Saturday, April 4, 2009

Letter 13


Well it has been an arduous trip back to Iraq (Shelby yells at me anytime I call Iraq “home”). I arrived at the Indy airport at about 8:30am on Monday March 16th for my 10:30 flight to Atlanta. At about 10:40 there was no plane for us to board, and Delta had made no announcements, several passengers went to ask the Delta employees what was going on. Apparently, the plane that we were supposed to get on had mechanical issues and had not left Atlanta yet (if flies back and forth). In addition Atlanta was having some storms so our new time would not be until 1:30 (1330)…well, this is no good as I am supposed to report at Atlanta at 1300 (1:00pm). I called the Army desk in Atlanta and got everything arranged for myself and 5 other soldiers from the Indianapolis area in the same situation as I. Well at about 1500 (3:00PM) we finally took off from Indy (still with little to almost no communication from Delta). On an aside, one of the Delta ladies working the desk was so rude, at one point I saw her yelling at a passenger that he needed to pay more attention to the board for the flights that she was tired of telling him. Mind you they had not shared information with the now three flights worth of passengers in the same area all going to Atlanta on three different flights. I should have known that this was just the start.
We finally arrived in Atlanta and of course our flight to Kuwait was long gone. I expected to be spending the next 20 hours or so sleeping on the airport floor, or balled up on segmented airport chairs…but hey the Army put us up at the Crown Plaza hotel at the airport in Atlanta…and paid for us to have three meals! (I pinched myself because I thought for a minute that I was Air Force). We were able to get out of Atlanta around 1900 (7:00PM) the next day. I expected our flight to be packed, but another nice surprise was that it was not…Since I was a major and there were not that many higher ranking officers on the flight I was able to sit in first-class! I had a nice spacious leather chair that even had a foot rest…cool.
We proceeded to fly from Atlanta to Shannon, Ireland…so here we are sitting in Ireland at an airport pub the day after St. Patrick’s Day and I cannot have any alcohol! Looking out the airport windows everywhere we could see was lush green. I guess this one of the reasons it is called the Emerald Isle. I would have taken pictures but of course my camera was completely dead and I did not bring my charger…sorry. The flight from Atlanta to Ireland was only about 7.5 hours. From Ireland we flew to Kuwait city…another 7.5 hours or so of flying time. We arrived in Kuwait sometime after dark, by this time I was so disoriented with the long flight time that it was hard to keep everything straight as we also lost another 7 hours for the time difference. From here we sat on a bus for 1.5 hours (I think it is an Army policy to have us hurry, wait, and then cram into a small space with all our gear). After waiting the hour and a half we drove for two more hours to Ali al Salem to see about getting our flights to our individual bases. There were no flights back to Balad (not home Shelby) but I had to come back in 6 hours for a formation to see when the next flight might be. I arrive back at 0700 (7am) on March 19 only to be told that there are no flights yet and to return at 1900 to see when we might fly. During my time in Kuwait I was able to enjoy the sand/dust, 90 degree weather and lack of sleep. I also was able to sit outside and try to give two lectures to my PA students….yes it was windy and blowing sand.
Our flight from Kuwait to Balad is a combat flight aboard a C-130. Below is a picture of a C-130:

We are literally crammed into this aircraft and we sit in 4 long rows length-wise down the middle of the aircraft with two rows facing each other. It is tight enough that you have to work with the people across from you on how to position your knees and legs and make adjustments during flight. I have been on many combat landings over my two deployments but the one on this day was the most….”aggressive” landing I think that I could have experienced. I later learned that our base has been under a lot of attacks the week that I came in and were having some small arm attacks (snipers) so there was a much higher alert level. Anyway, we rocked back and forth enough that at one point I could see out this little porthole window and I was parallel to the ground. We would then drop altitude fast enough that we came out of our seats (we are seat belted), then climb enough that we could feel some G-forces. I felt like putting my hands up in the air like a rollercoaster. I would have if I could have gotten out from between the soldiers on either side of me…we were tight enough that we did not shift left or right due to the person next to you. We eventually landed fine and I am safely back in Balad, Iraq. Below is a C-130 flying over Balad:

The first few days I was back, our base was attacked everyday. That was until one night I was awoken to the sound of a lot of explosions and rocket fire. At first, I shot out of bed, but the alarms never went off…I was tired so I just went back to bed. The next day we learned that the explosions and fire that we heard that night was outgoing. They found the sniper team and mortar/rocket teams that were giving us so much trouble. They sent out a large infantry team and apache helicopters…we have now been attack free for over a week!

In my last letter I told you about Shelby getting her head shaved for St. Baldrick’s day/organization. Well, she did it! Below is a picture of her with her head shaved:

How cool is my wife!!!! How many women could actually do this voluntarily? I am very proud of her and her self-confidence that she does not need hair to feel pretty. She did this to support childhood cancer research and funds to families of children with Cancer. Additionally, Rachel (my second) and Kolbe (my third) both decided to get their heads shaved for St. Baldrick’s and she wanted to support her children…I am lucky to have her as the mother of my children! Enough of the sappy stuff, in viewing the pictures of Shelby getting her head shaved I noticed in eerie resemblance to a Star Trek character…tell me what you think:

Now, I am not saying she is like the Borg queen…I am just saying…The picture on the left (just in case you get confused) is Shelby getting her haircut J. They actually gave her a Mohawk first and spiked it up…of course the kids thought that this was great. I think it may have lasted about 5 minutes before it was shaved off. By the way if you know who the Borg queen is you are a geek.

Rachel and Kolbe got their head shaved the following week at St. Thomas Aquinas School. Here are my brave kids and Shelby after.

Are they not all beautiful? Take a look at the banner behind them and see some of the things that this organization does for cancer research. They are amazing. Check out their website at and feel free to donate online to Team Roscoe at Please pray for all the kids that have childhood cancer and the families of those kids, they have a burden that not many of us can truly relate to. Please specifically say a prayer for Joeseph Chamness and his family who has brought childhood cancer awareness to our community.

Spring has arrived here in Iraq. It is in the 80s and 90s here during the day, and gets into the upper 60s at night. We do not have anything really green on our base, but we have seen a lot more of “little” birds around. Here is a picture of one:

All winter we had these really ugly “crow looking” birds everywhere they made me feel like I was in purgatory or something. These little birds are cute, but loud. I actually have some of these guys living in the wall of my CHU (room). They tend to wake me up every morning with their chirping. The box behind the bird is a box of our milk. We do not have fresh milk here so we have these boxes. I do not like it very much, but they do work for cereal etc. I will try to get some pictures of these little birds coming out of the wall of my CHU.

Below is my “base picture of the letter”. It is of the Mosque that is on our base. We are not allowed to go inside the fence. It is currently not being used.

I will give a picture below of a close-up of the minaret and dome to show you the birds. A few things that I wanted to point out on this picture. First, notice the standing water on the right side of the picture and the mud. I do not remember when I took this picture, but it does not take much rain for us to get these mud spots. Second, behind the Mosque is the movie theater. I will spend some time in another letter talking about this surreal building, but I am sure that it is the most protected movie theater in the world. Below is a close-up of the minaret.

Look at all the birds! They are everywhere. I think it is like a base playing tag for them. Our base is a large airbase…birds and aircraft do not usually get along very well. The military actually has a program where you can loan out a pellet gun to shoot birds on base to thin the population so that they do not hit the planes coming in. (Sorry PETA). Anyway, there are really only two locations that the bird shooting is off limits. The first is the mosque so you cannot aim a weapon in the direction of the mosque (we would not want to offend anybody). The second is around the chow halls. If anybody would like to join my new organization (inspired by PETA) that I started with the help/idea of the PA faculty I am starting PETC (people for the ethical treatment of corn) but I may change the name to include other vegetables or maybe even all plants. I mean Dr. Maffeo offered me an aloe plant for burns…I mean to tear off a leaf and rub the plant guts on a burn…what kind of sick world is this. I have personally witnessed Dr. Lucich eat a decapitated mushroom head on a sandwich! I guess Dr. Lucich is not that much of a “Fun-Guy” (fungi…get it) Wow am I clever!

Seriously, thank you to everyone who continues to help my family. Thank you to the Guardian Angels of Hillcrest…I just received something like 50+ boxes of mostly Girl Scout cookies for the troops. We have been distributing them to soldiers all over the base. I am sorry that I was unable to get around seeing everyone on my leave…just ran out of time. It has been a bit hard on me emotionally returning back to Iraq and leaving my family and friends and I am a bit homesick. However, I have plunged right back into work which is a busy as ever. Hopefully things will slow down as we have new docs coming next month and we should be fully staffed with medical people again. Additionally, I will finish teaching at the end of April so that I can focus on completing my PhD. Life will be good then…maybe by then I can show you pictures of the pool!
In closing this letter I received yet another great email that I wanted to share with everyone. It is about the USS New York that was build from the scrap steel that remained from the World
Trade Center after 9/11:
USS New YorkIt was built with 24 tons of scrap steel from the World Trade Center.

It is the fifth in a new class of warship - designed for missions that include special operations against terrorists. It will carry a crew of 360 sailors and 700 combat-ready Marines to be delivered ashore by helicopters and assault craft.Steel from the World Trade Center was melted down in a foundry in Amite, LA to cast the ship's bow section. When it was poured into the molds on Sept 9, 2003, 'those big rough steelworkers treated it with total reverence,' recalled Navy Capt. Kevin Wensing, who was there. 'It was a spiritual moment f or everybody there.'Junior Chavers, foundry operations manager, said that when the trade center steel first arrived, he touched it with his hand and the 'hair on my neck stood up.' 'It had a big meaning to it for all of us,' he said. 'They knocked us down. They can't keep us down.. We're going to be back.'The ship's motto? 'Never Forget'

How appropriate that the ships motto is “NEVER FORGET” in that it is how I close all my letters. Please keep the prayers flowing for all of us soldiers and the families. We need them all! NEVER FORGET what we are doing here, and we still have US service members being killed, regardless of what the news is saying. NEVER FORGET that we live in the greatest nation on Earth with all the opportunities to be a success and achieve all your dreams and goals. I feel so blessed by all the love and support that I have and I thank everyone in my community for helping my family and I be successful.

Major Roscoe


Pamela Lin Thompson said...

I'm glad that you had a wonderful time home on leave. I just had to say good bye to my son who was home on leave until April 9. I'm not sure if he's made it back to his FOB in Iraq yet, but I'm sure that we will hear when he does. I just want to let you know that we DO support and remember you all. Many hugs for the work you are doing! THANKS~ from a family with 2 sons in the ARMY, one from Indiana Guard that just got home in Dec. and the other an MP from the 82nd Airborne stationed at Loyalty now.. 7 months to go~

Jeff said...

Shelby, Rachel, and Kolbe,

I think it is so awesome the way you support cancer research. I want you guys to know how much Mike, (Your husband and father) means to me and how important he is to our mission. We work hard and have so much fun together. I should let you know that he is a drive by trouble maker in that he will start a practical joke but will act like he has nothing to do with it. We are on to him. Anyway, I look forward to having Karen, Karis, and I coming over for a visit. Karis is so social and loves being around other kids. She loves animals to and she loves your dogs.

Anyway, just want to say "Howdy" and again thank you for supporting cancer research. It is awful brave for you guys to shave your head. We all wish that Bryan's back was a smooth as your heads.