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Todd's Great Adventure

Welcome to Todd R.'s Travel Page. Here is where I will be keeping a record of my travels for all of you to read. Please feel free to leave a comment for me. If I have time in between discovering new places and meeting new people I will reply to them!

Diary Entries

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Location: Baghdad, Iraq

On June 8, a co-worker of ours was killed by insurgents while working at a Police Training Center in Afghanistan. Gary Willard (44) went through training with us last June. He was from Resaca, Ga. A friend who is currently in Afgh. says Gary may have saved some lives during the incident (info still trickling in). Gary had two weeks left on his contract before going home. Gary is the first Police Advisor killed since 2007. Rest in peace Brother.

I started this on the ninth but didn't feel like finishing until today. While I feel relatively safe here on my base, the reality is, it is still dangerous. We have had several intel. reports of insurgents wanting to attempt kidnappings of american contractors. We take precautions but the threat is still out there. The closer I get to going home the more I get nervous about something happening. I think about going home being dangled on a string in front of me and as I get closer it gets snatched away from me at the last minute. Yet nothing has changed in the last year, it's just anticipation.

I have mailed most of my stuff home. Just a little left that I will mail the day before I get on the plane. The guys here had a nice going away bbq for two of us. They presented us with some nice gifts. One of the best parts of this mission is the friends we make. We meet cops from all over the country. Most have the same political views (we're conservative, that's why we're cops) we have similar hobbies (outdoor stuff and cars) and we're type A personalities (we like to be in control). So sometimes we butt heads, but for the most part, we get along. So in my farewell speech, I stated why I could not stay and support them for another year. First and foremost, I don't believe I am being called to stay here anymore. My heart is not in it. I still do not have a clear idea of why the Lord called me to come over here. But I have a few ideas that have been brewing for a while. One of them is my love for my family. I need to be there for them. It's been a year since I left but it has been longer that I have not given my full attention to them. Has this been the wake up call I needed? One of them I'm sure.

I'm not sure if I talked about this last year so I will touch on it briefly. It gets between 115 & 120 degrees every day, so far. But when the sun goes down, it doesn't cool down to where you can notice. At 10 pm the other night it was 108. It's not easy to sit outside and enjoy each others company and cop stories when you just want to go in and cool off. Back home we would be running in real quick to put a sweatshirt on.

Looking forward to some marshmallows around the fire.

Saturday, 05 June 2010

Location: Iraq

Where ya been?

Let me start off by saying, I'm still here. I was told by a friend on about May 14 that I had not updated since since April. I told him that I had updated about May 7. I got back from South Africa and looked it up. Sure enough, Nothing for May. So I don't know what happened because I also added pictures that night and cannot understand where it all went. I am very dissapointed because I cannot remember what I said or pictures added.

So..... getting ready to go on vacation May 12 was uneventful. It is also one of my favorite things to do, prepare for leaving. I enjoy putting my stuff together and making sure I have everything needed for the trip. Speaking with the guys I work with, they are asking questions about where and what I will be doing. Whenever someone is getting ready to leave for whatever reason, that person is always "interogated" about their destination. We want to know because we are always looking for our next great vacation destination. The resort, the airlines, the food, how much it costs, etc. Not too many people can say they have been to the Dark Continent. So the eyebrows were constantly going up.
Another part I enjoy is the travel. Yes the flights were long, but that was part of the adventure. Will I make my connecting flights? Will I hit any snags? Will I get halfway there and someone behind a counter will tell me they don't have a record of me trying to fly? Who will sit next to me for 16 hours on the flight and do they believe in and use proper hygene? I purposely travel with only a carry-on bag that has what I will need. I don't want to get to my destinations and find out that my luggage didn't make it through two or three different countries with two or three different airlines.
Arriving in Johannesburg was exciting. I made it through customs without any problems and easily found my hunting partner, Brent. Brent had been waiting several hours already by the time I got there and we had several more before our connecting flight to Richards Bay. Sitting next to a large propeller, that you know is going to come off any second and come right into the the cabin and your lap, is exciting. Especially when you can see tape on the engine. Brent brought my bow case with him and it was a relief to see it made it in one piece halfway around the world.
The weather was perfect for our hunting and we had a good time. The food was pretty good but I'm not really into gourmet. On hunting trips I'm happy with the basics, hot dogs, burgers, meat on the grill. Our hosts wife tried a little too hard to please us with "exotic foods". The lodge was nice with african animals displayed throughout. Everything I would have expected. The hunting was real hunting. There was nothing tied up waiting for us to shoot it. Because it was real hunting, Brent and I did not get everything we wanted. But that is hunting and that's ok. We saw enough reptiles and insects to last for a while. Thorns long enough to use as sewing needles. Animals that most people only see on tv. There was enough activity to keep us awake. It was like christmas morning everyday because you just didn't know what was going to happen but you knew it was going to be good. Before we knew it, it was time to leave. I was ready because I hadn't seen the family since Feb.
Brent and I took a 747 to London. In London we had an 8 hour layover. Those layovers are about the worst thing to endure on a trip. We finally made it home about 10 pm. with all of our luggage. I went home for one reason, top see my oldest son graduate high school. The ceremony and party were fantastic. Family and friends celebrating a very special time. I got home on a friday night and left for Iraq on Monday morning. The only thing that helped my attitude was that I knew I would be home in five weeks. Home for good. That made it easier to get on the plane.
To sum up my travel, in two weeks to the day, I went from Baghdad to Dubai to Johannesburg to London to Dallas to Colorado springs to Los Angeles to Dubai to Baghdad. My flight from L.A. to Dubai was unusual because we flew over the North Pole, Moscow and Baghdad to get to Dubai.
Here I sit in my little room. I have 23 days left until I get on a plane to go home. On monday I will mail most of my belongings home. I will keep just what I will need until I move to another camp for my out processing. Then I will mail the rest home before getting on a plane with just a daypack. I will mail my bow home from a DHL office because the U.S. post office will not let me mail it home because it is a "weapon". Common sense really is dead, I fear.
People here are already asking me what I'm getting rid of. Most stuff I will sell or give away. The tv, dvd, and cable box are sold.
I am trying hard not to have a "short timers attitude". Some days are easier than others. To my teams credit, they are patient with me. I am helping the k-9 team right now because one of their guys is on vacation. I love being around the dogs. They are eager to please but it better be early because it gets hot fast. By 10 am, its over 100, by 2pm it was 118. Absolutely miserable. Imagine if you were wearing a fur coat being asked to work smelling bombs. The motivation leaves quickly. The dogs and the handlers.
Almost there.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Location: Baghdad, Iraq

In a Groove....

Work has been going very well. I meet almost daily with a couple Generals to discuss various issues with my part of the college. That being said, I haven\'t really had anything to update here.

My Danish hunting friend and I each ordered a bow online. He wanted to get into hunting with a bow and I wanted to practice for my trip to Africa in May. Sometimes when we shoot, we draw quite a crowd. It\'s fun and people are fascinated by the accuracy of these bows. There are several guys here from South Africa. Many of them are into hunting and are only too happy to give me some advice on my trip as well as suggesting areas to go.

It is starting to get very warm again. The heat feels good because the a/c in some of the buildings is so high, it feels like a meat locker. So far I\'m talking in the high 80\'s and low 90\'s. We had a dust storm the other day that was so bad we could barely see a block away. Then it rained, knocking all the dust down. Imagine washing your hair and instead of the shampoo being white it is a tan color from the dust. These dust storms come around about once a week. Haha, yes, I do shower more than once a week. I can hear you all now.

I teach an American Culture class here. It\'s one of my favorite things to do. They have seen so many american movies they think they have a good grasp of America. When I ask them how many people they think I have shot as a lawman, they average answer is ten. I can see the genuine surprise in their faces when I reveal the actual number, zero. Surprisingly, the largest amount of questions are about our homes, how much they cost, what they are made of, how much land they\'re on etc. They do know the pictures of George Washington and Ben Franklin and what bills they are on. They are also surprised that we send our kids to school together. Here they send boys and girls to seperate schools all the way through high school.

My partner here is also working on a pen pal program for the 18-21 year old students. They are the real inquisitive ones. On breaks they mob us and suround us. The questions come so fast the interpreters can barely keep up. A few learned english in high school but then everyone is trying to ask everyone a question. It can be exciting but also overwhelming. They also get very close and want to touch and get in your face to talk. It is considered offensive if you back away. I\'ve gotten used to it for the most part but sometimes, if I don\'t have time to mentally prepare, I find myself starting to back away. That is the cop in me wanting to creat distance for my safety. They only have two tests a year. They have to get a 50% to pass, thats it. Nothing else.

I leave for Africa on May 12. I will be home for good on June 29, that\'s 71 days from today. Thank-you God for your faithfulness in watching over me and our family.

\"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote\".~ Ben Franklin.
(pictures attached)

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Location: Baghdad, Iraq

Funny BOOM!

Occasionally we get an announcement over the loud speakers to do something. It can be to have each section have an accountability, or to take cover due to incoming threats, things of that nature. This week, while I was checking my e-mail, the alert went out to pay attention. This is what we heard .."Attention on the base, there will be a controlled detonation in... 'BOOOM!!'... five minutes". The timing was perfect. Once in a while explosives are found and need to be blown in place. There is also a place close by where the EOD guys take stuff to be detonated. That does not happen very often since we are in the middle of a city of five million people. When the explosives are found, it is usually by the dogs. The dogs are trained in the U.S. Our Canine Police Advisors have done an excellent job over here. Yesterday, I was able to attend the latest K-9 graduation. Watching these dogs work is fantastic. They love to find stuff to get rewarded. We couldn't have a graduation without a demonstration. (Pictures attached)

I occasionally have to leave the base for work related stuff. Last week and this week I will be going to the IZ (International Zone) to take care of business. I managed to get some more pictures of one of Saddam's palaces. I also took pictures of some pretty precise hits the palace took during the opening days of the war. Makes me wonder what kind of intelligence we had to know where to hit each palace, instead of just flattening the whole thing. Pretty cool. The palace is now the host to many offices for some of our army guys.

While working on the Baghdad Police College campus, we occasionally like to stop at the campus bakery. The bread they make is excellent. The easiest way to describe it is pizza crust. They cook it in a large stone oven. I found out they had never heard of eating it with honey. Well, I have to leave my mark somehow. So this week I brought some honey. It was a big hit. It seemed to break the ice with a few more of the guys there. Now they want me to come back whenever I want and to take a bagfull of bread each time. Next time I will take some of our sweet rolls from the chow hall to share with them. I think those will be an even bigger hit. It's my way of saying thanks to them for sharing their bread with me. But mostly I want them to know that not all Americans are arrogant snobs. That is the impression many Iraqis have. They also watch alot of American movies, so they think they have a real good idea of what America is like. Family is a huge topic over here. So after showing my family photo, one of the guys wants to come over to marry my daughter. All I have to do is promise her to him. Haha. She would kick my butt and then his. He lost interest when I told him how much a plane ticket cost and that she would have to accept him first. He changed the subject.

I work with a small contingent of Danish Police. I really enjoy working with them. They tell me they have over fifty percent income tax. How sad. More than half of what they make is taken from them. One day we will wake up and ask where did our freedoms and our hard earned money go? Well, it was redistributed. The government decided for you that you don't need it. It will be taken and given to someone else.
I am a Patriot. I cannot sit quietly any longer.
If you don't like what you read here, don't come back.

"A government that is big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have"~ Thomas Jefferson

Friday, 26 February 2010

Location: Baghdad, Iraq

Jet lag:

Time really does fly when you are having fun. I love to walk up the hallway in the airport and see the family waiting for me. My heart is racing, my hands are sweating and then there they are. I got in around noon and early the next morning Melody and I were on the way to the Mexican Riviera. That was six days of bliss. We stayed at a place called Secrets Maroma. Check it out on the web. It was perfect! We were very pleased, it could not have been better. Then it was over. I think we were robbed of a day or two. How could it be over already? We never left the resort except for a half day of deep sea fishing (just me). We hung out on the fantastic beach or beautiful pool, then eat and do it again. We were treated like royalty. The water is so clear and the sand stayed cool to the touch all day. I remember telling myself several times a day, "enjoy this moment".
My vacation in November was 27 days. This one was 12. My next will be 13. I should have split them up more evenly. I didn't think that through. It has taken my body over a week to catch up to the time zone I'm in now. Once back to Baghdad, I hit the ground running with work. I was waking up at 3 am, my body telling me I should be up. Then around 2-3 pm my body would want to collapse. I was exhausted.
I seem to be back in my groove and am enjoying my work. I enjoy visiting the Generals and drinking the heavily sweetened chai tea. Never forget to make small talk first. Family, weather, family, life in America, family etc... It has rained off and on all day today making for a very muddy walk around the base.
On the way out to go home, I flew into Dubai. With a 8 hour layover, I decided to take a cab to the Mall of Emerates. It is a very large Mall, 3 times the size of our biggest in town. It even has a indoor ski slope. While it was 78 degrees outside, people were inside wearing ski suits pulling kids on sleds, riding up the slope on the lift, and skiing or snowboarding down a very long slope. I was mesmerized by it all. I took way too many pictures. The rest of the mall was too much for me to handle after being on the small base. It was too big with too many people moving around me. The stores were very pricey, kinda like Rodeo Drive. I've never seen so many bars of gold for sale. They were everywhere. Almost everyone I heard was speaking english. It must be the latest greatest place for the rich to vacation. I also took some pictures of the worlds tallest building. I thought about taking the cab over to see about riding to the top. That thought lasted about three seconds. I hate hights. Back to the airport instead.
Being home for two days was a whirlwind. I was literally planning every hour of those two days. Too much to do in too little time.

I watch a little of the olympics, but too tired to watch much. Hopefully we win the gold in hockey tonight. I won't know until I wake up.

Looking forward to going back to work at home. I miss my friends and co-workers. We have it good at home regardless of budget shortfalls. Two-thirds of the way there. Time is a flyin. You were right Greg.
(pics attached)

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Recent Messages

We pray for you daily that you are far from the idiots . I have to tell you about the bear. We were watching the evening news when this big shaggy hair cinnamon color bear come meandering down the road . I think to get my camera but don\'t know where it\'s at. The bear goes behind the garage so we believe it\'s going to the dumpster . So we grab our coats and go out to watch it . As I go around the back corner of the garage there is the bear coming around the same corner. Surprise Surprise. So there we are about six feet apart . I shout and raise my arm , the bear just turns around and lumbers off going on down the road and gets a drink out of a water puddle in the road. Then goes on down into the woods. Then I remember I could have taken pictures with the cell phone. Oh well it was neat. Last week end I took Jacob fishing up to wagon tongue . Only caught one fish , but had a good time . Jacob tuned the truck radio to country western music, whats that boy been doing any way? Come to think of it thats what i listened to when I was his age. Love you and praying for you.
From Mom & Dad McMurtry
Hi Todd, Its getting warm here also. Should be 32 or 34 today, but we only received 2 inches of snow last night. Our church is growing we had 165 last Sunday. Thaats a lot better then the 20 we had in services back in May of 05. We ( Golden Bell) is creating a wilderness camping area. With some nice rest rooms. Cyril Smith gave the camp a nice elk mount to hang on the entrance way. Carolyn and I are looking forward to hanging that quadruped head , that you kill with an arrow,on the side of my garage. Take care of yourself we love and miss you and pray for you daily. M&D McMurtry
From Carolyn & Gaylon
Hi Todd , remember we are praying for you and your family all the time and are always in our thoughts. love . Lots of changes going on up here at Golden Bell. Better get all the oxygen you can down there cause the air up here is thin. Take care .Love. Mom an dad.
From Gaylon
Hi Todd, what a fantastic trip we just had to Port Aranasas and our church project . I caught 3 of those big red drum fish in the ocean at the very end of the jetty and then a 25lb carp at lake whitney. Jacob was impressed. We had a very nice Easter dinner with your family. Roy and Amber are both studying for their EMT ( roy let his lapse) so they kept us laughing telling us some of the dumb things the other people do and say trying to impress themselves. Todd we keep you in our prayers all the time , and remember to stay away from the embassies. love Carolyn and Gaylon
Response: Can\'t wait to see the pictures of the fish!
From Sheryl Sutter
Hi Todd,
I am looking forward to hearing about your vacation with Melody. I talked to Carolyn the other day and she said Josh is joining the military. I just can't believe he is that old. I remember him as a little boy and now he is a young adult. Wow. A lot of snow in the east and rain in the west. We have had some rain but not like southern California.
Well, better sign off for now.
Prayers and Love,
Aunt Sheryl

From Aunt Sheryl
Hi, I am so proud of you and pray for your safety everyday. I am happy to hear you are going to spend time with Melody. You are right she deserves a break too. I know how much it means to enjoy each other because when Ed was in Korea for a year I cherished the time we had together when he would come home on leave and when I went to see him in Korea for a few weeks. God Bless you Todd.
Come home safe. Love ya, Aunt Sheryl & Uncle Ed
From Lori
Hey Todd!
Congrats on the getting the position that you wanted. I'm sure it will make a 'difficult' time go a little faster doing something that you really wanted to do. Stay safe and know that everyone back here is thinking about you all the time.
From Mom & Dad
HAPPY NEW YEAR! We love you & miss you!
From Mitch Lincoln
Merry Christmas Todd!
Stay Safe

From Glen S.
Hey Todd ... MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!! May the Lord continue to protect you and give you strength on your mission. We are having a white Christmas this year .. but with it comes very cold temps and wind. HA! Blessings!!
From Kecia C.
That's quite the bathroom. Do they use it like that or is it "out of order" Becareful over there and keep the pictures coming
From Gaylon
Hi, Todd it's always nice to be far enough from the explosion to say "what was that !! " . One of el paso deputies was hurt and is the hospital. David Yarbrough was hit by an SUV at Powers and Grinnl road. We are doing a lot of remodeling here at the lodge. Yesterday there were 24 workers there in the fireside lounge tearing the sheet rock off the ceiling ( that I helped put up many years ago) and the carpet off the floor. We will put a drop ceiling up and new carpet on the floor. I cooked breakfast and lunch for the volunteers. Of course I was told there would be 15 to cook for , then 24 showed up . I was husteling then trying to get more food ready in time for them to get work right away. Oh well every one enjoyed what I gave them for lunch . Prime rib and baked potato and lots of pie. Take care of yourself Todd we love you and pray for you daily. Carolyn and Gaylon
From Sheryl Sutter
Hi Todd.
I am glad you had a good visit with family. We are praying for your safety. When do you come home for good? I think I remember Carolyn saying you are coming home for Josh's graduation in June?
Take care and Merry Christmas.
God Bless,
Aunt Sheryl & Uncle Ed
From Glen S.
Wow, i can't believe that you are back in Iraq, that was very short. Between the snow storms and my filling in for Julie, i think i only saw you 1-2 times at church (my fault - not yours). Hope all goes well ... praying 4 U!
From Sheryl Sutter
I am glad you are home safe for the holiday. God Bless you!!
Take care.
Love ya,
Aunt Sheryl & Uncle Ed
From Samantha
Hi Uncle Todd. Just wanted to say hi and let you know I am thinking about you. Stay Safe! Love Ya!
From Gre g
Hey, when are you going to be back in the US?

And you are totally right about the smells, it's something that never really leaves you...
From Becki
Hey, Happy Belated Birthday!

Stay safe and you are in our prayers!
Response: Thank-you Becky.
From Mom & Dad
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SON!! Hope you are having a "quiet" but good day! We love you!
Response: Thanks, love you too.
From Betsy H.
Hey Todd,
Wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday!! We miss you!!
Be safe!!
Response: Thank-you Betsy.
From gaylon
Hi Todd: i see in the paper you had a cold night the other day, only 98 degrees. We are getting snow and only 25 degrees, but the school group here at camp are still using the kayaks. I took Jacob fishing a couple time but with his busy schedule it's difficult to go often. Carolyn and I pray for you daily. Keep up the good work.
Response: Thanks for taking Jake fishing. I know he loves it. Wishin I wuz fishin.
From Mom
Hi Son! We can hardly wait for November as well! Looking forward to seeing you and knowing you are safe for a while again. Miss you and enjoy chatting with you periodically. Take care and I love you!
From Lori
Hey Todd!

Have a mentioned how proud I am of you? And how thankful I am that there are dedicated Americans like you doing the job you're doing to keep our country free? Even tho you may not hear from me every day...I THANK YOU each and every day and think about you and every other person that do the difficult jobs to keep our America free.
Stay safe!
Response: WOW! Thank-you so much. My heart needed that. A boost to keep me going.
From Deb
Is it still pretty warm there? When does it start cooling down? Hang in there and thanks for the posts.
Response: It hit 106 today. The nights are nice at the mid 80's. Slowly starting to get cooler.