Updated 18-Sep: Welcome to the Schriefer Blog, my name is Tavis Schriefer. Recently, my wife Jill and I raised money to supply driFIRE shirts to every soldier in Apache Company of the 1-501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. We were successful in raising over $6500 and we would like to thank everyone for all their support to make this happen.
Please read our entire message here...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Research info for other families

The time has come for change. The Schriefer family no longer has boys at war and it is about time to create a new blog for our closest family and firends. This blog will remain online for now at www.501stSoldierFund.com, but will not be updated after 31-Dec-2007. I wish the best to the rest of the soldiers and their families as their challenges continue on. While we don’t always agree with the situations that put our country at war, my wife and I take great pride in our soldiers who are willing to defend those decisions.

Thanks to all for the kind words during this time and all the donations during our driFire shirt effort.

I hope that some of the information on my blog was useful to others. Here are a few links that I have found useful to gain information.

  • My blog choice: www.blogger.com. Owned by Google, which also owns YouTube and Picasa, making it very easy to integrate photos and video – all free.

  • Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts/) allow you to setup search criteria and it will generate automatic emails to you with the search results. As an example, I have a search setup for Jurf As Sakhr as a “once a day” “Comprehensive” search. But I found that some news agencies also spell it as Jurf Kas Sukr, so I also setup a search for that spelling.

  • Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System (http://www.dvidshub.net) is the website that the military uses to publish their video, photo and other news stories out to the agencies. It is a great source for video and you can become a member just by signing up. You can watch or download hi-res images / videos and you can search for specific phrases that pertain to your nephew’s location, unit, etc. You can even create a bookmark in Internet Explorer of the search results so that you can quickly check back for new videos.

  • The Pentagon Channel (http://www.pentagonchannel.mil) has a lot of military news to watch online and they also have podcasts freely available on iTunes for download

  • Iraq Coalition Casualty (http://www.icasualties.org/oif/) is not an uplifting website, however it is a good source to locate specific information regarding a soldier, unit, etc. I have used it to look at how many soldiers in my son’s unit were killed and the official military press release to match it. While it sounds bad, it also helped set my mind at ease many times. I would hear about a casualty on the news in the area that my son was in, but didn’t actually know if it had to do with my son’s unit. It takes several days for the military to publish the name (all family must be notified first), but this website can sometimes help to determine the true location or unit that was affected.

  • Other useful websites: http://www.blackanthem.com/, http://www.blackanthem.com/, http://warnewstoday.blogspot.com/

Here are the most valuable communication tools I’ve found during this time:

  • A good laptop and webcam for your soldier, with a good headset and mike (Logitech’s 980445-0403)

  • A durable camera (Olympus Stylus 770 SW). While this camera is expensive, my son destroyed two others before it – so would have been cheaper in the long run. Sand gets in everything in Iraq, these cameras can be rinsed off with water and can survive a lot of abuse.

  • Yahoo Messenger works great even with slow internet connections in Iraq. Also, for us family members, you can setup Yahoo IM to work on your cell phone so no matter where you are, you can be online for your soldier. Video quality via webcam is pretty good most of the time too. It really helps to be able to see your soldier live while IMing with him.

  • Skype Messenger works great to allow your soldier to call you at your home, cell or anywhere else, plus can IM or call you on your computer. I set my son up with SkypeIn ($60/yr) and SkypeOut Unlimited ($30/yr) services. SkypeIn service provided him a local phone number that friends and family could call him and leave voicemail messages. If he is online at the time, they can actually reach him by phone – all for no per minute costs. SkypeOut Unlimited allows him to call anyone in USA for no per minute charges – I think he can also do conference calls.
    o http://www.skype.com/products/skypein/
    o http://www.skype.com/products/skypeout/

  • AAFES AT&T Calling Card – This is the cheapest reliable calling card I found, but still about $0.25 per minute from Iraq to USA. I would check my son’s balance on a weekly basis and recharge if necessary, so he wouldn’t have to worry about it. Since they only have limited time for phones and many times stand in line for an hour to make a call, I always wanted to make sure he had enough minutes to handle it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

13 Steps to Recovery/Integration for Soldiers becoming civilians

Thanks to Nick for forwarding this email to me. This is pretty funny - Soldiers and their families will really be able to relate to this...


Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Great Thanksgiving for the Schriefer Family

This has truly been a great Thanksgiving for the Schriefer Family. Nick is finally out of Iraq and on his way back to the USA. Jill and I are spending this weekend doing our Christmas Shopping, like many Americans. But our greatest Christmas gift has already been received. For the first time in years, neither of our sons will be at war. Nick will soon be back from serving 15 months in Iraq and Jon was recently informed that they would not be deployed on his second tour to Iraq for quite some time - hopefully never.

I feel guilty feeling this way, while so many other families have sons and daughters still there, and many who will never return. But I'm confident that all the other parents understand my selfishness, and for that - my thoughts and prayers are with you this holiday season.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Article: A village blossoms in Iraq, while U.S. support lasts

By NANCY A. YOUSSEF, McClatchy Newspaper

(excerpts) JURF AL-SAKHR, Iraq In this desolate tiny town in what was once called the Triangle of Death, signs of the violent past mix oddly with evidence of today’s more tranquil life.

Large plots of land emptied by car bombs sit next to refurbished buildings. A new water treatment plant looks out to blast walls that have not been necessary for months. A newly opened clothes shop is next to one that has been shut for ages.

The U.S. calls this former al-Qaida stronghold a paragon of post-surge Iraq. Violence has come to a near standstill. Yet the government that has emerged is far from the democratic republic once promised...

...“This place is about all kinds of agreements,” said Lt. Col. Robert Balcavage, the commander of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment based at Fort Richardson, Alaska. “The central government right now is too far removed. I mean, if these people were to rely on the central government, they don’t see any hope there. So what we are doing is bringing government from the ground up.”...

Entire Article

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day

Please take a moment to remember those who have served and those continuing to serve on this Veteran's Day.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Article: U.S. posts drop in Iraq war deaths

This article from the Baltimore Sun mentions the 501st PIR.

...The experience of Balcavage's battalion, the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, shows why.

This summer his soldiers began working with local tribal elders to aggressively recruit Iraqis. To date, they've signed up about 1,480 into the Iraqi army, 400 into the local police and 2,200 as citizen security volunteers.

"That's about 4,000 guys we've taken off the streets," Balcavage said. He said many of them are former hard-core Sunni insurgents, but "they believe they're going with the stronger side."

Rocket and mortar attacks on his battalion, which reached a high of 45 in March, dropped to one in September, he said. Attacks with roadside or vehicle-borne suicide bombs dropped from 61 in March to six in September, and small-arms attacks declined from 39 in January to five in September.

Now, with Iraqi security forces moving in behind him to maintain order, Balcavage's 800 paratroopers are pushing into what he said is "the last stronghold" of the extremist Islamist group al-Qaida in Iraq, northwest of Iskandariyah.

"We went looking for a fight, and we're hunting them right now," he said...

Entire article

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Buy This DVD --> Outside the Wire

Buying this DVD will help fund the completion of Johannes' current movie project - Crunch Time. This movie-in-the-making shows Army soldiers in action in Iraq, including the 501st and 509th out of Fort Richardson Alaska.

Watch video clips of the upcoming movie, including this one at the bottom of Johannes' webpage.

From the website:

Outside the Wire
This is the Iraq War you won't see on the evening news.

Former Marine and television news producer JD Johannes traveled to Iraq with his old Marine Corps unit to produce syndicated TV news reports for local stations.

From those reports comes a view of the war that only the grunts who operate outside the wire experience.

From a dust-up with Al Qaida outside Abu Ghriab, to a night raid on the home of an insurgent leader, you will see what the Marines saw and hear the story in their own words of why they joined, volunteered for the deployment, why they fight and what it is like to go outside the wire and into combat.

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