Take an air traffic controller, your local hospital medical helicopter, logistics and supply companies and the NASA Command Center, combine all the jobs and you get an Aviation Brigade.
This is the first time I have been with an aviation unit. My original responsibility for the brigade was to be one of the field artillery fire support officers; however, the campaign has changed since my last deployment back in 2004, because we are not firing a lot of artillery rounds or rockets, I have been appointed a Battle Captain for the Tactical Operations Center (TOC). We oversee helicopter (primarily UH-60 Black Hawks and AH-64D Apaches) movement within the friendly skies over the southern portion of Iraq. We also track Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). My primary mission is to carry out the execution phase of the current 24 hours of operation. We provide heavy weapon team support, troop movement via air, live feed video coverage over major routes and hot spots, and finally we provide medical support to the local ground units dealing with urgent medical issues.
In any given day, I work eight hour shifts, seven days a week. We try to work in a day off every few weeks. Of course, I just took my first day off since we got here in early November. After work, I try to call my family (wife, son and daughter) and then go to the gym. After the gym, I am back to chow again for a good meal and maybe a little hand scooped ice cream. After chow, I make my 155 step count-run from my housing unit to the shower and then it is time to check email and talk with my family via Skype. I hook up my IPOD around midnight and crash out to start the day all over again.
To pass time, I also link up by our river front property (drainage ditch with muddy water) and have a cigar with some buddies. Other evenings, I may play ping pong or pool or stop by local shops to get one of the newest movie releases from the big screen.
Changes from this deployment and last deployment- It has been night and day. When I was here in 2004, I was sleeping in a tent and eating out of a food trailer with tons of flies. We had boiled green eggs and ham, and had to burn our own waste. Now, we have civilian contractors handling most of our life support. We get steak on Fridays, real fried eggs and all the pop tarts in the world. You will never believe we also have a stir fry station, sandwich bar and dessert section, with ice cream and all kinds of pastries. We have to be careful not to put on the deployment 15.
I must say technology is amazing. This week alone, I have been able to reconnect with friends from my first deployment- my Iraqi interpreter, who is still supporting the U.S. military; my old logistics and maintenance officers from the Iraqi Army; along with a Colonel who is now working as a U.S. liaison between the Iraqi Army and the local government. I have also been in touch with a few locals who supported us in 2004 with local purchases. They are doing well and still supporting the U.S. and Iraqi forces.
Family- I must say the real heroes are the spouses and family members back in the states, who help maintain the day to day activities (bills, daycare, shopping, school, doctor appointments, etc.), while maintaining their own full-time jobs. My wife has had a lot of sleepless nights with our two kids. She is the Director of Catering at one of the big hotels in Charlotte and also keeps up her full time job raising our kids. She has done great with both jobs! A person may be able to do this for a week or two, but my wife has done this for 18 months, and now another year, which can be really tough. We have had a lot of friends and neighbors, who have jumped in to help, which is a blessing. Most of the needs are last minute-sick child, dead car battery, trash can flipping over in the middle of the street...when it is pouring down rain and my wife is in her business suit, trying to get the kids off to school, etc. Hats off to those who support us, so we can focus on our mission here!
General Charles C. Campbell, The United States Army Forces Command, Commanding General, takes time during his visit to Task Force 449’s Brigade Headquarters in Baghdad, Dec 16, and speaks with Task Force 449 Battle Captain, Cpt. Michael L. Verdi. General Campbell stressed the importance of the Battle Captain position, a job that requires tremendous information management, multi-tasking and leadership skills. The General thanked Verdi for his brief update on TF 449’s daily operations and for his service. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Jasmine N. Walthall)
Capt. Michael Verdi stands in front of one of Saddam's lakes in Baghdad, Iraq. Verdi was able to tour some of Saddam's palaces and see a few lakes, while visiting Baghdad.
Capt. Michael Verdi takes a few hours, for himself, one afternoon and fly fishes in one of Saddam's lakes, near the Victory Over America (VOA) palace.
Captain Michael Verdi
From: High Point, NC, currently lives in Mt. Holly/Mt Island lake (last 10 years)
• Been in National Guard since 1992 and is an artilleryman.
• Since June 2003, he has served as a range officer at Camp Butner Training Site in Butner, N.C.
• While in the Guard, competed in various rifle and shooting matches.
• Deployed with the 30th Brigade Combat Team in Operation Iraqi Freedom 03-05 with the 1/113th Field Artillery Unit, located out of Charlotte, N.C.
• Implementation Manager for Teachers’ Insurance, Annuities Association-College Retirement Education Fund (TIAA-CREF), located out of Charlotte, N.C. Thanks for being so supportive. I appreciate your support and willingness to create policies and benefits to assist Guardsmen, like me.