Friday, September 29, 2006

I'm in Love With My Car (Humvee?)

With apologies to Queen:

The machine of a dream
Such a clean machine
With the pistons a pumpin
And the hub caps all gleam

When I'm holdin your wheel
All I hear is your gear
When my hands on your grease gun
Oh it's like a disease son

I'm in love with my car
Gotta feel for my automobile
Get a grip on my boy racer rollbar
Such a thrill when your radials squeal

Told my girl I'll have to forget her
Rather buy me a new carburetor
So she made tracks sayin'
This is the end now

Cars dont talk back
They're just four wheeled friends now
When I'm holdin your wheel
All I hear is your gear
When I'm cruisin in overdrive
Dont have to listen to no run of the mill talk jive

I'm in love with my car
Gotta feel for my automobile
I'm in love with my car
String back gloves in my automolove

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Transfer of Authority

This past Sunday marked a special transition for our battalion; the TOA, or Transfer of Authority. This ceremony officially signifies the change of responsibility for the general support aviation battalion mission from the 7-101st to the 2-135.

The heart of the ceremony is the Casing of the Colors for the departing unit, and the Uncasing of the Colors by the incoming unit. This completed our RIP/TOA (Replacement in Place/Transfer of Authority).

Pictured here is our Battalion Commander, LTC Chris Petty, and Command Sergeant Major, Douglas Imfeld, uncasing the colors.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Why the title "Letters from the Desert"?

I think the obvious answer to this question is:, "Uh, well, because I'm living in the middle of a desert!" If you check out the links in the sidebar you will discover that pretty quickly. First, if you check out "Balad Weather" you will see that here at the end of September we are enjoying the fall-like temperatures of 105-110 degrees for a high. But it's a dry heat. If you check out the link entitled "About LSA Anaconda" you will find a wealth of information about the location and history of Anaconda, officially known (by the Air Force at least) as Balad AFB. So, for many, that is the obvious answer as to the title of this blog.

A lesser known reason comes from one of my favorite spiritual writers, Carlo Carretto. Carretto was born in Italy in 1910, studied to become a teacher, and ended up working in the hierarchy of Catholic Action. At the age of forty-four (interestingly enough, my current age) he left Catholic Action and entered a monastery in the Sahara. His first book was entitled, you guessed it, Letters from the Desert. Personally, my favorite book of Br. Carlos is I, Francis. In it Carretto speaks in the first person as if he is Francis of Assisi.

So, here I am after forty-four years of life living in the desert. The Army has done what The United Methodist Church could never do; made me adhere to vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. This is the true origin of the the title, Letters-from-the-Desert. Like all good preachers I have to have layers of meaning to the things I write and say.

Oh, and the hyphens are there because someone else has the Letters from the Desert blog name without them. And you thought there was some specific meaning to those as well!

God Bless,


Sunday, September 24, 2006

Soldier Wounded

I wish today's update was a little lighter than it is.

I was walking back from my hootch this afternoon after lunch when the sirens started. So, being the bright boy I am, I continued to walk to our Area of Operations. After a while the loudspeakers announced that we were still under Red Alert and should seek shelter. So, I continued to walk to our area (I had purposely left my humvee back at the office and walked to lunch with one of our Staff Officers).

When I arrived at the TOC (Tactical Operations Center) I was told that we had a casualty. I immediately jumped in my humvee and headed to the hospital. I cannot, and will not, divulge any information about the soldier. I can tell you this; he is fine, and will be fine. I arrived at the emergency room about the same time he did and stayed with him while they cleaned, flushed and packed his wound. He will spend the night in the hospital and be released Sunday or Monday. My Chaplain Assistant went back to the soldier's hootch to pick up some clothes for him. We also made arrangements for a satellite phone so he could call his parents and let them know he was okay.

Seeing all the other patients, including a 16 year-old Iraqi boy (same age as my oldest son) with a head wound brought the war even closer to me. It is easy to get complacent here. We have showers and latrines, access to computers and email, halfway decent food, and plenty of recreational activities should we ever get time to avail ourselves of them. The message here is simple: we are at war. Young men and women are dying. If you are not already, lift up a prayer for these guys and gals, and for the innocent civilians that are killed and wounded.

I'm proud to be here with folks like this soldier, who barely flinched when being treated and kept his military bearing in extraordinary circumstances. It is a honor to be able to serve soldiers like him

God Bless,


Friday, September 22, 2006

12 September 2006

12 September 2006

Well, It's been a while since my "weekly" update, but I have good reasons (not excuses, reasons). We flew out of Kuwait on Labor Day. I will never complain about flying coach again! For those of you who have never had the pleasure of flying in the back of a C-130 into a combat zone let me describe it to you. I was wearing full body armor and kevlar helmet. Now that may not sound like much, but the body armor weighs about 40 pounds and keeps your body in unnatural positions. You sit in "seats" made of nylon straps in rows facing one another. Now, I don't know about you, but my rear end is larger than the 12 inches allotted for each person. You sit in rows the length of the fuselage facing one another. You are so close to the person across from you that your knees form a zipper with your knee between your partners knee. I've danced cheek to cheek, but I've never sat "cheek-to-cheek" with someone who played semipro football on my left and someone who has foresworn bathing on my right - until this flight. But hey, it's only an hour or two on a plane that is not air-conditioned where pallets of duffle bags are loaded after you take your seat.So, we arrived at Anaconda in the middle of the night where we schlepped our two duffle bags, carry on, tactical gear, and weapons (with a few "tuff boxes" thrown in for good measure) to our temporary billets. We spent the first four nights in a tent village before moving into our permanent housing. I am now housed in my trailer, have my laptop reimaged and have an account on the LAN, and am moved into my office. I'll share this office with my counterpart until he leaves. The good thing is that I outrank him.I flew down to Baghdad yesterday on a Black Hawk to do a recon for some Duty Day with God events I will be leading while I am here. It was amazing to be there on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. I also want to lead some events to Talil so we can visit Ur, the birthplace of Abraham. I am also partnering with a few congregations in North Georgia to provide Disciple Bible Study's Introductions to the Old and New Testament. Thanks to Snellville UMC for agreeing to sponsor us on the Old Testament. I also hope to find a congregation to sponsor a study of the book "Where God Was Born". I'll be visiting our sponsoring congregations when I return to talk about the ministry here.I know many of you are interested in things like my daily schedule, what the attitude is here, wanting to know about bombings and shootings (yes, everyday, and yes we have already had one memorial service and one wounded in action). Email me any questions you have and I will answer them a little at a time through this forum.I've attached a few pictures so you can see what life here is like. Stay in touch, and please keep us in your prayers.God Bless,Jim

27 August 2006

Well, here I am in lovely Kuwait. We left Ft. Hood about 830 pm on Friday. After brief stops in the Northeast and Germany we landed around midnight in Kuwait City, where it was a balmy 97 degrees. One of the most memorable things of the trip was our layover in Bangor, Maine. Even though it was the wee hours of the morning, several dozen greeters were present in the terminal to shake our hands, hug us, and thank the soldiers for serving. Most of the greeters were WWI or Vietnam vets and their wives. One woman was 92 years old and told us she made about 75% of the arriving flights. I slept most of the way across the Atlantic, thanks to Doc Kelly giving me an Ambien. The fact that field grade officers were upgraded to first class didn't hurt too much either. Six hours after arriving in Kuwait we were in Camp Buerhing, the sun had risen, and the temp was doing the same. I attended services this morning and ran into several soldiers I have known throughout the years; it truly is a small Army. I hope to be through here in a couple of days and on my way to Balad, although it may take a week or more. Right now I'm looking forward to a shower and collapsing on a cot in my tent. All-in-all, it is good to be here and to have my year under way. And on the even brighter side, a cold front has pushed its way through and we're hoping to see temps under 120 degrees today! I will let you all know when I arrive in Iraq. God Bless, Jim