Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Welcome Home Celebration

Thank you just didn't seem like enough so we had a good ole fashioned Texas Welcome Home party for Chris...barbeque, beer and good friends. We had a wonderful time and enjoyed our time with Chris.

My Dad loves to hear stories about Chris' deployment and had mentioned to me earlier in the week that he really hoped that Chris would share some of his experiences at the party. Well, Paw Paw's hope came true. It was so interesting for Chris to elaborate on his job, his accomplishments and what he went through the past fourteen months.

He shared that going back from R&R after just being married for only 10 days was a extremely difficult and that it took him several weeks to overcome it emotionally. One thing he made perfectly clear...they made a difference! He enjoyed his job and Iraq was a little better because of the guys of the 3ID.

Proud Mom!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Toast To Home

A toast to home!

Last Wednesday night when the doorbell rang at 10:20 PM, it was the first time in 14 months that I didn't panic because it was late and someone was at my door. It was a pleasant surprise! Chris was home!

Right before Chris deployed, Joey purchased a bottle of Crown Royal XR with the understanding that when Chris returned home safely, they would drink it. The dream became a reality! Crown Royal is something that the two of them enjoy immensely and XR was definitely something to commenerate such a special occassion.

It is so nice to have Chris back. He seems to be enjoying all the simple things in, food, air conditioning, clean smelling air, good drivers on the streets, free time and the ability to relax and not worry about what's going to happen next. We are enjoying being able to not panic when the doorbell rings, sleeping at night knowing everyone is safe, picking up the phone and just saying hello, visiting, getting hugs, and just seeing Chris safe and sound!!!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Last of 3rd Brigade Soldiers Home

Last of 3rd Brigade soldiers home
Fort Benning welcomes back last 67 soldiers from Iraq deployment


They're all home... finally.

The last group of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team soldiers, who had stayed behind in Kuwait to ensure the safe return of all the brigade's equipment, arrived at Fort Benning's Lawson Army Airfield Monday afternoon, signaling the end of the unit's third deployment to Iraq since 2003.

No Army brigade has spent more time in Iraq than the 3rd's 41 months.

The homecoming for the 67 soldiers lacked the pizzazz, but certainly not the emotion, of previous arrivals.

When the chartered aircraft carrying the troops arrived about 30 minutes earlier than expected, just a handful of family members and friends waited for them in Freedom Hall, the airport's spacious terminal.

"We can't wait to see him," said William Morgan of Indianola, Wash., who with his wife, Cynthia, awaited the arrival of their son, Capt. Bryan Morgan.

Indianola, a town on Kipsak Peninsula in Puget Sound, west of Seattle, is more than 2,200 miles from Fort Benning.

"It did take us a while to get here," said a laughing Morgan, a Vietnam vet and a retired Department of Defense electrical engineer. "We were pulling a trailer."

So when did the couple start their trip?

"On May 1," they both laughed.

"I told you it took us a while. But we weren't going to miss this," William Morgan added.

Actually, with the brigade leadership team -- commander Col. Wayne Grigsby, deputy commander Lt. Col. Ryan Kuhn and battalion commanders Lt. Col. Jack Marr and Lt. Col. Troy Perry -- on hand, the in-processing procedure was expedited.

The plane landed at 3:50 p.m. and soldiers were reunited with families at 4:35 p.m. Normally, that process takes a full two hours.

"We were in Kuwait about a week," said Capt. Morgan after the reunification with his dad and mom. "That wasn't bad. Except for the fact we were also the first to go over (in March 2007)."

Morgan's parents have been getting their son's house cleaned up and have made sure his truck's in running order.

"And we have a huge root beer float waiting for him," his mother said. "That's the one thing he said he wanted."

They were going to have their first meal together since last fall. "We're headed to Buffalo Wild Wings," said the captain, a member of the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, who spent the last several months attached to the 2nd Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division.

The latest, and last, group to arrive will be granted a 48-hour pass before starting 10 half-days of reintegration training. Then they'll be off on a block leave of 30 days.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Last, But Certainly Not Least!

Exactly fifteen months, to the day, Nick James finally returns home. As part of the "No Joke" party, Nick had been in Kuwait since mid April. At first it wasn't too bad but at the end, it was a little hard to deal with the fact that almost EVERYBODY else was already home. I think Nick was starting to wonder if he was becoming a permanent citizen of Kuwait!

It was absolutely an awesome feeling when my phone rang yesterday afternoon and when I answered it I heard "Hey Mom..." Our "adopted" son had returned! Our journey has officially ended! Nick called later on in the evening and was definitely enjoying all the luxaries of the USA which included a nice juicy steak at Outback. He was on top of the world! Now that Chris and Nick are both back, Outback should show a drastic rise in income!

I know the James family is enjoying their time with Nick and as we all did, doing a lot of staring. It's not a dream, Bernadette...he's finally home! Welcome Home, Nick!

Military Appreciation

The Pentagon Channel's own MSgt Rusty Barfield sits down with Tiger Woods to discuss his upcoming tournament and his Army veteran dad, Earl Woods, who served two combat tours in Vietnam.


Friday, May 30, 2008


Finally!! I got word yesterday that Nick will finally be coming home. It seems like he has been there sooooooooooooo much longer than the rest of the Soldiers but it really hasn't been as long as it seems. Now I understand the meaning of the "No Joke" party. lol

We also got news that Chris will be arriving in San Antonio next week. Things are starting to get back to normal. It is sure nice to know that you can pick up the phone and call or send a text message. It just great knowing that Chris is back in the states and is safe and sound.

I'm very excited that the James family journey is finally coming to an end. My butterflies are back...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Memorial Day – A date for us to remember

By Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch

Today we remember the heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Many were our friends. They stood next to us in formation, they slept in our tents, they drove in our convoys, and they walked patrols with us. We mourn their loss.

I start every day in prayer and lay out cards with photos of the 152 Dog Face Soldiers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice under my command in either Task Force Marne or 3ID. I study their pictures and think about the Families they left behind. I ask myself two questions: Did we do everything we could to preclude this from happening? Was it worth it?

You are the very best Soldiers in our Nation’s history. You are properly equipped, well trained, and most importantly, well led. Five years into this war, leaders are combat tested and thoroughly analyze the risks when they place Soldiers on the battlefield.

The death of our Soldiers creates an irreplaceable void for their Families, but in the larger picture, their tragic loss is making a difference. We are fighting terrorism here so that we do not have to fight it at home, and you are truly having an effect on the insurgency.

When the 3rd Infantry Division Headquarters arrived last March, attacks average 25 per day – now they average less than two a day. You have transitioned from security operations to stability operations, and are making a difference in the lives of the Iraqi people every single day. I could not be more proud or more humbled to serve alongside of you.

The loss of so many Dog Face Soldiers is heartbreaking. CSM Andrews and I have been to the majority of the memo- rial services.

During the course of the memorial service, each of us grieves in his own way. But afterwards, we put on our body armor and Soldier on. That’s the true definition of a hero. We continue to take the fight to the enemy so we do not lose more Soldiers, and we will not give up any of the ground for which our brothers in arms gave their lives.

This Memorial Day we remember the lives of those who made the ultimate price, but we do not forget them. We continue to fight on so their sacrifice is not made in vain.

Rock of the Marne!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Task Force Marne Transformation Book

"Before" and "After" pictures, chronicling the transformation of Task Force Marne's area of responsibility, Multi-National Division - Center.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Hero's Welcome???

Our visit with Chris was wonderful! He was the same old Chris...happy go lucky! The only thing that really had him bent out of shape and disappointed was the state of the economy. He found it very disturbing that he spent 14 months fighting in Iraq and came home to...

  • Higher gas prices
  • Higher food prices at restaurants and smaller portions
  • Higher prices on clothing
  • Basically, higher EVERYTHING!

What a welcome home! In his words..."this really sucks"! It would have been nice if their efforts would have been noticed in the USA by lower fuel prices but instead, it was the opposite.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

No, It's Not A Dream...

Today I can say, I finally realize it's not a dream! He's home! It was so nice to see Chris and give him that long awaited welcome home hug! We got into to Columbus this afternoon and met Chris at the Visitors Center since he is currently homeless. He had stayed the night at his friend Michael's house who lived right next door to the Visitors Center.

We have had a wonderful day and I have spent much of the day staring at him. We have shared some good meals and heard some unbelievable stories and are now getting ready to watch the Boston vs. Detroit game.

It is so nice to be together. He is truly my hero and I could spend all day listening to his stories and seeing him laugh and smile. Tomorrow will be another great day...we are already making plans to watch game one of the Spurs vs. the Lakers. Go Spurs Go!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Giving Thanks!

The title of yesterday's sermon was "Thanksgiving: Giving God Thanks" and was based on Psalms 138: 1-3. Wow, how appropriate! When Chris deployed, I was devastated and wasn't sure if and how I was going to be able to cope. Once I realized that I had to turn it over to God, it became a lot easier.

So many times, we try to take on the world and all its problems by ourselves. We make life much hard than it was intended to be. We forget that God is there to help us, all we have to do is ask.

When our problems are solved or go away, many times we forget to give thanks...we just take it for granted. I survived Chris deployment because God was with us and for that I give thanks.

I have so much to be thankful for! Thanks be to God, for being by Chris' side and returning him home safely!

We have one more to go...Nick! Then we can celebrate!

Grigsby Arrives Home To Fort Benning

Two hundred and thirty soldiers of the 3rd Brigade are now home. Among them, the brigade’s commander, Colonel Wayne Grigsby.

The plane full of soldiers arrived on a breezy afternoon at Fort Benning. Something much different than the deserts they are used to.

“The feeling… it doesn’t get, it just gets better each time you come home you’re just so happy that you made it home,” Grigsby said.

Grigsby is no stranger to deployments. He says it’s been tough over the years, but thanks his wife Cynthia for all of her help during the tough times.

“It’s just like we were 18 years old again. I met her in Panama on a blind date and gave her a kiss we married 4 months later and it will be just the same way. She’s my hero and I love that woman to death,” he said.

The Sledgehammer soldiers followed their leader into the limelight, while Grigsby’s family waited to be re-united. Once they were together again, he had the chance to hold his new grandson.

“He is in uniform so he’s ready to grow so I have to introduce myself to him. Whenever that is we’ll be good,” he said

Grigsby says the majority of the brigade is now back home with their families, but there are more flights coming home, so stay tuned, because more Sledgehammer soldiers will soon return.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Home At Last and Looking Good

Our first glimpse of Chris on American soil...well, American concrete! He looks great! It's so nice to see his big ole happy smile! I'm not sure what all he had planned for his 48 hours, but I know it is going to be something very special for Patricia. He has alway been great at planning and doing special things. I hope he is having the time of his life...he certainly deserves it! We can hardly wait to see him and give him a hug and kiss. Maybe then, I will be able to realize that this isn't a dream, he really is back home!

Iron Brigade takes command at FOB Hammer

Colonel Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., commander of 3rd HBCT, 3rd Inf. Div., and Command Sgt. Maj. James Pearson, of 3rd HBCT, case their unit's colors during a transfer of authority ceremony at FOB Hammer May 15. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Justin Snyder)

By Spc. Justin Snyder, 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., PAO

Colonel Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., commander of 3rd HBCT, 3rd Inf. Div., and Command Sgt. Maj. James Pearson, of 3rd HBCT, case their unit's colors during a transfer of authority ceremony at FOB Hammer May 15. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Justin Snyder)
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq - Authority in the Mada'in Qada area of Iraq transferred from the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, here May 15.

"Like the Hammer Brigade, the Iron Brigade will be at your side to continue to support and assist you," said 2nd BCT commander, Col. Pat White, to Iraqis in attendance. "We are honored to be a part of your history."

The ceremony began with the playing of both the United States and Iraqi national anthems. Following the anthems, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commanding general of Multi-National Division - Center, addressed the crowd, which included 2nd BCT Soldiers, 3rd HBCT Soldiers and many local Iraqi leaders and citizens.

Lynch, a native of Hamilton, Ohio, began by thanking everyone for coming out and supporting the Hammer and Iron Brigades. He told the crowd that his Soldiers could not have been successful alone and that the partnerships they developed with the Iraqi Army and National Police were a large part of their success.

"Everyone did this together, including the courageous people of the Mada'in Qada," Lynch said. "We are excited about what the future holds for you as Col. Pat White and the [Iron] Brigade Combat Team takes command. They will take things to the next level in the Mada'in Qada."

He then introduced Col. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., 3rd HBCT commander, and congratulated him on a job well done.

"Wayne, you did an outstanding job and your Soldiers were lucky to have served with you," Lynch said. "Nothing was too great for you to accomplish and you accomplished it all. The people of the Mada'in Qada will miss you greatly."

Grigsby, a native of Prince George's County, Md., took the microphone and thanked the Iraqis for accepting him and his Soldiers as their neighbors.

When the Hammer Soldiers arrived in the Mada'in Qada 15 months ago, the region was strangled by Shia and Sunni extremist influences. The markets were vacant, women and children could not walk safely in the streets and irrigation canals were dry, leaving the area sparse of drinking water.

The Hammer Soldiers went to work alongside the IA, NP and Sons of Iraq, providing security, which led to the detaining of more than 500 suspected criminals, 47 of them being high-value targets. This allowed them to help revitalize markets, build schools and improve water distribution facilities, once again returning glory to the people of the Mada'in Qada.

On this celebratory day, Grigsby said he was proud to be a part of the rebuilding, and it was because of the bold citizens of Iraq that they were able to come so far.

"All things have changed in the Mada'in Qada and we have transformed," Grigsby said. "In our time here, the bold citizens have stepped forward. Because of you, the Mada'in Qada is a better place for future generations."

Grigsby promised more improvements would come as the Iron Brigade took over command in the qada.

"The Sledgehammer Brigade is leaving, but the mission will continue on," Grigsby said. "Col. White and the great Iron Brigade will take on this task and continue to make the Mada'in Qada even better than it stands today."

Grigsby left the podium and cased the colors of the 3rd HBCT, signifying the brigade's mission completed, turning over command to the 2nd BCT.

White, from Apple Valley, Ca., followed by uncasing the Iron Brigade's colors, signifying the transfer of authority as official. The Iron Brigade stands strong and ready to perform full spectrum operations in the Mada'in Qada.

White thanked the 3rd HBCT for a great transition and said that there is nothing more important than what the Army is doing in Iraq. He said the Iron Brigade would continue to support and assist the people of Iraq, but it would involve their help.

"As the transition moves forward, there remains one constant, to free citizens in this Mada'in Qada," White said. "It is up to you to provide the leadership, security and economic growth required to improve this Mada'in one day at a time."

Lynch believes this transition holds much larger meaning than just a change of command, one that will stay with the Iraqi people forever.

"We are doing this for our children and your children," Lynch said. "We are truly building a new Iraq together."

The 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., from Baumholder, Germany, has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since April in the Mada'in Qada in southeastern Baghdad Province.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Welcome Home Soldier

Welcome Home Soldier

Welcome home soldier
We finally get to say
You just don't know how good it is
To finally see your face.

Welcome home son
We've missed your more each day
Please let our boy come home safe and soon
is what we'd often pray.

Welcome home brother
You've filled our hearts with pride
The love we have for you right now
is something we just can't hide.

Welcome home soldier,
The journey's been tough and long
But you finally made it back to us,
back home where you belong.

By Andrea Senter

Proud Member of the Army 3rd ID

I was called to duty in a country far across the sea
To stand the wall against terrorism, so all can be free

I deal with the unknown, hot days and cold night
Living in the darkness, far from all city lights

I stand in the desert, surrounded by sand
Gazing over the horizon, ready to fight in a foreign land

Why am I here, is the question asked of me
To protect any land that wishes for democracy

I live to serve my country in its time of need
A prayer for protection and guidance is my only plea

I am no one special, just a commoner's son
So I joined the U.S. Army, became an "Army of One"

I serve in a proud unit that stands out above the rest
A unit with courage, pride and history which makes it the best

Just look at my left shoulder and you shall see
I am a proud member of the Army 3rd ID!

by 1st Sgt. Jay S.
148th Engineer Detachment
Camp New York, Kuwait

Grigsby, 250 Troops Arrive at Lawson

Grigsby, 250 troops arrive at Lawson
Entire brigade should be home by month's end


Hammer Six is home.

And so are more than 250 of his fellow 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team soldiers.

Brigade Commander Col. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., known to the troops as Hammer Six, and Command Sgt. Maj. James Pearson, were among those who arrived at Fort Benning's Lawson Army Airfield Friday night, concluding a 15-month deployment.

"We're happy to be back," Grigsby said on the airport tarmac. "I love Fort Benning."

He and Pearson were the first off the plane, which left Kuwait earlier in the day.

Hundreds of family members waited inside Freedom Hall, the airport terminal, to greet the soldiers. Also waiting were several brigade soldiers who arrived back at Fort Benning earlier in the week.

"It's so good to see all those smiling faces," said Grace Wilson, who watched on a huge TV screen as the soldiers, still carrying their weapons, debarked the plane. She had come to welcome home her nephew, a member of the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.

Soldiers first had to clear customs, turn in their equipment, in-process and hear a safety message before finally reuniting with loved ones and friends. That wait usually lasts about two hours.

Grigsby said several more flights will be leaving Kuwait over the next week. The entire brigade -- 3,800 soldiers -- should be home by month's end.

Maj. Gen. Walt Wojdakowski, the post commander, was on hand to welcome the brigade soldiers home.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hey Mom

It's official! Chris has landed and is on American soil. We got a call at about 8:15 this evening. "Hey, Mom!" to my ears! It was awesome. He had a good flight, just long. They landed around 7:15 Georgia time and had already been released when he called so they were going to eat.

I can only imagine how much he is going to enjoy eating over the next few weeks. I am trying to figure out how to get a Taco Cabana bean and cheese burrito to him next week when we fly out to see him. I'll bet I can figure out something!!! We can hardly wait to see him and give him a big ole hug!

Well, I can sleep a little easier tonight knowing that Chris is safe and sound. He arrived on the same flight as Capt. McGrue. Now we've just got to get Nick home safely and we can all go back to our normal lives before deployment. I definitely think my life has changed as a result of the deployment. I have learned to appreciate life a lot more and will NEVER take anything for granted again!

Welcome home guys and thank you for serving your country!

Even The Lizards Know...

When Chris first deployed, we put up our beautiful yellow bow on our oak tree. Within a couple of days, it had been occupied by a family of lizards. Every day as we would drive into the driveway, we would look to see if the lizards were out. We would often go up to the bow and say Bub, are you home (that's our nickname for Chris and what we named the lizards). Over the past fourteen months, the lizards have been our has sort of been like Chris has been checking on us. I know it might sound a little strange to some people but when you have a child off at war, some of the most bizarre things make a big difference.

This morning, as I went out to take a picture of the Welcome Home banner, I went to check on our lizard family. Two of them were poking their heads out...almost as if they were saying..."what's going on?" I had to chuckle and say...well guys it's time to start looking for a new home...the real Bub is coming home and his ribbon will come down.

Ready and Waiting!

Airborne Dad asked to see a picture of our welcome banner...well, here it is. I have it on the front of my house for the whole world to see. It will remain there until Chris comes home to San Antonio.

Thank You, Spurs!

As most of you know, Chris is a huge Spurs fan. Unfortunately, the Spurs have had a difficult time with this series. Since the beginning of the season, we have hoped and prayed that the Spurs could at least make it far enough in the playoffs that Chris could see at least a game. Well, our wish has come true! With the Spurs win last night, they will take on New Orleans in game 7 Monday night. It is going to be a tough game and the odds are against the Spurs but that's or lose, Chris will be watching the game ON AMERICAN SOIL!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

One Step Closer To Home

It's slowly becoming a reality. Last night we got a call from Chris..."hey Mom...I'm one step closer to home". It's not been the smoothest journey so far but at least it's a journey. There have been a few hiccups along the way but he didn't seem to mind. He had not slept in 24 hours but you certainly couldn't tell it by talking to him. He was on top of the world and so ready to be home.

As for me, it seems like my emotions are on overdrive. I can't believe it's almost a reality! Today my welcome home sign will go up and remain there until Chris actually returns to San Antonio. I want the whole world to know...he's almost home!

Col. Grigsby Briefs The Media

Col. Grigsby briefs the media on the accomplishments of his unit while being deployed. He then answers questions from the media. Part 1 of 2.

Video: Col. Grigsby Part 1

Video: Col. Grigsby Part 2

Command Change Nears Completion

Command change nears completion
Col. Grigsby turns over keys to FOB Hammer

If all went as planned at this morning's transfer of authority ceremony at Forward Operating Base Hammer, the last segment of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team soldiers has left Iraq and will soon be heading back to Fort Benning.

"We'll be jumping on a helicopter as soon as the ceremony concludes," brigade commander Col. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr. said Wednesday. "We could be at home as soon as this weekend."

Grigsby has already turned over the keys to Hammer to Col. Pete White, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division.

"We've been riding in the right-hand seat the past few days," Grigsby said. "They now own the ground. I'm certain they'll do a great job."

Five of the 3rd Brigade's six battalions have already turned over the reins to their successors; the sixth was to do so immediately before the total transfer of authority.

"We're down to 38 soldiers," said Grigsby, who packed his gear Tuesday night in preparation for his departure today. He had time earlier Wednesday to brief Pentagon reporters during a conference call.

"I told them the story of my soldiers and the work they've accomplished during the past 15 months," he said.

Grigsby said he would spend his remaining hours sending out his final set of e-mails to commanders within the 3rd Infantry Division.

Then it's off to Kuwait and the long ride home.

No Army brigade has spent as many months deployed to Iraq as the 3rd, which is completing its third deployment since Iraqi Freedom I began in March 2003.

Its main responsibility this time was to prevent accelerants from coming into Baghdad through its main theater of operation, the Mada'in Qada.

"I'd say we were very successful doing that; in addition, we helped stop the criminals that were harming the good people here," he said.

The Hammer Brigade captured 43 division-level and brigade-level HVIs, or High-Value Individuals, and killed more than 160 enemy fighters.

"We have been very effective along all lines of operations," Grigsby said.

Two planeloads of soldiers are expected to arrive at Lawson Army Airfield today, one in the morning and the other in mid-afternoon. Two more flights are expected on Friday evening.

Only a handful of the brigade team will remain in Kuwait until later in the month, ensuring that all equipment is packed and shipped back to Benning.

Windmills in Brigade's Legacy

Windmills in brigade's legacy
Benning soldiers give water with security to Iraqis

While two more flights carrying redeploying soldiers are expected to arrive at Fort Benning today, those remaining in Iraq prepare for today's transfer of authority ceremony.

The 1st Armored Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, based in Baumholder, Germany, officially will take over operations in the Mada'in Qada area from Benning's 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team.

The 3rd, under the command of Col. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., has been deployed to Iraq since March 2007. No U.S. Army brigade has spent more time in Iraq than the 3rd.

During their final days at Forward Operating Base Hammer, where Thursday's ceremony will take place, soldiers from the 3rd Brigade joined with their replacements to visit the towns of al-Zatir and Hollandia.

Their objective: To check on progress made on windmills over the past eight months.

Yes, windmills, which provide those communities water for irrigation and drinking.

"These people should be very proud of what they have done here," said Col. Ryan J. Kuhn, the 3rd Brigade's deputy commander. "They have done something that no other Iraqi ever has. History is being made in this village."

Kuhn was part of the planning and joined the visits Monday. He said the Iraqi contractors have made significant progress on the windmills.

"These people have done a great job," Kuhn said. "Now, when children come walking by on their way home from school, they will be able to drink clean water."

Kuhn said they also provide the security to enjoy it.

"Water is expensive for these people," he said. "We are defeating the insurgents by not allowing them to control the prices of water and by providing free water."

Lt. Col. Matthew F. McKenna of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team will take over the windmill project when the 3rd leaves Iraq.

"We want to get the director general for water in Iraq to look at these windmills," McKenna said. "Hopefully they like the idea and we can expand the windmill program through the Government of Iraq."

Dog Face Daily's 05/05 - 05/10

Saturday, 10 May 2008
Rakkasans prepare to patrol waterways; Transition team gives Iraqi Army hands-on training;200 students graduate from Iskandariyah vo-tech...

Friday, 09 May 2008
Soldiers visit windmills in al-Zatir and Hollandia; 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade welder is one-of-a-kind; Military Spouses Day proclaimed by President...

Thursday, 08 May 2008
Chicken farming gets a new boost in Hawr Rajab; Women's committee reps meet in Mahmudiyah; ...

Wednesday, 07 May 2008
Kalsu opens distance learning center for Soldiers; Two high value individuals captured in Mussayib area; First Iraqi comedy in Wasit since Saddam's era; Karada Vocational Training Center provides new start for Iraqis...

Tuesday, 06 May 2008
Weapons cache found in Wardia; Time Sensitive Target platoon follows tip; Dem Dudes take basketball championship...

Monday, 05 May 2008
Coalition forces bring aid to village; Iraqi, Coalition leaders discuss Piledriver progress; 26th Brigade Support Battalion maintains the surge...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

35th Armor Regiment Soldier Takes Command at Combat Outpost Cashe

Lieutenant Colonel Rich Morales, 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment commander, stands in front of his Soldiers as he prepares to uncase his unit colors during a transfer of authority ceremony at Combat Outpost Cashe May 12. (U.S. Army photo/Spc. Justin Snyder)

By Spc Justin Snyder
2nd Brigade, 1 Armored Division Public Affairs Office

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers held a ceremony May 12, transferring authority in the Jisr Diyala nahia, Iraq, from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Cavalry Regiment, to the 1st Battalion, 35th Armor Regiment, at Combat Outpost Cashe.

The ceremony began with the playing of both the United States and Iraqi national anthems.

Colonel Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, addressed the crowd, which included 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Soldiers, 3rd BCT Soldiers and many local Iraqi leaders and citizens.

Grigsby, a native of Prince George’s County, Md., thanked the Iraqi leaders and the Sons of Iraq for helping the 3-1st Cav. Regt. accomplish a successful mission in the Jisr Diyala nahia. He told the Iraqis that, though his people are leaving, his Soldiers’ hard work will continue through the efforts of the incoming 1-35th Armor Regt.

“We thank the Sons of Iraq and local leaders for a successful tour over the past 15 months,” Grigsby said. “The Iron Brigade is more than ready to assist you and your needs. This is only the beginning.”

Lieutenant Colonel John Kolasheski, commander of the 3-1st Cav. Regt., took the podium following Grigsby’s speech. He said the ceremony was not just a welcoming for a new command, but a celebration of what the Iraqi people have accomplished over the past 15 months.

“Together, we have put the wheels in motion,” said Kolasheski, a native of Loudon, Tenn. “Seize this opportunity you have been given and move forward not backwards.”

Following his speech, Kolasheski cased the colors of the 3-1st Cav. Regt. and turned over the microphone to Lt. Col. Rich Morales, commander of the 1-35th Armor Regt, who uncased the 1-35th Armor Regt. colors.

Morales, a native of El Paso, Texas, told the people it was time for the 3-1st Cav. Regt. to return to their families and promised their efforts would be remembered and honored with continued cooperation in their area of operation.

“Today we begin a new chapter in a very proud book,” Morales said. “My Soldiers are committed to helping. Together we will move forward.”

Kolasheski feels confident in the abilities of the 1-35th Armor Regt. and believes they will do a wonderful job over the next 15 months.

“These Soldiers are well trained and well led,” Kolasheski said. “They have a good understanding of their environment and what is up ahead. They are the perfect unit for the job.”

Sheikh Case, a local tribal leader, attended the ceremony. He has worked with the 3-1st Cav. Regt. on numerous projects during their stay at COP Cashe. He said he looks forward to working with the 1-35th Armor Regt. in the coming months.

“Anything these guys need, me and my people will be there,” Case said. “I know they are here to help.”

The ceremony concluded with the playing of the 3rd Infantry Division Song, the 1st Armored Division Song and the Army Song.

The 1-35th Armor Regt. falls under the command of the 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., from Baumholder, Germany, which is replacing the 3rd BCT, 3rd Inf. Div. in the Mada’in Qada, in southeastern Baghdad province.

27th Field Artillery Takes Over Command at Combat Outpost Salie

Lieutenant Colonel Mike Mammay, 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery commander, presents Lt. Col. Mark Sullivan, 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery commander with a plaque for his unit's support during their transition period. The plaque was presented during the transfer of authority ceremony at Combat Outpost Salie May 13. (U.S. Army photo/Spc. Justin Snyder)

27th Field Artillery Takes Over Command at Combat Outpost Salie

By Spc. Justin Snyder
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Public Affairs Officer

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers held a ceremony May 13, transferring authority in the Narhwan area of Iraq, from the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, to the 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery, at Combat Outpost Salie.

The ceremony began with the playing of both the United States and Iraqi national anthems. Following the anthems, Col. Wayne W. Grigsby Jr., commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, addressed the crowd, which included 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Soldiers, 3rd BCT Soldiers and local Iraqi leaders and citizens.

Grigsby, a native of Prince George’s County, Md., began by welcoming the distinguished guests. He thanked the local Iraqi people for coming to the ceremony and for their support of the 1-10th FA over the course of its deployment. He congratulated residents for improvements they have made in the Narhwan area and reassured them good things would not stop once the 1-10th FA left.

“We believe these improvements are only the beginning,” Grisby said. “The Sons of Iraq and the Iron Brigade are here to assist you in taking this to the next level.”

Grigsby then turned the microphone over to Lt. Col. Mark Sullivan, 1-10th FA commander. Sullivan congratulated the people of Narhwan for taking control of their city and told them this was their accomplishment and not his. He asked for them to work alongside the 4-27th FA as they take command.

“Together we created a situation where hope and progress has been restored,” said Sullivan, a native of Huntsville, Ala. “As Lieutenant Colonel Mammay and his Soldiers take over our duties, I ask for your continued cooperation in maintaining a secure environment where progress can continue.”

Following his speech, Sullivan cased the 1-10th FA colors and turned things over to Lt. Col. Mike Mammay, 4-27th FA commander. Before addressing the crowd, Mammay, a native of Merrimack, N.H., uncased the 4-27th FA colors, making the transfer of authority official.

“I don’t see this transition as a change, but as a contribution,” Mammay said to the crowd. “They have built the foundation that we will continue to build on.”

Mammay concluded his speech by presenting Sullivan with a plaque and thanking him and his Soldiers for their support during the transition period.

The ceremony concluded with the playing of the 3rd Infantry Division Song, the 1st Armored Division Song, and the Army Song.

The 1-10th FA falls under the command of 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., from Baumholder, Germany, which is replacing the 3rd BCT, 3rd Inf. Div., in the Mada’in Qada in southeastern Baghdad Province.

3rd Brigade's Homecoming Impacts Local Economy

Soldiers return positively impacts local economy

Lindsey Connell
WTVM News Reporter

May 13, 2008
FORT BENNING, Ga. (WTVM)-- The eighth wave of 3rd Brigade soldiers has hit town.
A plane carrying two hundred and thirty two troops touched down Tuesday evening, around 7:30 PM.
Once the soldiers cleared customs and made it through processing, they marched out, broke formation and rushed to greet their loved ones.
The 3rd Brigade's fifteen month deployment to Iraq is credited with the capture of at least six hundred insurgents.
And with thousands of those soldiers now staging a friendly invasion in and around Columbus, News Leader 9 set out to see if businesses are reaping the benefits.
Sergeant Mark Fedler just returned from Iraq this past Saturday. He and his son waited patiently Tuesday night for his wife, Private First Class Megan Shaw Fedler to return from Iraq as well. The couple have been saving up to purchase a plot of land and build a house but they also plan on spending some of their earnings on smaller purchases.
'You feel out of touch because music changes and fashion changes. You come home, you blow a little to relax and unwind and you actually feel like you did something. You made all this money and now you see a little bit of the product of all your hard work,' said Fedler.
And retail stores, including those in the Peachtree Mall are noticing an increase in sales over the past few weeks.
'Each department has really been affected as far as our sales, definitely for Mother's Day. It's been great for us and we really appreciate it,' said Charlene Johnson, the Assistant Manager of Macy's.
Ranger Joe's, a military supply store in Columbus, has seen a twelve percent increase in sales as incoming soldiers restock their supplies.
Some local tattoo parlors are also noticing a steady stream of customers from the military.
'Absolutely seen quite a bit of business come back and I'm real happy about it myself,' said Ghost, an employee at Above All Tattoos in Columbus.
Business owners say the 3rd Brigade's friendly invasion of local business's will be a big boost to the local economy.
Three more flights are scheduled to return May 15th.
Hundreds more soldiers are also set to return on May sixteenth, eighteenth, and twentieth.
Stay tuned to WTVM for our continued coverage of the 3rd Brigade's homecoming.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment Takes Command at Combat Coutpost Carver

Colonel Wayne Grigsby, commander of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division; Col. Pat White, commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, and their officers salute during the playing of the U.S. national anthem at Combat Outpost Carver May 11. (U.S. Army photo/Spc. Justin Snyder)

By Spc. Justin Snyder
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division Public Affairs Office

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment transferred authority over to 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, during a ceremony May 11 at Combat Outpost Carver.

Just three months ago, the 1-15th Inf. Regt. Soldiers moved onto the land that is now Carver and built the place from the ground up with help from hired local Iraqis.

Carver is located next to the Tigris River near Salman Pak, which had been used by extremists as a safe haven. The outpost is one of the largest that 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division has set up.

Transferring the land and the commitment over began with the Iraqi national anthem followed by the United States national anthem. Colonel Wayne Grigsby, commander of the 3rd BCT, addressed the crowd of Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division; 3rd BCT Soldiers; and local Iraqi leaders and citizens.

Following the anthems, Grigsby thanked the Iraqi citizens and leaders for their support of the 3rd HBCT Sledgehammer Soldiers over the past 15 months and assured them that the 2-6th Inf. Regt. would continue to support them.

“Sledgehammer is now leaving, but the United States remains committed,” said Grigsby, a native of Prince George’s County, Md. “I know that the 2-6 Infantry Regiment will continue to support the leaders of Iraq and take them to the next level.”

Lieutenant Colonel Jack Marr, commander of the 1-15th Inf. Regt., followed Grigsby. He said that he is excited the 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., was chosen to lead in the Mada’in Qada.

“The (2nd BCT) Soldiers are the best of the best,” Marr said. “They are ideally suited to lead in the Mada’in Qada.”

Afterwards, Marr, a native of Minneapolis, cased the colors of the 1-15th Inf. Regt. and turned over the podium to Lt. Col. Michael Shrout, commander of the 2-6th Inf. Regt.

Shrout, a native of Renton, Wash., made the transfer of authority official when he uncased the colors of the 2-6th Inf. Regt. He then thanked the 1-15th Inf. Regt. for their hard work.

“The cooperation between the 1-15 Infantry Regiment and the people of the Mada’in Qada is remarkable,” Shrout said. “On behalf of the 2-6 Infantry Regiment Soldiers, we will continue where they left off. We look forward to partnering with you to bring further prosperity to this area.”

Shrout said he plans to do that by working with Iraqi leaders on various projects. He is most excited about building a civil service corps, which will develop a department of public works for their town.

Brigadier General Adnan Javad, of the Iraqi Police, attended the ceremony and said IP and the 1-15th Inf. Regt. have had a great relationship over the past 15 months.

“We would like to work in sync with the 2-6 Infantry Regiment,” Javad said. “I am looking forward to the next year or so.”

The ceremony concluded with the playing of the 3rd Infantry Division Song, 1st Armored Division Song, and the Army Song.

The 2-6th Inf. Regt. falls under the command of the 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., from Baumholder, Germany, which is replacing the 3rd BCT, 3rd Inf. Div., in the Mada’in Qada in Eastern Iraq.

The Way Ahead for Sons of Iraq

The Way Ahead for Sons of Iraq

By Multi-National Division - Center

MULTIN-NATIONAL DIVISION – CENTER, Iraq – When the Surge Strategy is documented in history, the Sons of Iraq program will be listed as one of its successes.

Now, long-term plans are being developed so that gains aren’t lost as its members transition into other roles.

In the past year, the SoI have been instrumental in transforming the security landscape of Iraq.

Since the start of the program, areas where SoI operate have witnessed an unprecedented drop in violence and terrorist-related activities.

Currently, about 36,000 SoI operate in Multi-National Division – Center, the region south and southeast of Baghdad. Organized via local tribal authorities, SoI are ordinary citizens who stepped up to take responsibility for securing their neighborhood. Their contributions to the country’s current stability cannot be overemphasized.

Capitalizing on the gains made by the SoI, efforts can now focus on building capacity, revitalizing the economy, and improving the quality of life for the region’s residents.

However, the program was never intended to be a long-term solution for maintaining security in Iraq.

As the Iraqi army and Iraqi police are assuming more and more authority over Iraqi security, the current scale of the SoI program is no longer essential in many areas.

Nonetheless, it is critical that these people, who have demonstrated a deep commitment to improving their country, continue to play a role in shaping its destiny.

For this reason, Task Force Marne is working with the government of Iraq to actualize these short-term successes into a long-term strategy to stabilize the country.

This process involves finding a constructive role for every member of SoI, be it transitioning into Iraqi security forces or providing employment in non-security related fields.

As the GoI increases its responsibility over the security of the nation, it has intensified efforts to bring SoI under the umbrella of IP. These opportunities were facilitated through the numerous IP recruiting drives, often coordinated by TF Marne Soldiers.

The IP are responsible for the enforcement of civil law in Iraq. The GoI commands the police, under the auspices of the ministry of the interior.

Typically, the IP drives specifically target SoI, as many of the men have already demonstrated the skills and attributes required by IP.

In March, Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, held a recruitment drive with IP from the Rashid District. Over 300 SoI from Arab Jabour enthusiastically arrived, three hours early no less, for the chance to become Iraqi policemen.

This event marked an important milestone, linking GoI presence to the region for the first time in over five years. Many recruitment drives have seen similar responses and results. Drives in areas like Tameen, Iskandariyah, and Muellha have all drawn hundreds of applicants. The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Inf. Div., has already submitted nearly 5,000 SoI packets to the GoI to be screened and evaluated for ISF positions.

In other areas, such as Salman Pak, IP commanders are working with local sheikhs and TF Marne Soldiers, who identify specific recruits from their groups most qualified to contribute to the security of their area in an official capacity.

Currently, ISF recruitment of SoI primarily focuses on IP, as opposed to IA. To date, just over 1,100 SoI members have joined the ranks of the IP. Task Force Marne commanders hope to integrate an additional 2,000 in the coming months.

Numerous initiatives also exist to transition SoI into non-security related jobs.

With the improvement in security and stability, agriculture, infrastructure, and industry are rebounding in Iraq. The rapid growth of these sectors requires an expanded workforce, creating thousands of new jobs that SoI intend to fill.

Certain programs are designed to bring SoI into the public works labor division, where they help to rebuild Iraq’s damaged infrastructure. This process, known as Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, has already yielded positive results.

For example, in Arab Jabour, 30 former SoI were linked with Iraqi contractors, who trained them on road and highway repair. The men are now gainfully employed, reconstructing the major roads that connect the towns throughout the region.

In this region, many SoI originally worked as farmers. Task Force Marne has contributed numerous investments to the revitalization of agriculture in the region. They have repaired water canals, provided seeds and fertilizer, rebuilt chicken coops, and facilitated a secure environment where farmers can work in peace. It is probable that, once a long-term security strategy is implemented, many SoI will return to their former agricultural professions.

Perhaps the most significant step taken to integrate SoI into non-security roles is the Joint Technical Education and Reintegration Program. This initiative, primarily funded by the GoI, provides vocational and technical training, specifically for SoI. Through the program, SoI attend free classes and training courses that teach skills like electrical engineering, construction, manufacturing, or plumbing.

“Programs like JTERP train the men in a variety of different fields, so they can eventually leave the SoI completely and go out to become productive citizens of society, with a valuable skill set,” said Capt. John Newman, 3rd Inf. Div. reconciliation officer.

JTERP also demonstrates the GoI’s commitment to ensure SoI continue to play a role in the betterment of their country, even if it is in a different form.

However, certain challenges exist that can impede SoI from moving out from their current roles.

While a current TF Marne objective is to begin transitioning the SoI, in some areas, the security situation still necessitates its presence. The SoI program was never designed as a long-term security plan. However, hastily working towards this goal could compromise many of the recent gains.

“All the absorption programs in the world could be there and work properly. But if we are in too much a rush to transition these guys out of the security role, we could potentially put ourselves right back to where we were before,” Newman said.

A common barrier for SoI is the matter of qualification. One of the requirements to become an IP, as established by the Iraqi ministry of interior, is literacy. IPs must possess basic reading and writing skills in order to examine evidence and file reports.

Many SoI come from rural areas where education has been limited. Additionally, many of the region’s schools were decimated during previous years of violence, precluding the young men from achieving these critical skills.

Even for those who are qualified, a large portion of SoI will not have the opportunity to serve as IP. The IP simply lack the capacity to absorb such a large influx of officers.

Initially, the GoI was skeptical of the SoI program. Some thought the program would only inflame sectarian tensions, having a counterproductive effect on security. According to Newman, this view of the program has since waned.

In particular, during the shia uprising in late March, while much of the country suffered clashes and insurgent attacks, the SoI members largely succeeded in preventing violence in their areas.

“They now view the SoI as a positive element, based on the security that the GoI saw in the areas where SoI operate,” Newman said. “That seemed to help the GoI understand that the SoI were beneficial for everybody.”

While TF Marne is working to transition many SoI, the future existence of the overall program remains The responsibility of the GoI.

US Troops Work Together With Georgian Soldiers

Soldiers from the 13th Georgian Infantry Battalion and 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, speak with an Iraqi policeman while on a patrol in Iraq.

By Spc. Justin Snyder
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers stationed at Combat Outpost Cleary have been working closely with soldiers from Georgia as part of Task Force Petro.

Task Force Petro is a combined effort involving the Georgian forces along with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, and the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, to bring peace to Iraq and improve living conditions both on and off of COP Cleary.

The 13th Georgian Infantry Battalion’s progress as a unit has been phenomenal, said Capt. Christopher Rehnberg, from Norfolk, Conn., a member of the liason team, 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div.

He credits this to the 3rd BCT, 3rd Inf. Div., for their hard work with the Georgians.

“The 3rd HBCT has set a high standard for (the 2nd BCT) coming in here,” Rehnberg said. “We plan to build upon that and gain trust with the Georgians.”

Rehnberg said both forces are working together to make the Mada’in Qada a more safe and secure place. Upcoming projects include building water pumps for agricultural needs, and building housing for Iraqi contractors while they work on COP Cleary.

Rehnberg also points out that up to this point, the Georgians have built everything on COP Cleary.
“These soldiers are hard working and passionate about their work,” Rehnberg said. “They did an outstanding job building the COP. We are their guests here.”

Rehnberg can speak for their work ethic since he spent time with the Georgians prior to arriving in Iraq. He was a participant in the Georgian Sustainment and Stability Operation Program, a project aimed to help the Georgians become members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

He said there is a small cultural barrier between the two units, but the distance is closing on a daily basis.

“We are learning each other’s language, plus we are both learning Arabic. Every day communication gets better,” Rehnberg said.

The Georgians pride and joy on COP Cleary is a church they built from the ground up. The church includes a picket fence and a small bell tower.

Zaza Arsoshvili, a medic in the 13th Georgian Infantry Battalion, said Georgia has been a Christian region for over 16 centuries. He said having the church on the COP helps soldiers feel more comfortable while away from home.

“Faith is very important in our country,” Arsoshvili said. “The church is like a small piece of home for the soldiers.”

Arsoshvili said that the Sledgehammer Soldiers of the 3rd BCT set very high standards for Georgians and made them stronger as a battalion. While the Iron Brigade Soldiers have just begun working with the Georgians, he believes their relationship will prosper over the coming months.

“First impressions are very important and theirs was very good,” Arsoshvili said. “They are new blood and have new ideas. They can only make us better.”

Rehnberg agrees with that assessment and believes that together, Georgian and American Soldiers can improve Iraq. Over the next 15 months, the 2nd BCT and Georgian forces will assist Iraqis in repairing infrastructure and help set conditions for long-term stability in Iraq.

“These guys are our comrades,” Rehnberg said. “We need them to help complete our mission.”

The 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., from Baumholder, Germany, is replacing the 3rd BCT, 3rd Inf. Div., in the Mada’in Qada in Eastern Iraq.

A Hero's Welcome for the Latest Wave of 3rd Brigade Soldiers

May 12, 2008

FORT BENNING, Ga. (WTVM) - Tears and a whole lot of cheers welcomed home the latest round of 3rd Brigade soldiers.

Three hundred and seventy one soldiers touched down around 8:30 PM tonight.

Three hundred and fifty of them are with the 3rd Brigade, the rest are with the National Guard.

As the troops went through processing, their families waited inside with signs, balloons, and some even wore uniforms like their soldier.

They were all waiting for the moment they would be reunited after fifteen months apart.

"I want to jump across that blue line, and go through that gate over there. Go get him and bring him in," said Larfayette Coleman, who was waiting for her husband.

"I'm happy, I'm very happy, my dad's coming," said John Michael Rios, who was waiting for his stepfather to return and also donned a smaller version of his military uniform.

"It was a tough year, but finally he's here, so we're very happy," said Damaris Rios, who was waiting for her husband to return.

"After a long deployment, it feels great to be back with my family," said Private First Class Daniel Lynd of the 3rd Brigade.

"I'm very happy to be back. I'm very happy for the whole unit itself- happy to be back was one with their family," said Staff Sergeant Roderick Coleman of the 3rd Brigade.

Two hundred more soldiers are scheduled to arrive back on post tonight at 6:30 PM.

Stay tuned to WTVM for our continuing coverage of the 3rd Brigade's homecoming.

Soldier Leaves Softball to go to Iraq

Corporal Roxanne Finks, San Diego, Calif., a Soldier in the communications section of the 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., fixes a login problem on a brigade computer at FOB Hammer, Iraq.

FOB Hammer, Iraq

By Pfc. Evan Loyd

Corporal Roxanne Finks, San Diego, Calif., a Soldier in the communications section of the 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., fixes a login problem on a brigade computer at FOB Hammer, Iraq.

It’s early in her deployment with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, and she has a lot of work to do, smoothing out the wrinkles on the unit’s computer networks. She hasn’t always been an information system operations analyst, though. Before being assigned to the communications section of the 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., she played softball for the All-Army team.

“I was just in the right place at the right time,” she said. “I don’t even think I’m that great.”

Finks started playing baseball when she was young and switched to softball during her high school years. After graduating high school, she turned down an athletic scholarship at a nearby college to join the Army.

“Everyone always asks me why I didn’t go to the college team,” said Finks, a native of San Diego, Calif. “At the time, I just didn’t think I had the skill to play college softball. Also, the Army helped me gain independence and will help me later with school.”

Still, Finks loved softball and didn’t want to give it up. While she was stationed in Yansung, Korea, she decided to play ball in post-sized tournaments. She played so well at the Pacific Wide Tournament in Yansung, that a recruiter for the All-Army team invited her to attend tryouts at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pa.

“There was a lot of pressure once you were at the tryouts,” Finks said. “Over half of the people trying to make the team were players from previous years. Being previous players it was almost like they had spots reserved for them.”

As a result of the tryout, Finks managed to get a spot on the second string. After a year, she earned her place as the middle infielder.

“That first year, my position was the bench cheerer,” she said. “But, I paid my dues and got into my spot the second year.”

After Finks’ second season, she was offered the choice between staying with the team or deploying with a unit to Iraq. She decided she would deploy to serve her country.

“I think everyone should put their time in,” Finks said. “This is what I feel I should do right now. You got to do what you got to do.”

Finks’ day goes a little different from when she once trained all day to play softball. With the communication section, she’s currently working on the transitions of tactical and automation computers. She helps establish network connections and provide a system to track friendly forces on the battlefield and radio communication for war fighters on the ground. With all those duties, Finks has almost no free time for softball.

“I usually finish my day and head straight to my bed,” she said. “I still keep my glove and a ball with me though. I’d sleep with it if I had to. It’s my outlet for fun in life.”

Finks is scheduled for redeployment from Iraq just in time to tryout for the All-Army team again. She has another three years with the Army and plans to play on the team again for the 2009 season. After the Army, she hopes to use her GI Bill to attend UCLA and major in information systems.

The 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., from Baumholder, Germany, deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in April.

Monday, May 12, 2008

As Iraqis Return Home, Challenges Await

John Vandiver / S&S
Capt. Troy Thomas, commander of the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment’s Troop A looks into a space that a family of four calls home. The villages of al-Bata and al-Hemidat were destroyed during sectarian fighting in 2005. Thomas is trying to rally support to get the villages rebuilt.

By John Vandiver, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Monday, May 12, 2008

AL-BATA, Iraq — Before the war, Hamid Misshed used to tend to his front-yard garden and mind the crops. Water from the Diyala River fed the fields, and there was peace with his Sunni neighbors next door.

But three years ago, everything changed for Misshed and the 1,200 other people who have called the twin villages of al-Bata and al-Hemidat home for generations.

“In the beginning we refused to leave,” said the 67-year-old, who shouts out his words. “But eventually we had to go.”

In 2005, terrorists descended on al-Bata, home of Sunnis, and al-Hemidat, home of Shiites. Sunni and Shiite extremists quickly went to work. Amid the gunfights, mortars and kidnappings, neighbor turned against neighbor. The villages soon became ghost towns.

“When we first arrived there was no one here. All the residents had fled,” said Capt. Troy Thomas, commander of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.

The refugees are now starting to trickle back home. Last summer, Troop A soldiers arrived on the scene as part of the “surge” force and started targeting the extremists.

The effort came with a cost. Following one of their first visits to the area, two soldiers were killed on the way out of town by a bomb. But in time the extremists, which included al-Qaida elements, were pushed out, Thomas said.

Once security was established, the local “Sons of Iraq” leader pulled the tribal leaders from both sides together for a reconciliation meeting in September. The sheiks agreed to put the past behind them. By March the first of the villagers started to return.

Getting these two traditionally hostile groups to the negotiating table has been the hallmark feature of Troop A’s work in the ethnically mixed villages just outside of Baghdad’s southeastern city limits.

But it’s not quite a happy ending for the people of al-Bata and al-Hemidat.

When the first of the refugees arrived back home after more than two years away, they discovered a neighborhood reduced to rubble.

“My house is completely ruined. This used to be farmland. Now it’s a desert,” said Amar Jasm, whose family of four recently returned to al-Hemidat.

During his absence, the canals that delivered water from the Diyala River dried out. Now, there is no visible cropland.

Humod Kalil, whose brother was kidnapped and likely murdered during the fighting of 2005, was among the people who also decided to start over again in al-Bata, the larger of the two villages. He now shares his bullet-scarred home with two other families and cares for his orphaned nephew.

“We’re hoping people will come and make things better,” Kalil said.

In the meantime, the families of al-Bata and al-Hemidat live where they can find structures that still have roofs. In some instances that means families squeezing into spaces the size of walk-in closets.

Thomas said coalition forces have been able to help in some ways, such as getting more electricity to the area. A state department-funded vocational program, which is aimed at training Iraqis in construction, is another starting point. The program will teach about 150 people in Troop A’s area how to build. But instead of having people learn how to construct something new, Thomas has steered the program to battered al-Bata and its smaller neighboring village.

“This looks like a pretty good place to learn how the build something,” said Thomas as he guided some Baghdad-based contractors through the decimated villages on a recent visit.

But more money will be needed to get the communities back on track. Perhaps $500,000, Thomas said.

As the soldiers of Troop A prepare to head back home with the rest of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division after a 15-month deployment, it will be up to the incoming 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division out of Baumholder, Germany, to help finish the job.

Capt. Jamal Williams, commander of the Baumholder-based Company A, Task Force 1-35 Armor, told villagers he would work to bring improvements to the area. But change will not happen overnight, he said.

“I hear your concerns. I need you to give me some time to work on this,” Williams explained to the group huddled around him.

Thomas, who has forged close ties with the local “Sons of Iraq,” says rebuilding the villages will help those local leaders capitalize upon the security gains achieved in the past year.

“This is our northern (area of operation) boundary. We can watch our northern flank from here. To the north is some of the most dangerous territory in Iraq,” Thomas said.

“If you rebuild, you have a ready force in the area,” added Thomas, referring to “Sons of Iraq” security personnel who man checkpoints throughout the region.

In all, about 35 people were killed during the fighting in 2005, villagers said. Roughly 250 of the residents who fled the violence have returned.

Misshed, who leads a family of nine, said he’s not interested in starting over in another town. For 50 years he’s called al-Hemidat home. Pushing 70, he said he wants to work the fields again and get rid of the sand in his front yard.

“This used to be a garden,” said Misshed, pointing at the barren ground.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Why My Mother's Day Is Special

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Before I was a Soldier's Mom

This being the second Mother's Day with Chris being in Iraq, I was searching for stories of other Mom's and their thoughts. I came across this poem at Some Soldier's Mom that really hit the spot. I think we can all agree that our lives are just not the same during the deployment.

Before I was a Soldier's Mom

I never tripped over a rucksack or knew the words to the Army song.

I didn't worry whether or not my child could shoot or had "zeroed up".

I never imagined saying, "Good job!" when my child told me he had jumped out of a perfectly good airplane... or when he qualified with a grenade launcher.

I could not have told you the difference between division, brigade, regiment, battalion, company, platoon or squad.

I cheered for Navy.

Before I was a Soldier's Mom

I never looked into a soldier's eyes and cried.

I didn't understand "HOOAH".

I never imagined I could be so gloriously happy over a simple "Hey, Ma."

Before I was a Soldier's Mom -

I had complete control of my mind and my thoughts.

I slept all night.

I never sat up late staring at a computer screen or woke in the middle of the night just to check if the computer and cell phone were working.

Before I was a Soldier's Mom

I never knew that so few words could affect my life so deeply: Deployment. Bradley. Wounded. and I never knew the alphabet could rob me of breath: OIF. IED. RPG. WIA. KIA.

I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn't stop my child's hurt.

I didn't weep at the sound of "Taps", the National Anthem or "American Soldier".

I never held back a scream or had my knees go weak at an unexpected knock at the door.

Before I was a Soldier's Mom -

I never had so many sisters! (and brothers) nor so many sons and daughters!

I never felt fear so completely.... and

I never felt such pride.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Help...I'm Being Invaded By Butterflies

As the deployment is coming to an end, I find that my excitement is almost overwhelming. The anticipation of seeing Chris on American soil again has been prayed about and thought about for fourteen long months and it's almost a reality! Every since Lidia's son, Anthony started his journey home (Advon team)I've had butterflies in my stomach. With each returning flight, I get more and more butterflies. The thought of having our guys back is absolutely wonderful!

I can only imagine how the Soldiers are feeling right now. The final days...getting everything packed up, saying goodbye to those staying and the thought of getting back home to their loved ones and the luxaries of the good ole USA has to be a feeling that is undescribable...somewhat the same as a wedding day or the birth of a child.

The past fourteen months have been full of so many emotions. Now my days are being filled with butterflies!!! A great feeling! Welcome Home to those that have arrived safely! To all the others...good luck and have a safe flight home! Until then, I will continue to let my butterflies invade!!

Mom's Battle

It's not a fight with a fire and gun
by Sgt. Wm. M. Golden, Jan. 6, 1945

Mom's battle is the toughest one,
Cause it's the kind that's never won.
It's not a fight with fire and gun;
It's all day wondering, "Where's my son"?

It's not a war. It's a fight within.
It's where I'm at, and where I've 'bin?
It's what I eat' am I getting thin?
Am I steering clear of "hell and sin"

Do I pray to God to see me through
My every day, like I used to do?
Am I still the carefree boy she knew?
It's been so long...a year, or two.

It's remembering, when I was small,
How 'round the house I used to crawl:
And the day that I began to walk,
And later when I learned to talk.

The things I said; the things I did
When I was nothing but a kid
It's all these things that haunt Mom's mind,
It's a battle of a different kind.

A day ne'er starts, a day ne'er ends,
Without a prayer that dear Mom sends
To our Heavenly Father up above,
That He'll watch o'er her fondest love.

She has no defense against attack,--
Just prays to God to send me back
She fights her battle for her son
With prayer her weapon...not a gun.

But I guess that's what a Mom is for,--
To guide the son she proudly bore,
Whether he's home or off to war
A guy can't ask his God for more!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Brigade Leaves Iraq Region Secure, Revitalized

By Kristen Noel
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 9, 2008 – Nearing the end of a 15-month deployment in Iraq’s Madain Qada region, the 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team has accomplished its purpose of contributing to violence reduction in Baghdad and stabilizing communities throughout the region, the brigade’s commander said yesterday.
“I think if you look back on the past 15 months, you can see that we most definitely accomplished our purpose of contributing to a reduction of violence in Baghdad and stabilizing the communities in the Madain Qada,” Army Col. Wayne Grigsby, commander of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, told online journalists and “bloggers” in a teleconference.

Grigsby said violent crime was “out of control” when the brigade deployed to Madain Qada in March 2007 as part of the troop surge. They were being attacked four to five times a day on average, and criminal elements were extorting Iraqi shop owners, he said.

The brigade was able to secure the region’s communities and interdict extremists’ movement into Baghdad by conducting aggressive, intelligence-driven offensive operations, Grigsby said.

“We never forgot what a U.S. Army heavy brigade combat team was made to do: close with and destroy the enemy,” he said.

The brigade killed 160 enemy extremists, detained more than 500 suspected criminals and cleared every enemy sanctuary in the region during the 15-month deployment, Grigsby said. He added that 47 of the detained suspects were considered “high-value” individuals.

As a result, Grigsby said, extremist activity is greatly reduced in the Madain Qada region.

“Where al-Qaida and other Sunni extremist groups had had their run in the southern portion of our battle space, now we estimate there are [only] about three Sunni extremist groups of no more than 10 extremists per group in our battle space,” he explained.

“We killed or captured their leaders, denied them use of the safe houses and support zones,” Grigsby said, “and with our ‘Sons of Iraq’ allies, we are sitting on their former resupply lines and holding that terrain.”

The Sons of Iraq are groups of citizens who contribute to security efforts in their neighborhoods.

The murder rate in Madain Qada declined by more than 50 percent, Grigsby said, from 631 murders in 2006 to 253 in 2007. And there are now days with no enemy attacks, he added.

Conditions also are greatly improved for the region’s population. In addition to taking extremists and criminals off the streets, Grigsby said, the brigade also made strides building the trust of the people in Madain Qada and helping them revitalize their communities.

“We built these relationships of trust by treating local residents with dignity and respect and giving them their community back,” he said.

All of the major population centers in the region now have revitalized markets, health care facilities, water distribution systems and schools, Grigsby said.

He said 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team was involved in many efforts to revitalize markets, build schools and improve water-distribution facilities. In Salman Pak, a city 15 miles south of Baghdad, the brigade facilitated the revitalization of the market and the refurbishment of a hospital, he said. And a single battalion -- 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry -- oversaw the refurbishment of more than 13 schools, he said.

Grigsby added that the brigade also facilitated the construction of a new soccer stadium in the city of Wahida.

“[The soccer stadium] is a luxury,” he said, “but a luxury that we could assist in bringing to the community that has now lived through a relatively peaceful and normal year and is beginning to want more than the most basic elements in the hierarchy of needs.”

Grigsby said the Iraqi government is aware of the progress in Madain Qada and has acknowledged it by committing millions of dollars for projects and improvement in the region in 2008.

“The leaders of Iraq are telling you things are better in the Madain Qada,” he said.

“In our time in the Madain, we have seen a significant reduction of violence. We have seen the economy spring back to life. We have seen the local government structure continue to mature and progress,” Grigsby said.

“We most definitely have momentum, and we have made gains,” he added.

The responsibility to continue the momentum will be absorbed by the 1st Armored Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which is replacing 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team in the Madain Qada region of Iraq.

Grigsby said the “combat-tested” 2nd Brigade already is being integrated in programs and initiatives in the region.

He also said he’s working with the new brigade’s commander, Army Col. Pat White, on programs to improve the quality of life in Iraq’s Diyala province. The programs intend to provide a power substation, a water-distribution facility, a youth center, four schools, multiple poultry farms, and more infrastructure, he said.

“It is through this capacity-building effort that we can continue to pressure the enemy and leave him isolated outside the community that he used to use for protection and camouflage,” Grigsby said. “But, with another great combat brigade coming into Madain Qada, I am very optimistic that Colonel Pat White and his team will continue to build on our progress over the coming months.”

(Kristen Noel works for the New Media branch of American Forces Information Service.)

More Fort Benning Soldiers Return

By Photos by Shannon Szwarc

More than 300 3rd Infantry Division troops returning from Iraq disembark from their plane at Lawson Army Airfield on Thursday evening. The troops are required to go through a customs screening and check their weapons before meeting with their family and friends. At right, Harvey Peavler, 3, decked in full uniform, waits for his father, Spc. Steve Peavler, to arrive at Freedom Hall. Five more flights are scheduled to arrive at the Fort Benning airfield between Saturday and May 16. Returning flights and their ETAs include: 8:15 a.m. Saturday; 9:20 p.m. Sunday; 1:35 p.m. May 13; 2:45 p.m. May 15; and 1:50 a.m. May 16.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Medical Soldiers Show Readiness During Mass Casualty Battle Drill

By Pfc. Michael Schuch
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – Soldiers from Company C, 47th Forward Support Battalion, performed a simulated mass casualty drill at the troop medical clinic on Forward Operating Base Hammer, May 6.

A mass casualty event is any situation where there are more casualties than the aid station can normally handle.

“When a mass casualty call comes in, all physicians, from dentists to surgeons, are called in,” said Capt. Aaron Mallory, of Panama City, Fla., Company C commander. “Those who cannot help on the treatment floor are sent to help with triage.”

The 47th FSB used the training to rehearse procedures conducted by the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. After evaluating the mass casualty event, leaders of the 47th FSB will adjust tactics to create their own standard operating procedures.

“The thing about mass casualty simulations is that you can never get them perfect, which is why it is called practicing medicine,” said Staff Sgt. Chad Wilson, of Hendersonville, N.C.

This training event is important for Soldiers because it maintains readiness and offers a chance for adjustments before handling real situations, Mallory said.

The 47th FSB is currently assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, from Baumholder, Germany, deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since April.

The 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., is currently taking over the 3rd HBCT’s area of operations in the Mada’in Qada.

Soldiers Visit Windmills in Al-Zatir and Hollandia

Colonel Ryan Kuhn, deputy commander of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, speaks with local Iraqi contractors about the windmill in al-Zatir, Iraq, May 5. (U.S. Army photo/Spc. Justin Snyder)

By Spc. Justin Snyder
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – U.S. troops visited windmills in al-Zatir and Hollandia, Iraq, on a quality analysis and control trip, May 5.

The Soldiers with 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, the 489th Civil Affairs Battalion, and 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, made the trip to check on progress made on windmills over the past eight months.

Major Michael Blankenship, from Jonesborough, Tenn., 489th CA Bn., oversees the project and said he makes these trips weekly to ensure progress goes as planned and workers are following instructions.

The convoy made its first stop at al-Zatir and met with Haider, a local Iraqi contractor and son of Samir Muhammad, who owns al-Janoob Company, the lead contractor unit on the project.

Haider showed the Soldiers the windmill, which provides water for irrigation and drinking. He also showed off the newly revamped solar panels, which provide energy to purify water.

Taleb Hamid, a spokesperson for the local villages, said the water is much better now that they have the purifying system.

“The people were hesitant towards the water at first,” Hamid said. “Now they are very happy to have clean water for drinking and laundry use.”

Soldiers also visited a windmill in Hollandia, which provides water for irrigation and will eventually be equipped with the same purifying system as the one in al-Zatir. Blankenship believes the windmill in al-Zatir is the first of its kind.

“These people should be very proud of what they have done here,” said Col. Ryan J. Kuhn, from Clarks, Neb., 3rd BCT deputy commander. “They have done something that no other Iraqi ever has. History is being made in this village.”

Kuhn was a part of the original planning and took part in the visits Monday. He said the Iraqi contractors have made significant progress on the windmills over time.

“These people have done a great job,” Kuhn said. “Now, when children come walking by on their way home from school, they will be able to … drink clean water.”

Kuhn said they are providing more than just clean water, but the security to enjoy it as well.

“Water is expensive for these people,” he said. “We are defeating the insurgents by not allowing them to control the prices of water and by providing free water.”

Blankenship said the overall project has been a huge success. He hopes that the success will carry over to 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., as they take over command in the Mada’in Qada.

Lieutenant Colonel Matthew F. McKenna, from Pittsburgh, 2nd BCT deputy commander, will be taking over the windmill project when the 3rd HBCT leaves Iraq.

“We want to get the director general for water in Iraq to look at these windmills,” McKenna said. “Hopefully they like the idea and we can expand the windmill program through the government of Iraq.”

The 2nd BCT, 1st Armd. Div., from Baumholder, Germany, is replacing the 3rd BCT, 3rd Inf. Div., in the Mada’in Qada.

The 489th CA Bn., from Knoxville, Tenn., is attached to the 3rd BCT. The 3rd BCT, 3rd Inf. Div., from Fort Benning, Ga., has been deployed in support of Operation Iraq Freedom since March 2007.

Hard Work Pays Off for 3-1 Cav. Regt.

By Spc. Justin Snyder
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division

FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER, Iraq – After three months of spending countless hours with the 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, Sabah Almeka decided he wanted to recognize the unit for their accomplishments in Iraq.

The bilingual bicultural adviser from Holland didn’t know he would like working with the cavalry unit so much when he first started. However, Almeka said he grew to love and respect the unit as he supported their efforts in Marne Dauntless, a 15-month mission focused on helping Iraqi people obtain a better way of life.

“The commanders in this unit work 16-hour days sometimes,” said Almeka, a former colonel in the Iraqi Air Force. “They do it because they love their job and care about what they are doing in Iraq. I’m very lucky to be working with this group.”

Working with the 3-1 Cav. Regt., he relayed information on upcoming projects in support of Marne Dauntless. The mission required the 3-1 Cav. Regt. Soldiers to provide security and perform stability operations throughout the Jisr Dyala area of Iraq, said Lt. Col. John Kolasheski, from Loudon, Tenn., 3-1 Cav. Regt. commander.

“We wanted to expand services to the people of Iraq that they didn’t have before,” Kolasheski said.

Over the past 14 months, the Soldiers worked alongside local Iraqi leaders and contractors to help build new soccer fields, basketball courts, playgrounds and schools. Other operations included handing out toys and soccer balls to local children. Most importantly, Soldiers worked hand in hand with the Sons of Iraq to provide security.

“Those projects were a key part of our operation, but bad people were still out there,” Kolasheski said. “The Sons of Iraq helped move us forward by keeping pressure on the enemy.”

Kolasheski said security was the key element to the operation’s success.

“We didn’t just talk about helping, we went out there and did it,” he said. “I feel we have helped make Iraq into a positive environment for the locals and given hope where hope might not have existed.”

In his three months with the 3-1 Cav. Regt, Almeka saw the same progress and the unit’s support for the government and people of Iraq.

“It was all I could do to go out and show people what the coalition was doing,” he said.

Almeka traveled to the International Zone in Baghdad, where he met with numerous Iraqi committees and leaders. He relayed the projects the cavalry regiment was accomplishing and asked for something to give them. When he spoke with the chief of the Iraqi Olympic Committee about the new soccer fields and balls, he found they wanted to help him.

Following their discussion, Almeka received a certificate and a plaque to present to the unit commander. Kolasheski gladly accepted the plaque and is happy the 3-1 Cav. Regt. could help the children of Iraq.

“It’s really neat to be recognized on a national level,” Kolasheski said. “We were able to provide the children the opportunity for normalcy. The soccer field and balls offer the children an alternative behavior and give them pride in their neighborhood.”

The 3-1 Cav. Regt., 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, from Fort Benning, Ga., has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.