Col. Burt Thompson flying over Iraq.
Pfc. Track Palin has been promoted from driver to an "air guard" position in one of the rear hatches of the Stryker vehicle. He stands in the hatch with a rifle and watches out for danger to the vehicle, be it airborne or on the ground. His unit also provides security for the brigade's commander and deputy commander. From there, the next promotion is to be a dismounted soldier, one that leaves the 20-ton, eight-wheeled armored combat vehicle.
From all reports, Track Palin is an unassuming and humble fellow and very quiet about the whole "mom running for vice president" thing. "He's a good kid and a good soldier and he'd like to remain anonymous," says Col. Burt Thompson, who commands the Alaska-based 25th Infantry Division's 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, known as the "Arctic Wolves."
His silence is certainly understandable, also because soldiers are very, very strongly cautioned about talking politics, especially these days. In fact, military officials in Baghdad tell our embedded reporter Alex Kingsbury that numerous foreign journalists have been denied requests to embed with units in Iraq explicitly because they wanted to do stories about the troop's feelings on the eve of the elections. Because the soldiers aren't allowed to answer political questions, the embed requests were denied.
Colonel Thompson says Palin has received no threats along the lines of Britain's Prince Harry , who had to leave service in Afghanistan, and doesn't expect any.
As for reports in the press that implied favoritism to get Palin into the Alaska Stryker unit, they're balderdash, says Thompson. Looking ahead, he says: "It might be kind of tricky if she [Governor Palin] is elected, but he's probably safer here with these guys than anywhere else in the world. It is certainly dynamic and pretty cool to have him with us."
Earlier this week, Whispers talked to dad Todd Palin about Track and he said they try to talk often. Ditto for Sarah Palin, says Thompson. "Sarah Palin does communicate with us via E-mail and she receives the brigade updates in the form of the weekly newsletter. She's also the official Brigade Mom . . . We know Governor Palin very well, trust me. We get her E-mails and she gets ours. She has sent us some very nice E-mails." He adds, "Listen, she's been to every deployment ceremony, she visits units in Alaska, and she really cares about the military. And all that was even before she decided to run for vice president."