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This trip is almost over. This entire trip has been the same, as in what we do each day. Mine has gone something like this:


2300: Get up and get dressed, walk to the chow-hall which opens at 2330 and spend about 15minutes eating.


0000: Get on the van and head to work to get my briefing and flight schedule.


0015 until 1245: Launch and recover and any maintenance on the jets.


1245: Head “home,” change into PT gear and walk to the chow hall, eat, back to the room, shower and try to get to bed by 1500.



The next day....all over again.. and again.. and again.. and again. We can only break the cycle by doing things like spending time at the hospital as volunteers, or at the REC center. Trips like this, and the last several I have been on are hard, maybe not as hard as what our Vietnam and prior war soldiers have gone through, but hard in a different way.


There is still the stress of the task, the long hours and lack of comforts. Those things you have to see and hear. Then there are the chances of being injured or killed, whether it be from a mortar blast or shot by one of the insurgent snipers who like to fire thru the chain link fence that surrounds the base. This war is much different than those past. We are fighting differently, and the enemy is using different tactics, but you still find yourself using those “basic skills” that we are taught early on in our military careers to stay alive.



One thing that happens in the States is that I have “Vets” come up to me and thank me for what I do...and I greatly appreciate that, because I know what we are doing is important, and I recognize that as well as the huge difference we are making here in Iraq. Yet it’s hard for me to imagine what the Vietnam vets went thru...they are the ones who did their tours which were much tougher. And they did not have near the support we have from the American citizens—a support is what keeps us going, deployment after deployment.


Today marks my 213th day in Iraq, and my 478th day deployed to this war. My tour started with launching F-16’s out of Turkey for Operation Northern Watch, then on to Qatar for Operation Iraqi Freedom, to where I am today, in Balad, Iraq for the third time. I am tired and ready to go home. This might be my last day in Iraq. I am not sure where the future will send me, Afghanistan? Iraq?


Everyone has their opinion on this war. Many of those opinions are based on emotion and what those who hold the opinions hear from the media and politicians. As I have said before, listen to your soldiers. We have seen this war firsthand and know the difference we are making. Please take my word that we need to be here!


Here is a group photo of all of our guys.


TSgt. Ronald W. Stokes

Balad, Iraq




Just wanted to say that getting SOF here is a major morale boost in the unit. Keep them coming. I’m a combat medic in Mosul, Iraq on the end of a fifteen month tour, and SOF has been here through it all. Thanks again.


SPC Ben Chapman