In anticipation of that full repoprt, let me offer a foretaste of how the troops will respond to your thoughtfulness in sending boxes. I have recently been introduced to Jim Bullion, a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, and a veteran of combat in Iraq. When Jim and I met for breakfast a few days ago, he shared with me some of his experiences as a soldier receiving boxes like the ones that are currently winging their way to the Gulf. Jim has been kind enough to offer to share his thoughts with the readers of The White Rhino Report.
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The Box In The Hall
In July I returned from my second tour in Iraq, completing a total of 19 months in-country and 22 months away from home. That time was filled with many amazing – and yes, wonderful - experiences and memories, as well as the ache of separation, the fear of the unknown, and the pain of loss. I lived on the airport terminal floor in Mosul, in tents at Camp Loki, side-by-side with Iraqi neighbors in Irbil, and in a trailer in the Green Zone. The one constant that sticks in my mind is the constant presence of The Box In The Hall.
During most of my time in Iraq, I lived far from the delights of a PX. When I was in Irbil, a run to the PX in Mosul meant getting three or four vehicles together, with two drivers in each, supplemented with 4-6 Kurdish guards for additional security. The first 45 minutes of the run were in Kurdish territory, so there was little to worry about, other than the insane Iraqi drivers for whom there are no rules for passing on a two-lane highway – hills, curves, rough pavement – none of it mattered, and we drove with fingers crossed and our hearts in our throats. When we crossed the Greater Zab River that marked the “Green Line” that had separated Iraqi Kurdistan from the rest of the country for 13 years, everything changed – windows went down, guns were locked and loaded, everyone watched their sector, and we picked up speed to minimize the impact of IEDs that had killed at least three soldiers on this route. By the time we reached the traffic jams of Mosul, our guards were hanging out the back doors of our SUVs, looking for targets – which they sometimes found. It was always a relief to re-cross the Zab going South toward Irbil after one of these runs.
Naturally, taking such risks was hard to justify just to go to the PX (although Copenhagen shortages could just about do it), so these runs were infrequent and only done when there were other reasons to go to the 101st Airborne Division HQ in Mosul, which brings me back to The Box In The Hall.
In the front hallway of our building, there was always at least one cardboard box sent from home, full of the necessities of life that we would otherwise have to get from the Mosul PX – candy, toothbrushes, toothpaste, lip balm, writing paper, note cards, pens and pencils, baby wipes, magazines, CDs, drink mixes (drinking plain water all the time gets old), cookies, foot powder - and so many other little items that made life a little more bearable and, more importantly, reminded us that our fellow Americans were thinking of us. Even during my second tour, living in the Green Zone in Baghdad, with a PX nearby, the Box In The Hall was a comfort and a constant reminder that the folks back home hadn’t forgotten us.
For the many troops for whom a trip to the PX is a rare luxury, The Box In The Hall is a real source of life’s necessities. For all of our troops, it is a warm reminder that their fellow citizens are there beside them.
Another great way to help the war effort is by contributing to www.spiritofamerica.org. Spirit of America works with our units on the ground in Iraq and in Afghanistan to supply items needed by the local civilian populations. The key to defeating an insurgency such as this one is to win the hearts and minds of the people and to convince them that their lives will be better if they support us and the new Iraqi government rather than the insurgents. This process can take place in small ways, such as giving pens, pencils, notebooks, and other items to schools, and in bigger ways, such as supplying equipment to hospitals, uniforms and even fire trucks for Afghan and Iraqi firefighters. Spirit of America is working side-by-side with our troops to show the people that the American people are big-hearted and caring people, with nothing but the best of intentions. A donation to Spirit of America helps show the world that we really are the “good guys.”
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Jim has completed his most recent deployment in Iraq, and is weighing options for his next career move in the business world. Jim is an accomplished senior executive with an MBA from Dartmouth's prestigious Tuck Business School. His background has given him expertise in a variety of leadership disciplines, and has given him broad exposure to responsibilities in general management, corporate development, marketing, international business development. Based on my read of Jim as an individual and as a professional, he would make an outstanding Chief of Staff in support of a CEO or Chairman of the Board for a Boston-based firm with an international reach or aspirations of international reach. His recent leadership roles in nation-building in Iraq have only added to his already impressive list of credentials and tools. I invite and challenge readers of this Blog to join me in helping this decorated combat veteran to find his next leadership role within the business world. Contact me if you would like an opportunity to review Jim's resume and to meet with him.