just wish I could be home to share my feelings in person. I was getting excited about maybe taking some mid tour leave but after I did the numbers (as you can read in the newsletter) it doesnít look like Iíll get to this trip to Iraq. Even if we do get to let some people home, you know how I am Ė all the soldiers will get a chance before I take mine. There was a remote possibility I could have gotten home for the 1SG course, but that is basically gone for good now.

As Iím reading this, you must have found out about the grant you mentioned after writing this because you talked about the tuition costs and taking money out of the mutual fund. Hopefully you can put all or most of the money back.

D has a high phone bill? NO! Honestly though I could tell you some stories. A lot of young soldiers get phones in the barracks or cell phones then make long distance calls like they are still at home calling local and Mom & Dad are paying the bills. I have seen soldiers rack up thousands of dollars in phone bills in one month before they realize all that airtime costs REAL money. It is often a big shock that they donít budget for and they often are stuck without a phone for months while they try to catch up with past due bills they werenít prepared to pay. If it has been over a month since they talked, she should resign herself to get used to it. Imagine what it could be like if he got deployed, at least he is in the U.S. We have it pretty good, but a lot of units are worse off for contact with home.

Iím sorry that W is having problems with all this. I feel for the little guy Ė his whole life we have had five people in the family and we are always together basically. Now Iím gone for a long time and K[i/] has left him too. Soon he will start school and have that to deal with. I hope he learns to handle it better. Iím glad you are telling me about it though and not keeping it from me. Iíll try to call next time when the boys should be up and available to talk.

[i]I love you,
SGT Rock

This letter was sent as a file attachment via email, I'm thinking he didn't quite finish it before emailing it out....LOL. dixi

2003-08-31, 12:56
Hello dear. It has been a long time since I wrote you a letter. With all the FRG newsletters, the Internet allowing us to chat, and the new phones in, I donít get around to writing as often as I should. I looked at the last letter I sent you and realized just how long it has been Ė over a month now!

Of course the FRG newsletters keep you and everyone up to date, but it is an exercise in diplomacy when I write those. I mean, what should I put in and what should I leave out? Often I decide to make it as ďconsumableĒ as possible since it seems that the newsletter is making it way beyond the bounds of the troop families. I have field grade officers and civilians I have never heard of telling me what a good job Iím doing with the newsletter, and even some of the senior chain of command saying that. It would probably be in bad form for me to say ďMAJ ______ totally screwed this up for us and had your husbands working 48 hours straight for a few daysĒ. It could make it back in a bad way. A couple of officers have suggested I take up writing as a vocation after I retire, but I canít imagine people wanting to read anything I write unless they have a vested interest like the families of the soldiers do.

So what has happened over the last month? Well the Internet Cafť is probably the biggest thing since mail started around here. That opened up for us around the 13th of August, give or take. It gives great ability to the soldiers for chatting via IM software, e-mail, surfing, etc. I like to use it but often the outgoing e-mail times out so I end up composing replies to e-mails that are sometimes pretty dang long and then I lose it because the e-mail keeps timing out. I have a data stick coming so I will gain the ability to save the text in a file for later in case that happens. It also will allow me to keep some of my other stuff so I can move work from system to system. I figure it will be a great way to save pictures and personal documents I donít want to leave on the hard drive of the unit computers.

Another thing that has happened is that cell phone that the troop was issued. Somehow they have set it up to where the calls originate from New York state, so soldiers can use phone cards without spending ten units a minute plus international connection charges. Supposedly these phones are available via the internet for a couple of hundred dollars, but I canít imagine that would be true since it costs so much for satellite time that makes the connection from here to the US.

The mail has been running very well until the bombing at the UN. After that we did not get mail for about a week, then the mail started slowly. Last night we finally got a large shipment of backlogged mail that even included a letter post marked 4 April. Currently I know of two packages I have been expecting from Campmor, one from you, and one from H that have not shown up. I have been receiving a lot of support from family and friends; so much I have been overrun by packages. I have enough coffee to start a Starbucks enough ramen to start a Korean restaurant. It is all very appreciated by the soldiers, especially the recent influx of books, magazines, and DVDs. The post theater has closed from lack of interest because there are so many DVDs out there that soldiers can watch what they want when they want to.

My stove bought the farm and I finally broke down and ordered a new one. For now I am using a homemade alcohol stove to do most of my cooking, but I am running out of alcohol quickly. I was looking at true multi fuel stoves so I wouldnít have the problems I have been having finding gas. I looked at the MSR XGK and the Optimus Nova and decided on the Optimus because it came with the bottle and could simmer. The MSR didnít simmer, and with the bottle, would cost about the same as the Optimus. According to Campmor it shipped on the 22nd along with a silk bag liner I decided to get in order to make cleaning my bed easier. For now they will not clean sleeping bags, so after 5 months of use they are getting a little ripe. I figure I can at least wash my liner every couple of days with normal laundry instead of the sleeping bag which needs special laundry care.

Iím really looking forward to playing with my new stove when it gets here. For backpacking I prefer to use light, homemade alcohol stoves, but for a lot of cooking which we do here, and the need for a multi fuel stove so we can burn whatever we find, the gas stove will be a good choice. I figure there will still be times when I get back that I can use this like on other deployments or if we take the whole family up to Winding Staircase. I started looking at other hiking equipment and cold have easily spent another $400 on stuff if I wasnít careful.

Personnel losses for the unit peaked in August. We lost eight soldiers for ETS and PCS moves, about half of our total losses. We have also lost another soldier to medical Ė he has gone all the way back to Germany and I donít expect to see him back. We have three soldiers home on emergency leave, and expect to send another in a couple of days. On the other end we have received three new privates and one Staff Sergeant. The Staff Sergeant is an old soldier of mine from way back when I was in 3rd Cavalry. He was a PFC when I met him and now he is about to make Sergeant First Class. SSG P is fitting in really well and is now the Platoon Sergeant for third platoon, replacing SFC J who was selected to be the Regimental S3 NCOIC. After all that moving and losses, I now have 105 soldiers assigned including my 4 medics that are attached. With the people out of the camp for leave and medical I am down to 101, and will probably bottom out at 99 next month. Replacements are coming in tomorrow, but I donít know how many I will get - if any at all. With an authorized strength of 122, this makes me 82% strength.

These losses have made it painful to keep the missions rolling. We need three men to man each truck at a minimum. If I only used scouts I would have to shut down five scout trucks of my 29 total. For now I have been using my 13F (FIST), 11C (Mortars), 95B (Medics), and various others to man truck positions and keep them rolling. The end result is I can keep about 26 of my 29 scout trucks on the road. But if were to drive the unit back south to re-deploy, I would not be able to take all my trucks for lack of crewmembers. I figured that it would take at least 111 soldiers, and I would loose 2 of my medics (at least) when we do move. The end result is with the current strength I posses I would not be able to man 4 of my scout trucks. I could re-distribute my personnel but I would still only be able to have gunners on 18 of my 29 scout trucks with no one to crew the mortars in the event they needed to shoot them. There is a rumor/theory that we might leave a lot of our old trucks here when we leave for the Iraqis to use, and then pick up the new Strykers when we get back to Fort Polk, but I donít see that happening.

Other major events that happened this month:

On the 3d, Fox Troop was on a routine patrol and was led to a pile of old Iraqi ammo by a local. When they got there, it was a stack of mortar shells. They decided to call the engineers in since they didnít know if it was stable. One of the locals picked up a shell and threw it down to show them it wasnít hazardous and it blew up, injuring three soldiers and the interpreter Ė along with the local.

On the 7th was the Jordanian Embassy bombing. L troop was also attacked by small arms fire at the palace district but did not sustain any injuries.

On the 9th I ran security for the local city council building while there was a ceremony to mark the transfer of authority for security in this part of town from the Americans to the Iraqi government. We set up a pretty tight perimeter with a scout section on security at the site with a squad of FPS (Facility Protection Service) guards. I had two sniper teams occupy buildings on the high ground, two sections of scouts on patrol in the area, and a two-helicopter scout/weapons team on station. We set up that much security because the Ambassador and the CG were invited and at least one was expected to come. Nothing major ended up happening except a small demonstration outside the gate of government workers that had not gotten paid in a few months. I canít say that I blame them for being angry and they sure picked a good time to demonstrate. But they were under constant watch and probably didnít know just what would have happened if they got violent. We were also supposed to have IPF (Iraqi Police Force) as part of the security, but they didnít show up at first. Their General came, and we waylaid one of his aids until he got some cops to show up, then they were worse than useless. The Iraqi cops continue to suck.

Also on the 9th the soldier from Howitzer Battery died from heat stroke. Apparently he had been sick a while and was on Quarters with bed rest. Some other soldiers in the unit were supposed to wake him regularly to make sure he drank water, and when they went to wake him one of those times, he was dead.

That week we were having a real heat wave, and there were some other soldiers that went down for heat exhaustion and one for heat stroke, but no one else was really seriously injured. According to the Interpreters I talked to, July is the hottest month, but August apparently did a number on us this year. Starting sometime in September it should cool down, and sometime in October or November we may even get some rain. At the troop level we have started looking forward to getting the heaters in the trucks serviced and we are looking into ordering heaters for the barracks.

On the 13th we had a very busy day. To start off with there was the banner that was cut down. Iím sure this is something that you have all heard of by now. Later on we had a patrol going through that area escorting PSYOPS (you may remember me complaining about these guys in a previous letter) when about 3,000 Iraqi rose up and fired at an MP patrol in front of them, and their patrol. They used AK47 rifles, RPGs, rocks, and machineguns. Our soldiers returned fire and by most accounts killed one of the AK47 wielding assailants, and wounded some others. There have been a couple of reports that said at least one, if not two of those wounded were somewhere between 10-14. I find this sad, but we have been shot at by kids as young as 7.

I didnít find out about this until later. Also on this day we were taking two of our soldiers to the airport to fly out: SSG S and SGT G. I was planning to go with them because I wanted to see these guys off. SGT G has been my TOC NCOIC and commo sergeant since I came to Ghost, and SSG S and I have known each other and worked together for almost 4 years now. He was my Training NCO and was a good friend. But I was picked the day before they flew to eat lunch with Undersecretary of something Fife. I think he was Undersecretary of defense or State. So while all the other stuff was going on, I was eating an MRE with his entourage at Camp Marlboro.

After the events of the 13th, the command decided to suspend patrolling into the sector for a few days to let things calm down. Apparently this turned out to be the right call. In the days of Saddam the tanks and soldiers would roll in to put down the uprising. We instead had our senior officers meet with community leaders in order to restore relationships with them. The appreciated the peaceful response and even eventually asked that we start patrolling again because crime was lower when we were there. But while all that was going on. We took time as a troop to improve some camp security issues by building up some fighting positions along the inner perimeter.

About the same day we started patrolling again (the 19th), the UN was bombed. The UN compound is about Ĺ-1 mile from Regimental HQ on Army Canal Road, which puts it inside our regimental area right on the edge of our sector. We pass this compound every day that we go to Regimental Support Squadron for re-supply Ė it isbuilt right up to the road on a 6 lane highway. They had recently started building another outer perimeter wall for extra security. The initial spot report here was a mushroom cloud about 200í-300í tall, and on azimuth from here it looked like Regimental HQ was attacked. We didnít think they would attack the UN. Regiment secures part of the UN with Avengers from 1st Squadronís ADA battery, but apparently they werenít in the blast area. The Regiment sent soldiers to secure the site and scrambled a lot of medics and helicopters to the scene since the regimental hospital is only a couple of miles from the UN.

On the 23rd SFC F went to Camp Dogwood to start training the ICDC (Iraqi Civil Defense Corps) that is a military organization that is supposed to supplement the police on certain issues and also act as a homeland defense unit in case of attack. We recruited for a few weeks and got our mission of 12, plus some extra. They then went down to start the new training program, which is being run by ex-army drill instructors like SFC F in order to learn some basic tasks. When they came back on the 28th it turned out that the program is definitely off to a shaky start. Some of the new ďsoldiersĒ cannot read Arabic, which was supposed to be a prerequisite. Also, some did not know they were joining a military organization. They did not have uniforms for these soldiers except old Iraqi Army uniforms which they refused to wear since in was a thing of the old regime that they do not want to be a part of. So the US Army is trying to get them something new to wear while we get them here to finish training. We are supposed to continue on with their training for a few weeks and eventually integrate them into our unit so that they can learn our tactics and values while working along side American soldiers. Apparently the values part is the major thing since the Regime basically rewarded poor character in the past. The Iraqis themselves are even asking for classes on ethics and integrity. But an issue that is being addressed now is the whole lack of understanding of the NCO corps. In the Iraqi military the NCO is basically a senior private that is there to help officers teach the other soldiers; about the equivalent of a Specialist in the Army. They donít feel any need to obey orders from NCOs because they never have before. We are trying to teach them the American military model and system of justice so they understand how to fit in.

On the 26th we started a new detail of escorting supplies offloaded from a train to the Airfield to where it is downloaded and set up for distribution. It takes our soldiers a long time to basically shepherd these Iraqi teamsters to the logistics base and when they get there they have to stay and watch them while soldiers that work at the site get off at 4 pm and play volleyball. Our guys really hate this detail.

On the 28th I was checking the Internet and found out a thank you letter I must have written a couple of months ago to the ATC has been featured in their newsletter. I was totally shocked at that.

Then finally on the 29th we found out about the loss of a soldierís family from the squadron. The soldier has been a good friend to a lot of soldiers in the Squadron and Troop. He was the man that got us food, parts, water, and just about everything else we needed to survive for the first month and a half of this war until the Army system finally decided to supply us. I talked to him yesterday and he was still in shock. I cannot image what he is going through and donít know how I would handle it myself. I figure this story will make national news so I will not go into gory details.

Some of the packages I have gotten recently include one from your parents with pictures of K and her new car. It looks like a nice Alabama crimson red; she will fit right in with the family. Your mother says she doesnít have a lot of confidence yet and drives like an old woman; but I guess that will be OK. Better than her driving like a maniac. I got her the dress I have been looking for yesterday. It is a satin dress with embroidery around the neck and sleeves that is full length and blue. The sleeves should come down to about the middle of her forearms and it wears very loose, like a robe. There is a short zipper at the neck. Then it has another layer worn over it that has a lot of embroidery on it and is made of some sort of shear material. The material is coated in a way however that leaves most of it opaque except for a pattern in the shape of leaves and flowers. The second, outer layer is like a covering robe that has sleeves that come to just below the shoulder. According to Riyhad this is the sort of thing they would wear to something like a wedding, but isnít a wedding dress, those actually look like western style wedding dresses here.

Speaking of Riyhad, I donít know if I mentioned this before. Ranger Rick Tscherne who writes the Ranger Digest books as well as some other good military related handbooks like the Leaders Field Status Book and is the guy that sent me the survival necklace, well he has a neighbor in Italy where he lives that is from Baghdad. This man has not been here in something like 25 years and had not heard from his family in over five years. Rick sends me the last known address and I get with Riyhad who helps me to find the family and get the new address back to them. So now we have helped to reunite this family that didnít even know if each other were still alive. Ranger Rick even offered to let us use his place in Italy as a thanks for helping out in the event I can ever get a R&R pass to go to Europe. I donít know if it could happen, but get some prices for air fare and get a passport ready.

But things like Riyhad, Rick, and I getting the family together; the way we mended relations with the local leaders after the banner cutting incident; the ICDC soldiers asking us to teach them about integrity and ethics; and the various other things Iím starting to see around here are inspiring things that I enjoy seeing taking place. When we first got to parts of Baghdad and saw that the rule was generally ďtake care of yourself and screw everyone elseĒ it was a real downer. But things are starting to look up in more ways than just getting the power back on and the government back up.

Things I am looking to for the future, which you may find interesting.

H is interested in getting some water samples form Iraq and some hair samples so her lab can get some more data for their research. I have already talked to the CO and XO about this and we should be able to do it without a problem. I plan to discuss it at the BUB tonight and get an idea how many soldiers will be interested in participating.

Tonight we are taking soldiers that are not yet citizens to an INS briefing. Apparently the INS is making at least an effort to help speed the citizenship process for those serving over here. In case you didnít know, a person can serve up to eight years in the US Military if they have a green card.

We also just got word that the Army plans to start putting more soldiers on re-assignment orders that are over here. They want to send them to other places in the Army to meet shortages. The problem a I see it is we are already short here, and this may cause hardship on some soldiers by sending them back for three months after they have been here 6-7 months, just so they can come back for another year. I will reserve judgement until I see how they implement it. But the bottom line is they either need to cut the force over here by turning some of the mission over to the UN, or get more soldiers in the military to meet the needs we already have. What would help is cutting out a lot of the dead weight. It annoys me to no end the number of people that should be here that scheme to find a way to keep from coming. Kick them all out and make way for the people that do want to do what they signed on for.

Anyway. I have to get ready to go out now. I plan to send this out in an e-mail tonight or early tomorrow. Take care of yourself and the kids.

SGT Rock

2003-09-26, 19:26
Good morning. I say that as I just get off a run today. It feels good to be running again. Iíve only been running for about three days now. I had a period of about three weeks of being on again and off again sick, and it seems that there are some others feeling it too. So if I get to go through something like this every four months, I guess Iíve got one or two more times to get through it before I get home. I have also been told that by the time we get back, our bodies may have to get re-acquainted with the local water again Ė yuck!

Last month you and mom both go onto me for not writing as much, so I have tried to re-dedicate myself again to writing. Apparently everyone back home notices when I donít correspond as frequently as I was when we first got here. Honestly I miss writing, it lets me organize my thoughts at times and can be a good stress reliever, sort of like good PT. Part of the reason I havenít been writing is that we seem to be settling into more of a ďregular businessĒ mode over here. We have monthly training guidance, hold Soldier and NCO of the Month Boards, we are planning gunnery, and other various things we wouldnít be doing if this were still an intense place. Donít get me wrong, things still happen out here that are fairly wild, but not like we had when we first got to Baghdad.

Unfortunately part of all this ďbusiness as usualĒ stuff has included the part of my job I hate and I know you do to: soldierís personal problems. It isnít that I hate soldiers or their families, it is just that some of the problems they have are so avoidable or sad that it either pisses me off or makes me sick to hear about them.

I could actually write an entire letter or two about all the problems that have gone on over here, but I really donít feel it is necessary to air all of the mental problems, marital problems, medical problems, discipline problems, etc here. But it does make me feel thankful to have grown up in a stable, well-adjusted family. I really never realized how bad it is for so many people out there. To have grown up with a mother that deals drugs, or parents that neglected you would be horrible. And to have that be your frame of reference for what normal life should be like is terrible, and to pass it on to your children would be inexcusable. Anyway, keep taking care of the boys like you know you should and maybe someday they will thank you for it, I know I need to thank my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.

Anyway, enough excuses about why I havenít been writing, I know that isnít why people like my lettersÖ

So, the last time I wrote was 30 August. Since then some stuff has been going on around here worthy of noting. A lot of it goes out in the FRG newsletter, but that is a more sanitized version I guess you would say. So since you read the newsletter, a lot of this will not be new news, but maybe a little more in-depth.

Early this month I finally got my new stove I ordered to replace the old faithful Coleman stove that had lasted so long. I could have fixed the old stove by ordering new parts, but some of the valve pieces and such were becoming worn from disassembly and assembly, the tank was starting to build up crud, and other things were failing. So I decided to get a new one. The new stove was obscenely expensive Ė at least to me it was anyway, but it will burn anything flammable without needing to change parts like a generator tube or fittings. The only thing that should not be used in it is alcohol because of some interaction of alcohol and aluminum that is supposed to cause the tank to corrode. Some people are now using electric hot plates, but they trip circuits all the time, power isnít consistent, and they wonít be able to use the stuff when we go out to the desert for training or during re-deployment. I have used it quite a few times and Iím generally happy with it, but will probably never use it for backpacking, my homemade alcohol stoves are much, much lighter and smaller.

The care packages from home have slacked a little and as strange as it may seem, this is a good thing. I got a little overwhelmed for a while there. I am eating lots of stuff trying to catch up, and I continue to give stuff to people in the troop. Donít get me wrong, I really appreciate the level of support my family and friends have shown. Lately the cools stuff to get is news magazines, science magazines, news articles, etc. H, Mrs T, and numerous others have been feeding me some great stuff! I especially like getting some of the political commentary which seems to support what my observation leads me to believe is going on over here. I have read some stuff, but not a lot since the Stars and Strips doesnít seem to make it regularly. One thing that did interest me is the fact that some enlisted soldiers are being punished for answering questions about how they feel about the leadership of Donald Rumsfeld. I have known there was an Article in the UCMJ about disrespectful speech about civilian leadership, but I guess saying something like ďIf Rumsfeld was over here walking a patrol maybe he would see if differentlyĒ is disrespectful.

The scientific American magazines have been interesting to read, some of it is a little over my head at times, but I hope to come up to speed by following some of it. H has also sent me a kit of questionnaires and sample stuff to sample some water that we drink and use and hair of soldiers as a part of her research. I plan to get to that this week after 1st platoon gets back from R&R in Qatar. Maybe someday I can read about her research in Scientific America.

One of the things we have been working to do is get some gunnery training. Fox Troop has been escorting a construction engineer unit out to the desert to build a range for 1st Armored Division, and during that time have had some interesting events. Apparently they have been building the range in what was supposed to be unused land, but after they started, farmers have been coming in with leases wanting to be reimbursed for the use of the land. But according to the interpreter, most of these leases expired 10-15 years ago. But as always, the Army will pay these farmers since they have been continuing to use the land and is pretty much theirs by default.

They also suffered some casualties while building the range. On a LOGPAC (Logistics Package) run to Baghdad, they were escorting the supply trucks for the engineers when someone initiated a command detonated IED (Improvised Explosive Device) made from a 125mm tank shell. The driver ended up with a collapsed kidney and a ruptured diaphragm, the vehicle commander lost an eye, and the gunner sustained injuries to his leg. It could have been better if they had the front doors on, very little penetrated the back door, but the explosion was basically right beside the driver who had the front armored door removed. It also could have been worse if they had used an artillery shell because they are designed to produce shrapnel in a large area while a tank round is designed to produce a very intense, focused explosion for penetrating armor. In Ghost Troop the commander has continued our policy (from the old commander) of keeping the doors on except in certain missions.

This is the second incident for Fox Troop since we have been here with explosives, add to that one direct fire injury where an NCO had a finger shot off in a gunfight, and they now have a total of seven soldiers with the purple heart. I hope our luck holds out a few more months and Ghost Troop can make the entire deployment without issuing a single one of those.

Recently something I did not ever believe I would be involved in has been the care and feeding of donkeys. It all started because the rear of our compound is a supply yard for the old Iraqi department of power. There are transformers, cables, parts to build towers for power lines, pipes, and other supplies in this large yard within our outer walls and fence. During the war there were holes made in the walls and fence by looters so they could get the stuff out Ė primarily copper wire, which they melt and sell. Apparently the wire is actually worth more than the copper ingots, but that doesnít seem to sink in on the looters.

When we first got here, we were not in control of that yard, but when we got word to start shutting down any and all looting (including that shoot to kill order we never enforced), we moved out to the outer wall and sealed it with some temporary patches and guards. The looters still would come into the perimeter to steal, sometimes because of the incompetence of some of our soldiers serving as guard. My troop personally had to go run some out who were stealing right at the base of a guard tower being run by another unit while their soldiers watched from above in apparent disinterest.

Anyway, recently we have had some of our patrol efforts redirected to running ďambushesĒ to capture these looters, and patrols to deter them. The ambushes are non-lethal operations where my soldiers hide, then wait for these looters to cut their way into the yard to steal. When they capture them they confiscate their cars or whatever, which led to my problem with donkeys. The first night they caught one, and brought it to my HQ and tied it up while I was asleep. The next morning I get up to find a donkey grazing in the front yard. The donkey was a little thin and had open sores where the owners beat his back to make him pull the cart. CPL K who worked on ranches in Texas before joining the Army named him Russell.

We toke care of Russell and got him fattened up and feeling better, he became very used to being around us, but didnít like Iraqi men for some reason. Whenever the workers would come around he would try to kick them, except for one of the regular guys here at the water plant whom he seem to like.

A couple of days later I woke up and outside was two more donkeys, both male. There was a white one who was very passive and didnít seem to care much about anything, and a dark gray one that was very aggressive. He broke his rope and proceeded to try and mount the other two male donkeys, which caused them to break loose and stampede through the camp. Maybe stampede is too strong a word, but donkeys running through camp knocking stuff over because one was still dragging a piece of the pole he was tied to was actually what happened.

CPL K and I got the donkeys under control and the Command Sergeant Major had us tie them up out in front of the squadron HQ so they could trim the grass by eating it. He later regretted it when they also fertilized the area around the fountain. So we ended up with the small herd back here again.

The process to return the donkey to freedom was basically we let them heal up, then take them out to the front gate where family members could come and ID the donkeys to get them back. A lot of families in this area depend on the donkeys and carts for transporting their crops, goods, etc and it didnít seem right to keep them if the family needed it back. If no one came to claim it after a while, then they would give them to some of the Iraqi workers on post. After a while there was a belief that some of the donkey owning families may be a repeat offender, so they wanted a way to mark the donkeys. CPL K went to the welding shop and made a branding iron which the Command Sergeant Major likes, so CPL K, PV2 McC, and another soldier from Eagle Troop became the official donkey wranglers. Russell was the first to get branded, then a male donkey (the mean dark gray one which came back as a repeat offender) and a white female. Russell was the first to heal up, but after he was set loose, he came running right back here after he was mistreated. We set some stricter rules and all three were either sent home or placed with a new owner.

Since that time we have not branded any more donkeys, but there is still the possibility. They got a mason to repair the holes in the brick wall to deter the looters, but that night they started stealing the bricks from the wall because the mortar hadnít set yet.

Lately we are not running the normal patrols, but checking on the police, guards, city counsels, etc. We occasionally run special patrols to raid counterfeiters, suspected Fedayeen hideouts, arms deals, etc. Lately this has led to a few interesting incidents, not just for us, but other troops as well.

Hawk Company got a tip on a suspected Fedayeen hideout where they were planning to attack another camp. They were planning to use a dump truck to block the road into the place to prevent re-enforcement, drive a car with explosives at the gate, and then attack the camp. So Hawk went in to raid the house. As they approached, a man with a rifle started shooting at them which led to a 15-minute battle that resulted in the gunman being killed with no casualties on our side. They raided the house and found some stuff and some people with Fedayeen tattoos. This led to them fingering even more of their Fedayeen friends in sector. It turns out that the plot was real Ė but not anymore.

Later the same company raided an arms dealer and killed him when he started shooting. They brought the body back to camp along with some evidence. Some friends came to claim the body, but the car they were driving matched a BOLO (Be On the LookOut) for a vehicle that was supposed to be rigged as a car bomb (according to an informant). When they searched the men, one had a pistol, both had ID as Saddam security, and the car had a strange battery set up with two car batteries wired into the trunk with a cell phone receiver attached to them. According to some bomb expert, that was supposed to be some way of making a cell phone command explosive system. So the MPs ransacked the car, a nice BMW, as they searched for anything else.

Our troop raided another counterfeiter last night, and I have a 5Ē tall stack of paper sheets that contain sixteen 250-dinar bills on each, along with the printing plates, and an AK47 they confiscated. What I donít have are the six 3í tall stacks that they already destroyed Ė literally billions of counterfeit dinars. There was also machinegun ammunition and a magazine for a German G3, the machinegun and G3 were not found. Tonight they are preparing to raid another arms dealer. Last one we raided resulted in a stack of weapons and RPGs being piled on my floor here. I really ought to take a picture of some of this stuff.

Another problem we seem to have lately is the Sadyr Bureau. This is a community group that is sponsored by Imams and a group known as SKIRI, which can be classified as Islamic fundamentalist militias in my opinion, but to hear them talk, they are only a political party of religious men that happen to include a highly armed neighborhood watch program.

The local councils were elected by the local neighborhoods that they represent. In some cases, only a few people showed up, so the elections ended up being very limited. The Sadyr Bureau was not very happy with the whole process and regularly does things like say these counsels are invalid one week, then the next they back them, but insist that they have a representative (probably an Imam) at the meeting, even the ones that are not public. These representatives are often there to ensure the counsel members vote certain ways, or to disrupt the meetings by brining up totally tangent issues when they are trying to work things out. We have people at all the meeting, so when one of these guys gets too out of hand, he gets escorted out. But then at the next prayer service they tell how the Americans are thwarting the people by directing all the government actions.

Well after the bombing in An Najaf that killed one of the opposition clerics and a lot of innocent civilians, the Sadyr Bureau used that as evidence to show that America wasnít providing security to the Shitte Islamic people. As a side note, the Sadyr Bureau is named after an Imam named Sadyr that was killed by Saddam. His son, named Mukda Sadyr, is not exactly in his fatherís footsteps. His father was respected as a wise, holy man; while he is mostly seen as a radical young hot head, using his fatherís name to further his own ambitions. I bring this up because a lot of people think Mukda Sadyr was the one really responsible for the bombing, and it is widely believed (or rather known to be) he was the one that had the returning cleric knifed to death in An Najaf back in April. So he is basically manufacturing the hype that there are attacks against Shiites.

So the recent result from this is his Mahadi Army (the heavily armed neighborhood watch) started patrolling the neighborhood, sometimes with the IPF (Iraqi Police Force). The problem with this is not only that these vigilantes are directing the official police to do things for them, but also these guys are carrying unregistered weapons in violation of Coalition rules. See, if they have them in their house, in the compound of their HQ, in the walls of the Mosque, or wherever they want to be. But now they have been running around in large groups with weapons, and this has led to some tense situations where we have gone to disarm 200+ man groups with the 18 soldiers that find them. We have confiscated some of these weapons from a group that was running a checkpoint and stopping cars to search them. They said they were guarding a mosque that just happened to be over 1000 meters away. Because of this we have been preached against for actually support Al Quedi because we are helping them destroy mosques. WOW!

We have sent another platoon to Qatar for R&R. The Army has increased the capacity of the facilities so that more soldiers can get through. They have an increased number of soldiers that can go and have decreased the time between rotations. We now have a calendar of when the troop will get the next few trips and it looks like I may get a turn in about November. I think it will be nice to get a trip where I can wear normal clothing, eat good food, relax in a library or something, and maybe drink a social beer with someone.

As for the here and now, the troop area continues to improve a little at a time. We have now gotten walls built in the warehouse to divide it into twelve rooms for eight to ten men each. The power system has been the biggest problem. You may remember that we had a large generator that went out and was replaced by a smaller temporary generator until they fixed the primary one. Well they got that fixed, but the load required it to be shut down at least twice a day, and sometimes more often. Then last week it went out completely. It blew an oil line and destroyed a main bearing. They brought the back up generator for the other half of the camp over but it only made it about 10 hours (it is an old piece of crap) before it died. So for about a week there hasnít been any power for the barracks. They are trying to lease a temporary one while the primary generator is being rebuilt, and they are even looking at wiring in the barracks to local power. The local power solution was going to cost us about $25,000 dollars and take a month, but there is an electrical engineer here that figured out how to do it using power lines from the storage yard and running it into the power substation for the factory. It should only cost us about $1,000 and take 6-10 days to do it that way.

That brings up another point. H mentioned something in one of her letters about our old power rationing rotation I must have mentioned a while back in a letter where we would get 3 or 4 hours of power at a time, then get cut off for 3 or 4 hours. That only lasted a few days until someone with enough pull complained and we ended up keeping all our power. It sort of reminds me of the operation where we guarded everything for about an hour, stretched ourselves to the point where we were totally ineffective. There are some yahoos that are running this that are way too out of touch with what is going on. But anyway, the end result is we now have power about 23 hours a day, and the city power is getting a lot better again. It helps if power lines donít get sabotaged.

Iíll wrap this letter up and get it in e-mail soon. If the e-mail is working correctly it shouldnít be a problem. But if it is late, just understand the conditions over here can be a little primitive compared to what we are used to at home. It will be nice to get home someday and enjoy constant power, hot water on demand, 200 channels of TV with nothing on, etc. But most of all it will be nice to get home and see the family and start making up for lost time. There are so many people I miss it is hard to mention them all. But I have my pictures to look at at remind me that life does go on back home and in about the same time I have already been over here I will get to be back there.

I love you all and miss you all greatly,

SGT Rock

2003-10-08, 17:51
It has been about two weeks since I last wrote and I feel I am doing a little better about getting letters off to you. The Internet cafť combined with my data stick and Foxmail software has really made it a lot easier to handle correspondence. H has started e-mailing me regularly as have some of my hiking friends. Every day things feel a little more normal around here. I am actually getting to the point where this feels like a familiar home to me and assume that when I get home there will be a period of re-adjustment.

In the last two weeks not a lot interesting has happened with our missions. We have had some pretty big operations planned but they usually get canceled as the intelligence on the target progresses. I assume what is happening is that some informant points some brass at a target, we get spun up to hit them, then as we recon the objective we find out it is another "Elvis Sighting" which is a term we use when someone claims that a place is an important target when it really isnít. "Elvis Sightings" have included going after a buried cache of 250 surface to air missiles buried in a yard, an arms cache buried on a construction site (we got that one twice), a couple of times some important guy on the top 100 list was supposed to be at a house (including one time we were sent after a guy that had already been captured), arms dealers that are actually guys with weapon cards for a legal weapon that we gave them, and various other wild goose chases. So basically you get some Iraqi comes up to the gate and tells the intel guys that General Whomever is at a house. Their hair catches fire to get the guy (sometimes we already have the guy they want to go after but that would require checking) and we get a mission from some planner that they turn the info over to. Then by the time they figure out at the top the mission is stupid, we have spent time planning and rehearsing for a bogus mission.

But we have also had some good missions. These usually happen because someone comes to tells and us us about a target. For instance the counterfeiters we arrested about two weeks ago. A man comes to us and tells us that there is a warehouse that has been converted to a money printing business. We go by the place and confirm it on a regular patrol. Then that night we raid it and find the guards and the equipment with the freshly made money. There were 3í stacks of sheets containing eighteen 250-dinar bills each, eight total. This was billions of dinars that they planed to exchange for the new currency when the changeover started, a pretty interesting way to launder cash if you think about it. We took their weapons and destroyed the presses when we arrested the men there, but we didnít feel that we got the ringleaders. Hopefully we get them later which we just may do since they left photos of themselves at the place.

On the 21st the CO found a man walking down the street that had been shot in the buttocks during an attempted robbery. Later that day we raided another arms dealer and got four rifles and some grenades. This was another tip that came directly to us instead of through the intel guys.

The 23rd through the 26th there was a heightened alert status set because of a terrorist group that was supposedly detected operating in the area. We had more patrols and sent a reaction force to regimental HQ in case of attack. But nothing ever came of it. I donít know if it was bad intel or the group was found and arrested. But I assume if it were found that would have made big news.

The 29th we ramped up for another "Elvis Hunt" which was actually going to happen outside our sector. Apparently some brass got a good idea "Elvis Sighting" and decided to go hit the place even thought the area belong to another division. Eventually that other division got wind of it and decided (rightly) that since it was on their turf, they should do the operation. But for some reason we still sent some forces to drive and secure the cargo trucks for the loot we were supposed to get. There was some stuff found, but nothing near what we were told was there. While we were ramping up, I got the squadron maintenance team to add a machinegun mount to my vehicle and mounted an M240 machinegun for self-defense. It looks pretty cool and Iím the only 1SG in the Squadron with a mounted machinegun.

Also on the 29th I got a lot of books and magazines for the troop library from various people including HOI, H, and someone we assume is Stephen King. I know T had written him asking him to send us some of his novels for the troop library, and that day a box without a name on the return address came from Bangor, Maine full of Stephen King novels and a post card announcing the publishing dates of the last three books in the Dark Tower series with a real signature of Stephen King on the bottom. The books were all gone from the troop library within an hour, apparently he is very popular with the troops.

On the 3rd I went to Babylon. The Babylon trip was fun. The helicopter ride alone was worth it. We rode a UH60 Blackhawk to Al Hillah, which is now controlled by the Polish Army. We went to the ruins, which Saddam decided to "restore" in 1998. This has made the site an interesting thing to look at like a movie set is interesting to look at, but unfortunately most of his "reconstruction" has been done over the top of the real ruins. There is barely anything really historical to look at there. Our tour cost $1 each, then we were led by a tour guide that is an Archaeologist that has been working in Babylon for the last four years. For six years prior to that he worked in the southern ruins of Ur. And before that he was in prison after surrendering to coalition forces during the first gulf war where he was an officer in the Army.

Apparently about 1850 BC Babylon was established on the banks of the Euphrates River on the site of an older town. Then Hammurabi laid out the plan of the town and had the first gates of Babylon built. About 600 BC Nebuchadnezzer had the entire city inside the inner walls buried and built a new palace and royal area built over it. In about 300 BC Alexander took over and made it his capitol for the Persian Empire he ruled over. He returned there and died from Malaria (maybe) and soon afterward the area was abandoned and used for bricks to built the newer city that eventually became Al Hillah.

Germans took over the area under the Ottoman Empire and started excavation in the late 1800's. They took what were then thought to be the Gates of Babylon to Berlin where they still reside in a museum. They started excavating the ruins (with dynamite) and found the older city and original gates under the newer portion. The old gate is still in place and in fairly good shape considering it is about 3,500 years old and has been through a lot of demolition and excavation.

The period when Babylon was built was the first dynasty, then Nebuchadezzer's father started the second dynasty, well old Saddam fancied himself the grandson of Nebuchadezzer and declared himself the third dynasty and decided to rebuild a lot of the city. The throne room and a lot of the palace and part of the inner city walls have been rebuilt using modern brick. He tried to rebuild the gates, but his work cracked some of the ancient original masonry work. But undaunted, he had a man made mountain built in the ruins and another enormous palace built there. This palace was big enough to make a mid sized luxury hotel and is currently the Polish Army HQ.

Both the palace and the museum that is on the outside of the ruins were looted at the end of the war. The museum has not recovered much if any of it's collection. Hopefully they get some of it back eventually. About the only thing left is the famed "Lion of Babylon" which is a 3,500-year-old basalt statue of a lion attacking a foreign soldier. The face of the lion is missing because German soldiers shot it off before WWI on the belief that it contained treasure. The Muslims believe that it was God's punishment to destroy a statue of a lion having sex with a man.

After the tour, we were invited to buy some souvenirs. I bought a book in four languages on Babylon, and another on Mesopotamia. I also got a glazed piece of clay that is a reproduction of one of the Bulls that is on the Gate of Babylon. They were over priced, but that, and a $5 donation I feel may help to fund the continued restoration of the museum and hopefully get the site back to a real archeological project.

Then we went to the local bazaar. Apparently the Polish Army in a smart move has allowed about 50 shops to set up in a secure compound so the soldiers can buy in a secure area in a somewhat relaxed atmosphere. I say somewhat relaxed because if you call 20-30 people all trying to get your attention at once to haggle relaxing, then it would be right up your alley. I bought a framed gold colored something (I'm not sure how to classify the piece of art) which is a reproduction of a carving of Hammurabi for $3, and a pair of Iraqi Army insignia for Republican Guard and Airborne Commandos for $1.

Afterward went to the American dining facility for a steak lunch before the ride back. During the flight down the visibility was poor, so it took about 45 minutes with a max speed of about 120 knots. On the way back visibility was great, so the Blackhawk pilots took it as fast as they could. I cannot exactly remember the max speed of a UH60, but I think it is around 160 knots. On the trip back I didn't know we would go that fast, so I traded with a guy to get a door seat even though it is in the "Hell Hole" The "Hell Hole" is the back seat that faces forward right by the door. They call it the hell hole because that is the point of highest drag on the helicopter, when flying at 160 knots you get 160 knot winds right in your face. It is like falling off skis and holding onto the rope while the boat continues to pull you. It is almost impossible to breath normally. And if I opened my mouth to talk, the wind blew all the moisture out instantly. After a few minutes my nose was running, so I'm sitting there with my face flapping in the breeze, snot running out of my nose, and drool sliding off the left side of my face. But at least I could hang my feet out of the door while the pilot went as fast as he could down the Euphrates River on the way back. When I finally got home I had a slight case of wind burn to the right side of my face.

We have done some other stuff but Iím not at liberty to discuss it quiet yet because of ongoing events. Nothing big or noteworthy though.

Of course you also know that this week we started sending home the first soldiers for mid tour leave. On the surface this sounds like the Administration is taking care of soldiers, but in reality it is a little too little a little too late. See, I have 100 soldiers currently in theater (I should have 122, but that is another story) and I have only got 6 slots for the first month of the program. The normal rules for mid tour leave are from the 4th month to three months from DROS (Date Return Over Seas). That means using normal Army policy we should have started around May for the fist soldiers in theater and around August for us. But now the program has started in basically October. I understand the theater situation did not allow it back then and I live with that. The part that is misleading is when it was announced as "Available for everyone". In a way, it is "available" but not everyone that qualifies will ever get a chance to do it. Of my 100 soldiers currently here, about 84 currently qualify for the leave. And with a cut off of about January or maybe February, I will only get about 24 soldiers home by my best guess. There are some plans to expand the program, which may help me to get about 40 or so home depending on how fast they expand the program, but I cannot count on any of that. I understand all the restrictions of why they started the plan as late as they did, and why they cannot get as many back as fast as we would like, what I canít understand is the false advertising. I broke it down for my platoon sergeants a few days ago and even these seasoned guys that should understand it had a hard time swallowing the news that not everyone that qualifies will get to go home. Instead of artificially inflating the hopes of soldiers, at least be honest enough to spell it out.

At least we are on the downhill side of the deployment. I still donít have a solid date for redeployment, but one should be coming sometime in the next three months. As soon as I know something I will be sure to pass it on.

Well, I have to go, I will write more later.

I love you,
SGT Rock