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Archives: Feb. 2007


Kathryn Vernon writes home

Kathryn Vernon’s “regular” job is Seattle district manager with the FAA’s air traffic organization. But the past several months she’s been working in Baghdad as deputy transportation counselor to the U.S. Embassy and as deputy senior consultant for aviation to the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office.

Her two daughters graduated from Wilson High School and one lives here in Tacoma after a stint in Togo with the Peace Corps. The other is in the Army, in flight training at Fort Rucker, Ala. Her parents live in Tacoma, as do two of her sisters and their families.

In short, she’s one of ours.

She served in the Air Force before embarking on her 24-year career with the FAA. She wanted to do something to help in Iraq. “My parents raised us to serve – that is what I tried to do with my daughters, and what I’ve tried to do as well,” she told me. “I don’t believe we should expect our children to be over here if we aren’t willing to come ourselves – that is why I am here.

“I also believe that, no matter the reason this war was started, we have an obligation to help this country – they were oppressed by Sadaam and have been devastated by violence. They need help to get back on their feet. That is also why I am here.”

She periodically writes home about her experiences, and I asked her to share those notes here. Click below to read her latest.

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More on Army readiness

Today’s package of stories about the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division’s preparations for Iraq touch on the broader subject of readiness across the Army. For the most part, the Stryker brigades at Fort Lewis and elsewhere have been protected from some of the shortcomings in equipment and troops that have made preparations difficult for other units — especially those making quick turnaround returns to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Other papers have reported on the issue, including the San Francisco Chronicle and the Baltimore Sun.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker also talked about readiness before the

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More local troops coming and going

The pending deployment of the Army’s 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division is getting all the coverage but other local units are either on their way over or on their way back.

About 17 soldiers from the Washington National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 205th Regiment are due home Saturday after a year in Afghanistan. They spent the past year training the Afghan National Army. Their friends at family are planning a big welcome at the USO center at Sea-Tac Airport.

There are about 1,400 Washington National Guard and reserve troops currently mobilized on active duty, according to the

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Full text of Watada charges

UPDATE, Feb. 23: The Army refiled the charges today. The original count of missing movement, and the four counts of conduct unbecoming, are back on the table following the Feb. 7 mistrial — meaning the two counts that had been dropped are now revived.

UPDATE: I’m moving this one up near the top so that you all don’t have to search too hard to find it, being as how this is the news lately and all. (I first posted this back in January during Watada’s pre-trial motions hearing.) MG

NOTE: Charge II, Specifications 2 and 3 were dismissed

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A friend in need

Walt Gaya — wounded Stryker combat vet, ace photographer and Tacoma baker — is reporting that local glass artist Bonnie Burns is in a pickle with her gas bill. She got there making tiny glass hearts that she sends to soldiers in Iraq as a token of appreciation and something to keep them connected to the people who love them back home.

You can read about it, and see Walt’s pictures of Bonnie’s work, here.


Meantime, back in Baghdad …

Perhaps mindful of what’s going on back at Fort Lewis, the Stryker brigade’s public affairs officer in Iraq sent home some photos Wednesday showing what soldiers from Lt. Ehren Watada’s old unit were up to Tuesday in the capital’s Adhamiyah District. They’re part of the new security push that U.S. and Iraqi forces reportedly began this week. We’re posting two of them here.


Soldiers from the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment patrolled warehouses and factories while searching for illegal weapons in the

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Going to Baghdad with Petraeus

Col. William E. Rapp is leaving command of Fort Lewis’ 555th Combat Support Brigade to head over to Baghdad for a job on the staff of new Iraq boss Gen. David Petraeus. The Washington Post’s Tom Ricks reported today that Petraeus is surrounding himself with smart guys – senior staff officers known for deep, if not unconventional, thinking. Rapp holds a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford.

Not sure what his specific role will be with Petraeus. He recently wrote an Army magazine article stressing the importance of ethical leader development in an Army at war.

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Getting out of Iraq

Here’s a bit of good news: The 1016th Quartermaster Company, an Army Reserve unit out of Pocatello, Idaho with a significant number of Puget Sound residents in its ranks, won’t be extended in Iraq after all.

The company’s higher headquarters at the 70th Regional Readiness Command in Seattle said Friday the Army has rescinded the order that was going to hold the 160 or so reservists up to four months past their anticipated return in April. They’d been told earlier this week they were likely to be extended.

The 70th’s commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Lawrence Johnson, and

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