April 23, 2009

From the Front: 04/23/2009

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

Joshua Foust: How to Lose in Afghanistan - No one could have possibly seen this coming: “In announcing a new strategy last month, President Obama promised ‘a dramatic increase in our civilian effort’ in Afghanistan that would include ‘agricultural specialists and educators, engineers and lawyers’ to augment the additional troops he is also sending. But senior Pentagon and administration officials now acknowledge that many of those new positions would be filled by military personnel — in particular reservists, whose civilian jobs give them required expertise — and by contractors. The shortfall offers more evidence that the government’s civilian departments have not received sufficient money to hire and train personnel ready to take up assignments in combat zones.” (READ MORE)

Back In the Army Now (at 54): Food - [NO PHOTOS ALLOWED IN THE DFAC. . .IT LOOKS LIKE A CAFETERIA] he food in the Kuwait DFACs (Dining Facilities) really is better than Oklahoma. A lot better. The two DFACs serve the same food, but the one close to us has plastic throwaway plates and silverware. The one farther away has washable plates and real silverware. It even has a fountain between the chow lines. But before I get to the food, the luxury DFAC also has the Sweat Nazi (SW). The SW is a really old school sergeant who believes this DFAC is her DFAC and acts like it. She is tall, never smiles that I ave seen and is constantly checking food on the serving lines and eying the soldiers in line. If you come in her dining facility with sweat on obvious on your clothes, you are ejected. Now this might seem to be a reasonable rule, but it gets very hot here. (READ MORE)

Back In the Army Now (at 54): Happier in Kuwait than Oklahoma? - It's true. More soldiers today told me how much happier they are now that they are in Kuwait than they were in Fort Sill. Not me. I am sitting outside in 90-degree weather on a metal bench trying to get a decent internet signal. We have no internet in the barracks which, as I noted before are 78-man tents. The food is much better, I will grant that. But we are confined to a few square miles of hot sand and bad weather is forecast for tomorrow and Friday--that means sandstorms. We hear the sandstorms are so bad you can barely see to walk the 50 meters to the portajohns, let alone the 1/4 mile to the indoor plumbing or the chow halls. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: Ambassadors in Desert Tan: Another Fine Day's Work - Every weekend back in the rear I hold my breath anticipating a phone call about any number things which can go wrong while Marines are on liberty. These can range from simple drunkenness, to DUI, hospitalization, or arrest. Most incidents involve alcohol in one form or another, but with Jarheads there is no level of stupidity beyond their scope of performance. The amazing thing is this: the same Marines who are involved in street brawls in Waikiki, or revived from an alcohol induced coma, or require car keys to be physically wrenched from their kung fu grip to prevent them from driving; all somehow manage to make the right decisions in the combat zone. Yes, they may not be trustworthy with your daughter on prom night, or keep me awake all weekend, but if you load them up with machine guns, grenade launchers, and all manner of other instruments of violence, and give them a mission to execute, you will sleep peaceably at night. (READ MORE)

Doc H's International Adventure: HMMWV Training - Yesterday was a fun day. We were very briefly introduced on the basics of driving an up Armored HMMWV and then were off to drive the trails. The 1151 Up Armored HMMWV (UAH) is very different than the smaller and lighter 998 cousins I knew 20 years ago. It is very heavy, weighing almost 6 tons dry and empty. The armor is very thick and weighs a lot. The turret is pretty robust as well. The ride is smooth, much like a 1960's Cadillac or Oldsmobile. Astonishingly this is the first HMMWV I have ever been in that has--- Air Conditioning!! times have certainly changed. My classmates in the vehicle were pretty tame in their driving compared to me. I even got the dubious honor of throwing the highest plume of water after hitting the creek at a high rate of speed. My bunkmate was in the turret at the time, and was not as amused since he received a free rinsing. (READ MORE)

The Gun Line MkIII: R & R… - I was looking at the number of posts I have added since we got here… Not that many, actually… Compared tot he work-up, and the story of my journey to get here, it’s almost anti-climactic. The Ernie Pyle in me was expecting a series of “Joe Blow” stories; piece regaling to heroic exploits of daring-do, punctuated with the poignant observations of a soldier at war… Wellll, not so much… Frankly, there hasn’t been much in the way of excitement, and I didn’t want to bore you with the same old “Nothing happened today…” day after day… On the other hand, the fact that there’s nothing to report is a good thing (ref: My previous post, where I said pretty much the same thing…) If I were 20 years younger, I would be absolutely humming with supressed frustration, wanting to get into the fight and mix it up in grand style. I would be absolutely inconsolable because, right now, there is absolutely nothing exciting going on. (READ MORE)

Peace and War Times: My Visit to Downtown Baghdad - I really can't complaint of my time in Iraq, now I can say that I have being in places despite that I barely get out of the wire. After traveling back from the states back to Iraq, I have the opportunity to stop by the green zone in Baghdad. Among visiting the embassy, we visited the most famous point of Baghdad--the famous parade road of Sadaam Hussein. I know there is several soldiers at there that have similar photos from back in the days of Desert Storm, but today I finally have mine. These famous swords have steps that you can escalate for a better view of downtown, I was no so adventurous to dare to go up for fear of having an accident. There is no telling what's the condition of such steps. I took several photos of the guys that took me there and in return they took some photos of me at this famous point. In Baghdad, Sadaam's legacy have been destroy but not so with this particular place. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Airman Coordinates Flights for Iraqi Detainees - CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, April 22, 2009 – Thousands of Iraqi detainees in detention facilities throughout Iraq require air travel for everything from transfers to attending court cases, and thanks to one Air Force captain, they get where they need to go. Capt. M. Kathryn Kotora, Joint Task Force 134 future operations air officer, coordinates all air travel for detainees throughout Iraq. (READ MORE)

Advising and Training the Iraqi Police to Eradicate Corruption - BAGHDAD – On April 19, U.S. Air Force Maj. Joseph Musacchia, Chief of Security Forces, Minister of Interior Transition Team, Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq joined a roundtable of bloggers on “DoDLive” to discuss the tenets of Iraqi Police training. Musacchia has been advising and training Iraqi Police for just a few months, but the level of advice he gives will last the students a lifetime. He told the roundtable that the training is based on three building blocks; police ethics, police standards, and police professionalization, all which are used to launch anticorruption initiatives. (READ MORE)

National Information and Investigation Agency receive “cyber-centric” training - BAGHDAD – The National Information and Investigation Agency took another major step toward creating an infrastructure prepared to meet the challenges of 2009 and beyond. Members of the NIIA’s Internet Crimes Unit, a branch under the Technical Affairs General Directorate completed the inaugural Cyber-Centric First Responders Training. The course was taught by U.S. Air Force Capt. Steve DeVito and members of the Intelligence Transition Team - Law Enforcement, Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq. (READ MORE)

Detainees released in Ramadi - AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq – Marines from Multi National Force - West facilitated the release of 11 detainees from U.S. custody and transferred eight detainees who were wanted pursuant to a valid warrant to Iraqi police custody on April 20, 2009, in Ramadi. MNF-W followed a detailed release process to ensure the security of the people of Anbar and the safety of the detainees was not in jeopardy following the release. Marines from MNF-W coordinated with the Iraqi Police to transfer all detainees who were wanted pursuant to a warrant to Iraqi custody. (READ MORE)

Iraq Welcomes First Tourists Since ‘03 - BAGHDAD — The Security Agreement between the U.S. and Government of Iraq was just one of many steps toward a safe and prosperous Iraq. March 20 marked another step, one that was both unexpected and unique. That was the day the first tourists came to the International Zone since the war began in 2003. Eight tourists to be exact: Five from Great Britain, two from America and one from Canada. The tourists made their way around the country for a two-week excursion that brought them to Samarra, Mosul, Babylon, Nasiriyah, Ur, Uruk and Basrah before making their way to Baghdad. (READ MORE)

IA Medics Train to Train Their Own - FOB WARRIOR — Coalition forces in northern Iraq recently conducted medical trauma and sustainment training in Hawijah with the goal of developing a Train the Trainer program for the Iraqi Army (IA). The training was designed to develop the skills of the 15th IA Brigade medics so they can give the training to other Iraqi Soldiers, according to 1st Lt. Sean Spencer, a medical platoon leader with 8th Cavalry Regiment. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police Earning Trust of Citizens - WASHINGTON — The Iraqi Interior Ministry is making progress toward minimizing corruption and maximizing the trust of the Iraqi people, a military officer involved in the effort said, April 17. Air Force Maj. Joseph Musacchia, commander of the 81st Security Forces Squadron, told participants in a “DoD Live” blogger’s roundtable that to create trust between the Iraqi people and their government, Coalition and Interior Ministry officials have instituted courses in the ministry’s Inspector General office and Internal Affairs offices that teach Police ethics and focus on anticorruption initiatives. (READ MORE)

IA Train in Heavy Equipment as U.S. Engineers Level Airport Runway - BAGHDAD — Clearing rubble at the northern end of the Baghdad International Airport runway recently, U.S. Soldiers of the 277th Engineer Company leveled the ground to expand the safety distance zone. But in addition to working on the project, the Soldiers also imparted their skills and knowledge as heavy-equipment operators to their 6th Iraqi Army (IA) engineer counterparts. (READ MORE)

Taliban Tighten Their Grip on Pakistan's Northwest - ISLAMABAD — Taliban militants have extended their grip in northwestern Pakistan, pushing out from a valley where the government has agreed to impose Islamic law and patrolling villages as close as 60 miles from the capital. Police and officials appear to have fled as armed militants also broadcast radio sermons and spread fear in Buner district, just 60 miles from Islamabad, officials and witnesses said Wednesday. (READ MORE)

US signs Afghanistan transit deal with Tajikistan - The United States and Tajikistan have agreed a deal on the transit of non-military cargoes for Western operations in Afghanistan, US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said on Tuesday. "Yes, it's done," Boucher said in response to a question about the long-expected transit deal with the ex-Soviet republic that neighbours Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

U.S. Troop Focus on Southern Afghanistan, General Says - WASHINGTON, April 22, 2009 – Southern Afghanistan –- the home of the Taliban as well as host to the country’s opium-growing industry –- is now the focus of the anti-insurgent campaign there, a senior U.S. military officer posted in Afghanistan said today. Probably 80 percent of insurgent activity in Afghanistan is “in the south right now,” said Army Maj. Gen. Michael S. Tucker, deputy chief of operations for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and deputy commander for operations for U.S. Forces Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Success in Afghanistan, Pakistan Linked, Official Says - WASHINGTON, April 22, 2009 РThe United States cannot afford to ignore the challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and success or failure in one country likely means the same for the other, a senior Defense Department official told a foreign policy think tank here yesterday. Security in the region is inextricably linked between the two countries and, until now, the United States has viewed them as two separate fights, said Mich̬le Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy. (READ MORE)

Afghan, Coalition Forces Kill Insurgent, Detain Six Suspects - KABUL, Afghanistan, April 22, 2009 – Afghan and coalition forces killed an insurgent and detained six suspects following an operation early today in eastern Afghanistan’s Konar province. In the Pech district, about 50 miles northeast of Jalalabad, the combined force searched two compounds to remove a key enabler of the al-Qaida foreign terrorist network in Konar. (READ MORE)

Chairman Brings USO Show to Remote Afghan Bases - CAMP EGGERS, Afghanistan, April 22, 2009 – Max Martini, who plays Army Master Sgt. Mack Gerhardt in the CBS show “The Unit,” raced up a steep hill at a combat outpost in 28 seconds. “I can’t be beat by an actor,” said one real soldier, who raced up the same course in 24 seconds. Cheers resounded. (READ MORE)

Mullen Tours Forward Outposts in Afghanistan - COMBAT OUTPOST DEYSIE, Afghanistan, April 22, 2009 – Military support “enablers” are Regional Command East’s most important need in Afghanistan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown clearly that the main units “have to be supported by these enablers.” (READ MORE)

Soldiers Build Relationships in Eastern Afghanistan - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, April 22, 2009 – Afghan National Army and U.S. servicemembers conducted meetings with local elders and villagers in the Zormat district of Afghanistan’s eastern province of Paktia to discuss the recent establishment of Combat Outpost Kalagu and to address their concerns. The meetings, called “shuras,” were hosted April 13 to 15 by the commanders of the Afghan army’s 1st Company, 1st Kandak, 203rd Corps, along with paratroopers from the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team. (READ MORE)

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