March 1, 2008

Be Not Afraid

You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst.
You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way.
You shall speak your words in foreign lands and all will understand.
You shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid.

I go before you always;
Come follow me, and I will give you rest.

[From a prayer card reporter Michael Yon found on a base in Anbar Province, Iraq.]

Just got my country clearance ...

but I still have to do some electronic paperwork later today in order to confirm my milair flight (Amman-BIAP).

The crash and bang course in West Virginia was a unique experience. One doesn't often get to ram vehicles set up as roadblocks.

I'll be in Amman the evening of March 1.

February 28, 2008

A Hillas in Hilla

I departed Warsaw on February 13 to serve a three-month TDY (temporary duty) tour in Baghdad, but a funny thing happened on the way to Iraq . . . I was asked to fill an unplanned vacancy as PRT (Provincial Reconstruction Team) leader in Babil, a province a few hours south of Baghdad. I am now spending two weeks in Washington for required training courses, before departing for Iraq on February 29 via Amman. Babil's capital, interestingly, is the ancient city of Hilla, and is where I will be located for the next year and a half, with a two month break this summer. Hilla lies on the Eurphrates River and is the site of the ancient city of Babylon (thus the name Babil).

It was not an easy decision to leave Warsaw four months early. But after nearly six years as a Deputy Chief of Mission in two Embassies, it seemed like the right thing to do. I was already assigned to serve a one-year assignment as a PRT leader in Diyala starting in August. Now, however, I will remain in Babil for about a year and a half.

Barbara and Adriana will remain in Warsaw until June, when I will return to check out of Embassy Warsaw and move back to our home in Alexandria, Virginia, where Barbara and Adriana are looking forward to reconnecting with our neighbors and old friends. I will follow in the summer of 2009.

It was a privilege to serve with a great group of colleagues (Americans and Poles) in the Warsaw Embassy. I leave there confident that the staff will continue to serve the United States honorably and effectively.

Barbara has been very supportive, even though she will have to handle the packout without me . . . . but not for the first time.