Interpreters are the life-blood of our Operations in Iraq. Due to the lack of Arabic speakers in the United States and in the Military, we are forced to rely both on contracted U.S. Civilians and on LN Iraqi interpreters. Without these interpreters, we would be unable to communicate with the Iraqi people, and the already substantial cultural barriers that exist between us would be even greater and compounded by the complete inability to share ideas.
We are especially indebted to the Iraqi interpreters. These patriots (who are also doing it for the money) are helping their country while they help themselves as well. They are definitely targets for terrorists who view them as dangerous collaborators who must be punished for working with the infidel. While we might be annoyed at times by the interpreters, though we can communicate, there is still a large chasm between us culturally, socially, and hygienically. Yet, we overcome that and work together because without them we could not conduct any of our day to day operations. They are that essential. These human dictionaries are a combat multiplier in the COIN environment.
We had a great moment this week when one of the interpreters started translating our English into . . . English. He was so used to operating and moving back in forth with language, that he didn't notice it. The confused look of the Iraqis eventually brought about the required Arabic translation.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Ask any Marathoner which Marathon they must want to run, and the answer will nearly always be Boston. Boston has achieved mythic status among runners. Heartbreak Hill is part of our common everyday language.
Boston is also a race where Americans have not fared well. Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach was the last American to win the race. That was in 1985. Marathoning today is a sport dominated by the great African runners from Kenya and Ethiopia. The majority of "America's" competitive Marathoners the last decade have been immigrants from Morocco and other countries in Africa. America is a long-way from the great Duel in the Sun on the streets of Boston.
The future is looking up. There is a great new crop of American Marathoners and this years Boston Marathon headlined that hope. Ryan Hall, the new wunderkid of running, finished 3rd. Kara Goucher finished 3rd in the women's race and led the lead pack up until mile 25. It was a great day for American distance running and a sign of brighter days to come.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Archbishop Timothy Dolan has taken the reins of the Archdiocese of New York. Archbishop Dolan has been an excellent messenger of the Gospel.
Having just completed the "Election of Change" (seeing how both President Obama and SEN. McCain ran on change) it is amusing to see the Media asking the Archbishop if he would be an "Agent of Change" to change in the Church to bring it more in tune with modern times (the typical request of so-called Progressive Catholics as well). When questioned about whether or not he would be an “agent of change,” on issues where society disagreed with the Church, Dolan firmly stated that as a bishop his “goal is to change [the faithful’s] lives to be in conformity with Jesus and his Church, not to change the teachings of Jesus and the church to be in conformity with what we want.”
The Media cannot understand the Church's timeless position on fundamental questions of morality. Sadly a great many Catholics fall into the same category, but it is this group, that Dolan will seek to reach with his humor and pastoral touch.
As Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote: 'Rather than a voice of disapproval toward the world, Dolan’s is a voice of challenge. He challenges not only Catholics, but every person. He declared, firmly and lovingly, “The Church is at her best, faithful to her mission, when she invites people to open the door and ask Jesus in. That’s precisely the invitation this Archdiocese of New York extends; that’s the proposal the Church makes to the world. As Bernini explained the massive colonnade surrounding St. Peter’s Square, ‘Those are the arms of Mother Church reaching out to embrace all people!’”'
The Church's teaching is not a no, but a yes to God.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I just wanted to take the opportunity of this update to thank everyone who has kept us in your thoughts and prayers. We've had some updates in my shop as well. SPC __________ has been promoted to Corporal (CPL) following his successful passing of the board. We will soon have another officer join the shop; an opportunity to mentor someone after being stuck at BDE for so long. Two of my soldiers are now living down at the Company JCOPs (Joint Combat Outposts) providing forward deployed Intelligence Support to the Rifle Companies (This is cutting edge for a BN S2 shop). Some soldiers have already completed their leaves (or environmental morale leaves –EML), while others still have that to look forward to. Another soldier, SPC ______________, will be going before the board at the end of this month (hopefully). So there has been some growth in the shop.
I also wanted to say thank you to everyone who has supported us in thoughts, prayers, and/or with care packages. It really means a lot to get something from home. Our office now has a great Harley Davidson poster on the ceiling (we were out of wall-space). Some would say the ceiling poster features Marissa Miller a bit more, but the Harley is still prominent (and as a Milwaukeean, it's the focus). SFC ___________ is a big Oregon State fan and received the official wall calendar of their Dance Team, so his desk space is properly adorned with Beaver Pride. We've also got a Brewers wall poster. There are Packer hats throughout the office, a Cowboys hat (SSG ________'s), a Camouflage Cubs hat and there are still some Christmas Decorations up.
Hardly a day goes by that one of my soldiers does not receive a package. In many cases it is from someone who they have never met, but who took the time and care out of their busy lives to adopt a soldier. They received holiday packages with gifts and candies at Christmas and it definitely brought many a smile to a soldier's face. It meant a lot and I cannot begin to express my gratitude for that adoption. Packages continue to roll in with candy and magazines. (Thankfully, I think overall the shop is at a net-weight loss, despite all the candy.) We've received boxes of books which have helped bolster FOB Legion's mini-library at our Morale, Wellness and Recreation Center (MWR). There is quite an eclectic reading collection, something for everyone. The number of Hunting and Fishing magazines we've received (a staple in Wisconsin) really resonates with the soldiers in the battalion (we are Alaskan after all). There is so much in common between Wisconsin and Alaska.
We've also begun to receive many packages of school supplies and beanie babies. The compassion of the average American to people in hardship is something that highlights a true positive of American character. Whether it is Hurricane Katrina or the Tsunami, the American people open their hearts. Iraqi children love to receive school supplies, soccer balls and stuffed animals (less so the boys of course). The boxes of school supplies and beanie babies we have received will enable every patrol that leaves the wire to carry at least a few gifts for the children.
Again, just let me say thank you to everyone for your thoughts, prayers, and/or care packages. They have boosted the morale of all of us in innumerable ways.
Saturday, April 11, 2009
Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God's throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!
Exultet iam angelica turba caelorum:
exultent divina mysteria:
et pro tanti Regis victoria tuba insonet salutaris.
Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!
Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God's people!
My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,
that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.
Deacon: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Deacon: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give him thanks and praise.
It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam's sin to our eternal Father!
This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.
This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.
This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!
This is the night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.
This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.
What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.
O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!
Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!
Of this night scripture says:
"The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy."
The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.
Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!
Therefore, heavenly Father,
in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church's solemn offering.
Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.
(For it is fed by the melting wax,
which the mother bee brought forth
to make this precious candle.)
Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!
May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Friday, April 10, 2009
When I survey the wondrous Cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God;
The vain delights that charm me most:
I sacrifice them to his blood.
See from his head, his hands, his feet
What grief and love flow mingling down;
Did e'er such Love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were all the realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Today the Church celebrated Holy Thursday. It was on this night, the Eve of His Passion and Death, that Jesus Christ gave to the Church His greatest gift. He instituted the Eucharist. At every Mass throughout the world Catholics are re-presented at this critical moment in Salvation History.
The power of the Eucharist and the need for it was underlined today when due to air conditions, our Catholic priest was stuck in Baghdad. Instead of the Evening Mass of Our Lord's Supper, we had a Holy Thursday Prayer Service. The gulf between the two is immense. It served however I think, to underline the centrality of the Eucharist to the Catholic Faith.
Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of the world! We humbly beg of Thee to manifest in Thy Church the Spirit Whom Thou didst so abundantly bestow upon Thy Apostles. Call, we pray Thee, very many to Thy priesthood and to the religious life. And may zeal for Thy glory and the salvation of souls inflame those whom Thou hast chosen; may they be saints in Thy likeness, and may Thy Spirit strengthen them. O Jesus, give us priests and religious according to Thine own Heart!
O Mary, Mother of Jesus! Obtain for fervent souls the grace to hear and the courage to follow Thy divine Son in the path of religious perfection.
Queen of Apostles, pray for us. Queen of Virgins, pray for us. — CARDINAL SPELLMAN'S PRAYER BOOK
The Easter Triduum has Begun, the Week that Changed the World approaches its climax.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
It is hard to believe, but the Church has reached Palm Sunday. It is with Palm Sunday that the Church begins to celebrate the most important feasts and memorials of its Calendar Year. EWTN has dubbed it "The Week That Changed the World". Holy Week is ultimately why Jesus was, is, and will be. Holy Week is the central point of the Christian Message.
Holy Week begins with Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He enters a King, loved and acclaimed by the people. He will leave it despised and scourged. But it is not the end. For while Palm Sunday leads us inexorably to Good Friday, it is Good Friday that brings us to Easter Sunday Morn and the Glory of Christ's Resurrection. The Easter Triduum that begins on Holy Thursday and ends with the Celebration of the Vigil of Easter is the most Holy time for the Church. We journey with the Lord at the Last Supper where He institutes the Holy Eucharist. We are there in Gethsemane where He asks for the cup to pass from Him and He is betrayed. We are there at the foot of the cross when He "Makes All Things New". We are waiting in Darkness to see the Great Light, the Light of the Risen Christ.
It is the Week that Changed the World.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
It was brought to my attention that in my last update I had left a few hints about the Military Decision Making Process (MDMP), but hadn't fully articulated what it involves for the non-military audience. The MDMP is a means of analyzing a mission and producing the plans for implementation. It is the process by which the military takes a problem set and works through it, through issuing the order and then supervising the actual mission being conducted.
The first step in the Military Decision Making Process is "Receipt of Mission". This is probably the simplest step and involves the unit and staff receiving the higher units order and its tasks to maneuver units. With this information, we can now begin to plan how we will attack the problem-set.
The next step is Mission Analysis. The BN S2 (the Battalion Intelligence Unit) has a significant role in this stage with Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB). IPB involves analyzing terrain (both geographic and human) and its impact on friendly and enemy forces. This stage also requires the S2 to present the enemy courses of actions and capabilities. By providing an effective and thorough IPB, the S2 assists the other staff sections, particularly the S3 (Operations), to shape the operational plan to overcome the potential obstacles that exist. Mission Analysis also requires the staff sections to analyze the mission and identify specified and implied tasks that exist for their respective sections. The staff section also has to analyze what the specific section can bring to the fight and what the limitations (must do) and constraints (must not do) are as well.
With the completion of Mission Analysis (though the S2 assessments must be constantly updated), the MDMP process enters Course of Action (COA) development, analysis, comparison and approval. This stage involves drawing up several courses of actions that outline different ways to attack the problem set. The staff as a team develops several COAs, each one at least slightly different than the others in order to provide the commander (the decision maker) the widest range of options. The staff then analyzes the different COAs (pros and cons) and then compares those using pre-established criteria. This allows the staff to select a specific COA for recommendation to the commander, while at the same time presenting the other COAs for his review. The Commander then chooses the COA he wants the unit to undertake or he creates a new COA by combining pieces of different COAs.
With the COA being accepted by the commander, the staff enters Orders Production. Everything that has been done previously builds into this step, enabling the staff to articulate the mission, the Commander's intent and key tasks, the desired end state, the concept of the operation (with tasks to maneuver units) and coordinating instructions. This order is then given to the executing units. The staff then steps back, provides assistance as requires, and assists in supervising the execution of the order.
The MDMP process is not only useful for the military. It is a way, though not the only way, for a private company to attack a problem set. Maybe the government could benefit from using the MDMP as well.