January 27, 2009

From the Front: 01/27/2009

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

In their own words:
The Torch: Patrol, pt.1 - headed to Double K - I'd almost forgotten what oh-dark-thirty looked like, slack and idle civvie that I am now. And even when I was in, I was never the morning type. But I wanted to get some groceries in my gate before the 0600 O-group for the patrol Laroche and I had been attached to got started, so I dragged my carcass to the Camp Nathan Smith mess and scarfed something back. Guys complained about the monotony of the food, but I found it pretty tasty and the portions were more than ample. Back to the block for my Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - helmet, ballistic eyewear, and flak vest with armour plate front and back. I paused just long enough on the gravel to look up at the sky for a moment. (READ MORE)

The Torch: Patrol, pt.2 - Dand District Centre - I expected it to take a lot longer to travel from Double K to the Dand District Centre. I don't know why - it's not like I knew the distances involved or the timings we were trying to meet. I was simply doing what the guys in uniform told me to. I should say guys and gal, singular. Our medic, Private McKenzie, was a female, the only one on the patrol. I chatted with her briefly at Double K, and she seemed friendly and competent, but quiet. Like she relished whatever calm she could find outside the wire, knowing she'd be the busiest soldier there if anything went terribly wrong. A quiet doc is a good thing. The drive to Dand District Centre for the weekly shura turned out to be uneventful. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Town that hit back - Even though they got smacked down by the Taliban, this type of bravery and personal accountability is commendable. This is something that needs to happen in villages everywhere in Pakistan and Afghanistan. If you read this story you will see that the villagers didn’t just defend themselves from an attack, they went after the Taliban and killed them after chasing them down. These brave villagers are true examples of Martyrs in the eyes of Allah. (READ MORE)

Embrace the Suck: Well Today Has Been Very, Very...GAY! - So come with me, if you will, on a little journey. A journey of sight, and sound. A journey where one soldier comes to grips with his sexuality, and calls into question all that he has ever believed about spa's and chick stuff. Yes, my day has been very, very gay... Today started out ordinarily enough. I woke up 10 minutes before I was supposed to be at the USO to catch the bus to some shopping trip that I signed up for yesterday. However, since I was up until 3 in morning last night playing around on the internet for no good reason I was in no mood to get out of bed and go. So I went back to sleep for another 2 hours. No problem. This place isn't like the regular Army where if you miss anything they send a hunting party out to find you. If you aren't there they just go to the next guy on the list. Then I actually hauled my ass out of bed at 1000 hrs. (READ MORE)

The Gun Line MkIII: This Ain’t Your Father’s War… - The word has been sent out… There will be real beer for the Superbowl… In this theater, General order Number One is: NO BOOZE. For the Superbowl, however, that order has been suspended, and each person will be allowed to beers apiece, under very tightly supervised conditions. In Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and now, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, there has been no source of alcohol… We also have not been afforded the opportunity to pitch liberty in the local ville… It will be interesting, when this is all over and done, to analyze the differences between this war, and previous wars when alcohol was available… Did it make difference? (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Next Weekend's Vote - If we are to believe the press, voter turnout will be weak next weekend in Iraq. A large part of the population, already disappointed with democracy according to the LAT, plans to stay away from the polls. Iraqis are not ready for democracy, the paper says. "Iraqis said it is difficult for them to have faith in government when they don't see it working for them. In the nearly six years since the U.S. invaded Iraq, the government has been unable to fix major infrastructure problems, leaving the majority of Iraqis without reliable running water and continuous electricity." My own family in Baghdad are indeed frustrated with the lack of services. But they don't blame democracy, they blame the religious parties and corrupt politicians, and the terrorists who bombed electrical facilities promptly after they were repaired. (READ MORE)

Jane Novak: Arabian Peninsula al Qaeda groups merge - In the face of Saudi Arabia's success against the al Qaeda organization, many Saudi operatives have fled to the more hospitable climate in Yemen, joining others who recently arrived from Iraq, Somalia, and Pakistan. Al Qaeda in Yemen announced its merger with Saudi Arabia's al Qaeda organization to form al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. The announcement came in its latest release of the online journal Sada al Malahim, or the Echo of Epics. A propaganda video was also released by the group on Friday. The new head of AQAP is Nassir al Wahishi, the al Qaeda in Yemen leader and former personal secretary to Osama bin Laden. He was extradited by Iran to Yemen in 2003. (READ MORE)

Michael J. Totten: The Mood in Israel Now - The mood in Israel during the immediate aftermath of the Gaza war is markedly different from the mood in the wake of the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Things felt precarious and vulnerable then. Confidence in both the government and the military disintegrated. When Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah declared his “divine victory,” many, if not most, Israelis shuddered and thought he might be correct. This time, by contrast, I didn’t meet a single Israeli who thinks Hamas defeated the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza. The Arab-Israeli conflict is nowhere near finished, and the problems in Gaza will endure for a long time, but the Israeli military and government spent two and a half years intensely studying what went wrong in Lebanon in 2006 and corrected nearly all those mistakes. Most Israelis I spoke to in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem last week feel a tremendous sense of relief and seem more at ease than they have been in years. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Officially Trailer Trash - I moved into my trailer or CHU on Sunday. My mission is postponed, but since I’m still going in the near future I got priority on the housing list. It’s nice to be out of the tents and in a trailer with drawers and a nightstand. You don’t realize what you take for granted until you don’t have it… storage for instance. Living out of bags in the tents was so frustrating. I hate having to dig for stuff, and being the organized person that I am – I need drawers and shelves! The trailers aren’t too big, probably just a little smaller than the one I had last deployment. Another thing that’s different from last time – it’s not equipped with wireless internet, TV and refrigerator. Those are all things that soldiers have to buy. The internet is $65/month, but it’s not very fast at night when everyone is using it. I’m not in a hurry to buy it and will hold out until I absolutely have to have it to keep up my blog. Otherwise, I’ll use the office computers as much as possible. (READ MORE)

The Angry American: 19 Forever - Today would have been Duncan Crookston's 21st birthday. He would have been of legal age to go bar hopping and partying. Unfortunately on September 04, 2007 Duncan was severely wounded in EFP strike that severely wounded SGT Joe Mixson, and killed SGT Joel Murray, SPC David Lane, and SPC Randy Shelton. Duncan fought for his life for 4 months until his body succumbed to his wounds. It was not lack of spirit by any means because Duncan showed that he was as tough as they come. A true warrior. He died in the presence of his beautiful wife, his mother, his battle buddy SGT Joe Mixson. As his mother said in a letter sent to family and friends, he will forever be 19. I think about him often and wished that I would've expressed to him how much I admired his skill, intellect, intelligence, and warrior spirit. He first came to my squad right before we deployed in support of OIF. Everyone marveled at his genius, and later at his bread making skills when we were in country. (READ MORE)

Whatever It takes: Counter Insurgency Academy - Today is my second day at the Counter Insurgency (COIN) Academy located at Camp Taji, Iraq. All of the company commanders, battalion commanders and key staff are in attendance from the brigade. You can tell how the Army feels about this course, we have been taught by one 3 star, two 2 star, and 1 one star general. COIN is the focus of what we will do in Iraq over the next year. This tour will be far less kinetic than my last one. Overall there has been a dramatic change here. The attacks against my battalion over any given week during my last tour was higher than the brigades that we are replacing over the year that they have been here. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Civilian journalist receives Navy’s second highest honor - BAGHDAD – On Aug. 3, 2003, while traveling the dangerous roads of Afghanistan, a cameraman working for FOX News risked his life to save a U.S. Marine from a vehicle engulfed in flames. While embedded with 2nd Platoon, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marines, cameraman Chris Jackson’s vehicle hit 50 pounds of homemade explosives. The humvee occupants escaped the flaming vehicle, all but the vehicle commander, Sgt. Courtney Rauch. (READ MORE)

Iraqi ERB to expand protection for all of Iraq - BAGHDAD – More than 120 new Emergency Response Brigade officers stood shoulder to shoulder and recited the oath of allegiance to Iraq Jan. 22 during the selection course graduation ceremony here. The ERB, which operates under the authority of the Ministry of Interior, consists of a specially trained and equipped force to complete the most demanding security missions in the country, said Brig. Gen. No’man Dakhil Jawad, ERB commander. (READ MORE)

Basrah team prepares to secure waterways for elections - BASRAH, Iraq – In preparation for the upcoming elections, the Tactical Response Team of Basrah’s Special Weapons and Tactics unit conducted reconnaissance operations on the Shatt al-Arab waterway in mid-January. The operations proved the TRT’s ability to expand their patrol capability and fully access the waterways in Basrah’s vicinity. (READ MORE)

IP, SoI degrade IED cell in Tarmiyah - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Police officers and members of the Sons of Iraq thwarted an improvised-explosive device attack and arrested five suspected terrorists Jan. 24 during a joint operation in Tarmiyah, northwest of Baghdad. IP and SoI apprehended two suspects attempting to emplace explosive devices that were strapped to a bicycle near a funeral site. (READ MORE)

Election Safety Top Priority to Iraqi Forces - BAGHDAD — For the past several weeks, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have stepped up their presence in the Yarmouk, Qadasiyah and Hateen neighborhoods of northwest Baghdad to ensure the local populace will be safe for the upcoming elections. The Iraqi Army (IA) and Police (IP) patrolled polling sites to review the barrier layout and made recommendations aimed to improving security where needed. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army Escorts Coalition Force Convoy - COB ADDER — Iraqi Army (IA) Soldiers for the first time escorted a Coalition logistics convoy to remote outposts in southern Iraq, Jan. 18. Iraqi troops from the 10th Motor Transportation Regiment, 10th IA Division provided security for the 27th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Div. while the battalion delivered supplies. (READ MORE)

Greenhouse Project to Benefit Radwaniyah Agriculture, Commerce - FOB FALCON — Community leaders and U.S. Soldiers joined Iraqi Security Forces for the ground-breaking of the first of 100 greenhouses to be built in southwestern Baghdad, Jan. 22. Raad Hanna, the 1st Brigade Combat Team (BCT) embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team’s agricultural advisor, said the benefits of the greenhouses will impact the future of this area. (READ MORE)

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