Archive: Misc.

The Letter I Did Not Have to Send

For more than a month, I was prepared to stop blogging in response to orders -- orders that are now, happily, no longer operative. Here's a letter I was prepared to send explaining the situation: October 20 , 2006 Dear friends and family: After a year serving my country as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and with 100 "Reporting for Duty" posts under my belt, my blogging days have come to an end -- for now, anyway. I'd like to thank my family, friends, and everyone else who has helped to generate hundreds of thousands of hits to my eye-witness accounts of life on the ground and in the air as a national guardsman. Thank you to my command, too. I have been afforded rare opportunities here. Special thanks to washingtonpost.com and the colleagues that have made this experience possible. Throughout this year, I spent countless hours trying to relay...

By Hal Straus | November 20, 2006; 12:42 PM ET | Comments (4)

A Deployment Checklist

After seven months on the ground, I feel a need to help those packing for their first trip to Iraq. To anyone who is or has been here: Feel free to add to my list....

By Bert Stover | September 19, 2006; 07:20 AM ET | Comments (15)

KBR and the Laundry

Though it is widely known that KBR -- formerly Kellogg, Brown & Root -- is running the show in Iraq as far as support operations for the military go, I'd like to give you an idea of just how pervasive the firm's presence is in Iraq. Veterans tell me that with each new military operation KBR has become more and more involved. What I noticed first was the laundry. KBR handles laundry at both Al Asad and TQ. We turn our laundry bags in and after a couple of days, our clothes come back, supposedly clean. Here at TQ, the "clean" laundry does tend to have a slight hint of a fresh scent when it is returned. But at Al Asad, we wondered if they didn't just put the clothes in hot water for a while and then let them dry. Whatevery the exact process, things came back smelling so...

By Bert Stover | May 18, 2006; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (32)

American Forces Network (AFN)* Propaganda

English language television and radio programming are provided to the military in Iraq by the American Forces Network (AFN)*, which rebroadcasts the major U.S. networks such as ABC, NBC, CBS, ESPN and CNN. That means we get to watch normal news, sitcoms, etc. Unfortunately, there's a catch. AFN puts military commercials onto our televisions in place of the networks' ads for civilian products and services. Along with our American Idol and Desperate Housewives, we get a healthy dose of propaganda....

By Bert Stover | April 27, 2006; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (53)

Naming the Enemy

I've learned in Iraq that we GI's have named the enemy "Haji". In Arabic, Haji means any Muslim who has made the pilgrammage to Mecca -- so our use of the term isn't remotely sensitive or politically correct. But neither is the enemy we face. During the Cold War era, the enemy was commonly referred to as "Ivan", a name that lasted at least through 1996 when I went through basic training. CW4 Ret. Michael Durant introduced the nation to the military's slang for the Somalian enemy ("Skinnies") in his book Black Hawk Down. Many of you will recall that the Vietnam enemy was known as "Charlie." "Haji" is used to describe any kind of enemy or potential enemy here, from the conniving roadside bomb setters to the seemingly friendly local contractors, who we hesitate to trust just because they are locals and, we feel, could turn on us at...

By Bert Stover | February 27, 2006; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (88)

A Friend Dies in Afghanistan

I was packing up my condo Monday when the phone rang. It was Billy Shufeldt, one of my flight school friends, saying he was on his way to class and didn't have much time. Stump, he said, had died. I couldn't quite process what I'd heard. Stump, our classmate from flight school. Dead. The guy I sat next to before graduation, the one who liked to play around at inopportune times. I asked Shufledt to repeat what he'd said. "Stump has died. He was a pilot in the Chinook that crashed in Afghanistan Sunday before yesterday." Dec., 2004, WO1 Adrian Stump (front row, second from left) and several members of his Officer Basic Course, pose for a photo at their Flight School Ball, the night before graduation. Ft. Rucker, AL (Lynda Payne -- Family Photo) View Enlarged Photo...

By Bert Stover | October 6, 2005; 10:30 AM ET | Comments (68)

A View of the Protests

I took the opportunity with some friends of mine Saturday to get a first hand look at the sights and sounds of the anti- and pro-war protests on the National Mall. I wanted to see and hear what people had to say about a war I'll experience first hand over the next 18 months. What I heard were shouting matches between people who hated each other, what I saw were a confusing mix of protests -- many of which were piggy backed on the anti-war theme but had no relation at all to war issues....

By Bert Stover | September 27, 2005; 08:00 AM ET | Comments (132)

About 'Reporting for Duty'...

Sometime over the next few months, I expect to be deployed overseas for the first time in 10 years of service in the Virginia Army National Guard. My goal in writing this blog is to relate the events and emotions of transitioning from a civilian life, where freedom is taken for granted, to a full time gig in an Army at war....

By Bert Stover | August 31, 2005; 05:00 AM ET | Comments (11)

 

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