We got a phone call yesterday from our friend Susan, whose husband Drew is serving in Iraq.
She and Drew and their boys are never very far from the surface of our thoughts of late. All it takes is for us to read about something or see a glimpse of something on TV to remind us where Drew is and how strong Susan and the boys are being back home in Hawaii.
The six-hour time difference between Hawaii and Tampa has made it difficult to connect with her at hours when she isn't teaching P.E. or when we aren't sleeping, so hearing her voice was like a little miracle.
What struck me first was how strong she sounded, how positive her voice was. Me? I'd be a crumpled Kleenex on the ground if my spouse was deployed halfway around the world in a hostile area, much less if I had to be the emotional rock for an entire battalion of wives and girlfriends and families.
When Drew and Susan lived here in Valrico, she went for training after it was announced that he would be taking command of his own battalion. The rigors of the commander's wife are that intense.
We talked about Drew's weeks before deployment, about how he had to battle his emotions while calling families and friends. She had to keep her feelings in check so that he didn't dissolve and so that their boys would be able to handle his leaving for a year.
Amid all this and with so many reasons to do otherwise, she emphasized the positive during our conversation Sunday. "I can't believe we're already through a month!" she said.
The transition between commands is still ongoing and Drew is doing all he can to re-establish some of the basic comforts like computer access for his soldiers. He's still living out of a rucksack, so sending him care packages isn't really a practical idea. (I'll post information here soon about where those who want to send support can do so. Drew e-mailed me a form letter on Army letterhead to hand to businesses asking for their support - both emotional and material.)
The battalion's readiness already has been tested. In an e-mail he sent last week, he wrote:
"We are doing well and I am overwhelmed by the professionalism that my men display out of the streets each and every day. Our Friends of the Wolfhounds Program is a great way for people to hear directly from the soldiers how things are going in Iraq."
Toward further that goal, I'll include the rest of his letter, which reads:
Wolfhound Family and Friends;
It is almost hard to believe that we have entered into the second month of our deployment. We are very close to completely taking over operations here on our operating base and soon we will be better able to communicate with home. Today, I tasked each company to submit a article with pictures detailing the difficult process we went through to get to this point. Hopefully, it will help everyone see that the Wolfhounds are doing a great job at taking care of ourselves. The companies and platoons have already gotten involved in their respective areas of operation, and they have begun building relationships with not only the Iraqi Army and Police, but also the local leadership and citizens. Strategically, the country of Iraq has come a long way and I am excited about their potential to take over the security of their country completely.
Beyond the strategic level, another important aspect came yesterday. As you are already aware, three Wolfhounds were wounded by an IED while on patrol. They were each doing exactly as they’ve been trained and wearing every piece of our top-notch protective gear, which significantly reduced the injuries they all sustained. Our guys faced the brunt of an IED and though they were hurt, they’ll be back with us in no time. Every Wolfhound in the battalion gained even more confidence in our equipment and protective gear from the results of this incident.
Our Soldiers were initially treated at our Wolfhound Aid Station and then transported to FOB Warrior. It is easy to speak praise of our Wolfhound Aid Station, but I met up with our three Wolfhounds at the Emergency Medical Detachment at FOB Warrior. This Air Force organization was spectacular! Our Wolfhounds received nothing but the best of care and all were doing great when I departed their sides. The care and speed with which everyone operated during this event was flat-out awesome and even more amazing when you consider we are still in transition with the 101st Division.
In the age of email and cellular phones, news of events like this can travel fast. I must personally thank our Wolfhound Crisis Response Team for the exceptional work and professionalism you displayed. As all of this unfolded yesterday, we were amazed by the ease that information traveled through the FRG and Rear Detachment. The transfer of information was rapid, accurate, and stayed within the correct channels. It went far better than I expected our first casualty response would go. That is a testament to you, and the rest of our FRG network. Thank you.
One concern I still have is that as the true information is spread, more and more rumors will pop up. I urge you to have the same confidence that I do in our official FRG channels, and remember that if it doesn’t come from the FRG, then the information is false – period!
A lot has happened in our first few weeks on the ground, and all of us have been tested. As we meet the challenges of our mission, I have great confidence in our leadership, Soldiers, equipment, and support systems. Every one of these have proven themselves extremely effective when it really matters most. I hope you share my same sentiments and remain focused as we continue our mission here in Iraq. I thank you all for your prayers and support. No Fear!
Drew, buddy, if that's what it takes to help, you got it. It won't be easy, but we'll try.
All we'll have to do is follow Susan's example.
NOTE: Since Drew doesn't have the capacity for accepting care packages, the Salad will be doing its best to support the Wolfhounds in the meantime.
But first a story:
In 2004, Drew was sent temporarily to Quatar at a planning assignment and spent much of that time in front of a computer screen.
During that time, he and his CENTCOM buddies had the occasional moment to kill. So Drew would check out the Salad on occasion.
When he got back, he told me that one day he saw this posting and started laughing hysterically.
Pretty soon, he was e-mailing the link to everyone in the room. Before long, the entire room was performing an impromptu knuckle-cracking symphony. It was bizarre to check my site's stats by geographical location and see a gigantic spike from the Middle East.
I know that Drew checks the Salad whenever he can, so I'm creating a set of links at the top of the right column for their amusement under the following heading:
If I can't send cigars, Ybor City coffee or fart machines just yet, then I'm gonna make the hairiest man on earth laugh, by God.
I'm also going reconfigure the Salad to limit photos on the site as much as possible to the jump pages so that the site loads more quickly. (To see them, click where it says "I'd Like Another Helping, Please.") The computers Drew and the soldiers have at their disposal aren't the best. And, you know, as long as they're not Dell laptops with incendiary batteries, everyone should be safe.
Feel free to send me links and I'll post them for the amusement of Drew and his soldiers. Also feel free to post messages to Drew on the Salad.
The more the merrier.