July 8, 2009

From the Front: 07/08/2009

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

111 Infantry Recon: Some Recent Mission photos

MAJ C: Actions Speak Louder Than Words - I am going to preface this post with the simple fact that this is not written about every journalist out there. I have worked with and met many who are trying to do the right thing, and whom I have the utmost respect for. I have had the great honor of having some wonderful Americans embedded with me overseas. I can not say enough about you. But, this post is not about them. It is not about those who are trying to do the right thing. It is not about those who are trying to actually tell the American People about our wonderful Soldiers and what is going on in the world. This is about the rest of them. Those who right now, after what I have seen over the last 48 hours, I do not have the time of day for and will not be watching or reading ever again. Over the last 48 hours seven American Service Members have been killed in Afghanistan. Since July 1st I believe there has been 10 US, 2 Canadian, and 2 British Soldiers killed. In addition to this tragedy, we have had Operation Khanjar ongoing, and continued operations in Iraq. How much of this has been seen in the news? Almost nothing! (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Give Me Your Ammo - “Give me your ammo and I will take it out to the observation post (OP).” This is what I told my active duty counterpart after one of our joint (US and Afghan) OPs had been in a firefight. I was the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the company size element of Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers and my fellow active duty CPT was the OIC of the company of US soldiers at this small, remote Forward Operating Base (FOB) near the Afghan-Pakistan border. The problem that my fellow CPT was having was the issue with the weather and the limitations it puts on our forces. The weather had taken a turn for the worse and it placed a restriction on movement outside the wire. At least for US forces. This is where I was trying to convince him that I could move with my ANA forces regardless of the weather (although not recommended), and I could re-supply the OP as both the ANA and US forces were dangerously low on ammo after the latest attack. To me, this was an easy choice. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: Random Day - Having failed at sleeping through an entire day here (although we're up roughly one eight-hour nap after each three-hour period of verticality), we futzed around and tried to stay busy. First, there was the Chair of Death. Buying "local" is encouraged here - anything to stimulate the Iraqi economy. Sometimes, though, it would be nice if we could have gotten some office chairs from, I dunno...another economy that could use some stimulation. See, the local stuff kinda...sucks. So we tried to fix it. This is the test of the first iteration of repairs. Back to the drawing board... After about four tries we got it stabilized enough to stop whoever was sitting in front of the secure computer from occasionally being launched backward onto the floor. That pretty much qualified as a "win." So we went shopping! (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: Comm Check - Hey Everyone, This is not America's 1st Sgt, just a minion. Seems communication is down for a bit of time due to some computer issues on his end. While we await his arrival back to camp, I thought I'd put up a video of one of their sister companies, Lima, taking care of business during their battalion's last deployment, 2007-2008. On that deployment, America's 1st Sgt was knocking heads and getting the job done in Kilo, another line company in America's Battalion. The video gives an idea of where and what some of his battalion's Marines were up to during their deployment to and around Karmah, a town just outside of Fallujah and one of the last hot spots at the time in Anbar Province. (READ MORE)

Sgt Danger: Boxers - I think I left my underwear in New Jersey. Seriously. After a HET course in Kansas, paperwork in Minnesota, PowerPoint in Washington, weapons familiarization in Wisconsin, convoy training in New Jersey, paternal leave at home, refueling stops in Iceland and Germany, and a brief stay in a hard-to-pronounce "-stan"… my fellow soldiers and I have finally arrived in Afghanistan. And it is glorious to behold. Well, that is if you think dirt, concertina wire, and a poop pond where all the Port-O-Potty water goes is glorious. We flew in on a C-17, a more comfortable (but still tactical) ride. It was noisy, there was no in-flight movie, and we had to wear our body armor… but the air conditioning worked and we even had a bathroom on board. (I remember "holding it" through a 4-hour, 115-degeree C-130 flight from Iraq to Kuwait. Ouch.) I spent most of the trip with iPod headphones in, but dozed off for a little while too. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): News Updates - Tomorrow I go to the second meeting for my newest additional duty job. My new job is to be the public affairs sergeant for the battalion I am in--that's the group of 600 soldiers. I am already doing the same thing for my company--100 soldiers. I do not know what level of work it will mean beyond what I am doing already. Sometime this month I will be going to some of the remote sites where our fuelers work. Best case is I will be flying in a Blackhawk. It should be fun however it works out and I will get to see the folks who I haven't seen for nearly two months. My roommate returns soon. Nice guy, but it has been fun to have a room to myself. I have three seasons of The Wire on DVD which he wanted to watch. I have seasons 1, 3 and 4. I might ask Santa Claus for seasons 2 and 5. It's an HBO original if you have never seen it. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Marines push south in Operation Dagger - The US Marine Corps has established a new combat outpost in southern Helmand province to block the Taliban's movement from the Pakistani border and deny the Taliban a safe haven. Combat Outpost Payne is "the farthest south Marine Unit in Afghanistan," said Captain Chris Annunziata. "Everything that happens south of the river depends on us." Payne "will serve as a logistical center for all operations that will eventually take place south of the river along the border with Pakistan," the US military reported. Another combat outpost is planned for the region. The Marines have yet to secure the district center of Dishu, southwest of Khanishin. The establishment of Combat Outpost Payne, which overlooks the city of Khanishin on the Helmand River, is part Operation Dagger, a massive operation designed to secure the southern half of Helmand province. The Marines took control of Khanishin during the first day of Dagger. (READ MORE)

Misuchan's Milblog: Almost Done - Hello everyone, well my 15 month deployment is almost done. We only have 1 month and 3 weeks left. Everyday that passes by is just another day closer for me seeing my family. As Misuchan has stated, we want to thank everyone for their support. Me and Misuchan have been here for almost 13 months now. I can’t wait to get out of here. But yea, i want to thank everyone for the support through this deployment. It has been rough and we have lost some good soldiers and friends. But they will never be forgotten. The french here have been a major help in the fight again Terrorism. I want to wish the soldiers that are coming to replace us a safe deployment and may god bless them throught these hard times. I have made some good friends that have served with me during my 15 month deployment. I still keep in contact and they reply to me when they have a chance. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: Iraqis vs. Yellow Gold - Iraqi men do not commonly wear yellow gold. Maybe 1 in 20 do. The reasons are religious, cultural, and supposedly scientific, but, above all, they are surprising. "The wearing of silk and gold has been made unlawful for males and lawful for the females of my nation.'' Many Iraqis believe that the religion of Islam forbids men from wearing gold but allows women. While this rule does not derive from the Quran, it is directly recorded in the sunnah, which is a record of traditions and actions of the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him). The reality is that Muslims mimic the manner that he lived daily life. Culturally, an Iraqi man who wears yellow gold is perceived as vain, as he attempts to make himself look more beautiful. Coupled with an understanding of science, this is why Iraqi men prefer white gold or platinum. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: It’ll Be a Doozy - So buried in this ridiculous, misleading Danger Room post is a tidbit from ABC correspondent Gretchen Peters: “Helmand province is the center of opium production and provides almost 90 percent of the world’s supply. The Taliban get 70 percent of their money to buy supplies and fund attacks from opium, according to Gretchen Peters, author of Seeds of Terror: How Heroin Is Bankrolling the Taliban and al Qaeda.” Okay, so I got a review copy of her book yesterday and I’ve been reading it. Let’s just say the 70% claim is ridiculous on its face, and her footnote in her book is not convincing. She also takes all the UNODC numbers and ignores the State Department numbers for opium cultivation patterns, with no explanation for why one is preferable over the other (I could guess, since UNODC makes it all seem worse, but that’ll be in the review). (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Independence Day in Basra - We didn’t shoot off any illegal fireworks for the 4th, although we could have probably put on a good show with tracers and grenades. We did however celebrate like full-blooded Americans - with a cookout. In true trailer trash fashion, we set up a collapsible grill between outside the conference trailer and brought over chips, burgers, hot dogs and “near beer” (non-alcoholic coors) from the chow hall. The meat was all cooked and frozen (in that order) when we got it, so it was just a matter of heating it back up. I can’t say it was the best burger that I had, but it was the 4th of July and dangit, eating burgers is just what you do. The guys smoked some cigars and we sat around with our near beer (and my diet coke) sharing stories of traveling in Iraq. I think the funniest has to be Barney’s story about throwing up on the C-130 when he left for leave. He got sick and had nothing to puke in except for his hygiene bag - talk about ironic. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: My Birthday Box and BBQ - The MND-S Public Affairs shop had a BBQ on July 4th. It was a real nice time. We smoked cigars, drank Coors NonAlcoholic Beer, and put some precooked burgers on the grill. We all hung out together for about three hours and didn’t talk that much shop. It was a nice break from the everyday grind of our Iraqi camping trip/war/statebuilding. The highlight of my night was when Smith was trying to act gay and sit on Raley’s leg. Then Raley up and bit him on the boob. Who thought I had to come to Iraq to see that? I just happened to be in the right place at the right time with my camera. I also received my birthday box from Leslie. She sent me everything from magazines, to a book on exposing the lies of Che Guevera and the useful idiots who idolize him, to cocoa rice krispy treats and her famous sugar cookies with icing, to Joe T. Garcia’s salsa and tortillas. Since we are separated, her love language is gift giving. (READ MORE)

The Writings of a Man's Man: Update From Baghdad - National Sovereignty Day for Iraq was just a little over a week ago, when the Iraqi government took back operational control over their cities and the US troops were ordered out of their cities. Well, as I reported a week ago, we aren’t all out of the cities however things have changed a lot. The Iraqis truly have taken responsibility for security in Baghdad. We have nearly completely scaled back operations and frozen our movement in the cities. The National Police have been doing an excellent job securing the area at least in my area violence has appreciably dropped to almost nil with the Iraqis in control. This development, though excellent from a soldiers stand point (trust me, sitting on your outpost and doing nothing beats trudging through dirty streets in 60 pounds of gear on a 120 degree afternoon) is beginning to pose some interesting problems. My soldiers who use tobacco are beginning to run out, and its not like they can run to Walmart to pick up another can of Copenhagen. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Detainees released in Anbar - AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq – Marines from Multi National Force - West facilitated the release of 17 detainees from U.S. custody and transferred one detainee who was wanted pursuant to a valid warrant to Iraqi Police custody July 7, in Anbar. MNF-W followed a detailed release process to ensure the security of the people of Anbar and the safety of the detainees were not in jeopardy following the release. Marines from MNF-W coordinated with the Iraqi Police to transfer the detainee who was wanted pursuant to a warrant. Other detainees were released near their place of residence. (READ MORE)

Historic Hospital Transitions to Government of Iraq Control - BAGHDAD –Baghdad’s historic Ibn Sina Hospital will return to Iraqi Government control this Fall. In accordance with the Iraq Security Agreement, U.S. forces are scheduled to return the facility to the Iraqis on Oct. 1. Currently operated by the U.S. Army’s 10th Combat Support Hospital (CSH), the staff will continue to provide quality healthcare for all patients throughout the next two months of transition. (READ MORE)

HMLA-169’s OIF detachment to join squadron in Afghanistan - AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq – After serving in Iraq for approximately three months, a detachment of Marines from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 will soon join the remainder of their squadron serving in Afghanistan. “This is an amazing opportunity for every Marine within the squadron, because there aren’t a whole lot who get to serve in two operational theaters within one deployment,” said Maj. Gerry Kearney, detachment officer-in-charge for HMLA-169. More than half of the squadron is already in Afghanistan, and the remaining Marines will soon join their counterparts. (READ MORE)

Iraqi liaison officers new addition to U.S. brigade in Kirkuk - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq – A group of Iraqi liaison officers have begun working side-by-side with Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, to improve security and coordination. The liaison officers come from the Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police, Kurdish Army and Iraqi Oil Police, who work together on Forward Operating Base Warrior in Kirkuk, Iraq to share information and coordinate key assets with the U.S. military and one another. (READ MORE)

Emergency Response Brigade arrests suspected key leader of terrorist network in Tikrit - BAGHDAD – The Emergency Response Brigade, along with Coalition forces advisors, arrested a suspected terrorist during an intelligence-driven operation in Tikrit, Iraq, a town northwest of the Iraqi capital July 2. During the Iraqi-led operation, the elite police force was operating under the authority of a warrant issued by the Criminal Investigative Court of Karkh. (READ MORE)

Iraqi SWAT arrests suspected murderer - TIKRIT, Iraq – Bayji Special Weapons and Tactics, with Coalition forces advisors, arrested a suspected terrorist July 3 during an operation in the Salah ad-Din province, pursuant to a warrant issued by the Bayji Investigative Court. The arrested individual is suspected of murder and being a member of a terrorist cell which conducts roadside bomb attacks against the Iraqi people and Iraqi Security Forces in Salah ad-Din. (READ MORE)

Wanted insurgent detained in Hawijah - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq – Soldiers from the 12th Iraqi Army Division detained a wanted insurgent in Kirkuk Province for allegedly being involved in attacks resulting in the deaths of 37 people early Saturday morning in Hawijah. Mahdi Saleh Khalil was detained by soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, 46th Brigade, 12th Iraqi Army Division. He is believed to be associated with the vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonations on June 30 and April 15, both in Kirkuk city, which killed 37 and wounded 114 Iraqi citizens. (READ MORE)

Destroyed Iraqi Police Station Reopens - BAGHDAD — In 2006, an insurgent’s bomb destroyed the police station in Tarmiyah, leaving a burning pile of rubble. Today, the station has risen from the ashes and is a new source of pride and an improvement in security for the town. U.S. Soldiers with the 8th Military Police Brigade (MPB) are helping the Tarmiyah police prepare for the grand re-opening of the new, modern building. (READ MORE)

Marines Teach Iraqis Lifesaving Skills - MUDAYSIS AIRFIELD — In a combat environment, efficient medical personnel and supplies are needed in order to ensure an individual's safe return in case of an emergency. Without these two important details, a person's treatable wounds may become more serious, decreasing their chance of survival. A Navy corpsman along with Marines from Bravo Company, 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8, trained Iraqi Soldiers here in various areas of combat lifesaving, June 22-24. (READ MORE)

U.S. Advisors Adapt to Lower Profile - BAGHDAD – As Coalition combat forces have lowered their public profile by pulling back from Iraqi cities, towns and villages, so, too, have the trainers and advisors to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq’s (MNSTC-I) mission is to train, mentor and advise the ISF, at the request of the Iraqi government. This role is a key element of the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement. (READ MORE)

Soldiers Raise, Fly American Flags to be Sent to United States - BAGHDAD — July fourth, the day of American independence, was celebrated in the International Zone with special flag raising ceremonies by Soldiers with Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq (MNSTC-I). The flags, after being raised and flown here, will be sent to servicemembers, family and friends in the United States. U.S. Army Col. Keith Kodalen, MNSTC-I, J4 commander, led his section in the first of many flag raisings on this patriotic day. (READ MORE)

Coalition Transfers Maysan Base to IA - FOB HUNTER — U.S. Soldiers recently transferred a military base to Iraqi Security Forces near Majaar Al Kabir in a ceremony attended by key U.S. and Iraqi leaders in the Maysan province. "This is a historic event for the citizens of the Maysan province and for all Soldiers operating in Iraq," said Lt. Col. William Walski, commander, 2nd Squadron, 13th Cavalry Regiment. "We are proud of the relationships we have built with the Iraqi Security Forces and are confident of their ability to protect the citizens of Maysan province." (READ MORE)

Iraqi NCOs Attend Advanced Course - CAMP SPARROW HAWK — The Non-commissioned Officer Corps is the backbone essential to the Army's success, and the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division has recently instituted a Master Trainer Course (MTC) to help develop junior Iraqi NCOs. For five days, Soldiers from Company A, 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment conducted the first Cordon and Search Master Trainer course here, June 14 - 18. (READ MORE)

U.S. Forces Boost Security, Commerce in Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, July 7, 2009 – U.S. forces are helping to equip Afghan forces with the tools they need to improve security and commerce in Afghanistan. In recent days, U.S. forces trained Afghan border police on the use of up-armored Humvees, advised farmers to boost crop production and, to improve quality of life for their own, put the finishing touches on a combat outpost. (READ MORE)

Soldiers Assess Afghan Polling Sites to Ensure Security - NANGARHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, July 7, 2009 – Soldiers from the 554th Military Police Company out of Stuttgart, Germany, are assessing polling sites here for next month’s Afghan elections. Army Sgt. 1st Class John Moyle, a platoon sergeant for 1st Platoon, 554th Military Police Company who hails from Sunbury, Pa., said the purpose of the missions is to assess local security posture. (READ MORE)

Tennessee Guard Agribusiness Team Sets Up Shop in Afghanistan - JALALABAD AIRFIELD, Afghanistan, July 6, 2009 – The Tennessee National Guard’s agribusiness development team is up and running as the first of its kind in Afghanistan’s Paktia and Paktika provinces. Team officials said their primary mission is to set the stage for the success of the teams that come after them. The Tennessee team includes security force members, a headquarters element and about 15 technical experts with vast knowledge and experience in agriculture and livestock. (READ MORE)

Russia Allows Transit for Afghanistan-bound U.S. Troops - WASHINGTON, July 6, 2009 – An agreement signed in Moscow today permits the United States to transit troops and weapons across Russian territory en route to Afghanistan. The pact, signed during President Barack Obama’s visit to the Kremlin, permits 4,500 flights per year through Russian airspace, and saves the U.S. government $133 million annually in transportation costs while boosting logistical efficiency, according to a White House statement. (READ MORE)

Added U.S. Troops Enable Afghanistan Strategy, Mullen Says - WASHINGTON, July 5, 2009 – Additional American troops in Afghanistan are making it possible to institute the new strategy in the country, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today. Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union program, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said Operation Khanjar, which means Strike of the Sword, will challenge the Taliban and al-Qaida in the Helmand River valley in southern Afghanistan. The area has been a terrorist safe haven and which has most of the opium poppy cultivation in the country. (READ MORE)

U.S., Afghan Forces Launch Offensive Into Taliban Stronghold - WASHINGTON, July 2, 2009 – Thousands of American servicemembers and hundreds of Afghan soldiers launched Operation Khanjar today to provide security to the Helmand River Valley in southern Afghanistan. The operation's name translates in English to "Strike of the Sword." Some 4,000 Marines, sailors and soldiers and 650 Afghan soldiers launched nearly simultaneous air and ground assaults all along the river. One Marine was killed and several others were wounded in early fighting, officials said. (READ MORE)

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