March 11, 2009

From the Front: 03/11/2009

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

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: The Good Question Man - Dale Kuehl, who posted the "good" question which inspired the last post, has presented a different viewpoint in a comment responding to the response. It deserves to be its own post. Mr. Kuehl (rank unknown) works at the NTC (National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California,) and he feels that the Combat Maneuver Training Centers are doing a good job of preparing units for COIN in-theater. His viewpoint deserves not to be lost in comments. I have been aware of the progress of the CMTC's in working to provide more realistic COIN training and evaluation. I can also tell you that right this minute, there are PRT's in Afghanistan that are not functioning in conjunction with their maneuver forces. I don't mean coordinating; I mean in conjunction with. I can tell you that there is a unit in Afghanistan right this minute that had a competition going for who could break the most windshields with water bottles during convoys. (READ MORE)

Station Commando: Death Becomes Us All - It is dark and traffic moves on the street as usual. Slowly soldiers begin to congregate near the road. As the crowd begins to grow something strange happens. Without any noticeable cue the soldiers line the road. Up one side and down the other is a wide variety. There are Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. There are Americans, French, Italians, Poles, Brits, Hungarians, Germans, New Zealanders and Australians. There are Whites, Blacks, Asians, Native Americans, Maori, Aborigine and all manner of Europeans. They all line the road in all variations of military uniforms. For now they just stand there. Some chat amongst themselves, one group is quite boisterous. Others just stand there in silence, hands in front or behind. Birds in the trees nearby chirp loudly, there are thousands of them. As more and more soldiers gather the birds get louder and louder. The soldiers stretch across the road preventing traffic from passing. In the distance are flashing blue lights. (READ MORE)

Down Range 46: Bringing Things Into Focus - To date, the majority of my posts have been very upbeat, relatively fun and easy in nature. I'm pretty optimistic that way. I try to find the lighter side of our unit experience and, with a little literary embellishment, tell some of our 'war stories'. Of course, it's not all fun and games. There are days when the stresses of being away from home, family, friends and our real lives takes it's toll. With that kind of stress, the ability to focus on our mission wanes a bit. One of the hardest aspects of deployment is maintaining that focus. Day after day the mission continues. There is no break, there is no stopping. There's always another story to write, another mission outside the wire, another event, another deadline, another day away from all that we love, all that we know, all that brings us comfort. Sleep is restless, hours pass like minutes and seconds like hours. (READ MORE)

The Intrepid Reporter: A Few Comparisons... - Ok Today Ladies and Gentlemen of the Studio Viewing audience, Your Intrepid Reporter of Fame and Legend is going to relate a few things I noticed in watching a Discovery Channel show the other night. Seems that this was a show talking all about "The Greatest Generation" and the entire World War Two experience as it were. This was a somewhat edjamacational show for those who aren't ardent students of history, but the part that got me, and what sort of teed me off was the constant harping on how "hard the troops of the line had it." And how it was soooooo tough and that the 'younger generations' couldn't 'appreciate the hardship that those troops had to endure.' I call Bullshit on that. They kept having intersperced interviews with some of the guys who were 'on the line' back in the day, but the overwhelming tone of the entire show was "you young folks don't have it as hard as we did back then!" sort of crap. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Another Suicide Bombing - Sure looks like the terrorists feel empowered by President Obama's announcement of troop withdrawals. There was another suicide bombing today. This time the attacker aimed at army officers and killed 33 people, including women and children, at a market on the outskirts of Baghdad. The Iraqi Interior Ministry said another 46 people were injured, including some journalists. Two days earlier, on Sunday, a suicide bomber killed 28 people in Baghdad. The AP reports that the bombing was part of a spike of violence that comes as the U.S. military begins drawing down its forces. The NYT says the bombings suggest a renewed ability by insurgents to mount more effective suicide bombings, after a long period in which such attacks were relatively few and less lethal because of heavy security precautions. (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: Projects: Afghanistan : Fab & OLPC trial - Fab Lab OLPC Field Deployment Trial in Bagrami (see original draft proposal here): we’re still looking to outfit an entire class at the Bagrami school with laptop computers that have built-in cameras, speakers, and microphones to take advantage of the internet wireless and Fab Lab in their village. Initially we thought the OLPC “XO” laptops would be perfect. We’ve got 16 laptops being test driven by various Bagrami users (mostly teachers from the local school). The hardware is well built but we’re starting to have serious second thoughts about the operating system, Sugar. One of the criticisms has been why we would have students learning Sugar when the lab runs Ubuntu Linux and the rest of the world (the NGOs and USAID) appear to run Windows. Another is the lack of depth and range of “things you can do” - maybe we just haven’t figured it out. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Al Qaeda in Iraq strikes for third time in Baghdad area - US military intelligence officials are concerned that al Qaeda in Iraq has established a deadly bombing cell in the Baghdad region, after two major suicide attacks over the past three days killed more than fifty Iraqis. The attacks do not indicate a resurgent al Qaeda insurgency, however, but a return to its terror roots. Today's attack in the Abu Ghraib region on the western outskirts of Baghdad has sparked fears that a new terror campaign is underway in the nation's capital. A suicide bomber killed 28 Iraqis, including tribal leaders, military officers, policemen, and journalists, as they toured a market in Abu Ghraib after attending a tribal meeting. Another 28 Iraqis were reported wounded. A bombing two days earlier at a police training academy in central Baghdad killed 28 recruits and wounded more than 60 Iraqis. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: Oh Sand-y Baby... - I grew up in the deep South and I still vividly remember the violent thunderstorms that used to roll through our area on a regular basis during the summer. First, the air would grow heavy, the sky a dark gray that got darker with each passing minute. The thunder was loud even though the storm was still miles away. Then there would be a calm...an eerie moment or two of stillness that signaled that something ominous was coming. Finally the rain would fall...just a few drops at first...large splats that would lull you into a fall sense of "this storm is passing over". Then the torrential downpour would begin, soaking you to the bones in a matter of minutes if you were silly enough not to have looked for cover. I can still remember sitting on our enclosed porch or in the living room looking out the picture windows and watching the sheets of rain fall. The world outside the windows turned a light gray the rain was so hard. (READ MORE)

SFC Burke - My Point of View: Tippin' our hats to you Starbucks! - The other day I received a package from home. It was full of what I had requested: coffee, chocolate syrup, tumbler mugs, and more coffee. There's a Starbucks close to my house that I hit up for my fix. I used to go to Deidrich's a lot (still do, but there's only one) but Starbucks is closer and their mocha frappucinos are good. A few of the people in that Starbucks know me and now know my wife and daughter. They know I'm here in Baghdad and donated some coffee and a couple tumblers. Now we have a small stockpile of joe for our office. And, let me tell you, this office goes through coffee very quickly. There isn't a Starbucks here in Baghdad but our office 'break room' has become the place to visit in the morning. As we walk from section to section, we can hear the coffeemaker and espresso machine going and the smell reminds me of walking into my favorite coffeeshop in the morning. (READ MORE)

Milblogging.com: Movie Review: Brothers at War "Documentary" - About 2 weeks ago I was invited to a pre-screening of Brothers at War at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. It’s about a 20-minute drive from my apartment here in Northern Virginia. It was an honor to be invited. The crowd included troops from Walter Reed, veterans, press, and even Gary Sinise (LT Dan of Forrest Gump) who also happens to be one of the Executive Producers of the film. Gary Sinise is awesome and spends nearly all of his free time supporting the troops – which I didn’t know - but CSI Las Vegas is still my favorite, sorry Gary. The movie is a documentary filmed by Jake Rademacher, who wants to learn more about his younger brothers’ service in the military. Jake seeks to understand what his brothers go through on the frontlines and much of the film actually takes place on the homefront. It’s beginning to look like the best way to portray war and for people to get a better understanding of what really goes on, is through the actual eyes of those serving – as a documentary. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: Returned to Duty -- Baghdad - Stepping off the plane in Atlanta to start leave was like stepping a time machine set for the year 2-0-0-9! Oddly, through the ATL and Richmond airports I had this overwhelming feeling that everyone was staring at me. I was in uniform, but mostly I just think that this was paranoia. Time spent with my family in Charlottesville was fabulous, including 10 inches of snowfall on March 2nd and my son's first haircut. Though my children did not remember me, we reconnected quickly. My departure was as sad as you might expect. The scene played out quite similarly to when I first deployed in August with my children equally oblivious to my departure. I will admit, though, it was somewhat easier with the light at the end of the tunnel and not staring down a year apart. Funny, it took me awhile to realize why people took notice of me at the airports: the uniform. I can hardly wait to rejoin the family in July. (READ MORE)

Pat Dollard: “Baby Killers!” Muslim Thugs Abuse Brit Soldiers Returning From Iraq - With Video - Home from the war… and our troops are greeted by abuse from Muslim protesters: By Michael Seamark, Andrew Levy and Matt Sandy - Twice in two years they have fought in Iraq. Twelve of their regimental comrades paid the ultimate price there and in Afghanistan. Over the past two years they have spent day after day patrolling hostile territory, where every passer-by could have a gun or a bomb. So the 200 men of the 2nd Battalion Royal Anglian Regiment perhaps had a right to expect a heroes’ welcome yesterday on a homecoming parade through Luton. Instead, they were faced with the hate-filled jeers of anti-war protesters waving placards saying: ‘Anglian soldiers: Butchers of Basra,’ and ‘Anglian soldiers: cowards, killers, extremists.’ (READ MORE)

Dispatches from FOBistan: Letting the Message Drive the Operation - FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, AFGHANISTAN — The other night, I found myself on the south end of Bagram—past the Egyptian hospital, the “Hearts and Minds Gym,” Camp Blackjack, even the rotary wing terminal. I had wanted some air, something to break the psychotic monotony that is Bagram Air Base, and found myself near the base mosque. It was sunset. The most beautiful sound floated down the street, competing with the rattle of the junky old Korean buses and Toyota diesels: the muezzin. I come from a rather conservative Christian background; while I certainly wouldn’t use the term “conservative” to describe my faith anymore, it remains quite firmly Christian. And yet… I could not shake the feeling that this was something spiritual. Holy. Not to get all mushy on everyone, it was just a remarkable moment. I’ve traveled in Muslim countries before, even heard the muezzin’s call before (sometimes at painful times of the day). (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: Promotion Update - So, I wrote a little post last week about not being promoted. I wish I could give you the gory details. Here’s what I know that I will say publicly. When our XO, MAJ Talk Radio, started calling around to units back in the rear, we had our promotion orders cut three working days later (he started on a Friday). We also had SSG Pall Mall talk to his Congressman, and SSG Sassypants was threatening to talk to someone IG-like. I don’t know what worked or where the admin breakdown occurred. I do know we were told countless times that we should see orders within a week and never did. All the sudden when we had a little squeaky-wheel activity, orders were cut. I wish I know where the admin breakdown occurred so I could embarrass the hell out of them. The lesson I’ve learned is you can never beat or count on the bureaucracy, you can only turn it on itself. Also, the enemy is within. My boss at Lockheed, David, taught me that one. Anyways, I’m finally a Sergeant. (READ MORE)

The Torch: Reservists in Afghanistan - Ian Elliott of the Kingston Whig-Standard - one of the MSM reporters who participated in the same trip I took to Afghanistan earlier this year - has had his pieces released bit by bit in his newspaper, and his latest deals with local reservists. Specifically, it focuses on Cpl Sean Jump of the Princess of Wales' Own Regiment, who was working at the KPRT when we were there, and then broadens out into a bigger discussion of reserve involvement in Afghanistan. Ian's angle is a local one by necessity, but I find that wider discussion of the role of our CF reserves quite of interest. I know Ian hates this - we had a long, jet-lagged discussion under the desert stars about it one night at Camp Mirage - but I'm going to nitpick him a bit: BGen Gary O'Brien, isn't "the senior officer in charge of the country's reserves," but rather the senior army reservist, as I understand it. He's currently on a three-year full-time turn with the CLS in Ottawa. (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:
The Hunter, the Hunted - The hunt is on. An improvised explosive device detonates in the Diyala province of Iraq. No time for thinking or questioning, just training put into action. Without a second to lose Chapman calls his team to a halt, “turn it around,” he yells. Sgt. 1st Class Brent Chapman, team leader, Thunder Troop, Company A, 5th Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division and his team are hungry. Not hungry in the sense that they need sustenance but they are hungry to find the whereabouts of an IED blast site. (READ MORE)

Border patrol forces in Basra setting up for success - BASRA, Iraq – A new military maintenance facility in Basra is providing members of Iraq’s 4th Regional Border Patrol Forces Command the capability to efficiently maintain vehicles and boats used to patrol and secure the Iraq/Iran border. Construction of the $550,000 facility began last fall and was completed in early February. “Now we have adequate space with the new three-bay modern structure to repair and provide routine service for our vehicles and boats,” said Col. Aqeel Lafta, deputy commander of the new facility. (READ MORE)

MNSTC-I hosts first Women’s Forum - BAGHDAD - International Day 2009 was marked here with the first Women’s Forum, hosted by Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq, on March 08. The forum was designed to bring Iraqi women together with women from MNSTC-I to discuss cultural differences and similarities, while building relationships amongst women from different nations. Royal Air Force Squadron Leader Samantha Emmett, Chief of MNSTC-I’s Directorate of Defense Affairs - Training and organizer of the forum, said, ”The vision of Maj. Gen. Jasim, Director of Military Training - M7, was to bring these two groups together to discuss cultures, roles and responsibilities. He thought it was a good idea to get feedback from these women regarding what they might want to discuss in future forums.” (READ MORE)

New Purification System Brings Fresh Water, Hope to Samarra - FOB BRASSFIELD-MORA — The Iraqi government has completed installation of a new water purification system on the Rassassi Canal, bringing clean drinking water and optimism to hundreds of families in the area. "Success is everywhere, and the insurgents know it," Farhan Raad Thamer, a Samarra resident, said. "The Golden Mosque [in Samarra] is being rebuilt, the pilgrims are visiting, the water and power systems are being repaired, the farmers are farming -- the government is beginning to take care of us.” (READ MORE)

Umm Qasr Port Security Force Hones Skills - UMM QASR — Thirty-three Iraqi Security Force (ISF) members of the Port of Umm Qasr’s International Traveler Hall successfully completed a Building Security Course here, March 5. "We are working to make our security team as good as any other security team in ports of entrĂ©e throughout the world," said Mr. Affaq Fouzi Jameel, the travel hall manager. (READ MORE)

Largest School in Mahmudiyah Reopens - BAGHDAD — U.S. Soldiers joined their Iraqi Army partners for the reopening ceremony of the Althaira school in Mahmudiyah, March 8. Government of Iraq officials, the Mahmudiyah Ministry of Education and Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers developed the project to remodel the school, add classrooms and to improve the facilities. (READ MORE)

Iraqi, U.S. Doctors Share Knowledge - FOB DELTA — Iraqi doctors at the Karama Hospital in Kut discussed surgery procedures and techniques with members of the 848th Forward Surgical Team, March 5. The visit was part of ‘Operation Gunner Med,’ a joint medical civil-military operation between the Wasit director general of health and the U.S. doctors from the 41st Fires Brigade, designed to restore medical capabilities in Wasit and bring medical care up to the regional health care standard. (READ MORE)

U.S., Iraqi Soldiers Detain Suspect, Seize Explosives - WASHINGTON, March 10, 2009 – U.S. and Iraqi soldiers detained a criminal suspect and seized a large cache of illegal explosives in separate incidents this week in northwestern Baghdad, military officials reported. U.S. soldiers accompanied Iraqi soldiers March 8 as they detained a suspect with a warrant in the Kadamiyah district. They seized firearms, a computer, several cell phones and other materials during the arrest. (READ MORE)

U.S. Team Examines Ways to Boost Care at Iraqi Hospital - FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq, March 10, 2009 – Iraqi doctors from the Karama Hospital in Kut, Iraq, discussed surgery procedures, techniques and some health care challenges they face with members of the 848th Forward Surgical Team last week. The visit was part of Operation Gunner Med, a joint medical civil-military operation between the director general of health for Iraq’s Wasit province and the 41st Fires Brigade, designed to restore medical capabilities in Wasit and bring care up to regional health care standards. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan:
New Afghanistan Taliban Leader Was Recently Freed From Gitmo - WASHINGTON — The Taliban’s new top operations officer in southern Afghanistan had been a prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay detention center, the latest example of a freed detainee who took a militant leadership role and a potential complication for the Obama administration’s efforts to close the prison. U.S. authorities handed over the detainee to the Afghan government, which in turn released him, according to Pentagon and CIA officials. Abdullah Ghulam Rasoul, formerly Guantanamo prisoner No. 008, was among 13 Afghan prisoners released to the Afghan government in December 2007. (READ MORE)

All-Female Marine Team Conducts First Mission in Southern Afghanistan - FARAH PROVINCE, Afghanistan, March 10, 2009 – Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment -- the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force Afghanistan -- now have a special group of people to help them complete their mission in Afghanistan. The task force’s all-female Marine team is interacting with the Afghan female population in southern Afghanistan -- a task considered culturally unacceptable for the male Marines operating there. (READ MORE)

Afghan, U.S. Forces Capture Bombing Suspects, Seize Taliban Supplies - WASHINGTON, March 10, 2009 – Afghan and coalition forces today captured 10 suspects during operations to degrade terrorist networks in eastern Afghanistan, military officials reported. In Nanagarhar province’s Shiwzad district, southeast of Kabul, Afghan special operations and coalition forces targeted a compound to disrupt an al-Qaida foreign-fighter network believed to be responsible for a March 2 suicide bombing that injured six civilians in Jalalabad City. (READ MORE)

Now, Taliban knocks on Peshawar's door - PESHAWAR: Arbab Alamgir is a prosperous businessman in Peshawar who has made a mark in politics as federal communications minister. But that's unlikely to protect him this time. As the Taliban knock on Peshawar's door, Alamgir is preparing to wind up his business and move out of his native city. "I received letters and phone calls from Lashkar-e-Islam of Mangal Bagh to close down my women's garment shops on Jamrood Road," Alamgir told The Times of India. (READ MORE)

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