Monday, August 29, 2005


We caught some of the scumbags that were responsible for Saturday’s mortar attack. A raid was organized and conducted in the early morning hours yesterday and we netted several bad guys. Out of this group of thieves we have identified at least four of them as suspected members of Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia. The troops are all pumped from the results of a successful mission, but we are not done yet. We are continuing to tighten the noose in order flush more of these rodents out of their hiding places. Obviously I can’t provide a lot of detail, but I will post updates as I can.

"If you are going to yank the tiger's tail you had better have a plan for dealing with his teeth."

Friday, August 26, 2005

Wake up call

My alarm clock went off this morning, and as usual I habitually hit the snooze button. About three minutes later we all woke to the sound of mortar rounds impacting. Needless to say I got up without hitting the snooze button anymore and headed straight for the bunker. Everyone is okay.

This was a real wake up call. After coming back from leave one tends to be complacent as your mind is filled with thoughts of home and a renewed sense of anticipation of returning. The stark reality is that we have a way to go before we return home, and there are people out there who want to bring us harm. It doesn't really matter whether their motive is political, criminal, vengeance, or anything else. All that matters is that they want to kill us. The reverse is true as well...we don't really care about their motive. All we care about is ensuring that they fail...

and they will.


Upadte: 28 August

My lovely wife just informed me that some people may not have a clue what a "Mortar" is. Sometimes I take for granted that I have been in the military for 11 years and a lot of this stuff is second nature. She really gets frustrated when I start throwing military acronyms around, so I've had to learn to temper the jargon-speak when I'm talking to her.

A Mortar is like a small cannon. It consists of a tube that can either be ground or vehicle mounted. The round comes in various sizes, and the insurgent's favorite flavor is the 60mm and 81mm. Our battalion has heavy mortars that are 120mm. Obviously the bigger the round the more damage it inflicts. Also, the larger the round the greater the range from which it can be fired. For example, a 120mm has a maximum range of about 7km (approx 4 miles).

The round is dropped into the tube (pictured below), the propellant charge fires the round on an arc trajectory and then the round explodes on impact. This is an oversimplification since the firer has to calculate the correct elevation and azimuth in order to hit the desired target...but that's it in a nut-shell.

I've also included a photo of our mortar platoon firing an illumination (illum) mission. An illum round ejects a parachute once it reaches the top of its trajectory and then brightly burns magnesium as it slowly descends. The glow is so bright it lights up about a square kilometer on the ground, and anyone trying to sneak around is going to get caught.

That's all for today. There will be a quiz next week.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


I think I'm finally back in the swing of things. It took about a week for my internal clock to get switched over, and then a few more days just to get my head back in the game. The R&R program is great and it was a much needed break. But it definitely leaves you a little deflated after you come off the high of being home.

Things are much the same here. It's still hotter than Hades with the average daily temperature somewhere in the mid 120's. But the weather should break in about another month and become a lot more bearable. It may sound ludicrous, but anything below 110 is actually refreshing. It is, after all, a dry heat. :-)

Insurgent activity is on the rise, but that is to be expected as we await approval of the draft constitution. It is finally supposed to happen today after a multitude of delays. Of course, everyone here is extremely anxious and hopeful for its passage since it will be another milestone towards giving control of this nation back to the Iraqi people. Currenltly I am following the progress of the Iraq constitution more closely than pre-season football. I look forward to the day when football becomes enjoyable again.

This past August 15th marked the one year anniversary of our unit's mobilization. Over one year ago approximately 3,000 Texans left their families, their homes, and their jobs and went to Ft Hood for five months of training, and then left for Iraq in Janaury. It has been quite a journey and I think we have all learned something more about ourselves and what we are capable of. But I think I can safely say that we are all ready to come home.

We still have a ways to go, but hopefully it is sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Operation Troop Appreciation

This post is a salute to Operation Troop Appreciation (OTA). OTA was born from the efforts of Kristen Holloway who started with an idea to provide some comfort items to some National Guard soldiers deployed from her home state of Pennsylvania. The overwhelming response she recieved inspired her to take the idea to the next level and as a result OTA was established as a non-profit organization in July 2004.

I learned of Kristen's organization from the unit I replaced. I contatced her in the hopes of getting some Under Armour® t-shirts for our guys who are in the extreme heat all day. For those of you not familiar with Under Armour® apparel it is made of a special material that pulls moisture off the body and evaporates quickly thus keeping you dry. The stuff works and it is extremely popular over here, but it is also somewhat pricey. Therefore, some soldiers decide to do without it.

Kristen and OTA came through for us and provided 140 t-shirts and socks that I was able to hand out to some troops yesterday. These guys have the pleasure of manning guard towers, guarding entry control points, and/or riding in HMMWV's in the extreme Iraqi heat all day so they were extremely appreciative. Below are some pictures of the event.

Me providing a little story time

Christmas in August

Many of you continue to ask what you can do to help the troops over here. I encourage you to stop by the OTA website and make a donation. We are living proof that they are great organization and they continue to help deployed troops everyday.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A matter of perspective

I'm back.

The time at home was everything I hoped it would be and less. No, that is not a typo. One of my fears before going home was that the time would be filled with a flurry of activities and it would all go by so fast that I wouldn't be able to enjoy it as I counted down the days. I also feared that after being gone for so long that I wouldn't fit in...that I would feel like a stranger in my own home. That was not the case at all.

We purposed ourselves not to get "stressed out" by trying to do too much. This was not a contest to see how much we could cram into two weeks. It was an opportunity for me to recharge my batteries and spend time with my family. The time went by at a pleasant pace and I soaked in every moment. Nothing was too little to appreciate.

There are so many things I could talk about, but something as simple as watching my three year old son get into the kitchen pantry and pick out his "bweakfust" was amazing and amusing to me. My biggest daily task, above anything else, was to tell my wife how beautiful she is and how much I love her, and to hug each one of my kids. When friends had us over for dinner or took us out to eat I made it a point to tell them how much I appreciate their friendship (I don't think I've ever done that before). I made it a point to talk with my neighbors and not be in such a hurry to get back into the house.

Those are the things I remember the most. It's not the trip to Sea's the laughter while you're there and seeing the amazement in a little boy's face. It's not the dining out, it's the conversation you share. This deployment has taught me that it's the little things in life that make it worth living.

It's all just a matter of perspective.