Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas, Troops!

I am blessed to be home for the holiday season, in good part because others took their leave before and after this time. So a heartfelt thank you to my brothers and sisters in arms, out there in the field- Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world.
And prayers for those who are without their loved ones during this holiday season, either because they are deployed, or because they have made the ultimate sacrifice. For those injured, prayers for a speedy recovery to the extent possible, and the strength to push through and adapt to the more permanent scars of war.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Great letters from my daughter's 4th grade class

I've edited some of these for spelling, but enjoyed them quite a bit, in part because of the spelling.

Dear Mr. Tucker,
Your daughter stabbed me with a pencil. Thank you for training the Iraqi police,

Dear Mr. Tucker,
Thank your for going to Iraq and helping the army and Iraq. It is great for our country. What food do you eat?
From Ryan

Dear Mr. Tucker,
Thank you for what you are doing for our country. Elise is really nice and is a good friend. It is kind of all soldiers to help our country to be free. Do the soldiers eat as much as people in American usually do?

Dear Mr. Tucker,
Thank you for being really cool.

Dear Dad,
I am so excited you are coming for Christmas....
P.S. Mom says we might get a dog.

The Shia Revival by Vali Nasr

Finished this one on the trip home. Nice discussion from a slightly pro-Shia perspective of what is going on within Islam with Shia and Sunni conflicts and discussion. Lots of details about the differences between and within the groups. Paints yet another perspective about what is happening currently in Iraq.

Publisher's page on The Shia Revival

Doesn't make it sound like the "fun" in Iraq will end any time soon, nor will it remain confined to just Iraq and the countries on its borders.
Thought provoking.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I'll be home for Christmas

Well, it has been a long 8 months, but my 15 day break draws near. I start the long journey home soon, and will celebrate some time with family.

Many thanks to my brothers and sisters in arms who are sticking around, allowing a certain portion of us to take our leave during this special time.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Media stuff

Dr. Biddle came to visit Dr. Tucker and company at The Numaniyah National Training Base a few weeks ago.

Iraq: Can We Guard What We've Gained?
By Stephen Biddle
Washington Post
Sunday, December 9, 2007; Page B07

Last month I returned from my second trip to Iraq this year. Like many observers, I was struck by the changes since the spring. Baghdad neighborhoods that were no-go zones in March are coming back to life. Parts of Diyala province that were too dangerous to visit then are now secure. Patrols in Fallujah that would have been ambushed a year ago are met by kids mugging for photos from Marines who carry lollipops along with their rifles. Iraq is still a war zone, but the trends are turning positive. (continued)

This week we've hosted LA Times, NPR, and six Iraqi TV groups. The local national cleaner for the headquarters building, Nazar, was excited to tell me he saw me on TV last night. My counterpart, BG S., said that President Bush mentioned our Training Center (beehive of reconciliation activity that it is), in a speech yesterday. I haven't seen any reliable reporting on that one, yet.

And my favorite web site of the past few days:

Friday, December 07, 2007

Mormons and politics

Romney's bringing the religion more into discussion.

Romney Seeks to Defuse Concerns Over Mormon Faith
(NY Times piece)
Published: December 7, 2007
COLLEGE STATION, Tex., Dec. 6 — In a heavily anticipated speech addressing the religion issue that has dogged the campaign of Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate mentioned the word “Mormon” only once today in asking the nation not to reject his presidential candidacy based upon his faith.

The speech's text

Of course, he doesn't hit it head on, but he knew he'd have to address it. I think his request, "hey, treat me simply as a man of faith" is a fair one- of course, I also seem to believe that Mormons don't have horns growing out of their heads.

One "outsider's" perspective on her experience with Mormons, and at a school that I taught at and from which have earned BS and MBA.

From the Wall Street Journal...

What Iowans Should Know About Mormons
December 7, 2007; Page W13

Yesterday, at the end of Mitt Romney's speech, he told a story from the early days of the First Continental Congress, whose members were meeting in Philadelphia in 1774: "With Boston occupied by British troops . . . and fears of an impending war . . . someone suggested they pray." But because of the variety of religious denominations represented, there were objections. "Then Sam Adams rose and said he would hear a prayer from anyone of piety and good character, as long as they were a patriot."

I participated in that touted ROTC program- distinguished military graduate, even. When I was visiting faculty in psychology at BYU, I did my Reserve duty by teaching a leadership course in the ROTC program as well. As we can all see by my duty assignment, that minor in military science has paid off in spades!

In terms of brushes with greatness, I served a mission with Taggart, Mitt's son, back in France around 1989-1991 or so. Good guy, now running his Dad's campaign. Of course, some of us choose to serve in different ways.


Why are things like this not bigger news?

As someone sworn to protect the Constitution, I'm not sure why news like this doesn't get more attention.

Signing statement is president's first since 2006
Had used tactic often before power shift in Congress
By Charlie Savage
Globe Staff / December 1, 2007

WASHINGTON - President Bush this month issued his first signing statement since the Democratic takeover of Congress, reserving the right to bypass 11 provisions in a military appropriations bill under his executive powers.
more stories like this

In the statement, which the White House filed in the Federal Register on Nov. 13 but which initially attracted little attention, Bush challenged several requirements to provide information to Congress.

Are you active or reserve?

One of the questions that often has so much meaning behind it when it is asked:
"Are you active or reserve?"

I wonder if I would have been less likely to deploy if I were active.....

Army Prioritizing GIs for Combat Tours
Stars and Stripes November 29, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. -- The Army is prioritizing 37,000 soldiers for assignment to units heading downrange after a records review showed that four in 10 on active duty have never deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Some of them have valid reasons- others, well.... some of them are trained for positions that aren't needed here- so if they deployed it would be something they hadn't really trained in. Which would make them like most of the Reservists. Most of the military folks I work with are in positions that they haven't really trained for.

On the whole, though, I have been impressed with the dedication of many of my active brethren. Many are doing multiple tours in a very challenging environment.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Care package update!

OK, an embarassment of riches this week-

Now Scrubs, Monk, and Psych seasons 1 are all off the board!

Everyone up at my higher headquarters gets all of the generic packages, the stockings for Christmas, etc, and many other non-targeted care packages. Out here we get none of that, so my care packages from folk I know are that much more meaningfull. Thanks, y'all!

And great artwork from my two youngest.


After 3 weeks of training, we have large numbers of recruits and National Police trainers wanting leave for various reasons, mostly because they report they are tired and miss their families.

I try to be understanding. I'm tired and miss my family, too. But while they've been away for 3 weeks, I've been away almost a year now.

Not to say I'm really unhappy. I have a great position, and I enjoy my work more than I had anticipated prior to deployment. But as you can imagine, I'm not very sympathetic.

Here's what I get to see in my backyard right now.

Here's what I would get to see from my backyard were I not here.

Now I'm homesick. ;-) No, I'm fine, because I'm getting that happy feeling knowing I'm only 9 days away from heading home for my 2 week leave. Woo-hoo!

Ever thought to yourself, "I sure could use a couple of pet sheep!"? Somebody around here did. They nicely complement our pet cow and calf, and they don't leave nearly the mess around the grounds.

True stories

Nonstop Theft And Bribery Are Staggering Iraq
(New York Times)...Damien Cave

Jobless men pay $500 bribes to join the police. Families build houses illegally on government land, carwashes steal water from public pipes, and nearly everything the government buys or sells can now be found on the black market.

And the implications for these men and us when they come to Basic training like they receive at our training center.... sigh.

'A Soldier's Officer'
(Washington Post)...Dana Priest and Anne Hull...
But outside the Pentagon, the military still largely deals with mental health issues in an ad hoc way, often relying on the judgment of combat-hardened commanders whose understanding of mental illness is vague or misinformed. The stigma around psychological wounds can still be seen in the smallest of Army policies.

Generally, I'm proud of my service in the military. Sometimes I'm not so proud of how the military treats those who serve it. Mental health issues have been a trouble spot for quite a while.