Thursday, October 26, 2006

2006/2007 Football Season Husker News #9 10-26-06

Happy Halloween Bay Area Husker Fans!

We can only wish that last Saturday's game was a trick or treat nightmare, but I happened to see it in person and can attest to the emotional 'haunted house' roller coaster ride the fans experienced during the game. And boy is that stadium loud now that they have 6,000 extra seats and a beefed up sound system!! It was a little like some horror-show deja vu scene from all those years the Sooners managed to steal victory from the Huskers in the final minutes, although this one was truly our own fault. However, instead of looking only at the gloomy side of the game, there are a lot of reasons to be optimistic about our epic battle with the Horns. The Black Shirt defense truly rose to the occasion and kept the Texas offense out of the end zone on many occasions, and we proved to a national TV audience that we can hang with the big guys. AND, barring any upsets for either team in the remaining conference play, we will get a chance for revenge on December 2nd when we hopefully play the Horns again for all the marbles in the Conference Championship game. Speaking of Halloween, you may have seen the student section "Blackshirts Black-Out" in the stadium. A great tribute to the Husker defense, and a lot of funny Halloween costumes to go with the theme.

Some of you may remember that a few years ago I passed along a string of emails from an Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Public Affairs Officer who was in Iraq but is based out of Omaha. Well, Thomas O'Hara III is back in Iraq for another tour of duty and he started sending email updates from Baghdad once again. You will find his first installment at the end of this email. I wiil try to include more of them in future Husker ENews emails, but if you are interested in hearing what's going on over there without media filters (or waiting for me to send them), I suggest you get on Tom's email list by sending him an email. I've also added him to our email list so he gets a steady stream of Husker news too.

And when I asked Tom if there was anything we could send to Iraq for the holidays, here is his reply:
"Have pretty much all I need personally – there’s a limited PX, and I’m trying to ‘stay light’ so there is not as much to pack back home. My friends in Omaha are sending me a Husker flag to put up over my desk.
One thing the Bay area folks can do is collect/send clothing (kids/ baby/adult), shoes, mittens, etc for us to send out to some of the impoverished areas of Iraq. I can make sure they get to the organizations that do that.
Thanks for forwarding this out and say hello to my fellow Bay Area Huskers.

GO BIG RED!!!!!!.."

I've talked with our chapter Prez and most of the board and the concensus is that we have a clothing donation rally at the upcoming Missouri game on November 4th. The goal would be to have everyone attending at our four watch sites bring an item of clothing as described by Tom above (new or "nicely used" and clean) to be shipped to Iraq. Designated watch site coordinators can collect the items and I'll arrange to pick them up and have the box(es) shipped over to Tom for distribution. Thanks in advance, I'll have more details next week when we know the time for the Mizzou game!

Go Big Red (White and Blue),


P.S. Don't forget to set your clocks back Saturday night...enjoy the extra hour of sleep ;o)
Watch Sites...

Sorry we didn't get the word out to everyone before the Texas game that ABC wasn't going to show the game out here, but it sounds like we had a tremendous showing at the watch sites when everyone realized they couldn't watch it at home. To avoid any confusion, this week's game against Oklahoma State (away game) will again be televised by ABC as a regional broadcast, which means that their affiliates out here on the west coast won't show it as a normal broadcast game. Unless you purchase the ESPN college football sports package at home (I think it costs around $20 for a single game), the only way to watch this one (and also the upcoming Missouri game) will be to come on out to our watch sites and join other Husker fans for the game. Kickoff will be at 12:30 Pacific time, so get to your favorite watch site early for a little pub grub lunch before the game begins.

Even with the last minute confusion about the broadcast last week I heard there was a big turnout at all of our watch sites for the Texas game. Over 150 at Jack's in Fremont, a capacity crowd at Final-Final and a huge crowd at Legends. Hope to see you there again this Saturday. Go Big Red...beat the OSU Cowboys!



Jay Moore led the Blackshirts with three tackles for loss against Texas on Saturday.
Big Red Review is your source for a complete postgame recap of Nebraska's classic battle with No. 5 Texas on Saturday. provides a complete game story, stats, notes, quotes and photos.

Nebraska vs. Texas Recap
Nebraska vs. Texas Final Game Statistics (HTML)
Nebraska Coach Bill Callahan Quotes
Nebraska Player Quotes
Nebraska Postgame Notes
Texas Postgame Notes
Texas Coach Mack Brown Quotes
Texas Player Quotes
Audio Highlights from the Husker Sports Network
Audio Clips from the Post-Game Press Conference
Nebraska Season Statistics
2006 Season Photo Gallery

You should click on the comments by Coach Mack Brown...very nice compliments for the team and our fans!

Excerpt from the Recap...

Lincoln - The heavens may have been on the side of No. 17 Nebraska, but the first field goal attempt of Ryan Bailey's career with 23 seconds left in the game gave No. 5 Texas a 22-20 victory over the Huskers at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

Bailey's kick allowed the Longhorns to escape with a win to improve to 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the Big 12, while the Huskers slipped to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the league. It also put an end to a miserable kicking day for UT, which missed a pair of short field goals and had an extra-point blocked.

The kick did not end the suspense of a classic college football game between two of the winningest programs in the nation. After the UT field goal, Nebraska used the last few ticks of the clock to sprint to the 45 on a completion and pitch. Then, Zac Taylor threw a Hail Mary pass 55 yards into the NU end zone that fell incomplete, but a roughing the passer penalty on Texas moved the ball to the UT 40 and gave the Huskers one more shot.

Taylor again dropped back and tossed another long shot into the end zone, which was deflected and fell to the ground to end the game.

With three minutes left in the game, it looked like Nebraska was going to secure its first win over Texas since 1999. Not only did the Huskers own a 20-19 lead, but the first snowfall of the season began right after NU's go-ahead touchdown and the Blackshirts had stopped Texas on the ensuing drive to give NU the ball back with the lead.

But a fumble after a completed pass on third down by NU gave Texas the ball in Husker territory with 2:17 left. Texas drove to the Husker 5, and Bailey kicked UT's third 22-yard field goal of the game as the brief snowfall stopped falling inside Memorial Stadium. (More at the link above)


Coach Callahan said center Brett Byford continues to be a big part of NU's game plan despite the return of starter Kurt Mann.

Lincoln – The 20th-ranked Nebraska football team escaped frigid outside temperatures with a two-hour, half-pad practice inside the Hawks Championship Center in preparation for Big 12 opponent Oklahoma State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The contest marks the Huskers’ fifth straight Big 12 match-up and the first time the team has faced Oklahoma State in Stillwater since the 2002 season.

Head Coach Bill Callahan was pleased with the fast-paced rhythm of practice as the team prepares to face the final third of its season schedule, which includes two road games.

“It was a good practice, a good tempo and a good energy on the practice field,” Callahan said. “I really liked the way we practiced today. We did a lot of situational review, we worked on our third-down package, we worked on short-yardage goal line, play-action passing and drop-back passing. All in all, it was a good day.”

Callahan additionally explained the decision to continue to start junior center Brett Byford against Texas despite the return of senior starter Kurt Mann the week before.

“We went in with a great plan, and we started Brett Byford because he was part of that plan,” Callahan said. “I think (offensive line) Coach (Dennis) Wagner wanted to let Brett play it out, and I thought (he) played a great game.”

After confirming that senior guard Greg Austin is back to full speed after spraining his knee against Iowa State, Callahan was additionally encouraged with the performance by junior tackle Carl Nicks, who has recently showcased impressive play in practice.

“He’s pretty good,” Callahan said. “This week has been a really good practice (week) for him, and I know Coach Wagner feels really confident about his performance out on the field. This week during practice he has really, really improved, and we’re encouraged by that. Hopefully you’ll see him sometime on Saturday. It’s about experience. He’s more comfortable back on the left side now. It was just a matter of time before he worked into the mix. But we’re confident in his ability to play, and anxious to watch him.”

The Huskers continue practice for Saturday’s match-up with the Cowboys with a workout Thursday afternoon.

ABC SELECTS NU-MIZZOU GAME FOR BROADCAST (Time TBD...more info next week)...

The Big 12 Conference and ABC Sports announced on Monday that Nebraska’s Nov. 4 game against Missouri has been selected for telecast by the network. ABC will utilize its option of a six-day pick to determine the game time which will be either 9 a.m. PST or 5 p.m. PST.

In addition to the Nebraska-Missouri game in Lincoln, ABC will also televise the Oklahoma at Texas A&M game on Nov. 4. Network officials will determine which game will be placed in each particular time slot following the results of this weekend’s games.

The ABC telecast will give Nebraska a guaranteed six appearances on the network this season. The Huskers have already played ABC contests against USC, Iowa State and Texas, with this week’s game at Oklahoma State and the Nov. 24 game against Colorado also slated for telecast by ABC.

A game time and television information for Nebraska’s Nov. 11 game at Texas A&M could be made as early as next Monday.

In addition to the two games selected by ABC for Nov. 4, the Oklahoma State at Texas game will be televised by TBS.


Mike Rozier will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on Dec. 5, 2006.

Lincoln - Former Husker I-back great Mike Rozier was honored at halftime of Saturday’s Nebraska-Texas game at Memorial Stadium for his upcoming induction into the College Football Hall of Fame. Rozier officially will become the 13th Nebraska player inducted on Dec. 5, 2006 at the 49th Annual Awards Dinner in New York City.

Chuck Neinas, representing the National Football Foundation, will be on hand for Saturday’s on-campus salute, while four other Husker greats—each a Hall of Famer—will stand alongside Rozier during halftime festivities. Former Nebraska Head Coach Tom Osborne, who coached Rozier from 1981 to 1983, will be joined by Forrest Behm (1938-40), Rich Glover (1970-72) and Johnny Rodgers (1970-72) in celebrating the induction of NU’s leading career rusher.


Former Husker running back Ahman Green ran for a 70-yard touchdown in the Packer's 34-24 win over Miami.

Demorrio Williams (Atlanta)—Williams racked up two solo tackles in the Falcons 41-38 win over Pittsburgh as Atlanta advanced to 4-2 on the season.

Sam Koch (Baltimore)—Sam Koch enjoyed a bye week as the Ravens prepare for its Week 7 game against the Saints. The Seward, Neb., has averaged 43.9 yards on 37 punts this season, including pinning 11 inside the 20-yard line, as Baltimore stands at 4-2 to lead the AFC North.

Cory Ross (Baltimore)—Ross enjoyed a bye week as Baltimore prepares to face New Orleans.

Chris Kelsay (Buffalo)—Kelsay made five tackles, including four solo, and added one sack as the Bills fell to the New England Patriots 28-6.

Mike Minter (Carolina)—Minter recorded racked up nine tackles, including five solo, as the Panthers fell to the Bengals 17-14.

Mike Rucker (Carolina)—Rucker one solo tackle during Caroline’s 17-14 loss to Cincinnati.

Mike Brown (Chicago)—Brown and the Chicago Bears continued to enjoy their undefeated season with a bye week as they prepare to face San Francisco in Week 8.

Kyle Larson (Cincinnati)—Larson averaged 37.6 yards on eight punts in the Bengal’s 17-14 win over the Carolina Panthers. The former Husker specialist also had a long of 54 yards and pinned a season-high four inside the 20-yard line.

Ralph Brown (Cleveland)—Brown had one tackle in the Brown’s 17-7 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Daniel Bullocks (Detroit)—Bullocks racked up a season-high nine tackles, including seven solo, in the Lion’s 31-24 loss to the Jets.

Dominic Raiola (Detroit)—Raiola made his 70th consecutive start at center for the Lions, blocking for a three-touchdown Jon Kitna performance in Detroit’s 31-24 loss to New York.

Railoa, a Rimington Award Winner in 2000, anchored a Detroit offensive line that allowed running back Kevin Jones to rack up 86 yards on 15 carries.

Cory Schlesinger (Detroit)—Schlesinger played in his 174th career game at fullback but did not catch a pass.

Ahman Green (Green Bay)—Green ran for a 70-yard touchdown to put the Packers ahead of the Dolphins 31-21 at the top of the fourth quarter. Green finished with 18 carries for 118 yards and one touchdown in the Packers 34-24 win over Miami. Green’s 118-yard performance in the Packer’s second win of the season placed him as the franchise’s all-time leader in yards from scrimmage, pushing him past James Lofton in career yards from scrimmage with 9,909.

Kris Brown (Houston)—Brown snagged two field goals and three extra points in Houston’s 27-7 win over Jacksonville, including a 43-yarder that put the Texans up 10-0 heading into halftime.

Zach Wiegert (Houston)—Wiegert anchored an offensive line that held Dallas to just one sack of quarterback David Carr and allowed Carr to throw 25-34 for 224 yards and two touchdowns in Houston’s 27-7 win over the Jaguars.

Will Shields (Kansas City)—Shield’s recorded his franchise-record 214th consecutive start at right guard for the Chiefs in Kansas City’s 30-27 win over the San Diego Chargers. Shields contributed to the blocking that led to a 15-27, 232-yard, two touchdown Damon Huard performance as the Chief’s snagged its third win of the season with a 53-yard field goal as time expired.

Russ Hochstein (New England)—Hochstein played center for a New England offensive effort that included an 18-27, 195-yard two touchdown performance from quarterback Tom Brady as the Patriots rolled over the Bills 28-6.

Le Kevin Smith (New England)—Smith was not active for the Patriot’s 28-6 win over Buffalo.

Josh Bullocks (New Orleans)—Bullocks and the Saints enjoyed a bye week as the team prepares to face Baltimore in Week 8. Bullocks has racked up 33 tackles, including 28 solo, and one interception through six games this season.

DeJuan Groce (New Orleans)—Groce and New Orleans enjoyed their 5-1 record one week longer with bye as the team prepares to face the Ravens in Week 8. Groce has had one tackle after being active in two games this season.

Scott Shanle (New Orleans)—Shanle was able to snag some rest with a bye week after recording a team-high six tackles, all solo, against Philadelphia in Week 6 as the teams prepare to face Baltimore in Week 8. Shanle has snagged 36 tackles, including 27 solo, through six games this season after totaling 45 through the entire year in 2005. Shanle has also added two sacks so far this season.

Adam Treu (Oakland)—Treu played in his 150th career game with Oakland, serving as the squad’s long snapper, as the Raiders snagged their first win of the season with a 22-9 hammering of the Cardinals.

Fabian Washington (Oakland)—Washington recorded one solo tackle in the Raider’s 22-9 win over Arizona. Washington has recorded eight tackles, including seven solo, while also adding three pass-breakups, through four games this season.

Correll Buckhalter (Philadelphia)—Buckhalter had five yards on one carry and 10 yards on one reception as the Eagles lost to the Saints 27-24.

Ryon Bingham (San Diego)—Bingham did not record a tackle but was active in the Chargers’ 30-27 loss to the Chiefs.

Carlos Polk (San Diego)—Polk snagged three solo tackles in San Diego’s 30-27 loss to Kansas City.

Josh Brown (Seattle)—Brown scored on two field goals and one extra point as Seattle fell to Minnesota 31-13.

Grant Wistrom (Seattle)—Wistrom had two tackles, including one solo in the Seahawk’s 31-13 loss to the Vikings.

Barrett Ruud (Tampa Bay)—Ruud snagged three tackles, including two solo, as Tampa Bay snagged its second win of the season with a 63-yard field goal as time expired to edge the Philadelphia Eagles 23-21.

Kyle Vanden Bosch (Tennessee)—Vanden Bosch and the Titans rested with a bye week as the team prepares to face the Houston Texans in Week 8. Vanden Bosch has totaled 27 tackles, including 20 solo, through six games this season, while also adding two sacks.


Jordan Larson had 15 kills against Missouri Wednesday evening.

Lincoln -- Sarah Pavan's 18 kills on .424 hitting led an explosive attack, as No. 1 Nebraska blitzed No. 16 Missouri, 30-27, 30-23, 30-16 in front of a sellout crowd of 4,139 Wednesday evening at the NU Coliseum and a national television audience. The Huskers (19-0, 11-0 Big 12) put together one of their best offensive performances of the year, hitting .429 as a team, while four NU attackers - Pavan, Kori Cooper, Dani Mancuso and Jordan Larson - all hit over .400 in the sweep. It was NU’s best offensive performance since hitting .487 against Saint Mary’s in early September, and the Huskers’ best hitting night against a ranked foe since the 2005 national semifinals against Santa Clara, a match NU hit .449. Cook said the key to NU’s success was the strong performance in the transition game, as Rachel Holloway was able to spread the Huskers’ attack all over the court. Holloway recorded her seventh double-double of the season with 48 assists and 12 digs, as the NU hit .400 or better in each of the first two games.

“Rachel (Holloway) did a great job tonight of running our offense,” Cook said. “Our transition game took a great jump tonight. Once we were able to dig the ball, we were getting great swings, especially from Jordan (Larson), Dani (Mancuso) and Sarah (Pavan). Our out-of-system plays and transition game were very good tonight.”

While Pavan had a match-high 18 kills, she was one of four Huskers to record at least eight kills. Larson totaled 15 kills on .458 hitting, but saw her streak of consecutive double-doubles end at 10 matches. Mancuso also enjoyed another strong performance, hitting a season-high .438 with eight kills, while Tracy Stalls also chipped in eight kills. Cooper rounded out the Huskers’ attack, posting six kills on just 10 swings while also tying Pavan and Stalls with a team-high three blocks.

Missouri Coach Wayne Kreklow said Huskers’ balance was the difference tonight, while MU had just two players finish with more than four kills.

“I think we were trying to contain people,” Kreklow said. “It’s the toughest job because they’ve got hitters everywhere. When you’ve got hitters like (Nebraska) in all positions, you’ve got a lot of options. Obviously, you look at the hitting numbers, and we’ve got people in negatives, it’s hard to beat a team like that.”


Nebraska came back from a 2-1 deficit to take a 3-2 win over Loyola-Chicago on Wednesday.

Lincoln – The Husker soccer team used a gutsy, come-from-behind effort to post a 3-2 victory over a tough Loyola-Chicago squad on a cold and drizzly Wednesday afternoon at the Nebraska Soccer Field.

The Huskers’ win in the last regular-season contest of the year improved their record to 10-6-3 on the season. With the victory, Nebraska has now won at least 10 games in each of the 13 years of the program. Loyola-Chicago fell to 11-6-3 with the loss.

After sophomore Jessie Goodell put Nebraska on the board less than two minutes into the game, the Ramblers stormed back with goals in the 17th and 28th minutes to take a 2-1 lead of their own.

Nebraska then took control of the game and found the equalizer late in the first period after a brilliant effort from sophomore Aysha Jamani. The Huskers controlled play for most of the second half and freshman Brittany Lanier scored the game-winner by firing a point-blank shot into the back of the net following a prolonged fight for possession in front of the Rambler goal.


Sophomores Brian Parr (left) and Ari Goldstein (right) take the Huskers into the Big 12 Championships this Friday, Oct. 27.

After one of the most successful regular seasons in recent years, the Husker men’s and women’s cross country teams will look to achieve their postseason goals beginning this Friday with the Big 12 Championships in Lawrence, Kan.

For the first time in Big 12 history, the conference meet will be held at the Rim Rock Farm (directions at the bottom), with the women’s 6K starting at 10 a.m., and the men’s 8K following at 11 a.m.

“Our goal is to finish as high as we can, and the good thing is that I think we have better teams on both sides than we did last year, quite a bit better actually,” Head Coach Jay Dirksen said. “We have to build on what we did last year and just keep getting better and better and take that into this week.”

The Husker men and women combined for four meet titles this regular season and eight top-10 finishes. Most recently, Nebraska came home with impressive sixth (women) and 11th- (men) place showings at the Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville, Ark., on Oct. 14. All five squads that finished ahead of the NU women are nationally ranked, and the men’s position was five spots higher than at the 2005 Chile Pepper Festival.

So far, the 2006 season has seen underclassmen perform like veterans and experienced juniors and seniors step up in clutch situations.



Alex Gordon was the 2006 winner of the 2006 J.G. Taylor Spink Award for minor league player of the year.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Former University of Nebraska All-American and current Kansas City Royals minor leaguer Alex Gordon was honored this week, as he was won the 2006 J.G. Taylor Spink Award as the Topps/Minor League Player of the Year.

The Wichita third baseman ranked in the top five in 10 offensive categories in the Double-A Texas League, proving he can handle the pressures of being a high draft pick. The Kansas City Royals selected Gordon second overall in the 2005 June Draft after his junior season at the University of Nebraska. Gordon, from Lincoln, Neb., won all four collegiate baseball player of the year awards in 2005, hitting .372 with 19 homers and 66 RBIs.

The left-handed hitter got his 2006 season off to a fast start with two hits, including a home run, in his first professional game. Gordon, 22, followed that game up with two hits the next night and another three the following evening.

On his way to the league MVP award, Gordon hit .325 with 111 runs, 39 doubles, 29 homers, 101 RBIs and 22 stolen bases. After slumping a bit in June, Gordon rebounded to claim Topps Player of the Month honors for the Texas League in July and August with almost identical numbers. Gordon hit .355 with 31 RBIs in both months. The only difference was he hit one more round-tripper (10) in August than he did in July.


Lots of nasty politics going on back home as the elections draw near. Kind of a change (in the wrong direction) for Nebraska politics...not a good trend as the ads are starting to sound more like California and other contentious states. I'll try not to include any of the trash talking stuff in my next few emails but I will try to share articles about a few of the issues facing Nebraskans in the ENews. If you are interested in the politics back home, the World Herald, Journal Star and the State Paper websites are full of stuff about the various races (especially the Senate race).

* Hahn Pushes Energy Proposal - Heineman Says Energy Effort Is Already Good
Wind, ethanol, biodiesel. The Democratic candidate for governor says a more active policy is needed. The governor says such is not the case.

* Education Commissioner Cites Good Reading, Math Scores
Proficiency in reading and math keep improving, according to the commissioner of education.

* America Could Benefit From German Beer Culture
From Angelika Byorth. Recommended reading.

* Big Red Ain't Back - But This Could Be The Start of Something Big!
Don't get excited, just be enthused and see the bright side.

Published WednesdaySeptember 6, 2006
Froma Harrop: Nebraska boasts unique charm

I recently returned from a two-week vacation in Nebraska. When I tell that to friends on the East Coast, they ask, "Why there?" This is their shorthand for a longer question, which is, "What's in Nebraska, if anything?"

To many Americans living outside that cubist collection of Great Plains states, Nebraska is a total blank. It is the heart of flyover country. Many drivers who race across it on Interstate 80 think it's flat and boring. As one friend who traveled that 450-mile stretch put it, "Nebraska never ends."

Actually, this was my third trip to Nebraska in five years. I go there to do some reporting and see friends, but mostly I go there for pleasure.

Nebraska for me is the land of decompression. It's zero traffic, polite young people, adults in no big hurry and lunch bills in the single digits. It's days spent driving scenic backroads through farm and ranch country, much of it rolling hills. (No, Nebraska isn't all flat.) It's coming across tiny towns that time and the new economy seem to have forgotten.

This is one of the least Americanized places in America. These are probably fighting words in a state that sees itself as the most American of all. But I'm not talking about patriotism, work ethic or other traits that Nebraska has plenty of. I refer, rather, to Nebraska's escape from most of the depersonalization, mindless sprawl, congestion and ugly strip development that plagues America's population corridors.

Yes, there is modern ugliness at the edges of the bigger cities, notably Omaha and Lincoln. But one can drive through entire counties in Nebraska and not see a single big-box store. They're too thinly populated to support a Wal-Mart (otherwise, there would be one). Cherry County, for example, is bigger than Connecticut but has only 6,098 people. Connecticut has 3.4 million.

In Nebraska, you roll into pretty little towns, unspoiled by prosperity. You wonder what goes on in hamlets with only a gasoline pump and a tiny grocery for commerce. What's it like going to a regional high school with fewer than 100 kids?

I'm well aware that these pastoral settings suffer their share of addictions, violence and other social dysfunction. Many are hurting economically and losing population. Those thoughts add sadness to a trip through a beautiful, depopulating region like the Republican River Valley. It's hard to fathom that people are actually leaving these pretty towns.

Because Nebraska isn't all built up, you can stand where history happened and feel the emotions - especially out west (buttes here, not cornfields). Up on Scotts Bluff, you look down at the endless Platte Valley and imagine the Mormon pioneers pulling their handcarts over 1,000 miles to Salt Lake City. At historic Fort Robinson, you can reconstruct some of the Indian tragedies - the Cheyenne Outbreak, the death of Crazy Horse, the Ghost Dance - on a landscape little changed from the late 1800s.

Even at obvious tourist attractions, I didn't spot many "foreign" plates from states like California, New York or Texas. Nebraska scenery lacks the glamour quotient of the Rocky Mountains or the Grand Canyon, which draw visitors by their own power.

Nebraska's premier natural wonder is awesome in a more subtle way. The Sand Hills are the largest dune formation in North America and a sight unlike any other. Let's just say that a drive through this eerie dunescape on an empty twolane road - Nebraska Public Radio in your ear - will put you at unity with the jazz universe.

These are the things that I tell friends who have been to Europe 12 times and fly to the other coast for long weekends but have never touched down in Nebraska. That's why I like to go there and why I'll go again.



I appreciate everyone’s interest in receiving these occasional emails from Baghdad. We truly do appreciate the ongoing support to this mission. By classical military conflict standards, this is still has still been a relatively short campaign. Yes, three years and counting, but pales in comparison to conflicts of prior generations.

First impressions

Every time I return to Iraq, one of my first ‘sensory’ tests on how things have changed is the drive from the Baghdad International Airport to the International Zone, and the changes in the IZ itself.

On the flight in and at the passenger terminals, you hear the horror stories and accounts of the ‘road of death’ and other hot spots throughout theater. Without downplaying the security issues, you learn after awhile that some of the talk is simply the long-term folks testing the nerve of the new arrivals. Usually, after speaking out loud how one or two things have changed, these folks realize that we’re not all wide-eyed newbie’s and you start to get more accurate assessments of how things are.

Truth is things have changed. A lot for the good, but some very visible steps backward…

Three years of operations have seen substantial site improvements in the forward operating bases our military and service people operate in. Many of the routine routes and service ports have been fortified and upgraded. As conflict areas go, we’ve hardened up a lot.

The International Zone (formerly called the Green Zone) has changed a lot as well. It really is an international operating center of Iraqi government actions, US Embassy and Multi-National operations, local Iraqi citizens, vendors and the like. T-Walls everywhere, but otherwise a living, breathing operating city within the greater area of Baghdad.

Critics call it a false ‘safe-haven’. Many say it skews the objectivity of people working here since it in no way reflects the day-to-day struggles of greater Baghdad. That part is true, but to suggest that reality diminishes the objectivity of the people working here is naive. While there may be walls...there is no roof. The sustained mortar barrage the first week here attests to the fact that this is still very much a part of the struggling security landscape that is Baghdad.

Threats of kidnappings and other dangers exist. It’s more downtown Detroit than Disneyland (my apologies to anyone from Detroit).

When I arrived at the Corps operating area here in the International Zone, it was reassuring to see many familiar faces, both Corps personnel and Iraqi nations. These local nationals are patriots in my opinion, working side-by-side the multi-national forces to better their own country.

Considering the constant threat many of these people face by militias in their neighborhoods throughout Baghdad, it is good to see they are still with us and still committed to the work to improve their own country.

Sadly, some faces are not here. Some have chosen to flee to neighboring countries to protect themselves and their families. And, more sadly, some did not leave in time. There is another group of local workers whose whereabouts are unknown, and the combined Iraqi and Corps family simply wonder and pray.

Talking with the local Iraqi workers, you can see their frustration with the slow pace of their own government standing up, but also their worry about the vocal debate going on in the US. They have a valid concern on the accelerated timetable being set by those running for office and the sometimes wavering of support for the mission here. Many wonder out loud what the election impacts will have on the commitment to the mission here. They wonder why the evaluation, discussion and policy on the effort here is driven more by the electoral calendar in the U.S. and less the reality and dynamic of the environment here is Iraq.

They have a good point.

Folks don’t realize how the political debate on a new timetable exacerbates the militia efforts here and worry the diligent Iraqis.

Interestingly, despite the rhetoric from the politicians in the U.S. on the progress and speed of the government here, the louder cry for increased speed and resolve of the Iraqi government is from the Iraqi people themselves. Their dedication is steadfast and they are equally critical of their own politicians. They are looking for that one solid leader to unite the factions within the parliament.

Iraqis also point out that to build a democracy is hard work. Interestingly, they have a solid understanding of the foundation of democracy in the United States and continue to point out the timetable it took for our government to become ‘stable’ and ‘self-sustained’ after our liberation -- many more years than we have allowed occurring over here (and ours was during a time of muskets and cannons, not AK-47s and IEDs.)

Throughout it all, the Iraqis maintain their humor. When they hear about the debate in the U.S. and claims from the politicians that the Iraqi government is ineffective, without support of its people, and question the validity of the elections, they ask somewhat sarcastically, “how different is that from the U.S.?” (referring to our mudslinging, shallow debates on issues and the rhetoric of vote counts and recounts during the past few elections.)

These Iraqis, these real down to earth people, are why this will work over here. Unfortunately, that is not the word getting out.

Media coverage on progress here continues to be nearly non-existent. An article this past week cited that the embed program of journalist has dropped from several hundred to merely a few dozen in Iraq. It’s no longer sexy.

We have had success getting reporters from smaller markets in the U.S. to come over here.

They have produced insightful stories on the construction and difference-making missions our service people are achieving here. When we ask them if they can help push these reports up into the networks back home, we are told the networks re not interested in the good news stories. It’s frustrating and it affects the mission.

Too important not to cover…

Here in the IZ, constantly, you hear the roar of the helicopters flying in and out. Too often it is the medical chopper from the CASH (military hospital) flying to retrieve an injured patriot from the field. Soldiers, civilians, and Iraqi citizen, the CASH treats those in need. That effort and their sacrifice should be properly recorded if we are to truly ‘support our troops.’

My first few weeks here have been busy ‘spinning up’ on the current players and organizations working here to tell the real story in Iraq. I hope to provide more information on the reconstruction effort in the next message.

That’s about it for this first email. Someone told me before I left to keep them coming but make them shorter ;) I’ll try.

You can follow the progress here in Iraq on the Multi-National Force in Iraq web site at There you can sign up for weekly emails/newsletters, view AFN broadcasts and video of real progress stories and send messages to the heroes here in Iraq. This is the news that should be getting out.

If you know of someone who you know was looking to receive these, and is not, have them contact me. The views expressed in this email are mineand do not necessarily reflect that of the MNFI, Department of Defense, or the U.S Army Corps of Engineers.

Thank you all for your continued interest.

Thomas A. O’Hara III
Chief Public Affairs Officer
Gulf Region Division
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Baghdad, Iraq
Comm: (540) 665-1233 CONUS
IRAQNA: 0790-190-8290
MCI: (914) 822-0716 CONUS

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