July 15, 2009

From the Front: 07/15/2009

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

Old Blue: The new digs - After I finally got to sleep last night I slept for a good ten hours in a temporary room. Whew. The temporary room was comfortable, and it had furniture. No chair, but it had a desk, a bed, a very nice wall locker of local manufacture and another piece of furniture of plywood construction which is more of a standard b-hut furnishing. Today I moved into another temporary room in another building which is more like a barracks with a hallway and private rooms off of it. It is linked to another similar building by the shower and latrine facility, which is very impressive for Afghanistan. Nicely tiled, clean and roomy. The room I moved into is very clean. It is also nearly clean of furniture, the only furnishing being a bunk bed. My duffel bags and ruck sack are my furniture. That and a purloined body armor stand which now proudly holds my armor and helmet in the corner near the door. The whole room is about the size of a commercial broom closet. (READ MORE)

Curmudgeon: An Unlikely Army Chaplain: OUTRAGE - I was chatting online with yet another GWOT veteran whom I've never met last night. We've been corresponding for about 18 months, I'd guess. This guy is a Staff Sergeant (SSG/E-6) in the Army National Guard who served overseas shortly after the invasion of Iraq. He's got 15 years in uniform, and went to the V.A. to get help with PTSD and mTBI (post-traumatic stress disorder and mild traumatic brain injury) a while ago. The V.A. did what they were supposed to do, and helped this guy to see that he was having a normal reaction to an incredibly abnormal circumstance, and his issues resolved over time. Not too long ago, during the Periodic Health Assessment (PHA) each Soldier has to complete each year, he mentioned that he'd been to the V.A. to get help. His National Guard unit is now sending him to a medical review board in order to kick him out of the Army. He'd just gotten the paperwork from the Army on Saturday morning. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Visiting ANA Dining Facility – Part 2 - We departed the bakery and our next stop was the ANA Dining Facility (DFAC). Previously I had a cursory tour of the facility and was familiar with the surroundings. But today would be a much more in-depth visit. Similar to my last visit, the soldiers were outside using a small paring knife peeling potatoes and red onions. Next to their chairs was a mountain of onion peels. I joked to myself that they were peeling enough onions to feed an army, knowing this was exactly what they were doing. They used 2 flat pieces of scrap lumber in place of a cutting board. Next to the onion choppers another soldier diced potatoes into shapes that resembled French fries. Adjacent to the vegetable peeling was a stand- alone room. I don’t recall going inside there on my last tour, otherwise, I would have remembered it. This room contained large caldrons of rice. [Previously I reported one pot would feed about 1700 soldiers. This was incorrect; they prepare 11 large pots of rice per meal. I guess something got lost in the translation.] (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: Sadness! - That's what we call the meal experience here, as in Who wants to go to sadness? We eat UGR-A (Unitized Group Ration - A) meals. By following the link and checking out the Table 1 and table 2 options at the bottom of the page, you can see exactly what the options are. Tonight was Table 1, option 6 - LUNCH/DINNER MENU 6 - SHRIMP SCAMPI/ CHICKEN AND BROCCOLI PENNE. That's not a bad one at all, really. With my left hand, I'm engaging in the during-meal sport we refer to as "fly pong," wherein I attempt to eat while chasing the flies off of my food and onto the meal of the guy across from me. Good times, I tell you. You will note that I also have a most excellent salad on my tray. This concept - fresh vegetables (and, sometimes, even fruit) - was one that came with the manuever unit we're supporting now. Their predecessors didn't seem to realize such things were available. Scury- brought to you by the unit that also hasn't figured out how to make food warm. (READ MORE)

SGM Troy Falardeau: Congratulations to three super soldiers - The soldiers of the 314th Public Affairs Operations Center gathered in the Combined Press Information Center’s conference room on July 14 to witness an award ceremony for three of its own. Congratulations to SPC James Clifton, SPC Justin Wright and SGT Emily Anderson. The three were presented Army Achievement Medals for actions in the past three months that made them stand out. Each of them lives up to the unit’s motto: maximum effort, minimum delay! (READ MORE)

Far From Perfect: Transporting a child - I have been in emergency medicine a long time. I have seen a lot of things that would give most second thoughts about humanity as a whole. However, the patients that have bothered me most over they years have always been the children. I have witnessed some horrible things done to children in my tenure, including using them as shields. We received a medevac for a child with burns. The first thing asked following the basic report was not whether or not the child was ready for transport, but whether this was another burn to the groin and abdomen. It was not the first, nor would it be that last of this particular injury we have seen. The child, about 7, had been burned upon her abdomen, groin, and thighs by hot water from a stove. She had dressings covering all the areas burned and had been given medicine to help with the terrible pain. She was wrapped in a blanket, had an IV, and a multitude of wires for the monitor coming from her body. (READ MORE)

BruceR: In defense of an ANA general - Just a little more on 3/205 Brigade and its commander, the ANA formation in Helmand referred to in the post below. I've had the opportunity to hear BGen Ghori, the ANA commander in Helmand, speak on two occasions, one in KAF, the other at Camp Hero, the ANA base, and Canadian OMLT-advised troops served under his command on two occasions during my tour. My impression was that he was certainly the most dynamic, aggressive ANA general of the five or so I've had any dealings at all with. I'm sure he still gives his British mentors fits at times, and I have no idea how much that dynamism translates in to Afghan skill but I wouldn't doubt his determination to push his troops hard and to fight. He's certainly not one to let them just sit around. So if he's having trouble coming up with 30 more troops for the American Marines, I'd have to assess he really feels those troops are needed more somewhere else. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Don't prod this particular hornet's nest - The RAF Regiment's job in Afghanistan is to protect Kandahar Airfield and the 13,000 international troops based there. Situated just 15 miles (24km) away from the city, Kandahar Airfield (KAF), home to around 13,000 personnel, is huge. You can't miss it. The night I was in town an insurgent certainly didn't, firing a rocket into the base which landed 'somewhere near the helicopters'. The bad guy probably regretted prodding this particular hornet's nest, as his one rocket in was repaid with ten mortars returned in 18 seconds. Such protection is provided by the RAF Regiment operating as a NATO asset. Flight Lieutenant Dale White, the Second-in-Command, described the patch the guys (150 of them) were controlling: "Reaching out beyond KAF, we patrol 500 square kilometres, and we can call on extra assets to saturate that area if we have to. But building up a good relationship with the locals is a paramount task, which pays off." (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: South Waziristan offensive 'punitive,' not counterinsurgency - The Pakistani military is not planning to confront Baitullah Mehsud's Taliban forces head on in South Waziristan. Instead the military will rely on air and artillery strikes and attempt to blockade the region. The Pakistani military's plan for South Waziristan was initially reported by the Globe and Mail. US intelligence officials familiar with the military landscape in northwestern Pakistan confirmed the Pakistani military's plan for South Waziristan during conversations with The Long War Journal. "The South Waziristan operation is punitive in nature," one official told The Long War Journal. "You won't see COIN there, " the official continued, referring to the counterinsurgency techniques of driving out insurgents, holding territory, and securing the local population. "They think they can win this via the air, like the Israelis thought they could beat Hezbollah [in Lebanon in 2006]," the official observed. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Tribal force kills 23 Pakistani Taliban - A Pakistani tribe killed 23 Taliban fighters during clashes in the Mohmand tribal agency. The fighting took place in the Anbar region in Mohmand, right on the border with the Bajaur tribal agency, where the military and the Taliban are again battling for control. A tribal lashkar, or militia, numbering 150 fighters battled a Taliban force of unknown number. The Taliban are reported to have kidnapped and killed three of the lashkar fighters, and torched the homes of five villagers during the fighting. Tribal lashkars have had little success against the Taliban in the past - A tribal lashkar in Upper Dir, far north of Mohmand, is also battling the Taliban after a suicide bomber leveled a mosque in a remote town and killed more than 50 worshipers. (READ MORE)

Curmudgeon: An Unlikely Army Chaplain: BREAKING IN IS HARD TO DO - A young priest arrived in theater recently, and he's been spending about a week with SFC McG and myself, as we accompany him and his Chaplain Assistant around the battlespace. I suspect he's finding things a bit overwhelming over here. It's his first deployment. (Mine too, but hey, I'm old enough to be his father.) So far, we've experienced a convoy -- he did not like being bumped around in the back of an MRAP* at all, and a couple of helicopter flights -- the first of which for him was a Hero Flight. What an introduction to life -- and death -- over here. Most recently the four of us went to the flight line to await transportation to a post I've been trying to get to for a long, long time. It finally looked as though we'd get there. The weather during the day was great, if a bit chilly, and the birds were flying. Until we got to the flight line. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Insider’s Look at Military Travel in the Middle East - CONTINGENCY BASE ADDER, Iraq – I stood by the airfield in Talil early on a Wednesday morning patiently waiting for two UH-60 Black Hawks to lift off from across the strip to come over and pick me up for a flight to Kalsu. I was on more of a time-crunch than I would have liked, but I was finally moving on with the next step of my journey. The trip started bright and early days before. I had the opportunity to travel to various military posts with an officer on a research mission. Sure, I could have tasked the assignment out, but I must admit I was getting a little stir-crazy from the “Dilbert” lifestyle working at Division Headquarters. The mission had me scratching my head and looking for an escape route almost from the very beginning. Housing issues, wrong keys, long meetings, misunderstandings, missing contacts, unrelenting heat, missed meals, unhelpful people and lots of lugging dominated our existence. It became clear to me I wasn’t as young as I used to be. (READ MORE)

Kevin Knodell: Jackson Death Distracted from Soldiers’ Sacrifices - First Lieutenant Brian Bradshaw was killed in Afghanistan on June 25, the same day Michael Jackson died. With the King of Pop’s passing dominating the headlines, no one much noticed Bradshaw’s death, at first. Then Bradshaw’s family began extolling their soldier’s sacrifice, and Fox News and CBS News (posted above) eventually ran with it. Bradshaw attended Pacific Lutheran University, where I am a student with strong connections to the Army ROTC program. I didn’t know him — he commissioned the year before I enrolled — but I knew of him, and even met him once. His death has strongly affected the cadets, as well as the training cadre and graduates. I see the faces of friends and mentors when I watch the CBS spot. Michael Jackson’s death was newsworthy, but it overshadowed the recent deaths of more than a dozen American and British soldiers in Afghanistan. The dead soldiers’ families got to hear every day about their countrymen’s “despair” over the “Jackson tragedy.” (READ MORE)

War, the military, COIN and stuff: In the Graveyard of Empires - It didn’t take long after the American invasion of Iraq for the literary output inspired by the war to start hitting the bookshelves. In 2005 alone, influential books like George Packer’s The Assassins' Gate, Anthony Shadid’s Night Draws Near, Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City, and Bing West’s No True Glory were released, followed closely by in 2006 by Tom Ricks’ widely-praised Fiasco. All of these books captured the public’s imagination in some way (No True Glory, in fact, is currently being made into a movie starring Harrison Ford, if that’s any indication), and spurred debate over the conduct of the war and the cracked edifice of ideology, blind assumption, stunning incompetence, and misdirection that led to it. Afghanistan, with its much smaller American footprint—and having been mistakenly considered “won” for far too long—hasn’t fared quite as well between the covers. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Afghan Army food poisoning – Part 3/Conclusion - After we inspected the serving line and dining tables, I wanted to focus more on sanitary conditions. I inquired whether bleach was used and if we could see a sample. The ANA Captain showed me the bottle of bleach they used. The decorative label had some catchy American name, but after closer examination I determined it was manufactured in Karachi, Pakistan. My wife will tell you that I am really sensitive to a strong bleach smell and it bothers me. But today my sensory receptacles just weren’t working or something was wrong. Note: Please don’t do this at home. I unscrewed the lid off the bottle and couldn’t detect any odor. This seemed very peculiar so I placed the bottle closer to my nostrils and still nothing. By now I have a curious audience and they watched as I placed the opening of the bottle next to my nose and inhaled. I detected a slight aroma of chlorine. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Pentagon Deploys New Troops to Iraq, With a Twist - The Pentagon announced new troop deployments Tuesday that begin to formalize the role of soldiers in Iraq as advisers to Iraqi forces instead of combatants gunning for insurgents. This year and next, the Pentagon will deploy four new units called Advisory and Assistance Brigades to Iraq. The US military has been advising the Iraqi security forces for several years, but this is the first time the Defense Department has designed a training unit tailored to the needs of Iraq. (READ MORE)

US Troops in Iraq to Focus More on Support Than Combat - The Pentagon announced Tuesday it will change the composition and mission of some troop units being deployed to Iraq in the coming months to reduce their combat role and increase their ability to train and support Iraqi forces. Spokesman Bryan Whitman says seven US combat brigades are scheduled to be replaced by fresh forces in the coming months, but four of them will be replaced by somewhat different units - specially created Advisory and Assistance Brigades. (READ MORE)

Troops to Advise Iraqis - The Pentagon has created, and ordered to Iraq, four custom-made Army brigades designed to focus more on advising Iraqis and less on fighting as the United States prepares for its 2011 exit. The new units are among 30,000 troops being sent to Iraq, starting this fall, the Defense Department announced Tuesday. An additional 7,500 are going to Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

U.S. Units Partner, Pass Combat Life Saver Skills to Iraqi Army Medics - COB ADDER — Two U.S. units partnered to provide Combat Life Saver (CLS) skills to the Iraqi Army (IA) during a recent five-day training course here. Medics from the 287th Sustainment Brigade and 4th Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 1st Armored Division, partnered to provide CLS training to four medics from the IA 10th Special Forces Commando Battalion. (READ MORE)

First Air Force Officer Takes Command of Army Engineer Corps District - TALLIL — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Gulf Region Division (GRD) in Iraq made history July 9, when Col. Jack Drolet relinquished command of the USACE's Gulf Region South (GRS) district to Col. Jeffry D. Knippel, the first U.S. Air Force officer to ever command an Army Engineer district. GRD Commanding General, Maj. Gen. Michael R. Eyre, presided over the one-hour ceremony here in the Post Chapel of Contingency Operating Base Adder. (READ MORE)

Mobile Medical Truck Trains Healthcare Professionals Throughout Iraq - BAGHDAD — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) Gulf Region Division (GRD) renovated a mobile medical equipment training facility here in June for use by health care providers and technicians at Primary Healthcare Centers (PHC) and hospitals across Iraq. "Originally it was a simple blood laboratory and X-ray truck," said Mohamad Husam, Operations, Maintenance and Sustainment division, GRD, "but we added the dental chair and additional blood work lab equipment." (READ MORE)

Battery Commander Looks Back at Successful Tour of Duty in Iraq - FOB DELTA — Fifteen months after deploying to Iraq, the Soldiers of Battery C, 1st Battalion, 21st Field Artillery Regiment, 41st Fires Brigade, are getting ready to head home to Fort Hood, Texas. From Bucca to Buehring, Basrah to Delta, the Soldiers of Btry. C have had an adventure of a deployment. Starting at Camp Bucca in April 2008, Btry. C's first mission in Iraq was conducting detainee operations. (READ MORE)

Brigade Makes ‘Huge Difference’ in Iraq, Commander Says - WASHINGTON, July 14, 2009 – Soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team have made a positive impact on security and quality of life in Iraq’s Basra province, their commander said during a briefing from Iraq today. Their impact can be attributed, in part, to successful training programs, Army Col. Butch Kievenaar said. (READ MORE)

Soldiers Capture ‘High-value’ Terror Suspect in Baghdad - BAGHDAD, July 14, 2009 – U.S. forces apprehended a wanted man suspected of being the leader of a bomb-making cell during a July 12 civil affairs mission west of Baghdad. Civil affairs officers from C Troop, 150th Armored Reconnaissance Squadron, went to the man’s house July 12 to pay for damages to his front door caused during a previous attempt to capture the known criminal. (READ MORE)

Microgrants Assist Growing Economy in Iraq - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, Iraq, July 14, 2009 – As security improves in Kirkuk, the business community has the opportunity to grow. But some small businesses still need a helping hand. U.S. forces issue microgrants of up to $5,000 to help Iraqi small-business owners build or revitalize their businesses, and they follow up about 30 days later to assess progress. (READ MORE)

'Walking a tightrope' - A FALLEN soldier slammed the MoD's lack of resources and manpower in an incredible war diary written before he died. Lieutenant Mark Evison blasted the "tightrope" troops are forced to walk every day at under-equipped bases saying they "are likely to fall unless drastic measures are taken". The soldier was killed just weeks after writing the journal extract. (READ MORE)

Afghan War’s Buried Bombs Put Risk in Every Step - This year, bomb attacks on coalition troops in Afghanistan have spiked to an all-time high, with 465 in May alone, more than double the number in the same month two years before. At least 46 American troops have been killed by IED’s this year, putting 2009 on track to set a record in the eight-year war. (READ MORE)

Britain Questions Role in Afghan War - Opposition politicians and many others are beginning to question Britain's involvement in a far-flung war that is increasingly bloody. Much of the political clamor revolves around what they complain is a shortage of equipment: (READ MORE)

British Coffins Raise Ire Over Afghan Push - With its cricket field, pubs and a centuries-old church, this is a typical southern English town in all respects but one: Every corpse that returns from Britain's wars abroad passes through it, in what has become a public show of respect. (READ MORE)

Dannatt Calls for Rethink on Afghan Resources as Troop Deaths Mount - A rethink is needed on the resources and troop numbers devoted to Britain’s mission in southern Afghanistan, the head of the Army said yesterday. On a visit to Kabul, General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, said that the high number of deaths in recent days had made people question “what we’re doing [and] how we’re doing it". (READ MORE)

6 Killed in Afghanistan Helicopter Crash are Ukrainian, Reports Say - Military officials said Tuesday that six foreign contractors and four Western soldiers, including two US Marines, were killed in what is fast becoming one of the most lethal months for coalition forces in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

'Caveats' Neuter NATO Allies - The outgoing NATO SACEUR, or supreme allied commander Europe, would gladly forgo more NATO troops to fight Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan if allied countries dropped their caveats against their use in combat operations. (READ MORE)

Coalition, Afghan Forces Reclaim Village, Disrupt Taliban - WASHINGTON, July 14, 2009 – Coalition and Afghan forces reclaimed the eastern Afghan village of Barge Matal yesterday following a July 12 firefight with Taliban militants, military officials reported. Insurgent forces had overwhelmed the isolated mountain village in Nuristan province several days prior, but fled as Afghan and NATO troops launched a late afternoon gun battle that lasted into the evening. The forces quickly secured key areas of the village and repelled the insurgents. (READ MORE)

Joint Missions Lay Groundwork for Brighter Future in Afghanistan - LOGAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan, July 14, 2009 – Joint operations have become a key term for U.S. and Afghan forces, particularly for soldiers assigned to the Cherokee Troop, 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, here. The soldiers patrol local villages nearly every day, typically with Afghan security forces by their side. “Seventy percent of our operations are joint operations with the Afghan National Army,” said Army Staff Sgt. Shawn Evans, a squad leader with 1st Platoon, Battle Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, attached to Cherokee Troop, 3-71. (READ MORE)

NATO soldiers killed in Afghan road accident - Two NATO soldiers were killed in a road accident in northern Afghanistan, the alliance said today, as the number of foreign military deaths so far this year passed the 200 mark. The force said the pair were killed late Tuesday while driving, without giving details or disclosing their nationalities. An Afghan provincial governor said the two were Turkish. (READ MORE)

Al-Zawahiri urges Pakistanis to support Taliban - Cairo - An audio tape purportedly by al-Qaeda's second-in- command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, released Wednesday urged Pakistanis to fight the United States and to back Islamist militants. "It is the individual duty of every Muslim in Pakistan to join the mujahideen, or at the very least, to support the jihad in Pakistan and Afghanistan with money, advice, expertise, information, communications, shelter and anything else he can offer," al-Zawahiri said, according to a transcript of the tape posted on the website of the US-based NEFA Foundation. (READ MORE)

1 comment:

brat said...

Thank YOU for doing this every day. I appreciate you.:)