Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Local Support

The new Iraqi Army (IA) has shared our challenges and successes. When it is time for us to go home and another US Army unit to replace us, the IA will still be here. Some of the soldiers in our unit have the full-time assignment of training the new Iraqi Army. As you may know, Iraq is rife with diversity, and this diversity is seen in their army just as it is in ours. We are sometimes baffled by the tension between Iraqi tribes, provinces, sects, etc.. They also seem much more laid back in their execution of tasks, but this attitude is typical of cultures from this part of the world. Some of our soldiers have really enjoyed getting to know those they've helped train. They have shared stories about their home towns, their families, their children, and their professions. IA soldiers are easy to spot because of their chocolate chip style desert camouflage uniforms; ours are more sand colored.

These soldiers seem enthusiastic to work with us. But it seems to most soldiers I visit with that a lot more training and even more patience will be needed before they can do everything their country's security and stabilization requires. Soldiers I visit with hold on to the hope that their investment of joint training will eventually payoff.

As I drive around from FOB to FOB and survey the landscape I sometimes see remnents of military struggle that took place before or during OIF I, and I am reminded that what I was watching on CNN (and many of the soldiers here were experiencing firsthand) is directly connected to what we are doing now--it's easy to forget the connection. But the burnt out military trucks, airplanes, and tanks are an awesome reminder of this--and also the disparity between the coalition and Saddam's military forces.

I have been on the road and especially busy with soldier issues this past week, hence the break in regular blog posts. But I hope to pick things back up in time. I am presently exhausted, and yet I would have to say my morale is high. It's not an issue of low energy but one of many tasks. As the chaplain, I feel obligated to be cheerful and optimistic--if I can genuinely do so. It is also important for me to be the "non-anxious presence" during crisis, whether they are crises we experience as a unit, or crises soldiers bring to me in a counseling situation. It can be a difficult balance to strike: concerned, but not worried.

Well, on a more serious note, I should mention that the White Sox sweeping the Houston Astros to win the World Series has helped energize me. I have heard that there are two other White Sox fans on this FOB, but I have never met them. People were congratulating or taunting me throughout the series--the taunts died down pretty quickly though. Another pleasing event to report is that Benjamin was the Blue Power Ranger and a black and red monster for Halloween (don't ask how that's possible). Dawn was Daphne; her sister Nancy was Velma; her husband was Shaggy, and Jared was dressed as Fred all from Scooby-Doo. I was off playing soldier in the desert.

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