Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Combat Circuit Ministry

Each week SGT Tremain and I spend a few days and nights with our commander's Soldiers who man outposts in the city of Ramadi. Our battalion has four outposts: Sword, Grant, Iron, and Falcon (pictured above). We're in the process of using the Arabic names for these instead. Most of these have Iraqi Army and Police at them as well. The goal is to completely turn these over to the control of our Iraqi counterparts. An outpost is simply a house or group of houses where Soldiers live and out of which they plan and execute missions. My understanding is that the military compensates property owners when we take use of a house. Missions include census surveys and security patrols. South central Ramadi is very much a combat zone, which makes simple services such as water, electricity, and garbage removal so difficult to establish and maintain. Our COPs do not have running water, and we use generators for electricity. I don't know that there has been a day without the enemy engaging our Soldiers in either small arms fire or complex attacks; I was not prepared for the intensity of the fight here.

Our visits to the COPs consist of performing religious services (generally just Protestant worship, but sometimes Sacrament Meetings for the Latter-day Saint Soldiers). My friend and fellow chaplain, Father Barkemeyer, will soon make the rounds with me to conduct Mass for my commander's Catholic Soldiers. Here is a picture of me conducting Protestant services at COP Iron. I look a little lazy leaning up against the plastic containers of hot chow, but I had just given 27 hair cuts, and my legs were pretty wobbly.

COP Falcon is a configuration of about 10 houses, which are separated by a creek that runs down the middle of them. Raw sewage drains into this creek, providing it's official name (making it unnecessary for me to use the expletive). The picture here is of me crossing the creek to visit with our Soldiers on the other side. (It doesn't look difficult to cross, but several Soldiers have already fallen in!) They have to cross it every day for hot chow. And if the smell isn't enough to motivate you to cross it quickly, the fact that enemy snipers are in the area will do the trick.

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