February 19, 2009

From the Front: 02/19/2009

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

A Battlefield Tourist: War on Education - One of the Taliban’s main objective in their war on Afghanistan is education. Last year, scores of coalition-built government schools have been torched, female students have been attacked with acid and if to make a capital point, just two weeks ago suicide bombers attacked the Ministry of Education in downtown Kabul. In Musa Qala, the British have spent quite a bit of money, and time, building the school that sits in the District Center; a project, from the outside, that seems to be moving along flawlessly. Teaching is Hazardous While the Marines here are tasked with mentoring the ANP, on this particular week, most of the mentoring has been shelved because most of the ANP are disbursed throughout the district in preparation for the upcoming presidential election no rescheduled for August. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: The Adventurist Gut Punches HTS... Shades Of Meo? (Edited To Clarify Personal Opinion On A Matter Of Public Interest) - The HTS (Human Terrain System) has been the subject of much controversy in certain circles, not least of which is among anthropologists. Since Afghanistan has been back in the news in the past year, many people have become amateur social anthropologists. It has become all the vogue to demonstrate how intelligent one is by spouting off about the various tribes of Afghanistan, prognosticating about the Pashtuns and Tajiks and whatnots. Hey, it's cheap, it's easy, and someone who has done nothing more than read a few articles can suddenly sound like they understand the vast impenetrables of Afghanistan. Very often, it's little more than hot air. The social networks and interactions in Afghanistan very often bear little resemblance to the trendy pronouncements heard from suddenly savvy armchair quarterbacks. (READ MORE)

Fraser From Iraq: Happy Valentine’s Day - Happy Valentine’s Day. And Happy President’s Day. They both look the same from this side of the pond. Being here for 4 months, working every day, no days off, the days of the week just blend together. It doesn’t really matter. Back home, looking forward to the weekend, maybe beers on Friday night, sleep in on Saturday, maybe a Sunday brunch, then golf. Yeah. We don’t have that feeling. But there is a payoff when we get back to the United States. For missing 32 days of weekends, plus at least 6 days of holidays, we will receive exactly 4 days off when we return. Even if you return on a Friday, then you get that Saturday and Sunday, which everybody gets off anyway, and then it’s Monday and Tuesday off. So 4 free leave days off to make up for the 38 missed days off. If you do the upper level math, that’s 9.5 missed days off for each 1 day off received. So somehow in the bigger picture that’s supposed to all work out. (READ MORE)

The Gun Line MkIII: Halfway… - Halfway there… Loyal readers will remember the beginning of the journey, when I was contemplating re-entering the military environs… Now, halfway through the maelstrom, I can tell you that the experience has changed me. I knew that it would. I am thankful that the changes have been for the better. I do not fear having to deal with any extraordinary PTSD issues, just the usual readjustment to civilian life, where there will be much that I will never take for granted again… I have learn much about the nature of man. I have conversed with the people of this country. I have high hopes that they will be able to grow. I believe that all the effort has been worth the price. We have done what we set out to do, and I grieve that those who fight against us in my own country cannot see what we have wrought. But I am also tired… (READ MORE)

Jake Life: Two Years Ago Revisited - February 18th is going to mark two years since I was first really affected by war. I certainly didn't enlist into the infantry thinking war was going to be a joke, or that it was going to be full of glory like in the movies, but, I'm not sure I was fully prepared for what it was going to bring. I figured I'd see death, but on my way over there I didn't look to my left and right on the plane and think about who it may be. Maybe I was caught up in the macho Marine thing- it wasn't going to be any of us, we were just going to go over, kill terrorists, and come home. Seeing Blake die changed all that instantly. The aftermath of that incident, the immediate, fire blazing, grown men screaming, blood smelling aftermath, flooded me with emotions that I didn't know existed. Unbridled rage, the kind where your vision becomes tinted with red. (READ MORE)

In-iraq: A lot of people thought democracy means chaos" - Mr. Dathar Al-Khashab has been at Daura Refinery, the heart of the Midland Refineries Company (MRC) for fifty years. He still wears his dark blue engineering coveralls from behind his ornate desk. “I was born here,” he said with a rattled laugh. He just quit smoking several months ago. “In 1968 I was assigned to Daura as a general engineer. I’m still here. I tried to retire last year. They wouldn't let me.” “Daura has a prestigious location,” Mr. Hussein Aziz, an Iraqi ex-patriate advisor explained. “It supplies fuels to all of Baghdad’s gasoline stations and provides a specific fuel line to Baghdad Airport. Being in Baghdad, a lot of industries were built around it. The insurgents tried to isolate Daura because they knew its strategic importance. In this way it represents the stability of the country.” (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistan peace agreement cedes ground to the Taliban - Pakistan's political and military leaders have endorsed a peace agreement that allows for the imposition of sharia, or Islamic law in a large portion of the Northwest Frontier Province and ends the government's military operation in Swat. The agreement will lead to a further deterioration of the situation in Pakistan and is a direct threat to the security of the Pakistani state. The agreement, known as the Malakand Accord, was reached between the provincial government and Sufi Mohammed, the spiritual leader of the outlawed Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad's Sharia Law, on Feb. 15. The next day the peace agreement was made official, and the Taliban forces under the command of Mullah Fazlullah, Sufi's son-in-law, agreed to a 10-day cease fire. Sufi Mohammed claims to have eschewed violence after being released from prison last year as a condition of a similar failed peace agreement in Swat. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: Settling In - The process of settling in has begun and it's been a relatively painless process. My 1SG and I share an office and we have spent the past few days rearranging it to the way we do business and it's a good thing that he and I think a lot alike. We have cleared out drawers, re-arranged bookshelves, put out our binders, wrote up our own calendars. The building is becoming "ours". We have explored both Camp Liberty and Victory and found all the staff sections and departments that we need to be a functioning part of this operation. We've taken the necessary classes to become FOOs (something about money) and contracting officers. We've made countless phone calls to find out how and when and where things are done. We are learning the ins and outs and the rules and regulations (like the fact that I cannot bring my Starbucks coffee mug into the dining facility). We took video and photos of a promotion ceremony yesterday...a Louisiana National Guard Colonel was promoted to Brigadier General. (READ MORE)

LT Douglas - My Point of View: The IZ: FOB Prosperity - I'm terrible at blogging, but I keep a journal. I've been at work for 14 hours now so please forgive the typos. Here is an excerpt: Since our arrival in Camp Liberty I have been sent to work as the Baghdad Media Engagement Team (BMET) Chief at FOB Prosperity, which is located in the International Zone (IZ). I made it out here in the second week of February. I traveled from Camp Liberty to FOB Prosperity in a convoy of large, uparmored vehicles. We locked and loaded our weapons before departing Camp Liberty. A gunner vigilantly scanned the perimeter as we traveled outside the wire. It was an odd feeling, but I'm starting to have those frequently now. The outgoing BMET Chief met me at the pickup location in the IZ upon my arrival. The trip from the pickup location to FOB Prosperity was again, an odd feeling. (READ MORE)

SPC Fardette - My Point of View: Unchained, yeah ya hit the ground runnin' - Here we are in theater and it's busy time. I am honored to be the dvids guy for the unit. This means that every time we produce a news story, I call Atlanta. Then, via satellite, I transmit the news story to the states for distribution to civilian media outlets. You can check out this website: www.cavcountry.net Everyone is in full working mode and we are fully mission capable. Lots of exciting stuff going on. The 211th family is a cohesive machine. Looking forward to telling the soldiers story throughout 2009. If you have any questions or comments, post them to 1st Sergeant Anthony Martinez's blog. Feel free to comment on Specialist (promotable) Erik Fardette's blog as well. (READ MORE)

SPC Logue - My Point of View: For the 1SG - 1SG came into the Broadcast office and told us we had to blog today, so here it goes... Finally. We made it to Baghdad. We are now in country trying to get into the grooves of our jobs. I have this roommate named SPC Johnson. If she is not on the phone, she is on the internet. I guess you can call her a social butterfly. The funny thing is, she is always asking me how to spell something. Obviously she has not read my blogs. I don't see everyone everyday like I used to. LT Douglas isn't even in Camp Liberty. SPC Soles and SGT Risner work in Division, so I never see them. I work in the broadcast room, so I don't really see alot of the Print guys, except when SSG Burrell pokes his head in the broadcast office and talks. I know he wants to be a broadcaster deep down. I mean, I can't really blame him for wanting to be a 46 Rock Star. (READ MORE)

Pink's War: Maybe One Day I'll Walk Away And Say, 'You Fucking Disappoint Me' - I'm getting married. Seriously. I'll give you a moment to quit laughing and collect yourself... Better? Good. I'm sure you all want an explanation, especially since this may seem as something that came out of the blue. In a way, it did. The higher powers that be sent W to Germany for mental health testing. They think he's crazy. For the record, he's not, he's just a bit high strung. With him gone I found my sex life lacking greatly in the sex part. So started the hunt for a new booty call. I didn't have to look very hard. One of the guys that lives in the palace walked right by my desk every morning on his way to work. One morning he decided to take a chance and drop off his phone number for me. It took me a couple days to finally call him, I was moving a bit slow with this guy for some reason. He kept asking me to come hang out with him and I kept refusing. The last thing I wanted was another crazy proposing to me after knowing me for a few hours. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: The Challenge of Tool Boxes - BAGRAM AIR BASE, AFGHANISTAN — One of the things I’ve been trying to document during my down time here in Afghanistan is just how closely you need to understand the local politics and contexts of different areas of the country to be able to effectively and sustainably “win” over areas (for a brief examination of how we’ve been learning that in Kapisa province, please see here, and here). Indeed, one of the challenges Afghanistan poses is that traditional military approaches—the sweep-and-clear, the cordon-and-search, and so on—actually don’t work in the medium and long term. Much like in Kapisa, in Afghanistan as a whole you can reliably get a temporary improvement that might even last a few months, but those methods don’t encompass policy sustainment, even if there is a new class of doctrine in place meant to provide such a thing. In fact, the challenge the Army faces is remarkably similar to the so-called “Tool Box Approach” to policy analysis. (READ MORE)

Whatever It Takes: Sharing the road - One of the things that has changed between 2005 and 2009 is our interaction with the local population on the roads of Iraq. Now we drive slower and with the flow of traffic. It used to be that we made everyone pull over if they were coming from either the same or opposite direction. This was because of the high car bomb threat we faced. Now we do not force anyone to the side of the road, but on the more narrow roads the Iraqis just pull over. Tonight we had our first fender bender. We were moving about 5 MPH through the market area of one of the local villages. There were cars on both sides of the road and many people shopping. Suddenly I heard the sound of Stryker on car contact. My driver had hit a parked car. He immediately stopped and I watch the truck that he hit roll into the car in front of it. I called it up to the company command post and we dismounted to ensure no one was hurt. Our Soldiers quickly secured while the translator and I asked if anyone was hurt. A 10 year old boy that was near the car was scared but there were no injuries. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: Mail Call - Even being in the land of the PX, or as some call it the Victory Base Complex, getting mail is fun. I’ve ordered some things from JR Cigars and Amazon, but none of my packages were as big as the ones my wife have sent me. This photo is a combo of two packages she’s sent me. I don’t even show the original 18 lb. package she sent me first. My Valentine boxers are about as sweet as my V-Day greeting. This is what happens when the stuffed animal gift is too large for the box. Let that be a lesson to all stuffed animals in the world. The first day the Sorority Soldier got back, she opened up her box from her very special man who uses leave-in conditioner. The downside to mail in Iraq right now is the postal company is going to shut down our APO address. I’m crossing my fingers that we are going to receive mail again by the time we leave Iraq. What I’m getting at is, don’t send us anything for now. The most frustrating part is I’m finally getting my copy of The Economist on a regular basis only to get the mailbox shut down. (READ MORE)

Ross' Blog: Killing Time - With the days now counting down to coming home, it's generally a matter of keeping your mind off of the the deployment and on more positive things. Like a kid waiting for Christmas, waiting to come home can prove to be a hard task. The gym and running both work well to escape for a bit. The gym at any Army base is similar enough to any civilian gym, so you might as well be back home when you're there. Running lets you take your mind off everything and just clear your head, only thinking of putting one foot in front of the other, instead of thinking about the work or school you might be missing out on. Reading of course is a classic escapism method. You can read stories from home, the past, the future, etc., and just get lost in them instead of thinking of loved ones. Sleeping works well too, though sometimes the dreams of home can be worse than the thoughts while you're awake. (READ MORE)

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