March 25, 2009

From the Front: 03/25/2009

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

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Knock It Off! - In the early days of this blog I once made fun of the French. Okay, it was twice. In Afghanistan I learned that I had been mistaken. I never held a low opinion of the Canadians, who Scott Kesterson spent some time with and videos of whom fighting hard were posted on YouTube. They look, act, and fight like Americans. They use the same types of weapons, wear similar uniforms, are aggressive, and sound like Guardsmen from Minnesota. I did something wrong back in November of '06; I engaged in making fun of an ally of which I had no real knowledge. I have learned my lesson, and I know of what I speak. Now it's time to use that knowledge to speak up against the same type of immature behavior that I engaged in myself once upon an ignorant time. The Canadians did not have any buildings knocked down on 9/11. They did not lose thousands of lives that day; and yet they have stood by our side from the very start. (READ MORE)

Sahar S. Gabriel: Leaving Iraq III - A Childhood Under Saddam - Kids were taught in Saddam’s day never to refer to him as President, always as Baba (Papa) Saddam. He was a frightening figure. People used to name their kids Saddam so it would help them in the future. We didn’t like him much but he protected the Christians in Iraq, though we did not know to what extent. We didn’t know what kind of evils were waiting for us when he wasn’t ruling. Not that I am saying in any way that we want him back or that he was our savior. Before 2003 we never really heard of the Islamist movements which became so powerful later. We weren’t aware that there were people who would target Christians. I had never even heard of the Sadr family. I had never heard of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr al-Hakim, the Badr Brigades. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Turkey and the Kurds - Looks like Turkey has found the right motivation in its search for a solution to solve the Kurdish crisis. Discussions about right and wrong did not get anywhere, so they brought up money. Turkish President Abdullah Gul visited Iraq, the first visit of a Turkish head of state to Iraq is some 30 years. The leaders were expected to talk about water and the PKK, or the Kurdish Workers' Party. Water has nearly always been an issue. And Turkey's construction of dams on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers project to irrigate its southern Anatolia region has considerably reduced the flow of water to Iraq. And the Kurds have been a problem for Turkey since at least 1984. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Al Qaeda-trained Britons return from Pakistan - More than 20 Britons who have trained in al Qaeda terror camps inside Pakistan have returned to Britain, according to Pakistani intelligence. The Britons, whose families are from Pakistan, were monitored by Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence agency, Sky News reported. But the ISI failed to notify British intelligence until after the men entered the country, the news agency reported. Pakistani intelligence officials were indifferent about the activities of the Britons, sources told Sky News. "We know the number of British Pakistanis engaged in what we would call suspicious activities is much higher -- probably in the hundreds -- but, to be frank, this isn't a Pakistani priority," one official said. "The intelligence services here have much bigger things to worry about and these guys haven't committed any crime on Pakistani soil." (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: 24MAR09--Shaneineh - Yesterday was a day to smile, hearing about two of my team members trying a new food. Today, those team members made sure to put me in the position that I had to either try the food or be rude. It was as terrible as they described. There I was, minding my own business and having a discussion with the Iraqi medic at the Iraqi base. I received a call on my hand-held radio to come to the Iraqi Sergeant Major's office from my battle buddy, Sergeant 'KC' Connaughton. Entering the office, I noticed smiles all around. Immediately, KC rose, blocking off the doorway. To my surprise, the sergeant major turned around with cups in one hand and a jug labeled 'SHANEINEH' in the other. I misspelled the food, which is pronounced "Sha-knee-na," in yesterday's notes. (READ MORE)

A Year in the Sandbox: IED - On 15 March 2009 on our way back to the FOB from assessing a future school site in Kot, the lead vehicle of our 4 vehicle convoy (I was in the 4th truck) struck an IED. The truck was occupied by SSgt Timothy Bowles, SGT Christopher Abeyta, SPC Robert Weinger and SPC Norman Cain, four great guys. Two of them were killed instantly and the other two passed shortly after being medevac’d out: SSgt Timothy Bowles - SGT Christopher Abeyta - SPC Robert Weinger - SPC Norman Cain - PIP guys, you’ll all be sorely missed. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: The Social Taliban Democrats - Outgoing U.S. Ambassador William Wood has stated his desire to create a political party for the Taliban. No, that’s not a joke. But it does speak to something. A colleague recently told me that while he was out visiting an area that is majority Pashai — one of Afghanistan’s many “boutique ethnicities” enveloped in far more myth than fact — one of them asked him, “Why don’t you guys try talking to the Taliban?” He said he was a bit puzzled at how to explain that we’ve tried, repeatedly, to do just that, and they’ve refused. While there is a broader IO angle to this—there is no excuse for the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate to be a secret—it might speak to a certain irreconcilability to the whole affair that all this talk about “negotiations” seems to gloss over. That issue of a political party, too, is problematic. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Face of Defense: Judge Exchanges Gavel for Gun to Serve in Iraq - JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq, March 24, 2009 – Army Reserve Lt. Col. Jeff Wallace has traded his judge’s gavel for a 9 mm pistol to take on his first deployment here. In Iraq, Wallace is the command judge advocate for the 304th Sustainment Brigade. As a civilian, he serves as a circuit court judge for the state of Oregon. (READ MORE)

Incorporating new ideas goal of Iraqi medical training - FORWARD OPERATING BASE HUSAYNIYAH, Iraq – Twenty-five Iraqi nurses and doctors put their skills to the test during medical training offered by the 172nd Infantry Brigade at Forward Operating Base Husayniyah March 15-18. The course focused on pre-hospitalization trauma and basic medical skills including patient assessment, spine immobilization and burns. (READ MORE)

Mayor of Samarra sends a message to the people: Tear down that wall - FORWARD OPERATING BASE BRASSFIELD-MORA, Samarra, Iraq – Scores of Samarra citizens joined provincial and community leaders March 23 to attend a concrete barrier removal ceremony reminiscent of the opening of the Berlin wall nearly twenty years ago. The concrete barriers, commonly known as “T-walls,” surround several government and military buildings throughout Samarra to provide a layer of protection against insurgent attacks. While T-walls have become a familiar site in Iraq, they are a sign of more dangerous times, and most citizens agree it’s time for them to go. (READ MORE)

Kindergarten students showered with toys - Dahuk, Iraq – Children at the House of Angels School were showered with toys during a recent visit from members of the Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq. Colonel Margaret W. Burcham, commander of the Gulf Region North district, and members of her team delighted more than 70 kindergarten students at the school in Alqush in the Dahuk province in northern Iraq. (READ MORE)

SMA Preston talks on Army’s way ahead, Soldiers’ concerns - BAGHDAD – President Barrack Obama’s recent announcement to end combat operations in Iraq by August 2010 may raise a few concerns in the minds of troops serving in Iraq, including when they can expect to return home and the length of time between future deployments. To help answer some questions about those concerns and explain some of the Army’s future goals, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston visited Multi-National Division—Baghdad Soldiers during a battlefield tour March 22. (READ MORE)

Gulf Region Division announces new initiatives for Iraqi women-owned businesses - BAGHDAD, Iraq – The Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq announced two initiatives March 21 that will expand Iraqi businesswomen’s ability to gain work with GRD. GRD unveiled the initiatives at the “Women-Owned Business and the Future Conference” hosted by GRD at Baghdad’s Al-Rasheed Hotel. (READ MORE)

School, Water Treatment Plant in Tunis Open Following Renovations - TUNIS — Several Iraqi government officials participated in dedication ceremonies celebrating the expansion of Al-Taif Primary School and renovation of the Tunis Tech Water Treatment Facility in Tunis March 19. Shuail Al-Reda Hamid, a Hilla Provincial Council member, Brigadier Gen. Hamed Abbas, Chief of the Mahawil Iraqi Police station and Maj. Ahmed Kadhum, Chief of the Tunis IP station, helped to organize and distribute donated school supplies for the children of the newly renovated and expanded school following the dedication ceremony. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army Assumes Control of COP Ayres - DIYALA — The Iraqi Army assumed control of Combat Outpost Ayres from 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division during a ceremony held March 19. Capt. Matthew Caprari, commander, Apache Company, 3-21 Inf., the unit that had operational control of COP Ayres, signed control over to Iraqi Army commander Lt. Col. Khalil Malik Ahmed, commander, 3rd Battalion, 20th IA Brigade. (READ MORE)

Troops Slow Down Taliban Movement With Traffic Control Points - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, March 24, 2009 – U.S. and Afghan forces conducted a three-day traffic control point operation to restrict Taliban movement and to reduce the number of bombs placed in southern Afghanistan. During the TCP operation earlier this month, U.S. soldiers and Afghan National Police searched more than 60 cars traveling through the area. (READ MORE)

Commander Calls for Larger NATO Footprint in Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, March 24, 2009 – NATO’s top commander today called for NATO nations to beef up their efforts in Afghanistan to support security and rebuilding efforts there. Referring to a “shortfall” of NATO-embedded training teams, U.S. Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that “NATO needs to step up, fill their responsibility.” (READ MORE)

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