About Jack

Jack is really a storyteller, international explorer, and humanitarian and everything else rolls out from there. As a writer, its what he does.  As a trial lawyer, its his most important tool.  As a former CIA officer, the only way to truly motivate people is to connect and to tell them a story that they can feel viscerally.  As a media analyst, what better way to make a point.  In the end, he tries to captivate his audience about the world and its people as much as he himself is captivated. 

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My First View of Iraq

March 5, 2006
5:17 a.m. Local Time
Somewhere Over Iraq

We are flying over Iraq and I am looking out my little porthole and watching the sun rise from 30,000 feet. Black earth with the occasional light ing is below me. In the distance, I can see red/orange as a bright line against the blackness. Then, the color of fire slowly fades into yellows, greens and blues. It is stunning.

It is also very surreal and strangely peaceful. I guess because of what I know that is happening in the blackness, in Iraq.

I must admit, this is my first vision of Iraq and it is not what I expected. I guess . . . if the world were so simple. Sadly, it is not.

I expect to land soon in Kuwait. And on to another day.

Why I am Here and When We Finally Leave

March 4, 2006
9:30 p.m. Local Time
Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany

We sit on the runway at Ramstein Air Force Base waiting to have the plane de-iced. I suspect that our entire planeload of people are dubious as to whether we will ever leave Germany. As I sit next to SSgt Luis Nazarrio, an Air Traffice Controller out of Puerto Rico, I look out the small oval window of the plane.
Across the tarmac, and through the snow, I can just make out the shapes of two dark C-17 Globemasters, very large planes. They are illuminated from behind so I only really see them in sillouette. A de-cing truck is making a valiant effort to clear the wings of one of those planes.

Our captain's voice breaks into my thoughts, this time to tell us that we are again being delayed. A groan comes from the troops and from yours truly. We are all very frustrated. You know, hurry up and wait.

The Captain then refers us all to the C-17's I have been looking at out the window.

Both planes are medivac flights preparing to fly directly into Baghdad to bring injured troops back to Ramstein which has a great hospital.

And with that knowledge, we are all silent. And I guess a little more of the reality of this trip comes into view.

We finally leave German airspace at approximately 11:45 p.m. local time, almost two hours after the airport is supposed to close. They have apparently taken pity upon us.

Auf Weidersehn Deutschland! But I still am thinking about those two C-17's and their ultimate cargo!

Photos from Germany. Yes, Germany

Waiting for a flight that many of these soldiers think may never come. If you look closely at the insgnia on these uniforms, you will notice they are all American soldiers but of different services.

In addition, as their uniforms are beginning to change, the services can't keep up so the same branches may actually be outfitted differently. This photo was taken at Ramstein Air Force Base.
Having dinner with a Air Force Staff Sgt. and an Army Captain in Frankfurt, Germany.
A very small contingent of us are traveling throughout the region. I am the only one from the upper midwest.

Standing in the Haupt Wache in Frankfurt. Great food including Bratwurst und Heiss Apfelwein.

At a rally against the Iranian Government in Frankfurt, protestors stand up against the oppression of women in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Clearly, the people of Germany are very involved and it got pretty rowdy. The number of Polizei was incredible.

This Time For Sure

Saturday. 5:32 local time.
Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany.

I left Minneapolis three days ago. In that time, I ended up on a continent that I didn't expect. I have yet to put on a new set of clothes and the sleeping has come in fits and starts. However, all that being said, I must say that I'm having a heck of a time so far.

The men and women who serve this country are some remarkable and yes, funny people. I have eaten with them. Talked to them about their lives. Talked to them about how they broke it to their parents that they were on their way to Iraq. I've talked to them about their spouses and kids. Amazing stories, all.

As I write this, I am preparing to step onto a DC-10 for Kuwait. As I look around, these people are smiling and laughing. "The 40 Year Old Virgin" is playing in the USO and you can hear the laughs. However, and there is a big however, I can see the strain and the tension in the corners of those laughs. I can see some subdued faces.

Upon arrival in the Middle East, I suspect there will be more. Of course, I thought I would be in the Middle East already, so if you first don't succeed, try, try again.

You Never Know Where You Will Find Friends.

It was after midnight and the snow was flying hard. In fact, there was more snow on the ground than Frankfurt had seen in 25 years. And it was cold too!

I'm an on the backend of day 2 on airplanes. I haven't changed or taken a shower. And it shows. Or should I say, it smells. Of course, I'm not the only one. About two hundred men and women of the armed forces are all in the same boat.

We struggle out of four buses. About 200 U.S. troops and yours truly. They are all in uniform, and I'm, well, a civilian. So we all line up to get into a hotel because we are stuck here for the night. I'm about 50 people back so rather than patiently waiting, I take a calculated decision to head to the bar. I order something with alcohol in it. I am a little proud to say that I am the first but certainly not the last. I would like to call myself a trail blazer but think others must have been given orders.

Lots of Germans in the place turn and look. I'm not sure how well we are going to be received. Let's face it, we are very unpopular around the world.

As I sit at the bar, soldiers are surrounding me and we do our best. . .

Here is the amazing part of the story. I go up to the bar to pay my tab and the woman behind the counter just looks at me. And she says, smiling, "Oh, it has been taken care of. One of our patrons picked up the entire tab." That's right. A German saw us coming and picked up everything.

Sometimes, even with bad press, people still like us. And I think that that is important. I'm not suggesting that we do everything that we do as a nation for popularity and love. However, I think that it is important that we are perceived as a country that stands for freedom. And if we are doing something inconsistent with that, then we should reconsider what it is that we are doing.

You never know where you will find friends.

Greetings from . . . Frankfurt?

As I sit in the lobby of a hotel in . . . well, if you can believe it, Frankfurt, Germany, I often wonder how I get myself into these kinds of situations. This was not my idea. This was the idea of somebody from the U.S. government. Go figure!

We have had some technical difficulties with the planes in Germany upon transfering and then there was the snow. According to my German cabbie, there has not been this much snow in Germany in 25 years. To add to the problem, all of the plow drivers are on strike.

At this point, I suspect you must be wondering about how this relates to Iraq? Well, that is a very good question. And in time, I hope to have some answers for you.

For now, suffice it to say, a good time is being had by all. I have been hanging out with an Army captain from Ohio who has been working with a bunch of the MN National Guard from Arden Hill up at Camp Anaconda in Iraq and a Air Force Comptroller Tech. Sgt. from Puerto Rico. Good stories. Good stories.

I expect to be out of here in a couple of minutes and on my way into Iraq. Stay tuned.

Preparing to Fly into Kuwait

I'm sitting in the USO in Baltimore as I prepare to jump on a flight for Kuwait City. I'm surrounded by Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen. It is strange. The first thing that comes to mind is how young many of them look. Oh, I know they are, because I have been covering them for a long time but when you get up close to them, especially when they are in civilian clothes, you realize just how young they are. They look like my nephews and nieces and frankly, not much older than my oldest daughter.

I listen to some of their conversations and I listen to them talking about high school like it was just yesterday. I guess in a sense, it was. They talk about their girlfriends and boyfriends.

As this trip begins, I feel the stress. As I made my way here from Minnesota to Chicago, it didn't feel all that bad. However, once I changed planes and landed in Baltimore, I could feel the difference. And as I prepare to jump on this flight to the Middle East, this certainly isn't Kansas. I am surrounded by uniforms and the tension is obvious, and not just in me.

With all of this going on, it is interesting watching how some of these guys kill time. You wouldn't believe. They are playing war video games. They talk about who gets killed and who gets to play the terrorists. Its interesting because it seems to reflect, in my mind, just who is fighting this war. I also think it probably allows them to well . . . blow off steam. And if anybody deserves it, these people do!

These people are bright, motivated and prepared. I am curious to see how their training kicks in once we get in country. Only time will tell. . .

In the end, I expect this trip to be very personal for me. I hope to bring you very personal stories and a lot of my own feelings. I hope to write in this blog everyday. In addition, you can hear a lot of interviews on as well as some podcasts.

For now, I'll sign off but the next submission should be from Kuwait.

A Stress Reliever

March 2, 2006
Baltimore, just Prior to Leaving for Kuwait.

I leave Baltimore for Ramstein AFB in Germany, the first leg of my trip that will eventually lead me into Iraq. And as the trip progresses, I feel the stress increase. And I know that everybody on this plane will deal with the stress in a different manner. We all have our ways. Some watch the in flight movie or play video games.

I see a young Airman. She seems to have a different idea on how to cope. She is looking at something very intently in her lap. It is wrapped in dark brown leather. It is a book and the pages seem worn from use. Some passages, I can see, have been highlighted. That's right. It is a Bible.

As I glance from the Bible up into her face, I have to admit, I do see some peace there. In fact, I have to also admit that it makes me a little envious.

I guess everybody prepares for war differently. And I suspect that no way is better than the next. But if the only alternative is, and I kid you not, “Must Love Dogs,” maybe the young Airman has the right idea. The was the in flight movie and some were engrossed. I don’t know. However, as we get closer to the war zone, I must say that I am looking for my stress reliever with a bit more vigor.

The Family Room

March 2, 2006
USO in Baltimore

You may not even notice it. At the USO in Baltimore, troops await flights that will take them through Ramstein Air Force Base and eventually into Kuwait and into Iraq. It is in the lower level and down a hallway that is not terribly crowded.

There is wireless internet service, there is an ATM, there is ice cream, there is even a big screen television. But there is something more, something in the corner you may not notice. In the corner and down the hall, at the back of the building.

I didn’t notice at first but rather heard it. It was crying from a child. Out of curiosity, and surrounded by soldiers in uniform, the crying surprised me. It was a "Family Room." It contained toys, a TV playing "Robots "and, well, families. Kids were playing and two women were crying and their husbands held their children and were saying goodbye. I moved away as quickly as I could.

We often talk about the troops and the sacrifices that they make, and it is true. However, we often forget about the people left behind, the wives, the husbands, the children, the parents. And of the burdens that they have to carry. And to make matters worse, these people don’t get the recognition for what they sacrifice. But they should.

Just another example of stories we should remember. The stories that are as important!

Is the United Arab Emarites Port Deal Doomed

President Bush has threatened to veto any legislation that would block a deal allowing an Arab company from taking over the opertations at six major U.S. seaports including New York, Philadelphia and New Orleans. The President has argued that the United Arab Emirates is an ally and therefore there should be no problem.

Congressional leaders of both political parties have continued to argue against such a deal. Those opposing the plan include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton. In addition, governors and mayors and also rejected the deal as bad policy.

So, is the President out of touch? Are his contacts in the oil business too close? Why are so many across the country of all political stripes opposing the President?

We will take your calls on The Jack Rice at 651-989-9226 or 1-800-327-8255 or leave your comments below.