Chief Wiggles -- Straight from Iraq
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The online journal of Chief Wiggles.

Saturday, July 19, 2003
Saturday, July 19, 2003

Oh the long hot days of summer, when will they ever end? I have started to believe that I am living in the land of the endless summer with all its fury. Since I arrived in the middle east, some 5 months ago now, it has been hot and getting hotter. Yesterday as I looked in astonishment at the temperature gage it was 132 degrees. The one thing that is even more amazing is that I have adjusted to the heat. Nothing but blue sky every day in the land of the cloudless skies. I have never even seen a cloud and I am sure I never will. As I asked one of the prisoners last night, "does it ever rain in this place?" "How can people live in an area that never rains?"

This week like so many others has whisked by. Every day seems like another when there is no weekend or day off, especially when every night is spent out in Hoover 7 working with the generals. I have just been swamped with paperwork, reports, interrogations, debriefings, and trying to get the generals released.

I thought it might be good to give an updated play by play of how a normal day goes for us.

A Day at a Glance:

0530 wake up with the sun beating down, plus or minus an hour depending on how the night before was spent. On exceptionally long days it is hard to get up so early.

0545 Go running and then on the way back stop to do a few sit ups and push ups. We have a PT test coming up soon we need to get ready for

0630 shower time, you know the 3 "S"s

0700 to 730 Get dressed, uniform on, boots laced, hat on, powered up and out the door

0800 We try to get to chow before the chow hall closes at 0800. We try to eat light, staying away from the salt peter laced scrambled eggs and the what appears to be boiled bacon (crispy bacon is an anomaly here). I prefer to limit my intake to a small bowl of cereal, a banana, some wheat toast, and some chocolate milk. This sounds really wimpy for a man who loves breakfast. I just can't stomach the same things every morning, day in and day out.

I try to stay in the dining facility or chow hall until the mess sergeant kicks me out with my entourage, who know who to hang with when there is AC involved. That is the one moment when you can collect your senses and prepare yourself for the day. It is nice just to relax for a moment in the comforts of AC.

0900 The workday begins with a quick meeting with the major. We review what has gone on over the last 24 hours and what we should focus on over the next 24 hours. We are getting prisoners every day, up to hundreds at a time, along with the ones we already have. We have a screening team, an interrogation team, counter intelligence team, our analysts, an OCE section and the rest of the operation people. Each team has a mission and responsibility for a different area of the total overall operation.

We are all busily engaged in extracting and compiling information regarding the most important issues at hand, like weapons of mass destruction, etc. I can't say in detail but we have been instrumental through our intel in capturing people, preventing hostilities, and a variety of other things. We are making a difference in the overall effort here.

0945 I go through my government email from various people stationed around the country who are forwarding information or who have requests for information.

1000 to 1200 I am usually working on my reports, getting them ready to send up to our higher echelons. Everything has to be in a certain format, with certain requirements according to the command unit's directions. Consequently there is usually a lot off editing that is required before they are sent out for publishing.

1200 We can break for lunch but usually we just work through it. Sometimes, now that they are serving lunch at the mess hall, we run over to grab a sandwich or something. Sometimes just to take a break from the heat and get a cold drink.

1300 We are usually back at it coordinating and organizing the events of the day. I try to do my interrogations in the afternoon when it is nice and hot out, you know in the heat of the day. We conduct our interrogations in a small tent with no AC, so it does get extremely hot. I just try to make things as uncomfortable as possible.

There is a lot of prep work done prior to conducting an interrogation. We spend a good amount of time just trying to keep abreast of all the events of the day around the country. Educating ourselves on the different organizations that are like loose cannons, running wild.

Ever day I spend time writing letters and emails on the general's behalf to get them released. I wish these men could be returned to their homes so they might be partners in our efforts to rebuild this country. They are of so much greater value to us if they are released. I am still trying to find the one right person who can make this decision.

1700 Dinner time, oh boy more AC and cold drinks

1800 I usually leave to go out to Hoover 7 where the generals are. I will go with the major most of the time, or the LT. Sometimes we will take out some other individuals that just want to see what they are like. We feel at times like tourist guides. Maybe I should take a sign that says leave your hands inside the vehicle at all times and don't feed the prisoners.

I make my way around Hoover 7 making sure to shake hands with every prisoner, inquiring of their condition, asking them how they are doing and just to smile, pat them on the back while exchanging pleasantries. I have learned just enough Arabic to offer up the normal salutations.

Much of the time is still spent asking them questions regarding new information requirement or confirming things we are hearing from the other prisoners.

There are a few key locations where the prisoners have built up a few tent peg and tent pole furniture pieces for us to sit on. There are a couple of key groups that have an English speaking spokesperson for me to correspond with. Over the last couple of months we have discussed all kinds of things covering every subject imaginable.

Last night I was fortunate to have a discussion with the Air Force commander who was pointing out the key items that need to happen for success in Iraq. It was his mention of one key point that surprised me. For Iraq to move into its position in the Arab world and into the 2100 century, they need their women to be educated and part of the work force.

He mentioned that in the 1940's Iraq used to be the leader in the middle east as far as women attending college and receiving an education. I was encouraged to hear he felt that one of most important things is for women to be more equal, more educated and more a part of the plan. That was actually a very refreshing comment.

We usually stay out there a couple of hours.

2100 We make our way back over to the living area, Many nights we are still in Hoover 7 well into the night, returning back to our building only to crash onto our cots from exhaustion.

2200 If I am lucky I will try to get on the computer to answer some emails to people back home. Or try to type in my journal. But as you can see l don't always get to that. My own personal stuff comes last.

2300 Ready for bed if I am lucky.

Now this is a typical day, but things can always change, as you well know. We are flexible playing it by ear most of the time, adjusting to the mission at hand or what ever might be the most fun. Mission first of course.

There are many variables affecting the daily routine, such as the weather, the heat, changes to policy, people leaving to go home or to another area, requests for new information, longer more interesting discussions at Hoover 7, fights with lizards and scorpions, USO tours, you know with dancing girls and singers, wild and crazy prisoners, afternoon runs to the PX to grab a quick cold Gatorade, chit chats, prisoner family visits, etc.

Today I got one of those phone calls you just don't like to get. There were a bunch of upset family members at the front checkpoint wanting to visit their loved ones. Normally we allow family visits on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. But, this week due to the increase in the threat level and the lack of MP support, all visitations were canceled.

So here is the situation. We have a bunch of family members who have driven half way across this country to visit their loved one, only to find out that all visitations were canceled for the week. Many of them have spent there last bit of money just to pay for the round-trip taxi ride.

I decided I better go out to diffuse the situation. I went out with an interpreter to try to explain the situation to the very disappointed people. I felt really bad but I was forced to comply with the Camp Commander's decision.

I offered to take the bags of food they had prepared to their prisoner and any message they might have. It was a very unfortunate situation, one that really pulled on my heartstrings. I am usually a very accommodating person, willing to do what ever is needed to resolve a situation. But, in this situation my hands were tied.

These are tough times for all, not just for the prisoners. All of us here are away from our families, away from our lives and have our own degree of sacrifice and suffering. There are young men here who got married right before they were mobilized, others who had a wife they left with small children, many that left a pregnant wife missing the birth of their first child, others with illnesses and deaths at home, many with financial situations, many interrupting their education or other planned events, and just missing out on our lives back home.

But we chose to serve. We chose to be a good neighbor to our brothers and sisters here in Iraq. We chose to do our part to bring about the liberation of these people, to put them back on their path towards freedom and democracy.

We must re-evaluate our beliefs about what it means to be a good neighbor. What will happen in the world, or even in our country, if we chose to turn away a needy hand, someone in need of freedom and in need of democracy and equality? What will happen to our world if we chose as fellow humans to turn a deaf ear to our neighbor's cries for help, to close our eyes to the atrocities happening around the world? What does it mean to be a good neighbor? Who are God's children? Who are our brothers and sisters?

What happens in a world of total self-serving people? A world where we don't look out for the needs of others or come to the aid of others suffering?

It really doesn't matter to me, if we prove to all the naysayers back in our country that this war was justified, if we find the weapons of mass destruction. The real issue here is the Iraqi people that for so long have been hoping we, or someone, would come to their rescue. They have been suppressed, tortured, punished, killed, held back by the chains of bondage from a ruthless tyrant, who was the devil incarnate.

Why is that not reason enough to be here?

posted by Chief Wiggles 2:56 PM
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Wednesday, July 16, 2003
Incestuous Amplification, a blog mostly about Korean affairs with occasional tidbits from the states, threw this my way. Go look at it yourself. It is easy to see the father's frustration, and Kevin is right, that he shouldn't have acted the way he did.

posted by Plunge 3:15 PM
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A quick shout out to
Lt. Smash for his link and for leading the way in blogging in the sandbox.

posted by Plunge 3:01 PM
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Monday, July 14, 2003
Sunday, July 13, 2003

I am worried about my family today and every day. Things are not well at home with my loved ones, everyone with their own set of difficult obstacles and hurdles to cross. Each and every morning I am awoken first by the sun and heat, but my first thoughts are for my loved ones and the many trials they are going through. It has been a disturbing week filled with an ongoing string of events that seems to be affecting everyone's lives. I have received emails from family members, from church leaders, and from family councilors, all with good intentions to help in my absence, to do what ever is needed to solve some of the problems. But it is so difficult. There is a huge burden my family has to bear while I am serving over here. There is an enormous cost to pay for all the families of soldiers that are here serving their country.

I feel totally helpless here so far away with no means to affect a solution, as I would normally be able to do. I offer up a few words of advice, a few ideas, but I am really not in a position to be very influential. I am really not able to perform my duties as a husband, a father of 4 or a grandfather. I miss all of my loved ones terribly. There is so much that is missed, so many things pass out of my view, so many words go unsaid and things not shared. There is a cost for all that have chosen this path.

I am not there when they need me the most. I am not there when they need someone to lean on in times of trouble, or to lend a listening ear when they just want to talk, or offer up a smile or a laugh when they just want to play around. I miss their birthdays, their special events, their unique accomplishments, their days of joy and their moments of sadness. I am not there to be the problem solver, the peacemaker, the doing of good deeds, the voice of reason, or what ever else that might be my role.

I hope they all know that I care about them and worry about their well-being. They are in my thoughts and daily prayers, for I have left them in the Lord's hands, who is in charge of the plan. He will cover them in the blanket of his love, to protect them when times get tough, if they will but lean on him and offer their prayers to his listening ear, to bring them peace to calm the storms of life.

There is a purpose and a reason. There is much to be learned and much to teach others. My faith guides me in these troubled times of conflict, supporting my family in their various challenges. One needs but ask for help and expect it, not doubting, not wavering just to listen for the still small voice of the Savior, who is there to provide an uplifting hand.

To those filling in for me, carrying some of my load, bearing some of my burden, I salute you. My hat goes off to you as I offer up a word of thanks from the bottom of my heart. You are the greatest people ever, making my small contributions pale in comparison. Thanks

I promise to do all I can do, whatever it is. You know that about me. I have grown much closer to my Savior out here over the past 5 months. He alone has the answers I search for with the solutions for my problems. If we would but acknowledge his hand in all things, giving credit where credit is due, that is all he requires of us. If we only really knew how truly involved he is in every aspect of our life. Oh that we would be willing to give up the very things that prevent us from gaining his partnership in our lives. We have so far to go to really get to that point of complete understanding of what the Lord really want of us and what he is willing to do for us.

When will be really start to live life more deliberately being authentic to ourselves, with the understanding that the Lord has the plan, he knows the path, he paves the way and we just need to follow.

I was sitting at my desk yesterday busily doing my reports, when a thought came into my head out of the blue. A thought for a moment that one of my most favorite officers in Hoover 7 was going to be leaving and I should get down to out-processing to say goodbye. The thought fleeted away amidst the business of the day. But, came again a few minutes later only to be filed away with all the papers piling up on my desk.

By the time I got around to doing the thought that had interrupted my hectic day it was too late. I raced down to the processing tent only to find he had come and gone with two others from Hoover 7. I can't begin to tell you how disappointed I was that I had failed to listen to the spiritual voice in my head telling me of something I should go do. I felt so bad, for it is my habit and desire to give my final regards to anyone leaving Hoover 7.

The people in processing didn't know for sure if he had been among those who departed just an hour earlier, so I ran out to Hoover 7 to see if perhaps there had been a mistake leaving him behind. But it was true I had missed him. My only consulation might be maybe someday I will be able to look him up at his home to see his family.

As I was sitting out there in Hoover 7, feeling sorry for myself, actually being some what upset, I had a long discussion with the leader of the camp, a navy general. He has a tendency to be somewhat depressed at times himself, so his discussion added to my already dismal state. He commented on our inability to make good choices of people to participate in the restructuring of Iraq, making mention of a few bad choices we have already made. He stated that we are making mistakes which I was not ready to hear, further aggravating me.

I quickly remembered the homework assignments I had given a few of my boys the night before. I made my way down to another tent to see if they had been deligent in fulfilling my assignment. As expected they each had taken the time to provide me with the list of where they wanted to work in the new Iraq.

My favorite air force general had spent his time writing down he ideas for successfully rebuilding the new government and the new army. His insights are amazing. His profound ideas rejuvenated my positive attitude, propelling me into a number of great uplifting discussions with other generals.

posted by Chief Wiggles 3:29 PM
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Friday, July 11, 2003

We are in the midst of a sand storm, the likes of which I have not seen for quite some time. We have all retreated to our tents of choice, which for me is the old bombed out radio station. Actually it serves me quite well as a place for refuge and protection during one of these horrendous whirlwinds that come our way ever so often. We have spent much time securing every crack and crevice, to make this old building as sand proof as possible.

Regardless of our efforts, the sand has crept through into our inner sanctuary laying a fine coat of sand down on everything around us. No matter how many times we wipe it off, with in minutes the sand like a plague returns to pester our lives. It is as if the sand is looking for its own resting place away from the wind that is constantly twirling it about like inside of a large dryer.

The wind is howling outside screaming let me enter your place of refuge, to dump my load on everything in sight. We are all covered with many layers of this fine silt, changing the color of our skin as if we all worked inside some kind of a milling operation. Even though it is not visible to the naked eye, one swipe of my hand across my brow reveals a coarseness to the touch confirming the sands presence. Our computers need constant care to prevent them from clogging up their systems. The tables, the chairs, the books and papers, are all like sand magnets pulling sand in from the air we breathe perhaps to diminish the quantity accessible to our lungs.

We have covered up every hole, every opening, and every window, all to no avail. It is coming in no matter what. With every entrance into the building a gust of wind and sand that has been waiting for this opportunity jumps inside whirling about like dancing gypsies.

Along with the heat we have learned to adjust to our cohabitation with sand. Today several times I have been forced to venture outside, beyond the walls of this brick oven. Before leaving I secure my hat and papers walking outside into the fierceness of the winds anger, which has picked up a load of sand along the way, hitting any bare skin like minute bee bees.

Even with goggles my vision is impaired, not being able to see more than a few feet ahead. It is at times like a total sand black out; with the tents, the equipment, the vehicles all disappearing behind this khaki colored cloak of wind and sand, making it almost impossible to breath. I wonder at times how my lungs are going to dispose of the shear quantities I have inhaled or will it just settle to the bottom like what happens in our water heaters at home. I am waiting for it to resurface in some form to be coughed up into large mud balls.

Just when I was starting to think we were rid of these storms, they pounced upon us again to remind us of our own frailties as human beings living in our varied environments. We do adapt and adjust regardless of the severity. All of us for the most part have become accustomed to the extreme 130 plus temperatures, the constant battle with the sand, and the almost lifeless desert landscape.

As I attempt to walk I lean into the wind to keep moving in a forward direction being careful not to lose my step. I know the way so I rely on my instincts to direct me, hoping that I end up at my destination. But it is our way of life.

Yesterday as I worked out in the pens for about 5 hours, I was forced to cope with the ever present blowing of the desert wind. I had the unique experience of interviewing the generals while battling the weather. We were in a tent but like all ways it found its way inside, with huge gusts of sand blowing in across us, covering every inch of us in a thick layer. I wasn't complaining, this time I was actually glad for the rough conditions, which I will now explain.

Today was probably the best day out here in the desert. I just really had an extremely great day. It started out like any other day, but little did I know what was in store for me.
I was not prepared totally for the events that were to follow.

We had been alerted through email that some big wigs form Camp Doha were planning on coming up to ask the generals a few simple questions. We have had many such requests and consequently didn't pay much attention to it. At face value it appeared to be like an other such request. We took it quite lightly, almost as if to blow it off, treating it more as a nuisance than the great opportunity it soon would become.

I prepared the usual packets of information for the ten generals I had chosen, with a basic overview of the circumstances of capture, their level of knowledge and my recommendations. We prepared one of the tents out at Hoover 7 with a few chairs to accommodate the people who were expected to show up. Having only received an email from an unknown person, we didn't quite know what to expect. We had not been told what type of prisoner they were interested in, what type of questions would be asked, or the intent of the meeting.

The convoy arrived, two large SUV's, with around 7 people, a variety of ranks were represented, everyone being below the general level. We made our introductions, reviewed our plans for the day, we gained their acceptance and proceeded with the itinerary.

We loaded up the gang back into their vehicles, with the Major- the linguist and myself leading the way in our vehicle. We past through the first check point to enter the compound and proceeded to Hoover 7. As we entered the gate and moved across the sand towards the selected tent, the fierceness of the wind caused us to walk back and forth in a zigzagging fashion. I expected the weather to continue to torment us.

The prisoners were huddled in their tents to escape the wind, awaiting our arrival. As we entered the camp one of the prisoners, who will go unnamed, came out to greet the group. I gave him the list of those we wanted to talk to, stepping quickly towards the tent to get out of the sand storm. We had previously instructed the prisoners to come into the tent one by one in the order on the list.

The stage was set for one of the best experiences of my life. Just as expected the prisoners came in, sat down in front of the highest ranking visitor, while the others in chairs or on the floor were gathered around to either listen or to participate with the discussion. The note pads were out, the tape recorder turned on, the pens were in hand as the prisoner entered the tent.

As expected one by one, the questions were asked, the answers heard, that isn't what made this a unique experience. For the questions were simple, direct and to the point, being easy to answer the source without any trouble answered according to their level of knowledge completely and succinctly.

But there was a special spirit in the room, which touched us all. The interviewers got their answers but they saw and felt much more. They looked into the eyes of each of these men. They heard their honest and sincere answers, their words pulling on their heart strings, speaking volumes to each man sitting in the circle. In the end they knew they had just taken part in a life altering, paradigm changing experience.

Each of them saw the future of Iraq as if on streaming video along with the future leaders of this country. They gained the vision of what can be done and what needs to be done. I saw hope in their eyes. I saw the lights go on; they caught the vision of the possibilities. They gained a hope for the mess that we now find ourselves in, with a solution sitting right before us.

The visitors heard their words, heard what we have been doing with these men, heard of their plight, of their heroic efforts, their bright plans for the future, and for their willingness to play an active role in building a democratic Iraq. But, more than what was heard it was what was felt that made the difference.

Have you ever taken part in one of those special moments in life when the spirit is so strong that without a word being uttered everyone can feel its presence? It was one of those moments. Our hearts felt the meaning of their words and caught the vision for the future. One US officer was so touched that he put $40 in my pocket requesting that I buy something for the generals. Many comments were made suggesting that perhaps these are the men that will rebuild Iraq, that will take their place in key positions throughout the country to lead this nation into the next era.

It was like building a cake, with each prisoner we laid down another layer, one by one, one adding on to another, then with the Air Force general we laid on the icing, then came the last guy who was like putting the cherry on top. I couldn't have picked a better line up for the visitors to meet with.

After each prisoner finished the questioning, I would rise and as I walked them to the door of the tent, they would whisper to me in their broken English, “Good, did I do Good?” It was so funny that they would look to me to provide some confirmation regarding their performance. Little did they know the full value of this simple meeting.

When the meetings were over, as they were departing, they all recommitted themselves to fighting for the freedom of these men and their value as partners in this rebuilding process. They complimented us on our efforts in developing strong personal relationships with each of the officers, restating their belief that this is all about personal relationships

As a result of that meeting I feel that the ball has begun to roll. Things are starting to happen that will bring about the end result we are all hoping for. I have continued to maintain contact with the US officers, who have also emailed me several times since that meeting. I have been sending pertinent reports to him in email, providing anything I feel might promote the generals cause and work towards getting them released.

As they drove away clear from sight, the major and I gave an exuberant high five to each other in an expression of finally someone gets it, has caught the vision of what this is all about. Yeah baby, that is what I am talking about. We were so pumped up just with the hope of someone else at a higher level with more clout than any of us. The Lord does work in mysterious ways.

That same night we, still feeling the rush of the day, we decided to return to the pen to see how the boys were doing. I was excited to hear how each of them had felt about the interviews earlier in the day. I was totally taken back by their enthusiasm and hope for a positive outcome of this experience.

Three of us had gone out to the pens that night, the major, the LT and me. We all got encircled about by our own little group of officers, about 6 or 7 in a group, seizing the moment I started a discussion, with my select group, about what is in store for them. I told them to take their blinders off so they could see the big picture of what lies ahead. They can and will do many great things for their country. They can play an active role in bringing about the right plan or solution to their countries problems.

Who is to say what they can or can't do, for their only limit is within themselves if they fail to see the future. I promised each of them that they will do great things, they can be the ones that makes a huge difference. They all can play a part and do what ever they can to bring about the end result they so desire. It was quite a motivational speech if I do say so myself. I felt like I should tell them to pick up the tapes of my speech on the way out.

I felt the spirit in the room and knew they felt it too. I stressed that this is their time to prepare themselves for the future. This time should be taken advantage of preparing their individual plans for how they will help.

Just a few days earlier in the week we had entertained other guests, other visitors with even much higher rank that had no where near the same impact on the generals. In fact, the earlier visit made most of them upset and more discouraged. What a difference an individual who is prepared can make while working with the spirit to bring about a huge change in others lives.

My motto has always been to Make a Difference, no matter how big or small, just make a difference.

posted by Chief Wiggles 3:28 PM
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