Washington, D.C. – During the first week of the March 2005 Congressional work period U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi traveled more than a thousand miles in Wyoming meeting with residents. During the second and final week he traveled thousands of miles to and through Africa and the Middle East where he also met with Wyoming residents in addition to world leaders.
The Wyoming residents Sen. Enzi met with overseas are serving our country in Iraq as part of the U.S. armed forces. The senator also met with military officials and Iraqi leaders in Fallujah and Tikrit before traveling to Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Turkey.
Sen. Enzi kept an informal journal during his overseas trip where he tells of “candy bombs”, Iraqi troop training, palaces, AIDS, Sept. 11, eucalyptus forests, child abduction, prayer and more.
Iraq, Jordan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Turkey trip report
U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi
March 29-April 2, 2005
Tuesday, March 29th Senator Inhofe and his wife Kay, Congressman Boozman (pronounced like Bozeman MT) and his wife Cathy, Diana and I left for Jordan. Wendy Gnehm who is my expert on military and foreign affairs issues was also on the trip as well as staff for the other members and trip coordinators. We were in seven countries in five days which included a day each way to get there and back to the U.S. We were in two of the countries twice, three cities in Iraq, and two cities in Uganda. We don’t get to see much of any country, but meet many of the leaders of each country.
On the way, we stopped for an hour in Ireland to refuel. We arrived in Jordan at 6:30 am after 20 hours of travel (counting time changes). The two senators, the congressman and those staff with security clearances were transferred to a C-130 cargo plane and flown to Baghdad. Halfway there the pilots, engineer, navigator and quartermaster put on flack jackets with armor and helmets. We were in a holding pattern for over an hour before we could land. We taxied a couple of miles after we were on the ground. Once off the plane, we were fitted with chest armor that felt like it was made of concrete.
All day, we were loaded in separate vehicles and climbed into separate helicopters. We flew to Fallujah where the greatest insurgency has been. We flew low enough we had to go up and then back down to get over power lines. My helicopter had two door gunners who kept aiming their weapons at potential targets. Two gunships flew on either side of us. We flew over Abu Ghraib prison (see right) which was attacked by insurgents three days after we were in the area. Forty-four U.S. troops were wounded in that attack.
At Camp Fallujah, we were loaded into Humvees. The driver explained how the convoy would work and gave safety instructions. The bullet-proof windows had to be up at all times (he didn't explain the bullet hole in the front windshield). In case the vehicle died I had to reach the tow strap behind me so we could hook up and be jerked out of the situation. I was shown where the anti-tank gun was so I could hand that to the gunner in the turret and was shown how to pass ammunition canisters to him if he started shooting.
We drove to the mess hall and met with Marines from Wyoming. I had a pleasant lunch with CPL Dustin Houghton of Powell, LCPL David Dudrey of Cheyenne and CPL Abram Hansen of Lander. (see left) The mess hall had good food and variety. It’s great to see the dedication and enthusiasm they showed.
The base has hundreds of eight foot tall concrete barriers and miles of 10 foot high dirt berms to protect the soldiers on base at the various work and maintenance sites.
We got back in the Humvees and rode into the center of town. The damage to buildings was very evident. (see right) Resistance forces should see why there is relatively little loss of life by U.S. troops. Hiding in a building and waiting for a target was not healthy for the enemy. Our troops did not have to enter the building to clear it of enemy.
We went to secured buildings and met with Fallujah community leaders. We met with an Imam, two tribal Shieks, the person who was deputy mayor from before the battle, and the Iraqi police general. They welcomed us in the name of Allah, the one God. They mentioned several times that they did not approve of the insurgents and could not get them to leave and were glad the U.S. was able to get them. They laid out their complaints. The Iraqi government had only provided $100 million of the $495 million they assessed they would need for the reconstruction. They mentioned the need for the completion of the electrical, water and sewage projects the U.S. is providing. They did seem to indicate those were coming along on schedule. They asked that no women be held as detainees while assuring that the women would not be dangerous. The general updated us on the training efforts of Iraqis to replace American troops. It was encouraging.
We reloaded into the Humvees and went back to the main base where we were shown the evolution of vehicle armor, their mobile fast change tire shop (see left), and the special Humvee engine change-out mobile equipment operation. (see below.)We were given a demonstration of the new Marine medic blood coagulation chemical that takes the water out of the blood and clots a femoral artery in about 15 seconds. The army isn't using it yet because their doctors don't like the heat it generates or the grit left in the wound. The Marines believe it saves lives.
We helicoptered to Tikrit, birthplace of Saddam and town where he was hiding when captured. On the way there, the helo crew, when they saw a lot of children near farms would drop out a soccer ball and a "candy bomb" (a bag filled with candy bars). We saw a lot of excavations done with a backhoe. Pits were dug to 30 feet deep down a ramp. Their shallow water table then hits water that is used to irrigate and turn the desert into green crop land. We also saw dirt-walled gun emplacements built by the Iraqis to protect Tikrit. They didn't work.
Our briefing was in a beautiful palace built by Saddam for one of his daughters.The ceilings were intricately carved. Walls, stairs, bannisters and floors were of exquisite marble. (see left) Once again we learned how the violence from insurgents dropped off dramatically since the elections. One police station had been bombed and 10 people were killed. Twenty Iraqis were wounded. They were immediately replaced by family members who see the importance of their freedom. Insurgents had expected to end policing. Tikrit is also the heart of the Sunni's who are now regretful that they did not vote - but it should be noted that a Sunni was elected governor and lieutenant. They are going to be included in the new government.
I had dinner with two career troops from Cheyenne, SSGT Gregory Rivera and SSGT Robert Stebbins. (see right) We figured out that I probably coached youth soccer against SSGT Rivera, who played for the Cheyenne Sting when he was a kid. They gave me a rundown on a typical day - although a war zone is not typical.
We heloed back to Baghdad, got on a different C130 and flew back to Amman, Jordan. We climbed back onto our plane and flew to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. After clearing customs we got a police escort to our hotel. I thought there must be a curfew since we didn't see another car the whole 22 miles - but it probably was because it was 3 a.m.
In Ethiopia we met with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. We emphasized the need for Africa to form five brigades to stop African insurgencies against democracies. We were able to offer training. I spoke of HIV/AIDS and U.S. support. I congratulated their First Lady as well as our Ambassador, Aurelia Brazeal for their leadership on being publicly tested for AIDS to remove some of the stigma and to encourage testing. I helped draft the AIDS assistance bill and I always emphasized that part of any discussion.
We went to the offices of the African Union, the confederation of African countries. We had a lengthy discussion with Chairperson Alpha oumar Konare, former President of Mali, about African goals and coordination.
We had a lunch with the Ethiopian Parliament Prayer Breakfast group.
The Inhofes went to see the place where their adopted granddaughter had been found after being abandoned and almost dead. She was nursed back to health by a couple we met and then Senator Inhofe's daughter adopted her. The Inhofes are welcomed as African grandparents.
At that same time, Congressman Boozman and I went up the mountain for a wreath laying at the memorial for our 911 tragedy. (see left) September 10 happens to be their new year. To get to the memorial we drove up a four-wheel-drive mountain. We noticed lots of women carrying big bundles of sticks and leaves on their back coming down the mountain. We learned that eucalyptus trees have been taking over their mountains. The trees are green all year which means they drink water all year and take nutrients out of the soil. All the springs on the mountain had dried up. They are cutting down all the eucalyptus trees and replacing them with indigenous trees - and the springs are coming back. Women make four trips a day to the top of the mountain and carry down 40-pound, eight-foot long bundles to sell for eight Birr (about $1 American) each load. That makes them very high in the economy but looking old before their time. Many are barefoot. None have substantial shoes. It was amazing and incomprehensible without seeing it. After a full day we flew to Entebbe, Uganda.
On the plane and in the evenings we had notebooks to study for the next meetings. They include biographies of the people we will meet, maps and history of the country and other useful information.
At the hotel, the power went off at irregular intervals.
While Senator Inhofe met with President Musaveni, I hosted a prayer breakfast with their Parliament Prayer Breakfast Group. (see right) I talked about our weekly meeting, how we proceed, our prayer list that provides for each of us to pray by name for each senator and spouse. It is set up so we pray for 1/5 each weekday, so all are covered each week with the premise that you can't pray for someone by name and then do evil to him or her. I talked about the Thomas Jefferson Bible that just covers the teachings of Jesus. The teachings of Jesus are recognized by all major religions and are uniting principles with no violence.
We boarded the plane with several people from Uganda and our embassy. We flew to Gulu, Uganda, the site of many children abductions by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). (see lower left) The children are then forced to kill brutally to desensitize them and then become the army. The girls abducted are given as prizes to the commanders. The girls often have babies and contract AIDS. We visited a facility that reconditions the children when they escape or are freed when their captors are captured. We saw the freed combatants and the young girls who are already mothers. We met the three U.S. college students who made people aware of the plight by filming it in a documentary called “The Invisible Children” that we had watched. (see right) Man's inhumanity to man is unbelievable - even after you see and hear about it.
We flew the government people back to Entebbe and flew on to Tanzania. We were greeted by several of the people Diana and I had met on our previous Madagascar prayer trip. We met with the defense minister, then the leader of the opposition party, then the foreign minister who also happens to be the front runner to be the next president. We finished with a meeting with the Parliament Prayer Group and boarded the plane for the seven-hour flight to Turkey - another very full day.
We had breakfast with the troops, Lieutenant Michael Meek of Cowley (left) and Nikki Murphy of Cheyenne (right).
Ambassador Eric Edelman provided a Turkey briefing. (see lower left) He is being appointed by the President to the Dept. of Defense. Ambassador Edelman’s mannerisms remind me of Vice President Cheney.
A novel about us invading Turkey for the borax mines then Turks coming to the US to blow up DC and NY is a best seller and concern of the Turks. Mein Kampf is being sold in huge quantities for just $3. It’s possible its sale is being subsidized in Turkey.
We need to keep arrangements so the kids from other countries can keep going to college in the U.S. They become advocates of democracy and their parents form a better understanding too. It’s a future investment as well.
Turkey is a secular democracy with a majority of citizens who are Muslim. They are not an Islamic republic which would mean a Khomeni fundamentalist type country.
Incirlik AFB- We received a strategic briefing and had a tour of the base while we were waiting for the air crew to be rested to fly us home. We flew from Turkey to Ireland where we refueled and then went on to the U.S. arriving late Saturday night, April 2.