30 May 2007


The dragonflies are out in abundance around here. This one was hanging out on the aerial of our truck for a while. This is 16x digital zoom from my Canon Power Shot A630.

Our Camp Victory baby geese are growing up quickly!

US Military forces have captured the sister of Khalid Sheik Mohammed.Thought to have known about the destruction of the WTC's on 9/11 as well as helping to hide and secure her bother she has finally been found!

She is best at spreading lies and deceit - for years she has been known as the "Mother of Propaganda."

Sorry! I really just couldn't help myself on this one!

27 May 2007

Some thoughts and Memorial Day

There hasn't been much happening since my last post. We call it Ground Hog Day - comes from the Bill Murray movies where he wakes up repeatedly on Ground Hog Day in PA and won't move on in life until he becomes a better man. I find it to be a hilarious movie and a convenient description of my time here on some days.

Earlier this week, the Department of Defense released a story about a captured Al Qaeda Torture Manual discovered in one of the raids. The story was presented along these lines:

"In a recent raid on an al-Qaeda safe house in Iraq, U.S. military officials recovered an assortment of crude drawings depicting torture methods like “blowtorch to the skin” and “eye removal.” Along with the images, which you’ll find on the following pages, soldiers seized various torture implements, like meat cleavers, whips, and wire cutters."

My first thought was, "How terribly inappropriate to release this story when two of three soldiers from the 10th Mountain are still missing". Their families don't need to read about such things in this time of crisis. I am glad to see this received only one day of press and I had to work at finding it again for this post.

My second thought: "This, my fellow Americans, is what we are up against here in this forsaken land." I have previously written about this region's lack of compassion and value for life. They do this to each other - the pictures in this manual show Arab men as the victims. You can bet your retirement on the treatment rendered to American soldiers is extra-judicial in the application of the torture techniques. No matter how many insurgents we pick up or kill, there are at least 2 more to take the last ones place. It is akin to a virus spreading through your computer infecting and corrupting every file until you are left with nothing but a box and no internal workings.

It's hot here. It was 112 in the shade at lunch, there's is no wind today, and the amount of dust and pollution in the air has created a low ceiling that traps the heat between the earth and the solid haze that hangs over us. With no relief from the heat, it's no wonder people fight all the time. Their brains bake in this heat and they can't think straight.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. If you would, please take an extra moment of quiet thought and say the word "Thanks" for the kids who have paid the ultimate sacrifice here and for the brave American men and women who fought and forged our nation and this world through their efforts, tenacity, ingenuity and sacrifice. Land of the free and home of the brave. America's freedoms and rights of the individual are the example and the hope of every nation on this planet. To my fellow Veterans and their families who endured...Thanks! May God continue to bless our country.

24 May 2007

My Mom's Birthday and the Toby Keith Concert

First and formost, Happy Birthday to my wonderful Mom...she's 65 years young! My card may not make it to you on time, but I'll call you bright and early to be certain I am the first to wish you a good day!

Happy Birthday also goes out to Andra's Dad, Bill! His birthday was on the 20th.

Last night we were entertained by Toby Keith. He put on a one hour show for us and really put his heart in to it. I am not much of a country music fan, but I will gladly listen to any Toby Keith music from now on. There were around 400 soldiers and civilians who came out to hear the show. He's travelled all around the Middle East playing for soldiers in some of the most remote areas on his USO tour. He told us 21 days out of his year was the least he could do for the rest of us serving over here away from our families and in the name of American ideals and freedom. He even sat in on a re-enlistment of a bunch of soldiers too.
Enjoy the following pictures...

Leave it to the Aussies to bring the fun to the party! It was a matter of 10 minutes from when the crowd formed for the concert that they produced the Aussie flag beach ball.

Toby was given an ACU uniform shirt with his name and bunch of unit patches. He opened the concert wearing the shirt and a 3rd Infantry Division hat for about 5 numbers. It was still around 95 degrees at 8pm when the show started!
With little vinettes between songs, some of the numbers he played were: A Little Less Talk and a lot More Action, Not as Good as I Used To Be, Whiskey Girl, Runnin' Block, and about 12 more. I was about 125 ft back from the stage but was able to get good digital zoom with my camera for these pictures.

One more week until my 4 day pass. Those 4 days will be the only days I have had off since my arrival and the only ones I'll get before I leave Iraq in August.

21 May 2007

100 Days

Now that I have gone back and used spell checker and clarified my thoughts: 100 Days revised

Normally in the government sphere, there is some significance about the "First 100 Days". Being the captive audience, government employee that I am, I'll reflect on my first 100 days on this second trip to Iraq.

My first observation is that I have actually been gone from my home for 122 days. The first 22 days of training didn't count into this deployment...they were just combat and electronic warfare training. The clock finally started ticking when we set foot in Kuwait for our advanced training before arriving in Iraq.

I read through five different intelligence summaries called INTSUMS (creative, huh?) every day and three of them have, on average, 25 post-patrol reports. To date, I have read through 156 INTSUMS and 5,750 patrol reports about IED's. It's through these reports that I learn about the loss of soldiers in horrific detail and pictures. Those details, pictures, and some times the names of the lost are snapshots in time that will never leave and forever weigh heavy on my heart and mind.

My schedule runs about 13 hours each day. It could be much more, but at a certain point, you just have to say 'enough' and know that everything will still be there in the morning. The length of time spent at work is exacerbated by the fact that I work in a Navy-run organization. They have the "Boat Mentality". When you are adrift in the ocean with nowhere to go, you simply stay at work for 18 hours and then go back for a couple hours of sleep and do the same thing the next day. I do my best to be an example to my colleagues and break that paradigm of endless droning hours at work in order to go back to my trailer and have some 'non-work just me reading a book or calling home ' time. Working 7 days a week with no days off, you'll drive yourself into an unstable state of mind if you can't change focus. It's all about Balance, Grasshopper...

Both during and after work, I have availed myself to the gym and to church. Both locations are a salvation in and of themselves. Although I read from the Bible nightly, I can't always say the same for going to the gym. I'll have to make the change to my schedule in order to make more time to work out. Sunday's church services and fellowship have been good for a spiritual uplift from the death and destruction I read about and report everyday.

Technology is a wonderful thing...when it works...and resources must be used to the fullest extent. Networks are set up for people to share information and there is often a share drive set up on the server for the network. Golden rule #1 ALWAYS back up your files to an outside source such as CD or the share drive. One never knows when a hard drive for their computer will suddenly become corrupted and all the hours and effort of creating and saving for future reference is forever wiped away. So now, I copy every new document over to my folder on the share drive...

Being deployed exposes you to so many new people. I am very fortunate to work with the personalities of the men in my office. Granted there are days when the humor and farting is a bit too much to handle (results of my own fatigue) but across the board I am fortunate to work with top-notch professionals who make being at work as worthwhile as the mission we complete.

I am also very fortunate to be friends with the Ugandans who provide security on our base. Magala, JohnBosco, Festo, Joseph, Emmanuel, and Allen are just a few who have befriended me and work to help me become fluent in Swahili. They all have great personalities and are happy to meet me half-way in learning not just the language, but about their tribes and country. These men are all very educated and unfortunately do not have many jobs to choose from in Uganda. Thus, they take contract jobs outside the country for work and money. Magala and his friend have started a school in their village. His work here earns money to pay for the land and building of their school. My family and I have committed to supporting his school with supplies and books in the near future.

Lastly, is close encounters of the explosive kind. Throughout the day we hear explosions and gunfire on the other side of the perimeter wall...from which we are situated about 75ft away. Volume and shock wave are the two factors we use to judge the proximity of explosions. Inside our office, we have a dry erase board hanging in front of our window. Explosions that are close enough will actually bow the window and shake the white board. We'll look at each other with raised eyebrows and say,"Nice one!". Two nights ago, I had the utmost in "Holy Smokes!! I need to duck" experiences ever. Usually, I go prairie dogging after an explosion, but not this one...at least not for 5 minutes! At 1:40 in the morning, this explosion actually lit up the inside of my trailer -despite the brown towel I have hanging in the window to block out morning sunlight - and the shock wave went through my trailer like an earthquake. I actually expected to see some huge smoking hole in front of my trailer. I don't know what it was or where it took place, but it was by far the largest explosion I have been exposed to yet.

Basically, I am safe where I work and do not face the dangers and death that Army kids deal with day in and day out for their 15 months here. I often feel guilty for my desk job and leaving after only 6 months. As Pastor Mike prayed over me before my departure in January, "The Lord has a plan for my presence here..." I keep praying for the insight to realize the Lord's plan and His intentions for my personal and professional work. I am satisfied and content that I have valuable work and contribute to the counter-IED mission...albeit from a desk. I have supplied intelligence directly to units used for mission planning and have been pleased to read the results of their missions.

This was once the fertile crescent and the birthplace of humanity...with the believed location of the Garden of Eden. This country (and the entire region of the Middle East), in my opinion, is the belly of the Beast. We are trying to provide Western values and policies to a place so locked in an environment that stopped evolving over a thousand years ago. The disparity is so great that we can't expect to succeed in my lifetime. The biggest difference we face is in the value of life. Western cultures cherish it and the hard liner's & extremists see other's lives (not their own) as expendable...using women, children, and animals to blow up American soldiers. I have no answers (other than the use of fissile weapons to wipe the slate clean) but know the battle will continue for a very long time. If the mass populace wants a real reason to complain to their Congressman about the US involvement here, have them complain loudly about the Iranians. While they are at it, they should also ask our courageous Democratic led House and Senate "leaders" to take a break from bashing the President and come up with a plan to deal with filthy Persians. Just my opinion.

100 days down, 82 to go...

16 May 2007

CAT and Geese and Mourning

My cousin, Kevin, works for CAT and travels the world over. Thought he would like to see there are CAT heavy lifters here too. Come to think of it, my cousin Jeff works for CAT too. Enjoy lads!

On my way to the palace today I had the opportunity to see the Camp Victory geese and their new arrivals taking a field trip. I think they were off to swimming lessons...

The Lord giveth and He taketh away.
This week we will mourn the loss of USAF SSgt Self who was killed in an EFP attack on his Military Police convoy. If he is the same fellow I am thinking of, we just gave him a farewell at church where he played guitar and sang with the Praise Band Joyful Noez. I'll find out for certain on Friday. Either way, I saw the post blast analysis and my heart goes out to his family as they too mourn his loss.
Life is fragile, friends. Enjoy the blessing of this day.

13 May 2007

My Tribute for Mother's Day

The formative period for building character for eternity is in the nursery. The mother is queen of that realm and sways a scepter more potent than that of kings or priests. ~Author Unknown
My beautiful, loving and strong wife, Andra, is indeed the Queen and the Source of all things good in the Stoller household. With great patience and equality, she is raising and home schooling our four children by example of love and Christian values. Due to my constant deployments, Andra has accomplished this monstrous and phenominally important task single-handed and with great finesse. Andra is also my very best friend and complete balance. She is always the logical to my emotional, the brains to my brawn, and a staunch supporter when I venture out with another new idea. Bless her heart, she still laughs at most of my jokes too. We have undertaken the biggest adventure of our lives...married each other for better or worse, expanded our union with 4 uniquely different children and always dealing with changes of duty station and deployments at the whim of the Air Force. I couldn't imagine going through this life without the blessing of Andra by my side. Thank you, my Love, for being the awesome friend, counselor, wife, and magnificent mother you are and for the way you have made all of our lives so much better with the depth and strength of your heart.

All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother. ~Abraham Lincoln
My Mom, Inge, is the other Saint who has blessed my life beyond measurable bounds. She has been my solid rock of support and best of all...my greatest fan. Not one concert or ball game was missed by Mom...ever. I am fortunate my Mom stopped working at Proctor & Gamble and essentially went to High School with me. She managed the sports team pictures, ticket sales for all the sports game at lunch time, and dedicated herself to chauffer duties for both my drumset and me. We were named co-Best Spirited for the senior class of 1987. In college, Mom suffered as much and most likely more than I did with each end of quarter final exams. Throughout the my time in the Air Force and the rasing of Andra's and my children, Mom has always been there with advice and help that came straight from her heart and with immeasurable love. On top of all she gives to my family and me, she has over 11,000 hours of volunteer time at Anderson Mercy Hospital in the Surgery Waiting Room where she keeps order and takes care of each family as if they were her family waiting in the room. At times, Dad will say, "You're just like your mother..." What better compliment could I possily ask to receive? I love you Mom for all that you are and all the love you have to give so unselfishly to all who receive it.

11 May 2007

Kodak Moments

I was taking a training class over the last three days and went walking around Camp Slayer during an extended lunch break. Luckily I took these pictures on a good day. The weather hasn't been all that stellar the last two days with the wind blowing the dust in and everything seemed to be in a haze. Enjoy some the pictures below:

Mom, Dad, and the kids out for a paddle.

All the trees and bushes are now in full bloom.

Victory Over America Palace in its still unfinished state reflected nicely off of calm waters.
Cool looking red flower...
Camp Slayer Mosque
The Perfume Palace

08 May 2007

It's Officially HOT

It's already 90 degrees at 9:30am this morning on the way into work.

Last night on our way to dinner at 6:30pm, it was 100 degrees in the shade of our front awning to the building. Yesterday's high was 112, no clouds, and the wind felt like a hair dryer blowing in your face. Spring has sprung and left us high and dry for the heat of summer. I am convinced the persistent problems of the Middle East are exacerbated by the heat slow cooking the brains of everyone out here until they can't think straight. Just an opinion.

There was a USO concert here on Sunday by the all female rock group named Bandshe. The flier that was distributed around base looked kind of 80's ish and so we checked them out on Google Images. Frightened by what we saw, we checked out the concert after dinner out of pure morbid curiosity... and long enough for a couple of pictures.

Google image:

the actual band who performed:

Objectively, they were a talented group who sang everything from the Allman Brothers to Christine Aguilera. They chatted up a couple guys from the audience in between songs. The keyboardist on the right is a 40 something school teacher from California...said she hoped her students would take some pride in their country and serve like we are doing now. Nice touch...she is leading her students by example.

The following photo was posted on the Multi-National Corps-Iraq website. We have a few organizations on base (not sure which ones) who make their way out to the community orphanages and local communities. Yet another example of Americans opening their hearts to the locals, making a difference, and you'll never see this on CNN or the liberal news media who only want to sabotage what we do.

Enjoy the heartfelt smile of joy on this child's face.

04 May 2007

Thank you Miss Suzie and Kacee

I had the pleasure of receiving rice krispie treats from Suz and a nicely crafted card from Kacee in her class. Note Suz's nifty powder blue construction paper wrapping in the right of the picture. Thank you both for your thoughtful card and kitchen prowess! :)

This is approximately 2/3 of the treasure trove of Vita Splash my Mom sent to us. We had received a couple boxes from someone else in a care package and I mentioned to my folks how much we liked it. Mom went immediately to the Vita Splash website and arranged a plethora for us. My office is the envy of the unit and there was much rejoicing when the box arrived.
I have been experimenting with some of the Google Gadgets for weblogs. I appreciate your patience as I work out the new functionalities for this blog. For some things, I should just stick with the tried and true...like the clock. So back to basics for that one, the count down timer stays, and the new weather that updates itself will stay as well.
It's Friday...I finally broke into double digits for the countdown...my hair is growing back...what a great day!

02 May 2007

Places and People Pictures

Picture of the Al Faw Palace compliments of globalsecurity.org
The reason the Al Faw Palace was built on what is now Camp Victory.

The following is a translation of the etching in the wall of what is now the Commanding General's conference room. Saddam didn't really get religious until the late 90's according to reports. Not totally sure of the veracity of the translation. Either way, something new to look at.

Looking up one of the marble-lined pillars to the ceiling of the Palace foyer.

For all you SOUTHPARK fans, I found this fitting patch at one of the vendors on base.

My Swahili instructors and Ugandan friends, Edward and Obidiya (missing are JohnBosco, Festo, and Emmanuel). Each morning after breakfast, Orto and I spend 10-20 minutes visiting with Edward and the gang discussing our countries, language, and customs. As Edward was pointing to my map of Uganda, he showed us the warring North, oil fields in the West, the Industrial East around Lake Victoria, and the area in the South where it costs 20 cows to get married!
Quick Swahili lesson:
Kufa tatukafu wote = if it means death then we die together
Taku wanana badai = we'll see each other again

Iraq is not all death and struggle, in the car port to our building, we have a momma mourning dove sitting on a couple of her baby birds.

enjoy the pictures.
I am getting close to double digits before I can come home. When the countdown time reaches 97 days and 12 hours...I'm half way home!