August 06, 2005
Update from Iraq
Steve forwards this message that his dad passed along to him. The message comes from Master Chief Mike Korman; it's fairly lengthy but interesting. (And, speaking of news from-the-field in Iraq, check out Michael Yon's blog.)
Subj: [U] Hello From Iraq Update # 4 - 15JUL05
Date: 7/14/2005 3:26:48 PM Eastern Standard Time
Dearest Friends and Family,
It has been two-months since my last update. This is reflective of two things. The first is the pace of work here. I am here to tell you that the people I have working around me to create, train and equip all manner of Iraqi Police and Border forces are just remarkable. I am constantly amazed at how our team seems to get just the right Soldier at just the right time to solve a particular problem.
Just yesterday I traveled to Al Kut, in South Eastern Iraq, by convoy. The convoy was coordinated by a young Soldier who led Marines, Sailors, Airmen and other Soldiers on our critical mission, making all the right decisions all along the way. You can be proud that the generation of American Patriots and Leaders serving in Iraq are doing so ably, in incredibly difficult conditions and will come home to be better citizens and the future leaders of our Nation.
They may not be in Congress or make lots of money (they might though), but in their communities all across America they will make a difference by taking what they learned here to build companies, little league teams, volunteer fire houses, and probably a few political careers. The other thing that is reflective of my separation between emails is the fact that in the last two months we lost some colleagues in our battle here.
Several others have been injured seriously, and others yet are now at Walter Reed Army Medical Center recovering. In early June Colonel Ted Westhusing passed away. He was a Senior member of the CPATT Team, and the highest ranking officer to die in Iraq to date. His death remains under investigation but we, his brothers and sisters in arms, gave the Colonel a deserving send off from this battlefield.
This is the roll call at the Colonels Memorial in Iraq.
Roll Call / Daylight Again
Monday, June 13, 2005, 04:35 AM - The World After September 11
"Roll Call," by MAJ Robert Bateman
We move around a lot in the military, as individuals and collectively. This presents a challenge, because with so many moving parts it is difficult to maintain an account. This is why we conduct roll calls. These are run by our Non-commissioned officers. Normally officers stand beyond the ranks, but under some circumstances they will stand in the ranks for accountability purposes. The command in which I serve has elements of all four services.
"Here Master Chief!"
"Staff Sergeant Michaels"
"Present Master Chief!"
"Chief's voice is booming, though he has not raised his voice. Even restrained it carries, as befits his six-foot three-inches and all-Navy frame. Traditionally the responses are returned at a slightly louder volume. I don't know why, that's just how we do it.
"Lieutenant Colonel Hale"
"Here Master Chief!"
There was a stiff breeze earlier, but it faded about an hour ago. Enough remains to roll the flag but not enough to make it snap. We broke 115 degrees at around 13:00. That was the temperature in the shade. It is now a little after 16:30. I am in the sun.
"Colonel Ted Westhusing!"
Chief's voice is now sharp, the voice of command. When conducting a roll call, one part of the sacred purview of the NCO corps, there is no quibbling. Even officers pipe up if they stand in the ranks for these formations. Sweat pours down my face. I am a little dehydrated, the sweat is salty and stings my eyes. I do not move. I am at the position of attention. The baked air carried by the light breeze brings no relief, though it carries away the scent. Not a few of us have been working longer hours than is usual, even for a combat zone. Sleep has been secondary. Laundry represented a distant place in anyone's mind. The breeze lifts and the flag rustles. I blink repeatedly.
"Colonel Theodore S. Westhusing."
Once insistent, Master Chief Korman's voice is now resigned. There is no response. There will be no response.
At the front of our formation a rifle, bayonet fixed, stands inverted. Dogtags bearing the name Theodore Westhusing, his blood type, Social Security number, and religious preference hang from the pistol grip. A helmet, with the eagle of a full Colonel on the front, balances atop the butt-stock.
I hear steps behind me. I cannot see them, but I know who is there. A seven man detail, with a single NCO giving direction. With commands given in a low voice the detail stops moving forward and begins to "mark time," marching in place. They come to a halt. Seven rifles charge at once, the spring in the stock driving forward the bolt carrier inside the rifle, and placing a single round of ammunition into the chamber of the weapon.
Lost in thought for a second, I am caught off-guard, even though I knew it was coming. Seven rifles discharged at once. The first volley. They charge again.
For an ad-hoc squad they do pretty well. Seven rifles crashing as one. It is not the Old Guard, but then this is not Arlington. We are in a combat zone, rendering honors to one of our own, as best we can.
Seven men. Three volleys. Twenty-one shots. Only the President of the United States of America receives the same number. Descartes had it wrong with, "Je pense, donc je suis." We are not human because we think. We are human because we remember.
I will remember Colonel Westhusing.
Without a doubt the toughest week for me here personally was getting myself and this command through this tragedy. A few short weeks later we lost one of our Civilian Law Enforcement partners. Ms. Dawn Klecker, a Deputy Sheriff from Oregon, was killed in an IED attack on her HMMWV.
Dawn did everything right, was wearing everything she was supposed to be to protect her, but alas she was taken from us too early. Most recently two of our Soldiers, Major Ken and Sergeant First Class Jeff (First Names Only) were injured in an IED attack on their HMMWV last week. Another case where they did everything right, except get hit by an IED. Ken and Jeff are now at Walter Reed and would ask that you keep them all near your thoughts and prayers.
The picture below is me and good friend, Marine Master Sergeant Kerry Stratton, as we get ready to continue our trek to the Syrian border through Al Anbar Province. Think badlands. He is home now, enjoying being with family no doubt.
Some of you have asked about life here in the Green Zone, otherwise known as the International Zone. Well, it's not so bad really. We work for 6.5 days per week here normally, 15 hour days are normal. We get a half-day off per week, and most staff use the half-day to catch up on laundry or extra PT. The local calendar has the locals off on Fridays and Saturdays, which goofs things up back home for use, time wise that is.
Our laundry is done for us, and all our meals are cooked for us. There is more food then one could ever eat. There is various dining facility that dot the landscape of the Green Zone. There is the Palace, Al Rashid, Prosperity, Union, Honor (Steel Dragons), and other dining facilities. Some of our troops go to different ones every day but they are fairly standard fare. Most have cheeseburgers and hot dogs every day along with a main line which serves every kind of chicken imaginable.
They also have steak, meat loaf, fish and all the Baskin Robbins ice cream you could want on various days. It is a rotating schedule. Sodas and Gatorade are part of the deal also. On occasion we get a special meal of lobster tail. Near the Post Exchange here, which is smallish, there is a Subway, Burger King, Pizza Inn and a little coffee bar.
The PX in Taji, up north of Baghdad (travel by convoy or helo), is like a Wal-Mart. It has everything one could ever want there. We live in trailers, from the air it looks like an ant farm, which normally house two to a trailer and four would share a bathroom. Believe me considering what folks have in the field I always volunteer any complainers for the next convoy to Fallujah or Ramadi. There are not many complainers.
So, what am I seeing out there in all of my travels. Well, it is still very dangerous. There are too many people here from other countries, some Iraqis too, that want to kill Americans, coalition members and any 'collaborators', their word. You may have read where nearly two-dozen children and a Soldier were killed the other day when some Soldiers were handing out candy to the kids. Very Sad.
There were two bombings here at one of the entrances to the Green Zone just today. What I can tell you is that the local Iraqi Police and Iraqi Soldiers are taking the brunt of the deaths. I read the names of every American that dies here, so please don't read this to mean I am not recognizing the sacrifices of our Patriots. I certainly do. Here is the thing that we recognize. Common sense tells me that the dumb terrorists are already dead or are not smart enough to inflict big damage. The smart ones that are left are more effective and lethal and willing to send others to their deaths. We still here lots of boomers and random gunfire here but it is nearly all outside the Green Zone.
Since my arrival in February there have been no incidents inside the Green Zone. Knock on wood. Now, what of home. Well I can't tell you how much I appreciate each of you out there that write me back and send those prayers my way. You all know that I needed all the help I could get before I got here; every little bit helps. My wonderful partner in life, Caryn, is busy preparing the final details of our fabulous Wedding Ceremony for when I am home on leave in September, followed by a Hawaii Honeymoon.
I help where I can but I am always getting something or other wrong when I pick things for the big event. (I picked Goldfish as a reception appetizer; not appropriate I am told. Caryn picked everything else after that input from me. Maybe that was my plan, hee hee.) Caryn has been a rock of support for my tour here and while I was in Kosovo last year.
What an amazing lady. We get to talk a few days per week which really helps me here. Thanks Sweets. A favor from each of you. I would ask all of you to keep in mind these thoughts that I had yesterday while traveling to/from Al Kut. We have an amazing country that produces amazing young leaders. These young people make amazing life and death decision EVERY day here.
The elected and appointed civilian leadership of our Nation decided that we had a mission to do here and we do it with incredible confidence, precision and ability. Our troops are well trained, equipped, managed and in 99.99% of the cases the troops are instilled with a thorough and proper sense of right and wrong. In every sub-group of human beings there are a few bad apples which end up painting others badly.
I see and work with these troops every day. All of you can be and should be proud of these Patriots and of those that wore the flag of our Nation before them. You may or may not agree with the Civilian Leadership's decisions to go to war. I can't think of a single reason why we shouldn't be supporting our troops sent to fight here every day of the week and twice on Sunday. What you see on TV and in the Newspaper is NOT reflective of the great things we are doing here. Don't let them get you down. I am here and see success EVERY day. I took this most amazing photo below and thought it was a great place to end. We have two more big elections here, October 15 and sometime in December. If we are going to get this right we must stay the course and continue to work towards democracy in this land. It is the right thing to do, I believe.
I'll do my very best to send another update next month to get back on track. Some have asked for an address and it appears below. I love to hear from you and knowing what is new in your life. Please do write to let me know. With all my best to you My Friends and Family.
Master Chief Michael J. Korman,
US Navy, Command Sergeant Major/Command Master Chief
Civilian Police Assistance Training Team (CPATT)Adnon Palace, Iraq,
APO, AE. 09316DSN: 318-239-7736MCI: 914-822-1199
Posted by joke du jour at August 6, 2005 06:45 AM
Mike, thanks for all the kind words about Ted, I am his oldest brother and through the years he was very close to me. When he was born three days before my birthday, he became my birthday present when he came home from the hospital. My mother told me to always take care of him, he was my responsibility, because he would be the most precious present I would ever have on any birthday. Unfortunately, I couldn't, these last days and will live with it for the rest of my life. We dearly miss him and pray that your journeys bring you home, safe and sound as soon as possible to your loved ones. Take care and may god bless. Thanks again.
Posted by: Tim Westhusing at August 20, 2005 01:37 PM