April 22, 2009

From the Front: 04/22/2009

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

A Battlefield Tourist: Mail Call - In January and February 2009, US Marines with India Co., 3rd Battalion, Eighth Marines launched two operations to clear a road, called Route 515, that connected two district center in Farah Province, Afghanistan. The two cities, Deleram and Bakwa, are the hubs of social and financial activity for thousands of Afghans. The Marines objective is to open this road to allow people to get their goods to market and to stop Taliban and smugglers from making their way to and from Iran. One of the first signs of success though is in the shape of brownies and smiles as the US mail uses this new route to keep troop morale high in a difficult environment. [Video Embedded at Site] (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: Why I'm not a morning person - I woke up at 0530 after what passed for the best night's sleep since I got to Camp Waitin' Around. Hmm, I thought, what I need right now is a big scoop of powdered eggs and some Army coffee. So that's what I did. Fortunately, the chowhall here is one of those places you can go wearing PT gear, since I've sworn off long pants for the duration of the waiting around phase here. I ate, had a smoke, then realized I had time before our next organized standing-around and trooped over to the internet point. The internet point is, of course, a trailer. With the requisite slightly beaten-down wooden pallet in front of the door. I stepped on it to step up, and my right foot went through between two semi-broken slats. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: Everybody loves a winner... - My reputation as a PT stud in the battalion is well documented. We do a lot of Crossfitand my times and numbers tend to be better than the other Marines and Sailors we workout with. However, each person has their strengths and weaknesses and I don’t always get the best of everyone. Lately, I’ve been getting beat like it’s cool. Guys I used to smoke check are putting up the numbers and leaving me behind. Not that I’m out of shape mind you; just not as finely tuned as I was before. If I told you I was out of shape right now, you’d laugh me to scorn. Sure, training at Mojave Viper for six weeks and eating the way we did was not helpful. Not working out during all the pre-deployment madness wasn’t any good either. But those are just convenient excuses. As shocking as it may seem, America’s 1stSgt may have let himself slip a little. *gasp!* (READ MORE)

Far From Perfect: Rest and Recuperation - Here I sit, in MY living room, laptop in hand, relaxing a bit. Yes, I have made it to my mid-tour leave! I made it home a few days ago and have done a lot of things since then, not even really seeing my house except to sleep. The family and I have spent a lot of time together, and except for my strange sleeping habits on this side of the world (8pm falling asleep till 4am) they have had no complaints. Its amazing how much piles up while you are away. My first few days were spent just getting things straight. I had to go buy a new car because our old one gave up and died after 11 years of faithful service. One day before I came home too. I had to get some business done around the house and with the army, some of which is still outstanding. We went and bought some guinea pigs for my daughter since dogs and cats aren’t really gonna work for us right now and she really wanted a pet. I have, however, gone and eaten a ton of real food. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: 21APR09--Yogurt and Perception - Just the other day, my Iraqi Army counterpart told me an Iraqi expression: "Eat what you like but wear what everyone else likes." He shared this phrase with me after a discussion on food. He had offered to share some of a recent batch of shaneineh, a original flavored yogurt substance. I expressed that I had tried some previously and thanked him. The Iraqi officer asked if we had shaneineh or yogurt in the States and thoroughly explained what he believes to be its health benefits. I explained that we have yogurt and went on to describe the fruit flavors in the 8 ounce cups and smoothies. My counterpart scoffed at my description of yogurt that Americans commonly eat, responding "American food is so sugary and sweet." I continued to describe the different kinds of fruit that is usually mixed with yogurt, and then I asked him, "Would you like me to bring you some from the American base?" (READ MORE)

The Satirist at War: On my mind - I was looking over my portfolio of memories from Afghanistan, and thinking about how it was back then--the good parts. Few and far between. One of them was smoking cigars with the other officers. This was normally performed outside, or in the restaurant after it had shut down for the day, but on this particular occasion my roommates were all out on various missions, so we had the big room all to ourselves. A bunch of guys came over and smoked the place out so badly that it reeked for days. Sitting around, taking an hour to relax and enjoy simple camaraderie... this was the one unequivocally pleasant memory to survive deployment. We never smoked in ACUs, only PTs, to reinforce the relaxed atmosphere. The coffee filters were used as ashtrays. The plastic bottles as spitters and butt receptacles. We generally smoked cigars recommended to us by our S4, AG, who survived the now-famous water-landing in Manhattan with his girlfriend (fiancee). Most of the time was spent complaining about the absurd, unrealistic events that happened thanks to a higher entity who must remain unidentified. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Knowing God - Craig and I are reading ‘Knowing God’ by J.I. Packer and it’s amazing. I’ve been able to read a lot since I’ve been sitting in Kuwait (I’m still here) and the two of us have really been able to share with each other which is great for communication and understanding. I’ll probably post a little about the book once I read some more, and I encourage whoever wants to develop their relationship with God to get it. It’s amazing and touches on God’s greatness and unchanging character. Something that really convicted me was when Packer said this: “Amid all the changes and uncertainties of life in a nuclear age, God and his Christ remain the same - almighty to save…… If our God is the same as the God of the New Testament believers, how can we justify ourselves in resting content with an experience of communion with him, and a level of Christian conduct, that falls so far below theirs? If God is the same, this is not an issue that any one of us can evade.” (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: Three Rules Three Fears - From working with SGT Kepner and SGT Presto in Alpha company, they taught me the importance of the 3 rules of dismounting. Though comical, they do serve a serious purpose. They are: 1) Always look cool. 2) Always know where you are. 3) If you don’t know where you are, make sure you still look cool. You might be thinking….wtf? Rest assured its good advice. Being cool basically means to present oneself as a hard target. When you walk around, make sure you look like a bad*ss. Some one whose on top of their game and knows their sh*t. The enemy is less likely to mess with you if you look like you know what your doing. (READ MORE)

The Torch: STFU, Coren - I try to keep the language clean around here. While we're a milblog, and soldiers tend to be...ahem...colourful in their choice of words, I refrain from a good deal of that language because our readership isn't entirely military and I don't want to drive the civilians away with what is most charitably described as "soldierly language." But in the case of Michael Coren's latest brain fart, I have but one thing to say to him: fuck off. “…Last week a young girl dressed up as a soldier died in the increasingly futile and pointless war in Afghanistan. She was 21 years old, had been in the country for two weeks on her first tour of duty and probably weighed a little over 100 pounds. Please know that I mean no disrespect to Karine Blais or to her family and I grieve for her and them. But what on earth was she doing in such a place and in such a job?” "Dressed up as a soldier?" And then you say you mean no disrespect? Are you f'ing kidding me? (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban flex muscles in Malakand Division - Just one week after the Pakistani government agreed to implement sharia, or Islamic law in the vast Malakand Division, the Taliban are flaunting the peace agreement with the government and pushing into neighboring regions. President Zardari signed the sharia legislation into law on April 13 as part of an effort to quell the brutal Taliban insurgency in Swat, which has been ongoing since the summer of 2007. The Pakistani military was defeated in its three offensives designed to oust the Taliban, led by Mullah Fazlullah, which prompted the government to promise the implementation of sharia and an end to military operations in exchange for peace. But the Taliban have violated the peace agreement multiple times since the initial ceasefire was instituted in mid-February, and have continued to do so since Zardari signed the sharia legislation into law. And the Taliban are forcefully expanding their influence in neighboring regions. (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:

Flowers in Baghdad - Iraqis stopped to smell the roses this week as they visited the first Baghdad flower festival since the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime. The exhibit at Zawra Park in the center of Baghdad was another sign of people’s wish for normalcy after years of bloodshed. The exhibition was advertised with the slogan “Baghdad, Flowers and Peace” and had Arab and foreign companies displaying their products. (READ MORE)

Students of Ann G. McGuinness School Let Soldiers Know They Care - BAGHDAD – After a long stressful day of patrolling the streets of Sab al-Bour looking for weapons and explosive devices, weary Soldiers of B Troop, 2nd Squadron, 104th Cavalry Regiment, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team return to base anxious to fall into bed. But, as they enter their quarters, they pause for a look at the collage of greeting cards that hang around the door. The cards, a collection of well wishes from children at the Ann G. McGuinness School back in the States, seem to erase the events of the day and cause smiles to form on their weary faces. (READ MORE)

Airmen provide Iraqis air-to-ground weapons training - KIRKUK REGIONAL AIR BASE, Iraq – U.S. Airmen assigned to the 521st Air Expeditionary Advisor Squadron (AEAS) here have begun training Iraqi Airmen to safely and effectively employ precision air-to-ground ordnance using the Hellfire missile capable AC-208 Caravan. The members of Iraqi Air Force Squadron 3 are already fully qualified to fly Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaisance (ISR) missions in the Caravan. The 521st AEAS Airmen are part of the Coalition Air Force Training Team, which is charged with training, advising and assisting Iraqi airmen to support progressive transition of combat air operations to the Iraqi government. (READ MORE)

Tikrit ERB awakens ‘sleeping’ cell members with arrest warrants - TIKRIT, Iraq – Tikrit Emergency Response Battalion planned, led and facilitated an operation April 13, which led to the arrest of three suspected key members of a Bayji-based insurgent cell. According to Iraqi intelligence, the cell [comprised of members of the former Iraqi Army] led kidnapping raids and coordinates attacks against ISF and Coalition forces. With Tikrit Major Crimes Court-issued warrants, ERB members entered the residences and detained each of the cell members. (READ MORE)

Camp Bucca leaders host dinner, base tour for top Iraqi leaders - CAMP BUCCA, Iraq—A joint U.S military leadership team representing Forward Operating Base (FOB) Bucca and Task Force Bucca hosted a “Friendship Dinner” and Theater Internment Facility (TIF) tour for Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and local Basra province community leaders April 18 here. The event was a continuation of prior relationship-building meetings and events Camp Bucca started in late 2008, and provided many of the guests with their first opportunity to see the operation and detainee care provided in the Camp Bucca TIF. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Officers Draft Ethics Training Course - ERBIL — Officers from the Iraqi Center for Military Values, Principles, and Leadership Development recently attended a week-long human rights workshop here. Hosted by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq, the workshop gathered Ministry of Defense officers in the human rights field to create training courses on the Law of Armed Conflict and Human Rights. (READ MORE)

City Cleaned During Dujaylah Pride Day - FOB DELTA — Iraqi Security Forces, government officials and Coalition forces banded together for Dujaylah Pride Day to clean up the town, April 18. "It was very good for the city and the people because they see the Army and the Police and the Americans as they worked together to clean the area and that's a really excellent job to inform the people of the cooperation," said Salah Nasser Al Attabr, deputy mayor of Dujaylah. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
Coalition destroys anti-aircraft weapons, 8 Afghan rebels killed - Kabul - US-led coalition forces destroyed two Taliban anti-aircraft weapons in southern Afghanistan, while two separate operations conducted by Afghan and international forces in the same region left eight militants dead, officials said Tuesday. Acting on intelligence information provided by local villagers, the coalition forces destroyed a ZPU-1 anti-aircraft weapon by "precision strike" in Nad Ali district of Helmand province on Tuesday morning, the US military said in a statement. (READ MORE)

Afghan, Coalition Forces Kill Militant, Detain Another - WASHINGTON, April 21, 2009 – One militant was killed and a suspect was detained during a joint operation today by coalition and Afghan forces in southern Afghanistan. The operation’s target was an associate of a local Taliban leader suspected of aiding the transport of weapons, ammunition and fighters into northern Kandahar province. (READ MORE)

Afghan Women Find Support in Wardak Province - WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan, April 21, 2009 – The Afghan National Police worked with U.S. soldiers serving in Task Force Spartan recently to provide 25 women and their families here with humanitarian aid packages. The police, working with the 10th Mountain Division’s 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, distributed the packages, containing food and stuffed animals, at the Wardak Women’s Center. (READ MORE)

Special Operations Soldiers honor fallen comrades with new memorial - Kabul, Afghanistan – Soldiers from the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan unveiled a memorial dedicated to its fallen brethren killed in Operation Enduring Freedom during a ceremony at Camp Vance, Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan April 9. It was a somber occasion as formations of Soldiers observed a moment of silence while the monument, dedicated to those CJSOTF-A Soldiers who have died in service to their nation, made its second debut. (READ MORE)

Swat Taliban move closer to Islamabad - After consolidating their hold in Swat and other areas of Pakistan's restive northwest, the Taliban have now moved south and taken control of Buner district just 100 km from this federal capital. The Taliban have extended their control to almost all tehsils of the district and law-enforcement personnel remain confined to police stations and camps, Dawn reported Wednesday. (READ MORE)

Pak Taliban claims Fazlullah never opposed army - Mingora, Apr 22 : Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has said that Maulana Fazlullah is "not against the Pakistan Army" and the Taliban militants in Swat were forced to take up arms. Addressing a press conference, Taliban spokesman Muslim Khan said the chief of Swat Taliban, Maulana Fazlullah, had never opposed the army "as an institution." "We do not want war ... but it was imposed on us," he added. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan medics welcomed home - A 40-strong group of medics who have been treating front-line casualties in Afghanistan have returned to Plymouth. Nurses and medical assistants were greeted by loved ones following their three-month deployment. The Royal Navy staff were operating mainly at Camp Bastion hospital, a base in Helmand province for about 3,000 British troops. (READ MORE)

Opposition grows to Pakistan's Taliban pact - ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Opposition is building in Pakistan to a peace deal aimed at ending Taliban violence in a northwestern region after the Islamists challenged democratic rule and started taking over new areas. Pakistan is struggling to come up with a coherent strategy to stop the spread of militant violence and influence, raising fears that the country could slowly slide into Taliban hands. (READ MORE)

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