Cigars in the Sand

Commentary, Notes and Pictures from my time in Iraq

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Location: Baghdad, Iraq

Farmer by genetics, Lawyer by training, currently "vacationing" in Iraq and advising the Iraqi government on border security issues. Before moving to Baghdad, I served in the White House as Deputy Counsel for the Homeland Security Council. I can be reached at opusxryanathotmaildotcom.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

A Tribute to COL Kamena

Today is a difficult day for me; my colleague COL Gene Kamena has finished his tour and is heading home. It's his last day.

For those of you that know me, you know that I am a "take no prisoners" kind of guy; someone who prefers to lead rather than follow. But when I got over to Iraq I met COL Kamena, who was just arriving in my section to take over the lead role for manning, training and equipping all Iraqi Security Forces. That's no small task. Yet COL Kamena jumped right in. And for probably the first time in my life, I decided it was my role to follow (even if technically we were co-equals).

I have never before seen leadership like this; and will likely never see it again in my lifetime. COL Kamena never once asked the Iraqis to do something that he himself wouldn't do; or, as it turned out, didn't do. When we deployed Iraqi forces to the Syrian border to man one of the most dangerous areas in Iraq, he was there. And he didn't live behind the wire in the comforts of the Marine base. Instead, he lived with the Iraqis. When we sent them to that area in unarmored buses, he didn't ride under the protection of the armored humvees, he rode on the bus. Whe we were under attack at the Iraqi base, he jumped out of bed, and -- still in his underwear -- grabbed his weapons and went out into the darkness to find the terrorists attacking us. If only I possessed that my courage and leadership.

When you here about the successes of Iraqi police, border guards, commandos and the like, it's COL Kamena we all have to thank. I know that the coalition will fill his position with another fine officer. But he will never be "replaced." I miss him already.