March 6, 2009

From the Front: 03/06/2009

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

The Dude: Party Time in Baghdad?!? - I want to begin my first entry by taking a moment and thanking Bouhammer for inviting me to blog for him. I’ve had the priviledge to serve in combat with him and consider him a close friend. To everyone else who have welcomed me already, thank you. My focus today is on something I came across in the Stars and Stripes while I was eating breakfast in a dining facility in Kuwait (Camp Arifjan). It was an article that was originally in the Washington Post by Sudarsan Raghavan titled “An End to Baghdad’s Dark Era.” This articled discussed US soldiers going to Iraqi nightclubs, drinking alcohol, and dancing with locals. All the while wearing full combat gear. My first instinct was that it must be non-alcoholic beer they are drinking and they must have a task and purpose for being there. However, I understand that soldiers will get away with what they can get away with. (READ MORE)

The Dude: Kuwait Shopping - A few days ago I went shopping for a cell phone after work. I tagged along with one of my co-workers who knows the area well as she had to get a new purse. It was in a shopping plaza / market area in a neighborhood just outside Kuwait City where you could purchase just about anything. I turned around to come out of one of the crowded little shops in the shopping area and as I turned, there stood a female approximately 5ft. tall, fully covered in black, ninja clad pajamas. She gently grabbed both of my arms and stated “Mista, give me money please!” After doing a quick assessment and realized she didn’t have any wires or odd bulges coming off of her, I decided not to grab her arms and throw her to the ground. I just stepped aside and quickly changed my location. For a split second I thought I was going to go boom and had all I could do to keep from flipping on this woman. Needless to say I had a surge of adrenaline bent on survival that I haven’t really felt since I left the ’Stan. (READ MORE)

Back In the Army Now (at 54): Sergeant Rock and Sergeant Rumpled - The military will never be the flat organization business gurus say is the future of management. We have rank, structure and a chain of command. And alongside the official chain of command (Tolstoy is great on this subject in War and Peace) is the unofficial hierarchy. We have a hierarchy in everything: the best marksman, the fastest runner, the best at drill and ceremonies, the strongest, the best sprinter, who can fart the loudest or belch the longest. Because we live so close together, everyone knows these hierarchies. Just as we all know the best at everything, we all know the worst. Not only does everyone know who has the highest PT scores, they know who has the lowest. Some are great at one thing and bad at others. Some are good at several things. But there is always one who is the all-around best at everything and his direct opposite: Sgt Rock and Sgt Rumpled. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Not Now, Cato! - In the Pink Panther series of movies, Inspector Clousaeau had a trusty companion whose job it was to keep Clouseau sharp by attacking him at the most inopportune times, like when he was just coming in the door. The cry of inspector Clouseau at these inappropriately-timed attacks rang through my memory this evening. Earlier I indulged myself in ruminating all over Abu Muqawama's post this afternoon. I missed the point. Completely. COL Gian Gentile made an appearance and raised one of his calls, which is like Pavlov performing a cowbell concerto to me. Gentile was not the point. In part it was a response to Justin Logan at the Cato Institute, who criticized Exum's statement that real counterinsurgents want less counterinsurgency, not more of it. (READ MORE)

Brad's Excellent Adventure: New Schedule - Wednesday 4 March 2009 0500 - I've been trying something new, and so far it's working well. I decided to become semi-nocturnal. Up until now I had adopted a routine of getting up a bit earlier in the morning (0430 instead of 0530), doing PT, and getting over to the MWR/USO building by about 0600 to get on the internet. This gave me a couple of hours online when there was a reasonable chance my kids might be awake at home (0600 here is 10 PM eastern time). After work, I'd have dinner and come back over here around 1900 or so, and spend another couple of hours online before going back and going to bed. There were a few problems with this routine. One was that the time online here in the evening was in the middle of the day at home, which meant my kids were in school. Also, it is extremely noisy here in the evening and very hard to concentrate on anything or talk over Skype and similar services. (READ MORE)

Station Commando: Curry - As I have mentioned before I work directly with members of the armed forces of an unspecified European county. One of the cultural things I was not used to was curry. I had had curry before coming here but I probably could have counted on one hand how many times. I LOVE CURRY! One of the cooks here is a genius when it comes to curry. Every time he makes it it's different and every time it gets better. I could eat curry for days. Last night I ate so much curry I could hardly move. I'm paying for it today though. (READ MORE)

Far From Perfect: A Little Compassion - So I saved a life yesterday. Granted it wasn’t a wounded soldier. It wasn’t even a civilian, but it was a life nonetheless. There is a burn barrel not far from our building where classified materials are destroyed and people can burn pieces of mail with addresses and such on it. It is not for burning trash. However, that didn’t seem to stop someone from burning plastic and cans in it. Such substances produce toxic fumes and carbon monoxide that are poisonous to people as well as animals. The owl was found unconscious on the ground in a room where the fumes had built up, the smoke from the smoldering barrel drifting into the area. A member of our platoon familiar with raptors found it and thought it was dead, but it woke up and was very confused and uncoordinated. He took it out into the air and was trying to get it recovered when I saw him. The poor bird was wobbly and barely able to stand. He tried to get it to fly and it sort of glided, then crashed falling off of an object he should have easily landed on. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Kurdish Crimes - This site has often said that if a reader tries to look to the MSM for information about Iraq, he will get a distorted picture. That was obvious when the MSM declared Iraq as a lost cause and have since been proved wrong. The Kurdish issue is getting similar misrepresentation in the press. And if anyone tries to understand more by going to Juan Cole, they will only get more confused. Yesterday the professor wrote that he read in Arabic language Azzaman, "the arrival of United Nations counselors in Kirkuk with an aim of compiling a list of 'original' inhabitants of the city has provoked a wave of assassinations in the disputed city." The story actually says a census will be conducted. Cole then refers to Jala Naftji, a Turkmen member of the Kirkuk governing council, as a man. According to Cole, Nafitji "told Al-Zaman that he had been afraid of an increasing security vacuum in the province." Never mind that Jala is a woman's name and the newspaper used feminine pronouns. But Cole's an expert who is fluent in Arabic. Who am I to argue? (READ MORE)

Michael J. Totten: Hezbollah Scouts Out The Hague - A United Nations tribunal to investigate and put on trial the assassins of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri opened this week in The Hague, and Hezbollah has been caught running reconnaissance missions outside the grounds. According to French newspaper Le Monde, Dutch police have caught individuals affiliated with Hezbollah taking photographs of the tribunal headquarters on three separate occasions. A Hezbollah spokesman denies the accusation, of course, and I might even believe him if the police didn’t insist it already happened three times. If one person were caught taking photographs, we might write this off as a fluke or a misunderstanding. Two separate incidents are harder to dismiss. Three make a pattern. If anyone would have asked me a week ago if I thought Hezbollah might use or even threaten to use force against the tribunal I would have said no, and I would have said no with confidence. (READ MORE)

Whatever It Takes: I regret not having posted sooner - ...but we have been quite busy over the last few weeks. Our Soldiers are either getting ready for a mission, on a mission, or getting back from a mission. As they get more familiar with the area they are becoming more effective at what they are doing. Each day offers new challenges and the potential to influence the local population in a positive way. Everywhere we drive the children and teenagers hold their hands high above their head like they are holding a soccer ball. It is probably considered a national sport here. With the number of children in the area, any soccer balls that we had are quickly gone. There is a not for profit organization called Kick for Nick . It was started by the family of PFC Nick Madaras after Nick was killed by an IED on September 3, 2006. Nick loved soccer and the children of Iraq and would give them every soccer ball that he could lay his hands upon. (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: I must be CRAZY!!! - I am SO EXHAUSTED!!! I wanted to give a quick update since it's been a while since I last wrote.... My trip to TX went well. My dad and I rode down in his truck and my brothers took my truck and followed us. We arrived Saturday evening. On Sunday we were busy taking down the swingset, Julia's loft bed, and putting the wheels back on the boat trailer among other things. Monday morning, my brothers headed back up to NE pulling the boat behind them. The packers arrived soon after. My dad and I decided to get a hotel since there wasn't much left to sleep on. I enjoyed my "extra" time in the evenings spending time with my TX girlfriends. On Wednesday, the movers arrived and loaded up all the boxes and furniture. Once they left, dad, and my friends Paige and Ali helped me clean the house. Dad then went back to the hotel which allowed Paige, Ali and I to have one last "hoorah" at my home. It was SO hard leaving it. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Samarra's improving electrical grid brightening lives - FORWARD OPERATING BASE BRASSFIELD-MORA, SAMARRA, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces met with U.S. Army Soldiers and members of the Provincial Reconstruction Team recently to assess the current state of electric utility service throughout Samarra. Director General of Electricity for Samarra, Mr. Hameed, escorted ISF, members of the Salah ad-Din PRT and Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, on a tour of various power substations in the city. (READ MORE)

ISF, MND-B Soldiers find, destroy rockets - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Security Forces, alongside Multi-National Division—Baghdad Soldiers, discovered a weapon cache March 4 west of Baghdad. Iraqi Security Forces from the 2nd Battalion, 24th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division with support from the 2nd Battalion, 112th Infantry regiment, attached to the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, discovered two 85 mm PG-7 rockets at approximately 2:55 p.m. (READ MORE)

Security progress allows for Shulla transfer to ISF - BAGHDAD – As per a recently signed security agreement, Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers and Iraqi Security Forces made another necessary step toward total Iraqi control in securing northwest Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Oath of a new life, end of a journey - VICTORY BASE COMPLEX, Iraq – A flood of memories and emotion rushed through the mind of 2nd Lt. Memorina Edwin Barnes, executive officer, Headquarters Service Company, Division Special Troops Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, Multi-National Division—Baghdad, as she reflected on the sacrifices it took to achieve her dream of becoming an American citizen. (READ MORE)

Troops earn citizenship in Iraq - BAGHDAD – During the 13th naturalization ceremony conducted in Iraq, 251 Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines from 65 different countries became American citizens in the rotunda of the Al Faw Palace March 3. The youngest participant was 19 and the oldest was 45. (READ MORE)

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