Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Hello From Iraq

One of my friends and athletes is an officer in the U.S.M.C.. Ken (on the left, above) is from Pennsylvania and a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. To say Ken is a "great kid" is an understatement. In his only Ironman (Ironman Wisconsin 2005), he finished in 11:35 (just ahead of his coach who needed an18 minute bathroom break) with minimal training due to his military obligations and finished on the podium on a day that saw the most people DNF in Ironman history - ALL RACES. Ken is a hell of an athlete and a great down to Earth guy and whenever he does get to race in Kona - I promise you that I will be there.

Ken is in Iraq with the troops he commands. I have a care package started but have been poor in my organizational skills until recently. (I'm sending Ken some boating magazines as a joke. We joked about this in 2005 and I hope he remembers.)

Below is Ken's email to me and his family about how they are doing. Considering everything I'm going through at work...at least I'm at home every night.

Ken makes me proud to be an American because of the type of guy he is.
People laughed at me in 2000 when I said that seeing USA after my name gave me goose bumps when racing in Kona. Corny or not, it still does. I hope it gives you goose bumps too.


Thank you so much for your thoughts, prayers, and care packages thus far that everyone has sent my Marines and I into our deployment over seas. It has been a crazy 75 days, in which we traveled half way around the world in 24 hours to a culture i have only heard about. But i can honestly say that i have been having fun and having been earning my pay. I got into Iraq late March and have been at my combat outpost, small base that i run away from the main major base, for over two months. My team and i have been advising and training a local National Guard Soldiers Battalion. There are over 600 Soldiers in the Provisional Security Force 2nd Battalion that are from the Ar Ramadi, Jazeera province. They are a combat hardened group of soldiers as they cleared most the terrorists out of the Ramadi area a year ago. They are well respected and considered by most better then the regular Army as they have been selected by the Prime Minister to go clear other major terrorist hot spots such as Rutba and Mosul. To say the least it has been a pleasure to work with them, teach them, and most of all learn from them.

I am sure most of you wonder what i do on daily basis. My days mainly consist of 16-18 hours of work and 6-7 hours of sleep. I do that 7 days a week till i leave here at the end of Oct. I consider everyday here a Monday, as there are not days off and no weekends, just workdays. It makes the time go by quickly, but it definitely wears on you. So far i have adapted my body to the intense work regime and have gotten my body use to the local food. Once i got here i had dysentery (from the local cuisine) and intense flu symptoms (from my small pox vaccine) for about 2 weeks. It was not fun working through it, but now i am better i can eat pretty much anything that i want. I have eaten anything from the local veggies to goat, lamb, beef, chicken, and even fish. The most interesting thing that i ate so far was a lamb's tongue...to say the least it was hard to get down (as it was still attached to everything and taste buds were still there), but i was the honored guest and i did not want to offend anyone.

Most days i either do a patrol or clearing operation and have a meeting with the Colonel that i am advising. In between there i am signing contracts for improving the surround Ramadi area, training the Iraqis on basic and advance military skills, improving/maintaining the base that i live on, maintaining the 4 vehicles that i have, writing tons of emails and reports, reading reports and emails, supervising my Marines/Iraqis, and every once in a while i get to eat, shower, and workout.

Not to cut this email short but i must go and get back to work. I have attached 4 pics for your viewing pleasure. The first is of me and a local restaurant manager, whose restaurant i searched, took his AK (AK-47), and he still feed me lunch...amazing culture! The second picture is of me handing out school supplies to a local school, in which i was mobbed by close to 100 kids. The third picture is me watching the Iraqis shoot the AKs...i was little nervous for this, does it show? And the final picture is a pic from Albu Bali area of Jazeera Province of Ar Ramadi...it shows the banks of the Euphrates River and how green Iraq can be.

Talk to everyone soon -- Ken

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