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!