Friday, July 31, 2009

Red arrow points to Lindsay's love in Hi Mom video

Lindsay Herman, fiance of a Madison man serving overseas in the Wisconsin National Guard, tells us how the 32nd IBCT's Red Arrow pointed her to a fleeting glimpse of her young man in the Hi Mom video currently circulating on YouTube.

Here's a portion of Lindsay's email to A World Away:
Initially Chad sent me the link with no explanation, so I started watching. I was watching the video and thought it was cute, but then I saw was the 32nd red arrow in the background of one of the stages, and I started to get a little curious. Then there he was! I actually made a surprised scream sound - my roommate probably thought I was crazy. I haven't seen him in that much clarity since I saw him in April.

The internet in Iraq is so flaky that all I usually get is a grainy image. I watched the video probably 20 times that night over and over.

It was almost as if he was waving just to me :)
(Pause while crusty, cynical news reporter wipes away a tear.) The video was posted by a self-described comedian who apparently entertained the troops. Chad is from Madison, WI. He's a specialist in the Wisconsin Army National Guard's Janesville unit who was working for Capital City Harley Davidson before being deployed.

Can you spot the red arrow that heightened Lindsay's curiousity?

Is your soldier on the clip? Let us know! Click on the comments link below, or email your host at

One more time, here's the clip.

National Guard will be needed

Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the chief of the National Guard Bureau; Lt. Gen. Harry M. Wyatt III, the director of the Air National Guard, and Maj. Gen. Raymond W. Carpenter, the acting director of the Army National Guard, talk with reporters during the 2009 National Guard Family Program Volunteer Workshop in Dearborn, Mich., on July 27, 2009. In an era of persistent conflict, "our National Guard and our reserve component forces are going to have to stand alongside our active-duty counterparts and contribute, just like we've been doing for almost eight years," McKinley said. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill

Demand for Guard units shows no signs of slowing, according to a WNG press release.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Hello, mother!

Alert reader Patti points out a Wisconsin soldier in the "Hi Mom" video making rounds on YouTube:

At least one Wisconsin guardsman appears, yet probably more (Chad Brown at 57 sec.) Enjoy a few light moments in a hazardous country.

See any Wisconsin soldiers you know?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Worst kept secret revealed

The above photo, provided by the U.S. military, was not taken at today's press conference with Wisconsin National Guard Col. Steven Bensend.
At today's press conference, Col. Steven Bensend did manage to commit some news, confirming that Wisconsin troops have been transporting detainees from Bucca, and then resuming their detainee ops mission at Taji.
The colonel also said that Wisconsin National Guard troops are well protected for their jouneys outside the wire, and he said officers including himself also venture out into the countryside.
Read the State Journal story.

It's hard to find the news conference clips on the DVIDS site. The clips get a little lost in all the photos of Angelina Jolie.
Here is perhaps a better link if you want to watch the press conference.

Click here for coverage of Angelina Jolie.


B-Roll from Camp Cropper

Here's what the military provides to TV stations to run in the background while the reporter talks. These are kind of interesting. Especially the one from Camp Cropper, just because it shows the inside of a TIF -- something that is fully familiar to many Wisconsin soldiers -- but new to those of us back home.

This clip from Camp Cropper was released recently.

Here's one from the National Training Academy on Forward Operating Base Future, where Iraqi prison guards are being trained.

- Steve

Live ! From Baghdad

Col. Steven Bensend and Command Sgt. Maj. Ed Hanson were taking questions this morning in a live feed from the International Zone.
As one might expect, there were a few technical problems. WTMJ in Milwaukee pointed out that the camera was zoomed in on the Wisconsin flag that stood next to Bensend and Hansen.
Just about every word said in the first half-hour was followed by an echo, and several TV stations had trouble (at their end of the feed) getting a picture.

Bensend reported the morale of Wisconsin National Guard soldiers is very high and the Iraqi military is competent to take over operations over the next year.

"I think they compare to American forces and they should because we trained them," Bensend said.

Meanwhile, the military released several new videos featuring Wisconsin soldiers, including footage from Camp Cropper, Victory Base Complex and the International Zone.
Here is State Journal coverage, including links to the clips.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Undeterred | Volleyball in combat boots

From Austin Phillips

During our days of static operations we pass the time with tournaments and sports. Unfortunately, playing in uniform is a necessity while on duty. There are Ugandans who like to come and challenge us at volleyball every once in awhile, and they usually win.

I am not a volleyball expert by any means (what I retained from watching games while I was in high school is that the girls wear tight shorts), but let's just say the Ugandans play by their own rules. This does not deter us from the challenge, but it does make winning a difficult task.

- Austin

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Eggs, water, aggression | The road to Phuket

This post from Austin Phillips has been delayed by logistical issues. It was timestamped 0216 30Jun09.

I was given a personal day today so I decided to use it and attempt another entry. Nothing new is happening; with the pullout we will wait, observe and maybe my blog will get interesting. I would not hold your breath.
So this week is going slower than usual and I am fairly certain it will never end. You think that your energy would be high if you're not doing anything, but it is not. Just having to be somewhere from a start time to an end time will drain you physically and mentally. I would much rather be gainfully employed and have a feeling of accomplishment instead of this scenario.

People find different ways to deal with our current situation; some people literally just sleep and work, sleep and work. I am trying to decide if by sleeping more this deployment will be over faster. One would think, but I would have to buy stock in Nyquil to make it work.
I find it best to find ways to utilize (waste) my time. Reading caught my attention in Egypt and I find it a fine utilizer of time, but I will choose working out over reading any day. Going to the gym is a great outlet for aggression, and there is plenty of aggression on deployments. Things that form aggression from my stand point:

1. Being around some of the same dullards day in and out.
2. Watching rules mutate and deform as they are passed down the chain of command.
3. Micromanaging
4. Incompetence

To be quite honest I could expand this list but you get the idea.
The aggression caused by some of the daily activities recycles as fuel for me to miss sleep for the gym, and can/will cause me to take on tasks that seem ridiculous: eating 50 hard boiled eggs, drinking 1.5 L of water in 12 seconds without puking and Triathlons.
December 6th, the Laguna Phuket Triathlon (pronounced poo-ket, but guess my phonetic translation), Thailand. This brings me to a major point of this deployment; I am not coming back to the states for my R and R, but using my leave to travel Asia. I am also not using my leave for as much drunken debauchery as before, but to compete in my first triathlon. This brings up a few different issues that I will address in later blogs. I don't want to dish up all the information in my first two entries. Thanks for reading
- Austin

Photo: The training table.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Iraq is home away from home

From Austin Phillips, whose Iraq address is Victory Base Complex, 6,372 miles from home in Hustisford. He's a Team Leader in the National Guard 105th Cav.

My name is Austin and I am a soldier in the 32nd originally from Hustisford by way of Poynette and before that DeForest. This would be my third deployment if you considered my time in the Air Force but for all intensive purpose we will call this number 2. (Some people do not think eating filet mignon and lobster tail daily a deployment.)

I can only speak on things from my perspective. I cannot speculate on other missions or how other people feel about this deployment. I am on a security mission for a camp inside of the VBC (Victory Base Complex). We work long hours six days a week, but most of that time is spent static. It could be comparable to the main character of "Office Space" explaining his job and how much actual work he does to Bob and Bob. If you have not seen this movie I suggest you rent it and get caught up.

The living conditions are more than adequate. We have two to 3 man rooms with AC and access to bathrooms inside of the building. The bed is a far cry from my memory foam queen, but better than the ground. My brother and I share a room with another soldier and having family here makes life easier. Did I forget to mention that my brother and I deployed together? Yes, they let you do that and there are a number of family members in the National Guard that deploy in the same units. My sister is also in the Army, but she just returned from a deployment in Cuba and is now living in Florida scuba diving everyday. Yeah her life sucks.

I thought I would use this first entry to introduce myself and put a few pictures out there. I honestly have not a clue on what you can expect from this blog. I have never done anything like this before so we will have to see what happens. I will probably end up getting myself into trouble, but it will make for some interesting entries.

- Austin

Photos: Left, Matt and Austin Phillips training in New Mexico before their deployment. Right, Austin's sister Meghan cheers him up during his 4-day pass just before deployment.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Base renamed for hotel-casino

Within days this blog will be written by Wisconsin soldiers. While we work out a few logistical challenges, here's another post from your host.

A base that had been named for a fallen Wisconsin soldier has been turned over to the Iraqis.
And it has been renamed.
Todd Olson of Loyal was 36 when he died in Iraq.
A roadside bomb injured him on Dec. 26, 2004, near Samarra. He died the next day.

According to a National Guard press release dated today:
As Patrol Base Olson was turned over to Iraqi forces, its name was changed to Fond'k Albo Hera. The Arabic name translates into English as "Lake Hotel," recognizing the military post's previous use as a hotel and casino on the shore of a small lake on the city's northern edge.
Olson was a staff sergeant at the time of his death. He had four children, coached youth football and served on a local school board.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Your prayers please

Soon we'll be launching this blog and you will read actual words written by Wisconsin soldiers. Some logistical problems are holding us up.

Meanwhile the troops are hard at work.
A major part of the mission of the 32nd IBCT - Wisconsin's Red Arrow - is guarding detainees while they are sorted out for release, transfer or prosecution in Iraqi courts.
Radio Free Europe offers this update:

Under the bilateral Iraqi-U.S. Strategic Framework Agreement that came into effect January 1, all Iraqis in U.S. custody are to be released or transferred to Iraqi Security Force custody before the United States withdraws from the country by the end of 2011.
The number still in detention late last month was about 10,800, down considerably since November 2007, when 26,121 Iraqis were in U.S. custody for acts against American forces or violations of Iraq's security laws, according to statistics from ...
Here's the part of the article that interested me as a journalist working with military personnel.
"It's strange that people like murderers are considered low threat," says 2nd Lieutenant Brent Beadle, a liaison officer for Iraqi Security Forces with the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, in northeast Baghdad. "If these guys are 'Green' releases" -- those considered unlikely to offend again -- "I'd hate to think what the 'Red' list looks like."

"There are people in this group that were charged with resisting arrest, assault on coalition forces, kidnapping, extortion, obstruction, weapons trafficking, intimidation, and sectarian murder," Beadle says.

Is 2nd Lt. Beadle out of line?
Is he wearing the uniform and representing the U.S. DOD with his statement that U.S. DOD policy looks "strange" to him?
I'd say it's entirely clear that he's expressing a personal opinion about something he's observed, something he "owns."
But his CO could say he's commenting on foreign policy, maybe even undermining it.

I'm not saying that's right or wrong.

I'm just saying put 2nd Lt. Beadle in your prayers tonight.

- Steve