Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Reviving the Old Man!

Alright ladies and gents, consider this the revival of the Old Man! Three years past his first deployment to Ramadi, Iraq, we’re up for round two. Time and place? Sometime this spring to somewhere in Afghanistan.

This time it’s a bit different. He's got a different, more sensitive position with the Corps. As opposed to his previous job as a typical grunt, the more unknown his accomplishments and day-to-day tasks are, the more successes it will bring the Marine Corps at large. He’ll be on a teeny-tiny team of silent heroes. No media coverage, no news stories, no magazine columns…Just him, (and what’ll likely become a very large beard grown just because he can) making his way through the Afghan war zone alongside the Infantry Marines in the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine regiment. All working together on a quest to maintain the safety and security of the people and continue building the infrastructure of a nation. A feat that is incomprehensible to most.

What does this mean to me (and you)? I’m going at it alone, folks. No comradery of a 1200 strong Marine Battalion with eager family members ready for their return; no “Letters from the CO”; little family readiness support from the Corps; no campaign-trail recognition from Michelle Obama/Oprah for military spouse sacrifices. Did I just say that out loud?

Just me, my feisty little girl, who, by the way, is going through the mommy-won’t-admit-but-unequivocally-so, terrible-twos phase; my newly earned Master’s degree and what my mom calls: first real job; my keyboard; and my rants and raves encompassing all, as I press ‘send’ into the vast emptiness of cyber space…Oh and of course my family, located states away, that has always provided unwavering support. (Yes, they are self described, myself included, as the HO’S – Hancock, Hill, O’Sullivans. You see where I’m going with the need to blog?) And hopefully the occasional phone call from around the world.

The goal of round two? Augment my faithful followers of 1200 1/6 family members and Ramadi fans with those of the 3/4 Marines and families, and get offered a blogging spot on Military Spouse Magazine. A girl can dream, right? So I’m saddling up my boot straps, gathering up the blogging followers and bracing my Flat Daddy (literally, his neck is ‘broken’) ‘cause living in the sticks surrounding Lejeune, I’m bound to run into a tree or two.

So read me, or don’t. But as of now, Old Man Hancock is back in action! (And yes, I was karate chopping my hands wildly in the air like Ben Stiller.)

First task in order…bloggy makeover. Any suggestions?

Monday, June 04, 2007

*insert big sigh of relief*

The Old Man's deployment to Iraq has finally came to a close... These were some of the proudest, saddest, and happiest moments of my life.

The welcome home festivities were wonderful. On homecoming day, the MCCS set up tents with food, games, and a dj. The families and wives brought their coolers of beer and waited for hours just in case the buses came early. The anticipation while waiting in the parking lot for his bus to arrive was the best feeling ever and boy, I can't even describe the relief I felt when I saw him pile off the bus with the rest of his Marines.

The Old Man introduced me to everyone who worked so hard to stabilize Ramadi and that was such an honor. The Captain and a few guys from his squad found me just to tell me how strong the Old Man is and how well he led his Marines throughout the deployment. That day was one of the best days of my life. I only wish that the families of the 1/6 Marines who lost their lives could be with us to watch their Marines step off the bus that day.

He's been back in the states for a few weeks now and I'll tell ya, we haven't missed a beat. We had his welcome home party and surprised him with both of our families who flew in from out of town for dinner, a welcome home parade with the Patriot Guard Riders, and a surprise birthday party afterwards..

As for the parties, we're still not positive whether or not he knew about everything, but we're all pretty sure he had a hunch. The out pour of support from our community hasn't failed to bring tears to my eyes. From the handshakes, to those who walk by and salute the flag and banner draped across our front porch, to the thoughtful book that was left on our doorstep outlining a wonderful quote saying, "Thank you," to my husband for his service... We are so incredibly fortunate and blessed to be happy, health, and alive.

We had a nice semi-vacation on Emerald Isle the week after he returned home, bought a new truck, and adopted the cutest puppy ever while we were down in NC. We also managed to finish up the final decorating touches on the house and are about to go to MI, Aruba, and FL to visit everyone else who couldn't make it up to DC. Yes, it's ton of stuff to do, but you know what? Any other way just wouldn't be our style! :)

It's been tough, but we stuck by each other and are so excited to continue our lives together. For me, I think I've come to a close on this chapter of our lives. I've cried and celebrated and hugged and kissed and clung on to him a time or two. I still can't help but get all vaclempt every time I look at him or hold his hand since I'm so damn proud of him and everything he's accomplished. I also can't help but laugh every time I look at my "Flat Husband" sitting on the floor now rather than at the dinner table with me. I've been staring at that thing for so long that I almost forgot how much cuter he is in real life and how much more fun it is to poke and pinch him again! The final hurrah from this deployment was the story that Fox 5 did on us, which was sort of a way to close the door on these past 8 and a half months for me.

Click Here! to watch it.

So in sum, he's smiling, healthy, thankful, happy and home safe. He picked me up and spun me around when we were first reunited in Lejeune then carried me through the door of our new home in DC...

All without one head bump or knee bang! :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #17

So he didn't actually say some of these, but I know he's busting to do them! Being gone for 8 months is a looooong time!

13 things the Old Man will probably make a bee-line for when he gets home from Iraq (in two more days!!! yay!!!!!!!!!!)

1. Buffets, buffets, buffets! He's says "No" when I ask him which one he wants to go to first, since he's been watching his girly figure and all, but I know he secretly wants to pull up a chair along side the dessert tables...

2. His fishing poles. He fished at the beach, in the river, in ponds along the highway, everywhere. Heck, he even fished me two years ago right off the dance floor!

3. Buying another car. Oh yes, he has already pin pointed the car, the dealer, the color, the make, the interest rates and payments...all on his downtime in Iraq!

4. Visiting our families. He's so excited to see everyone he bought tickets to visit home long ago!

5. A tunafish wrap from the cafe in the basement where I work. It's like a three pound wrap by the time he's done getting everything he wants in it and he scarfs it down in 3 seconds flat!

6. PBR. He stands by this beer and its award it won in 1882. This and the Capital Kolsch brew at Capital City.

7. Speaking of, Capital City Brewery is on his to do list.. That was kind of our place before he left..He thought it was hilarious making me to go beer for beer with his giant Marine-y self. Funny thing is, he was always the first under the table! :) (J/K Old Man!) Oh, and the chicken is really good too..

8. Nights of TBS reruns and bottles of wine. Boy, sounds like we have a pattern here doesn't it? Nah, we're not that bad...

9. His super human strength, incredibly fast, unusually good at every position, gray haired "Hancock" player that he created on Madden. This and his NBA Live game that screams, "Chauuuuuncey Billllllips!" when he makes a shot every three seconds. Sometimes I find myself randomly yelling it when the game is over ..

10. An open, quiet area so he can sing, "GOOOOOLEY!" OK, so maybe that's something I'll make him do, but his Robert Gooley impressions (from SNL) are absolutely hilarious!

11. Kayaks and road bikes. He's really looking forward to buying these. I got him hooked on kayaking the last few times we went to FL. Except for when we kayaked right over the sharks in Caledesi Island. Good thing we didn't know what we got ourselves into at the time..

12. All the rest of the things in civilian life. Like cars, showers, beds, peace and quiet, time off from work...

13. Last but not least, Me! You better believe he'll be making a bee-line through the crowd over to me, pick me up, hug me, spin me around, and kiss me!! OK, so really if we did all that we'd probably just bump heads...fun to romantically fantasize though! :)

2 MORE DAYS!! Weeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

Welcome to Thursday Thirteen! Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

I love my Flat Daddy!

This is the best thing EVER!!! (Next to my lifesize blanket of course!)

Thanks Flat Daddies, for sponsoring us and sending me this GREAT life size picture! To get yours at Flatdaddies.com, Click Here!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #16

In honor of National Military Appreciation Month, here are:

13 Ways to Support Our Military
  1. Fly the flag on your house, car, or business during May.
  2. Send an email or a letter through Thanks A Million .
  3. Send a care package to a solider through USO Cares.
  4. Organize an event or donation drive in your community or workplace.
  5. Ask your elected officials at all levels to support the troops or a military member you know.
  6. Wear a support our troops wristband or t-shirt.
  7. Register your support at America Supports You!
  8. Ask libraries, schools, or organizations to participate in recognizing our armed forces by doing some of the above.
  9. Ask local media (TV, newspaper, radio) to feature a military member you know.
  10. When you see a person in a military uniform, shake their hand and say thank you for serving our country.
  11. Raise funds for military charities.
  12. Hire a veteran using Vets First. Visit, HireVetsFirst to learn about how.
  13. Leave a comment to say thank you to the Old Man and his family!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

Welcome to Thursday Thirteen! Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Opposites attract

This is a cute story written by Anita Doberman. This is in no way the Old Man and I. ;)

Opposites attract. This is true in many areas of my life and especially in my marriage, where my husband and I have different personalities. I am the more exuberant type, and he is more subdued. I am more fun - or what he may say impulsive. And he is the more boring – he may say rational.

I noticed that our differences have enriched our lives, especially when one of my childhood dreams was realized for a few short but intense hours. I have always wanted to own a German Shepard, named Rex. When I was growing up in Italy I used to watch this show about a police dog named Rex who chased bad guys.

Then one morning, I opened my door and found a puppy version of Rex staring up at me. He didn't have a collar and there was no one in sight. A miracle! I couldn't contain my excitement and ran inside the house yelling to my children that I had found a new puppy, named Rex. We all rushed into the bedroom where my husband was trying to sleep after a long overnight flight, and told him that a German Shepard had magically appeared at our doorsteps, and that we had to keep it, never mind we have two dogs and a cat.

As a military man would do, he sprung into action and made a very efficient sign "lost puppy inquire within" and called animal control, while the kids and I chased the puppy around and yelled Rex come, Rex sit, Rex roll over (not that these commands meant anything to the puppy who kept running in circles).

I really wanted to keep Rex. I was hoping he didn't have an owner, so I told my husband that it was simply meant to be that I found Rex. Trying to temper my excitement, my hubby told me that a) Rex was female, and b) she had an owner somewhere. But I pressed on with my dream, making the only concession that I could by calling her Rexa.

As I watched my husband lay out a plan to find the dog's owner, I realized that we couldn't keep the dog, and I had to focus on finding the owner -- a.k.a the right thing to do.

I focused on the fun aspect of finding the puppy while he focused on the practical aspect of finding the owner.

When my husband is deployed I am not as care-free, but because he was there I enjoyed my childhood dream of playing with Rex – ok, Rexa.

After a couple of hours, someone knocked at our door, and the owner (a very nice lady) recognized the dog, "Maggie," immediately. To my dismay, the dog clearly recognized her too.

My husband will deploy again soon, and he is clearly concerned – with some reason – that he'll return to find a house full of puppies. More likely though, when he leaves I will have to go back to taking on full control of our home and my impulses – including all the boring rationality involved.

Hum, it's much more fun when he's home.

To see this story on Military.com, Click Here!

2007 "Thank a Military Spouse" Writing Contest

Tell Military.com why you think a military spouse you know is great!

In honor of Military Spouse Appreciation month, Military.com is holding its annual "Thank a Military Spouse" writing contest!

Do you know of a military spouse that has gone above and beyond the call of duty? Does he or she have a story that's waiting to be told? Now is your chance to let us know how great your spouse is.

The Military.com editorial staff will judge all of the entries. And, if your story is chosen as the 1st place submission, you could win a 2 GB Apple iPod nano! Ten runners-up will receive one Military.com t-shirt. The winners will also have their articles featured on Military.com and the upcoming Military.com newsletters. Military.com members have from May 4, 2007 to May 21, 2007 to submit entries.

Show your spouse that you acknowledge and appreciate all of his or her hard work while you protect the country. Tell us their story!

Here's how you enter and other important contest information:

Please send submissions to familysupport@militaryadvantage.com.

Submissions must be titled "Thank a Military Spouse" and be maximum of 400 words.

Entries must in a typed, double-spaced, word document and sent as an e-mail attachment to the e-mail address listed above.

Submissions must include the spouses name, your name, your address and your telephone number.

You have the option of sending a digital (jpg) photo of you and the military spouse along with the submission.

Submissions received after the May 21st will not be eligible for the contest.
The winner and runners-up will be notified via phone and/or e-mail between May 28, 2007 and May 30, 2007.

Entries will be judged on content, tone, voice, clarity and originality.

To view our official rules, Click Here!.

Military.com is ready to receive your "Thank a Military Spouse" submissions. Good Luck!

You're a Military Wife When...

Sarah Smiley May 15, 2006

They were sitting beside me in the cement waiting room of a navy branch clinic. They were talking to each other and smiling, so I knew they were newly married.

Now, I know what you're thinking: “Sarah, that's so stereotypical, jumping to conclusions and assuming that they are newly married simply because they were talking to each other and smiling. I mean, why didn't you assume something more obvious and reasonable, such as that they were boyfriend and girlfriend?”

Oh, well, that's easy. The young man dressed in an olive green flight suit couldn't have brought his girlfriend into the clinic to be seen. She would not have had an I.D. card.

So, there I was reading a wrinkled and torn pamphlet about prostate cancer, while they held between them the ends of a brochure about their medical benefits. I was alone (Dustin was probably home with the kids or something), and they were huddled so close you'd have thought they were sitting in a teepee. I should also point out that the girl wore a fresh, coordinated outfit that not only looked clean, it looked ironed, too. I was wearing sneakers with no socks and a red baseball cap, because I don't get dressed up for a Step-throat culture.

Then the girl walked to the receptionist's desk to check on her appointment time.

“Last four?” the receptionist said.

The girl looked confused.

“Last four of your husband's social,” the woman said.

The girl turned around to her husband, still waiting in the chair, and said, “What's your social security number, Honey?”

Right then, there was absolutely no mistaking -- they are newlyweds. You can't be married to someone in the military for too long before you know their social security like you know your own shoe size. In fact, I know my husband's “last four” better than I know my own.

All of which got me thinking: just like there is a point at which a woman can no longer hide her pregnancy, there comes a time when a woman is undeniably a military wife. When is that point? It's different for each person. Sometimes it even happens over night, while you are unaware. But eventually, we all suffer the same fate; we wake up thinking, when was the last time my mother wrote my address in ink in her address book?

You might also realize you're a military wife when...

• The site of US GOVERNMENT on your caller ID no longer freaks you out
• All your husband's fresh white underwear has his “last four” stamped on the waist band
• You know the smell of JP-5
• You laugh at Top Gun. Even harder at Tom Cruise as “Maverick.”
• You know that APO isn't a type of dog food
• Your husband's best friends have names like “GULA,” “Wookie,” “Rat Boy,” and “Dancing Bear.”
• Suddenly “GULA,” Wookie,” “Rat Boy,” and “Dancing Bear” seem like affectionate nicknames. (Although, probably not to your civilian mother.)
• You've had five different jobs in four years.
• You've had five different addresses in four years.
• You've had five new best friends in four years.
• Luckily you've had the same husband for five years, but you haven't seen him in three.
• You know that “Haze grey and underway” is not a song by Neil Young.
• When your husband announces he's going to use “the head,” you no longer smirk and think, “About time...but I'm still smarter than you.”
• You realize that when your husband is on “cruise,” he won't be dining with the captain of the Love Boat
• Similarly, you realize your junior husband won't be dining with any captain.
• You know that your husband will eat in the Mess Hall, and you think that's right where he belongs.
• And last, you definitely know you're a military wife when you're sitting in a waiting room without your husband and you're not the least bit jealous of the girl who doesn't know her husband's “last four.” (Even if she was thinner and had better skin.) Because you know, without a doubt, that she's got a lot to learn and a long way to go.

About Sarah Smiley

Sarah Smiley is the author of Shore Duty, a syndicated newspaper column that reaches more than 2 million weekly, and of the memoir GOING OVERBOARD: The Misadventures of a Military Wife (Penguin/New American Library).

Sarah has been featured in The New York Times Magazine and Newsweek, and on ABC's Nightline, CNN Sunday Morning, CBS The Early Show, Fox News Studio B, and MSNBC Live.

Sarah's life rights were recently optioned by Kelsey Grammer's company, Grammnet, and Paramount Television. A half-hour sitcom based on her columns and book is now in development for CBS.

Read more about Sarah at www.SarahSmiley.com.

To see this story on Military.com Click Here!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Show your support for NMAM!

Don't forget, this month is National Military Appreciation Month!

Read about the history of NMAM...

As a nation, we observe and participate in various national cultural and social awareness events through mass media attention and educational curriculum. However, we have not allocated appropriate recognition of the most important presence in the world today, an entity that impacts each and every American in a significant way, the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM), as designated by Congress, provides a period encompassing both the history and recognition of our armed services with an in-depth look at the diversity of its individuals and achievements. It allows Americans to educate each generation on the historical impact of our military through the participation of the community with those who serve encouraging patriotism and love for America.

This month gives the nation a time and place on which to focus and draw attention to our many expressions of appreciation and recognition of our armed services via numerous venues and also to recall and learn about our fast American history.

National Military Appreciation Month (May) includes:

Loyalty Day (1st)
VE Day(8th)
Military Spouse Day (11th)
Armed Forces Day (19th)
Memorial Day (28th)

This very important month honors, remembers, recognizes and appreciates all military personnel; those men and women who have served throughout our history and all who now serve in uniform and their families as well as those Americans who have given their lives in defense of our freedoms we all enjoy today.

It recognizes those on active duty in all branches of the services, the National Guard and Reserves plus retirees, veterans, and all of their families - well over 90 million Americans and more than 230 years of our nation’s history. Let us celebrate them just as we celebrate the other important entities that make up this wonderful country of ours!


US Central Command gathered a list of organizations who strongly support the military and published them on their website. To see the list, Click Here!

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention!!!


The CO has spoken, it's official!! The Old Man's boots are off the ground and IN THE AIR!! He and his company is well on their way en route to the states!

Thank you all for all your wonderful words of encouragement and support. We couldn't have gotten through this without you. Be sure to read the last two articles by OnPoint (posted below). They speak to the progress in Iraq over the past 8 months and are great reads. Our Marines have helped the Iraqi Army build schools, get running water, produce electricity, and so much more. Be proud of what we've all been through and accomplished. This has been quite a journey for all of us!

Hang tight just a little bit longer everyone. Only a few more days!!!

Monday, May 07, 2007

ON Point in Anbar: The Tide Turns in Ramadi (Part 2 of 2)

05-07-2007, 11:24 AM • by ON Point

Ramadi’s successes—and challenges—have started to garner attention from mainstream media. Although a pair of suicide bombs hit the city yesterday, killing 20 ON Point follows last week’s article with several profiles of personalities, events, and issues that have been the talk of the town in recent weeks. Here’s a look inside Al Anbar Province and its capital, Ramadi:

Latif’s the Man

The security provided by the Marines in Ramadi is reflected in the work of the mayor, Latif Obaid. Having organized the 3rd Economic & Reconstruction Conference, Mayor Latif, a professional and thorough mayor promoting his city with all the skills and enthusiasm of any mayor back in the States, took a few minutes to talk to ON Point about Ramadi. Quotes include:

- “We plan to provide the same services as you have in America; water, sewage, schools, sanitation, electricity.”

- “We can claim victory over AQI because of what the Marines and Coalition have done.”

- “The people of Ramadi need to work hard to keep the victory.”

- “The Marines – IP’s – IA’s need to continue to work together for the good of the people and the good of Ramadi.”

Conference Garners Big Numbers

Last month’s Economic & Reconstruction Conference had over 200 attendees, predominantly local sheiks and Iraqi contractors, who gathered to discuss street paving, soccer fields, contracts, and bidding. They also prioritized the needs of the city in their meeting.

The founder of the Sons of Anbar, Sheik Sattar al-Rishawi, was also present for the April event, but he sat back and let the Mayor and his District Council run the show.


More from the Sheik

Inaccurately called “Sheik al-Risha” in a recent Christian Science Monitor article, Sattar al-Rishawi has become both the beacon and the lightning rod for Ramadi. In late March, he survived yet another AQI assassination attempt. In his spare time, he helped form the new Sunni political party “Anbar Awakening.” The sheik and ON Point talked privately after the conference about his views on Ramadi, Anbar, and Iraq:

ON Point: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Coalition say that the battle for Baghdad is the most important struggle today. Do you agree?

Sheik Sattar al-Rishawi: No. What is happening here is of equal importance. We are proving that AQI can be defeated by joint Marine and Iraqi efforts.

ON Point: Last month the Prime Minister made a much publicized visit to Ramadi. Are you now getting the support he promised?

Sattar: We need the money he promised for [Iraqi Army] salaries, weapons, trucks, and equipment. The approval process from the MoI/MoD takes forever.

ON Point: Can you tell us more about your new political party, “Anbar Awakening?”

Sattar: We [the Sunnis] want to participate in the national government. We are an important part of this land, and we need to be heard. We are talking to our brothers in Fallujah, Taji, Zorba, and northeast Baghdad.

ON Point: Three years ago, the Marines fought a fierce battle in Fallujah…

Sattar: That was against foreign fighters. General Zilmer [the former commanding general in al-Anbar] was my friend. General Gaskin is my friend. We want the Marines to stay.

Interviewing the General

Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin, who commands the 25,000-person II MEF (Fwd), is responsible for the security of Anbar, the largest province in Iraq with a population of 1.7 million Sunnis. When Gen. Gaskin and II MEF assumed command responsibility in February from Maj. Gen. Richard Zilmer and I MEF, Gaskin emphasized continuity in his actions and policies. Two weeks ago, ON Point had an opportunity to talk with Gaskin about his first months in Anbar. Here’s what the general said:

- “We want to build on the foundations I MEF left us. They built some strong local relationships, which I want to continue.”

- “1/ 6 did it the right way [in Ramadi]. They used bullhorns to give out information, like the imams do at the mosques. They secured the neighborhoods, so that only those who belong there can get in.”

- “Listen to the tribal leaders on a personal level. Talk to the tribes, the I/As [soldiers] and the I/Ps [policemen]. You have to know the neighborhoods.”

- “The Sunnis didn’t participate in the last election, but now they are sorry. They will participate in the next elections. They want the same things that we have: electricity, employment, water, health care, rule of law, and working sewage, and they know that we can help them achieve these goals.”

- “I am responsible for the entire province, with 6 major cities [Fallujah, Ramadi, Habbaniyah, Haditha, Hit, and Al Qaim]. In each city I want to see a viable and effective I/A and I/P presence, a mayor, a chief of police, economic development, and the sheiks and tribal leaders on board. When we have these, we own the town.”

- “We need to be careful that we don’t hold the I/A’s and I/P’s to some unreachable American standard. They need to know how to fight as squads, companies, and battalions in their role of defenders of their country’s borders.”

- “We know we have a political timetable, and are dealing with a new government in Baghdad as well. That government is only 10 months old and still going through massive growing pains. We can win this, but not on an artificial political timetable.”


Anbar: Past and Future

The Army’s Raider Brigade from Fort Stewart, Ga., arrived in Ramadi at the end of February. They replaced the Ready First, and are building on the foundations that 1/ 6 Marines, Sheik Sattar, the Ready First, and Sheik Jasim built. The new arrivals would be wise to demonstrate some humility.

“Ramadi is free of Al-Qaeda” Raider Col. John Charlton crowed last week. “We’ve driven them out.” Maybe, but this is an insurgency, and not a conventional war. Two days after he made this statement, the 17 day respite was broken by 2 VBIEDs attacks on an I/P position. No one was killed, but five were wounded in that attack. And yesterday’s tragic attacks are a reminder of the bad days of a year ago.

The Marines departing are more circumspect. “Things are certainly better than when we arrived,” admitted Lt. Col. Bill Jurney, 1/6 commanding officer. Gen. Gaskin mentioned the need to get out of the cities (once they’re secured), and go after AQI in the countryside. “We’ll go find them where they don’t expect us,” he said. “We’ll go after them where ever they are.”

With Ramadi and Anbar are being held out as examples of American – Iraqi co-operation, it is worth remembering the efforts that both sides have made to get this far. 1/ 6 had 12 KIA, 100 WIA. Shiek Sattar lost 4 brothers and his father. Sheik Jasim lost 5 brothers, and his tribe alone lost more than 200. And the exact count of the Ready First’s losses was unavailable, but not meager. If Ramadi and Anbar are the showcase of the war, it is worth noting the effort and valor that led to the accomplishment.

Despite Col. Charlton’s boast, Ramadi is not yet 100% pacified. The terrorists know that the I/P’s are rooting them out and are targeting them accordingly. The checkpoint system is working, but at a cost. The insurgents are no longer targeting just Americans and the Iraqi Army; there have been 527 attacks in Anbar just on I/P’s, who respond by rolling up terrorist after terrorist.

Yet the local Iraqi population in and around Ramadi, led by Sheik Sattar, Sheik Jasim, and the other leaders of Sons of Anbar, continue to rally with the Marines and Army. Last month some 1,400 Iraqi’s signed up to be policemen. They are signing up faster than America can train them.


Lubin’s Parting Thought

As I finish my latest embed, I’m left with one overarching thought. It is important that the Raider Brigade, the USAID workers, and the State Department’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams who are now arriving with their American expertise in zoning law, tax law, and other do-good ideas are cognizant of the history of blood and sacrifice that preceded them. They would do well to remember 1/ 6’s HM3 Christopher “Doc” Anderson, Capt Travis Patriquin of the Ready First, and all the other American dead who helped make Ramadi and Anbar Province the success it is today.

ON Point senior correspondent Andrew Lubin is enjoying a well-earned vacation at his home on the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border.

To see the story online, Click Here!

Friday, May 04, 2007

ON Point in Anbar Province: The Tide Turns in Ramadi (Part 1 of 2)

05-03-2007, 10:35 AM • by ON Point

Tonight, the lights are back on in Ramadi.

One year ago, in a report that received national attention, the Administration, Pentagon, and Coalition General Staff had unofficially declared Al Anbar Province and Ramadi to be “lost.” Incidents in Ramadi, Fallujah, and Al-Qaim were measured in how many per hour. Stories of fighting in Ramadi’s “Snake Pit,” or the tragic August 2005 report of fifteen Marine reservists of Lima Company, 3/25, killed in Haditha splashed across the news each night. This was the Sunni and Al-Qaeda in Iraq insurgency at its worst.

But Ramadi is a far different town than when I visited in October 2006 and Jan-Feb 2007. And it’s decidedly different than a year ago.

Ramadi Today

In Ramadi today, the local financial institution, Rafidain Bank, is open and operating like any normal bank. A new bus line brings people to work and market on a regularly scheduled basis. Ramadi General Hospital has been re-opened. There is a huge and vibrant market in the same Qatana area I crept through in February, when I reported on listening to IED’s and small-arms fire at zero-dark hundred.

The city’s water system has been restored. The Medical College has reopened. Alpha Co.’s 1/ 6 2,000 student school is still thriving. The Dental College is open. Two of seven Army Corps of Engineers electricity projects have been completed. And the lights are on in the homes at night.

It’s not just Ramadi that’s come alive. The city of Hit just had 13 days without a bullet being fired. And out on the Iraq-Syria border, Al-Qaim has a bank, a school-board, and a mayor.

The Ramadi-oriented group of Sunni Sheiks—the “Sons of Anbar”—have formed a national political party in order to more fully participate in the national government. The new “Iraq Awakening” party is a group of 200 sheiks who will be pushing a slate of candidates in the provincial elections this year, as well as the parliamentary elections in 2009.

The charismatic Sheik Sattar Al Rishawi and his brother Ahmed plan to continue their drive with Coalition Forces to make Anbar Province a safe, stable and economically viable part of Iraq. If they have their way, the abysmal 2% Sunni Anbar participation figure in the 2005 election will be replaced by a far higher participation percentage.

A few weeks ago, Ramadi completed 17 days incident-free. No deaths. No injuries. No bombs. No attacks. Just 17 normal days. There was an Al-Qaeda suicide attack on Day 18, but the result, fortunately, was only innocent wounded and not dead. This is in contrast to the daily and hourly bombings and beheadings in Baghdad.

Despite these many successes, Al Anbar Province as a whole is far from perfect. In the last week three Marines and three soldiers were killed in Anbar. Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq has been weakened, but not defeated.

But the difference between the scattered IED attacks here in Anbar and the brutal daily carnage in Baghdad is striking, as is the response of the Iraqis. While the other cities of Anbar Province are quieting down as hundreds of their sons volunteer for the Iraqi Police each month, the remainder of Iraq continues to deteriorate.

Last week in Baghdad, I talked with MajGen William Caldwell, the official spokesman for Multi-National Forces-Iraq. In our interview, Caldwell praised the Marines for their efforts. “In the last 12 weeks, violence in Baghdad is down 2%,” he said. “In Anbar, it’s down 6%.” He also noted that while American deaths in the same 12 week period in Baghdad rose 17% (and went up a stunning 52% north of Baghdad) American deaths were down 31% in Anbar.

How did it succeed?

There are three major reasons for Ramadi’s success: Sheik Sattar al-Rishawi, the U.S. Army’s “Ready First” Brigade of the 1st Armored Division and the Marines of 1/6.

Although individual sheiks had previously tried to stand up to AQI, they were uniformly butchered, which served to suppress the entire local population. In April 2006, Sheik Sattar, angered by the killings of his father and four brothers, formed “Sons of Anbar,” and began to fight back.

After that, the Sons of Anbar approached Col. Sean MacFarland, the CO of the Ready First, whose brigade was responsible for Ramadi. Col. MacFarland and his staff negotiated a deal where Sheik Sattar agreed to help root out AQI by providing their sons to be Iraqi Police and protect their own villages as well as by providing crucial local intelligence.

As this was taking hold, 1/6 arrived in September 2006 to take over security in the heart of the city. Because of Sheik Sattar’s initiative, and with Col. MacFarland’s support, 1/6 had a solid cadre of Iraqis who were ready to partner with them in security efforts. The battalion that 1/6 had relieved did not have these advantages. Fortuitous timing allowed 1/6’s commander, LtCol William Jurney, and his XO, Maj. Daniel Zappa, the opportunity to orchestrate their successful “Clear-hold-build” campaign.

The Sheik in the City

As Sattar’s sphere of influence outside of the Ramadi city limits began to bring calm and stability, Sheik Jasim Swidawi, the lead sheik from inside Ramadi, saw Sattar’s success and added his influence. Sheik Jasim had also lost family members to AQI, as had many of his tribe. And they had suffered from the daily battles between the Marines and AQI that raged across his city.

At the same time that he reached out to Sattar, Jasim and his tribe were benefitting from the Marines of 1/6 taking back the city block-by-block through establishing outposts like VA, Hawk, Firecracker, 17th Street, and Qatana.

With the Marines of Alpha Company (Capt Kyle Sloan) walking the streets and clearing the blocks around OP VA and 17th Street, and Bravo Company’s (Capt Jason Arthuad) Marines clearing the Government Center, Qatana, and to the east, it enabled the sheiks to go back to their tribes and recruit their young men as Iraqi Police. Soon, the young men of Jasim’s tribe began to fill the IP recruiting centers.

“These Marines did the hard work in clearing the city and providing the security,” LtCol William Jurney said. “When the sheiks stepped up, they knew they wouldn’t be left hanging.”

The IP program is so successful that they have more recruits than recruiting billets. Some 1,400 young men turned up last month. Defending one’s family as an IP is now considered an honorable position.

Short of training, short of uniforms, and short of arms, they continue to volunteer in droves. Just last week, two members of a local neighborhood watch group disrupted an AQI suicide bombing attempt. After all, who knows who belongs on a street and who does not better than a local citizen?

The security provided by LtCol Jurney’s Marines leads to an Iraqi confidence and trust that leads to even more calm and security. “At first, I believed that AQI and his tribe shared the same patriotic, anti-American agenda,” Sheik Jasim told me. But after experiencing AQI’s fundamentalist reign of terror—and having AQI kill all five of his brothers—Sheik Jasim joined forces with Sheik Sattar and the Marines.

“Islam is a religion of forgiveness and shared living,” Jasim said. “Extremism is not good.” The sheik added that he found the Marines and coalition forces to be a positive influence. He even said that, if necessary, “the Marines can stay for a long time.”

ON Point’s Andrew Lubin just returned to the U.S. from his fourth overseas embed in nine months. Part 2, which will feature portions of four exclusive interviews, will be published Monday.

To see this story online, Click Here!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Going the Distance to Honor Marines

Marine Corps News April 25, 2007

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C.-- People swim, cycle and run for a variety of reasons; for fun, fitness or competition. Capt. Andrew Christian, a Marine assigned to U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command, does all three in memory of fellow warriors killed and injured in the Global War on Terrorism and to raise money to help support their families.

While deployed to Iraq in 2006 as a member of a Military Transition Team, the Neenah, Wisc., native was authorized two weeks of leave to return to the United States and run the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in June of that year. He completed the 26.2-mile run while carrying a 3 x 5 foot American flag and crossed the finish line in three hours and 23 minutes.

The flag Christian carried was in the back of a HMMWV in Iraq Feb. 20, 2006 when one of his teammates and fellow Marine, Staff Sgt. Jay Collado, was killed while en route to train soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 8th Iraqi Division.

Collado died from injuries sustained during an insurgent attack with an improvised explosive device and two other members of the team, 1st. Lt. Justin Waldeck and Staff Sgt. Chris Claude, were severely wounded.

Following the attack, Christian and his team discussed ways to honor their fallen and injured comrades and decided to raise scholarship money for Collado’s six-year-old daughter.

“We gained a lot of funds simply by word of mouth,” said Christian, the branch head for 1st Special Missions Training Branch, Marine Special Operations School, MARSOC. But to really get the word out, they had to advertise and find great Americans and corporations willing to donate to their cause.

Friends, family members and other supporters of America’s troops donated thousands of dollars when they learned of Christian’s commitment to carry the U.S. Colors during a marathon – and of his reasons for doing so.

“Carrying the flag is a way for me to honor Staff Sgt. Collado and show all Americans that our true heroes are making the ultimate sacrifice every day in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Christian said.

True to the amphibious tradition of the Marine Corps, the four-time marathon-runner would not be satisfied until he attacked his objective from the sea: He set his sites on the Ironman Arizona triathlon in Tempe, Ariz., and committed to carrying his U.S. flag through the harsh desert heat and 30-mile-per-hour winds for a marathon’s distance once again – but this time after swimming 2.4 miles to shore and completing a 112-mile bicycle ride.

Christian contacted a company that agreed to sponsor his cause to raise money, both for the daughter of his fallen teammate and for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. The sponsor then asked three-time Ironman World Champion, Peter Reid, to be Christian’s coach and prepare him for the competition.

With the memory of Collado’s death and his wounded teammates' lengthy rehabilitation process on his mind to motivate him, Christian began a rigorous four-month training plan that included training time with some of the top professional athletes in the Southern California area.

Triathletes must find ways to stay motivated throughout the months of extreme physical training required to complete an Ironman race. Christian found all the motivation he needed by thinking of his fellow Marines.

Christian often spent six or more hours per day bike riding and running to prepare, but he said there is no easy way to carry a flag. He carried the Colors on several runs early on in his training, but quickly realized the weight of the flag would cause him to suffer no matter what he did and instead focused his efforts on getting into top physical shape.

“An Ironman requires you to train at odd hours to get in your mileage. I spent a great deal of time swimming, riding and running between (3-7 a.m.),” Christian said. “Training like this is time consuming and forces you to develop a strict time-management schedule."

“In four short months, Reid took me from 177 pounds to 160 pounds and put me in the best shape of my life,” Christian said. “Without the support of Reid, I wouldn’t have been able to accomplish what I did.”

When race day finally arrived, Marines from Christian’s unit were on hand to show their support.

“It was truly an honor and a privilege to watch Christian carry the American flag during the race,” said Master Sgt. Charles H. Padilla, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of 1st SMTB, MSOS, MARSOC.

“To be there and watch him on the course, you get a good appreciation of what he accomplished and what type of man he is.”

While carrying the flag during the marathon potion of the triathlon, Christian received support from his fellow runners and spectators alike.

“I received comments like ‘Go USA’ and ‘We support the Marines,” Christian said. “I had several people stop, salute the flag and yell ‘Semper Fi!’ as I ran by.”

Throughout the race, the crowd’s cheers motivated him, and though the weight of the flag bore down on his arms and shoulders, Christian never gave up.

“The thought of not finishing didn’t cross my mind,” said the husband of 17 years and father of one. “I knew carrying the flag would make me suffer, but when you think about a wounded Marine’s situation, your pain subsides very quickly.”

Christian neared exhaustion as he entered the last 50 meters of the race and was joined by his 13-year old son who came to his father’s side to run the final stretch beside him.

“This is something my son will remember for the rest of his life. It was really special having him there at the finish line,” said Christian. “Training for this made me sacrifice a lot of time with my family, but they understood it was for a great cause.”

Christian crossed the finish line after 10 hours, 54 minutes of non-stop physical exertion with the American flag held high in remembrance of America’s fallen and in support of their families and surviving wounded warriors.

He finished the race 185th out of 2,066 entries.

“The memory of my fallen teammates gave me the motivation to finish strong,” Christian said.

“Christian is a natural leader and an exceptional role model, not just as a Marine, but in his personal and family life,” said Lt. Col. Anthony R. Herlihy, officer in charge, 1st SMTB, MSOS, MARSOC. “He upholds the highest standards for himself and inspires others to excel.”

Together, Christian and his team of fellow Marines have raised more than $30,000 dollars for Collado’s daughter and $50,000 for the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund.

To see this story on Military.com, Click Here!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

National Military Appreciation Month

May is National Military Appreciation Month!

To learn more about National Military Appreciation Month, see events going on in your city, or ways you can support our troops, Click Here!

Military Life Isn't Easy

About the Author

Tanya Biank is an award-winning journalist, Fulbright scholar, and the author of "Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives" (St. Martin's Press). She is an Army brat and Army wife. As a military journalist, Tanya has deployed around the world with military servicemembers and has appeared on national TV and radio shows discussing military issues. Visit Tanya's website www.tanyabiank.com for more details.

I've never heard of the military making a weak marriage stronger. But the fabric of military life — the hardships and heartache woven in with the joys and warm memories — can make a strong marriage flourish. Couples separated by war tend not to take life or each other for granted.

A just-released RAND Corp. study requested by the Pentagon, reveals military marriage divorce rates have not "skyrocketed" despite stress from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, married servicemembers who had been deployed were less likely to divorce than those who never deployed and "longer deployments were associated with greater reductions in risk," according to the study.

The study's findings no doubt surprised a lot of people. No one ever said the military was an easy life. Yet retired military couples almost always look back at their years in the military as some of their best. Simply put, couples can either grow apart or grow together during their military journey.

With the Pentagon's recent announcement of extending tours in Iraq to 15 months, the impact on military families, many on third, even fourth deployments since 9-11, remains to be seen.

I asked Army wives about their marriages and what they've learned along the way. Their advice is something we can all gain from. Life is about learning from one's mistakes and those of others. Army wives offer these pitfalls to avoid in marriage:

"Never stop caring what is going on with your spouse," said Rachel, who is stationed in Hawaii with her Army husband of eight years. "I want to know — to the extent that he can tell me — what my husband does every day, what is happening with him professionally, what he sees or hopes for his career path. Likewise, he wants to know what is happening with me, what my goals are, what my thoughts are. I see so many military wives who really have no idea what their spouse does. If you had a friend who didn't care about anything that was going on with you, would you stay friends with them? I wouldn't. Why should my husband and I want to stay together if we don't know or care what is happening with each other or what each of us is thinking?"

"One of the worst feelings that either one can experience is loneliness, whether by the spouse left at home or by the service member while deployed," said Liza, an Army wife of 17 years stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. "This often leads to liaisons that can destroy marriages. The best rule to live by is find solace from persons of the same sex, not the opposite."

"‘If my spouse were standing right here, he would approve of my actions,'" is a statement that has helped Phoebe, an Army wife of three years. Both she and her husband serve in the military in the Washington D.C. area. "Rumors are horrible. A good trusting relationship will not fold, but communicate and understand each other, and don't let outside influences sway your judgment or contentment."

"We have seen many couples spend too much money and live way beyond their means," said Nicole, an Army wife at Fort Belvoir. She has been married 16 years. "My husband's income is so predictable that we know there is not going to be some huge bonus at the end of the year to fall back on. We know that we have two kids to send to college. And we know that it is not important to shop in department stores or have a big screen television."

For the newly married and the soon-to-be-married, Army wives offer the following advice that has helped in their own marriages:

"Remember the military is a lifestyle," said Noel, a Fort Bragg Army wife. She has been married 21 years. "It isn't just your husband's job."

"Know that there will be times in your marriage when Uncle Sam will seem like he is number one," Liza said. "Hang in there. Your spouse will eventually realize that the number one love of his is, and will always be, you."

"Remember you are on the same team," said Lyn, who has been married to her Special Forces husband for 21 years. "It is not natural for a couple who wants to get married and be together to spend so much time apart. There will be times of loneliness, jealousness, and longing. Learning how to address the feelings and discuss them and remember again, you are on the same team and you believe in each other."

"You really need to learn to be flexible and understanding if something ‘pops' up at the office or the field," said Anne an Army wife of 15 years who lives at Carlisle Barracks, Pa. "Believe me, they want to come home to eat dinner just a badly as you want them there for it."

"Take advantage of all the wonderful parts of military life," Rachel said. "Tavel. Experience different cultures and ways of life, even within our own country. Open your heart and your home. You will be amazed by the gifts of love and friendship that you receive. Kindness builds kindness and military life is what you make of it. For me it is the experience of a lifetime."

"Don't argue," Nicole said. "In a minute it can all be taken away. Live on post or base. Get involved. Be honest. Be a volunteer. Always wear a smile. Be a sister to your neighbors. Don't do or so anything you will regret — again, in a minute it can be gone."

© 2007 Tanya Biank.

To see this story on Military.com, Click Here!

What have you done for yourself lately?

April 28, 2007 Love My Tanker

Do you ever just get so tired that you can't go, you can't think straight and you wonder where the week or month went? I know that our service-members often have jobs that make them feel this way, especially when deployed or training.

We as mil-spouses have a lot on our plates too. Does it sometimes just make you simply exhausted to think about it all?

Our family is on the post-deployment track right now. In saying that - I should be fully rested, brain fully functioning and singing a happy song, no? Well, I should at least be singing in my own head, I have a horrible voice. I just feel like I have been in fast-forward for so long now that I have no idea how to slow down, sit down and just be.

I just honestly think that the last few years, especially since deployments became so widespread, have finally taken a toll on me. You know, as a mil-spouse, you seem to just go and go and go. You do and do and do. Our lifestyle requires us to go and do and drive on.

The years have finally caught up with me though and I am feeling burnt out and that other word, tired exhausted. That leads me to question myself. What have I done for me lately?

The honest answer is, nothing much. At least not lately. I did go to a cafe once a few months ago and sat peacefully while drinking yummy coffee. I also got a much needed face peel two years ago. That counts, right? Gardening is generally my bliss, but this year my yard is lackluster in comparison to previous years. Anyone that knows me personally and could see my yard right now, would be sure to say, "hey, what the heck is wrong with you girl?"

Do you find yourself just speeding down the highway of military life (and life in general) and playing the cards that are dealt to you without taking a moment to consider yourself and what you really need? I think a lot of us do that.

It can be similar in the civilian world too, but because I am a military spouse and once was a career-minded civilian, I can truthfully say that the military world causes us to put ourselves on the back burner more than your average civilian.

Now that I am so tired, I sit here some days and try to figure out where the last few years have gone. What did I do during all of that time? I know that the time was (mostly) productive, even when my soldier was away, but I also know that I haven't done a lot for myself over the years. It is time for me to change that.

When you volunteer, work, go to school, parent, run a household, keep your marriage together even when worlds apart, run kids here and there, deal with medical issues, help your parents, help your friends, help your neighbors or even help strangers, you are a true superwoman. Pat yourself on the back, then go make a list of some things that you would like to do for yourself and forge a plan to make it happen.

In order to regain a sense of myself and take some needed downtime, I am going to try and:

Back off of volunteering so much, just for awhile. I love it, but I am tired.

Get a haircut more than twice a year and stop coloring my own hair.

Make an appointment to get an overdue massage.

Spend more time with my kids doing things we truly enjoy instead of things we have to do.

Hire a babysitter so that I can have date nights with my husband.

Just say no to meetings or other events that I don't really have to attend.

Take more frequent breaks from the news and the computer.

Go camping, hiking and fishing with my family.

Attempt to read all of the books that I have ordered so far this year - which are currently collecting dust.

Leave the dishes unwashed, the laundry in the floor and go sit under a shade tree. At least once a week.

Go back to having days that I do not get out of my PJs, order in and have a glass of wine while watching a chick flick.

Sleep more.

If you took the time to think about how tired you really were, would it send you into a week long sleep immediately? Most of you probably already have, but try not to let yourself get as run down as I feel right now. Think about yourself for just a moment and try to find something that will rejuvenate your energy supply.

To see this story on Spousebuzz, Click Here!

Monday, April 30, 2007

Uneasy Alliance Is Taming One Insurgent Bastion

Published: April 29, 2007

ON THE JOB TOGETHER Iraqi policemen and American troops patrol near Ramadi in Anbar. Ramadi’s police force has sharply increased in the past year.

RAMADI, Iraq — Anbar Province, long the lawless heartland of the tenacious Sunni Arab resistance, is undergoing a surprising transformation. Violence is ebbing in many areas, shops and schools are reopening, police forces are growing and the insurgency appears to be in retreat.

“Many people are challenging the insurgents,” said the governor of Anbar, Maamoon S. Rahid, though he quickly added, “We know we haven’t eliminated the threat 100 percent.”

Many Sunni tribal leaders, once openly hostile to the American presence, have formed a united front with American and Iraqi government forces against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. With the tribal leaders’ encouragement, thousands of local residents have joined the police force. About 10,000 police officers are now in Anbar, up from several thousand a year ago. During the same period, the police force here in Ramadi, the provincial capital, has grown from fewer than 200 to about 4,500, American military officials say.

At the same time, American and Iraqi forces have been conducting sweeps of insurgent strongholds, particularly in and around Ramadi, leaving behind a network of police stations and military garrisons, a strategy that is also being used in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital, as part of its new security plan. Yet for all the indications of a heartening turnaround in Anbar, the situation, as it appeared during more than a week spent with American troops in Ramadi and Falluja in early April, is at best uneasy and fragile. Municipal services remain a wreck; local governments, while reviving, are still barely functioning; and years of fighting have damaged much of Ramadi.

The insurgency in Anbar — a mix of Islamic militants, former Baathists and recalcitrant tribesmen — still thrives among the province’s overwhelmingly Sunni population, killing American and Iraqi security forces and civilians alike. [This was underscored by three suicide car-bomb attacks in Ramadi on April 23 and 24, in which at least 15 people were killed and 47 were wounded, American officials said.]

Furthermore, some American officials readily acknowledge that they have entered an uncertain marriage of convenience with the tribes, some of whom were themselves involved in the insurgency, to one extent or another. American officials are also negotiating with elements of the 1920 Revolution Brigades, a leading insurgent group in Anbar, to join their fight against Al Qaeda. These sudden changes have raised questions about the ultimate loyalties of the United States’ new allies.

“One day they’re laying I.E.D.’s, the next they’re police collecting a pay check,” said Lt. Thomas R. Mackesy, an adviser to an Iraqi Army unit in Juwayba, east of Ramadi, referring to improvised explosive devices. And it remains unclear whether any of the gains in Anbar will transfer to other troubled areas of Iraq — like Baghdad, Diyala Province, Mosul and Kirkuk, where violence rages and the ethnic and sectarian landscape is far more complicated.

Still, the progress has inspired an optimism in the American command that, among some officials, borders on giddiness. It comes after years of fruitless efforts to drive a wedge between moderate resistance fighters and those, like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, who seem beyond compromise.

“There are some people who would say we’ve won the war out here,” said Col. John. A. Koenig, a planning officer for the Marines who oversees governing and economic development issues in Anbar. “I’m cautiously optimistic as we’re going forward.”

A New Calm

For most of the past few years, the Government Center in downtown Ramadi, the seat of the provincial government, was under near-continual siege by insurgents, who reduced it to little more than a bullet-ridden bunker of broken concrete, sandbags and trapped marines. Entering meant sprinting from an armored vehicle to the front door of the building to evade snipers’ bullets.

Now, however, the compound and nearby buildings are being renovated to create offices for the provincial administration, council and governor. Hotels are being built next door for the waves of visitors the government expects once it is back in business. On the roof of the main building, Capt. Jason Arthaud, commander of Company B, First Battalion, Sixth Marines, said the building had taken no sniper fire since November.

“Just hours of peace and quiet,” he deadpanned. “And boredom.”

Violence has fallen swiftly throughout Ramadi and its sprawling rural environs, residents and American and Iraqi officials said. Last summer, the American military recorded as many as 25 violent acts a day in the Ramadi region, ranging from shootings and kidnappings to roadside bombs and suicide attacks. In the past several weeks, the average has dropped to four acts of violence a day, American military officials said.

On a recent morning, American and Iraqi troops, accompanied by several police officers, went on a foot patrol through a market in the Malaab neighborhood of Ramadi. Only a couple of months ago, American and Iraqi forces would enter the area only in armored vehicles. People stopped and stared. The sight of police and military forces in the area, particularly on foot, was still novel. The new calm is eerie and unsettling, particularly for anyone who knew the city even several months ago.

“The complete change from night to day gives me pause,” said Capt. Brice Cooper, 26, executive officer of Company B, First Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, First Infantry Division, which has been stationed in the city and its outskirts since last summer. “A month and a half ago we were getting shot up. Now we’re doing civil affairs work.”

A Moderate Front

The turnabout began last September, when a federation of tribes in the Ramadi area came together as the Anbar Salvation Council to oppose the fundamentalist militants of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Among the council’s founders were members of the Abu Ali Jassem tribe, based in a rural area of northern Ramadi. The tribe’s leader, Sheik Tahir Sabbar Badawie, said in a recent interview that members of his tribe had fought in the insurgency that kept the Americans pinned down on their bases in Anbar for most of the last four years.

“If your country was occupied by Iraq, would you fight?” he asked, smiling knowingly. “Enough said.”

But while the anti-American sheiks in Anbar and Al Qaeda both opposed the Americans, their goals were different. The sheiks were part of a relatively moderate front that sought to drive the Americans out of Iraq; some were also fighting to restore Sunni Arab power. But Al Qaeda wanted to go even further and impose a fundamentalist Islamic state in Anbar, a plan that many of the sheiks did not share.

Al Qaeda’s fighters began to use killing, intimidation and financial coercion to divide the tribes and win support for their agenda. They killed about 210 people in the Abu Ali Jassem tribe alone and kidnapped others, demanding ransoms as high as $65,000 per person, Sheik Badawie said.

For all the sheiks’ hostility toward the Americans, they realized that they had a bigger enemy, or at least one that needed to be fought first, as a matter of survival. The council sought financial and military support from the Iraqi and American governments. In return the sheiks volunteered hundreds of tribesmen for duty as police officers and agreed to allow the construction of joint American-Iraqi police and military outposts throughout their tribal territories.

A similar dynamic is playing out elsewhere in Anbar, a desert region the size of New York State that stretches west of Baghdad to the Syrian and Jordanian borders. Tribal cooperation with the American and Iraqi commands has led to expanded police forces in the cities of Husayba, Hit, Rutba, Baghdadi and Falluja, officials say.

With the help of the Anbar sheiks, the military equation immediately became simpler for the Americans in Ramadi. The number of enemies they faced suddenly diminished, American and Iraqi officials said. They were able to move more freely through large areas. With the addition of the tribal recruits, the Americans had enough troops to build and operate garrisons in areas they cleared, many of which had never seen any government security presence before. And the Americans were now fighting alongside people with a deep knowledge of the local population and terrain, and with a sense of duty, vengeance and righteousness.

“We know this area, we know the best way to talk to the people and get information from them,” said Capt. Hussein Abd Nusaif, a police commander in a neighborhood in western Ramadi, who carries a Kalashnikov with an Al Capone-style “snail drum” magazine. “We are not afraid of Al Qaeda. We will fight them anywhere and anytime.”

Beginning last summer and continuing through March, the American-led joint forces pressed into the city, block by block, and swept the farmlands on the city’s outskirts. In many places the troops met fierce resistance. Scores of American and Iraqi security troops were killed or wounded. The Ramadi region is essentially a police state now, with some 6,000 American troops, 4,000 Iraqi soldiers, 4,500 Iraqi police officers and an auxiliary police force of 2,000, all local tribesmen, known as the Provincial Security Force.

The security forces are garrisoned in more than 65 police stations, military bases and joint American-Iraqi combat outposts, up from no more than 10 a year ago. The population of the city is officially about 400,000, though the current number appears to be much lower.

To help control the flow of traffic and forestall attacks, the American military has installed an elaborate system of barricades and checkpoints. In some of the enclaves created by this system, which American commanders frequently call “gated communities,” no vehicles except bicycles and pushcarts are allowed for fear of car bombs. American commanders see the progress in Anbar as a bellwether for the rest of country.

“One of the things I worry about in Baghdad is we won’t have the time to do the same kind of thing,” Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of day-to-day war operations in Iraq, said in an interview here.

Yet the fact that Anbar is almost entirely Sunni and not riven by the same sectarian feuds as other violent places, like Baghdad and Diyala Province, has helped to establish order. Elsewhere, security forces are largely Shiite and are perceived by many Sunnis as part of the problem. In Anbar, however, the new police force reflects the homogeneous face of the province and, most critically, appears to enjoy the support of the vast majority of the people.

A Growing Police Force

Military commanders say they cannot completely account for the whereabouts of the insurgency. They say they believe that many guerrillas have been killed, while others have gone underground, laid down their arms or migrated to other parts of Anbar, particularly the corridor between Ramadi and Falluja, the town of Karma north of Falluja and the sprawling rural zones around Falluja, including Zaidon and Amariyat al-Falluja on the banks of the Euphrates River.

American forces come under attack in these areas every day. Still other guerrillas, the commanders acknowledge, have joined the police force, sneaking through a vetting procedure that is set up to catch only known suspects. Many insurgents “are fighting for a different side now,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Gurganus, commander of ground forces in Anbar.

“I think that’s where the majority have gone.” But American commanders say they are not particularly worried about infiltrators among the new recruits. Many of the former insurgents now in the police, they say, were probably low-level operatives who were mainly in it for the money and did relatively menial tasks, like planting roadside bombs.

The speed of the buildup has led to other problems. Hiring has outpaced the building of police academies, meaning that many new officers have been deployed with little or no training. Without enough uniforms, many new officers patrol in civilian clothes, some with their heads wrapped in scarves or covered in balaclavas to conceal their identities. They look no different than the insurgents shown in mujahedeen videos.

Commanders seem to regard these issues as a necessary cost of quickly building a police force in a political environment that is, in the words of Colonel Koenig, “sort of like looking through smoke.” The police force, they say, has been the most critical component of the new security plan in Anbar Province and the key to sustaining the military successes.

Yet, oversight of the police forces by American forces and the central Iraqi government is weak, leaving open the possibility that some local leaders are using newly armed tribal members as their personal death squads to settle old scores. Several American officers who work with the Iraqi police said a lot of police work was conducted out of their view, particularly at night.

“It’s like the Mafia,” one American soldier at an outpost in Juwayba said.

General Odierno said, “We have to watch them very closely to make sure we’re not forming militias.”

But there is a new sense of commitment by the police, American and Iraqi officials say, in part because they are patrolling their own neighborhoods. Many were motivated to join after they or their communities were attacked by Al Qaeda, and their successes have made them an even greater target of insurgent car bombs and suicide attacks.

Abd Muhammad Khalaf, 28, a policeman in the Jazeera district on Ramadi’s northern edge, is typical. He joined the police after Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia killed two of his brothers, he said.

“I will die when God wills it,” he said. “But before I die, I will support my friends and kill some terrorists.”

The Tasks Ahead

Some tribal leaders now working with the Americans say they harbor deep resentment toward the Shiite-led administration of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, accusing it of pursuing a sectarian agenda. Yet they also say they are invested in the democratic process now.

After boycotting the national elections in 2005, many are now planning to participate in the next round of provincial elections, which have yet to be scheduled, as a way to build on the political and military gains they have made in recent months.

“Since I was a little boy, I have seen nothing but warfare — against the Kurds, Iranians, Kuwait, the Americans,” Sheik Badawie, the tribal leader, said. “We are tired of war. We are going to fight through the ballot box.”

Already, tribal leaders are participating in local councils that have been formed recently throughout the Ramadi area under the guidance of the American military. Iraqi and American officials say the sheiks’ embrace of representative government reflects the new realities of power in Anbar.

“Out here it’s been, ‘Who can defend his people?’ ” said Brig. Gen. John R. Allen, deputy commanding general of coalition forces in Anbar. “After the war it’s, ‘Who was able to reconstruct?’ ”

Indeed, American and Iraqi officials say that to hold on to the security gains and the public’s support, they must provide services to residents in areas they have tamed. But successful development, they argue, will depend on closing the divide between the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad, which has long ignored the province, and the local leadership in Anbar, which has long tried to remain independent from the capital. If that fails, they say, the Iraqi and American governments may have helped to organize and arm a potent enemy.

To see the article online, Click Here!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

A super sweet picture of the Old Man

Thursday Thirteen #15

So there's this book written by Sarah Smiley called Going Overboard: The Misadventures of a military wife. It's really, really funny. She writes about all the crazy mishaps that happened to her after her husband left for a last minute 9 month deployment and I'm dedicated this week's TT to it. Because with what I've got, I can re-write it. Luckily the biggest thing we did this past year, buying the house, went as smooth as it did!

13 Mis-Adventures of Anna Mary

1. Our car was recalled. What are the chances, I swear. I'm taking it to the dealer again this weekend actually.

2. Took Sophie on an emergency Vet visit because the poor thing took two steps, got sick, took two more steps, got sick. She got kitty Parvo. She's always had a clean bill of health- it was so sad, but she's all better now.

3. I got a black eye from smacking my head on the wall rushing to pick up the Old Man's phone call. After all the sports I've played growing up, I've never got a black eye in my life! (Oh never mind. I forgot. I did at an N'Sync concert once when I was 14...don't ask. :) )

4. I got a flat tire at work. And another at home. And another in the city. And found a plug in the other. Yes, I have replaced all four tires in nine months. Luckily they were due for replacement anyway.

5. I had an all out brawl with RCN cable company that lasted months! They wouldn't disconnect our cable since it was in the Old Man's name (despite my POA) and even went as far as telling me to tell my husband to call them from Iraq to cancel service himself! It's fixed now, but boy, the nerve of those people!

6. I very proudly went to Home Depot and came back with quite an expensive selection of flowers to plant. I even gave the two Green Thumbs a call to boast about my selection. (My Aunt Carolyn and Mom can grow and craft unlike anything I've ever seen) They pooped already. Apparently my interpretation of sun exposure was a bit different than that little plant information sign stuck in the soil.

7. Went to a new hair stylist to get highlights for Christmas and she turned my hair green! I had to go to work like that and live with it for two days until she fixed it. I haven't told anyone about that one cause I was so embarrassed, but now I can laugh about it...sometimes.

8. I planned to go home for Christmas so I did the usual drive up to the usual airport that I usually take when I go to FL, BWI. Except this time, I got halfway up there during rush hour traffic, forgot I was flying back into a different airport, and had to drive all the way back home to park the car and take the metro. Yikes.

9. I picked out the house on the block with the loudest neighbors EVER! And it wasn't the music, the parties, or the conversations. It was doing you know what...I had to listen to it for a whole month straight before I had the chance to introduce myself and subtly tell them I recently moved in and I can hear right through the walls!

10. U.S. Air took my Jarhead Red! We all didn't forget that now, did we?

11. I got Strep Throat three times!!! The last time I got that was when I was 8 years old- and LOVED it cause all I ate was sherbet all day! Now it was just a big time off from work waster and miserable few weeks having to take care of myself.

12. I borrowed Pops drill so I can hang shelves and was all excited as I was about to embark on a usual, very manly thing to do around the house. I tapped for the beam in the wall and was proud that I found it so started drilling and put the shelves right up! Looking proudly at my accomplishment, the first time successfully using a drill, I realized I drilled and drilled...right through the wall and out the other side! (this is the first time the Old Man is hearing about this so don't panic. I spackled and repainted. Ship shape!)

13. The icing on the cake? I got summoned for jury duty on the day the Old Man is scheduled to return from Iraq! Ahhhh, at this point, all I can do is laugh!

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Friday, April 20, 2007

An update on the Old Man (and his Old Lady)

So let's talk about how AMAZING it is that they're finally almost home! Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!! (I googled "Almost Home" to get a fun picture and look at what I found. How cute!) I am literally so physically exhausted from all this emotional nonsense I can't wait just to get a hug from my husband again! I can't even imagine how excited he must be about the thought of coming home after working tirelessly for 9 months straight. You read the post below from the CO, right???!!! (insert big sigh of relief since there's now a light at the end of the tunnel)

The Old Man and I have been talking a few times a day now that he's back to Hurricane Point. They are transitioning duties to the Marines in 3/7 and will be leaving HP soon to start their travels back to the states. The Old Man has been working a pretty regular schedule "on post" and during his free time he is contacting colleges and trying to work things out for next Fall or Spring. Of course, he has found time to buy that flat screen and surround sound system he's always wanted. And he bought me a steam cleaner!! (I'm teasing you Old Man!) That sounds terrible doesn't it? In his defense, I actually asked for it. We bought silk drapes and I never thought I'd hear the words, "I'd love a steam cleaner!" come out of my mouth, but yes, they did. And the Old Man remembered and I'm ecstatic!!! I can finally steam our drapes!!! Boy, if that doesn't make me sound like an old, married bag, I don't know what does! :)

So anyway, moral of today's post. We'll be praying for all of you Marines in 3/7. Thanks for being there so our boys can finally come home!!!!

Oh and Gloria, my favorite, most compassionate and understanding lady-friend ever, if you are reading this...I hope you don't mind that I now love your competition. You see, the UPS delivery man and I are now good friends. But that's only because my husband keeps sending things home for me to set up so that when he comes home- soon, he doesn't have to. I'm sure you understand! :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A letter to the families from the Commanding Officer

Dear Families and Friends of 1/6,

I want to thank each of you for your continued support and commitment to our mission here. Despite the extension your loved ones remain strong and professional. They are 1/6 HARD.

Your Marines and Sailors have accomplished so much during our time here in Iraq. We have exceeded expectations. We consistently hear from those who come here whether it be reporters or official representatives… all comment on what a difference they see from the time they spent with us back in August/September to now. They are simply amazed and question why the progress we are making isn’t making headline news. They are overwhelmed at what we have done and continue to do in helping secure and stabilize this part of Ramadi. I am sure everyone is starting to focus in on the details of when we are coming home. I will provide you with the projected timelines below:

Our projected window for return looks to be around 17-22 May. We will arrive on different flights/planes on different days. Remember we are moving over 1000 Marines and Sailors half way across the world.
We will enjoy some time off in the local area during Memorial Day Weekend from Friday May 25th until Tuesday, May 29th ; however, Marines and Sailors will not be allowed to leave the Jacksonville area until 1 June. The post deployment leave period where everyone will request leave will begin at 1200 on 1 June and end at 5pm on 26 June - This leave period still requires that each individual receive specific approval for his request.

The Advanced Party which will be a very small group, is anticipated to arrive sometime during the first week of May. Our 1/6 Military Transition Team (MTT) remains on schedule and should return around the April 23-24 time frame.

Additionally, May 25th is the scheduled date for the battalion Memorial service where we will honor our fallen brothers.

As we get closer to these dates, please know that you will be informed. We will update the 1-800 number as often as we can and as always, you are welcome to call our FRSNCO, SSgt Martins at (910) 451-2407 or (910) 546-9133. Once your Marine or Sailor is informed of the specific plan/flight that he will be assigned, he will be able to contact you with that information or you can contact our FRSNCO who will also have that information. For security reasons, I know you understand why we will not post those types of details on the website.

Please be patient. Your Marines and Sailors will not have those specifics until approximately one week prior to our return. Anything you hear otherwise is a “rumor” and should be treated as such… I know it is frustrating -- but let’s remember that our priority remains to keep these guys focused on the mission at hand and I need your help now more than ever to accomplish this.

Again, I thank you for your continued support of 1/6. God bless you all for the strength and sacrifice you have shown in supporting these brave men.

In your service,W. M. Jurney
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps
Commanding Officer, 1st Battalion 6th Marines

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Marine

It's the Marine, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of the press.

It's the Marine, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech.

It's the Marine, not the politicians that ensures our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It's the Marine who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag.

The final inspection

The Marine stood and faced God, which must always come to pass. He hoped his shoes were shining, just as brightly as his brass.

"Step forward now, Marine, how shall I deal with you? Have you always turned the other cheek? To My Church have you been true?"

The soldier squared his shoulders and said, "No, Lord, I guess I ain't. Because those of us who carry guns, can't always be a saint.

I've had to work most Sundays, and at times my talk was tough. And sometimes I've been violent, because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny, that wasn't mine to keep... Though I worked a lot of overtime, when the bills got just too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help, though at times I shook with fear. And sometimes, God, forgive me, I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place, among the people here. They never wanted me around, except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here, Lord, it needn't be so grand. I never expected or had too much, but if you don't, I'll understand."

There was a silence all around the throne, where the saints had often trod. As the Marine waited quietly, for the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you Marine, you've borne your burdens well. Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets, you've done your time in Hell."

A letter to the 1/6 family and friends from the Chaplain

Dear spouses, parents, grandparents, former members, and friends of 1/6,

Well another month closer to our return. As I travel about the city, I see these guys doing great stuff to help the good people of Iraq lay a foundation for the future of their children. How exciting and rewarding. Yes we have had some tough times our here, but no kidding the good we have done will have us leaving here proud.

This past Sunday was Easter Sunday. I encouraged those present at services to not only believe in God, believe in Jesus, but to see that the whole Easter event had everything to do with each one of us. Like an old oak tree in the middle of a field of wild flowers that embraces the initials of so many who had fallen in love, so does the cross embrace all of us. We have all had our names inscribed in the tree of life by a God who calls us his children.

As the sun came up and shined light on you all back home, so did it also shine light on us and the good people of Iraq. As we celebrate the rising of God’s Son, who also shines light on the whole world, let us be filled with joy in this new life.

With hearts filled with the love of our savior, a fresh spring, and a home coming we are set up for success and a wonderful summer. Be patient and strong, encourage us to remain diligent and steadfast in our mission right up to our last day.

One of my favorite pieces of advice is from my father who said to me when I was at a past job, “work the next three months as though you are there for six” Be surprised by the last day” These words have helped me in the past and I will certainly use them now.

We miss you all very much, Sara start making the ricotta cheese, I’m getting hungry.

Chaplain Jamie Stall-Ryan.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Happy Easter from Captain Poopy!

Isn't he the cutest ever???

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you had a wonderful day! The Old Man and I got to talk quite a bit yesterday, which was nice because I didn't get to go home this year. He did the usual. Worked, went to the gym, and ran his normal 500 miles in 5 minutes before he went to bed. I stayed around the house fixing up a few things then ordered Chinese. Old faithful on the Christian holidays when everything else is closed. After realizing how stinky it was being alone for the holiday this Sunday we decided, Christmas dinner is at our house this year!!!!!!!!!! We're giving you 9 months to plan so there better not be any excuses! :) Oh, wait a minute, I'm gonna have another cute, little nephew or niece around Nov 26th so that might not work out! I'll have to remind the Old Man about that. OK, so, Christmas dinner is in Florida this year!!! :) We're giving you 9 months to plan so there better not be any excuses! :)