Saturday, April 08, 2006


Today is the first anniversary of the loss of Staff Sergeant Kevin Davis, who died as a result of injuries he sustained from an improvsed explosive device in Iraq. I was reminded of this because I just spent the last two hours with Nick DePaulo and Bob Fish, two NCOs that have served in Iraq prior to this deployment. It is Saturday night. I had just finished being certified as a Combat Life Saver, having stuck an IV successfully into another person and learned from the excellent NonCommissioned Officers that taught us the class over the past three nights (Training never stops here). But on that occassion, my colleague, embedded journalist Scott Kesterson, and I decided that we would go to the post All Ranks Club (Formerly the "O" Club a WWII Bunker styled locale called "Kilroy's") for a beer. We had two. As we left, a soldier, Staff Sgt. Bob Fish, saw my First Cav patch and wanted to know which company I had served with. I explained that I volunteered to join the 2-162 during the last four months of their deployment as part of Task Force Baghdad because I thought the local media had done a grave injustice in telling the story of our fellow citizen soldiers and that I had spent time with each of the companies of the battalion. One thing lead to another and soon we were talking about challenges with marriage on our return from Iraq, the concern so many of us have that "Things are different" and "Most people don't understand" when Sgt DePaulo joined us. DePaulo had just related to Fish that it was the one year anniversary of Staff Sgt. Davis's death. It immediately brought Kevin to mind. One of the final events I helped to coordinate as the State Public Affairs Officer for the Oregon National Guard was the announcement of Davis's death from his G Troop Armory in Lebanon, Oregon. DePaulo was one of the last men to see Davis alive. He referred to him as "My Man" " Hero" "The Best Damn Soldier I've ever met." A year ago today an improvised explosive device detonated killing Davis, despite the firmest belief from his soldier that they had saved his life.

The details are best left alone, but to listen to the first person description of the events of a year ago today from a war zone that so few f our citizens can comprehend was enough to motivate me to quiet tears. Never mind that Scott Kesterson and I had just finished "Saving Private Ryan" on the bar's widesreen, with it's infamous closing..."Earn this." "Tell me I am a good man. That I have lived a good life," only an hour before listening to this grave reminder of the hazards of living the life of a soldier. As DePaulo described minute by minute his first hand experience of his friend and Squad Leader, of the last hours of this great man's life on this Earth, it overwhelmed me with memory of being there, meeting Davis' widow a year ago tomorrow. Collecting the photo attached above from her, thanks to the help of Mrs. Kay Fristad, the most steadfast right hand I have ever had, a widow and mother of a fallen Marine herself. It reminded me how much has happened in such a short time. How many have made the ultimate sacrifice. It made me think of this corrections officer and his children of how his wife is feeling today. It reminded me of how important each and every soldier is.

Our Command Sergeant Major, CSM Brunk Conley left on short order early this week to represent the Oregon National Guard and his former battalion, 2nd Battalion, 12nd Infantry, at the Fallen Trooper Memorial Dedication at Fort Hood, Texas. He was the best representative we could have sent. As the top soldier for the entire battalion that served a hazardous year in Bagdad, Taji, Fallujah, An Najaf, Yusifiyah, North Babel and other remote locations, he stood witness and paid homage to the nine soldiers of his battalion that made the ultimate sacrifice for their fellow man. 1LT Erik McCrae, Sgt Justin Eyerly, Spc Justin Linden, Eric McKinley, Specialist Justin Linden, Sergeant Benjamin Isenberg, Staff Sergeant David J. Weisenburg, Sergeant David W. Johnson, Specialist Ken Leisten, and New York National Guard Specialist David L. Roustum. Each of these incredible young men have their names engraved upon a memorial at Fort Hood today. Command Sgt. Major Conley and Sgt Raijain, who accompanied him, made rubbings of their engraved names and stood witness as their names were read before the company of thier peers, fellow soldiers, fellow troopers of the 1st Cavalry, warriors all.

Nick DePaulo is returning to Oregon. Having deployed three times in the past four years, he realized that in going to Afghanistan he would lose out on the "best relationship" in his life. "The person that makes me, ME." I am proud of him. He is makng the right choice. I explained through the window of my own experiences over the past difficult year, that, if he knows he is right and that she is what is most important to him, then he was doing the right thing. In the wake of his own vividly recalled detail of being with his squad leader only a year ago today, it only confirmed what he knew...he was making the right choice.

Good luck, Nick. Thanks for talking to me about your friend tonight.

Good luck, Fish. If you still love her and she loves you, you'll make it right. Never lose faith.

Good Night, Kevin. Know that your family misses you but knows that you were amongst the best of us. Thank you for your example, valiant and honorable 'til the last.

-Out here.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Sunday Morning...

"Sunday Morning, the weather is sweet..." - Bob Marley

So, it's Sunday morning and last was that event everyone loves to forget, Daylight Savings Time. So, I did what so many others do, got a wake up call from a friend, in my case, Maj. Rob Fraser. "Dude, this is your wake up call and room service. Would you like breakfast delivered or would you prefer to join us downstairs for coffee?"

Rob is one Hell of a guy. He looks and acts like the former Rugby player he is, always ready either for a laugh or a brawl. Heavy set, built like a rock and a guy that is, amongst other things, the best morale officer we could possibly have. He is a fellow former California Army National Guardsman who served with one of my peer units during the Los Angeles riots. Most importantly, Rob is one of the most experienced leaders we have in the theatre we are entering. Rob was one of the 13leaders that deployed to Afghanistan last year as an embedded training team. He is now assigned as our civil affairs officer. He is building his team and trying to get all of us to synchornize our work so that we are all focused on both our own soldiers and those of the ANA. Having just returned from Afghanistan less than a year ago, along with a little over a dozen fellow Oregon National Guard members, he wants to get to the work, as so much of the training here is run by people that have limited experience in combat in general and, if they have any, it is either from Desert Storm or OIF. Contemporary, but not from Afghanistan. Rob's frustrations are similar but different from many of the soldiers...he's been there. He knows what works.

We spent some time on the range the other day, training to defend our forward operating bases and convoys. It is extraordinary tpo witness how quickly our organization, the United States Army adapts to change. We are starting to get it. We integrate lessons learned from the battle field quickly and efficiently. When there is an absence of experience from the teaching staff here at Camp Shelby, leaders withing the organization start to take over. We culminated the exerrcise with a live fire and that always makes soldiers happy.

Even when they have to wear an extra thirty pounds of gear. Hooah!

- Out here