Monday, October 24, 2005

3rd/112th Armor BN (FIST)

Panther S-5 (Civil Affairs Team)

56th Brigade Combat Team

36th Infantry DIV (Texas National Guard)

Central Iraq


128,932 people around the world. That’s the latest estimate of people receiving the newsletter as of Sunday, 23OCT05. This has been a very busy week, which is the way we prefer it as it helps the time go by quicker. We visited the two water projects this week and I’m happy to report they are 100% complete as far as we are concerned. Now it’s up to the Mayor to hold up his end of the bargain and get the pipe netting to run to houses, as he promised. The completion of the two water projects marks an end to the bulk of our missions these past two months, overseeing every step of the projects. From the selection of the projects, to the selection of the contractors, to checking on the projects weekly to ensure the terms of the contracts were being met, we are proud of the work done. The team can leave Central Iraq knowing we helped the Iraqi people in this region in ways the other units did not. Although we have been in this area since April, we didn’t receive funding for projects until the middle of August. On September 9th we started laying two electrical lines, refurbishing three schools, and building two water sanitation/distribution sites with a price tag of just over $366,000 USD. In a little over a month all projects are complete and the people benefiting from them are very pleased. Several thousand people are enjoying electricity, many for the first time in their lives. Children are returning to schools once run down and forgotten by Hussein’s regime. Once the Mayor is able to provide the necessary pipe network, several thousand more will enjoy clean potable water for the first time in their lives. As we continue to explain nearly every time we go out, the Coalition Forces can not reverse 3 decades of damage inflicted by Saddam Hussein and his henchmen in the 2 ½ years we have been here.

Two very important stories came out of Iraq this week and watched by millions around the world. The first was the Yes/No vote for the Iraqi Constitution. Millions of Iraqis cast their votes and to this day it is still unknown what the final outcome is. Whatever the final result, it was a victory for the democratic process. Sunnis participated in greater numbers in this election than in the last one held in January, which they boycotted. The constitution will establish what kinds of laws will govern Iraq and how much a role Islam will play in government’s decision making. If the constitution passes, it will be up to the next National Assembly to decide issues that the constitution does not clearly address. The final story was the beginning of Saddam Hussein’s trial. This will be Iraq’s “trial of the century.” Many Iraqis, including my two interpreters were glued to the television as the trial unfolded before their eyes. They were clearly upset when the judge announced the trial would be postponed until 28 November. My interpreter Ala’a looked at me and said, “Saddam did not postpone killing my relatives, I can not believe this is happening.” All I could say was, “Unfortunately, that’s the price we pay for living in a democratic society, and even the people we know are guilty get a fair trial.”

Welcome to the “First Timers” receiving the newsletter. I hope you enjoy it and feel free to pass it around to as many people as you would like, that’s what it’s here for. Thanks for the continued support of the troops; we truly appreciate all the letters of encouragement, e-mails, and boxes. I will be more than happy to entertain any and all questions, comments, or requests. Finally, “if you can read this, thank a teacher, if you can read it in English, thank a Veteran.” Have a good week and Hook’em Horns, Paul.

Events have brought our American democracy to new influence and new responsibilities. They will test our courage, our devotion to duty, and our concept of liberty.

Harry S. Truman

Our first trip of the week took us to one of the completed schools. We delivered several boxes of donated school supplies courtesy of 2LT Colicher’s mom (Alice Colicher), sister (Misty Fountain), and family friends (Mayna & Lacey Benoit). Please direct any hate mail to 2LT Colicher if I failed to remember anyone with his mom’s group. The team appreciates your time and effort in making these children a little happier. You have provided them with the tools necessary to learn and you should be proud of your efforts.

Here is a portion of the donated school supplies. Some of it had already been taken inside the school before I was able to get a good picture of it. The teachers and students were happy at receiving such nice supplies and wished to express their appreciation to those who donated them…17OCT05

SSG Wasson decided to try out his new fishing pole in a local canal. Unfortunately, fishing is a sport of patience and we just didn't have the time. Needless to say he didn’t catch anything, but he did entertain the locals as many had never seen such a contraption.

The same canal SSG Wasson tested his fishing pole in is also the source of water for this water project.

The water system is set-up as a four stage system. Stage one is the drawing of water from the canal through this pipe by two motors.

Water is drawn by these two motors and pumped into the large white tank; capacity of this tank is 7,920 cubic gallons. Second stage occurs inside the large tank. Chlorine is added as the water is drawn from the canal. The water is then distributed through 4 chambers, breaking down any impurities in the water.

Third stage consists of water from the large tank being pumped through the sand filtration system located in the two cylinders. The filtration system is comprised of fine sand at the top, medium size pebbles in the middle, and then larger pebbles at the bottom. Once the water passes through this stage it is 90% potable. Stage four is the adding and mixing of bleach and then testing for potability. This site will be manned 24/7 by one guard and one mechanic. Once the mayor obtains the pipe netting it will be able to clean and pump clean water to several thousand people. Unfortunately, the team will not be here to witness this…21OCT05

The following pictures are the final school project prior to refurbishment.

…………and after

The contractor for this school project performed above and beyond the scope of work he proposed in the contract. He explained he wanted to help his fellow countrymen and felt obligated to do a good job. The headmaster explained how he had requested assistance from the Iraqi government to repair this school, but it fell on deaf ears. He expressed how he never dreamed his school would look like this and thanked us profusely throughout our visit. Before we concluded our visit, the headmaster stated he drafted a letter to the government explaining how it took the Americans less than 6 months to coordinate the refurbishment of his school and how happy he was for our coming to his assistance. It was one of those “thanks, for nothing” letters to the government.

The above photos are of our last trip of the week. The Scipio Superstars 4-H Club from La Porte, Indiana donated several boxes of baggies filled with pens, pencils, toys, etc. which we gladly handed out in different villages. The wooden toys you see in the previous photos were hand made and donated by the Midwest Woodworkers Association of Columbia, MO. The final photo shows SFC Loud teasing the kids with some of the wooden cars. These were a big hit and a much sought after item.

The final group to donate school supplies are my friends and former co-workers with the Excelsior Springs, MO Police Dept. The pens and pencils were greatly appreciated by kids. Thanks guys for the assistance.

SSG Pena is shown checking the blood pressure of an Iraqi civilian.

With the help of one of our interpreters, SSG Pena checks the range of motion of this Iraqi civilian's leg. The gentleman advised he had already been diagnosed with arthritis, but requested to see SSG Pena anyway…22OCT05

As I explained last week, we will no longer request donated items of any sort. Our time here is quickly approaching and there is no guarantee the next unit will be as generous as we have been when it comes to distributing donated goods. I apologize for any misunderstanding last week when I notified everyone of the upcoming “Welcome Home Celebration.” For clarification purposes, the event is scheduled for the “first part

of December, not the 1st. Again, once I receive a firm date I will send out a mass e-mail inviting any and all to come. It would be our pleasure to meet the people who have made our mission somewhat enjoyable. If it were not for all of you who have donated items for us to distribute, our time would have gone by much slower than it has. Your charitable contributions have allowed us to get out and interact with the Iraqi people, allowing us to realize they really are no different than you and I.

I want to recognize some organizations who have helped us all come together one way or another. Please check out their websites and express your appreciation for their service and support of our efforts, not only here in Iraq, but in Afghanistan as well. I know there are others out there, but these have affected us personally. Thanks for what you do.

Finally, you know the newsletter wouldn’t be complete with out me rubbing in yet another awesome victory by the Texas Longhorns. In fact I received an e-mail from a friend of mine with the Dallas Police Department and it went something like this, “Howdy P.W.,I hate tell you this but my high octane Texas Tech offense will be running full bore tomorrow, I plan to make it my only official act for the day to watch it!!!” I’ll let that person remain anonymous, but I know some of you recognize his BS…HAHA. For those of you wondering, yes I did watch the game and out of 12 who started out watching it, I was the final one to leave after it was over, at 0200 this morning…I am a true Longhorn Fan, Hook’em Horns.

3rd/112th Armor BN (FIST)

Panther S-5 (Civil Affairs Team)

56th Brigade Combat Team

36th Infantry DIV (Texas National Guard)

Central Iraq


124,237 people around the world. That’s the latest estimate of people receiving the newsletter as of Saturday, 15OCT05. I have received so many e-mails since the last newsletter (240 in one day) it’s almost overwhelming at times. I never would have thought something could receive so much attention and affect so many lives. Many of you share with me and the team how you start your week off by reading the newsletter, or how some of your water cooler discussions involve what was shown in the newsletter. It’s very humbling to know we have so much influence not only here in Iraq but back in the states as well. When I started this newsletter, I did it with the intent of chronicling our adventure here in Iraq and keeping our families abreast of what we were doing, sort of a calming affect for those we have left behind. The only thing people know about what goes on here is what the media shows. The layperson on the street only believes there is bombings and senseless killings on a wholesale basis. I’m sure in certain areas of Iraq that may be the case. But thankfully, not here.

As I write this, Iraq is making history yet again by voting on its Constitution. The government has established a no-travel advisory throughout the country. The Iraqi Police (IPs) and Iraqi National Guard (ING) have shoot-to-kill orders for any vehicle traveling on the roads without a special placard that can be seen from a distance. Since this order was imposed the numbers of car bombings and IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devises) has almost fallen off the radar. My two interpreters say they agree with the Constitution and the way it reads. A large majority of the country also agrees and this year should prove to be monumental year for the Iraqi government. It should be known one of my interpreters is Sunni and the other Shia’. If they can agree it is good, there should be no problems with the rest of the country, we shall see.

Throughout the week, no matter how bad it has been, I often look back through my several hundred pictures taken throughout the course of the week and find those that make me smile. This week was no different. The highlight of the week was distributing school supplies to one of our recently re-built schools. We again escorted the 975th MTC (Movement Control Team) from Los Alamitos, California. They handed out school supplies for 268 children. This particular school teaches grades 1st – 6th. The looks on the children’s faces was very heart warming. They were so excited to see us you could feel it. Every where I went I heard, “Thank you mister” in broken English. I had people ask me when I was home on R&R, “why are you there helping those people?” I would politely explain to them, it’s for the children, plain and simple. They deserve our help because they are the future of Iraq. Whose to say by our kind gestures; handing out beanie babies, or giving them candy, years from now they will remember what we did for them and choose not to go down the path so many before them have.

Welcome to the “First Timers” receiving the newsletter. I hope you enjoy it and feel free to pass it around to as many people as you would like, that’s what it’s here for. Thanks for the continued support of the troops; we truly appreciate all the letters of encouragement, e-mails, and boxes. I will be more than happy to entertain any and all questions, comments, or requests. Finally, “if you can read this, thank a teacher, if you can read it in English, thank a Veteran.” Have a good week and Hook’em Horns, Paul.

Our values, our principles, and our determination to succeed as a free and democratic people will give a torch to light the way. And we will survive and become stronger-not only because of a patriotism that stands for love of country, but a patriotism that stands for love of people. -Gerald Ford

The new Panther S-5 (Civil Affairs) team photo...holding Texas Flag from l/r; SPC Khan & SPC Blanchard. Standing; SSG Pena, SSG Farr, 2LT Colicher, SSG Wasson, SFC Loud, and SPC Moses. Kneeling is our interpreter. The Texas flag was donated by Belinda Frisk, a 6th generation Texan. SFC Loud was in need of a home, so we took him in. He’s a very professional and knowledgeable NCO not to mention he’s POLICE, so that makes him okay in my book.

This is one of two water sanitation/distribution sites we funded. During this visit it was 90% complete. This particular site is situated along the banks of the Hilla River and will provide potable water to thousands of Iraqis who have never known the meaning of clean water…10OCT05

Some of the Iraqi laborers taking a break during our visit. An important topic was brought up during our visit, how will the villagers get the water once it enters the tank. We explained to them the only reason we agreed to fund this project was the Mayor assured us he could get the pipes necessary to run from the tank to the homes. Now, that seems to be a major problem. Our solution was to install a spicket which the villagers could use to get water. It’s a short term solution until the Mayor comes through on his promise. The villagers stated they didn’t trust the Mayor nor did they believe he would get the pipe network needed to provide water to each household. It was then explained to them they live in a democracy now, use your power and vote him out of office.

I want to give everyone an idea of how important it was to choose this school as one of our refurbishment projects. The following pictures are before work began…08AUG05

………and after.

It was an awesome experience to watch the transformation of this school. The children were so excited about the "new" school the student population exceeded expectations. The headmaster decided to convert his office into another classroom and took a smaller room as his office. This is one of many instances where we helped secure a stable learning environment, not only for this generation of Iraqis, but for many to come. This is why we’re here Mr & Mrs. Liberal, not for the oil…10OCT05

Members of the 975th MCT and Iraqi students prior to handing out donated school supplies. The children chanted, “Thank you America, God bless you America, God bless Iraq”…12OCT05

The first graders were by far the most vocal once they received their school supplies. Yes, they are just as rambunxious as 1st graders in the states.

This day was by far the best of the week. The smiling faces of the Iraqi children and the constant, "Thank you mister" was worth the trip. Out of all my time here, the children have by far made the separation from family and friends less painful. They are just as innocent as children in the states. They were born into a country that only new hardship and no future. I’m proud to have been apart of history that has given them a chance for a better future. The Coalition Forces have done a commendable job in rebuilding Iraq which continues today. For the people who only seek the “truth” via the media, I ask them to please open your eyes and see this as a good thing.

I know many of you still wish to correspond with us or send us boxes of donated items. Regretfully and thankfully, I must decline any further forms of communication, aside from e-mail. Reason being we are due to be relieved by another unit sometime next month. After that our future is uncertain. We do not know where we will be going after the transfer of authority and I would hate for any donated items intended for our distribution to get lost in the mix.

Rest assured, I will continue to send out the newsletter until it’s time for us to leave. I do want to give everyone able to attend a notice there will be an official Texas Sized Homecoming celebration at Baylor Stadium in Waco. It’s scheduled for the first of December, but subject to change. Once I get a more firm date I will send out a mass e-mail inviting any & everyone wishing to attend.

Congratulations LONGHORNS on another fine game. Next week will be another test against the Texas Tech Red Raiders. I have confidence we’ll pull it off. Hook’em Horns

Sunday, October 09, 2005

3rd/112th Armor BN (FIST)

Panther S-5 (Civil Affairs Team)

56th Brigade Combat Team

36th Infantry DIV (Texas National Guard)

Central Iraq


SSG Farr writes:
people around the world. That’s the latest estimate of people receiving the newsletter as of Sunday, 09OCT05. We had another painfully slow week as we were only able to go out one time this week. A bit of good news is that we are getting our trucks and troops back, so we will get back to doing what we were doing, helping the Iraqi people. This has been a pretty good week in terms of people e-mailing me and asking to be put on the mailing list. To think when I started this little “pet project” back in March I only had 25 readers, and the majority of them were friends and family. Now look what it’s turned into, a global phenomenon…don’t I wish? I have all of you out there to thank for its growing popularity. Your continued support is greatly appreciated and we could not demonstrate to the Iraqi people how much we want to see them succeed as a democratic country if it were not for your generous donations of clothing, medicine, school supplies, toys and in some cases food.

I can’t remember how many times I have been approached on this deployment by every day Iraqis who ask one question, “Why did it take you (America) so long to help us?” The only answer I have for them is we as a country were naïve. We believed the Iraqi people were in support of Saddam Hussein and his policies and he was supported as a leader. I then feel extremely small when they answer me, “Yes, of course we supported him when he gassed 8,000 innocent Kurdish civilians in the 80’s, we supported him when he sent troops into southern Iraq and killed thousands of innocent Shia’ civilians after the failed uprising at the end of the ’91 Gulf War, and yes, we supported him when he drained the marsh lands in the south which starved the Marsh Arabs almost out of existence.” For those of you out there who honestly believe they supported Hussein, I can tell you the Iraqis can be just as cynical as me. For the nay-sayers out there who think we got into this war for the wrong reasons, perhaps we did and I’m not at liberty to question policy, but I do know the majority of the Iraqi people love us and glad we are here, even if it took 12 years to liberate them from a monster. The team’s interpreters have horror stories of family members taken away and executed for no other reason than being Shia’ or Kurdish. Some may question why we are here, but I can say I’m proud to be here helping rebuild a nation. I pose one final question; if we came to Iraq with oil as an ulterior motive, then why are you paying $3.00 a gallon for gas? Think on that one awhile.

The projects are nearly complete with only the two water projects left. The schools look amazing and the work done to them in the amount of time is incredible. Next week I will make sure to go to all the projects and take pictures, that way everyone can see the final product and can be proud of the work being done here, even if no one else wants to report it.

Welcome to the “First Timers” receiving the newsletter. I hope you enjoy it and feel free to pass it around to as many people as you would like, that’s what it’s here for. Thanks for the continued support of the troops; we truly appreciate all the letters of encouragement, e-mails, and boxes. I will be more than happy to entertain any and all questions, comments, or requests. Finally, “if you can read this, thank a teacher, if you can read it in English, thank a Veteran.” Have a good week and Hook’em Horns," Paul.

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, as long as you can.” –John Wesley

I had the pleasure of meeting through the newsletter, Merlin Selman who lived in Iraq with his family 1957-1958. This picture was taken at the Ancient City of Babylon. Notice how it looked during this time period. My father worked for the American Embassy. We became "Persona Non Grata" and had to leave as did all Americans and British in Oct 1958, because of a Military Coup staged by the Col. Abdul Kareem Kassim. The young boy King Faisil and the Prince Regent his Uncle were killed in a bloody siege of the castle. I can still remember hearing the tanks rolling through Baghdad and automatic fire coming from near the Tigris River.

“There is also a picture of the "Conquering Lion of Babylon". It was the symbol for the city and Iraq has used it as a symbol in the past. It is standing triumphant over the supine figure of a man representing an enemy. Some think the supine man symbolizes Israel and commemorates the sack of the city of Jerusalem by Babylon. It is called the Babylonian Captivity in the Bible.”

Mr. Selman has a wealth of information about this region and it has been a pleasure e-mailing back and forth and comparing pictures of what Iraq looked like when he was here as a young boy and what it looks like now. His history lessons were not learned in books, but through living it. Thanks for the lessons Mr. Selman, it’s been a pleasure.

This is the original Ishtar Gate on display in Berlin, Germany. The gate was taken by German Archeologist during Hitler’s reign.

This is the new Ishtar Gate built during Saddam Hussein's reign

The one day we were able to go out, SSG Pena was extremely busy. He treated nearly 100 people alone. The most severe ailment was chicken pox. We received word that a chicken pox out-break had occurred in a nearby village. So, we gathered up our things and went to find out. SSG Pena treated so many people he ran out of medication…05OCT05

This little girl and her brother look worse than what they were. SSG Pena said the little girl had no fever and the sores were beginning to dry up. The little guy still had a fever and had a few more days until he would be better. Unfortunately, students who were clearly showing signs of chicken pox continued to come to school, thus infecting everyone else. Unlike the schools stateside, children in Iraq continue to go to school unless they are gravely ill. SSG Pena explained to the Headmaster and teachers the hazards of letting the sick children continue to attend school. The initial mission for the day was to treat the school children, but as word spread we were in the village with a medic, nearly every infected child showed up. It turned out to be a very good day and the villagers were appreciative of our visit…05OCT05

I have mentioned three of our nine projects were water related. This is one of the water sanitation/distribution projects. Water from the Hilla River will be pumped into a filter system shown here as the two cylinders. From the filters the water will then be pumped into the large holding tank you see behind the cylinders. The project should be completed in about 10 days, “Inshallah” (god willing). That is a favorite phrase used by Iraqis when they have no definitive answer. If you ask them, “Will this project be done in 10 days?” Nine out of ten times their answer will be, “Inshallah.” In other words, if god wills it, it will be done in 10 days. But if it rains or the ground opens up and swallows everything, thus causing a delay, it was god’s will.

No way would Iraqi building standards fly in America. They cast this roof with concrete, but then added a layer of dirt, then lay plastic on top of the dirt, then placed mud on top of the plastic. The final step is to place the bricks. I’m not exactly sure how water-proof it will be, but they’ve been constructing buildings in this fashion for a long time.

2LT Colicher is shown cutting a ribbon for one of the school projects completed. The contractor is on his left and made a consorted effort to find us several miles away at another project. Once he talked us into coming to the school, we were surprised to round the corner and see several people waiting…05October05

You may recall the photo of the gentleman laying tile last week, this is his finished product.

Not only did he tile the walkway from the front gate to the school, but from the WC (restroom) as well. Items repaired or replaced on this school was the perimeter wall, roof, all windows and doors, installed ceiling fans in every classroom, tiled the courtyard, walkways and all 6 classrooms, and completely repaired the WC. Price tag: $65,000

On this particular visit, we had no medics with us. This worker at one of the projects suffered a laceration to his ankle and asked for help. SGT Langolis from Co B is a Combat Lifesaver and volunteered to "square" this guy away. For those of you unaware of what a Combat Lifesaver is, he/she is a soldier that receives extensive medical training and can give an IV if needed. That helps the medics immensely if there are several casualties; the Combat Lifesaver is a combat multiplier.

I couldn't pass up this opportunity to be cynical. No, liberals we did not injure this man and then stage helping him. As much as the liberal media and like minded lemmings like to think every good deed done here is staged, I wanted to assure you this was not the case here. There is no reason for us to stage photos, there is enough good things going on in Iraq to show without having to stage anything.

I wanted to add this poem written by the team's "Okie Friend" as she so eloquently calls herself. We truly appreciate your support of the troops and for the poem; it speaks volumes of your character. Thanks Janet.

I wanted to show two of the hundreds of “Kodak Moments” I missed while on this deployment. Yes, it was my choice to come here and help the Iraqi people, but I have still missed out on 18 months worth of “Kodak Moments.”

The beautiful little girl in the middle is my baby girl Kiersten. Albeit, this is one "Kodak Moment" no father wants to acknowledge, that his baby girl is growing up. Good thing being the daughter of a cop tends to keep the mutts away. This picture was taken with her friends before a local pageant.

This is my "horse" Zachary. When I was home on leave last December he was the same height as my stubby butt. I recently read a newspaper clipping that listed him as 5’10, 200 lbs. As long as that isn’t propaganda to psych out the other teams, he is now taller and out weighs me, but I can still take you down boy!

I love & miss you guys and I’m very proud of both of you.

Congratulations Texas Longhorns, that was an outstanding game and I was able to see every play. Colorado Buffs are next in the crosshairs, and I’m confident we’ll work them over too.

Colorado, you’re next!!!!!!!!!!!!

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