Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Tag Team Training
As I mentioned below, SGT Tremain and I traveled throughout our battalion's battlespace providing Ramadan Awareness training to our Soldiers. The last of these training sessions was for key leaders, a session to which I had invited Sheikh Abdullah to join me. Sheikh Abdullah was flattered by the invitation, and enthusiastic to address our leaders. (He was of the opinion that Westerners understood little about Islam, much less Ramadan; he also never imagined he'd be invited to speak to us about his beliefs and practices.) We met prior to the training to discuss Ramadan itself, to ensure I was briefing accurate information to our Soldiers, and to plan how we would approach the subject with our key leaders. In addition to his assistant, Shiekh Riyad, he brought some of the Iraqi Police leaders to discuss how observing Ramadan might impact their mission.
The training was a complete success. It was attended by our Company Commanders, First Sergeants, Battalion Staff, and the other officers and leaders here at Camp Blue Diamond. One thing I learned was that "Ramadan" in Arabic means, intense heat. I don't know enough Arabic to confirm that, but if it is not a literal translation, it likely refers to the purifying effect observers of the month of fasting experience. (Even though right now it is very hot, Ramadan eventually rotates throughout our Gregorian calendar, so it sometimes also falls in winter.) Captain Greg Ralls, our Alpha Company Commander (pictured standing), wondered how many of the Iraqi Police, living with his Soldiers, could he anticipate would observe Ramadan, and whether they would be able to conduct missions in the heat of the day if needed? Sheikh Abdullah guessed maybe three-quarters would observe. He also explained that although the body becomes a bit weaker during the fast, the spirit becomes stronger. He expects the police will be more eager to serve. We also learned that if Iraqi Police or Army drop because of the heat, our medics can administer an IV, and they will simply have to make-up that fast day during the following month.
We conducted this training for key leaders the day before Ramadan began--so when we concluded, Sheikh Abdullah joined me for lunch in the chow hall. Afterwards, I gave him a tour of the gym we have here at Camp Blue Diamond. He was impressed. In the days that followed, several of our leaders explained that the training was a meaningful experience for them. Sheikh Abdullah mentioned to me that many of his fellow Imams were incredulous when he told them of my invitation for him to assist me in the training. "They think Westerners know nothing of Islam--it is they who know nothing, but I will tell them", his interpreter explained. Well, we know a little. However, there is hope that with our continued dialogue, we will continue to learn.