July 7, 2009

From the Front: 07/07/2009

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

Sour Swinger: Photos From Camp Liberty - I’m finally catching up to where I am now. Here is the first set of pictures from Camp Liberty. All pictures are from within the base. Those taken out on sector will be coming soon. I picked 5 to show below. Click here to see the entire set. There’s about 45 pics total. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Women in Combat - In 1429, at the age of 17, Joan of Arc led the French troops into battle against the English. During the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, women disguised themselves as men so they could fight against the enemy. The history books are filled with many other examples of women fighting in combat. In present day 2009, women are still fighting in combat or in combat zones. In 1948, President Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act which granted official military status to women serving in the armed forces. Today this was evident as I looked at the composition of the gender participating in our convoy crew. Our assigned mission was to travel to an Afghan logistics depot and inventory weapons. Our convoy commander was a recently promoted female Air Force MSgt. This Hartford, CT resident currently stationed at Langley AFB, VA is not only a Senior Non-Commissioned Officer, but also a wife and mom to 3 kids. She’s been in the Air Force for 12 years and was promoted to the rank of MSgt (e-7) on 1 July. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: When posting is light... - When I decided to keep blogging during this deployment, I had to make a decision that ran counter to my every inclination. I was, I decided, going to have to be nice. Now, you may have noticed I'm not always very nice, but trust me - I'm genetically inclined to be a total ranting bitch on wheels. I am of the school that tells children: If you can't say something nice, come sit by me. But I didn't know what sort of...tactical situation this trip would present, and so I planned for the worst-case scenario. That one would, of course, involve people dying. And, given my ability to jam my feet in my mouth, I figured that if I went off on a good long rant about how much of an absolute shithead moron Captain So-And-So was, he would be immediately killed the next day. (READ MORE)

The Canada-Afghanistan Blog: Summer Days - It has been a very violent few days in Afghanistan. From a BBC story: “The US military says six of its troops have been killed in two separate bomb blasts in Afghanistan, amid a spate of insurgent activity across the country. It says four of the soldiers were killed in the northern town of Kunduz. Two others died in the south, but the US military gave no further details.” Meanwhile, the Taliban confirms they are holding an American soldier prisoner. The circumstances are exceedingly strange: “Two U.S. defense sources said the soldier "just walked off" post with three Afghans after he finished working. They said they had no explanation for why he left the base.” (READ MORE)

Doc H: Arrival in Afghanistan - Yesterday we made it in country, I had a little bit of a view for a short time on the flight. I could see coastline below. In a bit of clique coincidence while we were walking off the flight line, 2 ambulances arrived to deposit their passengers onto a waiting aircraft, probably headed back to Germany. It served as a solemn reminder of what can happen in this country. I also heard my first two explosions within my first 6 hours in country. Sure they were announce overhead as 'controlled detonations' which I assumes meant mines, but it is still a little disconcerting to have explosions wake you up from a nap. These middle of the night flights are going to mess up my sleep for quite a while. Here we are surrounded by jagged tall mountains. To the north and south you can see snow on the peaks. It has a daytime haze much like Denver. It is quite warm in the afternoons and comfortable at night. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Lance Corporal Dane Elson killed in Afghanistan - It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence must confirm that Lance Corporal Dane Elson from the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards was killed in Afghanistan on 5 July 2009. Lance Corporal Elson was killed while on patrol in Babaji as part of Operation PANCHAI PALANG in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He was part of a Fire Support Group from 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, attached to the Light Dragoons Battle Group. On 5 July Lance Corporal Elson was a team commander in his Fire Support Group. Attached to B Company, 2 MERCIAN, their mission was to clear the enemy from positions South of Malgir. Having provided Fire Support for an attack onto an enemy held compound, the Fire Support Group began to move off. As they did so an Improvised Explosive Device exploded, killing Lance Corporal Elson instantly. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Joint US, Afghan and British operation disrupts Taliban - As elections in Afghanistan approach, thousands of British, American and Afghan soldiers are conducting a joint operation to clear the Taliban from an area north of Lashkar Gah and extend security to the area. As well as American soldiers from the US-led Task Force Leatherneck, who have recently arrived in Helmand province, there are 3,000 soldiers from Task Force Helmand involved in Operation PANCHAI PALANG, or Panther's Claw. In the latest phase of the operation, hundreds of soldiers from the Welsh Guards Battle Group, Light Dragoons Battle Group and 3 SCOTS (The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland) Battle Group have seized key canal crossing points and other areas. Sadly, three British soldiers have lost their lives in the operation this weekend and, in an earlier phase last week, the Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards, Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, and Trooper Joshua Hammond of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment were also killed. (READ MORE)

Far From Perfect: Another 4th in Iraq - Back when I was here in 2007, I didn’t even care to blog about the 4th. We were so busy doing ground patrols, raids, and watching officers eat with Iraqis while we baked in the sun that I didn’t get the chance to enjoy it, let alone write about it. In fact, I was probably asleep if I wasn’t on patrol. It was hot, dirty, and nothing worth celebrating. Its still hot and dirty. We are suffering some of the worst dust storms in decades right now. I am coughing up dirt and choking on dust, but at least I wasn’t waiting to get blown up by an IED this time. In fact, the day was pretty uneventful. I was on first-up medevac duty, but my curse/blessing allowed us to sit quietly for the whole duty schedule. So what actually happened this year? Well besides the dust, we had a BBQ at our hangar for everyone here, including another medevac unit. We had a big grill out complete with ribeyes, “pulled pork” and the ubiquitous “Bubba Burger.” (READ MORE)

Housefly: Return to Civilization - Back in the US for a few weeks already, rocking the free world and not missing a single thing about Afghanistan. I will not be going back there anytime soon, so the entertaining accounts of American subcultures resume next month. Sorry, no more first-hand accounts of that charming Afghan culture, but I took advantage of having a high-speed internet connection again, and uploaded three short videos that I put together over the last year there. My video camera skills are primitive, but I was able to edit them and attach some pretty good photos at the end of each video. 1) Witness a game of Buzkashi, Afghanistan’s national sport. It is best described as rugby on horseback, using a headless goat or calf instead of a ball. Full-contact, no rules, great horses and horsemen, and plenty of injuries to both. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: The Gold Star in the Window... - "@RTRViews: Have I told you lately what an incredible person you are? I'm praying for the 7 families. You are my inspiration." I received this message on twitter from a very kind man who I admire and respect a great deal. I have heard similar things from others and every time I do I want to say: No I'm not special. I'm not incredible, I'm just a mom taking care of my son by taking care of his brothers. It's my son and the men who served with him and others like him who should inspire you. The men who volunteer to go fight a soulless enemy and sacrifice time with loved ones, risk injury and life to better the world and free people to live without fear that should inspire all of us. It's men who come home with life changing injuries and keep trying and accomplishing so much that should inspire every single person in world. My message has not changed. I have always supported our military. I have always done things beyond a bumper sticker to show that support. (READ MORE)

Sgt Danger: Pit Stop - It was a long 23-hour flight from New Jersey to Central Asia. We stopped in Iceland and Germany to refuel, stretch our legs, shave, and smoke. Our last stop was a small country, one of the "-stans" that surround Afghanistan. We’ll be here for a few days. Our temporary home is an Air Force Base that’s served as a staging ground for troops in and out of Afghanistan since 2001. It’s not a bad place. There’s wi-fi (it’s slow), beer (2 per night), a movie theatre (big screen), and a terrific all-you-can-eat chow hall. Our company lives in a huge 300-man tent on bunk beds. It’s pretty comfortable; sleeping is how most of us have been spending our free time as we try to get adjusted to the 12-hour time zone shift. I don’t really know how long we’ll be here; the Army gets more and more secretive about that stuff as we get closer to entering theatre. We’ll get a few hours notice so we can turn our linen in, get packed, and head toward the flight line. That will be the tactical leg of the trip: (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistan releases Sufi Mohammed - The Pakistani government has released the senior-most leader of the pro-Taliban group that was behind the Malakand Accord, the agreement that put the Taliban in control over a wide region of Pakistan’s northwest. Sufi Mohammed, the leader of the banned pro-Taliban Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed [TNSM or the Movement for the Enforcement of Mohammed's Law], and his wife and other family members were released after nearly two months of detention by an unnamed Pakistani security agency. Sufi was reportedly "taken them into protective custody" in Mirpur in Pakistan-held Kashmir more than two months ago, Dawn reported. He was reported missing at the onset of the fighting in Swat, Dir, and Buner, but the security forces have refused to comment if he was in detention. (READ MORE)

SPC Alperin - My Point of View: The beat goes on... - It's good to post again! Not too much has changed and in saying that, I must mention the effects of 'Groundhog Day' the movie, on this deployment. 'Groundhog Day' is an expression that many Soldiers repeat quite often when describing how their day is going because the days blend into each other and feel the same from one to the next. Interestingly, I've learned that many Soldiers who either use the term or hear it used have no idea where it comes from. I explained its origin to one young Soldier and acknowledged to myself, how can everybody be expected to know this expression. The movie came out in 1993. Right now the pullout of troops from the cities in Iraq seems to be working well. The June 30 deadline went smoothly and troops are adjusting. There have been a low amount of incidents in the days since and everyone is hopeful for the best. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: 06JUL09--Tuberculosis - Turns out that units often times see 1 to 5 percent of its Soldiers redeploy with an undesirable souvenir: mycobacterium tuberculosis. Despite that fact that nearly one-third of the world's population is infected with tuberculosis (TB), the U.S. is one of the few countries that does not vaccinate against the disease. Granted, only about 5 percent of Americans are infected with TB, but it is a constant threat to American tourists, Soldiers, and the families of Soldiers returning from third-world countries. A few days ago, the extent of my knowledge on tuberculosis was limited to seeing Doc Holiday in the movie Tombstone. It is hard to forget Val Kilmer's portrayal of the "lunger," wiping his mouth and coughing up blood. However, in conducting a post deployment health assessment, I was informed of the likelihood of my team being exposed to TB and that we would all be tested. After all, we spent hours a day every day with Iraqis. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Burger Night - On Thursdays, our little gang goes out for burgers. There's a DFAC here in the IZ (I won't say which one - it's a secret!) that makes the best burgers this side of New York. Truly. Now, all the DFACs here make mass-produced burgers as part of their regular fare. Some do a pretty good job. But there's one that goes the extra step. If you ask, they'll go to the cooler and pull out the good stuff: 100% beef, perfectly seasoned, shaped by hand, and they'll grill it to your specifications. Want some American cheese on that? Sure. A double burger? No problem. The cook is a friendly guy with an unpronounceable name who knows how to cook 'em right. Getting fresh burgers cooked to order takes an extra bit of time, so we stand there by the window, sniffing the grill like kids sniff glue. Finally they're done and we scurry off to the table. Can't let 'em get cold - you have to eat 'em while they're still hot. Ohmigawd, it's epicurean bliss! (READ MORE)

Stryker Brigade News: Mother, Son Serve Together in Iraq - TAJI, Iraq – One Pennsylvania National Guard Soldier has two ways he can address Capt. Dorothy Watkins. He can call her ma'am or he can call her mom. Spc. Joshua Watkins and his mother, Capt. Watkins, are both deployed to Camp Taji, Iraq, a base camp north of Baghdad, with the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 28th Infantry Division. The mother and son from Hazleton, Pa., are able to enjoy lunch together most days, and celebrate family holidays such as Mother's Day. Capt. Watkins was already in Iraq, deployed with another unit of the Pennsylvania National Guard when her son received orders to deploy to Iraq with the Philadelphia-based 56th SBCT. Capt. Watkins, an officer in the adjutant general corps, scrambled to find a slot so she could deploy with her son. She was home from Iraq only nine days before she mobilized with the 56th SBCT. (READ MORE)

The Writings of a Man's Man: 4th of July, in Baghdad - Its the 4th of July, and I am spending it in a tiny little outpost on the outskirts of Baghdad. Not exactly the prime way to spend the 4th. No family, friends, no beer, not being by a body of water (other than the little canal of sewage water flowing near our outpost) and not getting to watch any fireworks sort of puts a damper on things. However we made the best of things. I spent the day watching borrowed episodes of Survivorman on my laptop, telling myself that if I was in Les Stroud’s shoes I would do more than just survive I would thrive…lets be serious, the guy is on a beautiful beach in Costa Rica, goes spearfishing gets a fish easily, stops at just one and then complains about how hungry he is. I would have about 6 fish roasting over the fire, drinking coconut milk and gazing up at the stars to my heart’s content. I hit the gym and worked on getting a nice muscular physique for my return to civilization in 5 months. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Coming tomorrow…

Coming tomorrow…

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