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7 Jul 2006
First Anniversary

So, after a year of drawing hazardous duty pay, hostile fire pay and of the combat zone tax exclusion, it was good to get away. Mary Kate and I went to England and had a wonderful time on a hotel canal boat from Birmingham to Gloucester. We celebrated our first anniversary at a bed-and-breakfast in Kenilworth (near Coventry). The boat owner was also a Church of England minister and re-dedicated our vows at the Sailor's and Boatmen's Church in Gloucester.

See www.reedboats.co.uk - we offer an unqualified recommendation!

England offered a lot of peace and quiet - beautiful patureland, sheep and horses...wonderful to spend a week on the water with my wife!

We are now going Space-A to Alaska. A C-130 took us to Andrews AFB in Maryland (yes, we got to see Air Force One) and a C-5 is taking us to Travis AFB in California (San Francisco area). Then we go to Anchorage. It can get a little noisy but the price is certainly right.

Everyone wish my brother a happy birthday today!
posted by  cfbass at  20:31 | permalink | trackbacks [6788]

24 May 2006
Feet Dry at Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin
The unit arrived here late in the afternoon on Wednesday via our charter MD-11 that took us from Kuwait City through Leipzig, Germany, then to Bangor, Maine and finally to a National Guard base about 45 minutes east of Ft. McCoy.

The post is in about the middle of the state. The largest town nearby is La Crosse to the west. Those of us who mobilized through Ft. Bliss are getting a lot of dumb looks when we go to turn in our issued equipment and nobody knows what to do with us here. Those of us who mobilized from other bases are getting especially vacant responses. The weapons guy had no idea we were on the way until the bobtail van backed into his warehouse loaded with all our weapons. I'm trying to see how to get back to Ft. Bliss but it's going to take some time. Right now the unit has been released to go drink beer so things are pretty quiet here...for a few hours. I'm going to take a loooong shower (anything over the four-minute desert shower is long, but this is going to be loooong) and read myself to sleep after a long, long day.

Love to all,
Charlie's Assignment to Iraq
posted by  admin at  22:00 | permalink | trackbacks [235]

19 May 2006
Elvis has left the building
[Editor: from Charles' email 5/19/06]
The Navy's CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters landed at Camp Bucca this afternoon and gave us the best sight of the post we've seen in a year - the FOB from the back of a helicopter...slowly growing smaller in the distance. We're at Camp Virginia now in Kuwait. The Army units here are much more laid back than those in the combat zone - looks like we're the only ones carrying weapons and wearing the Army P.T. uniform. The D-Fac was full of US service members (all services) but the ones not in duty uniform were wearing civilian clothes (against regulation at Camp Bucca). There were plenty of Australian troops, Japanese and also Bosnian.

The rest of our unit will be here in pieces by Monday from Abu Ghraib. We remain hopeful about how things will go . Our flight to Ft. McCoy should be leaving sometime next week.

Love to all,

Charlie's Assignment to Iraq
posted by  admin at  13:18 | permalink | trackbacks [280]

18 May 2006
Guest entry: Letter from John Philips on US presence in Iraq
[editor's note: John Philips owns Premier Transfer & Storage, with locations in Blacksburg and Salem, VA. He has served with Henry & Charles Bass at Va Tech Army ROTC, and deployed to Iraq close to when Charles deployed, but served much further north.]

To my many friends, family, and wonderful supporters:

Greetings from Al Kassick, Iraq. I have not written everyone in a very long time. The weeks are moving along and the end seems to be in sight. I am relieved to be able to count significantly less than 100 days remaining in my deployment. Everyone has been wonderful in providing email, packages, letters and encouragement. It makes a difference that is hard to understand until it is experienced. Thank you! I am doing fine thankfully with only the normal hassles that come with Army life. Our area has become significantly more remote but the Iraqi Army is stepping up to the plate and doing a good job helping out. This letter is slightly different than my past letters. After weeks of watching the media attempt to destroy the success America has had in Iraq I decided I had to finally express my own opinion.

This morning I woke up and looked at the internet and saw what looks like will be a terrible story of Marines killing civilians last November. It made me extremely mad and very upset. I am getting close to serving more than one complete year of my life for this war and I can see first hand the incredibly positive difference we are making in the lives of the Iraqi citizens. I want to tell you why that is and hope that you will continue to support the troops in Iraq.

Before we were here this country was not peaceful it simply lived in the fear of death. Imagine that the policeman on the corner of your neighborhood was doing more than watching for speeding cars. That policeman was talking to your neighbors about you, or talking to your children about you, and trying to determine if you represented a threat to the government. It did not take much to win the attention of the police. If you didn’t like the fact that you did not receive water from the water truck but your neighbor that was bribing the water man did receive water – you represented a threat to the police. If you took initiative or tried to improve your situation and someone else was jealous – you represented a threat to the government. Most likely you would be sent to prison. If you did end up in prison there certainly was nothing called human rights. Torture was a routine not an exception. Numerous Iraqi soldiers I live with have spent time in prison simply because of their nationality. Some don’t hear, some are nearly disabled and every one of them has direct relatives that were killed by Saddam Hussein’s secret police or army. It was a horrible place.

Now, we did make some mistakes on how we took over this country. Everyone agrees. There is no such thing as a perfect war. In fact, war is the last thing anyone ever wants to happen. However, we also did many things correctly.

We should look at what this country is going through right now. We have an entire country that is learning about human rights, civil rights, capitalism, and democracy at the same time. I have heard it described as taking the American Revolution, our Civil War, our Civil Rights Movement, and the 1930s depression and hosting them all at the same time in the same country without an existing government --- pretty tough to do all of that, form a new Army and expect it all to be nicely fixed in a year or two. This might work on television but not in real life.

School children go to school here every day. There is a harvest that is looking like it may be a record harvest because of a good season of rain. Iraqi Army units are taking over parts of the country and relieving US units of ground responsibility every month. The markets are open. People line up and sheiks beg for the ability to put more young men into the Iraqi Army. In fact, where I am located we had a recruiting drive for the Army and on the second day we were sadly stuck by a suicide bomber killing 40. The very next day we limited the number to 100 and turned away tractor trailer loads of people. The terrorist failed in their attempt to scare off the recruits. In Northern Iraq, the Kurdish area, it is like being somewhere in Europe. All nationalities move freely. It is fully secure. There are no IEDs. There are no suicide bombers or midnight attacks, or execution squads or kidnappers. Thanks to the 1991 Gulf War and 10 years of no-fly zone limitations, the Kurdish north lives under a democratic government and maintains a very safe region.

There is much to be improved in Iraq. There is much to be improved in America. The vast, vast, vast majority of Iraqis live very peacefully minding their own business much more worried about surviving their poverty and illiteracy then about the “war.” There are places where this is not the case. In those places the minority wields incredible power over the majority by the use of force and intimidation. Regretfully, this is what we read in the newspapers and see on television. Naturally we apply this situation to all of Iraq regardless of where it might be limited. Two things give Americans eschewed outlook on the Iraq war – the media and our natural instinct to compare the daily existence of Iraqis to our own situation. The media is a business – it must sell and it certainly is easier to sell sex and violence than peace and routine. And finally, the Iraqi citizen is not living a life that is much worse off than citizens in many African countries, Egypt, Pakistan, India and other locations where poverty beats down hope and initiative.

I sometimes wonder if anyone has paused to compare our situations very openly. Yes, there are insurgents in Iraq trying to gain power through violence and intimidation. How is this different from the gangs in America’s own inner-cities? I wonder if we really recognize the number of people in the United States murdered everyday and compare that to the number of people killed in Iraq – yet it is Iraq that is the location that is at war?

If you travel north entering the peaceful Kurdish region it is an epiphany of sorts. I found myself without body armor, without my long rifle, eating among a nationality that is among the most respectful, hospitable and caring in the world. Everyone wants their picture made with a soldier. People give gifts despite their economic circumstances. Appreciation for what the United States has done flows wherever we go despite our Army’s embarrassing mistakes. Someday most of Iraq will be like this and another culture will wake up from tyranny, fanaticism, sectarian violence and recognize that freedom has its own struggles but is incredibly worth the price. The people to thank when this happens will be the citizens of the United States of America where we believe that free and individual rights are worth the sacrifice. I just pray that we will have the patience to understand that this type of revolution and revelation both take time – perhaps an entire generation.

There are places in Iraq where urban combat is an hour to hour situation. I spent some time in one. But do not forget the Iraqi people and their desire for peace. Do not be misled by our own sensationalism and desire to see those in our own country in power to fall for whatever reason.

Remember, the vast amount of soldiers understand why we are here, are proud of their service, can recognize the positive difference that is being made, and fully understand the difference between right and wrong.

I work with an Iraqi Army General eve
Charlie's Assignment to Iraq
posted by  admin at  13:23 | permalink | trackbacks [237]

14 May 2006
Happy Mother's Day!
The Veterans of Foreign Wars were good enough to sponsor telephone calls today for soldiers calling back to the States. It should not be difficult to imagine the crowds of people wanting to call home today. Kate left a card for my mother but the one that was mailed from Iraq was sent to Aruba and, unfortunately, does not look like it will connect with her.

So, what's with the 3,100 people who have looked at the blog? Is it really THAT interesting?
Charlie's Assignment to Iraq
posted by  cfbass at  16:58 | permalink | trackbacks [279]

8 May 2006
Gifts to Children
Many have asked what they might do to help out the folks here in Iraq. Gifts to Children is a program being run through the chaplain's office to get toys and gifts to the children of detainees incarcerated at Camp Bucca. It allows for the American troops to be seen in a light that the fathers of these children rarely see otherwise.

Families, friends, churches or other religious organizations who wish to send gifts for the visiting children send to:

Chaplain’s Office
Camp Bucca
APO AE 09375

The following guidelines apply:

- Recommended gifts include: small cars, small Etch-a-Sketch, stamp-and-ink sets, markers, solar calculators, T-shirts, pens, toy jewelry sets, ball caps, watches, hair clips and small picture books. School supplies are especially welcome. Your local dollar store should have everything.

- If toys require batteries, send extra batteries.

- Please, no used items.

- No toys that relate to violence or warfare such as toy guns or soldiers.

- No liquids. No food.

- Pictures colored by children with a greeting are also welcome. We will have the greeting translated.

- NOTE WELL: No stuffed animals or larger toys into which a small explosive would fit. The reason for this is that insurgents were putting explosives into things like Beanie Babies. The children were maimed or killed and the U.S. was blamed.

- Sending the toys in plastic container boxes about the size of a shoe box is helpful.

Many thanks for those who get involved!
Charlie's Assignment to Iraq
posted by  cfbass at  08:35 | permalink | trackbacks [241]

23 Apr 2006
Marking Time
Today marks 40 weeks here in Iraq. My wife and I are hoping that the Army lets me go before the count reaches 52. There's an ever-lengthening row of hash marks on the inside of my locker that mark the Sundays spent in Iraq.

Mary Kate was at the mall yesterday buying sugar-coated pecans to send to me (it's considered very Texan to send pecans). She was talking on the cellphone with me and explained as much to the woman at the counter. She was moved to give Kate the pecans, gratis. We joked about trying the same thing with Kate at the jewelry store but neither of us are as optimistic about the outcome.

It's a big week in west Texas. The Fandangle pre-season dinner was held last night in honor of Aunt Eska Stasney out at the Cook Ranch (where Kate and I honeymooned last summer - beautiful place: www.stasney.com). Relatives are in town for the bank stockholder's meeting but the real news was from my brother Henry. He attended the scholarship selection committee at our church and they were able to find a highly qualified applicant to carry the torch this year. She stands in good company with the awardees from two previous years who are now doing great things academically. It looks like the young people of the church have vouchsafed its future.

All the best,

Charlie's Assignment to Iraq
posted by  cfbass at  04:42 | permalink | trackbacks [195]

16 Apr 2006
Sending Easter Wishes

Everyone have a wonderful Easter! This is a scanned image of a card sent to me by Henry, Lisa, Eric and Ethan! At Camp Bucca, we had a sunrise service attended by about 50. The NCO who preps the OR (SGT Barracks) organized a choir that sang three selections and the chaplain had me read a passage. It was wonderful to hear the unification of Christian voices here surrounded by Muslims in this Biblical land.

The D-Fac staff decorated the place in yellow and purple for Easter and it looked good at lunch today.

The hospital observed Easter in an odd way similar to the way we observed Thanksgiving - by holding an inventory for all sensitive items (weapon, helmet, ballistic vest, gas mask, etc.). That's the hospital.

Mary Kate said she is going to sunrise services in west Texas and will then join the ladies at the club for an Easter buffet.

Hope those reading this spend the day observing and reflecting on Easter thoughts of their own with the ones they love.
Charlie's Assignment to Iraq
posted by  cfbass at  10:37 | permalink | trackbacks [312]

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