Monday, December 21, 2009

Holiday greetings to Wisconsin from Baghdad

Members of the Wisconsin National Guard Joint Area Support Group - Central in at Forward Operating Base Prosperity in Baghdad sent home this holiday greeting, recorded and transmitted by the National Guard Public Affairs Office.
video

Saturday, December 19, 2009

News: Wisconsin vets board vows to help pay for costly services

From the Associated Press: The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs is taking steps to allow residents to continue living at its nursing home in Union Grove despite steep rate increases set for January.
Residents had complained bitterly about the increases of up to 37 percent and some warned they would be forced to move out.
The agency’s board agreed Friday to use reserve funds to enroll qualifying residents in an aid program that will pay for expenses they cannot afford. For those who do not qualify, the agency will temporarily suspend the collection of payments owed.
Board members said those steps should allow residents to stay until they can consider whether to roll back the increase at a meeting in January. Secretary Ken Black warned, however, the additional aid could lead to a budget shortfall later.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wisconsin military families fight the war at home


In case you missed it, the State Journal told the stories of several Wisconsin National Guard families in Sunday's paper.

At bedtime, 6-year-old Tyler Freeman snuggles up to a little armor against the fear and sadness he feels about his father's yearlong military mission in Iraq.

"He has been crying less at night since his father sent him a shirt to sleep with," said his mother, Laura Freeman, of Fort Atkinson.

Over the past 11 months, Wisconsin families have found many ways to cope with the deployment of more than 3,200 citizen-soldiers, the largest overseas operational mobilization of the state Guard since World War II.

Read the story here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wisconsin soldier describes blast that put him on the cover of Time

The LaCrosse Tribune interviewed Master Sgt. Chet Millard about President Obama's plans to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Millard recalled missions that would last for weeks, with scant opportunities for rest.

"We were constantly being pushed, with very little down time," Millard said Tuesday from his home in Sparta.

Reporter Chris Hubbuch of the Tribune also talked to Millard about the blast the resulted in his appearance on the cover of a national news magazine. He was serving with the 951st Engineer Company with the Wisconsin National Guard, when the truck he was riding in hit a roadside bomb. A photographer from Time came to the scene, and Millard ended up on the cover.
Read the story here.

Wisconsin footprint in Baghdad is shrinking

The Wisconsin National Guard unit in charge of turning over property in the Baghdad International Zone to the government of Iraq is continuing to make progress as the Guard closes in on completion of its year-long deployment.

"We are ready to continue additional property transfers as we draw down the U.S. footprint in the IZ," Col. Steven Bensend said in the Guard's newsletter from Baghdad.

The newsletter, released today, shows soldiers enjoying Thanksgiving meals and describes operations in the International Zone and other duty stations.

Read the newsletter at www.madison.com/wsj


Friday, November 20, 2009

Fifteen Purple Hearts later, the 951st Sappers will be back in Wisconsin tomorrow

The most banged-up Wisconsin National Guard unit since World War II is scheduled to return home Saturday.

The 108 members of the 951st Engineer Company racked up 15 Purple Heart medals and 100 combat action badges in 250 combat missions in Afghanistan.

"What these guys did was route clearance," state Transition Assistance Advisor Jeff Unger said, referring to checking for hidden explosives. "Every time they stopped and got out of that vehicle they put themselves at risk."

Unger and Bob Evans, the director of psychological health for the state guard, said since WW II no other guard unit has had as many Purple Hearts and combat missions as the 951st.

Read the Wisconsin State Journal story here.

The 951st is the northern Wisconsin combat engineer company that was featured in a
Time magazine photo essay.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

November roundup from Baghdad PAO

From Lt. Col. Tim Donovan, public affairs officer for the Wisconsin National Guard in Baghdad:

With a little less than two months left in the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat
Team's mission in Iraq, this is an update on some of our units from their
locations around the country over the past month.

When detainees at Camp Cropper want to get under the skin of
guard force soldiers from the 829th Engineer Company, they employ a
tactic that would be more at home along the St. Croix River than inside
a theater internment facility in Iraq: they needle the Wisconsin Guard
troops about Brett Favre's success as a Minnesota Viking.

It seems the Green Bay Packers logos that sprouted up all over Camp
Cropper since May tipped off detainees that Packer fans were in the
house. It's a small world.

The 3,200 men and women of the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team have
accomplished a lot during their time in Iraq so far: big accomplishments
like closing the largest detention facility on Earth at Camp Bucca;
small accomplishments like winning the flag football championship at
Camp Cropper.

And wherever they are serving in Iraq, Red Arrow soldiers are making a
difference.

Here is what some of our units want their Wisconsin hometowns to know
about their service in Iraq--the big things, the small things, and all
of the individual and organizational accomplishments in between.

Headquarters, 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Camp Douglas)

The 32nd Brigade's headquarters continues working to change the face of
Baghdad's International Zone--the government quarter in the center of
the Iraqi capital--and to keep it secure. Since taking over their
mission as Joint Area Support Group-Central May 27, the Wisconsin troops
have returned 19 properties covering more than 70 acres from U.S. to
Iraqi control. The properties include Ibn Sina Hospital, made famous in
the HBO documentary "Baghdad ER," along with former U.S. military
compounds and a palace once used by Saddam Hussein. Before they're
finished, the JASG will turn over a half-dozen more properties, and a
significant part of this city once dominated by U.S. military forces
will be run by the government of Iraq.

As properties changed hands during the past year, responsibility for
security for the International Zone also shifted, from U.S.-led efforts
up until the end of 2008 to Iraqi forces in the months since. These
developments in Baghdad are important for the entire nation, and 32nd
Brigade soldiers from Wisconsin are at the very center of them.

Company A, 132nd Brigade Support Battalion (Janesville, Elkhorn)

Few soldiers on forward operating bases in Iraq deal with a more diverse
group of customers than those who work in the convoy staging lanes. At
Camp Bucca, this is a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation that supports
all military and civilian convoys either entering or departing the
southern Iraq base. In a typical day, staging lanes personnel from
Alpha Company, 132nd Brigade Support Battalion receive and stage as many
as 40 civilian trucks that haul everything from fuel to mail to
hamburger patties for the camp's Burger King restaurant. By
deployment's end, the Janesville and Elkhorn-based troops will have
processed more than 3,000 trucks with drivers from Vietnam, Pakistan,
Turkey, India, the Philippines, Iraq and Kuwait, to name a few.

Spc. Michael Vallarta, West Allis, describes the most challenging part
of this mission as "dealing with people who don't speak English, and
then they get mad at you for not understanding what they are saying."
Vallarta said the language barrier can cause both sides to get
frustrated with each other, and cultural differences make it even more
difficult for female soldiers who often have a harder time getting male
truck drivers to follow their instructions.

The best part of the staging lanes mission, according to Spc. Ashley
Mullis, Whitewater: "It's bonding with other soldiers." Mullis says it
is much easier to get to know the other soldiers in the unit when they
work closely together every day.

Company A, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry (Waupun, Ripon)

The soldiers of Waupun's Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry
conduct detainee operations and operate the modular detainee housing
unit at Camp Taji, just north of Baghdad. Camp Taji's detainees are
some of the least compliant detainees in Iraq, according to Capt. Eric
Krueger, Mayville.

"Alpha Company troops work in the most extreme conditions and with the
most violent detainees at Camp Taji and Iraq, and they are doing an
outstanding job," Krueger reports. "They continue to make me proud to
be their commander and continue to do a great job in one of the most
difficult and important missions in Iraq."

Company C, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry (Fond du Lac)

Soldiers of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry were among
the Wisconsin troops from several units that worked through October to
close the theater internment facility at Camp Bucca.

"We completed the detainee air transport mission last month by providing
security for the transfer of more than 7,000 detainees from Camp Bucca
to COB (Contingency Operating Base) Basra for further transport from May
to October," said Capt. Tony Klemme, Green Bay, Charlie Company's
commander.

The Fond du Lac-based company continues to provide security on a combat
outpost and will soon take over a U.S. Air Force route and area security
mission for more than 125 square miles in southern Iraq.

"We have also driven more than 120,000 incident-free miles conducting
'Bucca to Buehring Express' missions, driving from Iraq to Kuwait and
back, escorting soldiers and civilians going home on leave and pass,"
Klemme said.

Company D, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry (Marinette)

Marinette's Delta Company started out in May at Camp Bucca, but moved
north to Camp Taji as Bucca's detainee population shifted to other
facilities.

"Operationally, things have been rolling along nice and steady and
mundane," according to Capt. Nathan Olson, Columbus. "In our
environment (an internment facility), 'mundane' is the goal."

Olson reports no shortage of volunteers to help with customs inspections
as the company prepares its extra gear for shipment home. This is a
sure sign that the deployment is nearing an end. Another sign: with
low temperatures at Taji now in the 50's, soldiers are starting to wear
fleece jackets and watch caps in the chilly evenings. A few months ago,
the word "chilly" wasn't in any of these soldiers' vocabularies.

Battery A, 1st Battalion, 120th Field Artillery (Marshfield)

Like other units with detainee missions, Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion,
120th Field Artillery works around the clock at Camp Cropper. But 1st
Sgt. Scott Peplinski, Pulaski, reports that not even graveyard shifts or
an especially challenging mission can keep 1st and 2nd Platoons from
finding time for a little recreation.

"Both of the platoons are engaging in some friendly, semi-competitive
sporting activities, including 'Midnight Madness,' where 2nd Platoon
scratches together a little four-on-four basketball after shift at 0200
in the morning...(and) 1st Platoon stays active with a football league
they are throwing together and near daily basketball or volleyball after
shift," Peplinski said.

Two soldiers, Sgts. Don Furrer, Wisconsin Rapids, and Eric Trubee,
Marshfield, were recently awarded Army Achievement Medals for
outstanding work they have done to support the battery's mission. Staff
Sgt. Raymond Weaver, Spencer, Wis., was inducted into the prestigious
Audie Murphy Club after studying for months and completing three
challenging boards. Audie Murphy was the most highly decorated U.S.
soldier in World War II and the club named for him admits only the very
best of the Army's NCO corps.

Alpha Battery soldiers appreciate all the care packages and phone cards
they have received from the unit's family readiness group and from the
American Legion post in Marshfield.

Company A, 32nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion (Onalaska)

Company A, 32nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion reports the unit's
soldiers are doing well and looking forward to returning home in
January.

"Our time here is quickly coming to a close and we find that... we have
been doing a mission vastly different than that which we trained for or
that many within our company anticipated or wanted," said Capt. Shawn
Vele, Milwaukee. The company normally has an engineer mission, but not
in Iraq, where soldiers have been working in detainee operations at the
theater internment facility at Camp Taji. As Wisconsin National Guard
troops always do, though, the engineer soldiers adapted to their new
mission.

"Our unit has done extremely well and been recognized by both military
police battalions we have fallen under during this deployment for our
professionalism and ability in detainee operations," Vele said.

Company C, 1st Battalion, 128th Infantry (Arcadia, Onalaska)

Autumn is football-watching season for some of the 32nd Brigade's
Arcadia and Onalaska-based soldiers during their time off at the four
forward operating bases where they are assigned. Charlie Company, 1st
Battalion, 128th Infantry soldiers gather every weekend to watch college
and NFL football games shown on American Forces Network television.

On Oct. 6, the company had a tailgate party for the first Packer-Viking
game of the season. Soldiers had a good time grilling fresh steaks sent
from the states and watching the game on a large projection screen. The
downside: the Monday Night Football contest didn't start until 3 a.m. in
Iraq, and the game's outcome was more than disappointing. But more than
50 gifts from supporters in Wisconsin were distributed to the troops to
take away a little bit off the sting of the Packer loss.

Soldiers get mail twice a week. Packages and letters have been coming
in steadily, providing soldiers with snacks, necessities and news and
photos from back home.

Company B, 257th Brigade Support Battalion (Kenosha)

Capt. Sean Phelps, Oak Creek, reports that Bravo Company, 257th Brigade
Support Battalion is "happy, healthy and ready to finish strong."

Phelps said the detainee guard force mission on Forward Operating Base
Cropper has proved to be both challenging and rewarding. "Even though
the weather has started to cooperate, the days are still long and work
is still exhausting," Phelps said.

The Kenosha-based soldiers are also helping to train a corps of Iraqi
correctional officers who will take over Cropper's internment facility
when U.S. forces eventually depart. "Even though we will turn this
mission over to another unit soon, it's exciting to know our initial
efforts will help advance the Iraqi corrections system to a level
consistent with our standards of dignity and respect," Phelps said.

Bravo Company has in its ranks one of the nation's newest citizens.
Sgt. Anna Duncan, Minneapolis, was sworn in as a citizen of the United
States of America during a Veterans Day naturalization ceremony at
Al-Faw Palace near Baghdad. Duncan, a native of the Caribbean island
nation of St. Lucia, was among more than 150 service members who became
U.S. citizens at the event hosted by Multi National Corps-Iraq
commander, Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr.

Flag football bragging rights on Camp Cropper now belong to Bravo
Company following the company's 40-26 FOB championship victory over the
previous champs from Task Force 14.

Company D, 132nd Brigade Support Battalion (Baraboo, Madison)

Baraboo-based Delta Company, 132nd Brigade Support Battalion has seen
its mission take a new direction now that the theatre internment
facility at Camp Bucca has been officially closed, and soldiers are now
performing jobs that are more directly related to their military
occupational specialties (MOS).

"Soldiers are very excited to gain experience conducting their actual
MOS during this deployment," said Capt. Craig Jansen, Milwaukee, who is
Delta Company's commander. "This is an opportunity that not many
soldiers get conducting SECFOR (security force) missions, especially
those coming from a support company," Jansen said.

Now comes the daunting task of tearing down the largest theater
internment facility in Iraq, as many Delta Company soldiers are assigned
as a demolition team to start deconstruction of the TIF.

Troop A, 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry (Fort Atkinson)

Capt. Matthew McDonald reports that soldiers of Alpha Troop, 1st
Squadron, 105th Cavalry will be extremely busy as they prepare to return
home in the next few months. McDonald notes that upcoming Iraqi
elections will require his troops to remain vigilant against those who
might try to discredit the government and destabilize the country in the
months ahead.

To keep in touch with home, 1st Lt. Mark Weigel's troopers in northern
Iraq are corresponding with new pen pals from Cushing Elementary School
in Delafield, Wis. "The first graders there are learning about us and
Iraq," Weigel said. "They've sent us pictures they've drawn and we've
sent them Iraqi currency and a reference sheet to read Arabic numbers."

Weigel said his troops are working with the Delafield kids to collect
school supplies for a small orphanage in the mountains of northern Iraq.

Home-cooked American food is on most soldiers' lists of things they're
looking forward to when they get back to Wisconsin. According to 1st
Lt. Eric Giese, his troopers are mightily bored with Iraq's ubiquitous
chicken kabobs. "We have had plenty of kabobs up here, as every
restaurant has the same menu unless you have a restaurant by a river and
then you can have fish," Giese reports.

One condiment most of the troops enjoy is "Family Sauce," which is made
in Iraq and tastes a little like A.1. Sauce. "The secret to this sauce
is 'intensifiers,'" Giese said. "It is on the ingredients label but, for
the love of God, no one knows what intensifiers are."

32nd Military Police Company (Milwaukee, Oconomowoc)

The Milwaukee and Oconomowoc-based 32nd Military Police Company is
providing overwatch support at Forward Operating Base Future's entry
control points, in addition to maintaining a quick reaction force.
Wisconsin's MP soldiers are also at the center of efforts to turn over
all detainee operations to the Iraqi government.

A dozen soldiers of the 32nd MP Company were recently honored by Brig.
Gen. David Quantock for their efforts in transporting 2,882 Iraqi
government prisoners during one eight-day period in September. Quantock
reminded the soldiers of the importance of their mission and the vital
role it plays in turning over the last of the detainees in U.S. custody
to the government of Iraq and moving the U.S. closer to closing all of
its theater internment facilities in Iraq.

By mid-November, the 32nd Military Police Company had conducted 170
missions, including transporting more than 10,000 detainees during
detainee air transport missions conducted at all hours of the day and
night.

Troop C, 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry (Reedsburg)

Reedsburg-based Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry is
headquartered at Joint Base Balad north of Baghdad, but most of the
troop's soldiers are widely dispersed throughout Iraq. The Charlie
Troopers who were at Balad on Oct. 30 got a visit from 32nd Brigade
commander, Col. Steven Bensend, and brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Edgar
Hansen.

Bensend and Hansen get around to other brigade locations whenever they
can, and Balad was the last of the brigade's major locations to get a
visit.

Few Wisconsin communities have embraced their deployed hometown soldiers
as warmly as Reedsburg has. The soldiers have received several thousand
cards and letters, lots of local cheese, and a giant banner signed by
hundreds of hometown supporters hangs outside the troop's operations
center.

Every day these soldiers report for their duties they are reminded of
the support they have at home.

Troop B, 1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry (Watertown)

Bravo Troop's new one-hole golf course became the latest improvement to
Camp Cropper Nov. 3. The unit received a box of golf balls and a few
clubs a couple months earlier from the Red Arrow Club in Milwaukee, but
the troops had no place to use them until two enterprising soldiers,
Spc. Craig Detert, Watertown, and Staff Sgt. Casey Freeman, Fort
Atkinson, created the "course" outside the troop's command post.

"It may only be a one-hole course, but it is pretty nice considering the
limitations they had to work with," said 1st Sgt. Thomas Bruss,
Appleton. "It only has one water hazard but it has lots of sand
traps--lots and lots of sand traps."

Bravo Troop continues to execute its base defense mission, manning entry
control points and a quick reaction force for Camp Cropper and the
western portion of Victory Base Complex. The QRF periodically conducts
exterior patrols of the troop's area of operations outside Victory Base
to detect vulnerabilities and become familiar with the area in the event
soldiers are called on to respond to an outside-the-wire incident.

The troop's exterior patrols have recently been supported by an air
weapons team, which the soldiers find reassuring. "It was nice having
air support for this (recent) mission since we were dismounted," said
Staff Sgt. Ryan Johnson, Eagle, Wis. "It makes you feel a little safer
since the enemy doesn't like to show themselves with Apaches flying
around."

In late October, Bravo Troop received care packages from a family nobody
in the unit knew. From an enclosed letter and photographs, soldiers
learned that the Leinstock family in Watertown had an Army-themed
birthday party for their 5-year-old son, and the kids then assembled a
couple care packages for the hometown National Guard unit to thank
Watertown's troops for their service.

"We thought it was a very nice gesture from friendly, caring people we
have never met," Bruss said.

Bravo Troop also received care packages of candy, snacks, magazines and
DVDs from 6th and 8th grade classes at St. Bernard's church in
Watertown.

Troopers who took part in "Tailgating with the Troops" Oct. 18 say they
appreciated the tireless efforts of those back home who worked so hard
to make it happen. Many of the soldiers were able to talk to their
families on webcams over the Internet. "It was a wonderful opportunity
to see and talk with my 12-year-old son, Nathan," said Sgt. 1st Class
Ken Tennies of Jefferson. "(Nathan) said he had a great time at the
event in Madison and he especially enjoyed making a poster."

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry
(Appleton)

Soldiers from Appleton's 2nd Battalion, 127th Infantry knew from their
2006 deployment that residents of the southern Iraqi cities of Safwan
and Umm Qasr led difficult lives, so even before the battalion's current
deployment began, plans were underway to help them.

More than 3,200 pounds of school supplies, toys, clothes and hygiene
items were donated from Wisconsin and five other states, and by August
the packages started rolling in from families, co-workers, businesses,
church groups and community organizations.

The items were divided up and delivered to each of the cities at the end
of October.

"It was amazing to see the number of children lined up, their eyes all
excited as they paraded through the line receiving the items," said Maj.
John Oakley, Appleton. "With the donations we were able to help 400
families."

829th Engineer Company (Chippewa Falls, Richland Center, Ashland)

When they're not being teased by detainees about Brett Favre's purple
football jersey--and even when they are--the soldiers of the 829th
Engineer Company from Chippewa Falls, Richland Center and Ashland are
busy with their detainee operations mission at Camp Cropper.

For engineer soldiers assigned to the company's Repairs and Utilities
Section, the work is familiar. "We are still involved in making
hundreds of wooden products, pouring concrete, fixing fences and, in
general, doing what it takes to support the main mission of TIF
operations," said 1st Lt. Joel Busboom, New Berlin, the section's
officer in charge. "The end is in sight now, however we know that the
end of our tour doesn't mean it's time to relax."

Staff Sgt. Mark Meuer, La Crosse, is night shift lead for one of the
compounds and claims "the hardest working soldiers of the 32nd Brigade"
have made the place a lot better. "The compound improvement projects
still continue, such as replacing sniper screen, painting, and
everybody's favorite, filling and replacing sandbags," Meuer said.

Some of the 829th's soldiers are using their time off after their
12-hour workdays to better themselves. According to the company's
senior medic, Sgt. 1st Class Ginger Macdonald, Muskego, 17 soldiers are
enrolled in a 153-hour emergency medical technician course. These
soldiers will come home with extra skills they hope to use as they
continue or pursue civilian careers in medicine or emergency services.
"(This is) not an easy task to complete with the day-to-day
responsibilities of soldiering and deployment and, oh yeah, getting
ready to redeploy back to Wisconsin," Macdonald noted.

The main job at Camp Cropper, though, is guarding detainees. Sgt. 1st
Class Andrew Traaholt, Ashland, reports the last few weeks have been a
bit busier, but "detainees seemed to settle into their zones, and the
temperatures cooled off, which helped everyone."

"The compound guard force has installed new sniper screen around their
compounds, along with many other projects to make the TIF look and run
better, and there are Red Arrows adorning every compound," Traaholt
said. "Whoever replaces the soldiers from the Wisconsin Army National
Guard will have a hard act to follow, as Wisconsin soldiers are some of
the hardest working soldiers in the nation."
____________________

As the 32nd Brigade's soldiers head into the final two months of their
time overseas, the change of seasons in Iraq is attempting to prepare
them for their return to Wisconsin. The high temperature in Baghdad
Nov. 18 was only 62 degrees and the overnight low is forecast to be down
around 40. It's not January-in-Wisconsin weather yet, to be sure, but
high temperatures are more than 60 degrees cooler than the troops were
experiencing just a few months ago.

They'll be ready for Wisconsin.

Arrows fly at Camp Bucca

Wisconsin National Guard soldiers stationed at Camp Bucca, Iraq, sent this report on a recent archery competition:

We expected about 20 shooters and we ended up with 33. After 3 rounds Douglas Isbel was in the lead with 110 points, Joshua Corbin was in 2nd with 102 points, Robert Mulvey was in 3rd place with 100 points. Then, Herb Johnson, as the very last serviceman to shoot, blew the completion away with 120 points.







1ST HERB JOHNSON
2ND DOUGLAS ISBEL (not pictured)














3RD JOSHUA CORBIN












4TH ROBERT MULVEY

We thank camp commander COL Lund for attending and giving us permission to carry out this event. We thank deptuy LTC Moore ( camp deputy Commander and 132nd Battalion Commander) for being there and for shooting the first arrow down range, you did a great job Ma’am. We thank MSG Robert Mulvey for donating the 4 trophies and the 25 medallions. We had an awesome camera man, SPC James Morrow, who did an outstanding job along with our scorers, SPC Carlson and PFC Bryan Schneider. An awesome turn out, no one got hurt and everyone had a great time. We thank everyone for helping us get this together and making this happen.

We thank our sponsors, Muzzy Brodhead's, Mathews, PSE, Bowtech, Oshkosh Trophies, Mark Halfman, Robert Mulvey, Timberline Archery and Chad Oczachowski with Lakeview Log Homes. Without these guys and the equipment they contributed we could not have made this happen.

From SPC Christina Gessner:
On 7 November there was an archery competition at Camp Bucca, Iraq. The
competition was successful in many aspects. There were a lot of competitors,
both beginners and veterans. I was one of the beginners but there were a lot
of help offered to make sure that I knew what I was doing. There were trophies for
the first four places and medallions that were handed out to last place and
below. And everyone that participated got a certificate. The tournament
encouraged me to get out and try new things, and now I want to go bow hunting!

SPC Jason “Oz” Oczachowski:
As an experienced shooter, I was impressed by the amount of people both male and female that were interested in archery. It made me swell with pride that these individuals and enjoyed the sport as much as I. We gave those who needed it, the fundamentals and a little instruction and they took it from there. While I was watching the competition unfold, I have no doubt that each person felt pride in themselves, knowing that they have aspired to new heights. I salute all of the competitors but especially the beginners. Keep the sport alive.

SSG Amanda G. Leverich:
Archery at Camp Bucca will definitely be my favorite deployment memory. Bow hunting is something I was always curious about, but just never found time to do back in the states. Then I found out that several soldiers (SPC Benge, SPC Weum, SGT Sonnentag, and SPC OZ) came together and continued the archery range and lessons here. I knew nothing about bow hunting. My fellow soldiers walked me through everything and gave me a lot of bow hunting advice. They do this with many other military personnel no matter what branch or rank. These soldiers are extremely helpful and courteous to all. They taught me how to stand correctly, what a quick release is and how to put it on, terminology of equipment, differences in brands, and many helpful hunting tips. I look forward to everyday that the range is open. The range is a peaceful place to get away from all the stress and havoc of deployment problems. I am looking forward to going back home and using my new found skills.

SPC Jessica Torres, A Co. 132ND BSB:
The Bucca Archery Tournament was a lot of fun, I didn't shoot but I was there to show my support for everyone who did. Although after seeing everyone shooting I think I might take it up. Everyone had a lot of fun, whether they did good or not. The tournament was put on by SPC Benge, SPC Weum, SGT Sonnentag, SPC Oczachowski and MSG Mulvey who are all from the lovely state of Wisconsin. :) They all did a really good job with all the arrangements. They made certificates for all participants and had trophies and medallions for the top 4 participants it was really nice to see so many people out there having a good time in this environment. Even Our First Sergeant shot!! Go TOP!!

SGT Justin Sonnentag:
Out of three deployments and of the many bases that I have been to, Camp Bucca is the only base that had an archery range. Having an archery range had a large impact on giving me something to do after work hours to keep my mind off the stress of being away from my wife and two kids. The range provided a relaxing environment and gave a great learning experience for many soldiers on the FOB. The experience gave soldiers who never shot a bow before a sense of accomplishment. The only reason the range was such a success was due to the soldiers that ran the range and dedicated their own personal time four nights a week, and encouraged others to come out and shoot. I would like to thank everybody for their participation and dedication to the Camp Bucca archery range and I know I can leave here with one more positive memory of many, during my tour.

Lt. Nicholas Berger:
I have had the honor of serving in both OEF (Afghanistan) and currently in OIF, Iraq. While deployed to Afghanistan, I visited over 15 different Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) and never had I been to a FOB with an archery range. The ability to have one for MWR (Morale Wellness and Recreation) purposes was great. It had been many years since I shot a bow and I’ve had the desire to pick up the sport again. Being here at FOB Bucca with the archery range has given me a chance to reacquaint with the bow and made me realize the desire to keep with it when I get home. You can rest assure that a bow will be requested for a Christmas present from my wife! The archery tournament was a great way to bring people from all levels together. There was a tone of helpfulness and guidance during the entire event, instead of the usual competitiveness, which helped many new comers to the sport. The experience from SPC Benge, SPC Oz, SGT Sonnentag and MSG Mulvey was a great way to ease first timers into the sport and allowed many of them to have a desire after the tournament. Great time, great people, great sport!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Don't blame MPs for Fort Hood shootings

From Nick Druecke at Camp Taji, Iraq, roughly 6,339 miles from home in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.

Before we deployed, Ft. Hood was my duty station, and I will be returning there upon redeployment. When I heard about that shooting business, I thought they would blame the security guards or the MP's for what happened, and that simply isn't fair. Ft. Hood is one of the largest military bases on the planet. Every day over 60,000 people come and go to work on base, and there are only a handful of gates for people to enter. So in the mornings for the start of the day, the afternoons for lunch, and the evening for the end of the day, you have that many people driving through those gates. Yes they have guards stationed, and they check the ID of everyone in the vehicle. If you don't have an ID, you get turned around. If your vehicle doesn't have a military base sticker visible, you get turned around. If you have a visible weapon, you get refused entry and probably arrested. There isn't really a more strict way to manage a system that huge, while still letting the traffic through. So you can't really blame the guards, plus I heard the shooter was soldier anyways, so they would have been let in regardless. You also can't blame the MP's, because the base is bigger than most cities back home. Like I said there are over 60,000 individuals there during the working day, and at least 20,000 soldiers on post at any given time. There are 4 brigades of Cav soldiers there, 1 brigade of 4th Infantry Division soldiers there, the Air Cav Brigade out of west Ft. Hood, and countless other battalions and civilian based companies there. So getting around all of that is quite a task. The MP's run a regular work shift as well, so any of them in the area responded as quickly as possible.

I don't know the details, but I do know that the only people to blame are those who pulled the triggers. It's ridiculous to think that these people were so screwed up from deployments, that they decided there was no better way to deal with their situation than shooting innocent people. Other soldiers no less. The army has a mandatory pre/post deployment physical, and mental health health assessment. As well as countless self help programs for those who need it, there are pamphlets and commercials everywhere here and in the states. So anybody who doesn't get help, is just afraid to be judged by their peers. I think anyone who would do this is a fool and coward.

I feel sorry for the families, as well as those families not involved. My parents are seeing that broadcast, fearing for my safety upon returning from a combat zone. That's just not right.


Nick

Read more: Wisconsin soldiers among the dead and wounded
Continuing local coverage from the State Journal

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vaulting the Wisconsin-Iraq language barrier


From Nick Druecke at Camp Taji, Iraq, roughly 6,339 miles from home in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Nick recently spent some time on the Iraqi side of the installation. Here are some more of his observations about working with Iraqi soldiers.

They love to talk, and they don't seem to mind that we can't understand them. You pick up key phrases pretty quickly this way. We have a few translators here working with us, other wise progress would be kept to a minimum. Most of them grew up and lived most of their lives in Iraq, their reasons for helping the americans are varied. I do know however that they have the ability to become american citizens after certain prequisites are met.
There are only a few words you hear here often, the ones you can pick out and understand at least. For the record I don't claim to know how these are spelled, I'm purely going off of phonetics.

"Ha-bi-bi" (Ha B B) means love, or loved one. They use it quite frequently when describing their feeling towards something or someone. If they place their right hand on their heart when doing so, it means they are very adamant about their feelings.

"Shu-kran" (roll the r) simply means thank you. They will often combine this with the above word and hand gesture.

"Am-re-ki" (as far as I know you always roll the r) means American.

"Jun-di" (June D) means soldier, or lower enlisted soldier, E4 and below.

"Se-di-ki" (Sa D Key) means friend.

"Chai" means tea. It could be 140 degrees outside and they would still make hot tea, it is very good however, in a little six ounce glass they put about 3 ounces of sugar to sweeten it.

"Shaku-Maku" means What's Up? You only want to say this to younger people though, as I mentioned before they are a proud people, and some of the older folk could take offense.

There are obviously more, but I can't remember them without my cheat sheet. They usually don't refer to us as Jundi, however. Usually they just address us all with a quick "Sir", or "Mista." All of the little kids here speak about as much english as we do arabic, and they all know how to say, "Mista...give me money." I'll touch on the civilians in another note as this one is already getting long. I'll make sure to throw more Arabic words with every note from now on, for those of us eager to learn.

Until then it's still Nick, Still Live from Iraq.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sights and smells on the Iraqi side of Camp Taji


From Nick Druecke at Camp Taji, Iraq, roughly 6,339 miles from home in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.

Sorry about not posting in a while, we have been just busy enough to keep me from doing anything for long periods of time. Camp Taji is divided in two. The american side is by far the smaller portion, but even so its roughly the size of juneau. The Iraqi side is huge, but its also pretty spread out.

On the American side there is an order to things, we established the camp in a matter of years, so things were all pretty much laid out in a sense able manner. Entrance and exit is strictly controlled by armed guards. There are concrete barriers almost everywhere, there to protect us from mortar rounds and the like. Also there is gravel everywhere to help cut down on the dust during the summer, and the trash is kept to a minimum.

The Iraqi side is the complete opposite.
After passing an entry control point filled with armed guards, a series speed bumps, stop signs, detainee areas and more concrete, you enter what I call 'the dark side.' The roads are a nightmare, filled with pot holes and small fissures. Also road signs are a rarity, there is one speed limit sign to be seen (50 k.p.h.) which nobody obeys. You could be flying down those roads and somebody will always be trying to pass you, as there are no traffic lanes. More often than not you will see a truck with an obscene amount of Iraqi's going down the road. In an average pick-up there will be upwards of 12 crammed in there. Also all of the road signs are in arabic, so unless you know where your going your in trouble.

Trash is everywhere, as the only waste disposal system is the american's. So you will see holes, and trenches dug and filled to the brim with trash and stagnant water, the smell is almost unbearable. Although I haven't seen it yet, I am quite sure from the smell of it that these trenches are also used as makeshift bathrooms. Just about everything is falling apart or just about broken, yet somehow they make it work. The Iraqi army unit we help out here is friendly towards us, always offering us food or chai.

There is no doubt that they have a long ways to go, we are helping them as much as we can without doing things for them. Our role is disappearing however, as more and more troops are reduced. While I have surely gotten an experience out of my time in the army, I do not wish to return to this place ever again.

Live from Iraq,
Nick

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Saddened by loss of Sgt. Adams, but Wisconsin's 951st back on Afghan road


Soldiers of Wisconsin's 951st are back at work clearing roads of IEDs following the death Friday of Sgt. Ryan Adams (Wisconsin National Guard photo at right shows Adams in Afghanistan in May 2009). A rocket-propelled grenade killed Adams and injured seven of his fellow soldiers who were on a route-clearing patrol in Logar Province, Afghanistan.

This update comes via Maj. Jackie Guthrie, the state guard PAO in Madison.

"The 951st is a close-knit group of Soldiers," said Capt. Brian Barth, company commander. "They understand that this can happen. But we continue with the mission."

Adams was killed by insurgents Oct. 2 while his route clearing platoon was on patrol in Logar Province, Afghanistan. He was commanding a vehicle providing security for his platoon when the attack occurred. Seven other Soldiers were injured in the same attack and are receiving medical care as needed.

Three Soldiers from the 951st knew Adams since childhood, and served as pallbearers during the "ramp ceremony," when his casket was loaded onto a plane to be brought to the United States. "He's never going to be forgotten in the unit," Fulton said. "As long as we're alive, Sgt. Adams will be alive with us. We're continuing on with the mission, doing the best we can."

That entails helping ensure that other Soldiers stay alive to complete their missions. The unit, based in Rhinelander and Tomahawk, puts in long days clearing roadside bombs along routes in an approximately 6,000-square mile area of responsibility.

"We are in high demand due to the [improvised explosive device] threat," Barth said.

Besides hunting IEDs, the 951st searches key terrain features as well as bypass roads for major supply routes, alternative supply routes and combat trails, and gathers biometric data - name, date and location of birth, home of record, iris scans and fingerprints - from local residents. Missions can range from six to 56 hours in length. Since February, the unit has amassed more than 240 combat missions.

"We've got Soldiers that perform with the best of them," he said, noting that his unit works alongside active component Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division and the 82nd Airborne Division.

"How do you label success?" he continued. "It's tough losing a Soldier. Getting back on the road is success."

Fulton described Adams as a dedicated Soldier with a unique sense of humor who looked out for others.

"He didn't have a mean bone in his body," Fulton said.

"He was the model for the [non-commissioned officer]," Barth added. "He challenged people, regardless of rank, to perform their best. Sgt. Adams was a great individual."

The 951st mobilized Nov. 30, 2008 and are nearing the end of their deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Honors for Wisconsin soldiers Burns and Wise for action in fatal explosion in Baghdad

From left, Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Wise and Sgt. Randy Burns are honored for their actions in response to last week's fatal IDF attack in Baghdad. Lt. Col. Lee Ward pins the members of the 32nd IBCT with Army Commendation Medals. (Photos courtesy Lt. Col Tim Donovan, Wisconsin National Guard PAO in Baghdad)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wisconsin soldiers were first on the scene to help after an explosion killed a Michigan soldier and injured others in Baghdad

When the Associated Press reported that a Michigan soldier was killed by indirect fire in the Baghdad area last week, I asked the PAO for the 32nd IBCT if any Wisconsin soldiers were affected by the blast.

Indirect fire is when an enemy propels an explosive device from an unseen location.

Lt. Col. Tim Donovan in Baghdad got back to me with this:

This indirect fire incident did involve impacts in the vicinity of one
of our units. Two soldiers from (the Eau Claire-based) Headquarters and Headquarters Company of 1-128th Infantry were first to respond to provide emergency first aid to the soldiers injured in the attack. Sgt. 1st ClassThomas Wise (front left) and
Sgt. Randy Burns (front right) received awards for their actions in response to the
indirect fire attack.

There have been relatively infrequent indirect fire attacks on a few
locations where 32nd Brigade soldiers are assigned. . I am not aware of any 32nd
Brigade soldiers who have been wounded by indirect fire.

Sgt. 1st Class Wise is from Hammond, Wis. (in St. Croix County) and Sgt.
Burns is from Pardeeville, Wis.

The soldiers were fairly close to the point of impact, so they most
definitely heard the explosion, then they responded to a call for
medics.

Here is the text of the Associated Press story on the indirect fire incident:

DOWAGIAC, Mich. - The Department of Defense says a soldier from
southwestern Michigan was killed last week in Iraq.

The Pentagon said Monday that Spc. Paul E. Andersen of Dowagiac died
Oct. 1 in Baghdad from wounds sustained when his camp was attacked with
indirect fire. Additional details were not released.

Andersen, 49, was assigned to the Army Reserve's 855th Quartermaster
Company, based in South Bend, Ind.

The South Bend Tribune reports Andersen is survived by his wife, Linda,
three children and three stepchildren
.


Wisconsin legion chief joins battle for Afghan war funds



The commander of the organization for Wisconsin veterans of overseas conflict has joined the war of words designed to persuade President Obama to ramp up U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan.

Here is a portion of a press release issued Tuesday by
Wisconsin American Legion Finance Development Manager Jessika Erickson:

Leo A. Endres, Commander of the over 70,000 member Wisconsin American Legion, echoed the call of the organization’s National Commander. “Wisconsin Service members are fighting and dying in Afghanistan and it is time for this Administration to give them the tools they need to win. In the past week, Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers have been hit hard by casualties and we ask the President to act now on McChrystal’s report,” said Commander Endres. “While the state is mourning the loss of Sgt Adams, The Wisconsin American Legion Family is working to assist the wounded and their families. It is time for this Administration to take decisive action on General McChrystal’s request,” said Endres. He continued, “We must not lose Afghanistan. Wisconsin service members and their families have sacrificed too much for the President to decide to fight this battle without the right tools to win the war on terrorism. Our Wisconsin heroes deserve better.” The Wisconsin American Legion Troop and Family Support Fund was designed to assist service members and their families with the challenges that arise when a loved one is deployed in harm’s way. To learn more or make a tax-deductible contribution to these efforts, please visit www.wilegion.org/programs/troop_support/.
The Wisconsin American Legion is the state’s largest veterans’ service organization with over 70,000 members and 523 posts and has been serving troops, veterans, and youth since 1919. For more information on the Legion’s programs and membership, please visit www.wilegion.org.

****
The three-tiered heading on the press release links the death Friday of a Wisconsin soldier, the case for more war funding, and a Time magazine cover featuring a wounded Wisconsin soldier:

SGT Ryan Adams of Rhinelander killed in action

Wisconsin casualties in Afghanistan heighten need for support

Sparta soldier appears on cover of TIME


******

(Getty Images photo at left: President Obama meets with Gen. Stanley McChrystal in the Oval Office in May. McChrystal has asked the Pentagon for as many as 40,000 additional troops in Afghanistan. )

Here is how the story has unfolded in recent days

Obama's national security advisor has criticized McChrystal for breaking the chain of command by appealing directly to the public.

The relationship between President Barack Obama and the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan has been put under severe strain by Gen Stanley McChrystal's comments on strategy for the war.

Afghanistan is not in imminent danger of falling to the Taliban, President Barack Obama's national security adviser, retired Gen. James Jones, said Sunday as he downplayed worries that the insurgency could set up a renewed sanctuary for al-Qaida.

THE LATEST: According to Foreign Policy's Passport blog, at a bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders on Tuesday, President Barack Obama indicated that he has ruled out substantial troop reductions in Afghanistan but remains undecided on Gen. Stanley McChyrstal's request for 40,000 more troops.

A senior aide said the president was looking to “dispense with the straw man argument that this is about either doubling down or leaving Afghanistan,” but with congress divided on Afghan strategy, the president may not have much time for deliberation. “This should not be a leisurely process,” Sen. John McCain reportedly told the president at the meeting.




Tuesday, October 6, 2009

More wounded Wisconsin soldiers identified in Time photo essay


A Time magazine photo essay called "A Window on the War in Afghanistan" includes photos of at least four Wisconsin National Guard soldiers, including three shortly after they were injured by an explosion. They are members of the 951st, a state guard Sapper, or combat engineering, unit that is clearing roads of IEDs.

The photographs were made in September. On Friday a member of the unit was killed and seven were injured by a rocket propelled grenade.

In one of the Time magazine photos, Specialist Codey Johnson of Eau Claire cries while comforting his best friend, Specialist T.J. Fecteau of Scofield. Insignias identifying the soldiers as members of the state guard are visible.

Another shows Sgt. Phil Poitra from Lac du Flambeau with his head bandaged and blood on his face.The magazine reported that he returned to duty.

The fourth soldier, Sgt. Chet Millard, is expected to be on the cover of the magazine, which has been delivered to subscribers.

None of the injuries was life-threatening, said Maj. Jackie Guthrie of the Wisconsin National Guard. Millard is being treated for his injuries in Afghanistan, while Fecteau has been moved to the U.S. for treatment, Guthrie said.

It appears that one or more other photos of soldiers being carried to a helicopter on stretchers are also Wisconsin soldiers, although it's not clear who is who, Guthrie said.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Injured soldier from Sgt. Adams' unit to be featured in Time



Sgt. Ryan Adams of Rhinelander, seen at left, was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade in Afghanistan on Friday. The Wisconsin National Guard soldier was part of the 951st, an engineering unit (seen on patrol at right in photo provided by the Army) with a mission of clearing roads of improvised explosive devices.

Several other members of the unit were injured.

About a month ago, on Sept. 8, one of Adams' fellow soldiers in the 951st was injured by the explosion of an IED.

Sgt. Chet Millard survived the blast. A Time magazine journalist happened to be nearby.

Editions of the magazine that hit newstands in about a week will include coverage of the hazardous mission of the Wisconsin-based 951st, according to a
television news report.

A local soldier's tragic accident in Afghanistan provides a painfully heroic image for the cover of a national news magazine.

Sergeant First Class Chet Millard from the 951st National Guard unit based out of Rhinelander-Tomahawk is currently deployed overseas.

On September 8th the heavily armored vehicle that SFC Millard was riding in during a route clearing mission in Afghanistan hit a roadside bomb and the vehicle was slammed into the side of a mountain.

About two weeks before Millard was injured, The Washington Times published a story about the 951st. Millard was quoted in the article.

"I always expect to get hit," said Sgt. First Class Millard, "When we don't -- it's a good day."

- Steve

Friday, October 2, 2009

UW grad's new DOD job is getting armor, weapons to troops


A Madison native was named today to a Defense Department post as chief adviser for procuring equipment that protects U.S. forces from roadside bombs that have killed scores of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Read the story at madison.com

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Wisconsin native claimed by IED in Afghanistan

Kevin Graham, an Army specialist who grew up in Wisconsin and still has family here, was killed Saturday by an IED in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Read his story in the Racine Journal-Times by clicking here.
According to coverage in The News Tribune of Tacoma, Washington, near Fort Lewis:

His death is the 16th for the Strykers of the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. And 10 of those deaths have fallen on a single battalion, the 1-17.

Since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began, only five other Fort Lewis Stryker battalions have lost 10 or more soldiers, and those were sustained over a full 12- or 15-month deployment. The 1-17 and its parent brigade have been deployed less than three months.

Kevin Graham, 1982-2009

Monthly Wisconsin National Guard update

Read the state guard online magazine updating the 32nd's progress in Baghdad's International Zone and elsewhere. Read the Wisconsin State Journal's very brief summary, with a link to the magazine, here. Or click straight to the magazine here.
- Steve

Friday, September 25, 2009

Emergency leave confirms -- baby Carter is the man


Robert Grinage is back in Iraq after an emergency trip to Wisconsin to help care for his son, Carter, while the youngster's mother recuperates from a serious car crash.

Well I am back home from the great state of Wisconsin. Carter Matthew is doing great. We had a lot of great times while i was home on E-Leave. We went mudding with the Jeep Stroller. Went farming, Went to a Barron High School Football game.
Let me tell you he is going to be a chick magnet. Carter made me pull over in the middle of the night to change his pants. He actually said in an English voice. "Father can you pull this buggy over. I seem to have wetted my trousers." I was shocked when i heard it. HAHAHA. No I was kidding about the talking part. But he really made me pull over in the night and change his pants. But i don't care tho. Its just another great memory i have with my main man.

Carter's mother, Jaci Laursen, is doing great by what I am told. She came home to Cumberland WI, three days before I left for overseas again. And she was and is still in high spirits. I would like to say thanks to all who sent flowers, and the prayers. The Laursen and the Lindquist, and the Grinage family's thank all who have prayed for Jaci and my son Carter during this time. Thanks again.

Carter, dad will be home sooner then you think. Then we can go sledding. Ah sledding, what havoc can me and you bring on the snow hills. Love ya Carter Matthew Laursen. Love Dad

Friday, September 18, 2009

I lost my son -- let's save other returning warriors

From Kathy Rodrick of Racine.

Hello, I am a mother
of a Marine who recently committed suicide.
I have a few ideas that I would like someone to listen to and maybe adapt. Let’s do this so we can help our soldiers. First, according to the VFW NEWS WISCONSIN, the VA’s Suicide Prevention Program Adds Chat Service. This is a wonderful idea but I think it is too hard for soldiers to access. How many people do not have a computer and how long will it take to begin talking to a live source. I think that a business card with the front of it saying something like, “SUICIDE IS NOT PAINLESS TO THE LOVE ONE LEFT BEHIND” with the phone number of someone they can speak to instantly. This is something they should be given at their debrie
fing, something they are told to put in their wallet. At this time, I would impress upon them that it is not the strong person that thinks they can handle this on their own. It is the STRONG person that calls this number and ask for help. Also, Mandatory Counseling!

We need to impress upon our soldiers that it is the strong that seek help. They are not weak. Other people have these thoughts.

Even if we stress that they need to come to these group meetings to help their comrades, we all know that by helping others we are actually helping ourselves. Let these meetings be in the outlying areas, not everything at the VA. It would make it convenient for our soldiers and maybe they would find it easier to attend. Have the counselors and psychiatrist be mobile for our
soldiers, they were for us.

Second, maybe they need to find someone outside of the military who has been through this to talk to these returning soldiers so it becomes h
umanized. I don’t have all of the answers but I do know the pain that this has caused a loving family.





Cpl. Kevin E. Rodrick 1977 - 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Major Wisconsin Guard operation ends as last detainee leaves Bucca

The Army announced this afternoon that the final 186 detainees have been moved out of Camp Bucca today. Several units of Wisconsin National Guard soldiers had been operating Bucca's detention facilities.
Several Wisconsin units continue working on other missions at Bucca.
--Steve

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What's wrong with this picture? Wisconsin troops destroy beer in Iraq

From the Wisconsin National Guard Public Affairs Office in Baghdad:
"Because U.S. soldiers are not allowed to possess or consume alcohol in a combat zone, a 5-ton truck crushes beer left behind at a foreign compound formerly occupied by those who don’t have such a rule. Alpha Troop, 105th Cavalry reports there wasn’t a dry eye on the base as the beer was destroyed. Photo provided by Troop A, 1-105th Cavalry." For more from the PAO, go to madison.com/wsj.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

We're recycling Camp Bucca


Lt. Col. Leah Moore of Monona is 6,714 miles from home at Forward Operating Base Bucca, aka Camp Bucca, in southern Iraq. She is the base deputy commander. When not deployed she works as the Wisconsin National Guard deputy surgeon in Madison, and commands the guard armory in Portage.

At FOB Bucca, there are several permanent infrastructures originally
built to sustain Army forces and missions. These include a brick factory capable of producing up to 1 million bricks per month, an ice plant capable of producing up to 45 tons of ice per day, and a Waste Water Treatment Plant with the ability to sustain a population of over 50,000 people.

In addition -- and most importantly --
we are also currently overseeing the completion of a new water treatment facility capable of producing 2 million gallons of water a day. FOB Bucca is located above the largest aquifer in the region. The new water treatment facility is able to drill down to the water, retrieve it, and then treat it so that it is drinkable. While deployed here, our goals are not only to see through the completion of the construction of this water treatment plant but also to complete several projects that will provide local cities/villages direct access to our water, waste plant, brick, and ice factory assets in the near future. We also intend to provide the vocational training required to sustain these assets after our departure.

As far as the future of Bucca -- based on our location and established
assets -- there are many potential uses. As of yet, a final decision has not been made on which if any of the uses will come to fruition. Regardless, we work daily not only to sustain normal operations incumbent to running a FOB (i.e. logistics, engineering, housing, safety, and contracting operations) but also to prepare the Base for its re-missioning (whatever that may be).

The challenge is to
keep what we need now, anticipate what we may need in the future, and reallocate the difference to help out our fellow forces and minimize waste and cost. So far, we've identified and reallocated over 8 million dollars worth of supplies and equipment that may have otherwise gone to waste. We are very proud of our work and success here.

- LTC. Leah Moore


New York Times photo at left depicts a portion of Camp Bucca's detainee facilities months ago. Thousands of detainees have been moved north to other facilities for release or transfer to Iraqi custody.


More from Moore:
LTC. Moore, who works full time in the Wisconsin National Guard medical office in Madison, was among the experts quoted in Sunday's Wisconsin State Journal article on new efforts to combat suicides by military personnel and veterans.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Acknowledgements to sources in today's Wisconsin State Journal article on USMC Cpl. Kevin Rodrick

Personal note of thanks to everyone who helped in the reporting of today's Wisconsin State Journal article on members of the military who take their own lives:

Special thanks to the family of USMC Cpl. Kevin Rodrick
for their courage and forthrightness in making sure Kevin's story is heard, and for their sincere desire to make his story part of the solution.

Kevin's mother, Kathy, praised the Marine Corps for its concern and assistance after her son died Aug. 15. But she confronted a psychiatrist at the Veterans Administration about doing more to prevent suicides.

"He said, 'I'm sorry ma'am to tell you this has been happening more and more often,'" she said.

" 'Well then let's fix it,' " she told him. " 'You can't help Kevin, but you can help someone else.' "

"These guys don't know how to ask for help," she said. "They've been trained not to ask for help. We need to change that."


The Rodrick family sent us several wonderful photos of Kevin, including several that you can see in the print or online versions of the article. Here you can see three others. That's Kevin, above, on a transport aircraft in theater.

The
image at left shows Kevin with his twin sister, Karen, who is a veteran who saw up close the ravages of that war on military personnel and civilians alike while on duty in Afghanistan .

In the bottom photo, that's Kevin at center in the background, preparing for a mission.

Those of you who are overseas are no doubt aware of the command's latest efforts to prevent suicides.

Here are some resources
for those who would like more information and for anyone who wants to help a buddy or family member. The national suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you are a member of the military or a veteran, press 1 after you connect.

The gist of what the experts are saying is this: the military teaches its warriors to be tough and self-reliant. In order to be as tough and self-reliant and you can be, you need to know when to reach out for help.

For what it's worth, here's my definition of suicide:
A permanent solution to a temporary problem. And they are all temporary problems.

-Steve