March 19, 2010

From the Front: 03/19/2010

News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front. (New complete posts come in below)

Texas Music: Iraq From Above - Photo Essay. (VIEW PHOTOS)

A Little Pink in a World of Camo: I Will Always Be a Marine Wife - I just need to share some sad news with all of my blog friends. Sad isn't even the word to describe it, but honestly at this point I can't find the words to describe it. Angry, empty, crushed, confused, shocked, alone, unglued, hateful, depressed, beaten down... none of these words can do justice to my feelings. I am being forced to do something that no 23 year old woman should ever have to do. I am being forced to do something that no one should ever have to do, not at this early in life, especially. I am being forced to lay the love of my life, my saving grace, my entire world to rest. Sometimes hashing it out in words helps, so I'm trying to blog about it. To wrap my mind around why God would do this to me, to him, to us. I can't fathom how any of this has happened, it all still feels so surreal, there's no way this is real I am having a nightmare. Unfortunately this is a nightmare I am unable to wake up from. (READ MORE)

The Armorer: VA Recognizes "Presumptive" Illnesses in Iraq, Afghanistan - Perhaps more accurately, VA recognizes "presumptive" illnesses for Desert Shield/Storm which extend to OIF/OEF veterans. From the VA Press Release: “WASHINGTON (March 18, 2010) – Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki today announced the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is taking steps to make it easier for Veterans to obtain disability compensation for certain diseases associated with service in the Persian Gulf War or Afghanistan. This will be the beginning of historic change for how VA considers Gulf War Veterans’ illnesses.” While I've not forgiven Shinseki for that damn dumb decision on silly-looking french hats, I'm generally liking him as VA Secretary. And thus far, I have to give the Administration credit for turning VA loose in ways previous administrations of all stripes did not. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Relocating ANA Library? - I woke up energized and motivated for today’s tasking. We have been planning for weeks to open up a new library for the ANA soldiers and relocate the literacy room to a larger room. I attended our morning meeting and the Sergeant Major unveiled a large chocolate cake. Not sure if he was planning on eating the whole cake by himself or not. If so, he will have to do a lot more running than he has been doing … lol. After the meeting I went to my metal storage container and loaded up 18 boxes of English books varying in difficulty. Originally I was planning to give them to the village schools, but this act of generosity makes them a target for the insurgency. The insurgents have already burned a lot of schools the US helped build, so instead of making them a viable target, I am going to donate them to the ANA library to assist with their English classes and literacy programs. (READ MORE)

Army Live: How would you improve Army training? - “We’re just not there yet.” As the Army’s chief evangelist for social media, this is a response I get pretty often. Typically from organizations or individuals at the mid-to-senior level, or folks who have been doing their job for a long time. They’re willing to recognize the importance of social media, see the opportunities, but somehow also see themselves as a few steps away from the final cliff they think they need to jump off to start using new tools and tactics like social media. It’s a response I received while trying to encourage social media at the Boring Army Class I find myself in this week. Now, if you’ve been in or around the Army for any point of time you’ll understand what I’m talking about. The U.S. Army truly is the best trained Army in the world. Sometimes in spite of ourselves. In addition to having amazing, hands-on training and some of the best cadre and leaders you can find, we also have a finely tuned teaching technique that is particularly prevalent around the Pentagon – I call it “teaching to the break.” (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Families Honor Fallen Medical Personnel - Earlier this week, I drove to Arlington National Ceremony to attend a touching ceremony in honor of fallen military medical personnel. The event, hosted by the Military Health System, honored 244 medical servicemembers who died in support of operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom from 2001 to Dec. 31, 2009. I arrived early and decided to walk the mile to the amphitheater. As I trekked up the hill to the site, I was blown away by the beauty, and solemnity, of my surroundings. Row upon row of white marble gravestones stretched into the horizon, each with the name of someone’s loved one inscribed. I thought about the servicemembers represented by these stones and was touched by their selfless service and sacrifice. At the amphitheater, more than 300 people – family, friends and comrades – from around the nation and world had gathered to honor their fallen loved ones. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: Yeah, I was there, it wasn't that bad - Had to look a while for the long version of Murray Brewster's piece reading Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command assessments from my roto. (The Star's abridged version is amusingly titled "Taliban Came Close to Retaking Kandahar". Yeah, no, they didn't. The piece is about how they came close to killing off the provincial council, which is nowhere near the same thing.) Finally found it at the Penticton Herald. Hamidi, the mayor, was targeted by a roadside bomb the same month. Yeah, that was an interesting day. Nice mushroom cloud, that one. I do quibble with this, though: That perception was something the Afghan government may have brought upon itself by the firing of Wessa’s predecessor, Rahmatullah Raufi, a popular general. "Politically many Raufi supporters have called for his reinstatement, demonstrating general displeasure with amount of power held by a few individuals in the province," said the quarterly campaign assessment from Oct. 1 to Dec. 8, 2008. (READ MORE)

Tanker Babe: PFC Nicholas Cook - Heaven's Newest 173rd, 2-503 Sky Angel - PFC Nicholas Cook will be laid to rest with full military honors at Woodlawn Cemetery in Columbia Falls, MT on Saturday 20 March 2010 following a funeral service at 1 p.m. Saturday,at St. Richard Catholic Church. PFC Cook was killed by enemy small arms fire on 7 March 2010. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Camp Ederle, Italy. Nick was raised in Hungry Horse, MT by his grandparents Kathy and Charles Taylor. His grandmother, Kathy, said, ""He loved jumping out of airplanes. He said the best feeling was the three seconds before you jump." On his MySpace page Nick wrote, "Bein' up on a mountain with that (snow) board strapped on is home to me. Shakin' beyond the point of functioning then just goin' for it. Amazing feeling. The best feeling possible is that moment when the butterflies in your stomach carry you into that adrenaline rush. Its freedom, its when you can feel most alive." (READ MORE)

Lt Col P: Ops Begin in Kandahar? - is reporting that the next major move against the Taliban has begun: "U.S. operations to push back Taliban forces around Kandahar have "already begun" and will steadily build in coming months, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan said on Wednesday. "Gen. Stanley McChrystal told reporters that the U.S.-led offensive on the Taliban's spiritual heartland had started with initial military and political efforts, including operations designed to secure key roads and districts surrounding the southern city. ""And instead of putting a date certain on which there would be a climactic military operation, I tell you, that process has already begun," McChrystal said by teleconference from Afghanistan." Put some emphasis on that last line. Even more so than Marjah, this appears to be a slow-moving (deceptively, perhaps) inexorable push to squeeze out the fuckos, shore up the Afghan security forces, and create the conditions in which the civil population can emerge and rebuild. (READ MORE)

Joshua Foust: Counterinsurgency Is Not Just Talibans - Bing West — with an apparently unlimited travel budget — has a report up about Operation Moshtarak, asking if we can learn any lessons from it. While the obvious answer is, “yes,” there are some things to consider. First, nowhere in the first four pages does West mention even tangentially the needs or concerns of the local population. Since the paper he is writing is subtitled, “Applying Counterinsurgency to Local Conditions,” and he talks a lot about the Taliban in the area, one would wonder why he never asked why the Taliban was so especially concentrated in Marjeh (it was at least partially our fault). Secondly, while West is explicit in his focus on warfighters, we learn nothing of the environment in which they operate, save a few Taliban here and there and a whole lot of IEDs. I do believe people also live in this area, but much like the first point we really don’t hear much beyond BG Nicholson “reaching out to hundreds of elders and mullahs” or something. (READ MORE)

Dafydd: Operation Kandahar is go - According to Dawn Operation Omaid to clear Taliban from Kandahar has already begun. Well sort of. “US General Stanley McChrystal, said the offensive had begun with initial military and political efforts, including operations to secure key roads and districts.” Alternatively:- “We have been making preparation and plans concerning Operation Omaid,”said General Sher Mohammad Zazai, Afghan army commander in the country’s south. “We’re still working on the plan,” he said, without giving further details. Little contradictions like that to one side, this may mean the military has decided against the sort of invasion we saw in Marjah. Alternatively, it could be that now Karzai has visited Marjah, it is all done and dusted. (READ MORE)

She of the Sea: I'm Starting To Understand - I've always been frustrated by my friends and acquaintances who profess their hatred of this military lifestyle. You know the people - always complaining about everything. First, I don't think it is that bad, and second, (don't throw food) it is a choice that each family makes. Sure, you've heard me complain about waiting for 45 minutes to get a doctor's appointment, or the lines at the commissary are sometimes really long. In general, however, I enjoy this nutty life. I like meeting new people every few years. I like derive some sort of satisfaction from putting on the cape of responsibility when my husband is gone. And then we move. Seriously, the physical act of preparing to move is going to be the reason I throw in the towel. I am over it. This will be our third move in three calendar years (no record, for sure) and it isn't getting any easier. I swear, this stuff just brings itself into our house when I'm not looking. (READ MORE)

Stryker Brigade News: Traumatic Brain Injuries in the Military - Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is becoming a common wound of modern warfare. It has even been coined the “signature wound” of the War on Terror. While TBI is becoming more prevalent in wartime activity, many service men and women continue to go undiagnosed. Institutions, like the US Department of Veterans Affairs, are working to make quick and accurate diagnoses in order to prescribe appropriate and effective treatment. TBI is caused by forced trauma to the head, either by being shaken or hit. The severity of a TBI varies from case to case, but symptoms range from mild concussions to a debilitating state. The majority of TBI’s acquired by military personnel are classified as mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBI). Initial symptoms of MTBI consist of loss of consciousness, disorientation, loss of memory, headache, and temporary loss of hearing and vision. (READ MORE)

ROFASix: USMC Experimental FOB - One of the problems with establishing a Forward Operating Base (FOB) is that someone has to resupply it with beans, fuel, bullets and other hardware. It always comes down to logistics to support operational requirements. It is no secret that logistic supply lines continue to be an Achilles heel for planners in Afghanistan. FOBs mean mean trucks or aircraft have to haul all that stuff to an often remote location. It's expensive as well as dangerous. While the idea of a reduced logistics tail FOB has merit, the proposed implementation you see in this video no doubt has many an old Marine shaking his head in disbelief. But some of it will work, most of what we see depicted here, probably won't but provides a starting point to determine what makes sense and what doesn't. (READ MORE)

This Ain't Hell: Apparently a Band of Screaming Nancies Does Not an Infantry Battalion Make - 1LT Chew Toy or whatever his name is was handcuffing himself as a public spectacle so nameless strangers could mock and humiliate him (I don’t think this was his first rodeo with those cuffs). Waking up hungover from jello shots in a dark loft above the Chez Bleau with multiple cigarette burns in the small of your back and your ass burning like a Sailor’s paycheck on a four day pass was apparently not a clear indicator of a bad day developing. So 1LT Ben Dover figures an open act of civil disobedience or complex stupidity was a good idea. Hope that works out for you dumbass. But others were making news in DC on the very same subject. Former NATO commander retired General John Sheehan demonstrated in a big way that real integrity usually manifests itself long after the officer evaluations are over. And he didn’t pull any punches either. (READ MORE)

Dan Gagliasso: War on Terror Films: Dear Hollywood, You’re Doing It Wrong - The recent Daily Variety article “Hollywood calls ‘Truce’ on war films” described how the film industry is now sidelining any future war and espionage films because of recent box office disappointment like Green Zone. The $100 million to $130 million budgeted Matt Damon star vehicle brought in a paltry $14.5 million its first week, a major embarrassment to Universal. Virtually every recent Middle-Eastern war film with the exception of The Hurt Locker (which has a few problems of its own) and The Kingdom have trashed United States troops, security and intelligence personnel. The Hurt Locker cost less then $20 million to produce and swept the Academy Awards, so it should eventually make a tidy sum in DVD sales and some foreign sales, though it has yet to break the $15 million mark in domestic box office. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
DOD Announces Recruiting and Retention Numbers for February 2010 - Three of the four active services met or exceeded their accession goals for February 2010. The Marine Corps purposefully missed its monthly accession goal to ensure its end strength stays within authorized levels. (READ MORE)

Growing number of obese recruits could make it tougher to field a fit military - As a U.S. Army recruiter, Sgt. 1st Class Marques Daniels liked the man in front of him. He was 6-foot-1, young and eager to enlist. There was just one problem: (READ MORE)

Defense Department Prepares for Recruiting Challenges - Despite historic recruitment rates since the end of the military draft, the Defense Department continues to take measures to ensure prolonged recruitment successes, a senior Pentagon official informed Congress, March 17. (READ MORE)

Gates Notes Contributions of Military Women - The nation depends upon women, both military and civilian, at all levels of the Defense Department, from the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan to the upper echelons of military command, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here March 18. (READ MORE)

Gitmo suspects allowed laptops while in custody - The Pentagon allowed five captured al Qaeda members currently held at the Guantanamo Bay prison to use laptop computers in detention, raising concerns among security officials that the terrorism suspects could pass sensitive data to terrorists in the future, according to U.S. officials. (READ MORE)

U.S. Woman Charged in Terror Plot Pleads Not Guilty - The Pennsylvania woman accused of recruiting men on the Internet to wage jihad in southern Asia and Europe pleaded not guilty Thursday to all counts in federal court in Philadelphia. (READ MORE)

Lawmakers hear both sides of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ debate - Veterans discharged under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law urged Congress on Thursday to move quickly to repeal the ban, but supporters warned that lawmakers are already endangering military readiness with the recent push to dump the law. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Iraqis Arrest Terrorism Suspects - Iraqi forces arrested suspected al-Qaida in Iraq and Kataib Hezbollah terrorists March 18 during three operations with U.S. advisers. (READ MORE)

First Graduating Class of the Afghan National Customs Academy - Today 48 students celebrated being the first graduating class of the newly opened Afghan National Customs Academy (ANCA). Canadian Ambassador William Crosbie joined senior Afghan officials, US colleagues and the students and teachers of the Academy for this important event. (READ MORE)

Future Afghan Leaders Graduate from National Military Academy - More than 1,500 people, including Afghan government and coalition officials, joined Afghan President Hamid Karzai in congratulating the National Military Academy graduating class of 2010. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, March 19 – Earlier today an Afghan-international security force searched a compound near Molla Dust, in the Panjwayee district of Kandahar province, after intelligence information verified militant activity. During the search the joint force detained several suspected militants for further questioning. (READ MORE)

Joint Force Discovers Large Cache in Zeerko Valley – Afghan and ISAF forces conducted an operation Wednesday in the Zeerko Valley region of the Shindand district, Herat province, capturing a prominent Taliban leader and discovering a weapons cache. (READ MORE)

Defense official says Afghan program was authorized - Michael D. Furlong, the senior Defense Department employee under investigation for allegedly running an unauthorized intelligence-gathering operation in Afghanistan, says his now-suspended program was fully authorized by top U.S. military commanders. (READ MORE)

Uphill battle to win over villagers in Tangi Valley - Since arriving in December, soldiers in this district’s rugged, deadly Tangi Valley haven’t fired a shot. They haven’t kicked in a door, haven’t searched a house. The two Afghans they detained were released two days later. (READ MORE)

As Taliban makes comeback in Kunduz province, war spreads to northern Afghanistan - For most of the past eight years, this northern province has been relatively peaceful, far removed from the insurgency in the Taliban heartlands of Kandahar and Helmand in the south. (READ MORE)

Petraeus Stresses Avoiding Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan - The commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia has called on his troops in Afghanistan to make extra efforts to avoid civilian casualties. General David Petraeus made the comments in an interview for his command's website. (READ MORE)

Taliban lose control of Marjah but remain strong - In the capital of Afghanistan's Helmand province, Taliban roam the streets freely. Barely a mile (a kilometer) outside Lashkar Gah, they wield more control than the government, according to residents. (READ MORE)

Former UN Afghan envoy reveals contacts with Taliban - The UN's former top envoy to Afghanistan revealed for the first time that secret contacts were held with Taliban leaders in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Pakistan arrests halt U.N. contacts with Taliban - Pakistan’s recent arrests of top Taliban leaders have halted the United Nation’s secret talks with the insurgency, the U.N.‘s former envoy to Afghanistan said. (READ MORE)

China calls for more world aid to Afghanistan - China on Thursday called upon the international community to render more support and provide more assistance to Afghanistan, and voiced its support for a leading coordination role by the United Nations in the reconstruction of the south Asian country. (READ MORE)

Former envoy criticises Taliban arrests - The UN's former envoy to Afghanistan has criticised Pakistan's recent arrest of high-ranking Taliban leaders. Kai Eide said the arrests had completely stopped a channel of secret communications with the UN. (READ MORE)

IED attacks in Afghanistan more lethal - Attacks on U.S. and allied forces with makeshift bombs in Afghanistan are 50% more lethal than three years ago, reflecting insurgents' use of more powerful explosives and the increased vulnerability of troops who patrol more on foot than in the past. (READ MORE)

Afghan spring no ally for U.S. - The leaves have returned to the trees along the banks of the Arghandab River, and row after row of grape vines and pomegranate trees have received their first irrigation floods of the year. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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