BAGHDAD – Editor's note: U.S. Army Capt. Dan Sukman is serving a one-year deployment to Iraq. For previous entries and his bio, see the Soldier's Diary archives.
Before I begin this entry, I need to address a fact that was brought to my attention. I once mentioned how Tuesdays have always bothered me. A fellow officer recently reminded me about Fat Tuesday. He is absolutely correct, which just goes to prove that there is an exception to every rule.
I caught some of the news on TV in the chow hall this morning. We really don’t watch much TV here, and as I said in the last entry we mostly watch movies via DVD. TVs are located in the chow hall and the gym, and for most of us, the few minutes we spend in the chow hall is about all the TV we see. I think most of us prefer it that way.
Anyone who has lived overseas is probably familiar with AFN, the Armed Forces Network, although a good many of us refer to it as A Lot of Freakin' Nothing. (Some use a stronger word.) AFN has three stations: sports, news and movies. The shows are up to date, and thanks to the commercials AFN broadcasts I have memorized every Medal of Honor winner since the Civil War and numerous obscure facts about all 50 states.
While watching the news at breakfast, I was joined by a couple other officers on our staff. One of the topics of conversation was another dreaded meeting we have scheduled today. It’s a planning meeting to go over some of the operations we will be conducting over the next few months. I will not discuss the operations, but I want to talk about the soldier who leads most of our planning meetings.
Maj. Graham Shannon is our brigade planner. He is responsible for planning all future operations. It is an incredibly detail-oriented and tedious job, often requiring long hours in the office thinking up different courses of action or ensuring his Power Point slides are just right. With all due respect to those I work for and with, he is without a doubt the best officer I have ever served with. And by the way, he’s a British officer from the Royal Irish Regiment of the British Army.
Graham has been with our brigade for about a year-and-a-half and with us on the deployment since Day One. He played a large role in planning all the training conducted prior to deployment, during the deployment to Baghdad, the operations here and he has even started planning our deployment home.
Throughout, he has brought to the fight all of his knowledge gained from the British Army. When you think about all the places the British have been, it’s easy to see how well he understands counterinsurgency operations. I guess that’s why British food is so bad; they've been too busy learning how to combat terrorism over the years.
Graham is with our brigade because of a unique relationship our unit has with the British Army. He is actually from Ireland, and as I stated earlier, a member of the Royal Irish Regiment of the British Army. When he finishes his tour with us, he will be replaced by another British soldier. The only frustrating part about working with him is when I read his e-mails, the little voice inside my head reads them with an Irish accent.
Soldiers, no matter where they are from, are alike in many ways. Just because Graham's a Brit does not mean he misses his family less than any other American soldier. Just like Rob, whom I talked about in a previous column, Graham has a young daughter, plus a lovely wife who is nine months pregnant. And just like all U.S. servicemembers here, you will never hear one complaint come from him.
Just like friends in any other profession, we all anxiously await pictures of a soon-to-be born son.