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Steve's Iraq Deployment Tour 2009-2010

Welcome to myTravel Page. Here is where I will be keeping a record of my deployment for all of you to read. Please feel free to leave a comment for me. I will try to reply to your comments when I can...remember, there is an 8-11 hour time difference between here and the U.S.

Diary Entries

Monday, 18 January 2010

Location: Baghdad, Iraq

Well, we are celebrating MLK Holiday here in Iraq...not really, we don't get ANY days off. I think the best part about going home (besides finally seeing my wife) will be NOT working for the 183rd straight day. It gets old, kind of like Groundhog Day, except we never get to see our shadow.

Things have picked up pace drastically since Christmas. I have about 4 major projects going on that I can't really say much about on here (or I'd have to kill ya'). Honestly, though, I could leave tomorrow and feel that I have made my mark on the Iraq Theater/War and made positive contributions. I will be able to talk about most of it after I get home, maybe at Nic and Melinda's wedding weekend.

I regularly email/get emailed by 2, 3, and occasionally 4-star generals about some of these projects that I am working on. One of the most recent ones was the Mansfield, OH ANG C-130s that were out here for a "concept of emplyment" test for future employment of the C-27J Spartan starting in 2011. I had some big involvement working with the guys from OH, helping them speak to the Army as well as tracking their progress in the test. The results have been briefed to the SECDEF and will then go to Congress. It was all good news.

Other than that, the weather is nice...usually 65-75 during the days and high 40s at night. I will be happy to get out of here before the summer heat hits. Last summer they had 2 weeks here of 130 degrees. Yes, it was 130 degrees! But, at least it dropped down to a chilly 105-110 degrees at night. Glad I missed it.

I will try to update more as I get more information. Right now, Tonya and I are awaiting word on when I will actually report to Altus, OK this summer for C-17 Requalification. I was told July but we are hoping to move right after I get home from Iraq. Patti has already called dibs on the guest room for the first 2-3 months, so we are going to be looking for a 4 or 5 bedroom house to rent so that we can put all the girls up, plus have room for company. All are welcome once we get settled in at Charleston. We are also hoping to get visits by Liz and John and Jeff and Jamie this Spring before we head out to SC. Anyone is welcome to visit Seattle before we move back east for the last time.

Take care and talk to you soon.

Lt Col Steve Noll
Baghdad, Iraq

Monday, 11 January 2010

Location: Iraq

Well, I have successfully made it over the 1/2 way mark (as of 23 Dec 09) and am gaining speed toward my redeployment home around 23-25 Mar 10. The only problem is that the first three months were a steady load of work and as of Christmas, all of a sudden, I have several major projects that will no doubtedly keep me very busy until I leave. One item is an airdrop training demonstration here in country (can't say much more) that involves a couple aircraft and several hundred jumpers. This will be the first time we have conducted a personnel airdrop since 2003 when we dropped troops in combat in Northern Iraq to seize an airfield.

Another item involves writing a piece of doctrine for the relationship of how the USAF supports the US Army with airlift. It is evolving into a new support role/relationship which gives the Army commander(s) more say on the prioritization of airlift of their resources.

Additionally, I am working (as all the agencies are) to refine the plan to draw down forces in Iraq from about 100,000 to 50,000 by the end of Aug 2010. My piece involves how to move them out of country by Airlift. Imagine how long it will take to move 50-60,000 troops by air when you can only put 55 on a C-130 and 150 on a C-17.

i have also developed a plan to redeploy troops from an airfield near their base instead of them having to travel to Baghdad by helicopter, which saves the helicopters to do more important missions and reduces the threat to the troops since they aren't flying around in a helo back and forth getting shot at.

We are ALL considering the effects of our drawdown and our actions on the upcoming Iraqi elections in March.

Either way, I will leave after my replacement gets here and is trained up so no matter where the project(s) stand, another competent AMLO will replace me and carry the torc forward.

I do look foward to getting home to my wife, family, dog, greenery, rain, beer, and restaraunts. Most importantly snuggling with Tonya in front of a fire in the fireplace. Ahhh, the simple pleasures in life....

Lt Col Steve Noll

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Location: Baghdad, Iraq

Well, Christmas came and went and I enjoyed immensely watching the family at Jay's house and watching my lovely wife get surprised with her presents on Christmas Eve. There was a slew of USO tours right before the Holiday and one more over New Year's where some Football coaches and players are going to come out and coach/play flag football with the troops. One of the is the "Rocket" Ismail who was at ND while I was a student there.

I only have about 12 weeks left (not including the rest of this week) and they will be busy. I have lots of "AMLO" type stuff to take me outside the office which I will have to wait to tell you about because of Operational Security (OPSEC). All I can say is that it will be real GI-JOE type fun. I will take pictures.

My wife made it back to Kentucky and Ohio to share the Holiday with both families and then had to ride down to Atlanta with Patti and Jeff (poor Jeff) to catch a flight out of Atlanta due to snow in the midwest. She finally made it home and said the dog went crazy! Ruby is still looking around the house for Taylor. I can't imagine how crazy the dog will go when I finally get home. I will have to give her lots of hugs and scratches on the tummy to make up for being gone. I will ALSO have to give Tonya lots of Hugs and Scratches on the tummy to make up for being gone so long...that and probably diamond earrrings! LOL - don't get your hopes up honey.

I thank all of you for sending me gifts and keeping me in your prayers during the holiday and now it is just downhill until I redeploy home. I will try to update you guys soon.

Lt Col Steve Noll
Baghdad, Iraq

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Location: Baghdad, Iraq

Today we had another USO tour come through with 4 Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, Singer Alana Grace, and Model/Tv Personality LeeAnn Tweeden. There were hundreds of soldiers in line to get their pictures taken with the ladies and get autographed pictures. It was nice of them to miss their Christmas at home to bring some happiness to the soldiers out here. They stopped here in Baghdad on their way to Afghanistan which is where they will be spending their Christmas away from their loved ones too. LeeAnn Tweeden is on her 15th trip to Iraq/Afghanistan. Thanks to ALL the entertainers who take time out of their schedule to come out on these UNPAID USO tours.

Lt Col Steve Noll
Baghdad, Iraq

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Location: Baghdad, Iraq

Last night I attended a USO concert which featured Tennis Star Anna Kournikova, Comedian Dave Attell, Country Star Billy Ray Cyrus and hosted by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen. I got my picture taken with Admiral Mullen and he gave me one of his Coins. Military coins are a big deal in the military...kind of a collectors item. He is the Senior ranking military member in the US military. Above him is the SECDEF, Vice President, and then President.

This morning, the entire USO show had an office call with General Odierno, 4-star general in charge of Iraq War, in the palace that I work in. We got word they were here and ran downstairs with our cameras, and I managed to get pictures with Anna Kournikova, Billy Ray Cyrus, and Dave Attell. They were all nice and happy to take the time to take pics with the troops.

Lt Col Steve Noll
USF-I AMLO, Baghdad, Iraq

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Location: Baghdad, Iraq

A GREAT CHRISTMAS POEM...please keep all those in your prayers that will be away from home this Christmas preserving our freedoms and rights.

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light, I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest, My daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white, Transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe, Completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep, Secure and surrounded by love I would sleep.
In perfect contentment, or so it would seem, So I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near, But I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear..
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know, Then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear, And I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night, A lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old, Perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled, Standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked without fear, "Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve, You should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"
For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift, Away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts..

To the window that danced with a warm fire's light Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right, I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."
"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line, That separates you from the darkest of times.

No one had to ask or beg or implore me, I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before me.
My Gramps died at 'Pearl on a day in December,"
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas 'Gram always remembers."
My dad stood his watch in the jungles of 'Nam', And now it is my turn and so, here I am.

I've not seen my own son in more than a while, But my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile.
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag, The red, white, and blue... an American flag.
I can live through the cold and the being alone, Away from my family, my house and my home.

I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet, I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another, Or lay down my life with my sister and brother..
Who stand at the front against any and all, To ensure for all time that this flag will not fall.."

"So go back inside," he said, "harbor no fright, Your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least, "Give you money," I asked, "or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done, For being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret, "Just tell us you love us, and never forget.
To fight for our rights back at home while we're gone, To stand your own watch, no matter how long.
For when we come home, either standing or dead, To know you remember we fought and we bled.
Tis payment enough, and with that we will trust, That we mattered to you as much you mattered to us."

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Location: Baghdad, Iraq

Keep a family in your prayers...

I don't know where he was from or who his family is back home, but a soldier two CHUs over from me suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head today.

It is tough for some/most this time of year being away from family, kids, friends at the holidays. Last year Iraq suffered 36 suicides. They are very proactive about suicide prevention but some people just don't show signs.

So, please pray for his family as they will be burying their son/brother/nephew/cousin next week back home. I am sure they will not be able to forget this Christmas.

May God forgive his actions.

Lt Col Steve Noll

Saturday, 05 December 2009

Location: Iraq

I got the neatest surprise today. When I returned from lunch, there was a manilla envelope on my chair and in it was a stack of letters written to ME from a 2nd grade class (Ms. Erin Budic's class) at Liberty Tree Elementary School in Powell OH (Olentangy Schools). Each student wrote me a letter for a project for Veteran's Day in which they learned about what a veteran was and they also learned about the war over here in Iraq. The letters said things like "Thank you for your sacrifices", "You are brave", "You are a strong soldier", "We miss you" or "We love you". I took the time to write a letter to the teacher and to each and every 2nd grader that wrote me a letter. I am mailing them back tomorrow and hope they can get them before Christmas. I also offered to their teacher that if I ever get back to Columbus, I would like to stop by and talk to the class and answer their questions about the war and being in the military. It was such a cute gesture and fun to read. Just wanted to share that with you all too!

Lt Col Steve Noll

Friday, 04 December 2009

Location: Baghdad, Iraq

Saw two concerts in the last week sponsored by the USO. First was Aaron Tippin, country music star. He played several songs and then signed autographs and took individual pictures with us after the show.

The 2nd concert was Jessie James, Carlos Mencia, and Kid Rock. It was awesome. A lot of troops came out for this one but I was still very close to the stage. Jessie James was a very pretty country singer and was a hit with the troops. Carlos Mencia was a politically-incorrect (yet very funny) comedian that picked on every race and every branch of the military. The crowd was rolling! Then, finally, Kid Rock came out and gave aabout an hour and a half long show and rocked Baghdad. He was very supportive of us and said this was his 5th tour to the country.

Probably the most difficult part of the show for everyone was when Kid Rock pulled out a bottle of Jim Beam on stage, poured up a big glass of it, toasted us, and drank it down. You could HEAR everyone salivate at the sight of the Bourbon bottle! Guys were BEGGING him for a shot of it. He ended the concert with his cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA". Afterwards he, Jessie James, and Carlos Mencia took pics with troops.

Overall, it was a nice week of music and fun.

Lt Col Steve Noll

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Location: Baghdad, Iraq

Well, one holiday down, one more to go. Then it is all downhill from there. The food was actually pretty good but still not as good as smelling the turkey cooking and filling the house with delicious smells. I ate lunch at the Dining Facility but for dinner (I was at work) they had food in the Ball Room of the palace that was cooked by General Odierno's kitchen staff...delicious!

We had all the usual fixings and dishes. There were tons of decorations so it was a LITTLE like home but reality hit and reminded me we were still in Baghdad. We got to eat Dinner in Saddam's Ball Room in Al Faw palace...justice!

Today is Saturday and they are filming a snippit downstairs in the Rotunda of the palace for the Army Navy game. Obviously, it is very heavily Army if you see the game on TV today and yo usee a bunch of Army guys yelling "Go Army, Beat Navy!" that was filmed downstairs for where I work.

I have to get back to work now but will try to update you again, soon.

Lt Col Steve Noll

Friday, 27 November 2009

Location: Baghdad, Iraq

Well, I made it through my first holiday without my wife and family. I must say, the military went out of its way to over decorate the Dining Facility for Thanksgiving. There were all sorts of decorated cakes (one looked like a 4 foot wide bible with a PSALMS verse written on one of the "pages" with icing). There were ice sculptures, and watermelons that the DFAC workers carved into cool creations. There were two HUGE Cornacopias with all kinds of fruits and vegetables coming out of them. We had ALL the typical thanksgving foods and pies and cakes. I would like to say the food sucked but it didin't. It was DEFINITELY NOT as good as home, but it was far better than what one would expect in a war zone.

For dinner (I was at the office in the Palace) someone came upstairs from the 1st floor of the palace and said there was food downstairs in the Ball Rooom. General Odierno's kitchen staff cooked a huge buffet with 2 turkeys, ham, REAL mashed potatoes, green with bacon in it, yams, mac & cheese, and banana pudding. It was better than the DFAC meal, plus we looked around and realized we were eating in Saddam's Ball Room! Justice! Missed everyone though, especially my loving and supporting wife. I have one more MAJOR holiday to make it through and then it is down hill til we can be together again. Love you honey and miss you!

Lt Col Steve Noll

Monday, 23 November 2009

Location: Iraq

Visiting Celebrities...

For obvious reasons, I can't mention exact dates but coming soon:

1. Operation Fore the Troops, featuring golf legends Tom Watson, Corey Pavin, Tim Simpson and friends at the Camp Victory Lost Lake Driving Range.

2. HOOTERS of America and Brokedown Cadillac return for another wild night at the East Liberty Main PX Stage.

3. Aaron Tippin is "Ready to Rock (In a Country Kind of Way)" as he brings hit country music to the Camp Victory Main Stage.

4. Kid Rock, Carlos Mencia and Jessie James rock the runway with a massive show at Sather Air Base.

A group of us are going to go see Kid Rock next week and I think I will probably see Aaron Tippin too, since I remember some of his country from the 90s. I expect quite a few visitors for the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. I will try to get as many pictures as I can. Governor Schwarzenegger came by the dining facilites last week too and said he would be working out at the gym in the morning. I was out of town that day. Damn!

Lt Col Steve Noll

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Recent Messages

From P
It's nice to know that you have someone to follow you so that you can pass on what you haven't finished as yet. I'm glad that you're super busy..I want the time to FLY!!
Love ya,
Response: Me too! I can't believe how fast the first 18 days of Jan have already flown by.
From Tonya
Everyone who reads this blog is a witness to the fact that you said I'm getting diamond earrings! You can't back out now~ Love you!
Response: Diamonique! There is a drastic difference between diamond and diamonique. Or would you rather have silicone?
From Patti
Hey there,
When are you going to write again? I really enjoy reading what's happening with you over there...
Love ya kiddo..
Response: Sorry, I have had a HUGE spike in work after Christmas. I will get something new on today.
From Jay
Happy New Years Brother
Were looking forward to getting you home. Take care
From Liz
I am so glad that you got the letters from Erin, she and I went to DHS together! I had to redecorate the Christmas tree this past weekend, your great-niece and nephew like to play with all the ornaments and we have lost quite a few! So, currently, all of the ornaments that made it through are on the top 1/4th of the tree...good times!! I'll try to send a picture for you. Sending love to you!! Hope you have a great day!
Response: i sent replies to each and every one of her students. I hope they get to read them all. I did not know that she knew you.
From CincHouse
Aww.. That is too cute about the letters from the 2nd grade class! How sweet of you to write a note to each child. You have an amazing heart and I am so proud that you are my husband! I love you.
Response: Sorry, I do not recognize who "CINC HOUSE" is...

Love you too!
From Tonya
Thank you for all you do! I love you! I miss you more every day!
From P
That we matter to you as much you matter to us......always....P
From Patti
count me in for getting into the sim to fly the C17....does this aircraft fuel mid air?
Response: Yes, it does refuel in flight.
From Tonya
Keep up the good work. I am so proud of you!

Response: Love and miss you too honey!
From chuck
hey stu, sounds like they keep you pretty busy. but kid rock? aaron tippin? when are they going to book some real talent? haha stay safe. have a happy thanksgiving! we will all be thinking about you! especially when i am eating your portion of the pie!!!
Response: Hey, we take what we can get here! The real talent is too afraid to fly in here!
From Patti
Steven Pat,
When you mention these shows at Camp Liberty...what kind of facility is it? How many can see the show at a time?
Response: There really is no facility...there is a plywood and 2x4 stage and the flat earth. I will try to get pictures.
From Jay
Ok I am up to date man you are long winded. Still very proud of you
Take care
Response: I had to catch up for the first two months...
From Liz
Uncle Steven, I am glad that you liked this idea. I thought it would be a great way to get your experiences out to more people so we know what "really" is going on over there! I love you!
Response: Thanks Liz, this was a good idea and I can type it right at my desk when I get a few mins. I am proud and glad to do my part in service.
From Patti
I love this site, and your explanation of your job duties (or at least part of them) is so helpful to understand why you were sent there. Makes me even more proud, first of all that your my little Brother, but a member of the greatest fighting force in the world. Love you to pieces, P
Response: Thank you, Thank you. I'll be signing autographs after the show...