To start with I would like to thank everyone, but especially my wife Angie for this past year. It has not been easy but with her help, and all of your help, we are making it just fine

The McGurk Christmas missive like all great letters is always started too late, and possibly too long, but here goes anyways.

Last year was a wonderful Christmas; we traveled over the river and through the woods to Litchfield, Connecticut, home of my parents. It was a good chance to see the family and to catch up with some of my old friends. New England, for those who have not been there, is a magical area at Christmas (and pretty good the rest of the year too!).

We had snow and pine trees and lights in the windows of colonial houses. Quite the sight to see.

After we got home we enjoyed the warmer, but wetter weather of Virginia. Angela had the travel itch going full speed so we were off again, this time to southern Spain. We caught a free flight with the military “Space-A” out of Norfolk, Virginia. A few struggles but we got on the flight (half empty) and flew into Rota, a Navy base in the SW corner of Spain. From there we rented a car and spent a wonderful week driving to Grenada (Al-hambra is not to be missed) , Cordoba (go see the mosque) and off to Seville (Plaza d’espagne). It was only about 8 days but a fantastic trip with wonderful sights, food, and people. We highly recommend the region.

Spring crept up on us and before we knew it, it was early summer and the heat was starting. Michael has never been one for the heat. He much prefers the winter snow.

So, what does he do? Michael got the travel bug too but to a sunny summer garden spot called Baghdad, Iraq. Not what Angie wanted or even fully understood but like always, she supported Michael. Why for Michael was fairly complex but it was part guilt, part adventure, and a lot of duty, honor country mixed in. After over 20 years in uniform when the country calls you, you have to go.

So he packed his bags and off he went, leaving Angela to tend to the home fires. (OK, the real reason is Michael was the SGS (Secretary General Staff) at Accessions Command, the West Point Society of Hampton Roads Representative, and on the Vestry at church, much easier to go to war than do all that work!)

So Michael was off to the big desert sand-box (in July of all months) to start the 6 month weight reduction program. Not that he needed it mind you.

Iraq has been better than expected and worse than expected at the same time. Michael has written a whole series of emails and promises to keep them coming. The adventures have been few and far between and life in Iraq is pretty much like the office in Virginia (ok a few more booms and bangs but not that different).

Living conditions in Iraq, for the US Soldiers are up 200% since last year and getting better all the time. Michael shares a trailer with another LTC and they have a shared shower with two other officers. For a war zone the living is pretty easy. The food is good and if anything too plentiful. Not much weigh loss going on for anyone here. Hard to work out as we must wear 35 lb. body armor and you can’t run 2 miles in that! At least not fast.

Michael’s tour of 6 months was extended into January to provide a transition for the new arrivals. Michael hopes to be back home by late January of 2005. In the meantime, Michael is at the US Embassy compound in the “Green Zone” of Baghdad.

( LTC Michael McGurk, MNF-I STRATCOM, APO AE 09316 : Don’t mail anything after 20 Dec; it takes 2-3 weeks to arrive)

September 11th, 2004 on top of Saddam's former palce "Al Faw" is western Baghdad. LTC Robert "Powl" Smith (USMA 82), LTC Michael McGurk (USMA 85) and LTC Russ Shumway (USAR). The LTC cabal who run Strategic Communications for MNF-Iraq.

Michael strapped into a UH-60 "Blackhawk" for a ride from the International Zone to Camp Victory. The prevalence of Car Bombs (VBIED) and Roadside Bombs (IED) has made air travel more popular. Wonder why? Fall 2004

McGurk on Board
Michael and Angie in one of the court yards of Al-Hambra Palace, Grenada, Spain. It is a 900+ year old castle/palace complex built during the Moorish Occupation. On the World Heritage list of sites. Feb 2004

Angie and Mike 
Angie at another section of the Al-Hambra Palace in Grenada, Spain. Feb 2004

Angie Spain 
Michael on vacation in Feb. 2004 Rhonda, Spain, note the Moorish influence in design.