Fresh update from Iraq (26th Aug, 2006)
 

******* NEW *********

Thomas J. Deierlein

A/414 CA BN FOB Loyalty

APO, AE 09390

*********************

All,

The hottest part of the summer is officially winding down. I made it with only a single case of sunburn and not one serious heat injury to any of our troops (We did have to administer a few IV's for people after we returned from a mission or two due to soldiers getting dizzy or cramped, but nothing too bad). The needle stayed mostly in the high teens and hit 120+ on only a few days. But alas, since I am leaving in the spring, I have faced the hottest that Baghdad could dish out and I now scoff, mock, and laugh in

defiance of mother nature's best this summer.

Well time continues to fly. It has now been 4 months, or 1/3 of the total I need to be here. I am taking my mid-tour leave in 30 days. I will be in the states from 1-15 October. A few days in Atlanta with my wife, two days in DC (running a ten mile race on Sunday the 8th), four days in NYC area and then back to ATL with Hiwot until I head back to Kuwait. We might even sneak down to Daytona Beach to check on our house (still up for sale) and play a round of golf.

****************** Address Change ******************

First and foremost - keep the packages coming!! We are making more contacts each week of people that we can partner with and trust to help us find and get aid to the neediest of Baghdad.

OLD:

Thomas J. Deierlein

HHC 506th RCT, 101st ABN DV

A/414 CA BN FOB Loyalty

APO, AE 09390

******* NEW *********

Thomas J. Deierlein

A/414 CA BN FOB Loyalty

APO, AE 09390

Basically drop the second line. Turns out all my packages have lost a day as they go to HHC and then back down to my company. Plus 101st is heading home soon.

Reminder of items we need:

Basic school supplies (notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, coloring books) Old clothes, shoes, blankets, etc. (no winter clothes please) Children's vitamins (generic in bulk is better than expensive Flintstones) Toys (little boys and girls) New Items:

Old laptops (any shape, but delete ALL your files) Money. While I still strongly prefer goods, I did have a teacher go out and buy 3 computers, whiteboards, and supplies for her three schools. This cost me over $1,500.

As I make contacts and work with more local charities money will help me help them and spur the local economy at the same time.

IMPORTANT: Send all items either "book rate" or, as I just learned today according to one kind donor, send it "Bulk Weight Priority Mail" which is only $8 for up to 70 lbs. At least that is what her note said.

If you have sent me goods and haven't gotten a thank you note or seen the photos of our work please email me. I don't think I missed anyone.

August - Slow month?:

Well, this was an uninteresting month. I only left the wire a handful of times over the past 30 days. That included one 12 day stretch where I didn't leave the FOB at all for various reasons. That made it much different than my typical 4-5 times per week since I first arrived. The Sadr City Mayor even called me a few times to confirm I was coming to the weekly meeting. I am not sure if he missed me (the boycott is over) or he wanted to set me up in an ambush with his Jayish Al Mahdi buddies. Sick as it sounds, you actually miss getting out there each day. Now I know how the Fobbits feel.

Did I say uninteresting? Let me correct myself, I didn't need to leave the wire for excitement - I had to go running for my life to avoid a mortar attack not more than 150 meters from me as I headed for chow in my PT gear (t-shirt and shorts). Then unbeknownst to me, and the four guys racing to safety along with me, a round landed 25 feet away from us, just outside the entrance to our building right next to the fuel tank and generator - it didn't detonate!! (The entrance is open and is basically the type thing you see at any local gas station or auto body shop with a vehicle bay entrance).

One guy that day was not as lucky - a round landed right next to him in the motor pool - he got hit in the chest and it tore through his lung and liver and went out his back. My company commander and one of our soldiers were the first on the scene, coincidentally they are both medics and they literally saved his life by containing the injury to his lung. It was what we in the military call a sucking chest wound, because once the lung cavity is pierced it deflates the lung and air pushes out the wound instead of filling the lung. He is in Germany now recovering. Needless to say it was a bit of a wake up call, and it removed the sense of security we once had about being inside the wire. The mortars attacks continue almost daily now so we have to go everywhere in full battle gear which weighs more than 60 lbs. Last week one landed close enough to kick some rock and debris into our bay door - no shrapnel though.

When I finally did make it out back to the Government Center this week, there was a giant poster of Sadr hanging from the 4 story building in the corner. When I say giant I am guessing 100 foot by 50 foot - HUGE! It covered the whole building. Just like the old ones of Saddam - not a good sign.

Israel and Hezbollah:

Most of the Arab world and some in the West view this as a proxy war between the Iranian and Syrian backed Hezbollah and US backed Israeli's. In some ways, I agree in other ways I do not. The Israeli's are a proud people and have been surrounded by enemies on three sides for thousands of years. They are a fierce people that I wouldn't want to mess with. They are great soldiers. I simply found it interesting that they agreed to the truce without the return of the 2 soldiers that started the whole thing. I know and you know that is not what it was really all about, but I found it odd.

All I can say is that thank god the French are sending 300 troops to help with the peace. Problem solved. Merci beaucoup.

I also find it interesting that we attacked Iraq, but are now afraid to confront Iran and Pakistan countries we actually know are harboring terrorists and supporting them with either safe havens, money, or weapons.

Those roadside bombs we all read about, and I have daily nightmares about are Iranian produced. Perhaps the Hezbollah and Israeli conflict wasn't the trigger to WWIII or a broader regional conflict, but it does unfortunately point to the continued violence that will plaque this region for years to come.

I think this past month's airplane scare was yet another reminder of that fact that Islamic fundamentalists still wish us harm and oppose our way of life. These are not live and let live people. Unfortunately these rare few are fanatical, vocal, and visible so they cause the uneducated and uninformed to lump them with all Muslims. This is the real shame of current affairs. I point out as I have previously that the vast majority of these folks want peace, want freedom and simply wish for a decent life for themselves and their families. It is frightening to think of how many times throughout history a violent and ruthless few have subjugated and terrorized an entire populace.

Here is the "Sword Verse" from the Koran/Quran, this small verse provides justification for the extremists to go on Jihad. "[9:5] And when the forbidden months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them and take them captive, and beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent and observe Prayer and pay the Zakaat, then leave their way free. Surely, Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful." The Koran/Quran is a huge work that talks about Jesus, Mary, Moses, unity, ethics, peace, equality, and tolerance. This is only two lines that a rare few have taken out of context and twisted. In fact, in his last sermon Mohammed said; "There is no superiority for an Arab over a non-Arab and for a non-Arab over an Arab; nor for white over the black nor for the black over the white except in piety. Verily the noblest among you is he who is the most pious."

Understanding Iraq:

This month I finally finished up a book I picked up before I left called "Understanding Iraq: The Whole Sweep of Iraqi History from Genghis Khan's Mongols to the Ottoman Turks to the British Mandate to the American Occupation" by William R. Polk, a Harvard professor, member of JFK's Policy Planning Council, and expert on the Middle East. To give you a sense of his opinions, his next book due out in October is entitled "Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now." Well, in the book he drew some disturbing parallels between current events and the events of the British Mandate of the 20's and 30's to include:

- Invaded for security reasons

- Rise of undeclared civil war fueled by sectarian violence (Shi'a v Sunni)

- Brits only wanted to rule until Iraqi's could stand up and govern on their own

- Told the Iraqi's they were leaving once that happened (30 years later they hadn't left...)

- Brits spent 10X more in 6 months keeping the peace one year AFTER the invasion than they did in the actual invasion/occupation. Scary.

- War weary Brits back home trying to control costs and reduce troops

- Cultural miscalculations

- Bringing in an outsider (ex-patriate) to be the first head of state

- Considered splitting into three nations, Shi'a, Sunni and Kurd.

He makes many good points, but the most important thing I took out the book were the insights into the Iraqi people today and perhaps why they are cynical, suspicious and in the wait-and-see mode for democracy instead of embracing it 100% - because the Brits promised the exact same things two generations ago and never delivered. I also know why Iraqi's always smile and give me a knowing glance whenever I say "You need to step up, we are leaving" and their unspoken look says "Yeah right, when the oil dries up".

Democracy

That brings me to my next thought. It was triggered from a simple two line sentence from a good friend of my back home. He wrote; "It makes me angry that our nation's leaders never seem to learn that 'democratizing' a nation is a fool's game. I firmly believe that democracy has to spring from the hearts of the people - you can't push it in."

Food for thought: The values that Americans hold in high esteem include:

democracy, individualism, wealth creation, capitalism, and absolute separation of church and state. The Arab and Muslim cultures include some diametrically opposed: theocracy, collectivism, honor over money, and more recently socialism.

MAJOR Tom

I not sure if I mentioned that I did make the promotion list to MAJOR back in June. All my hard work in updating my records, taking extra online courses, and squeezing into my old uniform for one final photo paid off.

WooHoo!!! I even got congratulatory notes from a variety of Generals and Colonels. One wrinkle though, I need to complete a 10 day course back at Ft.

Benning Georgia before I can "pin on" the rank. A course I should have completed 13 years ago in the Fall of 1993. My chain of command, bless their souls, offered to send me back three weeks ago to complete the course. They said I would be allowed to attend that course in lieu of my midtour break...how generous...needless to say, I will retire a CPT next May upon my return.

Tracking and Reporting (9:1)

Another reason for slow progress here? I have found a large number of "staff and support" people who do a lot of tracking and reporting. I haven't found a lot of people who execute and actually take action to make things happen. I have often heard the ratio when I first entered the military in the mid-eighties "for every soldier on the front line there are 9 in the rear providing support". I felt like I was in a bad "Who's on First" skit while trying to find out who actually could help me get food, clothes, and shelter for 2,000 homeless I had found in Sadr. I found plenty of people who wanted me to fill out a spreadsheet, form, or report and no one that could tell me what they actually did with that form or who it actually went to. I filled them all out - still waiting. I even got in trouble for emailing the Division Officer in charge of Humanitarian Aid. It is in his job description and part of his title on his business card and even he didn't know how to actually access to the goods. That is what happens when you have 100% turnover in an organization every 12 months for three years. Things get lost in translation, no economies of learning.

Why I am SO HAPPY:

I am very happy because of the new Battle for Baghdad. I am sure you have been reading about the increase in troops including the extension of the 172nd Stryker Brigade to help clear out enclaves/areas of bad guys. I have no idea what the long term effects will be, I really don't. But, I am just happy to see that we are no longer sitting on the sidelines coaching the benchwarmers, pretending they are doing well and letting innocent people get killed. The ISF (Iraqi Security Forces) are infected by Shia militia and are failing the people. How can we expect them to eliminate the death squads when many (I will argue most) of them are taking part? We are finally stepping back in to re-create the conditions for their success. I wish them luck, but mostly I am just glad we are trying something. It is downright un-American to stand by and let innocent people suffer.

We continue to put Iraqi's in the lead in all efforts when possible.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/10/world/middleeast/10baghdad.html?pagewanted

=1&_r=1&th&emc=th

On Patrol, Iraqis Prove Eager, Erratic, and Green

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness:

Well I can now do 86 sit ups in two minutes and I continue regular training for the 10 miler in October. I am still reluctant to discuss push-ups progress and even more reluctant to actually doing them regularly to improve

- maybe the two are related? I blame a psychologically scarring incident buried somewhere deep in my psyche which I plan to reveal in my first Oprah interview. Admittedly, I have fallen off the gym bandwagon this past week, but I have only had one ice cream in the past two weeks. This past month I watched "Legends of the Fall" and "Fight Club". I had forgotten what a truly powerful movie "Legends of the Fall" was. Anthony Hopkins' acting was amazing in the second half. I am now reading "Blink" Malcolm Gladwell's follow up to "Tipping Point". I joined myspace.com with the plan to use it as my platform to post pictures, but I haven't quite finished my page or loaded any pictures. I promise by next month to have some photos up there.

http://www.myspace.com/tomdeierlein

Patience:

Without divulging any classified information, I am actually excited by my unit's inside the wire efforts this month. I think we have done some quality planning and moved quite a few pieces on the chessboard that will allow us to execute some truly high impact programs and projects in the next 60 days that will lead to short, medium, and longer term gains and improvements for the Iraqi people. Hopefully, I will be able to share some of those successes in next month's newsletter.

Although it doesn't make the newspapers, and we certainly don't always get it right, we continue to improve the capabilities of the government at all levels. We continue to improve essential services (electricity, water, sewage, and trash). We continue to focus on a single goal: a stable, self-governing, and safe society where people are afforded genuine opportunities for growth and happiness free of oppression and tyranny. I remain proud to be even a small part of those oft flawed but noble efforts.

Parting Thoughts

Please email me and let me know how you are doing. Without busting anyone out, you need to improve your diet!! I leave you this month with two quotes:

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) civil rights leader

ATTITUDE

by: Charles Swindoll

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.

Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable.

The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes."