April 27, 2009

From the Front: 04/27/2009

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

Joshua Foust: Tentative Steps Toward Opposition, Maybe - One of the things that has puzzled me about the Taliban’s advance through the the Northwest of Pakistan has been the general lack of alarm in mainstream Pakistani society. Starting perhaps most obviously with Pervez Musharraf’s decision to treat marching lawyers, rather than rampaging militants, as the more serious threat to the state, very few in Pakistan have expressed much concern or urgency about the gathering problem. I’ve tried to view this through an historical lens, hoping perhaps that maybe this all seems very alarming because we’re just not used to it happening, while it does indeed have a very long history there. But it still makes little sense for why the state itself seems so tepid in responding to threats. Now Mohammed Hanif, a reporter whose work for the BBC I have followed eagerly, has one explanation: (READ MORE)

Back In the Army Now (at 54): Is Dry Heat More Comfortable? - I got a comment asking if dry heat was any more comfortable than heat with humidity. I suppose it is, but I can't tell the difference. In 1976 I trained for two months in the southwest US desert before deploying to Germany. I had one shower during that two months--July and August--and it was hot. It was a dry heat, but I felt very hot in a 56-ton metal container (an M60A1 tank) and after two months, I smelled like I had been hot for two months. Yes, it is dry heat here, but two days ago when it was 108 degrees on the range (a temp update from range control) I was HOT. I suppose it makes some difference that we are in dry heat, but it does not seem to matter much with 50 pounds of gear on. It's just hot. With summer coming I am expecting a lot more dry heat in my future. I will be just plain hot. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: Credit where it's due - I'm chilling with Higher on the Big Base, waiting for a ride home to FOB McSleepy. It cannot come soon enough. Like any decent NCO, Higher annoys the bejesus out of me. Silly requests, weird preoccupations with suspenses imposed by battalion, etc etc. But once in a while, they do something very clever and I must, alas, give them their due. The Higher compound has, of course, porta-jons. They are always very nice, due to the fact that we don't have many soldiers and none of them are inclined to act like savages in the green closets. But the truly wonderful thing about these porta-jons is up on top. Look closely. No, I'm not talking about the shade (although that's nice). That's a light bar. They flip it on at dusk, and so one's nighttime trip to the closet is never dark and scary. No flashlight needed, no godawful surprises. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: On The Same Day, A Different Game - It was interesting to note that on the same day that the House Armed Services Committee was receiving testimony from three wise men, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was having hearings of its own. Titled "Voices of Veterans of the Afghan War," Committee Chair Sen. John Kerry that the purpose of the hearing was to get the perspective of the Afghan veteran, the soldiers who had experienced the challenges of Afghanistan. They promptly called forth Vietnam veteran Andrew Bacevich. “The upshot is that with the eighth anniversary of the Long War now approaching, fundamental questions about this enterprise continue to be ignored. My purpose today is to suggest that the members of this committee have a profound duty to take those questions on. In his testimony before this committee, the young John Kerry famously – or infamously, in the eyes of some – asked: ‘How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?’” So it's not worth dying for... (READ MORE)

Doc H's International Adventure: Combat Lifesaver - We spent the last two days going through the mandatory Combat Lifesaver Course. Most units designate a Combat LifeSaver (CSL) per fire team or squad. Everyone on an embedded training team, however, must successfully complete this training. We had a fair amount of class/powerpoint, with opportunity for hands on training. We did do IV's on each other in class. There were a few live demostrations done with volunteers. After the first group of volunteers had Naso-Pharyngeal Airways shoved all the way up there noses the volunteerism dropped drastically. We still have to complete the simulated combat portion, but that will be later in the training. The training was good for all personnel going over tourniquets, dressings, IV's and other immediate actions to include the procedures for calling a MEDEVAC of casualties. Since our Navy teams are all providers or medically related, it was review for the most part. (READ MORE)

The Gun Line MkIII: The Warrior: What Is Best In Life..? - What is best in life? Conan of Cimmeria would tell you: “To crush your enemy; see him driven before you, and hear the lamentation of his women!” Wellll… In today’s age, not so much… What I would see is a country rebuilt. A country strong in standing, rich in history, and full of realized potential. However, in the warrior’s eyes, what is best in life is to bring home the weapons of a defeated enemy. It shows that he was victorious in the encounter against someone who was trying to kill him, for how else could he have taken possession of his enemy’s weapon, but by vanquishing the foe. Now, gentle reader, you must understand that my enemies in this country are not the people, but the remnants of a defeated government, and the criminals who would try to usurp power at the expense of their own people. In this light, I take a great degree of satisfaction at the discovery I made here, and although I cannot bring anything home, the pictures speak for themselves. (READ MORE)

Far From Perfect: Dedication - A MEDEVAC mission comes down, an Urgent litter. A C-Spine fracture related to a rollover MVC. The weather is bad, but MEDEVAC is still Amber. Thunderstorms and blowing dust are all over the area. Nothing else is flying because of the weather, but we take the patient. We load the patient on my bird and eight people risk their lives to make sure he gets to the best care available. Ten miles outside the wire, the weather socks us in. Visibility is maybe a mile, the cloud cover is low. We are flying fast and just underneath the clouds. 45 minutes to go. I am monitoring the patient and making sure that he doesn’t get worse during the flight as well as scanning my sector for hazards. IV good. Monitor good. No Neuro deficits. Pain level good. He remains conscious and alert, albeit drowsy from the medications. Everything is jumping around from the thermals in the air and the high crosswind against the helicopter. The radio is silent. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Al Qaeda leader Abu Omar al Baghdadi confirmed captured: Prime Minister Maliki - Abu Omar al Baghdadi, the leader of al Qaeda’s puppet Islamic State of Iraq, was captured after a two-month long intelligence operation, Iraq’s prime minister said. Last week, the Ministry of Defense reported Baghdadi was captured during a raid by Iraqi forces. The US military has yet to confirm Baghdadi’s captured. Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq, and other jihadi web forums have neither confirmed nor denied Baghdadi’s capture. In the past, al Qaeda has been quick to dismiss false reports of its captured senior leaders. Iraq has a poor track recording reporting on the death or capture of senior al Qaeda leaders. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the brutal former leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was reported to have been killed or captured several times before he was finally killed by US forces in Baqubah in June 2006. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US breaks up Mahdi Army 'Promise Day Brigade' cell in Al Kut - The US military broke up an Iranian-backed terror cell associated with Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army during a raid in Al Kut in central Iraq. Iraqi officials are claiming the US military conducted the raid without approval. Coalition forces killed one Iranian-backed terrorist and captured six others during a raid that targeted a financier that supports both the Mahdi Army Special Groups and the Brigade of the Promised Day. One woman was also killed during a gunfight that broke out during the raid; the woman was caught in the crossfire. The Brigade of the Promised Day was created by Sadr last June after he announced the disbandment of the Mahdi Army in June 2008. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: Best $13 Ever Spent/My Friend Justin - Have you ever spent an amount of money, large or small, on something that you might not ever use/need/see again but served such a large purpose in your life at the moment that it was worth it? For example, when your head is pounding and you are at your office and you have to go to the drugstore next door and buy a $5 bottle of Advil, even though you've got a 200-count bottle at home? But you need it, so you spend the money and you're grateful that you did? Such a thing happened during my return trip from San Diego to Baghdad. On the long flight (10 hours to Leipzin, 5 hours to Kuwait) back I was the Flight Commander. A big title for just ensuring that Soldiers stay in their seats, get the required briefings, and get all their gear off of the plane in Kuwait. However, it's a responsibility I took seriously so...that meant no sleeping pills for me. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: 23APR09--100 Degree Mark - Today, the thermometer crested 100 degrees for the first time in 2009. The high was 102. As the temperatures slowly raised through the 70s and 80s in the past few months, I have been wondering how we ever coped with 140 degrees. I would wonder how we managed and operated on missions with our all our gear on inside of our trucks. Well, today I was reminded how we deal with it. We get hot. It sounds so simple, and it really kind of is. It is hot, and you sweat. You drink water and keep moving. Nothing is impossible. The Iraqis deal with the heat by taking naps in the afternoon. Lucky for us that the weather is going to cool off again and have highs in the 90s for the next week. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: "Weekends" in Wackyville - I got up early this morning, got into my jogging clothes, walked out the door, and then turned around and walked right back in. We had a bad "dust fog" going. It looked just like a very thick, slightly yellowish mist, one that would do San Francisco proud. Except it wasn't fog, it was dust. Incredibly fine stuff that just floated in the still air. Lots of people wear face masks to filter the dust out, or hold handkerchiefs over their faces, or something, anything, to give you clean(er) air. Take a normal breath and you can feel the grit in your teeth. Before I went 50 yards, I felt like I needed a shower again. I couldn't see anything past 100 yards. Nasty stuff. But it started clearing up pretty quickly. It was noticeably better by noon. By this evening, it was almost gone. Our temperatures were 20 degrees cooler than yesterday, too. Today was our "weekend". You guys at home get two days off. We get a half day. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: The Return for now… - Since I moved to Basrah, my internet has been spotty at best. Then one of my officers asked me to not post until I had some video product completed. It didn’t matter that my primary mission in Basrah wasn’t video product. Before that exact moment, my mission had been our satellite dish, setting up the office, and making contacts. That’s all I am going to say, it’s tough to go too inside baseball with a blog that’s not anonymous. The 10th Mountain Division is on its way out and the 34th Minnesota National Guard Infantry Division is taking over. I will miss SGT Justin Kuhl and SPC Sam Dillon, the active duty broadcasters. They are a creative pair. The entire 343rd MPAD is now in Basrah too. (READ MORE)

S4 at War: WTF? - I had one of my weirdest deployed experiences last night. First of all, I know how tiresome it can be when people on their second, third, fourth deployment say, “On my last deployment…” or, “what we used to do…” It gets old and, since thing change so rapidly a lot of what you used to do is irrelevant. But… Combat will always yield strange experiences, ask anyone who has partaken in the event. Dud mortar rounds landing in the center of a group of people, injuring no one. Six year olds smoking cigarettes while you search their house and detain their father, brother etc… Walking in on a room full of sleeping, topless Iraqi women in the middle of the night. Three legged donkeys and five legged dogs. And then there is the IA and IP, an endless source of “WTF” stories. Whats my point? (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Iraqi Air Force Day - AL MUTHANA, Iraq – Iraqi Air Force day began with the press gathering at the Triumphal Arches [Cross Swords] in downtown Baghdad; which set the tone for the celebration of the 78th anniversary of the Iraqi Air Force. To demonstrate the Air Forces’ capabilities, the Ministry of Defense transported the media in three Mi-17 Transport Helicopters to Al Muthana Air Base on April 22. (READ MORE)

Forces arrest suspected JAM Special Groups and Promise Day Brigade associates - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces arrested six suspected members of the JAM Special Groups and Promise Day Brigade and killed one suspected network criminal early Sunday in Al Kut. In an operation fully coordinated and approved by the Iraqi government, Coalition forces targeted a network financier, who is also responsible for smuggling weapons into the country to support JAM Special Groups and Promise Day Brigade. (READ MORE)

Government leaders reach out to Kirkuk’s children - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, Kirkuk, Iraq— April 20 marked the start of a four day exhibition at the Kirkuk Government Building, Kirkuk city, where photographs and information gathered from the youth of Kirkuk province were publicly displayed. More than 1,200 teenagers provided information for the display by filling out questionnaires, which asked about their dreams, hopes and plans for the future. (READ MORE)

New Provincial leadership tours Joint Coordination Center - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq – The incoming governor of Salah ad Din province brought the provincial leadership to an orientation tour of the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Tikrit April 23. One of the most critical components to reposition forces per the Security Agreement, is the joint coordination centers. The center brings local Iraqi Security Forces, government officials, emergency response managers and U.S. Army Soldiers together to coordinate emergency response functions from a consolidated headquarters. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army Commandos Recover Artifacts from Smugglers - BAGHDAD — The Iraqi Ministry of Defense held a ceremony to commemorate the recovery of 235 artifacts by Iraqi Army commandos from smugglers and the subsequent handover of the items to the Iraqi Tourism and Antiquities Ministry on April 16. Iraqi Minister of Defense Abd Al-Qadir said, “The Iraqi Army is putting extraordinary pressure on smuggling gangs, which steal Iraq’s history to finance terrorist operations.” (READ MORE)

Human Rights Inspection Team Finds Good Treatment of Detainees by Iraqi Army - BAGHDAD — A joint inspection conducted by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense’s Human Rights Directorate, Ministry of Defense Advisory Team from the Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq, and the Multi-National Corp - Iraq’s Provost Marshal Office concluded that 19 detainees are being held in satisfactory conditions at the Iraqi Army 17th Division Headquarter based in Mahmudiyah. (READ MORE)

Combined Forces in Afghanistan Kill 14 in Six-Hour Battle - WASHINGTON, April 24, 2009 – Coalition and Afghan forces killed 14 insurgents in a six-hour battle in the Sangin district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province yesterday. Forces were patrolling in an area known for heavy insurgent activity when they were attacked. The insurgents fired at the forces with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. (READ MORE)

Troops Give Afghan Baby Second Chance at Life - KABUL, April 24, 2009 – Members of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan recently conducted an unusual mission handover -- rather than discussing troop disposition and battle status, the soldiers were passing along information about bottle feedings and sleeping schedules. For the past few months, task force troops have been caring for an Afghan boy named Ramazan, who is about 9 months old. On April 20, the troops said good-bye to Ramazan as they transferred his care to a team of doctors at a civilian medical facility here. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan bombing kills 2 - KABUL, Afghanistan - A roadside bombing in Afghanistan killed two members of a new U.S.-funded defense force, while authorities destroyed 6.5 tons of drugs and chemicals seized in the battle against the rampant narcotics trade. The two guards from the Afghan Public Protection Force killed yesterday were the first members of the new program to die in the line of duty. (READ MORE)

Five die in attack on Afghan governor's compound - Kandahar, Afghanistan — Five people are dead and ten others injured after a coordinated suicide bombing on the grounds of the Kandahar Governor's palace Saturday. One of the bombers, who were travelling on foot, detonated at the main gate of the compound inside a checking area where two police officers were examining identification documents of people entering the grounds. A civilian who was inside the checking station at the time was killed, as well as two guards. (READ MORE)

Pakistan fights Taliban as sharia deal breaks down - Pakistani forces have launched a new offensive against Taliban militants in the north-west of the country after coming under heavy US pressure to halt advancing extremists, jolting a shaky peace deal. The February accord to put 3 million people under sharia law was billed as the end of a nearly two-year brutal Taliban insurgency that ripped apart the pristine ski resort of Swat but was followed by further Taliban encroachments. (READ MORE)

Pak Taliban behind NWFP toy bombing incident - Islamabad, Apr.26 : Pakistan has held the Taliban responsible for Saturday's toy bombing incident in which 11 children were killed in Luqman Banda village in the Lower Dir area of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Condemning the bombing incident, Pakistan Prime Minister's Advisor on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik said that the Taliban has unveiled its real face by killing small children, and that it is now compelling the government to take stern action against them, The News reports. (READ MORE)

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