26 December 2007:
A letter from overseas:
A few months ago, my company was heavily involved with a civil-military operation to renovate a local school. For some background, the school is in a town that has seen significant battle damage over the years. The school had bullet holes and destroyed sections from all of the combat operations in the area. It didn't have a working restroom and the classrooms had no glass in the windows. It was in very sad shape. The local shieks and the local Iraqi Government asked for support from the US Army to help secure funding to renovate the project. My company served as the contracting point of contact for this endeavor and one of my lieutenants is a civil engineer and I tasked him with conducting the site inspections and manage the contract. It was a long construction project, but all of the work was done by local Iraqi's. That is a great thing because that puts the money directly into their economy and they have a shining new school. Anyway, yesterday, the Principal conducted a ribbon-cutting ceremony and several of the local Sheiks attended as well as my battalion commander and I (with our security details of course and a few other staff officers). I have attached some pictures of the event. We (the company) are extremely proud of this particular project as it is exactly the type of stuff that makes us feel like we are truly making a difference in this country. I hope that one day in the future soldiers can attend events like this without the need for body guards and armored gun trucks.
CPT Ryan E. Thompson, P.E.
A CO (EN) 116th BSTB
"Fear nothing, every renewed effort raises past failures into lessons, all sins into experience. The question should be, 'Is it worth trying?' not, 'Can it be done?'"
~Chief Petty Officer Wayne George
United States Navy
Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) Chaplain
An interesting quote from a British flag officer:
Graham Binns, the two-star general who handed the city over yesterday was then a one-star brigadier. He remembers his first meeting with local sheikhs. "We came to them to ask what they wanted us to do for them," he recalled. "But before we could speak they asked us what they must do for us. It was a complete reversal of what we wanted to project."
Another letter from overseas:
Thank you for your continual support during my deployment here. The contents of your packages were well received by myself, my fellow sailors at the compound I've been working, and by my Pagan group here at Bucca! This last package was perfectly timed to coincide with our celebration of Yule, and I had lots to share with my "Quad-mates" at work, and with my fellow military Pagans at our Yule riual/feast. (They especially enjoyed the summer sausage!) I will be returning home soon, so I wanted to let you know before you send the next package. If you wish, I can get you a name from the relieving unit so you can continue with your support and well wishes for the next group, which has been arriving here this month.
Thank you again, and from all of us here at Bucca,
Merry Christmas, Happy Chanuka, and Happy Yule!
STS2/ss Peter J. Barrington
Camp Bucca, Iraq