Sunday, August 26, 2007

Conflict in Our World

I watched the movie Blood Diamonds last night late. I couldn’t go to sleep right away. When I woke up this morning it was on my mind. Yes, it was an action movie with Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the reasons I wanted to watch it. If you take the almost unbelievable action fantasy out of it and look at the backdrop of the movie you see the scenes for which the World Relief and Humanitarian Aid section of Good News Now exists. The war torn nations of the world are not the works of the imagination of a Hollywood script writer nor the journalist type that the Maddy Bowen represented. This is our world.

There are questions the movie raises. Will it make the news, the blood baths? Will seeing the city of a million refugees make anyone care about what is happening in Africa? Will the western world care? The answer was probably not. I think that is why these movies are made. We won’t watch the news and care, but we might listen to a story if well produced. This was a highly effective well produced story. It brought to our attention problems in Africa, the history, the motive for the conflicts. It introduced us to the people who suffer and those who try to make a difference. There was a side story about a man who rescues children soldiers. It showed us the refugee cities and the unimaginable task of rescuing and sustaining a million people. It brought me to a closer understanding about the work of the people behind the NGOs that respond to world conflict that we like to post on Good New Now. It makes me more grateful to them.

When I post a World Relief and Humanitarian Aid story, it is the success stories that make the cut. For every success story there are ten pleas for more help in conflict regions. There are more attempts to expose the problems so people will care and at the very least as Maddy Bowen says in the movie, they may write a check. Or maybe they will write their congressman and ask what we are doing.

This leads me to my email this morning from Iraq. I have not received one for a month or so, but from time to time I am sent article from the field. This morning it had a very powerful effect on me because I woke up with a real sense of the heaviness and horror of war and conflict.

Iraq is a difficult situation. But the reality is our nation committed to help. Right or wrong, popular or not. There in the desert our troops risk their lives to make a difference. This is not indifference. This is action, thought out, supported with the goal of leaving one day and leaving behind a legacy of peace. There is a lot of cynicism among us. Can there ever be peace? Should we even be there? Whatever your persuasion the reality is we are there. This is a story about people trying to make a difference at the risk of their own lives. The stories of our men in Iraq need to be told.

Most dangerous job; 38th Engineers clear routes of IEDs for Stryker Brigade

By Staff Sgt. Russell Bassett, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office

TAJI, Iraq – Improvised explosive devices are the enemy’s deadliest weapon in Iraq, accounting for a large percentage of all coalition fatalities.

The weighty task of clearing IEDs from all the routes in the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division’s area of operations falls on the shoulders of the 38th Engineer Company. On a daily basis, the engineer Soldiers are out on the roads working to ensure they are safe for the rest of the brigade to travel on.

“My whole company and I take it very personally every time the brigade loses a Soldier to an IED,” said Capt. Adam Harless, commander of the 38th Eng. Co. “A lot of my guys would like to be on the roads 24-7, because it seems like the times a unit gets hit is when we haven’t been on that road.”

Harless is a testament to the dangerous nature of the 38th Engineers’ work.
On Thursday, the commander traveled back to the United States to receive further treatment of a leg injury obtained when an IED went off near him.

“The blast got me pretty good,” Harless said, referring to the Aug. 7 incident. “I felt like I got blown up, but I felt okay. I was able to walk. It was the adrenaline, I guess.”

The full extent of his injuries are unknown at this time, but the commander said he had a bad concussion and he may have a torn his Anterior Curciate Ligament (ACL).

“I just want to get it fixed and then come back,” the Chester, Va., resident said adjusting the knee brace that barely conceals the bruising on his leg. “Me and my guys will never quit.”

Harless’ attitude is typical of his engineer Soldiers. They seem to understand the importance of their work, and despite its dangerous nature, morale remains high.

“We are able to keep our morale up.” said Sgt. 1st Class Wade Lawson, platoon sergeant with the 38th Engineers’ 2nd Platoon. “The most rewarding part of the job is knowing that Soldiers in the brigade are able to travel up and down these routes safely. I have a lot of guys that don’t really know me, but they know that I am part of the route clearing team, and they have come up and thanked me for keeping the roads safe.”

While the engineers don’t always find an IED on their patrols, many times they do. Lawson, a resident of Pittsburg, Pa., told the story of finding four IEDs in one day, all of which were spaced 100 meters apart from each other.

“It’s a good feeling knowing that we have saved some Soldiers lives,” he said.

Brigade commander Col. Jon Lehr said the 38th Engineers are the Stryker brigade’s “unsung heroes.”

“Those guys go out there everyday and put their lives on the line clearing routes, and I will tell you they are having an impact,” said Lehr, a resident of Dover, Pa. “If it wasn’t for them, we would have a lot more successful enemy attacks against us. I am amazed everyday with their bravery. I wish I had nine 38th Engineer Companies.”

In order to do their mission, the 38th uses a wide variety of specialized vehicles. These vehicles include: the RG-31 and Cougar reconnaissance vehicles, the Husky rolling mine detector, and the Buffalo route clearance vehicle.

The engineers travel slowly along the routes, stopping to check out any suspicious object.
“We spend a lot of hours in the truck,” said Sgt. Joshua Brown, 2nd Platoon team leader. “Sometimes it’s five or six hours, but some have lasted 19 hours. We’ve taken a few hits, but by the grace of God no one has been killed.”

Brown, of Cincinnati, Ohio, said the toughest part of the job is knowing that “we go out and hunt for the most dangerous thing in country. We are a small piece of the big picture, but we are a key element. It’s good knowing that other elements in the task force can get down their routes safely and accomplish their mission.”

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