Good News Friday

March 30, 2007

3rd BCT Surgeon Breaks Barriers with Local Doctors

By Spc. Ryan Stroud
3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs

BAQUBAH, Iraq (March 18, 2007) — Capt. Henry Shih had one mission on his mind – the delivery of medical books to Iraqi doctors in Baqubah, Iraq.

Even a night of rainfall, muddying up most of the roads in Baqubah, making it difficult to travel at times, would not stop him from achieving his goal. He gathered Soldiers to help him move almost 1,000 medical books donated by a Boy Scouts of America troop, located in Fort Hood, Texas, to deliver to a group of doctors in desperate need for the material.

Shih, who is the brigade surgeon for 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, was hoping these books could achieve a goal he has been working on for almost six months – share medical information and break down the barriers between the coalition forces and the doctors of the Diyala province.

The idea for the mission started for Shih when he was finally invited to a monthly conference between doctors in Diyala, a conference he has frequently requested to be a part of.

Shih gathered up the books and made his way into the heart of Baqubah, ready to bring information to a hospital that was in desperate need of medical material.

“Today I went to the Al Batol Women’s and Children’s Hospital to partake in a monthly conference between local Iraqi doctors,” said Shih. “All the doctors from [Diyala] will come to this conference for continuing education.

“This was the first time I was invited to the conference,” Shih proudly continued. “I felt it was a privilege to be asked. After over five months, they have begun to trust me more and that’s why they have invited me to deal with them more directly, become a part of their physician group and join the conference. Before, they had denied me access to the [meeting], so I feel this is a big step for us.”

As Shih entered a room full of local Iraqi doctors, he was warmly greeted and a smile quickly ran across his face. This meeting was big for Shih, he said. He was even asked to speak about the topic of the day – polio in Iraq.

“Today’s meeting was a discussion on polio in Iraq,” said Shih. “One of the doctors went to a conference in Jordan, discussing polio in the Middle East. He came back to share his information with all the other doctors.”

“I brought a lecture on several types of [polio and paralysis] that I shared with the Iraqi doctors, discussing how we see it and how we treat it in America,” he said. “I wanted to compare and contrast what treatments were available here [in Iraq] and how they diagnose and perceive these diseases out here.”

As Shih’s lecture came to an end, he spoke with Dr. Homm S. Malallah, the General Director of Health in Diyala, about other issues the coalition forces c and 3rd BCT could help out with.

“We talked about the needs of the hospitals in the area, as well as security needs of the hospitals, but their biggest issue is Baqubah General Hospital,” said Shih. “That is the only trauma center in Diyala. All the civilians, Iraqi Police, Iraqi Army have to go to Baqubah General Hospital and the biggest concern is security, which is preventing patients from coming to Baqubah.

“[Security of the hospitals] is a major step to us helping them get back on their feet, and is making it to where their info structure works without depending on us too much,” he added.

Soon after Shih spoke with Malallah, the books arrived to the great surprise and delight of the doctors.

“If you go to any of the Iraqi hospitals, there is a great need for books and equipment…so I hope this helps,” Shih said. “That’s why we delivered several hundred medical books that were collected by the Boy Scouts at Fort Hood, from local physicians in the local Fort Hood area. These books cover areas of all different specialties which will greatly contribute to their medical library.

“I think they were pretty happy with [the books],” he said. “They all looked pretty interested in what we brought them and what they can use.”

Malallah went through the stacks of books with excitement and pride.

“This is so nice,” Malallah said. “The books will help fill the shelves of our medical library.”

The library, which is located across the hall from where Shih gave his lecture, is full of bookshelves, but hardly any books.

“[Malallah] said he was very grateful for the books,” Shih said. “All the doctors here are really bright, they are well educated, they just don’t have the equipment or the materials to be able to practice to the level that they are capable of.”

Shih said he hopes these books encourage the doctors to stay in Diyala and help their people. Many doctors are fleeing to safer areas due to threats they have received from dealing with the coalition forces.

“A lot of doctors have left Iraq because of the threat to them,” said Shih. “I think they are afraid of dealing with the coalition forces because if you are seen with Army Soldiers, you become a target for the insurgents…

“I think this is part of a rebuilding effort,” said Shih. “They are learning to work with us and let us help train them, and in turn, they also train us. This will help rebuild the health care system here. I know this will help them to become more self sufficient; it will help the citizens in the area, plus the other units who might come in [after us].”

As Shih was leaving the hospital, a group of doctors gathered around him to thank him for his time and efforts to help the hospital.

“I think this was a very positive mission,” said Shih. “We went out there and accomplished something, we covered some solid ground. We contributed great books to their library, shared materials and information with them and I hope this encourages other doctors to make an [extra effort to visit] the local hospitals.

“It was a mission of sharing information and breaking down barriers,” he said. “We [the U.S. Army and 3rd BCT] are here to help them and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Two local Iraqi doctors, along with Capt. Henry Shih, brigade surgeon for 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, watch a lecture March 18, presented by another Iraqi doctor about his recent trip to Jordon for a conference on polio in the Middle East. Shih was invited to the conference for the first time to partake in the local meeting between doctors from Diyala province in Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ryan Stroud, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs)

Capt. Henry Shih, brigade surgeon for 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, and Dr. Homm S. Malallah, the General Director of Health in Diyala, Iraq, exchange information after they partook in a conference between local doctors in Diyala March 18. Shih also donated almost 1,000 medical books to the Al Batol Women’s and Children’s Hospital. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ryan Stroud, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs)

Dr. Homm S. Malallah, the General Director of Health in Diyala, Iraq, flips through a medical book donated by Capt. Henry Shih, brigade surgeon for 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. “This is so nice,” Malallah said. “The books will help fill the shelves of our medical library.” (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ryan Stroud, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs)


Opposing views on the war on Terror

March 29, 2007

Many of us here get caught up in the same issues on the Internet. We visit various Internet boards that discuss the Military and politics. We read responses from the far right and the far left. We get caught up in debates from every direction.

Recently I became entangled in an on going debate. Is the Troops Surge really working?

The man I have been going rounds with shared this bit of ‘trivia’ with me:

Michael Ware, from inside Baghdad, on CNN skewers Senator McCain, the media’s favorite republican war hero fake.

Michael Ware news video clip

McCain caught in a big lie, and on national television. No way this guy will ever get near any Whitehouse, unless he is invited by Bush or the next Democrat. 

Arizona needs to send this guy away.

Of course I had to respond!

The following paragraphs are snippets from messages sent from a few of our Awesome Warriors of the 4-9!

Last month saw us taking over the Haifa Street region of Baghdad. Our arrival into this area was not exactly met with warmth and friendship. After many long hours, seemingly endless patrols, and those moments when seconds seemed to stretch into eternity, we quieted one of the most contested regions in all of Iraq. When we first assumed control of this sector, there was no one to be seen during daylight and at night everyone that we met had weapons and rather poor attitudes. At present, there are children playing soccer in the streets where only bullets traveled three weeks ago. There are stores open and doing business where before the doors and windows were covered with sheet metal left to protect the dream of a future. There are homes that, once again, have families living in them who are beginning to resume a daily life. The suspicious, frightened looks from darkened windows have been replaced with smiles and friendly waves. I have never in my life been more proud than I am of what these Soldiers, these men, have done here. Your sons, husbands and fathers have walked where angels fear to tread and have left it safe for children to play.   

SFC Williams

You have a lot to be proud about. Your husbands, fathers and sons have done an amazing job in a small amount of time in one of Baghdad’s most dangerous areas. If you watched the news back in January, you would have heard about the “Battle for Haifa St.”  Haifa St. represented everything wrong with Iraq. Sectarian violence, major battles with coalition forces and terrible poverty and desperation. When Crazyhorse first took this mission there was no one in the streets, people were scared to leave their homes, murders averages over 100 a month and we were fighting insurgents on a daily basis. Today, there are literally hundreds of people out on the streets. People feel safe walking outside, schools and shops are opening up, the murder rate is below 10 a month and still dropping and attacks on coalition forces have been reduced to zero. That’s all due to your brave and extremely competent soldiers. This small Troop was able to do what whole battalions have failed to do in the past. They fought the insurgents and gained the trust and respect of the people. The poor, disadvantaged people of Haifa St. saw your husbands, fathers and sons as their protectors. We left Haifa St. the way it should be: at peace and well on its way to recovery.   

CPT Kilpatrick

If you have been following the news, you have seen the overall strategy change here in country.  As usual our men were at the pointy end of the saber.  Any awards or accounts of the fighting that went on while we were operating in the Haifa Street area of  Baghdad will never reflect the bravery and professionalism under fire that our men displayed. 

SFC Blizzard  

Before we where on the mission set of the Haifa Street sector which was known as the worst place in Baghdad.  Our Troop took this mission and ran it to the ground which led to the people coming out of the houses and opening there stores back up.  The people were so scared to do that but since we took the mission we accomplished what others have tried.  1LT Cantu  

As you all know we have had a very busy mission set this past month and a half, we started it all with a rescue Mission on Haifa Street, which was featured on CBS News. We then went into the Al Dora district of Baghdad to assist in the security of this sector so that the US Army Engineers could assist the residents in cleaning up all the trash in their neighborhood. Our follow on mission was a joint effort with 1-23 Infantry and the Iraqi Army to secure the infamous Haifa Street. Your soldiers were very detrimental in the success of all these missions.   SSG Hoff  

(I have dozens more like this!)  

[ sarcasm on] I guess these men serving have no idea either. [sarcasm off]   

 To which he responded … and yes, this teed me off in the worst way:    

Of course the soldiers always think they are doing the right thing, that’s how they stay sane in such a hell hole. My beef is not with them but with creeps like McCain.  

What the heck? Did he just tell me that our Men and Women are clueless? They always think they are doing the right thing? So I zipped out an email to Michael Yon.    


I am getting conflicting reports from Iraq. My son and his unit are telling me one thing and the media is telling me another.

I have friends who are telling me the Soldiers are not allowed to tell me the truth. Or even worse… “Of course the soldiers always think they are doing the right thing, that’s how they stay sane in such a hell hole.”

Does it appear as if the streets are getting ANY safer?

Thanks for your time,

Cindy Justice

And this morning I received a response from Michael Yon. The report from General Barry McCaffrey (Ret) is lengthy, but an excellent read. Pay special attention to section 4 :


General Petraeus and his people seem to be making progress here.  I can actually see hope in the areas I go. Please click for the latest RUBS dispatch.

General  Barry McCaffrey (Ret) has just released a report of his Iraq trip and it  is also published on the website.  All his trip reports are excellent resources for helping one understand the true situation here in Iraq.  The man is blunt, and knows his business.

I greatly appreciate the reader support that comes in.  Without it, my own mission of observing and reporting on the events unfolding in Iraq would fail.  I cannot adequately express my gratitude, other than by sticking it out here.

Very Respectfully,


Michael is now at FOB Falcon with the 1-4 Cav.

Today……. I am dedicating my fast to Michael Yon. One of the very few reporters I trust to give the War on Terror a fair voice. Be careful Michael. We wait for more truth from the Middle East.

*** A side note: I do believe my son and the men fighting at his side, much the same as I listen to Chris, MG, CT, and the many voices of our men and women in the battle!

The MSM is not our friend in the Middle East.

Wednesday Hero

March 28, 2007

This Weeks Post Was Suggested By Kathi

Billy Hodges

Billy Hodges, in the blue shirt, with a wounded soldier on a fishing tournament in Palacios, Texas
Billy Hodges, who served in the U.S. Army and Texas National Guard between 1971-1979, is not only being profiled for his service, but also for what he’s done since then. Mr. Hodges runs an organization based in El Campo, Tx called Hunts For Heroes.

They also have chapter in South Carolina , Arkansas , Mississippi , and California and what they do is take soldiers who’ve been wounded in battle on hunting and fishing trips and other outdoor related activities. All free of charge.

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. If you would like to participate in honoring the brave men and women who serve this great country, you can find out how by going here.

Remember Me

March 28, 2007

I have watched this video many times and I cannot help but reach for the box of tissues.

You are always in my thoughts and prayers… Always.

Once a coach, always a coach

March 27, 2007

Herald/Travis Bartoshek
Capt. John Gillam, former coach of the Harker Heights lacrosse team, watches alongside Capt. Jackie Ollivant, Center, of Harker Heights, and Hope Ollivant, 6 years old of Harker Heights, during the Harker Heights lacrosse game against Round Rock on Friday. Gillam was the former coach of the Harker Heights team and has returned from Iraq after being wounded.

Former coach injured in Iraq returns for HHHS lacrosse contest

By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Killeen Daily Herald

HARKER HEIGHTS – Once a coach, always a coach. Capt. John Gilliam sat in the stands of last night’s Harker Heights High School lacrosse game at Union Grove Middle School. He wore a black polo shirt with the word “coach” stitched across the spot where his nametape would normally sit.The final quarter of the game against Round Rock’s Stony Point High School was intense; after trailing the entire game, Harker Heights came back to tie the game at 10. Though Gilliam’s left leg was in bandages from just below his knee to his ankle, the former coach jumped to his feet or crouched low to the ground during each intense play, yelling directions to his former players.

Gilliam is a troop commander for 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. He is staying at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio after being wounded in Iraq on Feb. 3.

Gilliam and some of his soldiers were searching for a sniper on Baghdad’s infamous Haifa Street when an insurgent threw a hand grenade. The captain’s radio operator threw himself on Gilliam when the grenade detonated. The radio took the brunt of the destruction and the operator was unharmed. However, Gilliam took shrapnel to his upper calf and it severed a main artery.

Four days later, he arrived in San Antonio and 10 surgeries later, he was able to watch his former team play in Harker Heights – the first time he has been back to the Fort Hood area since being wounded. Gilliam’s wife, Capt. Erin McGill, is also a 1st Cavalry soldier, serving in the 2nd Brigade’s 15th Brigade Support Battalion.

He started coaching the team in the fall of 2005 when organizers heard he was a former player at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He grew up playing the sport and started whipping the young team into shape.

When the captain first showed up, the players were terrified of him, said Jaci Ollivant, the mother of two players, Evan and Caleb. He worked them, she said, getting them in shape for a sport that requires considerable stamina.

Ollivant, her athlete sons and five other children, are familiar with the military life. Her husband, Lt. Col. Doug Ollivant, serves as the 1st Cavalry’s chief of plans, and is in Iraq now.

Coaching the players – many of whom had never played lacrosse – was much like leading young soldiers, Gilliam said. It is the same process of training them to do unfamiliar and difficult tasks, he added.

Gilliam looked around the stands last night and the crowd is a lot bigger than when he coached, he said with a smile.

Watching his team play on a windy March evening beats the heck out of sitting in a hospital, he said. A few days after Gilliam arrived at the medical center, the players visited him during a game road trip to San Antonio.

Lacrosse is a club sport at the school, meaning it isn’t funded like more popular sports such as football. The team is held together by a set of dedicated parents, volunteers like Gilliam and a close-knit group of players – many of them Army kids.

Of the nearly 30 players on the roster, 70 percent of them have parents who are serving or have served in the military, said Gregg Bennett, of the Harker Heights Lacrosse Association.

A lot of these kids played when their parents were stationed on the East Coach, where the sport is much more popular.

When the game ended with Harker Heights losing by two points, Gilliam limped across the field to go visit with the players. First hearing of the injury was scary for Bennett, he said, as he stood in the emptying stands after the game.

Bennett said he just had images of Gilliam running around the field with the players, and is thankful the injury wasn’t so bad that he wouldn’t be able to do that anymore.

Now, Gilliam’s top priority is getting better so he can rejoin his “guys” in Iraq. He is hopeful that he can rejoin the troop in a month.

It’s extremely hard to be here knowing his guys are in Iraq without him, he said. But if there was one place he’d rather be, it would be out there, coaching those kids, he said, nodding his head toward the field.


March 26, 2007

Hank Williams Jr, Hunter Hayes: Jambalaya

This is another of those posts that should be in the …

“Does not pertain to my blog” catagory.

I am a Bayou transplant. I have lived here just long enough to appreciate the many diverse cultures.

… And the Cajun/Creole is near the very top of my list of rich culture enlightenments.

One of my favorite hobbies is Cooking.

Until you have experinced Mamma’s Gumbo, Drunkin Chicken, Grilled Turducken, Crawfish Etoufee,  Coushe Coushe,  (I can go on and on) but will stop at Bananas Foster

Until you have experienced the joy of these foods, you have not experienced the BAYOU!

Now play it for us Mr. Hayes!

So Many to Chose From!

March 23, 2007

There are so many Good News Stories in Iraq, that I have a hard time chosing…

1st Cavalry News

Angels in Uniform

Soldiers laying groundwork for child to receive life-changing surgery   

By Spc. Courtney Marulli
2nd BCT, 2nd Inf. Div. Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq—After being critically injured by stray gunfire a year ago, a 3-year-old Iraqi boy will travel to the United States with his mother for surgery that may allow him to walk again.

            Maj. Phil L. McIntire, commander for Company A, 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, said the child, named Abdullah, sustained a life-threatening injury when he was 2 years old. The shot shattered Abdullah’s left femur and left him unable to walk.

            “I know we can’t save all the kids in Iraq, but we can help some,” McIntire said. McIntire, of Saline, Mich., said Abdullah got around by pulling himself along and using his right leg to hop on.

            Abdullah and his mother will be flown to the U.S. for surgery at the University of Michigan. A bar will be put in his leg to act as a new femur, McIntire said. The bar will fuse to the bone, and as long as the child’s growth plates were not damaged, the leg should grow normally.

“The procedure is done a lot,” McIntire said.

            The surgery will be performed by one of the world’s leading pediatric orthopedic surgeons according to McIntire.

            Administrators at the University of Michigan hospital are donating their facilities for the surgery and recuperation. The anesthesiologist is also donating services and the hospital will provide 10 hours of rehabilitation.

A friend of McIntire’s is a professor at the university’s medical school and is also a physician who will act as Abdullah’s primary care provider during his recovery.

            The child came to McIntire’s attention while his civil affairs teams were on a routine patrol. His mother brought him out to the Soldiers to ask if they could do anything for her son’s leg. The child’s leg had been operated on initially by Iraqi doctors, but they said he would never walk again.

“I contacted friends back in the states to see if anything could be done,” McIntire said.

Getting finances together to send patients to the United States has proved to be one of the biggest challenges, McIntire said. It’s easier to send them to Germany or Jordan.

However, the generosity and caring heart of a wounded officer is the reason Abdullah and children like him will be able to get the proper treatment they need. A captain under the leadership of McIntire was shot in the spine by a sniper and is currently undergoing rehabilitation procedures to learn to walk again at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. The captain, a reservist from New York, is a successful businessman who put his money into a children’s fund he created while recovering from his injury.

            “That’s how we’re able to fly the mom and son to the states,” McIntire said.

            Other issues include securing passports and visas from Iraq for the people seeking treatment. The National Iraqi Assistance Center helped get the passports, but the visas are still in the works.

Letters from contacts in the United States are also needed and then the tickets can be purchased. McIntire said Abdullah’s father was really excited that his son has a chance to lead a normal life. “They had lost all hope that the boy would walk again,” McIntire said.

McIntire credited Trinity Health, a Catholic health care organization from Farmington Hills, Mich., with helping make the surgery possible.  He said Trinity Health has charity funds to help children get treatment they otherwise wouldn’t be able to. “People want to really show Iraqis that the U.S. wants them to become a functional nation,” he said.

Non-government organizations also want to help but tend to stay out of many areas due to the danger. However, Soldiers can bridge the gap to those organizations, McIntire said.

“If there’s no one controlling the process of visas, passports and information, it just kind of all falls apart,” McIntire said. “I fell under the role of manager to handle the cases.”

The most important aspect of helping children like Abdullah, is the opportunity and possibility of making a difference. “We can’t change everyone’s life, McIntire said. “But we try to do what we can.”


Maj. Phil L. McIntire, commander for Company A, 414th Civil Affairs Battalion, has been helping kids who need special medical care throughout Baghdad. (Courtesy photo from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Inf. Div.)