March 10, 2009

From the Front: 03/10/2009

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

Back In the Army Now (at 54): Then and Now--Sleeping on a Range - Today was qualifying day on the machine gun range. Almost 30 of us went spent the day qualifying on the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. It was a much longer day than it was supposed to be. We arrived at the range just after 8 am, but did not start firing until almost 1 pm. Someone somewhere screwed up and the ammo did not not arrive until 12:30. But I was happy. I love being on ranges. And after yesterday's race, it was good to have some time to relax. When things are screwed up on a range, we just sit and wait. We sit and wait in a Kevlar helmet and bulletproof vest so we are very warm. In the 70s I knew I had acclimated to Army life on ranges when I woke in the middle of the day on a tank gunnery range on Fort Carson, Colorado. I was lying at the ammo point 100 feet behind 17 tanks lined up fender to fender test firing machine guns. It wasn't until they started firing the 105 mm cannons that I woke up. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Good Question; Silly Question - The good news is that apparently the COINdinistas (would COINtras be better? Hmmmm...) are gaining a greater toe-hold on the DoD and in the Army specifically. One note of interest in all of this is that the Marine Corps is "getting" COIN better than the Army. I've discussed this with a Marine Major at a joint center that takes a great interest in COIN regarding the assistance of foreign governments in the stabilization of their own countries. These guys, who operate in one of a few bubbles in a world filled with "green-suiters," "blue-suiters" and so on, are referred to as "purple-suiters." This is because none of the other sobriquets are apt. "Purple suiters" are "joint" types. Those who play well with others... from other services. This Major ascribed the ability of the Marine Corps to institutionally accept the new doctrine more quickly has to do with the Marine culture of agility, adaptability and the Marine tendency to devolve authority to the lowest practicable level. (READ MORE)

From the 'Stan: Marines complete Operation Pathfinder - Received this press release this morning from SPMAGTF-Afghanistan. I wish I had gotten it before I wrote the story that ran today (see post below)! Oh well. It’s always good to know what’s going on. FARAH PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Afghan National Police and U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan completed Operation Pathfinder March 7, in Farah Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Pathfinder, or “Rah Nawa” in Pashto, was a strategically planned joint operation conducted by the ANP and 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), the ground combat element of SPMAGTF-A. The objective of the operation was to target insurgent cells in eastern Farah Province. During the operation, the Marines of 3/8 and their ANP counterparts executed several Afghan-led cordon and search missions and arrest warrants against suspected insurgent forces. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Obama Resets U.S. Ties - As the Obama administration is bulldozing forward, laughing off mistakes like they are no big deal, the rest of the world is looking on with disbelief. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is at sea when it comes to the economy. And reportedly the Russian media has been poking fun at US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after she gave her Russian counterpart a "reset" button with an ironic misspelling. The AP says Clinton's gift to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at their meeting in Geneva on Friday evening was meant to underscore the Obama administration's readiness to "to press the reset button" in ties with Moscow. But instead of the Russian word for "reset" (perezagruzka) it featured a slightly different word meaning "overload" or "overcharged" (peregruzka). Apparently this White House is so sure that they know more than the next guy that they did not need to check with a native speaker of Russian to avoid such an embarrassment. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban executes Pakistani troops in Mohmand - The Pakistani military and the Taliban fought intense battles over the weekend in two of the tribal agencies where the government claims to have defeated the extremist group. Taliban forces under the command of Mohmand leader Omar Khalid killed or captured late Saturday night 17 members of the Khasadar Force, a lightly armed paramilitary police unit, along with three government officials. The Khasadar had been dispatched to the home of a local tribal leader after the Taliban surrounded his home. The Taliban attacked the tribal leader because he has helped the government in the past and had recently welcomed the Mohmand political agent and the commander of the Frontier Corps' Mohmand Rifles into his home, Daily Times reported. (READ MORE)

SPC Fardette - My Point of View: Riders on the Storm - "I want to go to Mars."-Arnold Schwarzenegger, Total Recall. Yesterday Camp Liberty turned into the Red Planet. I'm sitting in my office editing away when I noticed an orange glow coming through the window. I stand up to peer through the window. I try to focus in on Z-Lake just across the road. But because of the gnarly dust storm that had blown in, I could not even see the road, much less the lake. I thought I'd let the storm blow over before I walked to chow. As my hopes faded with the dying daylight, in came the rain, pouring on the night. So, the thing to do? Remain seated at the editing bay and enjoy the ride. It worked out well as I finished 99% of my project. I walked back to my chu at about 2300. Settled in for my beauty rest when the rain kicked up a notch. (READ MORE)

Janette Brodeur @ The Torch: Living & Working in Afghanistan - The plane lifts off and I am actually on my way. I have been anticipating this trip for over a year now. Settling into my seat, I close my eyes and wonder what it will be like for me, a woman, working on a construction site as a Project Manager in Kandahar, Afghanistan, with the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team (KPRT). I tried not to have any preconceived ideas as I planned for my six-month stay with the KPRT, and to mentally prepare myself for whatever may come. So many friends and ­relatives have asked why I wanted to go to Afghanistan. “There is a war going on and people are being killed,” they would say, with worry in their eyes. As I sit in the plane, I contemplate that question again, and the same answers come to mind as when I considered this option a year ago. I am going for the challenge, for the adventure, and because I want to help make a difference in a place where the small victories add up to help this sad war-torn country along its journey toward democracy, good governance and – hopefully – peace... (READ MORE)

Babbling Brooks: Master Corporal Erin Melvin Doyle - The enemy, nothing if not superbly unpredictable, chose to attack at the moment when more than 200 coalition soldiers were converging on Haji. In the resultant chaos, Doyle and his section were ordered to load the withdrawing platoon’s massive pile of equipment onto a truck while the rest of the convoy lay pretty much belly up in a sandstorm on the Arghandab riverbed. Now, we’ve all moved heavy boxes before and it’s not exactly fun. Doyle was already sick—with Afghan hanta virus, as he called it—but that didn’t stop him. He jumped up and moved boxes with his troops. And he moved them way past the point where any normal person would have stopped. He moved them until he nearly died. No, really. I’m not just saying that. He moved boxes until he passed out and his vital signs got so bad the medic came over the radio saying he was unsure if Doyle would live and requested an emergency nine-liner medevac back to Kandahar Airfield. Doyle made it back to Kandahar and with the help of a tasty intravenous buffet, he survived the day. He would not survive the war. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Umm Qasr security improves through training - Umm Qasr, Iraq – The international traveler hall at the port of Umm Qasr became a safer place with the graduation of thirty three members of its security force from a building security course March 5. "We are working to make our security team as good as any other security team in ports of entrée throughout the world," said Mr. Affaq Fouzi Jameel, the travel hall manager at Umm Qasr's port of entrée traveler hall through an interpreter. (READ MORE)

MNF-I Announces Force Reductions - BAGHDAD — Multi-National Force - Iraq announced yesterday that two Brigade Combat Teams, who are scheduled to redeploy in the next 6 months, along with associated enabling forces such as logistics, engineers, and intelligence, will not be replaced. Additionally, an F-16 squadron recently redeployed and will not be replaced. This drawdown of forces from Iraq will reduce the total number of U.S. Brigade Combat Teams from 14 to 12. Additionally, a British Combat Brigade will also redeploy without replacement. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police Complete Air Assault Training - COB ADDER — Seven Iraqi Police (IP) jumped out of UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and hit the dirt at Camp Cedar’s landing zone during an air assault training exercise, March 2. "I am very happy," said Maj. Gen. Sabah, Dhi Qar’s Iraqi provincial chief of Police. "With this training from the Coalition forces, my men are going to be able to use the air as well as the ground to go after the terrorists and arrest them. Without this we would not be as knowledgeable and trained as we are now." (READ MORE)

Brightest Girls Enjoy New School - CAMP ECHO — Some of Diwaniya’s brightest female students happily participated in their new school’s opening, Feb. 26. The Irshad Secondary School for Girls, which enrolls some of the brightest teen girls in the city, was built by the Army Corps of Engineers working with the local government, contractors and laborers. “With my partners, the Iraqi engineers, and with diligent effort, we were able to provide for you this beautiful school,” said Lt. Col. Dwight Davies, with USACE. (READ MORE)

Troops in Iraq Focus on Schools - WASHINGTON, March 9, 2009 – U.S. forces in Iraq increasingly are putting down weapons to build schools in their changing role there. Some of Diwaniya’s brightest female students between 13 and 15 years old participated in their new school’s opening Feb. 26. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked with the local government and contractors to open the Irshad Secondary School for Girls. (READ MORE)

Task Force in Afghanistan Takes Troubled Valley - FORWARD OPERATING BASE AIRBORNE, Afghanistan, March 9, 2009 – Flexing for the first time the massive military muscle now deployed to this area, coalition forces cleared one of its most troubled insurgent hotspots, sending a forceful message to insurgent fighters here that the coalition will go wherever, whenever it wants. The three-day operation wrapped up yesterday and took hundreds of troops deep into the Tangi, a valley of narrow roads and steep cliffs that runs along the Logar River through the southeastern part of Wardak province opening into Logar province. (READ MORE)

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