June 9, 2009

From the Front: 06/09/2009

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

MIKE T: To ask for a friends hand in war - I am not sure when I lost my friend but tonight I think I did? He asked me to send him to war which sent me back on my heels. He stated it was his time and that I had done enough and he has done little. We sat drinking beers and pondering the universe, but all that could come of it was that I had done my time and he had not. I have known this man for years; he was truly a good friend, like the friend that I could count on one hand type. He watched over Nicole while I was gone myself in Afghanistan and never did I think twice about it. My heart dropped when he told me this, I thought about six different ways to tell him that he didn’t need to go, but yet all he could come back with was why me and not all the others? I stared in amazement and said it wasn’t his duty and yet he came back again and raged that he was like all the others and it was his time. My mind raced to think about the excuses that I could use, but nothing worked. (READ MORE)

Afhanistan My Lst Tour: Memorial Service for Fallen Warriors - The US flag is hoisted briskly to the top and then lowered slowly to half staff. Our flag is not alone and surrounded by other coalition flags. In front of the flags a wooden pedestal provides placement for 4 rifles. Bayonets are affixed to the rifles and then turned upside down and inserted into a slot. Each rifle serves as a stand to mount a soldier’s helmet and a set of identification tags is hung from the pistol grip. In front of each rifle a pair of combat boots is solemnly positioned. On an adjacent stand are four framed pictures of uniformed soldiers. Off in the distance, a bag pipe sounds out ‘Amazing Grace’. This and the following is what I observed today at a memorial service for a sister Embedded Training Team (ETT) and another camp member. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: A Quiet Sunday and Lamb Kabobs - Last night while at the Cigar Shack pavilion this bug caught my eye. It’s actually about the size of a half dollar. I managed to snap a picture of it before it escaped. I’m not an entomologist, so I don’t know what type of beetle it might be. Perhaps one of my educated readers can enlighten me. Today I spent a few hours talking with ANA MSG Abdullah about the logistics pipeline. He explained the antiquated logistic system to me. He had a serious concern about the quality of the items they receive. The combat boots are of such inferior quality, they fall apart in a month after being worn. He provided me a sample and it appeared the sole was glued on with cheap glue. Then he displayed the toiletry items issued to the soldier. Most of them were made in China and the quality was almost laughable. He had a grave concern because this is hurting the morale and welfare of the troops in the field. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Shrugged: Lord of the Flies - The Cougar MRAP rumbles to a stop. The trailing dust cloud washes over the vehicle temporarily obscuring the outside world to us. The AC is broken and the group stuffed into the armored behemoth is sweating profusely, you can see it soaking through the sleeves and collars of our uniforms. Underneath our vest is worse. I feel it dripping down the back of my pants, not a pleasant feeling. The gunner is the only one spared, he sits with his head out of the vehicle, a dangerous job, but at least you’re cooler. The one and half hour drive to this location was along a rocky, rutted, “road”; jolting us violently with every foot we move. The Cougars were designed for the paved roads of Iraq not the rock sewn trails of Afghanistan. I’m confident I’ll survive an IED but my back and kidneys may be destroyed by safety. (READ MORE)

Fire and Ice: First Light - Across the Threshing Floor: F/2/1 in Old Ubaydi - At the break of dawn on November 16, 2005 the Marines of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion of the 1st Marine Regiment headed into the small Euphrates River town of Old Ubaydi. In the ethereal glow of first light they worked their way across threshing floors and orchards pushing dozens of insurgents ahead of them into a village of mud daub homes and muddy farm yards. In a few minutes they would be in the fight of their lives. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: A Trip to Gardez and a Visit with the Marines - Gardez is the capitol of Paktya Province which is located in the southeast of Afghanistan. It is one of the provinces which border Pakistan, the terrain and vegetation is almost identical to the high deserts of the American west. Paktya looks similar to Marine Corps training base in 29 Palms California and exactly like the super large Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. Dugway should be the major training base for Afghanistan because it has the largest military impact and maneuver area in the country but it remains a testing command because the Army in general and the DoD civilians who run Dugway in particular lack vision, a sense of urgency, are afraid of change and are more concerned with guarding their little rice bowl than making a major contribution to the operation formally known as “The War on Terror.” Institutional stupidity is going to be a theme in this post – it is the institution; not the individuals which draws my ire as I digest what I have seen this week and I have seen more than my fair share of stupidity. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): KBR is Much More Than What is on the News - Before I was here in Iraq, my association with the initials KBR was with whatever bad news was reported about insider contract deals and some sort of shady arrangement that had Dick Cheney in the background like the Emperor in "Star Wars." But here in Iraq, KBR are the initials on the red ID tag lanyards of the people that are behind all the good stuff for soldiers here at Tallil Ali Air Base. KBR people run the 24-hour House of Pain gym and make sure it is clean, cold water is available and all the various soldier-led classes are scheduled and supported. They run the weekly 5k race, they staff the cyber cafes, the free-phone rooms, the library, the rec centers, the DFACs, they fix the air conditioners, and now they are starting to leave. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): The Silent Guitar Player on the Bridge - On the path between my trailer park home and the gym a 20-foot long wooden foot bridge spans a dry, rock-filled stream bed. The long-timers (who were here last year) say that during the fall rains, the dry stream beds actually fill with water. I've never seen it. The last four nights as I cross the bridge coming back from the gym or coffee shop a tall (6-foot, 5-inch) soldier in PT uniform (gym clothes) has been standing on the bridge strumming a 12-string electric bass. He has no amplifier, he is just picking the strings. Last night, curiosity got the better of me and I asked him why he was on the bridge. It turns out that his massive guitar weighs almost as much as body armor (35 pounds) and he supports the guitar on the bridge while he practices for a return to the stage in the fall. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US releases Iraqi Shia terror group leader - The US military has released a senior member of a deadly terror group backed by Iran that has been directly implicated in the kidnapping and murder of five US soldiers in Karbala in during a complex operating in early 2007. Laith al Qazali was freed last weekend "as part of a reconciliation effort" as well as an attempt to secure the release of captive British hostages, according to a report in The New York Times. Laith is the brother of Qais Qazali, the commander of the Qazali network which better known as the Asaib al Haq or the League of the Righteous. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: The Two Pakistans - Though I have never disagreed with the argument that the Taliban must be driven back, and their advance must be dealt with swiftly and decisively, I have disagreed—for several years now—with much of the scaremongering over the issue in the West. There were many reasons for this, both geographical, cultural, and even religious, but the fundamental point is: while the Pakistani Taliban certainly matter a great deal—especially to the U.S. troops in Eastern Afghanistan—the problem is neither as dire as most have predicted nor as simple as “drive them out.” It’s much worse. Pakistan is, at its heart, a country of striking contrasts. Islamabad is a modern, planned city barely five decades old; Lahore is prosperous and fairly liberal; Karachi is a teeming buzz of activity. There are the incredibly wealthy, who live in absolute luxury, and a smaller but burgeoning middle class. There are also tremendous hordes of the desperately poor. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Beach vacay in Baghdad? - Thinking of taking a vacation? Why not Baghdad, Basra or anywhere else in Iraq? If you’re brave enough to escape the mundane, Iraq is waiting to welcome you with open arms… Iraq’s Hot, but a Tourist Hotspot? BASRA, Iraq – Iraq’s first notable tourist, Jonah, hated it. Belched out of a whale and stuck under Nineveh’s parching, sweltering sun, the Bible says he cared more for the plant that shaded him than for the city he was sent to save. Thousands of years later, it’s cliché to say Iraq is not everyone’s ideal daytrip. But in the six years since Saddam Hussein was deposed, conditions have reached the point where tourism is now a viable industry. That’s where Master Sgt. Dave Cullen of the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division comes in. “My job is to increase tourism to Iraq,” said Cullen, non-commissioned officer-in-charge for Tourism and Employment in Multi-National Division-South. (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: Playing The Make You Smile Game - For one of our missions, we went to a different units AO (Area of Operation). First time for us in that town. Its a really bad section so we had to present a harder appearance. Like usual kids showed up to see what they could get from us. Due to the area, we couldn’t afford to let our guard down to converse with the children. Instead we shooed them away. This is always hardest for me. You literally have to be a jerk else they think you’re joking. You play hard ball from the start and they will respect and listen to you. Well these 4 little kids attached on to me (for who knows why) and followed me around for a couple hours. I was stern and they kept their distance but I could tell they were trying to get me to smile. The oldest was about 7 and the youngest was only 3 or 4. They wore horribly ragged clothing and flip flops that were obviously to small for their feet. They were very dirty and unkept. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: The Three Knife (Plus) System - When we were with the 10th Mountain at Camp Victory, my roommate was SSG Dave Lankford. One night I walked into the room after dinner and he was watching The Strangers. It’s a movie that involves three people scaring the crap out of a couple in their home and then killing them. He got more and more irritated as he watched the movie because they made stupid tactical decisions. Towards the end of the movie he said something to the effect of, “See now, this would never happen to me. I always have a plan in case my home is invaded by strangers.” I looked at him to make sure he was serious, and he said, “No really, I stash weapons around my home. If people want to come into my house, I’m taking them with me.” I then tested him in my Adam-like way by asking him about his plan for the CHU we shared. “Well, I have the machete on my right hand side, and I have my M4 right next to the bed. Plus, your bed is closer to the door, so I should have a shot.” (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: SOFA's First Big Test - Over the weekend, up to five (reports vary) American private security contractors, along with an Iraqi, were detained by Iraqi authorities in Baghdad’s Green Zone in relation to an investigation into the murder last month of James Kitterman, another American contractor found bound and stabbed to death in Baghdad. Details are pretty sketchy, but it looks like the Americans are from a company called Corporate Training Unlimited, and that U.S. officials have visited the men in detention and report that they’re in good shape. If the men remain in custody and are charged with having something to do with Kitterman’s murder—a crime for which they haven’t been charged—it will mark the first time foreign citizens will face Iraqi justice since contractors were placed under Iraqi jurisdiction on January 1. (“Off duty” American service members also fall under Iraqi jurisdiction, but I don’t envision too many soldiers going outside the wire on their down time.) (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Iraqi Security Forces arrest suspected terrorist cell leader in Kirkuk province - TIKRIT, Iraq – The 12th Iraqi Army Division’s Special Operations Company, with Coalition forces advisors, arrested a suspected terrorist cell leader on a warrant issued by the Investigation Court Council of Kirkuk and detained an additional associate for questioning June 8 during an operation in the Kirkuk province. The arrested individual is suspected of leading a violent terrorist cell responsible for coordinating roadside bomb attacks against Iraqi Security Forces. (READ MORE)

Hand-off marks fourth U.S. outpost closure in Mosul - Mosul, Iraq – Combat outposts located throughout Mosul are closing as the deadline nears for U.S. combat troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities as part of their ongoing commitment to the Security Agreement between the two nations. Battery A, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division handed command of Combat Outpost Power, in east Mosul, over to 3rd Battalion, 12th Brigade, 3rd Iraqi Army Division in a Transfer of Authority ceremony, June 7. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Soldiers Practice Field Medical Skills at Kirkuk - KIRKUK, Iraq – Eleven Iraqi Army soldiers earned the coveted Iraqi Army Expert Field Medical Badge at the Kirkuk K-1 military base May 25. The completion of this training fulfills a key article in the US-Iraq Security Agreement that calls for cooperative training to advance professionalism and skills of the Iraqi army. The specialized training is designed to give soldiers additional hands-on and classroom training on injuries and medical situations they may encounter on the battlefield. (READ MORE)

Teams Take Closer Look at Bayji Water Distribution System - TIKRIT — Standing on the banks of the Tigris River, most Americans would not believe any clean water would be produced from the fast moving khaki colored water -- this is, however, the main source of water for Iraq. Coalition forces and Bayji Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) recently investigated how water from the Tigris ends up flowing out of the faucets of local Bayji homes. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Commandos Take to the Skies for Air Assault Training - AL ASAD AIR BASE — Different types of military operations call for specific methods of insertion. Since the advent of helicopter-borne insertion during the Korean War nearly 60 years ago, air assault has become an extremely viable method of troop insertion. To refine their air assault skills, Iraqi Soldiers with 1st Company, Commando Battalion, 7th Iraqi Army Division, took to the skies in the back of two U.S. Marine CH-53E Super Stallion transport helicopters as they participated in familiarization of helicopter and air assault operations. (READ MORE)

Security Transition Command Makes Progress in Iraq - WASHINGTON, June 8, 2009 – Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq is working toward its mission to assist the Iraqi Interior Ministry in generating a professional and credible police force, one of the command’s deputy commanders said today. The command also is helping the ministry develop institutional capacity to acquire, train, develop, manage, sustain and resource those forces, Army Maj. Gen. James Milano, deputy commander of the MNSTC-I’s interior affairs directorate, said in a Pentagon news conference. (READ MORE)

Bearish Oil Market Prompts Shift in Iraqi Security Agenda - WASHINGTON, June 8, 2009 – Falling oil prices and a reduced Iraqi budget have prompted the U.S. command responsible for overseeing Iraqi security forces to re-evaluate its priorities, a military official said today. “The reduced Iraqi budget has caused us to address some tough choices with our [Iraqi Interior Ministry] colleagues,” Army Maj. Gen. James Milano, deputy commander of the Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq’s interior affairs directorate, said in a Pentagon news conference. (READ MORE)

Iraqi, U.S. Forces Destroy Weapons Cache Near Taji - WASHINGTON, June 8, 2009 – Iraqi and Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers uncovered a large weapons cache June 5 southwest of Taji, Iraq. The combined force seized a cache of 82 mm and 50 mm mortar rounds near Hor al-Bosh. A coalition explosive ordinance disposal team destroyed the munitions in place. (READ MORE)

Soldier Helps to Jumpstart Iraq’s Tourism Industry - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE BASRA, Iraq, June 8, 2009 – Iraq’s first notable tourist, Jonah, hated it. Belched out of a whale and stuck under Ninevah’s parching sweltering sun, the Bible says, he cared more for the plant that shaded him than for the city he was sent to save. Thousands of years later, it’s cliché to say Iraq is not everyone’s ideal daytrip. But in the six years since Saddam Hussein was deposed, conditions have reached the point at which tourism is now a viable industry. (READ MORE)

Soldiers Disrupt Timber Smuggling in Afghan Province - KONAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, June 8, 2009 – Task Force Chosin soldiers from 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, have been making a difference in disrupting timber smuggling in this lush area near the Pakistan border. Konar has been a route of transit for smuggling goods from the Korengal Valley into Pakistan, an activity that helps to fund enemy operations. (READ MORE)

Report Points to Irregularities in Farah Air Strike Incident - WASHINGTON, June 8, 2009 – The investigation into a May 4 close-air support incident in Afghanistan’s Farah province that caused civilian casualties has pointed to some deviations from established tactics, techniques and procedures, but those involved showed extraordinary care in the incident, the Pentagon’s press secretary said today. (READ MORE)

Blast near U.S. troops kills one Afghan, wounds 54 - KABUL (AP) - Afghan officials say an explosion in a crowded bazaar in northeastern Afghanistan near a convoy of U.S. troops has killed one child and wounded 54 people, about half of them school children. Kunar province police chief Abdul Jalal Jalal says someone threw a grenade and that officials are investigating the assailant's identity. (READ MORE)

Tribesmen strike at Taliban again - PESHAWAR, Pakistan Pakistani tribesmen seeking revenge for a deadly mosque bombing attacked militant strongholds for a second day Monday, while the country's Taliban leader faced rare denunciation from within insurgent ranks. Capitalizing on the anti-Taliban sentiments, the military's top spokesman exhorted all Pakistanis to rise up against militants wherever they found them. (READ MORE)

U.S. troops flowing into Afghanistan - CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — Teams of builders worked through dust storms Monday to expand a base for a brigade of U.S. Marines now fanning out across southern Afghanistan to change the course of a war claiming American lives faster than ever before. Some 10,000 Marines have poured into Afghanistan in the last six weeks, the military said Monday, transforming this once small base in the heart of the country's most violent province, Helmand, into a desert fortress. (READ MORE)

Marines fan out in Afghanistan - CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Teams of builders worked through dust storms Monday to expand a base for a brigade of U.S. Marines now fanning out across southern Afghanistan to change the course of a war claiming American lives faster than ever before. Some 10,000 Marines have poured into Afghanistan in the last six weeks, the military said Monday, transforming this once small base in the heart of the country’s most violent province, Helmand, into a desert fortress. (READ MORE)

Child among 22 killed in Afghan violence - KABUL: Twenty Taliban militants were killed in a battle with police in southern Afghanistan yesterday, while an Afghan boy was killed and two German soldiers wounded in attacks in the east, officials said. Fighting erupted in the southern province of Zabul on Sunday after militants attacked a police patrol that had struck a roadside bomb, the interior ministry said. One policeman was killed in the ambush, it said in a statement. (READ MORE)

Linked by: H&I FIRES 9 June 2009 at Castle Argghhh!

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