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Living Foreign Policy

Friday, September 9, 2005

6:32AM - Update

Joe just called - he's in Maine and will be in North Carolina tonight!

Thursday, September 8, 2005

8:46AM - Good News!

Finally, I have something to add besides the same old stuff.

Joe is no longer in Iraq and will be back in the US in a matter of days!!

He called me this morning to let me know that he is on his way home. He will arrive in NC in a few days (maybe tomorrow!). From there, he has to work for a few days and then he will come out here to New Mexico to see Ellie and me. We talked about Ellie and me going back to NC to meet Joe there, but he wants to spend a few days out here and it would be very difficult to travel across the country with Ellie at the moment. Plus, I think he could use a few days to decompress.

When I have more information, I will post more.

Friday, July 22, 2005


It's been forever since I updated this journal, but a lot has been going on.

Joe came home for his leave and we had a wonderful time. He went back after his two weeks were up. I think it was hard to go back after having been home.

Here are a few tidbits from life at Anaconda since he went back:

He woke up at 3am and went to the gym a few days ago. It was 100 degrees out. I think he mentioned 127 for a daytime temperature, but I'm not positive.

The deck outside the coffee shop has been completed and it looks great. They have a nice surface a few feet off the ground with a gazebo. There is a parachute for cover from the sun and the lights that I sent over. Joe sent me a picture showing them watching a movie out there at night. I will try to post pictures soon.

The espresso machine is broken. Joe said it has made over 14,000 cups of coffee since about December. They tried to fix it, but I think it has been totally used up. There are no plans to replace it because...

It looks like Joe's unit will be home in October. No one is saying exactly when yet, but I'm thinking his total time over there will be about 11 months. This is good news, but no one is celebrating until they are on the ground back here. We all remember the poor 3rd ID guys that were *on the plane* to come home when they got extended.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

2:14AM - oops

It looks like I just have time to squeak in a May post before I will have missed the whole month.

The reason I haven't posted in a month is because much of what Joe does on a daily basis is the same every single day. He does report, however, some new developments with Blackjack Java. They got their plan for a deck approved outside the roasting trailer. It's in progress right now and should be done in the next few weeks. Once the deck is finished, the plan is to put a parachute over the top to provide some shade and then string the whole thing with lights. I know Joe already has the lights because I sent him all our white Christmas lights a few weeks ago. You can see pictures here.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

2:00PM - CSM Caldwell Update

I just heard from my friend - apparently CSM Caldwell has numerous fractures to the face/jaw/etc. The main concerns at the moment are infection, although he appears to be fighting the infection off with the help of antibiotics. I'm not going to post it all here, but if anyone would like more information about his condition, please leave me a comment.

Here is an article about the incident. I didn't know him, but apparently a young man named PV2 Knotts, CSM Caldwell's driver, died in the attack. This just breaks my heart because a PV2 is just a baby in the army - probably less than 6 months since he enlisted. Being picked to be the CSM's driver is a great honor, especially for such a junior soldier.

Here is the article from the Washington PostCollapse )


I just found out that someone Joe and I know was injured in Iraq last week. Joe had mentioned to me that a "CSM from the regiment" [meaning a Command Sergeant Major from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, the unit Joe previously deployed with] had been injured last week but he didn't mention a name and I assumed it was someone new. Turns out it wasn't.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the military, there is a special sort of relationship between a young officer and a quality senior NCO (like a CSM). Technically, the officer outranks the NCO, but the NCO has been in the Army for 15-20 years and the young officer usually about 0-4. When I was a company commander, the senior NCO who worked for me was such a man. We both knew that I was "in charge" but we also both knew that I relied on him for a lot and that this relationship benefitted both of us as well as the soldiers that worked for us.

On a slightly higher level, CSM Caldwell [the man injured] is exactly like that. I always knew that he would keep an eye out for Joe, even though Joe outranked him. Knowing he was going on that deployment to Iraq made me feel a little bit better about the possibility of Joe coming home and in one piece. Both CSM Caldwell and his wife were wonderful to us, in their own ways, when we lived in Colorado. I consider his a wife a true friend and a wise woman.

This was CSM Caldwell's second one year deployment to Iraq. It's not unheard of, but it is unusual, for someone of his rank to be injured. I don't know the details yet, but I suspect he was doing something to help soldiers in someway when he was injured. I know he's at Walter Reed in the ICU at the moment and will post more details when I hear them. I'm sure he, his wife, and their children could all use any prayers you might offer.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

5:20PM - Picture Update

Joe sent me a few more pictures, which you can see here. They are mostly photos of life around the base and coffee-related stuff.

Small warning: The last photo contains some profanity, but in a humorously appropriate context. To run the roaster, they need a generator. Well, they found one and used it for a while, but it didn't actually belong to them. So, the real owners (some other Army unit) came and removed it. I've been told there is a new generator powering the roaster now, but the picture commemorates the moment when they discovered "their" generator was gone.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

8:22AM - Picture Update

I added a few more pictures.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

11:21AM - New Pictures

I've posted a couple of new pictures here.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

7:34PM - Iraq Pictures

I went to an Easter Egg Hunt today for the kids of the soldiers in Joe's unit. I took the dogs and we all had a pretty good time. The best part is that the dogs are now sound asleep.

While I was there, they gave me a copy of this movie they made. There are no pictures of Joe in it (that I could see), but it is the people Joe works with and it shows a bit of where he is at. If you want to view it, you can download it here. The file is about 37MB and you will need Windows Media Player to view it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

10:37AM - Pictures!

Joe sent two pictures this morning and you can see them here.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

9:46PM - Blackjack Java

I mentioned in my last entry that an article was written up about Joe and Blackjack Java. I found out tonight that the article was printed in the local post newspaper. I don't have a copy of it yet, but someone is supposed to be sending me one.

Most of the compliments I got tonight were about the coffee, how good it is (as husbands have been mailing it back) and how much more the soldiers are spending on coffee and coffee preparation now. Everyone seems to like the coffee and think it's a pretty cool idea.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

8:28AM - A Problem in the Food Chain

A small problem has developed regarding Joe and all the packages we have been sending him. The mail is delivered while everyone is at work, meaning that everyone sees you get your packages. Since the contents are written on the customs form on the outside, everyone knows what is in the box. So, if Joe gets a box labeled "beef jerky" there is a lot of pressure for him to open it right there and share with whomever is around at the time. This is fine except that we all know that Joe is generous to a fault and this is one of those times it's a fault because he frequently gets to actually enjoy only a small amount of what we are sending.

There are at least two ways to deal with this problem. One option is to buy Sam's Club size containers, knowing they will get shared with the group. If you had, say, a giant container of peanuts, and something smaller you really want just Joe to have, you could even put a note on the peanuts saying "For the Shop" and maybe label the smaller, just Joe item as being just for him (and perhaps wrap it in paper separately so no one else can see what it is).

The second option is to just leave the food off the customs label altogether. No one is going to be interested in a box of "socks", for example.

I'm all for sharing, but if I've gone to the trouble to buy, pack, wrap, and ship something for my husband, I want him to get to enjoy it. The goal is not to prevent sharing, but instead to give Joe the option to share what he wants.

Also, in case this post has now made you want to send Joe stuff, but you don't want to go back and look for the address, here it is again:

APO AE 09391

Current mood: protective

Sunday, February 13, 2005

6:56PM - Roasting in the desert

This is a piece written up about Joe's coffee project - Blackjack Java. I'm not sure where it was published, but if I find out, I'll post it here.

Roasting in the DesertCollapse )

Friday, February 11, 2005

10:12AM - Word on the Street

The official word on the street is "Home by Thanksgiving". That doesn't mean home the day before Thanksgiving but means that everyone* should be home no later than that date. In fact, people will probably start trickling home in the weeks before Thanksgiving.

I'm pretty happy that they have established a date. Of course, as we all know


*eta: "everyone" here means the COSCOM HQ, obviously not everyone in Iraq or everyone in the current rotation

Monday, February 7, 2005

6:47PM - Return Date?

I got an e-mail from Joe yesterday saying that their return date is set for when it should be - as in, a year after they arrived. Of course, as we all now, this could be changed up until the last minute, although I think that is unlikely.

Units that have been extended in Iraq tend to be maneuver units and the COSCOM (Joe's unit) is not that kind of unit. You only need one logistics command at a time and even if the units Joe's COSCOM supports get extended, it is likely that extended unit's logistic support would come from the new COSCOM, allowing Joe's COSCOM to come home on time.

Bottom line: This news makes me more confident that Joe truly will be home after one year.

Monday, January 31, 2005

8:40AM - Wives Get to Brag About Their Husbands, Right?

Yesterday, I had a chance to speak to a former boss and friend who is in Balad with Joe. He told me the following:

I see Joe about twice a week during his brief. He always does a great job and he's always briefing a huge room full of people. He does the intel portion of the brief twice a day - once in the morning and once in the evening. When he's not briefing, he's getting the next briefing ready. When he's not doing that, he's roasting coffee. The best thing about seeing Joe is that I always leave with a great cup of coffee.

Joe briefs the intelligence information for the COSCOM everyday. I suspect it mostly consists of a report on the incidents from the previous day and stuff they think might happen in the next 24-48 hours. He has always made this sound like no big deal to me, but I think he's so totally modest, that he never really tells me what it's like. Based on comments from a few different people in the last few weeks, it sounds like he generally does a really good job.

My friend also told me that Joe was supposed to show GEN Vines his coffee operation yesterday. I haven't heard if it actually happened, but that also would be pretty cool. GEN Vines is a 4-star general and he is the boss in Iraq. He works for the CENTCOM commander, but the CENTCOM commander is back in Tampa, so GEN Vines runs the show over there. It's pretty rare that a general of that rank comes by to see something, so if it happened, it was only because the COSCOM general (a one star and the commander Joe works for) thought Joe's operation was good enough to show the *big boss*.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

10:20AM - Groundhog Day

One of the things you often here deployed soldiers say is that a deployment is like the movie Groundhog Day. Every morning you get up, do the same things, go to bed, and then get up and do it all over again.

I mention this because I haven't updated this site in a while and the reason is because, while Joe is doing fine, the actual what of his day is the same. The one thing he mentions consistently is that he is spending most of his evening roasting coffee. He has lots of fun doing that and it seems to make life over there more bearable.

One of the hardest things about deployment is spending very extended periods of time with people you aren't that close too. I'm speaking from my own experience here. When I was at my ROTC 6-week summer camp, the hardest part for me was feeling that, for anything more than the most surface level conversations, I was alone. I used to do a lot of singing to myself to remind myself that I had a life beyond these people and this experience. That *I* was not defined by this all encompassing experience. Although he hasn't said so, I suspect he feels the same way. And I was away for only 6 weeks. I'm hoping that the coffee project counters some of these feelings.

Joe expects that car bomb and other incidents will increase over the next week. I'm sure he is correct. I did hear two things, however, that made me happy. First, the unit joe is with is an Airborne unit, meaning they have the capability to drop people and supplies by air. They are using this capability as much as possible to reduce the number of soldiers driving on the roads (where they are at greater risk for ambush/IED/etc.). Second, there is an effort under way to supply the smaller camps with as many supplies (food/water/etc.) as possible up until a few days before and after the election. This will also reduce the number of soldiers on the road right around the election. Although not surprising, it's nice to know that the chain of command is taking steps to reduce the risk to soldiers.

Sunday, January 9, 2005

8:39AM - Quick Update

I spoke to Joe this morning. He is mostly better and whatever he had before is pretty much gone.

Also, he's made around $200 from coffee sales. This is encouraging both to him (his plan is working) and to me (maybe we will get some of our money back).

Monday, January 3, 2005

11:06AM - All Safe in Balad

I got an e-mail from Joe this morning saying that he, and all the soldiers in Balad, are fine. I wasn't too sure what he was talking about, but I found this in the NY Times:

Another suicide car bomb killed six national guardsmen and wounded eight at a checkpoint near an American military base close to the town of Balad, not far from a deadlier attack in the town on Sunday, Iraqi officials said.

It's very nice to know that's he's fine before even hearing about possible problems. Joe also got to call this morning. His roaster is working, although not perfectly, so he is still working on that. It sounds like people are stopping by for "samples" and so far, really enjoying it.

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