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


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

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