January 22, 2009

From the Front: 01/22/2009

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

In their own words:
A Soldier's Mind: A Promise Tucked In A Bag - Death of a loved one is very hard for any of us to handle. Anytime one deals with the death of a loved one, it’s often difficult to find closure and move on with life, without that person. When a parent has to bury their child, it’s often very difficult, as under most circumstances, our children will outlive us. When our loved ones die as a result of a traumatic event, such as a traffic accident or in combat, we’re often left with many unanswered questions. For one Michigan woman, some of her answers were finally answered on Saturday, when she met the medic who was present when her son, 29 year old Carl Thomas was killed as a result of an IED in Iraq on September 13, 2004. While the pain of the loss of her son remains and will remain with her for the remainder of her life, and she’ll never have full closure, being able to have her questions answered about her son’s death, provided Alfeeria Johnson with some measure of comfort. (READ MORE)

A Battlefield Tourist: Setting the Embed - So far, the planning for this trip has been relatively flawless. A couple of mistakes have ended up costing me some extra money, but other than that, it has been pretty simple. The one major problem I’m having is actually setting the embeds. Getting some time with USMC 3/8 was pretty easy, unfortunately, I only get a week with them. That leaves two open weeks with nowhere to go. Only getting a week, however, makes me a little skeptical of a dog and pony show: (David Tate) I hope I get there sooner than later so I can get a few extra days in, because I’ll need it! To understand what I need, I would have to break it down by the different clients I work for; hence the need for the additional time. However, working with the hand I’m dealt, my main mission is taking historical archive footage, so I’m after as many different things as I can get pictures of. I could spend an afternoon in the hospital, with EOD, on a CERP mission, on a cordon and search, etc…(READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: Joy...and meat - We were sitting around this afternoon, hatin'. Nothing going on, nothing on the horizon. Then Bossman remembered the steaks he'd picked up on his last Officer Mission to one of the Big PX FOBs. T-bones and ribeyes and charcoal - oh, my! I dispatched New Sergeant to the chowhall to get some potatoes. You're one of like 12 chicks here, I explained. You'll get more food than the guys. She did wonderfully, so we ate well. I scrubbed and sliced taters and, with butter, garlic and foil, put together very nice side dish for the slabs of beef Bossman cooked. Short on forks, we ate with combat knives and hands. The sounds coming from my porch, I think, probably resembled the sound of six hyenas around a wildebeest. (READ MORE)

Embrace the Suck: Hey Mr. President, What Do You Think Of This... - Well a lot of the guys around here make fun of me because I say certain things a lot. Amongst the things I say with ever increasing frequency is this: You’re going to be fine, you’re going to be just fine. So why did I tell you that? Because I am about to ask Barack Obama some questions and then I am going to answer them for him. Not to mention I am going to throw a little commentary at you about the conservatives in the military and I just love to say that to them. YOU’RE GOING TO BE FINE, YOU’RE GOING TO BE JUST FINE… To whom do I say this little gem? Pretty much everyone I know at one time or another. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Approaching the Tipping Point - The Fab Folk continue to work like demons to maximize their time on the ground. Yesterday they had successful test shots with their fabricated internet antennas to both a local NGO and the Nangarhar Teaching Hospital. They work every evening setting up the XO laptops they have sent in and early each morning they meet for a couple of hours to learn Pashto. Their teacher comes from the local school and is a life-long resident of the local village. He tells me that, despite the very mild winter we have had to date, that poverty is driving people to desperate measures. Frequently voices call out to him from the shadows at night “we are Taliban give us your wallet, watch and cell phone.” They are not Taliban but men he has known for years. I asked why this was happening because our understanding of Pashtun culture would prohibit such gross criminality inside one’s own community. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Seculars Gaining Popularity - There's a report out of Iraq I will tell you about today with no evil eye intended. An Iraqi newspaper, Azzaman, has a story [Arabic] that indicates the majority of Iraqis have had it with the religious parties and even over the pan-Arabists. The article talks about a public opinion regarding the upcoming elections. The survey found that the majority favour secular candidates. My eye is cold. The poll, which asked who can do a better job of running the country, was conducted by the Iraqi Information Center, which belongs to the parliament. It sampled 4500 Iraqis in all the provinces, and it found that secular candidates will win 42 percent of the vote, while the religious ones win 31 percent. At least 73 percent are expected to vote at the end of the month. Those surveyed said the religious parties failed to deliver basic services such as electricity and water, and people had tired of the corruption. (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: fabfi update - The FabFi team has made two end point links in Jalalabad City, both screaming at 1.89Mbps or so. There is a long haul connection, just shy of 2.5 miles, from the fablab to a water tower somewhat in the middle of Jbad. That’s made with a pair of the large 4′ antennas. From the water tower there are two more small antenna pairs, one 500m (public hospital) long link and one maybe 1/4 mile long link (an NGO). The connections were up until late in the evening - we’re not done yet as some of the antennas & electrical supply need to be better secured and all need to be weather proofed. (READ MORE)

June Cleaver After A Six-Pack: The Morning After Ramblings.... - Carl headed out this morning. I honestly (foolishly) anticipated it being easier this time since we no longer have a year ahead of us, but a mere 7 months. That is chump change right? Apparently not. You see, the past two weeks were NORMAL... meaning, it felt like he had never left and it felt like he was never leaving again. So this morning when he had to leave, it sucked. Yep. Big time. We were able to go to the gate at the airport with Carl and wait for his plane. FYI, if you are taking a military member to the airport before deployment, you are allowed to escort them to the gate so that you can spend ever last minute with them. We waited until everyone boarded before saying good-bye because I didn't want to feel like we were in an episode of Extreme Home Makeover but there would be no new house in the end... (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban commander killed in Kandahar - Coalition forces killed a senior Taliban commander in the insurgency-wracked South, where a battle for control of Kandahar province is underway. Taliban commander Haji Adam was killed in a "precise air strike" in Kandahar's contested Maywand district. Adam was "directly involved in the movement of fighters, improvised explosive device production, and in the planning and execution of attacks," the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release. Adam was "also engaged in the illegal narcotics trade in the Sangin area of Helmand, using the profits to fund insurgent activity." Maywand borders the district of Sangin in neighboring Helmand province. He had "strong links to senior Taliban leaders Akhter Mohammed Mansour, Mullah Naim Barich and Attiqullah." (READ MORE)

Notes from Iraq: 20JAN09--Commando Training: Ambush - [photostory...visit site for photos]

Pink's War: If You're Strong Enough Together We Can Take The World Apart My Love - I'm not an easy person to date. I am very well aware of this. I also told the boyfriend thing this when I decided to go along with his dating thing. He assured me that everything would be okay, that he could handle it. Whatever. He can't say I didn't try to warn him. I have a bad habit of pushing people away, the closer someone tries to get, the harder I push away. I tend to alienate people that care about me. Its a defense mechanism that I've picked up over the years. I know its not healthy so spare me all the psych talk about that. Its just how I am. You want to be friends? Great! I'm a fucking awesome friend! You want to be fuck-buddies? Even better! I can sleep with someone without getting attached. You want a relationship? Its been fun, but its time for me to go, deuces. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Fire the Travel Agent, We’re finally here - It’s been 10 days since we left the states. Around 4:30 this morning, I got to my transient tent in Baghdad at Camp Victory. It took a lot to get us here, including three trips to the terminal in Kuwait. The first time we were told there wasn’t a flight for us and forced to make the hour-long drive back to Camp Beurhing. The second time we were knocked off our flight and had to spend a couple of nights at Ali Al Saleem. The third time was a charm, and the unit made it to Baghdad on two flights. Here’s a funny for you: Since we didn’t have 60 people in our unit, we couldn’t get a truck for our equipment. Instead, our genius liaison got two charter buses - one for the people and one for the equipment. The bus was packed full of equipment, and we had to crawl our way out. That’s the Army way for ya. (READ MORE)

S4 at War: Logistics is… - …somehow getting 2000+ beers to my FOB in time for the Superbowl in a supply system that hasn’t ever had to supply beer to us before. Here is how it works: The people at the top said beer would be permitted only at Commanders’ discretion. Once Odierno said it was good then each MND Commander had to decide. Once they decided it trickled down to the Provincial level and finally reached us, about three days before I have to go and pick up 2000+ beers. It gets better. If, by chance, someone on my FOB doesn’t want one or both of their beverages the excess all has to be accounted for and then turned back in no later than three days after the Superbowl. To make the whole thing really convenient beers can only be consumed in the DFAC during the showing of the Superbowl which, I believe, is about 1am to 5am. (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: Pieces of Flair - I wrote this while smoking a Romeo and Juliet corona from a country below Florida. This doesn’t feel right. For the longest time I’ve stuck with big-ring gauge cigars, puffing away through layers of wrapped flavors. Coronas? Corona Gordas? Please, they are effeminate. Those are cigars for women, designed small so that petite female hands can wrap around the band. Then I watch John Adams on a bootleg Haji DVD. Perhaps big-ring gauge cigars weren’t manufactured back then, but Paul Giamatti certainly didn’t look effeminate while he puffed away on his stick while deftly avoiding war with France. Perhaps a 32 ring gauge cigar allowed him to talk as he made policy? I have to admit, it is difficult to bark orders with a 60 ring gauge CAO Amazon in my mouth. Maybe John Adams knew something I didn’t? I find myself at the Haji store, negotiating with the proprietor over purchasing four tube-sealed Romeo and Juliet coronas. I talk him down a little in price, warning him that if the cigars are dry, I will be very upset. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: Baghdad…Finally - So, I’m finally in Baghdad. For awhile there I never thought we’d get here. I knew we would, but it was one drama filled day after another. Monday night we knew we had two flights. One at 1900 (7pm) and one at 0000 (midnight). Our NCOIC (head dude in charge) volunteered the broadcast section for the second flight. SGT Kristen King sits on our baggage before we place it on the plane. Tuesday afternoon we moved all of our equipment and bags back to the staging area and then waited. This is what Kuwait does best. Get soldiers to wait….and wait……….and wait. At 2100 we built our luggage pallet and waited to load the bus around 2300. When we got on the plane, a Lockheed Martin built C130-H, we had a lot of time to sit while the air force guys loaded the pallet and finished their pre-flight checks. The reality that I was heading to Iraq began to set in when I had to leave Leslie at the Airport and when I talked to her before I left Fort Dix. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
NP, MND-B Soldiers confiscate Iraqi, U.S. currency, weapons from suspected IED-making factory in Karadah - BAGHDAD – National Policemen from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st NP Division, conducting combined operations with Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers, discovered a large amount of Iraqi and U.S. currency in a potato chip factory in Baghdad’s Karadah district Jan. 21. The factory is suspected of being used in the production of improvised-explosive devices and in funding terrorist operations. (READ MORE)

Medical assistance visit supplements care in western Iraq, solidifies relationships - WALID, Iraq – Shaykh Sa’ad, Walid tribe leader in Anbar province, sponsored a Coalition forces medical assistance visit Jan. 16 for the men, women and children of Walid and the nearby Palestinian camp. “The 179 patients we saw during this visit ranged from newborn to geriatrics,” said a Coalition forces member. “It’s rewarding to do visits like these; they help provide a valuable service to the community as well as solidify the positive relationships we’ve established in this region.” (READ MORE)

GoI continues payments to SoI in Yusifiyah - BAGHDAD – The Government of Iraq continued with its commitment to the Sons of Iraq program making its third payment to the SoI members at two Iraqi Army patrol bases Jan. 14 in Yusifiyah, south of Baghdad. The Government of Iraq has paid SoI members their salaries since November highlighting the successful transfer of SoI from the Coalition forces control to the GOI’s. (READ MORE)

ISF, MND-B Soldiers find weapons cache in Kadhamiyah - BAGHDAD – At approximately 1 p.m. Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 22nd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, supported by Soldiers from the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, discovered a V-7 warhead, two high-explosive warheads, a belt of .50-caliber rounds, several loaded small arms magazines, 11 armor plates, two vests, two rocket launchers, a .30-caliber machine gun, a grenade launcher, a metal detector and five blank ID cards. (READ MORE)

Iraqis, PRT, Coalition forces join forces to build economic momentum near Balad - BALAD, Iraq – Iraqi business owners hosted Coalition forces and members of the Balad Provincial Reconstruction Team Jan. 17 to discuss expansion of local businesses using Iraqi trucking initiatives in a combined effort to boost the local economy in Balad. The Balad Canning Factory’s owner provided leaders from 3rd Sustainment Command (Expeditionary); 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment; Multi-National Corps-Iraq; Multi-National Forces-Iraq and the Salah ad Din PRT a tour of his business and a local market to better understand the potential for growth in the Balad area. (READ MORE)

Explosion in Adhamiyah kills 2 Iraqi civilians, injures 6 - BAGHDAD – An Iraqi female civilian and an Iraq male were killed and six Iraqi citizens were wounded as result of an explosion in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah district Jan 21. The explosion occurred at approximately 11:55 a.m. in the vicinity of a Ministry of Education convoy; the dean of the Islamic College, who was traveling in the convoy, was unharmed. (READ MORE)

Sadr City Water Treatment Facility Flows - BAGHDAD — Tribal leaders, Sadr City council members, Iraqi workers and engineers, and members of the Baghdad Water Authority gathered at the Sadr City Rusafa Water Treatment Facility in the Hay Ur neighborhood of Baghdad’s Adhamiyah district to witness the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Baghdad’s mayor officially open this modern facility, Jan. 21. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker thanked the crowd of approximately 200 guests for the opportunity to open the facility he said would help shape the future of Baghdad and Iraq. (READ MORE)

Bridge Reopening Reunites Tribe - BAGHDAD — Leaders from the Iraqi Army, local shaykhs and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers participated in a bridge reopening ceremony in Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad, Jan. 18. The improvement in security and reduction in sectarian violence made it possible to reopen the bridge which had separated a tribal community. The reopening also returns the area to a sense of normalcy. (READ MORE)

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