March 17, 2008

From the Front: 03/17/2008

News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

In their own words:
Northern Disclosure: Telephonic Journalism the new Saigon news technique - When I was a boy my Dad used to tell me don't believe everything you hear, read or see. Again, I find myself reminded of his wisdom. Here in the last couple days I have been reading, hearing and watching the complete and utter failure in journalism. The other day the boys of Bad Voo Doo and I were on a mission in southern Iraq and where only a short distance from what has been reported as a travesty, tragedy and another example of the reckless US Army. While assisting a bomb blast that struck a civilian bus that was in the vicinity of the convoy immediately to our front I did not see a single news reporter or media person. By the time I got to my destination the reports were already online about the casualties and conduct of the US Forces. Pray tell where were the media getting their information? (READ MORE)

One Marine's View: Life back in Iraq – Gang, Conducted a few convoys in the area and I thought I would pass on the atmospherics in the area. Compared to my last deployment here, things are a lot better. We began in the local area and did not have to utilize any escalation of force due to vehicle threats. Roads have been repaired from past IEDs and general contracting and building is improving across the bar. However, we have had incidents that resemble my last tour here that prove that the insurgents are still around, although not as evident or as frequent. Not much goes on at night as we were out and about (we are everywhere) and didn't see many people out. Good thing. The air is still filled with the ever present burning trash, tires etc and the temps are on the rise along with the multiple day sand storms. The local people are very cooperative with us which foils insurgent's plans to intimidate them to get to us. This is mainly due to the Iraqi Army and police force kicking butt. (READ MORE)

Those Wacky Iraqis: I seen that train a rollin..... - I got an email this morning stating that Camp Taji had a train come in. This is the first train to come in the gates since 2003. I remember the last one. It was a Turkish built model and they were going to use it to haul a flatbed car with a couple of T-55s for war trophies for some National Guard units. The locomotive went south to Baghdad for something and the bad guys promptly blew up the tracks. We never saw the locomotive again. Well, I saw it this morning. It appears to be the very same locomotive that was there in 2003. This is another sign that things are getting better but did you hear about this in the MSM? Of course not. No one died, no political candidate could use this as fodder for the gristmill. (READ MORE)

Sgt Hook: Humble Apologies - Please forgive me for failing to get on here and provide an update or two sooner. My day job has really put some demands on my time but I promise to do better and getting on here even if just to wave from the sandbox. As you can see, the underwater cable guy has finished his repairs. I still am quite curious as to how such a thing could happen but I guess that’s the mysteries of the deep. What you may not be able to see is the tremendous progress your Soldiers and their Iraqi counterparts are making over here. I manage to catch a glimpse at CNN/FOX News/MSNBC at the chow hall and I see very little reporting on goings on in Iraq which I suppose is a sign that we are experiencing great successes. Rest assured, you can take great pride in the honorable job your Soliders are doing, day in and day out. (READ MORE)

Yellowhammering Afghanistan: Coming face-to-face with abuse - It is rare to see a married woman's face here. Bruises and scrapes were not features I had expected. On Friday, I talked about how two of the greatest evils against women in Afghanistan are arranged marriages and domestic abuse. All too often, the two go hand-in-hand. Yesterday, I came face-to-face with the devastation of both evils. Statistics in black and white don't really color the issue like seeing a black-and-blue eye. Inflated survey results don't carry the weight of a swollen face. A woman who said she was 25 but looked much younger was repeatedly punched and kicked by her husband, leaving her face black and blue and swollen. Her eyeball had a blood bruise. Her cheek was scabbed. (READ MORE)

Yellowhammering Afghanistan: Three amigos - The trickle of guys out of Camp Vulcan continues before the bulk of us create a flood in a few weeks. We said goodbye to three great soldiers recently as they head back home to their families and life after Ghazni. Cpt. Rob Bailey, Dallas, Texas, was in that group. Cpt. Bailey was one our district team chiefs responsible for one of the most improved districts in Afghanistan when it comes to the Afghan National Police. Deh Yak is widely regarded as one of the best districts in Afghanistan today. Hopefully Cpt. Bailey realizes he leaves here having made a difference. That's the most any of us can hope to say when we leave. Cpt. Ivey and Sgt. First-Class Talbot have also left us. They were ETTs with the Afghan National Army here in Ghazni. Both are fine soldiers and were good friends. (READ MORE)

Iraq: The Purgatorium: Rear View Mirror - That horrible fucking day had to come, and it came way too fast for our liking. I found myself grudgingly checking out of the hotel. I made sure to say goodbye to my friend that works in my favorite lounge, and the next thing I know, I'm watching the city melt away through the window of a moving car. I never understood anyone ever really being bummed about leaving any place, to me it was always like a kid going nuts when it was time to leave the playplace at McDonald's, but this was different. All those amazing signs, bustling crowds, incredible architecture, everything I'd come to love, the clean streets, the most incredible city I'd ever seen, it was all sliding past me. At the airport, I hesitated. Getting on that plane was the hardest thing I'd ever done. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: “Some Iraqis are hoping again.” - The LA Times recently offered a fascinating look at Baghdad by – for a change – an actual Baghdadi. Physician-journalist Caesar Ahmed paints a portrait of a city that remains violent, though in the end he strikes a note of hope. It features genuinely Iraqi voices, though you’d probably have to be another Baghdadi to recognize them all. Ahmed writes that he and his family (his is a mixed Sunni-Shiite marriage) left the city in mid-2006. “Two months earlier,” he remembers, “my wife's cousin had visited our house in Karada in central Baghdad. A car bomb killed him on his way home. A month later, a cousin was abducted; his body was found at the morgue.” (READ MORE)

Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal: Deep Thoughts with Biggie Smalls - As someone whose foreign language efforts usually resemble beluga whale mating calls, I have zero right to criticize non-English primary speakers attempts at my native language. I rationalize this by saying that my love for the English language is just too pure and too right to be tainted by something else, but really, who knows. I guess that synapse hadn’t connected yet before I escaped the womb in a Caesarian jailbreak. I even dated a French chick for a few months and never made any serious progression to learn her language. If a woman can’t make you do something despite all her harassments to the contrary, it probably isn’t meant to happen. Still, one cannot avoid the very obvious truth that English sounds funny when it comes out of mouths untrained to its’ complexities. That’s not being culturally insensitive, that’s just straight comedic fact. (READ MORE)

Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal: Reconciliation Remix - I don’t mean to turn this illustriously profound and ever-earnest war journal into an emo e-diary dripping with angst and juvenile mood-swings, but I figured some of you would like to know that I have reconciled with City Girl via a Dear John Telephonic Remix, and maybe not coincidentally, no longer feel like I’m trapped in a story that has already been told. I share this for authenticity’s sake, of course, and to keep the integrity of the running war journal. Also because it was a stipulation mandated on her part. And such. Mad thanks to the modern technology in a combat zone that made such possible. (And yes, thanks are best when angry.) My brethren in wars’ past certainly didn’t have this opportunity. And without turning this into lunch hour at the cool girls’ table at Sweet Valley High, I should clarify that I wasn't really Dear Johned in the traditional sense... (READ MORE)

Jason's Iraq Vacation: short timer - While my posting has been slow and infrequent, life has been pretty busy. In between trips to various Iraqi training bases, I have been packing and trying to out-process (complete the required paperwork to leave). This is a good dilemma to have, as nothing brings me more joy than out-processing. I will write more and post a bunch of pictures once I am Kuwait, but for now I am happy knowing my time here is very, very limited!! (READ MORE)

LT Nixon: Iraq News (17 March) - The Good: An LA Times article that's worth your time discusses the motives behind foreign jihadists coming to Iraq to blow themselves up (note: the majority of suicide attacks in Iraq are carried out by foreigners). The US military states that many come with ideals of attacking US forces, but instead usually end up ordered to kill fellow Muslims by their Al-Qaeda & Co. superiors. Can public messaging of this crisis dissuade easily misled men (and occasionally women) from committing acts of atrocity on their fellow brethren? Let's hope so. The Bad: The Red Cross releases some disturbing data on the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Medical professionals are frequently targeted by the enemy to sow the seeds of despair and discontent. A grim reminder is the fact that 2,200 nurses and doctors have been killed since '03 and 20,000 doctors have fled the country. Troubling indeed. (READ MORE)

LT Nixon: Iraq in the Talking Points (More Bizarre Sunday Rambling) - There is an article today about a well-to-do New Yorker who decided to shun the life of glamour and join the Army. If you thought the military was mostly brain-dead hicks, you would be incredibly wrong. The military is the one of the few professions where it doesn’t really matter your socio-economic background before joining. Once you get to Boot Camp/OCS you are all equally worthless as the Full Metal Jacket line goes. Of course, you learn things, sometimes the hard way, and become more and more respected. This type of submission of will to a collective entity seems like it could conflict with our generation’s mantra of self-importance, but you would be surprised at how much you can live once you realize that your existence isn’t the most important thing in the universe. This paradigm is seemingly incompatible with understanding an issue like Iraq, where most Americans self-style themselves with having little invested. Therefore, something as monolithic as war has slipped into something as trite as stating “What’s in it for me?” (READ MORE) Bad Voodoo's War on PBS FRONTLINE, April 1st - As many of you know, I'm a member of Bad Voodoo Platoon and I'm currently deployed in support of OIF. Over the last year, several of us have been videotaping our experience. Deborah Scranton (The War Tapes) has made a film for FRONTLINE called Bad Voodoo's War that will be airing on April 1st. I did take quite a bit of film myself and I do show up in a few scenes, but it turns out I'm pretty shy behind the camera. Well, when God gives you dashing good looks, 80-inch biceps and a 170 I.Q, it's only natural that you have a couple flaws say like "the inability to fly" and "shyness". (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Iraqi Soldiers Master Weapons, Graduate Instructors Course - HABBANIYAH, Iraq (Mar. 14, 2008) – Members of the Iraqi Army (IA) graduated from the Iraqi Small Arms Weapons Instructors Course Mar. 14, along with a few Marine counterparts. The 21-day course is designed to teach the Iraqi soldiers to be masters of their weapons so that they will be able to teach the course to their fellow soldiers and peers. (READ MORE)

Ned Parker: IRAQ: Impressions of the general - I first met Major Gen. Jawad Rumi Daini in Baghdad’s Green Zone in late August 2006. It was a few months after the formation of Iraq’s then national unity government. A politician had recommended I talk to him. We agreed to see each other at the Rashid, once the premier luxury hotel under Saddam Hussein. Now, it was used by businessmen, officials and others inside the Green Zone. Daini was in the lobby waiting with his son Haidar, a quiet man in his late 20s, who was a dentist. The general made clear he didn’t want me to write immediately about his story. He had lost his job under pressure from the government and he still hoped to persuade the U.S. military and Iraqi officials to help him. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Rugby Is A Mood Altering Activity - There hasn't been much of two things required for writing lately; time and motivation. The time issue is pretty obvious, there has been lots of travel. O, Maniac, and I are back at Dubs now, reunited with the original team. Everyone's got stories to tell, and everyone is fine... for the most part. Mac and Cowboy have been key players in getting nearly everyone on the team into an exercise regimen called P90X that has yielded tremendous results for them. The change in the Cowboy is very visible. They are in great shape. O, Maniac and I were busy working with the ANP downrange until the day got pretty close, so we are in the worst shape on the team. Funny how that works. Most of the rest of the guys have lost all kinds of weight and are looking good. There are a couple of notable exceptions. We won't talk about that, though. (READ MORE)

Badger 6: Salty Sand - We have a series of wind storms come through here in the last week. That, combined with technical problems have kept my personal internet down for a few days. During some of the bigger gusts the other day I was getting the sand in my mouth. It was of course not very pleasant, but the discomfort was momentarily displaced when I realized that it had a very salty flavor to it. Very interesting and another new experience. (READ MORE)

Doc in the Box: When a sailor talks about coffee - he talks about it like he would a lover. Any Navy place you go to, there’s a coffee mess, usually with a tip jar towards supplies but it actually doesn’t matter if someone puts money in there or not. Because there is always going to be someone like me or my doc who will pay out of pocket to fill the thing up just to make sure it’s stocked. In Iraq, I’m drinking some of the best coffee I’ve ever had. Why? Because of the soldier support folk who send out some amazing coffee care packages. Starbucks? Got it. Hand made hippy French Roast? Yup. Voodoo Child Jimmy Hendrix coffee? Got that too. Sweetened condensed milk to go with espresso? Oh yes. Thank you Doc’s sister Penny, birdlady and others, my happiness is in direct proportion to the volume and how good my coffee is. (READ MORE)

ToySoldier: Sons of Iraq Part 4 - Part four is more my final synopsis on the whole Sons of Iraq organization. While I believe it is a good idea in theory, I believe it ultimately undermines our mission here, which is to get the Iraqi Government to stand on it's own two feet. Enabling an armed militia to watch neighborhoods makes the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police organizations seem incompetent and takes away from their legitimacy. I do believe we should encourage Iraqi's to defend their homes and themselves from the terrorists, but forming a civilian force like this (that has ulterior motives) is a short sighted move on our behalf. (READ MORE)

Desert Dude: 17 March - Woke up today to a hot tent …took my time getting a shower and dressed for the day …nothing to do, so why rush…I sat around BSing with the guys in the tent for a while, then went to the gym…after working out I headed up to the BX/PX area and got some BK—a Double Whopper with cheese and a Chicken Royale with cheese…yummy…sat around people-watching again…got bored with that so I headed back to the tent …I ran into the commander and couple other people from the FOB…we sat around talking about the move out of here…the good news and the bad news…here’s the basics… (READ MORE)

Paul McLeary: Idiot of the Week - In a recent House hearing on the status of American efforts to assist the millions of Iraqis displaced by the war, Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher spit out some lines that deserve some ridicule. Arguing that things are so safe in Iraq these days that there's nothing more for these refugees and displaced people to be afraid of, Rohrabacher said, "It is not the job of the people of the United States to subsidize the existence and living standards of refugees in Jordan or anywhere else if they have the option of going home." (READ MORE)

Paul McLeary: The Emeny of My Enemy - Captain Christopher Loftis, commanding officer of C company, 2/25 in Tarmiya, was trying to feel out a group of Iraqi men who hoped to join the Sons of Iraq movement. The men were standing around a checkpoint that flew the yellow flag of the Anbar Awakening movement at an intersection a few miles outside of town, and he was asking them how things were going. The response was the same each time: “more weapons” to fight the insurgents. Loftis would smile, shake the man’s hand, and move on. It was the usual request, always denied, but given that these men weren’t even under contract to provide security, the plea was a little premature. The captain had come out to this checkpoint in front of a former Saddam-era uranium processing plant not just to meet these men, but the men who organized them, along with about six hundred others who wanted a contract with the American Army to provide security. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Sons of Iraq member turns in weapons cache - FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – A member of the Sons of Iraq in Arab Jabour turned over a weapons cache to Coalition forces in the area March 11. The man brought the cache to Soldiers of Company C, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, stationed at Patrol Base Hawkes. (READ MORE)

Al-Qudis Preparatory School is back for the future of Iraq - BAGHDAD, Iraq - In September of last year, destruction was everywhere, inside and out, of the Mansour District’s al-Qudis Preparatory School for Boys. The windows were broken, doors off their mangled hinges, the blackboards blasted off the walls, unusable desks destroyed and multiple evidence of classroom wall fires. The al-Jamiaa’a neighborhood, where Qudis is located, had seen its share of turmoil, being variably occupied by Coalition Forces and insurgents, during the past few years. (READ MORE)

Cache discovery highlights continuing successes in Baqouba - BAQUBA, Iraq – Coalition forces discovered a large weapons cache in the Tahrir district of Baqouba, Iraq, March 15. Soldiers from the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division discovered rocket-propelled grenade launchers on the roof of a home while on a routine patrol. The rooftop is connected to another home where the Soldiers found a mortar tube, additional RPG rounds and numerous mortar rounds hidden a barrel buried in the courtyard. (READ MORE)

Running a City in Southern Iraq - CAMP BUCCA, Iraq – Sewers, water, electricity, trash and fuel are services vital to any city in the United States, and urban populations simply cannot function effectively without proper city management oversight. Approximately 30 members of Oklahoma's 1st Battalion, 160th Field Artillery, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team face these same challenges in the middle of a desert in southern Iraq. The Guard members manage a facility with a population of more than 26,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, contractors, Department of Defense civilians and detainees at Camp Bucca, Iraq. The camp sits starkly in the middle of the desert -- all commodities and goods must be trucked into the desolate base camp. (READ MORE)

Coalition disrupts al-Qaeda networks throughout Iraq, 15 detained - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained 15 suspected terrorists Saturday and today during operations to disrupt al-Qaeda networks operating in central and northern Iraq. During an operation in Baghdad today, Coalition forces captured an alleged associate of an al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leader responsible for terrorist propaganda operations. The suspect is also believed to be involved in propaganda activities and connected to various other associates of the AQI network in Baghdad. In addition to the wanted individual, Coalition forces detained seven suspected terrorists on site. (READ MORE)

266 detainees released from Coalition custody - CAMP FUTURE, Iraq – Dr. Saleh Al-Mutlaq, the head of the Dialogue Front Group of Iraqi Parliament officiated a release ceremony for roughly 300 detainees at Camp Future March 15 with a message of national reconciliation and rejuvenation. “I see in your faces and your eyes how happy you are, but your country is happier to see you back to help build it and build a new democratic Iraq,” said Al-Mutlak. Also in attendance were Mr. Misha’an Al-Saadi, Mr. Ameer Muhamed, and Mr. Thamer Al-Hindy. (READ MORE)

Two terrorists killed, four detained as Coalition disrupts al-Qaeda networks - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces killed two terrorists and detained four suspected terrorists Sunday during operations to disrupt al-Qaeda in Iraq networks operating in central Iraq. During an operation north of al-Mansuriyah in the Hamrin Mountains, Coalition forces targeted alleged associates of a suicide bombing cell and AQI network operating in the Diyala province. Reports indicate the individuals were associated with terrorists throughout the Diyala River Valley and Hamrin Mountains believed to be planning an upcoming suicide attack. (READ MORE)

Operation Marne Rugged Kicks Off South of Baghdad - CAMP VICTORY — Operation Marne Rugged started March 15 in the area southeast of Arab Jabour and Salman Pak, south of the Tigris. The operation will establish support for local Iraqi communities seeking security against al-Qaeda in Iraq and criminal forces. The goal of Marne Rugged is to provide lasting security to the region by controlling the approaches to Arab Jabour, Salman Pak and Baghdad. Headed by Iraqi Security Forces with Coalition support, the operation will focus on controlling an area of the Tigris River valley to disrupt remaining criminal and AQI elements. Control of the territory is currently difficult due to the terrain, threat of improvised explosive devices and poor condition of canals and bridges. (READ MORE)

Royal Navy Takes Command of Coalition Forces in Northern Arabian Gulf - ARABIAN GULF — The Royal Navy has taken command of the Coalition Maritime Forces protecting Iraq's vital oil platforms in the Northern Arabian Gulf. Commodore Duncan Potts RN has taken over command of Combined Task Force 158 (CTF158) from Commodore Allan du Toit of the Royal Australian Navy. Command of the Task Force is rotated between the UK, US and Australia. The UK last held command of CTF158 in July 2007 and will command the Task Force until August. (READ MORE)

SOF Capture Suspected Leaders of Three Terrorist Cells - BALAD — In three different operations recently, Iraqi Special Operations Forces, advised by U.S. Special Forces, detained the suspected leaders of three terrorist cells engaging in attacks against LSA Anaconda. In Baghdad, ISOF captured a suspected terrorist and major cell leader allegedly responsible for improvised explosive device and mortar attacks, hijacking, car theft, kidnapping, murder, and assassination in the area surrounding LSA Anaconda. (READ MORE)

Girls’ School Gets Computers, Furnished Internet Center - FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA — While the school’s infrastructure may be behind the times, students’ education has been thrust into the modern era. The Al Kut Girls Secondary School received an Internet center complete with 10 computers and furniture. The school, established in 1932, educates 1,000 females, grades 10 to 12. The center will be used by female students throughout the province, said the school manager, Zahrah Aljdrey. (READ MORE)

Freedom Watch Afghanistan - Mar 17 2008 - CJTF82 Mission: In conjunction with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (IRoA), joint, interagency, and multinational forces, CJTF82 conducts full spectrum operations to disrupt insurgent forces in the combined joint operations area, develops Afghanistan national security capability and supports the growth of governance and development in order to build a stable Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Spartan Day for the 173rd Special Troops Batallion - NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - The 173rd Special Troops Battalion marked Feb. 29 as Spartan Day and took a moment to celebrate their 300th day in eastern Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey O. Milhorn, commander of 173rd STB, and his entourage commemorated Spartan Day by visiting Sky Soldiers located throughout Nangarhar Province, and praising their service, pinning Afghan Campaign Medals, and eating cake. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces disrupt militant operations in Khowst, Helmand provinces - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - A number of armed militants were killed and five suspected militants were detained March 14 in two separate Coalition forces’ operations to degrade militant networks in the region. In an operation in the Tani District of Khowst province, Coalition forces performed a search of compounds targeting a militant linked to improvised explosive device facilitation operations. A number of armed militants were killed when they posed a credible threat to Coalition forces. (READ MORE)

Military professionals help Soldiers cope with PTSD - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Thousands of Servicemembers are returning home this spring. As they return to their regular lives, reintegration with their friends and loved ones can be a challenge; especially for those suffering from symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. "PTSD can occur after any kind of trauma,” said Air Force Dr. (Maj.) Kellie Griffith, Task Force MED psychiatrist at the Combat and Operational Stress Control Clinic here. (READ MORE)

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