March 26, 2010

From the Front: 03/26/2010

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

A World Away:
My visit with Michelle Obama - I was invited by the First Lady and Dr. Biden to be their guest at the State of the Union Address in January 2010. I represented military families and the importance of volunteerism. Below is a detailed account of how this all came about. January 12, 2010 – My very good friend and fellow military spouse, Jen Van Kirk, called me to let me know that she nominated me to be a guest of the First Lady at the State of the Union Address (SOTU.) Jen said she called me after the packet was submitted so that I wouldn’t talk her out of it. I thanked her for thinking of me and for the kind words she wrote in the nomination packet. Of course, I felt like I had little chance (basically no chance in hell) of actually being chosen to sit with Mrs. Obama. However, I was very grateful to Jen as she took the time to complete the packet and thought that what I had been doing over the past several years was worthy of such a great honor. My packet was forwarded to National Guard Bureau for consideration. (READ MORE)

Army Household6: SnowBreak 2010 - I guess I spoke to soon that Spring had arrived for we got hit with a BIG snow storm the other night. This week is also SpringBreak week for the girls.. certainly doesn’t look like Spring Break to me! So we’ve started calling it SNOWBreak Now usually when it is snowing sideways, I don’t dare go out in it unless there is an emergency, but this night I actually went outside in the snow and 20mph winds to see how much snow was out there. (i’m sure my grandmother would have panic attacks if she knew that LOL) I had 9 inch snow drifts in my yard in March!!! I don’t know about you but there is something seriously WRONG with that statement.That , my friends , is Colorado weather for ya! Most of it has melted and we are looking at more snow again tomorrow night/Saturday. Honestly I can handle this kind of weather when it is … oh I don’t know… WINTER!! Anyway — the girls have been having a fun week off playing and being lazy. So despite the snow, we’ve been having a great week. (READ MORE)

Army Live: “USArmyOnTheGo” Launches - Want to find out more of what’s going on at U.S. Army events in 140 characters or less? “USArmyOnTheGo,” is a Twitter account that will be updated by roving reporters covering U.S. Army events from locations across the nation. Please tune in next week as USArmyOnTheGo provides live updates from the Army-wide Sexual Assault/Harassment Prevention Summit. The four-day summit draws leaders from across the Army and government sector, and is an opportunity for these leaders to come together to evaluate ongoing initiatives and work to further refine the SHARP program. One of the major tenets of the SHARP program is that bystander intervention is key in preventing sexual assault; the more people are comfortable acknowledging and discussing sexual harassment and assault, the more they are likely to confront it head on. The Army’s intent is for every Soldier to intervene to protect their fellow Soldiers and prevent sexual harassment and assault. (READ MORE)

Bullet Wisdom: ABNA Quarterfinalist - First, I spent an awesome week in the field guiding our battalion through its first live fire in over two years. Along with the work, I made sure to take a bit of time to be a fan and take plenty of pictures, including that one. The speed and timing were giving me fits, but I ended up with more than a few decent shots. Around the middle of the week, a friend emailed and told me 'Congrats'. My initial reaction was, 'What the hell for?' I'd been so inundated with live fire, I forgot all about my manuscript currently roiling through the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. My was letting me know that my Young Adult urban fantasy Novel, EMANARE, was selected as a quarterfinalist in the competition, making the cut from the top two thousand down to two hundred. When I set my goals for the contest, getting through the first round seemed like a daunting task. An associate who I consider an excellent writer didn't make last year's cut. Now, I've made it through two. (READ MORE)

C.J. CHIVERS: Afghan Marksmen — Forget the Fables - The recent Marine operations in and near Marja brought into sharp relief a fact that contradicts much of what people think they know about the Afghan war. It is this: Forget the fables. The current ranks of Afghan fighters are crowded with poor marksmen. This simple statement is at odds with an oft-repeated legend of modern conflict, in which Afghan men are described, in clich├ęs and accounts from yesteryear, as natural gunmen and accomplished shots. Everyone who has even faintly followed the history of war in Central Asia has heard the tales of Afghan men whose familiarity with firearms is such a part of their life experience that they can pick up most any weapon and immediately put it to effective work. The most exaggerated accounts are cartoonish, including tales of Afghan riflemen whose bullets can strike a lone sapling (I’ve even heard “blade of grass”) a hilltop away. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Army Warns of Internet Romance Scams - In Family Matters, we often focus on issues relating to already established military families, but today we’d like to draw attention to what started it all: dating, and the new dangers that poses. With more and more singles looking to the Internet to find that “special someone,” the U.S. Army is now urging the public to beware of romance scams perpetrated by criminals pretending to be U.S. soldiers. The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command on Fort Belvoir, Va., has received so many reports of Internet romance scams involving criminals posing as soldiers that it is now warning that many Internet romance sites that promise true love “only end up breaking hearts and bank accounts.” The CID issued its warning in an Army News article “CID Warns of Internet Romance Scams” that describes the scams that typically focus on female victims and prey on their emotions and patriotism. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Prince of Wales makes surprise visit to British troops in Afghanistan - HRH Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales, has made a surprise visit to British troops in Afghanistan. He is the most senior member of the royal family to visit Afghanistan and the only one in living memory to visit Kabul. After spending the night at Camp Bastion, today the Prince visited Patrol Base Pimon, a forward Patrol Base in the Nad- e Ali district area of Helmand Province, operated by the Right Flank, The Scots Guards. The Nad-e Ali area was the focus of much of the UK effort as part of Operation Moshtarak. He also visited Task Force Helmand Headquarters at Lashkar Gah to meet the troops and receive a brief from Brigadier James Cowan before meeting with Afghan District Governor Mangal and, together with British commander, took part in a shura with local elders. He flew into the Afghan National Army brigade camp of Shorabak in an RAF Chinook, close to Camp Bastion... (READ MORE)

Home From Iraq: Who We Fight For--Everybody - Everyone who deploys to Iraq and Afghanistan, or fights pirates off the coast of Somalia, or goes to any of the outposts of the War on Terror fights for all Americans. Even though I am a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard, I am a soldier in the Army of all America. Sometimes, I admit, I wish it were otherwise. When I travel I pay more attention to the news than when I am home and the news during the last week has been sad for me. White people yelling the N-word at a congressman who fought for civil rights in the 60s, bricks thrown through windows of Democratic Party offices, a gas line cut at what was believed (mistakenly) to be a US Congressman’s home that could have killed kids, and on April 19 there will be a gun rights march on the anniversary of Timothy McVeigh killing kids in a Day Care Center and more than 150 other innocent victims. I don't want to defend those people. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: We Find Out Today - Remember what I said a few days ago about nonsense becoming accepted as truth. The Nation magazine already has done its part. The original story was in the NYT about how Iraqis voted along sectarian lines. The editorial repeated that bit of nonsense, and now the Nation magazine has joined in the misinformation. How they can claim that Iraqis voted along sectarian lines is beyond any Iraqi. If Sunnis are 20 percent of the population, how can Allawi be running neck and neck with Maliki? Allawi is Shiite, and so is Maliki. If all the Shiites voted for either Maliki or the Shiite Alliance, then the Shiites would be winning by a huge margin, right? Everyone knows the Shiites are the majority here. It just goes to show how journalists just do a superficial job of covering a story. Iraqis are a complicated people. If in Sadr City, the part of Baghdad named for the Sadr family, lost the vote to prime minister Maliki, doesn't that tell you something? (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: Fabfi hackathon - Complete! - Side Note: It's official, FabFi is happening faster than I can blog it out. The last two weeks managed to coalesce interviews for an upcoming Herald article, the Hackathon, and H&R installing a pile of new links. I'll be putting up a post-a-day until I catch up. Here goes post #1: The goal of FabFi Hackathon 1 was to try to bring the FabFi architecture closer to the ethos of "do more with less". The plan was to look at the system as it exists now, identify what could be improved or repaired, and spend a weekend putting our heads together finding solutions. The following a a summary of what went on, which I will break out into more detailed technical posts over the coming weeks, pushing out what we have and soliciting advice. FABFI NEEDS MORE DEVELOPERS. If you want to help, email us (fabfi [at] fabfolk [dot] com) A big focus of the weekend was design for local materials in Jalalabad. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Anti-war Protests…Next Time Just Slap me - It’s one thing to hear about or even see pictures and video of something, it’s something completely different to actually experience it. I have read about anti war protest.. I’ve seen the videos and pictures. .. and yes they were upsetting. I have listened to others talk about their experiences at antiwar protest and thought I understood how bad they were… but it was not until this past Saturday that I truly understood how devastating they are to the families of the Fallen. Saturday was our 6th day of vacation in California. ( great vacation by the way) and we decided to go to Santa Monica Pier. We started with the promenade and did a little shopping. We enjoyed the street performers and was having a really nice time.. till we hit the pier. Not sure why but I knew something was up. I felt it. I looked down on to the beach when we hit the pier and there it was.. the anti war protest.. hundreds of crosses.. the flag draped coffins. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistan strikes Taliban camps in Arakzai - More than 60 Taliban fighters have been killed during a series of airstrikes targeting the Taliban in the lawless tribal agency of Arakzai. Pakistani fighter-bombers struck a series of targets in the Mamuzai region in Arakzai today. Sixty-one Taliban fighters were killed, Pakistani intelligence officials told The Associated Press. The military claimed that no civilians were killed in the attacks. The targets included a madrassa, a mosque, and a seminary run by the Tablighi Jamaat. Pakistani officials said that Taliban leaders were meeting at the Tablighi seminary. Tablighi Jamaat is "a socially conservative grassroots religious movement," said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, the director of the Center for Terrorism Research and a contributor to The Long War Journal. "Tablighi Jamaat's name has emerged in connection with several terrorist plots in the West, and a number of Tablighi recruits have gone on to participate in jihadi activity," Gartenstein-Ross noted. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: A Bit of This 'n' That - Things have been moving along their own unpredictable path since my last post. (Actually, since long before my last post, but I had to have some sort of lead-in line, didn't I?) We have some rather large organizational changes that are supposed to happen on April 1st. That's one week away, and you would think that we would know what those changes would be by now. You would be wrong. We are probably sending a lot of our contractors home by then, but maybe not. A large part of my branch's mission might shift to another organization on base. Or maybe back to a group in the States. Or maybe it won't be done at all. Or maybe we'll continue to do it after all. My guess is that they might get around to making a decision, oh, late on the 31st. Or maybe not. So what do we do, when faced with organizational indecision? Compare notes, share the latest rumor (which will be completely contradicted by the next rumor), and continue to plug away. (READ MORE)

Dafydd: New day! - Perhaps Hillary Clinton had missed Novruz in Uzbekistan, or something. Either way she proclaimed a ‘New Day’ in US Pakistan relations. At the same time the UN was busy meeting Hekmatyar people in Kabul. While these people were busy at this, the Taliban were giving an interview too. The (ahem) gentleman, using the pseudonym ‘Abdullah’ doing the talking had some interesting claims, amongst which were:- “‘I assure you, 300%, neither Moulvi Abdul Kabir nor Syed Tayyab Agha has been arrested. It was false reporting. Mullah Abdul Salam and Mullah Mir Muhammad were arrested at least a month before Mullah Baradar, but their arrest was shown after Mullah Baradar’s. I have not been in direct contact with Mullah Mustasim Jan Agha so I cannot claim with surety about his status, but I was told by his friends that he was not arrested,’ Abdullah says.” Which is kind of interesting. It wouldn’t be the first time Pakistan had made false claims. But on balance I think I would still believe these guys arrested without some kind of proof to the contrary. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Security Must Come First in Counterinsurgency - From the AFP in Marjah, Afghanistan, yet another report that demonstrates that the population may not be the center of gravity of an insurgency in every situation. “When US Major James Coffman presented a plan to restore healthcare to a southern Afghan town after years of Taliban rule and weeks of fighting, he thought it was a winner. ‘We need your advice on what and how to bring assistance, training, equipment,’ he told four Afghan doctors and pharmacists, who stroked their beards after braving bombs and Taliban threats to meet US Marine commanders. Too bad for Coffman that the Afghans were unconvinced. ‘It’s best for us at the moment if you don’t help. At least not until security returns,’ said Doctor Azim softly. His colleagues agreed.” Colonel Gian Gentile famously says that the center of gravity of an insurgency must be “discovered.” (READ MORE)

In From The Cold: Making the Case for Military Tribunals (Again) - If the Obama Justice Department needs another reason to scrap plans for public trials of Al Qaida terrorists, consider the lastest audio tape from Osama bin Laden. In a message released this morning, the terror leader threatened to kill any Americans captured by Al Qaida if the United States executes Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind behind the 9-11 attacks. Bin Laden's promise was met largely with derision and even laughter. After all, Al Qaida has a long-stated goal of killing Americans, and most of our civilians and soliders who have been taken by the group have met a grisly fate. So, bin Laden's vow is hardly new or unexpected. Why does the Al Qaida leader demanding better treatment for his former operations chief? Because bin Laden clearly recognizes the value of KSM as a symbolic figure, particularly if he receives a public trial in Manhattan. Legal proceedings against Khalid Sheik Mohammed would take at least two or three years--and possibly longer. (READ MORE)

RN Clara Hart: WHAT WE DO - I held the hand of a dying warrior who fought death. Flown to us from the battlefield he was gravely wounded, with no chance of survival. His family, at his side every step of the way, elected to fulfill his wishes of being an organ donor. As loved ones gathered at his bedside saying final goodbyes, the OR and organ procurement team readied the operating room and started the process of organ compatibility. No eye was dry in the ICU as he was wheeled from the room and down the hallway toward his final surgery. In organ donation at our hospital the family has the option of going into the OR to be with the patient until they take their last breath. His family elected not to do so. After being placed gently on the operating table he was disconnected from the ventilator and life sustaining medications were turned off. The wait had begun. Just as the “golden hour” in trauma dictates that for maximum recovery the trauma patient should receive care within an hour of injury, there is a “golden hour” in organ donation. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
A father's promise, a son's sacrifice for his country - The letter sat on the dresser for four years. Robert Gilbert never opened it. He only touched the envelope when he needed to dust around it. He wanted to give it back to his son unopened. (READ MORE)

Remembering Erin McLyman - Here's some coverage of the funeral for Eugene's Erin McLyman: From - "I very much count myself among those who have been inspired by Erin's short but powerful, consequential life," said Kulongoski. (READ MORE)

Military curbs 'don't ask, don't tell' policy on gays - Pentagon officials on Thursday unveiled new policies that will cut down on the number of service members expelled each year for being gay and admonished a top U.S. general for publicly opposing changes to the country's controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy. (READ MORE)

Official Hails Effect of Unmanned Aircraft on Warfare - Perhaps no other weapon platform has more significantly transformed the way the U.S. military wages war in recent years than unmanned aerial aircraft, a senior defense official told Congress yesterday. (READ MORE)

Former Judge Advocate General of the Navy to Oversee Military Commission Process - Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates today appointed retired Navy Vice Adm. Bruce E. MacDonald to the position of convening authority for military commissions. During his 23 year judge advocate general career, MacDonald served on the staffs of U.N. Command, Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Naval Forces, Korea. (READ MORE)

Disabled Veteran Trains for Inaugural Warrior Games - Doctors once told Matthew Bilancia that playing sports and competing in athletic competition would be difficult, if not nearly impossible. (READ MORE)

LAPD officer serving in Afghanistan is killed by roadside bomb - The Los Angeles Police Department on Thursday mourned its first officer to be killed in combat in Afghanistan after a roadside bomb took the life of a highly regarded SWAT team member. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Iraqi minister demands vote-results delay - Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani on Thursday demanded that the release of full, final election results scheduled for Friday be delayed because of security concerns. (READ MORE)

Ayad Allawi, once seen as a U.S. puppet, returns to the center of Iraqi politics - The man who was widely derided as an American puppet when he stepped down as prime minister five years ago has become a leading contender for Iraq's top job based on his strong showing in this month's elections among a group that lost more than any other with the U.S.-led invasion. (READ MORE)

Iraq to release results of March 7 vote - Iraq's electoral commission insisted it will announce full election results as scheduled Friday, despite calls for a delay amid fears of violence over the tight race. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Forces Arrest 15 Suspected Terrorists - Iraqi forces arrested 15 terrorism suspects in various security operations yesterday and today, military officials reported. A man who brandished a handgun at security forces in one of the operations was killed. (READ MORE)

Combat Chaplain Provides Ministry to JET Airmen - As the final rotation of the 732nd Air Expeditionary Group chaplain office draws to a close, the two-person team was sent on a final mission to neighboring forward operating bases around Baghdad International Airport. (READ MORE)

Convoys, not car bombs - On Feb. 26, I woke up to the sound of a suicide car bomb explosion two blocks away. I ate my full English breakfast amid cacophonous gunfire from the neighborhood park. The Taliban took responsibility for my wake-up call. (READ MORE)

China reassures Karzai of friendship - China reassured visiting Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Thursday that it won't be joining the chorus of disapproval at home and abroad over corruption, cronyism and electoral fraud tainting his government. (READ MORE)

U.S. Official Defends Contractors’ Mission - A Defense Department official who is suspected of using private contractors in Afghanistan to help track and kill militants has denied that he did anything wrong, and he asserted that all his work had been approved by top American military commanders. (READ MORE)

Afghan Air Corps Vital to Country’s Security - The Afghan National Army’s air corps is critical to NATO’s mission to grow and empower security forces in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban and other insurgents, a top U.S. officer posted in Kabul said today. (READ MORE)

Gates, Mullen Address Need for Trainers in Afghanistan - Though the number of trainers for Afghan security forces has increased significantly, the process is a work in progress and the American people must have patience, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today. (READ MORE)

UN Envoy Meets with Afghan Insurgent Faction in Kabul - The United Nations envoy to Afghanistan has met in Kabul with representatives of one of the country's main militant factions. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Troop Level to Eclipse Iraq by Midyear - This summer will mark the first time since 2003 that the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will overshadow the American presence in Iraq, the top U.S. military officer told Congress today. (READ MORE)

Gates: Guarded Optimism About Afghan War - U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday he is guardedly optimistic about the U.S.-led military campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

US, Pakistan Pledge to Deepen Cooperation, Fortify Friendship - The United States and Pakistan have ended their first ever U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue at the ministerial level with a pledge to deepen cooperation in defense, security, economy, trade, and other areas. (READ MORE)

Pakistan says it is 'satisfied' with U.S. pledges on aid delivery - Pakistan said Wednesday that it was satisfied with U.S. pledges, made during a day-long strategic conference in Washington, to increase and streamline the delivery of military and economic aid and to "move from a relationship to a partnership." (READ MORE)

Bin Laden Threatens Any Americans Held - In a 74-second audio message released on Thursday, Osama bin Laden threatened to kill any Americans held by Al Qaeda if Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, is executed. (READ MORE)

Forces in Afghanistan Capture Suspected Militants - Afghan and international security forces captured several suspected militants in various recent operations in Afghanistan, military officials reported. (READ MORE)

Prince Charles visits Afghanistan - Britain’s Prince Charles made an unannounced visit on Thursday to Afghanistan, where he visited the Taliban-infested southern province where his youngest son, Harry, served for 10 weeks until his secret deployment was leaked to the media. (READ MORE)

Aide Of Afghan Taliban Chief Arrested In Karachi - Pakistan police claimed to have arrested Thursday Maulana Abdul Hai Salik, a former governor of Afghanistan's Oruzgan province and a close aide of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, from the port city of Karachi. (READ MORE)

Taliban vow not to hold dialogue with ‘invaders’ - Taliban on Thursday vowed that they would not hold any talks with the Afghan government and foreign forces during their presence in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

US to ask Canada to keep troops in Afghanistan - The United States will ask Canada to keep as many as 600 troops in Afghanistan after the Canadian military mission there ends in 2011, the Globe and Mail newspaper said on Thursday. (READ MORE)

ISAF Forces Make Strides in Helmand Province - The Commander of Task Force Helmand said today that while much has been achieved over the last few months by his soldiers, particularly on Operation Moshtarak, the fight with the Taliban is not over yet. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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