May 14, 2009

From the Front: 05/14/2009

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

Notes From Iraq: 13MAY09--May Pictures - Things have been quite busy, but I want to take a moment to at least upload some pictures. (Pictures on Site)

Fire and Ice: Lance Corporal Van Goghs - A few days ago a fellow Marine warrant officer contacted me about a talented field Marine who's creating art for his battalion over in Iraq. Almost every unit has it's Lance Corporal Van Gogh, the kid who designs tatoos for his buddies, turns high school prom pictures into frameable sketches and creates the unit's Christmas card. I know this because long ago I was that guy. From time to time I hear about these talented Marines and this one, Lance Corporal Max Uriarte, has got what it takes to be a combat artist. Here's a sample of his work. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: Personal Accountability, Alive and Well in the Camp of Praetorians - Everyone has seen the reports of the incident at Camp Liberty recently. I have to admit no traumatic stress I may have endured has ever warranted in me a desire to commit acts of violence as much as watching reporters and others making comments about the subject of PTSD and its supposed role in this case. First of all there are still a number of things we do not know surrounding this particular case. Knowing how long investigations can take, we will not likely know the specifics for some time. Until then, everyone is irresponsibly making conclusions without any information. Reports surrounding the Camp Liberty incident have stressed the importance of finding out what led to this tragic incident. The media seems to assume combat deployments lead servicemen to commit inappropriate acts of violence, (appropriate being the lawful elimination of enemy forces), as if it wasn’t the shooter’s fault, but the stress of multiple tours which made him do it. This infuriates many of us who have and continue to serve on multiple combat tours. (READ MORE)

A Battlefield Tourist: AGF Assault Multiple Bases in Eastern Afghanistan - Anti Government Forces (AGF) attacked three different Forward Operating Bases and assaulted a provincial center May 12 that left at least 16 AGF and nine civilians dead. The US military says just afternoon three suicide bombers, one wearing an Afghan Security Forces uniform, stormed the governor’s compound in the former Taliban stronghold of Khowst (province is same name). Two of the terrorists were killed by US and Afghan forces and were found wearing explosive vests. Shortly after, a group of bombers attacked the municipal building a took several civilians hostage. During the assault, one bomber was shot and killed. However, two bombers blew themselves up inside the building. US and Afghan forces then assaulted the building, killing two more AGF and freeing four hostages inside. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: 2-hour wait for phones and Internet - It’s Liisa again as Rex had very limited phone and Internet access today. He called me on my cell when I was out to lunch with a girlfriend for about 6 minutes but it was a horrendous connection where most of the time I had no idea what he was saying. And then we got cut off. Fortunately when I got home I found an e-mail and from it I could publish these parts: From Rex: I only have 30 minutes of computer time and I have been waiting for 2 hrs to access. In the future, I will bring my blog entries, pictures, etc., and make the best use of my time. We finally arrived at the camp X (for now he can’t publish his location). I’ m still unpacking my bags, but at least I got a hard billet here and have 3 roommates. (READ MORE)

Back In the Army Now (at 54): Updates and a Clarification - LEAVE: I won't be coming home on leave for my mother-in-law's memorial service. I asked several members of my unit if I could go on emergency leave and still go on my scheduled Rest & Recreation leave in mid-June. I got various answers from emphatic Yes to maybe. Then I talked to the sergeant who actually handles leaves. She said if I take the leave now, I cannot take an R&R leave until every other soldier in my entire unit has taken a leave or turned it down. My wife said she would rather have me home at the time we agreed on than now, so I won't be coming home until June. One of the sergeants in my unit who was deployed previously in 2005 said, "Guss, you did it backwards. I went home on R&R then my Dad died a month later. They have to give you both leaves that way." Army jokes are seldom delicate. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: What Do We Know? - There is a tremendous conversation going on now that the firing of GEN McKiernan fits right into. There are many voices, with standard bearers on each side. It is a conversation that contributes directly to whether or not we actually succeed in the current conflict. Many of the posts on this blog have been outliers to this central conversation. Central players in the conversation like David Kilcullen, John Nagl, COL Gian Gentile and Andrew Bacevich have been going 'round and 'round for quite some time now. I have sparred a bit with Gentile, and more recently with Michael Cohen, a relative late-comer to the conversation. I've heard the arguments. I even hear the others, who are not "spokesmen" for one side or the other. (READ MORE)

SGM Troy Falardeau: A 50/50 luau in Iraq - OK. I bet you are wondering what this blog entry is about. A 50/50 luau? What is that? And in Iraq? Before you think I really have lost it, let me explain. When people ask me where I am from, I usually say I was born in Minnesota (Duluth, to be exact), but I always add that I spent most of my life in Hawaii (some of the best years of my life). I left for Hawaii when I was 18. As long as I can remember I have always been fascinated and captivated by islands. My favorite book as a kid was “Swiss Family Robinson”, and in 9th grade I event sent a letter to Pitcairn Island asking if I could move there after high school. I got an answer back saying “yes” (it took a year to get back to me, but I was thrilled). To satisfy that wanderlust, I applied to the University of Hawaii back in 1980, and unbelievably they accepted me. (READ MORE)

Doc H's International Adventure: More Range Time- M-9 Pistol, M-4 Carbine day/night and Mk 19 Famfire - I still remember days long ago at VMI. On Saturday mornings in the fall on the way to classes some upperclassman would inevitably stop a Rat and demand. "What day is Today Rat?" The answer was a scripted and well rehearsed "Game Day, Baby, Game Day- Sir!!!" The more vigor you put into your delivery the less trouble you were likely to recieve. Well today and yesterday I felt like answering the question with "Range Day, Baby, Range Day!!!" Yesterday morning we left on our convoy to the Pistol range. This was a very different course of fire from any I have performed in the past. We were given 9 preloaded magazines with between 1 and 7 rounds each. All of the targets were pop-up computer- timed targets which only were up from 3-7 seconds each at varied distances.. The last portion of the M-9 range had us all walking on line down the range and shooting pop-up targets as they presented. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a Painter: Groundhog Day - Lately it's been Groundhog Day here, over and over. I get up around 6 am and do a Skype chat with Janis. Then I take a shower and head over to the DFAC for breakfast. Then I go into work. Something normally hits the fan about 9 and it takes until about 11 to get it calmed down again. Then it's back to working on various projects until lunchtime. There's a group of us that goes over to the Dirtbag DFAC (not its real name) for lunch. Then back to work. Something different normally hits the fan about 2 pm and it takes us until about 4 to get it under control. Then it's back to whatever project has the least time until it's due ... which is often sometime in the past. Around 6 pm, our group wanders down to a different DFAC for dinner. Their food is usually better than the Dirtbag's. (READ MORE)

Figthin' 6th Marines: Bronx-Born Marine makes late entrance into Marine Corps, stands out from crowd - CAMP RAMADI, Iraq – After receiving a letter informing him he was too old to be a Marine, the former youth counselor from the Bronx was determined to prove he possessed the character and grit to walk across Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island’s Peatris Parade Deck wearing the Eagle, Globe and Anchor. Currently serving in Ramadi, Iraq, as the network operations supervisor for Regimental Combat Team 6, Sgt. Victor Arroyo was not guaranteed anything at the recruiter’s office like many other Marines. Managing to enlist even though he was two years past the cut-off age for enlistment, the 34-year-old Marine considers every day in this Marine Corps a blessing. Shortly after his mother, who had been teaching more than 20 years was laid off, Arroyo, who was born and raised in Bronx, New York, knew that his chances of retaining a position in the school district as a youth counselor were slim. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
U.S. Soldiers Help Iraqi Media Spread Word on Neighborhood Improvements - BAGHDAD — A partnership among the local government, Iraqi Security Forces and U.S. Soldiers has given citizens of the Hurriyah neighborhood an improved community. In a walk-through of a busy market street recently, Iraqi television reporters met with civic, tribal and security leaders to see a cleaner environment and thriving shops. “We’re trying to show the people of Hurriyah, the people who live outside of Hurriyah and throughout Baghdad, the security, civic and essential service improvements in Hurriyah,” said Capt. Nathan Williams, a company commander with the 1st Combined Arms Battalion. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Special Operations Forces bring kidnapped boy home to family - BAGHDAD – Under the cover of night an element of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces recovered a young kidnap victim being held for ransom in the Iraqi capital during an early-morning, Iraqi-led operation May 13. Operating under the authority of a warrant issued by the Counter Terrorism Bureau, the Iraqi Soldiers recovered the boy and arrested his captors in hopes of disrupting the kidnap-for-ransom cell operating in the Baghdad area. (READ MORE)

In Bleak Afghan Outpost, Troops Slog On - KORANGAL OUTPOST, Afghanistan — The helicopters landed in blackness before the moon rose. The infantry company rushed out and through waist-high vegetation and into forests on an Afghan ridge. Over the next 40 hours, more than 100 soldiers from the First Battalion, 26th Infantry, swept Sautalu Sar, the mountain where members of the Navy Seals were surrounded in battle in 2005. They were looking for weapons caches and insurgents. They labored uphill through snow until daybreak, when the company broke into smaller patrols above 9,200 feet. (READ MORE)

Forces Thwart Attack on Forward Operating Bases in Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, May 13, 2009 – Enemy fighters fired rockets at two forward operating bases in southeastern Afghanistan overnight, and combined Afghan and coalition forces killed or captured several insurgents in various operations, military officials reported. The complex attack on forward operating bases Rushmore and Sharana in Paktika province began shortly after midnight and ended when coalition forces responded to the assault. (READ MORE)

Forces in Afghanistan Foil Attempt on Provincial Governor’s Life - WASHINGTON, May 13, 2009 – Afghan and U.S. forces killed eight insurgents and repelled a complex suicide attack May 11 by multiple groups on government buildings in Khost, the capital of the eastern Afghanistan province of the same name. During the engagement, the forces foiled an attempt on the provincial governor’s life. Shortly before noon, a suicide bomber dressed as an Afghan security forces member attacked the governor’s compound, while two others wearing suicide vests were killed by Afghan and U.S. forces. (READ MORE)

Afghan Leaders, U.S. Soldiers Initiate Public Protection Program - WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan, May 13, 2009 – U.S. soldiers here have joined in a new program designed to increase security, empower local residents and encourage them to play a larger role in protecting their villages and keeping insurgents out of Wardak province. Task Force Catamount soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, launched a new program in the area known as the Afghan Public Protection Program, or AP3, a move initiated with and supported by local, elected officials. (READ MORE)

Civilians bear brunt of Afghan war - LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan Mohammed Zahair stands passively outside the offices of the Red Crescent as a throng of Afghans seeking help pushes frantically toward the compound's black metal gates. The 75-year-old wheat farmer and his extended family of 18 fled their village some 30 miles to the north in January, after clashes between NATO-led forces and Taliban insurgents killed his two sons, a brother, two nephews and destroyed his house. (READ MORE)

AFGHANISTAN-US: More Troops, Humvees, and Dollars - WARDAK, Afghanistan, May 14 (IPS) - Life in the quaint, muddied town of Maydan Shahr appears to be going on as it has for years. Wrinkled, wizened men manage under-stocked shops in the sleepy central bazaar, while jobless youths idle nearby. Beat-up Corollas trundle over craggy, unpaved roads, and there are very few police to be seen anywhere. Maydan Shahr in Afghanistan’s Wardak province has seen one change though: more of the U.S. There are now more troops, more U.S. humvees, and more American aid dollars directed towards this underserved province. (READ MORE)

60 more Taliban killed in Pakistan's northwest - Sixty more Taliban fighters have been killed overnight in Pakistan's restive northwest, taking to 822 the number of militants killed in a security forces' operation against the insurgents, a media report Thursday said. Geo TV said 60 extremists were killed when the security forces stormed the house of the nazim (administrator) of the Lower Dir district which the Taliban had taken over. (READ MORE)

Afghan-Pakistan border bomb blast - A suicide car bomber has attacked a police station near the Afghan border with Pakistan, killing himself and a policeman, officials say. They said that the attack - the third in as many days - happened in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province. (READ MORE)

Taliban issues three-day ultimatum to Pak MPs to resign - Islamabad, May 14 : The Taliban has given members of parliament representing Pakistan's Malakand Division three days to resign, or else their families will be kidnapped. "All national and provincial parliament members from the Malakand Division must resign within three days, otherwise, we will arrest all their families, and we will destroy all their buildings," Taliban spokesperson Muslim Khan told CNN. (READ MORE)

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