April 16, 2009

From the Front: 04/16/2009

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

Castra Praetoria: Ice Cream! - The other day I was eating evening chow at the DFAC when I saw one of my body compositionally challenged Marines approach the dessert bar. Ice cream bowl in hand, he leaned forward in anticipation, eyes wide with joy as he took his place in line. Without thought, my voice boomed across the chow hall, Hey stud! Maybe for you, not so much with the ice cream, ya’ think?” He scrunched his shoulders forward and motioned with his fingers as if to ask, “Just a little bit 1stSgt, just a little bit? Please?” Baring my fangs not unlike a wild striped hyena, I let him know that he could eat all the ice cream he wanted, but he would be PTing with me first thing in the morning. Gutbag immediately slapped the empty bowl on the counter and walked away from the dessert bar without a backward glance. (READ MORE)

Doc H's International Adventure: The best Force Protection for an Advisor - What is the best F0rce Protection tool for those of us who are going to Afghanistan as Military Advisors? A. 9mm pistol B. 50 caliber machinegun C. Body Armor with ESAPI plates D. Chai The correct answer is D. According to our instructors, the best Force Protection measure for those of us who may be out and about to interact with our Afghan counterparts is a good rapport with the Afghans. Drink some chai (tea) engage in some lengthy conversations of small talk extensively first and foremost. Serious business is only addressed later at subsequent meetings. This is stressed so much that we practice meetings with real afghans with interpreters present. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: The Luxury of Debate - While many countries debate whether Iraq deserves support or not, civilians are being killed by terrorists who know where they stand -- against Iraq's people. The NYT reports that Iraq is trying to prove that it's a real country: "With the Americans leaving and security improved, the Iraqi government has been on a nonstop campaign to convince the world that it is a sovereign state, a client neither of the United States nor of Iran." The writer says countries are suspicious of Iraq's relations to other countries. "In most of the Middle East, being too close to the Americans earns leaders the scorn of Arabs who view the United States as a heavy-handed ally of Israel, a colonialist empire builder and anti-Muslim. In Europe, where many countries opposed the American invasion, the continuing presence of American soldiers coupled with Iraq’s unstable security situation meant that until recently many countries remained skeptical of Iraq’s independence." (READ MORE)

Michael J. Totten: The Dissidents' War - I read Fiasco by Thomas Ricks because an American Marine officer in Fallujah told me to. “Especially make sure you read the chapter called How to Create an Insurgency,” he said. “Ricks gets it exactly right in that chapter. But you can’t quote me by name saying that because it’s another way of saying the insurgency is Paul Bremer’s fault. And Bremer outranks me.” Fiasco is a devastating critique of the botched war in Iraq before General David Petraeus took over command. It isn't what I'd call a fun read, but I don't think you can fully appreciate what Petraeus accomplished without studying in depth the mess he inherited. I met Thomas Ricks last week at a basement bar in Oregon near Powell's Books while he toured the country promoting his new book about the surge, The Gamble. I drank a glass of red wine, a locally-made Pinot Noir. He drank a pitcher of root beer. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: New MRAPs - A number of weeks ago, my team turned in our Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles the Army issued us new ones. The team trained on the MRAP prior to deployment, earning driver's licenses while we were in Kuwait last August. I wrote about the MRAP at that time. You can still read all about the vehicle at http://blogs.roanoke.com/rtblogs/iraq/2008/08/14/on-the-mrap-mine-resistant-ambush-protected/. A different company manufactured the new MRAPs. Though they were made with similar specifications, the designs are somewhat different. While our old MRAPs reminded me of tan garbage trucks, the new ones remind me of over-sized, tan lunar rovers. The main functional differences are that the air conditioner works better and the suspension is a vast improvement. The difference in the feel of the suspension is like going from an old CJ7 Jeep Wrangler to a Cadillac Escalade. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Getting Up To Speed - The reason for my prolonged silence is that I arrived at my new command on Monday and have been running hard ever since. When I get back to my room at night, it's about all I can do to unwind a few minutes before hitting the rack. My flight from Kuwait to Baghdad was scheduled for the morning after I arrived. Our show time was 3 a.m. (yes, that's right, the military doesn't follow the same rules as Southwest Airlines). We put on our IBA (individual body armor, a.k.a. kevlar vests and helmets) two hours later, climbed into the buses, and were taken out to the C130 sitting on the flightline. Which, of course, wasn't anywhere near ready. About an hour later the pilots showed up. Once they finished pre-flighting the plane, we were packed in like sardines and off we went. When I say "like sardines", I mean it: (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: Snarls The Cat - So one day, while I was just chillin on my bed a surprise visitor showed up at my door. It was a tiny little orange cat. See my roomy and I have a habit of keeping our door open to keep the room from getting stuffy. This cat just decided to hop up the steps and make itself welcome. She ended up being quite friendly. Came right up to me and started to rub against my leg and purr. I immediately grabbed my camera and started snapping photos. I decided to name her Snarls for her…facial scar. Picture two face from The Dark Night. That’s Snarls. Something must have attacked and ripped apart the left side of her cheek. So even when her mouth was closed, all her teeth were exposed….giving a snarling type of look. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a good shot of the scar. Though somewhat grotesque and very mangy looking, Snarls was extremely friendly. (READ MORE)

The Torch: US Marines and the Afstan campaign/Helmand and Kandahar - What it all means for the Brits at Helmand: "If we can't hack it …" More (via Fred): "Major Combat Operations in Now Zad Afghanistan" Given that the Canadian strength at Kandahar is far smaller than the British at Helmand, the future is equally obvious in "our" province. By the way, we Canadians obsess about Kandahar. But the Brits have some 8,000 personnel in Helmand, and the US Marines will shortly be adding about the same number there. That's 16,000 or so. Whilst at Kandahar Canada has around 2,800 personnel. The US is bringing in very soon an army combat aviation brigade and later this summer a Stryker brigade combat team. Say some 8,000 personnel in total. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: The Sandstorm Welcomes me Home - The 17 hours of flight time I endured to get back was a little rough, but better than the 20 hours it took getting to the states. I’m now sitting in Kuwait and it’s hit me… I’m back. There’s a thick layer of dust in the air and a constant smell of dirt in my nose. I don’t know when I’ll get a flight to Basra, but I’m checking with the flight people tonight for an updated schedule. Hopefully I won’t sit here too long. The boredom drives me crazy. There’s only so many movies you can watch in a row before you really start to feel like a slob. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Rough Riders challenge IA on the soccer field - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq – For the second time during this deployment, Iraqi and American transportation units competed for bragging rights on the soccer field. U.S. Soldiers assigned to 27th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division ‘Rough Riders,’ challenged the Iraqi Army’s 10th Motorized Transport Regiment to a re-match at Camp White Horse near the operating base here recently. (READ MORE)

MPs shed some light on IP operations - FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – Conducting a partnered nighttime police operation when unable to see can make any mission difficult. Soldiers from the 772nd Military Police Company, realized these challenges when they discovered their Iraqi partners didn’t have flashlights. (READ MORE)

IP train to provide Babil province better security - CAMP ECHO, Iraq – Iraqi policemen trained to improve their traffic control point operations with Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at the Convoy Support Center in Scania April 4. Policemen from the Shumoly district of Babil province performed vehicle and personnel searches during exercises to increase their ability to mitigate the threat of smugglers moving dangerous weapons into the area. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army works to keep waterways clear - SHATT AL ARAB, Iraq – The Iraqi Directorate of Border Enforcement, Coastal Border Guard recently made a large drug interdiction here March 30. “This was a significant event,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Steven Oluic, Ministry of Interior Transitional Team. “An individual was caught smuggling 71kg of hashish via the waterway.” Upon capture the individual was turned over to Iraqi police. (READ MORE)

ISOF training reaches new heights - AL ASAD, Iraq – Training took to the air as Iraqi Special Operations Forces turned their focus to helicopter operations April 1 in Al Asad, Iraq, in order to increase their capabilities in the region. “Al Anbar borders three different countries and the borders are as far as 500 kilometers from here,” said the commander of Al Anbar’s 9th Battalion, ISOF. “We must be able to reach those places. It takes helicopters and planes to reach them.” (READ MORE)

Final MV-22 Deployment Closes Book on Operation Iraqi Freedom Legacy - AL ASAD AIR BASE — The presence of the MV-22 Osprey in Operation Iraqi Freedom is coming to a close as the final Marine Medium Tilt-rotor Squadron prepares to head home this spring. The Marines of Marine Medium Tilt-rotor squadron (VMM)-266, also known as the Fighting Griffins, have spent every day since their End of Mission Ceremony, April 1, preparing themselves and the aircraft they fly to redeploy home after approximately six months of successful combat support operations here. (READ MORE)

Deployment Brings Brother, Sister Together - CAMP ECHO, Iraq, April 15, 2009 – Typically, deployment marks a separation from family. It can be a difficult sacrifice that walks hand in hand with selfless service to answer the nation’s call. Occasionally, however, circumstances bring family members together and strengthen the bond between them. (READ MORE)

Medal of Honor Recipients Visit Soldiers in Baghdad - BAGHDAD, April 15, 2009 – Two Vietnam War veterans who survived combat and who received the Medal of Honor visited soldiers serving in Multinational Division Baghdad here with the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team at Warrior Chapel on Camp Liberty yesterday. Retired Army Col. Robert Howard and retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Littrell spoke to the “Dagger Brigade” soldiers about keeping morale high while maintaining a sense of urgency, and they took the opportunity to answer questions from the soldiers. (READ MORE)

On the Ground: Coalition Medics Treat Afghan Troops, Civilians, Prevent Diseases - WASHINGTON, April 15, 2009 – Coalition forces are helping Afghan civilians and soldiers alike with medical outreach that is curing illnesses, preventing diseases and keeping soldiers and security forces on the job. A Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan dental team provided treatment for Afghan civilians and soldiers in rural villages, while another unit worked to prevent diseases in the area. (READ MORE)

Sikhs in Pakistan pay Rupees.20 million to Taliban - Islamabad, April 16 : Pakistan's Sikh community has been forced to pay Rupees.20 million as 'jizia' (tax) to the Taliban so as to return to their homes and resume business, a newspaper said Thursday. The minority Sikh community Wednesday met the Taliban demand in return for "protection" in Orakzai Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the Daily Times reported. (READ MORE)

Afghan women attacked for protesting marriage law - KABUL — The women shouted: "Equal rights and human rights!" A few feet away, men hollered back: "Death to you dogs!" and "Death to the slaves of the Christians!" Then some men picked up small stones and pelted the women. More than 100 protesters — mostly young women — demonstrated Wednesday against an Afghan law they say legalizes marital rape. (READ MORE)

Taliban execute teen girl, man for eloping - In search of a life together, Abdul Aziz and Gul Pecha fled their remote Afghan village, hoping to leave behind their ultraconservative families and the sharia law of the Taliban-controlled region. Their marriage hadn't been arranged, and their parents didn't approve. To try to elope in the remote Khash Rod district, where women face strict rules about appearing outdoors, was a risk for Mr. Aziz, 21, and Ms. Pecha, 19. (READ MORE)

Afghan Opposition Picks Candidate For Presidency - KABUL (AFP)--The main opposition party in Afghanistan said Thursday it had selected a former cabinet minister to challenge President Hamid Karzai at landmark elections in August. The National Front has picked Abdullah Abdullah, for five years Karzai's foreign minister, party spokesman Sayed Aqa Fazel Sangcharaki said. (READ MORE)

Czech Republic earmarks $145,000 for Afghan rebuilding - Czech Foreign Ministry has earmarked some 2.9 million crowns (145000 U.S. dollars) for reconstructing projects in Afghanistan's Logar province, the ministry said Wednesday. The funds will be allocated to farming cooperatives, for water management, for reconstruction of schools and police stations, among other projects. (READ MORE)

Pakistan and US at odds on Obama's war policy - President Barack Obama's policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, with its focus on eliminating militant hideouts in Pakistan's mountainous tribal border regions, has failed to win over many policymakers in Islamabad. Sharp differences between the two key allies have surfaced since Obama unveiled the strategy March 27 and, contrary to the past, the Pakistani side is not keeping the disagreements secret. (READ MORE)

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