Wednesday, August 30, 2006

284

I've been busy lately getting ready for the arrival of my mom and aunt tomorrow! I've been planning our traveling, cleaning the house (again!), getting a little work done at my office, and even planning for some trips Bryan and I are going to take when he gets back. Woohoo!
Here's an interesting article I just found on the Stars and Stripes website.

Spouses say community helping Baumholder cope
War and separations have strained 1st AD families

By Terry Boyd, Stars and Stripes

BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Most people soldier on.

But three years of war, long separations from family and fallen friends are starting to take a toll on the home front. Add a lack of information and communication, fears of an extension, base budget cuts and ongoing transformation, you’d think you’d have a perfect storm of angst at this Army base.

Yet, even the most dissatisfied say a sense of community — often missing other places — seems to hold this 1st Armored Division post together.

Jennifer Sewell laid out her philosophy: Life is still good for spouses with friends, activities and reasonable expectations.

Her husband may be one of the few not deployed, but he’s spent 100 days in the field this year, said Sewell, 23, who arrived in 2004 during the division’s first Iraq deployment. Despite the tough times, she hasn’t heard much complaining.

People have frustrations here, but she said she hasn’t sensed anger on a large scale: “Maybe one of 20 people is upset.”

Medical personnel tend to agree. With slightly more than two months before about 4,000 troops are scheduled to return, the community is coping reasonably well, they say.

Since April, 17 Baumholder-based soldiers have died in Iraq.

Though there are those struggling, “it’s a normal reaction to an abnormal situation,’” said one medical expert, who like others did not want to be named. Those same experts add that they’re seeing rising doubts about the Iraq mission. Yet most interviewed for this article were more interested in the personal, rather than the political.

While most spouses were willing to speak on the record, all but one asked that their husbands’ names not be used because they were giving their own opinions.

If there is a common issue at Baumholder, it’s the perceived lack of information and contact with soldiers — not just while they’re in Iraq, but through a series of months-long separations that began well before the November 2005 deployment. Baumholder units under the 2nd Brigade Combat Team did two full training cycles at Grafenwöhr and Hohenfels.

Many Baumholder soldiers are fighting in insurgent-held Ramadi. In Ramadi, 1st AD soldiers and Marines are setting up small combat outposts, driving into the 450,000-population city, trying to isolate the enemy in the center. At the small outposts, there are no communications.

During her husband’s first Iraq deployment, they talked or e-mailed every day, said Leslie Pineto, newly arrived from the 1st AD’s 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor Regiment at Fort Riley, Kan. Not this time.

At one point, Amanda Garcia said she was terrified because she hadn’t heard from her husband for two weeks.

Her only information came from a May 21 story in Stars and Stripes that quoted Pentagon officials as saying some 2nd Brigade soldiers were going north. Her Family Readiness Group leader responded with an e-mail stating the article was wrong, she said.

“Then they confirmed (the information) a week later … It’ll make you crazy.”

Another spouse who asked not to be identified said after the move to Iraq, her 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment FRG called a meeting. “We had the impression we were going to get hard information,” she said. Instead, meeting topics turned out to be Afghan sales and bake sales, she said. “Everyone left that meeting so frustrated.”

“Everyone says, ‘That’s the Army.’ But it’s not the Army,” Garcia said. When she and her husband were at Fort Carson, Colo., command and FRGs kept them up to date, she said. At Baumholder, her frustration with her FRG and what she describes as a failure to communicate “makes everything seem worse.”

Maj. Jeanine White, 2nd Brigade rear detachment commander, reiterated that information in Stars and Stripes has been inaccurate, but did not elaborate.

“Until I can give them a fact, I can give no information,” White said. Acknowledging troop movements “could put thousands of lives in danger,” she said, adding that she can’t release information until the movement is complete.

In mid-August, White said the deployment orders remain “365 days, or until mission complete.” Most people interviewed assume there will be an extension. That would mean crossing a fundamental psychological barrier, many spouses told Stars and Stripes.

Kristin DeLuca’s husband, Capt. Sean Frerking, has told her to prepare for the possibility of an extension and that he’ll miss another Christmas with his family. In nine years, first as an enlisted soldier, then as an officer, his deployments have become longer and more frequent, DeLuca said.

Her husband has been gone so much that he’s missed much of his life with her and daughter, Shoshanna, 4, DeLuca said.

He could leave the Army on April 30, 2007. “I don’t see him staying in,” she said.

Alison Errington, an FRG leader with Battery C, 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, doesn’t disagree that deployments and training have taken officers and soldiers away from families. Of the 3½ years the family has spent at Baumholder, her husband has been home a total of only about one year because of deployments or training.

But her husband loves his job, “and he’s good at it,” she said. To support him, it’s her job as battery FRG leader to try to bring spouses together to develop friendships so they aren’t burdening their husbands with all their troubles, she said.

If his soldiers aren’t stressing about the home front, “that’s going to make my husband’s job easier. The more focused his soldiers are, the safer my husband is going to be,” Errington said.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Story about Jae

Sierra sent out this link to a news story about Jae.
Under "Featured Videos" click on "Soldier with Ties to Scottsboro Injured"

http://www.whnt.com/Global/category.asp?C=6020&nav=menu108_2

279


2-6's Melvin remembered as a tough leader

By Terry Boyd, Stars and Stripes


BAUMHOLDER, Germany — When Staff Sgt. Tracy Melvin was asked whether he was prepared for his E-7 promotion board, he shook his head no, Staff Sgt. Guadalupe Gonzalez said.

“He said, ‘I don’t want to be promoted just yet. I love being a squad leader,’” Gonzalez said.

During a memorial Wednesday, Melvin, a 31-year-old career soldier from the 1st Armored Division’s hard-hit Company A, 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment who was killed in action in Iraq, was remembered as an accomplished, highly decorated mentor to his men.

“Tough, rough around the edges ... intimidating in stature, demanding as a leader,” Gonzalez said.

Melvin showed his soldiers that “leadership is more than being tough,” said Capt. Marvin King III, rear-detachment battalion commander. Real leadership “is teaching your soldiers all you can,” said King, who gave one of the tributes.

Melvin, a Seattle native, died Aug. 6 after his unit was hit by an improvised bomb during combat in Ramadi, where 2-6 is one of the units pushing into the insurgent stronghold. He was the 16th Baumholder-based soldier to die during this deployment, noted Maj. Jeanine White, the 2nd Brigade rear-detachment commander.

Melvin, who was on his second Iraq deployment, was from a solid military background. His father, Bill Swindle, was in the Navy and his brother, Michael Swindle, is in the Marines. Melvin’s stepson, Spc. Michael Garcia, also is in 2-6, and was serving with him when he was killed.

Melvin was so thoroughly military, said Chaplain (Col.) James Brown, that Brown wasn’t surprised to learn he had served in the 1st Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, or Old Guard.

The spit and polish soldiers in the Old Guard, part of the Army’s oldest active regiment, have many ceremonial duties, including guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns, as well as combat missions.

In Seattle, Melvin was remembered as a serious military historian. His ex-wife, Sheri Washington, told the Seattle Times that when they were in high school together, Melvin watched The History Channel and read military books while the other kids were hanging out.

The shy teen could recite military history and famous battles from World War II to Vietnam, and even helped a teacher prepare a lecture on the Vietnam War, Washington said.

“I was proud of him,” she said.

Melvin’s death brought yet another day of grieving to Baumholder. As she prepared for the service, White said, she thought about what she could say to encourage people to “stay in the race when things look bleak.”

Finally, she decided she didn’t have to say anything about that.

“Your presence speaks volumes about how the community is bonding … with the strength to fill the chapel for each fallen soldier,” she said. “The community is strong.”

Melvin’s military awards include the Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Army Achievement Medal with seven oak leaf clusters, the Combat Infantry Badge and the Expert Infantryman Badge. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal.

Melvin is survived by his wife of one year, Mary Melvin; three stepchildren, including Spc. Michael Garcia; his parents, William and Janice Swindle; and his brothers, Michael Swindle and Michael Melvin.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

277

Last night I found out that one of Bryan's friends from college was injured in Afghanistan. His name is Jae, and his wife, Sierra, is due to have their first baby next week. I have been keeping in touch with Sierra recently, so when I found out this happened I was very upset. Here is part of the message that she sent out:

On Saturday the 19th, Jae was in a convoy that was ambushed and hit by an IED. There were 5 people in his humvee, two were killed instantly, one died 5 hours later, and one was thrown from the vehicle and sustained serious burns. Jae is burned on a little more than 35% of his body (which is actually a smaller amount than they had originally thought) Most of the burns are 3rd degree burns, and the worst part of his injuries were on his left arm. The remainder of the burns are on the back of legs and back around to his chest. He inhaled some of it, so he does have burns in his esophagus. Fortunately, his lungs are in good condition along with all of his other internal organs, and eyes. He is being transported to Brooks Army Medical Center, which is considered to be the premiere burn center in the world.
He is sedated for the pain, and has been intubated because of the burns, but hopefully they will remove that when he gets to Texas. His mom says he has responded a little by moving his fingers and toes, but will probably, and hopefully not remember anything up until this point.
I, on the other hand, am just trying to get this little baby out, so that we can get to San Antonio as soon as humanly possible. They tried to induce me twice Saturday night and Sunday night, with no success. I am probably going to go back in for another induction on Thursday, so we will see. I am hoping to not have to have a c-section, seeing that that would put me a couple more weeks out on getting to San Antonio.


Please pray for Jae, Sierra, and the baby. Sierra is in Georgia right now and until she has the baby, she won't be able to get to San Antonio to be with Jae. The families of the soldiers that were killed also need our prayers. As terrible as this attack was, it is such a blessing that Jae survived.
Bryan has had 2 soldiers injured downrange and we have lost too many members of our community, but this hits home in a different way. Since North Georgia is a military college, almost all of Bryan's friends from school are active duty Army. Jae is the first one we know of to suffer serious injuries, and as I always say, I also hope he is the last.

Monday, August 21, 2006

275


The last time I blogged was Tuesday.
On Wednesday I worked then went to spinning. On Thursday I worked then attended a coffee. Friday was just work. Saturday consisted of some of my normal weekend errands, then I made Mandarin Chicken for dinner (YUM!), and later went bowling with some of my friends for the rest of the night. Sunday was church, then the rest of my weekend chores, and then I baked some Lemon Blossoms.
For the next couple of days I'm going to be working on my resume/application for another job that I'm interested in. Since my unit is deactivating, this would ensure that I would be employed the rest of our time here. I would love to get the job, but I'll survive just the same if I don't.
As of this weekend we are within 90 days of redeployment!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

269

Like I said, Bryan's been REALLY busy lately:

ISF, MND-B forces push ‘Operation Together Forward’ into western Baghdad
By Multi-National Division – Baghdad
Aug 13, 2006, 19:50

Blackanthem Military News, BAGHDAD, Iraq –
Iraqi Security Forces, supported by Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers, continued their combined effort today in western Baghdad’s Shula and Ameriyah neighborhoods in support of Operation Together Forward.

The combined operations on simultaneous objectives are led by the soldiers of 1st and 5th Brigades from the 6th Iraqi Army Division, and policemen from 5th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi National Police Division, supported by Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, and 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team.

The operations are designed to reduce the level of murders, kidnappings, assassinations, terrorism and sectarian violence in northwest Baghdad and to reinforce the Iraqi government’s control in Iraq’s capital city.

Soldiers from 1st and 5th Bde., 6th IAD, along with Soldiers from 2nd BCT, 1st Arm. Div., began an operation today to search approximately 4,000 homes and businesses in the Ameriyah neighborhood.

“Security in Baghdad is the top priority for everyone working in Operation Together Forward. We continue to work very closely with Iraqi Security Forces in a major effort to clear this area of terrorists and death squads. Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition Forces are working side by side every day to increase security in Baghdad and help the Iraqi people return to a more normal domestic life,” said Col. Robert Scurlock, commander of the 2nd BCT, 1st Armor Div.

Policemen from 5th Bde., 2nd INP Div., and 1st Bde., 6th IAD, along with Soldiers from 172nd SBCT, began a simultaneous operation today to search homes and businesses in the Shula neighborhood.

Monday, August 14, 2006

268

This weekend wore me out! Baumholder had it’s annual Aldstadtfest in town this weekend. I went down there with a group of my friends on Friday night. We enjoyed the food, drinks, and bands. After we left the fest we also went dancing. We stayed up way too late, but we had a good time so it was worth it!
I was lazy most of the day Saturday, and then we went back down to the fest that night. There was a really good band called Groovin that played. There were some Germans that were having way too much fun and got out of control. Watching them was entertaining for us though!
I slept in on Sunday so that I could be at home when Bryan called. He’s been extremely busy the past few days and will continue to be for the coming week. They are working right now to try to calm down some of the craziness in Baghdad.
I spent the rest of the day on Sunday doing my usual errands and baking for Bryan’s weekly care package. I didn’t get it packed last night so that’s what I’ll spend tonight doing.
There are now less than 100 days until the deployment is over! We are in double digits!!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

263


1st AD remember remember good soldier, ‘nicest guy’
Iraq bomb victim recalled in Baumholder service

By Terry Boyd, Stars and Stripes


BAUMHOLDER, Germany — For Sgt. James Moneypenny, the death of Spc. Hai Ming Hsia was doubly hard to take. Not only was Hsia a fine soldier, but he was so genuinely nice that you couldn’t not like him, Moneypenny said.

It’s easy to call someone a nice guy out of politeness rather than conviction, he said.

“But the truth was, you only had to be around Hsia for 15 or 20 minutes, and you knew how completely innocent he was, and that he was a completely good man,” Moneypenny said.

In platoons, it’s not uncommon for little groups and cliques to form, he said.

“But there was not one person who did not like the guy. That’s why when it happened, when we found out, I thought, ‘Of all the people … the nicest guy in the platoon. The guy giving 100 percent.’ ”

Hai Ming Hsia died Aug. 1 in Ramadi, killed when a roadside bomb hit his convoy. He was assigned to Company A, 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, and was the 10th 2-6 soldier to die since the unit moved into Iraq earlier this year from Kuwait.

During the memorial Tuesday at Good Samaritan Chapel in Baumholder, Staff Sgt. Guadalupe Gonzalez remembered Hsia as a complicated man who didn’t open up easily. Once he did, Gonzalez said, Hsia talked about his family.

“Pictures of his son (Brandon) were treasures for him,” he said. “When he talked about the family waiting for him back home was to see happiness in his eyes.”

At 37, Hsia was an older soldier, “a renaissance man,” knowledgeable on many subjects from politics to medicine, said Capt. Marvin King III, battalion rear-detachment commander.

In an interview, Moneypenny said that although he’s from Cincinnati and Hsia from New York City, common elements brought them together. Hsia had a 3-year-old son, Brandon, and Moneypenny has a 2-year-old daughter, Savannah. Both were older soldiers, Moneypenny coming back in the Army at 28 after a hiatus, and Hsia joining late at 34.

Both were team leaders.

As more mature men, they’d joke about the younger guys and the mistakes or poor decisions that were really just part of being immature, Moneypenny said.

“We’d see ’em, and we knew. We’d just laugh.”

Maturity — along with phenomenal shooting skills — made his friend a very good soldier, Moneypenny said.

“He was an amazing shot. Everyone knew that in the whole company,” he said, with Hsia once shooting 40 out of 40 possible points while qualifying in “black” conditions — nearly total darkness.

“I saw all my buddies around me, and most failed it. It was the last day, so a lot of people were impatient,” Moneypenny said. “His being a little older, he decided he wasn’t going to do what those guys did. He was going to do it right.”

Most of all, Moneymaker said, he admired Hsia for making it to his mid-30s without being corrupted, “to still be able to say, ‘I am a good man.’ He wasn’t cocky about it. He was just that kind of guy.”

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

262

This weekend did turn out to be pretty fun!
I went to a cookout at a friends house on Friday night, and another group of us went dancing on Saturday night. We went dancing at a country club in K-town. I really didn't have a clue what I was doing, but we were all over the floor all night anyway. My hips were even sore for 2 days!
Last night I went to my first spinning class. I've been wanting to go for a while but I knew how hard spinning was. I finally broke down yesterday and decided to give it a shot. It was quite a workout, but it was cool to do something fun and different. It is hard to sit down today after being on a bike for an hour though.
There's not anything going on this week so I'm trying to figure out some busy work to do to help the time pass.....

Friday, August 04, 2006

258

I've been doing quite a bit of work this week, so my blog time has been limited.

Check out the good looking guy on page 5 of this newsletter!

http://www.1ad.army.mil/2ndBde/newsletter/striker%20torch%2026th%20edition.pdf

I'm off to begin what should be a pretty fun weekend!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

255

25 SIGNS YOU HAVE GROWN UP


1. Your houseplants are alive, and you can't smoke any of them.

2. Having sex in a twin bed is out of the question.

3. You keep more food than beer in the fridge.

4. 6:00 AM is when you get up, not when you go to bed.

5. You hear your favorite song in an elevator.

6. You watch the Weather Channel.

7. Your friends marry and divorce instead of "hook up" and "break up."

8. You go from 130 days of vacation time to 14.

9. Jeans and a sweater no longer qualify as "dressed up."

10. You're the one calling the police because those %&@# kids next door won't turn down the stereo.

11. Older relatives feel comfortable telling sex jokes around you.

12. You don't know what time Taco Bell closes anymore.

13. Your car insurance goes down and your car payments go up.

14. You feed your dog Science Diet instead of McDonald's leftovers.

15. Sleeping on the couch makes your back hurt.

16. You take naps.

17. Dinner and a movie is the whole date instead of the beginning of one.

18. Eating a basket of chicken wings at 3 AM would severely upset, rather than settle, your stomach.

19. You go to the drug store for ibuprofen and antacid, not condoms and pregnancy tests.

20. A $4.00 bottle of wine is no longer "pretty good shit."

21. You actually eat breakfast food at breakfast time.

22. "I just can't drink the way I used to" replaces "I'm never going to drink that much again."

23. 90% of the time you spend in front of a computer is for real work.

24. You drink at home to save money before going to a bar.

25. When you find out your friend is pregnant you congratulate them instead of asking "Oh shit what the hell happened?"


Bonus:

26: You read this entire list looking desperately for one sign that doesn't apply to you and can't find one to save your sorry old butt.