May 5, 2009

From the Front: 05/05/2009

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

111 Infantry Recon: AIR ASSAULT PHOTOS - Visit site to view photos of a recent op.

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: Pulling Back From Panjwaii - This Post story on a Canadian "drawback" from Panjwaii is making its way around the intertubes pretty fast. “Canada's military says it has not abandoned villagers in the Taliban-controlled western Panjwaii district, insisting that the ‘drawback’ of troops last week and the dismantling of a Canadian-built police substation are tactical victories. Tearing down the Mushan substation signals the start of a new strategy that will see Canadian Forces troops move closer to Kandahar city, where the majority of Kandaharis live and where a greater security presence is considered an urgent priority.” The story has relatively few details so it's difficult to draw conclusions, but it does seem clear that we are pulling back from a particularly violent part of Kandahar province due to a lack of resources to do the job properly. Michael Petrou makes the trenchant point: “How likely do you figure it is that other Afghans in the area will trust Canadian soldiers not to abandon them in the future? How likely is it that those same villagers will reason that it’s in their best interests to support the Taliban?” (READ MORE)

A.L.L.: ETT Training at FT Riley - This is quite a long post and I'll divide it into two separate posts. The first being the training at FT Riley and the second will be deployment from FT Riley to Kabul. A friend of mine, in fact the guy that helped build this document, was just there and says that training hasn't changed much at all, this is BAD as I felt that the training was pretty much useless at prepping us to accomplish the bread and butter ETT mission. Combat Advisor. You will deploy with the skill set you show up there with, that's the bottomline. So start your prep now obviously if you're reading this you've taken the initiative and are bringing the fight to the enemy. TRAINING Here are some observations I made regarding deployment through FT Riley as part of an ETT, from August to October 2008. The standard disclaimer applies: (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: EXCLUSIVE- CPT Roger Hill in his own words - The following post is an exclusive look into the other side of the story as told by CPT Roger Hill himself. I first wrote about CPT Hill’s story here, and have since talked about it on numerous other occasions both on this blog and on You Served Radio. This posting is broken down into 3 parts. The first is an original posting from CPT Hill for the Bouhammer Blog. The second part is CPT Hill’s farewell letter to his company as he was never given the opportunity to say goodbye in person. The third part is CPT Hill’s letter to the Commander of Army Human Resources Command asking for his discharge to be changed so he could have some level of benefits once he is forcefully discharged from the US Army. All the parts and the links within them help paint the picture as to what really happened leading up to the 30 minutes that have forever changed CPT Hill and 1SG Scott’s life and the events that took place after. (READ MORE)

Back In the Army Now (at 54): Then and Now: Staying in Touch - When I was stationed in (West) Germany, my peak income as a sergeant was $5,000 per year in 1979, the third year of my deployment. At that time the only options for staying in touch with America were phone calls and snail mail. I phoned my family once in a while, but mail was the only real option. Compared to now, calling home cost a fortune: a ten-minute phone call cost at least $5 when most of us made less than $100 per week. Now I call landlines on Skype from here in the Middle East and half the time I am charged nothing. Phone cards have rates around 20 cents per minute for a call that is as reliable as calling in the states. Email only costs the access fee for internet, same with Facebook and every other electronic means of calling/writing home. I am very happy to be able to talk to every member of my family every week. I also call friends and co-workers just on a whim because it is cheap and easy. This blog allows me to stay in touch with a lot of people without clogging their email InBoxes. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: The things one sees - I was trudging back to the trailer after Evening Sadness (supper) last night. And off to my left, I saw...this: [photo available at site] Yeah. That would be a terp, in some sort of man hotpants, trying to get a cellphone signal, while striking a rather unfortunate pose. [sigh] The cell issue drives us crazy here - several nights a week one can see my guys boosting Tim the Superterp up onto my roof because that's where we get the best signal after dark. If one wants to stay in touch with local contractors and municipal bubbas, one does need some sort of communications beyond DSN and VOIP phones. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Listening? That's A Start - Lt.Col. Glen Butler is on to something here. Listening would be good. Empowering would be better. The only problem is that it would involve training them. It's amazing how many are doing good things without being trained. Imagine what training them would do for us. Depending on where they go, the Captains are likely getting some COIN education. The Corporals? Not so much. COIN is not trained in NCOES. In fact, many tactical tasks are trained to Cold War standards. Emplacing an M-8 chemical alarm was not done on one single OP I ever saw in Afghanistan. Nor were anti-tank mines. Both are still part of the ARTEP standards for tactical tasks trained/evaluated at the first line leader level. (READ MORE)

SPC Mary Lee: Somebody Pinch Me - Imagine waking up one morning only to realize that nothing is the same as the day before. For some this could mean not waking up to their spouse or not savoring that first cup of coffee as you sit in the sanctuary of your own kitchen. The desire to walk 10 feet to your own bathroom and splashing clean, sanitary water on your face is becoming a distant memory. The sound of your dog’s feet hitting your polished hardwood floor as she follows your every move, hoping you will have time to take her on a walk before work is gone. It has been replaced by the sound of your neighbor’s boots striking his dingy gray floor, which is separated from yours by only a thin layer of wood paneling. When you step outside your door, suddenly you realize that your plush green lawn has been replaced by gravel. The clean, crisp air has been transformed into a transporter of dust that penetrates and consumes everything it touches. (READ MORE)

SPC Brittany Gardner: I am an American Soldier - The Army’s Equal Opportunity Policy states that the US Army will provide equal opportunity and fair treatment for military personnel, family members, and DA civilians without regard to race, color, religion, gender, or National origin, and provide an environment free from sexual harassment. I believe in this policy whole heartedly. I’ve been faced with racism my whole life because of the type of family I grew up in. Racism is defined as a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others. My mother, father, and biological siblings are all Caucasian, as am I. When I was only three years old my parents adopted a biracial, African American and Caucasian, baby girl. From that moment on my parents continued adopting and foster parenting children of all races, colors, religions, genders, National origins, disabilities, and backgrounds. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: The Impact of Words: Part II - Last year I was the 1stSgt of a rifle company. This billet has probably taught me more about the impact I make on the Marines around me than any other I have held. Initially, I assumed that in this position I would be so separated from the Marines and their daily activities, my influence would not be as great. Of course, a leader in my opinion should make a conscious effort to insert himself into a Marine’s daily routine. I did, but didn’t notice the effect the things I did or said had on them until some time later. In Kilo Company 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines I would refer to our operations and training as preparation to “Defeat Jihad”. When bringing the boys in for a little 1stSgt time, I would always talk about deploying to Iraq and how they were America’s finest and would defeat jihad six days a week and twice on Sunday. By the time we left Iraq, the enemy would know that U.S. Marines had been there and that our tribe didn’t take it lightly when others declared war on America, holy or otherwise. (READ MORE)

Doc H's International Adventure: Comm and Liberty - Wednesday and Thurday of last week were spent on communications. In some ways I feel like a time traveller, who has arrived from 20 years ago. When we used radios at that time all you had to do was turn two dials, master the on/off switch, and push a button to talk. Encryption was a vague esoteric thing which Comm people did. I was sorely nostalgic for those good old days when things were simple and you could talk no further than 5 kilometers on a good day with a PRC-77. Imagine my suprise when introduced to 4 radio systems that are all keypad activated. We had two days of instruction which covered the basics of loading crypto data into the radios, programming channels, satellite, and various frequencies, entering satellite exact time into the radios, and then attempting to talk. It was pretty overwhelming. The instruction mostly consisted of following slide by slide the instructors prompts on how to accomplish the tasks. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Afghan forces kill senior Taliban commander in Helmand - Afghan troops killed a senior Taliban commander several days ago in the battleground province of Helmand. The commander, known as Mullah Salam Noorzai, was killed by members of the Afghan National Security during a raid on a compound north of the contested district of Now Zad on April 28. An aide to Noorzai was killed and another was captured during the operation, according to a press release issued by the US military. Noorzai had a long history in the Taliban. He served as the IV Corps commander in Herat province for several years during the reign of the Taliban government until its fall in 2001. He "was instrumental in the reconstitution of the insurgent effort following the regime's demise” and served as a senior commander in the northern and central regions of Helmand province. (READ MORE)

Misuchan's Milblog: How the Army fails to keep the good ones in - I have stated many reasons in the past why the Army is dysfunctional. But what I’m about to say is what hurts me to my core. Recognition. I’m staying on the FOB where our headquarters is located because I had to come and pickup the mail, equipment and medicine for our FOB. I couldn’t sleep so I came in here to the S6 office to surf the net a bit. I start to notice the awards on the officers’ desks. And then I see the pictures on them. Now I feel like the Army personally just stabbed me in the back, again. The pictures on these awards is my equipment from my team where I was before the complaint - the formal EO complaint that removed me from my FOB and my team. These officers were not even in country when what they were awarded for took place. On top of that, all of these awards are for missions that I personally led, accomplished, and created without anyone else’s direction or help of any kind. (READ MORE)

SSG Burrell - My Point of View: Bulletproof and Billy - I went out the other day with a platoon of MPs to a market opening in the Abu Ghraib district of Western Baghdad. Our mission was to provide an outer cordon for the ceremony. In short, it was to stop insurgents from entering the market and blowing things up. We had two Iraqi interpreters with us whom were more fluent in English and slang than I could ever dream of being. Billy's story - "Hey Billy, how come you don't wear any body armor or a helmet?" I said. "Sheet man, I don't need that f*&%$ing sheet," Billy replied while brushing back a curl of hair on his greasy black head. "OK, don't you feel a bit naked without it?" I further inquired. "I only wore that sheet once," he stated between drags of his Iraqi slow-burning cigarette. "And?" "And I got f*&%$ing shot," he said with a smile. (READ MORE)

SFC Burke - My Point of View: Not Born a Ramblin' Man... - I don't know how to start this one so I'll ramble. I'm feeling a little light-headed euphoria right now due to the travel. Getting back to the dust, sand, and gravel too. I'm stuck in Kuwait. I don't know how or why...but I knew this would happen. Two accountability formations already and no flights for me. Sucks. There's nothing to do here but spend your money. I saw people lining up at the fast food restaurants today, people at the little shops, at the PX and here on the computers. When you get bored, you find something to do. I don't want to sleep a lot, especially during the day because I need to readjust to this time zone. That took 2 days back home. I had a book that I started when I got on the plane in Dallas. Finished it. Good one too. Now, I'm here and the computer is ticking away the time I have left on this thing. 19 mins. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Camp Charlie and an update - Signs filled Red Bull LSA (the rooms all the new division guys are living in) yesterday, stating that any 10th mountain people had to move into tents by tonight. This is where we hit the grey area - we’re attached to 10th mountain until the transfer of authority (TOA) and then we’ll be attached to the Red Bulls (34th Infantry Division). Since I’m already in a tent, this doesn’t concern me. But, we do have a few people who came with the advanced party and are living in rooms. Our guys already in rooms are staying there and 1SG said he welcomes an attempt to evict them. For the 10th mountain females in those rooms, they told them to come to tent 59, my tent. It’s the only American female tent in Camp Charlie, our little tent city. It’s already packed. We’ve got about 15 bunk beds crammed into 1/3 of the tent. The other 2/3 are males. I’m lucky to have some space for my footlocker and plastic drawers. (READ MORE)

The Writings of a Man's Man: SITREP - I know that many of you follow my existence over here in Baghdad via this blog, and I certainly appreciate your prayers and well wishes. I apologize for not writing for a couple weeks, things have been very busy. That is a lot of an Infantry leader in combat. We spend a lot of time out of the wire experiencing Iraq as it truly is, hot, dirty, smelly and crowded. When we are in the wire we spend what little time we have left on administrative details we might rather leave undone but that need doing just the same and on getting ready to go out of the wire again. Those long hours we spend on patrol (although sometimes they feel without cause, when no one is shooting at us) are needed because while the security situation in Iraq has certainly improved over the past two years, since the implementation of GEN Petreaus’s surge and counter insurgency doctrine, danger still lurks around every corner. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

US and Iraqi Ministry of Interior Reinforces Partnership - BAGHDAD – US and Iraqi partnership is a key component to the Security Agreement. Iraqi Brig. Gen. Ahmed Hamzah Raheem, the National Police Director of Engineering and U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jerry Cannon, Director of the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team, Multi-National Security Transition Command–Iraq, discover common ground. (READ MORE)

ERB creates intelligence gap for suspected terrorist cell - TIKRIT, Iraq – The 5th Emergency Readiness Battalion, with Coalition forces advisors, arrested a suspected terrorist cell intelligence director in Ninewa Province during a mission April 29. The suspect allegedly gathered intelligence for the cell and coordinated lethal attacks against Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi citizens in Mosul. (READ MORE)

Suspect detained during raid in Sadr City - BAGHDAD –Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition forces worked together to detain a suspect during a raid conducted May 1 in the Thawra 2 neighborhood of Sadr City. Soldiers from 44th Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division, partnered with Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, captured the suspected criminal based on warrants issued by the Government of Iraq for his connection to violent crimes. (READ MORE)

Suspect detained after raid in Adhamiyah - BAGHDAD – On a warrant issued by the Government of Iraq, Coalition forces detained a suspect during a raid May 2 at approximately 5 the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad. The suspected criminal, wanted in connection with the manufacture and distribution of improvised explosive devices, was detained by Soldiers from 5th Cavalry Regiment attached to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division and then turned over to Iraqi Security Forces. (READ MORE)

Students Graduate from First Spectrum Management Course Taught in Iraq - BAGHDAD – Fourteen students drawn from the Ministry of Communications, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, and the Communications and Media Commission graduated from a course on spectrum management taught by members of the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency’s Joint Spectrum Center stationed out of Annapolis, MD. (READ MORE)

Leaders Meet, Discuss Future of Ninewa - MOSUL — The Commander if the Ninewa Operations Command (NOC), Iraqi Maj. Gen. Hassan Karim, hosted a joint assessment briefing recently to discuss current operations in the Ninewa province and the removal of Coalition combat forces from Iraqi cities by June 30. Gen. Ray Odierno, the commanding general of Multi-National Force - Iraq, took part in the briefing, which took place here at Forward Operating Base Diamondback. (READ MORE)

A Young Marine’s Dream Job - FIREBASE VIMOTO, Afghanistan — Three stone houses and a cluster of sandbagged bunkers cling to a slope above the Korangal Valley, forming an oval perimeter roughly 75 yards long. The oval is reinforced with timber and ringed with concertina wire. An Afghan flag flutters atop a tower where Afghan soldiers look out, ducking when rifle shots snap by. This is Firebase Vimoto, named for Pfc. Timothy R. Vimoto, an American soldier killed in the valley two years ago. If all goes according to the Pentagon’s plan, this tiny perimeter — home to an Afghan platoon and two Marine Corps infantrymen — contains the future of Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Afghan, Coalition Forces Kill 19 Militants - WASHINGTON, May 4, 2009 – Afghan commandos, advised by coalition forces, killed 19 militants during overnight operations in Helgal Valley in the Shakail Shatel district of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, May 1-2. The Afghan-led force was conducting a combat reconnaissance patrol about 150 miles east of Kabul in an area known to harbor militants when they were attacked by several armed enemy fighters with small-arms fire from a wooded area. (READ MORE)

Officials Reject Allegations of Proselytizing in Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, May 4, 2009 – A report broadcast by the Arab news network Al Jazeera about U.S. servicemembers proselytizing in Afghanistan is just plain wrong, Pentagon officials said today. The Al Jazeera story showed an evangelical religious service on Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan and a discussion about distributing Bibles that had been translated into Dari and Pashtu – the two major languages of Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Afghan, Coalition Medics Help People of Herat District - KABUL, May 4, 2009 – Local medical professionals are working hand in hand with Afghan National Army commandos and medical personnel with Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Afghanistan to provide medical assistance for the people of Shindand district in Afghanistan's Herat province. This melting pot of caregivers from different backgrounds and abilities has come together to operate a medical clinic and provide specialized care for the families of Afghanistan’s western border province. (READ MORE)

Taliban Push in Pakistan Served as Wake-Up Call, Gates Says - WASHINGTON, May 3, 2009 – The recent push by Taliban forces to take more ground in Pakistan has served as a wake-up call for the government there, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today. In a broad-ranging interview with CNN that aired today, Gates said he feels the Pakistani leaders now realize that the Taliban is an existential threat there. (READ MORE)

Joint Forces Kill 15 Militants, Detain Seven in Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, May 1, 2009 – Afghan and coalition forces killed 15 militants, wounded 12 others and detained one in the Arghandab district of Afghanistan’s Zabol province after their convoy came under attack today. The patrol was en route to a local village to talk with elders about security issues when it was attacked from a compound by several armed militants with small-arms fire. The combined force returned fire, killing one militant. Afghan forces secured and searched the compound. (READ MORE)

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