February 24, 2009

From the Front: 02/24/2009

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

A Battlefield Tourist: Four Hours With Brits and Afghans - February 20, 2009 - Southern FLET, Musa Qala, Helmand Province - With as much as I could do with 3/8 LMT, I found myself with a number of idle days waiting for extraction. That left me checking into the possibility of getting out with the British Officer Mentoring Liason Team (OMLT), which mentors 3rd Kandak, 3rd Brigade, 205 Corps of the Afghan National Army headquartered out of the base I was currently on . The OMLeT is made up of soldiers from 1st Battalion, Rifles. Now Zad Part of my mission on this trip is to set up the unfolding story of coalition forces escalating their presence in Afghanistan to numbers of foreign troops to some 70,000 personnel. To fully capture this story, I desperately needed to get to one FLET or another. FLET stands for Forward Line of Enemy Troops. In other words, I needed to get to the front line. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Shrugged: Bouhammer hits the Mark - If you get a chance please surf over to Bouhammer and check out his post entitled "Friday Night Humor" http://blog.bouhammer.com/?p=2884 It truly hits the mark and was a superb morale booster for me as I once again journey up the rivers into the heart of darkness known as the rear areas of the War on Terror or what ever the left wingers want us to call it now. Thanks Troy! Sorry for the short post and the limited update but I'm getting charged by the minute to use this internet hook-up. Nothing like having your government let some contractor gouge the hell out of you on your way back to war. One question though before I go: How many times must I be searched by the TSA before I'm allowed to go back to Afghanistan and kill AlQeda? Seems like a waste of resources. (READ MORE)

Armed and Curious: The moves begin - I have been remiss in my postings for the last few months. I suppose the only answer is the one I was taught my first day at West Point..."No excuse, Sir?"...and get back to writing about happenings in Iraq again...and other things that catch my interest. In Iraq today's Washington Times has a story on the beginning of the migration out of the Iraqi cities under the Status of Forces Agreement. You may recall the agreement that was signed last fall has that we will move out of Iraqi cities by June 30th of this year. I actually read a blog post where a poster was calling us all liars and blood thirsty killers because the commanders in Iraq said in a recent interview that there would still be US personnel on transition teams in the cities. This person saw this as proof we weren't complying with the Iraqis wishes by simply re-naming our "combat" troops as these bogus "transition" teams. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: Ditches and paranoia - I made a trip out today to look at my favorite ditch. Pretty impressive, isn't it? Fortunately, this time, the pipe was in the ditch and one of the contractor's guys showed up with a shovel before I had to crawl down in there to verify it. It was the first trip out there with our new manuever guys, and it was the usual adventure. See, during all the trainups to coming over here, the Army devotes significant time and effort to preparing Soldiers to survive in a combat environment. This is, of course, a Good Thing. Hooah, surviving. The downside is that nobody really prepares these guys for the situation as it normally is on the ground. That is, very intensely not house-to-house combat. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Picasso Pelton: Old Blue’s Paint By Numbers - We are going to play a paint-by-numbers game. I’m going to lay out the lines with the facts that I know, and I’ll supply the paints. You just paint by the numbers, and we’ll see what picture presents itself by the time we are done. This article includes a basic description of the Human Terrain System and why it is important to the counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan, and series of related events that may threaten the program at a critical stage in its development. This will show that Robert Pelton's business partner approached HTS with a proposal to sell intelligence to the program, and failing that, Pelton sought an embed, marketed his own services directly to ISAF without the knowledge of those who had gotten him cleared to enter the country, and then wrote a scathing article about the program. (READ MORE)

Bullet Wisdom: Sons of Iraq - Last week, my team travelled to Tikrit to sit in on a transition meeting between the Iraqi Army, Coalition Forces and contractors representing almost 10,000 Sons of Iraq contractors from our province. On March 1, the process for transition supervision and responsibility for Sons of Iraq (SOI) formally begins in the Salah ah Din province. There are over 2,000 alone in my area, and over the next several months, the Prime Minister ordered all to transition to the employ of either the Ministry of Defense or Interior (Army or Police) or to a position somewhere with the Government of Iraq. So who are these Sons of Iraq guys? Listening to some, you would believe that a good deal of these individuals where the guys we fought pre-Surge, back in 2005-2006. (READ MORE)

Blogs Over Baghdad: Rewarding excellence and effort - OK, it’s time to let everyone in on something our 314th Soldiers already know — this mission at the Combined Press Information is probably not the best one to test their Public Affairs skills. Yes, we do work directly with Western and Pan-Arab media, so in some ways it is important. For instance, the Soldiers can see all the things journalists do to collect a story — so they can emulate it or better facilitate it. Similarly, they sometimes talk to the journalists and share “war stories” — another way to learn the trade from people who are making a living at it. And, of course, our Soldiers are learning skills that will help them in any career — things like effective intercultural communication, operational security, leadership, and being a team player. (READ MORE)

Down Range 46: Things You Might Not Think About - Today was a beautiful day in Iraq. It was one of those fleeting-moment days that occur in small quantity here - a high of 68 degrees, slightly overcast and little, if any, movement of the air. Simply beautiful. Only the distant sound of small arms fire, the rythymic whopping of helos overhead and the rumble of large diesel power armored trucks rolling down dust laden roads could remind you that you are in a war zone. That said, you get used to those sounds and sights, they become somewhat common place and routine, allowing you to appreciate even the simple pleasure of fair weather, brief as it is. It was the kind of weather that makes it easier to get outside and conduct your daily constitution - a visit to the latrine. (READ MORE)

Frasier From Iraq: Band of Brothers - I just starting watching the “Band of Brothers” series for the third time, and I’ve come up with the following conclusion: I have never been in a war. WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam - those were true wars. The generation of WWII is truly a great generation that we can still talk to. They bonded together after the attack in Pearl Harbor. They dropped everything to support the war effort. The magnitude of casualties and wounded that they suffered and yet continued to push on, has me awe struck. These were true Civilian Soldiers from all walks of life, with one thing in common - they were all Americans. We have casualties in the wars we’re fighting today. The loss of any serviceman or servicewoman is tragic. But during those earlier wars there were fathers, sons, and brothers from the same families that paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. My sense is that America no longer has the stomach for war. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Afghanistan as Vietnam - I am wrapping up my time in Kabul and getting ready to press embed with the Marines down south in early March. I am currently working on something I cannot blog about and it is boring. Inshallah I’ll have a story to tell soon – in the meantime I have been catching up on some reading (when the net works here) during my downtime. I recently came across a Men’s Journal article written by Robert Young Pelton (RYP) on his brief embed with a Human Terrain Team. Mr. Pelton’s article was neither positive nor accurate and completely lacked the ring of authenticity. Old Blue over at Bill and Bob’s Excellent Afghanistan Adventure was the first off the mark questioning the factual content of Pelton’s article and he took it apart with his usual humor and sharp insight. Amazingly RYP responded to Old Blue on his blog and other blogs and then engaged Old Blue in a direct email exchange where he threatened Blue with retribution from on high. That is called playing a weak hand where I come from – normally a stunt pulled by a weak man. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: 24 Feb 2009 One Year - At 10:05am Baghdad time 24 Feb 2008 an EFP (explosive formed projectile)was fired up on the second vehicle in the convoy. It hit the driver's door. My son was the driver. The medic attended to him on sight. Once stable enough he was medivac'd out to the 86th CSH ( combat surgical hospital)where a team of surgeons worked on him. He died in surgery at 11:31am Baghdad time. For 1 hour and 26 minutes he fought his final battle. The others in the vehicle received minor injuries. At approximately 1pm ( US CST ) two men knocked on my front door. I was at the store shopping when my son called to tell me they were in my livingroom. I knew. In the past year my family has experienced pain so deep that it is impossible to put into words, joy that we feel guilty for having, people who have amazed me, anger with no outlet, and an emptiness there is no way to fill. I chose to dwell on the amazing people. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: Finally... - ...I made it outside the wire yesterday (Sunday, February 22). I've been wanting to get outside the wire since I arrived. After all, I didn't spend 5 months in training to sit at my desk day after day, typing, reading e-mails, and arranging interviews. I want action! I want adventure! And now I want some Motrin. That "battle rattle" gets heavy after awhile! The event was the release of 57 Iraqi detainees, one of many such upcoming ceremonies. I was originally supposed to be in a helicopter over the site, taking photos from above, but we got "weathered" out by fog. (Okay, sand fog, but that's another post.) So, I joined the group on the ground. I convoyed out with Soldiers from Task Force Dagger, otherwise known as 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. We moved out in 3 very large, armored vehicles. Think up-armored school buses. The most difficult part was just getting into the seat. (READ MORE)

SFC Burke - My Point of View: What Day Is It??? - Ok. I had to stop and blog. I've done 10 pages of newspaper layout today and I'm tired. Time to ramble and relax my mind. The other day we had a dust storm...it was bad. On a nice day we can see the al Faw Palace from our building's porch. Looking at the picture, you'd think nothing is off in the distance....but it's there. It's been really nice weather these past few days. Clear skies, cool mornings and mild temperatures in the daytime. When summer hits it'll feel like a white-hot hammer out there beating on you. We're all working pretty hard on our print and broadcast projects. I don't get to go here and there writing about what soldiers are doing. That may come later. SGT Risner and SFC Quebec work in division headquarters. You can say a lot when you look at SGT Risner behind SFC Quebec....it shows Quebec's uncanny ability to sleep whenever, wherever and SGT Risner's way of releasing the day's tension from work. Rock on. (READ MORE)

SPC Anderson - My Point of View: So close and yet so Far away - So it's official...my husband is on his way. It is a weird feeling to think that Jason is going to be about 60 miles from me and yet I probably will never get to see him. I've been anticipating his arrival for it gives me hope that there may be a chance to see him someday. I've met some married couples here already on Camp Liberty. Most of them get to see each other everyday and even live with each other. I asked one couple what it was like to be here together. They said the don't get to see each other that much, or at least as much as they would like. I said- "so how much is that?" The husband responded in saying that sometimes they can go up to two weeks without seeing each other. HA! I said. I told them they should be lucky and I told them my stories about Jason and I. I told them the story about how since we've been married the longest period at one time that we've been together physically is one month. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Wrapping Things Up - I'm scheduled to leave the Embassy on Saturday to start the journey home. That will be the end of my tenure with the State Department, a 6-month stint that has been extremely rewarding. Ever since my last post, I've been working like a madman in the office, trying to wrap up several projects and get things ready for handoff. I can't say I'm handing them off to my replacement, because there isn't one. If (and that's a big "IF") they ever get somebody in here, it'll be many months down the pike. In the meantime, there's one guy who's getting custody of my files and some of my duties, and I need to be able to tell him what needs to be done. So I've been trying to gather a lot of information together in a sort of "How To Do Skip Rohde's Job For The Complete Idiot" guide. Yes, I hear the wags out there saying that it should be a 1-page book, and half of that blank. But you're wrong. It's two pages, including the copyright notification. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: 35-6 - That’s the final score of our one and only game in the tournament, 35-6. We played a total of 2.5 innings, and when we couldn’t narrow the gap to 10 points at the top of the third we were dismissed. Of course, I shook the guys’ hands after the game, letting them know they were lucky the game was called because we “almost had them.” So, what happened? Well.. we did only have one practice, but let’s not make excuses. Our outfield was totally unprepared for the balls coming their way, and balls were lost in the huge field if they made it past one of the outfielders. There was more than one grand slam scored by our opponents. Let’s forget the lost balls for a moment; the balls we did catch were overthrown as if they were hot potatoes, posing a threat to our hands and therefore something to get rid of as quickly as possible without regard to the final destination. (READ MORE)

Sarge: Simplicity - It's nice to break things down into their simplest forms and only think of now. Most days, you can generally count on the following highlights: 0600 - Chow 1200 - Lunch Break 1800 - Dinner Working out or running Any free time that pops up 2200 - Sleep And lowlights: Wakeup (0300-0530, depending, could change if you're doing movement too) 0700ish - Start work Any duties, tasks, etc that you have to do that you know will suck Additional things of course come into play all the time. For instance, out on the rifle range, which is a generally fun activity for me, I zeroed my weapon right away. Pretty excited, I figured I'd get to go right out to the Qualifying course. But alas, since I was one of the first couple done zeroing, we had to load magazines for everyone else. (READ MORE)

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