Passing on a good post

March 11, 2008

A Neighborhood Reborn

by Captain Pete Hegseth

Al Doura, Baghdad — As I step out of the humvee into the street, I have two facts in mind: I’ve been here before; and this time, I don’t have a weapon.

Recalling the tension of my first patrol in this neighborhood as a platoon leader, my five senses are sharp. The dusty road below greets my boots, some of the smells are eerily familiar, and the sound of idling humvees is my only comfort. My head swivels to scan the street. My hands are naked without an M-4, so I find the nearest soldier.

Soon — as a young child approaches — the wary familiarity gives way to fascination. I may be in the same geographic location, but I’m not in the same neighborhood. This is not Al Doura, at least not as I knew it. Where did all these people and shops come from? Where is all the trash, and the open sewage? Where is the fear — the deep-seated fear?

Children approach, as they usually do — but today it’s not just children. Young men walk up, initiating conversation. Women cross the street between our humvees, seemingly unaware of the GIs. The people are friendly, but not assertively so. Our presence is natural, almost routine. My inner tension clashes with the calm scene unfolding around me.

I take a few steps into the middle of an intersection with a clear view in all directions. Along the main thoroughfare, my immediate surroundings are replicated: block after block of shops and bustling residents. The side streets that I remember as sewage-clogged gutters are clean and teeming with construction and activity.

This is not Al Doura. The Al Doura I knew was the heart of sectarian violence, with daily body counts in the dozens. As I keep walking, I pass a busy car wash, and then a fitness center where young men pump iron and tear-outs of Muscle Fitness adorn the walls. We pass two new playgrounds, where boys clamber up and down slides and beautiful little girls play with dolls. A cart vendor offers me a bag of freshly popped popcorn — but I decline and have some falafel instead.

Increasingly relaxed and curious, I duck into side streets. One leads me to a buzzing recreation center, where soldiers are challenged to a game of pool. In the next room, teenage boys fight it out in the computer game “Medal of Honor” (which my little brother plays constantly). The World War II battle simulator heats up as we enter: the “German” I’m watching turns a virtual corner and lobs a grenade at an “American.” We all burst out laughing. That’s as much hostility as my patrol would face this day.

The entire time, we have only nominal security. It was disconcerting at first — I would never have come here unarmed two years ago — but the commander I’m walking with eases my concerns: the people are our security. The neighborhood residents trust the Americans, as well as the “Sons of Iraq” (or CLCs, as the Army calls them: Concerned Local Citizens) — local residents who provide security for the neighborhood. In a place where al-Qaeda dominated just eight months ago, today they couldn’t buy a bag of popcorn.

The unit’s commander — Lieutenant Colonel James Crider — clarifies the new situation in Doura, “We made a deliberate attempt to engage the people and soon enough, when they realized we weren’t going anywhere, that’s when they started talking to us.”

Beginning in June, while bullets were still flying, Crider’s squadron held sit-down meetings with every family in Doura, walking house-to-house over the course of several months to forge personal relationships. This approach — combined with a 24/7 presence in the neighborhoods — eventually crippled al-Qaeda. LTC Crider notes, “Al-Qaeda had no idea who was ratting them out, because we went into every house.” The relationships they fostered from these meetings provided intelligence that allowed the unit to detain al-Qaeda members who were thriving on American ignorance and hiding in plain sight. One of Crider’s lieutenants adds, “It was a battle of intel — and we won.”

These gains, however, were costly. In their first 30 days in Doura, the unit was attacked over 50 times. On the very streets we’re walking today, LTC Crider has lost nine good men, with dozens more injured. But the unit persisted — honoring the sacrifices of their brethren — and has not been attacked in their sector since September 27. As compelling testimony to the unit’s dedication to the task, LTC Crider’s squadron had the highest reenlistment rate in all of Baghdad in 2007, exceeding their goal by over 500 percent.

As we walk, we see scars of the neighborhood’s violent recent past — bombed-out homes pepper the area and bullet-sprayed walls are everywhere. Some power wires dangle out of place. All is not perfect — but signs of life keep finding us. As we reach the end of the block, three young males approach, all looking for work and eager to join the “Sons of Iraq.” This is typical, Crider informs me, and the unit jots down their names.

LTC Crider and his soldiers understand that the security gains, though real, are still tenuous — if alternatives to insurgency are not soon in place. The unit has given out hundreds of business micro-loans, many of which were used for street-front stores. They fund only local contractors, who hire local workers to pick up trash, fix sewage pipes, and provide electricity. The people of Doura themselves are rebuilding Doura — with the U.S. Army’s help.

Before going to lunch with a local leader, I stop and talk with Omar, the owner of a small grocery. He’s clean-shaven, well dressed, and roughly my age. He moved to Doura about two years ago (when my unit was here), after being displaced from his town by the Mahdi Army.

I ask him why hadn’t he joined al-Qaeda either to expel Americans or retaliate against the Shia. He replied, “Because al-Qaeda kills civilians, including my aunt and three cousins.” His uncle was a local contractor — an offense to al-Qaeda, punishable by the killing of his wife and daughters. Omar speaks candidly of the U.S. presence here: “Americans have made many mistakes, but now they are fixing them. . . . If Americans leave now, it will be a disaster.”

The most telling aspect of our conversation is where it takes place — on the street, out in the open, and among Omar’s fellow residents. He is not afraid, and vows to fight al-Qaeda if they ever return. I ask him why, of all places, he decided to move to Doura at the height of the violence here. “Because they are good people,” he answers.

It was then that I realized I had never really been to this place — I just thought I had. This is the real Al Doura, a neighborhood and a people reborn — thanks to the bravery and sacrifice of LTC Crider and his men. Today, I saw Al Doura for the first time.

— Captain Pete Hegseth, who served in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division from 2005 to 2006, is executive director of Vets for Freedom. He’s back in Iraq for the next week to cover the surge for NRO.


Wounded Army officer has last ball thrown by Favre

March 5, 2008

I love this story as it ties a real American Hero with Football!(I really have tried to overcome my love of the game. But, I am a junkie.)Our thanks go out to Lt.Col Gadson and his family for their sacrifices for our country.

Associated Press – March 4, 2008 

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) – The ball that Brett Farve threw on his last play in the NFL is owned by an Army officer who lost both legs in a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Lt. Col. Greg Gadson, who has been an inspirational figure for the New York Giants during their Super Bowl run, was given the ball by Corey Webster after the cornerback intercepted Favre’s pass in overtime in the NFC title game on Jan. 20.

The pick set up a game-winning 47-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes in a 23-20 win that sent the Giants to Phoenix, where they beat the New England Patriots 17-14.

“That Saturday practice before the Super Bowl, I told Corey he could have the ball back,” Gadson said in quotes provided by the Giants after Favre announced his retirement on Tuesday after 17 seasons.

“I said, ‘Just let me know and you can have it back,’ but he told me that he wanted me to keep it, and that really symbolized to me what this Giants team was about,” Gadson said. “That was such an unselfish act.”

As a fan, Gadson said he is going to miss watching Favre play.

“He should be proud of the run he had last season. Getting his team to the championship game just shows what type of competitor he is,” Gadson said.

A 1989 graduate of West Point, Gadson played football for the Cadets along with Mike Sullivan, the Giants’ receivers coach.

After Gadson was wounded in an attack on his convoy on May 7 and eventually lost both his legs, Sullivan told coach Tom Coughlin about his friend.

After losing their first two games of the season, Coughlin had Gadson address the team in Washington before a game with the Redskins. His message was to concentrate on the mission, never give up and believe in each other.

The Giants won the game and turned their season around. Gadson was on the sidelines for most of the playoffs and he addressed the team the night before the Super Bowl, speaking of “pride, poise, team and belief in each other,” according to Pat Hanlon, a team spokesman.

Supporting the Troops

March 1, 2008

I have been AWOL… (is there such a thing as Official Leave for Civilians?) Perhaps a better term would be AWOB… Absent With Out Blogging. Rather than go into a boring list of reasons, I will attempt to jump back into this.

Today I am sharing a fantastic email from my Favorite Marine: 

Have you ever walk into a room and immediately felt an enormous energy field?  It happened to me about 2 weeks ago. 

I walked into the fitness center in my building and there were 2 people in there; one of the condo owners and the other a petite blond I had never seen before.

The gentleman said, “Speaking of Marines,” as he nodded toward me.  The conversation started going 100 mph from that point on.  One of the first things said was that Dianne was from Berkley, CA – that’s what I thought I heard and we all rolled our eyes because of the protests going on at the campus concerning Marines. 

In reality, she’s from Tampa.  With me asking a few questions I found out a truly amazing thing about Dianne.

The Berkley connection was that she was so outraged over the protests that she got on a plane, by herself, and flew there for the sole purpose to take these people on single-handedly and to tell them to leave “her” Marines alone! 

She even got 2 of them arrested when they spray painted her (followed by her macing them)!! 

What I misunderstood about her living there was that she had just returned from that trip. 

I had an immediate respect and awe for Dianne.  I don’t know of anyone who would do something like this.  I asked her why she had this passion – what was her Marine connection. 

She kept alluding to “her” Marines – the tens of thousands of them in Iraq and Afghanistan; that she doesn’t want anyone “slamming” them, etc. 

Like many of my friends, Dianne started collecting goodies and mailing them to Marines a few years ago when the war started.  One thing led to another and soon all her waking hours were consumed with collecting and mailing packages and she was soon spending well over $2,000 of her own money, per month, to do this.  She didn’t care. 

Oh, and Dianne is a personal fitness trainer who started her own successful business and employs 10 trainers.  Her friends and the local businesses finally convinced her to start a non-profit organization to help her with the financial strain. 

Support our Marines was born on November 10, 2007 – picked because of the birthday of the Marine Corps

What many of you may not know is that more and more Marines are living further away from the main bases so they have less access to buy even the basics than they did 2 years ago.  We have learned that to be successful in this war, we need to get closer to the local population. 

Marines do not complain and we do what is necessary.  We always adapt.  Because of the greater sacrifices expected of the units, packages from home mean all that much more, now. 

“Most of our Marines operate out of very isolated combat outpost and under some of the harshest conditions. No hot water, we use things like WAG bags for our waste, we use plywood built outhouse and sleep in some of the worst buildings and conditions. But on the other hand (some) of our Marines live and operate in conditions that are better than some but worse than most. Overall though, we are determined and committed to accomplishing our missions out here. No matter what the conditions are we will do our jobs as Marines!” Quote from a sergeant with TF 3/2. 

Of course all of these Marines (in AFG and Iraq) are in the U.S. Marine Forces Central Command’s (MARCENT) area of responsibility, (so they are even more near and dear to my heart because I work at MARCENT). 

I wanted you to know about this wonderful woman and what she is doing. 

Please feel free to pass on this email and introduce Dianne to others, too!


Support Our Marines

Sending a wave and a hug to Dianne. We understand why you stands up and fights for “your Marines”… as many of us have also adopted those in the military past and present. The brave men and women, who fight for us, have all become members of our extended family.

Good News Friday

January 18, 2008

One of the blessings of being a civilian is, I have the privilege of walking away from the War for periods of time. Walking back in and reading about what is happening and walking back out at my leisure. I am spoiled.While the Soldiers are never far from my mind, I have the luxury of turning events off and on at will. It seems as if I am slipping further from the issues and into some semblance of normalcy. My hubby thinks I am still too engrossed and worries that I still tend to stalk those in uniform trying to score a hug. (What can I say? I am weak!)

I would like to thank the men and women of the Unites States Armed Forces for helping to ensure that we are free, that we are not forced to face insurgents at our front door, that we can sit home and watch mindless television programs if we are so inclined.  We can go out for walks, drive to the beach, or even hang out at the mall.  

Thanks guys.. Y’all Rock! And a special thanks to the people who hold down the Fort while our heroes are at war. The 1st Cav article below, gives us some excellent examples of the changes in Iraq, that our troops brought about!

Ironhorse Brigade reflects on progress in OIF Rotation 06-08

By Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp
1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs
           CAMP TAJI, Iraq –  When the senior leadership and Soldiers of the 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division first arrived to Iraq nearly 15 months ago, the security situation here was quite different from the one they now experience as they patrol the streets throughout their area of operations.            According to Maj. Patrick Michaelis, the Ironhorse brigade’s operations officer, the brigade has seen a “phenomenal change” from having 150 enemy attacks per week for the first seven to 10 weeks in theater to having only about 10 significant events per week, now mostly involving the finding of weapons caches and improvised explosive devices with only isolated incidents of coordinated enemy attacks.

            “The shift in atmosphere of our operational environment has moved away from individual security and safety to normalcy which has manifested itself in a concern for governance,” said Michaelis. “Spectacular attacks are now the exception and not the rule.”

            “If you had asked last year if we were fighting a counterinsurgency, it would have been hard to say yes, rather we were in the center of a low-level ethno-centric civil war,” added Michaelis.

            Michaelis credits much of the brigade’s success as a combined result of the troop surge which began in early 2007 and reconciliation efforts along with other underlying factors.

            Early on in the deployment, the brigade began establishing joint security stations and Coalition outposts in the neighborhoods in which it patrols.

            “One of the tactics we implemented as a manifestation of the surge was putting ourselves dead center in contentious areas, going where the extremists sanctuaries were along with targeting Al Qaeda financial assets,” said Michaelis. “These efforts forced a change in the differences between this year and last year.” 

            “Al Qaeda’s tactics of extorting the locals which led to the Awakening in (Al Anbar province) gave rise to the opportunity of formerly irreconcilable forces aligning with the government and Coalition to work toward the definable future that we’re in now.”

            Sunnis and Shias first began coming together in late January and early February in the brigade’s 2nd “Lancer” Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment operating environment in Abu Ghraib as tribal sheiks joined local leaders with more concrete results of Reconciliation efforts manifesting themselves in April and May of 2007, according to Michaelis. Eventually, similar things began happening in areas patrolled by the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment; the 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment which was attached to the Ironhorse Brigade out of Fort Lewis, Wash.; and the 2nd “Stallion” Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment also began to see changes as former AQI members began breaking away from the extremist organizations and aligning themselves with the government.  

            “There was a definite polarization between Sunni and Shia tribes and now they are finding themselves recognizing their differences, yet are working toward a common goal.”

            Despite a significant drop in enemy activity over the past six months, the brigade which operates in two qadas (the Taji qada and Abu Ghraib qadas, which are equivalent to counties or parishes) and a small part of the Al Anbar province, still remains vigilant in its efforts to maintain current security gains while working with its joint partners, stated Michaelis.  

            “Although the tension in the air is gone and a there’s a feeling of opportunity and optimism, there’s no doubt that the bad guys are still out there,” said the operations officer. “We’re prepared to respond to them with lethal force if necessary.”

            During their rotation, the brigade, working alongside its Iraqi counterparts in the Iraqi Police, Iraqi security volunteers and Iraqi Army troops in the 3rd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division and the 2nd and 3rd Brigades of the 9th Iraqi Army Division (Mechanized), has detained 86 high-ranking senior leaders in various extremist organizations to include Al Qaeda. 

            The brigade found and disposed of 724 improvised explosive devices—many of which 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion troops found while clearing routes.  The brigade also uncovered 180 weapons caches. All of this was done while teaming in joint operations that not only involved partnering with Iraqi military, police and volunteer forces but included the participation of Estonian and Macedonian troops also based on Camp Taji and embedded with 1st BCT Soldiers.

            Over the course of the deployment, the brigade’s 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment fired more than 6,400 rounds from its M109A6 Paladin howitzers in support of counterfire missions to suppressive fire missions as well as hitting pre-planned targets. They have also cleared routes for combat missions along with providing security for the base camp here.

            Nearly 12,000 combined Critical Infrastructure Security volunteers and Iraqi security volunteers have partnered with Iraqi Security Forces and the BCT. They man the 190 checkpoints throughout the Ironhorse Area of Operations. 

            The brigade assisted military transition teams based on Camp Taji by partnering with various Iraqi Army units to train them. In one such partnership, the brigade’s Charlie Medical Company, 115th Brigade Support Battalion trained more than 400 Iraqi soldiers through its combat life saver course. 

            Thousands of recruits in the villages of Abu Ghraib and Taji were vetted by the Iraqi government and local Iraqi Police departments to become potential police officers through recruiting drives. Soldiers in the brigade’s 2nd Bn., 5th Cav. Regt.; 2nd Battalion, 8th Cav. Regt. and the 1st Squadron, 7th Cav. Regt. all aided in these efforts.      

            To date, the combined efforts to build police forces in villages in the Ironhorse AO have resulted in more than 1,500 Iraqi Police graduating from the Iraqi Police Academy in Baghdad and at the training facility on Forward Operating Base India. The brigade’s Soldiers also assisted IPs and government leaders with the standing up of police stations such as the one in Agar Quf which opened in December.

            “As security continues to improve and displaced Iraqi citizens return to their hometowns, there is a need to develop a more sophisticated approach to law enforcement because criminal elements may also be returning into the area,” Michaelis said. “There has to be an investment in the Iraqi Police beyond what is currently required and allocated against the police force.”

            Within towns such as Sab Al Bor, that had a population of 2,600 upon the brigade’s arrival in theater, displaced persons are returning to their homes at a rate of 25 to 30 families per day and the population has increased over the past four months to nearly 25,000 people.  

            In the villages, the brigade has also seen the economy improving in the form of many newly opened businesses. In Taji Market prior to the brigade’s arrival in the area, there were 125 shops but now has the village has 340. Abu Ghraib’s 370 shops have increased to 900 while the city of Fira Shia which had no shops, now has 20. Most of the other villages in Ironhorse areas have seen similar progress.

            New economic opportunities are being seen in the Ironhorse operating environment in the forms of employment. The concerned local citizens, who are currently being paid for providing security under a temporary Coalition program will eventually be employed by the Iraqi government. In another employment initiative, the brigade has worked to assist the Iraqi government in creating programs very similar to Job Corps, established in the 1930s in the U.S., to provide temporary employment for Iraqi citizens through various civil improvement projects such as trash collection and work on roads and other construction-type projects.  

            “When the people have hope in the form of jobs to feed their families and education for their children, this goes much farther toward solidifying security gains than a gun on every street,” said Michaelis. “The people are now worried about electricity and water (along with other essential services) which are all things we as Americans feel is an obligation by government to provide.”

            “These are things the Iraqi government is working slowly towards,” Michaelis added. “The final step towards building a safe, stable and secure environment is a government that takes care of its people.”

            To assist local governments, the brigade’s Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team, ePRT Baghdad-5, has been providing local governance mentorship courses which give the local government officials a better understanding of local government concepts. Along with these efforts, the ePRT has provided advice as local governments began establishing executive and technical branches of government and committees to allow them to become self sustaining. 

            “The ePRT has become critical to sustaining reconciliation gains,” said Michaelis. “Their assistance has been vital in helping the local governments with learning how to provide essential services for their citizens.” 

            In all, the Ironhorse Brigade, utilizing assets in the ePRT and Company A, 492nd Civil Affairs Battalion, has assisted the Iraqi people in completing 179 reconstruction projects in the two qadas in which it operates which have led to the refurbishment of 11 schools, seven roads being repaved, eight clinics reopening, 31 electricity projects and 23 education projects among many other efforts.

            When the brigade first arrived, locals were receiving about four hours of power per day. Now residents in the area of operations have an average of 12 to 18 hours of electricity per day. Other improvements led to the repair of the Taji pump station which was inoperable for over four years and repairs to irrigation canals that are providing farmers with irrigation water for the first time in four years. 

            As the brigade’s Soldiers prepare themselves for their upcoming departure in early 2008, much of their focus will be on getting their replacements in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division up to speed on the operating environment and lessons the Ironhorse troopers have learned over their time in country. 

            “During our relief in place with the next unit, we must emphasize the inter-connected nature of the environment,” stressed Michaelis. “As far as security, presence is important, however, just as important is a clear understanding of how government works from tribes to businesses and the knowledge that there are still remaining cases of sectarianism interests.”

            “We must pass this knowledge onto them so that they are successful and so they have an understanding of the different layers of social networks which affect aspects of government, business, religion and tribal relationships here,” he added. “We believe the relief in place is important for us to carry our momentum forward.” 

            The main goal for the brigade throughout its time in country involved working together, professionally with the Iraqi people with the goal of building a safe, stable and secure environment for all Iraqis, according to Michaelis. 

            Although there is still much work to be done to fully transition the sovereignty of Iraq to the Iraqi people, the Ironhorse troops feel they have made a difference and remain hopeful for the future of Iraq, stated Michaelis.

            “We’re all cautious in our optimism and we see the fruits of our burden everyday in Iraq,” said Michaelis. “We’ve sacrificed greatly to achieve a level of normalcy and stability to allow Iraqis to step forward. It can be measured in the lives of 53 Soldiers, the countless numbers of injured, and it can be measured in the sacrifices of the other 4,000 Ironhorse troops who currently serve in the brigade.”

CAMP TAJI, Iraq — San Jose, Calif. native Lt. Col. Kurt Pinkerton (right), commander, 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division facilitates a meeting between Sunni and Shia tribal sheiks in Aqur Quf, Iraq, a village west of Baghdad in mid-July. Such meetings became common throughout the Ironhorse area of operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom Rotation 06-08 thanks to Reconciliation efforts that led to improved security. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp, 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)

CAMP TAJI, Iraq —  Jonesboro, Ga. native Spc. Ceason Westbrook, a medic with the 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion assigned as a member of a Buffalo Mine Resistant Vehicle crew, scans a route north of Baghdad, searching for improvised explosive devices in January 2007. Over the course of Operation Iraqi Freedom Rotation 06-08, the Ironhorse Brigade found and disposed of more than 700 IEDs.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cheryl Cox, 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)
CAMP TAJI, Iraq — Keeping his eyes peeled for anything suspicious, Katy, Texas native Spc. Frank Maier, a scout for Troop A, 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, pulls security in Ath Alba, Iraq, a village North of Baghdad, in mid-March during a joint cordon and search with Iraqi troops from the 2nd Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division (Mechanized). This particular mid-March cordon and search was just one among hundreds of joint missions in which Ironhorse Soldiers participated with their Iraqi counterparts during Operation Iraqi Freedom Rotation 06-08. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp, 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)
CAMP TAJI, Iraq — Troopers from Company A of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment and Iraqi soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division (Mechanized) prepare for an air assault June 2 at Camp Taji, Iraq. Through joint operations such as air assaults, Ironhorse Brigade troops contributed to the capture of 86 high-ranking insurgent cell leaders and the finding of 180 weapons caches during Operation Iraqi Freedom Rotation 06-08. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp, 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)
CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Roundup, Mont. native Col. Paul E. Funk II (right), commander, 1st Bridgade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division visits a traffic control point (TCP) near Naif Al Hasan, Iraq in June 2007 with Lt. Col. Scott Efflandt (center), commander, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, who hails from Rock Island, Ill. and Capt. Nels Hanson, commander, Company C, 2nd Bn., 8th Cav. Regt.  Early in their deployment to Iraq, Ironhorse troopers once helped Iraqi Army troops with manning traffic control points, now the TCPs are manned mainly by Iraqi Army troops and Iraqi security volunteers. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp, 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)

CAMP TAJI, Iraq — Hermosa, S.D. native Lt. Col. Harvey Fitzgerald (right), senior agricultural business advisor for the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division’s Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team, ePRT Baghdad-5, talks with members of the Inma Agribusiness Program about improving agriculture in the Taji area of Iraq in late November 2007. Since April, The Ironhorse Brigade’s ePRT has been working with local Iraqi government leaders and tribal leaders to assist them with rebuilding infrastructure and providing essential services for their citizens. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. William Greer, 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Combat Camera)

Incredible Story from Iraq

January 14, 2008

Debbie Lee and our Troops in Iraq

Iraq’s Progress, Safety and Blessing

Darkness surrounded her as the helicopter lifted, whipping the air around her with a reverberating thump, thump, thump. A tall blonde in a war-torn Middle Eastern land, Debbie Lee felt a familiar ache in her heart.

She stood in a Western Iraqi city where her son, Marc Alan Lee, gave his life. He was the first Navy SEAL to die while fighting terrorists in Iraq.

As she stepped onto the sand where her son was killed, Debbie Lee became the first mother to visit the city where her son died for America in the Iraq War. She walked through Camp Marc Lee and saw where her son slept and ate. “I feel very blessed,” Lee said. “It was a miracle to me to be where Marc was, to see what he saw and walk where he walked.”Please read the rest of the story here:  Human Events

Holding our Breath…

January 7, 2008

… the much anticipated arrival is nearing…

(no this is not actually the 4-9… But, I am sure the enthusiasm is much the same!)

Hope Comes to Prosperity

December 21, 2007

By Sgt. Robert Yde  
2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs            FORWARD OPERATING BASE PROSPERITY, Iraq – After being severely burned by a phosphorous hand grenade while serving as a river boat gunner in the Navy’s Brown Water Black Berets during the Vietnam War, Dave Roever thought that his life, as he knew it, was over.
            His biggest fear was that when his young wife saw the damage to his body, she would leave him, and this fear drove him to attempt suicide while in the hospital recovering from his injuries.
            His suicide attempt was unsuccessful, and soon after he was reunited with his wife, who walked up to his hospital bed at Brooke Army Medical Center and greeted him with a kiss and leaned down and said to him, “I just want you to know that I love you. Welcome home, Davie.” 
            At that moment, Roever knew his life was still worth living and after undergoing numerous major surgeries over the next 14 months, he defied his doctors’ prognosis that he would not survive his injuries and walked out of BAMC with the intention of sharing his faith and inspirational story to the world.
            For nearly 40 years, Roever has traveled through the United States and the world delivering his message of hope.  His most recent travels have brought him to Iraq, addressing service members deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
            Roever spoke to the Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division during a prayer luncheon held here, Nov. 27.
“It’s just amazing to hear his survivor’s story and to hear his sincerity and how he’s able to joke around,” said Spc. Charles Mazzarella, a mental health specialist with the brigade. “He’s got a true message for us not to give up on ourselves and not consider negative views – to just persevere. I think he’s an example of perseverance and he wants to enlighten us.  He’s a true, genuine person and it’s nice to meet people like that.”
            Mazzarella, a native of Wyoming, Pa., added that he has been a fan of Roever for many years, having watched him speak on the Trinity Broadcasting Network
“I was impressed with his sincerity then, and that’s what drew me in,” he said.  “When I saw his picture on the flyers, I just wanted to be here.”
            Roever’s speech was mixed with humor, much of it self-depreciating, as he shared several experiences in his life and repeatedly expressed his appreciation to all those who are serving in the military.
            “You’re the best answer to terrorism on the face of this earth,” Roever said. “You’re a gift to freedom that we all cherish deeply.”
            Joining Roever on his tour of Iraq was Betsy Brown, the founder of Heartsong Ministries, Inc., a Texas-based non-profit organization.
            Brown spoke briefly to the Soldiers before singing her song “Thank You For Being Faithful,” which she wrote for servicemembers who are deployed and then led the crowd in a rendition of “God Bless America.”
            “I’ve got friends who are so jealous that I get to be over here and be a voice for America and say, ‘You’re not forgotten. That people love you and pray for you,’” she told the Soldiers before yielding the podium to Roever.
            Roever encouraged the Soldiers not to discount their own individual roles in the fight against terrorism, and praised them for their willingness to stand for something.
            “I really enjoyed his message,” said Sgt. Jerry Smalls, a lab technician with the 15th Brigade Support Battalion from Camden, S.C. “He’s gone through so much and it just has a lot of impact.”
            Anyone who doubts the amount of hardships Roever has faced during his life need only look at the scars that cover his face, but according to him, it’s these scars that sum up his message of hope and never giving up so perfectly.
            “My scars tell you I got hurt,” Roever said, “but my scars also tell you I got over it.  If I didn’t have a scar, I’d have a wound, but I don’t – I’m healed.”

Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division join Betsy Brown, the founder of Heartsong Ministries, a non-profit organization in Texas, for a rendition of “God Bless America” during a prayer luncheon at Forward Operating Base Prosperity’s Black Jack Bistro in central Baghdad Nov. 27. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Robert Yde, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)

Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division  listen to  Dave Roever, a Vietnam veteran and internationally renowned motivational and inspirational speaker during a prayer luncheon at Forward Operating Base Prosperity’s Black Jack Bistro in central Baghdad Nov. 27. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Robert Yde, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)

Dave Roever shares his message of hope based upon his own experiences, including a disfiguring injury suffered during the Vietnam War, with Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Forward Operating Base Prosperity’s Black Jack Bistro in central Baghdad during a prayer luncheon Nov. 27. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Robert Yde, 2nd BCT, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs)

A special ‘Thank You’ to Sgt Yde and the Soldiers who have worked so hard to get the news out to us!

Merry Christmas wishes to all of our men and women serving this great nation. And a hug to the families who are anxiously waiting for the return of our heroes.

Ya’ll Rock !