June 18, 2009

From the Front: 06/18/2009

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

Afghanistan My last Tour: Photo Slide Show Available.

Heather M Lawson: LONG WAY HOME - A glimpse into a life of one courageous woman, whom volunteered to serve in Iraq on three tours to help rebuild the infrastructure of a war torn city. She touched many lives by creating a new learning environment, seeking new resources for fresh water, and paving new roads to new beginnings. She continues her journey to structuring a new plan for the new Iraq. Directed by Heather M Lawson. (VIDEO)

Sorority Soldier: Vehicle Shuffle - The beauty of Iraq is our section of 20+ people has one vehicle to share while each contractor is given his very own road-hogging SUV. Although COB Basra isn’t a very big compound, we covet the luxury of driving in a semi-A/C’d Tahoe to get from point A to point B. It was already a little hectic being in one building.. who has the keys, where’s the vehicle parked, so and so needs it in 10 minutes, etc. Now that the broadcasters are happily nestled in a trailer 5 minutes from the big bosses things are more confusing (but believe me, we’re not complaining). I got a call from MAJ B2 this morning and it went something like this: (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: [hack!] frickin' lovely - Dust storms by themselves are pretty awesome, let me tell you. Fine powder, oozing under the door and around windows. But tonight, we're extra lucky, because we're having dust and pretty impressive wind. Now, keep in mind this entire FOB is covered in camo nets, tarps and cobbled together cheap-nail-and-plywood construction projects. So in addition to being pretty much country dark out there, we now have obstacles lying around. I just made my way to my trusty porta-jon, where the dust had worked its unique magic. I could have written my name on the toilet seat, so thick was the dust. Considering the level of GI distress and the traffic that brings to the green closets, that's a pretty clear statement about the volume of dust. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Sonic Must Die: Death To The Hedgehog! - GEN McChrystal has taken command in Afghanistan, and one of the first things he began to do is look at the way that troops are currently disposed and the planned dispositions of incoming "surge" troops around the country. Under the former commander, existing FOBs were being expanded to make room for the influx of new troops. This often had unintended but not completely unforeseen consequences. This was a continuation of the Big Box FOB behavior which has proven unsuccessful in the past. When you look at it, it looked almost like the French "Hedgehog" strategy which led to Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam. While the Taliban are incapable of the type of offensive tactics used to reduce the French hedgehog at Dien Bien Phu to the point of surrender, the hedgehog strategy was another failed counterinsurgency behavior. It would prove no less so in Afghanistan. As the truism states, "The proof is in the pudding." (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistani military facing tougher fight in northwest than reported - The Pakistani military has encountered tougher resistance than it has reported since it took on the Taliban in the Swat Valley in late April, according to a classified intelligence briefing given to the senior-most Indian military leaders. The tough fighting has caused cracks in some of the military units, but the force has not broken. The secret briefing was recently delivered by the Indian Defense Staff to the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the equivalent to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Two pages of the briefing, labeled "SIT IN FATA," or the situation in the FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Agency], have been obtained by The Long War Journal. Elements of this briefing were reported by India Today on June 16. US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal the Indian assessment is "accurate." (READ MORE)

SGM Troy Falardeau: Thanks Mr. Keith! - Recently award-winning country music star Toby Keith spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. At the end of his speech, he made a “shout out” to the Soldiers of the 314th Public Affairs Operations Center. In case you don’t know what a “shout out” is, here is how it is described on Wikipedia: a greeting or acknowledgment of a person, group, or organization of significance. It is often done as a sign of respect, synonymous with “giving props”. Mr. Keith (or does he prefer to be called Toby?) has a long history of patriotism and giving props to the military and the United States, evidenced by his recording, “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.” He takes time at concerts to honor members of the military (and speeches at the National Press Club). (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: 17JUN09--Desert Heat and the Broken A/C - In these early summer days, the average day's high temperature is usally 115 degrees with the low just dipping into the 80s. But today, our truck had the experience of riding with no air conditioning. The day's low temperature comes at about 0200, then breaks into the 90s again by about 0800. Temperatures usually crest 100 degrees midday. Air conditioners in our trucks are not perfect, but they make things bearable with all the gear that we wear. We drink quite a bit of water, of course. Well, the air conditioner in our truck was not functioning properly. What I really mean is that the air conditioner was acting more like a air dryer. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Intercepting Wood in Kunar – “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. ‘The enemy funds their operations a number of ways,’ Army Lt. Col. Mark O’Donnell, Task Force Chosin commander, said. ‘They smuggle illegal gems, opium and timber.’” Now, I’ve been introduced to some of the Chosin guys, and I deeply respect and admire them (I tried desperately to go visit them during my embed earlier this year but could not make all the scheduling work out, much to my deep disappointment). They have a hornet’s nest of a problem in the Korengal, and I really want them to succeed. However, intercepting timber shipments doesn’t do that. (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: DVIDS Joint Patrol in Baghdad Iraq - These pictures are from a joint patrol of my platoon and the Iraqi Army. Unfortunately this specific day doesn’t register in my head and I don’t remember this exact mission. After a while they all seem the same really. The Army has been occasionally embedding Combat Camera in our missions. Photos were taken by Spc. Donte Baltimore. I linked each pic to its free downloadable high res copy. The DVIDS mission is to serve as a turnkey operation that facilitates requests for Public Affairs video, audio, still imagery and print products; coordinates interviews with soldiers and commanders in a combat zone and provides an archive for ongoing operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain. Basically, DVIDs is where the military official posts audio, video, images, news, etc relating to any current combat operation. Everything is DOD authorized to be released to the public. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Fighting insurgents through improved quality of life - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq – Protecting the population, maintaining security and rebuilding the economy and infrastructure to satisfy basic human needs are all key aspects of counter insurgency. “The root of any insurgency is a disaffected population,” said Maj. Chris Norrie, the Operations Officer for 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. (READ MORE)

Emergency Response Brigade arrests two suspected terrorists in the Iraqi capital - BAGHDAD – The Emergency Response Brigade, along with Coalition forces advisors, arrested two suspected terrorists in the Iraqi capital during an Iraqi-led operation June 17. The elite police force conducted the intelligence-driven, early-morning operation under the authority of a warrant issued by the Central Investigative Court of Iraq-Kharkh. (READ MORE)

Iraqis Graduate 26 from Prestigious, Intensive Staff Course at Ar Rustamiyah - BAGHDAD – The Joint Staff Command College at Rustamiyah Military Base held a ceremony for graduates of its intensive staff course on June 15. This unique course allowed 26 students, including five generals, 18 colonels and three lieutenant colonels the opportunity to qualify as staff officers. The three month course was designed to allow earlier graduates of the staff college from 2003 and 2004 to qualify for the coveted staff red ribbon. (READ MORE)

Joint Combat Outpost Transferred to Iraqi Ministry of Youth Activities in Diyala - DIYALA — Joint Combat Outpost Blackfoot here in the city of Khalis was transferred from U.S. control to the Iraqi Ministry of Youth Activities, June 15. This transfer was one of six currently scheduled to occur over the next two weeks throughout the province. The COP was occupied by both Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces prior to the transfer. (READ MORE)

Adhamiyah Packing Facility Serves as Model for Future Iraqi Facilities - BAGHDAD — Members of embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team III (ePRT) attended the grand opening of the Rabee fruit and vegetable packing facility in Adhamiyah, June 14, the first modern fruit and vegetable packing facility in Iraq. "It [the packing facility] will allow farmers to receive more value for their efforts,” said Glen Keiser, the ePRT leader. “The produce will be properly cleaned, packed, stored, and transported to different markets around the country." (READ MORE)

Detainee Population Lowest Since 2005 - BAGHDAD — Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) and the Government of Iraq (GoI) Monday moved closer to ending the Coalition detainee operations mission as the total detainee population decreased to 10,956 for the first time since October of 2005. In accordance with the Security Agreement between the GoI and the U.S., all detainees in Coalition custody will be released or transferred to the Iraqi legal system. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Farmers' Market Open for Business - MAHAWIL — After two years of planning and building, the Central Euphrates Farmers' Market is now open for business after a grand opening ceremony here, June 12. "The fact that this market is here today demonstrates the cooperation of the Iraqi Security Forces and the Coalition forces," said Brig. Gen. Jerry Lang, deputy commanding general of support for the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division. "We hope this model of cooperation you have demonstrated here today will help us bring it to the rest of Southern Iraq." (READ MORE)

Iraqi Forces Take Lead on Missions - WASHINGTON, June 16, 2009 – Iraq security forces are increasingly taking the lead on missions targeting roadside bombers and extremist networks, officials said. On their first mission since becoming a nationalized force, the 6th Battalion, Emergency Readiness Brigade, alongside coalition forces advisors, arrested three suspects wanted for planting roadside bombs. The battalion nabbed the suspects in Baqubah on June 14. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Forces Lead Efforts to Capture Terror Suspects - WASHINGTON, June 17, 2009 – Coalition and Iraqi security forces yesterday captured a suspect wanted in connection with armor-piercing bomb attacks in northwestern Baghdad's Kadamiyah district, military officials reported. Forces caught the suspect in an early morning raid and are holding him for questioning. (READ MORE)

Coalition’s Iraq Withdrawal Plans on Track, Officials Say - WASHINGTON, June 17, 2009 – Everything is on track for the withdrawal of American troops from the cities of Iraq, Iraqi and coalition officials said this week. Iraqi security forces are set to assume responsibility for the areas, Iraqi spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said at a June 15 news conference. (READ MORE)

Afghan Forces Confiscate Opium Cache, Capture Taliban Commander - WASHINGTON, June 17, 2009 – Afghan security forces, assisted by coalition forces, confiscated an opium cache and captured several armed enemy fighters in the southern province of Kandahar today and captured a Taliban commander in an earlier operation, military officials reported. In the Kandahar engagement, the security forces were attacked in the Chenartu Valley by enemy fighters with small-arms fire. (READ MORE)

Team Works to Counter Bombing Activity on Critical Afghan Route - WARDAK PROVINCE, Afghanistan, June 17, 2009 – With at least 10 improvised explosive devices found and detonated in recent weeks on a key route leaders prepared to travel along on June 13, soldiers in Afghanistan’s Wardak province set up a traffic checkpoint. The counter-IED team of 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, led soldiers from Battery B of 4th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery in operating the checkpoint. (READ MORE)

Afghan Officer Earns USAF Wings - KABUL, June 16, 2009 – The first Afghan officer to train in the United States in nearly 50 years earned his silver Air Force wings in a June 12 ceremony at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss. Col. Roger Watkins, 14th Flying Training Wing commander, presented pilot wings to Lt. Faiz Mohammed Ramaki upon his completion of the Aviation Leadership Program there. (READ MORE)

Coalition, Afghan Forces Degrade Terrorist Networks in South, East Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, June 16, 2009 – In separate raids in Afghanistan today, coalition and Afghan forces battled insurgents in southern and eastern provinces and confiscated drugs and weapons. In Helmand province, forces confiscated 17 bags of black tar opium, AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenade rounds, bomb-making materials and ammunition. (READ MORE)

Afghans Share Music, Culture With Servicemembers - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan, June 16, 2009 – With the background melodies of a sitar, rabab and bongo drums filling the air, a siren-like voice beckoned the crowd to dance to the unique Afghan sounds. And like ancient mariners in Homer’s Odyssey, they responded. More than 350 coalition forces members and Afghans took part in the cultural festivities of Afghan Night Live on Bagram Air Field on June 13. (READ MORE)

Five killed in US drone attack in South Waziristan - Islamabad, June 18 : In yet another drone strike in less than a week in South Waziristan, at least five people were killed and several others injured when two US Predator aircrafts fired missiles at a suspected Taliban hideout in the Wana region on Thursday. According to the sources, the drones targeted the hideouts of Taliban commander Mullah Nazir in Shah Alam and Raghzai area near Wana, firing five missiles. (READ MORE)

Suspected US missile strikes kill eight in Pakistan - Suspected US missile strikes pounded the hide-outs of a Taliban commander in north-western Pakistan today, killing at least eight people, government officials said. Shahab Ali Shah, the top administrative official in the South Waziristan tribal area along the Afghanistan border, said the missiles hit close to the villages of Gharlamai and Nandaran, about six miles west of the Wana bazaar area. (READ MORE)

Pakistani Taliban chief implements foreign agenda, say dissenters - Islamabad, June 18 : Two militant leaders who broke away from Pakistan's top Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud have accused their former comrade of following a foreign agenda by waging an insurgency inside the Islamic state, media reports said Thursday. The open disagreement came two days after Pakistan's armed forces announced they were preparing a decisive offensive against Mehsud and his network, which is centred around the South Waziristan tribal region on the Afghan border. (READ MORE)

Bicycle bomb kills 2 in southern Afghanistan - A bomb strapped to a parked bicycle exploded near a construction office in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing one employee and a child about 11 years old, police said. It was unclear whether the construction company was the target of the attack in the city of Kandahar. The city's deputy police chief, Abdulah Khan, said officers were investigating but did not yet know if the attack was connected to the Taliban insurgency. (READ MORE)

US military goes on Afghan PR offensive - WASHINGTON - At his confirmation hearings as the new commander in Afghanistan two weeks ago, General Stanley McChrystal said reducing civilian deaths from air strikes in Afghanistan was "strategically decisive" and declared his "willingness to operate in ways that minimize casualties or damage, even when it makes our task more difficult". Some McChrystal supporters hope he will rein in the main source of civilian casualties: (READ MORE)

New top Afghanistan commander gets a first-hand look - WASHINGTON (AP) - The new top general in Afghanistan is touring the country in his first days on the job. It's standard procedure for most new commanders, and General Stanley McChrystal is no exception Brigadier General Richard Blanchette (REE'-shahrd blahn-SHEHT'), , NATO's top spokesman in Kabul, says McChrystal is very much in what he has called his "listening phase." (READ MORE)

Suspected US missiles pound Taliban compound in northwest Pakistan - A SUSPECTED US missile strike has hit a northwest Pakistan tribal area where security forces are poised for an attack on a feared Taliban commander. The strike hit 20km from Wana town in South Waziristan, where Washington alleges al-Qa'ida and Taliban rebels who fled Afghanistan after the 2001 US-led invasion are holed up, plotting attacks on Western targets. (READ MORE)

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