Friday, November 21, 2008

A project underway...

Well after all this time of waiting and deciding how and what to do, I have begun the early steps to putting together a book! I will keep updates coming, but everything is in the begining stages right now. Wish me luck!

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Sunday, July 6, 2008

A free man!

Well my 4th of July celebrations just ended yesterday when I returned from the lake where I spent a few days with my girl and her family, just enjoying the fresh air and beautiful scenery. The city we were in put on a fireworks show over the lake, which I didn't hold much hope for, but it turned out to be pretty damn good. They even had a band playing, that was rocking out and had so many people up there dancing, to include the 2 of us! :)

So anyways, to make a real quick post for now, I returned yesterday, and after a 2 1/2 hour drive I made it back to Ft Bragg/Fayetteville, but instead of going straight to my house, I had to make a quick detour. I entered Ft Bragg, with my soon to be expired ID card, and made the short little drive to my Battalion head quarters so that I could officially sign out of the Army! It was a great feeling and I had the biggest smile on my face as I was walking out of there, knowing that after all these years, my time is finally up.

Today was the 1st day that I've woken up in a long time as a free man. My sentance has been served and now I'm out on parole. My unit is just begining to get back from a month of leave, and its crazy to think that they will be going back to work, yet I wont be. In a way its kind of sad, because for the last 3 1/2 years, the Army, NC and these friends I've made have been my life. Its never easy to just give up something you've held on to for so long, but in many ways I'm excited to be getting back to Phoenix and seeing my friends and family back there.

This isn't the end of me and the Army tho, because as one sentance ends, another is soon to begin, this one being a 6-year enlistment in the National Guard. I wanted to join an Infantry unit back home in AZ, but unfortunatly they did not have positions open yet, and even when some would open soon, they may not of been slots that would of paid an enlistment bonus. Because of this I opted to join the California National Guard, with an Infantry unit based out of San Diego, CA. Its about a 5 hour drive from Phoenix, but it will be worth it. I mean, shoot, this gives me an excuse to take a vacation to San Diego every month, and my how I love it there! Also, not only was the slot that I am going in to a bonus paying slot, but it is in a priority unit, which means I will receive my $20,000 bonus in one lump sum, minus taxes of course. But that will still be a nice deposit in the bank, so I'm stoked about that too.

Thats about all for now. Next weekend I will begin my drive back to Phoenix as I spend a little bit more time with some of my friends who have been gone on leave over the last month, and then, finally, will this chapter of my life be complete. But as one chapter ends, so begins the next! :)

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Coming to an end...

Well, for a little update on where I am today, let me start by saying that I have less than 2 weeks until I sign out on terminal leave. Basically this is like regular leave, where you're not at work or anything, except this is tacked on to the end of your enlistment. Basically I'm taking a month of terminal leave, which means, I "leave" the Army and I still get paid for one for month, until I'm officially release from the Army.

So right now I've been staying pretty busy with doing all the crap required to get out of the Army. Theres tons of briefs and this you need and that you have to do, plus I still have the worst part, which is the turn in of all my equipment. Doesn't sound so bad, but when for the last 3 1/2 years and a deployment later, all my stuff has been here and there and back again, and now I have to try and piece together everything that I have to turn back in. It doesn't help when they give you a list of stuff with names that give you NO clue as to what it actually is. Should be fun. Anyways, all this process has been going smoothly so far and I should be done with this "headache" soon. Besides the headache is well worth it since it means Im finally done!

I recently have finished up my CV/Resume and got that sent out the other day to a bunch of contract companies, so hopefully soon I should hear back from them, some whom I've already spoken with people via telephone. I've pretty much decided that I'm going to go back overseas for a year (usual minimum contract length) to stash some more cash away in the bank and then come back and do college. So I'm excited about getting the ball rolling on that.

Other than that, I've been pretty good. Trying to get out and away from this house I spend WAY too much time in lately. Been hiking, indoor skydiving, the beach, amusment parks, all sorts of stuff, just trying to keep busy. I've been taking Charlie along for the ride for a lot of this and he seems to be enjoying it. Every day I end up loving that dog more and more. He's such an amazing guy. Too bad he doesn't know we're about to make a LONG drive across country to wind up back in a place just as hot as the hell hole he came from. Maybe he wouldn't be so cool then.

Anyways, thats about it for the updates for now, so like I said I'm going to try and keep posting on here more often so, just know that I'm doing good and really looking forward to leaving the Army and going back home!

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Friday, June 13, 2008

I've been horrible...

OK, well its obvious by the last post date on here, but I have been horrible about keeping this up to date on the latest and greatest of the life back in the states. I do appologize for that, and I just want everyone to know that I am doing good. A lot has been going on lately and for some reason I just could not find the motivation to get on here and write anything. The purpose of my blog was to tell my story of being in Iraq, and I guess to idea of telling my story now that I'm not seems even less interesting. But I'm seriously going to put forth and effort. This is just going to be a quick post to let everyone know that I'm alive and well, but I will be posting again soon to give yall an update on much of what has been going on in my life and will be going on in my life soon.

Today is Friday the 13th, a day that will always hold a very significant meaning for me. Those of you that have read my blogs from the begining will know what I'm talking about. Those of you that haven't if you simply look up "Friday the 13th" or go under the month of April 2007, you will see what it is Im talking about. It is what drove me to read my own blog today and what has made me realize that I need to post on here again. So again, I appologize for the long break in posts, but know I am going to make a concious effort to keep posting more regularly. Thanks for your understanding.

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Saturday, April 5, 2008


Well this past week has been pretty awesome. The main reason for that is because of a cute little 4 legged friend that I have been able to spend time with again, CHARLIE! Last weekend, I finally was able to make the trip up to Washington DC to reunite with our dog that we had brought back from Iraq. He had been in the States since Feb 14th, and it had been almost a month and a half since I had seen him and was anxiously awaiting this day.

When I finally got to the house and started to go around back to see him, he was already waiting by the fence. I had left Thursday immediatly after work so I was still in my ACUs, and when I got close enough for him to see my face, he stopped, looked up at me and if for a minute he had this look on his face like he couldn't believe what he was seeing. After a couple seconds of him taking it all in, he went crazy! Once I got in through the gate and was able to be next to him, he was SO excited. I had never seen him this excited ever before. He was flying through the air over and over again, to jump on me and lick my furiously. He would run away, then come flying back at me time and time again. It was awesome to see him so excited. I took the time to try and wear him out and we played with many toys in the backyard until he used up all of his energy and I could pet him and hug him like I wanted to. It was very surreal seeing him clean and in America. He was so clean it was unbelivable. The only Charlie I had known was the one that lived outdoors at the outpost and was usually covered in a good amount of dirt and typical Iraqi Muhallah filth. So to see him clean, with his white fur, brillantly white was a shock. But I took it all in and was just so happy to be back with him again.

I ended up staying the night there just outside of DC and the next morning I decided to take Charlie on a walk around all the monuments before we headed back to Ft Bragg. We wern't able to go right up to a few of them, but it was definatly cool to be able to see them and I can only imagine what was going through his head seeing such amazing monuments after most of all he has know was the slums of Baghdad. We had a great time and many people stopped to comment on how cute he was and to pet and play with him. He is amazing with other dogs and other people and he loves all the attention. He also walks perfectly on a leash which is mind boggeling. After a couple hours, we piled in to the car to begin the 6 hour journey back home. For the most part he slept in the back seat, only to get up every rest stop so we could walk around and drink some water.

Once I got back there were several people that immediatly wanted to see him. It was great being able to reunite the guys with our companion, but the greatest reunion came from a guy who was not expecting to see him. Back in October, in a situation that I had blogged slightly about, his platoon was part of a semi-large mission in to the bad Sunni area by our AO durring Ramadan, the largest Muslim holiday, also known for the most violence. He was a part of a dismounted squad that ended up walking in to an ambush, where many of the guys were injuried. He was one of the more severe injuries, and had taken a round through his knee. It was the type of injury that took him out of the game and he had been sent back here to Bragg. So he had no clue that Charlie was coming home or anything and had pretty much expected that he was never going to see him again. It must have been tough because he definatly loved and cared for that dog with the best of us.

I had taken Charlie back to the barracks to reunite with another guy and we were talking about how this guy would be happy to see him and literally at that moment he was walking from the parking lot. I yelled for him to come over and he took one look at Charlie and couldn't belive his eyes. The amazing thing is that after all that time, Charlie remebered him like it was just yesterday and he was acking just as crazy as when I had first seen him in DC. It was awesome seeing how happy the 2 of them were to see each other again and I can only imagine the suprise going through his head to see Charlie, the dog from Iraq, back in America.

Other than that we have been doing pretty good. A lot of people have had the chance to see him and Im sure over time more and more will eventually do so. We are doing great and somehow Charlie is already house-broken. He hasn't had a single incident as far as that goes. He is truly an amazing dog in so many ways and its awesome to have him back again!

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How to Write a Book 101...

Too bad I never attended that class, other wise I might have an idea of what the hell I'm doing. HA! I did have a job once, just after I graduated High School where I worked for an independant book publisher (nothing big time) formatting work given to us in a Word document so that it would fit on to a normal printed book page. It wasn't a bad job, but because of how young I was, I was not getting paid what I should. It was my first tech type of job and in many was I wish I would of stuck with it a bit and continued with that skill set.

So for those of you who know me, or those of you who have corresponded with me, you probably already know what I'm about to say, but I'll go ahead and tell everyone else the story behind my blog. Bare with me...

My blog was initially started on my MySpace Page. (feel free to add me if you have MySpace as well! :D ) In the past I have always wanted to write a book, but never had anything good to write about. Once I learned of our deployment, I realized that I would have an event in my life which actually might make an interesting story, so in an effort to inform my family and friends of what I was doing (saving me from telling the same story over and over), and more so as a way to keep record of what I experienced and to not forget the little details over time, I started keeping blogs on MySpace. They started out simple, but as we began doing missions I started trying to write down as much info as I could remember, within the limits of OPSEC of course. Over the course of 3 months I had several posts on there, detailing the begining of my 15-month deployment. At some point I began noticing that a handful of people were reading my blogs on there, and some of them were people that I had no clue who they were. I began formatting the blog page there, coming up with the origional layout of what would eventually involve in to the look of my blog today. I was getting frustrated with the lack of options for the formatting of my MySpace blog, so after some time, I decided to move over to Blogspot to continue my blog. I copied over all the entries from just before we left until that time, and put them on to my Blogger account, which they are still accessable there today. On April 8th, everything was copied over and I was happy with the way the blog looked, so I added a counter and linked to the new blog site, from my MySpace blog. And from there, the rest is history... haha I've always wanted to say that.

Fast foward to now. 15 months later, 113 (published) posts later and I'm stuck trying to figure out what I need to do in order to make the initial dream a reality. I guess I probably need to contact publishers and see if they would be interested, or whatever. If anyone has any advice for me in this department I am open ears. Until that day comes, I will continue to take my posts and put them in to Word, and format them and spell/grammer check (yes BrianFH, when I have the time I do know how to do that! :D ) and try and save any (hopefully) future editors a little bit of time and headache editing through my stories. Ideally, I would like to keep my old posts intact and then after selected posts I put in a book, Id like to tell more to the story than I was able to do at the time while in Iraq. Maybe include some additional pictures. Theres many ideas in my head, but again, no real plan of action at this point. Not to mention I do also want to write a book about getting Charlie out of Iraq and back to the States. (Oh and those of you asking about Charlie updates, I will have a post here soon dedicated to that... so stay tuned!)

I think I have babbled on enough for now. That is really about all that I have right now. Like I said if you have any advice or can point me in the right direction for this, leave me a comment or send me out an email. I greatly appreciate any help, and thanks in advance.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Being home...

is great!

It is the most amazing feeling in the world to be back in the States after so long in Iraq. While over there, it seemed like this day would never come, but finally it did. The flight back was full of anticipation as we all just wanted to end our long journey and be back with the ones we love and care about. For myself, from the time I was last walking around the streets of Baghdad until I landed back in the United States, it was only 4 days. Mind blowing really. One we arrived at Ft Bragg, there were so many friends, family, whatever there, that it was a HUGE crowd. We formed up and marched in while everyone was screaming and cheering, and it was so hard to not break out with a huge smile across my face. The shivers ran throughout my body, and even a little bit right now just thinking about it. It was amazing and I couldn't of asked for much more. We headed back to the company, turned in our weapons and got released for 6 hours until we had to come back to receive our safety brief to go in to our 3-day weekend that we had.

That weekend was a good time of just relaxing and enjoying being back. Of course the alcohol consumption was a necessity, but fortunatly everyone drank responsibly and had a plan for being out there. No one fucked up, no one got a DUI. So far so good. Hopefully everyone continue to do the right thing and no one ruins it for everyone. Right now for the next 5 or 6 weekends we will be having 3 and 4 day weekends every weekend. The days that we do work right now are 1/2 days, so by 12:00 we are done for the day. Its nice I'm not even going to lie. We started doing typical PT, and I am hurting. Although I was going to the gym in Iraq, I really did run all that much, and being back running hills and fire breaks in the woods has taken its toll on my legs and by the end of the 3rd day of PT, I was officially broken off and walking a little funny. Guess its going to take a little time.

One thing that was a little unsetteling while we were back was that somewhere out at some range on Ft Bragg there were launching mortars or artillery or blowing up something really big and often. There was one day where the explosions were so loud, it was shaking the barracks and could be heard AND felt throughout both adjacent cities of Fayetteville and Spring Lake. I was at the car stereo place dropping of my car to get my new system installed, when I walked outside and heard an earth shaking explosion. It didn't startle me, but it sounded like how an IED sounded if it went off just outside the gates of the FOB, and I just remeber thinking to myself, "I thought I was getting away from this crap!" Hahaha. I've gotten used to hearing them back here, but I surely didn't expect to continue to have to hear explosions. Fortunatnly I only have a couple more months left in the Army and then I shouldn't have to hear them again.

Enjoying the sun in Phoenix!This weekend I decided to take a last minute trip back home to Phoenix for our 4-day weekend. I didn't let my mom know that I was coming and totally suprised her when I showed up at her place. Its been good to see her as well as my friends. I'm having a blast here and I'm really enjoying my insanly low alcohol tolerence! I went all out on the car rental too and decided to drive around a brand new Infinity G35. It is a sweet car and I really really REALLY don't want to have to take it back. Its amazing how the weather is totally different here than back in NC. In NC I was freezing, especially in the morning and its been incredibly windy all week. Here in Phoenix it is a completly different story. The temperatures are near perfect, the beautiful blue skies are amazing and the sun beams down brightly and full of warmth. We were at the pool the other day for only a couple hours, and now as a result of not applying any sunblock, I have an attractive redness to my skin. Hopefully it turns in to a nice tan and doesn't peal away.

So that is about all for now. Like I said I am loving every minute of being back. In many ways its so surreal, but I'm taking it all in slowing and experiencing many things that I had missed out on over the last 15 months. It truly is so amazing to be back and I'm so happy that I am able to experience this amazing place again!

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Mission Accomplished!

It is over. The words I have been waiting to say for so long while doing this blog, I AM DONE! And a job well done. I know back in the day when President Bush made his whole Mission Accomplished speech from the Navy aircraft carrier, the mission that most Americans assumed he was talking about was the Iraq War, which at the time was no where near done. There was and still is much controversey over his decision to make such a statement. My statement is a little less bold. I don't refer to accomplished as in the war is over, send the troops home kind of accomplished. I am referring to the work that we have done, ourselves and the job we have done.

Our mission is accomplished. We received word of our deployment a few days after Christmas. We were on the deployment ready cycle at Ft Bragg where we could potentially deploy anywhere in the world on a moments notice, so it was no real suprise, at least to me, that when the murmors of a possible troop surge began rumbling, that we were probably going to be caught up in it. Sure enough we were. We would come to learn shortly after hearing about our deployment that just 2 days after New Years we would be heading for Kuwait. We hurried to rush out of there and get going on what was to be a 6 month deployment as the Iraq Theaters strategic reserve. By the time we were wheels up, it had been 6 days since we had received notification of our deployment. Soon after arriving in Kuwait, the decision was finalized to mobilize 10s of thousands of troops and flood them in to Baghdad and other parts of Iraq as a part of a new change in strategy. When the boots of our unit touched the dirty ground of Iraq, the "Surge" had begun.

It was a volitile time for Baghdad and Iraq when we began. Sectarian killing between Shiites and Sunnis was spirialing out of control. Sadr's militia was terrorize and killing Sunnis while Sunni snipers and bomb makers mutilated Shiites in ungodly numbers. They hated each other, but they both hated us. The Spring of 2007 brought some of the bloodiest months of this War. May 2007 was the 2nd bloodiest month of this conflict, followed with April and June as the 5th and 6th. The year 2007 would turn in to the single deadliest year for US troops since the begining of the War. The initial push of the Surge was in to Baghdad and the fighting between Sadr's militia, the Sunni Militia and Al-Qaeda in Iraq against the US Military was fierce. But our resolve and will did not faulter and our advantage in warfighting proved once again that they stood no chance. They began to flee the Baghdad area and push to the outskirts, where the new Surge troops would soon follow and continue to give them the crushing defeat they were sustaining in Baghdad.

With the focus no longer on gunbattles and firefights, we began going after the leaders of the militias that operated in our sector and began rolling them up one after another, after another, until the picture became clear to them. Quit, leave or get caught. Our final task was to protect the economically important markets which were in our area, and were constantly the target of massive carbombs killings hundreads of people with some of the blasts. The most economically important and largest market in Baghdad was in our sector, but between our constant presence and pressure on the militias, the attacks dwindled in size and frequency. With the militas weakened, the civilian casulties at an all time low due to a lack of car bombs and sniper attacks, the confidence of the people began to rise and their trust and appreciation of us did as well. The last vitial step was to get the Iraqis to begin to take over for themselves and our assistance in the creation of the CLC (Concerned Local Citizen) groups have done just that.

The situation in our area had taken a complete 180 from where it was when we began. The Sunnis and the Shiites began to trust one another. Killings were almost non-existant. Attacks in the markets were so rare and weak, that the resolve of the Iraqi civilians was no shaken. People were no long so fearful of working with the Americans and giving us intel. And in some areas, you could tell the people really loved us being there. I wouldn't go so far as saying it was completely safe in our area, but its getting damn close. Its amazing to think how much of a differnece 15 months had made. And it shows in the level of attacks on our troops. Dec 2007 was the 2nd lowest death toll since the start of the war, with the 3rd lowest being Feb 2008. Sadr, the leader of the Jeish Al Mehdi Army, has even noticed the change and no longer feels the need for his militia to fight and has stated himself that what the Americans have done has been good. As tough as it was for us to deploy here on 6 days notice and to deal with our deployment getting extended from 6 months to a year and then a year to 15-months, I believe it has been worthwhile and has such a profound impact on this area, that only time can truly show. I hope the trend continues with the new units that begin to replace the Surge troops and I hope peace will one day take over in this land. I want to be able to come back when I'm 50 and 60 and walk the same streets with my Kids and Grandchildern. I only pray that this may one day be possible.

So for now my time is done. I am done with missions and very shortly will be heading out of this place I called home for so long. The next time I post I will be back in the United States. Thank you to all who have read my blog, offered adivce, support or just an encouraging word through the comments and emails. I appreciated it all and I hope that you were able to get a little better picture of what life was like here in Iraq for an average American ground soldier, in the middle of the Surge! I will continue to blog once I return for some time, so don't think this is the end. Its just the end of a long long long long loooooong Chapter! :)

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Monday, March 3, 2008

One last CIB...

I want to start off by once again stating that whoever runs the Firewall for the computers that we have at the outpost are truly bi-polar. Because once again I am able to log on to blogger from the outpost, a change for like the 12th time! AHH! Also I lied in my last post. I have not begun my slow voyage home, but here I am posting again, but thats only because I wanted to get this story out there.

The other night, the CLC (Concerned Local Citizens) Group swung by the outpost with a guy that they had detained. Apparently they found this guy out walking around and he had what looked to be a homemade gernade. I had never seen a gernade like this. It had a plastic body and just looked fashioned. Over the past week or so there have been a few incidents with some people throwing gernades at IA (Iraqi Army) and IP (Iraqi Police) checkpoints, so I can only imagine that this is what this guy was going to do. So far they haven't targeted any US personnel with these gernades. Once we had this guy in our custody, they began questioning him and apparently at some point he stated that he would take us and show us where some more stuff was.

A group of our guys headed out to go hit this target building, while myself and the rest of the guys of my squad continued to pull our guard shift, knowing that we were probably going to be extended because the guys going out were the ones that were to relieve us. Time goes on and eventually we start getting word that they had found quite the little cache of more gernades and other stuff. The platoon that was out on patrol that day, sent out a dismounted element to link up with our guys. Shortly after they had left we heard some shooting off in the alleyways a little bit, but we didn't think too much of it. It wasn't until a pretty loud burst that we wonder, especially when the call came up to us in the towers asking if we heard any gunshots. They usually don't do this without a reason, and we later found out that was the CLC guys who had come in contact with a couple guys shooting at them. Nothing major though.

Some more time passed, a we were well in to the next guard shift when we heard a couple bursts of AK fire a couple hundread meters down the road from the outpost. I stood up and headed outside the tower I was in as all hell broke loose for about a minute or so. There were a couple explosions that I could see and of course here and we called those up. Thats when we learned that it was our guys that were in contact. Sons of bitches! I was officially jelous at this point. While standing on the roof scanning around from off to the side of the outpost a shot rang out that flew overhead, coming from an area a good distance away from where our guys were in contact. After a minute from that origional shot, there was a short burst again fired from the same area directed in our direction. The thing was that since I really didn't know the locations of our guys, I couldn't just indiscriminantly fire in the area that I heard the shot. Oh well, its not like they were hitting close to me, just definatly shooting in our direction.

After a little while the guys returned back to the outpost and of course the rest of us that were there were eager to learn what had happened. Apparently while they were on the roof of the place where the cache was, a couple guys a couple rooftoops over began shooting at them so they of course returned fire, launching a couple high-explosive gernade rounds from the gernade launchers, which explained the explosions we heard. The other platoons guys went to maneauver on them and I guess at some point they were shot at as well and returned fire. All in all it was a pretty quick little engagemnet. The one thing of note was that the last guy in our platoon that had not received his CIB (Combat Infantrymans Badge) was out there that night! So he now officially qualifies for his CIB and at the very tail end of our deployment and running combat missions, he finally earned his. How crazy!

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

I'm going CRAZZZZZYY!!!

Ok so this is just going to be a quick update post since I am getting ready to head out and probably will be away from the computers for a little bit. But know that the next time I am able to get on and post, that I will most likely be on my journey out of this country already! :)

The past couple days have brought some big changes. There were a few incidents around here, that have cause our upper level chain of command to get all Nazified with some stupid rules. They probably wouldn't be so bad if it wern't for the fact that I stay back for a few days from going to the outpost with my platoon as a part of an agreement with my Plt Sgt since I'm doing the 'left seat right seat rides' I talked about in the last post. Well now this origionally seemed like a good idea to me. A few days back, all by myself, do whatever I want. Sounded good. Now because of these new rules I can't do anything. The big one is that you have to walk around in groups of 3 or more. Seeing as how there is only me and one other guy here, that kind of screws us. We have to either be sneaky or find someone to go with us, neither being an easy task. In fact I even missed out on a meal yesterday because I didn't have anyone to go with me. Its got me quite pissed.

The other thing is that since I'm basically on house arrest, along with the rest of our battalion, for some bullshit that I had no part of, I have been limited on what I can do. Pretty much I have been relying on watching movies, but after the 4th or 5th movie of the day I'm going fucking crazy. Everything is packed, so I don't have crap to do and no one around and I'm loosing it. I'm actually looking forward to leaving here soon and getting out there with my guys and away from all the stupid crap around here.

Well that is about all that I have for now, I will keep yall post the best I can here in the coming weeks, but know that I'm almost done!!!!!

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