May 15, 2009

From the Front: 05/15/2009

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

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Dedicating a new memorial + Afghan Meal #2 - The sun rises early here and rudely awoke me around 0445 hrs as it peeked through my window and around the cloth window covering. I used this as an opportunity to walk around the camp and take in my surroundings. We are surrounded by huge bald faced mountains. I watched as the sun slowly rose between the mountain peaks in the distance. By best guess, the peaks reach up about 7-8000 feet. They appear harmless, yet beyond them the enemy awaits for an opportunity to attack the coalition and Afghan forces. This is when the reality of war reminds me where I am. I ate an early breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs, ham, and cheese accompanied by some polish sausage and an overcooked hash brown. Nearby I filled a paper bowl with some fresh pineapple, honeydew, and topped it with fresh strawberries. My choice of coffee was limited to strong and weak coffee. I learned from Camp Phoenix that strong coffee was really strong. (READ MORE)

AFGHANISTANSHRUGGED: Tracer Burnout - Tracer burnout, is a term used to delineate the range at which fire becomes ineffective at night. Rounds are coated with phosphorus which is ignited when it leaves the barrel, the round glows as it rockets off toward its intended target. Well, it only glows for so long and after that you lose visibility; thus you can no longer see it and direct effective fire onto the enemy. Unfortunately, I think that the ETT program has reached tracer burnout. Today, I was informed that my team will be replaced in a matter of weeks by a team from the Georgia National Guard. Not so bad on the surface, but the hazardous rocks lay below the calm exterior. The team is commanded by a Second Lieutenant (2LT) and his Non-commissioned Officer in Charge is a Sergeant (E5). The remainder of the team is made up of E5s and below. Not exactly the experience rich combination that you’re looking for in a Combat Advisor Team. In fact my S3, CPT Brain is being replaced by a Corporal. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Bike Line to the Rescue from 6000 Miles Away - Some avid bicyclists really love bicycles. The love them as machines, love their design and engineering, love them as objects. Not me. In fact when I started racing Joan Jett's song "I Hate Myself for Loving You" was still a hit. I started listening to that song to get psyched for those first races. I like going fast, I like competing, but I see the bike as the necessary and occasionally as an instrument of torture. The song seemed perfect for my relationship with my bike. So while I can do some work on a bike, I don't work on my bikes if Bike Line of Lancaster is open. They know what they are doing and the bike gets fixed properly. But there is no Bike Line of Tallil, Iraq, so three days ago when I bent a spoke and knocked my wheel out of true, I called up Bike Line to tell me how best to fix the bike taking no chances on breaking the spoke--which would take ten days to get here in the mail. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Senior al Qaeda leader in Syria sanctioned by US Treasury - A senior al Qaeda leader based in Syria who recruits and facilitates the entry of foreign fighters into Iraq has been sanctioned by the US Treasury Department. Sa'ad Uwayyid 'Ubayd Mu'jil al Shammari, an Iraqi member of al Qaeda who operates from inside Syria, has been designated as a terrorist under Executive Order 13224. The designation allows the US to freeze his assets, prevent him from using financial institutions, and prosecute him for terrorist activities. "We will continue to aggressively implement the international obligation to target al Qaeda-linked terrorists, like Abu Khalaf, who threaten the safety of Coalition Forces and the stability of Iraq," said Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence said in a Treasury press release issued today. (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: 5 Soldiers Shot Dead - Granted there have been numerous reports of this incident that occurred on 11 May 2009. Five soldiers were gunned down by another fellow soldier. Here’s one link that explains the whole event well. You’re probably thinking, blogger stationed at the very base this occurred….he can offer some great insight into the incident not found any where on the internet. Right? Well yes but not in the way you think. Here’s the “great” news you probably won’t hear any where else….that my family and the world back home knew more about the situation then I or many of the soldiers here did. An hour after I received word about the incident, I found a bunch of emails from family/friends back at home wanting to know if I was alright. WTF!?!? I didn’t even contemplate writing home that something happened because I figured it was Op Sec. What’s worse, the news websites had more up to date information then what was being passed down my chain of command. This isn’t the first time dissemination of information was slower then the media. (READ MORE)

Fightin' 6th Marines: HQ Marines take command, control outside wire - COP HAWAS, Iraq – Marines with Headquarters Company, Regimental Combat Team 6, disembarked from their armored vehicles in a remote stretch of Iraqi desert near Combat Outpost Hawas, manned by soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, May 8, 2009. Within a few hours, the Marines had set up a tactical combat operations center, an intricate network of satellites, computers and radio assets from which a headquarters controls operations in their area of operations. A combat operations center is the command and control hub for the regiment; the nexus of coordination where all elements of the RCT deconflict operations and coordinate support for one another. The Marines maintain the ability to quickly set up such a sophisticated center all under the roof of a collapsible tent. (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:
SPORTS DAY AT THE AR RUSTAMIYAH MILTARY ACADEMY - AR RUSTAMIYAH, Iraq – The Iraqi Military Academy in Ar Rustamiyah held its first Sports Day event since 2002. The long history of the academy holding the event was re-established yesterday with a program that included traditional track and field, military sports competitions, equestrian contests and martial arts demonstrations. The visitors included, the Mayor of Baghdad, the Inspector General of Iraq from the Iraqi Ministry of Defence, Gen. Alebane, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Armed Forces as well as Maj. Gen. Paolo Bosotti, deputy commanding general of NATO Training Mission-Iraq, and Brig. Gen. Pasquale Martinello Head of NTM-I Training, Education and Doctrine Advisory Division. (READ MORE)

521ST Air Expeditionary Advisor Squadron - KIRKUK, Iraq – The 521st Air Expeditionary Advisor Squadron is part of the Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq Coalition Air Force Training Team, and is based at Kirkuk Air Base. The 521st is an integral part of building and maintaining the Iraqi Air Force, and bolstering the effectiveness of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. The squadron is made up of maintenance, air traffic control and weapons loading. They also advise the Iraqi Air Force in day-to-day operations. (READ MORE)

Kirkuk Police Seek to Ease Ethnic Tension - KIRKUK — Provincial Police representatives met with Christian leaders here to address concerns about increased violence against Kirkuk's Christian minority, May 4. Only about 3 percent of Iraq's total population -- about 800,000 Iraqis -- are Christian. "Anyone that targets you, targets us also," said Maj. Gen. Turhan, the Kirkuk city deputy Police chief, and Kurdish Muslim. Two attacks April 26 left three Christian residents of Kirkuk dead and two others injured, the third series of attacks targeting Christians in the city in recent months. (READ MORE)

Maternity Hospital's $2.4 Million Renovation Restores Full Capacity - BAGHDAD — “I feel like I helped rebuild my home. I was born and raised just four kilometers from this hospital, so it is a special place for me,” said engineer Wathiq Abdul Jabbar during the Alwaiya Maternity Hospital’s ribbon-cutting ceremony here, May 9. In 2004, the hospital had a capacity of only 37 beds. Equipment failures and structural damage caused rooms and buildings to remain unused for many years. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
US reviews use of bombers in Afghanistan - The US military will review its operations and use of air power in Afghanistan to try to reduce the risk posed to innocent civilians, Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday. Gates said newly appointed military commanders in Afghanistan face the challenge of balancing the need to protect NATO-led forces through air strikes with the need to avoid civilian casualties. Air power would still be required in cases when coalition troops needed help and were under attack, but a revised approach might be possible when it comes to offensive operations, Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee. (READ MORE)

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