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Letters from Byron Diamond regarding the 67th's activities:

October 16, 2005
Yesterday was an exiting day for all of us -- and the Iraqi's. They held their constitutional referendum; they had a 61% voter turnout; and are currently counting the votes to see if the constitution will pass. There are 18 provinces that make up the country of Iraq -- each province votes on the constitution just like a state does back in the US. 67% of the provinces voters have to vote "no" on the constitution in order to vote it down and three of the eighteen provinces have to vote it down in order to send it back for a redraft. The insurgents attempted to stop the voting by blowing up the power and water distribution in Bagdad -- no dice as the people still turned out in droves to vote.

If the referendum passes, then they will hold a general election on 15 December in order to officially vote in a permanent government that will be in place for the next four years -- they will be sworn in on 31 December. If the Referendum fails, then they will have another interim election to vote in another group of people that will have to go through the process that was followed this year to re-write their constitution.

We've had a good proportion of our soldiers directly involved in the planning and support of the election in Al Anbar province. I can't share any details now, as we are still in the middle of ongoing operations, but you would be proud of the work that they have put in to support this voting process. It has definitely opened their eyes as to how the Iraqi's are currently living day-to-day and some of the sacrifices that they have endured prior to the overthrow of Saddam's government and the things that have happened to them that have been directed against them by the insurgents.

I had two very enlightening conversations with two different Iraqi citizens just two days ago. The first gentleman was walking around with a cane, as his right leg seemed to be deformed. When I stopped and talked to him he told me about his family and his job (he sells rugs) and why he was supportive of the election. About six years ago he was suspected of having a conversation with some other members of his village about how bad the Baathist party was. He was taken in by the secret police, tortured and to make sure that he remembered who was in control of the country -- they broke his right ankle and held him in jail for two weeks so the bone would not set correctly.

The other two gentlemen I spoke with at great length were pertaining to their ongoing support of services to US Forces in Iraq. They run a "business" but their families think that they support bazaars in Jordan and Syria -- which explains why they are not home for long periods of time. They are actually supporting us but they do not want their families to know so their jobs do not directly endanger their families back home.

I am currently soliciting "volunteers" from my staff so that we will have a one-for-one match up between a kindergarten and first grade class with our soldiers out of Elkhorn. If any school is interested and I actually make it back on leave, I'd be more than happy to come to the school to meet the kids and do a presentation if they would like that.

It's hard to believe that we have been in country for 32 days already ­ how time flies when you're having fun. We are settling in to our mission and the day-to-day requirements of the job are that each of us performs. I'm looking forward to the continuing stream of emails and mail that all of you have been sending ­ thanks again.

 
March 3, 2006
Just about the time that I think that things would be settling into a routine, everything is changed. We just completed the Marine Corps unit turnover in Al Anbar province. They have been rotating units in and out for the last six weeks and we now are working with a new set of folks both here at the base and throughout the province. Just like with everything else in life, someone new comes in and thinks that they have a better idea on how to run things so we have been adjusting to new expectations and requirements, but things are looking good with our initial dealings with the new Marine personnel. It has been and should continue to be a great experience working with the United States Marine Corps. They have treated our unit as equals and have put a large expectation on us for our mission.

The attacks against American forces has dropped substantially for the last six to eight weeks but have increased on the Iraqi Army units. However, the Iraqi units are still gaining more experience and growing more and more capable every day. The attacks on the Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra is an attempt by Al Qaeda to start a civil war between the Sunni's and Shia's but so far the governmental and tribal leaders on both sides have been able to keep everyone mostly in check. It is another sign of their desperation as they are now also having difficulty when they are engaged with the Iraqi forces. Everything we plan on is driven by what the enemy is or what we think they will be doing, but if everything continues to go as it has been since the election, we should start to see some unit draw downs as the year moves along.

The weather is also starting to change here. Over the past week, the temperatures have started to rise to the mid to high 80's and we are expecting it to hit the high 90's by the end of March. I should not have any problems shedding the last five to 10 pounds that I want to get rid of before our deployment is over once we get into the summer months. We had several large rainfalls in mid February that actually caused a flash flood during one of the storms. The ground around here is clay and compacted like the soil in central Texas, so when it rains it mostly just runs over the surface. We received about 3.5 inches in a four-hour period which ended up filling the wadi and overflowing the flood control levy's along it's banks. The rainstorm helped persuade us to cancel several road construction projects that we were considering to build across there.

I just returned to Al Asad a couple of days ago. I took a team of Engineer's from our base that is assigned to us on a tour of several bases around Iraq that covered almost eight days of travel. Our intent was to look at the infrastructure, utilities, and communications that the other bases had in place along with the projects that were projected at each so we could compare our progress and get more idea's as we continue to develop and expand Al Asad. We met with the other units that are performing the same mission as ours and received tours of their facilities. It was a very good trip; we brought back some very good idea's that we can start to work on implementing here, and found out that we are not as bad off as we thought we were in relation to most of the other bases.

While in Balad, I was able to stop by the 3rd COSCOM headquarters to see all of my friends that were deployed from the 19th Theater Support Command out of Des Moines. They were all doing well and we were able to catch up on what everyone's families were doing back home. My hats off to them for the great job that they are doing collectively in managing and planning the logistics support for all of the services stationed in Iraq. The quote listed at the bottom of this update is dedicated to all of the Logistics Soldiers that are out there performing their mission every day, in harms way, and getting the job done so the war fighters can successfully perform their missions.

Unfortunately, I also got a new first in air transportation as we traveled around to the various bases. We were flown in Army C-23 Sherpa's -- the equivalent of a magic flying school bus. If you go out on Google and look up C-23 you'll know what I mean. They are a rectangle box with wings attached to them. The other fun part is that they fly at "nap of the earth" altitude so we were flying along at 230 mph at about 100-250 off the ground. So we were always treated to a 30 minute to 3.5 hour roller coaster ride.

It will be just a few more weeks and I'll be coming home on leave. Hard to believe that we are almost at the half way mark -- we'll hit day 170 tomorrow (but who's counting). Big Army decided that they couldn't afford to send a National Guard Officer to school so I had to cancel out of the pre-command course that I was going to attend while home so I will be taking it right after we get back to the states. I'm looking forward to driving, eating different food than what is on the rotating 15-day meal cycle here, having a good martini or two (three, four, or five), and wearing civilian clothes.

July 23, 2006
How time flies when you are having fun -- a year ago today, we were receiving our first battery of inoculations at Ft Riley. It's hard to believe that we are only a handful of weeks away from completing our time here in Iraq and returning home. We have been extremely lucky regarding injuries to our personnel over the past year and knock on wood, we haven't had any fatalities and we are all praying that we see everyone here home safely. The unit has had only three shipped home -- one with a broken ankle, one with a torn ligament in her knee, and one for substance abuse.

Our replacements have been at their mobilization station for several weeks now and will be soon heading over so we can begin turnover operations. I have worked with some of them before; they are a great bunch of people from Alabama. We have been communicating with them since early February ­ they are a little overwhelmed with what they will be taking over from us -- just as we were this time last year.

We just recently completed the construction of three wooden barracks buildings within our housing area where most of them will be temporarily quartered until we depart and vacate our cans. The buildings are models a little like the old WWII barracks buildings that everyone has either seen in person, some of you have lived in, or have seen in the movies. The difference with these is that they are set up and divided into two, four, or eight person rooms. The furniture just
arrived two weeks ago, so we have had work crews busily putting together everything before their arrival.

Most of you have been asking me how the weather has been lately. From what I can tell when I look at the local weather back home, other than no rain at all here it's pretty hot in both places. We've been hovering around 115 to 125 since late May and it will stay there until the rainy season starts in late October. Other than an occasional dust storm that kicks up, the weather is the same every day.

We've made substantial progress on several of our construction projects recently. The base chapel (which will seat over 600 personnel at once), new post office, new Post Exchange facility,

14 new wooden living/administration buildings (which we call SouthWest Asia Huts or SWA huts), the completion of a new 7,000 person dining facility (the largest building to be constructed in Iraq to this point in time by the US Government), and a new water bottling plant (will eventually manufacture and fill water bottles at a rate of over 80 to 100,000 gallons per day). Several other projects are well under construction and nearing completion: a 15-space helicopter landing and parking pad, postal distribution center, finalizing the theater renovation, 32 electrical substation renovations, air traffic control tower renovation, 20 additional SWA huts throughout the base, and a new 5 million gallon water storage reservoir.

During my last letter, I had mentioned that we were starting on the staffing to generate future military construction or MILCON projects that would cover over $120 million if approved by Congress. We were able to complete the staff work and paperwork by the end of June and all of the projects are currently sitting at the Theater headquarters currently being vetted and prepared for submission to Congress at the beginning of the next fiscal year in October. By the end of July our staff will have created the contracts and associated paperwork that will generate spending for construction and support services for this base at well over a quarter of a billion dollars.

We've also had fun with several of the Turkish contractors on base. They are nipping at each other constantly and most of them are either directly or indirectly tied to the Turkish mafia -- so take a scene from the Soprano's when you imagine some of our meetings with them. Things that we would take for granted in contract negotiations back home are not the norm at all here.

 

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