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Letters from Capt. Kuwik Photo Gallery

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Photos from December 21, 2005

Photos from December 2, 2005

Photos from October 31, 2005

On Oct. 23, 2004, Ohio University assistant basketball coach Kevin Kuwik reported to Fort Sill, Okla., to begin his 18-month service as an Army engineer captain as part of the President's orders to mobilize Operation Iraqi Freedom. In January of 2005, he was deployed to Mosul, Iraq.

A shot inside the barracks I stayed in. As you can see, very colorfully decorated. Even though getting up at 5 am might make some worry about oversleeping, the mattresses pretty much guarantee you'll wake up every 1-2 hours.

A picture of me in front of my bed and wall locker. Oh yeah, you can see the results of my first military haircut in a while - I forgot how they don't let you look in the mirror until after your hair is cut (a little unnerving).

A picture of the firing line at the M16 range. You can see the concrete foxholes on the left and you can see the targets downrange to the right. We were required to fire with body armor on per SOP for the Middle East.

A picture over the soldier of one of the firers. You can see the various-sized silhouettes simulating targets at different distances.

You've heard of action shots. This is an 'inaction' shot of my group waiting around during one of the administrative inprocessing stations - plenty of good old 'hurry up and wait' in the army. To my right is SSG O'Donnell from central NY, SGT Malena from Florida, and CPT Elliott from Pennsylvania.

As a frame of reference, here is a picture of Morelli Heights, where I stayed for 5 months back in 1996 when I came to Fort Leonard Wood for the Engineer Officer Basic Course. It was just like a brand new hotel - each room had a kitchenette, full bath, desk, armchair, and maid service everyday to boot.

Here is Building 1260, where I am living with the other male officers. There are probably 50 beds in there but right now there are only 5 of us. Directly through the door is a stairway to the 2nd floor, where I am staying. There are 2 private rooms at the top of the stairs and the rest is an open bay with bunk beds.

A lovely shot of the bathroom. Notice the immaculate floor, top-of-the-line light fixtures, high-end sink, and fresh paint job. I really like how they tied the shower opening into the room's layout as well.

I was lucky enough to score this corner suite. A comfy mattress, small chest, and a wall locker is all mine. I hope that you find the painting scheme as eclectic as I do. All kidding aside, while I am hardly living in luxury, there a lot of people in the service doing a lot worse than this, so let's appreciate things being bearable while they still are.

My parents came out to Camp Atterbury to see me before they took off. As you can see, I get my good looks from my mom. I've said this before but hopefully this will be the last time I am ever in green camouflage (as we wear desert camouflage out here)!

A picture of our unit loading up the busses at Camp Atterbury bright and early Saturday morning. It started to sink in what we were doing when our busses received a police escort.

A picture of yours truly in his desert camouflage for the first time. Who wouldn't be intimidated?

If the last picture wasn't enough, here's one of (L to R) Specialist Masters with his M249 SAW machine gun, myself with my M4 Carbine, and Specialist Clabbers with his M249 SAW machine gun also. These are two of our most high-speed soldiers in Headquarters Company, so I figure they would make for pretty good bodyguards and I plan on staying pretty close to them!

Here is a good picture of our unit loading up the ATA plane. I was a little worried with ATA going bye-bye that they might try to skimp on fuel a bit, but thankfully we made it. That being said, being on a plane for 15 hours was torture.

A picture of the mess facility (basically inside a hanger) where we ate at the first night. Nice Christmas decorations, great food, and how can I forget that cooler of non-alcoholic beer (affectionately known as near beer by the troops).

When we arrived at our camp, we had to offload all our duffel bags and rucksacks. Here you can see one of the lovely 60-man tents we are staying in. And yes, it gets VERY dark in the middle of the desert.

How about that - somehow an 8-iron and golf balls found their way into someone's duffel bag. Here I am resting in the sun (not much of that back in Ohio and Buffalo I'm sure) after quite a few swings. If you play with me when I get back to the States and it looks like I'm trying to hit into the sand, it will be because I've had plenty of practice there over the next 12 months!

Here's a look at suburban living in Kuwait - the tent city that my unit is staying in. The camp is basically circled by a large sand berm with wire around it and with clusters of tents like this one spread around it. You can see the wooden doorways (only about five feet high so plenty of head-bumping going on), the portable light sets, the port-o-potties (imagine using those for a whole year - can't wait for some porcelain again!), and if you look closely, the white things on the outskirts are large pallets of bottled water - I've never drank so much water in my life.

Inside the tent I am staying in which holds up to 60 - as you can see, fully furnished and comes with well insulated walls, nicely-carpeted floors and plenty of windows for natural light. Actually, the plywood floors are a bit of a luxury compared to gravel or just plain old sand. You can see the heating unit and my lovely cot - probably the eighth or ninth different bed (if you call it that) that I've slept on in the last two months and you better believe my back is really enjoying that. Actually, the sleeping bags that we are issued are very warm and a big improvement over what we used to have.

Some of our equipment which was shipped by sea starts to roll in - here's a look at one of our portable bridges as well as a few tracked tow trucks.

Our mechanics stand up on the vehicle waiting for our main convoy to enter camp. They worked until about midnight on the 23rd downloading and parking all our equipment.

A look at our convoy as it starts to roll into the camp. There are few things as impressive as 30-40 military vehicles rolling down the road.

A picture of yours truly and one of our squared away (some military lingo meaning very competent) NCOs, Sergeant First Class Patterson, taken just 20 feet or so away from our flock of grazing camels - the deer crossing signs we see back in the U.S. are replaced by camel crossing signs here. They definitely don't move like deer and they definitely can do a lot more damage to your car than a deer can!

This is a picture of my boss, Major Hines, taken during our test fire. A lot of the senior leadership as well as the medics carry nine-millimeter pistols instead of the longer carbines or rifles that the rest of us carry. As you can see, we are in the middle of nowhere (does that mean Athens is close by? I hope!).

Private Jarboe and Sergeant Gronek show off the spacious interior of one of our armored personnel carriers - basically a metal shoe box with tracks on it.

Corporal Gordon displays one of our menacing 50-caliber machine guns mounted on one of those armored personnel carriers - these things can really reach out and touch someone.

One of our convoys lined up and ready to head up to Iraq.

Inside the C-130 that we flew up in - you can see Sergeant First Class Brownson and Second Lieutenant Sutton enjoying the very comfortable seating that the Air Force is famous for. No complimentary beverage service on this plane, that's for sure!

Here it is - the residence of your dreams. My Container Housing Unit (CHU for short), 140 square feet of heaven on earth. If I ever have time to get settled in, you might be lucky enough to see the inside sometime.

Worried about mortar rounds? Never fear. Sprinkled throughout our living area are these sandbagged concrete bunkers that offer just a little more protection than our sturdy aluminum units.

Looking to add on to the back of your place? How about one of these lovely shower or bathroom trailers? Unfortunately the lovely aromas aren't included. We have six in our living area - two bathroom units and two shower units for the males and one of each for the females.

The inside of one of the bathroom units. An interior decorator's dream.

The inside of a shower unit. Like I said before - one every two days is all I can handle.

An action shot of Staff Sergeant Rodriguez posing in front of one of the imposing Stryker vehicles, the latest and greatest in Army technology.

Here's our high-speed commo team - responsible for everything from our radios to computers - from left to right, Sergeant First Class Pizarek, Specialist Reimer, Specialist Mackey, Specialist Carrera, Specialist Byrd, and Lieutenant Boyles.

Walking in a winter wonderland... in Mosul? Not exactly but I guess I'll take the snow over the mud. In a month or two, when we get some serious heat here, we'll probably be wishing for some rain or snow.

Yours truly posing with the snowflakes - notice a little bit of accumulation on the HMMWV (the military equivalent of the Hummer). Probably the last time Mosul will see some of this stuff and I certainly hope I'm not around the next time to see it in person.

Waiting to head out to the range - (from L to R) - Sergeant Miller, Specialist Castro, Sergeant Hausenfleck, Specialist Culp, Specialist Rumph.

Our S-1 section is responsible for personnel issues - Specialist Clabbers, Staff Sergeant Ronay, Sergeant Defries. Sergeant First Class Scott is in the truck and clearly they are not listening to him (Just kidding!).

Our mechanics getting ready to burn some ammunition - Specialist Fancher, Specialist Koch, Sergeant Phillips, and Specialist Kiger.

A view of the range that we test fired at.

The armored personnel carriers that our sappers move around in. Notice the mammoth 50-caliber machine gun in the track on the left - that baby can reach out and touch someone.

Specialist Koch demonstrates perfect technique.

Yours truly locks in - no, they did not paste a Miami RedHawk poster on the target.

One of the bridges that we got stuck at about 0200 in the morning - that will give you a bad attitude fast!

Our M88 tracked recovery vehicle. Believe me from experience - that winch cable you see in front is a pain to unwind. You can see the bridge on the tank-like chassis in the background.

Sergeant Miller positions the M88 to drag the bridge out of the mudhole that it is stuck in. Notice the firm, well-draining soil (not quite!). Also notice all the daylight - five hours after that bridge originally got stuck. You can also see the evidence of the M88 getting stuck by the mud in its tracks - not exactly the way we drew this recovery plan up!

An aerial shot of our living area - as you can see, there are a handful of satellite dishes that some have purchased to make things just a little more like home.

The other half of our living area - lots of concrete to hopefully provide us with a little extra protection.

Here's our day crew in the TOC manning the radios - from L to R - Specialist Evanauskas, Sergeant Blackford and Sergeant First Class Spann. These guys make my job go super smoothly by taking care of all the little issues that come up day-to-day.

Here I am sitting at the battle captain's desk - in the background you can vaguely make out the Bobcats' schedule and a banner from Truman Elementary School where my mom is a first grade teacher.

I spent some time in the motorpool today where we try to help our vehicles cope with these less-than-ideal dusty conditions - here you see a few HMMWV's getting loaded up on a trailer.

With the maintenance tent in the background, here is some of our equipment that needs just a little extra TLC.

Our TOC sits inside of this concrete structure. The unit before us had a mortar round strike the roof of the TOC so they contracted to have the concrete enclosure built. Nothing's 100% but it definitely is not the worst place to be working. You can also see a few palm trees we acquired to give the place a more tropical feel.

Obviously body armor has been a huge issue in the news - do not fear, we have it - it definitely is a workout having to lug this all around but it is well worth it.

An inside shot of my living trailer from the back of it - I live by myself and have a bunk bed, locker, desk and a few chairs. I've been posting up the letters I get on the wall - a good reminder of everyone thinking of me back home and helping me stay strong.

The view from the front of my trailer - we live in blackout conditions so that's a garbage bag over my window. I highly recommend the woodland camouflage pattern for anyone redoing their bedroom.

I can't say enough about how appreciative I am of how everyone reached out to welcome me back - the phone calls, emails, pats on the back - here is a sign in the windows of Ohio's College of Business in Copeland Hall - thanks to Rochelle Lawless and company for this one.

The view from the end of the bench - considerably less pressure down there, although I did get a few dirty looks from the referees!

Here I am pacing the sideline during the MAC Championship Game.

It doesn't get much sweeter than this - I'd stay in Iraq if it meant I could come home and do this every March (not really!).

Appearing on ESPN2's Cold Pizza was definitely a highlight for me.

While I am not really one to say no to people and definitely am not bashful about talking to anyone, the media crush was definitely uncomfortable to say the least.

Part of our championship team getting on the University's charter plane to fly to Nashville - (from L to R) Sonny Troutman, Leon Williams, Jeremy Fears, Matt Annen and Terren Harbut.

During the hours before the game, I just sat on the bench taking in all the sights and sounds, as I knew these memories were going to have to tide me over for a while.

With his picture-perfect jump shot, Mychal Green led us with 24 points against Florida. As good as a player as he is, he is even a better student and person.

Yours truly on guard duty checking out the view from Tower 36.

One more shot of me in the tower - feeling like the Pillsbury Dough Boy or Michelin Man with all that body armor on.

Here I am displaying my 25th Infantry Division Tropic Lightning patch after the ceremony. The outline of the terra leaf represents the unit's home in Hawaii and the lightning bolt reflects the unit nickname earned fighting the Japanese island by island back across the Pacific Ocean in World War II.

The 113th Engineer Battalion, led by Lieutenant Colonel Richard Shatto and Command Segreant Major Larry Smith, stand in formation ready to officially be awarded the 25th ID combat patch.

I stand in formation as Lieutenant Colonel Shatto approaches to hand me my patch.

Your small-town Iraqi police station. I know, they didn't get the memo about uniforms yet. We replaced the outer row of three-foot-high barriers with a wall of 12-foot-high barriers to protect the station from vehicle-borne bombs and indirect fire.

Our bucket loader moves some concrete barriers out of the way - our unit has probably emplaced over 2,500 concrete barriers in the three months we've been here.

A picture of me and our interpreter - code name Yan - in front of an old war-torn agricultural college that our forces now use as a combat outpost.

Our interpreter and Staff Sergeant Delgadillo go over the plans for the barrier wall with the town's police chief.

Trying to get my newfound friend Ahmed to look at the camera and wave at the same time as me. A futile effort but fun nonetheless. I hope that our efforts make Iraq a better place when Ahmed is an adult.

My Mother's Day card to my mom - hopefully this is the last time I have to do one like this!!

Specialist Cribari, one of our ace equipment operators, poses in front of the IRONMAN LINE, validating that this section meets the height requirement.

One of our brand new up-armored Hummvee's (the ones that I told you that you need to pour water on the engine when they stall). Notice the machine gunner's creative way of trying to keep his turret a little cooler.

One of our dozers working on the IRONMAN LINE.

A good picture of some of the items we found in the underground cache. The other reason that the guys love finding this stuff is that they get to blow it up to get rid of it. Boom!

One of our best squad leaders, Staff Sergeant Joy, takes a turn up in the turret on the 50-caliber machine gun.

Some of my fellow captains and I during one of the reconnaissance missions that we did to determine where we were going to put the IRONMAN LINE. From left to right, Captain Jack Crevistion, Captain Joe Cuadra, yours truly, Captain Mike Daake, and Captain John Pitt. Conventional wisdom is that usually it only takes one officer to mess things up so you can imagine the potential for disaster with this crew (Just kidding!).

Here you go - another rendition of the Army engineers' castle that turned out to be quite the lucky charm for the Bobcats this year. This one adorns our TOC and was painted by SPC Marshall, one of our radio operators.

We arrive on our goodwill mission at the police station two days after the blast. Notice the charred side of the building where the truck with the suicide bomber pulled up.

A better look at the damage done to the structure as well as to the adjacent building.

How much more ironic can you get?!? One of the infantry battalions that we support here in Mosul is the Bobcats! I had to get this picture in front of one of their signs. And oh yes - those are my $120 Ray-bans. And no, they do not have cool air-blowing jets in them.

Two of our welders, SPC Lathrup and SPC Dinga, try to beat the heat in the motorpool. SPC Dinga has promised me he will be at our next game at Ball State.

Sergeant Socks and Specialist Marshall chill out at the Entry Control Point to our battalion area. They are responsible for searching any vehicles that enter our area, which basically results in some long hours of sitting around - in this case they are reading Trivial Pursuit cards to each other.

In trying to beat the heat, this camouflage netting comes up big in our living area to create some shade and perhaps make the air feel like 100 degrees instead of 110.

A glimpse at our new Dining Facility, surrounded by concrete Texas barriers. It is dedicated to the memory of the soldiers and civilians killed in the explosion at the old Dining Facility here at our base.

A picture of me with a couple of Iraqi police in their rooftop fighting position. It's nice to feel tall for a change.

Our gun trucks lined up to go out on a mission.

Specialist Alfaro cleans up his windshield in preparation for the mission.

Sergeant First Class Patterson (with the clipboard in hand) gives the convoy brief prior to departing. The convoy brief contains all the critical information for the movement including the routes, possible danger spots along them, communications information and procedures to be followed in the event of various contingencies.

Our commander, Lieutenant Colonel Shatto, gives instructions to Jane Araf and her cameraman prior to departing.

A key position for the convoy movement is that of the gunner. Here Specialist Koch is up in the turret with his 50-caliber machine gun all mounted and ready to go.

The children stand in line waiting to be examined. A few of them are definitely not camera-shy.

Specialist Jirtle cradles one of the babies.

A young girl smiles for the camera. The barrel of the rifle next to her is a stark reminder of what else is going on here in Mosul.

PFC Moses uses the stethoscope to examine this young patient.

Here I am proudly sporting my Ohio Basketball t-shirt and my Yankees hat with the mountains as the backdrop. To be honest, the greatest thing about this weekend was being able to wear civilian clothes for a change. Other than that, it is my Desert Camouflage uniform or my Army PT (Physical Training) uniform ALL the time. Gets old fast.

The view out the gunner's hatch in the Black Hawk with the mountains in the background. That is a 50-caliber machine gun you are looking at, its twin brother is hanging out on the other side of the bird.

Here we are loading up the chopper to go home. It's amazing how many people they can squeeze in there.

One of the scenic views from the bird - all that water and absolutely no greenery. What a country!

The view of our hotel from the boat. Not exactly the Ritz Carlton but it was comfortable and relaxing.

The Black Hawks on the ground after safely delivering us to our location.

From L to R, Sergeant Grauvogl, Sergeant Furman, Staff Sergeant Blackford, and Sergeant First Class Stone trade war stories (not to be confused with big fish stories) in the TOC.

Here's work at our combat outpost in the middle of the night, as the soldiers cut rebar off these concrete walls so that they can lay wooden decking over the metal living container that the Iraqi soldiers will inhabit. The wooden decking will support three layers of sandbags which serve as protection from mortar fire.

The M113A2 armored personnel carrier (not to be confused with the Model T) that I cruised around the base in the other day.

Just to give you a feel for the spacious interior of these shoeboxes on tracks, here is Specialist Kalina hunched in there setting up the radios.

Yours truly getting geared up in the turret to break the speed of sound (not quite) in the M113A2. The helmets are set up with a headset and microphone so that I can talk to Specialist Kalina while he is driving.

My buddy, Karem, and I - he was the one I hooked up with a tootsie pop and he in turn hooked me up by telling seemingly every other kid in the town!

The Iraqi police in one of their pick-up trucks - sardines are probably more comfortable in the can!

Here I am with one of the more on-the-ball looking Iraqi policemen.

Some of the soldiers play around with the kids and the soccer ball (yes, these kids do love to get their picture taken).

Qara Qosh is an Assyrian Christian town - here is one of the churches. Besides churches, the other evidence of Christianity is all the liquor stores.

Some of the locals relaxing along the street for their midday tea. I still haven't exactly figured out what the work schedule (or school schedule, for that matter) is around here.

One of the little girls I met in town, I think I frightened her half to death.

Should have given her the sucker before we took the picture!

The Holy Grail!!! Sorry, I'm going to have to wait a few more months - now I know how camels feel!

A great picture of some Iraqi children clowning around and having fun (I do wonder if they actually do go to school however!). Hopefully our efforts will lead to a better future for them and their children.

Here I am posing with a few of the kids. Note the boy to the far right is the mayor's son I mentioned in this entry and by his pose, you definitely can see that he acts like he is twelve going on forty!