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dixicritter
2003-08-30, 13:49
I am creating this thread to post all the newsletters here. When a new one comes out I will post it here from now on, with a link posted on the "News Updates" on the front page.

dixi

dixicritter
2003-08-30, 14:25
Hello FRG members from the Troopers of Ghost in the burning hot city of Baghdad. Over the last couple of weeks corresponding with my wife and getting that occasional five minute moral call, I have decided it would probably be a good idea to let you know what is happening over here from the source instead of from second and third hand knowledge. I hope to make this a weekly publication, even if there is nothing new to report. The only thing that should interrupt that is a death or serious injury.

The number one question that you are probably wondering about is: When will the soldiers come home? I wish we had a date to tell you, but I don’t. Currently we are waiting for the 3rd ID, which was here before us to get a date. Once they do, then we should be getting our re-deployment date. I have heard people say it will be before March 2004, and may be as early as “before Thanksgiving”.

As you read through this, it was almost all directly from me, 1SG Engman. So if you want to blame someone or quote someone, I’m the guilty party.

Morale Computers and Phone

The Squadron currently has one satellite phone and one computer available to soldiers to make morale calls and e-mails home. There are more computers and phones than that here, but those are used for business and emergencies. Our normal time for computers and phones are from midnight on Tuesday to midnight on Wednesday. That equates to 1500 Tuesday to 1500 Wednesday in Louisiana. Not everyone gets a chance because of mission, but at least 90% of the Troopers do. Soldiers are usually limited to 5 minute phone calls, but occasionally they can make a couple on the same day. We have had a DNVT phone system, which allowed us to call the Regimental Staff Duty and then get patched into a local phone call, but that system was very unreliable for a number of reasons and has been shut down.

In case you didn’t know, some other units (like 1AD and 3ID) had problems with loved ones finding out about the death or serious injury of a service member through the “Grapevine” first, rather than from the official Army channels. In order to prevent this from unintentionally happening to one of the families of the 2d ACR, the Regiment has put in place a policy that the morale phones and computers will be locked down until the family of the service member is notified. It may be an inconvenience for some soldiers over a couple of days, but it is worthwhile to ensure that the casualty notification system can do their job.

Soldiers Leaving the Army (ETS)

The Army has published guidance lifting Stop Loss. Stop Loss is the program that keeps soldiers in the Army past their ETS date. Currently 11 Ghost Troopers have passed their ETS date and 3 more are approaching theirs.
The Army has made November 30 the new ETS date for everyone that was supposed to ETS between March 1 and July 31. The new ETS for people that were supposed to leave the Army between 1 August and 30 November is now 20 December. Soldiers with ETS dates after 30 November keep their old ETS date.

In addition to that, soldiers are allowed to maximize their terminal leave; some are taking 40+ days of leave. Soldiers are also being given 90 days to ACAP and clear that Army, so they will have a loss date from Baghdad that is at least 90 before they start terminal leave. That all may sound complicated, but it is pretty simple and a plan is in place to get the soldiers home.

The first soldiers depart 9 July from Baghdad, and we have another 12 departing by 1 August. We do not know how long it will take them to get home after departing from here, but I expect it could be anywhere from 4 days to 2 weeks based on past experiences with sending soldiers back. Returning soldiers will come under the control of the rear detachment and work for MSG Cortelleso when not clearing or ACAP. Their time in the rear will not be a vacation; they will end up pulling duty and details when not clearing or ACAPing. It may sound harsh, but that is just the way it is.

Soldiers Changing Duty Stations (PCS)

The Army has also published guidance on lifting Stop Movement. Stop Movement is the program that keeps soldiers in their current unit. Many Ghost Troopers were on orders to places like Ft Knox with report dates like November and December 2003. All of those orders were canceled back in February. After we return, soldiers may try to get back on assignment to the same post or another one based on the needs of the Army. I guess that when we return there will be a lot of people trying to move.

There is also guidance on this. Soldiers will not be placed on orders until we return. Once we return to Ft Polk, the Army will look at reassignment for soldiers with two or more years at Ft Polk as the priority. Their report date to any new assignment will be based on how long we spend over here. If we spend less than 140 days deployed, then the soldier will be stabilized at Ft Polk for 4 months. If we spend 140 days or more, then the soldier will be stabilized for 6 months, unless the Army wants to send them to a place that is dependant restrictive like Korea, then the stabilization is for 12 months. All of these stabilization dates can be wavered by the soldier if they would like an earlier report date. By the way, we will have been deployed 140 days on the 17th of August.

On the other hand, soldiers that re-enlisted for an assignment are guaranteed that assignment. The current guidance is that they will get 60 days stabilization Ft Polk upon our return before they have to report to their new assignment. When we left, three soldiers had a new assignment based on re-enlistment. Two have received new report dates of 20 Oct 2003, the third has not received a new report date yet, and we are trying to get this fixed. However, the report date of 20 October may still be changed if we don’t get home before 20 August. The soldier may also waive this 90-day stabilization if he wants an earlier report date.

Officer Moves

Officers fall under a different system. Because there are fewer officer positions in the Army than there are enlisted soldiers (a lot less) and the Regiment is currently over strength on officers (we are under strength on enlisted soldiers) , officers are being allowed to leave if their replacement is in theater. It may sound like a double standard, but it really isn’t. If we had the enlisted personnel replacements in the same numbers we have officer replacements, then PCS losses would not be a problem. Currently there are 11 replacement soldiers coming to the Squadron, with about 50 soldiers leaving, so besides already being under strength, we are getting even more under strength. Hopefully soon the Army will start sending more replacements, or they will send us home making the problem a moot point.

Re-Enlistment

Since we arrived here in Baghdad, three Ghost Troopers have re-enlisted. Other soldiers are looking at re-enlistment. Soldiers have all options available they would normally have at Fort Polk.

Soldier’s Living Conditions

Currently we occupy two buildings. The HQ is located in the pump house that supplies water to the cigarette factory that Squadron is using as a base. It has partial air conditioning, which only works when Baghdad has power.

The majority of the soldiers live in a warehouse, which was recently wired for electricity and lights. There is no air conditioning there yet, but a contract has been approved to get air conditioning installed. This should start sometime around mid July or early August. All soldiers have cots, and some even have managed to find other furniture like couches and tables to improve their living conditions.

Last week we were able to purchase a large TV set for the soldiers to have in the warehouse/barracks. We have a DVD player and a PlayStation to hook up to it so soldiers can watch movies and play games. Future plans are to get a satellite connection for the TV and Squadron is starting to put together a free DVD library for the soldiers. You can send DVDs and games if you wish, but everyone will probably use it.

The latrines are still the “Burn” variety, and the showers are still makeshift bag showers. There is a contract for shower trailers and chemical latrines, which should be starting about the same time as the air conditioning project. This may sound like we are planning to be over here a long time, but we would rather have the contracts set up to build it and not need it, than to get stuck over here a long time and not have the showers and air conditioning.

The dining facility is in the old cafeteria of the factory, and is quite clean, and sometimes even has air conditioning when the power is on. We recently started getting ice and real food that has to be cooked.

Overall we don’t have great living conditions yet, but we have it better than a lot of units in the theater that live in tents in the middle of the desert or in old Iraqi military compounds. Things will get better as we go along. There are some people that do live better than we are, but they aren’t that common.

Mail

Mail was a huge problem when we got here, and I personally drove hundreds of miles to get it fixed, and did so a few times because it would get screwed up again on a regular basis. Recently we have received letters and packages that were mail only a week before from the US. We still get old packages and letters occasionally that are as old as March.

Incoming mail and package from the US have been broken into on some occasions. Usually it is for tobacco and high valued items. My personal recommendation is to not mention any tobacco products on the custom label and if you are sending something valuable to send it insured. Certain authorized people must handle insured mail in the mail system, while anyone and everyone often handle normal mail. There have been a few people in the 3rd ID mail system arrested for stealing mail, but the majority of the time they get away with it because soldiers just open the package, get mad, but don’t do anything about it until there is no evidence left.

At the other end, I have heard from a few people that had mail broken into coming from Iraq to the US to steal stuff like cassette tapes that the soldiers have made for their wives. If this happens to you, immediately tell someone in the post office. Stealing from the mail is a felony and needs to be reported. Hopefully anyone doing this will get caught.

Day-to-Day Stuff

There has been a misconception about what we are doing over here. Apparently there was a letter or e-mail that said we were building a soccer field and cleaning up the streets of Baghdad. The Squadron is PAYING to have a soccer field built and organizing the clean up of the streets by civilians. The soldiers are not doing this stuff.

Part of re-construction of Iraqi is getting the people back to work while meeting some of their basic needs and getting the infrastructure back together. To do this, we are taking some of the billions in captured money and using it to finance local improvement projects, which include libraries, security guards, athletic fields, garbage collection, sewer repairs, propane distribution, electrical system repairs, and other various projects in our area.

We run Ghost Troop on a four-day cycle in order to keep the platoons from stagnating on one site and to keep everyone proficient on any mission we do.

Day one:
The platoon guards an MP/Iraqi police station.

Day two:
The platoon conducts convoy escort missions and is responsible for camp details.

Day three:
The platoon guards a power distribution site and conducts patrols.

Day four:
The platoon conducts patrols and performs maintenance.

I cannot go any more into detail to how many patrols, times, or people required on this various missions, but everyone stays busy most of the time, and gets some down time every four to eight days.

Special Pay

Everyone is now getting hazardous duty pay and imminent danger pay, which equates to about $325 or so a month. Everyone has also been placed under tax-exempt status, so any money earned while over here will be tax exempt, including re-enlistment bonuses for a soldier that gets one at re-enlistment over here. This does not apply to enlistment or re-enlistment bonuses for enlistments and re-enlistments that occurred prior to deployment since they were technically earned before the soldier was in a tax-exempt status.

Family separation pay has been a problem. This will be shown as FSH on the LES. Before we deployed, every soldier that was entitled to the pay filed a claim for it. None of those were processed apparently. Upon arrival, some soldiers on the last flight were able to get that fixed during in-processing into the theater. For everyone else, we have resubmitted the paperwork. Some soldiers were not in the finance system as married, so we had to do some special memorandums for record to verify their marital status since soldiers obviously did not deploy with birth certificates and marriage licenses. I personally spoke to finance on the 1st of July and verified that this should be fixed by the end of July, including back pay. This will mean about $1000 extra at the end of July (I personally wouldn’t plan it into your budget in case of any other problems) and about $250 a month after that. On or about the 14th of July I should know if there would be any problems with anyone getting their Family Separation Pay so I can fix it. As soon as I can verify either way, I will include this information in a future Newsletter.

Commander’s Corner

Dear Families of the FRG,

First, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Captain Mescall. Before taking over as Ghost 6, I served as the Squadron S4 for the past eight months. Prior to that, I spent eight months working in the Regimental S3 shop, which has afforded me the opportunity to serve with you and get to know many of the men of Ghost Troop. Prior to that, I spent my Lieutenant years alternating between Korea, Ft Jackson, and Korea, where I met my wife. By now hopefully you have all met my wife and our son. It is our fullest intention to be active members and supporters of the FRG and to try to make it stronger with your help in the coming months.

I would also like to make you a promise, it is a simple one, I will do everything in my power to take care of this troop. I know that the men of this troop do their very best everyday. I promise to reflect their efforts as their commander and serve them as best possible. 1SG Engman and I will do our best to keep you informed as best possible, and keep the rumor mill under control as much as possible.

Lastly, I would like to thank the outgoing commander, Captain Schrick, and his family. Their efforts have greatly contributed to the success this troop has had to date, and they deserve the praise. It is my intentions to build on that success in coming months and build the Ghost Troop Family upon our return. I truly look forward to meeting all of you upon our return, and we will continue with these newsletters as regularly as possible to keep you informed.

CPT Mescall
Ghost 6
Closing

This newsletter is a little longer than I had planned, but it should get you up to date on a lot of what is going on and how things are working right now. If you have questions or issues, please direct them to me via my wife, and I will try to address them on a weekly basis. As soon as we know a re-deployment date, we will make sure it gets out to the families.

Please continue to take care of yourselves and remember that we think about you all, all of the time.

End of Newsletter.

dixicritter
2003-08-30, 14:27
Hello FRG members from the Troopers of Ghost. This is the second installment of the Troop newsletter, and it a little shorter than the previous one. While there is less new stuff to talk about administratively, there have been a couple of major events within the squadron this week. This past week we celebrated the fourth of July and had a Squadron Change of command.

As I have said before, I am writing this based of what I know to be true. There is no gossip or rumor here. If you want to blame someone or quote someone for the information presented here, blame me. I also don’t try to keep anything from the families – good or bad. The only exceptions would be things like UCMJ, deaths, or anything else that should be considered personal or “need to know” information. I will address bad rumors or any questions that (my wife) forwards to me that I have a chance to read before I send out the newsletter.

1SG Engman
Ghost 7

4th of July

The Squadron put on a great Independence Day celebration for the soldiers. In order to maximize participation, there were not any day patrols conducted, only fixed sites were manned as minimally as possible. Soldiers were allowed to wear the PT uniform around camp instead of BDUs, and we maximized as best we could giving soldiers some personal time so they could relax and sleep, read, watch movies, etc. The celebration started with a 0700 formation and singing of the National Anthem by PV2 W of 1st Platoon.

Then the squadron had a series of tournaments that included boxing, horseshoes, basketball, football, chess, and volleyball. Ghost Troop did not do well in Football, did moderately better in Basketball and Volleyball, and did great in horseshoes. In the individual events such as chess and boxing, some Ghost Troopers placed in the top three.

For lunch, the squadron found some hamburgers, hot dogs, and had cold sodas for the soldiers. Later, for dinner, we had steaks and cold non-alcoholic beer or sodas for the soldiers. The Commander and I cooked about 200 steaks for the squadron. All soldiers enjoyed both these meals in an air-conditioned dinning facility since we were lucky to have power all day without interruption.

At 2100, the squadron finished the celebration with a fire works show from the top of the 5-story building that we are using as the headquarters. The fire works were not the most spectacular we had ever seen, but it was nice and made it seem a little bit more like home.

Squadron Change of Command

Tuesday we bid farewell to LTC Armstrong and welcomed the new Squadron commander, LTC Hoffman. LTC Armstrong and his wife have been like a second family to the members of Cougar Squadron. Mrs. Armstrong has devoted countless hours to the Family Readiness Group and has earned the respect of the Troopers and their Families. She will be missed.

LTC Armstrong has led us through months of tough, demanding training that has prepared us for combat and enabled us to conduct months of challenging combat and stability operations. In his farewell address to LTC Armstrong, COL May highlighted how the Cougars have cleared hundreds of miles of highway from ambushes, hundreds of schools of ammunitions and arms, hundreds of illegal weapons have been seized, tons of ammunition cleared, numerous direct fore contacts conducted, and to date have only had two soldiers slightly wounded. LTC Armstrong has the praise and thanks of the Ghost Riders for training us hard to prepare us for war.

LTC Hoffman is coming to the Regiment from Hoensfeld Germany where he served as an Observer Controller at the Combat Maneuver Training Area. He is an intelligent, seasoned professional that is highly recommended by all the NCOs and Officers I have talked to that have worked with him in the past. The Squadron is in good hands with LTC Hoffman in charge.

Soldier’s Living Conditions

Baghdad continues to be hot and dry, but we continue to make advances on post for the soldiers’ quality of life. While it is by no means home, it isn’t bad.

This week we received the first two chemical latrines, and the contract to start upgrading the warehouses the soldiers live in was begun. The contractors have not started on Ghost’s barracks yet, but they are adding gravel for parking and the foundation for the shower trailers that have not yet arrived. They have also begun upgrading the electrical system to support the air-conditioning systems that should begin being installed soon. The buildings are being modified daily for the installation of the air conditioning systems which soldiers are the most excited about of any planned upgrades.

We already have one refrigerator; which was an old used Iraqi fridge we received about a month or two ago. We have been using it for keeping sodas cold and selling them to the soldiers at 50 cents each. This is a lot cheaper than they could get them on the economy and the same price that the shoppet is charging. We have been using the money for getting a “going away” souvenir for the departing Ghost Troop soldiers. This week we added two more brand new refrigerators, which were placed in the barracks so soldiers could cool bottles of water. We still get four bottles a day per soldier (except on rare occasions where the supply system is a little behind schedule) and now the soldiers can swap a warm bottle for a cold one.

They are also fixing a large generator system for the camp to power all the electrical systems as a back up for when we loose city power. They have recovered one that was being looted and have been repairing it. The final part will be the construction of a crossover system for the compounds power to switch from local power to the generator.

This week an Iraqi vendor opened a gift shop so the soldiers can buy local items as mementoes to send home or take with them, and provide a safe place for them to shop on post where they won’t have to worry about possible terrorist attacks. For now it mostly carries jewelry and postcards, hopefully they will add some additional merchandise soon.

The squadron has also opened a barbershop using two soldiers in Squadron HQ that also have barbers licenses. The soldier pays a donation (similar to Motor Pool Bake Sales) and the proceeds are being used to stock a Squadron DVD library for the soldiers and units to borrow from at no cost.

I mentioned the bottled water rations that the soldiers have been getting. We are also eating a lot better. Many soldiers lost weight during the first few months here from the daily hard work, and from the fact that many could not stomach more than a couple MREs a day. Now we have been eating well, getting two hot meals a day, often they are real cooked meals and not the “Heat and Serve” tray rations. I have recently noticed that the soldiers are putting on weight, and I have also noticed a sharp reduction in the MREs consumed.

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

The squadron recently acquired four pay satellite phones from AT&T. The cost is approximately $1 a minute and can be paid for with a credit card or international phone card. Before you all run out and buy a phone card from Wal-Mart and send it to your soldier, those cards are for domestic calls. They charge up to twenty times the rate that a US call may cost and include connection charges and international charges. Soldiers with 1000 minute domestic phone cards are finding they may get about 50 minutes of airtime using a satellite phone.

Another pitfall that has trapped soldiers in other units that already have this service is the ease in which they can call using a credit card, debit card, or certain long distance cards. Soldiers that called almost daily for about ten – twenty minutes at a time found that they could create bills for themselves in the thousands of dollars. Imagine enjoying talking to your husband a little bit every day just to find out that at the end of the month you owe $500-$2000 on phone calls. We are warning soldiers not to overuse the phone, and so far we will still only have access to these pay phones on Wednesdays just as we have in the past.

The squadron’s other satellite phone is still available for free, but there is a time limit soldiers can use it for. Additionally, there are still the computers available for e-mail. In the works is a plan to bring in a German Internet company to set up an Internet café on a pay basis for the soldiers to use as well.

Mail continues to get better. We are getting letters that are post marked one to two weeks before arrival, and are getting packages at about three weeks from the post marked dates. We still get those occasional packages and letters dated April and May. There continues to be some problems with mail theft, but it is reducing as far as I can tell. Again, if you plan to send something valuable, send it using insured mail.

On another note. dixicritter forwarded me an e-mail about a family member back at Fort Polk that was able to VTC (Video Tele Conference) with her husband who I believe was supposed to be in RSS. I have not been able to confirm that as true or not, but that is probably correct. There are some specialized support units and even some civilian contractors there that may have such capabilities and are sharing them with RSS soldiers. We do not have the ability to do that here at Camp Marlboro yet, and may never have it. Taking soldiers to RSS just to do this would be hard to arrange, and the risk would probably not be worth it. A truck was ambushed north of Baghdad a couple of weeks ago, it was carrying soldiers that were on their way to make phone calls from another unit. I don’t think the benefit is worth the risk to the soldiers when we already have multiple means of communications already here on post.

Uniforms and Equipment.

Since the 1st Armored Division arrived, they have been trying to get the soldiers another issue of uniforms. We deployed with only two sets of DCUs, and under daily harsh use, many are starting to look ragged out. 1st AD is in the same fix, and has made a goal to have everyone a second issue by the end of August.

In the same spirit (sort of) 1st AD decided every soldier should have a Camel Bak hydrations system. So this week every Trooper in the Regiment was issued a black 2-liter Camel Bak. They are looking out for us.

There is a new laundry and bath unit trying to get established in our support area, if that happens, then the laundry system should finally be fixed. We had regular Army laundry for about a month soon after we established Camp Marlboro, but that unit moved south. Ever since then the soldiers have been doing laundry by hand or using a local Iraqi laundry service that costs $2 for a load.

ETS/PCS/Re-Deployment

The first two Ghost Troopers re-deploying to ETS from the Army left today from Camp Marlboro to go to Baghdad International Airport. We will average about 2 people a week for the next four weeks.

New guidance came out today on soldiers that re-enlisted for a new duty station. There are three soldiers that are affected by this. They should be leaving from Iraq around the 1st of September. Current guidance is they will report by the 31st of October and will be given 30 days to clear, and 30 days for leave if they desire. Two of the three soldiers already have departure dates, the third we are still working on getting him back on assignment because the Army has screwed up his assignment in the system. I am on it and hope to have an answer for that soldier by the end of the week.

We still do not have a re-deployment date. But, parts of 3rd ID have started moving to Kuwait for re-deployment. They were here before us by at least two months, and the Brigade that is re-deploying had been in Afghanistan recently before that. Many of their soldiers have been deployed for a total of about a year now. The rest of 3rd ID does not have a re-deployment schedule, but this is at least a step in the right direction. Those soldiers certainly deserve to go home before us.

Closing

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 Iraq’s 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 Saddam’s best Armor units. This time Ghost Troop is writing history by turning Saddam’s 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.


End of newsletter.

dixicritter
2003-08-30, 14:28
Hello family members from the cradle of civilization, the fertile crescent of the Tigress and Euphrates Rivers, Baghdad Iraq. The temperatures here continue to be above 100, often above 110. The daily grind continues for soldiers conducting patrols, convoy escorts, and fixed site security.

This week, the Baath party took control of Iraq in 1969, so there have been some heightened security precautions taken just in case the Baath Return Party decides to celebrate it’s birthday by terrorist attacks. So far nothing big has happened, and we expect to return to pretty much normal by Friday.

As with previous installments this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.

1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

The moral computer server has been experiencing some sporadic blackouts for various reasons such as loss of satellite link, loss of power, and general computer problems. If you haven’t been able to receive e-mails regularly, this may be the problem. Whenever Ghost Troop has morale phone/computer day we take all the unit laptops to the computer room to network into the system so as many soldiers as can get on the system during our time.

The pay satellite phones have had worse performance then the original Army ones we already have. They have a tendency to loose their programming and must be taken back to AT&T when that happens. This means that we are often down to one or two phones like we have been in the past. Also, these phones have had some maintenance issues; apparently they are not as sturdy as the phones the Army bought for us. At about 1000 soldiers a week using them, they are suffering and may not last.

Another note is that the Intelligence group we have here that conduct signal interception have never intercepted a signal from the Army satellite phones, but have accidentally intercepted a few with the AT&T phones. While you can count on the fact they don’t care what you talk with your husband about, the ease in which they intercept the signal means that Iraqi thieves could intercept your call and things like credit card numbers, deployment dates, and operational missions should not be discussed.

Mail delivery is getting much better. It looks like the average package or letter is getting here in about ten days to three weeks. We still get very old packages however.

Soldier’s Living Conditions

Thursday the 10th, the holes were knocked into the barracks walls for the air conditioning units. On Friday the 11th they re-wired the barracks electricity to support the current requirements for the air conditioning. The Air conditioners were supposed to be totally installed by Monday, but we never really expected this to happen. With the heightened security precautions, the amount of construction has been scaled back for now, but we expect them to get back to full swing by the end of the week.

The next upgrade that is planned is to have carpenters install partitions in the building to create squad sized bays. I do not have a planned date for this to start, but the Regimental CSM told me this would be coming soon. Some of our soldiers have already created personal space by using some of the left over furniture we already had in the building.

Shower trailers have still not arrived, but are greatly anticipated. We now have 7 chemical latrines for the troop. It took a while to get all the latrines that were contracted. The problem was this: the chemical port-a-potty is not something the Iraqi people are used to in the first place, so it is something totally new that their infrastructure is not used to supporting.

ETS/PCS/Re-Deployment

Since we began re-deploying soldiers, three have already left, and two more leave today. We now have a total of 12 more soldiers expected to leave over the next month for ETS or PCS. The platoons are starting to get short handed and we have had to start closing down scout trucks in order to maintain a minimum of three man truck crews for the scout trucks. Since the scout trucks are pulling the most of the missions, soldiers from other sections like mortars and FIST have been augmenting the scout platoons for a while in order to maintain the tempo and security that we must do in order to accomplish the mission.

On the other end, we have gotten a couple of soldiers transferred into the troop from within the Squadron to fill some vacancies created, so there is at least one new family in the FRG that hopefully will get integrated into the Ghost Troop Family before we get back.

Pay Issues

This Monday I checked into the Family Separation Pay, and it appears that the pay is fixed for the majority of the soldiers. When the end of the month comes, I will get a finance report and LESs to check and see if anyone was missed. In some cases the Army may be carrying some dual military soldiers as ineligible or may not have a soldier in the finance system as married. In these cases I will work to fix those individuals records on a case-by-case basis.

Another issue that has hit some soldiers is lack of LESs because their spouses have access to My Pay and have inadvertently changed the LES option. With My Pay, you have the ability to see the Leave and Earnings Statement on line, and also have the option to turn off the paper copy to unit. If the soldiers were not deployed and had Internet access then this would not be a problem. But currently we are getting paper copies through finance so the soldiers can see if their pay is correct. Also, this is the only way I have to verify that they are getting the correct entitlements since the Unit Finance Report does not list specific entitlements. So, if you have access to your soldier’s My Pay, please do not change the LES to on-line only. You can see it and probably print it, but leave the options so that we can still get a paper copy for the soldier.

Commander’s Corner

Dear Families of the FRG,

I would just like to write a quick note to update you all on the status of the troop in the past two weeks. The troop has been kept busy with our operations in Baghdad and fortunately our luck continues. We continue to assist the Iraqi Police Department in their efforts to become an effective and credible force, and we are starting to see tangible results for all our efforts. We’ve been conducting joint checkpoints and patrols with them and have seen a day-to-day improvement in their operations.

As you have read earlier in the newsletter our troop is starting to see its first soldiers depart Iraq due to ETS dates and retirements, and in coming weeks we will see our first soldiers and families departing to PCS leaving Fort Polk for other assignments. As much as we will all miss them, and in many cases envy them, I would like to take this time to welcome two new additions to the Troop. First off, I would like to welcome SSG F, and his wife. They are coming to the troop from Fox Troop and SSG F will be heading our maintenance section. PFC S has also joined the troop from HHT and will be serving in White Platoon. I would appreciate your help in making the F family feel welcome as they transition from Fox Troop to Ghost.

On the subject of re-deployment I wish there was something I could tell you. Your husbands, sons, and brothers are waiting just as anxiously as you are for a return date; again, I promise I will tell you as soon as we know anything. On that note I’ll finish this update, I wish you the best, and we will continue to do our best to keep you informed and to keep our soldiers safe.

CPT M
Ghost 6

Closing

This newsletter is not as long as the previous ones because there have been fewer questions forwarded to me to answer. If you have concerns that I can address by this format, please feel free to send them on so I can get the information out. If you have a question, chances are someone else may also have the same question.

End of the newsletter.

dixicritter
2003-08-30, 14:29
Hello again from Baghdad. Things here continue to make slow but steady improvement. There were not any huge leaps in the quality of life for our soldiers, but things don’t always happen quickly. Most of the excitement this week for us happened outside the camp with the missions we are conducting in Baghdad. The soldiers continue to act as total professionals and do their best to represent the United States and our way of life to the Iraqi people.

As with previous installments this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.
1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Events this Week

This week Ghost Troop and Cougar Squadron had some pretty important key events happen.

On the 16th, the commander from How Battery was shot in the chest at close range with an AK47. He was wearing his vest with the insert and only had the breath knocked out of him as well as some minor bruising. The plates really do work and are required to be worn when outside the camp.

On the 17th, we had one platoon go to the Palace for a re-enlistment. One of the 2nd Platoon soldiers re-enlisted for Hawaii (I haven’t got his report date yet) and wanted to do his re-up at the huge crossed sabers at the Palace (these things are about 100’ tall). On the way back, shooting erupted all over our sector because one of the Imams started a rumor that we had captured Saddam Hussein. This was also important because this was the day he was supposed to return to Baghdad. This of course did not happen, but the shooting was pretty intense and we though we might have been under attack because of the volume of fire.

Later that day (the 17th) we raided a counterfeiting ring and made a huge find. We captured a family that had the paper and security strips needed to make 10,000 Dinar bills and was printing them in his house. He was using computers to print the bills in sheets, then would use printing methods to add real serial numbers and would apply the metal security strips to make the bills real. As we searched the house we found other stuff like weapons and drugs. In total we captured well over 20,000,000 Dinar (that is about $20,000 US), about four boxes containing hundreds of sheets of counterfeit Dinar still being made (each sheet contained ten 10,000 Dinar notes, the total was estimated at about 1.5 billion Dinars or about 1.5 million US dollars), over $280,000 in US currency, 4 weapons, cocaine, heroin, 2 cars, and eight men.

On the 18th we were briefed by the new SCO, LTC Hoffman, about the mission here, his philosophy on some things, and about what the near future looks like around camp. The big question was: when are we leaving? The answer still is: “I don’t know”.

On the 19th we received our first replacement soldier from Fort Polk. He is a brand new soldier fresh out of OSUT at Fort Knox. Later that night we were all pulled in when a rumor when out from an Imam (again) that we had arrested one of the top Muslim leaders in this country. The SCO didn’t want to risk what happened down south when the British were attacked and killed by an angry mob, so we pulled in and tried to confirm the story. Again, another baseless rumor.

On the 22nd the E7 list was released and two Ghost Troopers were selected for promotion to Sergeant First Class. They know their names and I’m sure their families already know. We also received a new soldier to our commo section on a transfer from HHT. One of the newly selected NCOs has moved to Fox Troop to take a platoon, we wish him luck.

Finally, the biggest news yet, on the 22nd, Saddam’s two sons were both killed in Iraq by coalition forces. The shooting last night in celebration by the Iraqi people was so intense we had too bring everyone in under cover because bullets were falling out of the sky. This morning when we got up, there were bullets laying around that were easy to see in the sunlight.

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

Regiment now has their Internet café and according to the soldiers that have seen it, it is a pretty good deal: $4 an hour for Internet connection. We have a contract to get ours, but I do not have a firm projected date yet; the projected date is “sometime in mid August”. Once it is up, soldiers should be able to go there during their free time to e-mail and maybe even chat with people back home.

The pay satellite phones continue to suck; I cannot say it any other way. The Army satellite phone is still available and working most of the time, although last week when we had phone time, there were problems with all the available lines being busy. There is a plan to get every troop cellular phones and authorize them for long distance dialing, but the infrastructure here in Baghdad is still a little shot up and cannot support the international long distance call load that would place on it. Apparently cell phone traffic was something the old regime ended up relying on and we took a lot of that out too. But, eventually there will be something like that worked out for the soldiers here.

Soldier’s Living Conditions

Last week you may remember that there were security issues with the anniversary of the Baath party taking power. This caused a slow down in the progress for barracks upgrade. We made it through that without any real significant events (just some malicious rumors). Now work is continuing on the barracks for the soldiers. They are installing the metal support frames for the air conditioning in the barracks, and have started putting ceiling fans in the barracks to help with the airflow. The contract should be finished in about two weeks and include 24 air conditioning units and 20 ceiling fans. Right now the barracks are a mess because they started putting in the ceiling fans this morning.

There is a General in charge of the upgrades and some of the soldier welfare issues that should be touring the camp today. I hope to get him through as much as possible so he can see the issues. I don’t know if that will create much of an impact, but it is worth trying. As I understand it, there are a lot of soldiers living in palaces that live better than us, but there are also a lot of soldiers living in tents in the middle of the desert living worse.

The shower trailers are still not here on post, but they have been arriving at other posts. We should see them soon. Although they at other posts, those posts still do not have them working because they have to install the plumbing to make them work. We may have an advantage when our trailers get here because we have a fairly advanced water system already in place at the cigarette factory. The chemical latrines are up and running, we now have a total of seven in the troop.

There was an Iraqi food vendor open on post this week that sold sodas, chickens, and hamburgers. They didn’t cook and food on post but bought it and brought it in around lunch. About the 18th he started bringing in Pizza, and on the 19th the pizza was laced with glass, so no more Iraqi food vendor for now. The place that he got the pizza was raided.

Something new we were briefed about on Monday is an attempt the military is making to set up an R&R facility in Qatar. We don’t have details yet, but there is a plan in the works to set up some sort of rotation to send soldiers down to it for a break away from the grind here in Iraq. There isn’t any confirmation on what they will have down there yet.

ETS/PCS/Re-Deployment

We are up to six soldiers who have re-deployed and have another leaving today. Nine more soldiers are expected to leave by 20 August for ETS or PCS. After 20 August, we have one more soldier projected to leave sometime around the 1st of September, and have about two to three possible for leaving in October if we are still here.

As I mentioned earlier, we received our first real replacement from Fort Polk on the 19th. We are scheduled to receive two more soldiers coming from Fort Polk sometime this month. We have also received another soldier for our commo section from HHT today and we should be getting another NCO around the 1st of August from Hawk Company.

I know there are many rumors about 3rd ID being stuck here indefinitely, and there are rumors about us leaving in September. First thing, 3rd ID is still here indefinitely, we all are. But indefinitely doesn’t really mean forever. It means that there is not a projected re-deployment date for the entire division. Some soldiers have already left, and some are projected to return from that division. The entire division may not be home for some time, but parts will leave here and there as they have been doing. There are also parts of the division which are a Corps asset, that means although they are assigned to 3rd ID and wear a 3rd ID patch, for this war they are assigned to V Corps, and don’t get counted as 3rd ID necessarily. So despite what you hear about units staying here indefinitely, just remember what indefinitely really means.

Secondly, we still have a decision point in September. A decision point is not a ticket to leave, it is just a date for the commanders of the theater to get together and review what has been accomplished by a unit and decide of they are still mission essential and if there is enough cargo capacity to get the unit out of the country. The first decision point is set so a unit could return with six months in theater (April 1 + 6 months = October 1, so the decision point would be around 1 September). What the key events or accomplishments that is required for us to do is not totally know, because often the focus in the country changes. One day they (V Corps) may add getting the sewage system fixed to the list, and the next day they may remove it after an area assessment determines it is either unnecessary, or unachievable by the unit that is there. A decision may be made, but it can also be changed as we have observed with 3rd ID a couple of times. They have been set to leave and even turned in their vehicles and went through re-deployment briefings, then the decision was changed. So if the 2nd of September (or whenever) comes and we get briefings, nothing is for sure until we actually leave the country. If we are not chosen to return at the decision point in September, that decision will be reviewed every month after that. So this means that yes, technically we are here indefinitely, but it also means that every month they will check to see if we will get off the indefinite status.

So, to sum that all up: basically 3rd ID is still trying to get out of here. There are still a couple of brigades from them on the ground (one brigade is about the same size as the regiment) that should leave before us, and there are a few specialized units in the division that may not leave with the rest of 3rd ID and be here after us (maybe). We will reach our first decision point the beginning of September and get a review monthly to decide when we leave, or maybe if we just move to another part of the theater to help in another sector. We were sent here on a one-year deployment, and if we leave in 11 months we are ahead of schedule.

Other rumors may get started because we get asked for information. They will need to know about how much packaging material, shipping containers, special materials, etc before they can even make a decision. BUT, someone may hear about V Corps asking how many trucks we need, or shipping containers, or whatever, and think that we are about to leave. This wouldn’t really mean anything. So, before you get your hopes up, just understand that there are groundless rumors started here everyday by people either hoping they are going to leave, pessimistic that we are going to leave, or starting rumors because it is their hobby.

Pay Issues

Since the last issue where I reported that the Family Separation Pay should be fixed, many soldiers have told me they have received their back pay. Hopefully next week I will get the LESs and the Financial report and find everything fixed. This will hopefully meant the end of this section of the report next week.

Closing

Apparently I am answering most of questions you have, that and the rear detachment as well as the FRG anyway. I have gotten fewer questions lately than I did when we first started this newsletter four weeks ago. If you feel you need something addressed, please ask and I will try to get an answer or cover it if I already know the answer.

Today I received a couple of e-mails from my wife that were notes from the FRG. It looks like the families of Ghost Troop are doing well and doing well. I hope that you continue to keep your morale up and come together to support one another.

End of Newsletter

dixicritter
2003-08-30, 14:30
Hello families. Baghdad continues to be our home for the foreseeable future. At least things are starting to get better at the barracks and for the quality of life which is a good thing considering we should be here a while. The temperature here has cooled off a little; I don’t think it made it to 110 all week. By the way, if you want to know what it feels like over here, take a hair dryer and turn it on to the highest heat setting and then blow it into your face. But anyway, the interpreters are telling us that usually July is the hottest month, that it starts to get cool in September, and that it might actually rain in October.

As with previous installments this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.


1SG Engman
Ghost 7
Events this Week

Not a lot of exciting stuff happened this week. Mostly it is just patrols and more patrols. Here are some of the more outstanding events:

On the 23rd, we received the new soldier for Commo from HHT as well as received a new SSG that we did not expect to get. The replacements are still not keeping pace with the losses.

On the 24th the new Army rotation schedule for units hit the streets, I will address that more later on. That night we happened to find another counterfeiter. This one was not nearly as big as the last one. It looks like the new crime wave is counterfeiting since Fox and Eagle have both also captured counterfeiters.

On the 27th we raided a house of a Fedayeen member and found weapons and a vest that could be made into a bomb vest.

The 28th the troop took a break from patrolling to give the soldiers some time to rest and take some personal time. This is the day we were also informed of the new plan to stand up an Iraqi militia by forming squads of Iraqi soldiers with American units in hopes of eventually working with Iraqis to form a professional Iraqi military formed similar to ours. Hopefully we can find out more about this for later newsletters.

Also on the 28th, another troop in the squadron was escorting some civilian vehicles that were occupied by soldiers when some Iraqi car jackers had the bad luck to pick that car to try and steal. Score = Army-2, Car Jackers-0.

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

The Internet café has not opened yet, but there is a place cleared out for it. Hopefully it will be moving along soon. The plan is for 20 pay computers open first come first serve and two free computers for college and correspondence courses via Internet. The morale computers continue to be slow. It took me about 2 hours to read one e-mail that was a question from a spouse that is addressed in this newsletter.

The AT&T phones continue to be a problem – only one is working for now, but the Army satellite phone is still working. When the AT&T phones do work, they have the best reception of any of the phones. There is still the option for DNVT calls through the Army DSN lines, but it often takes an hour of dialing to get through.

Soldier’s Living Conditions

The frames for the air conditioners are done, the air conditioners are in place, the fans are installed, and the drop lighting that I wasn’t expecting is now in. We know the systems will work because they hooked it to a generator and tested it all, but it is still not connected to power from the factory. I hope that will be done in a day or two.

The shower trailers and water tanks to supply them have started arriving and will be set up probably by the end of next week (we hope). Hot showers would be nice. The chemical latrines are now serviced daily, and we have even gotten dumpsters.

We have started to put together a DVD library. Some of my family and friends have contributed DVDs, which I have put in the supply room so soldiers can sign them out for viewing. Some soldiers have their own portable DVD players and the Troop has also set up a large TV with DVD player in the barracks. Some of the other soldiers have contributed to the library, so that we now have about 15 titles at the Troop. The squadron is also trying to get something going for the camp by setting up a barbershop that soldiers “pay” with contributions that eventually go to the DVD library. If anyone wants to contribute DVDs, please send them to your soldier, or to me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

The list of movies in the troop so far includes: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Office Space, Young Frankenstein, Die Another Day, Stripes, About Schmitt, Joe Vs. the Volcano, Catch me if You Can, Grumpier Old Men, Scary Movie 2, Minority Report, Blackhawk Down, Remember the Titans, Major League 2, Vertical Limit, and Unforgiven.

A recommendation when sending stuff like DVDs and DVD players is to send them insured. There have been some problems with mail theft when these kinds of things are in the packages. We haven‘t had any problems with it lately, but why take chances?

ETS/PCS/Re-Deployment

We have lost seven more soldiers since last week for ETS and retirement, which brings us up to 14 total losses since we started rotating people back. We are looking at loosing only three soldiers next month as the tide of soldiers caught in stop loss finally ends. We have received a few intra-squadron transfers and have received two new replacements since we got here as well.

Last week I addressed how they have been using decision points to decide if a unit is ready to re-deploy. Since I sent that e-mail, some things have changed and all that is null and void. The Army has created a rotation system that for now is a year long for units deployed over here. If you know much about the Army and look at the units here and the units that are scheduled to replace the units here, then you know that it is tight across the Army for units to meet the mission requirements for the global war on terrorism. Besides Iraqi (which is a huge chunk) there is the Afghanistan mission, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Sinai (Egypt), Korea is still being manned, Liberia is getting in the picture (the Marines are there for now), and various other places all over the world. Stryker fielding is putting some units out of the possibility for rotation for now, as well as units that are not deployable because they are a part of the Army’s training base like 16th Cavalry at Ft Knox. Units that return from Iraq like the 3rd ID can bet on being back in Iraq sometime in the near future.

So what does that mean for us in the near term? First off, ETS and PCS are continuing for now. But PCS moves may stop if strength becomes an issue. Another thing to consider for people that have re-enlisted for posts like Bragg, Lewis, and Benning is the fact that they could PCS from Iraq in November and end up coming right back out for another year in March. It could also mean that the soldier finishes the deployment with us in April, PCSs to their new duty station, and then come right back out here again with their new unit. Any way you stack it, the Army and everyone in it has probably got at least one or two more rotations to Iraq in their future. The only thing that might stop us from coming back is the planned Stryker fielding which should start in October 2004. That would lock us in to Ft Polk for two years.

Second, the Qatar R&R center is probably going to become a big spot for soldiers to go to. They could go there for a 4-day pass as a reward or needed break from the tediousness of patrolling Baghdad. This would be pretty easy to do and wouldn’t take a guy off the line for long.

Third, there is a plan for mid tour leaves to help boost morale. The rules are not in stone yet, but it is sort of like this:

1. The soldier would not be able to go on mid tour leave until he has been in country five months (that would be 1 Sep for most of us) and wouldn’t be allowed to go after the unit has been in country for 10 months (this would be 31 Jan).

2. We would not be able to send more than 10% of our total authorized strength. That 10% would include any shortages, losses, emergency leaves, people on pass to Qatar R&R center, people at school, etc. If you figure that we are authorized 118 people in the troop and have to keep a minimum strength of 106 soldiers in country, then it looks like not everyone will be able to take a leave in the time allotted since we should only have about 100 soldiers in the troop by the time we start leaves unless we get more replacements. This is especially true if some soldiers get sent to the states for two and three month long schools that will eat into the authorized slots and we also leave one spot open for un-forecasted emergency leaves.

3. For now we are planning to limit leave to two weeks in order to maximize the number of people that can take it. A soldier going on mid tour leave would fly back to an APOE like Baltimore, then be responsible for their own travel expenses to their leave address and then back to Baltimore at the end of their leave.

4. Soldiers scheduled to PCS or ETS from Iraq will not be allowed mid tour leave since they get to leave early anyway.

5. Priority for leaves will most likely go to soldiers that have had children born since we have been over here or are about to have children born. Then the next priority would be for soldiers that have extreme illnesses in the family that may end in death while we are here. We feel it would be more important for these individuals to see their loved ones while they are still alive instead of waiting until they died to go to a funeral.

Fourth, it means the soldiers that needed BNCOC and ANCOC may be sent back for school for two or three months depending on the school. We do not plan to give leave in conjunction with one of these schools since a soldier will already get travel time, will get weekends and holidays while at school, and should be able to work visiting family into that. We don’t see it being fair to a the rest of the soldiers that one man could go back for eight weeks of school plus travel time and also get two weeks of leave.

Pay Issues

Family Separation is fixed. Any other pay problems should be addressed by the soldier when finance comes to the camp every 2 weeks (the next visit is on the 11th). If you have a pay problem in the rear, please make sure the soldier lets me know and then goes and fixes it. Occasionally I find out after a problem has existed a while that could have been fixed.

Closing

Work here continues and we keep on surviving just fine. Morale is higher than I expected after the announcement of the rotations schedule. It looks like the soldiers are resigning themselves to the fact that they won’t be leaving anytime soon, but at least they know what to look forward to. At least when we get back, soldiers won’t have to worry about going to Korea in the near future (unless they want to) because we will all get credit for a short tour.

I’ve also been told by a few people outside the Troop and even outside the Regiment that their families are reading the Ghost Troop Newsletter because it is the best news update they are getting. I’m glad the FRG of Ghost Troop can be of service to all you non-Ghost Troop families by providing news and updated for you. Feel free to chime in with questions to my wife; I may actually be able to answer them.

End of Newsletter

dixicritter
2003-08-30, 14:31
Things are moving slowly in Iraq lately. There hasn’t been a lot of progress or any major events happening in the Troop. This is about the shortest newsletter I have written yet.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.

1SG Ernest Engman
Ghost 7

Events this Week

Not a lot of exciting stuff happened this week, mostly just guard and fewer patrols as we assume more fixed sites to protect. As you will see, guarding a tower or police station usually results in less noteworthy events.

On the 30th we raided a house but the guy wasn’t home. The next day he turned himself in because his mother was tired of having the Army coming there looking for him.

On the 1st we got a couple of pool tables in the dining facility and a couple of ping-pong tables.

On the 3rd an Iraqi cop we work with caught a drunk planning to attack our trucks. He won’t be attacking Americans now, and even decided to turn in some of his friends.

On the 5th they finally fired up the new generator for the barracks and tested it. Power for about 15 minutes so far, but it is power.

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

The Internet Café is still not established but they have wired two rooms and given them a fresh coat of paint. We keep hoping to see them sometime soon. This will be a free library of computers for soldiers to use on the Morale Day, which is still on Wednesdays.

Currently all the AT&T phones are broken. The Army satellite phone was broken but they got it fixed in the nick of time for us today. There is still the option for DNVT calls through the Army DSN lines, but it often takes an hour of dialing to get through.

Mail service has gotten down to about nine days from the postmark until we receive it, which is pretty darn good considering what we were going through just a few months ago. But we still see the occasional three-month-old package show up.

Soldier’s Living Conditions

The air conditioning, fans, lights, etc are all finished. The new generator system just arrived Monday and was being worked on Tuesday and was even tested Tuesday night. We hope to have power to the barracks by the end of the week. We are trying now to get some freezers to make ice and a satellite dish for the TV so we can get real TV channels.

The Shower trailers have the water tanks and waste tanks installed. Once power is connected they should be usable. An interesting piece of information is that these trailers were supposed to go somewhere else, but the contractor sort of hijacked them and sent them here from a separate contractor’s shipment. We get to keep them and the other place that was supposed to get these will get the ones we were supposed to get.

Ghost Troop Library

Last week I asked for DVDs for the library. We are still working on that but haven’t received any – but of course that was only 7 days ago and it takes the mail at least nine days to get here. We are still looking for new titles. We have had some generous offers from friends and retired military that want to help out. If you want to contribute, you can mail movies to your soldier or to me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

The list of movies in the troop so far includes: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Office Space, Young Frankenstein, Die Another Day, Stripes, About Schmitt, Joe Vs. the Volcano, Catch me if You Can, Grumpier Old Men, Scary Movie 2, Minority Report, Blackhawk Down, Remember the Titans, Major League 2, Vertical Limit, and Unforgiven. There are definitely more movies floating around on camp but soldiers have yet to turn in any titles.

A recommendation when sending stuff like DVDs and DVD players is to send them insured. There have been some problems with mail theft when these kinds of things are in the packages. We haven‘t had any problems with it lately, but why take chances?

Another thing we have started is a paperback and magazine library where soldiers can read a book until they are finished with it then swap for a new one. It is hard for soldiers to get new stuff over here, so they were already swapping. We have about 20 books and 30 magazines so far.

ETS/PCS/Re-Deployment

We haven’t lost any more soldiers nor have we gained any since last week. The loss rate has gone down and will continue to dwindle. The majority of our losses were people that should have already separated from the Army but didn’t because of the war. The next couple of soldiers to leave are soldiers that re-enlisted for a new duty station prior to the war and are now being allowed to continue to that assignment. Not everyone that re-enlisted for a new assignment is being allowed to leave yet because of some Army strength policies that I cannot seem to work around. Soldiers that have re-enlisted over here or will re-enlist while they are over here for a new duty station will not PCS until we get back next spring.

Last week I addressed the mid tour leave, as something that was not set in stone and that is still true. Officially we do not have any mid tour leave yet because it has not been approved at higher levels for anyone including the other squadrons – no matter what you hear. The CSM and commander for 1st Armor Division (which we are a part of) must approve it at their level for the regiment, which they have not done because of the same strength problems I mentioned last week. And even if they approve it, the Theater command must also approve it. What I did send was based on the 1st AD policy letter that was sent out that outlined their plan to implement mid-tour leave if and when the theater commander approves it.

Theater wide, there are problems with replacements which the Army is working on, but may not fix any time soon. My GUESS is the priority for personnel will be to the units that are not deployed but are getting ready to rotate over here to replace us and other units already in theater. It may seem like a weird problem to some, but in reality you cannot just make more soldiers if you need more like you can do with bullets, food, trucks, etc. Soldiers are already maxed out around the world and the Army is already over its current authorized strength by congressional act. New soldiers must be authorized by law, recruited, trained, prepared for deployment, and then deployed.

Closing

Sorry there isn’t much to report this time. Our missions are continuing to tie us down to more and more fixed positions, which isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing. On a positive note the attacks against US forces seems to be on the decline recently and we hope that continues to be the way things go.

We continue to stick in there and work our tails off (well, the soldiers work harder than I do) hoping that somehow it will help us come home maybe a little bit sooner. There is always hope!

End of newsletter.

dixicritter
2003-08-30, 14:32
Hello from Baghdad, Iraq. This week has been a complete scorcher with temperatures getting up to and around 120 almost daily. The heat has been a real problem for a lot of units in the theater and the Squadron has not been immune. By now you have already heard about the tragic death of one of the Squadron’s own soldiers from heat stroke. We are doing everything we can to prevent something like that occurring to one of our troopers. Water is plentiful and the work hours have been adjusted wherever possible to ensure their safety.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.


1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Events this Week

There have been some interesting events happening this week, but with the increased security load and decreased patrols, the interesting stories will continue to be fewer.

On the 6th, we started fitting one of the local defense forces known as the Facility Protection Service (basically guards on government facilities) with the new uniforms. This may sound small, but it is a part of getting the Iraqi government back on its feet and freeing up American forces so that they may eventually need less of us over here.

On the 7th everyone already knows about the car bomb attack on the Jordanian embassy. That is not anywhere near here so we were all safe. There was also an attack at the Palace that was highly ineffective that included Lightning Troop from 3rd Squadron. No one on our side was hurt.

On the 8th the new R&R pass policy was announced and Ghost Troop was given some of the first slots to Qatar because we were the first line troop from the Squadron to deploy. I’ll discuss this more later. 4th Platoon and some other soldiers from HQ platoon were the lucky ones selected to go.

On the 9th the Troop provided security for a ceremony turning over control of facility security in the neighborhood of Jamilya to the local government and the FPS. The ceremony went off without a hitch and the troopers were commended by the chain of command all the way up to Regiment for the outstanding job they did in setting it up. This was also the day the soldier from How Battery died from heat stroke.

The 11th we raided a house of a supposed counterfeiter and found that he was making fake passports. 3.5 million dinars were seized and a weapon. At the current rate of exchange, 3.5 million dinars are only about $2,400 US.

On the 12th we finally got power to the barracks. More on that later…

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

The Internet Café is set up and wired in. All we are waiting on is the server connection to be established so we can use it. This is a free service to soldiers consisting of 20 computers. 2 of the 20 are dedicated to soldiers for correspondence course work and the rest are available to the units during their moral computer day.

Basically there is no change on the phones. Currently all the AT&T phones are broken. The Army satellite phone is broken and fixed almost every other day. There is still the option for DNVT calls through the Army DSN lines, but it often takes an hour of dialing to get through and often soldiers get a bad connection or disconnected.


Soldier’s Living Conditions

As you may remember from previous newsletters, the air conditioners, fans, lights, refrigerators, etc are all installed and work; yet we have no power yet. Apparently the generator was working for about an hour last week, but it did not cool itself properly and ended up overheating. Then the automatic shut off system that is supposed to prevent engine damage failed and the engine seized up. They worked on it for five days trying to fix it but couldn’t get it running again. Tuesday they finally got another, smaller generator as a back up until they get the main one fixed. But at least now the soldiers have somewhere to cool off and a way to make potable ice for their water. The contractor has a $200,000 check that will not get cashed until he gets the entire system fixed.

The Shower trailers are working now. There are 10 trailers set up with 6 stalls each. The water is limited so soldiers cannot take long showers, but they can take hot showers in an air-conditioned building. There have been a couple of cases of soldiers taking very long showers when no one was monitoring them and the water running out, and there has been a problem with the generators for them running out of fuel when no one was monitoring them (they have their own power system). I don’t mean to make it sound bad, they are great, and a vast improvement over what we have been using.

Ghost Troop Library

Over the last two week I asked for DVDs for the library. This week some started flowing in. Fred Harris sent a very generous contribution of brand new DVDs to the troop more than doubling the size of our collection. Thank you Mr. Harris.

We continue to look for new movies. If you want to contribute, you can mail movies to your soldier or to me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

The list of movies in the troop so far includes: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Office Space, Young Frankenstein, Die Another Day, Stripes, About Schmitt, Joe Vs. the Volcano, Catch me if You Can, Grumpier Old Men, Scary Movie 2, Minority Report, Blackhawk Down, Remember the Titans, Major League 2, Vertical Limit, Unforgiven, Blazing Saddles, The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, The Sum of all Fears, The Godfather I, II, and III, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Footloose, Dr No, Goldfinger, Goldeneye, License to Kill, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Tomorrow Never Dies, Bourne Identity, Fellowship of the Ring, Star Wars episode II, Mr. Deeds, A Beautiful Mind, The Rookie, Vanilla Sky, Ali, and The Three Stooges Collection.

A recommendation when sending stuff like DVDs and DVD players is to send them insured. There have been some problems with mail theft when these kinds of things are in the packages. We haven‘t had any problems with it lately, but why take chances?

Our book and magazine library continues to grow as well. Right now we are up to about 40+ books and as many magazines.

ETS/PCS/Re-Deployment

There is nothing really new to report about this for now. Next week we lose another two soldiers but we are hoping that some replacements can be sent soon from the rear detachment. There are soldiers back at Fort Polk that should be getting ready for deployment to come out here and help us and we constantly hope that they will get some on flights out to relive some of the pressure we are feeling from the manpower shortages. As long as the losses outpace the replacements, we will continue to have problems – every single person counts.

R&R Pass

The Qatar R&R pass starts this coming week for us. We will get 22 slots for a four-day trip to the CENTCOM HQ in Qatar. The first platoon to go was chosen by drawing straws to be as fair as possible, and then any empty slots were filled from the HQ platoon. 4th Platoon gets to be the first and the reconnaissance element for the Squadron to Qatar.

We don’t exactly know what services they have there, but supposedly they have a pool and real food, as well as an air-conditioned place for the soldiers to stay. I assume there will be some other recreational facilities. Whatever they have, it is a needed break for the soldiers to get away from the grind of daily patrols here in Baghdad.

As usual, there have been some rules set on this as well to ensure fairness across the Regiment. Soldiers that are departing before December will not get a pass to Qatar, nor will soldiers that have not been in theater for 90 days.

Heat Injuries

I wasn’t sure if I should include something about this in the newsletter.

Heat injuries have been on the rise across the theater because of the recent heat wave that seems to be hitting us. A heat injury can be something as simple as cramps from not getting enough fluids, or can be as serious as death from heat stroke. The main way to combat heat injury is by drinking water. Soda, coffee, tea, etc do not help and sometimes actually hurt.

You can be fairly cool in only 70-80 degree weather and suffer a heat injury or death from lack of hydration, or you can survive fine in 120-degree weather if you get enough liquids so that the body can cool itself without loosing too much water.

Other things that can affect heat injury are not eating meals to replace minerals and being sick already. I bring all this up so that you can understand better what happened to the soldier that passed away. He had been sick for a few days and was on quarters, not out in the hot sun. While he was sick and on quarters he was probably not drinking enough or eating enough to keep minerals and water in his body. Eventually he went to sleep as he had been doing quite a bit up until then and never woke up.

It is a sad thing that happened, but I wanted you all to know that it was an unusual event, not something that we would normally expect to happen. If we were standing around for hours on a post in the hot sun or doing hard labor in the heat of the day we would be rotating soldiers as often as possible to avoid overheating and ensuring they get plenty of food and water. These are the things that you know put soldiers at risk for becoming a heat related casualty. No one expects a person not doing anything to overheat and getting plenty of rest to be the soldier at risk for serious heat injury.

Commander’s Corner

Dear families of the FRG,

I apologize about not writing more often, however 1SG Engman does such an outstanding job with the newsletter it is often hard to find anything to add. Today I have just three additions to the newsletter.

First I’d like to welcome the two newest members of Ghost Troop: (edited to remove names). Both of them are already contributing greatly to the Ghost Troop Team.

I’d also like to talk about the heat a little bit. As 1SG already discussed, Howitzer Battery recently has one of its soldiers die from a heat injury. This was the first fatality of the war so far for Cougar Squadron and hopefully the last. I’d like to reassure you that we are doing our best to ensure the welfare of our family and prevent a similar tragedy within the Troop. As 1SG Engman mentioned in the last addition of the newsletter 1AD was kind enough to issue us all Camel Bak Hydration Systems, these are now a mandatory part of the Ghost uniform, ensuring soldiers always have access to water. Additionally the Squadron has doubled the amount of bottled water and ice available to soldiers giving soldiers the chance to drink as much cool water as they want (each soldier now receives eight 1.5 liter bottles a day, about 3 gallons, plus unlimited purified water from the water trailer). And as of a few minutes ago, the power in the barracks is now on. It took a lot of work by the Squadron staff, maintenance, and Iraqi workers. Knock on wood, but the generator will now power our A/C, fans, and other amenities in the barracks. Lastly, every member of the troop is dedicated to watching out for one another’s well being, anyone showing signs of a heat injury is immediately attended to, with the Aid Station giving IVs to any soldier in need.

In closing I ask for all of your patients with the deployment, it is hard on all of us. We understand that this is just as difficult for the families we left behind as it is for those of us deployed. I speak on behalf of the leaders of the Troop when I sat we will do our best to ensure your loved ones make it home in one piece and to take care of them as best possible in your absence. All I ask from you is to keep the mail coming; everyday at mail call morale visibly rises in the Troop. The food, pictures, and especially the letters are priceless to all of us, and I am forever grateful to all of you for the support so far. The only addition I could ask to the care packages would be Camel Bak replacement parts; bite valves, hoses, and cleaning kits would help greatly as wear and tear is already beginning to take its toll and we have no local source for supply. Again, I thank you all for your support; I look forward to meeting you all upon our return.

Sincerely
CPT Mescall
Ghost 6

Closing

Every day the men of Ghost Troop continue to represent the United States as professional and disciplined soldiers. The heat may be wearing some of them down at times, but they always come back the next day ready to do it all over again in true Ghost Rider fashion.

But it isn’t just the great soldiers that are keeping us going. The families and friends back there that are keeping us going and handling the daily business of family and home are part of what makes us work so well. We are constantly hearing how well the Ghost Rider FRG is operating and the lack of serious problems that we are having at home, especially when you compare that to what some units and posts have had to deal with. The commander and I thank you ladies and the larger group of families for keeping the faith and keeping us running out here. It is a huge help when we can focus our energy on the mission and safety of the soldiers and not have to worry constantly about what is going on back at Fort Polk. Please continue to work together and support each other in order to make this deployment as easy as possible for everyone.

End of Newsletter

dixicritter
2003-08-30, 14:33
Good morning from Baghdad. This morning as I write they continue to dig out people from what remains of the UN compound. The last report we had: 17 dead and over 30 wounded with the work still continuing. The UN compound is on the border of our Regimental area, within a mile or two of Regimental headquarters and the Regimental Support Squadron including the hospital. There have been 2d Cavalry soldiers on the scene from the beginning since 1st Squadron helps supply some of the security for the UN. The cavalry continues to play an important role in world events. Rest assured your husbands and family members here are safe and everyone is healthy and doing well.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.

1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Events this Week

If you have been watching the news you know there have been some important events here in Baghdad. The soldiers of the Regiment, the squadron, and often the troop have been involved in some of the things you may have seen on TV this week.

On the 13th we sent 4th Platoon to Qatar with some of the soldiers from the Troop HQ platoon. They got there and back safely and had a good time. I’ll talk more about that later on in the newsletter.

Also on the 13th a helicopter from the Regiment started an “incident” when they knocked over, cut down, or blew down a religious flag at a rally. That part is still under investigation, but apparently that video has been on the national news but I have not been able to see it yet. Later on that day three patrols went through the area unaware of what had happened. The patrols were an MP patrol which left the area as soon as they were fired on, a patrol from Hawk Company that was physically accosted when some of the soldiers got out to clear the path thinking it was only a traffic jam (no one was hurt), and a patrol of PSYOPS trucks that included one of our trucks from Ghost Troop as security. They were fired at with small arms and RPGs and the Ghost Truck returned fire. We did not take any casualties but we did hit some Iraqis. The number and ages of the people that were wounded have changed at various times so I cannot tell you accurately at this time how many we did hit.

On the 14th we did not conduct any patrols at all because the command decided to let things calm down in wake of events on the 13th. We took the time to catch up on maintenance and getting the soldiers some down time.

On the 15th and 16th we also suspended patrols and took the time to work on building in some more defensive positions around the perimeter. You can never have enough of those. We also got a new cell phone, which I will also cover later.

On the 17th we started patrolling again with limited patrols. 4th Platoon returned from Qatar. The Internet Café was opened.

On the 18th we added some more structures to the troop defensive plan.

On the 19th the UN compound was bombed, soldiers from the Squadron and the regiment were sent to secure the site, treat the wounded, and help recover survivors from the wreckage. We were conducting normal patrols and working on improving the security at the MP/Police station we guard at the time.


Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

The Internet Café is up and running. There are 17 computers for Ghost to use on Wednesdays; four computers for first come first serve throughout the week, and one computer for correspondence courses. The computers are all free and have a twenty-minute time limit, but as long as no one is standing in line and the soldier doesn’t have another mission, then they can stay on line longer than twenty minutes. So far the connection speed is very good. The only problem is the system is on Iraqi power, which occasionally goes out. When it does the system goes down and requires all the computers to be logged back in when the power is restored.

The phone system still consists of a DNVT which is now back at the Troop and is for official use only between 0800-2000, the Army satellite phone which is free but only available on Wednesdays, the AT&T pay satellite phones which are often broke, and a new cell phone. The cell phone is issued to the troop for business within town but can also be used for morale calls when it is charged and available. The benefit to this system when it is available is the rates are the same as calling from New York instead of international long distance rates. Not every Troop has one of these phones so we feel lucky that we did get one. The phone needs to be charged regularly so it cannot be used continuously even though the soldiers would like it to be.


Soldier’s Living Conditions

Power for the barracks air conditioning has gotten better. They have a small generator that can supply five building running for now. It occasionally overheats and needs servicing twice a day, so the system is shut off for about four hours every day, which isn’t bad. The larger generator that was part of the contract has been sent to a shop to get it fixed and should eventually provide continuous power for all the barracks buildings.

The Shower trailers have been a painful learning experience. They require daily maintenance, which the contractor has not been providing. We finally took ownership of one to keep it clean and maintained, which was the best policy anyway. In true Ghost Troop fashion we picked the worst one and made it the best one.

This week should also start the contracting of food for the dining facility This will replace part of the Army field system with something similar to what the Army in the US uses. Because we are remotely located from where the contractor is set up the hang up in the system so far is whether to have the food cooked and then shipped here or to ship the food here and have our cooks prepare it. It looks like they are going to try shipping the food here and letting our cooks prepare it for now.

We are also going to be having a Squadron holiday sometime later on this month that will give the soldiers a down day and should have some good food like shrimp and/or steaks similar to the 4th of July thing we did last month This time they intend to do it over two days so that the soldiers working the missions can get a full day off by us (the troop command group) working a shift system of some kind.

Another cool thing that happened this week was a package from The Columbia Washboard Co in Ohio, which contained washboards, washtubs, and blocks of hand made, hand cut, old fashioned laundry soap as a part of something called “Operation Washboard”. Since soldiers often resort to hand washing their laundry, this is a huge gift. The soaps are various cool smells like Seashore and Nag Champa. We greatly appreciate this and are including them this week in the FRG newsletter.


Ghost Troop Library

The DVD library is growing. I see soldiers getting lots of them in but I haven’t received any title lists to add to the newsletter to let you back home know what all we have. We appreciate all the support on that because now we have a pretty darn good selection. We don’t have to see the same 5 movies every week!

We continue to look for new movies. If you want to contribute, you can mail movies to your soldier or to me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

The list of movies in the troop so far includes: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Office Space, Young Frankenstein, Die Another Day, Stripes, About Schmitt, Joe Vs. the Volcano, Catch me if You Can, Grumpier Old Men, Scary Movie 2, Minority Report, Blackhawk Down, Remember the Titans, Major League 2, Vertical Limit, Unforgiven, Blazing Saddles, The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, The Sum of all Fears, The Godfather I, II, and III, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, Footloose, Dr No, Goldfinger, Goldeneye, License to Kill, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Tomorrow Never Dies, Bourne Identity, Fellowship of the Ring, Star Wars episode II, Mr. Deeds, A Beautiful Mind, The Rookie, Vanilla Sky, Ali, and The Three Stooges Collection.

A recommendation when sending stuff like DVDs and DVD players is to send them insured. There have been some problems with mail theft when these kinds of things are in the packages. We haven‘t had any problems with it lately, but why take chances?

Our book and magazine library continues to grow as well. Magazines that are current are a great hit. News magazines like Newsweek have become fairly popular since we have been encountering problems getting normal newspapers over here. I have been trying to figure out a way to get us a newspaper subscription or two over here.


ETS/PCS/Re-Deployment

We have not lost any soldiers this week for ETS, but we have received two new replacements to the troop. Both are new soldiers from Fort Knox Kentucky and we have been watching them closely in the heat since they haven’t been living in a 120+ degree desert for the last four months. There are supposed to be more replacements coming soon, hopefully we get some more.

We did lose one SFC to Regimental HHT – SFC J from 3rd Platoon. He volunteered to take over the RS-3 office as the NCOIC and was the best candidate. We will miss him but it is an important position and a good career move for him.

As for overall re-deployment, we still don’t have an exact day other than “before April”. But a good sign is that Lightning Troop, which has been over here since October 2002, is scheduled to leave next month. They deserve it and I hope it indicates that the rotation plan will work, as it should when our time gets here.


R&R Pass

The Qatar R&R was a hit. Qatar is a small country located on a peninsula in the Persian Gulf jutting out from the side of Saudi Arabia. It is one of the most conservative of the Islamic countries, it is where CENTCOM’s HQs is located, and is one of America’s closest allies

Before soldiers left, they were able (if they wanted) to draw an additional $300 casual pay over and above the Army $200 maximum in order to have spending money while in Qatar. Only soldiers that were going on R&R could do this. The soldiers flew from BIAP (Baghdad International Air Port) on a C130 to Qatar on a three-hour flight. Once the soldiers arrived at the air base, they were taken by bus to Camp Al Salihah and given a thirty-minute briefing concerning the rules and regulations while there are there. There is a battalion of MPs on the base to make sure they abide by the rules. The camp is completely secure and soldiers did not even have to take weapons, flak vests, or Kevlar helmets. In fact they could wear civilian clothing, PT uniform, or DCUs at their discretion.

The facilities for the soldiers include a large air, conditioned, open barracks with showers and laundry facilities and real bunks with linen. The dining facility there is free and was rated as the best the soldiers have ever seen by those that have seen it. The post also has a great PX, Burger King, Subway, and a Pizza Inn for those soldiers craving fast food. There were also the standard things like a gym, theater, barbershop, TC, game rooms, etc. Some cool extras that are not normally on an Army post were a day spa and an Olympic sized swimming pool. Similar to all the posts over here, they had an Internet café and a phone center for the soldiers to use while there that was dedicated to the R&R soldiers.

The base also had some recreational activities for the R&R soldiers on a limited basis. Soldiers had to enter a lottery system if they were interested in these activities, which included para sailing, a trip to a five star hotel, Jet Ski, and a mall trip into the local town. Some special things

Of course the big question for many was drinking. There was alcohol available, but there was also a strictly enforced three drink limit and only one place to buy it – which was a lounge that did not open until 9 PM. There were plenty of MPs on site to keep everyone honest.

The opinion of everyone that went was very positive. It was the best break they have gotten during the entire deployment, and in the words of one of the soldiers that went: “the Army has gone above and beyond in an attempt to make our live a little better.”


Emergency Leave

I feel this needs to be addressed here because in the last couple of weeks we have received four Red Cross messages requesting soldiers presence and we have only approved two (and of those two we probably only should have approved one). I want to make sure everyone understands we are not picking on anyone and that not everyone can come home because of a situation. There is an Army regulation (AR 600-8-10) that covers leaves and is specific about what is an emergency leave. When we trained at Fort Polk and someone’s wife or child went for surgery, the commander and I could make a call (most of the time) whether or not to keep a soldier out of training, to send them home early, or to bring them to the field later. The commander and I are family men and we empathize with the situations that do come up for many of the families out there.

But this is different from a training event on the back 40 of Fort Polk. It takes a lot of resources to get someone back from Iraq and we are shorthanded as it is. Add to that the fact that some soldiers from the theater have got to come home for emergency leave for a situation that did not meet the requirements of the regulation, and that some people that have gone back have found ways to “extend” the circumstances that got them back in the first place. The theater command is cracking down on who gets to go back and ensuring that the regulation is followed.

In order to get an emergency leave there must be a Red Cross message that is sent from the Red Cross to the unit in order for us to verify the emergency. The system seems to be working well; you must understand however the Red Cross is not a message service that sends whatever message you want them too. You tell them the situation and the points of contact that you know of, and then they call, verify, and then send what they can verify. What you may consider to be an emergency may only qualify as a welfare message to their standards, please understand the Red Cross worker you are talking to is a volunteer about 99% of the time, so please be nice an patient.

Once the message gets to us, the commander and/or I read and try and call for any information we may need that isn’t in the message. Calling from here can be a pain in the butt, but we always make an attempt if there is a request for soldier presence to see if the presence is warranted. Just because the doctor and the family want a service member home does not mean it will happen though. We notify the soldier and always make sure they get some phone time to talk to the family back home.

Of course the big question is what constitutes getting a soldier home on emergency leave, well it is pretty narrowly defined and here it is. This is directly out of the regulation, the extra information starting with ** is my notes added to it to clear up some misconceptions.

(1) When the soldier's presence will contribute to the welfare of a terminally ill member of the immediate family when the expected date of death is within the month.

**Because a procedure could be life threatening does not meet the criteria of the above paragraph. Especially when prognosis is good and a recovery is expected.

(2) Because of the death of an immediate family member.

** Family members are defined as immediate family members – brothers, sisters, parents, children, spouses, etc. Aunts, uncles, grand parents and in-laws do not count but stepparents do. There is an exception for relatives that were the primary in loco parentis for 5 or more years.

(3) For a serious situation involving accident, illness, or major surgery that cannot be postponed due to the urgency of the medical condition. The situation must result in a serious family problem. The family problem must impose important responsibilities on the soldier that must be met immediately and cannot be accomplished from his duty station or by any other individuals or by other means.

**This is a harder rule to interpret sometimes. Because a spouse is going to surgery and their needs to be someone to help care for children at home does not qualify the soldier automatically. There must be no other means like parents, neighbors, childcare, etc. to take care of the children. Key things that should be looked at are: 1. What is the important responsibility that only the soldier can meet? 2. Is it immediate? 3. Who else would do it if the soldier could not?

(4) Because the soldier is affected personally by a disaster (for example, hurricane, tornado, or flood) when severe or unusual hardship would be encountered if the soldier failed to return home.

So before you get your hopes up and you mind set that the service member can come home if there is an issue back home, please make sure you understand all this. We are not arbitrarily denying leaves and it is one of the hardest things I have to do when I tell someone that has their mind made up that they qualify that they do not.

I also must add to this that the commander is not the approving authority. So even if he did want to send a soldier back, he must send it to a higher level and be prepared to answer the hard questions. There are times we have to tell a soldier that they cannot get emergency leave, and they think that just taking it to the approving authority and pleading their case will change things. The approving authority also must abide by the regulation and we are simply the gatekeepers at our level.

Because of recent problems with emergency leave, there is now a system in place that limits the leaves to 14 days, and imposes a limit with extensions to a maximum of 30 days. All leaves must go through PSB regardless of the commander’s approval to get a fund code and to ensure the leave situation is legitimate. Unfortunately the abuse of the system by people that are sometimes simply well meaning an compassionate chains-of-command that wanted to take care of soldiers has put the entire system under a microscope and made it harder for everyone.

The best thing you can do to alleviate any problems at home is to come up with a contingency plan in case the soldier cannot come back. Do not count on their return for anything, and then be thankful if they do get to come home. It also helps if there is not a request for service member’s presence on every Red Cross message that comes in. It is sort of like “The Boy That Cried Wolf”, if every message we receive wants the soldier home, even when they know the soldier does not meet the regulatory requirements, then it is harder to sort thought the deserving and needing cases and the cases that are not needing and deserving.


Closing

After reading all that it may sound like I am harping over emergency leaves and that is the main focus of my newsletter. I don’t want it to seem that way. We have been doing very well compared to the rest of the squadron when it comes to the families taking car of the issues at home and the families pulling together. Please keep up whatever it is you are doing because it is apparently working.

We are continuing to complete the missions and the soldiers continue to do things daily that would make you all proud. The Commander, XO, and I work at some project every day to make their life here better and hope that it what we are doing for your soldier meets your standards. Ghost Troop continues to be the best Troop in the Regiment because we have the best soldiers and the best families supporting them

end of newsletter...

dixicritter
2003-08-30, 14:34
Hello again from Iraq. Luckily this week wasn’t nearly as exciting as last week. Although it doesn’t make for exciting newsletters, boredom is often better in the long run. We continue to sweat and live under the hot Iraqi sun and hope our efforts are making a difference.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.


1SG Engman
Ghost 7
Events this Week

Nothing we did made TV, at least I don’t think it did.

The 20th through the 22nd was standard patrols and a lot of site security. Nothing much to mention.

On the 23rd we started training the ICDC – Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. This is a program that will create a force for internal security. There isn’t an equal force in the US, but basically it is a full time military unit that still lives at home and focuses on internal security problems and helps enforce laws with the police. It is a new program that will have Iraqi soldiers working alongside American units as we try to influence them and train them how to best serve their country.

Also on the 23rd the Troop arrested some arms dealers getting machineguns, RPGs, pistols, and AK rifles off the streets.

The 24th and 35th were normal patrol days for us, but Eagle Troop arrested another arms dealer and got a huge catch of RPG launchers and rockets.

The 26th we started escorting convoys of supplies that are unloaded from trains. Hopefully there is some mail in there for us.

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

The Internet café is a huge hit. It is always busy as long as the power is on. They have e-mail, instant messaging, net-to-phone, and hopefully web cams soon. There is also a plan to get VTC on post around the 7th. As soon as we have more info we will let the FRG know so we can make appointments.

The phone system has had some problems recently. The satellite phone has been broken a few times, so there is less opportunity for soldiers to use it. The cell phone was so popular it was dying. We have set up a system that will ensure people get to use it but not as often as they have in the past. The goal is to make it available as long as we can keep it working.

Since the bombing there have been problems getting mail. Our Squadron still makes the daily mail runs, but there wasn’t any mail for days after that. Since the 26th we have gotten a few packages in, but nothing like we were getting. I assume something in the threat condition has changed mail delivery temporarily and we hope it gets started soon. Things you may have sent recently will be late getting here, and I assume the same for things we have sent.

Soldier’s Living Conditions

The Barracks power is now fixed. The large generator is on-line and running at capacity. It does occasionally get taken down for maintenance, but it is something we can live with. It has more consistent power than the Iraqi power grid does now.

The contracted dinning facility has not changed things a lot. We do get better food – catfish, steak, French fries, lobster, etc. but the unit cooks still have to make it. There are supposed to be even more improvements coming in time.

The Squadron holiday is still on, but our missions are so thick that we may not get a chance for all soldiers to take it. CPT Mescall and I will work it out to make it up to soldiers that miss this opportunity.

Ghost Troop Library

The library continues to grow. Thanks for all the contributions. It looks like a lot of you are sending them to your loved ones, which is perfectly fine. Everyone shares and trades and no one seems to mind it at all. If you want to send some, please do. Send it to your soldier or me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

The books and magazines are doing great, we even got some crossword puzzles and they seem to be a hit with soldiers. Maybe it will improve some of their ability to spell (that’s a joke).

ETS/PCS/Re-Deployment

We lost one more soldier this week for ETS. We are trying to get a spur certificate from the Regiment to send to soldiers that may have already departed. If you know of a soldier that already left and deserves a spur certificate that we couldn’t get them on time, please send the address to my wife via e-mail. She can get it to the rear detachment that will send them their spur certificate once they are completed.

In case you don’t know what I am talking about, let me give you a little background. In the early days of the American cavalry, the unit commander would often have to buy the equipment for their soldiers if the government didn’t supply it. For the cavalry, this created a problem because the Army didn’t provide spurs. The unit commander would hold a competition for troopers that did not yet have their spurs known as “Spur Rides”, and the top troopers would get spurs from the commander. To continue the tradition of “Earning your spurs” all cavalry regiments continue to this day to hold “Spur Rides” which challenge the troopers and give them a sense of accomplishment. Spur Holders are those that successfully complete the ride, and they are authorized to wear their spurs at certain unit functions to show their esprit de corps. It has been a tradition for a while now that any trooper that participates in combat with a cavalry unit earns their “Combat Spurs” just like Infantrymen can earn Combat Infantry Badges and medics can receive the Combat Field Medical Badge. The major difference for these badges and the spurs is that spurs are not an official Army program and are not officially allowed.

Housing Area Courtesy Inspections

Something my wife has asked me to mention are the upcoming courtesy inspections of your quarters if you are living in government housing. This is something that is mandated to the Rear Detachment to accomplish in order to ensure that the Government Owned or Leased quarters are being maintained to standard.

Currently there are problems with some families leaving pets unattended in quarters and pets dying, problems with people not maintaining lawns – sometimes to the extent it becomes a hazard, some spouses are allowing unauthorized people to live in the quarters, etc. All this creates problems for the Rear Detachment and in the end – for the families that are living by the rules.

In order to identify problems, the Rear Detachment is sending a team of soldiers around to all quarters of deployed soldiers. They will come to the door and let you know they are there. They will not come into the house unless invited to do so, and they will be in BDU uniform. If they suspect a problem inside the quarters that they feel they need to investigate, they can get permission from the Housing Office to come in to the Quarters, but that should only happen in limited circumstances.

If a soldier comes to your door in BDUs, they are not a casualty team there to notify you that you loved one has been injured or killed; those teams always wear Class-A uniforms. So please do not get alarmed. On the other hand, if the person at the door makes you uncomfortable and you feel that it may not be a Rear Detachment inspection team, but someone posing as a soldier, by all means do not open the door or let them in. If you feel threatened, call the MPs. They are not supposed to knock on the door unless they find a problem that they want to talk with you about anyway.

The best things you can do is keep your yard to standard, take care of your pets and children, and if you plan to have guests stay in the quarters, check with the Housing Office for the rules about that. There is no reason to get in trouble over something that can be avoided by simple preventive measures. Personally I don’t foresee any problems in the Ghost Troop families.

Closing

I told you not much were happening here. In the next week or so our missions are supposed to change up a little. As soon as I know something I will let you all know as long as it doesn’t compromise our security.

Take care of yourselves and we will take care of each other here.

dixicritter
2003-09-03, 15:20
Hello from Baghdad. It is dang hot here today. Every time it acts like it will start to cool down just a little, the temperature will shoot back up around 120. This week we pulled off of more sites leaving them to the Iraqis, another step in giving them control of their country.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.


1SG Engman
Ghost 7
Events this Week

As I mentioned at the start, this week we left some of the MP/Police stations we have been guarding. This has come with a shift in our focus from securing their sites to training the new security force and focusing on more “military” type missions and targets.

The 27th through the 30th were standard patrols and security missions.

On the 29th though there was the large bombing in An Najaf that killed an important religious leader and many other followers as well as innocent civilians. If you have been following us for a while you know that the Regiment stayed in An Najaf for a while in April as we moved north.

The 31st we stayed in camp for the most part in order to avoid any problems with the demonstrations and observances done for the slain people in An Najaf.

The 31st was also when we started the local training of the new ICDC (Iraqi Civil Defense Force). SFC F from the Mortar Section is the primary trainer.

The 1st of September we pulled off the MP/Police station finally and turned it over to the MPs and the IPF (Iraqi Police Force). After this we started targeting our efforts more on gaining information about our sector and other escort missions.

The 2nd we started some operations to prevent looting. This led to me waking up this morning to a donkey in front of the command courtesy of 4th Platoon.

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

The Internet café will not get web cams. It is against the current contract. But they are working on getting some pay for use computers that will have web cams for the soldiers to use.

There is a VTC system with one camera coming to camp on the 7th. We will only get 80 minutes of time as a troop, so that means only about eight soldiers will get to use it for now. Tonight we plan to determine whom these soldiers will be and schedule for that with Fort Polk. The soldiers that have family actually at Fort Polk will be the only ones eligible since that is the other end of the connection. The time at Fort Polk should be 1100-1230 on 7 September. Currently I have 24 soldiers that want to use the VTC, so we have to find a system to get the first group down to eight. Hopefully this will be a reoccurring thing and eventually all the soldiers will have the opportunity.

The cell phone system that is so popular has been abused within theater and they are cracking down on its use. Some soldiers have been charging phone calls to the phone instead of calling collect or using a phone card like they were briefed. Anyone caught doing so can be charged under UCMJ and be charged for the phone bill. So there will be limited times for its use. Soldiers must pay for the phone calls!

Mail has fixed itself again. Just the other day we picked up enough mail for the troop to fill up a whole truck. We still get very old mail – one letter was from 4 April.

Soldier’s Living Conditions

The showers run out of water regularly and we are trying to implement a system to fix this. But the water is hot and the air inside is cold. The barracks get so cool that soldiers need their sleeping bags.

There is a contract to put walls in the barracks and create smaller living spaces to give soldiers some privacy. The contractors started putting it in this week but the soldiers didn’t like the lay out. So we had them stop so we could re-draw the plan. The new walls should start soon.

The contracted food is good, but occasionally it is hit and miss. Two nights ago the turkey was terrible, but last night the steak and fries with corn on the cob packed the dining facility to capacity.

The Squadron holiday didn’t end up working out so well and we will probably just plan them at the troop level from now on.

Ghost Troop Library

We received even more DVDs and books at the Troop for the library. Again, thanks for all the contributions. If you want to send some, please do. Send it to your soldier or me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

ETS/PCS/Re-Deployment

We lost one more soldier this week for ETS. The Regiment recently received an order of Operation Iraqi Freedom commemorative coins. We are trying to work a system to get them back for the soldiers that have already left and then take care of other soldiers as they leave. The goal is to ensure every soldier that deployed gets a coin.

Commander’s Corner

I would like to first congratulate SGT (P) W, and SPC (P) R and H, all three of them did extremely well at today’s promotion board, additionally I’d also like to congratulate SGT O, who we had the pleasure of promoting today. It is always a great day when our soldiers succeed and advance through the ranks. I would also like to briefly touch on the VTC. While we could easily dwell on the negative aspects of this, I would just like to remind everyone that this is only our first opportunity, and more will follow. The VTC is a very positive step in the right direction for our quality of life and we will keep you informed of any future opportunities. In closing I’d like to thank you all again for your support, please keep writing, we all appreciate your support.

CPT Mescall, Ghost 6


Closing

This has to be the shortest FRG newsletter yet. I take that as a good sign that we are getting a lot of soldier quality of life issues and getting the schedule predictable enough for our soldiers that they can predict what they are going to be doing from one day to the next. As mundane as that may seem, it was the biggest complaint at the beginning of our missions in Baghdad – lack of predictability in the missions. The last major issue we need to work on is getting some regular time off in camp for the soldiers.

Thank you all at home for the great support we are getting here. We really do appreciate it.

dixicritter
2003-09-10, 11:32
Hello from Baghdad. This week it is actually getting nice as temperatures get cool enough at night that soldiers are zipping up sleeping bags. We figure that just as we get comfortable the temperature will shoot back up again.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.

1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Events this Week

This week we have been focusing on patrols, OPs and raids. In an attempt to cut down on looting near the camp, the platoons have been doing night OPs to “ambush” the looters as they come in. They don’t shoot unless they have to; so far they have only arrested looters and confiscated their animals. At one time the troop had 3 donkeys and a horse.

The 3rd and 4th were normal days, not much new happened.

On the 5th, a truck from Fox was hit by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device). None of the soldiers were killed and they should have the truck running soon. They were lucky.

The 6th, 1st platoon captured three donkeys in addition to the one we already had captured by 4th platoon on the 3rd. One of them got away, but the small herd of three donkeys proceeded to stampede through camp and ended up being joined by a horse that How Battery had captured. CPL K got the herd under control, and has become the unofficial Squadron mule wrangler.

On the 7th we had VTC, which got mixed reviews. Some liked it; many hated it because it didn’t work well. Squadron is trying to get a pay for use computer that will cost $2 per hour and have a web cam, which should work better than the VTC as long as the person in the states also has a web cam.

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

The cell phone system is continuing to work for us despite the cracking down from Theater Command. The current phone system is a weakness that the Squadron CSM recognizes and he is trying to find a way to improve the system.

Other than that, there isn’t any change in the morale computers or mail system to report.

Soldier’s Living Conditions

The showers system we implemented seems to be working. There isn’t a shortage of water or power for them anymore, at least not regularly.

The contractor for the barracks installed the walls, which have divided the barracks up into cubicles of about eight or nine men each. The barracks looks a lot nicer now and there is some sense of privacy for the soldiers. We also recently installed a 52” TV to do with the DVD player and the satellite cable system, so the soldiers have some entertainment when not on a mission.

The food contract has hit a snag. The contractor (Brown and Root) is contracted to provide meals that are cooked. They cannot provide it at our site, so they have been giving our cooks the food for them to prepare. Now the contractor has decided that they could be liable if someone gets sick from food they didn’t prepare and has decided not to provide us food anymore. So we are going to go back to the heat and serve tray rations, which are not our favorites. Hopefully someone above us works something out and we get the better food again.

Ghost Troop Library

We received even more DVDs and books at the Troop for the library. Again, thanks for all the contributions. If you want to send some, please do. Send it to your soldier or me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

ETS/PCS/Re-Deployment

We did not lose anyone for re-deployment since last week, but we did lose 1LT R to Squadron HQ where he will be a Battle Captain until he goes to Fort Knox for the command course after he makes captain. We hate to see him go. We now have a new XO, 1LT W who has moved over to Ghost from Eagle. We look forward to working with him. Another move that happened within the squadron was SGT O, our supply clerk, has taken over the supply room for Eagle Troop. He is another soldier we didn’t want to loose, but it is a good experience for him.

A new soldier to the Troop is PFC D who has just arrived and been assigned to the Troop maintenance section as a vehicle mechanic. We are glad to have him in Ghost.

Commander’s Corner

Things here in Baghdad continue to go well for the troop. As 1SG Engman has already mentioned we are losing two great soldiers and friends this week, 1LT R who will be moving over to the Squadron S-3 shop, and our recently promoted SGT O will be moving to Eagle Troop to take over that troop’s supply room. We expect to see and hear great things about both of them, in their new positions. I’d also like to welcome 1LT W and his family to the troop. I would also like to take one moment to commend our soldiers for their performance in the past week, the troop has had some difficult and nerve-racking moments with the Sadaar Bureau this week, and everyone has performed magnificently. Cool heads, and personal courage have helped defuse several difficult situations and have continued to improve our relationship with the locals and their reputation for professionalism. I would also like to again thank all the families and friends of the troop who continue to support us with your generous outpouring letters and packages.


CPT Mescal
Ghost 6

Closing

We continue to work on making Baghdad a safer place and plan for future events. We should be going to gunnery to maintain our proficiency sometime around the end of September or in October.

Just as I warned you a few weeks ago, the Squadron has started planning on containers; tie down equipment, and movement requirements for re-deployment. Do not let these things trick you into believing the recent rumors that I have heard that we are coming home soon. The latest order has us starting re-deployment operations sometime in March 2004. Anything else you hear is just a rumor.

dixicritter
2003-09-17, 17:20
Hello from Baghdad. Today as I write, the first of many visits from our replacement unit is happening. The 1st Cavalry Division, which is supposed to replace us next spring, is visiting the regiment to see what the current mission and facilities look like. I think it is important to bring up since the rumors have already started that 1st Cav will replace us early. These rumors are totally untrue; the plan for them to replace us is still in the spring “before April” as was stated about a month ago. But besides that, things are still going about as they always seem to do around here.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.

1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Events this Week

This week started with some run-ins with a group that work with the police, but are not an official government entity. In the US they would be called a heavily armed neighborhood watch program. Nothing bad has come from it, but it did create some problems.

The 9th we had a stand off with about 200 Iraqis when some members had illegal AK47s for their “neighborhood watch”. Things were eventually resolved.

On the 10th, Hawk Company raided a house that we were tipped to. It supposedly contained Fedayeen that were planning to attack Americans. As they approached, they were fired on which started a 15-minute gunfight. No Americans were hurt, but the gunman was killed and several Fedayeen were captured. It looks like that is one attack broken up.

The 11th was the anniversary of the attacks on the US. We were prepared in case any terrorist wanted to celebrate the hard way. Nothing happened.

The 11th we also started a program to brand the donkeys captured with looters in the camp perimeter. I’ll explain that more later on.

On the 12th we captured three more AK47 from the “neighborhood watch” as they were running a check point over 1000 yards from the Mosque they were supposedly guarding. We also got another donkey in the yard.

The 13th, we did some fall clean up, making the area look better. This gave the platoons a chance to improve their areas since we now have walls to give the soldiers some living space within the barracks. We also got another donkey.

The 15th First Platoon went on the R&R trip to Qatar. We expect them back around the 19th. The Army has increased the capacity for the Qatar site, so now we should be getting trips there a little more regularly.

Donkeys

You never know what you are going to end up doing in a combat zone. This week we started treating and branding donkeys.

In the back yard of the compound, we guard what was once an old Iraqi power system supply yard. There are thousands of yards of copper wire, pipe, metal, etc which seem to draw looters like flies to a candle. The preferred method of hauling this loot is donkey cart, and often we end up running traps and patrols to stop them or capture them as they break in. We do this to improve our security and to try and keep some supplies for the government to fix the power grid.

Often we would keep the donkey a few days to get it back into good health since many were malnourished and had open sores from being beaten. After they rested up a little, we would have the donkeys by the front of the camp to allow families to come get their animals back since many families depend on them

We got to where we believed that many were repeat offenders, so the squadron wanted to mark them. That way we could ID repeat offenders. CPL K grew up working on ranches, so he developed a 2/2 ACR brand with cross sabers and started branding the donkeys. CPL K, along with PFC M started a system to brand the donkeys then keep an eye on them a few days before release. The donkeys seem to mind it a lot less than I thought they would, and the brand even looked cool – crossed sabers with a 2 on the top and bottom of the sabers for 2/2 ACR.

We branded a total of four donkeys so far, but now they are building a brick wall to thwart new looters, so hopefully we will not have to mess with donkeys again in the future.

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

The morale computes have become so popular they have become a point of contention at times. I often go to squadron to do paperwork, for meetings, or to get on the Internet myself. I always see Ghost Troopers over there using their time off to use the morale computers. To combat the heavy use of bandwidth, the viewing of web cams from the US has been prohibited. Sometimes soldiers are caught still using them. Please don’t be part of the problem and be considerate to others trying to communicate using instant messaging and e-mail. It really does affect them.

Soldier’s Living Conditions

The water doesn’t seem to be getting hot anymore in the showers. I am beginning to think it was a trick where the sun must have heated the water. But with fall coming, they are working on a way to heat them.

Also with fall coming, they are starting to look at how we will heat the barracks. The current plan is to use electric space heaters. They do not want to run the risk of flame heaters with fore or carbon monoxide poisoning. But now the problem with that is the large generator is now broken again. They have taken it to be fixed since it spun a main bearing, it will probably be down a while. They have a low power generator that cannot support the air conditioning that will be in place until the large generator is fixed. There is also a plan to get a second large generator so there is more than one to handle the load.

The food contract snag I mentioned last week has apparently been ironed out since we are still eating real food. Tonight was real fried chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, salad, near beer, and other stuff. Hopefully that issue never comes up again since these soldiers love good chow.

Ghost Troop Library

We received even more DVDs and books at the Troop for the library. Again, thanks for all the contributions. If you want to send some, please do. Send it to your soldier or me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

This last week we got three large boxes of books from family and friends. Thank you all for your continued support!

Commander’s Corner

Another week down, another week closer to home. This week the troop continued to do everything and anything asked of it, many times conducting missions few would have ever envisioned a couple of months ago. We’ve continued to rebuild the Iraqi Police Force, working with 5 separate police stations, and 500 men, providing both financial and moral support, as well as our considerable police expertise to their training (who would have ever guessed watching “Law and Order” and “Starsky and Hutch”, could have taught us so much). We’ve helped clean up a sewer spill in the cities main food market, provided diesel fuel to local clinics and government offices, and drinking water to local clinics to help combat the lack of potable water which is rampant in our sector. And through our evolvement in the Neighborhood Advisory Councils and daily interaction with the locals our troopers continued to shape and mold the political future for the 750,000 residents of our area. All of our high school civics teachers should be proud of these soldiers for what they are doing, just as all of you should be. While this deployment drags on for all of us, we should take a little solace from the fact that we are enabling all of these good things that to happen, because of our stay here. We are not just serving as warriors or soldiers, we are helping rebuild a nation and if we succeed we will all be able to look back many years from now with pride and say we were part of that great effort. So when you think of how much you miss your sons, husbands, brothers, and friends, please try to remember the importance of what they are doing, they are no longer fighting and destroying, they are rebuilding and giving hope to a people who have only known oppression for the past thirty five years. I again thank you for your patience and support.

CPT Mescall
Ghost 6

Closing

The Gunnery training I mentioned last week is getting ready to happen. I take it as a good sign for the future that we can stop and worry about training and qualification requirements instead of where the next MRE and bottle of water is going to come from like we were only 5 months ago.

We have started to have a run of family and personal problems back in the rear. I am glad we seem to have fewer problems than some other troops, but please work with the FRG to resolve anything you can back home. Working problems and issues out is vital to our mission here and we appreciate everyone that has handled such things without asking for or needing to pull the trooper away from their duty here.

dixicritter
2003-09-28, 23:36
Hello from Baghdad. This has thankfully been a quiet week although we did ramp up a little on our defenses for a possible threat. But as I said, it has been quiet, so it was just preventative measure that must have worked. Because of all that, we ended up having a phone and Internet blackout to prevent security leaks that could possibly happen from a cell phone signal or an e-mail getting intercepted. This caused a slight delay of the newsletter.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.

1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Events this Week

On the 18th we arrested a counterfeiting ring. They were printing old Saddam dinars so that they would have a lot to turn in when the currency change over happened. When we raided they had 8 stacks about 3’ tall of sheets that contained eighteen 250 dinar notes each. Basically they were going to let the new government launder then destroy their copies of the old stuff then make a huge profit of billions of dinars.

On the 21st Ghost 6 found a man that had been shot in the buttocks during a gun battle (sounds like a line from a movie). Later that day we raided an arms dealer and netted four rifles, some grenades, and some ammunition.

On the 23rd we had all our MK19 crews go to the new range in order to qualify with the grenade launchers. This is the day we also started the new security stuff – but these were only temporary measures.

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

Earlier I reported that there were going to be some pay computers added to the Internet café that would have web cam capability so we could do a VTC like system in house. They started installing those this week and we hope to have that up and running by the weekend. As soon as I have more details on this I will let the rear detachment know.

The current set of computers has been experiencing a lot of bandwidth problems that slow the connection down. Often it is hard to send even simple text e-mail. This has been a contributing factor to this newsletter being late

Soldier’s Living Conditions

1SG O from HHT has found an electrical engineer to fix the power problem for about 1/10th the cost and 1/4 the time that we were told. The engineer has already restored enough power to get the fans, TVs and lights going again. The next step he is working to is getting the power capacity high enough to run A/C and heaters. If everything works as planned, we should have that done by this weekend. Once the large generator gets back into the system, then it will serve as back up in times when city power goes out.

Ghost Troop Library

We received even more DVDs and books at the Troop for the library. Again, thanks for all the contributions. If you want to send some, please do. Send it to your soldier or me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

This last week we got three large boxes of books from family and friends. Thank you all for your continued support!


Mid Tour Leaves

I talked about this a few weeks back and it has come up again. It looks like they are finally trying to start the program.

But, if you hear that people are coming home, it is probably true. This week the squadron got 10 slots. The deal was that these soldiers had to be able to leave that day to go to the airport and wait for a few days to see if they could get a flight if it got approved. Then they would have to go to Baltimore and be financially able to buy a round trip ticket without any notice, probably costing them about $1000. Because it was not approved, because 75% of the troop was tasked with missions that day, and because the whole thing sounded like a lot of hoops to jump through, we decided to wait to see if the first wave made it out of here before we tried to send anyone from the troop.

It looks like the system will probably work, so we are developing an Order of Merit List within the troop to get some soldiers home on leave if and when the slots become available. There are not a lot of them coming at this time, and we must maintain a minimum strength in order to accomplish the missions we have. But the leadership of the troop will make sure we maximize all possible leaves in order to get soldiers home for a visit with their families.

Because not everyone will get the chance even if we let everyone, some soldiers will not be allowed to come home on leave. Soldiers that have not been in theater for 4 months yet will not be allowed to go. Soldiers that will be leaving before the end of the deployment will also not be allowed to take mid tour. Soldiers that have taken or are on emergency leave will probably not be allowed to take mid tour. Soldiers that have certain situations that were close to qualifying for emergency leave but did not quite meet the regulation will most likely be the first candidates for mid tour leave.

Commander’s Corner

Dear families and friends of the FRG,

Another good week for the troop in Baghdad, two successful raids, a good day at the range, and even a little bit of downtime for the soldiers.

We continue with our day-to-day efforts to improve the quality of life for the people of Baghdad, with new projects and plans taking shape everyday. This week we have begun a new project to improve one of our local town squares, if the project is approved we will end up renovating two local clinics, an open-air public market, the city swimming pool, a series of athletic fields, and two girls schools, this project will improve the lives of close to one-hundred thousand people who live within a few blocks of the square. Additionally Blue Platoon has started a community-based program to clear the local sewer lines and drains in its area of operations prior to the start of the rainy season here. Red Platoon is also finishing up work this week on a soccer field in the Jamila neighborhood, a field they reclaimed from local businessmen who had illegally converted the field into a parking lot and scrap yard following the war. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the squadron’s civil affairs detachment, led by Majors Vidal and Wishart, these men and their soldiers have been instrumental in making these and other projects a reality, their good work should be applauded by everyone, here and back home.

While talking about community service, I’d like to mention an opportunity to help the local community to anyone interested at home. Inside the Ghost Troop Area of Operations there are over fifty public schools in various states of disrepair, these schools run from pre-schools to high schools, single gender, and even a few mixed gender schools, but all of them are in need of school supplies with the school year rapidly approaching. If anyone is interested in adopting a school, or establishing a sister school back in the states we encourage you to send a care package of school supplies, and we’ll send back pictures, information on the delivery of supplies, and possibly letters from the students and or teachers, I’m certain they would be forever grateful.

In closing I’d like to thank you all again for your continued support and prayers, I look forward to meeting you all upon our return.

CPT Mescall
Ghost 6


Closing

As we near the half waypoint of this deployment, the future is starting to look good. Mid tour leaves are starting to get into the system, R&R for soldiers seems to be working, many quality of life programs for the soldiers are making this place almost as comfortable as home. Add to that the training of the new Iraqi security forces seems to be working and has even been expanded, Iraqi infrastructure in the area is being brought up to standard slowly but surely, and the new Iraqi government is taking more and more control of things for themselves.

There is still a long way to go, but the hard work we have put in is paying off. The dedication you at home put in to helping us is ensuring we finish the job right so we don’t have to come back again 12 years from now.

End.

dixicritter
2003-10-02, 20:52
Hello from Baghdad. Last week we asked for help with Iraqi schools and started mid tour leave. Apparently these items have generated a lot of interest, so they will both be given a lot of attention in the newsletter this week.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.

1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Events this Week

This last week not a lot new happened. The only really interesting thing that went down was a raid that happened in a small city north of our sector.

An informant identified a large arms market that was bringing arms into Baghdad. 1st AD set up an operation into the sector to arrest the dealers and stop the weapons flow. Initially it was a very large operation, but as we planned it, more of the plan was turned over to other Army units until it became a very small operation for us. We ended up securing the trucks that got the captured arms.

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

This last week we had a lot of down time for the computers where the connection was too poor to support soldiers’ e-mail and instant messaging. Because of that I initially didn’t write a newsletter. But the computers were fixed to at least an acceptable level.

The phone system is still pretty crappy.

Soldier’s Living Conditions

The barracks are now wired into city power and have reliable power. The back up generator is still not in place, but so far it has not been needed.

Ghost Troop Library

The troop library got even larger this week with four large boxes of books and periodicals coming in. We even got a box of Stephen King books from an anonymous donor in Bangor, Maine which we believe might be Stephen King himself because one of the relatives of one of the soldiers here had written him to ask him for some novels for the troop library. The library got so large that we moved it into one of the common areas of the barracks. The soldiers seem to enjoy the books because the titles constantly change from swapping back and forth.

We received even more DVDs and books at the Troop for the library. Again, thanks for all the contributions. If you want to send some, please do. Send it to your soldier or me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

This last week we got three large boxes of books from family and friends. Thank you all for your continued support!

Mid Tour Leaves

Mid tour leave has been a HUGE issue for my wife back at Fort Polk with the FRG. She asked me to expound on the program a little in order to give people a realistic idea if their soldier may make it home and what the process is.

The program is fairly new, and it is still evolving. According to the “Stars and Strips” the amount of airlift capability will increase over time and there may be some more APOEs opened (Aerial Port Of Embarkation) to increase the areas covered.

First off, we only received 6 slots for leave for the period 3 October – 2 November. The program should run for each unit until they are within three months of re-deployment. For us this means it should run until February with the last soldiers actually leaving around the end of January. If you take the 6 slots a month as a constant (this may go up, but we don’t know how much) for 4 months that means a total of about 24 soldiers getting to take a mid tour leave in the troop. If the airlift capacity even doubled, that would still only be about 42 to 48 soldiers total.

We currently have 106 soldiers assigned. Of that 106, some are currently in the US on medical rehabilitation, some are in Germany for medical reasons, and some have already been home for emergency leave. To ensure we get the most soldiers we can home that otherwise will not or have not gotten the chance; we have tried to limit the number of people qualified. If a soldier came over here after April, then he will not be allowed mid tour leave. If a soldier is leaving theater early (before April) for ETS or PCS, he will not be qualified either. If a soldier has been home for emergency leave or medical treatment, he will also not be qualified for leave. Using these criteria, we still have 83 soldiers that qualify for mid tour leave – about four times the people that we have slots for. Some soldiers have opted not to even be on the list for leave which has reduced the number to 74, but that is still way to many. So as you can see, we will not be able to make everyone happy.

When I mentioned mid tour leave a while back, the guidance then was we had to maintain 90% of authorized strength (I’m at about 80% now) but the new guidance doesn’t mention that. I cross-leveled personnel in the platoons so that they could still perform most of the missions we have to but still be able to loose up to three soldiers for leave.

Priority for the first two leave slots went to soldiers with family situations that were not strong enough for emergency leave but we felt warranted getting them back as soon as we could. The rest of the spaces were arranged in an OML (Order of Merit List). Each platoon made their list and submitted it to me and I manage these lists in order to ensure fairness across the board. Most platoons’ first one or two candidates are soldiers that have had children born while they were here so that they can see their new babies. The rest were usually determined by pulling names out of a hat.

As we go along, some people’s situation may change to where I may have to move them up on the list, so I have not published the list for soldiers to plan their leave dates. I do not want to set someone up for disappointment. The dates of the flights also change as we saw with the first soldier that left, I found out he had to be at the airport only hours before he had to be there. Unfortunately this means it is hard for anyone to plan their leave ahead of time, but it is still better than no leave at all.

Now you know how a soldier get selected to go and that not everyone will get to go. The process after they get select is this. First I notify them about two weeks out that they have a leave date. This gives them a chance to try to get some arrangements made at home. They still have to be flexible.

Next, two days out from their flight they have to go to BIAP (Baghdad International Air Port) and sit there waiting a space available flight. I assume this means they may actually fly before their flight date planned, but this also means they may fly after their planned date. While at Baghdad they have a very thorough contraband inspection that has surprised some other soldiers from theater and will lead to some prison time for them – DON’T TRY TO FLY WITH ILLEGAL STUFF!

Soldiers fly from Baghdad to Kuwait where the get a SATO flight to Germany or Baltimore (some of these Baltimore flights go through Germany). When they fly from Kuwait I understand that they are supposed to wear civilian attire.

When soldier arrive in Baltimore they must buy a round-trip ticket and arrange for the connecting flight back to theater. Last week I mentioned this would probably be expensive, but apparently some of the national carriers have set up special rates that are running from $100 to $300 for most flights inside the continental US. Don’t take that as a guarantee though.

Soldiers get 15 days until they have to be back at Baltimore. They will not be given extensions and anyone late will be charged as AWOL, but since Ghost Troopers are all a disciplined bunch, we don’t see this ever happening.

To quell a rumor, my wife had been asked about a $1700 account balance requirement that we had to verify before a soldier could go home. Why that might be an excellent idea, it is not a requirement and I don’t know how a soldier could even prove it in this situation.

Soldiers will also loose combat pay while on leave. I hope that answers any questions you may have.

Supporting Schools

Last week the commander asked for help in a new initiative to support Iraqi schools. A lot of people have expressed an interest and have been asking how to go about doing this.

First the kids could probably use some of the following items: pencils, pens, paper, calculators, English/Arabic dictionaries, scissors, glue, crayons, markers, coloring books, chalk (for the teachers), and any other school supplies you can think of like folders and such.

To get the supplies here for now, you can mail them to:

CPT Mescall
School Program
G/2/2 ACR
Unit 92378
APOAE 09322-2378

Please write us and tell us about your school (if you are representing one) and what kind of school you are interested in supporting – we have 50 different schools and feel that we can help by coordinating schools of similar types to be partners. We will set partner schools if you are interested using the US postal system for now since the Iraqi postal system is still not working at an acceptable level. We hope to set up some long-term contact between Americans and Iraqis.

Some businesses have also expressed interest in helping financially as well as sending supplies, or to send money to buy supplies instead of wasting a large part of the money on postage. We will look into how we can do this, but for now we would rather not handle money.

Closing

The exciting news about mid tour leaves last week has been a little bit of a disappointment for many after the details of the plan came up. I’m sorry that the program wasn’t in place a couple of months ago and working at a much higher level. But we will try to be as fair and realistic as possible. I am sure the commander and I will not get leave while we are here while we try to make sure your family does.

But what excites me is developing ties with the Iraqi people. Hopefully this school effort works, just like our efforts with the Security Forces and the new Defense Forces. I hope that our efforts now ensure that in 12 years these soldiers and my children don’t have to come over here again.

dixicritter
2003-10-12, 11:34
Hello from Baghdad. This week we were supposed to be at gunnery and I was not going to put out a newsletter. But things took a turn around here and gunnery got postponed. This newsletter will not be the standard format, rather it is to be an open account of what has been going on over here the past few days. I feel it is right to keep the families informed even when unpleasant things happen.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.

1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Events this Week

Before I can continue, I need to give you some background about the Sadr Bureau – who they really are and what they think like. Sadr was an Imam that was killed by Saddam because he opposed him in this section of Baghdad that was once known as Revolution City, and then was named Saddam City by Saddam Hussein. His son Muqtada Sadr is the guy in An Najaf that has been having his rivals killed and would like to establish a fundamental Islamic state. He is comparatively young for an Imam, and many mainstream Muslims do not support him, his support comes from young and radical Muslim extremists. But he continues to try and do whatever he can to discredit the coalition by doing things like saying we kidnapped him and then getting his followers to mass on the American Camps. But the people loved his father Sadr and they have been trying to get the name of this part of the city changed to Sadr City in his honor.

The Sadr Bureau is a group of Imams and Sheiks that are religious fanatics that would like to form a separate city from Baghdad from the are formally known as Saddam City. They have a warped sense of reality about many things and think that they can just change things as they want them to be and they regularly run information campaigns about things such as the Americans supporting Al Qeida when we took weapons away from their guards who were only "peace-loving security guards". This was the same group that was "protecting" facilities in the sector with their own people who proceeded to use the positions to shake down the locals and hijack vehicles. They have attempted a couple of times to "tax" government workers and even tried once to strong-arm the pay for city workers from the city government office so they could be in charge of paying the workers. They are the ones that created the Al-Mahdi army which they claim is only a neighborhood watch program, but a heavily armed one. Basically we have compared them to religious mafia since the Imams seem to get a cut of everything.

Now you know what those people are about, so now the rest of the story…

On the 5th, some people from the Sadr Bureau decided they wanted to have control of Sadr City. They got some doctors, lawyers, and other intelligent professionals to basically go into the city counsel building and declare themselves the new city counsel and demand the dissolving of the elected city counsels. No one listened to them, so they decided to camp out over night. After a few days of being ignored they got some Sadr sponsored protestors to make a show outside the city counsel and draw some reporters. The people inside declared, "defeat of the American picked government" and started trying to conduct interviews though the bars of the gate with the news media while we guarded the compound in case the place got out of hand. We made a rule if they waned to conduct interviews they had to go outside the compound, and then we refused them entry back into the place. It helped get rid of some of the stuff going on. By the end of the 7th, we had something worked out with the protestors and thought we were OK.

On the 8th there was a protest in downtown Baghdad and a lot of the protestors were carrying Shiite banners. The largest concentration of Shiites is in Sadr city. So division decided we needed to run checkpoints in our sector to prevent armed protestors from leaving this part of the city. To shut down all the possible streets out of here would take the entire division, but we did form checkpoints on the three major routes out and search all busses. We searched hundreds of busses and thousands of people without finding a single weapon. Then when the protest ended they had us continuing to search busses on the way back in. We searched hundreds of busses and thousands of people and didn’t find any weapons and only found one guy that said he went to the protest.

That night a Spanish diplomat was shot and a couple of compounds were attacked – standard stuff.

The morning of the 9th we were preparing to go to gunnery for five days. At 0730 there was radio traffic about two car bombs that intelligence was tracking possibly operating in the area. At 0832 we heard a huge explosion. About ten minutes later we got a call that a car bomb had just gone off in our Emergency Police Station (Like an American SWAT team) and that there were a lot of casualties including people killed. Last time there was a bombing similar to this (the bombing in An Najaf) the Sadr Bureau claimed we were supporting terrorists by failing to guard their HQ and mosque. So Ghost sent two sections with the CO to guard the Sadr Bureau, a section to get EOD for the Police station, and the Squadron sent some other soldiers to secure the bombsite.

At the bombsite, a crowd of angry people came and started acting up. Iraqi fought Iraqi, some threw rocks at the troops, some got loud, and some fought the police that were there. The news media showed up and then the problems really got worse – apparently it is very true that these crowds will act up for the media. Eventually everything we could accomplish there was done and American forces pulled back.


The Sadr bureau HQ was even worse than the bombsite. When forces arrived there, the Sadr people told the CO we were not wanted or needed. He told them his mission was to keep them from getting attacked and we would stay there. The Sadr people had trucks with speakers go around the neighborhood announcing the Americans were laying siege to the Sadr Bureau HQ and that the Al-Mahdi Army needed to form to defend it. A crowd of about 300 rapidly formed and it got ugly. People started throwing rocks, then they started hitting soldiers, and eventually they attacked the vehicles in swarms. By the time it got really bad there were over 1,000 people there all mad at the Americans. Another section arrived so by this time there were 10 trucks and about 30 Americans against 1,000 mad Iraqis. At the point that he and some other soldiers were swarmed and one of the trucks was over ran by people is when he decided it might be time to leave. When the Iraqis swarmed the truck, they tried to take the machinegun and rifle from the gunner. He fought them off the machinegun, but there were too many of them for just him, and he was isolated – so they got away with the M4 rifle. As they broke contact they noted that most of the side streets were blocked by rapidly installed barriers and they passed another crowd of about 500 that was coming to seal off their exit.

Well tonight we were putting together patrols to go back into sector after the bombings and riots to get an assessment of the city so the commanders could make a plan for our future actions. Eagle had the first patrol out and was doing an initial sweep around the perimeter of the city. Our CO was launching out with his escort team and an engineer section that was tasked to evaluate and harden the police stations against another possible car bomb attack. At this time a delegation of Imams and Sheiks from the Sadr Bureau were meeting at our camp with the Squadron XO. They demanded that we stay away from their HQ and demanded that we dissolve the city counsel that was elected so they could replace it with their people. There was a veiled threat that they were only trying to avoid future incidents like those that have already happened. The Squadron XO told them we don’t have the authority to dissolve the counsel and that we were only trying to help protect their HQ, we don’t have any interest in their HQ other than that.

As this was all going on, things got bad. The three-truck patrol from Eagle was on the end of their patrol and going down near the Sadr Bureau. As they got to the area near the Sadr HQ, they noticed all the lights were shut off along the street and the sides of the street were lined with women and children. Someone at a large mural near the Sadr Bureau was motioning for them to come over like there was some trouble that needed attention (this happens a lot). When they went over to see what was going on they saw the guns. All of the sudden people with weapons came out and started shooting at the three trucks at ranges as close as 5’ away as they returned fire. The women and children disappeared and many men with guns came out and line the road to shoot at them. They fought a running battle for three to four kilometers with people shooting on every side, grenades being thrown, Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) coming at them, and improvised explosives going off. They returned fire until they drove out of contact – actually until the trucks couldn’t go anymore from fuel loss and flat tires. They hit a lot of Iraqi, but no one stayed behind for a body count. Civilian ambulances and trucks were running back and forth all night.

As I mentioned, the commander was just about to head out when this happened. He had the engineer truck, which is a cargo HMMWV, and helped secure the Eagle First Sergeant with his cargo HMMWV to go get the wounded men. They put the three wounded in the cargo truck and got it back as fast as possible. There were three litter-wounded soldiers, who were treated at camp by our doctor then sent to the Combat Hospital, there was one walking wounded, and two men killed. Their names have been released so I feel comfortable in saying their names: SSG Swisher and PVT Silva.

As this was happening, we got the rest of the troop ready to roll in case the extraction needed more firepower or in case we needed to go evacuate casualties. We issued out extra ammunition and lined up one platoon with another set of escorts for the Squadron command group and the fourth platoon set up a reaction force. The Regiment sent two tank companies (30 tanks total) to the camp, OH58D attack/scout helicopters swept the area, and the Howitzer battery set up their guns for possible illumination missions along the route (we would not fire High Explosive [HE] or White Phosphorus [WP] into a civilian neighborhood). The Tanks swept through the area and of course no one shot at them – that would have been futile and suicidal. Everything seemed to have calmed down in that part of town at least. The Mosques were announcing a message, which basically said, "When you shoot at Americans, do it in open areas so no civilians get hurt." Maybe the message should have been, "Quit shooting at the Americans, Islam doesn’t condone violence." At about midnight we were told to reduce our readiness level to REDCON 3, which means we can let people sleep but be ready to attack in 30 minutes.

At 0122 three very loud, and very close explosions woke us up - we were receiving indirect fire in the camp.

We got total accountability of all our people, then at about 0400 we got the order to stand down again.

Currently we are improving our defenses because there is a heightened intelligence assessment that we may be attacked with mortars again. We are digging newer, deeper positions and trying to get some materials to reinforce overhead cover. Many of these buildings could take direct hits from the 60mm mortars, but 82mm might penetrate and 120mm would defiantly penetrate. Our barracks only have tin roofing so it was our priority to dig a position for the soldiers close to the barracks. As the mortars get larger it gets harder for them to set up, fire, and move undetected. We did promise the Sadr Bureau if we got attacked again tonight we would flatten their HQ.

Closing

We went almost six months since we established ourselves here without having a combat casualty and doing everything we could to foster a good relationship with the local population in our sector. This was often pointed to as the example for how to get along with the population and gave me great hope that we could get our forces out sometime within the next year or two and let the Iraqi people run their own show. I hope that we can find a way to get back in that grove as soon as possible. Hopefully this is a short aberration in our relationship with Sadr City. Most Iraqis in our sector don’t have anything at all to do with this and they understand that the fastest way to get control of their country and get us out of here is to remain peaceful.

We feel for the families of the soldiers that were killed. We are taking every precaution to protect our soldiers but we are also not hiding from the people that did this. Next week we plan to be able to publish a newsletter more like what we once did.

dixicritter
2003-10-16, 09:45
Hello from Baghdad. The excitement that started last week has peaked and things are gradually returning to normal around here. Hopefully there won’t be a lot of overly exciting things happening for the next 5 ½ months until after we get home.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.

1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Events this Week

In the last special newsletter I mentioned events up to the 10th of October, so I’ll basically be covering the last five days.

On the 11th we continued to improve the positions around camp and started sending patrols into sector. These patrols were accompanied by M1 tanks and were mainly conducted around the outside of the city.

The 12th we pushed back into the center of the city and did assessments of the local demeanor. Fox Troop patrolled at night while the rest of the Troops patrolled daytime.

The 13th we had a memorial ceremony for the soldiers that were ambushed in Eagle Troop. It was a very touching ceremony.

The 13th and 14th we ran check points and observation points around the perimeter of Sadr City in order to keep large groups of armed men from going to rallies that were planned in Baghdad and An Najaf.

Today we have been standing down, resting, and planning for follow on missions. This morning Hawk Company and HHT both had their change of commands. The benefit to the FRG and Rear Detachment is CPT J, who is a very good and experienced commander, will be going back to take charge of the Rear Detachment from LT C. He is a very good man that you can count on to take care of business.

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

The cell phone that everyone liked has been shut off to long distance calls. OCPA, the office that issued them, received a $700,000 phone bill. If they were the people in charge of the satellite phone bill they would think that is a steal. The satellite phone is working again and is available on Wednesdays. Another pay phone that costs $1 an hour is now available in the PX.

The Internet café is still working fine most of the time. The pay Internet café has not been installed yet and I am not sure what the hang up is exactly on that. It could possibly be the fact that we have been limiting the Iraqis on post to a few select and critical jobs for the maintenance of the post.

Recently we have had some soldiers get their mail confiscated because people sent contraband materials to them. Contraband could be anything considered pornography in an Islamic country, alcohol, or drug paraphernalia. Please don’t get soldiers in trouble by sending them things that are prohibited by host nations, or if you feel you have to, at least don’t send it with anything they really need because the postal service will confiscate the entire package.

Soldier’s Living Conditions

We finally have all three satellite feeds working for the barracks so that we now have three separate TVs set up that the soldiers can watch. The soldiers are now buying video game machines to spend their free time on.

The barracks doors have been upgraded by bricking in the large sliding doors of the warehouse and putting metal door frames and doors into them so that we could lock the barracks if were to go out to gunnery of for another mission out of Baghdad.

Some people misunderstood my comment last week about re-enforcing roofing. The cover we are trying to get material to reinforce is the bunker we built outside the barracks. To reinforce the roof on the barracks sufficiently would require a total rebuilding of the barracks. That is not feasible at this time.

Ghost Troop Library

The library is still growing. The soldiers are now looking for games for X Box and other game machines as well as DVDs, books, and magazines.

Again, thanks for all the contributions. If you want to send some, please do. Send it to your soldier or me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 9237
APO AE 09322-2378

This last week we got three large boxes of books from family and friends. Thank you all for your continued support!

Mid Tour Leaves

Mid tour leaves continue to go as planned for the most part. We have already sent home three soldiers on leave so far. As with everything, some individuals are already trying to abuse the system by asking for extensions and creating other problems while they are at home. Hopefully Ghost Troopers can remain disciplined and we will not have a Ghost Trooper be one of the people that messes it up for everyone else.

I talked to CSM B today about the possibility of getting more leave slots and he told me that it looks like maybe a 20% increase. Nothing major. We will continue to push the program as we explained it two weeks ago.

Supporting Schools

There has been a lot of interest in the schools programs but we have not received or distributed any supplies yet.

To get the supplies here for now, you can mail them to:

CPT Mescall/School Program
G/2/2 ACR
Unit 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

Please write us and tell us about your school (if you are representing one) and what kind of school you are interested in supporting – we have 50 different schools and feel that we can help by coordinating schools of similar types to be partners. We will set partner schools if you are interested using the US postal system for now since the Iraqi postal system is still not working at an acceptable level. We hope to set up some long-term contact between Americans and Iraqis.

Commander’s Corner

Dear Families and Friends of the FRG,

Another long week has passed for us here at Camp Marlboro, and fortunately things here in Al Thawra seem to be returning back to normal. Our patrols into the city have been peaceful, but we have received a lot of unusual looks, more confusion then anger, this no doubt is caused by the increased size of our patrols, and the presence of tanks in the city. As 1SG mentioned earlier we now have tanks attached to the squadron and the troop, these tanks and their crews greatly improve our capabilities in the city, and seem to intimidate many of the locals, they’re a welcome addition to our family. This week we have also received a new lieutenant, 2LT S, he will spend the next week transitioning with 1LT C in 1st Platoon. As always I thank you all for your support, and continue with my promise to take the best care possible of our soldiers.

CPT Mescall
Ghost 6

Closing

Things have been difficult lately and people feel a need to complain or criticize. Unfortunately some do this to my wife who is the FRG leader, but that position only exists to help keep families informed about command information and to help prevent social isolation of family members. She does not control what happens out here and she hasn’t got any power at all to fix things that someone may have an issue with. Please be considerate for her because she is in the same boat as the rest of you are.

On the good side, we have completed over half of this deployment now. Current tentative plans have us returning in the first half of April. 2nd Squadron should be at the beginning end of the re-deployment, but even that won’t get us home more than a week or so ahead of the rest of the regiment. Currently the Army plan is for everyone to be offered a one-month block leave upon return. There are no details on that plan because it is a little too far out to think about now.

dixicritter
2003-10-22, 18:53
Hello from Baghdad. Things seem to have returned to normal for the time being. We have had some times where we have had to go and evict the Sadr Bureau from the city counsel building, but other than that things are close to normal.

Since the last FRG Newsletter, we have received a new task organization. What this means is they shuffle around the platoons so everyone gets a mix of different equipment for the mission. Our fourth platoon is still on post here and living in our barracks, but they now work for C co 2/37AR, and we have received 1st Platoon 2/37 Armor with their four M1A2 tanks to assist on our patrols. 4th platoon are still Ghost Troopers , and CPT Mescall and I will still support them, but they are working for an armor company that is now attached to the Squadron.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.

1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Events this Week

On the 16th we were sent out with other troops to expel the Sadr Bureau from the City Counsel building again. They decided they were going to camp out there and declare themselves the new city government. IT didn’t work out the way they planned it as 2nd Platoon Ghost went in and arrested them all, and then turned them over to the Iraqi police. After that the Squadron assumed control for guarding the building from the Iraqi police who didn’t seem to be doing a good job keeping people out. Hawk Company and Fox Troop started taking turns guarding the buildings.

On the 17th we got an infantry platoon of Bradley Fighting Vehicles and 20+ infantrymen attached to the troop. We used their armor on our patrols for extra firepower in case we got ambushed. It never happened. We lost 4th platoon this day to the armor company.

The 18th the Infantry started moving into our barracks because we were giving the warning that their attachment was to be long term.

On the 19th the Infantry moved out, so much for long term. This is the day we got the Armor platoon I mentioned in the opening.

20 October we sent the fourth soldier out on mid tour leave. We ran increased patrols that day, but nothing special happened that day.

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

The phones continue to be a problem across the Squadron. The Squadron is getting a phone center built in a new morale area that should be completed sometime next week. These phones will be a pay system, but should be available for everyone.

The pay Internet café has still not been completed. Apparently the computers are installed but the answer to when will they be complete has been next week for about three weeks now.


Soldier’s Living Conditions

The overhead cover for the soldiers next to the barracks is coming along very well. We have built quite a bit and should be able to finish that up this week.

Another couple of new additions is a new washing machine we got connected just for Ghost Troop (this is not a washing machine like Americans are used to) and the completion of two new showers that run off the Iraqi water station that is also our HQ building. We were able to get the Iraqi plumbers to build us a system that will not run out of water and has a separate hot water heater for the system. This coming week we will add walls to the showers so they will be a little friendlier when it gets cold.

Ghost Troop Library

The library is still growing. The soldiers are now looking for games for X Box and other game machines as well as DVDs, books, and magazines.

Again, thanks for all the contributions. If you want to send some, please do. Send it to your soldier or me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 9237
APO AE 09322-2378

This last week we got three large boxes of books from family and friends. Thank you all for your continued support!

Supporting Schools

School supplies have started to come in and we are now putting together a distribution plan. The first supplies have come from a family in Kentucky that personally donated some supplies and are trying to get the local school energized to participate.

To get the supplies here for now, you can mail them to:

CPT Mescall/School Program
G/2/2 ACR
Unit 92378
APOAE 09322-2378

Please write us and tell us about your school (if you are representing one) and what kind of school you are interested in supporting – we have 50 different schools and feel that we can help by coordinating schools of similar types to be partners. We will set partner schools if you are interested using the US postal system for now since the Iraqi postal system is still not working at an acceptable level. We hope to set up some long-term contact between Americans and Iraqis.

Commander’s Corner

Dear Families and Friends of the FRG,

As 1SG Engman mentioned earlier this was a fairly quiet for the troop, thanks in part to the arrival of tanks into the sector, which seems to have calmed the locals down a little. Despite the recent increase in tensions in the local area we will continue with our efforts to help improve the quality of life for the people of Al Thawra. Our project to support local schools is off to a good start, we’re looking to do our first drop of supplies to a local elementary school later this week, in addition to the school supplies we will be providing a supply of bottled water for the children to drink to help alleviate the lack of potable water in the sector. We appreciate everyone’s help and support of the schools project and your continued support of our troop library and DVD collection.

CPT Mescall
Ghost 6

Closing

Lets continue to stick together over the next few months. In about three months we should start transitioning over to the following unit, then spend a month getting them up to speed, then we should start re-deployment if everything goes according to schedule.

Thankfully things have become more normal and stable over the last two weeks. Soldier’s morale seems to be high and we continue to make a difference daily in the sector we are assigned. I want to take the time to thank everyone that sent my wife dixicritter e-mails and letters of support over the last couple of weeks. You kind comments are appreciated and it makes her feel appreciated by you all.

dixicritter
2003-11-01, 10:04
Hello from Baghdad. This week has been a little hectic with the attacks on the Red Cross and multiple police stations in Baghdad. Today we are sending 3rd Platoon to Qatar on R&R pass and I am going with them. There will not be another newsletter until the 5th of November because of this.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.

1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Events this Week

On the 23rd, CSM Waters went on patrol with us and rode in one of the M1 tanks. That day two tribes decided today was a good day to have a tribal war in the middles of Sadr City. He got to see the rock throwing and all the excitement of a normal patrol.

The 24th an informant turned in a name and house of a suspected Fedayeen member. Turned out it was a house we had already raided that belonged to the informant’s father whom he was fighting with. He was trying to use us to get back at his dad.

On the 25th we had some Fort Polk visitors: the 509th sent some people to plan the upcoming rotations that will be designed to prepare the units that will replace us in the spring.

The 26th we took a maintenance day. The tanks needed to do some repairs and the soldiers were getting a little burned out. It turns out we took this just in time. This is the day the Al Rasheed hotel got hit with rockets the first time.

The 27th our patrols were getting ready to go out and we had just found out about the second attack on tha Al Rasheed. Just before the patrols left, there were three large explosions that were police stations and the Red Cross being attacked. The patrols were re-tasked and sent out to check for bombs and check all our police stations.

The 28th was a busy day. 2nd Platoon supported Eagle Troop on a raid, 1st Platoon escorted the SCO and did assessments of buildings in our sector with the commander, and 3rd Escorted Civil Affairs while guarding the camp and trying to get ready for pass.

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

There isn’t much new here. The only real news is a team will be coming out in the middle of November from the Army Postal Unit that will do a mass package mailing to get packages home in time for Christmas.

Soldier’s Living Conditions

Again, not much new here for the barracks. The Squadron weight room is now enclosed and should be getting air conditioning and heating soon. There is also a new gym completed that is was warehouse that is now an indoor basketball and volleyball court.

Ghost Troop Library

The library is still growing. The soldiers are now looking for games for X Box and other game machines as well as DVDs, books, and magazines.

Again, thanks for all the contributions. If you want to send some, please do. Send it to your soldier or me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

This last week we got three large boxes of books from family and friends. Thank you all for your continued support!

Supporting Schools

To get the supplies here for now, you can mail them to:

CPT Mescall/School Program
G/2/2 ACR
Unit 92378
APOAE 09322-2378

Please write us and tell us about your school (if you are representing one) and what kind of school you are interested in supporting – we have 50 different schools and feel that we can help by coordinating schools of similar types to be partners. We will set partner schools if you are interested using the US postal system for now since the Iraqi postal system is still not working at an acceptable level. We hope to set up some long-term contact between Americans and Iraqis.

Mid Tour Leave

There have been some changes to the mid tour leave program that should be addressed. These are recent changes that we just got on the 27th. Some of this isn’t a big change, and some of the other points are probably in response to complaints about the system that was initially put in place in order to make leave a little more available.

First off, we only got 5 slots in October, but in November we are getting 13 slots – more than what we were told it would increase by. This is very good news. The program is also extended until 30 days from re-deployment. Our current re-deployment date is 15 April, so the plan would end for us around the middle of March. If we continue to get 13 slots a month, then we might get up to 63 soldiers total home for leave from the Troop.

There are also new eligibility rules about who can and cannot go. Anyone that will spend less than 270 days in theater is not eligible. This basically means if you got here after July 15 – you are not eligible, or if you leave before December 31st – you are not eligible. Additionally, soldiers ETSing or PCSing become ineligible 60 prior to their departure date from Iraq.

After applying the changes to our Order of Merit list, we now have 90 soldiers eligible, up from 83. Some soldiers were originally not interested in leave because of the slim chance they would get to go, but interest has risen to the point that we now have 83 of those 90 interest, up 74. With 74 soldiers that are interested and eligible, and a forecast of only 63 slots or so, we still cannot make everyone happy. And some soldiers have expressed that if they were offered leave in March they probably wouldn’t take it since it is so close to coming home anyway. If the amount of flights going out increase again, then maybe it would work out better for us as a unit – we will have to wait and see.

Additionally, the flight destinations have changed. There are two flights: one goes through Germany and ends in Baltimore, and the other flies directly to Atlanta and ends in Dallas. While it may be more convenient for a soldier to fly to Atlanta, the planes are done space available – so if the only space left is going to Baltimore, that is where they will go. Soldiers can also get off in Germany, but according to the policy they must posses a valid passport since they are not USAREUR soldiers.

We are already starting to see the improvements in leave slots – four of our soldiers are flying home on November 2nd.

Commander’s Corner

Dear Families and Friends of the FRG,

Just a quick update this week, as 1SG Engman mentioned already with the new pass policy many more of our soldiers will have the opportunity to, which is great news. Additionally, despite the overall bad week coalition forces in Iraq have had we’ve been fairly successful here in our neck of the woods. On the 26th Blue Platoon conducted the first of our school supply drops to the Primary School, a coeducational school located in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. All told we delivered four boxes of school supplies and 200 cases of water to the school. The local NAC council, school faculty, students and their families all participated in the event and it was a great success. I’d especially like to thank the Taussig family, without their generous support this event could never have taken place. Again I would like to thank everyone for their support, and kindness, please keep our soldiers in your prayers.

Respectfully

CPT Mescall
Ghost 6

Closing

Hopefully the new leave information is a bright spot for you. Today I also received the re-deployment schedule and it looks like the Troop will head to Kuwait around the middle of March to prepare for re-deployment. And a end date for our awards on the 15th of April. The time line shows one chemical company that did a back-to-back deployment ahead of us from the Regiment. RHHT, 4/2, 3/2, ½, and RSS all come after us. This should let you know about when to plan for us to get home. I know there will continue to be rumors about when we will come back and when other units will come back – just ignore them, we will always tell you the real deal.

dixicritter
2003-11-22, 01:40
Hello from Baghdad. It has been a couple of weeks since the last newsletter. I went on pass and did not plan to do one on the 5th (despite the typo in the last newsletter) and then we started experiencing power problems which has made it hard or impossible to get things done or get on line. Sorry this has been late.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.

1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Events over the last couple of weeks:

The 31st, the Squadron had a Halloween Party for the soldiers that included a costume contest and a talent contest. The Winner of the costume contest was a soldier that dressed as Spongebob Squarepants. The winner of the talent contest was PFC W from Ghost Troop who is becoming the unofficial singer for the Squadron and sometimes the Regiment.

The 5th, 2nd Platoon was on the way back to camp when they were passing an Iraqi Police checkpoint. As they approached, a man ran the checkpoint and they quickly blocked the road to prevent him from passing them. The man tried to ram through the checkpoint and was shot while trying to run through it. It turned out the vehicle was stolen.

The 6th and 8th the Postal detachment came to Camp Marlboro with the intent of handling packages for Christmas presents soldiers would want to send home from an AAFES vendor. Unfortunately for that plan the vendor didn’t end up getting here until the 13th.

The 9th we were guarding the DAC (District Advisory Counsel) building when an Iraqi local was shot. You may have read about this or seen something about it on CNN.

The 9th we started getting sever winds – up to 50 knots. It knocked out a lot of satellite equipment like the Internet Café for a while. We also got something that is a rare occurrence around here: rain. The weather ended up damaging some power lines and caused problems for a much of Baghdad, including us, for over a week following this storm.

The 11th we guarded the DAC building again while the Iraqi had a demonstration in memory of the Iraqi that was shot on the 9th. The demonstration was small and peaceful.

The 13th the AAFES bazzar showed up on post. They had a few eclectic vendors which included a music instrument dealer, jeweler, painter, leather goods, DVD movies, remote control cars, and sports wear.

The 14th the troop did a raid on a candy factory that ended up being nothing but a candy factory.

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

The morale computers were down for about a week because of the satellite connection, and then were down off and on because of power related problems. Currently they are running about as well as usual.

The Internet Café in the basement of the HQ is now up – finally. This is the pay service that has webcams. The service is a little flaky at times, but they are working.

There is now a contractor installing pay phones in the new phone center and there will even be a pay phone set up in the Troop Barracks. These phones cost 50 cents a minute and they can only used the locally purchased at the phone center or PX. US phone cards are not supposed to work with this system.

Something else to look forward to is VTC again. Sometime around Thanksgiving we should be getting two VTC systems, which will be set at the RTOC. The Troop should have these systems for an entire 24-hour period, but supposedly this will not be like the one system we had a few months back. This should be a pair of dedicated computers using web cams and voice software to communicate to a set of dedicated systems in the US. As I get more information we will coordinate this with the FRG and RearD.

Soldier’s Living Conditions

The barracks now have small space heaters (flameless) and a plastic roof has been added to help trap in heat. The area for the pay phone booth has been set up and some of the walls have even been painted.

The FRG banner that you all contributed to making is hanging near the day room in the barracks. Everyone (including visitors) likes to stop and look at it. It has meant a lot to the soldiers and we all thank you for the thoughtful gift.

We have also received a small Christmas tree and some late Halloween candy as well as other care packages over the last few weeks. Your contributions to soldier morale are having an impact and are gratefully appreciated.

Ghost Troop Library

The library is still growing. The soldiers are now looking for games for X Box and other game machines as well as DVDs, books, and magazines.

Again, thanks for all the contributions. If you want to send some, please do. Send it to your soldier or me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

Just last week we got about five large boxes from Rolling Thunder, which is a Veterans group back in the states made up of motorcycle enthusiasts as I understand it. Third Platoon’s SPC Rock’s father-in-law is a member and the organization gracefully sent us some much-needed supplies like books, foot powder, and deoderant. The soldier greatly appreciated all the contributions and this put us up to the point where we had to add more shelves for the library.

Supporting Schools

To get the supplies here for now, you can mail them to:

CPT Mescall/School Program
G/2/2 ACR
Unit 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

This program is still ongoing and we are receiving things we never expected like recorders, backpacks, balls, etc. Thank you all!

Mid Tour Leave/R&R

Last FRG newsletter I mentioned that the number of mid tour leave slots had doubled, well we continue to get an extra slot here and there to the point where our leave allocation for November is three times what we got for October. I don’t know if this can be sustained for the upcoming months, but we plan to continue pushing to get as many leave slots as we can.

In a few days we should get the allocations for December leave and passes to Qatar. Hopefully next newsletter I will be able to give you all good news.

Closing

Again, I apologize for not producing a newsletter earlier. Hopefully there is enough good news here to make up for it. Every day we continue to get closer to getting home – a day here is a day behind us and a day closer to home.

dixicritter
2003-12-04, 23:34
Been having troubles getting this one to post. Sorry it's so late. - dixi

Hello again from Baghdad. The last week the weather has almost been like the typical end of November we are used to back at Fort Polk – rainy and cool. In fact it has been so rainy that in some places we have flooding. We celebrated Thanksgiving with as much style as could be mustered by the Cougar cooks. This newsletter was put off a day so I could enjoy the meal and then let y’all know about it.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.

1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Events over the last couple of weeks:

The 19th we all got our flu shots which has led to a rash of people walking around with flu like symptoms.

The 21st and 22nd we had some platoons firing on ranges to maintain their proficiency with the M16s. Eventually we will get everyone through some range training. The 22nd we also assisted Hawk in a raid that captured a couple of individuals we have been looking for.

On the 24th an improvised explosive went off by a patrol from Eagle. No one was seriously injured.

On the 25th a second improvised explosive went off and near an MP patrol without injuring any Americans. It did hurt a couple of Iraqi locals however, and our medics treated the injured and took them to an American Army hospital for follow up. This caused a lot of leads from local informants as to who was doing it.

The 27th we had a nice Thanksgiving dinner (more to follow later on) and then that evening we ran some operations to discourage the bomb makers which ended in a raid of their house in the early, early morning this morning.

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

The morale computers for the Internet Café are running fine with the standard poor bandwidth. There are now two of them equipped with web cams that can be used by a soldier on the days that the unit has the computers. Temporarily however, these systems are being used as the Squadron VTC. On the 29th we will have one system for 24 hours. During that time a Ghost Trooper can get on and try to get into a web chat with their loved ones back home using the web cam and sound system.

The pay phones were finally installed. Not all are in yet, but they are slowly coming in. There is one already set up inside the Troop barracks. These phones cost $0.50 per minute and the only phone cards they use are from a local vendor. They cannot use any American calling cards at all with these phones.

Soldier’s Living Conditions

There hasn’t been a lot of change since last week with this. The rain has shown us the few places the roof leaks and we are trying to get that fixed.

Ghost Troop Library

Again, thanks for all the contributions. If you want to send some, please do. Send it to your soldier or me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 92378
APO AE 09322-2378


Supporting Schools

To get the supplies here for now, you can mail them to:

CPT Mescall
School Program
G/2/2 ACR
Unit 92378
APOAE 09322-2378

This program is still ongoing and we are receiving things we never expected like recorders, backpacks, balls, etc. Thank you all!

Mid Tour Leave/R&R

This week we received the allocations for mid tour leave and R&R. The R&R slots are a lot less than we are used to and we are pushing to get more slots in order to finish getting 2nd platoon up to speed with the rest of the platoons in the troop.

We received 13 slots for mid tour leave for the month of December. This is about the same number we began the month of November with. Hopefully we will be able to get a slot here and there to increase the chances for our guys to get back. A few lucky guys will actually get to be home over Christmas

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving was important to the command at all levels and it showed. It seems that just about everything possible was done to make Thanksgiving this year as pleasant as it could be. Food was brought in for days prior to the 27th and the Squadron set up what has become the standard set of sports and games for the soldiers.

The opening ceremony was at 0900 in the gym, immediately followed by basketball, volleyball, and ping-pong. Then at 1000 there was a culinary competition for the cooks. At 1200 they opened the dining facility to the soldiers with the commanders, first sergeants, platoon leaders, and platoon sergeants serving for the soldiers. The meal consisted of ham, turkey, shrimp, steak, chicken, mashed potatoes, dressing, sweet potatoes, mixed vegetables, and green bean casserole. For desert there was pumpkin pie, pecan pie, ice cream, brownies, and fruits. At 1700 we had a closing ceremony and prayer from the chaplain.

During the day continuous movies were playing, and then at 2100 the live broadcasts of American football began. Unfortunately about half the troop was back to missions by then, so not everyone got to enjoy them.

The day prior to thanksgiving, we were tasked to send some soldiers to Baghdad Airport to have dinner with a VIP. The name of the VIP was not given, but we figured it must be pretty important. Four soldiers from Ghost were given the task for that, and we were able to sneak a few others into it. It turns out that President George Bush Jr. flew out here to Baghdad to have Thanksgiving dinner with the soldiers and he was serving the sweet potatoes himself.

Commander’s Corner

Dear friends and families of the FRG, with the passing of Thanksgiving many of us have realized that despite the current circumstances we still have a lot to be thankful for. Despite the distance and time from home, we all had the opportunity to send an email or make a call to our loved ones, an opportunity our predecessors did not enjoy, and many of our fellow service members were not afforded. Additionally we were able to share an outstanding thanksgiving dinner together. Most importantly with each day that passes we are another day closer to home, a fact we will forever be grateful for. With the passing of thanksgiving the troop will continue to conduct our daily operations with vigilance and determination, focused on task at hand, but remembering all of you back home who make this all worth while. With that I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving, and thank you again for all of your support, which is one more thing we are all eternally grateful for.

Closing

We hope everyone back home had a good Thanksgiving holiday. We are thankful out here that we have a great FRG back there supporting us out here

dixicritter
2003-12-07, 21:07
Hello again from Baghdad. It seems like most of the news is not really all that much different anymore. I will continue to put out this newsletter as long as we still have the ability since we will start packing things up here in a few of months in preparation for re-deployment. As long as everything stays boring and mundane I would say that is good.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.

1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Events over the last week:

Not much interesting has happened over the last week. Mostly we established observation posts in sector to keep roads clear from IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) and took turns guarding the DAC (District Advisory Counsel) building. On the days we patrolled whenever we could.

On the 2nd however, we conducted a highly successful raid to capture a man that is accused of planning and conducting the attack against Eagle Troop two months ago. Of course he claimed it wasn’t him.

Morale Computers, Mail, and Phones

The VTC didn’t seem to be as popular as the last time, but the web cams are now permanently in place for the soldiers to use. The picture and quality isn’t the biggest or the best, but it is a good option to least you see you’re soldier over here.

The Iraqi long distance pay phone has gotten good reviews. At $0.50 a minute it is the cheapest deal on camp, and it also seems to have the best sound quality and reliable connection.

Soldier’s Living Conditions

Power in the barracks and across post has been highly sporadic with all the rain. Apparently the Iraqi power workers don’t do much to weatherproof the power lines, which often short out when it gets wet here. We have had a few cases of the substandard power transformers blowing out under the load when the lines shorted in the ground. Currently we have power.

The food in the mess hall is a good three meals a day now. The cooks are preparing it themselves for most of the time. The only outside meals we get are three dinners a week which in the long run actually serve to ensure we get better rations.

Ghost Troop Library

Again, thanks for all the contributions. If you want to send some, please do. Send it to your soldier or me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

The Library is currently overrunning our shelf capacity and many boxes of books are sitting on the floor until we get some more. I would call this a good overall success, thanks for your support.

The plan now for when we leave is to find another unit that replaces us and give them all these books for their library.

Supporting Schools

To get the supplies here for now, you can mail them to:

CPT Mescall/School Program
G/2/2 ACR
Unit 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

This program is still ongoing and we are receiving things we never expected like recorders, backpacks, balls, etc. Thank you all!

Mid Tour Leave/R&R

The mid tour leave program is running fine. We received another extra leave slot and I believe we may get some more. IT is hard to keep trucks manned for missions at times, but we are making due for now. There still has not been a published cut off date for the mid-tour leave program.

R&R slots have drastically reduced and it may not be possible to ever get all our soldiers to Qatar on a pass, but I will continue to try to get our soldiers a break to go down there.

Christmas

Christmas is rapidly approaching. It is probably too late at this point to send anything that will get here on time by mail. There have been some slow downs in the mail again since one of the civilian mail planes was shot (but not shot down). The mail service is continuing slowly as they get some ground transportation systems back into place to provide us mail service. Maybe if they go some time without another aircraft attack they may resume airmail.

The Squadron is planning something called the "12 days of Christmas" which seems a little silly. Most of the soldiers have expressed they would rather not have a bunch of events planned and have some down time, but never the less, there will be some activities to give someone something to plan. Some events include chariot races, Christmas decoration competitions, trading duty day, etc.

Closing

Well this has defiantly been one of the shorter newsletters we have ever produced. I’m sorry if it doesn’t seem that in-depth, but for now there isn’t really anything new you haven’t already heard.

As we get ready to go into the New Year, we look forward to getting home soon. It seems at times like we just got here and other times it seems like we have been here forever. Hopefully the next couple of months pass soon and before we all realize it we are having a troop party telling stories about what it was like.

dixicritter
2003-12-20, 18:33
Merry Christmas from Baghdad. OK, it isn’t quite Christmas yet, but it will be here soon. The past couple of weeks have been pretty eventful with some offensive mission and the capture of Saddam Hussein, and it looks like as we enter our last couple of months patrolling Baghdad, we will be busier than ever.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.

1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Events over the last week:

On the 6th of December, a truck with an improvised rocket launcher in back tried to attack a camp on the boarder of our sector. Lucky for us (and unlucky for them) it blew up as they tried to fire it, killing all of them.

The 11th and 12th we ran a checkpoint on the edge of our sector in an attempt to capture some anti-coalition leaders.

The 13th the Squadron held its tree lighting ceremony. This was the start of the 12 days of Christmas – more on that later in the Newsletter.

The 14th we found out Saddam Hussein was captured. This news caused us to pause on some of the planned operations which we have starting conducting again.

On the 15th, the MPs from our camp responded to a protest by Iraqis that believe we have not captured the real Saddam Hussein.

Today (the 17th) there was an explosion near our camp as one of our convoys was passing by. There were some casualties, but nothing serious.



Ghost Troop Library

Again, thanks for all the contributions. If you want to send some, please do. Send it to your soldier or me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

The library continues to grow despite the lack of space. Soon it will probably be about time to stop mailing new books

Supporting Schools

To get the supplies here for now, you can mail them to:

CPT Mescall/School Program
G/2/2 ACR
Unit 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

This program continues to be effective and we are still receiving donations. Thanks for showing the giving spirit.

Mid Tour Leave/R&R/ETS

The mid tour leave program is continuing to run well. We seem to always get an extra slot here or there. But there has finally been a cut off date announced. The 1st of February will be the last departure date for soldiers from the Regiment to go on mid-tour leave. If things continue to work as they have, we should get about 13 more leave slots for January.

R&R slots also have an announced cut off time. After 1 March, no one from the Regiment will got to Qatar for R&R. At that point we should be getting ready to move a lot of our base camp equipment to the RSS base camp and conduct turn over operations with the unit that is replacing us.

The Regiment has also published guidance about people returning from Iraq for ETS. Anyone that should leave, using current guidance, after March 1, will re-deploy with the Regiment. What this basically means is that anyone with an ETS after 7 June 2004 will be redeploying with us.

Christmas

The Squadron has attempted to continue its policy of setting up special events for the holidays. For Christmas they got a little overly optimistic and planned a twelve-day event called "The Twelve Days of Christmas". The plan was to start the 12 days on the 13th, and have something different every day for twelve days. The logic was to give every soldier a chance to enjoy something on one of the days since there is no possible way for every soldier to be free on one day. The planned schedule looked something like this:

13th – Christmas tree lighting, including singing the 12 days of Christmas.

14th – Sleigh race – postponed to 16 Dec.

15th – Caroling – Canceled because of weather and missions.

16th – Variety Show – Canceled, but the CSM still wants to have this.

17th – Santa visits camp – Santa was visiting units on camp all day today.

18th – Orphans visit camp – local orphanage bringing children by for dinner and gifts.

19th – Trading places, soldiers get to be senior leaders for a day – like 1SG and CO.

20th – Officers and NCOs pull guard for soldiers, at least a shift or two to give them a break.

21st – Bonfire

22nd – 5K Run

23rd – Gift presentation to local family

24th – HWB off towers

25th – Leaders serve dinner & midnight mass

The events and missions have been picking up lately, and with the personnel losses and mid tour leaves, everyone here is busier than normal trying to make the mission happen. So as you can see some of the events ended up canceled or postponed. Most of the soldiers seem to have fun at these events, but a lot of them tell me they would just appreciate a day off where they wouldn’t have to worry about staying in uniform or pulling guard.

Closing

The good news is we have been inventorying equipment, making lists, sending people to school and special classes in preparation for re-deployment. Soon we will be heading south to Kuwait and probably some of the hardest work of the entire deployment as we load equipment and try to pass customs inspections. The hardest part of the rotation over the next three months will be fighting complacency by keeping the soldiers focused on the tasks here and not focused on getting home.

dixicritter
2004-01-02, 01:16
Happy new year from Iraq. Here we sit here on New Year’s Eave looking forward to the New Year and the impending re-deployment that will soon come. Somehow with the recent tasks and the little things have been changing over the last few months, the FRG newsletter has sort of transitioned into an every two week thing instead of weekly. I will try to get better about saying something and getting it out on time no matter how little it is.

Policy statement: this is not a bunch of gossip, but truth, as I know it today. If you want to quote someone or blame someone, it is I. Also, the names of PCS and ETS soldiers will not be mentioned except in special circumstances in order to protect people’s privacy.
1SG Engman
Ghost 7

Events over the last week:

On the 20th we played trading places where soldiers from the troop got to be the platoon sergeant, platoon leader, and 1SG. It was very interesting, and some of the soldiers learned a lot about what the leaders really do all day. That night the NCOs and Officers pulled a lot of the guard for the soldiers in order to give them the time off.

The 21st we prepared for a raid to capture insurgence based on intelligence gathered recently from Saddam Hussein’s capture. The raid was very successful, but other than that I cannot say much more yet. That night we had a bonfire on the camp as part of the 12 days of Christmas celebration.

The 22nd and 23rd, Eagle troop moved to the Baghdad International Airport in order to help them reduce the number of attacks on that compound. As a result, Ghost Troop assumed their sector inside of Baghdad.

The 25th we had a slow day (we didn’t stop) where the soldiers got a very nice meal in the Dining facility. It was very similar to the meal for Thanksgiving and the all the 1SGs and commanders served the soldiers their meal.

The 26th through the 30th, the Squadron conducted some gunnery training for the Artillery and mortars. Ghost troop provided the observers and almost all the escorts to facilitate this. Over the few days of traing we were stretched a little thin, but we managed to still accomplish the mission.

So now we are here waiting for New Years, luckily there is nothing special planned by the squadron for it. Soldiers can relax and enjoy their time off any way they want to.


Ghost Troop Library

Again, thanks for all the contributions. If you want to send some, please do. Send it to your soldier or me:

1SG Engman
G Trp 2/2 ACR
Unit # 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

The library continues to grow despite the lack of space. Soon it will probably be about time to stop mailing new books


Supporting Schools

To get the supplies here for now, you can mail them to:

CPT Mescall/School Program
G/2/2 ACR
Unit 92378
APO AE 09322-2378

This program continues to be effective and we are still receiving donations. Thanks for showing the giving spirit.


Mid Tour Leave/R&R/ETS

The mid tour leave slots for January have shrunk considerably. We were getting about 13 a month during November and December, and then would find an extra slot here and there, finishing each month with about 15-17 slots. This time we started the month with only eight slots. I am still trying to get more for Ghost Troop any chance I can get.

R&R slots for Qatar have not been given out yet, but I have gotten some for the soldiers at Freedom Rest, which is an in-country R&R facility here in Baghdad. We are sending some of the soldiers on the 5th to take advantage of it and I hope to have some particulars to report. Some of the soldiers that have initially went said it was a very nice three star hotel with real beds, great food, swimming, etc.


Closing

In the past couple of newsletters I have mentioned the re-deployment and some planning times (no solid dates) for our upcoming return. Now we have some more solid dates, but they have been classified secret in order to protect us, as we get ready to re-deploy. I suppose the other part of that is to prevent what happened to 3rd ID the first time they got ready to leave and then the dates changed. I am not saying that the dates are or are not going to change, but it would be something to take into consideration as a possibility. If anything about re-deployment does come out that I can talk about, I will tell you from here.

Happy Holidays!