January 29, 2009

From the Front: 01/29/2009

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

In their own words:
Back In the Army Now (at 54): I'm a GO - Just a few minutes ago, I got a call from my unit saying I am officially a "Go" for deployment and should report for duty tomorrow morning at 0730. I have been sure I would get cleared for the big trip. And when I spoke to the administrative specialist on the phone I was making jokes. But when I got off the phone, I was both excited and felt like all the strength went out of my legs. I am happy and having the biggest "Oh Shit" moment I have had since the pain killers wore off after my last surgery. After all this time and all that distracting paperwork, it's finally real. The one-year clock starts ticking tomorrow. (READ MORE)

Brad's Excellent Adventure: Electrical Safety Inspection - Tuesday 27 Jan 2009 2130 - It’s a long-standing fact of life in the Army that there’s always somebody who “doesn’t get the word”. Yesterday a couple of those somebodies made some of our lives a little more difficult. I went back to my room last night after work and switched on the light, and nothing happened. I thought “darn, a burned-out bulb, and I just used the last one”. I don’t like the fluorescent lights in these rooms, so I have a couple of incandescent lamps that I plug into the switched outlets and use as my main light source. I turned on the fluorescent light so I could see, and went to turn on the desk lamp. Nothing there, either. At first I thought “Wow, two burned out bulbs? – maybe a breaker tripped”, but then I looked under the desk and noticed that all my plugs were laying around loose – my power strip was gone. That’s when I noticed that the power strip was gone from the light by the door, too. I immediately knew what had happened: (READ MORE)

Blogs Over Baghdad: Will Hollywood come to Baghdad? - As most of you know, I’m currently assigned to the Combined Press Information Center in Baghdad. I live (and will soon work) at Camp Prosperity — one of the places the U.S. military is located here. It’s an interesting camp with lots of trees and open space, large man-made pools, a bustling shopping area with restaurants and stores with a variety of goods, and, best of all, a former palace of Saddam Hussein. The palace was damaged in March 2003, but a large part of it is now occupied by U.S. military (despite the “air conditioning” that we added). Overall, the camp is a nice place to be, if you find yourself in a combat zone. The “mayor” of Camp Prosperity is MAJ Michael Bobinis from the New Jersey National Guard. He is a very motivated to get MWR opportunities available for the soldiers he serves. (READ MORE)

Blogs Over Baghdad: Three reenlistments today! - If you are the family members and friends of SGTs Emily Anderson, Jeremy Fowler and Kade Miller, thank you! Research has shown that the main reason Army Reserve soldiers leave military service is because their families ask them to leave. Today, these three soldiers raised their hand and swore the oath of reenlistment — a testament to your support. LTC Perez, the unit commander, was the officer administering the oath, and you could see the pride on his face. Any leader is happy to see his or her employees choose to continue to follow. For doing so, each of these soldiers continues to serve in our Army Reserve. They also reap lots of tangible and intangible benefits, like GI Bill educational money. And, of course, the reenlistment bonus is ALL tax free! (READ MORE)

Embrace the Suck: Ladies & Gentlemen, We Now Return To Your Regularly Scheduled Program... - So I am writing this from the computer lab in Qatar the day before I am scheduled to leave this wonderful place to return, ever so eagerly to the "suck" I figured I would write this one today while I know that I have the time and the access to the internet. I don't really know when I am going to have these opportunities again. So these last few days have been surreal to say the least. I had successfully suppressed the memory of all things that I missed about home. Then I came here and they all came running right back to me and started wriggling around on my face. Certain things that everyone back home really takes for granted are amongst the things that will become the most important things in the world to you. (READ MORE)

Fightin' 6th Marines: Fighting 6th Marines return to Ramadi, Iraq - CAMP RAMADI, Iraq – The Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based Regimental Combat Team 6 once again returned to Iraq’s eastern Al Anbar province and reassumed responsibility for an area of operations it left barely a year ago. RCT-6 formally relieved Regimental Combat Team 1, based out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., during a transfer of authority ceremony Jan. 21, and in the relatively short time since RCT-6 left Iraq, it is clear a lot has changed. Staff Sgt. Craig W. Garrett’s most vivid memory from his last deployment to Iraq was the death of one of his Marines. Now serving as a RCT-6 ground watch officer, the infantry Marine prepares to step into a position that requires more observation than action as Iraqi Security Forces take greater responsibility for securing their own nation. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: The Yellow - In Marine Corps officer schools “The Yellow” is the school solution for tactical problems normally handed out in the form of an operation order or an annex to an operation order on yellow paper. Having written at great length about the problems we see with both the military and reconstruction efforts I’d now like to take a shot at proposing a solution which has merit. We are currently failing, and failing miserably, at bringing a secure environment to the people of Afghanistan which is the first and most important step in any counterinsurgency conflict. There are two reasons for our current performance; the first is that the government of Afghanistan is so dysfunctional and corrupt that it is more a problem than a solution. The second factor is our insistence of operating from large forward operating bases (FOB’s) and commuting to the fight instead of living amongst the people to whom we are supposed to be delivering security. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Ahmadinejad's Jewish Roots? - Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been going through a rough patch lately. The powerful Rafsanjani has been critical of the president, and there have been reports of growing domestic criticism of Ahmadinejad’s economic policies. But Iran’s nutty president has no idea what trouble is. He should check out the website of Ayatollah Khazali’s son. As often happens in the Middle East, when people disagree with someone or want to undercut them, they trace his family tree back to its supposed Jewish roots. Sometimes the effort is even based on fact: Though not terribly common anymore, some families have indeed changed religion within recent generations. Of course, frequently the family tree that emerges from these genealogies is based in a kind of imaginative speculation that Mideasterners specialize in. (READ MORE)

Thomas Joscelyn: The Jihadi Brothers - Judge Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied a Guantánamo detainee’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus today. The detainee, Ghaleb Nassar al Bihani, is a citizen of Yemen who has been detained at Guantánamo since January 2002. The Associated Press reported that al Bihani was a mere cook for the Taliban, and suggested that it was on this basis alone that Judge Leon rejected al Bihani’s petition. Judge Leon did cite al Bihani’s role as a cook as one of the reasons for his continued detention. The judge wrote: “After all, as Napoleon himself was fond of pointing out: ‘an army marches on its stomach.’” However, there is much more to Judge Leon’s decision and al Bihani’s story. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistan relaunches Swat operation - The Pakistani Army has launched another operation in the Taliban-controlled district of Swat after the Taliban reportedly rampaged in the main city and ordered government officials to appear before a sharia court. Today the military declared a curfew in the main city of Mingora, the only remaining town in Swat under the tenuous control of the government, after more than 100 Taliban fighters "stormed the streets of the town displaying arms," Daily Times reported. The Taliban have held public executions and punishments in Mingora despite the government's claim of control. Shelling and airstrikes have been reported in Swat; at least two civilians were killed and 10 more were wounded when rounds hit their homes. (READ MORE)

Michael J. Totten: The Mother of All Quagmires - I've just returned from a week-long trip through Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Israel's border with Gaza, and I'm reminded all over again of what has been beaten into me during my many visits to the Middle East: there is no solution to the problems that vex that region right now. Most Americans are inherently optimistic and think just about any problem in the world can be solved. We put a man on the moon before I was born, but that was easy compared with securing peace between Israelis and Arabs. The American Jewish Committee brought me and seven of my colleagues to Israel and set up interviews with Israeli military officers, politicians, academics, and journalists on the far-left, the far-right and at every point in between. One of my colleagues asked the eternal question during one of our meetings. “What is the solution to this problem?” (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: Historic Election Day Just Days Away - The Iraqi people don’t have much of a track record with free and fair elections. In 1995, 99.6% of the vote went for Saddam Hussein. Seven years later, Saddam achieved 100% of the vote. (Many of those ballots were already filled in when they were printed.) However, when Iraqi men and women vote Saturday they will do so with a remarkably different outlook. On January 30, 2005, Iraqis went to the polls for the first time under their new government to elect their representatives in Parliament, who would in turn elect the prime minister. Several groups boycotted the elections, refusing to acknowledge the validity of the new government. In the end, the elected parties were largely along ethnic and religious lines: Sunnis, Shi’a, and Kurds. (READ MORE)

Pink's War: TCN's, Austrailians, and the CSM, Oh My! - They had me working the front desk of the palace for the whole month of January, until I left for leave. I was working 7 days a week, 12 hours shifts, from 0500 to 1700. I tell you what, it sucked ass, but only a little bit. The CSM for the battalion that we fall under hates females. As a matter of fact, I was the first female to be put behind that desk since that battalion came here. He makes a point to stop by and harass me and piss me off at least 6 times a day. After the 3rd day, I got fed up with it and went to my 1SG and told him everything that was going on. He told me to document everything and if he doesn't knock it off he's going to pull all of us off the detail, file a complaint with the IG and file an EO complaint. I really like my 1SG, he makes sure that we're taken care of. (READ MORE)

The Torch: Corrections: thankless and rewarding - When we got back to Camp Nathan Smith from the patrol into Dand, I was buzzing. The entire event drew such a high degree of focus from me, I was still coming down when we were told the bad news: there was a comms shutdown. An IED strike had hit a joint Canadian-Afghan foot patrol, and there was a critical Canadian casualty, although not VSA (Vital Signs Absent). Between the high of the patrol and the sobering shock of the wounded soldier whose name we never learned, I'll admit I wasn't paying too much attention when LCdr Babinsky told us we could stash our PPE in our quarters before going to watch Afghan prison guards being trained. If I hadn't been so absorbed in my own thoughts, I'd probably have dismissed the Corrections training photo-op as filler put on to the schedule between the end of the patrol - which could have been anytime, given the realities of what can happen outside the wire - and dinner. I certainly wasn't expecting a great deal from the experience. (READ MORE)

Whatever It Takes: Twice the Citizen - PVT Ziegler and I were interviewed by a local newspaper just before we left, Philadelphia Bulletin Online Article. I am somewhat reluctant to speak with the press. The reason why is because I do not have any control on what is published and how it will be edited. The media isn't there to tell our story, but to sell their product and push their agenda, whatever it may be. Mike Tremoglie at the Bulletin did a good job at telling our story and I look forward to building a long term relationship with him so our Soldiers story can be told. Our Soldiers are amazing. Some have immigrated from Nepal and India, some have returned to duty after serving in other branches, they are fathers, policemen, college students. You name it and they have done it. I have brothers serving together. One thing that they have in common is that to a man they are volunteers. It has been 6 years since the Iraq war started and most have enlisted or reenlisted since then. (READ MORE)

The Ground Truth in Iraq: The Year of the Ballot Box Begins - This week provincial council elections will be held in 14 of Iraq's 18 provinces. Provincial elections are not being held in the three provinces comprising the Kurdish Regional Government -- Irbil, Dohuk, and Sulaymaniyah -- or in the disputed province of Kirkuk. Today Iraqi detainees, hospital patients, and nearly 600,000 members of Iraq's security services will cast the first ballots. Then on Saturday (January 31) polls will open for the general public. Some 14,400 candidates representing over 400 political entities are contesting 400 seats. Each provincial council will comprise 25 seats plus one additional seat per 200,000 people in the province. The largest province by population, Baghdad, will have 57 council members. The other 13 participating provinces will have an average number of 30 council members. (READ MORE)

Far From Perfect: Some Thoughts - So what have I been up to since I got here? A lot of flying, and a lot of patient transport. Its a completely different experience this time than last time. I am usually back in my own bed at night, missions don’t go on for hours and hours without rest, and I am flying overhead instead of driving or walking through the streets. So far I have had several routine transfers to the hospital north of here from units in the south. I also had a couple of trauma patients that the TMC here stabilized and then sent north as well. In fact, almost everything we take is headed north to one of two major hospitals in our area, and that brings about a different challenge I’ll talk about later. I did expect there to be more Point of Injury missions than there have been, but I guess that’s a good thing. It means our guys aren’t getting hurt out there as much anymore. We cover a pretty big expanse that includes some really built-up areas. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

IA, MND-B Soldiers inspect polling sites for upcoming elections - BAGHDAD – In support of the Security Agreement implementation, Iraqi Security Forces and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers conducted a combined combat operation Jan. 25 to inspect and secure polling sites for the upcoming provincial elections in the Mahmudiyah Qada. The ISF have overall responsibility for securing the polling sites with MND-B Soldiers in a support role. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police, National Police place their votes in Istaqlal - ISTAQLAL, Iraq – Members of the Iraqi Police and National Police kicked off the provincial elections by placing their vote at the Bilal Al Habashi School in Istaqlal Qada in northeast Baghdad Jan 28. “This is a good step for Iraq and the people. They have free opinions to vote wherever they want and for any person they want to give peace in Iraq,” said Col. Majeed Khalil, a member of the 2nd Brigade, 1st National Police Division. (READ MORE)

Soldiers deliver security barriers to Washash election site - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers from the 299th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division helped enhance security in an effort to ensure voters in northwest Baghdad will be safe on election day. The 299th BSB Soldiers worked with their fellow MND-B Soldiers from 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, attached to the 2nd HBCT, 1st Inf. Div., to deliver 200 concrete barriers and a 30-foot watch tower to the ballot holding facility and voting site in the Washash neighborhood of the Mansour district of northwest Baghdad Jan. 24-25. (READ MORE)

Village culvert connects Sunni Arabs, Turkmen - TIKRIT, Iraq – For many years, the village of Bushariyah has been divided by nature, with Sunni Arabs on one side of the river and Turkmen families on the other. Bushariyah locals held an opening ceremony for a newly built culvert in Kirkuk province, Iraq, Jan. 26. “The culvert now connects the Sunni Arabs and the Turkmen who live within the village,” said Capt. Marlen Ramirez, team leader, Detachment 1, B Company, 490th Civil Affairs Battalion. (READ MORE)

Besmaya Combat Training Center initiates Iraqi M1A1 tank training - BESMAYA, Iraq - The Besmaya Combat Training Center initiated M1A1 tank training for the first 30 Iraqi Army M1A1 tank crewmen on Jan. 25. The newly-arrived Iraqi Army instructor candidates arrived from their home units to train at the BCTC. The IA tank crewmen quickly transitioned from their usual counter-insurgency environment role to that of new students, eager to be trained on the combat-proven U.S. M1A1 Abrams tank. (READ MORE)

490 Policewomen Graduate from Baghdad Police College - BAGHDAD – The Baghdad Police College graduated 490 new Iraqi Policewomen at a ceremony here Jan. 26. The women voluntarily stepped forward to serve and protect Iraq, its people and its Constitution. Among their first duties, the new graduates will serve front-line roles providing security for the Jan. 31 election. “This is something I have waited for…this day. I am very happy to be a policewoman now and to serve our people,” said Sasha, one of the graduates of the largest female class ever to graduate from BPC. (READ MORE)

Camp Ramadi Officially Transferred to GoI - CAMP RAMADI — Official documents finalizing the transfer of ownership of Camp Ramadi to the Iraqi government were signed on Camp Ali, Jan. 25. The documents were signed by Maj. Gen. Martin Post, the deputy commanding general of Multi-National Force-West, and Ali Al Yasiri, the director general for the Council of Ministers Operations, Government of Iraq. Representatives from the Iraqi Army, Government of Iraq and Coalition forces witnessed the signing, which officially gave Camp Ramadi back over to the Iraqi government. (READ MORE)

Sports Complex Reopens with Equipment Donation from USA Boxing - ADHAMIYAH — As a two-time Olympian shouted instructions from the side, two boxers sparred for the crowd of onlookers to celebrate the reopening of the Adhamiyah Sports Complex in northeast Baghdad, Jan. 27. Following a $200,000 facelift that was funded through commander’s emergency relief program funds, the Adhamiyah Sports Complex now boasts a remodeled boxing gym, an indoor basketball court/soccer field, administration office and a FIFA-regulation 5-on-5 Astroturf soccer field. (READ MORE)

Operation Goodwill Aids Iraqis in Maysan - FORWARD OPERATING BASE GARRY OWEN — Iraqi Police from the Al Hussein Station, assisted by Soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, joined forces during Operation Goodwill to send a positive message to the citizens in Amarah Jan. 23. “We have a lot of things to coordinate between us and the coalition,” said Maj. Gen. Saad Ali Ati, from Maysan, during a recent conference at Contingency Operating Base Adder. “We share information and intelligence, and it’s working." (READ MORE)

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