June 2, 2009

From the Front: 06/02/2009

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

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Charity drive, mentoring and new dog - Thanks to everyone for their interest in supporting the troops. I personally don’t need anything, but know of others who would appreciate a care package. So as I travel to these outposts, I will record the name/address/needs of these individuals. These guys need the items the most. But in the future, I want to start a charity drive for poor village children who lack the most basic necessities, i.e., soap, toothbrushes, pens, paper, crayons, etc. This is the mission that is near and dear to my heart. Our Counterinsurgency (COIN) operations define this platform as “Winning the hearts and minds of the people”. Our PAO (Public Affairs Officer) has some great ideas and together we want to work on this project. My mentoring session with the ANA SGM was enlightening today. Today’s topic was about motivating soldiers and the tangible/intangible rewards associated with it. (READ MORE)

Doc H: Mounted Combat Patrol Live Fire - A Mounted Combat Patrol is a group of armed vehicles. We have been doing mock MCP's since our arrival here, but today we actually fired the machine guns on the trucks while patrolling. Usually I drive or serve as one of the dismount riders in the back of the truck. Today I was the Patrol Leader for this exercise. We ran the course one time with blank ammunition, then we did it with live ammunition. Basically I talked a lot on the radios. We drove a course of 6 checkpoints and engaged pop up targets with the machine guns and at one point with our dismounts during this exercise. We had to call all checkpoints, give contact and situation reports on the enemy. Later we suffered a simulated casualty so I had to call the 9 line MEDEVAC request. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Boom, Boom, Yawn - We began the Memorial holiday weekend by being woken up at 3:54 am by a series of explosions. Rockets fell near the fence on our side of the base. After the blasts the sirens wailed and we all went out into the pre-dawn light to check in and be counted--100% roll call after an attack. Most everyone went straight back to bed inside our 12-foot blast walls, and everyone knew we were safe because once they fire, they have to hide or an Apache helicopter will get them. The only complaint I heard was one of our platoon sergeants. He was looking forward to Spin Class (bicycling in the gym) and knew that by the time everyone was accounted for, the 0530 class would be cancelled. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Islamabad terrorist commander linked to Red Mosque leader - Pakistani security forces have detained a senior terrorist leader behind suicide attacks in the capital who has links to the leader of the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque. A terrorist commander known as Fidaullah was arrested on May 27 along with Shah Abdul Aziz, a former member of parliament. The arrests took place outside the home of Maulana Abdullah Aziz, the former leader of the Red Mosque who was released from prison in mid-April on $2,500 bail. Fidaullah is from the district of Buner and attended the Jamia Faridia, a religious seminary in Islamabad that is run by the Red Mosque. He played a role in the Taliban takeover of Buner in April and ordered the beheadings of at least three men he accused of being spies for the government, according to Dawn. (READ MORE)

Omar at Iraq the Model: Iraq was a just war - THE war in Iraq is officially moving to an end. Six years after Saddam Hussein's regime was toppled, several coalition members have ended their missions in Iraq - including Australia, which pulled out its troops 12 months ago - and the US is preparing to wrap up its military involvement in the country. Many still ask: Was it worth it? If we examine the question from an American, British or Australian perspective, then it would be difficult to present an answer that could convince all critics. For the coalition members this was a war of opportunity, not a war of necessity. Going to war or not was never an issue that could affect the existence of a coalition member, nor was winning or losing. For Iraq and its people however, this war was the beginning of a struggle for rebirth, a very difficult but necessary one, for sure... (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban kidnap hundreds of cadets in Waziristan - The Taliban in North Waziristan carried out a brazen daylight operation that resulted in the kidnapping of hundreds of military cadets and their teachers as they traveled from a college in North Waziristan. A large Taliban force armed with rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, and assault rifles halted the convoy of 29 minibuses traveling from the Ramzak Cadet College to the settled district of Bannu. The cadets were traveling under the protection of Pakistani security forces, however there are no reports of fighting. Between 300 to 400 cadets, teachers, and college staffers were kidnapped and taken to an undisclosed location. One bus driver and more than 40 students are reported to have escaped the Taliban hijacking. (READ MORE)

Soldier's Diary: Packing for war is unlike any packing I've done - KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- The process of packing for a deployment into a war zone is unlike any packing I have ever done. It is a process of both laying out equipment and storing memories for the days ahead. The physical tools of my profession are easy to discern: web gear, knife, ammunition pouches, canteens, and the list goes on. Less noticeable are the elements that comprise a soldier's spirit and soul: faith in country and cause, confidence in self and team, heavenly relationship, family, and love for the one who holds your heart. This past week I have been blessed by my extended family of co-workers at enGenius, the small defense company where I work here in Huntsville. (READ MORE)

Soldier's Diary: 375th Engineer Company heading to Kuwait - FORT MCCOY, WI -- As you are reading this column, the 375th Engineer Company is en route from Fort McCoy, Wis., to Kuwait. Stateside training and preparation is now complete. There are no more goodbyes, no more chances to go home -- we are now at war. The months we have spent in preparation are now going to pay off. The physical training will help combat the effects of the overwhelming heat (It is a high of 111 today in Kuwait), the combat training has prepared us to fight and win, and the cultural training will help us win the counterinsurgency battle. Today's war has many similarities with those of the past, but it has so many new dynamics as well -- including our approach to the Iraqi people and how we combat insurgents. The strategy is much more comprehensive and deals more with handshakes, knowledge of local culture, and relationships than perhaps any conflict seen before. For this we have even trained, but there is one task we have individually prepared for as well -- down time. (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: (Videos) Conexes Conexes Conexes - More videos are up. Courtesy of my step-mom. These all revolve around the conexes. I lost count of how many times we had to unpack then repack these blasted things. When word came down we were moving to Camp Liberty, we had a ton of packing to do. We found ourselves spending days packing UPBs (Unit Packed Box) and loading conexes. There was one extremely heavy box that I wanted to video tape being lifted. I kept recording then cutting and recording then cutting. This is one of those clips. Another clip of waiting for the guys to lift the super heavy box. During the limbo, Ace gets a purple nurple. Finally, the guys lift the box I was waiting to video tape. It was incredibly heavy and I was anticipating something interesting to happen for the camera. (READ MORE)

The Writings of a Man's Man: Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire - When I left Baghdad for R and R I thought things were getting a little hot. Temperature wise I mean. We had a few days over 100 degrees, which is quite formidable when you are facing walking around all afternoon in nearly 60lbs of gear. I think that those afternoons were just a polite appetizer for things to come, in a place where the mercury can reach over 130 degrees. Flying back into Kuwait I wasn’t particularly motivated to head back to Iraq to face another six months away from my wife, family, and friends. Six straight months without a single day off. As our plane touched down in the early evening darkness it would be safe to say my mood was not exactly jubilant. My gloomy attitude was hit with a wake up call, the pilot welcomed us to Kuwait, “Welcome to Kuwait International Airport where the local time is 2038 and the current temperature is 108.” “Surely you jest,” I thought to myself. (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: The rollercoaster continues.... - Six months ago today I had to let the love of my life go. It seems like an eternity ago but I can still feel him so close to me. I admit, most days are getting easier. However, as the end of the deployment approaches, the more reality is setting in. Before, I was able to trick my mind into thinking he was deployed. But when the soldiers get off the bus and greet their families, mine won't be there. I won't receive that hug. Julia won't get to wrestle with daddy and Eva won't get to know the man that held her tiny body before he got on that bus to take him to the airport. It's so bittersweet. I'm very relieved the guys came home safe and are now able to reunite with their families. But, my soldier didn't. The only thing we have left are memories and the knowing that one day we will have our reunion. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Large-scale operation captures insurgents in Kirkuk - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq — A combined operation of Iraqi Police and Coalition forces detained 44 suspected insurgents, May 31, in the Aruba district of Kirkuk city. Soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division assisted police officers from the Aruba district in the largest detention operation conducted by the partnered U.S. unit and Kirkuk city police since beginning their partnership in February. (READ MORE)

Joint security agreement for Mosul Dam - FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAREZ, MOSUL, Iraq- Shared responsibility for security at Mosul Dam was the subject of recent talks between senior Iraqi Army and Kurdish Peshmerga officials, outside of Mosul, Iraq, May 29. The Mosul dam remains a viable resource to Iraq and more specifically to Ninewa Province, and negotiations were successful as more definition was made to who would provide security for the dam. (READ MORE)

Suspected terrorist killed, another wounded in warrant-based operation - TIKRIT, Iraq – The 12th Iraqi Army Division’s Special Operations Company, with Coalition forces, killed one suspected terrorist and wounded another while attempting to arrest them during a warrant-based air assault operation in Kirkuk May 31. Both of the men were believed to be terrorist cell leaders who have been involved in multiple kidnappings, murders and vehicle borne improvised explosive device attacks on Iraqi Security Forces in Kirkuk province. (READ MORE)

Rusafa Barrier Walls Come Tumbling Down - BAGHDAD — Just as American teenagers hang out with friends on a hot summer night, Iraqi teenagers were doing the same, May 28, except their entertainment was watching U.S. Soldiers tear down barriers blocking a popular street in central Baghdad. Many cheered, gave a thumbs-up or simply said, "Good!" The walls surrounding the small Combat Outpost, known simply as 102, in the Rusafa district of Baghdad, came crashing down, further evidence of the implementation of the Security Agreement. (READ MORE)

Basrah Children's Hospital Nears Completion - BASRAH — The 94-bed, 16,000-square-meter Basrah Children's Hospital, which will be the first state-of-the-art pediatric specialty hospital in Iraq, is nearing completion with outpatient services slated to begin in September. Inpatient oncology services are slated to begin in November, surgical services in January, and additional services, such as radiation oncology, will become available at later stages. (READ MORE)

U.S. Forces Transfer Joint Security Station Mutanabe to Iraqi Army - FOB DELTA — U.S. forces handed over the responsibility of Joint Security Station Mutanabe in the Wasit province to the Iraqi Army (IA) in a ceremony here, May 28. Capt. Adam Ropelewski, commander of Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Fires Brigade, signed over the JSS to Capt. Ali Abdual Zaharra Hussain, commander of 4th Company, 3rd Battalion, 32nd IA Brigade. (READ MORE)

U.S. Combat Troops on Pace to Leave Iraqi Cities by June 30 - WASHINGTON, June 1, 2009 – American combat troops are on pace to leave Iraqi cities by the June 30 deadline stipulated by the U.S.-Iraq security agreement, U.S. officials in Baghdad said yesterday. Army Brig. Gen. Keith Walker, commander of the Iraq Assistance Group, said in a news conference that security throughout the country has continued to improve. (READ MORE)

U.S. Projects Pay Sadr City Residents to Promote Peace - BAGHDAD, June 1, 2009 – At an Iraqi army base in the Sadr City district here, 302 civil project workers put on fresh clothes for their monthly payday May 28. Their project, funded by the U.S. 1st Cavalry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, paid out about $100,000 to workers from the district’s Jamilla neighborhood, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Kurt Blankenship. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Authority Grows with U.S. Handoffs - WASHINGTON, June 1, 2009 – The United States continues to hand over authority to Iraqis in keeping with the terms of an agreement between Washington and Baghdad that took effect Jan. 1. American forces in Iraq last week transferred responsibility of a security base manned by coalition and Iraqi personnel and a vehicle maintenance center. (READ MORE)

Troops in Afghanistan Kill 17 Militants - WASHINGTON, June 1, 2009 – Coalition and Afghan forces killed 17 militants, including several high-ranking Taliban members, in operations in Afghanistan over the past five days, military officials said. Afghan National Police and coalition forces killed five armed militants in the Andar district of Ghazni province yesterday. Afghan police officers came under attack from small-arms, machine-gun and rocket-propelled-grenade fire while patrolling an area known for rampant militant activity. (READ MORE)

Voice of Taliban on VOA probed - Complaints that the U.S. government's Voice of America (VOA) interviewed a top Pakistani Taliban leader have sparked an investigation into VOA's Pashto language service to determine if it has allowed itself to become a platform for terrorist propaganda. In a letter obtained by The Washington Times, the State Department's acting inspector general, Harold Geisel, said his office will conduct a review "to determine the effectiveness of their broadcast and editorial practices and policies." The service broadcasts into the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region that serves as a refuge for al Qaeda and the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Blast Near US Base Kills 6 Afghan Civilians - An Afghan official said a blast on a road near the main base for U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan has killed at least six civilians. The Interior Ministry said it remains unclear whether Tuesday's explosion near the Bagram airfield was caused by a roadside bomb or suicide attack. (READ MORE)

Most students rescued from Taliban kidnappers - Dozens of students and teachers abducted by Taliban militants in north-west Pakistan have been rescued, a military spokesman says. "All the cadets except one have been recovered in an army operation this morning at 5:00am (local time)," Major-General Athar Abbas said. (READ MORE)

Afghan Army, Coalition Forces kill 6 Taliban insurgents in E Afghanistan - Afghan National Army (ANA) backed by U.S.-led Coalition Forces killed six Taliban insurgents on Tuesday morning in Paktika province of eastern Afghanistan, provincial administration spokesman said. "It was around 3 a.m. local time (1030 GMT) as armed rebels attacked the joint check points of ANA and Coalition forces in Mata Khan district when joint forces returned fire, killing six rebels at the spot," Hamidullah Zuwak told Xinhua. (READ MORE)

Afghan children back to school amid hopes - Bunches of school children, girls and boys, were seen going to school in Afghan capital city Kabul on Monday, although unaware of International Children's Day. Attired in school uniform, Karima, 11, was in hurry to reach the classroom on time and she wants to become a doctor. (READ MORE)

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