Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Bay Area Husker ENews 12-27-06

Happy New Year Bay Area Husker Fans!

Hope Santa was good to all the Husker Fans out there...the only additional gift I want is a victory next Monday morning. Should be a great game as Auburn is ranked #10 and has had a pretty good season in a tough conference. The Huskers have been getting ready for the Cotton Bowl during the last 3 weeks, and they should be as ready as they can get for the game. Lots of good reading and links below about the game. Kickoff is at 8:30 a.m. on New Years Day so set the alarm, head for the couch and either turn on the coffee to help wake up, or have a couple of red beers or bloody mary's for a little hair of the dog to get the festivities started off right! Go Big Red...Beat the Tigers! Get 'er Done!

Watch Parties:
Since the game is on so early in the morning on the 1st (and lots of you will be in no mood for an early wake- up after celebrating all night), we aren't asking our watch sites to open early. If you happen to be an early riser and want to head out to watch our game (and the other 5 bowl games televised that day), I would recommend calling ahead to your favorite pub to make sure they will be open. I did find out that Jack's in Fremont does not plan to open that day until 11 a.m and Knuckles in Monterey won't open until 9 a.m. Don't know about Final-Final in San Francisco, but Legends in Concord (sports bar for the Diablo Creek golf course) will be open at 6 a.m. because there are always crazy golfers who want to hit the links early on New Years Day. Phone numbers, addresses and directions for our four watch sites are listed at our website:

I've included another report from the 'Husker in Baghdad' (Thomas O'Hara III) at the end of this email, telling us how Christmas was celebrated by the military in Iraq, with a video link that shows a number of donations being delivered to Iraqi families in need by 'Santa' and his armor wearing 'elves'. Great reading and a great video! Thanks again Thomas for giving us another view of what is going on over there.

Best wishes for a safe, prosperous and happy New Year! Y'all be careful out there!

Go Big Red (White and Blue),


Nebraska Cotton Bowl Notes

Nebraska Cotton Bowl Media Guide in PDF Format

Nebraska will make its 44th all-time bowl appearance in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic on New Year's Day.

AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic
No. 22 Nebraska (9-4) vs. No. 10 Auburn (10-2)
Date: Monday, Jan. 1, 2007
Time: 8:40 a.m. (PST)
Site: Dallas, Texas
Stadium: Cotton Bowl
Surface: Natural Grass
Capacity: 72,262Series
Record: Nebraska leads, 3-0
Last Meeting: Nebraska 41, Auburn 7, Oct. 2, 1982 at Auburn
Television: Fox, National
Radio: Husker Sports Network,

Huskers Set to Make 44th All-Time Postseason Bowl AppearanceFollowing a season highlighted by capturing its first Big 12 North Division title in seven seasons, Nebraska returns to the New Year’s Day bowl menu in 2007. The Huskers will be making their first appearance in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic in 27 seasons, taking on Auburn in the traditional New Year’s Day bowl. Game time for the matchup between Nebraska and the Tigers is set for 8:40 a.m. PST. The game will be televised by Fox.

This year’s appearance in the AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic marks Nebraska’s first bowl game on New Year’s Day since a victory over Miami in the 1995 Orange Bowl. The Huskers have played their bowl game in January four times since that Orange Bowl, but have not played on New Year’s Day in 11 seasons.The appearance in the Cotton Bowl marks Nebraska’s 44th all-time bowl appearance, the fifth-most in college football.

Nebraska is familiar with the state of Texas for recent bowl appearances, but has not been in Dallas for the holidays for nearly three decades. The Huskers’ trip to the Lone Star State will be Nebraska’s fourth bowl game in the state of Texas in the past seven seasons, joining Alamo Bowl trips in 2000, 2003 and 2005. However, Nebraska last played in the Cotton Bowl following the 1979 season when the seventh-ranked Huskers were knocked off by Houston.

The Huskers are coming off a tough loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game on Dec. 2. The setback dropped Nebraska to 9-4 overall, after finishing Big 12 Conference play as the North Division champions with a 6-2 league record. Despite the loss, Nebraska remained in the final regular-season national rankings, checking in at No. 22 in both the Associated Press and USA Today coaches polls.The Huskers have the opportunity to record the 25th 10-win season in school history with a victory in the Cotton Bowl.

Auburn enters the Cotton Bowl with a 10-2 overall record and finished 6-2 in the rugged Southeastern Conference, good for a tie for second place in the West Division. The Tigers were ranked as high as second in early October and are 10th in both polls entering bowl action.

Auburn has posted the nation’s third-best record over the past three seasons, boasting a 32-5 record, including a perfect 13-0 record in 2004.

The matchup with the Tigers continues a tough 2007 slate for Nebraska. Auburn will be the fourth Husker opponent ranked in the top 10 at game time, joining USC, Texas and Oklahoma. The game will mark just the fourth meeting between the two schools, but the second in postseason play. The Huskers defeated Auburn, 13-7 in the 1964 Orange Bowl. Nebraska also won two regular-season meetings between the two schools, knocking off the Tigers in Lincoln in 1981 and winning at Auburn the following season.

More about the game from this article at:


Major Culbert (6) has received a substantial amount of reps at I-back this week because of injuries to other Huskers.

Lincoln – Nebraska concluded its home preparations for the Jan. 1 Cotton Bowl Thursday with a two-hour, half-pad workout inside the Hawks Championship Center. The squad split up for the holidays following practice for a four-day break before it leaves for Dallas.

Head Coach Bill Callahan said that his team had a productive three days of workouts this week despite the looming holiday break.

“It was a very good practice—solid preparation by our football team,” Callahan said. “I’m really proud of their efforts in the way they came out this week focused and prepared. We’re excited about the challenge of going to Dallas and playing Auburn. We’ll reconvene down there on Tuesday.”

With many Huskers from around the country traveling home over the next few days, Callahan expressed concern for those players preparing to trek through inclement weather.

“I just hope the (players) make it home safe,” Callahan said. “We have a lot of players traveling from coast-to-coast. I hear there’s some bad weather out there, so I know the guys heading out west may be hung up a bit. But I hope everyone makes it home and arrives safe in Dallas.”

One development to surface during practice this week was freshman defensive back Major Culbert receiving reps at I-back for the first time this season. Callahan said Culbert was placed in the role due to recent injuries to I-backs Brandon Jackson, Cody Glenn and Kenny Wilson.

“We worked him pretty good,” Callahan said. “We’ve had some guys (injured), and Major filled in and unselfishly stepped up and got a lot of reps. We had a lot of confidence in his abilities when he came out of high school and thought he was a terrific back We bantered back and forth around the staff table about whether he was going to be a running back or safety, but we put him at safety because we needed the help there. Surely, he has demonstrated the ability to play running back, and he has picked it up pretty fast.”

Nebraska will break for the holidays until arriving in Dallas on Tuesday, Dec. 26. The Huskers have their first practice scheduled at Texas Stadium for Wednesday, Dec. 27.



2006 Nebraska Season RecapNebraska opened the 2006 season with the goal of reaching the Big 12 Conference Championship Game and collecting the school’s first Big 12 title since 1999.

The Huskers reached the first portion of that goal, sweeping their North Division opponents to earn a trip to Kansas City in early December, and fell just short of grabbing the conference crown in a title game loss to Oklahoma.

The Huskers showed their explosiveness on offense and an improved running game in rolling past Louisiana Tech (49-10) and Nicholls State (56-7) to open the season. Nebraska totaled 584 yards of offense against Louisiana Tech, including 252 on the ground, then posted 496 yards against Nicholls State, with 261 of those yards by rush.

Nebraska’s first big test of 2006 came at No. 4 USC. While the Trojans posted a comfortable 28-10 victory, it was evident Nebraska had the ability to stand toe-to-toe with the nation’s best teams in 2006. The Huskers completed non-conference play with a complete effort in a 56-0 whitewashing of eventual Sun Belt champ Troy in Lincoln. The Huskers amassed nearly 600 yards of offense, including 316 rushing yards.

Big 12 Conference play began with a dramatic 39-32 overtime win over Kansas. The Huskers jumped to a quick 17-0 lead, but KU was resilient, taking the lead in the fourth quarter. However, quarterback Zac Taylor threw his third touchdown pass of more than 75 yards late in the game to force overtime. In the extra session, Nebraska scored first, then held on defense for the victory.

Nebraska picked up a pair of solid road victories in Ames and Manhattan, ending losing streaks at both sites. Brandon Jackson and Cody Glenn both topped 100 yards on the ground in Nebraska’s 28-14 victory at Iowa State, the Huskers’ first in Ames since 2000. A week later, the Huskers jumped to an early lead, then watched the defense dominate Kansas State in a 21-3 win, ending a streak of four straight losses in Manhattan.

Any remaining questions about Nebraska’s ability to compete with the best were answered a week later against defending national champion Texas in Lincoln. Trailing 16-7 entering the fourth quarter, Nebraska forged a 20-19 lead with less than five minutes left. The Longhorns pulled out a dramatic 22-20 victory with a field goal in the final 30 seconds, but Nebraska was confident it was on the right track. A week later, Nebraska ran into a fired-up Oklahoma State team on the road. The Huskers could not hold a 16-0 first-half lead, as the Cowboys’ explosive offense controlled the rest of the day in a 41-29 loss.

The Huskers showed their mettle after the two-game losing streak. Nebraska returned home for the biggest North Division game of the season against Missouri. The Huskers quickly erased any doubt about which team would grab control of the division. Nebraska jumped to a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter and led 27-6 at halftime en route to a 34-20 win and full control of the Big 12 North.

While Nebraska was in the division lead after its win over Missouri, the Huskers needed one more victory to close out the division. The Huskers got just that a week later at Texas A&M, but it did not come easy. Nebraska appeared to be in full control, leading 21-7 early in the second quarter. However, the Aggies rallied in front of their home crowd to take a 27-21 lead midway through the fourth quarter. After a blocked field goal, the Nebraska offense got one last chance and made the most of it, as Taylor capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Maurice Purify with 21 seconds remaining to pull out a 28-27 win.

The Huskers completed a perfect run through the Big 12 North with a 37-14 win over Colorado. The Buffs did not go quietly, tying the game at 14 in the third quarter, but Nebraska got big plays from its offense, defense and special teams to put the game away, marking its seventh straight win against North opponents.

Oklahoma used an opportunistic defense that forced five Nebraska turnovers to hold off the Huskers in the Big 12 title game. Nebraska again matched up well with a top-10 opponent, holding the Sooners to just 42 rushing yards, 82 yards fewer than OU’s previous 2006 rushing low.


Sarah Pavan is a finalist for the 2006 Honda Volleyball Award.

Lincoln – University of Nebraska volleyball player Sarah Pavan is one of four finalists for the 2006-07 Volleyball Honda Sports Award announced Saturday.

Pavan, the AVCA National Player of the Year and ESPN the Magazine Academic All-American of the year, led Nebraska to a 33-1 record and the school’s third national title in 2006. A three-time first-team All-American, Pavan set a school record with 5.10 kills per game to rank 10th nationally while also ranking among the Big 12 leaders in points per game (5.98, first) and service aces (0.34/gm, sixth). The 6-foot-5 right side hitter also averaged 1.50 digs and 1.00 blocks per game for Nebraska, which became only the third team in NCAA history to be ranked No. 1 the entire season.

Pavan, who was named the Most Outstanding Player at last week’s NCAA Championships, reached double figures in kills in 33 of 34 matches and had 10 matches with at least 20 kills, including three times during the NCAA Tournament. A two-time Big 12 Player of the Year, Pavan’s 5.10 kills per game broke the school record of 5.09 set by U.S. Olympian Nancy Metcalf in 1999. Pavan totaled 22 kills on .378 hitting, a season-high 13 digs and three blocks in the NCAA championship match against Stanford, played in front of the largest crowd in collegiate volleyball history.

Pavan is joined by three other college volleyball All-Americans in Stanford’s Foluke Akinradewo, UCLA’s Nana Meriwether and Washington’s Courtney Thompson, who won the Honda Award in 2005. Pavan will look to become the fourth Husker to earn the volleyball honor, joining Karen Dahlgren (1986), Allison Weston (1995) and Greichaly Cepero (2000).

American Honda will donate $1,000 to the women’s athletic fund of each nominee’s university, while the winner will receive a $5,000 donation. The award, which is voted upon by college administrators around the country, will be announced in mid-January. The volleyball winner will become a nominee for The Honda-Broderick Cup awarded annually to the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year.


Lincoln – The University of Nebraska baseball team earned its first preseason ranking of the season, while two Husker baseball players were honored, as Collegiate Baseball released its preseason poll and All-American team on Friday.

The Huskers, who finished the 2006 season with a 42-17 record, were picked ninth in the preseason poll and were one of three Big 12 teams ranked in the top 25 by the publication. The Huskers return 22 letterwinners, including six everyday starters and 12 pitchers, from a squad that that reached an NCAA regional for the seventh time in the past eight seasons.

The Husker returnees are highlighted by junior left-hander Tony Watson and junior shortstop Ryan Wehrle, who were both named preseason All-Americans. Watson, a second-team selection, compiled a 10-2 record with a 2.78 ERA in 2006, ranking among the Big 12 leaders in wins, innings and opponent batting average (.236) en route to first-team All-Big 12 accolades last spring. Watson was drafted in the 17th round by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2006 MLB Draft, but elected to return for his junior campaign.

Wehrle, a third-team preseason All-American, returns after hitting .367 with eight homers and 48 RBIs a year ago. The Papillion, Neb., native also ranked among the Big 12 leaders with 22 doubles and was a perfect 14-of-14 on stole base attempts in 2006. Wehrle, the first Husker shortstop since 1985 to earn first-team all-conference honorees, was picked in the 18th round by the Cincinnati Reds, but elected to return to NU for this upcoming season.

The Huskers will face a daunting 2007 schedule, as four Big 12 teams are in the preseason poll, led by seventh-ranked Texas. In addition to the Longhorns, who visit Lincoln for a three-game series in April, Baylor (No. 21), Oklahoma State (No. 24) and Oklahoma (No. 34) are all nationally ranked. In addition, the Huskers will also face top-ranked Rice in Houston on Feb. 24.

The Huskers will open spring practice in mid-January and will open the 2007 campaign in Arlington, Texas, on Feb. 16, against New Mexico.

Collegiate Baseball Newspaper's NCAA Div. I Pre-Season Poll (As of Dec. 22, 2006)
Rank School ('06 Final Record) Points Final '06 Rank
1. Rice (57-13) 497 3
2. Clemson (53-16) 492 5
3. South Carolina (41-25) 490 12
4. Arkansas (39-21) 488 25
5. North Carolina (54-15) 487 2
6. Miami, Fla. (42-24) 483 6
7. Texas (41-21) 482 17
8. Vanderbilt (38-27) 479 -
9. Nebraska (42-17) 477 22
10. Virginia (47-15) 474 20



* Nebraska Women Defeat Creighton 60-57

A close one.

* Nebraska's 3rd District Leads The Nation In Farm Subsidies

This annual bit includes all the links to all the specifics you might want: by name, by county, by congressional district, for the entire state. It also provides information on Nebraska moving up in the USDA rankings for organic farming; and the state's top spot as the nation's producer of red meat in November.

* Bruning Will Ask U.S. Supreme Court To Allow Corporate Farming Ban

Nebraska will ask the nation's highest court to save Initiative 300 from being erased from the state constitution.

* UNL Offers Entrepreneurship Program Materials In Spanish

Expanding programs to recognize and reach out in a world of changing demographics.

* Guess Who Is Hiring Americans Who Happen To Be White?

Your feedbacks are still coming in, and they are still welcomed and encouraged.

* The Road To The Immigration Mess Was Built By A Cowardly Congress

It's right to be concerned about the illegals in Grand Island whose lives were disrupted by the federal raids on Swift & Co. It's right to knock the meatpacking industry for shamelessly employing illegals. But don't forget that the whole mess can be traced back to members of Congress who have shirked their duty out of politial cowardice.

* State Population Grows

Oh, boy!

* City Council Says "No" To Frontier's Bid For Exclusive Broadband Operation

The company wanted a ten-year, excluse deal for high-speed, broadband service.


Seats still available to the cotton bowl –

We still have some seats left on our charter flight to Texas to see Nebraska in the ATT Cotton Bowl Classic on New Years Day. Executive Travel is offering a 3 day-2 night Husker Bowl package that departs Omaha on a direct charter flight on Saturday, December 30. The package includes 2 nights hotel stay, game tickets, transfers, pre-game party and much more. For additional information call our office at 402-435-8888 or visit our web site and click on our “Escorted Tours and Sports Tickets” button for all the details. Go Huskers!

HUSKER IN BAGHDAD 2006 - Number 5 (and 6)...

(Ed. Note: I've added an extra email Thomas sent today (Operation Santa) about delivering donations to the needy in Iraq to the beginning of his Christmas piece. At a minimum you should check out the video link he provided...does your heart good to see the children's faces when they receive a toy from "Santa". Although our shipment didn't make it in time for this delivery video, we are sending all of your watch site donations this week in hopes that they can be used to help those in need.)


Some of the folks back home have sent items for the children and needy here in Iraq. Attached is a link to our web page that shows a video of one of the ‘more fun’ deliveries we just made over the holidays.

These are some of the stories that should be getting out. Thanks for all your support and we appreciate the donations.

It’s Christmas here in Baghdad.

The emotions for those who are deployed during the holidays is often melancholy. The Christmas season only magnifies the feelings of distance and separation from those at home.
Typically, the strength to get through these days comes from simple, sometimes silly, gatherings and morale activities from which the deployed draw strength from each other. Christmas in Baghdad 2006 is no different.

The last few weeks have been a roller coaster of highs and lows.

One of my dear friends and colleagues, an Iraqi Sunni journalist who works next to me in my office, lost his brother to a homicidal bomber in Baghdad. He was an innocent bystander on his way to receive medical attention for a blood disorder when he was caught up in militant gang activities occurring in the Baghdad streets.

The main stream news likes to romance these efforts as ‘suicidal bombers.’ The last time I checked, a suicide effort takes out only the misguided individual. But when that individual kills innocent men, women and children, the proper term is HOMICIDE. To me, any potential credit to the ideology of their misguided cause is lost in the mindless bloodshed by their actions.

To his credit, my Iraqi friend – brother -- mourned as he should and three days later was back at his desk helping get the word out on construction projects to the Iraqi people. I am humbled by his conviction and dedication. He honors his brother by continuing the fight for his entire family and country.

He is one of those referred to as the ‘educated Iraqis’. A term used by many to refer to a middle or upper class that has a higher education. While many people of his kind have left to neighboring countries with their families, my friend has remained because of his passion and dedication. We “bleed” red, white and blue but some like he “bleed” red, white, green and black. The irony in the similarity is not lost on me.

Also, in the last few weeks, the Iraqi football (soccer) team took the silver medal in the Asian games in Qatar. The celebratory fire from Baghdad and throughout the country displayed the ability for the Iraqi populace to gather around a common cause. Shia, Sunni, Kurd, Christian – whatever the label – in the end they were all Iraqis celebrating a joint achievement. Much like many of us found unity with the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team’s victory over Russia, the fellowship found by the brotherhood in Iraq was also united, if though briefly, by their joint success. “Do you believe in Miracles?” I do.

Yesterday, on Christmas Eve, as the latest deadly report from the sectarian struggle in Baghdad came in, and another homicidal attempt claimed many hard working innocent lives before their time, my momentary moment of despair was lifted by a simple Merry Christmas card handed to me by one of my other Muslim, Sunni colleagues. Proof again that people of different backgrounds and beliefs can find common ground.

Christmas is Baghdad is a roller coaster of emotions. The momentary pause of the Medivac heading out to pick up another wounded Soldier or Iraqi civilian is quickly replaced by the sight of our commanding general in a Santa outfit trying to raise his troops’ spirits. The crackle of gunfire from the edges of the International Zone is drummed out by Gulf Region Division staff officers giving their best effort to a warbling version of the 12 Days of Christmas.

The sight of our injured Soldiers in the Combat Support Hospital, and recognition of their sacrifice, dedication, bravery and resolve is further validated by the generosity, support and selflessness displayed in items such as dozens of Shoebox’s for Soldiers, assembled by children from St. John’s Lutheran School in St. Louis, Mo. These simple messages and care packages often provide the comfort that medication and surgery can not address.

The only thing stronger than American military might is the American family heart and soul. Both are dependant on each other during times like these. It is times like these that allow you to reflect on the mission, the men and the changes which have occurred in these three short years.

Baghdad Christmas Carol

Thinking back to Christmas Past, Christmas 2003, it was a much different time. It was not even a year since the toppling of Saddam. In August, Saddam’s sons Uday and Qusay had been cornered and killed hiding out in the Kurdish Mosul area. On Dec. 13, Saddam himself was ferreted out of his spider hole hiding place and soon in the custody of the Coalition Provisional Authority. We had made great strides in the initial construction effort in Iraq. Although World Bank estimates indicated the construction effort would be ten times initial projections, nation donors were lining up with promises to support this new budding democracy. In the U.S., political divides had not yet dominated the nation’s dialogue and the 2004 election year was still days away. The debate on the validity of this effort had not begun. Fighting over who to give credit for success and who to place blame was not an issue. If this effort ever had a Norman Rockwell moment, it was then.

Unfortunately, the unity displayed in Iraq in 2004 stood in stark contract to the very divisive election in the U.S. and it was then the fractures in the support for the common cause began to show. While the debate stateside did very little to change the reality for those fighting on the ground, the seeds of impatience were planted.

In Iraq, since then, the country has experienced not one, but two successful elections displaying the people’s resolve to govern themself. Although it came with great debate, a constitution was drafted and ratified. Granted, an imperfect document, but the beginning of a government they could truly call their own. The government in place today, despite nearly three years having past since the liberation of Iraq, is still only eight months old.

As I sit here in Christmas Present, as someone who has found himself ingrained in this effort from serving here portions of three of the past four years, it is difficult to fight the cynicism that comes from remembering promises made and unfulfilled, and commitments by others now forgotten. While no one promised this building a nation game would be easy, I don’t think anyone realized there would be a stopwatch timing the progress of this effort.

Today both nations find their governments steeped in debate on the path forward. Many of the promised donations from other nations are still yet to arrive. Posturing has replaced promises. Analysis has replaced action. All the while Coalition and Iraq forces continue to march forward establishing security and constructing needed systems to improve the quality for those living here. Saddam has been sentenced for his first set of crimes and on trial for more. For every success championed there is a hurdle still to pass. We are definitely at a milestone moment for this mission.

I wonder what Christmas Future will be for Iraq in 2009. By initial estimates, that was the target year when the lion’s share of the infrastructure improvements would finally catch up with the rising demand of an economically thriving Iraq (again, that was using the level of international investment and commitment in the early years as a guide.)

I wonder what provincial elections and three years of improved operations within the young Iraqi government will mean as far as the country’s ability to budget, spend and manage its own money to build its own systems.

I wonder where the American resolve will be for helping our fellow man live an existence without fear of dictatorship, militia, or other criminal threats. I wonder if our nation’s impatience will be replaced by abandonment.

I wonder what, if any, the US forces role will be. The future is wide open, but dependant so much on the continued commitment of those here today, and the revisiting of commitment by those who have yet to step to the plate.

Learning to ride on their own…

Christmas brings to mind another analogy to illustrate the present effort of transition ongoing in Iraq as its government learns more and more to take the lead. Much like the new bike given as a Christmas present to a child, there is a learning curve required prior to full appreciation for and use of the gift.

At first the gift comes with training wheels and the parent helps instruct the child how to operate the new toy. They teach them how to develop balance and control, how to steer, stop, start – and to learn that falling down comes with the territory. All of this initial assistance is required to give balance and control when it is not inherent. That was the US’s role here after giving the gift of freedom, the environment for democracy and the initial foundation of a new infrastructure system to service its people.

But now it is time for those training wheels to come off. However, like a parent teaching the child to ride, we still have a hand on the bike to help. It will be during this next year, while “running alongside” the Iraqis, will we decide when it is time to let go and let them ride by themselves. We must be patient, and we must allow, if not expect, that they may fall several times. We must also be prepared to be there to pick them back up and help them if necessary. I am certain, much as child after child eventually learned to ride their bikes, this country will learn to operate and function on its own. But we must be patient and realistic with our expectations.

Maintaining the systems we have already provided is another part of the learning curve in Iraq. After we learned to ride the bike, we also learned that we had to take care of the bike if it was going to last. That, too, is going on here in Iraq.

Of course, the Iraqis are not children and running a democracy is not riding a bike. But the faith of success and allowance for momentary failure without quitting is the same.

As Gen. Casey has stated, we’re here to help the Iraqis win, we’re not here to win it for them. We can’t want it more than them. The good news is no one wants this to succeed more than the Iraqis themselves.

Construction at transition point

In the last few weeks the US Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq have completed 11 more construction projects and started a dozen more. Three Gas and Oil Separation Plants will help increase crude oil processing capacity, feed gas required to support liquid petroleum gas, and sustain crude oil flow in pipelines -- all contributing to the economic viability of this country. (NOTE: Great piece in Dec 25 issue of NEWSWEEK about the ‘surprising’ economic boom in Iraq)

(Ed. note: Here's the link to the Newsweek article: )

Additional road projects are being completed to improve commerce and transportation throughout the country.

When the sovereignty of this country was transferred to Iraq in 2004, there were just 200 projects started. As of Dec. 8, the 2687 have been completed, 642 are underway and 117 are still planned.

This next year will be a crucial year. These last few weeks, many congressional delegations have come through here to get eyes on the situation for what is expected to be a year of hearings and debates on Capitol Hill on the progress here. Some visits have been genuine efforts to gain understanding. Some have been merely photo-ops so the representatives can say, while pounding the podium, that they were here.

I am reminded of a great quote provided to me by one of the professional U.S. field commanders here in Iraq. “The way to get things done is not to mind who gets credit for doing so.” (Benjamin Jowett, British Theologian and classicist, 1817-1893). Our nation’s leaders would benefit from taking those words to heart.

While those in the U.S. debate an exit strategy to make us ‘look good’, the people who are here are only interested in a strategy that lets us know we’ve ‘done good’. Appearances mean nothing. Soldiers prefer substance over sound bytes. Victory is more important than a victory parade.

I get my passion and determination to continue to believe in this mission from those around me. My fellow members of the US Army Corps of Engineers, the brave Iraqis who face their own threats coming in from the local area to work with us every day, and from the Soldiers I meet.

Work here continues, but the current effort is nearing its end unless the world donors show up with their promised support and unless the Iraqi government advances its ability to manage, fund and support these construction efforts themselves.

I have all the confidence in the world of the ability for these people of Iraq to do all of this. But they are still on a learning curve. Engineers will tell you, the vertical axis on a learning curve is knowledge and ability, but the horizontal on any learning curve, no matter how you cut it, is still ‘time’.

Melancholy, but also promise of tomorrow

As I mentioned in the beginning, holidays away from family at home are often a mixture of emotions. But as those here gather themselves and find strength in their temporary family here in the field, together, we all look for a promise of success in the coming year.

My hope for Iraq in 2007 is a stronger and more influential government exerting the will of the people over the will of a minority of extremists. My hope is the Iraqis take ownership of the thousands of projects provided to them by the coalition and improve maintenance and operation of them to ensure their continued value to their society. My hope is the many brave Iraqi patriots who have remained here to fight for their country’s freedom are rewarded for their sacrifice.

My hope for the people back home, in the United States, is they press through the political posturing and see this effort as an incredible testament to the generosity, courage and determination of free people and heroic servicemen and women. I hope, as a nation, we can press through the immediate gratification nature of our current society and find the fortitude to stick to a fight worth fighting. I hope American’s position on this effort, characterized as dissatisfaction, is perhaps simply ‘boredom’. If so, then I believe a better understanding of the successes here will heighten the support for a valiant and worthwhile mission, still yet to be completed.

As a member of the Army engineer forces, there is no place I’d rather be than here in the midst of the toughest engineering challenge of my generation. As a proud NCO and patriot, I count myself fortunate to be standing in the midst of heroes. As a public affairs officer, I am privileged to convey their stories to those willing to hear.

While I may be thousands of miles from my familiar holiday surrounding, and while I may miss those at home whom I love dearly, at this time, for these reasons, there is no place I would rather be.

Christmas is a time for a renewed promise for tomorrow, for rebirth, for generosity, and for peace on earth to men of goodwill. Christmas is also a time for family. For the moment, I am privileged to be part of a very dynamic and committed family here in Iraq.

All things considering, Christmas in Baghdad is not a bad place to be.

Please stay in touch

To the 983 people on this distribution list, and to the many, many this is forwarded to, thank you for your support to the troops and mission here in Iraq. I personally appreciate your support and interest in learning the whole story here in Iraq.

We just updated the Gulf Region Division Web site at We will be adding print, photo and video coverage of construction efforts as quickly as we can.

You can read much of the construction in Iraq in the latest issue of ESSAYONS FORWARD, the field magazine of the US Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq at: (Note: it is a large .pdf to download, please be patient).

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 those of the sender and do not necessarily reflect that of the Department of Defense, the U.S Army Corps of Engineers.

(Go Cubs, Go Huskers ;)
Essayons!Thomas A. O’Hara IIIChief Public Affairs OfficerGulf Region DivisionU.S. Army Corps of EngineersBaghdad, Iraq

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