This is from a friend of mine from another military/political forum who I've known for about 5 years. It is the email he asked to be posted there. I'm also posting it here because it was so imformative regarding the war, the Iraqi people and what goes on on a daily basis.

Ron is a Major in the reserves in the Army. This is a more serious letter, but he's a great guy who is always so much fun. I hope you enjoy reading it.
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All,

I am happy to report that the Iraqi Elections have been completed and I am writing this to you in the relative safety of FOB Falcon. The IIF (Iraqi Interdiction Forces), which I am the senior advisor to, performed with the skill of any US Army Combat Unit. We provided static site security for over 22 polling places. There were small attacks against our polling centers and all Iraqi and US forces of the 2d Battalion IIF are unharmed. Over the course of the next few weeks, we are anticipating an increase of attacks against Coalition Forces depending on those who are elected. It has been estimated that about 60% of Iraqi citizens (about 8 million) voted for those who are going to draft the first Iraqi Constitution. Watch CNN, Fox News, or other news stations for video clips and further information. Unfortunately, none of the polling places on the news were the one's we were located.

Yesterday, 30 JAN 05 was my 38th birthday and the insurgent forces made sure it was celebrated. We had a 107mm rocket impact at 1:30pm, about 20 meters from our building causing damage to a vehicle and minor damage to the building itself. Later in the early evening we received small arms fire at the main polling center at which we were headquartered. On this day, Iraqi and coalition forces entered the history books for the first steps for a free Iraq. All of the soldiers in the Battalion have worked many hours on making this election a success. The coalition forces faded into the background and the Iraqi forces took the lead. As many say, this is the first step for the reduction of coalition forces in this region.

I have received cards, letters and care packages from some of you and want to thank you for your support. I have been in Iraq for a little over 2 months now and only 10-12 more months to go. Trying to look back on the days before leaving home, it seems like years. Back at Camp Atterbury in OCT and NOV where we received our training is just a little black hole of a memory. It seems and feels like I've been here for longer than I actually have. Every day is Groundhog Day, and I keep looking for Phil. I cannot look forward to returning to the states just yet. The road is long and all of my team members must keep their head in the game. As time grows nearer to the end of my tour here, I believe it will be bittersweet. There will be many sad good-byes and many tears shed for those we have lived with, fought with, learned from and lost not to mention the joy of returning to family and friends.

We have been accepted into the Iraqi Army as equals, not as the superior forces from America. The bonds my team and I have made with the Iraqi forces, both on the personal and professional level cannot be explained. We trust them with our lives everyday, and they trust us with theirs.

I have begun to pick up some of the Arabic phrases used every day. My interpreter is 67 years old, blind in one eye and half deaf. His name is Yousef and if nothing else, keeps morale up with his sense of humor and his knowledge of Iraq. We have learned many things and there is so much more to learn. I have eaten at numerous Iraqi buffets where all the food is prepared from scratch and served on a large platter. Everyone eats with their hands. The meals consist of Lamb, fish, chicken as the main meats along with rice, bread, vegetables and fruits. I have some pictures of these buffets and will share them with you at a later date.

The weather here has been mild, 60's during the day and low 40's at night. Over the past few days there has even been frost on the vehicles. High winds and dust / sand storms take the visibility down to nothing here lately. The sand in some places is so fine, it gets into anything and everything. I'm waiting for it to warm up, but I should be very careful for what I'm asking for. I have been told that it will rain every day for a few hours during the months of Feb and March. The land is flat here and there is really no drainage. The water just pools until it evaporates. April the temp will begin to climb and will make thing more difficult, both on vehicle movement and personnel. Go figure.

I will try to keep you updated from time to time. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me and I'll try to provide anyone with the best answers I can come up with. Please remember I cannot discuss some things in this forum due to security issues.

Serving Proudly in Iraq,

Ronald P. Holden
Leopard Mike 6
MAJ, AD, USAR
98th DIV (IT), AST
1st BDE, 2nd BN, IIF
Senior Foreign Army Advisor
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AKO Email: ronald.holden@us.army.mil
AKO-S Email: ronald.holden@us.army.smil.mil
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