October 6, 2008

From the Front: 10/06/2008

News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

In their own words:
A Battlefield Tourist: Mamoond Tribe Aligns With Pakistani Army - In a major change in dynamics on the ground in Bajour Agency, Pakistan, members of the powerful Mamoond (Mamund) tribe have pledged allegiance to Pakistani security forces and are raising a militia to help combat militants. On October 4, hundreds of members of the tribe held a grand jirga that resulted in the official formation of a lashkar (militia) to help expel the militants and bring stability to the agency. In an operation declared to begin October 5, the Qaumi Lashkar is directed to burn any house found to harbor militants with a one million rupee fine ($12,800) to follow. The jirga also agreed to peace efforts extended by the government and support its security forces. (READ MORE)

Back In the Army Now (at 54): Live Fire Shoot House Day Three - Up till this point everything we did was new to me--or so old that it seemed new. But today two parts of the training were things I had recently practiced. During the night, I realized that walking steadily and smoothly forward, rifle on my shoulder aimed forward, finger over the trigger guard, thumb on the safety was a lot like riding a bike fast through city traffic. Riding in city traffic--cities like New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Paris--you ride between lines of traffic pedaling steady but scanning in every direction looking for the movement that betrays an unsignaled lane changed, a door opening, a guy who hesitates then runs a light. Your hands are on the brake/shift levers, but lightly, only shifting or braking in the split second when something changes. And a mistake can be a disaster. So going into the shoot house is like riding Storrow Drive in Boston or riding the cobblestone traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe in Friday rush hour traffic. Now I am jazzed. (READ MORE)

Collabman's Thoughts: Definition of a Dragoon... - Evening...The info hounds were busy overnight and tipped off a number of stories, photos and a video covering the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. I think you will enjoy all of them as they show the 2nd SCR as a complete package - conducting combat operations, working with Iraqi leaders in the Diyala province and relaxing at Forward Operating Base Warhorse. I will say it again...these men and women have done a marvelous job throughout this deployment. We have so much to be thankful for. Our warriors are indeed the backbone of America... Chris, I love you son. We continue to cover you with prayer... Be safe! (READ MORE)

Fobbits need ice cream too: Bid-a-bid-a-bid-a----oh boy - Buck Rogers here to tell you some exciting news. The ADVON (advanced party) from our replacing unit will be here in 2 weeks to kick us out of our "nice" tents and make us move about 2 miles into the rear of the camp into shitty tents with cots and no A/C. I guess that's ok because it's really fucking cold all of a sudden. Two weeks ago I couldn't shit in the port-a-john without passing out and now I have to wear my fleece under my body armor at night. Whatever. With the arrival of the replacing unit, we will train them in our (their) jobs and then pack our shit up and get the fuck out of here. We were told (promise was the word used) we would be home by Christmas and then today had a meeting with the CSM where he yelled at us for telling our families we'd be home by Christmas because they are calling the FRG and asking about Christmas parties and shit. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Standing tall against terrorism - SAQLAWAIYAH, Iraq (September 21, 2008) – It was local Iraqi’s unshakable resolve which stood at the forefront of a project to rebuild two schools destroyed in the wake of two terrorist bombing attacks last year. The Iraqis, with assistance from numerous Coalition Forces Civil Affairs Teams, finished reconstruction of the al Iqitdar and al Churhabil schools, Sept. 21. Marines with Civil Affairs, Detachment 3, Team 4, attached to Task Force 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, managed the Iraqi-led reconstruction projects for the past six months. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Iraqi Police, U.S. Marines conduct night CME - GORTAN, Iraq (September 25, 2008) – After a month of religious observation and fasting during Ramadan, Iraqi Muslims celebrated their holiest night with Eid ul-Fitr on Sept. 29, or the “breaking of the fasting period.” In anticipation of the holiday, Iraqi Police and community leaders, with support from Marines with Company C, Task Force 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, held a nighttime Combined Medical Engagement (CME) Sept. 25. During Ramadan, participating Muslims do not eat or drink from dawn to sunset, making a daytime CME difficult to achieve. The CME was held after sunset out of respect for the Muslim holiday. (READ MORE)

From the "Stan: Homecomings - I have been getting a lot of questions about homecomings and I wanted to go ahead and answer as many as I can. As far as dates, the windows for returns have been released. The best way to get that information is from your Marine or your KV (if you are a spouse). Other people in the unit will not necessarily be the best source of information, since different people are returning on different days and times. UPDATE: I have removed the FRO information, because apparently it was not correct. Ann Gasperini is the family readiness officer for the command element, but there are other people for the other units (i.e. 1/6, CLB, etc). I will have to call around tomorrow to get the contact information for each of them. Sorry about that. I know the command element quartering party and advance party are already back, so welcome home to all those Marines and sailors! (READ MORE)

Sgt B: Bitching And Complaining… Or Not… - Depending on our own life experiences, we judge what we see around us in varying degrees of sense, or lack thereof… For a fellow used to enjoying the advantages of daily life, the inability to obtain that custom coffee drink that he has enjoyed every morning for the past few years might effect the rest of his day, and lead him to make the determination that his coffee house of choice needs to be re-evaluated in terms of his continued patronage. For a young infantryman of the same age, once used to the daily custom grind of civilized coffee, quickly realizes that the horrid brew he manages to concoct out of the bowels of the MRE package is just as welcome when he is sitting atop his M1114 waiting to roll out of the wire in support of another convoy. The latter fellow has been enlightened that there are some things more important than whether the barrista has gotten your order correct – like staying awake for a fourteen hour road march… (READ MORE)

Iraq Pundit: Really, Iraqis Aren't So Peculiar - If more reporters would stop viewing Iraqis as curiosities, readers would have a much more accurate picture of Iraq. Take for example the Holiday week that just went by. The NYT said Iraqis were determined despite the bombings to have a party on the occasion of the Eid. Okay, that makes sense. But the story said the Iraqis were having fun even if “the country’s religious establishment could not even agree on a unified date for the start of Id, which hinges on the sighting of a new crescent but is subject to certain theological interpretations. Sunnis and some Shiite clergy declared Tuesday as the start of Id, other Shiite clerics said it was Wednesday, while the most revered Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said it was Thursday.” Yeah, I get it. It’s odd to outsiders that different clerics say the Eid is on different days. It also is not a big deal. We have dealt with that forever. (READ MORE)

The Left Captain: Am I turning into a bigot? - September is gone and that's a good thing. It was a bad month around here for everyone. Ramadan left a foul taste in my mouth. Sometimes I worry that my experience in this Islamic country will permanently bias my view of Muslim people. Killing in the name of Allah seems so barbaric and primitive, but then if you look around here you can't tell what century it is anyway. It's easy to just give up cognitively and emotionally, and take a position that we should just leave them to cut each other's head's off the way they have always done. I go back and forth between this perspective and something more fitting of an educated child of the West. Even so, I have a new understanding of where the old stereotype of the crusty Vietnam vet who hates Asians comes from. It's illogical, but hatred finds good purchase in the frightened mind. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistan has poor track record reporting deaths of senior terrorist leaders - A senior Taliban or al Qaeda leader may have been killed in the Oct. 2 airstrike in North Waziristan, according to unconfirmed reports from Pakistan. But without confirmation from either the Taliban or the US, reports from Pakistani officials should be viewed as suspect. The US carried out two separate strikes in North Waziristan on Oct. 2. Both strikes hit tribal areas in North Waziristan run by the Haqqani family. The strike in Mohammed Khel is reported to have killed 23, including 16 or more "Arab" al Qaeda members. "The Taliban appeared extra-perturbed over the latest strike," the The Associated Press reported, based on anonymous Pakistani intelligence sources. "The anger was a signal that a senior militant may have been killed, but that has yet to be confirmed, the officials said." (READ MORE)

Something on the Staff: Movies with the Iraqis - Building rapport with the Iraqis is always a good thing. Arabs value relationships, and will go to great lengths to build and support the friendships that come from good relationships. As an American in Iraq, I like building rapport as someday my Iraqi friends will tell me if I’m about to drive over an IED, or convince them to eat me last. Similar interests are great way to build rapport, and I try to work that angle through movies. You’d think with Hollywood’s domination of global markets that Iraqis would have a working knowledge of classic movies like Star Wars, the Godfather and Ernest Goes to Camp. In all reality…not so much. Iraqis watch a lot of Egyptian movies, which I as an American can’t find at Blockbuster. I think Egypt stopped making movies after 1980, as nothing new looking is on the air. A fellow officer polled some of our Sons of Iraq check points to see what the average Iraqi man’s favorite American movie was. (READ MORE)

Those Wacky Iraqis: Hidden effects of the war - I have been working with an old acquaintance in Saudi Arabia. He and I last worked together over 10 years ago in Los Angeles and while we were occasional pals we eventually lost touch with each other. I walked into our DFAC one day and there he was. That's the way this type of life is. You don't see people for years and then they just pop up. I found out that he was in the sand box at the same time I was. When I was ducking mortars at Taji he was dodging rockets in the Green Zone. There are 4 of us (OIF Vets) assigned to this project and we really don't talk about the war to anyone else so when we shut the doors we chat. His experience was pretty interesting also. He met a female Iraqi and married her. She is a Mechanical Engineer and is now employed by the same outfit that employs us. She is CONUS and they have a 17 month old son. On the surface it would seem like she got lucky but when you peel the onion you find that it ain't so. (READ MORE)

Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army: You asked for it.... - CONGRATULATIONS to my brother and his new FIANCE!! I just can't express how happy I am for both my brother and Freedom! I'm so excited. I wish that I could have been there for the evening of excitement! The only thing I know to say, brother...keep your fork. For those who don't know what means...I read it in an email about three years ago. It was about an elderly woman that always looked forward to church dinners, family gatherings, and other events. The meals were always the best part. But after each meal she would see people throwing away their forks...but never did. Because she knew that the best was yet to come. She would need her fork for best desserts that were still to come. Before she died, she made it know that she wanted to be buried with a fork in her hand....because the best was yet to come. SO, brother...keep your fork. I wish you two the best and I wish you two a life filled with happiness and many many years together!! I love you both!! (READ MORE)

Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army: Short and SWEEEEEEEEEET!!! - This is really short because I am sitting in the parking lot of Krystal's in Sevierville, TN using the free Wi-Fi so I can upload photos for you all. I just wanted to share the photos and let everyone know SHE SAID YES!!!!! That means that when I get home in May, I will be getting married to the love of my life and the most wonderful and beautiful woman in the world!!! The pix are jumbled up because I am losing battery fast. (READ MORE)

Up Country Iraq: Kirkuk - Hello everyone, October has arrived, the temperatures up here in the north have consistently been down in the 90s during the day, and soldiers are resorting to long sleeve PT uniforms to fight the stinging cold during the 75 degree mornings. Fall finally arrives in Iraq. I am not a hot weather person, so you have to admit that I was good about not whining during the heat of the summer. Over the past couple of weeks I made my way up to Tamim Province to the north of my location. The most well known city up there is the city of Kirkuk. Tamim Province is a mixed province of Arabs and Kurds, yet despite the mixed population, it is also one of the most stable provinces in the northern region, not counting the three provinces that are officially in the Kurdish region. (READ MORE)

Tragically Famous: Game faces. People. Game faces. - Ever get those jitters the first day at a new job? Yeah? Me too. You need any more flares? Nah. How about smoke? Are you good on smoke? Yeah. Well, I’ve got the radio set up, checked with extra batteries and encryption too. Awesome man, thanks. So we’ve got 2 sniper rifles with day and night scopes, a machine gun with a 120 round starter bandoleer, 800 rounds linked for machine gun, 16 high explosive rifle grenades, 4 pressure charges, 3 trip flares, 3 pin flares, 3 star cluster flares, 2 hand grenades, and 6 M4 carbines with a full basic load at 210 rounds a piece? Yeah. Think that will be enough? Yeah. Let’s do this. (READ MORE)

World Wide Matel: Matel-in-Iraq - This blog had more than 20,000 visitors in September. I know that some are repeat customers, but it still shows some interest. It is a record I will probably never again reach. Being in Iraq was exotic; I am now going prosaic. I tried to give an accurate picture of what was happening in Iraq. It was not as scary or dangerous as I expected and certainly not as bad as we read in the media. I was lucky to arrive at an inflection point, when violence was down and when we really started to win. The Marines and our military in general are very impressive. I have certain that there has never been a better military force in the history of the world. They are fantastically disciplined. For example, our military personnel are not allowed to drink alcohol while deployed in Iraq and as far as I saw they didn’t. (READ MORE)

Photography, Software, and Sand: Tonight would have been perfect if... - If I weren't in Baghdad right now. The weather is just right... high about 85, currently 75. Just a tad chilly but you dont even notice it unless you think about it. Im wearing shorts and a t-shirt and feel just fine, if I were going out jeans and a polo would be the attire for the day. In addition to the temperature, I was walking with a buddy of mine here on the compound and came across the spot where two brick walls blocked out all the lights and the nighttime sky suddenly became clear. I couldve easily spent the night there looking up, not just because I enjoy stargazing but because aside from my time in Thailand I'd never seen some of these stars before -- the southern sky is totally different from the northern sky and I'm just starting to see both where I am. (READ MORE)

Back and still writing:
Army of Dude: The Thing I Carried - Out of the Army and into school. That was the simple two step plan that many of us adopted before we deployed in the summer of 2006. Nearly half of my platoon would be getting out if and when we made it back home from Iraq. We focused the best we could when it came to preparing for the mission, but there is no helping the excitement in the prospect of starting a new chapter of life on the government's dime. In the run-up to the deployment, a lot of guys were buying their own equipment to take with them. It is generally accepted that government issued equipment is inferior to what you can go out and buy yourself. The assault pack was one of those things. It's just like a backpack except with a sweetass name. The only problem was the zipper sucked something fierce and it held no more than what a high school backpack could carry. I'm the kind of person to carry backups of everything. Extra knives, batteries, carabiners, socks. (READ MORE)

Marine Historian: Principle-based leadership in Iraq - Leadership is easy when the way ahead is clear. The goals are widely recognized and the path to victory is well-marked for all to see. The true test of leadership occurs when the opposite conditions prevail. Rallying your forces and guiding the way is most difficult when one is not even sure of what victory will look like, much less how to get there. America’s long and winding path through Operation Iraqi Freedom surely fits the second scenario more closely. This being so, how is it that Iraq is increasingly secure today and moving steadily (albeit slowly) toward self-sufficiency? Even the staunchest critics of the war have been forced to acknowledge the success of the “surge” in Iraq over the last 18 months as violence levels have dropped and nearly every measure of stability has increased. While the increased troop strength of the surge has been beneficial in all areas... (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Troops return to California with good news - Marines are returning to Camp Pendleton as major responsibility for the U.S. mission in Anbar province shifts to Marine units from other bases. The process will take several months. On Saturday night, 170-plus Marines and sailors from the 1st Intelligence Battalion, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force returned after a seven-month deployment to Fallouja and other farflung outposts in the sprawling province. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces detain 10 suspected terrorists in northern, central Iraq (Sharqat, Fallujah) - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces continued to disrupt al-Qaeda in Iraq networks Monday, detaining 10 suspected terrorists during operations near Sharqat and in Fallujah. Coalition forces targeted an alleged terrorist courier believed to have ties to regional AQI leaders during an operation in the vicinity of Sharqat, about 90 km south of Mosul. Three suspects believed to be associates of the wanted man were detained during the operation. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers conduct operations, confiscate weapons - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldiers conducting a clearance mission confiscated weapons in accordance with Iraqi law in the Baghdad area, Oct. 5. Elements of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, MND-B, confiscated 15 AK-47s, a Draganov sniper rifle with a 14 power scope, a bolt-action rifle, and two pistols in support of Operation Boar Cowboys North and East of Baghdad at roughly 4 a.m. (READ MORE)

Polish army completes mission, transfers authority to MND-C - BAGHDAD – The Polish army declared a successful mission complete during a ceremony Oct. 4 at Camp Echo, Qadasiyah Province. Polish forces transferred the operating area of Multi-National Division-Central South to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. During their rotation, MND-CS soldiers destroyed more than 18 million pieces of various munitions, manned 42,000 checkpoints and conducted more than 70,000 patrols and convoys. (READ MORE)

ISF captures 6 suspected AQI in separate operations in northern Iraq - BALAD, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces captured six suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq during separate operations in northern Iraq, Oct. 2. Muqdadiyah Special Weapons and Tactics team captured two suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq during an operation in Muqdadiyah. One of the individuals is believed to be a cell leader who was attempting to re-establish cells in preparation for future operations and regain prominence in the area. (READ MORE)

Terrorist detonates suicide vest during Coalition forces operation - BAGHDAD – A terrorist detonated a suicide vest Sunday in Mosul while Coalition forces were conducting an operation to capture a wanted man. As Coalition forces entered the building housing the terrorist, they began receiving small arms fire. Coalition forces returned fire once engaged. A terrorist detonated a suicide vest shortly thereafter in the house. During the operation, five terrorists, along with three women and three children were killed. Two additional children, one of which was injured, were found near the building and moved to safety. (READ MORE)

Citizen tip leads IA to HBIED in Abu Ghuraib - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Army soldiers from the 24th Brigade, 6th IA Division acted on a tip from local residents in Abu Ghuraib, west of Baghdad, and discovered a house rigged with explosives, Oct. 4. After the Soldiers cordoned off the area, they discovered a large amount of homemade explosives rigged to destroy the home. With the support of Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 21st infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, the IA soldiers seized the explosives and removed them from the area for safe disposal. (READ MORE)

Schools ready to open in Sadr City - JAMILLA, Iraq –This year the children of Iraq will have safer, refurbished schools thanks to the work of Renegade Soldiers. Before Company A, Task Force 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, arrived in Sadr City’s Jamilla neighborhood, the schools here were not even used for classes; militants were using the grounds as makeshift hiding places and torture cells. At the few schools that remained open, militants would kidnap children as they went to or from school and hold them for ransom. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers seize 20 munitions caches west of Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers seized 20 weapons caches during an operation known as “Gimlet Tidal Wave” west of Baghdad Oct. 4. Soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, seized the mass array of caches while conducting clearance operations at approximately 10:30 a.m. near Joint Security Station Nasir Wa Salam in west Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Diyala Leaders Bring Power to People Diyala Leaders Bring Power to People - FOB LOYALTY — Community leaders brought additional power to the people of Diyala when they unveiled new micro-power generators in the Karadah District of eastern Baghdad, Sept. 30. Ali Al Abdilzahara, president of essential services for the Zafaraniyah area, cut the ribbon to mark the momentous event; the generators will provide power to 300 Diyala households for up to 12 hours a day. (READ MORE)

Sons of Iraq Remain on the Job - CAMP TAJI — It’s business as usual for the volunteer security force known as the Sons of Iraq (Abna al Iraq) in Tarmiyah, northwest of Baghdad, as they patrol their city streets day and night. As Soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, “Golden Dragons,” 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, “Warrior,” 25th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad conducted a routine SoI checkpoint recon, Sept. 29, 2008, they saw what they always see: SoI guards manning their posts, doing their jobs. (READ MORE)

Soldiers Preserve Al Asad’s Cultural, Historical Oasis - AL ASAD — The oasis at Al Asad was once believed to be the biblical “Abraham’s Well.” Though research has proven otherwise, the importance of the oasis still holds a rich historical and cultural significance to the people here. For most Soldiers serving here, it’s hard to imagine a small pond with lush green life around it in the middle of this sand-filled country. However, this oasis is located on the border of Camp Mejid on Al Asad Airbase, and is home to several species of wildlife. (READ MORE)

Iraqis Improve Irrigation in Amarah - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER — Local Iraqi construction workers recently completed an irrigation canal and water pump project on the outskirts of Amarah, in the Maysan province. "We are very appreciative of these improvements,” said Sheik Haj Hatim Sadkhan, a local city leader. “We will continue to support the government of Iraq and Coalition forces.” The new structure will give 20 local farmers the ability to farm an additional 400 hectare of land annually. (READ MORE)

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