“Quit” Doesn’t Exist In Their Vocabulary

August 31, 2007

Sgt. Thomas Davis has a special job. His job is to teach young Soldiers about IED’s. It’s a topic that he’s well versed on and has first hand knowledge. In June 2006, near Ramadi, Sgt. Davis lost his leg because of an IED that blew up his Humvee. Sgt. Davis is one of more than 2100 Soldiers working in the Army’s Wounded Warrior (AW2) program. The program was initially established in 2004 as a Disabled Soldier Support System, and is designed to assist and advocate for severely wounded Soldiers and their families. As well, the AW2 program offers help with rehabilitation and transition back into the Army or into the civilian community. Davis never had any thoughts of getting out of the Army, even while he was receiving treatment at Walter Reed.

“I like the military life,” he said. “I love being in the Infantry - training and leading Soldiers. The first thing I asked at Walter Reed was if I could stay in and what to do.”

He was able to stay in the Army and now has the job of training 2nd Battalion, 29th Infantry, 197th Infantry Brigade Soldiers on how to deal with explosive devises. It appears to be a good match for him. Brigade Cmd. Sgt. Major Joe Leggette says he has been pushing for the last year to utilize more Wounded Warriors as instructors.

“Even if they are wounded in combat, they are still able to bring the knowledge they used in combat to young forces,” explained Leggette. “The Wounded Warrior needs our assistance. We need to take care of the guys who take care of us in combat.”

After a year, the 197th now has 7 Wounded Warriors as instructors. Leggette is hoping that there will eventually be 25 Wounded Warriors to fill positions training Soldiers. He feels that the program is working well. Each Wounded Warrior, as they transition into the unit is assigned a sponsor and Leggette as well as the post CSM meet with the AW2 soldiers on a monthly basis.

“Our job is to make sure they are taken care of,” Leggette says. “I am going to ensure they stay in the Army.”

According to Davis, his fellow instructors and the leadership treat him like a regular soldiers. Davis is a husband and a father of two, with a third child on the way. His plans are to remain in the Army for at least the next 5 years and take advantage of all the military schools he can, that are offered at Fort Benning, including Airborne school. His ultimate goal is to return to a line unit and do the job he was doing prior to his injury.

Davis feels that his position teaching trainees about IED and his experience will help new Soldiers pay attention, which he says is the “mother of all ironies.” The Army’s philosophy about injuries has changed drastically over the years and the leadership is coming to realize that the skills and experiences that Wounded Warriors experienced is a valuable asset and can hopefully save the lives of new Soldiers.

“They have been through lots of training and can still give back,” said Lt. Col. Kevin Arata, Human Resourcese Command Public Affairs Officer.

In order for a Wounded Warrior to qualify for the AW2 program, they must be at least 30 % disable and either Active Duty, National Guard or Reserves. According to Arata, the top 5 injuries they deal with are amputation, PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, Paralysis and some type of blindness or vision loss. Once they’re accepted in the program, the Soldier will be assigned a Family management specialist. They are located across the United States, at installations, treatment facilities and Veterans Administration centers. The family management specialist maps out with the Soldier what they want to do and what they are able to do. The specialists educate employers on what the Wounded Warriors are able to do. According to Arata, the Army wants to make sure that it lives up to it’s Warrior Ethos: “I Will Never Leave A Fallen Comrade, And Together We WILL NOT QUIT!”

Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

Army Wounded Warrior Program

Two Years After: A Final Goodbye - “A Ride to Remember…” by Robert Stokely

August 30, 2007

On June 23rd I posted a story about the 1st Annual Ride To Remember, that would be held in honor of Sgt. Mike Stokely on August 25th. That ride has come and gone and his father, Robert Stokely wrote this eloquent piece about the anguish his family dealt with as they said good-bye to Mike over 2 years ago, and the ride that was held in his honor and the scholarship memorial to Mike, that was made possible, as a result of this ride. THANK YOU Mr. Stokely and your family for sharing your brave and heroic son with us. You can bet, we’ll never forget your son, Sgt. Mike Stokely. To everyone who participated in this ride to honor and pay respect to Sgt. Mike Stokely…. Thank You!

They made us have to say a final goodbye. They thought they had done a great feat. They thought they had hurt us so bad as to take away our life. They thought they had us down for good.

They hurt us bad. They hurt us worse than we could have ever imagined, or wanted to feel. They made us weep deep tears. They made us miss him so much.

Our family sat graveside grieving for a lost husband, son and brother. Friends wept with us, grief stricken in their own right. Two of his fellow soldiers, both seriously wounded in that same road side bomb explosion refused to be kept bed bound and by sheer will made it to be with us. One barely able to hobble with a cane, who but by the grace of God he would have been in a flag draped casket, his mouth sown shut, bottom gum, bone and teeth knocked out and facing a dozen or more surgeries to give him back an ability to merely chew food in a normal way. The other, crutch bound, foot in a cast, facing more surgery as well. Both thankful to be alive, yet wondering why they were and not him. I didn’t know them at all, but needed no introduction as they sought me out in a mass of people. It was for me, a moment of joy to know that they were alive and I could readily see for myself that my son’s brothers in battle would make it.

The sad melody of TAPS cut deep; the report of a 21 gun salute made me flinch, even feel fear at the prospect of a future without him; the folding of a flag with honor was a final heartbreak, knowing a final moment of goodbye was now at hand, and even though it was time to let him go, I didn’t want to.

It was August 27, 2005, a hot day to say the least, a hard day goes without saying. It seemed at that moment we might not make it. It seemed we didn’t want to. But then, we remembered what he would want and so we did that instead. We held it together, we went forward, heads up, hearts proud, and lives to be lived as fully and happily as possible.

On Saturday, August 25, 2007 - 104 weeks since that final goodbye, the Stokely family gathered with friends and strangers alike for the Mike Stokely Foundation, Inc. 1st Annual “Ride to Remember…” The thunderous roar of 215 motrocycles, 40 plus cars, one tractor-trailer minus the trailer, led by a HUMVEE with patriotic color scheme leading the way and with air support from a Blackhawk helicopter, we sent a message that we were alive and we would not fear his death nor a future without him. Instead, we were going to go forward and in doing so, we would Remember with Honor, a life well lived, well loved, and dearly missed - SGT Mike Stokely, KIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah in the Triangle of Death, south of Baghdad. We raised $20,000 net after expenses toward the $25,000 needed to fund the scholarship in Mike’s name at Georgia Military College where he got to attend one year before duty called. The other $5,000 - I’ll drive a truck one night a week after I get off work for the next 50 or so weeks and raise that money and I’ll remember the nights Mike rode with me on such trips and the good time we had doing that.

Mike Stokely didn’t get to come home to finish college, but his footprints are bigger than his boots and his legacy will ensure that others will go to college and a future is well preserved for a better America. More so, a call to action now leads us to continue the ride in future years and use the proceeds to honor each and every one of his other 25 fallen brothers from Georgia’s 48th Brigade with a scholarship in their name and memory. A region has been mobilized. We are committed.

You know, if Mike Stokely had made it home alive, we would have gone on to live ordinary lives without so much as a second thought by those around us, without a thought of how others might go to college.

They would have been better off to have left him, and us, alone. They suffered their cause a great defeat by taking his life. They made us have a reason to stay in the fight, and go on.


Robert Stokely
proudly remembering my beloved son
SGT Mike StokelyKIA 16 AUG 05 near Yusufiyah
USA E Troop 108 CAV 48th BCT GAARNG

“It Makes It Hard To Tell Good Guys From Bad Guys…”

August 30, 2007

He never saw it coming on Tuesday as he was working in a 6 foot hole underneath a bridge on August 28th. Until he heard an explosion and saw the smoke. That was how 20 year old Spc. Jeffrey Ellis described the events that occurred on Tuesday, when a bomber struck his unit, killing three of his commrades.

Spc. Jeffrey Ellis holds up a piece of shrapnel that was removed after he was injured in a suicide bomber attack on Tuesday.
(Photo by Bryan Mitchell/Stars & Stripes)

“I didn’t know anything was going on until I heard the boom and saw the smoke,” Ellis said on Wednesday from a bed in the field hospital on FOB Salerno, Afghanistan, located about 10 miles from the Pakistan border.

Ellis was rushed to the field hospital, where physicians removed ball bearing style shrapnel from his right arm and torso. He still has at least one piece remaining inside his body, lodged in his abdomen. Ellis will be transferred to Germany in the near future for futher medical care.

“I’m lucky, it didn’t hit a single organ in my, but they don’t know if it’s going to cause any more problems,” Ellis said.

The attack was part of a wider campaign seen recently by militants in Afghanistan, in an attempt to disrupt the work that is being done by coalition forces. The region remains very perilous. Late Tuesday evening, a memorial ceremony was held at Bagram Air Field for the fallen Troops. Scores of Soldiers lined lined the area and saluted, as the fallen Soldier’s flag draped coffins were inched along Disney Drive.

American forces are working side by side with Afghan National Army Troops. They are engaging in a two pronged approach to the situation in the area. On one hand, they’re working to improve the infrastructure. On the other they’re working to located and rid the area of insurgents. Insurgents in Afghanistan, are increasingly using the same tactics seen being used by insurgents in Iraq, such as car bombs, suicide vests and roadside bombs. Just as in Iraq, the insurgents don’t care who is in their way, whether it’s innocent civilians or Troops.

Tueday’s attack, also injured two teenagers who are now recuperating, alongside Ellis from wound that they sustained in the attack. Samia Allah and Aminu Ullah, 15 and 13 respectively, were walking home from school shortly after Noon that day. As they were crossing the bridge that Spc Ellis and his commrades were busy rebuilding, the suicide bomber struck. Samia suffered wounds to his torso and ended up having to have one of his kidneys removed. Aminu received deep lacerations on his back.

Their father, sat quietly between their beds, in a state of shock and utter sadness. He expressed how grateful he was that the Americans treated the wounds his children received and expressed disappointment and sadness towards the suicide bomber.

“It’s a problem for me and my family,” Mohammad Salah said, through interpreter Dr. Ahmed Gul. “The Americans come to make a bridge, but the bad guys don’t want us to have a bridge or for my children to go to school.”

According to Spc. Ellis, this is the first attack that he’s experienced in the 10 months that he’s been deployed to Afghanistan. He said that because of the bombing, he now has a sense of unease.

“It makes it hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys,” he said. “We just don’t know where he came from.”

Stars and Stripes

Insurgents Prey On Vulnerability Of Youth

August 30, 2007

In the United States, we look at our children as the future of our Country. Because of their youth and the vulnerability that goes with their youth, we’ve always been taught to protect the children, to nuture them, teach them right from wrong and encourage them to learn and grow. In Iraq, by the insurgency, children are often looked upon as pawns in their deadly game, someone that the insurgents can exploit and manipulate, someone that to them is an expendable commodity. When I read this story, I was infuriated. Infuriated that the insurgents place such little value on children, the future of Iraq. Each time I read something like this, it sickens me to think that these people have such little value for life that they’re willing to victimize children in this way.

A chilling trend is becoming apparent in Iraq, since the troop build-up earlier this year. Insurgents are increasingly taking advantage of the vulnerability of children and using them as pawns in their deadly game. Children, sometimes as young as 11 are being increasingly used in kidnappings, killings and the planting of roadside bombs. According to Major General Douglas Stone, the commander of Detainee Operations, since March the number of children being detained because of involvement in terrorist activities has risen from 100 to around 800. According to Stone, this can be attributed to the pressure on the insurgency that the build-up of US Forces has placed on the flow of foreign fighters into the country.

“As our operations have increased, al-Qaeda in Iraq and others have used more minors in the fight against us, and in the process, we have detained more and more juveniles.” Stone said.

Because children lack the deductive reasoning skills of adults and are easily influenced, the insurgency has taken advantage of this, as fewer foreign fighters are able to enter the country. Children for the most part, are easily swayed by the false promised made by the insurgents. Many feel that they need to help with supporting their families, so when an insurgent offers them $200-300 to plant a roadside bomb, they see it as an easy way to make some quick money. Unfortunately, some of the children have told interrogators that their parents urged them to work with the insurgents, because of their willingness to pay them a few dollars to do their dirty work.

The insurgents prey on children from the most impoverished areas of Iraq. Many of them from te regions to the North and West of Baghdad. They’re well aware, that if they’re willing to give these children money, they can quickly become their role models and the children can be easily manipulated to do their bdding. They use tactics, such as showing the children websites of children as martyrs, they play heavily on telling them that they’ll be a hero, a martyr.

This can become highly confusing to Coalition Forces, who come from countries where children are thought of as innocents that shoud be protected. Some of the offenses that children havebeen arrested for are kidnappings and killings, though the majority have been arrested for planting roadside bombs inexchange for money from the insurgents.

To accomodate the large influx of young boys and to hopefully break the hold the insurgents have on thm, a new educational facility, called the House of Wisdom, opened on August 13th near Camp Cropper. Camp Cropper is te US detention area. The boys are held in an area separate from the detainees. Many of the boys are illiterate. At the educational facility, they study basic Arabic, English, math, geography, civics and science.

In the daily civics lessons, the boys are tought Iraqi history and information about new government institutions. A team of psychiatrists are on staff and will provide regular counseling to the boys. A huge library is in the works and will eventually hold 4,000 volums. Currently in the library are English textbooks, computer manuals and even a set of the popular Harry Potter books that have been translated into Arabic.

“We have quickly realized,” Stone said, as he was interviewed at the school, “that most of these young men are victims not only of a-Qaeda in Iraq, but of their own illiteracy. Because they couldn’t read or write, they also couldn’t work, and unemployed young men are also angry young men, susceptible to the cunning arguments of extremists.”

Reporters were allowed to observe a class in session, though they weren’t allowed to ask the children questions. The class reporters attended was led by an Iraqi teacher who was leading an Arabic lesson for a class of about 30 boys.

“Who wants to read? the teacher asked. Hands rose across the room.

The teacher chose a boy in the back row, with his hair slicked back and asked him to chose a story.

The boy thumbed through the book carefully, settling finally on a story about a narrator who finds a captive, abused cat and decides to feed, water and release it.

“It’s about freedom,” the boy said.

Even while being detained, the adult detainees attempt to influence the children. The adults will wrap notes around stones and toss them over the wall into the children’s sleeping areas. They’ll often yell out to them. They try to maintain that “control” over the children, telling them that the teachers and guards are infedels and are going to try to convert them to Christianity. Teachers are constantly working to undo that influence. The job is difficult, but these children…. the future of Iraq deserve the chance to change and better their lives.

According to historians, the use of children isn’t something new in Iraq. During the reign of Saddam Hussein’s regime, children belonging to the organization Ashbal Sammad - Saddam’s Lion Cubs - were used a a paramilitary force. The youth were generally between the ages of 10 and 15 and were primarily used to feed the fedayeen units that were led by Saddam’s son Uday.

Stone feels strongly that if these children can be trained to be militants, they can also be rehabilited. Though he’s a Christian himself, Stone reads the Koran daily, to help his efforts to provide the boys with tools to question the motives of the militantancy and what they have been taught by the militants. He points to signs that he feels indicate that by isolating these vlnerable young men from the extremists can work.

In early drawings by some of the boys, the pictures were largely of masked gunmen representing the militants, defeating Iraqi soldiers. In later drawings by some of the same boys, the theme has changed and the masked gunmen are the losers.

LA Times

These children still have a chance. There is still hope that they can grow up to become productive members of Iraqi society, that, by being taken away from the clutches of the insurgents, these children can learn and grow up to contribute to their country in a positive way.

Visiting The Neighbors, Bearing Gifts Of Goodwill

August 29, 2007

Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment is responsible for security in a very poor section of the Adhamiyah neighborhood in Baghdad. 1LT John Gassmann feels that not only do they have to maintain the security of the neighborhood, but it’s also imperative that they build a relationship of trust and confidence with the local people. The Soldiers he commands work hard to do just that every day, as they go about their daily duties. Other than the fact that he’s heavily armed and dressed in combat gear and body armor, with several Soldiers at his side, 1LT Grossmann, is just like any other neighbor, paying a visit. He stops by to visit his “neighbors” in Adhamiyah on a daily basis. Many times he even brings gifts with him.

Troops preparing to hand out humanitarian aid (photo by Sgt. Mike Pryou, 2nd BCT, 2nd Airborne Div)

“”we’re just going through the neighborhood introducing ourselves, seeing if there are any progblems and seeing if there’s anything we can do to help,” Gassman says, to Ahmad Ali as he visits the home. His Soldiers are busy carrying in bags of rice, flour and beans into the house.

Gassmann feels strongly that it’s important to get to know the people of the neighborhood they patrol. Instead of crusing the streets of the neighborhood in an uparmored Humvee, he spends most of his time inside the living rooms of the residents, sipping team and talking with them. His platoon also makes it a point to hand out humanitarian aid to the people at each house that they visit. For some of the families, the bags of supplies are a lifeline for them, as many are very poor. Gassman feels that because it’s stressful for the residents to have armed men arrive on their doorsteps, the humanitarian aid helps to ease that stress, by showing the residents that the Troops mean them no harm.

Soldier bearing gifts of rice, flour and beans. (Photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Div)

“The bottom line is, we can drive through this neighborhood three times a day for a year, but if we don’t stop to talk to anyone, we’ll never know anything about it,” Gassmann said.

“It puts them a little more at ease and lets them know we’re here to help,” he said.

On August 21st the platoon handed out around 50 bags of foodstuff during a joint patrol. They visited house after house, following the same routine. A quick search was conducted and then the brought in the figts of food. Gassmann would sit down with the owners to discuss any concerns they had. Gassmann also made it a point to give the residents his contact information, so that they could contact him if they needed anything.

1LT Gassmann providing resident with his contact information during a visit. (Photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT 82nd Airborne Div)

“If you ever need anything, just give me a call,” Gassman told the families. “We’ll help you in any way that we can.”

Gassmann stressed that they might not leave a house with information about insurgent activity, but that he felt those visits were still extremely important. He was laying the groundwork towards developing a relationship of trust and respect with the residents, that might someday pay off with information.

“What we’re really trying to do is build a trust between us and the people in the area,” Gassman said.

Defend America

Balboa Project: Enabling Wounded Warriors To Join Workforce

August 29, 2007

As you all know, one of the topics that I concentrate on quite frequently, has to do with military medical issues, as it pertains to treatment, rehabilitation and employment. Many of our Wounded Warriers who are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will not be able to continue with the Military careers for various reasons. That should not prevent them from obtaining and keeping viable employment, so that they are able to remain in the workforce. For many this is a huge issue, as being in the military was all they knew. Because of the types of injuries many of our Wounded Warriers have sustained, many aren’t sure what their future is going to hold for them, or if they’ll even be able to work. The US Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment (ODEP) is working to make sure these young men and women DO have options, and they’ve teamed up with companies in the private sector to ensure that they have the training to obtain employment in the IT field.

The US Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment(ODEP), parterning with the Naval Medical Center in San Diego and Cisco has created a Transition Training Academy (TTA). This academy is a pilot project which prepares disabled veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq for job opportunities, by helping them to hone their IT skills and providing them with a marketable credential in the employment area and CISCO certification. Courses taught at the TTA include networking, computer and software support, Small Office Home Office (SOHO) support and this courses were taught at levels ranging from beginner to advance levels, depending on the experience of the individual student.

The first class, which consisted of 20 Sailors and Marines graduated from the program in early August. Each student was exposed to a myriad of technology diciplines, each received CISCO certification and were then introduced to potential employers at a privately held job fair. The program, which offers web-based learning and online training support via email and chat rooms provides an opportunity for the veterans to continue learning after the completion of their formal classroom training.

The DOL is currently in the process of exploring the development of a program that will be able to be replicated at Military Medical Treatment facilities across the country. They are also exploring the expansion of the program to include other career fields as well.

Being very aware, that many of the Wounded Warriors have needs that make it difficult for them to work in a regular office setting, ODEP has researched and implemented Telework, as a viable employment option for people with disabilties, especially returning disabled service members and disabled veterans. By utilizing Telework, employees who have complex needs can work in a more flexible environment, for example in a home office or Telework center, utilizing computers and other communications technology to perform their jobs.

Partners in this project are the Department of Labor Veteran’s Employment and Training Service, several government and private sector agencies such as, ODEP, the Naval Medical Center of San Diego, California Employment Development, the Job Accomodation Network (which is funded by ODEP), Teachers Without Borders, Cisco, Osoft, Custom Guide and Inverness Technologies.

This is a fantastic opportunity for our Wounded Warriors and one that I hope to see spread across the Country. Programs such as this will go a long way in ensuring that our Wounded Warriors won’t join the lines of unemployed, but instead will have viable options to receive training and education, so that they can continue to provide for themselves and their families. As I learn more about the Balboa Project, I’ll keep our readers informed.

To find out more information about the Transitional Training Academy and Balboa Project, please visit the TTA website, listed below. A the website, you’ll find a list of resources and information about their programs, as well as news releases. Please take some time to check out what they’re making available for our Wounded Warriors.

Transitional Training Academy

NFL Pick ‘Em Contest At VA Joes

August 28, 2007

I got an email today from Lane over at VA Joe today announcing their NFL Pick’em contest that is open to Active Duty Military, Veterans and their family members. Lane always has great information at VA Joes and has frequent guest bloggers who write there. If you’re in the Military, a Veteran or a Family Member and would like to participate, head on over to VA Joes NFL Pick ‘Em Page to register and make your picks. It looks like they’ve got some fantastic prizes and it should be a lot of fun! Being the HUGE football fan that I am, I’ve already registered and have made my picks for Week 1. Come and join the fun!

Win a Hitachi 50″ Plasma HDTV, a $500 Best Buy Gift Card and other Weekly Prizes

The Web’s only NFL Pick’em for active duty, veterans and family members.
The player with the most correct picks at the end of the regular season wins a Hitachi 50″ Plasma HDTV. Every week you pick all the games correctly, you’re entered into the Perfect Pick Raffle at the end of the season for a $500 Best Buy gift card. The five players with the most correct picks for each week win a VAJoe J-shirt. Check your standings. Live game updates. Compete against your buddies in private groups.

Their Voices Should Be Heard

August 28, 2007

Here in the United States, we’ve become innundated with the debate back and forth about our Military presence in Iraq. You have the anti-war, anti-everything military crowd screaming “Bring Them Home,” while those supporting the Troops try to reason that our Troops should be allowed to complete their mission. This debate just increases in intensity, as time ticks ever closer to General Petraeus’s report to Congress in September. One group of voices is being totally ignored in this seemingly endless debate… the voices of the Iraq people.

The Iraqi people are the unheard voices in this entire debate, yet their voices should be the ones that are heard first. Many Iraqis fear that their opinions won’t be listened to, that their voices won’t be heard. Interviews were recently conducted across Iraqi in various cities. Those interviewed were Iraqi Muslims, Christians, Arabs, Kurds and Assyrians. Though each may have varying opinions about certain aspects of the war in Iraq, there is one thing that they are in unanimous agreement about…. that US Troops should not be withdrawn from their Country.

“If they leave, it will burn like hell,” said Abdul Karim Khalil Mulallah, who at one time worked as a translator for the US Military police.

“It will be a real civil war,” said Asos Hardi, editor in chief of Awene (The Mirror), an independent Kurdish newspaper in Sulaimaniyah. “It will leave the country in chaos.”

The governor of Erbil province, agrees. “If the US leaves, we must leave with them,” said Nawzad Hadi Mawlood. “It will be a tragedy if they go.”

Many Iraqis fear that if the US and Coalition Forces leave their country, that the government in Baghdad will collapse upon itself. Their fear is that Shia militias, Sunni insurgency groups and foreigh jihadis, will all work to divide the country and that, a major bloodbath will result, as they all fights for control of the Country.

“The US at least controls the situation now,” says Imad Marbeen Yacoub, why fled Baghdad after paying jizyah, a “Christian tax,” of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi dinar demanded by men he assumed to be Shia militia members. “If the US pulls out, the civil war will be more and more,” he said.

Many Iraqi’s, despite what the “pull them out now crowd says” feel safer because of US Forces. With Soldiers clearing the neighborhoods of insurgents, many are finally feeling comfortable enough to allow their children to begin playing outside, they’re feeling safe enough to go down to the local market, and many who fled their homes, are finally feeling safe enough to return to those homes. They fear, that if US Troops were pulled out, that the insurgents would once again have free reign. Though many feel the central Iraqi government has a lot of work to do before it’s functional, they feel that at least a structural basis is in place that can allow for political reconciliation and the end to sectarian violence. When asked what they thought would happen, were US Forces to leave, with the government as it is today, many had grave concerns.

“It will be a disaster,” said Muhammed Tofiq, of Wusha, a Kurdish research organization. He points out that the Kurdistan Regional Government, now depends on Baghdad for 96% of it’s annual budget.

“It would be World War III, and divided by Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia …,” said Shamel Benjamin.

Many Iraqis frequently point out that they feel Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia would seek to destabalize Iraq were American Troops to leave. They feel that Saudi Arabia fears another Shia Muslim dominated country in the region. They feel that Iran supports Shia groups and will help them to reach even further into Iraq, thus creating a larger Shia ruled presence in the region, while at the same time backing radical Sunni militias. They also fear that Turkey, with a 20% Kurdish population fears that the success of Iraq would embolden the Kurdish people in their country.

Many Iraqis who were interviewed also stated that they feel aside from the interference they’re seeing from neighboring countries, that the violence currently taking place in Iraq is the natural outgrowth of the historical process which forced into one country, various disparate ethnic and religious groups. Because of this, they feel that many lack a sense of Iraq identity and that the country’s various sectarian groups are competing to grab the “biggest piece of the pie” for themselves. Because of this, they feel that the neighboring countries are exploiting the vulnerabilities of the Iraqi people, using a “divide and conquer” strategy in order to obtain results that would serve their own interests, instead of the interests of the Iraqi people.

“Iraq became a state by force and when you release that force, this is what happens,” says Hardi the newspaper editor. “There is no Iraqi identity. Just slogans.”

Those not involved in the sectarian violence, feel that the US bears a responsibility to ensure that this doesn’t occur in Iraq. They feel that US Forces should stay in Iraq, until the country is stable enough to stand on it’s own, without outside help.

“America removed the statue (of Saddam Hussein) but they should stay until the end,” says Paul Shamoun Ishaq of the Chaldean Cultural Center in Ankawa. “America should finish what it started.”

Many of us have heard that very same term, time and time again from our Troops themselves. It’s a mantra that they’ve repeated, over and over. “Let us do our jobs, let us finish our mission. We owe the people of Iraq, at least that much.”

Arizona Daily Star

13 Steps to Recovery/Integration for Soldiers Becoming Civilians

August 27, 2007

Many of us know that there’s sometimes a world of difference between life in the military and life in the civilian world. Imagine spending 20 + years of your life in the military and when you finally retire, you find that things are much different as a civilian. When I ran across this little tidbit of information on MySpace, I thought it was pretty funny and in many cases, so very true. So, I figured that I’d share it here for everyone to enjoy. (I also thought maybe those who are in the military and looking towards retiring or getting out of the military might be able to use the pointers! LOL!)

1. Admit:
“I was in the Army; I have a problem.” This is the first step to recovery…

2. Speech:
Time should never begin with a zero or end in a hundred, it is not 0430 or 1400; it is 4:30 in the morning (AKA God-awful early).

Words like latrine, overhead, fourth point of contact, bunk, and “PT” will get you weird looks; bathroom, ceiling, and workout… get used to it.

“Fuck” cannot be used to -replace whatever word you can’t think of right now, try “um”.

Grunting is not talking.

It’s a phone, not a radio; do not use words like “roger,” “say again,” “send it” and conversations on a phone do not end in “out or outta here.”

People will not know what you are talking about if you tell them you are coming from Fort Huachuca with the platoon or that you spent a deployment in the OCAC.

Likewise people will not understand you when you use expressions like “watch your six.”

3. Style:
Do not put creases in your jeans.
Do not put creases on the front of your dress shirts.
A horseshoe cut looks dumb, not motivating.
A high and tight looks really dumb as well.
A hat indoors does not make you a bad person; it makes you like the rest of the world; what’s more it’s a hat and not a cover.
You do not have to wear a belt ALL the time.

4. Women:
Army girls are easy, very easy, not all women are this easy and will probably punch you in the nuts if you treat them like Air Force girls.

Being divorced twice by the time you are 23 is not normal, neither are 6 month marriages, even if it is your first.

Marrying a girl so that you can move out of the barracks does not make “financial sense”, it makes you a retard.

5. Personal accomplishments:
In the real world, being able to do pushups will not make you good at your job.

Most people will be slightly disturbed by you if you tell them about people you have killed or seen die.

How much pain you can take is not a personal accomplishment.

The time you got really drunk and passed the sobriety test anyway is also not a personal accomplishment.

6. Drinking:
In the real world, being drunk before 5pm will get you an intervention, not a “good for you”

That time you drank a 5th of Jaeger and pissed in your closet is not a conversation starter.

That time you went to the combat life saver school and practiced giving vodka IV’s, will also not be a good conversation starter.

7. Bodily functions:
Farting on your co-workers and then giggling while you run away may be viewed as “unprofessional”.

The size of the dump you took yesterday will not be funny no matter how big it was, how much it burned, or how much it smelled.

You can’t make fun of someone for being sick, no matter how funny it is.
VD will also not be funny

8. The human body:
Most people will not want to hear about your balls. Odd as that may seem, it’s true.

9. Spending habits:
One day, you will have to pay bills
Buying a $30,000 car on a $16,000 a year salary is a really bad idea.
Spending money on video games instead of on diapers makes you a fool.
One day you will need health insurance .

10. Interacting with civilians (AKA YOU):
Making fun of your neighbor to his face for being fat will not be normal.

11. Real jobs:
They really can fire you.

On the flip side you really can quit.

Screaming at the people that work for you will not be normal, remember they really can quit too.

Taking naps at work will not be acceptable.

Remember 9-5 not 0430 to 1700

12. The Law:
UCMJ does not exist and will not save you from prison.

Your workplace unlike your command can’t save you and probably won’t, in fact most likely you will fired about 5 minutes after they find out you’ve been arrested

Even McDonalds does background checks, and “conviction” isn’t going to help you get the job

Fighting is not a normal thing and will get you really arrested, not yelled at Monday morning before they ask you if you won.

13. General knowledge:
You can in fact really say what you think about the President in public.

Pain is not weakness leaving the body, it’s just pain.

They won’t wear anything shiny that tells you they are more important than you are, be polite.

Read the contracts before you sign them; remember what happened last time.

Strength Through Unity

August 27, 2007

One of the most difficult task the Coalition Forces leaders have encountered, while conducting their missions in Iraq, has been the fact that Iraq is made up of a mixture of various sects and each has been at odds with the other. There has been longstanding distrust and downright hatred between the Sunni’s, Shiite’s and the Kurds. Often that has turned to bloodshed, which only further fueled the hatred and mistrust.

Commanders have found long and hard to bring the leaders of the various factions together and help them to understand that by putting aside their differences and uniting together as Iraqi’s, they can help foster an environment of peace and stability to their country. The communities they represent have trust in them and most will follow the example that they, as leaders set.

On August 19th, as Operation Lightning Hammer concluded in the Diyala Province, the areas most powerful sheiks came together and swore on the Qu’ran to uphold a number of security rovisions. In attendance were sheiks, muqtars, local political leaders, security officials and other influential tribal members. They came to gether in Aheik Mazen Village, located in the heart of Diyala province. The governor of Diyala province, Ra’ad Hameed Al-Mula Jowad Al-Tamimi led the meeting of reprsentatives of villages who have seen the negative impact that al-Qaeda and other militant groups have had on the communities.

“Let this day be the start of unity,” said Ra’ad during the meetings opening comments. “Let’s look into our future because it has to be better than our past. Let’s forget about the names of the tribes - we are all one,” Ra’ad continued.

The meeting continued with the tribal leaders discussing various aspects of the reconciliation agreement and concluded with them signing the agreement and sealing that by swearing upon the Qu’ran, as a promise to uphold the provisions.

As Ra’ad pointed out, the Qu’rn states “And hold fast, all together, by the rope which God (stretches out for you), andbe not divided among yourselves.” The sheiks agreed to eight conditions of the reconciliation provision. Those conditions include:
* Ending violent acts between tribes
* Providing intelligence to the Iraqi Security Forces
* Fighting al-Qaeda and other enemy organizations
* Helping security forces discover Improvised Explosive Devices
* Activating the law
* Solving issues between tribes in a cvil manner
* Returning displaced families to their homes

In attendance at this historic meeting were Staff Maj. Gen. Nouri, deputy commanding officer of the Iraqi Security Foces in Diyala province; Staff Maj. Gen. Ghanem Abass Ibraham al-Qureshy, the provincial director of police; Col. David Sutherland, commander of Coalition Forces in Diyala province, as well as Paramount sheiks from the region who attended as wittnesses.

During the meeting, the attendees spoke about their thoughts and concerns, discussed reconciliaton, discussed issues affecting their people, suh as unemployment, essential services, people displaced from their homes by terrorists and the recruiting of security forces. The tribal leaders agreed that the terrorists had caused many difficulties for their people and all agreed that they must learn to solve problems through dialogue instead of violence.

“You are all capable of influencing your tribes,” Ra’ad said. “We are responsible for our men.”

Many of the villages in Diyala province have been fighting each other for years. As the discussion continued, realization of this was evident by some of the remarks made by different leaders.

“Who is killing our people?” asked a sheik from Kharnabat. “Is it al-Qaeda, or is it us?” “Because many of the villages, such as Abu Sayda, Mukeisha, Kharnabat and Muqdadiya have been fighting for years,” the sheik said, “We are helping destroy our province, and we have to be united.”

“Either you are a man r you are not a man,” said the al-Bawk sheik from Aub Sabah village, as he asked others to do away with the harboring of terrorists. “My heart and my power are withy you, and I will stand by your side,” he continued. “Please take my hand and we will help you.”

The sheiks in attendance agreed that instead of standing back and watching the terrorists take over their villages, abuse and kill their people, they must stand up and do something about it. They felt that was the only way, to rid their communities of the influence of te terrorists…. to stand UNITED against them.

“Unlike the former sheiks, we do not have to watch the terrorists. We have to do something about it,” said another representative from Kharnabat. “If we believe terrorists and al-Qaeda and like a thorn in our eye, then we will have to remove that thorn,” he said. “We have to protect our tribes.”

“The sheiks hav to deny the terrorists because those people only bring hate to Iraq,” said a sheik from Abu Sayda.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Col. David Sutherland spoke to the group, emphasizing that they needed to take the promises they’ve made seriously and stand united against the terrorists, who strive to destroy them.

“As I’ve said before, there are not 25 major tribes and more than 100 sub-tribes in Diyala,” said Sutherland, in his closing comments. “There is one tribe - the tribe of Diyala. You are not Sunni, Shia or Kurd,” he continued. “You are Iraqis. You lay the foundation for the future of the children. When I talk about reconciliation, I am not talking about a letter or a signature - I am talking about a promise.”

“This is a celebration of peace in our province,” said Ra’ad.

1st Cav News

Next Page »