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Losing my Best

Helicopter window  

Above and around the post are pictures from a recent helicopter ride.  One of the cool things we get to do is ride in helicopters.  These flew very close to the ground and I got to see a lot of desert, river and green fields I usually do not see so close up.   In the little helicopters, you can come close enough to the trees to pick leaves (if you were foolish enough to reach out).

This will be a tough month.  The ePRT was set up last year about this time and this year many of the first waves of team members are rotating out.  I am losing some of my best people.  They have a wealth of experience that they are taking with them.  

Rotations are always hard.   We work so closely and intensely together and these guys have become my friends.  I am also seriously concerned that our team will be weaker w/o their expertise.

The case that upsets me the most is Reid.  He is a good friend AND he would like to stay for a couple more months, but our arcade rules do not allow it.  It is ironic that we implore and compel people to come to Iraq and at the same time send willing volunteers home when they want to stay and when they still are doing a great job.

Reid jokes about Al Asad that it is like being in prison in several ways: you have a set routine; you are surrounded by a fence; you cannot leave; and the way you got to either place sounded like a good idea at the time.

        farmland in Iraq

On the other hand, I am also half way home.  I got here in late September and this is about the mid-point.  My replacement has been named.  I understand that there were a few people who wanted my job.  That is good.  FSOs come through when we are really needed, even if we grumble along the way.  I am glad that there is somebody lined up to carry on the work.  I am glad I volunteered, glad I am here and I will be glad to be finished.  This has been a remarkable experience.  

River Euphrates palms

The work is very interesting and I get to do things I never imagined, but I miss Chrissy & the kids.  I miss the green and pleasant places back home.  Beyond that, the job here is very stressful.  I worry that I am not doing a good job.  What am I overlooking or just not doing right?   In this kind of job, you never know for sure and the stakes are very high.  I am often literally asking my colleagues to risk their lives and the Marines risk their lives whenever they protect one of our missions.  This is a big responsibility.  I am so grateful that we have so far had no serious incidents.

helicopter landed

Today has not been a great day, but I am confident that tomorrow will be better.  After all, where else can you do the things we do?


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Comments

we miss you too!

Can you say what you are doing there without giving away confidential or classified information? For example, are you supervising building roads, power plants, organizing schools, or ? I think there are a lot of people back home who don't understand what is happening there. Thanks!
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John Matel responds

We are HELPING with all those things. Our goal is to stimulate the Iraqis to do for themselves. Iraq is a rich country. We just have to help them build the capacity to help themselves.

I can give information. I have written some things about that. I will write a more general note later this week.

Your forthright, honest work is what has, and will continue to impress the Iraqis. You, and my Marines are the kind of men they have seldom met. Perhaps only in their dreams.

About your new people, you and the people around you were once "new" to this team as well, and look what a splendid job that you have done! There will be strengths in your new men that will be as fabulous as those you have gotten use to.

Job well done!

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John Matel responds

Thanks

Keep making us proud John.

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