June 16, 2009

From the Front: 06/16/2009

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

Bouhammer: The Demons Stopped by - They came to visit. Yes they did, the old demons came back to pay me a visit Friday night. I am not sure why, or what motivated them to do it but they came to my front door without an invite or even a courtesy call the night before. I never really know when they will show up as there is no rhyme or reason as to when they do, but when they do I am always surprised. So on Friday night, after only 3 hours into a 6 hour night of sleep, they snuck up to my dream’s front door, made a 4-man stack, kicked it in and threw in a stun grenade to get my attention. Like I said I was really tired and I think I was in REM sleep at the time, but that didn’t matter because the demons from time-past took me from a completely relaxed deep sleep to a wide awake, adrenalin induced startle. It was literally in a matter of seconds that I was jolted awake, breathing heavy, and heart trying to thump out of my chest. (READ MORE)

Afhani Kush: Woke Up Quick - Hey folks. How's it going out in the real world? Things are slow here, it seems like our action weeks seem to go in cycles, a few weeks of non stop action then a few weeks of bone crushing boredom. I appreciate the down time and the slower mission pace after we get into a few fights, but after a while I just start thinking "c'mon Taliban, stop talking about fighting us and actually start fighting us". But who knows, we may get rocked tonight and I'll be eating my words. The weather here is getting really really hot, which means it's getting really really dusty around here. Next time we have a decent dust storm I'll try and get a picture of it, but they've been pretty rare. The downside of the dust is that the insurgents can see our convoys comming a mile away, I've seen just one motorcycle make a dust cloud that I could see from a few miles away, I don't even know what one of our larger convoys seems to look like. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: Happy Birthday to me! - 31 years ago today, Mom and Dad peered into my little, howling red face, glanced at each other and decided to have dogs from there on out. And what fun activity did I engage in today? Why, I went to the GYM! Which is, oddly, slightly less buring-in-hell hot than trotting around the perimeter of the FOB, stumbling over loose gravel. And this evening we'll celebrate with meat. Could be be worse. (READ MORE)

Conversations in the Desert: Choices - Usually I write a post and sit on it for at least a week. That has seemed to work out well for me in the past. It allows me to refine it and not be such a slave to the moment. Sometimes they get trashed as a result of that week. This time however, I have ignored my usually prudent methods and am just sending this one straight out. Someone will be offended. So in my adventure here with the armed forces of the as yet un-named European country I have become friends with an ex-pat from a different un-named European country. It is a somewhat strange thing to me to get to a point, as this guy did, where your country stops being what it once was, what you want it to be, and you feel the need to move on. (READ MORE)

Ghosts of Alexander: Afghanistan Women’s Clinic - I don’t usually write an entry just to mention a single Afghanistan blog, but this one is worth it. I highly recommend checking out Afghanistan Women’s Clinic, a blog that follows an isolated women’s health clinic in Paktika. This is from their “about us” page: “In a remote region of Afghanistan there exists a local clinic in which one female mid-wife treats all the women in multiple provinces. After becoming concerned about the plight of the women in the province to receive medical care, 4 soldiers began to go over to the local female clinic 3 days a week to work for a few hours assisting, partnering, and learning from the mid-wife. After many months of working closely with the mid-wife we became more involved in trying to get the clinic the supplies it needed to provide free health care. With over 70% of the population living in poverty, they couldn’t afford medical treatment even if they needed it. Helping and partnering with the local clinic, allows some of these women to get the medical treatment they so desperately need.” (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Drawdown - In my last posting, I mentioned our ongoing drawdown a couple of times. I thought I'd go a little more in depth into that topic, particularly after reading an article in the Stars and Stripes today. When I first arrived in Iraq last September, it was pretty widely assumed that we would be here for another decade or more. That was certainly the mindset of the Bush administration. Those of us involved in the reconstruction of the country felt the same way, regardless of who would win the upcoming presidential election. I mean, Iraq is just so dysfunctional, so broken in so many ways, that it would take a long time to make it into a functioning member of the world order. Then two things happened. One, we elected Obama as our President. One of his campaign pledges was to pull us out of Iraq, and he put that pledge in motion almost immediately after being sworn in. Two, we signed the Security Agreement (also known, somewhat erroneously, as the "Status of Forces Agreement", or SOFA). (READ MORE)

S4 at War: COIN and the logistical foot print - I’ve made an effort to delegate as much of my job down to the Company XOs in my BN. Because of our reliance on Patrol Bases we are spread out which makes it difficult for me to effectively coordinate their individual logistical requirements. Perhaps I was unwittingly applying COIN to our logistical foot print. Side note- as a result of successfully delegating so much down to the Company XOs I find I have almost too much extra time on my hands. Below is Kings of War commenting on, and quoting Callwell’s “Small Wars: Their Principles and Practices,” And I think that he nails the fundamental asymmetry of insurgency which lies in the fact that while tactics favour the regular army strategy favours the irregular. This is because, he says: In spite of sea power, in spite of the initiative, in spite of science, and in spite of the wealth, of the reserve of fighting strength and of the resources at their back, the trained and organized armies of the civilized country have undoubtedly the worst of it as regards strategical conditions: (READ MORE)

Chris Cunningham - Soldier Diary: Humvee rollover wearing heavy gear is no small matter - IRAQ -- The 375th Engineer Company has now survived its first full week in the Kuwaiti desert -- and hopefully its last. In this past week our soldiers have been given new body armor and completed additional counterinsurgency and rollover training. Imagine being in a car accident and rolling over on the roof of the vehicle. Pretty scary, huh? That is exactly what our soldiers have trained for, having now completed the Humvee egress trainer three times. This event allows our soldiers to obtain the confidence that, if they should be in a Humvee rollover, they will be able to safely exit the vehicle. The training includes a practical exercise in which soldiers sit in a simulator that is an actual Humvee cab attached to a rotating spindle. (READ MORE)

Ken Arnold - Soldier Diary: Urge to 'get 'er done' meets long lines and processing - FORT BENNING, GA. -- The experience at the deployment processing center at Fort Benning, Ga., can best be compared to the herding of cats, as those of us deploying are composed of a variety of military, government and contractor personnel of all ranks, grades and positions. Under the direction of a dedicated and patient cadre of administrative, instructional and operational personnel, we, a unique band of brothers and sisters heading for theater (either Iraq or Afghanistan), have been moved efficiently through a series of document reviews, classes, equipment issue points and firing ranges for the last remaining checks before flying out. This process of war preparation -- involving red approval stamps, paperwork shuffling, long lines and the much-dreaded immunizations -- requires a high level of patience, as the urge to just "get 'er done" reigns supreme. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: NCO Buzzsaw - As we work diligently in our annex trailer, a LT walks in the door with a smiling face, having no idea exactly what he was about to experience. He came by to recruit help to clean a latrine. The catch is, this latrine has been in existence for over a month, had never been cleaned before. Plus, it has been in heavy use by Soldiers, DOD Civilians and local nationals. Needless to say, it was a “sh!t hole.” The pun was intended. Most of the toilets were overflowing with left over poo and toilet paper. There wasn’t a single square inch of the latrine that wasn’t completely covered in dirt and there was still some construction clean up needed as well. The poor LT started by telling us a story about how he has been trying to get a company, which is contracted to clean latrines on post here in Basra, to add our latrine to their daily rounds only to find that our particular latrine is not added to the contract and it could be several weeks before the contract is complete. I don’t think he realized he was talking to a trailer full of hard core NCO’s. (READ MORE)

War Is Boring: Support the War Is Boring Afghanistan Surge! - Two years ago the U.S. military “surged” tens of thousands of extra troops to Iraq, and dispersed them into neighborhood patrol bases to protect the Iraqi population from insurgent attacks — a move widely credited with turning around that conflict. Today we’re surging in Afghanistan, sending 17,000 troops to reinforce flagging U.S.-NATO operations. It’s a last-ditch attempt to salvage an eight-year-old war we thought we’d already won. War Is Boring will surge right alongside U.S. troops. In August, this blog will deploy two reporters to Afghanistan’s most dangerous regions: Jason Reich is headed to eastern Afghanistan, along the Pakistan border, with the U.S. Army, while David Axe travels south to embed with NATO troops around Kandahar, pictured. David and Jason will file stories, photos and videos, direct from the “front,” covering combat, reconstruction and counter-drug ops. (READ MORE)

The Writings of a Man's Man: Post R&R Rut - Maybe you think I am simply a whiner, simply using this blog as a forum to voice my complaints and gripes, or perhaps you think that war is so terrible the only things that could ever be truthfully written about it is negative. Either way I can assure you I am caught smack dab in the middle of a post R&R rut. It could be that things back home were so great that everything over here is viewed in the weeks immediately following R&R in the harsh light of reality, however I tend to think I have just hit a patch of hard luck… It started a few days ago while out on patrol on the streets of Baghdad with one of my Iraqi National Police counterparts, a fellow Lieutenant. He said that it was his birthday that day and that, “he wanted to stop and get some felafels to celebrate.” I’ve had plenty of food with Iraqis so far in this deployment and none of it has hurt me so far so I don’t know if it was the felafel (which was in fact quite delicious) or just a stomach virus going around my company. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

'Charlie Med' Soldiers Take Care of Camp Taji - TAJI, Iraq – Pennsylvania Army National Guard Soldiers staffing Camp Taji's main medical clinic are prepared to treat the worst of battlefield injuries but hope the bulk of their cases continues to be sprained ankles and upset stomachs. Soldiers of Company C "Charlie Med," 328th Brigade Support Battalion, 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, operate the facility which provides basic healthcare to the thousands of Soldiers and civilians on the post which is located north of Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Army Corps renovates sports club in Basra, Iraq - BASRA, Iraq — Ten years ago, Shatt Al Arab sports club in Al Tanoma city in east Basra was an old building. “Shatt Al Arab sports club was a really unusable building, all the walls and ceilings were in very bad condition, but now everything looks new thanks to the U.S. Army Engineers efforts,” said Lateef Khalf, the sports club administrator. The Gulf Region Division, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq, invested $300,000 to reconstruct the four-decade-old facility. (READ MORE)

GoI, MNF-I Security Agreement Update - BAGHDAD – Today the Government of Iraq hosted a joint press conference with Multi-National Force Iraq in order to discuss the upcoming Security Agreement date of June 30 for combat forces to be out of cities. Attending the joint press conference were: Mr. Abdul Qadir al-Ubaydi, Minister of Defense; Mr. Jawad al-Bolani, Minister of Interior; Dr. Ali al-Dabbagh, Spokesman for the Government of Iraq and Gen. Raymond Odierno, Commanding General, Multi-National Force Iraq. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Businesses Thrive on Coalition Bases - COB ADDER — Just a short bus trip from work and in a well-secured area here, U.S. Soldiers can be seen on any given day shopping and visiting the various vending booths in the Iraqi-based industrial zone (I-BIZ). I-BIZ locations are designated as secure areas on Coalition bases where a commercial business with a land use agreement through the Coalition can establish operations. The Coalition is actively supporting this program. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Transportation Section Takes Lead - CAMP TAJI — The 10th Sustainment Brigade here has shifted from its role of training the Iraqi Army, and is now in the early mentorship phase of its partnership with the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The 10th Sust. Bde. ISF section oversees three Logistics Training and Advisory Teams (LTAT) which are partnered with two third-line maintenance facilities -- one here and one at Camp Rustamiyah and Iraq's General Transportation Regiment (GTR). (READ MORE)

New Judicial Complex Ushers in Justice - RAMADI — On a narrow, triangular-shaped piece of land bordered on two sides by tributaries of the Euphrates River, a small collection of buildings mutely signal a change for the better in Iraq's Anbar province. On the site of what was once a getaway for the family of deposed Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein and his Ba'ath party cronies, the Government of Iraq has built a complex that heralds the emergence of rule of law in Iraq and an improved judicial process for the people of western Iraq. (READ MORE)

U.S. Medical Team Helps Local Doctors Save Infant Lives - BASRAH — U.S. doctors and medical staff conducted neonatal resuscitation training for local doctors aboard the Contingency Operating Base here, June 10-11. The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, offered the training and introduced new procedures and equipment that can help save infant lives and reduce the risk of babies suffering from cerebral palsy and mental retardation. (READ MORE)

Troops in Iraq Capture 12 Suspects, Seize Weapons - WASHINGTON, June 15, 2009 – Coalition and Iraq forces detained a dozen suspects and seized weapons during recent operations in Iraq, military officials said. Combined forces arrested a suspected criminal on a warrant June 12 in northwest Baghdad's Kadhamiyah district. The man is suspected of participating in criminal activities throughout the district, military officials said. The suspect was transferred to a secure facility for further questioning. (READ MORE)

Body of Cpl. Martin Dube begins journey home - KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- The latest Canadian casualty of the Afghan insurgency began his final journey home Monday following an evening ceremony at an airfield that has seen all too many such services. Soldiers and civilians turned out on en masse as the casket of Cpl. Martin Dube was loaded onto a transport plane at the Kandahar Airfield. "In his desire to make a difference, he gave his life suddenly, without warning," Padre Bastien Leclerc told the crowd assembled on the tarmac. (READ MORE)

Canadian soldiers cleared of alleged Taliban abuse - OTTAWA -- A military investigation two years in the making has cleared Canadian soldiers of any wrongdoing in the handling of captured Taliban fighters in Kandahar. A board of inquiry report into allegations that troops mistreat and beat prisoners taken during heavy fighting in April 2006 found, instead, they were treated `professionally and humanely.' (READ MORE)

Exploitation of Afghan children common, report finds - OTTAWA -- The trafficking and sexual exploitation of children in Afghanistan is a growing concern, Canada's Foreign Affairs Department was told in a confidential human-rights report prepared by senior officials. The illegal marriage of underage girls and the sexual abuse of young boys is commonplace, warned the Afghanistan Human Rights Report obtained by The Canadian Press under access-to-information laws. (READ MORE)

Forces in Afghanistan Detain Suspect, Aid Injured Civilian - WASHINGTON, June 15, 2009 – Coalition and Afghan forces detained a suspected Taliban leader and provided medical aid to a wounded civilian in recent operations, military officials said. Afghan and coalition forces captured an area Taliban commander and a suspected associate in a June 13 operation to disrupt Taliban activities in northern Paktika province. The suspect is tied to numerous attacks against coalition forces in the area, military officials said. (READ MORE)

American Hospital in Afghanistan Holds Health Fair - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, June 15, 2009 – The Staff Sgt. Heathe N. Craig Joint Theater Hospital here opened its doors June 13 to highlight a number of services available to servicemembers in the Regional Command East area of operations. In an event that involved weeks of planning, the hospital staff came together to construct unique displays illustrating what individual sections have to offer. (READ MORE)

Combined Forces Target Afghanistan’s Taliban-Narcotics Connection - WASHINGTON, June 15, 2009 – U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan are targeting narcotics traffickers and drug labs that bankroll and support the Taliban insurgency, a senior Defense Department official said here June 12. Since fall, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan has “had expanded authorities to go after counternarcotics targets that directly support the insurgency, the so-called narco-terrorism network nexus, where they fund or otherwise support the Taliban insurgency,” the senior official, speaking on background, told Pentagon reporters. (READ MORE)

Linked by: H&I FIRES 16 June 2009 at Castle Argghhh!

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