NCPR News: An Audio Iraq Diary
Mar 29, 2004 — Hundreds of National Guard and Reserve soldiers from New York and Vermont are deployed in Iraq. For the next year, they'll serve alongside regular Army units, patrolling neighborhoods, doing reconstruction work, and fighting insurgents. In the coming weeks, Major Eric Olsen -- a chaplain from Saranac Lake -- will be sharing his audio diary, trying to give some sense of his daily experience. This morning, the journey begins at Fort Drum's Wheeler Sack Air Field, where the 2nd of the 108th Infantry battalion gathered in late February for their flight overseas.
Next Monday, Major Olsen's audio diary continues from Kuwait. Go to full article
Apr 05, 2004 — While some Fort Drum soldiers are returning home from overseas, roughly seven hundred National Guard and Reserve soldiers from New York have just arrived in Iraq. Over the next year, Major Eric Olsen - an Army chaplain from Saranac Lake - will be sharing an audio diary of his experiences. This morning, Major Olsen's journey continues in Kuwait, where the 2nd of the 108th Infantry battalion geared up for the convoy into Iraq. Go to full article
Apr 19, 2004 — More than seven hundred National Guard and Reserve soldiers from New York state have taken up positions inside Iraq. This morning, Army chaplain Eric Olsen continues his audio diary from the front lines. This dispatch was mailed home well before last week's firefight, which left one north country soldier dead. The sounds of combat you'll hear in Major Olsen's diary were all recorded during training exercises on the Kuwait-Iraq border.
The series continues next Monday, with an audio diary from Major Olsen's wife, Susan, on the home front in Saranac Lake. Go to full article
Apr 26, 2004 — Hundreds of National Guard and Reserve soldiers from New York state are serving now in Iraq. Over the past month, Army chaplain Eric Olsen has been sharing his experiences from the front line inside the Sunni Triangle. This morning, we'll hear a very different point of view, with an audio diary recorded by Major Olsen's wife - Susan. Susan Olsen lives in Saranac Lake with her sons Garth and Evan.
Next Monday, the series continues with a look at a soldier's daily life north of Bagdad. Go to full article
May 03, 2004 — April was a tough month for New York's soldiers and sailors serving in Iraq. Seven men died as unrest and violence spread across the country. An Army Reserve unit based in Uniondale, New York is now at the center of a growing controversy over the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners. As April began, dozens of National Guard and Reserve soldiers from the north country were settling in for a year-long deployment inside the Sunni Triangle. In this fifth chapter of his audio diary, Army Chaplain Eric Olsen, from Saranac Lake, describes their first weeks in Iraq as tense and hectic, but also fascinating. Go to full article
May 10, 2004 — The situation in Iraq is tense these days for hundreds of National Guard and Reserve soldiers from northern New York. The armed uprising continues and temperatures have already soared to 110 degrees. Army Major Eric Olsen--a chaplain from Saranac Lake--has been sending audio diaries from the front lines. In this week's journal, he describes the precarious chemistry of nerves and fear and boredom that make a soldier's life so hard. Go to full article
May 17, 2004 — National guard troops from northern New York are helping to train Iraqi police and the country's new civil defence force. The process hasn't gone smoothly. The new force has been plagued by desertions and defections. This morning, as part of his Audio Diary series, Army Major Eric Olsen -- a chaplain from Saranac Lake -- talks with an officer from Syracuse who is charged with training Iraqi soldiers inside the Sunni Triangle. Go to full article
May 31, 2004 — Next month, the Bush administration says it will establish a sovereign government in Iraq. Despite the transition, U.S. troops are likely to remain in the country for along time. National Guard troops from northern New York are hunkered down near a vast Army base in the Sunni Triangle. In his latest audio diary, Major Eric Olsen, a chaplain from Saranac Lake, describes the effort to settle in and establish a daily routine, while also dealing with the tension of daily attacks. This installment was recorded two weeks ago and none of the casualities mention in Major Olsen's diary occurred recently. Go to full article
Jun 14, 2004 — For National Guard soldiers stationed in Iraq, the most dangerous assignment can be driving the country's roads. Car bombs, ambushes, and improvised explosive devices--also known as IEDs--have made life risky for even the most well-armored vehicles. Army Major Chaplain Eric Olsen from Saranac Lake rides along on a supply convoy between two bases near Baghdad. Go to full article
Jun 21, 2004 — Two National Guard soldiers from northern New York were injured last week when a number of mortar rounds hit camp Anaconda, north of Bagdad. Anaconda is a major supply hub for New York's National Guard units serving in Iraq. The area has come under regular attack from rockets, mortars and improvised explosive devices -- known as "IEDs". Iraq is filled with weapons, some left over from Saddam Hussein's regime or supplied on the black market. This week, as part of his audio diary series, Army chaplain Eric Olsen spends a day with the unit assigned to find and destroy enemy munitions around Anaconda. Major Olsen is a National Guard soldier from Saranac Lake.
NOTE: This audio diary was recorded in late May, before last week's deadly attack. The series is produced by Brian Mann. Go to full article
Jul 05, 2004 — Over the last four months, New York's National Guard soldiers serving in Iraq have faced deadly rocket and mortar strikes. The attacks have tapered off in recent weeks, in part because of a campaign to hit back at insurgents. As our Iraq audio diary series continues, Army Chaplain Major Eric Olsen spends a night with a mortar crew hunting enemy attackers on the perimeter of an Army base north of Bagdad called Camp Orion. Go to full article
Jul 12, 2004 — For the hundreds of National Guard soldiers serving in Iraq, the tension of patrols and attacks by insurgents is balanced against long hours of boredom and idleness. In the latest installment of his audio diary, Army chaplain Eric Olsen describes the challenge of staying positive and productive so far from home. Go to full article
Jul 19, 2004 — New York's National Guard soldiers in Iraq are struggling with a rash of gastro-intestinal infections. The troops stationed north of Baghdad are also battling cruel heat, with temperatures each day topping 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Major Eric Olsen, Army chaplain from Saranac Lake, has been sending back regular diary entries from Iraq. This morning, he interviews Capt. Michael Dollard, a physician's assistant from Albany serving with the 2nd of the 108th. Go to full article
Jul 26, 2004 — Over the last four months, Major Eric Olsen has been sending audio diaries home from Iraq. Olsen is a National Guard chaplain from Saranac Lake. Often, his accounts have dealt with the tension and danger faced by U.S. soldiers. But Americans on the front lines are also confronted by suffering and hardship among the Iraqis they hope to liberate. This week, Major Olsen describes his encounter with the family of an Iraqi killed by U.S. soldiers. A warning that some of the language in this week's diary might trouble some listeners. Go to full article
Aug 02, 2004 — More than 150,000 National Guard and Reservists are on active duty, many of them stationed in Iraq. These civilian soldiers struggle to balance life in a war zone with the demands of family and businesses back home. Now, many reservists from New York have been given a chance to visit their families for two-week vacations. In his latest audio diary from Iraq, Major Eric Olsen, a chaplain from Saranac Lake, talks about the delights and the stresses of R&R. Go to full article
Aug 30, 2004 — Hundreds of National Guard soldiers from the North Country are serving a year long deployment in Iraq, as part of the 2nd of the 108th Infantry Battalion. As they enter the middle part of their tour, some have had the opportunity to travel home for two-week vacations. But many men and women are still struggling with homesickness and boredom and fatigue. In his latest audio diary installment, Chaplain Major Eric Olsen, from Saranac Lake, talks about the inner life of our soldiers living in a combat zone. Go to full article
Sep 06, 2004 — The number of National Guard and Reserve soldiers now mobilized tops 135,000. Hundreds of reservists from the north country are serving in several hotspots in Iraq, including the region around Samarra. National Guard private Nathan Brown, from Glens Falls, was killed there on Easter Sunday and fierce attacks against U.S. forces continue. In his latest audio diary, recorded in late July, chaplain Eric Olsen, a Major from Saranac Lake, travels with a convoy to visit soldiers in Samarra who are struggling to keep the peace. Go to full article
Sep 13, 2004 — Hundreds of National Guard soldiers from New York and Vermont are serving on the front lines in Iraq. When they return home this winter, the Bush administration hopes to replace many of them with soldiers from the Iraqi National Guard. A recruitment campaign is underway in Iraq. But so far, the ING hasn't performed well against Iraqi insurgents. New recruits have been also been targeted by terrorist bombings and assassinations. New York reservists have been working hard to train new Iraqi soldiers, helping them prepare for what could be a long and bloody fight. In his latest audio diary, Major Eric Olsen attends an ING graduation ceremony in central Iraq. Go to full article
Sep 27, 2004 — New York's National Guard is hoping to maintain morale in Iraq by shipping soldiers home for two-week vacations. Half-way through his deployment north of Baghdad, Major Eric Olsen made the journey back to see his family in Saranac Lake. Along the way he talked with other north country soldiers about their holiday plans He sent this audio postcard. Go to full article
Oct 04, 2004 — As the fighting in Iraq continues, National Guard soldiers from New York have been returning home for two weeks of much-needed R&R. In his audio diary this week, chaplain Eric Olsen travels back to Saranac Lake. He describes wonderful autumn days, spent with his wife Susan and his sons Garth and Evan. But Major Olsen says every joy and experience has been burdened with the knowledge that he'll soon be shipping out again. Go to full article
Oct 18, 2004 — Hundreds of soldiers from northern New York are serving on the front lines in Iraq. For many, the dangers and the moral dilemmas of war are eased by faith. But they're also living and fighting in a place where religion is a flashpoint for violence and hatred. In his latest audio diary, Major Eric Olsen -- an army chaplain from Saranac Lake -- talks with reservists in Iraq about hope and spiritual belief in a time of conflict. Go to full article
Nov 08, 2004 — As fighting intensifies in Iraq, the Bush administration has called up thousands of additional reservists. Roughly 180,000 part-time soldiers are now on active duty. That's an increase of 25,000 since June. National Guard and Reserve soldiers now make up roughly half of the American forces serving in Iraq. According to the Pentagon, they're also suffering half of the casualties. Last month, 15 reservists were killed in action. Two of them were members of New York's 2nd battlion, 108th infantry regiment. In his latest audio diary, Major Eric Olsen, a chaplain from Saranac Lake, has this remembrance of Sgt. Michael Uvanni, a New York National Guardsman who was killed by a sniper October 1st in the town of Samarra.
The Iraq Diary series is produced by Brian Mann with web support from Dale Hobson. Go to full article
Nov 15, 2004 — Hundreds of New York National Guard soldiers serving with the 2nd of the 108th in Iraq have passed their one-year mark. The reservists will be returning home to the U.S. in January or February. But they'll be replaced by other reserve units from New York and Vermont that are now shipping overseas. This week as part his audio diary, Major Eric Olsen -- a chaplain from Saranac Lake -- headed to Camp Orion's internet café to talk with Zachary Estergard, a young soldier from Syracuse who's just begun a tour of duty. Go to full article
Nov 29, 2004 — During the recent fighting in Falloujah, insurgent attacks escalated in other parts of Iraq. North Country National Guard soldiers based at Camp Orion, north of Baghdad, faced a wave of massive car bombings. In his latest Iraq audio diary, recorded in mid-November, Major Eric Olsen, a National Guard Chaplain from Saranac Lake, describes the fighting over a period of 48 hours, as soldiers struggled to maintain order on the front line. Go to full article
Dec 06, 2004 — Hundreds of National Guard and Reserve soldiers from New York are nearing the end of their year-long deployment to Iraq. The 2nd of the 108th won't release the exact travel dates, because of security concerns, but north country soldiers could be home as early as January. In his latest audio diary from Iraq, Major Eric Olsen gathers thoughts from reservists about their home-coming. Olsen -- a chaplain from Saranac Lake -- found men who were hopeful, anxious, and eager. Go to full article
Dec 13, 2004 — Hundreds of soldiers from the north country are serving on the front lines in Iraq. Those units deal with local civilians every day. Often the encounters are tense, complicated by barriers of language and culture and fear. This week, in his latest Iraq Audio Diary, Major Eric Olsen talks with one of the local interpreters who serve as middle men between American soldiers and the people they're trying to protect. Major Eric Olsen is an Army chaplain from Saranac Lake. He's serving with the 2nd of the 108th, a New York National Guard unit. Go to full article
Dec 27, 2004 — For dozens of military families in the north country, this Christmas season has been tough. A contingent of reservists from Vermont is now on its way to Iraq. Meanwhile, seven hundred National Guard soldiers from around New York state are scheduled to return next week from Iraq. A demobilization ceremony for the 2nd of the 108th battalion has been tentatively scheduled for next Monday at Fort Drum. The homecoming will be a joyous time, but it will also be a time for complicated adjustments. This week, as part of our Iraq audio diary series, we'll hear from Susan Olsen. Susan is an artist, a teacher, and a homemaker. She's also the wife of Major Eric Olsen, an army chaplain from Saranac Lake who's been serving at Camp Orion north of Bagdad. Their sons are Garth and Evan. Go to full article
Dec 31, 2004 — Over the last ten months, Major Eric Olsen has been sending regular audio diary entries from Camp Orion north of Bagdad. In his latest entry, Olsen takes stock of a year spent on the front lines and looks forward to the challenges of returning home. Major Olsen is chaplain for the 2nd of the 108th National Guard infantry battalion. He lives in Saranac Lake with his wife Susan and sons, Garth and Evan. Go to full article
Jan 17, 2005 — Over the last year, Major Eric Olsen, a National Guard chaplain with the 2nd of the 108th infantry battalion, has sent weekly audio diaries from Iraq. His thoughts, and the experiences of his wife Susan in Saranac Lake, have offered some insight into the lives of families separated by war. This week, as we wrap up our regular series, Brian Mann sat down with Eric Olsen. Olsen is now one of dozens of north country soldiers back home safe, settling back into the rhythms of normal life. Go to full article
Dec 30, 2005 — On January 2nd, 2005, six hundred and seventy soldiers with the 2nd of the 108th National Guard battalion celebrated their return from the war in Iraq with a ceremony at Fort Drum. They also remembered three of the unit's reservists who didn't make it home. Lt. Colonel Eric Olsen served as a chaplain at a base north of Bagdad and also volunteered for North Country Public Radio, keeping a series of audio diaries. Olsen has been home in Saranac Lake for a full year now, with his wife Susan and his sons Garth and Evan. Olsen sat down this week with Brian Mann to talk about returning to civilian life, a hard transition for many reservists. Go to full article
Maj. Eric Olsen is chaplain to the 2nd of the 108th Infantry Battalion, New York Army National Guard. He and his family live in Saranac Lake.