February 4, 2009

From the Front: 02/04/2009

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

In their own words:
Bouhammer: How would you deal with Pakistan - So it is no secret that many of our enemies, and in fact Osama himself may be hiding in Pakistan. This is the country that all the plans are developed in on how to attack coalition forces, where the money and materials comes from (except for Iran on the western border), and generally where the real leaders of Al-Queda and the Taliban live. There is talk that the new administration is going to keep up the pressure on these bad guys by continuing to go after them in Pakistan. The US is also looking for new supply routes since Pakistan cannot safeguard our supplies from being destroyed. I wonder if once we quit routing supplies through Pakistan, if we will continue to be so tolerant of their proven support of our enemies. (READ MORE)

Embrace The Suck: Welcome Back To The Suck, Soldier Boy... - So I am back, well not quite back yet but I am back in AssCrackIstan, further south than anyone in his or her right mind would want to be. Only one little hop from the land of exploding roads and machine guns. And I cannot say that I am entirely disappointed. Sure Qatar is nice but Bagram is a shithole of epic proportions and at least down here you don't have to put up with people who bust you out for using the wrong shitters. So all in all I am a pretty happy guy. We haven't done much but travel; I mean we were sure to miss enough flights that we were able to watch the Superbowl in Bagram. For all it's faults Bagram still has those huge projection TV's, and there is nothing like watching a football game in a room full of rowdy GI's on a screen the size of a tank. We caught a little puddle hopper out of Bagram down south today. (READ MORE)

SGM Troy Falardeau - Blogs Over Baghdad: How a news idea becomes a news story - How does the idea of a reporter become a news or feature story in the newspaper or on the radio or TV? Here in Iraq, it almost always includes some support from military Public Affairs, and that support is almost always more complicated than the average person might think. You can’t just show up to interview or shoot pictures in a combat zone; people don’t like being surprised. Here is one example: A few days ago, PFC Bernat came into my office here at the CPIC. She said a reporter from National Public Radio needed help interviewing someone, and she asked if I could help him. When I went out to meet the reporter, he introduced himself as Jonathan Blakley, a foreign desk producer assigned to the Baghdad bureau. I recognized his name from a program he had hosted a couple years earlier that looked critically at the U.S. media - a program I had listened to occasionally. (READ MORE)

Fire and Ice: Heros Honored - Lance Corporal Joshua Mooi USMC 2nd Platoon, Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines - On January 8, 2009 Lance Corporal Joshua Mooi recieved his Navy Cross. Beside Joshua stood two other Marines and a Navy Corpsman who were recognized for their heroic service with Silver Stars for actions taken on November 16, 2005. A fourth Silver Star was posthumously presented to the parents of Lt. Ryan McGlothlin. The ceremony was held at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California. You can read about the presentations here. (READ MORE)

Fraser From Iraq: Normally Abnormal - Stuff that seems out of place back home - but is normal here. 1. Waiting in a line for food. 2. Waiting in a line to wash your hands before you get your food. 3. Waiting in a line for the shower. If you are in front of the line you get a hot shower. If you’re in the middle to end of the line, you get a cold shower. 4. Showing one of a number of different I.D. cards to get in different compounds, get in the exchange, get on the flightline, get to housing, or get in the DEFAC (dining facility to eat). 5. Living, sleeping, eating, flying, watching TV/DVDs etc. etc. with the same guys for months on end. 6. Sleeping during the DAY and working during the NIGHT. 7. Not having a Cell Phone. 8. Living in a POD with bunk beds. 9. Having 6 trucks for 18 people means that you are never alone in a vehicle. 10. Going days without ever actually seeing the sun. 11. Eating 2 meals a day. 12. Wearing only Brown or Tan Clothes. (READ MORE)

Sgt B: The 25 Meme… - Okay Angie and Barb, you got me… And it’s a “two-fer” (thanks Red! I owe you… No, really, I owe you… Start running now…) Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you. (To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.) Okay, the first 25 - Things about me…and then…25 unique things about Iraq… (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Obama and Iraq's Elections - The Washington Post editorial says Iraq's elections strengthen secular moderates who seek to curb Iran's influence. It asks, "Will President Obama support them?" The writer explains: "Oddly, the biggest beneficiary of the election other than Mr. Maliki may be President Obama, who has been a skeptic both of progress in Iraq and the value of elections in unstable states. Mr. Obama acknowledged on Monday that 'Iraqis just had a very significant election with no significant violence' and called that 'good news' -- but only in the sense that it could justify withdrawing 'a substantial number' of U.S. troops this year. While such a drawdown is certainly a desirable goal, the president would do well to recognize, value and exploit the very real political progress Iraq has made -- and to be careful not to undercut it by acting too quickly on his exit strategy." (READ MORE)

Knottie's niche: It happened in Iraq.. did you hear? - Something didn't happen in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, today. Once the most violent and most dangerous places on earth, no suicide vest bomber detonated killing dozens of voters. No suicide truck bomber drove into a polling place collapsing the building and killing and injuring over 100. No Marine was in a firefight engaging an Al Qaida terrorist trying to disrupt democracy. What did happen was Anbar Sunnis came out in their tens of thousands to vote in the first free election of their lives. With the expectation of all of the above (suicide bombers) they walked miles (we shut down all vehicle traffic with the exception of some shuttle busses for the elderly and infirm) to the polling places. I slept under the stars with some Grunts at Combat Outpost Iba on the far side of Karma, and started driving the 200 miles up the Euphrates River Valley through Karma, Fallujah, Habbiniyah, Ramadi, Hit, Baghdad and back here to Al Asad. I stopped here and there to speak with cops, soldiers, Marines, and most importantly, regular Iraqi men and women along the way. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistan-based terror groups behind Kabul suicide bombing cell - Afghanistan's intelligence agency has dismantled the Kabul suicide bombing network that has been behind six deadly attacks inside the capital over the past two years. Seventeen members of the cell were detained, many of whom have been linked back to two Pakistan-based terror groups. Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security, or NDS, obtained information on the cell after the deadly Jan. 17 suicide attack outside the German embassy in Kabul, Reuters reported. A suicide car bomber rammed into a convoy as it passed by the German embassy, killing four Afghan civilians and a US soldier. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: All My Bags Are Packed - ...and ready to go...It's very near time to head out and finally start doing what we've been training to do for what seems like eons. For us, it is now a test of patience, a time of "hurry up and wait"...that Army staple that still makes me crazy, 19 years after I first enlisted. Speaking of 19 years in (and my 5th deployment), I finally have my very own, specially-fitted protective (gas) mask. It's an M45, while the rest of the Army gets M40 masks. My face is too long and thin to fit into an M40...the medium smashes into my cheekbones and I can't get a seal while the small sits on top of my cheekbones and I can't breathe (which, apparently, is bad). Either way, I walked away from the M40 fitting with bruises. As I tried on my very own, brand-new M45 mask I was thrilled to think that no other Soldier had snorted in this particular mask. Ever. Seriously, there were only Annmarie snorts in there and it smelled like the interior of a new car. (READ MORE)

SPC Anderson - My Point of View: Terms with Reality - Today is reality. You ever have one of those things that you talk about, you prepare for, but it feels like it's all just a dream- like it's not really happening...or at least you try to tell yourself its not happening? Today is when I wake up and realize it's not a dream, my dream is reality and I have to face it straight in the eye. I never knew how I'd feel today when I woke up. It was one of those dreams that you wake up from in the middle of the night/morning and say "I have to write that one down!" Today is one of those days that you listen to the music that makes you reflect on life. What have I done in this world so far? What do I do everyday to fulfill what I've been made for? What do we do everyday in this world to fulfill what we were made for? Today is one of those days you try to mentally recreate images of family, friends, things that mean the most to you....who knows- your car, your dog, a grungy pair of sweets that you wish you could be wearing...things keep flashing in your mental photo album. (READ MORE)

Pocket Rockets: Bueno Suerte bitches! - Weekly update… Should be moving out of the tent today or tomorrow, finally. Getting tired of living with 10 other people and having no privacy. Thankfully that’ll be over soon, or so I hope. Work is going slow, but starting to pick up a bit. Hopefully as I lose more people the mission back here in the rear will pick up dramatically. Looked up my credit score today. 655. Not as good as the fag from the commercial, but I’ll take it, non-the-less. It just proves that sometimes the best things you can do for yourself is nothing at all. Think about that for a minute. I have temporarily resolved my internet issues by using one of my section’s editing laptops that was sitting around, collecting dust. Once I move into my room, I may be without internet for a few days. Maybe I’ll finally get my fat ass in the gym consistently. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: Elections and the Super Bowl - January 31st was provincial election day in Iraq. It was probably one of the biggest newsdays we’ve had here the past month. I didn’t get to cover it. Our leadership decided not to let us go out because it’s our position to let the Iraqis completely run the elections. We didn’t want to do ANYTHING that could be construed as influencing any party or a particular candidate. The Sorority Soldier was here in 2005 during the first set of elections. She tells a story about crawling through reporters legs to get to a candidate on the street. I completely understand why we didn’t get to cover the elections, not that anyone asked me. As a newsman, I’m disappointed I missed out on a big news day. Read the Sorority Soldier’s post here about progress. The Mudville Gazette has a good blog roundup of the elections. You can get the rest of the news at Stars and Stripes and the Christian Science Monitor. The other big event is the Super Bowl. It began at 0200 on Monday morning. (READ MORE)

Tyler Maulding: Dog saves handlers life - CAMP VICTORY, IRAQ – A military working dog saves his owners life while on a routine mission near Najaf, Iraq recently. Spc. Joaquin Mello, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 98th Military Police Company, K-9 handler, a Santa Cruz, Ca. native, says he will never forget the day his working dog, Sgt. Bodo, a six year old Patrols, Explosives Detection German Sheppard, saved his life. “It scared the crap out of me,” Mello said. “I started thinking about it and I was like, ‘wow, my dog just saved my life.’ It was a scary moment for me, like the war actually hit me. The war became real in that moment.” Mello and an Air Force K-9 handler went on a route clearing mission near the town of Najaf, Iraq. After clearing the route, Mello and the Airman were asked to clear some suspicious piles of rubble around the convoy. Mello and the other handler split the area in two sections, Mello cleared in front of the convoy while the Airman cleared behind. (READ MORE)

SPC Brittany Gardner - Blogs Over Baghdad: Farewell “Betty” - So, for a few weeks now I’ve had a little dilemma……”Betty”. Let me explain. I’ve had a hard, mobile piece of something (we’re still unsure of its composition) floating in my big toe joint in my left foot. People in my unit joked and said it could be my unborn twin or something insane like that, so they named it “Betty”. Whatever it was, it constantly rubbed against the tendon that ran all the way through the top of my foot causing serious pain and irritation after running or walking long distances. “Betty” had to be dealt with. Well yesterday, February 3, 2009, I went to the 10th Combat Support Hospital here in Baghdad to see if the good Army doctors there could figure out what “Betty” really was and what they could do about “her”. After going to the outpatient clinic and mesmerizing the doctors there, I was sent to the orthopedics specialists to see if they could uncover this medical mystery. There I met LTC Sands and her team of soldiers. Surely they could help. (READ MORE)

Whatever It Takes: Hello families of the HQ! - We have finally made it to Camp Taji, Iraq. This may be the first time you have ever heard of it, but it is now our new home away from home. It is much nicer here than we expected. We have two-man rooms with heat, AC, soft beds, and internet service. Not far from our rooms we can find a luxury item we have not seen for quite a while, flush toilets! It is the simple things in life that are worth treasuring. Here we maintain most of the comforts of home. We have a large PX that stocks anything we might need to make our living conditions more comfortable, or accessories that can make operating a little easier on us. There is a surprisingly large amount of fast food franchises in our food court: Popeye's Chicken, Taco Bell, Seattle's Best, Pizza Hut, and Burger King located only a short walk from our rooms. But we mostly rely on our surprisingly nice dining facility for all of our sustenance, most of which is excellent. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

8th MTR learns ropes from 589th Soldiers - FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – Members of the Iraqi Army’s 8th Motorized Transportation Regiment, located in Numaniyah, support the 8th IA Division with logistics, transportation and training. Living side-by-side with the 8th MTR are about fifty Soldiers from the 589th Brigade Support Battalion, which make up a small logistics military training team. Soldiers in the MiTT help teach proper logistics procedures, how to run a motor pool and how to fix military vehicles. (READ MORE)

NP commander: ‘Elections went well, now wait for results’ - BASRA – Iraqi elections are complete and they went off without any problems in the As Sarraji and Al Amtahiya neighborhoods in Basra on Saturday. This sector’s security is the responsibility of the 1st Battalion, Basra Brigade, 4th National Police Division, who increased patrols in the area Jan. 27 in preparation for national elections. (READ MORE)

Elite policing force beefs up selection course process - AL KUT, Iraq – Iraqi National Emergency Response Brigade leaders and Coalition forces initiated the first two-week, pre-selection course to select candidates for the ERB’s Operator Selection Course Jan. 26. This new course was designed to help select candidates before they enter the formal ERB training. Candidates who have graduated from the police course or were members of nationalized Special Weapons and Tactics units were eligible to attend this course. (READ MORE)

ISF, MND-B Soldiers seize ordnance in Karb De Gla - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Army Soldiers, partnered with Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers, uncovered six landmines at approximately 7:45 a.m. Feb. 3 in the Karb De Gla community of the Rashid district in southern Baghdad. “The 1st Brigade Soldiers provide mentorship for the Iraqi Security Forces, as they increasingly take the lead for providing a safe and secure environment for the Iraqi people,” said Maj. Dave Olson, spokesman, 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div. “Combined operations continue daily in the Rashid district, resulting in zero enemy attacks during the last four days in southern Baghdad.” (READ MORE)

ISOF discover stockpile; preserves security during elections - BAGHDAD – A citizen’s tip led Iraqi Special Operations Forces to a weapons cache Jan. 29 in Baghdad filled with more than 600 items intended to disrupt the provincial elections. “The bombs were prepped and ready for use,” said the ISOF battalion commander responsible for the operation. “I have no doubt the (commandos’) quick action resulted in saving many lives on Election Day.” (READ MORE)

Airmen Aid in Iraqi Ballot Transport - SATHER AIR BASE — Members from the 321st Air Expeditionary Airlift Squadron did their part in assisting Iraq in the election process Feb. 2. While many service members were watching the final moments of Superbowl XLIII, Maj. Scott Volk, Capt. Chris Dickens, both C-130 evaluation pilots and aviation advisors for the Iraqi Air Force, and Master Sgt. Louis Carter, 321st AEAS combat aviation advisor, were preparing to board an Iraqi C-130E on its way to Mosul to pick up election ballot boxes from Iraq's recent elections. (READ MORE)

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