May 18, 2009

From the Front: 05/18/2009

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

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Safely back from first mission! - We just returned from our first mission outside the wire (OTW) and boy was it a memorable one. The massive mountains observed from our camp would be the same ones we would travel through. But the best made plans don’t always go as planned and today would be no exception. Our mission was to escort several ANA 7-ton trucks loaded with humanitarian assistance (HA) to a remote firebase in the mountains. The HA consisted of beans, flour, tea, fuel, etc., for the local villagers. Note: Some of the information I am writing is from second-hand sources and until I get settled, I can only make assumptions about the accuracy of the information. We prepped our vehicles, loaded our equipment along with food (MREs) and water. We were armed to the teeth with our personal weapons along with the crew serve weapons mounted on our armored vehicles. We have enough munitions to be self-sustained to start our own little war. (READ MORE)

The Dude @ Bouhammer: Can You Look At My Wife? - During my time at FOB Tillman, we would have our medical clinic open everyday for 2 hours so that local Afghan villagers could receive medical care. In this extremely remote FOB situated along the Afghan - Pakistan border, it was common to have some villagers walk 2-3 hours to see the medics. We would see approximately 15-30 men and children at our clinic daily. The one thing I didn’t see at all were women showing up to the clinic. Although I wasn’t surprised by the lack of adult female attendance as this was ultra-conservative Pashtun and Waziri tribal area, I knew that the women still needed medical care. After a little coordination, a US Army Reserve female physician assistant (PA), was flown in for a few days to help out. Even though we had made sure to spread the word, we had very few females show to the clinic. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: Small ray of sunshine - There's been a lot of grumpiness around here of late. We're not getting out much, and are mostly engaged in perpetuating some serious self-licking ice cream cone action. So there we were in the office this afternoon. SGT C and I were griping. SGT B was on the NIPR, and I asked him to click into my AKO email. He did. You've got an email from the first sergeant, he sang (with a certain degree of snarky cheer). Awesome, replied Abby. I love communication from my chain of command. Let's see what wise things they have to say! (Or something very similar to that) The subject line on the email read MAY JUNIOR BOARD PPRL. SGT C, sensing my impending ecstasy at receiving email from Higher, edged toward the door as the email popped up. (READ MORE)

SGM Troy Falardeau: Welcome to my home - After a few requests, I took out my camera today and got some pictures of my home sweet home here in Iraq. As I mentioned before, I live in a compartmentalized housing unit, or CHU, on FOB Prosperity. It isn’t much, but I can’t complain — at least I am not sleeping in a tent. I am also fortunate that I am a sergeant major. Because of my rank I get to have a 12′ x 12′ CHU to myself. All the other enlisted Soldiers in the 314th Public Affairs Operations Center share a CHU with someone else. I live in a dry CHU, which means I do not have a bathroom. There are wet CHUs which have a bathroom section shared by two CHUs. That means four people normally sharing one small bathroom, with the responsibility to clean it, too. I don’t mind walking a couple hundred feet to get to a much bigger shower and latrine — that someone else cleans. My CHU is right on the corner of a busy intersection. LTC Perez, my neighbor in CHUville and our unit’s commander, jokes and says that some day a crazy driver is going to create his future sunroom. (READ MORE)

Doc H's International Adventure: Continued Training - We spent time in classes on Wednesday- Law of Warfare, generic rules of engagement. Thursday we spent in classes on Call for Fire and Air support. It will be a very bad day indeed when medical folks are needed to call in and direct Close Air Support. Friday was detainee and site exploitation day. Detainees are pretty self explanatory. Site Exploitation is the collection of contraband and evidence to eventually convict detainees. We had a practical exercise in the full battle rattle with actors playing in various roles as Afghan Army soldiers, suspects to be tactically questioned, and a compound to be searched in very finite period of time. I had a small team to seach and catalogue the contraband in the house. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Status quo ante bellum - My last post has generated considerable interest from all over the blogsphere, providing me a great opportunity to restate a few of my firmly help beliefs about Afghanistan. One of the first and most contentious of my views is that al Qaeda and their Taliban allies will never again run Afghanistan no matter what happens from this point forward. Status quo ante bellum means “the way things were before the war” and it is not possible for the Taliban to ever get back to that point. This is important because you will still see articles in the press emanating from Washington saying that they will. I base my reasoning on four years of traveling about the country and talking with local people. The Taliban were ultimately despised for their self righteous cruelty, just like al Qaeda in Iraq. They filled a power vacuum back in 1996 bringing justice and the rule of law to a country with no infrastructure, no central government, no functioning economy, and ruled by warlords who had varying degrees of competency and cruelty. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Home Sweet (Trailer) Home - My youngest daughter Lisa is graduating from Lancaster Country Day School in two weeks. Her older sister Lauren graduated two years ago. A few years ago, the school underwent renovations so my daughters and all their fellow students had some classes in tempoarary classroom next to the buildings: trailers. But the students were not allowed to say trailers. These metal-sided buildings were "learning cottages." Since moving to Iraq, we have had a huge upgrade from 70 roommates to 2-man rooms for sergeants and junior officers, three-man rooms for enlisted men, and one-man rooms for the senior officers. The Army needs an acronym for everything, so these 30-foot long, eight-foot wide housing units that can be transported on a truck are not trailers, they are Containerized Housing Units (CHU), pronounced "Choo." Most everyone calls them CHUs. When dozens of CHUs are surrounded by 12-foot-high blast walls with latrine CHUs and Shower CHUs in the middle, the result is called a Living Area (LA). (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Happy Birthday Pokey...... - May 17th 1988 at about 3 am Micheal Eugene Phillips was born... he looked exactly like his father. He was promptly dubbed 'Pete" by his Grandma Barb. He would remain "Pete" until he was 3 yrs old. He came into the world quietly. He didn't cry, he just wanted to sleep. His quietness would not last long.. he made a very loud and lasting impression on every one who had the honor of having him touch their life. From the time he could talk he showed a love of airplanes. He could spot them when they were just specks in the sky. He could also spot a Wendy's from a mile off in the dark. LOL Pokey loved aircraft. Especially military aircrafts. By the time he was 12 he could tell you what it was and the history of any military aircraft that ever flew. When Micheal was interested in something he became obsessed and learned all there was to know about it. History was his next love. He could not read enough of it. Not just the US side of history either. He read Russian, German, Japanese history also. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban move forces eastward into Battagram - As the fighting between the Pakistani military and the Taliban heats up in the war-torn district of Swat, the Taliban has moved a small force eastward into the district of Battagram. More than 150 Taliban fighters advanced into the northern district on May 14, linked up with local supporters, and attacked a police checkpoint in Batta Mori. The Taliban force quickly captured the four policemen on duty, took control of the checkpoint, and seized the policemen’s rifles and ammunition. The Taliban then threatened to torture and behead the policemen, according to a report in The News. The police were released after they promised to quit their jobs. The Taliban then torched the checkpoint. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Groundhog Day, Revisited - My last posting was about how I'm stuck in Groundhog Day, going through the same routine every day. One way to view that is being stuck in a rut. But that's not what I feel here ... "stuck in a rut" means experiencing the same thing over and over. Instead, I'm noticing the variety that's to be found within a routine. A routine gives structure that enables you to appreciate the differences, big and little, that provide interest. Walking my dogs is an example. When I'm at home, I walk them twice a day. We go at pretty much the same time every day and follow pretty much the same route. You'd think we'd be bored to tears. You'd be wrong. Soozee and Indy are acutely aware of tiny variations from the norm. They know where to expect the neighborhood dogs, where a squirrel or rabbit might appear, and whether this car or tin can or burger wrapper is out of place. Each scent demands their full attention. Is it a regular one? Or is it new? (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Tracking Progress in the Alasay Valley - The Kapisa PRT has built a tent for school children. Remarkably enough, that is major news, considering building construction near the mouth of the Alasay Valley—where it connects with the violent Tagab Valey—is almost non-existent. Indeed, things in Alasay have improved to the point where the coalition has begun rebuilding schools and other buildings in earnest. The progress is not cost-free however. A friend relayed that in Afghaniya and Tagab—both neighboring valleys—elders are becoming increasingly frustrated at all the attention being lavished on Alasay. In Tagab itself, some elders have complained that while the Coalition is busy operating in Alasay, the insurgents move into the Tagab bazaar and threaten and harass elders since they think nearby FOB Kutschbach is “empty” of soldiers and thus not a threat. Similarly, some of the people the Coalition interviewed in Shah Kut, in Tagab District, have complained that the nearby (and newly established) medical clinic in Alasay does not provide high quality medical care, so many travel a much farther route to the Tagab District center. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Revisiting the Korengal Highlights Impotence of Policy Review - It’s worth keeping a long memory in Afghanistan. This isn’t some strange assertion that the British razing of the Kabul bazaar in 1842 still matters, but rather an entreaty to keep in mind that the U.S. has been meddling in Afghan communities for eight years. That’s two presidential terms worth of political and social baggage, almost none of which is recorded reliably and precisely zero of it is maintained in a centrally-located space. In the Korengal Valley—a uniquely violent space in Afghanistan that has seen near-constant combat and stalemate since 2005 (remember those Seals who were killed en masse in 2005? There is still combat right there)—this can be an especially useful exercise. Even in the past year, the Valley has seen a rather remarkable amount of media attention, which is remarkable if only for how little it revealed of the real issues underlying much of the fighting. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Knowing God - We’re staring another week. It’s been 4 months now, so we’re almost halfway done with our 10 months in country. Thank God! This deployment seems to be going fast, but it’s also tougher than my last one. I love Adam and Brian, but I also wish Brittani was here with me. That’s so selfish I know to wish she were here and not at home, but I know that Brittani would make it so much better. It’s not like I’m rooming with Brian and Adam, and there’s guy stuff that I’m not involved in – Me and B were always involved in everything the other did and we’d spend hours in our room watching movies and TV shows on DVD. I would love to have Wendy here, too. The three of us had so much fun together, and Michelle too when we saw her. I remember one night sitting in our room, Wendy and me on my bed and B on hers, trading music on I Tunes and spending hours chatting. Those nights were so much fun.. I miss that. (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: What I’m Doing Where I’m Going - My intent with this post is to kinda catch everyone up on to what’s been happening and where exactly I’m going. Since I arrived in Iraq, my posts have been running way behind where I’m actually at. Mostly because I’m too busy and tired to keep up. With some of my posts jumping around, I hope I can clear things up. Since the start of March, I’ve been running missions in my company’s AO. It originally started as one mission a day, 6 days week. How long the mission went was very dynamic. Anywhere from 4 hours to over 12. It was rough because our unit was still very new to handling combat missions. Battle rhythms needed to be developed and adjusting SOPs and so forth for smoother, easier operations. Just as we were finally getting used to things, even more missions began to rain down on us. Before we knew it, conducting 2 missions a day was a normal occurrence. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Iraqi citizen injured by IED - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq – An Iraqi civilian was injured when an improvised explosive device detonated outside of the 53rd Iraqi Army Brigade compound in the Al Jameat district of Basra today. Iraqi Soldiers assigned to the 53rd Brigade, 14th Iraqi Army Division responded to the incident. Emergency responders transported the individual to a nearby hospital. (READ MORE)

ISF, MND-B troops discover weapons cache in Muhalla - BAGHDAD – At approximately 2 p.m., Soldiers from the 1st Squadron, 5th Cavalry Regiment, attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, partnered with Ameriyah Iraqi Police, discovered two mines, six small rockets, one 82mm mortar tube, two rusted rocket propelled grenade rounds, two warheads and several hundred rounds of 7.62 ammunition. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army cuts off terrorist weapon supplies - TIKRIT, Iraq – In the midst of a reconnaissance patrol May 11, Iraqi Special Operations Soldiers from 12th Iraqi Army Division, with Coalition forces advisors, recovered a weapons cache in western Kirkuk and detained two men within the vicinity. The detained men were found over watching the cache area and owned the property in which the weapons were buried. They were detained for further investigation. (READ MORE)

Ministerial Training and Development Center inaugurates computer lab - BAGHDAD – Gen. Mohan, the senior military advisor at the Ministry of Defense, presided over the opening ceremony of a new computer lab at the Ministerial Training and Development Center May 14. The coalition force funded lab, which was assembled by Iraqi technicians, is equipped with 24 computer work stations, two laptops, and one smart board which will be utilized for computer based training of various courses. (READ MORE)

International collaboration leads to increase of Iraqi Navy maritime fleet - LA SPEZIA, Italy –The Iraqi Navy now has an increased ability to ensure freedom of the seas upon their receipt of the first of four Italian patrol ships at a reflagging ceremony in La Spezia, Italy, May 15. Iraq Ministry of Defense Chief of Staff, Gen. Babaker Baderkhan Al Zibari said that he considered it a great success and achievement for the Iraqi Navy to attain vessels like the FATAH. (READ MORE)

Baqouba Emergency Response Forces crack down on terrorist violence - TIKRIT, Iraq – Baqouba Emergency Response Forces, with Coalition forces advisors, arrested two suspected criminals with warrants issued by the Diyala Major Crimes Court May 12 in the Diyala Province. The suspects are wanted for kidnappings, emplacing roadside bombs and conducting small arms fire attacks against Iraqi citizens and Iraqi Security Forces in the Bani Zaid area. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Special Operations Soldiers clamp down on alleged terrorist cell - TIKRIT, Iraq – Iraqi Special Operations Forces, with Coalition forces advisors, arrested four suspected terrorist-cell members in Diyala Province May 11 under warrants issued by the Central Investigative Court of Iraq. The suspects are believed to be responsible for multiple murders and sectarian attacks in and around Qubbah. Most recently, the cell is thought to be responsible for small arms attacks against Government of Iraq and Iraqi Security Forces officials and bombing religious and educational institutions. (READ MORE)

Diyala operation continues to show strength and unity - DIYALA, Iraq – A major operation involving Iraqi Security Forces, Peshmerga, and Coalition Forces continues to make progress throughout the Diyala Province. Operation “Glad Tidings of Benevolence II” began May 1, and primarily consists of ISF and Peshmerga forces working together to clear and secure areas in Diyala. Thus far, soldiers from both forces have continued to capture criminals, discover weapons caches and deliver humanitarian aid to local residents. (READ MORE)

Improved Security Leads to Closing of Joint Security Station Yarmouk - BAGHDAD — The Government of Iraq (GoI) and U.S. Soldiers shut down Joint Security Station (JSS) Yarmouk in a closure ceremony in northwest Baghdad, May 16. The land was returned to the man who graciously lent it out to serve as part of the JSS for the past several months. In accordance with the signed security agreement between the GoI and Coalition forces, JSS Yarmouk will no longer be used due to the increased and stable security in the neighborhood. (READ MORE)

Combined Force Captures AQI Facilitators - BAGHDAD — Iraqi and Coalition forces targeted a Syrian-based al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) network operating in Iraq and other AQI network cells, Friday and Saturday. Near Tall al Hawa, approximately 83 km northwest of Mosul, an Iraqi and Coalition team conducted an operation targeting the Syrian-based al Qaeda-linked foreign terrorist facilitator, Sa’ad Uwayid Ubayd al-shammari, aka Abu Khalaf. (READ MORE)

Iraq Meets Most of Interior Ministry’s 2008 Goals, Officials Say - BAGHDAD – Iraq’s Interior Ministry held its third and final conference yesterday to review accomplishments under its 2008 annual plan, and a senior official said 80 percent of the plan’s goals were met. More than 100 senior members of the ministry’s national and provincial leadership took part in the event - formally known as the Year-End Review - held at the Ministry of Interior Officers Club. (READ MORE)

Rural Village Sees Brighter Future With Coalition’s Help - NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, May 15, 2009 – Villagers in this remote area along the Pakistan border celebrated the recent opening of a school for boys and girls, as well as other coalition improvements, and vowed to protect it from insurgents. The Nangarhar Provincial Reconstruction Team joined provincial government officials and the people of a rural village in the Dara-Noor district to celebrate the May 12 completion of the school. (READ MORE)

Six policemen among 12 killed in Afghan clashes - Kabul, May 17 (Xinhua) Six Afghan police personnel and six Taliban militants have been killed in two separate clashes in southern Afghanistan, officials said Sunday. In one incident, Taliban fighters Sunday raided a police check post in southern Helmand province, killing six police personnel. (READ MORE)

Pak troops enter key Taliban base in Swat as civilians vacate - Islamabad Pakistani troops on Sunday entered a key Taliban stronghold in the troubled Swat valley after asking people to leave the area, as the government claimed that over 1,000 militants have been killed so far in the offensive in the country's unruly northwest. (READ MORE)

Taliban Ambushes U.S. Forces in Afghanistan - Taliban fighters ambushed U.S. marines and Afghan troops during a school supply mission in Eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, sparking a fierce firefight. (VIDEO)

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