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Metroka arrives in Iraq

Editor’s note: Sean Metroka is a Nevada City resident who is a colonel in the Marine reserves. He is on his second tour of duty in Iraq. This is the first in what we hope to be a series of updates from Metroka, who is the court executive officer for Nevada County in civilian life.

Greetings:

I hope this note finds you well (and enjoying the snow if you’re in Nevada City).



This is my first update from Iraq for this deployment. I’ll try to get these out about once each month.

It took about a week to reach my current location. The flight to the region was routed through Maine and Ireland ending in Kuwait. It involved 23 hours, four meals and six in-flight movies (plus a couple of Guinness in Shannon). Once in Kuwait, we boarded buses and moved to an expeditionary camp in the Kuwaiti desert to await a flight to Iraq. The next day, we flew to Al Taqaddum, Iraq and waited for a helicopter to take us to Baghdad. I arrived at Camp Victory the next day and I spent two days there waiting for the next flight. The last leg of the trip was (compliments of US Army Aviation) to Balad.




Along the way I had a chance to get to places I had visited before. Kuwait is still as flat and barren as it was three years ago (I didn’t expect it would have changed). The sunsets are still beautiful and I assume the camels still smell bad though I didn’t get near any.

Iraq has changed in many ways since I left two and a half years ago. In some ways, it is much the same. I won’t see as much of this country as I did the last time, due to security concerns and a more focused job. What I have seen so far is encouraging. Iraqis are moving ahead in their lives with determination and an eye on the future. Many are subject daily to the effects of terrorism and still they continue to forge ahead. Most seem to understand the value of freedom and are (as our forefathers were) willing to pay the price – whatever it costs. Of course, this is simply my opinion and it can be easily discounted. However, I see solid evidence of their commitment daily. The fledgling Iraqi Police and military are direct targets of insurgents yet recruiting for these services remains strong and they are rapidly gaining the capabilities necessary to maintain the rule of law and defend their borders without outside assistance. Criminals attacked several religious shrines during the last week. Iraqi religious and government leaders responded by cautioning their people to remain calm and avoid taking their grief and frustration out on their countrymen – so far so good. It seems news agencies and some prominent leaders prefer to speculate about the potential for civil war. It is a lot easier to forecast catastrophe than it is to take part in ensuring the catastrophe doesn’t come to pass.

Despite some of America’s general impatience with this war and our understandable concerns over the cost in lives, dollars, and (some would say) morals, our military and deployed citizens are doing an excellent job here. We work long hours every day; all striving toward the goal of preparing Iraq to take care of itself, “with liberty and justice for all”. We will reach this goal.

One of the most encouraging sights I have seen since my return occurred during my flight from Baghdad to Balad. Unlike the previous flights, this one flew during daylight and flew very low. I was able to clearly see people on the ground as we passed overhead. It warmed my heart to see Iraqis stop what they were doing and wave as our helicopter flew by. This happened a few times over Baghdad and towns to the north. It happened frequently in the rural areas. Unlike my last tour in Iraq, there seemed to be more adults waving than children. Obviously, I wasn’t able to communicate with them but several times I found myself waving back – knowing they couldn’t see me didn’t stop me. I also took some pictures and a few of them actually turned out okay.

I have attached a few pictures and plan to send more with each note. Included with these is a picture from July 2003 in a now-famous chair at the Al Faw Palace (for comparison to a picture in the same chair taken last week).

I am not at liberty to tell you what I’m doing or who I’m doing it with for security reasons. I can tell you I am reasonably safe here and living far more comfortably than I did last time. I’ll give you the low-down on the digs in my next update.

This note is getting a bit long so I’ll bring it to a close. We are very proud to serve our great nation and eternally grateful for your continued support.

If you would like to write, my email address is metromarine@hotmail.com and my postal address is:

Colonel G. S. Metroka

J3 JOC

PSC Box 5

APO-AE 09391

Semper Fidelis,

Sean


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