"Not the victory but the action. Not the goal but the game.
In the deed the glory."

Friday, June 22, 2007

Almost Home

Well, we are back on friendly soil finally. We hit Fort McCoy, Wisconsin on Tuesday and are all well on our way to getting demobilized and out of here. The folks here are great, and it is wonderful to be back in the US of A. They are planning a little party for us when we get back, you can read about it at or More to come later when I have some more free time, internet and email access is very hard to come by and we've had some long days checking the boxes trying to get out of here.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fisher House Update, On the Way!

Quick update on the pledge drive in support of Fisher House. Thanks to David, the Duty Officer over at The Sandbox, who put my original post up on his site a day or so ago, I'm now at 140% of my goal. Outstanding! I think I need to set a new goal, but I'm not sure what a good number would be. If you have any suggestions leave a comment. I'm simply amazed at the power of community and all of the many, many supporters of me and my fellow soldiers there are. You guys are the best.

This is a pretty awesome link up at Blackfive that you should go check out. It is about a fellow soldier that wrote a letter to his best friend's children after he was killed in action. Gripping post, and another great example why Blackfive is one my daily stops.

Our travels have officially started. We left Anaconda yesterday, and are now in Kuwait. As far as Army travel goes, it actually wasn't too bad. Wake up at 0500, clear the wooden building that we had made our home for the last 3 weeks, have a formation to get accountability, board the bus at 0700, have a few more formations, and then wait. In typical Army fashion, the waiting room had about 30 cots, and there were over 100 of us from HHT alone, so most of us sat outside in the sun and enjoyed the sights, sounds, and smells of Iraq for the last time.

Around 1100 we get on the plane, wait a few minutes more, and then liftoff. There were a few hoops and hollers, as we went wheels up, but not too many as most of us were waiting for the corkscrew maneuver they usually do when leaving/entering Balad. For those of you that haven't had the pleasure of a combat take off, they basically are looking to get airborne as quickly as possible, so it isn't your typical smooth ride. They hit the gas pretty hard, and then make some aggressive turns that leave your stomach in knots. The neighborhood we live in isn't the best, and there is always a worry that the insurgents will find (i.e. buy one from Iran) an RPG and shoot a plane down. Although I think that if they could do it, they would have done it by now. Needless to say it is quite an experience, thankfully this is the last time we have to do it.

We made the approximately hour long flight to Ali Al Saleem, which is where almost all military flights stop in and out of Iraq. The only real delay was on the ground here, we boarded the buses about 1300 and then waited for our bags for about an hour. After that a quick ride to Camp Virginia, our home until we leave theater in a few short days. Offload our baggage in quick fashion, and then a mad scramble for everyone to find their bags. You know how it is always hard to find your bag at the airport because a lot of luggage looks similar? Try finding your duffel and rucksack amidst hundreds of the exact same bag. Always a fun project! Once I had my bag, time to pick out a cot. And then wait. All told, we spent about 11 hours traveling around 300 miles I would guess. Not too shabby for Iraq, in fact if the rest of our travels go as smoothly I for one will be pleasantly surprised.

The weather here is absolutely brutal. We have been fortunate in that Anaconda is up North in the Tigris river valley, and although it is extremely hot and windy, it isn't terrible. Down here it is about 10 degrees hotter, and the real kicker is that the wind is constantly blowing sand all over the place. It is hard to describe what is like, I know I used the sticking your head in an oven to describe Iraq. Kuwait is kindof like sticking your head in an oven while somebody takes sandpaper to your skin while at the same time pouring gravel directly into your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Kindof like that. I think if I was stationed here I would have considered putting a bullet in my head. Or at least in the leg. But you have to hit bone, because if you don't and it goes right through muscle, you don't get to go home. Although you may get a short trip to Germany out of it. But enough on that, nobody is going to be shooting any one any time soon, primarily because we don't have any bullets any more.

We'll just be here for a short time, and then off to McCoy. The word on the street is that we'll be there for a few days shorter then we had planned. In fact, the Family Readiness Group back home is already telling our families the date and location we'll arrive home. Of course nobody has told us anything yet, but that is pretty much par for the course. Usually we hear from home what is going on before we get it through official channels, and the info so far has been pretty reliable. The important thing is that we are about 95% done, morale is high, and everyone is ready to jump through whatever hoops we need to in order to get home to our loved ones.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Interview with, Other Stuff

The fine folks over at have been doing a series of interviews with military bloggers. Follow this link to check mine out. There is lots of other good stuff on their site, so spend some time checking it out.

We have our official transfer of authority (TOA) with our replacements in a few short hours, and then we are just waiting on our good friends in the Air Force to give us a ride. We'll spend a few days out processing in Kuwait and then on to the US. Until then, there is a lot of nothing going on except for your typical soldier hi jinks. This is a dangerous time for me, as when joe has nothing to do, he tends to get in trouble. I am hoping not to have any more work to do before we get home, but with a unit our size, someone is bound to do the wrong thing.

I have my Iraq retrospective piece about half done and am trying to get that finished up in the next day or so. I do a lot of my thinking when I'm out on the roads of Anaconda running. At home I like to think in the shower, but there are too many random naked dudes running around here to get comfortable. Also we are in transient housing now and the showers have this annoying pulsating between low and high pressure and also hot and cold water. Not fun. I usually can write a full post in my mind while running, but the problem is when I sit down on the computer I can only remember about half of it. So, that is my struggle right now, there is more info tied up in the back of my brain that I need to dig out. More to come soon.

I also wanted to wish my brother a Happy Birthday, he is down in San Antonio going through 68W (Combat Medic) training right now. He successfully graduated Basic Training (honor grad I believe) and is about halfway through his AIT. Keep up the good work little brother.

Erika and I also "celebrated" our 6th Anniversary last week. And by celebrated I mean we talked on the phone about it. Second in a row I've been in Iraq. But we'll be able to celebrate for real here in a few short weeks. Thanks babe for all that you do for me and Benjamin! You are my soul mate, a fantastic mother, and make me a better man. Love you.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

In Remembrance

Part of the process of getting out of here is remembering those that have gone before us. It struck me the other day as we were making plans for coming home parties, car purchases, and vacations, that not everyone that got on the plane with us is making the trip home.

One of the benefits that the Guard sells to young soldiers is that Guard is family, and I think this is true is the sense that you get to know your fellow Guardsmen over the years better then you would in an active duty or reserve unit as personnel are changed out more often. Most of the soldiers that you drill with are from your hometown, went to the same schools, and know the same people. The Nebraska National Guard has lost 8 or our brothers and sisters during OIF. While the loss of every soldier is a tragedy, our fellow Guardsmen usually hit a little closer to home. I didn't know any of these soldiers on a personal level, but they've all had a lasting impact on me, and my fellow soldiers, that I wanted to share.

The first 2 soldiers we lost were early in the war. MSG Linda Ann Tarango-Griess and SGT Jeremy J. Fisher were killed in action on 11 July 2004. I remember getting an email at work with a link to the story and feeling incredible sadness, shock, and disbelief. Most of us thought the war would be over quickly and without much loss of life. The fact that our fellow soldiers had paid the ultimate price was hard to believe.

The Nebraska Guard went over a year without another casualty. SFC Tricia L. Jameson was killed in action on 14 July 2005. SFC Jameson was a medic that had volunteered for her deployment to fill a spot that needed a soldier, and had only been in theater a short while. She was responding to an attack when her ambulance was targeted by a secondary IED, a particularly cowardly attack. The Combat Medic Training Center here at Balad is named after her.

Another year passed, and on 31 July 2006, SGT Joshua Ford was killed in action. His death occurred after we arrived in theater, which made it that much harder. Every soldier knows that there is the possibility this will happen, but as a coping mechanism, most of us think that it won't happen to us or anyone we know.

Unfortunately, the year between combat deaths pattern didn't hold. Task Force Saber lost our first soldier, SSG Jeffrey Hansen, on 27 August 2006. SSG Hansen was the victim of a tragic accident where his vehicle rolled over into one of the many canal roads surrounding Anaconda. SSG Hansen had been around the Cav for a long time, and was well known by many and loved by all. His memorial service was held here at Anaconda, I served on the rifle team and was part of the 21 gun salute. It was an honor to participate and allow the soldiers from his unit and those that knew him the best to attend the memorial.

A short 2 days after B Troop and the rest of the 1-167 had grieved for SSG Hansen, SGT Germaine Debro was killed in action. He died on 4 September 2006. For an already grief stricken unit, this was an incredibly tough blow. SGT Debro had volunteered for this deployment to serve with his friends and paid the ultimate price. I went home for leave a few days later, and attended his funeral in Omaha while I was home. It was obvious from the crowd and the speeches what kind of a man SGT Debro was and how much he was loved by his family and friends. The IED Training Lane here at Anaconda was just recently dedicated in honor of SGT Debro, in order to provide training opportunities to other soldiers and increase their chance of survival.

SGT Randy J. Matheny died in combat on 4 February 2007. His sister is a Staff Sergeant in a unit that is stationed here at Anaconda, and he would often spend time with her when he had a stop over during a convoy. His brother is also a member of the Nebraska Guard. His sister's unit held a small memorial here on post for him, and once again it was clear that SGT Matheny was a hero to those that knew him.

The final Nebraska casualty was SPC William L. Bailey III, who was killed in action on 25 May 2007. His unit was stationed here, and I attended his memorial. SPC Bailey was a father of 5 and had a lifetime of service. He was a volunteer firefighter in Bellevue, and had rejoined the Guard in 2005 after fulfilling his initial obligation because he wanted to serve.

One thing that struck me about each of these soldiers is that most, if not all, were volunteers. Not just volunteers to join the Guard, as we are all, but volunteers to deploy to Iraq and do what needed to be done. I know that most of them could have stayed home, having already done duty in Kuwait, Bosnia, or a prior deployment to Iraq. But they didn't. Their unit, their state, and their country needed them, and they answered the call. And they paid the ultimate price. This may be cliche, but "Where do we find such men and women?" I am proud to wear the uniform and to have served in the Nebraska National Guard with MSG Tarango-Griess, SGT Fisher, SFC Jameson, SGT Ford, SSG Hansen, SGT Debro, SGT Matheny, and SPC Bailey. God bless you all. We will never forget you.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Fisher House Update, Pre-Marathon Training Complete

Well, my Fisher House pledge drive is off to a great start. Many, many thanks to everyone that has stopped by and donated. After just a few days I'm already 38% there. Much better then I had expected.

A special thanks to my friend Kathi at Mail Call! Supporting the Troops. She has been actively spreading the word among the many military blogs in her network which has helped tremendously. Thanks Kathi!!!!

So, I finished up my "pre-marathon" training yesterday. I will say this, the extra 16 weeks of training due to our getting extended and my missing Lincoln have really been helpful. I guess you could say that is something positive from our extension.

Week 14 (planned/actual):
Monday - off
Tuesday - 5/5 @ 8:55
Wednesday - 7/7 @ 8:45
Thursday - 5/5 @ 8:26
Friday - off
Saturday - 7/7 @ 8:37
Sunday - 12/12 @ 9:36
Total - 36/36 Right on schedule. Nothing unusual and a good week of running.

Week 15 (planned/actual):
Monday - off
Tuesday - 5/5.5 @ 8:55
Wednesday - 8/8 @ 9:07
Thursday - 5/5 @ 8:26
Friday - off
Saturday - 9/9.5 @ 9:22
Sunday - off
Total - 27/28 Memorial day was the BolderBoulder 10k, so I moved my long run to Saturday and took Sunday off so I would be somewhat fresh. Other then that had a good week.

Week 16 (planned/actual):
Monday - 6.2/6.2 @ 7:30
Tuesday - off
Wednesday - 8/8.1 @ 9:09
Thursday - 5/6 @ 9:06
Friday - off
Saturday - 8/7.7 @ 9:17
Sunday - 10/12 @ 9:34
Total - 37.2/40 My first 40 mile week! The 10k on Monday was great. I far exceed my expectations. As mentioned, I was looking for a sub 50:00 and thought I could maybe do a 48:xx. I ended up running a 46:40, which is a personal best by about 5 minutes. Can't beat that. I did a race report on, you can check it out here for the rest of the details if you are in to the sort of thing.

This week is week 1 of 18 for Chicago training. These extra 16 weeks have really helped, I went from an average of around 20 miles a week to an average of around 36 or so. My long run is up from 10 to 12, and the 12 doesn't bother me much as all. I don't have any nagging injuries. The biggest challenge will be staying disciplined when I get home, but that shouldn't be a problem. We got a bike trailer for the little man, so we can do family outings at the lake with momma and the mister on the bike and me out running. Also I have a jogging trailer that I never got to use before this deployment, so I may get some use out of that. Plus I've already paid my entry fee and I'm far too cheap to let that go. And of course I have the supporters of Team Sack to keep my going, so I'm confident that I'll keep after it. I'm excited to get out of the "pre" phase and start counting down the weeks.