January 6, 2009

From the Front: 01/06/2009

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

In their own words:
Zen Traveller: The Fixer - "Fixer" is apparently an Arabic word that means, "I don't wait in lines". Like almost all western companies in Iraq, we employ locals to act as "fixers; to get us through the snags and complications of operating in a foreign land. They use any means at their disposal, some of which can be pretty unsavory, to get us in a position to do our job. I went to the airport this morning, our lead fixer and I were flying out of Baghdad on the same flight to Amman. At the first sight of a line he didn't even break stride, walking purposefully right the the front of the 30-person line, grabbing my passport as he went. The cacophony of groans and gripes was deafening to my sensitive western ears. The fixer seemed to be energized by it, and pressed on; business class seats, boarding passes, luggage tags all within seconds. I was looking for a corner to hide in as the symphony of disgruntled passengers grew. (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: Happy New Year! - Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a wonderful New Year. I had a nice night out with my brothers. They took me to a friends house. When I got there, they had made a surprise slide show with pictures of me and others who recently had birthdays. It was so funny seeing me in my younger days! On New Year's Day, we watched the Nebraska football game. It was a good game. We won, but I can't help but think, Rob might have helped in pulling a few strings!! :) As you have all noticed, I have a new "face" for the page. I decided since it was a new year, I should focus on the new us. I'd like to take credit for how good it looks, but of course, my all-too-talented friend Nancy deserves the credit. Thanks, Nancy!!! I'd like to say that I' m getting into the swing of things, but I constantly hit roadblocks. It is such a headache ironing out all the kinks. (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: My Son the Doctor is Drowning - I smoked a La Gloria Cubana while composing this. Do you want to know the first memory I have of my mother? I’m in the local fire house. It’s the 1979 election. My mother yells at one of the workers in the polling station because he won’t let me come into the voting booth with her. “Mrs. Tobacco,” the poll worker says, “We can only see one pair of legs under that booth.” Now my mother begins to shriek. This is a woman who could make a sandwich out of righteous indignation. “You expect me to leave MY CHILD outside the VOTING BOOTH where he can be ABDUCTED!” You can’t argue with the Jewish Mother Law of Averages. In my mother’s world it is quite possible that a four year old boy can be abducted from a crowded polling station in the time it takes to pull the lever for Jimmy Carter. In the end, my mother casts her vote with one hand while the other pokes through the grey curtain of the voting machine and maintains a death grip upon my arm. (READ MORE)

Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army: Something to think about.... - Well, hello!! Thanks to all of those that continue to show your support to my brother and I. We greatly appreciate it!! Well....I'm counting the days till I get the heck out of here!! There's been some things that have happened, but you know the drill...If I told you, I'd have to kill you. Well...I wouldn't really be that mean...maybe I could get away with cutting your tongue out...so you couldn't talk...anyway...just kidding. I'm not THAT mean. Well anyway...this post really doesn't require me to type a whole lot...I found something that was pretty interesting so I thought I would put it on here. Now, although I agree with a lot of the following, I don't agree with all of it. Well... I think I will take a few minutes to vent about some of the other things going on in our world before I post that.... (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: The Long Kiss Goodbye: Part 1 - I hate goodbyes. I’ve been known to slip out of a social event unnoticed just so I don’t have to do the round of “goodbye” or “I’ll miss you” or even the illustrious “drive home safe.” I’m with Larry David when sometimes I just don’t feel like a “stop and chat” before I leave. In other words, I’m ready to go. I can’t really pull that off when I’m about to leave the county for a war zone. I started my Christmas break watching TCU defeat the undefeated Boise State Broncos in the Poinsettia Bowl. I already talked about it here. Leslie’s parents came up to North Texas for Christmas. They have many traditions, one involves baking a ton of cookies. We got to open our presents on Christmas Eve and then hit up a Christmas Eve church service. I always thought it was a Miller family tradition to open presents on Christmas Day, but who am I to get in the way of opening presents early? After Christmas, we drove up to Oklahoma to see my folks. I think the deployment kind of snuck up on them. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: What day is it? - It's groundhog day here ... one day is pretty much like another. Since we're using the Arabic work week (Sunday through Thursday, with Friday and Saturday "off"), I'm perpetually screwed up. Yes, I know, most of you think I'm screwed up anyway, and you're right, but this is a particular screwup. I can never figure out what day of the week it is. Today was the dedication of the New Embassy Compound. It was a certifiable Big Deal. We had John Negroponte here (he's the #2 guy in the State Department), plus Vice President Jalal al-Talabani, plus several hundred other VIP's. Quite a crowd, which made it virtually impossible to move today. Fortunately, despite all the high-viz activity going on, no bad guys launched rockets at us. It says a lot about the state of Iraq today when a whole lot of high mucky-mucks can gather on the American compound under a tent of all things and not have to worry about incoming fire. (READ MORE)

Pink's War: The Unexpected Boyfriend - I have a boyfriend now. Apparently we've been dating since the beginning of December, though I wasn't aware of this fact until mid-December. I didn't mean to get into a relationship with this kid. It started out I was staying the night in their room, then I pretty much moved in, and a girl can take so many mornings of waking up to two gloriously sexy naked men before she can't stand it anymore. I started sleeping with W. I thought we were having a friends with benefits kind of relationship. He thought I had agreed to date him. I have tried to tell him that I don't want to date him, but I wouldn't mind still sleeping with him if he could handle it without getting too attached, but it hasn't changed anything on his end. I've pretty much given up on that and have decided to accept the fact that at least, for now, I have a boyfriend. I have to admit, it hasn't been too bad. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: 02JAN09--Scarface Pictures - Scarface is an excellent guard dog. Without fail, he barks whenever someone not on the team approaches our corner. Like children, we all thought he was cute, until we realized the required upkeep. Cleaning up after him is a chore about which none of us are thrilled. We have established that he gets fed as long as he hangs around. At this point, I would be surprised if he left on his own accord. The team medic has already tried to lead him away from the corner, but Scarface found his way back shortly. The medic is worried about shots and such. (READ MORE)

SPC Anderson - My Point of View: 4oo days - Today started our 400 day deployment. It was a very sad day in my world and I'm sure I will never forget last night and this morning (my last moments with my husband). I cried, a lot...I mean how do you prepare yourself to say goodbye to the one you love the most. I tried to make the most of my last moments with Jason. I tried to make memories that would stain marks in my head until the next time I see him. I find myself afraid of what could happen to us, to our marriage after being away from each other and in a combat zone. But I try to keep myself as positive as possible and know God will always be there to answer my prayers. I thought a lot about the people with kids this morning while saying goodbye. I couldn't imagine having to goodbye to not only your spouse but to your child too. So for those out there with children who are, have been, will be deployed- you have my sympathy. It was raining today. I say it has something to do with God crying with us. (READ MORE)

SGT Risner - My Point of View: Good-byes and Farewells - Well, this break we've had now is almost over. It seems like it went by way too fast but I have enjoyed my time at home with my family and friends. I played a little music of course. The band and I got together and played one final farewell last night at a local tavern in Pulaski which went great. I was very appreciative of all the support from my friends who came out to see the show. Now the time has come to move on and go places. Part of me is scared but the greater part of me is so excited I can hardly sit still. Here's to hoping everything goes well. (READ MORE)

SFC Burke - My Point of View: Last Post From Home... - Well as the title says, this is my last post from home. We were able to spend about a week and a half home before returning to the unit for deployment. We got to spend Christmas and the beginning of the New Year with families and friends. This was Loren's 2nd Christmas. She loved it...got pretty good at opening packages. She'll play with her Littlest Petshop and her little kitchen for awhile, then move on to her books and her new shopping cart. She thinks she's at HEB. :) My wife and I were able to see Valkyrie. Good movie. Today I've been doing a lot of little things around the house since this is my last weekend home. Holiday stuff is in the attic, new batteries in all the CM/smoke detectors, laundry....bills. Ugh. From here I head back to College Station then to Jersey....freakin cold there from what I've seen. It's 80 degrees here in Pearland right now! Tied a record... I've been making little videos for Loren today. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: How Do You Measure A Year? - Tomorrow, January 5, is the Big Day. You know..That Day. That Date. The one that's printed on our mobilization orders. The Date we've been working towards since 10 October (and sooner). The Date that it all begins. How do you measure a year out of your life? A year away from your kids, spouse, lover, friends, life? How do you measure a year of your life with little privacy and few personal freedoms? Right now a year seems immeasurable... a lifetime from this perspective at this moment in time. I just put my car in storage and it's going to be more than a year before I drive it (or probably any other vehicle) again. All my household goods are in tan boxes in a storage unit. I said goodbye to my friends and family last summer when I relocated to Bryan but it's still difficult knowing that they are soon going to be so much farther away than they are now...out of text and phone call reach. (READ MORE)

Michael J. Totten: No Way Out? - The Middle East can look somewhat normal on the surface to first-time visitors, but it’s mind-bogglingly dysfunctional, and it is obviously so to anyone who has spent even a couple of months in the region. (It is also obvious to some people who know almost nothing at all about that part of the world.) Sometimes, especially when I’m in Iraq, I think the problems there are simply bottomless and that a solution does not exist. President Bush couldn’t fix it. President Obama will not fix it either. If you don’t believe me – wait. It’s hard for many naturally optimistic Americans to believe this, but sometimes I fear it is true. Time and experience has done that to me. The Middle East just grinds people down. Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad – these are not places you want to spend too much time if you have faith in the human race and linear progress. (READ MORE)

Wesley Morgan: In eastern Mosul, veteran Iraqi unit adapts to new situation - MOSUL, IRAQ: Among most American troops in Iraq, the city of Mosul has a reputation – the last urban battlefield, the place where the country’s Sunni insurgency remains strongest. But for some of the Iraqi units that operate in the city, the security situation is nothing they have not seen before. The 3rd Iraqi Army Division’s 3rd Battalion, 9th Brigade, is one such unit. Until this past spring, 3-9, as the battalion is known, was stationed in Baghdad’s East Rashid district. Operating in the Dora neighborhood, one of the last Baghdad strongholds of al Qaeda in Iraq, the battalion saw fierce combat. “Compared to al Dora,” the unit’s commander, Colonel Najem Abdul Wahad Mutleq, explained, “this is nothing here in Mosul.” (READ MORE)

The Left Captain: Quick Recap - I'm stuck at Bagram now, limited to 30 minute chunks of time on the computers at the MWR, so I have to write fast. To recap the last few weeks: we had a quiet Christmas after getting tasked to do a short-notice mission to two small COPs in the mountains. Nothing notable occurred. A Christmas present to me was an email from my commander indicating that we should cease all missions due to our pending re-deployment. He didn't want us getting stuck at some remote COP, missing a return window back to BAF. That email made me feel relieved and eager, but for some reason the end of the deployment seemed just as far away as ever. After all, I was still there, in the same place I had been all along. On the 1st of January I received another email instructing me to return to Bagram as soon as possible-- to possibly go home earlier than we expected. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Waiting for Pokey - I don't think about the day Pokey came home much. But tonight something has triggered the memory and emotions. There is a movie out called "Taking Chance" I read the story years ago and it was emotional then. On Feb. 24th, 2008 my son, David, was home alone. My husband was at work. My daughter had gone to church and my youngest and I were at walmart doing the weekly shopping. When my son David called I thought he was going to ask for flaming hot cheetos. I answered the call with "I have your cheetos in the cart already" and laughed. He was so serious and scared. " Mom two guys from the army are here' No not recruiters. I knew then. Oh I tried to convince myself they came when they were hurt but I knew better. I called my husband to met me at the house. (READ MORE)

Sgt B: A Day In The Life… - LSA Balad… 0800 - It’s a gentle awakening… The light through the blinds casts enough light for my brain to register that it isn’t night anymore… I open my eyes to see Phoenix’s face, the wallpaper on my laptop. I am warm beneath the covers; warm, dry and safe. There were times, in this very spot, when war-fighters live out of their vehicles, and were threatened daily with close action and indirect fire. I reflect on this, as I check my personal threat receiver, and thank God, as I do everyday, that I am in a place that reminds me more of the Marine Base at 29 Palms than a war zone. I am lucky, and I know it. I reflect on the price that has been paid on this very site, in blood, that allows me to lay snuggled under a homemade blanket and be lazy about getting up. Somewhere below deck I feel an overpressure warning, so I throw back the covers, don sweat pants and fleece, and stumble out of the CHU, treading on the square pads of concrete (and hitting most of them) as I make my way to the green porta john that sits on the edge of the walled off pod. (READ MORE)

Embrace the Suck: Have You Ever Felt Truly Helpless... - Saturday, January 3, 2009 1218 hrs. - So I got my first taste of what it feels like to be truly helpless. Or a better word might be useless. Let me explain. The military has a million and one rules about everything. I have said it before that they probably have a training manual on how to brush your teeth properly. Now a lot of these rules are stupid, but some of them have a point. Some of these rules prevent movement. Movement of any kind, vehicle, helicopter, plane or LPC is prohibited. (LPC=leather personnel carrier AKA Boots) Usually these rules about movement work out in our favor. If the rules say we cannot move for whatever reason then we don't have anything to do and we get to go back to sleep, any day when you get to go back to sleep is a glorious day in the military. Sometimes, like today, these rules really bite you in the ass. (READ MORE)

Bullett Wisdom: Transitioning Through Kuwait - Let's see, where are we these days? Currently the team and I are positioned at Camp Buerhing in Kuwait undergoing additional training prior to moving north into Iraq. So far we've completed engagement skills training, weapon sight verification, a small amout of language. Today we received familiarization training on the new MRAP vehicle. I won't try to spell it out, it's big armored troop vehicle and sits well over 10 feet high. Google for more information if you want to know more about the MRAP. We're still adjusting to the time and region change. Even after a week in country, we find ourselves waking up at all times of the night for various reasons. Sometimes we fall back asleep, sometimes not. A few of the men in the tent are starting to get sick. The main concern is a bug spreading around. That's what you get with you cram this many Soldiers in close proximity. At best you can hope to stay clean, wash your hands constantly, and use lots of sanitizer. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: So there I was... - in deepest, darkest Eye-Rak. Sure, some folks were worried about IEDs, suicide bombers, and random small arms fire. But I knew we were in trouble when, standing in a quiet village, I turned and saw...one of our MRAPs being attacked by turkeys. We survived the turkey attack. Narrowly. It ended up being, oddly, a productive day. The high point involved digging around in the bottom of a ditch looking for a water pipe. And there's always someone helpful around with a camera when you're digging around in a trash-filled ditch. We finally found the pipe about three klicks down the road. Because the locals tend to know these things, but they like to watch us flail around for a while first. I love this job. (READ MORE)

Blogs Over Baghdad: In Kuwait - Well, after a long flight, we are now in Kuwait…literally in the middle of the desert. The Army has built a town out here with many conveniences - Starbucks, a USO, Burger King and more. However, my favorite thing right now is the cot I am lying on. Since it is 9 time zones different than Birmingham, my body says go to sleep, but my eyes see a beautiful soon sunny day (about 53 degrees now at 10 am with an expected high of 65). We arrived in Kuwait at 10:30 pm, but we did not get to this camp until almost 4 am. Once we arrived, we had to fill out some forms, swipe our ID cards through a scanner to qualify for that tax-free paycheck, sit through a briefing, unload our luggage off the truck and into our tents, and finally eat breakfast (nicer facility than the one at Fort Dix). Someone in our group said the food gets better as the living conditions worsen. (READ MORE)

Army of Dude: Sensing Combat: Sight - "Put your fucking NODS down, Horton." For the hundredth time, my platoon sergeant whisper-yelled at me to put my night vision goggles back over my eye. I resented every second that I had to peer through the muddy neon green peephole so I could stumble my way through the dark. While boosting the ability to see further in the dead of night, night vision plays a dangerous game with depth perception. When focused on objects close up, things around you (like the ground) appear to be more distant than they actually are. When tweaked to see further, objects up close take on a fish-eye appearance; everything appears rounded and blurry. After being scolded yet again for my reluctance to use my equipment, I shoved the bright green monocular lens into my eye and followed after my team leader. Walking through a field strewn with garbage and septic waste, it isn't clear what is solid ground and what is a cesspool of festering human feces when looking through night vision. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Shrugged: The Road to Success is not Paved at ALL! - The snow is coming down pretty heavy now; we’ve been very lucky up until today. The famed and brutal Afghan winter has held off and it’s been balmy and warm. Winter has decided to arrive full blast blanketing everything. Since I got up this morning at 0600 it’s dropped about three inches. The blanket of snow covering the Afghan landscape makes everything look smooth and peaceful. A calm pond you decide to dive into head first only to find out there are stumps and rocks waiting just beneath the placid surface. Okra colored terrain replaced by gentle whiteness, but it still out there lurking and waiting for the return of the violence that it holds. Snow is good. It means it’s coming down hard in the mountains making the roads and trails impassable. A natural demilitarized zone established by Mother Nature as if to say alright boys enough for now; rest. Our enemy is forced back into Pakistan no rockets or ambushes; (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Operations help protect Iraqi citizens and communities throughout Iraq - BAGHDAD – One terrorist was killed during a force operation in Mosul Sunday targeting an alleged al-Qaeda in Iraq military leader and improvised explosive device facilitator. Forces attempted to stop a vehicle assessed to be driven by the suspected terrorist. The driver of the vehicle ignored the force’s orders to stop and continued to accelerate. Coalition forces, following established procedures, gave warnings and fired a disabling shot in an attempt to stop the vehicle. (READ MORE)

ISF discover sticky bomb - BAGHDAD– Iraqi National Police from the 1st Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd NP Division, partnered with Company B, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, MND-B, discovered the makeshift magnetic bomb on the undercarriage of a local Sons of Iraq leader’s vehicle at approximately 5 p.m. in the Risalah community. An Iraqi explosives ordnance disposal unit responded to the scene to properly dispose of the bomb. (READ MORE)

SoI detain two suspects in Doura bomb attack - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Security Forces detained two suspects In conjunction with an explosion in the Masafee community in Baghdad’s Rashid district Jan. 4. At approximately 9:15 p.m., Soldiers from Company B, 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, MND-B, arrived at the bomb site, where Sons of Iraq security forces detained two Iraqis suspected of committing the crime. (READ MORE)

Bakiryah School reopens, breathes new life into neighborhood - BAGHDAD – The Bakiryah School celebrated its reopening Jan. 4 in the Mansour District. Dr. Nahad Abbas Shihab al-Juburi, Deputy Minister of Education for the Karkh district performed the ceremonial ribbon cutting for the event, which was also attended by Brig. Gen. Ghassan, commander, 54th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, as well as the commander of the 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, Lt. Col. Monty Willoughby and the deputy commanding officer of the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Lt. Col. Christopher Beckert. (READ MORE)

ISF arrest 6 suspected terrorists in operations throughout Iraq - BALAD, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces arrested six suspected terrorists during separate warrant-based operations throughout Iraq Jan. 3. In An Numaniyah, Kut Special Weapons and Tactics conducted an operation pursuant to a local warrant that resulted in the arrest of two suspected criminals. One of the individuals is believed to be a leader responsible for conducting improvised explosive device and indirect fire attacks against Coalition forces in Wasit Province. (READ MORE)

IA Soldiers Seize Munitions Cache in Sadr City District of Baghdad - BAGHDAD — Iraqi Army Soldiers seized a weapons cache in the Sadr City district of Baghdad Dec. 29. Acting on a tip, Iraqi Army Soldiers with 5th Battalion, 44th Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division, discovered the cache. The cache consisted of two 81 mm mortars, one block of C4 explosives, four 82 mm mortars, one 127 mm rocket, one 107 mm high-explosive rocket, one 85 mm rocket, one 70 mm rocket, one 68 mm rocket, three 107mm rocket motors, six grenades, 23 mortar fuses, one rocket fuse, and five pounds of high explosives. (READ MORE)

Al Karadah Training Center Opens, Hundreds of Iraqi Students Gain Job Skills - FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY — District leaders, administrators and hundreds of students attended the reopening of the Civil Support District Training Center in Baghdad’s Al Karadah district Dec. 30. Soldiers from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, were also in attendance to assist in security measures and meet the center’s administrators in a show of partnership. (READ MORE)

Strategic Agreement Has Mimimal Impact on Operations in Provinces Under Iraqi Control - WASHINGTON — The new strategic agreement in Iraq is having minimal impact on troops operating in provinces already under Iraqi control when it took effect Jan. 1, the commander of the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team told Pentagon reporters, Jan. 5, 2009. Army Col. Butch Kievenaar said the bulk of his "Warhorse Brigade" Soldiers are conducting operations in southern Iraq's Qadisiyah, Najaf and southern Babil provinces. All three provinces have transitioned to Iraqi control – in July 2008, December 2006 and October 2008, respectively. (READ MORE)

Abu Ghraib Hospital Lights the Way - ABU GHRAIB — For the first time in many years, the Abu Ghraib Hospital recently turned on its lights without having to count down the hours until the lights went out again. After several months of planning and work, the Hospital started receiving constant power through an 11kv power line that stretches nearly 1.5 kilometers back to the Al Ban Substation. (READ MORE)

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