February 5, 2009

From the Front: 02/05/2009

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

In their own words:
Afghanistan Shrugged: I'm Still Alive - Yes, I am still alive! There's been quite a long delay in posts and that's due to my soul sucking journey back to the United States of America. It's great to be back in the US it's that getting here can crush your will to live. I'm working on some posts, seeing my wife, drinking a beer and eating food that didn't come out of a cardboard box have taken priority over writing blogs posts. I'm also trying to convince myself that the kids running up and down my street are not reconing my house for a possible IED or rocket attack. In attempting to formulate my ideas about my journey into a coherent post; truth is stranger than fiction comes to mind. (READ MORE)

A Battlefield Tourist: A Wall of Frustration - I knew before I ever got here that getting in and out of Afghanistan would be a challenge, however, I am really starting to get frustrated with this trip so far. After checking in for the flight this morning (for the second time) and waiting 90 minutes, we were all told the flight was cancelled. That makes two flights down today, which means more folks needing a later flight, which further means I may not even get on it because so many are waiting now. The next flight: 2215. Skip ahead two hours: I check back in after getting some money and a phone card to see if anything has changed and the 2215 flight is no longer listed, but an 1830 flight instead. “So when’s the next flight to Kandahar?” I ask the gent running the terminal. “The next one for sure is tomorrow.” he says. “What about this 1830 flight?” “Oh, I don’t know if that’s coming.” (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: It's been... - slow. Phenomenally slow. Like...glacially slow. If I'm ever in charge of a war, I'm deploying units, and none of them are coming home until we've either won or lost entirely. There will be no "rotations," there will be no "relief in place," and there will be no "transition." Nobody will take servers full of information and just leave, and nobody will look at me and explain that they need to visit every cluster of huts within 25 klicks to "learn the AO." No city leader will have to listen to another junior - the tenth in five years - officer explain that his unit is there to "help the people of Iraq learn to leverage their government structures." No farmer will have to explain to an earnest Soldier with a clipboard that he has six hours of electricity on the average day, ten on a good day, and none at all on occasion. (READ MORE)

Cheese's Milblog: Taking the long way home. - I know it has been a long time since I've written and that very few people are going to see this, but I warned ya that I'd be pretty busy as a civilian. As expected, the trip home was a whirlwind of micromanagement. See, I came home with a large group of staff officers and NCOs...soldiers who probably haven't led troops since the cold war and were very excited to do so again. Our NCOIC* was a basic training stereotype...not a rough combat arms NCO, just a vulgar carbon copy of so many drill sergeants that he'd seen in movies. For all it's faults, there are a few things that the Army does well. One of these is the task of moving and organizing luggage. Every Joe knows to form a chain and to line up the bags facing the same way so the names on them are visible. Now, that's exactly what the lower enlisted started doing with the duffel bags once we hit Kyrgyzstan and before all the chiefs decided that the Indians were taking too long. (READ MORE)

SGM Troy Falardeau - Blogs Over Baghdad: Look what I found! - Each one of the soldiers in the 314th PAOC/CPIC has his or her own work computer which is connected to the military server. Since they are “official” military computers, there are limitations to what they can do. For instance, those computers cannot display our blog site. However, we also have one computer in the office that is shared by all the soldiers since it is connected to something called the Baghdad Forum. We use it to things like visit the blog site, view Facebook and MySpace pages, and to listen or view streaming audio or video from news organizations. The Baghdad Forum computer is also the only one in the office that allows the use of USB devices — including stick drives and digital cameras. Because of that this lone computer’s desktop is cluttered with ALL kinds of stuff. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Fab Surge Summary Part 1 : Value = (Cost)^-1 - Tim’s been bugging me to write a summary post for all you readers wondering what became of us. (Most of us are all the way home now and struggling to catch up on sleep while making an appearance at our “day jobs”.) In short, we accomplished an awful lot and collectively recorded about 250GBs of photos and 30 hours of high def video - which has made it impossible to write a “short summary”. Tim would want me to point out that it hasn’t cost the tax paying citizens of any country a single dime/rand/quid/eyrir. PART 1: A $400,000,000 $40,000 SURGE On our last full day we alternated among frantically finishing projects, collecting stuff for the trip home, and seeing more stuff. We’re all a little sad to leave, there’s so much to do, could do. The guesthouse was bursting at the seams, and even though some of the FabFolk were stuffed three to a room, that, in and of itself made it fun. It’s like camp for grown up little geeks. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Election Winners and Losers - There have been all sorts of analysts commenting on last weekend's elections. Though official results will not be released until later, many experts agree that the seculars have emerged as the winners in the larger cities. Journalists reporting from Iraq report that the Supreme Council came out the loser. The Iran-backed Hakims have disappointed the Iraqi people. The election was widely expected to show gains for the law-and-order bloc of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, giving him a major boost ahead of a parliamentary election at the end of the year. My family in Baghdad, who all voted, said they hear the seculars did well, which was to be expected. They said nobody wants anyone linked to Iran. They also said Al Maliki did well because he wants Iraq to remain united, while Hakim's gang supported the fragmentation of the country. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban capture, release 30 security personnel in Swat - The Taliban released 30 security personnel shortly after they were captured during a battle in Swat on Wednesday. The policemen and Frontier Corps paramilitary troops were released shortly after they promised not to fight the Taliban. The Pakistani security personnel were captured after a Taliban unit assaulted their outpost in the Barikot region in Swat, where the military had launched its third operation in two years to dislodge the extremists from control of the district. The police and troops surrendered after the Taliban mined the area around the checkpoint, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan told CNN. The Taliban then captured supply trucks laden with ammunition intended to resupply the government forces after they hit the minefield. The security personnel were briefly held and released only after they said they would no longer serve in the security forces, Khan told CNN. (READ MORE)

Michael J. Totten: The New Backbone of the Sunni Resistance - When Israel retaliated against Hezbollah in July of 2006, something strange and new and unexpected took place. Arab governments blamed Hezbollah for sparking the conflict and didn’t complain about Israeli behavior until later. During the more recent war in Gaza we saw something similar; only this time the de-facto alignment of Israeli and Sunni Arab state-interests was even more obvious. Most Arab governments blamed Hamas for starting the latest round, and Egypt worked openly with the Israelis to achieve a new ceasefire arrangement that left their mutual enemy in the Gaza Strip weakened. “Saudi Arabia is no longer the backbone of the Arab alliance against Iran,” Asher Susser from Tel Aviv University said to me as the ceasefire went into effect. “Israel is.” (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: The Real Story Behind Iraqi Election Day, 31 JAN 2009 - Just over four years ago, the Iraqi people voted in their first free and fair democratic elections. But those elections came at a cost. Large religious sects, certain voting districts, and in one case an entire province, boycotted the election. Sectarian violence ensued, resulting in 44 civilian deaths on Election Day, January 30, 2005, and countless more in the months and years to follow. The media largely covered the more eye-catching scenes. Front-page headlines and images portrayed the historic election, the deadly attacks, and the purple-dye on the fingertips of Iraqi voters that identified a voter and prevented them from voting more than once. News coverage, however, took for granted the role of the U.S. military. The security measures at the polls largely went uncovered. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Away from Victory - I took a blackhawk ride to Camp Echo yesterday. I’m here supporting the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. It’s a lot different than Baghdad. For starters, we pull guard twice a day. Today I pulled a shift in The Operations Center and had to make sure everyone had the right ID. The other guard duty is a two hour shift in the headquarters building, and I’m really not sure what those responsibilities include. I’m sure I’ll find out soon. My friend, Rodney Foliente, is here with me. He was with me at AIT (my journalism school at Fort Meade - DINFOS), and we had some great times together. It was usually me, Rod, Ryan and Phil that hung out all the time. We took several trips to Baltimore and D.C. so it’s great to catch up with him. I’m filling in for his roommate who’s home for his two weeks of leave. (READ MORE)

Whatever It Takes: 4th Platoon - Hello again. I am now speaking to you from Camp Taji, Iraq. The final members of our platoon arrived the night before last. It was 3rd SQD arriving from Kuwait. 3rd SQD(SSG Swingle)had to stay behind, and fire their Mortar's before they moved into Iraq. The rest of the company has been on the ground for five or six days now. Like LT Brennan said below in his blog, we don't have it that bad. We are now unloading Connex containers full of our equipment, and receiving more class's. We also have been in contact with the Company we are replacing, and they let our company go and raid their warhouse. We went in to the warehouse with our platoons, and picked thru all their extra equipment, and got some great nice to have equipment. (READ MORE)

Whatever It Takes: Sheiks Council Meeting - The ramp brief was scheduled for 0830. I had checked all of my equipment the night before, making sure that everything was in it's place and that it worked. I have done this hundreds, if not thousands of times before every mission. I find a simple comfort in conducting pre-combat checks. It is probably akin to someone with obsessive compulsive disorder arranging things their way. For me it is an insurance policy. Our mission was to attend the Sheiks Council meeting. I was the only Soldier from Apache going out with the unit we are replacing. Only the key leaders and staff officer were present. The ramp brief was given by a young staff sergeant from the outgoing. He covered everything that we needed to know in the standard operations order format. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

IED in Mansour district kills Iraqi citizen, injures SoI member - BAGHDAD – An Iraqi civilian was killed and a senior member of the Sons of Iraq was wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated in the Mansour district of northwest Baghdad Feb. 4. At approximately 2:45 p.m., an IED detonated beneath the vehicle the two Iraqis were riding in. Iraqi Soldiers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 54th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division responded to the incident with support from Soldiers of Troop B, 4th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, MND-B. (READ MORE)

U.S. Airmen aid in Iraqi election ballot transport - SATHER AIR BASE, Iraq – Three members from the 321st Air Expeditionary Airlift Squadron played a key role in assisting the Government of Iraq in the election process during a historic mission on Feb. 2. While many servicemembers were watching the final moments of Super Bowl 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)

Iraqi Legal System Continues to Advance - CAMP VICTORY — As the Iraqi Security Forces continue to improve their ability to protect Iraq’s people, a strong judicial branch that can help bring criminals to justice becomes increasingly important. “I think the [Iraqi legal system] is improving,” Army Capt. Ronald Alcala, Multi-National Division - Center’s rule of law chief, said. Coalition forces have had a huge impact by helping to professionalize the Iraqi forces and providing training on crime-scene management and investigative procedures, he added. (READ MORE)

Farmer's Market, Fish Farms Prospering - SELAH — U.S. Soldiers recently visited the Central Euphrates Farmer’s Market (CEFM) and a fish farm in Khdir, joining Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) members for the first board meeting held at the farmer’s market. The CEFM represents approximately 4,900 farmers from the northern part of the Babil province. The next closest farmer’s market is 70 kilometers away in Karbala. (READ MORE)

Wheelchairs Delivered to Sadr City - SADR CITY — Some entered Baghdad’s Sadr City District Advisory Council compound Feb. 4 in small groups, while others came alone. They were a diverse group, former military men injured while fighting insurgents, others victims of Saddam Hussein’s regime; the very old and the very young. Their disabilities linked them to a common goal, the hope of receiving one of the 60 free wheelchairs being given out by Brad Blauser, founder of the charity ‘Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids.’ (READ MORE)

Military Transition Teams Mentor Iraqi Soldiers Toward Success - BAGHDAD — Soldiers from varied backgrounds and specialties are helping to ensure the continued success of the Iraqi Army as mentors and members of a Military Transition Team. “Our main job … is to professionalize the Iraqi Army,” Lt. Col. Thomas Seagrist, commander of the 9th Iraqi Army Division Military Transition Team, said. “We have officers and noncommissioned officers from a wide variety of military occupational specialties. I have a logistics officer, an intelligence officer, an aviator, [explosive ordnance disposal], intelligence analysts, … and the list goes on. (READ MORE)

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