November 4, 2008

From the Front: 11/04/2008

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

In their own words:
Annex B: Leaders - Ok, it is time to vote…so go do it. I’ve seen a lot of media stories about the presidential race. Who’s ahead. Who made the gaff of the day. Which candidate is qualified to be president and for what reasons. I think we’ve all seen our share of stories. Voting absentee has been a huge push over here. We have all had the opportunity. Some exercise their right to vote. Others are more complacent to do nothing. I am our Squadron's voting assistance officer which means its my job to make sure all soldiers are aware of and get assistance with voting. My vote was cast in late September. If you have loved ones overseas and they didn't vote it was because they chose not to. Who should you vote for? I serve in a business where leadership is a way of life. Everyone in the Army is a leader and a follower on some level. Every soldier trains to be in charge or to follow someone who is. Soldiers can’t escape the responsibility and most of us who willingly put on the uniform don’t try to. (READ MORE)

American Soldier: Good to go! - Alas, the final Sunday before I depart. So much has happened since starting to prepare to go. It feels exactly like a military deployment but not exactly. I know that it’s not but my wife and I have prepared as if it is. The paperwork shuffle, talking to friends and family, etc. We’ve been at it none stop for nearly two weeks. I found myself changing out a check valve for my well yesterday and I am the furthest from being a plumber. Good thing for proper tools! I was also adding border insulation for my windows yesterday as well. My wife made a comment that I have never prepared this much before leaving. I just told her that I wanted to make sure things were squared away so she wouldn’t have to worry about it. As I write this I look around on my desk and see the new and old comfort devices that I will be bringing with me. Music – check, movies – check, camera – check, laptop – good to go! (READ MORE)

Army Poet: Poem for Today - Hold - I hold you in my arms,/ It’s a bad place. / I’ve lost all feeling for you, / Desire flattened like kid’s juice boxes. / Forgive me, / I can’t forget this other person. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: So Now He's An Analyst - Nick Meo, still writing for the Sunday Telegraph, now presents himself as an expert with a new stunning prediction on Afghanistan. Except it's not so stunning. Meo parrots the typical conclusion reached by those who are out of touch with their subject. While Meo actually begins to touch on some salient points, he misses them and winds up his article in typical Meo theatrics. Strangely enough, Meo is a smart guy; but he's also self-absorbed. His desire to be theatrical and, I suspect, his brooding anti-Americanism, disables his ability to analyze the pertinent ideas that he does manage to present. Meo starts off his analysis with a disturbing image of carnage. It is designed to set the tone for his piece. Then he reveals that Taliban attacks on aid workers is part of a "new strategy of terror." What a revelation; it's been something that they have done for some time now. (READ MORE)

Cheese's Milblog: I am Cheese's overwhemling curiosity - I am no longer in charge of my truck. I'm still the squad leader, but I finally decided to turn over TC (truck commander) duties to my driver. He's actually been in a lot longer than me, knows at least as much as I do and has a lot of leadership potential. He's doing well, actually, and I enjoy driving again. For all his strengths, my new TC isn't exactly the most patient person. I attribute this to the fact that, at 28, he's much nearer to death from old age than anyone else in the truck. Thankfully, this change gets me away from the BFT. For those that don't know, BFT stands for Blue Force Tracker, which is industry slang for "magic screen that attempts to tell me where I am and occasionally displays text messages from people who get paid more than I do." Now, I haven't googled this thing because I'm sure the pricetag would just depress me, but over the past several months I've broken this thing enough times to sort of figure out how to work it. (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: The first 2 days... - Since I just started this blog, the following entry will be pretty long, so just bear with me. I want to get you caught up with the events that have happened in the past few days. I will update this site as frequently as I can. Notification: On October 28th, 2008 @ exactly noon, I was sitting on the couch feeding baby Eva when I got a phone call that would change our life forever. It was the Rear Detachment Notification Captain. He informed me that Rob had been injured in Afghanistan. I remember my blood going cold. I truly thought he was joking. In fact, I asked him “Are you serious?” “Yes, I’m serious.” He had me write down a bunch of numbers, but my hand was shaking so bad and my mind was so numb I don’t even remember writing them down. I just wanted to know how bad he was injured. He then told me Rob had been hit by an IED. (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: On our way to the states tomorrow???? - I just got back from visiting Rob. He made it out of surgery great. They did have to take a little more off of each leg but they knew they were going to have to do that sometime in the future anyway. The doctors said it really wasn't much. Some of his thigh muscle in his left leg was also necrotic so they had to take some of that out, too, but they said he still had PLENTY of muscle. That's the good thing about Rob--he's extremely muscular! They also did have to take off the tip of his middle finger on the right hand due to loss of blood supply. They weren't able to pin Rob's hip b/c they didn't want him to lose too much blood with his possible flight back to the states tomorrow. His abdomen still looks really good. No problems with his bowels. His lactic acid levels decreased to 3.5 which is also really good news. We're still fighting the fevers but hopefully those will decrease in time. (READ MORE)

Embrace the Suck: A Line Of Angry, Smelly Joes Walks Into A Bar... - and doesn't get to drink a damn thing. That is what I am currently contending with. Lot's of fun. Everyone here is smelling like an anchovie's asshole due to the fact that the locals who clean the bathrooms choose the most inopportune times to clean them. As soon as everyone is awake and as soon as everyone wants to go to bed they decide that those are the times they are going to spend an hour disinfecting our bathing areas. Oh Joy. So I figured I would come down here and write about my hygiene misadventures and blow off a little steam. And as far as the bar thing and drinking goes, we are on an Air Force base. The Air Force is notorious for treating their people well. The Army and the Marines will always insist that they coddle their people and treat them like little furry teddy bears, which to a point may be true. But those of us on the receiving end of Army bullshit tend to believe that the Air Force simply treats their people like...well people. (READ MORE)

Fobbits need ice cream too: Lollerskates - Things are getting busy around here; two of the cav troops have been pulled off the lines to train the new guys which means we have to step up and carry the extra mission load. No big deal really, we've been doing the brunt of the work since we got here. Our mission tempo right now is very high and has us leaving Kuwait at mid-afternoon, arriving up north around midnight, coming back down to Kuwait early morning, and going back up at mid-afternoon. Pretty busy, and dangerous but with 50% of his squadron off the line already, the SCO doesn't seem too concerned with our health. It rains constantly and the roads are a nightmare. We implemented an active rest plan where we rotate through the TC seat to sleep one leg of the trip; the person in the gunner's seat is in charge and the driver handles the radios. The guys with ASVs handle any Blue Force Tracker reports or messages since the ASV gunner can reach the BFT from his seat. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: What is going on in Sherzad District? Part 2 - One of the coolest things about living in Afghanistan is the sense of history which surrounds one as you trek off the beaten path. In the rural districts the daily routine of the people has altered little in hundreds of years. It is easy to find the sites of historic battles or ancient ruins which few westerners have seen. The hospitality of the Afghans is constant reminder that the capacity for good in people transcends the evil which constantly searches for cold hearts or idle brains in which it can embed and grow. An armed society is a polite society but the Afghans take politeness to an extreme that is at times bewildering. Yet the Afghans have never been able to govern themselves effectively. Despite their culture of warm hospitality to guests and strangers their political culture remains polarized, vicious, and deadly. These are tribal lands with a small percentage of “haves” and a large population of “have not’s.” (READ MORE)

Sgt B: We Ain’t In Kansas Anymore… - Of all of the things I miss, I miss privacy most, quickly followed by civilized conversation that is unsullied by oaths, references to bodily functions, or the hawking and spitting to which some of the lads have taken an affinity (due, no doubt, to the desert air and dust that seems to affect everyone.) I miss having a space of my own, with suitable accouterments to hang my uniforms, and a chest of drawers to stow my other clothes. I want a bed. For three months, I have slept on cots, dirt, and, recently, a concrete floor. I miss the comfort of a bed, with sheets and a blanket. I miss the convenience of a vehicle at my disposal… Of course I miss the people that I love, but, because of wisdom, maturity, or some other previously missing attribute, the ravages of separation don’t seem to have sunk their claws into me as badly. (READ MORE)

IN-iraq: What's the word on the street in Baghdad? - (Rumors surrounding the future of agreements between Iraq and the U.S. abound.) We fly through the crowded streets of Baghdad, but never get out to talk to anyone. We see brightly colored generators being sold on sidewalks, long-toed shoes stacked fashionably on top of their boxes. Women in western looking clothes. Men try to stare through the tinted glass at us as if we are important or evil. We cannot take pictures. We are on our way to a compound sealed by concrete t-walls. U.S. Military Intelligence and Civil Affairs often conduct street interviews and write "atmospherics reports" based on what the average Iraqi will say through an interpreter to an American standing in front of them with a slung machine gun and body armor. (READ MORE)

City Girl: I am sorry... - I regret to inform you that for personal reasons I will not be updating the blog anymore. If you would like to get updates on CPT G, you can email him and hopefully he will be able to respond. I am sorry to do this since I know that so many of you truly are concerned about CPT G and his safety. Please understand that I would like nothing more than to provide you with these updates, but am finding it to be too much. Thank you for reading everything we have written and stay tuned for Kaboom: The Book. It will be out before you know it. (READ MORE)

The Left Captain: November is rolling... - I'm getting ready for the November mission schedule. As it stands we have four scheduled missions and of these four, only two of them fall into the "bad" category. I'm going to get one "bad" mission out of the way this week. I am strangely light-hearted about this travel. I think it's a combination of decreased "critical incidents" and the fact that it is November. This will be our last full month of missions. December should be a half month, since I won't want to risk either of us going to an isolated FOB after mid-December, getting stuck, and delaying our end of deployment tasks or actually delaying re-deployment. It has gotten colder. Cold is relative, but we are having daytime highs in the low 60's and nighttime lows in the 30's or high 20's. There's snow in the mountains. When we travel now we have to bring the heavier sleeping bag, fleece, and people are even breaking out the Gore-Tex. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban suicide attack kills seven in Pakistan's northwest - A suicide bomber killed seven Pakistanis in the latest attack on Pakistan's beleaguered security forces in the Northwest Frontier Province. The suicide bomber attacked a police checkpoint near the town of Doabo in the district of Hangu. The Pakistani government claimed only one policeman was killed, but Geo TV said three policemen and four civilians were killed. Four policemen were also injured in the attack. The bombing in Hangu is the latest in a series of attacks against the police and the paramilitary Frontier Corps in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province and the tribal areas. There have been five suicide attacks against the police and Frontier Corps in Hangu, South Waziristan, Mardan, Mohmand, and Bannu since Oct. 26. Twenty-eight policemen and paramilitary troops have been killed in the attacks, and dozens more have been wounded. (READ MORE)

Wesley Morgan: In northwest Baghdad, Iraqi forces stand up, slowly - BAGHDAD, IRAQ: As violence erupted across Shia areas of Baghdad last March, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph McLamb told the company commanders in his battalion that they had just one priority: “Do not let the Iraqi Army fail.” Faced with attacks in every area, from the Shula slums to upscale Kadhimiya, McLamb’s soldiers could have pushed the less competent Iraqi forces aside and taken on the fighters of the Mahdi Army themselves. In the colonel’s view, though, ensuring that the Iraqi Army did not appear weak before the local population was the goal of most pressing importance. The Iraqi Army had a history of failure in Kadhimiya, the heart of the battalion’s zone. In April 2007, Mahdi Army fighters attacked a patrol of American paratroopers near the Kadhimayn mosque. Elements of the Iraqi Army battalion stationed in the area responded, but when the soldiers entered the fight, they did so on the side of the militia. (READ MORE)

Major (P) John: Update #2 - Stuck in Kuwait - I'm stuck in a camp I had never been to before - I might be here a few more days, and I am not happy about it. There isn't a lot to do - sure, it is better than Iraq, sort of. But we have been herded into large transient tents and having a cot with 50 other guys in the same tent just isn't what I am looking for at this stage of the game. I guess I am getting a bit crabby, as I am not as well rested as I thought I might be, and therre is nothing for us here. I want to get the stateside part over with and go Home. The last two times I redeployed, it went faster than this. I wish I even knew who I should be upset with... (READ MORE)

Peace and War Times: Taji, mud as far as you can see! - Yes, I made it to Taji, Baghdad and I must say, this is the biggest mud hole forgotten by God, I have ever seen. The terrain is cover in part by deep gravel brought by the US Army and despite their intention, there is nothing but mud any where you walk through. First, they took us to a big warehouse calls Toomers Inn; it was better than a tent but still limited of comfort. This warehouse was located in the middle of no where, surrounded by mud fields and a junk yard of torn Iraqi vehicles dated since Desert Storm. While at there, a big rain storm came among us and this mud land turn into little lakes of mud every where. The terrain here is a mix of sand, mud and clay that stick like a bad reputation to your boots and clothes. When it rains here, it literally pours, like the sky opened and dump all the water in this spot forgotten by God. (READ MORE)

Photography, Software, and Sand: Iraq has beautiful moments too - Last night I had a chance to spend 20 minutes outside while waiting to find out my flight time for today. I happened to be outside during sunset and also happened to have my camera on me, and I started snapping away. I'll be honest -- I'm a sucker for a nice sunset. Iraq has some of the nicest-looking sunsets I've seen in my life. I'm sure that has to do with a combination of the flat, open terrain of Baghdad along with all the dust suspended in the air that helps scatter the light. Either way, most evenings I'm wishing I had my camera on me around dusk, and last night I was fortunate enough to. (READ MORE)

Rocinante's Burdens: Day 134. Got Cholera? - Imagine the following conversation between an Iraqi child and parent. Child: Abdul has the Cholera. What is cholera? Iraqi Parent: It is a horrible disease that is very painful and kills very quickly. Child: Where does it come from? Iraqi Parent: No one really knows. It is probably a punishment from Allah for allowing the infidels to put chemicals like Chlorine in our water. American Children don't learn about such things because there isn't any Cholera in the USA. That is because we have standards of sewage treatment and practices like making sure the well is a proper distance from the septic tank. But thanks to rampant immigration from the Third World, all kind of old things are making their way to the USA. Iraqi Children don't learn about it because they mostly don't go to school, because their parents mostly didn't go to school. So they can't even read the warning posters that their government puts everywhere. (READ MORE)

Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army: Halloween in Iraq.... - Well hello!!! The counter at the bottom of the page is definately messing up but we get reports once a week that says how many people visit our page and I have to say, THANK YOU!! Thank you for your support by reading our page and checking us out. Halloween in Iraq - well, it's just the first of several holidays for us in the near future. But, today was actually a pretty fun day in the desert. The day started pretty early with sporting events starting around 0700 and ending around 1300. That's 1 pm for those who don't know: we played dodge ball, basketball, volleyball, tug-o-war, relay race, yeah, it was pretty fun. Most of my morning was spent playing volleyball, we came in second in that event, the others I won't say. I had a great team...but I guess fair to say that we weren't the best....AHH one fun thing that we did was 'attack' everyone playing volleyball, someone walked up to me and said it would be awesome to get on top of the hospital and launch water balloons at everyone then run like hell... (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: Animal Farm - I smoked a CAO Brazilia while composing this. “You ain’t going to believe this,” Sergeant Rollercoaster says as I enter the TOC. Sergeant Rollercoaster has a flair for the dramatic. As I described him in “Your Filthy Little Mouth,” he is a competent NCO and a good leader, but as a New Yorker, everything to him is a crisis. “Can I put my stuff down first?” I say. I stand in the door of the TOC. Sergeant Rollercoaster is sitting by the computerized battle tracker. “I’m done. I’m done. I mean it. I’ve had it. I’m done.” “What’s wrong?” I say as I stow my rifle and my gear in my little TOC cubby. “It’s the whole freekin’ thing. When we get back, I’m going to Atlantic City. I’m done with this unit. I’m done. I’m done.” “[OPSEC],” I say, using his first name. “What happened and maybe I can fix it.” “Oh you can’t fix it. This is just proof that any idiot can get a college degree… no offence.” “None taken. What happened?” “Private Burglar fell asleep on patrol and they gave him extra duty in the TOC.” (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Like father, like son, another Smith goes to war - For some of the Marines deploying Sunday to Iraq from Camp Pendleton, it was a family matter. Some had fathers or older brothers who had been Marines. For the Smith family, it was like the replication of DNA. Lance Cpl. Ryan Smith, 20, making his first deployment, is a helicopter crew chief. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces detain 20 suspected AQI operatives Sunday, Monday - BAGHDAD – Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s bombing and support networks were further disabled Sunday and Monday as Coalition forces detained 20 suspected terrorists in the central and northern regions of the country. (READ MORE)

Judicial conference held for Kirkuk judges - SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq – Sixty-five Kirkuk Province judges gathered in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, to discuss the development of conditions that promote essential services and rule of law, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1. (READ MORE)

Local leaders, U.S. Soldiers bring micro-power to Zafaraniyah residents - FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq – Local leaders and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers celebrated the installation of two micro-power generators in the areas of Zafaraniyah of eastern Baghdad during ribbon-cutting ceremonies, Nov. 1. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers find weapons cache in Mansour - BAGHDAD – At approximately 4 a.m., Soldiers from Company B, 4th Battalion, 42nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) found 13 AK-47s, 20 AK-47 magazines, two digital decoder boards, three blasting cap initiators, a hand grenade fuse and a magnetic improvised explosive device in the Mansour area of Baghdad. (READ MORE)

IA takes over COP Dragon - CAMP STRIKER, Iraq – The Iraqi Army assumed control of Combat Outpost Dragon during a transfer-of-responsibility ceremony Nov. 1. The 1st Battalion, 23rd Brigade, 17th IA Division took the reigns from 3rd Bn., 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). (READ MORE)

IA, SoI, IP, MND-B Soldiers seize weapons cache throughout Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Army soldiers, Iraqi policemen, Sons of Iraq and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers seized weapons caches in Baghdad Nov. 2. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers take hidden weapons off the streets - BAGHDAD – A platoon from Troop B, 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team,101st Airborne, found a secret hoard of munitions and firearms while searching a house in Mansour at roughly 4:30 a.m. The secret stash contained a shotgun with 50 shells, an RPG sight, a set of night vision goggles, a gas mask, seven AK-47 magazines and 139 bills of Lebanese currency. (READ MORE)

Mosul company donates supplies, time to renovate school - MOSUL, Iraq – A local contractor in Mosul recently donated all the equipment, supplies and manpower to renovate the Al Abier Kindergarten in Mosul. The project, which was originally going to be funded by the Iraqi government, was recently completed by the contractor at no charge. (READ MORE)

IA and citizens work together to improve security - MOSUL, Iraq — Soldiers of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi Army Division, went on a good-neighbor mission in a Palestine neighborhood of Mosul, Iraq, Nov. 1. The IA unit gave out clothes, soccer balls and shoes to the neighborhood children and spoke to members of the community. (READ MORE)

Oklahoma machine-gunner/lifeguard saves two Marines from river - Spec. Beau Jordan was trained as a machine-gunner for the Oklahoma Army National Guard. But he used to work summers as a lifeguard, and his hobby is scuba diving. So when two Marines were in danger of being swept away by a swift-moving river in Afghanistan, Jordan says he "reacted instinctively." (READ MORE)

ANSF, Coalition forces kill 2 militants in Kandahar province - KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces Sunday killed two militants in Maywand district, Kandahar province. ANSF and Coalition forces were conducting a search operation on a known insurgent compound when they were engaged by militants using small-arms fire. (READ MORE)

Fifteen militants detained, one killed by Afghan and Coalition forces - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – One armed militant was killed and fifteen suspected militants were detained during Coalition and combined operations with Afghan National Army Soldiers, targeting the Haqqani and Taliban terrorist networks in Khost and Ghazni, Sunday. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces kill nineteen militants; detain three in Konar and Khost - KABUL, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed nineteen armed militants and detained three suspected militants during multiple operations to disrupt the Haqqani, Taliban and al-Qaeda improvised explosive device and foreign fighter networks in eastern Afghanistan, Friday. (READ MORE)

Afghan and Coalition forces target Taliban and Haqqani foreign fighter network - KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan and Coalition forces detained three suspected militants during operations to disrupt the Taliban and Haqqani foreign fighter networks in Khost and Zabul province, Thursday. Conducting a combined operation, Afghan and Coalition forces searched compounds in Khost District, targeting a Haqqani associate believed to facilitate the movement of foreign fighters into Afghanistan. The forces searched the compounds without incident, detaining one suspected militant. (READ MORE)

USO offers entertainment, relief of deployment woes - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Oct. 27 2008) – The United Service Organization has been supporting U.S. forces for more than 67 years. Adapting to the needs of the troops, the USO has continually invented and reinvented programs to help troops. They have now put together a program called “USO 2 Go” to help better support troops deployed throughout isolated areas in Afghanistan and Iraq. (READ MORE)

A picture is worth a thousand words - KABUL, Afghanistan (October 25, 2008) – Conspiracy theories surrounding military bases are not just limited to the sci-fi community. The rural villages surrounding Bagram Air Field, a former Soviet air base in eastern Afghanistan now being used for the headquarters for Regional Command - East operations, have been upset about a local enigma surrounding an important creek for some time. (READ MORE)

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