February 6, 2009

From the Front: 02/06/2009

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

In their own words:
Back In the Army Now (at 54): Our New Love Life - This morning fifty of us were out in the cold and the dark waiting for a bus that, among other things was going to take us to get cold-weather clothing. While we shivered, the motor platoon leader (a first lieutenant in his mid-20s in charge of the motor platoon) came to the front of the formation to talk to us. He began by asking how many of us were married--about a third of us raised our hands. Then he said, "How many of you are married to a soldier in this platoon. . .In this company. . .In this battalion? Good. No one. That means no one should be having a sexual relationship with anyone in this command." He said this policy was one of the general orders of the Army. He then asked if anyone in the formation could explain the Army policy on this kind of relationship between soldiers. A voice from the back of the formation yelled, "DON'T F#CK YOUR BUDDY SIR." (READ MORE)

A Battlefield Tourist: The Noticeable Things - Stuck at Kabul International Airport (KIA) all day, I had time to take care of some editing and pretty much spend the day surfing the net. Down at “Air Force One”, which is the international MWR (Recreation Center) that doubles as a club of sorts at night, they have free internet, so there I stayed. Not only that, but it’s also stocked with imported beer (as far as an American is concerned) costing just a dollar. I was right at home. I had visited this place in the past and it has changed very little over the years, I’ve just never been there at night where dozens of soldiers from all over the world hang out together, listen to music, play pool, drink beer, etc… (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Registan In The House - Joshua Foust of Registan is in one of my old stomping grounds in Afghanistan this week. He's apparently the guest of the French at the moment, experiencing the wonders of the Tag Ab Valley. Go over to his site and see how the place has changed. Unfortunately there are no pictures, but I almost lost my mind when he was talking about chatting with people that I know. By the way, the District Sub-governor that he's talked with is not the same one that I had my little chat with when we took one of the local Maliks into custody for tea-partying with the Taliban and possessing prohibited stuff, like Kalashnikov ammunition. That Wuliswahl was fired, and rightfully so, some time ago. Anyway, Mr. Foust tells the tale of what it's like to arrive in Tag Ab for the first time. (READ MORE)

Registan.net: The Unreality of Kabul - FOB MORALES-FRAZIER, AFGHANISTAN — It is interesting to hear what Kabulis think of the way their country is going. Here in Kapisa, just north and east (but a universe apart), things are rather different. Indeed, a common complaint locals raise when we suggest bad security might be why we can’t start many projects is, “oh c’mon — the Taliban are everywhere. That’s no excuse.” Such a blasé attitude toward the prospect of random death is not easy to understand… at least from our vantage point. Indeed, I will venture a guess that a lot of the tragedy in what David is reporting is that the same choices and environment now facing Kabulis is really what far too many regular Afghans face on a regular basis. From my perspective, behind the concertina wire and hesco barricades, the contrast between mostly Pashtun and mostly Tajik areas cannot be any more stark: (READ MORE)

Embrace the Suck: Something Bad Happened... - And I am going to deal with it the only way that I know how. I am going to vent, to you. I could beat around the bush but you all know that just isn’t my style. My Auntie Buddy passed away recently. My mom just told me when I called her to let her know that I wasn’t in any real trouble over this blog. Now there are certain things in life that just hit you like a ton of bricks, and this is definitely one of them. I’ll share a little bit about me, maybe some of it you already know. I have written so much that I don’t even remember what you do and don’t know. (READ MORE)

From The 'Stan: Some better news (and photos) from 3/8 and CLB 3 - FARAH PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), and Combat Logistics Battalion 3 successfully completed Operation Gateway III, which lasted Dec. 28, 2008, through Jan. 25, 2009, in Farah Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. As the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan, 3/8 dispatched Weapons Company’s “Team Smasher,” a task-organized element comprised of a Route Clearance Platoon with heavy weapons elements, to clear southern Afghanistan’s Route 515. The Marines of CLB-3, SPMAGTF-A’s logistics combat element, followed in trace, constructing three combat outposts along the important east-west route. (READ MORE)

Teh Gun Line MkIII: Colors! (Update)… - Not long after I put out the word, they began to arrive… Flags… This is the very first of YOUR flags that we flew over the Bonecrusher Command Post. (Please excuse the black squares, they are called “redactions”, and they protect the identities of the three NCOs of the Color Detail - they are active operators, and also my friends, and I will go overboard to protect their identities. Read the book in a few years, and you’ll probably get to see the original photos. I hope that I haven’t taken away from the fact that this ceremony was conducted with great pride.) (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Cole on the Elections - Iraqis and others inside Iraq say the elections were a victory for the country for all sorts of reasons. The scene of the vote was calm. Secular parties did well. Al Maliki's Dawa did well. And Iran's team, the Supreme Council did poorly. President Obama said it was good for Iraq. Even the UN's Ban Ki-moon said the elections went well. Iraq's critics are all disappointed. Right? Not so fast. Juan Cole writes from Ann Arbor that it's all sour grapes: "The big story here is that the Shiite religious parties (and yes, the Da'wa or Islamic Mission Party is among them) again swept the Shiite south. However, those Shiite parties that won out this time want a strong central government, not a Shiite mini-state." See? The elections were a win for Iran. Cole continues, "The Islamic Mission Party or Da'wa is just as committed to warm relations with Tehran as is the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq. The Da'wa leaders were in exile in Tehran for years just like ISCI. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Suicide bomber kills more than 30 at Shia mosque in central Pakistan - More than 30 Shia Pakistani worshipers were killed and over 50 were wounded in a devastating suicide attack outside a mosque in the town of Dera Ghazi Khan in the central province of Punjab. The bomber detonated in the midst of a procession of Shia as they conducted a procession mourning the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed and a central figure of Shia Islam. The bomber detonated just outside of the Johar Ali Imam Bargah mosque as the procession returned. Police are certain the bombing was a suicide attack as no crater was left at the scene of the attack. Casualties may rise as officials are still assessing the scene of the attack and many of those wounded are in critical condition. The attack took place in Punjab province, well outside of the Northwest Frontier Province where the Taliban is fighting government forces in Swat, Bajaur, and Mohmand. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Iraqi forces kill senior Mahdi Army operative - Iraqi police killed a senior member of the Mahdi Army during a raid in Diwaniyah province, sparking a protest from the Sadrist movement. Twenty other " Sadr loyalists" were detained in other raids in the province, according to a Sadrist spokesman. Mahdi Army commander Tariq Azab was killed in a shootout after police attempted to arrest him, AFP reported. "He tried to escape, which prompted armed clashes and he was killed," a police official told the news agency. The police official described Azab as an "important" leader of the Mahdi Army who had just returned from Iran. (READ MORE)

SGT Zoeller - My Point of View: So long and thanks for all the fish - It's hard enough to prepare for deployment, seeing your family for the last time in what would be a year. The shred of worry in the back of your mind knowing there is a possibility that you may not return home to them. Goodbyes are difficult enough and no one likes to say farewell. I said my goodbyes to my family and friends during the Christmas holidays. Everyone was so supportive and many were heart-broken as they watched me go fight in a war that isn't entirely supported by the American people. Society understands and gives the Soldiers praise regardless of the political engine behind the motivation, these people give the strength to carry on and do what Soldiers are trained to do. Fight. (READ MORE)

Notes from Iraq: 05FEB09--Scarface, now 'Scarchest'? - This afternoon, the team returned to our base as normal. But instead of Scarface, the energetic team puppy, greeting us as we dismounted the trucks, we located him sprawled on a doormat with a sizable gash on the right side of his chest. The irregular, semicircular wound was approximately an inch and a half long. We speculated that the gash may have resulted from an encounter with razor sharp concertina wire, but more immediately, we speculated that this wound could easily end our puppy's life. So we called upon our team medic, Sergeant 'Doc' Montes of Washington State. Doc has never shown much of a liking for Scarface. Actually, he frequently displays the opposite, going on and on about rabies, rashes, late night barking, and doggie landmines. Still, the Hippocratic Oath kicked in, and, on this day, Doc’s heart grew in size two times. (READ MORE)

Pink's War: Let's Hold Hands And Talk About Our Little Plans - So there I was, sitting at BIAP, waiting on my flight to Kuwait when I looked up and seen JH. Wait... JH! I never thought I'd see him again. He happened to look over just as I looked up and we must of had the same look of shock on both of our faces. See, I got a trip to Qatar in October, that's where I met JH. We were on the bus together and I looked at him and said "Man, I HATE going places alone! You look nice enough so you're going to be my new best friend for this trip." He looked me up and down and said, "Umm... okay." We were pretty much inseperable for those 4 days. We did everything together. We even got a bit drunk and had sex in one of the bunkers together. It was the perfect relationship, we both knew that once we left we would probably never see each other again so there was no awkward talks of the future for us. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Thursday Thoughts - What a week it's been so far, and I still have several more days to go before its over ... I've been setting up a conference for this weekend. Actually, I took over the conference this past Monday, because nothing had been done for it. It's been scheduled for a month, but there are two individuals in two different organizations who've been adamantly saying that the other guy is responsible for it. And one of 'em then left the country on leave. Consequently, at C minus 5 days, with no venue, no schedule, no invitations, no nuttin', I got fed up with their pissing contest and took over. The conference kicks off tomorrow morning. We've got a nice room here in the Embassy, with a computer and projector, comfy chairs, tables, and whiteboards. Almost everybody is on the access list ... except a few that haven't bothered to tell me they're coming, and I know there will be some from one particular agency. (READ MORE)

S4 at War: Kyrgyzstan - I had all but hung up my blogging spurs but with the recent story about our base in Kyrgyzstan possibly going out of business I figured I’d return. The problem is that unlike in Iraq where we have Kuwait as a staging area, along with a number of large logistics bases in country, Afghanistan is made up of smaller outposts, minimal suitable over-land routes, and a significantly reduced logistical capacity. This paper written by a Major at the Air Command and Staff College discusses how air capabilities can best be put to use and their significant limitations. To help paint a picture of the logistics operations required to support the military in Iraq consider this, until recently the majority of supplies in theater were distributed out of LSA Anaconda. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Blackhawk Taxis - Blackhawks are the servicemembers’ taxi. The pilots take us all over the country, from FOB to COB.. or whatever they’re calling our posts these days. I was dropped off at the airport for my flight to Camp Echo with gear in tow..helmet.. check, vest.. check, weapon.. check, rucksack.. check, camera.. check, tripod.. check, laptop.. check… (I hope that’s it) I had help carrying my bags in my Javi and SGT Ellis, the two who dropped me off. We sat them in a corner, I got checked in and then sat down to wait. I didn’t want to take off my body armor, because it’s a pain to get back on. Plus, the LZ likes to play the hurry up and wait game, too. So, when they called my last four (of my social), I knew they’d want me ready to walk to the flight line right then. (READ MORE)

Whatever It Takes: Council Meeting Continued - The land here is primarily used for agriculture. The Iraqis have built an intricate network of canals bringing water to their fields from the Tigris River. This area has probably changed little since Hammurabi ruled ancient Babylon 3700 years ago. They grow a wide variety of products here to include tomatoes, wheat, barley, rice, vegetables, dates, cotton, cattle, sheep, and poultry. When most people think of Iraq they probably envision a barren desert landscape, but along the Tigris it is as lush as the Garden of Eden. We pass checkpoint after checkpoint manned by heavily armed Iraqi Soldiers, Police and Sons of Iraq citizen security. They look and act more professional than last time. As we drive past I see them searching cars for contraband and the drivers for credentials. The 4th amendment does not apply here, but then again we do not have an insurgency going on in the United States. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Iraqi forces arrest 3 terrorist suspects in central Iraq - BALAD, Iraq – Iraqi Special Operations Forces, with Coalition forces advisors, arrested three suspected terrorists on warrants during operations in central Iraq Jan. 29 through Feb. 2. The individuals allegedly provided terrorist cells with improvised explosive devices and other weapons used to attack Coalition forces. They also allegedly laundered money; led counterfeit operations and participated in kidnapping and non-judicial killing of local civilians, Iraqi forces and Coalition forces. (READ MORE)

Iraqi SWAT units discover, destroy weapons caches - BALAD, Iraq – Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics, with Coalition forces advisors, discovered and destroyed weapons caches in western and northern Iraq in separate operations Jan. 28 and Feb. 1. During the operation in western Iraq on Jan. 28, elements of Habbaniyah SWAT destroyed a weapons cache west of 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)

Iraqi Provincial Security Forces assume control of Marine outpost in Karmah - KARMAH, Iraq – The Marines of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, turned over Outpost Omar to Iraqi Provincial Security Forces, Jan. 25. Outpost Omar is a vital security position in the region, and the Iraqi PSF assumed control of the outpost because of their proficiency and operational capabilities. (READ MORE)

Historic class graduates from Iraq Fire Academy - BAGHDAD – A major milestone was reached in rebuilding Iraqi infrastructure. The first class of firefighter managers graduated from the Iraq Joint National Fire Academy today. The class was made up of 10 Civil Defense Corps and seven Iraqi Air Force firefighters from all over Iraq. This course, along with basic fire and rescue training, will produce a professional firefighting force to serve the people of Iraq. (READ MORE)

Sa’ad High School refurbishment part of Operation Iron Gator - BAGHDAD – In a further sign of municipal progress in Salman Pak, local leaders came together to dedicate the beginning of construction and refurbishment of the Sa’ad High School Feb. 3. The refurbishment was another ground breaking project of Operation Iron Gator to improve the infrastructure of Salman Pak with more than $2 million (U.S.) budgeted to remodel schools, expand the Bawi Canal and provide micro-grants to small businesses. (READ MORE)

Logistics Marines Support Anbar, ISF - CAMP RAMADI — During the last six months of their deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. Marines have provided logistical support crucial to the transfer of Iraq’s Anbar province from U.S. to Iraqi authority. The Marines of Combat Logistics Company 51, Combat Logistics Battalion 5, conduct logistical support missions around Camp Ramadi in Iraq’s Anbar province. (READ MORE)

U.S. Medical Team Treats Iraqi Villagers - FOB HUNTER — U.S. Army medical experts recently visited a small clinic in southeastern Iraq to provide medical assistance to the citizens there. Local Iraqis lined up in single file near the clinic’s perimeter fence eagerly awaiting basic examinations and medical advice from combat medics and a physician. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Doctor's Gift Says ‘Thank You’ - CAMP LIBERTY — A new symbol of freedom and appreciation now greets Soldiers and visitors to the headquarters of Multi-National Division – Baghdad, after an unveiling ceremony in front of division headquarters here, Feb. 5. Dr. Muayad Muslin Hamid al-Jaburri, an influential Iraqi cardiologist and humanitarian, donated the gold eagle-head statue to all the Soldiers of MND-B in admiration for their sacrifices while working to make Baghdad a safer place to live. (READ MORE)

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