Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Good News in Iraq

Yes, that's right, I said good news in Iraq. The good news has to do with the new Iraq Oil Plan. you can read about it here: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,254798,00.html

For those of you who have not read the Iraq Study Group Report, this is a big step towards Iraqi National Reconciliation. Recommendation #28 of the report states: "Oil revenue sharing. Oil revenue should accrue to the central government and be shared on the basis of population. No formula that gives control from future fields to the regions or gives control of oil fields to the regions is compatible with national reconciliation" (Report: II, B, 2, recommendation 28, pg 65).

Now, let me tell you briefly what I think of the overall report. Much to my surprise, I found the first half of the report, the assessment portion, to be right on. The report talks of many of the problems that I have seen here, and from 25 years of study of the region (man does that make me sound old!)

The "Way Forward" portion of the report, however, is not as realistic as I would like to see. Much of the talk of incorporating Syria, Iran, and neighboring Gulf States into a reconciliation posture is way too optimistic. Much of the section "The External Approach: Building an International Consensus" simply seems to ignore the fact that many countries, including European countries, have no interest in seeing a unified, reconciled, economically viable Iraq able to provide security inside its borders and protect its borders against foreign instigators. Perhaps I am too cynical, but the best we can expect from moderate Arab nations is benign neglect, and that is too much to hope from countries that enjoy having the U.S. busy in Iraq (Iran and North Korea in particular). The "Way Forward" portion would be fine if this were a perfect world where everyone would work toward reconciliation and a vital Iraq. I don't believe the Shia militias want to give up power or violence, and much of the talk of amnesty and De-baathification will remain just that: talk.

But still, it's nice to hear some good news today.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Home Sweet Home

I realized that I have never shown you where I live. When I first arrived here last summer I lived in transient housing that looked like this:

After a while I was able to move into permanent housing. Our current housing consists of trailers that have three rooms apiece, about twelve feet by twelve feet each. The junior enlisted and junior officers have roommates of appropriate rank. Field grade officers, such as myself, have a room to themselves. Senior officers have two-room trailers with two officers to a trailer separated by a bathroom. The rest of us use communal shower trailers and latrines. A lot like being back in college; just not as nice! The trailers are separated into pods that look something like this:

We each continue to "improve the position". One of the groups that went before us added a very nice covered deck to the front of our trailer. I share this trailer with two other Soldiers; a Sergeant Major and a Major. I live in the middle room:

The concrete T-barriers and sandbags are to protect us from shrapnel from indirect fire like mortars and rockets. They are effective against small arms fire as well. The trailer walls? They are very thin! They have trouble blocking sunlight. Needless to say, we have to be very considerate of our neighbors - especially if we work opposite shifts. My poor neighbors hear the knocks I get on the door at night. They often comment, "Busy night last night, huh Chappie?" They are great neighbors whom I like and respect tremendously.

Friday, February 23, 2007

It's been a Busy Week

We lost another helicopter this week. I was in the TOC (Tactical Operations Center) when one of our birds went "stale". A few minutes later it was reported as a possible Fallen Angel. Then it was definite - one of our helicopters had been shot down. This happened a month after we lost a bird with 12 Soldiers aboard, so there was a serious "pucker factor" involved. The good news in all of this is that the pilots and crew did a heroic job of landing the aircraft and the injuries were minor. It could have, and should have, been much worse. You can read about all the above in open sources, so I'm not violating OPSEC here.

Another night I got a call that one of our Soldiers had IM'd his wife that he was going to "put a bullet in his (sic) brain". Since the Chaplain is the subject matter expert for these types of things, I got the lucky task of being first on the scene. It's always fun walking into a 12 x 12 room to confront a suicidal Soldier who has an automatic weapon and close to three hundred rounds with him. All ended well and the Soldier is getting the help he needs.

Last night I got to my hootch around 2200 and thought, "great! I'll watch some TV and sleep late in the morning!" I should have known better. I had knocks on my door at 0045 and then again at 0200, then had to get up at 0600 to take my Chaplain Assistant to the PAX terminal so he can go on leave.

And you know what? I still love this place and the ministry here. Where else do you get to have this much fun?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Another Helicopter Lost

Yesterday we lost another helicopter. The good news is that there were only slight injuries; a tribute to the heroic work of the pilots and crew to get the bird safely to the ground. Some day I'll be able to tell you what a miracle it was that anyone walked away from this crash, much less there only being minor injuries. I can't say much about it at this time, but you can view the open source story by clicking on this hyperlink:


Monday, February 19, 2007

The Quest for Authentic Manhood

That's the name of a study that I'm leading here in Iraq. You wouldn't think Soldiers would want, or need, a study about being a real man, would you? Especially the guys I'm leading. These Soldiers are our Medevac guys; they fly into battle, pick up the wounded, then fly back out while providing aid. You need nerves of steel for this job.

One of the guys approached me a while back and said he was interested in having this study while we were here. I told him I'd be happy to help him with it, not knowing how much I would enjoy it. This study is the first of a three year program, although you don't have to complete all three years. "Quest" is a 24-week program that focuses on a man's core identity and helps us discern a vision of manhood for ourselves. The second year is a 16-week study titled, "Winning at Work and at Home". Its focus is on a man's chief responsibility. The third and final year is a 20-week program called "The Great Adventure" and guides men to break free from the bondage of boredom and embark on the adventure of their lives. I can't wait to lead these studies in the local church back home!

I'm two months into the study here and will be starting it at two other locations here in Iraq in the next month. Please pray for us as we seek to become the men God is calling us to be. If you want to learn more about these studies, and other resources, check out www.mensfraternity.com.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Black Hawk Down

Most of you are aware that 3 weeks ago we lost a helicopter along with four of our Soldiers. In all 12 Soldiers died. I cannot comment publicly on the incident, but I can refer you to the recent cover article in Newsweek. To read about these heroes click below:


The day after the Memorial Service I headed home to Atlanta for 15 days of R&R. I returned to Balad last night and have been catching up on emails today. I will be blogging regularly from now until I return to the States at the end of my deployment.

God Bless,