May 20, 2009

From the Front: 05/20/2009

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

111 Infantry Recon: Lots of Pictures of the Troopers. (Visit Site for Lots of Pics)

Ramblings from a painter: Great pictures of Iraq. (Visit Site to view Pics)

A Battlefield Tourist: Op Ed: What’s This AGF Crap!? - Listen, it’s time to coin a proper term to get the press, and public, in line with the facts. It is time to officially coronate the enemies of the Afghan government, and ultimately coalition forces, as Anti Government Forces or AGF for short. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, because frankly, I have none. However, I do want to post two challenges to my newly coined acronym. The fact is, the coalition are fighting two distinct insurgencies in Afghanistan. The first, that keeps those in Regional Command South, is certainly a primarily Pashtun-led insurgency that is nationalist and religiously based to an extreme. However, there are also drug dealers, foreigners and criminals also well represented. In Regional Command East, not only are you dealing with Pashtun nationalists, but wahabbi extremists, islamic revolutionaries, timber barons, drug smuglers, al Qaeda operatives, nationalists, opportunists and, of course, Taliban. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Rockets as alarm clocks - Last night we enjoyed ourselves at the Cigar Lounge with Karaoke night. The Cigar Lounge is the name for a popular outdoor pavilion with make-shift picnic tables and is used as a multi-function platform for hosting salsa lessons, jazz music and other morale boosters. Everyone was having a great time and doing their best to belt out their favorite songs using a laptop computer and small sound system to accommodate the “Next GI Joe Idol”. Despite not having any stars in the group, it was a fun time evidenced by the hand clapping and cheering for the amateur crooners. The night ended and everyone relocated to their quarters for a restful night of sleep. I too went to my room and my lumpy mattress actually lulled me into a deep sleep. During the early hours, the enemy decided to test out their new version of an alarm clock by launching a couple of rockets towards our camp. Unlike the usual annoying chirp that I am accustomed to, this alarm clock came with a window jarring thump. Fortunately, nobody was injured. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Shrugged: When in Doubt ATTACK! - As we sit on the back porch of our hooch the afternoon wind begins to pick up, blowing the ultra fine dust of Afghanistan around. Little parting gifts for each of us, driven into our ears, nose and eyes. The brutal daily heat gives way to a strong wind in the afternoon. Use a hairdryer and sandpaper on your face and you’ll get the general feeling. I think to myself there must be some way to package this little piece of torture and sell it to spas back home in California. I’m convinced that somebody will buy it; it’s too stupid not to have someone believe it’s good for them. The little group sitting here seems beaten into submission and the wind is the final sadistic stroke delivered unto us. It’s been several days since we were notified about our upcoming replacement by another team. Any sane person would think this is great news, finally we will go home. Right now it seems the worst news we’ve ever heard. We sit here waiting; for what we’re not sure. (READ MORE)

SGM Troy Falardeau: Oh, fudge! - Don’t get me wrong, I love all those care packages I get from friends and strangers. It’s like Christmas each time I get one — not knowing exactly what is inside. No matter is inside, Soldiers appreciate the thought….and the packages almost always include things the Soldiers have been wanting — or pass on to a buddy in need. If you want to send a package, feel free to let me know and I can connect you with a unit here in Iraq that would appreciate your support and concern (leave me a comment and I will respond). I have plenty of SGM colleagues who have Soldiers that have not received a box in a while. As for me, a few weeks ago — somewhere around Easter — I got a package from a friend in California with a carrot-shaped package of orangle-flavored jelly beans and a jar full of bite-sized chocolate mints with a crunchy coating. Thanks Elizabeth! (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Marriage and Romance in the Army - For most soldiers "Absence makes the heart grow fonder" is the best we can do for romance in the Army. A large group of us are in some kind of committed relationship, another large group has no relationship and is not likely to discover true love among the other soldiers and civilians assigned to our base. And since we are not allowed off base, the potential candidates for Love seekers are all here on Tallil Ali Air Base. If my deployment to Germany in the 70s is any indication, the romances that flare to life among the soldiers here will burn out just as quickly. So who does have romance on a deployment to Iraq? As it turns out the small minority of married couples (6 that I know of) among the 600 soldiers in our unit have relationships that at least allow for the possibility of real romance. They get to live together in one of the CHUs I described a few days ago. In fact, three of the couples live in the same CHU in three adjoining rooms. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistani al Qaeda leader killed in March 2008 Predator strike - A US Predator airstrike launched against a Taliban and al Qaeda safe house in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province in March 2008 killed a mid-level al Qaeda leader. Dr. Arshad Waheed, who is also known as Sheikh Moaz, was killed in a missile strike in South Waziristan on March 16, 2008. His death was announced on a 40-minute videotape produced by As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm. On the tape, Waheed was eulogized by Abu Mustafa Yazid, al Qaeda’s commander in Afghanistan, and an al Qaeda operative known as Abu Omar Mahmood. Waheed was a Pakistani citizen from the southern city of Karachi in Sindh province. Prior to joining al Qaeda, he earned a medical degree and specialized in neurosurgery. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: 19MAY09--9-Line Tattoo - Today, I met a Soldier from North Carolina. He had the most interesting tattoo that I have ever seen. The Army has distanced itself from tattoos, alcohol and fist fights in the last couple decades. However, tattoos on Soldiers are still not such an uncommon sight. After all, Soldiers identify with unit crests, badges, insignia, mascots, motos, tabs, etcetera. Common tattoos include crossed rifles for infantry, U.S. Army, SPQR, skulls, and names of fallen comrades. At the hand-washing station outside the chow hall, a Soldier reached across me to reach for the soap. As I looked down, directly in front of my face was the 9-line medevac. The radio procedure used to call for a medical evacuation is usually posted on dashboards, windows, visors and pocket notebooks. In this case, however, the 9-Line spanned from the Soldier's wrist to mid-way down his forearm. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Who Is Stanley McChrystal? - The other week, during the shock/surprise appointment of Gen. Stanley McChrystal to Afghanistan, I noted his unexplained involvement in two major scandals: “One unit under his command, the now-notorious Task Force 6-26, which was assigned to find HVTs, or High Value Targets in Iraq, is credited with the ultimate death of Zarqawi. The problem is, along the way they faced accusations of running a secret camp that tortured prisoners, and they were implicated in at least two detainee deaths during torture sessions. Their camp, called Camp Nama, became something of a lightning rod after a “computer malfunction” destroyed upwards of 70% of their records and an investigation into their conduct stalled out. More relevant to Afghanistan is GEN McChrystal’s involvement in the shameful coverup of Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death.” Both of these matter, as they remain dark marks marring an otherwise glowing reputation from insiders. (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: VIPs Stay Away - Back in April President Obama decided to make a surprise visit to Victory Base which is right next door to my duty station, Camp Liberty. I remember this day quite clearly for two reasons. I failed my #2 fear and it set the record (at the time) for the longest mission. All three of my company’s platoons headed out to run missions throughout our AO. Since we were out there for so long, one of the local sheikhs decided to cook food for all of us. It was a very nice gesture and considering we ate nothing but MREs all day, most took part. The food wasn’t bad, but I remember eating….some kind of something (vegetable) that tasted awful. Well the following next few days many of us fell ill. From what I hear, the commander got it the worst. It took 2 days, before I found myself consistently running to the bathrooms on a semi hourly basis. That day also marked the first mission I missed. It took another 2 weeks before my stomach equaled out. Not a fun experience at all. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Iraqi killed in escalation of force incident - MOSUL, Iraq – An Iraqi civilian was killed in an escalation of force incident with U.S. Coalition forces in the neighborhood of Al Dawasa, Mosul, Iraq, May 18. The vehicle drove through a joint traffic control point conducted by Coalition forces and members of the Iraqi Emergency Response Brigade and continued toward the parked Coalition vehicles. (READ MORE)

U.S. and Iraqi partners share recognition - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq – Partnership is the term used by U.S. military officials to describe the cooperative relationship between Iraqi Police, Iraqi Army soldiers and U.S. Soldiers following the Security Agreement signed between the two countries January 1. This includes daily missions maintaining security in Kirkuk province, and it also means sharing in accomplishments. (READ MORE)

Students get unexpected visitors - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq – Children from the small, rural primary school in Shubaykah attend school in less-than-ideal conditions. The 52 students who attend school are using outdated textbooks and suffer from a shortage of necessary supplies, like pencils, paper and notebooks. Iraqi Army soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 15th IA Brigade, with assistance from Soldiers of 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, came to the village school to offer a hand in the form of supplemental school supplies and medical screening for the children. (READ MORE)

Strengthening bonds with medals, soccer - TIKRIT, Iraq – Nine Iraqi Police in Kirkuk city received U.S. Army Achievement Medals, awarded by 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, May 14, at two IP stations in the city. The first five awards went to IP who maintain safety of the city through effective patrolling. Lt. Col. Terry Cook, the commander of 3rd Bn., 82nd FA Regt., said it’s vital that the IP continue to work hard since insurgent activity within the city still exists. (READ MORE)

Commander condemns Iraq’s enemies for violence in Mosul - MOSUL, Iraq – A senior U.S. commander in Mosul appeared on a local television talk show May 17, refuting charges that U.S. forces fire indiscriminately on local civilians. “I have received similar reports about us doing random shooting and this is absolutely not true,” said Col. Gary Volesky, the commander of 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, on Al Mosulia, a Mosul news agency station. (READ MORE)

American Students Donate School Supplies - BAGHDAD — In an effort to give a group of high school students a glimpse into the lives of Iraqis, a Dubuque, Iowa teacher assigned a service project to her students to apply 'real world problem solving solutions' that would benefit the people of Iraq. Brenda Foust, a world history teacher at Hemp Stead High School, and her students decided they should focus on education the most, with the common belief that 'knowledge is power.'(READ MORE)

Iraqi Special Forces Trained, Ready - AL ASAD — An elite group of Iraqi Soldiers stand ready to spring into action against terrorism and insurgency here. Al Anbar's 9th Battalion, Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF) have one mission; to keep the people of Iraq safe. To stay prepared for this mission, they spend their days training and working with U.S. Special Operations Forces advisors to continually sharpen their skills. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Border Police Hone Combat Skills - BASRAH — U.S. Soldiers of Border Transition Team (BTT) 10613 have spent six days a week since March training Iraqi Border Police in basic combat drills and maneuvers to help them better protect their country from smugglers. The team spends all day with a small group of Iraqis, teaching skills that the American Soldiers learn while going through Basic Combat Training, such as weapon clearing, clearing buildings and vehicle searches. (READ MORE)

Soldiers Knock on Old Town's Doors - MOSUL — Insurgents thought they'd found a haven in Old Town, this city's oldest neighborhood on the west side. That was until the Mosul Iraqi National Police Brigade and 1st Cavalry Division Soldiers joined forces recently for an operation designed to conduct an accurate census and deny insurgents and criminals the use of the land. "Operation Warhorse Scimitar was conducted jointly with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) on the west side of Mosul, and what we have done not only for this mission, but for the last several months, is we have embedded in the Iraqi Security Force formations and conducted clearing operations throughout the periphery of what is called west Mosul," said 3rd "Warhorse" Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Thomas Cipolla. (READ MORE)

Arms Sent by U.S. May Be Falling Into Taliban Hands - KABUL — Insurgents in Afghanistan, fighting from some of the poorest and most remote regions on earth, have managed for years to maintain an intensive guerrilla war against materially superior American and Afghan forces. Arms and ordnance collected from dead insurgents hint at one possible reason: Of 30 rifle magazines recently taken from insurgents’ corpses, at least 17 contained cartridges, or rounds, identical to ammunition the United States had provided to Afghan government forces, according to an examination of ammunition markings by The New York Times and interviews with American officers and arms dealers. (READ MORE)

U.S., Afghan Soldiers Add Security to Eastern Afghan Province - NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, May 19, 2009 – A new vehicle patrol base and observation post in northeastern Afghanistan provides additional security to the road and villages of the area near the Pakistan border in Afghanistan’s Kunar province. Afghan forces and soldiers from C Troop, 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, established the new security positions in late April with the help of local civilians. (READ MORE)

Colonel's Story Brings Book to Life for Students - WASHINGTON, May 19, 2009 – In a quest to expand their understanding of the world they live in, a group of California high school seniors turned away from their textbooks to indulge in “Three Cups of Tea” and a video conference with an Army Colonel. Reading “Three Cups of Tea,” which tells of author Greg Mortenson’s dedication to bringing education to Afghanistan and Pakistan, was part of what officials at Olympian High School in Chula Vista, Calif., call the Senior Common Experience. Every senior read the book in English class and discussed it in other classes. (READ MORE)

Troops in Afghanistan Kill Seven Militants, Detain One - WASHINGTON, May 19, 2009 – Coalition and Afghan forces killed seven militants and detained another during operations in Afghanistan over the past two days, military officials said. In a joint operation this morning, militants fired small-arms, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades at combined forces as they searched an area in Helmand province thought to be an insurgent hub. (READ MORE)

Afghan, Coalition Forces Detain 18, Kill Suspect in Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, May 18, 2009 – Afghan and coalition forces killed an insurgent and detained 18 others during recent operations in Afghanistan. The joint forces detained two suspected militants yesterday during an operation in northern Afghanistan’s Konduz province to disrupt foreign-fighter networks. (READ MORE)

Afghan Army Conference Joins Commandos, Leaders - KABUL, May 18, 2009 – The Afghan National Army’s top leaders convened here May 12 and 13 for discussions and teambuilding. The Corps and Commando Commanders’ Conference marked the first time leadership from the elite commando brigade and kandaks -- battalion-size units -- met with leadership from the army’s regional corps. The Afghan army’s five corps consist of infantry kandaks and other conventional forces, while the six commando kandaks are home to the country’s special operations soldiers. (READ MORE)

NATO airstrike kills eight civilians in southern Afghanistan - Kabul - A NATO airstrike targeting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan resulted in deaths of eight civilians, the alliance said Wednesday, blaming the militants for using civilians as "human shields." Meanwhile, the US military said Wednesday that its ongoing investigation had found that only 20-30 civilians may have been killed in a May 4 airstrike in western Afghanistan. The Afghan probe said 140 civilians had been killed in the attack. (READ MORE)

At gunpoint, Taliban enforce dress code in Peshawar - The Taliban have imposed a dress code for men in this provincial capital, notwithstanding the Pakistani army's successes in its actions against the Taliban in other parts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). From Wednesday, as directed by their superiors, employees of the privately held National Jubilee Insurance (NJI) took the lead provided by their counterparts in the banking sector and began reporting to work in the traditional 'shalwar-kameez' in place of the shirt and trouser that they normally wore. (READ MORE)

US Disputes Afghan Civilian Casualty Figures - The U.S. military said Wednesday at least 20 civilians and 60 insurgents died in a clash between Taliban and U.S. forces earlier this month, contradicting the Afghan government's assertion that 140 civilians were killed. Another airstrike by NATO-led forces killed eight Afghan civilians following a battle with militants in southern Helmand province on Tuesday, where Afghan troops also killed 25 militants, officials said. (READ MORE)

Ottawa seeking trainers for Afghan army - KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- Ottawa wants to give Afghan army officers a crash course in bureaucracy. According to a "letter of interest" published this month on a federal site, the Canadian government hopes to hire several ex-military officials to instruct the Afghan National Army on how to run their troops in Kandahar. Planned topics include subjects such as battleground intelligence and map reading - and even media relations. (READ MORE)

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