The Iraq Chapter
I arrived in Iraq in February 2008 and was assigned to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Kalsu south of Baghdad. As the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Representative, I was embedded with the 4th Brigade 3rd Infantry Division known as the "Rock of the Marne" for their heroic stand in World War I against German forces on July 15, 1918, defending the Marne River at Chateau-Thierry, forty-five miles northeast of Paris. My first mission took me by Kerbala during the Shi'a pilgrimage. For a 263 page history of my first six months in Iraq (February - July 2008) see Maxey Weekly Reports.
I learned quickly that I would be traveling a good deal in helicopters for the work in Iraq. This video shows a short clip of one of my first helicopter trips in Babel province south of Baghdad.
Night flight over Baghdad in 2009. I served at FOB Kalsu during 2008 as the USAID representative with ePRT (Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team) at FOB Kalsu. In 2009, I moved up to Baghdad to serve as Senior Agriculture Advisor with USAID Iraq. A surprise near the end of the video is the pilot's decision to drop flares to deflect a potential rocket attack.
This is a flyover of Diyala province north of Baghdad in 2009. I first arrived in Iraq in February 2008 to serve on Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team (ePRT) North Babil. I was the USAID Rep there until November 2008 until I was transferred to Baghdad to serve as Senior Agricultural Advisor in USAID Iraq in the International Zone (IZ). So many memories come back from these days. I served until December 2009 in USAID Iraq and then backstopped the mission from AID/Washington during 2010.
This video is from a field trip I made to Diyala province in 2009. During the trip I heard some of the American soldiers providing our security that there platoon leader had been killed by Improvised Explosive Device (IED). They were bitter and the memory stirred me write an article for a book published by the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training in 2012, "Fifty Years in USAID: Stories from the Front Lines." The article spoke of what I had learned from Peace Corps and over twenty-five in USAID and how it mattered to me in Iraq. I also wrote of the total lack of understanding of what I young men and women in uniform have to go through when we go to war. I tried to convey what an honor it was to serve with these heroes and how I wished I could ease the pain they felt as they lost people they loved. The one thing I came away with was the fact that each soldier was first and foremost fighting to protect the life of the man or woman on their left and on their right. It meant something to tell another man you loved him. I still carry that with me -- not with the same intensity but I remember the feeling of hugging someone and telling them you love them because there was a danger, far removed for most of the civilians, but still there. For the soldiers, the feeling was ubiquitous.