When I was visiting in DC a few weeks ago for Memorial Day, former AVER DC Chapter President, Tony Smith shared with me some correspondence he received from Major Alan G. Rogers, a member of DC AVER and the first openly gay casualty of the war in Iraq. Alan was killed by an improvised explosive device on January 27th, 2008. Tony received the second message below on January 26th, the day before Alan died. These notes are a reminder of the serious nature of military service, the dedication of those who serve, and the fragile gift of life. Many of the people I met in DC knew Alan personally. Tony writes “He is missed by many friends and his memory lives on in all that we do.” Alan Rogers is a great hero to all of us in AVER, and we all remain inspired by his life and sacrifice, both those who knew him personally and those who did not have the gift of having met him.
Sabah al Khair! (yeah, practicing my Arabic on you). I suppose I should begin with two apologies – one for being so late in reaching out to you with an update from Iraq and secondly for sending out a mass distribution email to all of you versus a personalized note. Wow, where to begin as the last few months have been somewhat of a whirlwind.
Well, lets see, our story begins in a cosmopolitan city of Washington DC this past Summer, where my friends Tami and Matt hosted an AWESOME Iraq farewell party for me. By the way, if anyone has any pictures from that event, would be nice to see them. I then took a well needed 32 day vacation to Greece and Paris making it back in time for Tami and Matt’s sunset wedding on the Eastern shores of Maryland. It was so pretty (again, pictures would be nice). Then I headed to Fort Riley, Kansas, home of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division. I spent about 2.5months there preparing for the mission that I am currently undergoing here in Iraq.
A little about what we are doing here in Iraq.The current thought is that while the US is engaged in a counterinsurgency here in Iraq, our exit strategy hinges on the Iraqi security forces ability to provide stability for their own country (can I get an AMEN!). The past 4 years have seen an overwhelming presence of US and coalition military doing patrols, fighting insurgents, and working to re-build the basic Iraqi infrastructure. The new strategy is to put an Iraqi face on everything and to hold the Iraqi government and people accountable for their own security, with limited help from the US. There are two major organizations that form the Iraqi Security Forces -the Iraqi Army and the Iraqi National Police.
The Iraqi Army doesn’t operate like most Western armies focusing on external threats but rather focus on civil policing functions alongside the National Police. To aid them in this endeavor, the US Army began forming small, specialized teams (usually 11 persons) called Military Transition Teams who help coach, mentor, train, assess and advise the Iraqi Security Forces. Furthermore, these teams usually embed with the Iraqi forces they train, living with them, eating, sleeping and fighting side by side with them. It is an understatement to say this is a significant paradigm shift for our conventional army.Throw into the mix the deadly IED that continue to produce casualties daily, rampant corruption and mixed allegiances, a Shia/Sunni divide that threatens all of our progress, coupled with a myriad of other elements makes for the very complex battle space which is Iraq today. I am on a 11 man team that is working directly with the Iraqi Security Forces.
The weather has cooled here significantly-highs haven’t exceeded 80F in the past few days and the evening temps have dropped into the 50s. This is an ideal time to be here and we are counting our blessings, for in about 2-3 months, those temps will rise to highs that easily exceed 100 daily. As I began building my distribution list of friends and family to send this short note out to, I was reminded how blessed I am to have special people like you in my life who remind you that you’re not alone and that someone is thinking of you. I think we, all too often, tend to take our circle of friends for granted and I am guiltier than most in that regard.
A few of you have asked for a mailing address for me here. It is: MAJ Alan Rogers 1 DIV NPTT FOB Union III APO AE 09348 Email accessibility is decent here but finding free time is difficult – our daily operational tempo starts pretty early and ends fairly late so if I don’t respond immediately, I promise I will just as soon as practical. Its not unusual for email to be down fora few days at a time though….the internet networks simply aren’t very stable here. Peace, Love and Happiness! Alan —–Original Message—– From: Rogers, Alan G MAJ MIL USA FORSCOM <email@example.com> To: wishiwrnuk <firstname.lastname@example.org> Sent: Sat, Jan 26, 2008 10:18 am Subject: Re: Alan’s Update from Iraq….Tony Great hearing from you…actually its really therapeutic to be able to stay in touch with good friends…as soon as I saw your name in the in-box, the memories of good times back in DC began to flow… Wow, just when Rudy gets back, he’s off again, huh? What in the world is going on in Djibouti? Anything going on in AVER these days? Stay warm and I’ll try and take some pics in the coming days…. Alan
Danny Ingram, National President
American Veterans for Equal Rights