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Another letter from Iraq…

Greetings Everyone,

As we get closer to returning home, our mail box will be closed so please don’t send any letters or packages as they will be returned to sender.  Thank you to all who have sent cards, letters and packages.  They were truly appreciated.  They will be closing our mailboxes by May 15.

The attached photo is of me through my night vision device.  It is a little out of focus, so don’t think our equipment is not the best.  When the photo was taken it was an overcast night with no available light in the area.  As we say in our business, "We own the night."  I am standing near the forward most point of the ECP which is flanked by 12 foot tall concrete blast walls which provides protection for the stopped trucks as we check IDs when a convoy enters the site.

Picture060

Take care,
Kevin
kevin.duane.smith@us.army.mil

Friday, 20 Apr 07
It has to be a conspiracy.  The Girl Scouts are slowly destroying the US Army one cookie at a time.  Over the past week several large boxes filled with Girl Scout cookies of all types have arrived to our unit.  Gifts from the Girl Scout Council in Kearney, NE, there were enough to provide each soldier several boxes of the delicacies.  The other wonderful part is that they arrived just before our daytime highs started reaching 100 degrees, so all of them with chocolate haven’t melted.

Saturday, 21 Apr 07
Earlier this morning, while on shift, we got to experience one of our worst fears.  A convoy from camp had rolled though an area that had a chlorine bomb detonate.  A few of the soldiers were experiencing minor problems as a result and they were coming back to Anaconda.  We moved from vehicle inspection mode to preparing to react to a chemical contamination.  Fortunately, only a few soldiers and none of the TCNs were affected and the contaminate had dissipated from their vehicles by the time they reached camp.  I was very pleased on how my soldiers quickly changed gears and were able to prepare for an action drill we have never had to perform.

Sunday, 22 Apr 07
25 Years!  Today is my 25th anniversary of joining the Army.  It seems like only yesterday I was swearing-in for the first time at the MEPS station in Omaha, while at the same time it feels like it has been an eternity.  During these years I have seen incredible changes in the Army and have had a front row seat to the evolution of world politics, most notable was the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 while I was on active duty in Germany.  I have also seen astonishing changes to the equipment and operations of the Army.  Items as simple as the M-16 rifle, night visions devises, GPS’s, and vehicles have evolved into high tech devices which gets more data to the soldier, in real time. But at the same time the job of soldiering still comes down to the individual soldier.  Even as technology enhances our jobs, the complicated task of being on the ground, working with the people will always be there.  But now the common soldier can’t just be a warrior.  He/she must also be an emissary, a diplomat, a teacher, a police officer, a peacekeeper, an aid worker, and an ambassador.  Gone are the simple days of fighting the good fight and allowing the civilians to do the rebuilding.  That task is now being handed down to the Privates, Sergeants, and Lieutenants that are where the rubber meets the road.  With only a few exceptions, the American Soldier has been doing an incredible job under some of the worst possible conditions.  Whether it’s on the streets of Baghdad, the mountains of Afghanistan, the Honduras rain force or the Horn of Africa, the soldier is there, doing his job.

Tuesday, 24 Apr 07
After shift we had a steak fry back at the housing area.  A man from Minnesota purchased two 12 ounce steaks for every soldier that deployed as part of the 34th Infantry Division.  That comes to over 8000 of them, which is a lot of beef.  Our platoon received ours and decided to hold a cookout after shift (at 0300 hrs-or 3:00 a.m.) when the temperature is around 75 degrees, a little more bearable than the near 100s, which also is accompanied by the searing sun.  It was great to have a steak that was over an inch thick and cooked just the way each of us like them.  Not a paper-thin cut, cooked well done and then placed in a water-filled pan to keep them warm.

Friday, 26 Apr 07
Today was one of those days that you could just curl up in front of a warm fire with a good book.  It started raining this morning and the temperature didn’t get above a chilly 70 degrees, that is until the sun came out at around 1700 (5:00 p.m.)  Then it became stifling hot with a million percent humidity.  It was just miserable, especially having to wear our body armor while at work.  Just breathing caused you to break into a sweat.

Sunday, 29 Apr 07
Today was an interesting day.  It started out with me having to eat at the fast food court because the chow hall had a fire and had to evacuate the 1500 personnel that were in it.  It seems that there was an electrical fire at the dessert bar caused by some Christmas lights strung up around it.  I guess they didn’t get the recall notice from Target last November.  Luckily the dining facility was cleaned-up and able to re-open for the dinner meal that same day.

Then this afternoon Senator Ben Nelson and Congressman Lee Terry, both from Nebraska, visited us.  They were here in Iraq with several other members of Congress visiting the troops and the Iraqi Government leadership.  They got to answer several heated questions on the financing of the war, why we have all the negative press when we see so much good occurring, benefits packages for Reserve Component soldiers and why the Air Force only has 45 day deployments when the Army is moving to 15 months in country.  It was an informative hour, followed by 15 minutes of photo opportunities and one-on-one questioning.  Mr. Terry also gave a report on how the Huskers looked at the spring game (the report was “great”) and provided several copies of the game for us to watch.

Monday, 30 Apr 07
It was a great day to have off.  I slept in and then Jason Lanni and I went to eat at a Turkish restaurant on the other side of base.  I had a chicken dish called Tapas.  It basically is spiced chicken cubes covered with melted cheese, served with a dish of rice.  For a drink I had a Kiwi flavored slushie.  That sure was interesting!

During the evening I spent a good chunk of time packing.  We are only twelve to fourteen weeks from returning home so we are starting to pack the non-essential personal and unit gear.  The several duffel bags each soldier has will be put in containers and returned by ship.  Most of the books, DVDs and music I have bought I have packaged up and will send it home by mail.  It sure is a good feeling to start taking the beginning steps to getting out of here.

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About the Author

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I'm a semi-retired mom living smack dab in the middle. Mom to @lasertron and @MattEHunt and new gramma to @aliceelfie. I attended #STS134 #NASAtweetup. I love to cook, hoard magazines and go places with my husband in his Cirrus122.

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