Greetings from Baghdad.
It’s reaching temperatures of 115 degrees here now and it would be easy to let it get to me down were it not for all the magnificent soldiers who surround me.
No kidding, day after day I see our soldiers going after their tasks with the sort of enthusiasm that is uncommon to any other profession and it’s inspiring.
In the past few weeks, I have been telling you about what I see here on the ground. Candidly, we have good days and we have days that are not as good. I think that you, our neighbors in southeast Georgia. deserve to know how things are going and you deserve an honest assessment.
The not-so-good days are the ones where we suffer a loss in combat. Command Sgt. Maj. Jesse Andrews and I attend the memorial services of our fallen comrades. In all my years, I have never seen such emotion as those that pour out in these sacred ceremonies here. There are tears, hugs, assurances, prayers and promises to press on.
I carry “hero cards” bearing the image of each one so that I have a constant reminder of those we have lost. Each has a story, a family, and a legacy that deserves remembrance by our nation.
The good days come when you walk up and catch soldiers doing the right things at the right times. In the past two weeks, there have been plenty of these opportunities for this commanding officer.
I visited with troops in an expanding sector of ours here. We’ve grown and now extend from Saudi Arabia to Iran. Soldiers from Fort Sill, Okla., are looking east and helping to ensure the materials of violence that can come from Iran, don’t.
I rewarded soldiers with Combat Action Badges, a medal that is awarded soldiers who have been in contact with the enemy. The awards, presented to soldiers of our 3rd Brigade from Fort Benning were given to logisticians.
These soldiers, in previous wars, would normally have been safe behind the lines. Here, that is not the case. And Command Sgt. Maj. Andrews and I always caution our soldiers to never be complacent, always be vigilant. That’s what kept these troops alive and they deserve recognition for carrying on and accomplishing their mission.
I heard encouraging stories of how Iraqis had turned on a group of IED emplacers and beaten them with clubs. IEDs, you’ll recall are the improvised explosive devices that have claimed so many lives here.
I learned of an Iraqi officer, a Sunni leading predominately Shia soldiers in a predominately Sunni community. This, to me was an example of how the Iraqi Army, for its part, has made progress toward professionalism. It also gave me some hope people here can reconcile. Now, there is a ways to go here but this was a story you don’t always hear in mainstream media.
I met with US soldiers who’d gone out and medically treated 95 Iraqis. The outpouring of assistance to the Iraqis breaks cultural barriers and helps start relationships. It’s the right thing to do and it really warms your heart to see first hand.
I saw soldiers using their genius to beat boredom. I saw soldiers adapting their equipment to survive with fabricated sniper shields. There was laughter and there was determination.
People often ask me if all the arguing in Washington bothers the soldiers here. I have got to tell you, the soldiers here are focused. If it bothers anyone, it’s our families at home.
So I ask you now, as I close this, to offer support to our families. They need it and deserve it.
Pray for us and pray that we will have many more good days.
Take care and God bless. And, in the manner of our soldiers here, I say ROCK OF THE MARNE!