Update From Iraq – Col. Jeff Holmes, AIA


Iraq – Col. Holmes writes:

I’m sorry it has taken so long to update everyone but getting 3400+ soldiers and equipment into 5 different locations in Iraq is a logistical challenge. It literally takes nearly a month and travel by fixed wing and helicopter hampered by snow in MS and dust storms in Kuwait cause and already difficult task to be almost impossible. Not uncommon for soldiers to stage at 0200 in the morning and stack their duffle bags, load them onto trucks and cram on a bus with full gear and sit for hours, only to return to the tents in the desert and be rescheduled for another flight. This can happen for 3-4 days. And equipment being offloaded on from ships is a whole other challenge. Anyway, enough of the logistical challenge. All soldiers are at their final destination and we are arrived just in time to experience another National Election. The 3rd one the Regiment has participated in. Nothing like jumping right in. The election was a success with 60-70% turn out in some provinces. That’s probably why you didn’t see a lot of news coverage. Astonishing given the fact that these people risk their lives to vote and we struggle back in the States getting people to vote. I will never miss another election and I doubt any of my soldiers will either.

 

We’ve arrived right at the end of the rain season and have moved into the dust storm spring with temperatures beginning to reach 100 already. Soldiers are getting into a routine of providing security for all convoys moving along the roads and we travel mostly at night. We share the road now so we obey what little traffic laws are observed here which amounts to basically just not running people off the road. The Iraqis have done a great job in starting to secure their country and it is impressive to see them perform. Still not to our standards but from where they came from it is a great accomplishment. There is still plenty of violence but not to the degree of the last 3-4 years and definitely not to the extent we experienced last time. They will still not stand and fight and elect to shoot at us from a distance or detonate IEDs if we don’t find them first.

 

We all live in the big Forward Operating Bases (FOBS) so there are plenty of phones, internet, DVDs, and coffee shops. And of course the Dining Facilities (DFAC) are loaded with plenty of food. The soldiers want for nothing as far as food and connectivity are concerned.

 

The mission is constantly changing and everyone is getting ready to see if the real troop draw down will actually happen. Subject to a final vote count and battles waged in the political area verses the streets, I see the draw down gaining momentum. More work ahead for us as every piece of equipment the flows out of Iraq we’re the ones who provide security for it. A lot of work ahead and the few of us combat units left by AUG will be looking over our shoulder the whole time wondering if the bad guys think they want to take another opportunity before we all leave. Problem is we (all units) don’t all leave at the same time so we’ll be the ones holding the door open for everyone else.

 

It’s a great opportunity to participate in this historic period of time when we’re actually winning what was once thought of as an unwinnable war. Will gladly trade space on the from page of the news paper for a successful withdrawal operation and bringing all my soldiers home safely.

 

Tell everyone hello and sorry the email is so lengthy. Thanks for everything,

 

JH