A letter from Iraq

Tags: HeroStories

Memo to friends and Family

Sorry if I have been remiss in not letting all know how things are going.  I don’t want to fill your email box with more email to read and large picture files to download.  So, I though I’d just send a short little summary of the first two months in Diyala Province, Iraq.

Diyala is called a microcosm of Iraq, because it has Sunni, Shia and Kurds all living in the province.  Therefore, this has really been one of the last places to really get settled down, and I’m still not sure that it is really settled.

Last week, we had a rocket attack on the base, the Stryker Cavalry Regiment that is here now is leaving, the new Regiment from Alaska is coming in and so there is a lot of activity.  One rocket hit at the Stryker staging area, wounding several and killing one young soldier.  Fortunately, we were all ok, but it was our first drill for accountability of PRT staff.  The memorial service for the young soldier was very touching, and of course I cried, as most of you would have done.

We get rocked every now and then when the unit unleashes their long-range guns.  It will rock your world!  On a side note, you might see old Warhorse on the news as Sarah Palin’s son will be coming here, if he is not here already.

Prior to coming here, I had three weeks of pretty intense, and interesting training in Washington. Everything from history of Iraq, politics, structure, the function and life on the PRT, and a week at Crash and Bang.  Crash and Bang is a week of intense advanced first aid, then 3 days in West Virginia to drive cars in evasive manner, and shoot guns.  You know I had a good time doing that.  Although I have yet to see where I would drive a vehicle.  We trained in Crown Vics and they are nothing like Humvees, MRAPS, or Stykers.

Speaking of which, this is how we have to travel, 3-unit convoy of one or a combination of the three.  Military establishes the security, we move with their availability and with their schedule.  Every Friday is movement meeting where all moves off of the FOB are scheduled, with specific personnel, locations etc. So you see you can’t just go off to a council meeting.  Makes it frustrating.

Living on FOB Warhorse is pretty challenging.  All power is from generators, water is trucked in, we live in Containerized Housing Units (CHU), but gym is good and food is ok.  Right now we are in the tail end of RIP. Replacement in Place, one unit leaves, one comes in, some simultaneous, and so we are very crowded.

In two months I think I have made some progress in establishing some relationships with the Iraqis I am working with.  In training we were taught to be sincere, act like you have an interest and guide them, they don’t want our money, just our expertise.  Well that is a mixed bag.  One key person I have been trying to work with is really not interested I don’t think.  He is in charge of a great deal of the public works and I could help him a lot get a plan, identify resources, come up with solutions, but he is a hold over from the old times and may or may not survive, because there are lots of complaints about his lack of action.  Pretty far from being proactive, and when I suggest that he talk and let others know what his needs and problems are, he does not see any need in it.

On the other hand, the Supervisor General for Banking, the Accounting Supervisor are dedicated public servants.  The economy is still on a cash basis; so it’s a struggle to get cash here to make payrolls, pay bills, etc.  It’s a continuing crisis.

On the Accounting side, the Province just got a 124 million dollar budget supplement from the Central Gov in Baghdad and this Sunday the Provincial Council will decide on projects to fund.  This will severely stretch their capacity, since they still have 06,07, and O8 budgets to spend. The security situation here prevented much of anything being done for a long time.

Long range, they want me to work with the local governments on budget, capital improvement issues, which is what I want to do.  We’ll see how all that works out.

Emails, letters, notes from home are always most welcome and appreciated.  I miss you all a great deal.  If you ever want to complain about life in the USA, come on a trip with me…you’ll soon change your mind.

Any chance you have to show some love and appreciation to our soldiers would be welcome.  They are the real heroes over here.  I have yet to hear but one complaint, and this young kid just did not get it, but his squad leader very effectively instructed him on what his job was and what he was expected to do.  Good management from a 25-year-old kid to 19 year old.  You see and hear a lot riding in an armored vehicle and I spend time talking to the soldiers.  They are the worlds best, and we don’t need to forget about them at all.

As for me, I don’t need anything, my wife has been great, would not be able to do this without her.  Short email notes and cards are wonderful; hold the attachments on emails, not great bandwidth so I usually have to delete them.

Till next time

M