Randy's Photo Essays:
• *Update!
Building a Police Station
An Unexpected Feast
Safety Day

March 26, 2007

* UPDATE on the police station!

The Iraqi police are now operating out of their new station!

Together, soldiers and Iraqi policemen carried mattresses, a refrigerator, and other pieces of furniture into the station to add the final touches.

One of the first tasks of the new department is providing access badges to residents of the village. Now, the police at the checkpoint will be better able to identify individuals entering the village, where they are going, and if they reside there.

For the next few weeks, U.S. and Iraqi police will do joint patrols, and share information on security within the village. This is a major step in putting an Iraqi face on the security of the village and building trust between Iraqis and their police force.

Now much of the local policing will be done by the Iraqi police, freeing up our soldiers to focus on more mission-oriented goals.

March 13, 2007

PHOTOESSAY: An Unexpected Feast

While patrolling late one night, one of our patrols noticed a home with all the lights on and steam billowing from the back yard. When they stopped to investigate, they discovered several men cooking over a very large pot of lamb in a tomato sauce.

The men greeted CPT David Stone and his patrol, explaining that they were cooking for the entire village, to commemorate the end of Ashura. They intended to invite the poor villagers over the following day for a free meal.

The meal required three goats and a lot of rice and tomatoes — quite an endeavor for this generous family. As the patrol began to take its leave, the host invited CPT Stone back the next day to enjoy the meal with the villagers. I joined him the next day to photograph some projects, and enjoyed the unexpected treat. The food was great and we had a good time getting to know our Iraqi neighbors.

I just realized I haven't really told you a lot about myself. So here's a little about me — we are on a one year tour and just passed the half way point.

Often "one year" tours turn out to be eleven months. The Air Force does about four months, the Navy about six. We also could get extended. Our 1st Brigade in Afghanistan got extended by four months or so. The Army bears the brunt of deployments due to our size; we're the meat and potatoes of the military, although every branch is critical.

I know soldiers that are on their fifth deployment (including Kosovo under President Clinton). This is my first one. My wife is staying in California with her mother while I'm here. We put all our stuff in storage in New York.

I have known three soldiers who have died here, and more who were wounded. I have always believed in being part of something bigger than yourself, making a difference in people's lives. The Army is good at that. I don't like it when Americans bleed, especially on our own precious soil, but I know it's a worthy cause when I have had Iraqis weep to me in thankfulness over Saddam being ousted.

Hopefully, in a few years Iraq will be free, quiet and prosperous — a land of opportunity in a otherwise dark part of the globe. Maybe we can all visit together and walk down the street with no body armor or weapon on our shoulders.

Sounds nice to me.

March 1, 2007

• Safety Day

I have to admit to you, I am not the best choice for a Public Affairs representative. I don't like the media. I really don't like the media.

It amazes and saddens me that some journalists might spin things against us and in favor of our nation's enemies or to push a political agenda.

As a soldier, I will never forget. I'm not interested in reconciliation and my strongest desire is to rid the earth of these ruthless killers. I believe the men and women that leapt to their deaths rather than burn alive in the towers deserve that, as well as the families they left behind. I have never could have conceived in my mind an enemy as evil as our current foe.

I have not forgotten New York City, although I never knew anyone from NYC until I joined the Army (being stationed in New York state, we have several soldiers from NYC). We are here for those from New York, and for the rest of America, who had to cope with 9/11.

I have had Iraqis beg me not to let the U.S. pull out and abandon them (as if it's up to me). Most are thankful for Saddam being removed and for the new opportunity of freedom that is rare in this part of the world. These people, especially the kids, deserve to have this thing followed through to the finish.

Our Army, with all its might, can remove a crazy dictator in a few weeks, but it takes much more time to change a society. These people are used to either being unable to take initiative for themselves (no freedom) or having all they need provided for them (socialism), so sometimes it is almost like trying to raise a child.

Beside patrolling and arresting bad people, which are good, we also do lots of community project stuff.

We worked with the Iraqi Police (IPs) to do a Safety Day at a local elementary school to build trust between the community and the IPs. The school was very receptive and things went wonderfully.

It just takes time ... but change IS happening in Iraq. You can see it from the pictures, from the building of the police station, to this new initiative with Safety Day.

Click over to see his photos from Iraq!
An Unexpected Feast • Safety Day Building a Police Station

Randall Cornelison has been in the Army for three years, which he joined due to 9/11, his love for America and an appreciation of the military.