March 20, 2009

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

Bouhammer: One size fits all does not always apply - They don’t need an expensive study from a think-tank to tell them this fact. I, or many others could have told them that more does not always mean better. Judging PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) requirements is a balancing act that requires assessing the threat, environment, situation at hand, and many other factors. An all or nothing approach does not work in reality and trying to enforce an all or nothing mentality will cause people to either be at risk, not effective on the battlefield or risking their careers. I understand that nobody wants to lose a soldier, trust me when I say I know that feeling first-hand and it is not something I would wish on anyone. However in today’s Army it appears that leaders are more concerned with their end of tour awards and evaluations than they are on doing the “smart” thing. If you put too much body armor and protection on a soldier, they end up being at more risk of being wounded or killed on the battlefield because they will lack maneuverability and flexibility. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Shrugged: I Shoot You Because I Care! - Dear Mr Taliban (ACM, AAF, Booger Eater, EOP, Bad Guy or whatever), Over time I’ve received emails and comments on this blog that I’m insensitive to your culture. Evidently, I should endeavor to be more tolerant and politically correct in my quest to kill you with every means at my disposal. After much self reflection I’ve seen the error in my ways and thought I’d write you a brief note to apologize for my actions and those of my compatriots in Team Vampire. I now see how my attempts to incinerate, ventilate and generally cause mayhem could possible hurt your feelings and offend your sensibilities. For that I apologize. First, let me complement you on the bunker complex that we saw the other day. It seemed very nice and looked like you’d chosen wisely on the size. It appears to me that you didn’t overextend yourself financially building it. That’s great! I also hope that you didn’t use a subprime lender or an adjustable rate mortgage. This should alleviate any issues in the future about defaulting; having to walk away from the bunker complex. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs & Such: A most desperate situation - To our horror, we found ourselves out of meat. There is worse Army chow out there - I know, I've eaten it - but meals here are nothing to write home about. It's been almost a week now since our last Giant Meat Festival. The Boss is still out of town, so my sergeants are Home Alone With Abby. As is in keeping with my leadership style, we held a Team Meeting. SSG Abby: Okay, guys. We're bingo on meat. I'm thinking of dispatching one of you on an emergency run to Big Base. What do you think? SGT C: I'm about it. I'm living on Ramen noodles and tuna. Walking over to the DFAC is....[shakes his head mournfully] SGT B: Meat! Meat meat meat! SSG Abby: Okay, then. We've got stuff going on this week, but I think meat is more important than the future of this particular part if Iraq. Agreed? (READ MORE)

SPC Mary Lee - Blogs Over Baghdad: What I Will Leave Behind - When we began preparing to come to Iraq, one of the first items we discussed was our packing list. I think we all became a little nervous when we saw the very detailed list of instructions before us. During our pre-deployment training, we were issued gear and supplies from RFI (Rapid Fielding Initiative) on numerous occasions. Receiving military issued equipment poses mixed feelings. In some ways, it’s like Christmas because it’s all free. But like anything new, I had to wonder where I was going to put everything. Finally, the time came where we had to cram everything required to go to Iraq for a year into four bags. It seemed impossible at first but before I realized, myself and four overstuffed bags arrived in Baghdad. After moving from the transition tent to my CHU (Containerized Housing Unit) I was finally able to unpack and settle into a daily routine. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Cole on Colbert - Juan Cole's ignorance was on display last night on the comedy show Colbert Report. The professor referred to the "Quagmire in Iraq," which is not worth addressing. He also argued that Muslims aren't against the United States. Sure it's true that not all Muslims hate the United States. To prove his point, Cole said they don't chant death to America in the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, or Jordan. No, we've never seen them on TV chanting. What was really fun to watch was Cole's boasting that he could pronouce a proper letter qaf in Arabic. He referred to al-Qaeda with a proper qaf. Bravo! But then he focused so much on the qaf when he mentioned Sheik Qaradawi [Arabic] that he pronounced the dhad as a dal. None of this would be a big deal if it did not sound to the native Arab speaker's ear like he called the sheik "ape man." Perhaps I shouldn't jump to conclusions. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Bin Laden urges jihad against new Somali government - Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden praised the efforts of Somali jihadi groups battling the new government and called for the overthrow of the new president. Bin Laden's latest message, an audio recording with his image superimposed on a map of Somalia, is titled "Fight On, Champions of Somalia" and is exclusively devoted to the Somali jihad. The recording is the third al Qaeda message by senior leaders since Feb. 13 specifically addressing Somalia, indicating the importance of this theater to the terror group. Bin Laden described the fight in Somalia as "a war between Islam and the international Crusade," according to a translation from the NEFA Foundation. He claimed that the West "deputized Ethiopia" to fight against the Somali Islamists, a reference to the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in December 2006 to oust the al Qaeda-backed Islamic Courts Union, and the subsequent occupation which ended in February 2009. (READ MORE)

SSG Burrell: 3 Baghdad Shorts - Working as a journalist in Baghdad is always entertaining. Working as a military journalist in Baghdad with an area to cover consisting of almost 38,000 troops is damn entertaining. I’ll convey my entertainment through three short anecdotes. Everything good comes in 3’s. Working with Robert Duvall: Spc. Fardette and myself were out on an explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) mission a few weeks ago. As we pulled to a halt and cordoned off a suspected improvised explosive device (IED), Iraqi children were everywhere. The word got translated to the Iraqis that there might be an IED around; the children were shooed away down the street. Since we were still inside our mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle I couldn’t get any good photos of the hundreds of kids being directed away from our cordon, so I hopped up on some gear inside the MRAP. As I proceeded to shoot the deluge of kids, I heard a quick hissing sound and before I could ascertain what was going on the oxygen was ripped from my lungs. White smoke enveloped me and the Soldier I was next to started coughing profusely and yelling to me something about a fire extinguisher. (READ MORE)

Notes In The Eye of The Storm: Happy New Year - St. Patrick’s day was two days ago and I heard that there is going to be a party tonight at the American Embassy. A week and a half has gone by since I arrived in Kabul, once again working in one of the foremost arenas in the “War On Terror”. It’s a city completely surrounded by mountains, snowcapped ranges dominate the horizon. It reminds me of the three months I lived in Colorado. Volleyball and Karate are the most popular sports and Afghanistan took the Bronze medal in Karate at the Beijing Olympics last year. When I arrived at the airport it took a long time to get through the customs lines and have my passport stamped because there had to be about 200 people trying to enter the country at the same time. There were very few were Americans. The baggage claim was like the NY port authority on steroids, guys fighting to take your luggage and hording baggage carts working to earn those tips. (READ MORE)

Dispatches from FOBistan: The Garrison Problem - FOB SALERNO, AFGHANISTAN — Judah Grunstein is onto something with the “gated community” issue in both Iran and Afghanistan: [E]ssentially what we’re modelling in Iraq (the Green Zone) and Afghanistan is the most extreme version of the American gated community. But when a gated community is inhabited primartily [sic] by soldiers (yes, I’m exagerrating to make the point), it becomes a garrison. Apparently that’s what’s left of the nation-building approach. He’s more right than he knows. Last month, I had a really interesting (and, truth be told, depressing) conversation with a Lieutenant Colonel. He was complaining that commanders get investigated for injuries and deaths on their watch, but not for ceding territory or making enormous mistakes that cost Afghan lives. He felt, rightly, that this was the inversion of a desire to actually defeat the insurgency, and indicative of the ridiculous obsession with averting risk currently infecting the Army. (READ MORE)

S4 at War: A Few Musings - I’ve been absent the past few days because I was at one of the massive FOBs in the country at some meetings with various logistical entities. My first observation is that nothing makes me feel more like an Infantry soldier than going to meetings. Thats only half sarcastic. Nothing reminds me of my infantry roots more than being in a room with career loggies. Not exactly models of the Army fitness program, a lot of these guys are on Division and Corps staff. They’re so out of touch with the ramifications of their decisions that it clarifies for me why my life is so painful sometimes (Example: Our Division was fielding new equipment to us. Their plan clearly did not take into consideration how spread out their own subordinate units were across the region…) (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Tent Etiquette - Living in a tent is probably one of my least favorite things. When you’ve got 10-12 beds, there’s a chance for lots of different people to come in and that means lots of people to please. I always try to be considerate of others in the tent. When I got in at 11pm the other night, the lights were off. Instead of turning them on to find a bunk and get unpacked, I pulled out my flashlight and tried to make as little noise as possible. When I watch a movie on my laptop, I wear headphones. When I leave the tent, I don’t slam the door. It’s the simple things that people appreciate. My new tent roomies don’t share my desire to be considerate. They got in at 2:30am, slammed the door and turned on the lights. I was like “you’ve got to be kidding me.” This morning, after about 6am, every time they walked in the room they turned on the lights and then turned them off when they left. There were 3 of us still sleeping, but they obviously don’t care. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Iraqi police, Paratroopers uncover massive cache - BAGHDAD – National Police Officers and Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Paratroopers captured a massive weapons cache, including a sizable quantity of rockets, March 19 while conducting combat operations in the 9 Nissan district of eastern Baghdad. Acting on a tip from a concerned local Iraqi, NP officers assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th NP Brigade, 2nd NP Division supported by Paratroopers from 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, uncovered three separate weapon cache sites in the district. (READ MORE)

Iraqi security forces, 400 personnel cooperate to uncover dangerous cache - FORWARD OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq – With the help of the Qal’at Salih and Amarah Iraqi Police Departments and the al-Amarah SWAT team, the Iraqi Army recovered a large weapons cache and detained three individuals in the southern Iraqi province of Maysan March 16. The 41st IA Brigade and IP units seized 255 grenades, 23 fuses, two cases of AK-47 ammo, a large bag of 12.7mm ammo, 12 rounds of 82mm mortars, a mortar sighting device, 1,000 rounds of 14.5mm armor piercing ammo, three AK-47 rifles and 10 AK-47 magazines on a farm just north of Qal’at Saleh. (READ MORE)

Basra Children’s Hospital receives toys, $10,000 in special delivery - BASRA, Iraq — A private pilot in his Cessna 182 landed at Basra International Airport March 18 to present a $10,000 check and nine boxes of toys for the Basra Children’s Hospital. Robert Gannon, a Vietnam veteran who served on a medical evacuation helicopter, has visited 110 countries on humanitarian missions over the past eight years. He says that flying into Iraq and seeing the efforts being made to rebuild the country “is definitely one of the highlights of my life.” (READ MORE)

Youth center projects bring unity, stability to Baghdad communities - Baghdad, Iraq – “Changing the attitude and the politics of any country must begin with the young people,” said Inez Bergerson, project engineer with the Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq. Bergerson, who is overseeing two youth center projects in Baghdad, said constructing recreational facilities builds inspiration and pride for a neighborhood. “These buildings really help to alter the welfare of the entire community. This kind of service through action to help children can be so powerful that it inspires us to complement all our achievements with a spirit of compassion that touches the whole world.” (READ MORE)

The Baghdad Bad Boys strike their last chord - CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – For the past nine months, a group of musicians have gathered on Sunday mornings to fill the air with bluegrass music at the Camp Victory Green Beans coffee shop for anyone one to come and enjoy. The Baghdad Bad Boys performed together for the last time in Iraq on March 15. The group’s members will begin heading home this week. (READ MORE)

Detainee Release Offers Fresh Start - TARMIYAH — A big blue bus rolled to a stop here, and Shaman Abdul Hadi stepped off, followed by 15 other men. Hadi hadn’t been to Tarmiyah or seen his family for 17 months, and was ready for a fresh start. The group returned home thanks to a detainee release facilitated by the 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry Regiment, 56th Stryker “Independence” Brigade Combat Team. As Coalition forces implement the security agreement, Hadi and many others are getting another chance to rejoin their communities. (READ MORE)

Volunteer Teaches English to Iraqis - BAGHDAD — At 9 p.m. on Muthana Army Base, home to the 6th Iraqi Army (IA) Division, the work day ended hours ago. But one small classroom is still lit up where a multitude of voices breaks the relative silence that has overtaken the rest of the post. “Everybody together now: ‘I, we, you, they, he, she, it.’” A group of Iraqi Soldiers are learning basic English skills, thanks to Sgt. 1st Class Gabriel Ramirez, logistics non-commissioned officer in charge with the 6th IA Div. Military Transition Team (MiTT). (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police, U.S. Soldiers Deliver Humanitarian Aid in Babil - CSC SCANIA — The residents of a small village in rural Jawadia of the Babil province received an unexpected surprise recently. In the early morning hours under a hazy, sand-induced overcast sky, local villagers awoke to find Iraqi Police (IP) of the Furat Police Station and Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, pulling into their village with a railcar shipping container in tow. (READ MORE)

Iraqi children receive generous school supply donation - TALLIL, Iraq — Because of the generosity of individuals and groups in America, the Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq is doing more than just overseeing the construction of essential service projects in Iraq. “We’re going out in the community distributing school supplies, clothing, and toys to some very grateful Iraqis,” said Construction Representative Tommy Greenfield from Gulf Region South district in Tallil. (READ MORE)

U.S. Troops Help to Build Road, Security in Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, March 19, 2009 – U.S. forces are paving the way for a better quality of life in Afghanistan, with projects ranging from a nearly 40-mile road slated to boost economy and governance to mentorship aimed at helping Afghan forces assume a greater role in their nation’s security. A $28 million road project is slated to improve the quality of life for about 300,000 Afghan residents by linking major commerce and district government centers. The nearly 40-mile road will connect Panjshir to Badakhshan and other neighboring provinces. (READ MORE)

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