August 31, 2007

Coming Soon--More pictures!

I have to dash out the door right now, but I should have more pictures to post this evening, especially about Camp TQ.

More from Camp TQ

We have had another incredible day here in Camp TQ. To come back a year later after my first trip here has been very remarkable, as our focus on this third trip has been to document the progress in Iraq. The progress is so obvious in all that we are covering here.

We started today with the Marine Public Affairs Officer who has arranged all of our interviews here and all the sites we have filmed. 1stLt Phillip Klay talked with us in front of the Main Building of the 2nd Maintenance Battalion (-) Reinforcements. 1stLt Klay talked about what we would be seeing next, about his career and progress he has seen in Iraq, and he shared a very emotional story with us.

He also shared a story about an incident in the nearby town of Camp Habinayah, Iraq in February 2007. Al Quaeda decided, as they have done in too many places in Iraq, to target civilians--women and children--in a criminal and evil suicide bombing in the town. Many Iraqis died and over 70 were injured.

As the 1stLt was describing the rapid response from our Marines and our medical teams, I literally had goose bumbs. That may sound strange from a grown man, but wait till you hear the interview. The medical teams responded quickly from the base, doing their best to save lives and rapidly treat the wounded. Our United States Marines lined up around the building to donate blood to the Iraqis.

Did anybody hear this story back in the US? Well we are now. Better late than never. I wish I could personally thank every one of those Marines and Medical Staff who saved the lives of many of the women and children who were targeted that day.

Needless to say, the people of Habinayah know who their friends are and who the criminals are.

AFter 1stLt Klay talked with us (by through us, with you the American people), we talked with CWO-2 John Simpson and Sgt Anglin. CWO-2 Simpson shared with us his 18 years in the Marines. He talked about the 2nd Maintenance Battalion (-) Reinforced, and took us to different sites where he explained how they supply the Marines and other military personnel in the Anbar Province areas with many different necessities and materials. He took us to what I can only describe as an almost all-outdoor warehouse: about a square mile of just about everything you could imagine. He took us to look at many different types of military vehicles, including some of the newer ones.

We also climbed to the top of one of Saddam's Bunkers--climbing up sand is something I was not planning on, but we made it to the top and down okay. Ithink Jim got some footage of us climbing. CWO-2 Simpson talked about what we were seeing in the surrounding area.

After we left the 2nd Maintenance Battalion, 1stLt Klay took us over to the 2nd Maintenance Company (-) Reinforced, where twenty-year Marine Veteran Maj. Ken Kelsay, CO of the Maintenance Company, discussed his career with us. He also talked about the different divisions that provide General Support for most of MNFI-West troops. They provide direct support to the Battalion and Combat Logistics for the Battalion, MITT and PITT (military and police transition teams--the American units responsible for training the Iraqis). They take care of electronics, fabricate parts needed, and operate the Motor Transportation Maintenance for just about any kind of ground vehicle, including Iraqi vehicles. He shared so much with us! It was fascinating to hear a behind the scenes explanation to see some of what keeps our military and civilian operations functioning smoothly. In addition, 16-year veteran CWO-2 Dawn Conklin from Wyoming (with family in Montana and Colorado), talked more about all that they and her team do within the Maintenance Battalion.

We then went to the General Support Maintenance Facility and talked with four Marines there about what they do. Cpl Brian Webb, Cpl Brian Sixto, Cpl Brian Temple and GySgt David Bargas (who has served for 12 years). We next went to the Motor Transport Maintenance Facility and talked with 12-year veteran, CWO-2 Rick Gilmore.

As with all of our trip, Jim Martin filmed all of this. Those of you who will be able to watch these programs on cable tv or on the DVD's will be amazed at what you see right on your TV's. But first we will get all the audio onto the Internet as soon as possible when we get back.

We have more to do tomorrow and we will report on that tomorrow night. Time for some needed sleep! :)

Thank you again for checking out this blog.



Hospitals and Chaplains

Very late ast night, we flew out of FOB Rustimaya and back into the International Zone (IZ). The helicopter made four stops along the way but we could not take pictures, since the helicopters fly with no lights at night.

We were not sure what we would be doing back at the IZ, but we found out shortly after arrival at the Washington IZ Terminal. Sergeant Bell was waiting for us and told us that we were expected at Camp Al Taqaddum, or as most people here call it: "Camp TQ."

[Those who listened to the talk shows we did in October 2006 will remember that one of the Iraqi cities we went to was near Camp TQ. We went with the Minnesota National Guard to a school grand opening with the Iraqi Army. If you have not listened to that program, it is well worth your time to go back into our past shows/archives and listen to the children and our National Guard. We also interviewed the Principal and did an hour program at Bear Cat Chapel with Chaplain Timm and SPC Fideldi].

Now we are back at Camp TQ. What is fascinating is that some of the Marines we are now with remember Major Bastian and the Minnesota National Guard MITT Team. We are now able to look back months later, and see all the changes--the progress that has happened here and in the Anbar Province.

We are now with the 2nd Marine Logistics Group Forward based out of Camp LeJeune, NC. Today CPL Wayne with the Public Affairs Office gave us an overview of what we would be doing here over the days ahead.

Then we went over to the TQ Surgical Center. Lieutenant Wilfredo Morales, who has 18 years in the Navy, is the 2nd Medical Battalion Commanding Officer. He gave us an overview of this Surgical Center and a tour of their modern facility.

We also talked with Captain Christopher Kowalsky, Captain Jernigan (Chief for Professional Services) and Lieutenant Commander Robin Gross (21 years in the Navy). In addition to her duties as a nurse at the hospital, LCDR Ross puts on the body armor and kevlar and flies with wounded to their next medical facility. We also talked with Orthpedic Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Harlan Taliaferro, Corporal Christopher Cundari, HN Christa Pun-Chun and HM3 Jeffrey Ramirez.

What an hour of interviews! These folks who come from different parts of America to--simply stated--save lives. They treat Americans, Coalition, Iraqi Army and Police, Iraqi citizens and children and even Insurgents. This was an incredible experience.

Later we interviewed 30 year veteran, CDR William Klorig, Group Surgeon of 2nd Marine Logistics Group Forward. The Commander and his teams oversee all medical facilities in Anbar Province. He is a doctor with a family ractice back home. He gives a great overview of the medical facility progress in this area.

Later we talked with our third Chaplain since we began this third trip. We visited Lakeside Chapel and talked with Chaplain LT David Hicks, who is on his second tour. His first was in Hit, Iraq and now he is finishing up his second tour ministering to our military at Camp TQ.

As with all the interviews since we arrived in Iraq, everybody will want to listen. Any questions of "is there progress in Iraq?" will be answered as our military personnel, civilians, contractors and Iraqis give us the answers in their own words.

Tomorrow is another full day of interviews and filming, uncluding another convoy. We will have more on that after we complete the mission.

I have said this many times: After a little over two weeks I am ready to go home and recuperate. I am amazed at the hundreds of thousands of our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, etc. who spend six months, a year, 15 months, two years and longer in Iraq. Physically, especially in this heat, it is not easy. But they do it, and they are doing an absolutely incredible job.

Now it is our job--we the American people--to spread the word as soon as these programs start airing on the internet and on Altitude, and later on DVD's.

Thank you!!!


Bob Calvert

August 29, 2007

Wrap-up from FOB Loyalty

FbL says: pictures coming soon. Meanwhile, here's the latest from Bob...

We were amazed that we were allowed into the meeting with Iraqi Army generals and their staffs, an Australian general, our American GEN Campbell, and many more. It was a high-security meeting to discuss everybody working together on security issues in this area of Eastern Baghdad.

We thought we were finished here with our interviews after our last post last night, but we have had the great privilege of interviewing the 2IBCT Commander, LTC Bannister, last night. He gave a great overview of the total picture in this area of Eastern Baghdad.

After we interviewed him, LTC Bannister invited us into another high-security meeting that he led, and which included the Battalion and Unit leaders. It was their nightly security/update meeting where they shared intelligence, briefed on apprehended insurgents, and much more. The briefing room was so high tech--it was amazing! We will not share most of what we heard there and witnessed, due to obvious security reasons. But there were big screens--two of them--on which we watched aerial footage of the Baghdad area from a balloon and a Predator aircraft circling high overhead. We also saw charts and graphs and much more.

We are very thankful for the trust they have placed in us by allowing us into these high-level meetings.

After this meeting, we were privileged to sit down--for our last interview here--with the 2nd BCT Chaplain, Major Zust. We will have more on this interview in our next post when my notes are in front of me. This 21-year veteran Major had a strong message for our churches and people of faith.

We will have our next report in the next day or two, as we head for a new location and more interviews with our heroes here who are doing an absolutely Great Job!!!

Another Whirlwind Day in Iraq

Hello Everybody,

Our day started with interviews with the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment (Steel Battalion) from Ft Carson. Their Executive Officer, Major Christopher Wendland, gave us a great overview of progress in their area of Eastern Baghdad. It was one of their units that we went on a convoy with and spent sometime with in two outposts in Baghdad earlier this week. As with our other interviews, after you hear Major Wendland you will have a clear picture that their is in fact a lot of progress in Baghdad.

We had more "shout-outs" from soldiers with the 2/17. Captain Steve Simmons gave us a good interview, and 1LT Robyn Jacobs talked about projects that they are working on in Eastern Baghdad. 1LT Jacobs regularly meets with Iraqis to talk about projects they want work on. She spoke with us about the rebuilding of the 2nd largest Youth Center in Baghdad, water, trash, sewage, schools and more.

We had a quick lunch, then we met up with Major Ryan for more interviews with the 2nd Brigade, Special Troops Battalion---another unit that we went out on a convoy with looking for IED's and other roadside explosives.

We had many more shout-outs, plus interviews, including Capt. Greg Voelkel. Capt. Voelkel is an F-15 pilot with the Air Force, and for a two year period he and his 14-member team are working in Eastern Baghdad. It was avery interesting interview, as are all of them. In addition, many others talked about the progress that they have seen over the past 11 months in eastern Baghdad.

We temporarily stopped our interviews when Major Ryan came over and took us into a high-level security meeting with two Iraqi Army generals and their staff, a British major general, American General Campbell (the 2IBCT Brigade Commander), Iraqi army and police, and many others. We were allowed to film and tape the meeting for about 10 minutes, and were the only media there. After you all hear this, there will be no doubt that everybody here except for the insurgents--the criminals--are all working together for the future of Baghdad and Iraq.

After we finished filming, Major Ryan gave us more of an overview of the meeting and others like it. We then interviewed Iraqi soldiers, an Iraqi Interpreter and more of our soldiers out in a parking area where all Iraqi and Coalition vehicles were parked.

We also met Lt. Col. Walsh in the parking lot. He agreed to give us an interview. Lt Col Walsh is one of the MITT (Military Transition Team) Leaders in the Eastern Baghdad area. He overseas 10-man MITT Teams with 3 Brigades. His was another of so many great interviews.

All of America will want to see these interviews!

Tonight we will have our last interview with another high military officer with the 2IBCT to give us kind of like a closing overview--an even bigger picture of progress in Eastern Baghdad. Tomorrow we leave by helicopter for another part of Eastern Baghdad. And there is more planned after that!

Thanks again to FbL for taking care of this blog for me, and thanks to Patti Bader and Soldiers' Angels and the wonderful folks in Colorado Springs for making this third trip to Iraq possible.

While I'm here in Iraq, I am working on plans to get these interviews with our troops out to millions of Americans. With the help of all of you reading this (and more), we will accomplish this mission and alter the conversation in America. When you all hear these interviews you will understand!!

Please keep us in your Prayers.


Bob Calvert

Update: Pictures of this day here.

August 28, 2007

August 25: Another Day and Another Patrol in Iraq

UPDATE: Welcome, Blogspotters!

Last night we arrived back at FOB Loyalty. It was nice to eat at the DFAC.

It is amazing how our troops--day after day, month after month, in 100+ degree weather--go on about their mission and do such a great job. In addition to the heat, they have to wear their body armor, kevlar [helmet], and ammo. They say that you get used to the sweating all day; when it is time to go out on a mission they are all focused and the rest is put into the background.

I have never appreciated showers more than after each day out in the heat here. For those in the smaller outposts, it could be days before they get to a shower, but you would never know it by their positive attitudes. Sure, they get down and tired, but they are motivated by doing the best possible job on their missions.

The past few days, we went on convoys--or were with units who go on convoys--just about every day, some two or more convoys a day. Today we went on a Route Clearance (RC) Convoy with Alpha Company, 2nd Brigade, Special Troops Battalion, 2nd ID. Their job is so important: They go out every day and drive along the roads, checking for IED's and the lastest EFD's we have been hearing about in the news.

The RC convoy we went on today was comprised of seven vehicles--led by the "Husky"--which spots suspicious items first. When something suspicious (potentially explosive) is spotted, the large "Buffalo" vehicle comes to the forefront to deal with it--you have to see these on video or cable or in the picture we will post to appreciate the size and technology. Sgt. Dailey narrated the entire convoy, and you will all get to hear that on the Internet soon after we get back. [We were in one of the newer RG-31's. Jim was able to film better as the windows were bigger. The RG-31 is higher off the ground and bigger than the Humvees we have been in.]

The RC convoy's job today was: clear the that route a high-level military convoy would be using to travel to a meeting with Iraqis. There were a number of suspicious items found, but the "all clear" came after "interrogating" each item. To do "interrogate," the Buffalo gets close to the suspicious item, then a camera that gets even closer so that soldiers can see the bomb without endangering themselves (there will be more detail on these vehicles and technologies on the interviews we will broadcast).

Once again today, we were out in the highways and roads in Baghdad. Hopefully, we got good film footage for all to see back home when it's broadcast on Altitude Sports and Entertainment and recorded on DVD's.

After we returned to the base, Captain Bob Gordon (Alpha Company commander) and SFC Jason Lambert both sat down with us. They talked about their day-to-day mission, and the great job their soldiers are doing. They also said hello to four of their men who are back home recovering from their injuries.

We then had shout outs from 17 soldiers who come from all different parts of America, all of whom are now based at Ft Carson. Jim Martin did a special shout out with those who live in Colorado, which will be seen on the big screen at one of the sports games at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

We have more interviews coming up. More later!!!!

Thank you for taking your time reading these posts. Hopefully I have been able to bring to you a small idea of life here in Iraq with our troops. Please let others know about this blog. And later, when the interviews are ready to air, we hope all of you will start sharing them with everyone you know. It is time that millions of Americans clearly hear of the progress being made in Iraq, directly from our military.

Thank you again to FbL, Patti and Soldiers Angels!!!

Until later,

Bob Calvert

August 22

FbL here again: I had been wondering why I wasn't hearing from Bob lately, but figured he was just out in the field without Internet access. Nope... apparently he was sending me emails at an account I check about once a month. *cringing* I've got a lot of catching up to do...

First thank you again FbL for spending so much time on posting our messages from Iraq. And thank you to Patti Bader and SoldiersAngels for making this third trip to Iraq possible.

We have moved around some via helicopters--my favorite means of transportation here. Although the last trip had a lot more movement to it, I was told they were evasive movements. We are seeing most of Baghdad from the air.

Before we left the Fallujah area, we had a great experience with PAO Norris USACE), the Army Corps of Engineers and the Marines. We went out to another area with a population of about 10,000 to 15,000, where a Water Treatment Plant was opening up. It is a very modern facility and the first of its kind in the area.

While we were recording information about the site, the local Iraqi Project Manager came in and agreed to go on camera. He thanked America for the help. With an interpreter from the security team who brought us there, he shared some about the plant and how thankful the people in the area are.

As we were conducting the interview and Jim was filming, an older man with five children appeared at the back gate. They were brought over to us, and he also thanked the American people. If you have been wondering what Iraqis have to say to us back in America, you will want to listen when the audio of all of this is ready to go online after we get back.

The children who accompanied the older man were all smiles. As we were getting ready to leave, I remembered that I had lollipops in my body armor pocket. They were definitely a hit with the children.

We took another convoy with the security team back to another area in Baghdad where we arrived last night. We will be with the 2ID/2BCT from Ft Carson in Colorado Springs, for a number of days. We are getting ready now to go out on our first mission to cover progress in this Eastern area of Baghdad (east of the Tigris River).

We may not have much access to the Internet while here, but will do our best to post more news as often as possible.

I can say that we are bringing back great progress stories. Major Sean Ryan gave a very good interview account of progress in this area last night, which will air shortly after we get back to America. I believe that as millions of Americans (with your help) hear these interviews, our pride in our brave men and women will be that much stronger.

Thank you for all the prayers. Please let others know about this blog.

August 25, 2007

News from Eastern Baghdad

Bob had only a few moments to write yesterday, but sent this email...

We have been in Eastern Baghdad now for a few days. We are with Major Sean Ryan and the 2ID/2BCT from Ft Carson of Colorado Springs. Our first day there, Major Ryan was our first guest. He shared some background of their time here and the progress they have seen.

Yesterday we went out on a convoy into Eastern Baghdad and spent some time with our troops in two large outposts. Outpost Sullivan holds both American and Iraqi armies together. Outpost JSS holds U.S. Army and Iraqi Police, all working together. We were able to interview some of the soldiers in-between their convoys, and had a number of shoutouts, too (where the soldiers said hello to family and friends).

We tried to get video as we drove through Eastern Baghdad in the convoys but the window in the humvee is just so small. But I think we got some. We will see later, when we go over the videos.

We are now back at FOB Loyalty. Tomorrow we will be interviewing some personnel from the 2/17 out of Ft Carson, who we spent some time with over the past few days. The 2/17 was originally deployed to Ramadi from Korea, then came to Ft Carson after that deployment. Now they are back in Baghdad doing a great job. They seemed glad that we are here to give the troops the opportunity to tell their positive stories to the American people in their own words and to say hello to their families.

We will be driving back into Eastern Baghdad to document more progress stories. Driving through Baghdad is an incredible experience. Business seems to be booming in this large metropolitan city, and we have heard the population could be as much as 6 million people. As we drive through the streets children wave at us, give us the thumbs up. People see me wave at them through the window and wave back. We see many Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police Checkpoints, and the streets are very busy with traffic and people.

Once again,the perseverance of our troops in not-the-best of living circumstances is amazing to me. Meals are brought out to the Outposts from the main base once a day. Fortunately, we could also see many boxes of care packages from back home.

[Bob cut this short, as he had to dash.]

August 22, 2007

Interview with an Iraqi Patriot

A sneak preview of Bob and Jim's work in Iraq: an Interview with Mohammad.

"Mohammad" was once a member of the Iraq military under Saddam, but now he's a Project Manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). In this interview he talks about his dreams for Iraq in terms of the construction industry and the infrastructure he is helping to restore.

What is most striking to hear is how mundane the interview is in many ways. Mohammad is an example of the universality of many human desires: he wants a nice house with nice furnishings, and good-paying work that he can take pride in. He is also looking at things around him as a typical businessman concerned with encouraging safety, construction standards, quality-control and professionalism among the local Iraqi contractors.

But overall, he's an Iraqi patriot with a vision for how all of the above fit into creating long-term safety and stability in Iraq.

He also shares his thoughts on what America has done in Iraq.

Don't miss this!

P.S. For background and more on the issues and vision Mohamed describes, see below:

Army, Iraqi infrastructure leaders meet to discuss business opportunities
Iraq small business development centers foster synergy with microfinance institutions
Army Assists in Reinvigorating Iraq's Economy
Army Corps of Engineers Teach Safety Rules

August 21, 2007

Baghdad: al-Mamoon Exchange and Telecommunications

The al-Mamoon Exchange and Telecommunications center (telephone and Internet) is a major project that will help bring more Baghdad residents the technology of the 21st Century, thus having a major impact on the flow of information and cultural exchange between Iraq and the rest of the world.

It's being built under the supervision of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and contractors and employees include both Americans and Iraqis. It's exciting to see the level of Iraqi involvement and enthusiasm in this (the interview I'm still waiting on for hosting also touches on the development of the Iraqi construction/industrial professions).

The pictures below are from Bob and Jim's visit a couple of days ago...

Interviewing a senior American contractor at the jobsite (Bob interviewing, Jim filming):

Iraqi construction workers learning on the job:

Talking with an American contractor and Iraqi (Btw, I found this picture to be a fascinating example of the differences in American and Iraqi body language and social psychology):

Again, Bob and Jim will have video of these sites and interviews conducted there when they return.

Addendum: Here is some USACE video of the worksite from May 2007 that includes a computer graphic of the expected final result. The tone is a bit propaganda-ish, but there is b-roll footage also.

August 20, 2007

Baghdad: Alwaiya Children's Hospital

As Bob mentioned in his previous post, he and Jim spent time interviewing people at the Alwaiya Children's Hospital in Baghdad. When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began renovating it in 2005, the hospital was falling apart and about 60 years behind the times. This year the final touches are being put on the newly-renovated hospital that is now bustling with patients receiving care in clean, healthy and up-to-date facilities.

Here are some photos from the day Bob and Jim spent there [click for larger versions]...

Speaking with the hospital director:

Sick children treated at the hospital:

Bob and Jim will have video footage of all this when they return.

Reconstruction and Redevelopment in Iraq

[Bob's latest report from Iraq follows. The interviews and encounters he describes below will be available online soon after he returns - FbL]

Hello everybody,

We have not had much Internet access time for the past three days, but I have a few minutes on a computer here in Fallujah. Once we leave here, I am not sure how many days before I will be able to get online again (we will be on the move again).

The past three days have been a whirlwind of information. We told the people who approved us coming back for our third trip that we wanted to focus on reconstruction... progress... the positive stories. I can tell you that we are getting far more of those stories to bring back to the American people than we had imagined, and we still have many days left.

We have spent a lot of time with North Dakota National Guard, and other military and civilians who work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Jim and I had no idea the huge role the Corps has had and continues to have in the rebuilding of Iraq:

We have talked with a doctor who is over 60 years old and is doing remarkable work on reconstruction, and civilians with USACE who have been here for over a year, fully engaged in reconstruction. We talked with Iraqis--one of those interviews was audio only and may by now be available for all to listen on this blog. If not it will be soon or available on our our website [I'm waiting for it to be uploaded, but should have it by the end of the day - FbL].

On one day we visited a new Telecommunications Center and Post Office being built in Baghdad a few miles from the International Zone. These two new 7-story buildings are being built side-by-side with a Belgian Company, USACE, and many Iraqis, and will greatly help the people in Baghdad and Iraq.

We also visited a Childrens Hospital. Our footage from the hospital will be incredible to listen to on the Internet, but everyone will also want to watch this on their TV's--either when it comes out on cable on Altitude Sports and Entertainment or when we get the DVD's ready.

We also heard about 80-100 reconstruction projects in Baghdad alone. We are hearing stories about water and sewage treatment plants, new schools, new health clinics, a new fire department and much more.

On the domestic side of the Baghdad International Airport (BIA), we watched as people from many countries flew in and out. The security is much tighter than anywhere we have seen, but they have had no problems. We also went to a new terminal that is about to open after having been completely renovated, another of the many projects we are bringing back reports on.

We did interviews and filmed footage of a huge new convention center being opened up near BIA. The Baghdad Chamber of Commerce, USACE and more are all teaming up on this project.

Recently we left Baghdad and headed for Falluja, where we have heard so many more stories of reconstruction and progress in large areas of Iraq. We have covered the opening of a new Large Police Training Academy and a new Tank Maintenance Facility for our Marines in Camp Fallujah. And we talked with a Lt. Cdr. with the US Navy who shared even more reconstruction stories.

I can say this: anybody who has wondered when the good positive stories will be heard in America well hang on.. they are heading your way. We all have an opportunity--all of us--to bring a whole new perspective on what is happening in Iraq to all of America. You will be as surprised as we have been, as day after day we hear more and more of these stories.

I would type more now, but we have to leave this computer. We will try to get back online in a few days in one of our new locations.

By the way, driving around The city of Baghdad has been an incredible experience. We will be doing a lot more of that.

Keep us in your prayers. And please tell others about this blog. Also thank you again to Soldiers' Angels and Patti Bader for being the main sponsors of this, our third trip to Iraq.

Bob Calvert, Host
Talking with Heroes

August 19, 2007

Coming Soon...

FbL here...

I'm awaiting the hosting link for an audio file Bob just sent me. It's an interview with a former Iraq Air Force officer who is now a project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Baghdad. Fascinating stuff. I'll get it uploaded ASAP.

I'm also expecting some photos in the next 24 hours. I'll get them posted as soon as I receive them.

August 18, 2007

In Iraq and Ready to Go

Here is Bob's follow-up to the report from Kuwait...

We decided to stay awake all night in the hope that we would be able to catch a C-130 early the next morning--Mission Accomplished on that. We arrived at BIAP around 8 or 9am Iraq time. We were told that we should go to Camp Stryker (at BIAP), and from there start making contacts with the wonderful people at Media Embed, MNF-Baghdad, CPIC (Combined Press Information Center) and other parts of the military who have made this trip possible.

We finally made contact with the Captain at CPIC, where we are to get accredited. We once again decided to stay awake, under the hope that we could catch a BlackHawk helicopter from Camp Liberty (where we were brought from BIAP) to the International Zone. Sure enough, later in the day we were able to get on a helicopter with the soldiers. What an experience to fly over Baghdad in broad daylight! You could see some damage from the bombings, but mostly what we saw was a very large, bustling city.

By the way, the heat today 114 degrees. On the helicopter... well, another reporter here described it as having a hair dryer blowing hot air on your whole body with no way to turn it off. Definitely hot. Hopefully on our next helicopter trip we will be able to take pictures.

We are now at the CPIC. Tomorrow we will be accredited. We are eating and we will get some sleep here shortly.

Next stop tomorrow is to meet Grant Sattler with GRD, North Dakota National Guard, Civil Affairs and Engineering. With them, we will be covering progress in Baghdad (what we should be hearing on all the nightly news).

Think about all of America hearing about these mostly untold stories! We can alter the conversation in America... all of us together. This is not about Bob Calvert or Jim Martin. This is about all of us!!!!

Until later...


Bob Calvert
Host, Talking with Heroes

P.S. Be sure to listen to the incredible stories from some of the top leaders of Soldiers' Angels, as they share stories about supporting our troops and their families this coming Sunday night at 5pm PST. Go to Stardust Radio Network, click on "Talking with Heroes," and enjoy. Thank you to Holly Aho for hosting this talk show.

August 17, 2007

Talking with Heroes Arrives In Kuwait

FbL: Bob and Jim have arrived in Baghdad and are settled in the Green Zone. Below is his report of the arrival in Kuwait...

We arrived Kuwait in the evening and were told up front that it was about 110 degrees out. Welcome to the world of hot and sand--or as some call it: The Sand Pit. We could see what looked like clouds, but was the fine powder sand. I hope I do not get sick, like the first time when we were in Al Qaim for three days due to the sand storms.

How our troops get through this day by day is amazing to me. Coming here now, our third time, causes me to want to shout from the rooftops to all of America: we need to be out there from one end of American to another, showing--not just talking--showing our support for all our troops and their families back home!

How about all of us together getting the word out?

Once we deplaned in Ali Al Salem Base, we (the only civilians) and the troops were loaded into big buses... bus after bus of troops heading back into Iraq. For some of them this is their 2nd, third our fourth tour. Some are coming back from R&R's.

We waiting in a holding area for a long time... seemed forever--especially when you are trying to stay awake. But not a complaint on the bus at all; everybody is there to do a job... serving our country and the Iraqis and--for those going to Afghanistan--the Afghan people.

What a privilege to mingle with and talk with our military... men and women of all ages, backgrounds, races, religions... Americans standing up once again for what is right.

To me they are all heroes no matter whether they are in combat or not. My daughter who never made it to combat but served well... she is my hero. My son-in-law who finished a one-year tour and is close to his second (15 months this time)... they are all our heroes. Having had the opportunity on the second of our trips here to Iraq to interview Iraqis, I can share that they are amazed at the sacrifice of so many from a country called America so that Iraqis can have the freedoms we all take for granted.

Being at Ali Al Salem in some ways was like coming home. We have been there twice, and knew a little more of what to do next then the first two times. And SGT Kevin Buckly, SSG Phillip Eugene and their team met us after awhile and took good care of us.

Our goal was to leave Kuwait as soon as possible, get to Baghdad International Airport, then to the International Zone to get our Press Credentials. Until we have those we cannot start any interviews.

Again, it is amazing to be here and do what our troops have to do. It makes you really appreciate more and more, over and over again, their sacrifices every day. And oh, the heat! Wow... how they can survive a year or more is incredible.

Return to Iraq: Day One

We are on day one of our third trip to Iraq. Jim Martin CEO of Altitude Bob Calvert, together again.

Our first stop was Dallas, one of the cities so well-known for how they welcome our troops back home and support them when they leave. When we deplaned in Dallas, Major Patrick McAfee was waiting to greet me and take me around. He helped me with the heavy body armor and kevlar (helmet) bag. The Major is with the US Army Dallas-Forth Worth Personnel Assistance Point. He has served our country in the military almost 21 years--another hero to thank.

We checked in my bags at the terminal set aside for military personnel coming in and heading out: Gate 33. You have to see this to believe it. The welcome messages along the walls--everywhere!--are incredible.

Major McAfee and I then went to Frontier Airlines and met Jim Martin as he arrived from Denver. The Major then took us on a tour of the different USO places and introduced us to Linda Robinson. Linda will be opening up a USO Office in Balad, Iraq soon, and she will be there for a year. Don't we have some incredible American citizens out there serving our troops and their families?

The Major then took us to the USO Lounge for military personnel. Wow... the USO is incredible. We hear about all that they do--like SoldiersAngels--but you have to experience it to really appreciate the depth of their dedication to our troops. The troops can come into this USO lounge and hang out until it is time for their plane to leave. They can watch TV, go on the internet, eat, sleep, visit with family and more.

Also the USO has a Reading Room for military personnel to come in and read a book for their child (children). They set there and video tape themselves in the room as they read it. The USO than packs it up and Fed Ex delivers these wonderful DVD's to the military personnels loved one. What a great service.

At Gate 33 as we and the military personnel awaited the time to leave and fly to Kuwait.... USO volunteers come out in carts filled with all kinds of goodies, water, and most of all lots of love. The smiles on the troops' faces said it all. We were amazed.

When we come back after our 18+ days in Iraq, MAJ McAfee is hoping to have approval for us to film an hour or more, covering the welcome home events and the USO with interviews and more. What a close to this trip that will be, should we be allowed to do it! The whole country should take note of what Dallas and some other cities do to show our troops--as they come home and as they depart--that we the American people appreciate their service.

Next post will be arriving in Kuwait.

Thank you again to Patti Bader and SoldiersAngels for making this third trip possible. We will do our best to honor our soldiers' stories and bring them back to you, the American People. We will also be depending on you to help us get the word out. And thanks also to FbL for helping Non-tech Bob :) to be able to share with you through this blog.

August 15, 2007

Back to Iraq to Talk with Heroes

For those who are hearing about the Talking with Heroes Internet talk show for the very first time I am Bob Calvert, the host. What we do is not about politics. It is all about supporting our men and women in uniform, and their families.

Since Dec. 2005 we have been interviewing our military so that they can share their mostly untold stories of helping the people in the areas of the world in which they serve, such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan after the earthquake, Louisana and other states after Katrina, etc.

When we started Talking with Heroes we never expected that it would take us to Iraq itself, but that is what we did in Oct 2006 and then again in Jan 2007.

On the second trip, Jim Martin, CEO of Altitude Sports and Entertainment Cable Company (based in Denver and covering 10 states), accompanied me to Iraq. The audio from all of our talk shows--including those from Iraq with both American military personnel and Iraqis--are all in our "past shows archives" section of the Talkingwithheroes website for you and all Americans to listen to 24 hours a day. And for the past six months Altitude has been airing 30 minute segments from our interviews, convoys, Iraqi school grand-openings and more.

People losing their lives and people being injured is bad. We hear about that on the news all the time. But what we do not hear a lot about--at least on a scale of 50/50--is that there is in fact a lot of progress happening with reconstruction, training and more.

Soon you will be hearing more stories as Jim and I go back to Iraq again. Keep an eye on this Blog as FbL, the veteran Soldiers' Angel and blogger, posts our messages here for you and all Americans to read while we are gone. When we get back, millions will have an opportunity to hear the audio stories we will have collected.

And we will be depending on each and every one of you to help us get the word out.

A special thanks to Patti and Jeff Bader and Soldiers Angels for being the main sponsor of this upcoming trip to Iraq. And thank you to all those who have been supportive of this project, some for short periods of time and others from the very beginnning back in 2005.

To all of our troops be safe... stay alert.

[FbL adds: Bob will be spending most of his trip outside the "Green Zone," joining patrols and meeting with military personnel and Iraqis at/near outposts throughout Iraq. I'm sure he'll have some great stories to share as he travels.]