August 17, 2009

From the Front: 08/17/2009

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

Bad Dogs and Such: I must simply state - That the most awesome plane ride in the world is the one that takes you OUT of Iraq. We're not back on American soil yet, but I've now checked off the second tour where I got out of that country with all MY fingers and toes, and all my Joes are healthy and riding the plane home with me. Ladies and gentlemen, THAT is a win. (READ MORE)

Highland Sailor: Arrived: Camp McCrady - I made it to Camp McCrady located on Fort Jackson, SC. A few posts ago I stated I was going to sit around San Diego (SD) until my flight to SC…Rather than sit around the barracks in SD, I decided to take 6 days leave. I flew home to Florida and spent some time with the family. After my leave the pace of the events started to quicken, I flew back to SD and two days later I flew a military hop back to the east coast. My training unit arrived in our barracks and unpacked our sea bags, ready to call this open bay home for the next three weeks. Until next time: Keep your eye on a shipmate, head on a swivel and stand by to Give'em Hell! Hooah! (READ MORE)

Lt Col P: O2BNQ8 - "It's like a blow-dryer in your face." That's how someone once described to me the climate of Kuwait in the summer. True, so true. This is my fourth (?) time through here in various modes of transport, and I find myself recognizing more and more landmarks. And this time, a vague sense of familiarity finally coalesced: Las Vegas. It's as hot and dry as Vegas, and every inch as tacky. Just not as much fun. However, the camp where I am is as congenial as it can be made to be, and the Marine liaison cell is a well drilled machine. I have reasonable expectations of getting out of here and on to Afghanistan soon. Right! I'm off now to do something. What exactly that is, I don't know. It might involve sleep. I have a comfortable but squeaky rack, and for a VMI alumnus with nothing but time on his hands (no pun intended), a squeaky rack is a terrible thing to have. More to follow. (READ MORE)

3rd Time, New Country: SVBIED - I am guessing most of you have already seen and/or read the news from Saturday about the SVBIED (Suicide Vehicle Born IED) that exploded here in Kabul, killing 7 and wounding 91. When it exploded, I was at the hospital. News travels fast. Most of the nurses in the OT received calls on their cell phones letting them know what happened. Where the explosion occurred is only a long stone's throw from here (NKC). We have driven through the gates where the explosion was. In fact, 4 members of our team were supposed to convoy a little later in the morning. Fortunately, they were not on the road when it happened. The Afghans at NMH had an awesome response. They were prepared to receive causalities within minutes of the explosion. They did receive some, and effectively triaged and treated them. The hospital has had too much experience in causality treatment. They have know nothing but war for the last 30 years. (READ MORE)

A World of Troubles: Fire fights punctuate bouts of boredom at Kunar outpost - Combat Outpost Badel, Kunar- Up on the hill overlooking the verdant farmland and distant mountains, is a burnt cooking pot. In the pot is a bubbling goulash of Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s)- veggie burger, Chicken Alfredo, meatloaf and gravy, Chicken Cavatelli, pork chop, raisins, Slim Jim’s, local potatoes and peppers. The soldiers served their feast up in emptied Cheerios bowls. “We started doing it at Outpost 2 when the guy who brought donkeys up and down the hill for re-supply kept getting threatened by the Taliban. So all we had left was MRE’s. We had been trying to avoid eating them,” said Sgt. Matt MacFarlane of 2nd platoon of Charlie Company 1-32 Infantry, describing how the platoon’s culinary ambitions began. “But it turned out pretty good.” (READ MORE)

A World of Troubles: In Kunar tribal ties are trickiest - Kunar, Afghanistan- Dog Company lives within the walls of this old Russian base appropriately named FOB Fortress. To the east is the Kunar River and the rugged passes of the Black Mountain, regularly traversed by Taliban who call themselves Black Mountain Fighters. The Pakistan border is about six miles away. Here the bunkers are not for show. Outside every plywood hut there's a cement square fortified with a double layer of sand bags. Fortress is regularly hit by insurgent mortars launched from the overlooking mountain tops. Last month they were mortared on consecutive days before the Company installed an outpost on the nearest mountain top and the attacks slowed somewhat. Amidst the chaos, Dog Company of 1st-32 infantry of 3-10 Mountain, has been tasked with the mission to interrupt insurgent activity along the river and border with Pakistan, known as the Dorand line. Politicians in Kabul and Islamabad may have drawn the boundaries, but to the tribes they are fluid. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Camp memorial service for Capt. Matthew Freeman - The rest of Captain Freeman’s team finally arrived in country. Captain Freeman arrived several weeks ahead as part of the advance team. Instead of a being a reunion of Marines, they would attend their teammate’s memorial service. Unlike some of the previous services held here, this one was a bit different. To begin the service, several songs were played. Three Marines stood stoically 1 pace in front of a wooden box.They were holding the symbolic helmet, weapon, combat boots, and identification tags. On cue, a Marine inserted the M-4 rifle bayonet into the wooden slot. The helmet was then placed on top of the butt stock. A set of identification tags were draped over the pistol grip and a pair of combat boots was positioned on each side of the bayonet. On an adjacent table with a white cloth were two pictures of Captain Freeman along with his Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals. (READ MORE)

Alex Strick van Linschoten: Abdullah and Ahmadzai come to Kandahar - With only four days to go before the elections, I thought it might be useful to comment on how the opposition candidates' rallies went this past week. Myself and my colleague were graced with the presence of a good half dozen members of the international press corps this week, and in all likeliness you'll read several pieces from Kandahar in the next few days. I've just seen Jon Boone did one for the Observer which isn't that bad. Give it a read. Wednesday the 12th was Abdullah's day in town. The old Communist governor of Kandahar, Noor ul-Haq Ulumi, who was responsible for buying off the mujahedeen in greater Kandahar at the end of the anti-Soviet war had come down a few days earlier to meet elders and prepare for the rally. He chose an empty patch of land next to his house as the site for the rally, and people began to arrive there early in the morning. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: War is hell - Once in a while it seems an entrepreneurial fellow and his camel can make a quick buck in the desert. Expecting another ho-hum day of tax free pay in Al Asad, we were swaggering our way to the chow hall when we were greeted with this sight. Read the short article linked below about what in the wide, wide world of sports was going on here in the parking lot. What you will not find the article is how mangy and disagreeable this creature was. Mind you, I would be disagreeable too if you got on my back in the triple digit heat. Judging by the hideous noises coming from the beast, Miss Camel was not as enthusiastic as her owners about the whole thing. One of my intelligence analysts was able to roughly translate Iraqi camel speech and they report that she was saying things like: “No, I am not kneeling down on this hot sand for some jackass to climb on me!” “Come closer so I can spit on you.” “Whack me in the shins with that stick one more time and I’ll bite your mustache off.” (READ MORE)

Combat Boots for Artemis: News (from the one left behind) - Hi Everyone! This is Dela's husband, David, writing. I don't have much in the way of news yet, but thought I'd share with you what I do have. As you know, Dela left Monday night for the hotel. She didn't sleep much and had to get up at 0400 Tuesday for processing. She didn't make tape, so they had her do a step test and pushups. She sailed through those and they passed her. (There were several others who had to do the same thing. Among them were a couple of 18-year-old girls who did not pass.) She and the other recruits spent all day Monday at the Atlanta airport waiting for the bus to take them to Fort Jackson (hereafter referred to as FJ). For whatever reason, they pet her in charge of all the other FJ recruits. She had to keep their paperwork and keep track of them all. Around 2000 (8:00pm) they finally got underway. After four hours of driving, they arrived at FJ. Evidently they were kept busy all night and not allowed to sleep. (READ MORE)

Embedded in Afghanistan...: Elections - We were lucky enough to have our stay extended here to cover the election coming up on the 20th. I’d feel a little better about staying if they’d let me vote – I reckon I’ve done enough for this country by now that I’ve earned that right, but oh well. Given that I don’t know much about the candidates or parties involved, I suppose it’s just as well that I don’t vote. What I do know is that 40 some odd persons are running for president. Such a large and divided field would seem to provide significant advantages for the incumbent, though there’s to be a runoff if no one obtains a certain percentage during the first vote. It seems pretty certain that Karzai will remain in power. We obviously don’t really concern ourselves with the candidates or politics involved. We’re here to see that an election takes place with minimal chaos. The results are irrelevant to our purpose. I have no doubt that the people are reasonably well-informed about the candidates, but I ask myself how exactly an illiterate person votes. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Ground Truth - As the elections approach there has been much in the news on Afghanistan and most of it is not terribly accurate. Yesterday’s VBIED in Kabul is a good example. Most news outlets are connecting this attack to a countrywide effort by Taliban groups to interfere with the Presidential election scheduled for Thursday. I’m not buying that and I don’t think the Taliban view this upcoming election as a significant event. Some groups have publicly stated they will not interfere, other groups say they will disrupt the process, but we are not seeing any real attempts to do that. Initial reporting indicated that the VBIED had targeted 2 ISAF Humvees which turned out to be false. It appears that the driver just detonated his bomb about 50 meters shy of the first American Embassy checkpoint. If this is the vehicle then I take back what I said in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor: (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: A day in the life of a Marine combat outpost - Cpl. Justin Thompson crawled out of his rat hole dug deep into a wind-beaten, barren hilltop. Stepping over mounds of protective sand bags, he watched the sun rise over the Now Zad valley, a Taliban stronghold. Thompson is part of a small Marine force that keeps watch over the deserted town of Now Zad. About 10 miles (16 kilometers) away, Marines from the same company are fighting to drive the Taliban out of the town of Dahaneh. But Marines stationed on ANP Hill are removed from the battle, relegated to keeping an eye on insurgent movements elsewhere in the Zad valley. Three years of intense fighting between the Taliban and NATO forces have chased away Now Zad's 30,000 inhabitants, leaving what had been one of the largest towns in southern Helmand province deserted. The Marine company lacks the firepower to force the Taliban out of their positions just a mile away. So the Marines of ANP Hill keep watch over the area from their lonely outpost. (READ MORE)

In Iraq Now (at 56): Comments on the Comments - My last several meals in the DFAC, the topic of conversation has been the article on Pennlive.com about our brigade and all the negative comments on it. I got an email from a friend who has never been in the military that sums up the feelings of many people here: "Those people are bitter and have absolutely no shame about airing dirty laundry. Those are some seriously detailed comments and a lot of insubordination. I think the whiners are the "kids" in their 20s who have grown up with Facebook and Twitter, where you just post before you think. I couldn't get past reading five posts, because all of it basically said the same thing. It's like the snowball effect for complaining. Once someone starts, it becomes an avalanche of 'I have it worse than you do'." (READ MORE)

Sgt Danger: Pushups, Situps, and Run - My last APFT, three weeks ago, was a wake-up call. I’d gotten fat, a little lazy, and was eating like crap. I approached the test not with well-deserved trepidation, but with a sense of entitlement. I knew that I was out of shape, but I’d never failed before. "I got this," I foolishly thought. 41 pushups, 45 situps, and a 22:00 2-mile later… I was humbled. So this morning I woke up at 0400 to test with my platoon, very nervous. By 0435 I was in the front-leaning-rest on a concrete basketball court, lit by the flourescent generator-powered spotlights. As I waiting for the "Go!" to start pushing, I bit my lip remembering how much it hurt last time. This morning, my plan was to push out 30 quickly and take my time on getting ten more. There was no pride, I just wanted to pass. As I raised and lowered my body, it felt different than the test before. In the first thirty seconds I had 30 reps done. For the next minute and a half I slowed down and pushed out 25 more! (READ MORE)

In the NARMY now: I KNEW IT!! - I told you so. I knew I was going to jinx myself with my complaining. I went in to work today to find out that now instead of doing the 5k once a week, they decided it was so popular they are now doing it twice a week!!! That's what I get I guess. Oh well. I had a story I thought was kind of funny I wanted to share. So part of my duties here on base is traffic enforcement. Basically controlling the parking, speeding, stop signs, etc. Let me say up front, that I'm not big on giving tickets out here. Most of the people here on the base are only here for a few weeks before they head up to Iraq only to be never seen here again. The tickets don't follow them from base to base, so as long as it's nothing majorly wrong I usually just give them a verbal warning. Sometimes I don't even pull them over. I just flash my lights at them just to let them know I caught them and to take it easy, and sometimes I just follow them a little closely to convey the same message as flashing the lights. (READ MORE)

Omar @ Iraq the Model: Sadrist MP: Will not Let Da’awa get the Premiership - The head of the Sadrist bloc in the parliament said the new alliance (the replacement of the main Shiite bloc, the UIA) could be formed without the Da’awa Party, if the latter insisted on certain conditions. The Da’awa Party, led by PM Maliki, had previously demanded half the bloc’s future share of seats and the premiership as conditions for joining the UIA. The Sadrists seem to have run out of patience with Maliki and the Da’awa; the language they used suggest that's the case. "The Sadrist bloc will not allow the premiership go to the Da’awa”. Aqeel Abdul-Hussein, the Sadrist MP told al-Mashriq newspaper. Abdul-Hussein added that Da’aw’s participation in the UIA is trivial matter “The Da’awa Party’s departure from the UIA does not mean the alliance could not be formed. Neither would Da’awa’s addition mean the UIA was missing anything without them”. (READ MORE)

JD Johannes: Back to JBad - One of the most peculiar aspects of embedding with coalition forces is how often one find themselves hitch hiking or trying to hop on a helicopter. Over the years, I developed a technique that helps by embracing my inner highway hitch hiker. The American hitch hiker carries a sign with a name of a city. The embedded hitch hiker hangs out at the helicopter landing zone and slowly walks up to the pilot or crew chief and asks if he can jump in. I started using the sign a few years ago in Iraq. It works well. It worked to get me a ride from Mehtar Lam back for FOB Fenty. In fact the pilot and crew chief got a kick out of the sign. Especially when I give them the thumb. The Blackhawk I jumped on wasn't going to FOB Fenty, but they were going close enough that they gave me a ride. Once back in the TF Mountain Warrior PAO office, I had a quick end of embed chat and made arrangements to come back out again in the fall. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: South Waziristan Taliban groups clash - report - Taliban forces loyal to Baitullah Mehsud are reported to have killed 17 fighters loyal to commander Mullah Nazir during an ambush South Waziristan. Baitullah's forces are said to have carefully set up an ambush for Nazir's fighters as their convoy moved towards Wana, the main town in South Waziristan and a stronghold of Nazir. "They were hiding behind the rocks and, as soon as our people reached there, they opened fire," Shaheen Wazir, a spokesman for Nazir told Reuters. "It was so sudden and quick that none of our men fired back." A spokesman for Baitullah Mehsud denied his forces ambushed Nazir's men. In the past, Nazir and Baitullah's followers clashed over the presence of Uzbek fighters in South Waziristan, as well as over traditional tribal rivalries. (READ MORE)

Michael J. Totten: Don't Tell Me How This Ends - There’s a lot of talk right now among opinion writers and policy analysts about how Iraq may be slouching toward civil war again. It’s understandable. Suicide- and car-bomb attacks make headlines every week. After a recent devastating assault on a Shia village, a woman standing amid rubble looked into a television camera and yelled at Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: “Look Prime Minister,” she shouted, “look Minister of Interior, where’s the security you’re talking about?” Iraq is still a violent, dysfunctional mess. It probably will be for a long time. But Iraqis aren’t necessarily doomed to suffer another round of internal bloodletting like they did during the middle years of this decade. In the dangerous security vacuum that followed the demolition of Saddam’s regime, Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) ignited a civil war by unleashing ferocious terror attacks against the country’s Shia community. (READ MORE)

Dude in the Desert: 16 Aug 09 - Today was all about the slideshows….stuff about mail, when we’re leaving, where we going, what we’re doing here, who the supervision is, what they’re here for, how they can help, what they expect, what we should expect from them, how we are supposed to act, what we are supposed to learn, blah blah blah blah …normal stuff we hear from each new leadership crew we ever work for…it’s all good info I suppose, but it’s always the same exact thing we heard from the last people in charge…that was just the morning briefing…after lunch we heard about the areas we will be going to and what to expect—environment, terrain, and risks…the briefing was about SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape)…the basics of what we do if we are lost or isolated from the rest of our crew…this is all classified info so I can’t elaborate…of course, this is the bare minimum basic info: (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: The Surrey With the Fringe on the Top - No, I haven't gone out and bought a surrey with fringe on the top and we're not reviving "Oklahoma!" on any stage in Baghdad. Going with the theme of most of my posts that fall under the name of a song, I wanted to write about what's happening here in Iraq that has something to do with...well...a surrey with the fringe on the top. That surrey, from the play, also has "isinglass curtains you can roll right down, in case there's a change in the weather..." That's it...we've had a change in the weather. It's only mid-August (is that the "midsummer" from a "midsummer's night dream?") and we've had...a change in the weather. Almost imperceptable, but a change nonetheless. The mornings and evenings are cooler than they have been. I walked into to the work last week at 5:30 a.m. and it was only 88 degrees! A few days later I walked to work at 8 a.m. and it was only 99 degrees! And today, the high was only 113! Now, you might be thinking...are you nuts? (READ MORE)

our little {BIG} family: We've almost hit the five month mark since Ben left - Has it really been that long? Everyday feels the same to me. It's still just as hard as it was when he left. We're getting used to this. We have a good schedule down (which makes all the difference), Payson is getting older, we are more settled. But I'm still just as lonely - or maybe even more than that first day. We have really good days, where we are preoccupied by family outings, or visiting relatives, but as summer is coming to a close, those days will soon become fewer and farther in between. I'm not looking forward to those long winter days. Our good days happen quite often. Days when I'm happy, and I am enjoying myself and the time I have with my kids. But at night, when I climb into bed, I'm hit again with the sad reality that I am alone. Then there are the bad days. There are less bad days then good, but when the bad days come they hit me hard. I get mad. (READ MORE)

The Quatto Zone: Undaunted - Less than 12 hours after a suicide bomber struck near ISAF headquarters in Kabul, the staff is back to business, and for most of us things are pretty much as they were. Not so for the Afghans killed and wounded in this attack. Here is the frustration, and maybe the hope, of the mission here. Insurgents execute a well planned attack, and their presumptive Western targets are largely unscathed while more Afghans suffer. The gamble of our counterinsurgency strategy is that the Afghan people--repulsed by insurgent violence--will support their government before they reject it for whatever peace they think they can achieve under the insurgents' sway. It's going to be damn difficult to succeed. But after working together to recover from today's blow, international forces and more than a few Afghans are only more committed to try. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Get Your Move On - This has been a busy week. The big news: I'm no longer in the International Zone. My command has been moving for the past couple of weeks from our old home at Essayons Compound (across the street from Ibn Sina Hospital, for those of you who've been there) to our new location at Area 51 at Victory Base Compound (VBC), which is at the airport. I did the transition on Tuesday. What this meant for me was that my computer at work was taken offline on Sunday and packed away on Monday. No computer, not a whole helluva lot to do. Break my heart, right? To pack up my desk at work took, oh, 15 minutes, since I was dawdling. My hooch was another matter. Our internet capability died on Sunday and didn't come up until after I left. I got all my stuff packed up (where did all this crap come from, anyway??) and on Monday we loaded everything into our uni-packs. These are modular boxes, roughly four feet high/wide/long, into which we put all our worldly possessions. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: The Dreadful Treatment of Military Interpreters - Earlier this year, I was going out on a patrol through central Afghanistan with some colleagues. We were hitching a ride with the local PRT. As is normal, the night before the patrol, we all gathered near the PRT operations center for a briefing on what to encounter. The colonel running the PRT saw us cultural advisers coming and flattened his lips. While giving the weather report, our interpreter came up. Now this interpreter was an American, born and raised in Sacramento, to parents originally from an Eastern majority-Pashtun province. She could speak Pashto reasonably well, and was steadily improving. She also had a Secret security clearance, so she could participate in mission briefings without any concerns about operational security. She also wore a scarf around her head, as is generally considered normal for a modest Muslim woman. To this PRT colonel, however, that meant Terrorist. (READ MORE)

CAPT Benjamin Tupper: The Range - Target practice is a relatively easy task for a group of soldiers to accomplish. It requires a remote and unpopulated area in which to shoot, paper targets, and wooden target stands. In America it would take a few dollars, a quick trip to a hardware store, and a couple of hours to build the latter. Things take a little longer in Afghanistan. We were tasked with conducting a weapons qualification training event for Afghan soldiers, but executing this simple mission took weeks. First off, we didn’t have a Home Depot out in rural Afghanistan, so building the wooden target stands had to be contracted out to an Afghan carpenter. At our base a white-bearded elder we called “The Godfather” controlled all such contracts through a mix of threats and patronage, price-gouging and delaying any project to ensure his desired level of graft. Then there was the issue of quality control. (READ MORE)

Short Timers: Getting The Band Back Together - It's been over a week since the team has been in the same place - Brian and Jessica headed out to Forward Operations Base Grizzly last Saturday, then Tuesday they came back to Warhorse as Jennifer and I traveled to Command Outpost Cobra to the northeast. We thought we would have a little overlap time before Brian and Jessica went back north to FOB Normandy, but then Jennifer and I were waylaid en route, so we missed each other again. In a few hours, though, Brian and Jessica should be returning from Normandy by convoy, and the gang will be whole once more. I've really appreciated the trips outside of Warhorse - they've been the most valuable time I've spent here - but it's going to be nice to have a little time with the whole team. It's been a while. (READ MORE)

Short Timers: The Arms Race - I was sitting in the coffee shop when I noticed people running by outside. Then I heard the alarm, "Incoming...Incoming..." and realized that it had been going on for several seconds. I was so engrossed in the conversation I was having that I hadn't noticed it earlier. I looked across the table to Tom Peter, a reporter for The Christian Science Monitor to whom I'd been talking. He looked bored, no doubt the result of having far more experience with the warning system than myself. "It's usually not even an actual attack," Peter said, showing no inclination to get up and move to a shelter. I remembered an earlier conversation I had with a soldier about the system. He told me that in a best-case scenario, the alarm gives eight seconds of warning before an impact. If the attack was real, I had no hope of reaching a shelter. I didn't move. (READ MORE)

Sketchpad Warrior: Walk About - When people ask me what it's like going on a patrol, I usually remark about the strange slowness of the movement, and the almost surreal normalcy of it all. If the weapons were absent, it'd look like a casual walk in the desert or about town (until something happens to disrupt that walk about, of course). What a strange feeling it is, to be so exposed, and yet to move do deliberately, all the while under the potential eye of the enemy. That exposure is made more stark by the vast expanses of the open desert. The watercolor sketch above portrays the feeling of stark beauty of the desert in Afghanistan, especially when there's a river there. It also addresses the lonely nature of walking around on a patrol, even if you've got a whole squad with you. The sketch above is a watercolor I did while I was in Afghanastan, and it's of a Marine from 2/3, on a patrol near Delaram. He's against a wall, being watchful during a pause in the patrol. (READ MORE)

Sour Swinger: DVIDS Soccer Ball and Toy Distribution in Choyoul Iraq - These pictures are from a donation distribution mission. We had a ton of donated items to hand out that day. Everything from soccer balls from Kick For Nick to toys and clothing from family back home. We hit two towns that day, one of which was Choyoul. The other I have no idea how to spell. For some reason Combat Camera just labeled all the pics from Choyoul. The Army has been occasionally embedding Combat Camera in our missions. Photos were taken by Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert Whelan. I linked each pic to its free downloadable high res copy. There’s a total of 12 pics. Click here to see them all. 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. (READ MORE)

Small Wars Journal: The Deconstruction of Information Operations - With the publishing of FM 3-0 in February 2008, the Army ushered in a new information doctrine. Based on the premise of an operational environment of increasing informational complexity, the Army made the determination that the current concept of information operations (IO) was too limiting in scope and necessitated a paradigm shift. The problem set, as defined by the Combined Arms Center (CAC), was “an inadequate capability to communicate effectively and coherently;” “no single cyber/cyberspace theory;” and “a perception that IO has somehow failed to deliver the goods.” To address this problem set, CAC created a conceptual framework based on five information tasks consisting of information engagement (IE), Command and Control Warfare (C2W), information protection, Operations Security (OPSEC) and military deception (MILDEC). IE is intended to address the first problem of an inadequate capability to communicate effectively and coherently while C2W and information protection intend to address the cyber/cyberspace issue. (READ MORE)

There's sand in my...: Well... - Well we’re at that stage of the deployment where we’ve seen just about all there is to see in trauma. Been there done that, got the blood on the shoes! Now that I’ve said that we’ll probably get something really freaky in! haha. We are on track to destroy the July record that we set, hopefully we don’t break it, we don’t want to see people get hurt. We had a conversation with a father of one of our child patients (pictured), through the interpreter. He lost 3 sons and a daughter and is at the hospital with his remaining son. The conversation left me with a warm feeling, he said that he now sees that the coalition forces are here to help and not hurt the people of Afghanistan. We have done multiple surgeries on his son who has lost his left arm and had some chest injuries that have since healed. You could tell by just the body language the tremendous loss that the father has suffered and how much he loves his remaining child. It’s really sad to see the suffering that the Taliban has brought to this region. (READ MORE)

War is Boring: In Afghanistan, Itching for a Fight that Never Comes - JALREZ VALLEY, Afghanistan — It’s a chilly summer night in the Jalrez valley, lit well by a three-quarter moon. I’m on a mission with the men of the 4/25 Artillery Battalion, part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of the 10th Mountain Division, based in the Wardak and Logar provinces. We are weaving through ancient irrigation canals and wading across the numerous small rivers that feed the fertile valley, making our way to a medium sized village nestled into a hillside. Our winding path has been carefully chosen to minimize the chance that we will step on an IED, but it also seems to maximize the chance that everyone’s feet will be completely soaked by the end of the operation. The men of 4/25 are almost all “13 Bravos,” the U.S. Army’s designation for heavy artillery — but there won’t be any artillery fire tonight. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Don't tell me I need to buy ANOTHER uniform... - The Army's Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP), which adorns the uniforms (known as Army Combat Uniforms, or "ACUs" for short) appears in almost everything having to do with the Army...from backpacks, to teddy bears, to website backgrounds, even in recruiting commercials on TV. The Universal Camouflage Pattern, as of mid-2008, replaced the standard Army uniforms designed for desert wear and forest wear. Actually, it did a little more than that. You see, as recently as five years ago, the American armed services all wore the same type of utility uniforms. For example, Airmen, Marines, Soldiers and Navy personnel assigned to land duties (e.g., Navy SEALs) all wore the forest uniforms when assigned to wooded or tropical areas. However, all the services now have their own distinct utility uniforms. (READ MORE)

Michael Yon: The Kopp-Etchells Effect - 17 August 2009 - Sangin, Afghanistan - The roads are so littered with enemy bombs that nearly all transport and resupply to this base occurs by helicopter. The pilots roar through the darkness, swoop into small bases nestled in the saddle of enemy territory, and quickly rumble off into the night. A witness must spend only a short time in the darkness to know we are at war. Flares arc into the night, or mortar illumination rounds drift and swing under parachutes, orange and eerily in the distance, casting long, flickering but sharply defined shadows. The worst that can happen is that you will be caught in an open field, covered by nothing and concealed only by darkness, when the illumination suddenly bathes you in light. Best is to stay low and freeze and prepare to fire, or in the case of a writer, to stay low and freeze and prepare to watch the firing. Explosions from unknown causes rumble through the cool nights while above drifts the Milky Way, punctuated by more shooting stars than one can remember. (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:

On a Front Line, Focusing on Skills Over Gender - The thing about talking to women in the military about being women in the military is they’d rather not talk about it that way. Asking them to speak of themselves as women seems to undermine their clear preference to be seen first as soldiers, as professionals. “For me personally, when I think about leading troops in combat, I don’t consider the fact that I’m a woman,” Capt. Margaret D. Taafe-McMenamy, commander of the intelligence cell at Forward Operating Base Warhorse in Iraq, said. (READ MORE)

Iraqis Uneasy at Idea of Early US Withdrawal - Unnerved by bombings that have killed hundreds this summer, many Iraqis are losing faith in their own security forces and fear the Americans are leaving too quickly. The misgivings about the US pullback from the cities, and even about the Dec. 31, 2011 deadline for a full withdrawal, come at a time when a senior US officer has suggested the Americans declare victory and leave even sooner. (READ MORE)

Ethnic Disputes Delay Iraqi Census - Iraq's planning minister says the country's first nationwide census in two decades will be postponed indefinitely because of ethnic tensions. Ali Baban said Sunday the government is technically capable of carrying out the census, but fears it could inflame tensions in northern areas disputed by Arabs and Kurds. He said local political parties in Kirkuk and Nineveh have expressed reservations about the census. (READ MORE)

Bombs Kill at Least 8 at Iraqi Market - Bombs hidden in plastic bags near a falafel stand exploded at a market in a mainly Shiite Muslim area of Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least eight civilians and wounding 21, Iraqi officials said. It was the latest in a series of bombings targeting Shiites and minorities in the capital and northern Iraq. The bags packed with explosives were left in a pile of garbage and exploded shortly before 8 p.m. as the district was crowded with people enjoying the evening. (READ MORE)

Three Iraqis killed, one wounded in mortar training incident north of Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Three local national men were killed and an 11-year old boy was wounded when they wandered in the vicinity of an artillery impact area north of Baghdad during a mortar live-fire exercise Aug. 15. At approximately 12:01 p.m., a United States patrol responded to reports from local residents that the men and boy had been injured earlier in the day during a scheduled combined mortar live-fire exercise conducted by U.S. and Iraqi Army units in an area used for training north of Taji, Iraq. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police prove readiness, receive validation - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq – The Iraqi Police in the small Iraqi village of Bushariyah, in Kirkuk province, have detained 17 terrorists, participated in hundreds of raids and disabled improvised explosive device emplacements. They are just getting started. For these IPs, their latest victory did not come on the streets; rather, it happened inside their station during a validation ceremony to recognize their hard work and dedication to security, August 11. (READ MORE)

Anbar Governor is FDI Global Personality of the Year - AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq – The Governor of Al Anbar province, Qasim Al Fahadawi, has been selected by Foreign Direct Investment magazine as the 2009 Global Personality of the Year. As stated in FDI magazine, “The FDI personality of the year awards recognize the political and business leaders around the world who have been the most proactive, dynamic and innovative in securing foreign investment and improving the business environments of their jurisdictions. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Special Operations Forces arrest four suspected terrorists in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – An element of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces, along with U.S. force advisors, arrested four suspected terrorists during an intelligence-driven mission in Baghdad Aug. 14. The Soldiers were operating under the authority of a warrant issued by the Criminal Investigative Court of Karkh. The apprehended individuals are responsible for their alleged affiliation with Al Qaeda in Iraq and conducting terrorist activities against Iraqi Security Forces. (READ MORE)

U.S. Soldiers, Iraqi Police Act Fast, Work Together to Save Injured Motorist - KIRKUK — U.S. Soldiers on patrol here near the village of Kalwr rushed to the aid of an Iraqi motorist during a vehicle rollover accident, Aug. 9, when an Iraqi driver lost control of his vehicle approximately 300 meters in front of their Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle. "The car lost control when it hit a patch of loose gravel on the road, causing the vehicle to run off onto the shoulder, hit a bunker, flip several times, and eject the driver from the sunroof," said 1st Lt. Bryan Riggs, a Stanton, Ky. native and platoon leader with 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, who was in charge of the patrol that witnessed the accident. (READ MORE)

Plans Underway to Clear Kirkuk City of Trash - KIRKUK — Kirkuk City has been considered by residents here to be one of the most beautiful and cleanest cities in Iraq. But due to budget constraints, waste removal services around the city have been lacking and waste has been accumulating. Thanks to efforts of the Kirkuk government and assistance from 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, a new project to remove waste in the city and help educate its residents on properly disposing of trash was celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony involving Iraqi children, singers, and a cake, Aug. 9. (READ MORE)

MNF-I Not to Replace Brigade Combat Team - BAGHDAD — Multi-National Force - Iraq announced today the redeployment of a Brigade Combat Team (BCT) without replacement in kind. This brings the number of BCTs in country from 13 to 12 and is in keeping with previously announced responsible drawdown plans as directed by the President of the United States. As part of the command's plan to responsibly drawdown U.S. forces in Iraq, the 2nd BCT, 4th Infantry Division, will case its colors and return to Ft. Carson, Colo., later this month. (READ MORE)

Security Spurs Iraqi Internet Revolution - WASHINGTON — The Iraqi government is contemplating high-speed wireless Internet capabilities for its citizens, underscoring how much times have changed there. Security in Iraq is such that the country is rushing into the 21st century, and U.S. advisors are working with Iraqi ministries to leverage investments to deliver fiber-optic networks to the country. (READ MORE)

Government of Iraq Takes Ownership of Two U.S. Combat Outposts - DIYALA — Two U.S. forces’ combat outposts in Diyala province were officially transferred to Iraqi control, August 11. Prior to their recent transfer to Iraqi ownership, these COPs were primarily used by U.S. forces assigned to the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, as well as their Iraqi partners, the 5th Iraqi Army Division. The first of the two COPs transferred was COP Key West.Prior to becoming a military base, COP Key West was an agricultural high school. (READ MORE)

Soldiers Work with Iraqi Army Partners to Purify Baghdad Water - BAGHDAD — Soldiers of the North Carolina National Guard are working with the Iraqi Army to help bring clean water to citizens here through the use of solar-powered water filters. Soldiers of Company B, 1st Battalion, 120th Infantry Regiment, 30th Heavy Brigade Combat Team met with Iraqi Army officers near Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah, here, Aug. 11, to discuss the placement of the filters. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Air Force, Army Establish Critical Air to Ground Communication Capabilities - BASRAH — After a morning of testing the airways from aircraft to ground vehicles, the Iraqi Army (IA) and Air Force (IqAF) established critical radio communication capabilities here, Aug. 11. Although the weather prevented the two services from conducting their original training mission, the day was a big success, according to Maj. Lee Dewald, an air liaison officer with the 84th Expeditionary Air Support Operation Squadron. (READ MORE)

Iraqis Prepare to Fight the Flames - ALI BASE — Underneath the blistering desert heat in 40 mile-per-hour winds, firefighters from the 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron and the city of Nasiriyah recently gathered here for their final training session with live fire. The Airmen here have been mentoring Iraqi firefighters for six weeks with the ultimate goal of preparing the group with the skills necessary to provide adequate fire response capability in and around the city. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
NATO Approves Intermediate Headquarters for Afghanistan - WASHINGTON, Aug. 14, 2009 – NATO has approved the idea of an intermediate military headquarters in Afghanistan, Pentagon officials said today. The headquarters is a corps-level organization that will oversee the tactical, day-to-day operations in the country. U.S. officials would like to see Army Lt. Gen. David M. Rodriguez, deputy commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan, in the post. (READ MORE)

U.S. Must Rebuild Trust with Pakistan, Gates Says - WASHINGTON, Aug. 13, 2009 – The United States must maintain relationships with Pakistan for the long term to build trust between the nations, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today. A new public opinion poll in Pakistan says that only 9 percent of Pakistanis see the United States as a partner, while 64 percent see America as the enemy. The poll is disturbing to defense leaders, but not surprising. (READ MORE)

Joint Force Captures Bombing Suspects in Afghanistan - KABUL, Aug. 13, 2009 – Afghan soldiers, aided by NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, captured suspected Taliban fighters Aug. 11 in the Sayed Abad district of eastern Afghanistan’s Wardak province. Based on a local resident’s tip, Task Force Spartan, under the lead of Afghan soldiers, searched a location in the Tangi Valley. The force captured two suspected insurgents known for bomb-making production, and two alleged accomplices. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan invasion a ‘mistake’ and a ‘delusion’ - BERLIN (Agencies): German writers and philosophers have begun to condemn military intervention in Afghanistan as an “invasion”, a “mistake”, and a “delusion”. In an essay titled ‘Cowardice before our own people’ last week in Der Spiegel weekly, philosopher and writer Richard David Precht ridiculed the argument of defence minister Franz Joseph Jung that the military mission in Afghanistan was not “a war”. The German government calls the military mission “a stabilisation operation.” (READ MORE)

Czech team backs election training - Puli Alam (Agencies): The Czech Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Afghanistan has financially supported an election training for Afghani women in the Logar province, the PRT spokesman told CTK. Dozens of women attended the one-day training on the election process that the Afghan Ministry of Women’s Affairs organised in Logar’s capital Puli Alam with the aim to motivate women to use their right to vote. (READ MORE)

Women candidates to face political, cultural battles - SHEIKHABAD (Agencies): The threats come at least once a week in the dark of night, Zaiba Habib Durrani said. The caller vows to kill her or disfigure her face with acid. Durrani, 34, a surgeon and a candidate for provincial council, told of how insurgents had tailed her husband and her on a 200-mile round-trip drive to Kabul from the eastern city of Jalalabad. One of the insurgents later telephoned and recounted the couple’s every move, including a prearranged switch of cars they had made to elude any pursuers. (READ MORE)

Guard unit returns home - KABUL (Agencies): An Indiana National Guard unit that spent months helping to establish control and stability in Afghanistan returned home. The 18 senior soldiers, members of Embedded Training Team 55, had been in Afghanistan since September, advising and mentoring Afghan soldiers. “These sons and daughters of Indiana have been engaged in the most important mission in Afghanistan, helping that country to learn to help themselves,” Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, the Indiana Guard’s adjutant general said. (READ MORE)

Mud-slinging on Afghan vote trail - KABUL (AFP) – They may be backed by warlords and rely on donkeys to get their supporters out to vote, but contenders in Afghanistan's elections are making promises and trading insults like politicians anywhere. Just days before Afghans choose their president, the main candidates are criss-crossing the country to get the vote out, and like lawmakers from Washington to Whitehall, their rhetoric is testing hyperbolic heights. (READ MORE)

Pak tells Taliban to say 'goodbye' to terrorism - Islamabad, Aug.15 : Pakistan has urged the Taliban and other terrorist groups operating inside its boundary to say 'goodbye' to terrorism and shun their violent activities. Interacting with media persons after laying flower wreaths on a monument of martyred policemen here, Interior Advisor Rehman Malik said : "I have a message for the extremists: Let's start a new day, surrender your arms, come to political or law enforcement authorities and say goodbye to terrorism." (READ MORE)

Pentagon Worries Led to Command Change - In mid-March, as a White House assessment of the war in Afghanistan was nearing completion, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met in a secure Pentagon room for their fortnightly video conference with Gen. David D. McKiernan, the top US. commander in Kabul. There was no formal agenda. (READ MORE)

Tight Security in Place for Elections Day in Afghanistan - Top government officials responsible for security in Afghanistan say there is no way to ensure the Taliban will not be able to cause civilian casualties before the election or on the day of voting. Afghanistan's military is declaring a one-day unilateral cease-fire for election day Thursday, saying troops will only take defensive positions to prevent Taliban violence against polling stations. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan's Army Braces for Election Violence - Thursday's presidential elections will be the biggest test to date for the Afghan army and police, which will have primary responsibility for protecting nearly 7,000 polling places from Taliban attack. US troop levels in Afghanistan have hit a record high of 62,000, but senior American commanders say their forces will stay in the background on Election Day. (READ MORE)

Taliban Threats May Sway Vote in Afghanistan - A group of Taliban fighters made their announcement in the bazaar of a nearby village a few days ago, and the word spread fast: anyone caught voting in the presidential election will have his finger - the one inked for the ballot - cut off. So in this hamlet in southern Afghanistan, a village of adobe homes surrounded by fields of corn, the local people will stay home when much of the rest of the country goes to the polls on Thursday to choose a president. (READ MORE)

Karzai's Challengers Score Points in Debate - Top candidates made a last-minute push for votes Sunday, with incumbent President Hamid Karzai appearing in a televised debate in which opponents spent nearly 90 minutes criticizing his alliances with regional warlords. Mr. Karzai skipped the only other debate last month, an awkward absence punctuated by opponents addressing his empty podium in the middle of the television screen. (READ MORE)

Ahead of Vote, Afghans in US Backing Candidates From Afar - Late at night, after he gets home from his job managing an Afghan restaurant in Alexandria, Mir Farid Hashimi makes long-distance calls, trying to convince relatives in Afghanistan that despite the hard times there, Hamid Karzai should keep leading the country. (READ MORE)

Afghan Presidential Candidates Hold First Debate - Three candidates running for president of Afghanistan in this week's national elections have held their first debate, just hours before official campaigning ended. President Hamid Karzai, former finance minister Ashraf Ghani and former planning minister Ramazan Bashardost faced-off in a nationally broadcast debate that did not include top challenger Abdullah Abdullah. (READ MORE)

Karzai’s Approval of ‘Marital Rape’ Law Leads to International Rift - President Karzai has approved a law that critics say condones marital rape, opening a rift in the international community as it debates how best to respond without disrupting Thursday’s presidential election. The schism emerged when donor countries met to discuss the law after learning it had come into effect late in July despite condemnation of an earlier draft by Western leaders including President Obama and Gordon Brown. (READ MORE)

Aussie Brigadier Damien Cantwell Takes Blast in Stride - Australian Defence Force Brigadier Damien Cantwell was giving his daily election-security briefing in NATO's most protected room when the Taliban left a calling card at the gates of his office. The massive suicide blast outside the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters in Kabul that killed seven Afghan nationals and injured almost 100 was a brutal reminder, five days out from Afghanistan's presidential elections, that success in his job will not come easy. (READ MORE)

US Plans a Mission Against Taliban’s Propaganda - The Obama administration is establishing a new unit within the State Department for countering militant propaganda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, engaging more fully than ever in a war of words and ideas that it acknowledges the United States has been losing. Proposals are being considered to give the team up to $150 million a year to spend on local FM radio stations, to counter illegal militant broadcasting, and on expanded cellphone service across Afghanistan and Pakistan. (READ MORE)

Americans Say British Cannot Hold Afghan Siege City - Britain is under pressure to give up an Afghan town where it has fought numerous bloody battles because the Americans claim the army is too overstretched to hold on to it. US commanders want to take control of Musa Qala in northern Helmand province, arguing that Britain’s forces are already hard-pressed trying to control the so-called green zone further south. (READ MORE)

Afghan Road Project Shows Bumps in Drive for Stability - Khalid Khan's small construction firm was supposed to build a road here that would open his strife-scarred land to commerce and improve its prospects for peace. Instead he wound up in the hands of the Taliban, hanging upside down. On an April evening, says Mr. Khan, about 20 armed militants broke into his home and marched him and 14 of his employees to a remote village. (READ MORE)

Kharwar Flood: Supporting the Rule of Law in a Distant Insurgent Haven - DAfghan intelligence officer Fida Mohammad listened with agitation to the enemy radio chatter. The insurgents were congratulating one another for planting a bomb that had killed three Afghan National Army soldiers. In the distance, the smoke from the explosion was still dissipating. “Do you think we’ll get into a fight tonight?” asked Capt. José Vasquez, C Troop commander for the 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division, who was sitting beside him on the hard, dusty earth. (READ MORE)

United States and NATO Training Afghan Soldiers - It is the world’s most expensive boot camp. Inside a ring of mountains west of Kabul, hundreds of Afghans, from goatherds to former maths teachers, are being trained by some of the world’s finest soldiers. Later this month General Stanley McChrystal, commander of American and NATO forces, presents his review of strategy in Afghanistan, in which he will call for the doubling of the Afghan army to 240,000. (READ MORE)

US Adds to Pressure as British Soldiers Die in Afghanistan - Three more British soldiers were killed in Afghanistan yesterday, taking the death toll to 204, as ministers prepared for an urgent request from Washington to send more troops. The expected call for reinforcements will increase pressure on the Government at a time when casualties are rising at an alarming rate. There is also concern that British lives are being lost to support a government with very different values from those of liberal Western democracies. (READ MORE)

Rising Afghanistan Death Toll 'Will Only Stiffen Resolve of Soldiers' - On Saturday the milestone figure of 200 British deaths was recorded when it was disclosed that a soldier from the 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh had died of his wounds while being treated at the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine in Selly Oak, Birmingham. His vehicle had been hit by an IED near Musa Qala, northern Helmand, on Thursday. The sharply rising number of dead and seriously wounded is putting huge pressure on commanders. (READ MORE)

Canada Hands Off Part of Kandahar Province to US - Canada has handed over about half of its battle space in southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar province to newly arrived US soldiers, allowing Canadian forces to concentrate on counterinsurgency and reconstruction efforts in the provincial capital, according to a senior officer. The move also effectively doubles the size of NATO-led combat forces within Kandahar province, birthplace of the Taliban movement, from two to four battalions, although they will operate under separate US and Canadian commands. (READ MORE)

Female Marines Try to Reach Afghan Hearts - Put on body armor, check weapons, cover head and shoulders with a scarf. That was the drill for female American Marines who set out on patrol this week with a mission to make friends with Afghan women in a war zone by showing respect for Muslim standards of modesty. The all-female unit of 46 Marines is the military’s latest innovation in its rivalry with the Taliban for the populace’s loyalty. (READ MORE)

Success in Afghanistan Could Overcome Qualms About the Body Count - The invasion of Iraq in 2003, never a popular war, certainly generated anger among those who believed that it was wrong, and the casualties led to a campaign by some of the families of those killed to stop the conflict. How large a part the deaths of 179 servicemen and women in Iraq played in the Government’s decision to withdraw all of Britain’s troops this year may never be known. (READ MORE)

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