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...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Article: Paratroopers provide city council security

Capt. Scott Nelson, commander, Company Apache, 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, listens to one of the council representatives as he explains what the people he represents needs during the first meeting of the Jurf as Sakhr City Council. This council meeting was held at an Iraqi police station in the town of Tahirr, Iraq.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sgt Santa's Sleigh at FOB Iskan

On Christmas Eve, when I spoke with Nick, he said that some guys fixed up a track vehicle to be Santa's Sleigh and was driving it around the base. Today I found this blog on the web...

The Paratroopers of Company D, 1st “Geronimo” Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division brightened up the holidays for their fellow Geronimos with their Christmas parade entry: a humvee with antlers in place of reindeer and an armored personnel carrier as a sleigh, connected by engineer tape for reins. The award-winning float earned three Company D troops well-deserved passes for some rest and relaxation in Qatar.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Spoke with Nick on Christmas Eve

While I was in Houston for Christmas, I was lucky to get a call from Nick. Due to unforeseen delays, he didn't go out on a mission that he was scheduled for, and so he was able to spend some time on the phone. I was out shopping at the time, but after I spoke with him a few minutes, I handed to phone to Dakota and Jill. They were able to speak with him while we drove back to Lisa's house. He still had time available and then spoke with his Grandmother and his Aunt Lisa and Gary. After that, he called and talked with his Grandfather and Nancy. We feel very fortunate that all of us got to speak with him.

We wish him to be safe this Christmas season.

Friday, December 22, 2006

DoD Identifies Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Spc. Scott D. Dykman, 27, of Helena, Mont., died Dec. 20 in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries suffered from an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, Alaska.

A Difficult Day

Yesterday was a difficult day, as some of you know. While selfish, I take a small comfort in knowing that Nick is OK. No matter how difficult my day was, I know it cannot compare to the challenges facing Nick and all of the 501st. Please take a moment to think of the men serving in the 501st and let us not forget that while we celebrate Christmas, there are some that cannot.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Apache Company of the 1-501st PIR.

(1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, A Company)

501st Related Press Releases

Here are some recent military press releases I found related to the 501st. (Nick is in A Company)

Dec. 20, 2006
Paratroopers discover large weapons cache in Hamiyah
HAMIYAH, Iraq – Iraqi Police and paratroopers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team 25th Infantry Division, discovered a weapons cache near the Iraqi Police Station in Hamiyah, a town south of Baghdad, Dec. 19.

Dec. 18, 2006
Paratroopers detain 18, secure cache at possible safe house
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – Paratroopers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, detained 18 suspected insurgents and a weapons cache while searching a house near Jurf As Sakhr Dec 17.

Dec. 6, 2006
...Wednesday, paratroopers from 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, found a bomb along a road near the village of Bahbahani, south of Baghdad. An explosive ordnance disposal team dealt with the explosive.

Paratroopers find and an IED near Bahbahani
FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – Paratroopers from 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division found an improvised explosive device (IED) along a road near the village of Bahbahani, Iraq, south of Baghdad, Tuesday. The IED was secured by an explosive ordnance disposal team.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Staci Spoke to Nick

Staci spoke to Nick briefly yesterday. He was back from a 3-day mission and was leaving on another one today. He only had a couple minutes to talk and wasn't sure if he would have another chance until after the first of the year, because he has another longer mission coming up. She said he sounded pretty tired and not in a good mood. He mentioned that they had a lot of paperwork to finish up, before leaving again. He also said that he received NINE boxes in the mail and one other guy received two letters - that was all the mail for their group. Apparently, guys had to help Nick get the boxes to his room. I think Nick will be pretty popular for a while now. Many of these boxes are from Staci and friends. She has several networks of friends from the various clubs/organizations she is involved with, and they are all pulling stuff together to send to Nick's unit. Staci has a pretty impressive operation going there - maybe the USO should give her a call ;)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Nick's Christmas Plans

I spoke with Nick yesterday. He was leaving on a 3-day mission, then back at FOB for a few days. He will be leaving again on Christmas Eve for a 10+ day mission. During our holiday, please take a moment to think of all our soldiers that are unable to be with their families.

Right now, Nick is still hoping to be home sometime in February for R&R.

(I'm sorry that I have not kept up with the Blog over the past few weeks. I will be adding some previous conversations to catch up)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Staci spoke with Nick

Staci spoke with Nick today and he is OK. This was first contact in around nine days. He said he was really tired because he had been up all night helping to fix the Humvee before they had to go out on another mission. He said that they are staying very busy with missions, some of them are going to be lasting ten days at a time. He is hoping to call again in the next few days before he leaves again.

I don't have details, but I understand he was nearby when a mortar hit on their base - but he is fine. They found the two men that fired the mortar and they apparently worked at the power plant. I also heard that their Humvee was overturned on a mission recently and it took them a while to get it out of the mud - no other details on it. He mentioned that communications were shut down for a while because somthing happened, but now they are back up.

I hear that morale is not too great right now, so if everyone would send a small something for Christmas, that could help.

I hear that he will be moving to the Conex units (transformed cargo containers) in the near future, which will give him more space. (see picture here)

There is a change in the mailing address. If you send something to the old address, he will still get it, but they are asking that we begin using this new address:

PFC Nicholas Schriefer
A Company, 1-501
APO AE 09312-0576

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Remembering Our Heros on Veteran's Day

Our thoughts and prayers are with our family, their brothers in arms and all those who serve.

If you can spare a moment, here are a few videos that have been compiled by other soldiers.

And a special video from Spc. Alan Burgess (I did not know this soldier, but I was moved by his pictures and video)
During the deployment of the 2/197th FA MP's to Mosul, Iraq, unit members took time out from their daily patrols to play with, aid, and make friends with the local children. Most of the videos and pictures were taken by Spc. Alan Burgess who was killed by a car bomb on October 15, 2004.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Nick's back at the FOB

Spoke with Nick last night and he is fine. He is back from the mission he went out on last Friday. At the moment, he won't say what all happend, but did say that there was plenty of action. I did read this article this morning though, and this city is very nearby: http://www.blackanthem.com/News/military200610_1965.shtml

Nick's camera got broken as well. He said that it was pretty amazing that the camera survived all the action of the last week, but got broke while it was in his pocket and he slept on it. So, I'm going to be buying him a new camera, this time the ruggedized model so it can hold up to Iraq abuse - and more importantly, Nick abuse!

He said that its been raining a lot there and its getting cold at night. He now has a Surefire flashlight and he said it is REALLY bright and will light up an entire room. (for anyone interested, it is the
C2 Centurion)

He did tell me a story of how brave (I would say stupid) many of the Iraqi boys are - they don't seem to be afraid of the GIs at all. He said that one of the boys almost got killed because he snuck up on Nick's buddy who was manning the turret on the Humvee. The boy threw a firecracker next to the GI and when it went off, the GI swung around ready to shoot him with the 50 Cal. I think the kid was pretty lucky.

Nick said he got to take a hot shower when he got back - first bath since Friday - it felt really good.

He mentioned that many of the young Iraqi boys working in the markets speak good English.

All for now.

Nick's Address

Here is Nick's address. However, I spoke with him last night and he said that they currently don't have a mail guy - so they don't know how long mail will take at the moment. he also stressed that they don't have very much personal space, so for the moment he asked that everyone only send small amounts of stuff.

A Company, 1-501
FOB Iskan
APO, AE 09312-0506

No alcohol (including mouthwash, Jack Daniels, Rock n Rye, etc).

Any fresh baked or homemade foods should be vacuum sealed and will take ten travel days to arrive.

All mail should be sent via US Postal. FedEx, UPS, etc. are not allowed. Postage for APO mail only needs to cover deliver to the APO point - somewhere on the US Eastern coast. From there, the USPS and military handle the delivery. Read more about shipping to APOs and specifics regarding Christmas shipping here.

Here are some quick notes:
  • Cards and letters can just be sent regular mail with no extra postage and no special forms.
  • Packages need to have PS Form 2976-A customs form attatched (see picture right)
  • Packages must be handed in at the post office in person.
  • It is recommended that packages be sent Priority Mail.
  • Paying extra for tracking numbers will only support tracking up to the East coast and not the remaining trip overseas.
  • Express Mail is not supported for Nick's location
  • For Christmas letters and packages, Priority Mail must be shipped by 4-Dec at the latest
Free Priority Mail boxes and forms can be picked up at your local post office, or you can order a large selection of them for free here. Here are some items you might want to order and have on hand:
  • Priority Mail Box Flat Rate Box-O-FRB2 (Any weight, $8.10 postage) Great for over 4 lbs
  • Priority Mail Box Flat Rate Box-O-FRB1 (Any weight, $8.10 postage) Great for over 4 lbs
  • Priority Mail Envelope (MILI-PAC)
  • Priority Mail Address Label
  • Priority Mail Sticker (12 X 2) Great for securing boxes
  • Priority Mail Sticker (440 Sticker Roll) Great for securing boxes
  • Customs Declaration and Dispatch Note (FORM 2976-A)
  • Customs Form Envelope 2976E
There are also a large range of shapes and sizes for other Priority Mail boxes - all free. The Flat Rate boxes are great for shipping heavy stuff (if it can fit), because it costs $8.10 - no matter what. This will save you money if your package is over 4 lbs.

The USPS also has a Military Care Kit, or “Mili-kit” to make it easier for military families and friends to send care packages to their loved ones stationed overseas. Each kit contains two Priority Mail boxes, six Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes, eight Priority Mail labels, one roll of Priority Mail tape and eight customs forms with envelopes. This kit may be ordered by calling the USPS Expedited Package Supply Center at 1-800-610-8734 and requesting a Military Care Kit. There is no charge for the kit.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Reminder: Pictures of Nick in Iraq

Just a reminder - I am keeping an online album of pictures I receive while Nick is deployed. You can view them here on Snapfish.com and order any prints you like. As I receive more, I will add them.

Stories from Nick

I spoke with Nick this past Friday (3-Nov), sorry just now getting it posted. Nick is doing fine.
Here's another picture of Nick and his squad - of course there always has to be one of them with thier finger up - they can't help themselves.

In the early morning Friday, before Sunrise, a small fire started outside the FOB - they think it was unintentional. Pretty soon a palm tree caught fire and he said it was like a fireball. They were trying to look around the area with their NODS to see if there were any people around, but the fire was too intense and all they saw was white. The locals kept saying that the fire department was coming, but they never showed up - so it just burned. When I spoke with him, it was 10:30PM in Iskan and he said the fire was still smoldering. I guess that was the excitement of the day - at least what he would share. He did say that their base is under attack quite a bit, but he sluffed it off saying "they learn to ignore it".

He also told me about a guy in a row boat (homemade) paddling on the
Euphrates river. The guy was having trouble because he was paddling upstream and the current was pulling him East, towards the FOB. They have orders to shoot anyone reaching the halfway point, so they kept yelling at the guy telling him to go back. He said the guy was paddling and struggling, but just couldn't overcome the current - so finally the guy jumped off the boat and swam back to the Western shore, letting his boat drift on.

Staci sent me a couple pictures that Nick took. One picture is of a bomb that exploaded during one of their missions. He said that the bomb exploded before their convoy got there. The Iraqi military discovered it and apparently detonated it unintentionally. Nick said that they tend to find what they think might be bombs and then they poke at them with sticks to see if they are real (insert your own comments here). He said when his convoy passed, he saw the soldiers getting up from the ground, dazed and walking around it.

Nick said there are dogs everywhere. When they go out on missions, he said that dogs will begin to cluster together and follow the patrol around, barking at them. This is especially dangerous at night. One of the guys was almost attacked recently.
Nick said today was the first day they had hot water since he's been there - and his first bath in 4 days. He said it felt soooo good to take a hot shower.

Nick will be out of contact for the next week or so. They've implemented nighttime curfews in the area - maybe having to do with the Saddam trial, but I don't know. Nick also said that he got my letter, so the address is good. He said they now have a guy handling mail, so a bunch of guys finally got stuff. I will post his address and instructions in a seperate entry.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Story from another Alaska Soldier

I found this story from another Fort Richardson soldier named Kevin who is at FOB Iskan. I don't know if Nick knows him or not, but the story provides a small glimpse of the life.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Here's a Pic of Nick

In the past few days, Nick has IM'd and spoken with Staci, and IM'd with me. He is using the rental computers at their communications room and apparently they have many problems. Nick is doing fine and he has sent us a picture. He says that the FOB he's at "is a shit, hole trash grows on trees and from the grass in this place". I'm thinking this is mold or something, because from what I've read, there are all kinds of hazardous waste and sewage around. I asked him if there was a lot of activity there and he said "yea this place is pretty happenin".

I read an article this week from a Texas newspaper who interviewed a soldier just returning from FOB Iskan. In the article, the soldier said, "We had heavy fighting pretty much every day." He said that in his duties, "they run combat operations, man missiles and conduct raids on suspected terrorist sites." I don't know exactly what Nick is doing though, and While this article doesn't say that the soldier was based at FOB Iskan, it does say he was based in Iskandariyah which I think is the same location. The story is available at http://thefacts.com/story.lasso?ewcd=f4f2b6ba9b36c32c

Friday, October 27, 2006

Spoke with Nick this morning

Spoke with Nick for a while this morning. He is now at his new home; FOB Iskan. FOB stands for Forward Operating Base. FOB Iskan is also known as Camp Iskandariyah. It took them a while to get there because of attacks - he said that insurgents were dropping mortars into their drop zone.

Nick says that the base is big, but very crude (he had a more colorful expression). He describes their living quarters is an old concrete one-story building with a long hall and concrete rooms on each side. There are nine guys in his room, all sleeping on cots, and he said its the size of his bedroom here at home. When they arrived, there was no power to the building and of course, no A/C. They have now bought several window A/C units and many power extension cables, running them from somewhere else. He said they now have 2 outlets for all 9 people and have to be careful how much stuff is running at once, so they don't overload it. This is somewhat ironic, since I've read that FOB Iskan surrounds a power plant that provides a third of all Iraq's power. He said that the building has a BIG mouse problem and with the rotted ceilings, the mice were literally falling from the rafters. They secured a bunch of trash bags to the ceiling to keep the mice from falling on to the floor. The buildings have tall concrete blast walls surrounding them and in between all walkways, to block shrapnel from mortars.

Nick said its a 30 minute walk to the chow hall, which is about the size of our upstairs. There is no PX - instead, you give a guy some money and a list, and they go to a PX to get it. However, there is an Iraqi market on the FOB and you can buy stuff from them (that's where they got the A/C units). Nick was most impressed by the massive selection of DVD movies. He said you can get a single DVD that has up to 4 full movies on it, all for about $3.

Nick says the area looks like an old Mexican town, with dilapidated concrete buildings, lots of palm trees and jungle type vegetation.

I have shipped a package to Nick to verify the address. He has been told that packages take about 10 days, but for some reason letters take 30 days. Nick asked me to wait on giving his address out, until we know for sure it is correct.

Nick is using an AT&T AAFES calling card when calling home. He is able to use other calling cards as well, but this card is rechargable. It costs $0.25/min to call home from Iraq. Staci has given me the calling card info so that I can recharge it for him. If anyone would like to donate money to his calling card, let me know. While I'm sure everyone would like to get calls from him, I hope you understand that he may have few opportunities to make calls. There is one building with 10 phones and 10 computers w/Internet for the whole FOB. Plus, he will be going on missions quite a bit, some lasting a week at a time.

I don't know when Nick will have opportunity to send any pictures to us, but in the meantime, I have found some pictures of FOB Iskan from someone else posted on YouTube.

Jon Taking On Snow

Spoke with Jon yesterday. Colorado Springs has been getting quite a bit of snow. The base was shut down because of a blizzard. Here's a picture of Phoebe in the snow.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Nick in Baghdad

Spoke with Nick for a few minutes this morning. He has landed in Baghdad, but they are currently unable to continue to their FOB (Forward Operating Base). Each of the other groups going there have come under attack by machine gun and mortar rounds, so they have suspended the rest until its taken care of. He mentioned that he saw a Humvee come through the gates ridden with bullet holes down the side and burn marks from blasts and he thought, "wonder how many missions it took to look like that".

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Not in Iraq Yet...

Spoke with Nick this morning. He still hasn't left Kuwait - will be leaving anytime though. He may not go straight to his new base though. He said they may be diverted to help some other guys out on the way. More news when available.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Spoke with Nick today

I IM'd with Nick briefly early this morning, then spoke with him by phone in the afternoon. This is probably the last contact until he makes it to his new location. Nick gave me an address, but they aren't sure if its correct or not. He asked me to mail him a letter and see if he gets it, before giving it out to everyone. His computer has died, but so far he hasn't used it to access the internet - they have only been allowed to use the internet cafe and use those machines (paying a per minute charge). He has taken a couple pictures, but he said everything pretty much looks the same... sand. Plus, he hasn't figured out a way to send them successfully yet. They've been told that at some point, they should be staying in "containers" or "cans". From what I've read on the web, these are modular aluminum units with a window A/C and they have a real bed (pictured)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

IM'd and spoke with Nick this morning

IM'd with Nick early this morning. This time, he had a computer with a camera so I was able to snap a few pictures (click the pic to see them all).

He is doing fine. Got his high-and-tight haircut. He said he has heard that they may be getting their mailing address soon. He's been doing a lot of running and its pretty hot. Before he left, we signed him up for Vonage service, hoping that he could use it as an Internet phone while he was gone - but he said that so far, the internet isn't good enough to use it.

He will be leaving Kuwait and going to Iraq sometime next week - not aloud to say exactly where. Anyone wanting more specifics on this, please contact me - not going to put these type of details on the Blog. But he said its going to be a location with "lots of bunnies", implying it will be all friendly and pleasant (don't believe it). One of the jobs they will be doing will be picking up trash around the towns and spray painting over the anti-government and anti-American graffiti. They will also be paying locals to do same. The idea is to make things look better so hopefully the people will feel better too. I guess this is their "hobby" job, in between fighting insurgents.

Nick said he is currently carrying an M-4, M-16 and a M-240. Seems like a pretty heavy load to me. He especially liked his M-4 because its brand new. As for the M-16, apparently they've nicknamed it "The Musket" - guess they don't like it too much. He said that he will be walking most of the time, but when in the HMMWV (Humvee), he will be one of those riding in the turret (but they switch out). He said he recently spent some time in the new HMMWVs and that they were pretty cool (literally). They have A/C and he said it has a "Pope Dome" because the turret is incased in protective glass. He is going to try and get some pics of it for me.

That's about it for now. Click on the pic and see the various snaps I got from the IM session.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Pictures during Nick's visit in September

I finally got these pictures posted on to SnapFish. These are the pictures that were taken while Nick was here on leave, prior to shipping out to Kuwait. Pictures include:
  • A small party we had for Nick, with family and few friends
  • Dinner at Babe's with Stacy's family - We told the waitress it was Nick's Birthday, hence the chicken on the head
  • Nick showing off his new uniform

    Click on the picture to see the album

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Nick in Kuwait

I spoke with Nick this morning (6AM my time, 2PM his time). He has arrived at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) in Kuwait. He said that he arrived in early morning and the sun was just rising - the air was dry and the perfect temp. Then the afternoon came and it was much hotter, but he said its still not too bad - sort of like at the beach, but no water. On the drive to the base, all you could see was sand in all directions, then an area with bright lights appeared - this was their destination.

Nick said the base has some of the best chow he's had, plus they have all types of restaurants there; Taco Bell, Baskin Robins, even a Panda Express type restaurant. And to top it off, the PX (Post Exchange, like a Military WalMart) had Monster Drinks -- YEA!! It sounds like he would rather be stationed in Kuwait than in Alaska ;)

After they got off the plane, they all loaded on to a nice big bus and headed through the desert to the base. They made a stop along the way for everyone to get out and stretch their legs, and get some water / Gatoraide. Nick stepped off the bus and looked around - sand everywhere - and got back on the bus to continue playing is PSP (Personal Sony PlayStation) game. The bus driver, a Kuwaiti, came up to him with a water bottle and made hand-gestures asking if he could cut the top of the bottle with a knife to make a glass. Nick pulls out his knife and waits for the bus driver to hand him the bottle. The driver wants to take the knife and do it himself. Nick said they stood there for a moment and he thought, "Oh, HELL no". So he took the bottle from the guy and cut the top off, then gave it back to the driver. Nick said, "We were the only two on the boss, don't know who the Hell this is, I'm not going to hand him my knife!".

They will be in Kuwait for 3-4 weeks doing additional training, so we will probably here from him again. He is using a calling card to call us ($0.21/min) and he can get on a computer with internet access for $5/hr. If anyone is interested in purchasing pre-paid calling cards for Nick, the cheapest I found for calling from Kuwait / Iraq is the AT&T AAFES card (https://thor.aafes.com/scs/default.aspx).

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Jonathan's address and pictures

Jonathan's new address at Fort Carson:

SPC Jonathan Schriefer
5901C Heurtgen Forest Rd.
Fort Carson, CO 80913

Pictures of Jonathan and Stephanie's wedding (click)


Starting back up the Blog

Well, its been a while, but now time to start the Blog back up. The last time I typed here was in January 2006 - Nick was stationed in Alaska and Jon was safely back at home, living in Irving, TX. Time seems to have gone by fast.

Jonathan has transferred from the Texas National Guard to active duty US Army, and is now stationed at Fort Carson in Colarodo Springs, CO. (http://www.carson.army.mil/). Jon is happily married to Stephanie and has a 2 year old daughter, Phoebe.

Nicholas has just been deployed to Iraq and shipped out from Alaska today. Nick is engaged to Staci McAdams and they plan to marry after he returns in about 15 months.

So, there's the 60-second update. Now its time to keep up with this thing again, so that others can stay up-to-date with the happen'ns.

For those that are new to my blog, I invite you to read through the history of the boys. I started the blog in January 2005 and followed Jon through his tour in Iraq, and Nick through his boot camp, training and first duty station in Alaska. When possible, I put links in the blog to pictures, so that if anyone wants to get copies, they can pretty easy. I invite any feedback or suggestions to make the blog better and please feel free to add your own comments to the blog entries.


Friday, January 13, 2006

Volcano Augustine in Alaska

Volcano Augustine began to erupt on 11-JAN about 175 miles from Anchorage.

Augustine is on a small uninhabited island in the Cook Inlet, off the inland coast near Anchorage, across from the Mud Flats.

Current webcam pictures and seismic activity can be seen at http://www.avo.alaska.edu/activity/Augustine.php

Here is a link to the satelite view of the volcano and surounding area (Google Maps)