Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Iraqi Soccer - We Are the Champions
In case you were living in a cave this weekend...
Iraq Wins the 2007 Asian Cup
While we were donning our protective gear because it was raining lead in the IZ, the rest of the city was one big party. The Iraqi soldiers in our area were driving around with flags waiving, horns honking. It was like a Superbowl party in the winning city.
Our personnel down south drove around Baghdad Airport with some Iraqis waiving the flag and celebrating. This was one of those rare moments when everything was right in this town.
...now, back to the war.
ATTENTION: The Iraqi Government Is Not On Vacation!
Even though the Iraqi Parliament is taking the month of August off, the rest of the Government is still at work. The most important, and up until now, the most effective branch of the Iraqi Government is the Ministry of Defense. The mirror of our own Department of Defense, the Ministry of Defense is working through August to continue funding programs to supply their Armed Forces.
So, when you hear that the Iraqi Government is on vacation, don't believe the hype. The U.S. Congress takes more than a month off every year, yet our country runs fine without them. Sometimes it runs even better, but that's another topic for another day.
The new Iraqi Ministry of Defense motto: 'Working our asses off to strengthen and protect our nation, unlike the bastards down the street.'
FYI - I'll be traveling up north to work on some Helo issues. Be back in a few days.
Stay Classy Baghdad!
Building the Iraqi Air Force
Sunday I attended a very interesting meeting. It was a meeting I didn’t want to attend. I was supposed to have flown down to Baghdad Airport the day prior to receive a shipment of 6 newly modified Huey II helicopters for the Iraqi Air Force. But at the last minute my Commander wanted me to stay behind and help with this meeting.
The meeting was to help decide future aircraft and capabilities of the Iraqi Air Force. In attendance was the Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Air Force, and nearly all of his top Generals and advisors. It was important, and it had everything to do with what my job is here with CAFTT. We’re rebuilding, and building up, the Iraqi Air Force. The once great, 900 aircraft, 2000 pilot force was reduced to nothing in 1991, and what was left was reduced even further in 2003. I can’t say they were starting from scratch though. There are veterans.
The Generals are all veterans of the old Iraqi Air Force. At some point most were exiled or imprisoned by Saddam during the Iran/Iraq War, or after 1991. All are experienced Officers, but most had only obtained the rank of Major or Colonel before we came along. Now we’re teaching the how to be Generals, which surprisingly is a tough thing to do. These guys still want to get down into the weeds and make all of the small decisions that need to be made, but they need to learn how to delegate those day-to-day decisions to their subordinates. Delegation and responsibility; two things that were beaten out of these men years ago, but essential to the General Officer corps today.
I had to pleasure of spending the first day with a General and his Colonel, LtCol, and Major. The General looked like a movie star in his flight suite. Like ‘Omar Sharif’ from Hidalgo. We were joking with him that he had the best mustache in Iraq. It wasn’t a lie, but Generals do like that sort of attention.
His LtCol and Squadron Commander for their helicopter base was one of the best leaders and people I’ve met since coming here. Our youngest daughters are very much little Daddy’s Girls, and love to mimic us, something we were both bragging about. Discussing family and children has a way of building bridges in this culture when you only have days instead of years to build those ties. During lunch, he summed up any premature pullout by US forces more succinctly than anyone else has back home.
“When you teach a baby how to walk, you start on a level surface and hold its hand. Once it builds enough strength, the child begins taking baby steps, but it’s still wobbly and needs assistance. Iraq is that baby, and the US is teaching it how to walk. If we let go too soon, it would be like setting a baby on a staircase and telling it to walk. We need to give Iraq time to build strong legs before it can climb those stairs on its own.”
The Iraqi Major I spoke to is the lead Engineer on their base. Another brilliant and young individual. I wish I could have talked with these two more. I was learning more from them in one day than I typically do with leaders back home.
At the end of the first day I stood on the Helicopter landing zone with them, waiting for their Iraqi Air Force Huey IIs to come and pick them up. That was the first time I had been caught outside during a mortar attack, and it showed by how I reacted. I was more intent on listening to the way the mortars sounded in flight than taking cover. Of course after the first of the seven mortars hit I snapped out of it and headed to the closest bunker with the Iraqis. Yet another great way to build bridges with the Iraqi AF leadership; share a bunker with them while rounds are falling around you. We just sat there and listened for anything that sounded like it was going to fall too close. Nothing did, but that sound is something I’ll never forget.
The Huey II helicopter is a great aircraft, and it’s serving the Iraqis well. They’re a great platform for Counterinsurgency Operations, and as the fleet grows they’ll be shuttling Iraqi Army and Special Forces troops directly into the battle. We proved their value in Vietnam, and the Iraqis are taking full advantage of that experience.
After the second day of the meeting, the right decisions were made by the right people, and the Iraqi Air Force will soon be growing in numbers and capability to support the Iraqi Army. The meeting was essential in that it brought everyone to the table to discuss their future as opposed to one person making those decisions for everyone else. Progress.
There are still many more issues to overcome, and many more lessons to be learned by the Iraqi Air Force, but we need to applaud the victories whenever they happen.
I love my job here. I miss my family, I hate the danger, I despise the incoming fire, and I fear the next car bomb that will bring carnage and death, but I love what I’m doing here. Years ago, had anyone told me I would be sitting in downtown Baghdad helping to rebuild the Iraqi Air Force I would have said they needed serious professional help.
On a side note, we’ve been in Iraq for over 4 years now, yet the current thrust by the US Air Force to rebuild the Iraqi Air Force has just recently picked up steam. From everything I’ve been able to read, responsibility for rebuilding the IqAF was with the U.S. Army. The Army has been responsible for building an Air Force, which explains why the IqAF is years behind schedule.
I was amazed to learn that the US Army doesn’t consider Air Power as an effective tool in Counterinsurgency Operations. In their COIN manual, air power is relegated to bombs on target and heavy lifting. They’ve all but ignored the historical impact of providing close air support, air cover, air mobility, and air superiority over the battlefield, most of which they learned back in World War II.
It’s understandable why there is such a focus on building an effective Iraqi Army. It’s amazing though that whenever the US and Iraqi forces needed help they picked up a radio and called their brothers from above to bring the steel. Close Air Support has been so readily available in this war, the Army took it for granted. They never looked far enough ahead to realize that the Iraqi Army, when operating independently, is going to need Close Air Support.
This oversight is not just the fault of the Army. The Air Force is just as guilty for allowing this to happen and for not jumping in early on to take the lead. Because of this lack of foresight on both sides, the IqAF is not where it should be. That’s where we come in. The Coalition Air Force Transition Team’s (CAFTT) motto is ‘Get ‘em In The Air!’, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re training Pilots, Airmen, Maintenance Technicians, Load Masters, Acquisition Officers, Air Traffic Controllers, and Generals to fly, fuel, fix, buy, and lead the Iraqi Air Force in support of their Army and their nation.
We’re getting them in the air, and making them a better Air Force than they were before.
Just give us the time to do it right.
Monday, July 30, 2007
What Happened to San Francisco?
CodePink, Global Exchange and Veterans for Peace, Chapter 69, are working with Supervisor Chris Daly on a Board of Supervisors resolution to address concerns over the Blue Angels.
Daly acknowledged he is considering a call to halt the flyovers because, he said, “they seem dangerous and unnecessary.” Daly said he plans on introducing the resolution as early as Tuesday, but is still drafting the language. A resolution is not legally binding, but states a board position.
The Blue Angels, a team of navy fighter pilots, fly over San Francisco during Fleet Week, which this year is scheduled for Oct. 4 through Oct. 9. For four of the six days, the flashy blue- and yellow-striped planes soar through the skies over the northern waterfront at speeds reaching 700 miles per hour, and perform such maneuvers as vertical rolls. As part of the show, six planes group together in tight formation to perform deft maneuvers.
The Blue Angels have 35 air shows scheduled in 2007 in various U.S. locations. Last year, more than 15 million people watched the fighter pilots.
Edward Leonard, chairman of the San Francisco Fleet Week Committee, said that since the April plane crash, the Blue Angels are back flying and “we think it’s safe.” He added that the planes’ maneuvers require approval by the Federal Aviation Administration, the more challenging maneuvers are conducted over the Bay waters and that “commercial airlines fly over The City all the time.”
Fleet Week attracts about 1 million people to The City’s waterfront and sinks about $4 million into The City’s economy, according to Leonard. When the Blue Angels did not fly over San Francisco in 2004, attendance and revenue dropped by more than 50 percent, he said.
Leonard said Fleet Week comes with a variety of benefits, from boosting the local economy to providing people “a chance to say thanks for the people serving in the military now.”
CodePink has launched an online petition, signed by more than 500 people to date, calling on leaders to end the flyovers for reasons of public safety, air pollution and fuel waste.
Cox said the resolution would establish that city leaders and the public are not in support of having the Blue Angels.
“We can then take the next steps we have to legally stop them,” he said.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
New Air Force Awards
God help us all...
Sadly, these are based on real events.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Last night I was closing up shop and getting ready to head out. I had laundry to do, and I was looking forward to spending some quiet time at the Embassy with a good book I started the day before.
Right before I logged off I heard yet another loud explosion, but this time my desk, my building, rocked. Nobody around me seemed to notice, but I felt it. Something horrible happened.
In that instant 28 men, women, and children were murdered about 2 miles away from where I sat in the comfort of my office. 95 men, women and children were sprayed with glass, metal, and debris while I sent my last email and picked up my gear. These people were preparing to celebrate an Islamic holiday. The night before they were happy because the Iraqi soccer team won another game in the Asian Cup. They were happy, and happiness is so rare for them these days. Why would someone want to destroy such happiness. All of those smiles were stolen away last night by people who can't stand to see joy and happiness.
"The terrorists, curse them, are behind this act," said Firas Rahim, who sells clothes at a stand near the site of the blasts. "They are angry because the people were celebrating and happy yesterday. Now they took their revenge."
The longer I'm hear, the more I love the Iraqi people. They're vibrant, emotional, patriotic, and strong. Yet the longer I'm here the more I hate the people who fire rockets and mortars at me every day, and kill the Iraqi people I love without remorse.
Love and Hate. The two most powerful emotions a human can feel, and this place is filled with each.
I've only been here for two weeks, yet I feel like I've spent years staring up at the roof of my trailer every night, waiting for that one rocket or mortar to tear through the roof and take me from this place before I can make a difference. I can't imagine what the men, women, and children who live just a few hundred yards from from me wait for every night, every day. Do they think about their future a year from now? Do they mourn the past under Saddam? Or do they just stare at their ceilings ever night praying for a tomorrow.
We have it so lucky back home. I've always known that, but it really hits you when you're over here how lucky we really are. Back home I can drink out of any water faucet without fear of dying, walk down any street without zigzagging because someone might have you targeted, and watch my child grow, learn, and sleep without fearing bombs or bullets. We have everything.
My job here is to help the Iraqi Air Force buy planes, helicopters, and other systems using their own money. We're training them, teaching them, and helping them grow so that their Air Force can provide mobility and air support to their own soldiers slugging it out along side of our guys throughout the country.
The General I work for asked me to write out all of my goals I want to accomplish while serving here in Iraq. I wrote to him that I wanted to strengthen the Iraqi Air Force so they can defend their nation.
What I really want, and what most of us want to do while over here, is to allow Iraq to stand on its own so it can grow, prosper, and so that every man, woman, and child can chart their own course, dream of their own futures, and find happiness in their lives.
----Wanted to mention this when I wrote this post yesterday. The car bomb that night really pissed me off more than anything. I was up in a building later that evening and was watching a maintenance crew replacing a window on the second floor. The blast had been so powerful, it rolled across the river and shattered windows. The 'big picture' of what had happened hit home when I stood there looking out of the broken window at the tall flames across the river. I know stuff like this happens weekly, sometimes even daily, but until you see the flames rising over the city with your own eyes, it's so easy to remove yourself. I can't remove myself while I'm here.
As I mentioned before, this place is so much different than my first deployment in 2004.
Friday, July 20, 2007
I'm Still Here
Sorry... been really busy getting the hang of the new job(s). Trial by fire... and that's no lie. I'll be posting a grip load of stuff soon, so hang on a little longer.
FYI- This place is insane, and so are the inmates, but trust me... we're winning.
Got my first convoy ride. Pucker factor warp 7, but the Army guys driving through this crap day in and day out made it enjoyable. These guys kick serious ass.
Notice the mismatched uniform/body armor. Congrats to the Air Force for sending us with the proper attire. My new 'Tiger Stripe' ABUs will be here soon... hopefully. Until then I get to look like a wannabe 'Red Dawn Wolverine' groupie.
Friday, July 13, 2007
"Yes I'm Back in Black"
AC/DC once again provided the best soundtrack to my flight into Iraq. This time, as the C-17 spiraled down to the airport here in Baghdad and everyone sat white faced along the walls of the aircraft while holding their seat to keep from bouncing around, AC/DC's 'Back in Black' blared over my headphones and kept me in check and ready to roll as soon as the back door opened up and we walked down the ramp.
This deployment is different.... much much different than my last trip to the Fertile Crescent. More intense, more body armor, more weapons and ammo, better equipment, and a lot of miles on the roads with the Army to look forward to. So much more I want to talk about, but I can't... not yet.
Just know that it's different.
As Sierra Victor said, I'm in the hizzo. What happens next is up in the air, but I've been warned it won't be dull.
Monday, July 09, 2007
Time to go...
This thing on?
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
War with Iran
It's time to strap on a pair and stop this crap once and for all. We bombed Libya over a damn Disco bombing in Germany, yet we're letting Iran get away with killing our men?
My personal target list if I were the Dude running the show.
1) Strike all Iranian Air Force runways, theater ballistic missiles, and SAM sites.
2) Level all Iranian Special Forces, or 'Quds', bases, facilities, and known command structures.
3) Precision strike on the Ayatollah leadership. Since they're directing the covert war against Afghanistan and Iraq, they get to reap the rewards.
4) Take out all known Iranian nuclear facilities.
After this is accomplished, contact Amadinajahd and let him know that he was left unhurt for a reason, and that we trust him to step up as the leader of Iran (now without the Ayatollahs controlling him) and do the right thing. If he doesn't withdraw Iran's covert forces in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, the next target list will be comprised of his government.
Keep Iran's Army, Air Force, and Navy under close surveillance, but don't target them unless they move first. They need to remain intact to keep Iran under control if we are indeed forced to remove the government.