April 12, 2010

From the Front: 04/12/2010

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


Dispatches:
She Who Waits: Confession - I'm going to confess this here, because I know you guys will get it. I just moved my husband's shaving cream, after shave, cologne, and face wash for the first time in eight months. They were kind of dusty. (READ MORE)

270 Days in Afghanistan: Army Service Awards - Our mission here has provided some of our soldiers a chance to go above and beyond their regular, everyday duties. In some cases, this has warranted recognition in the form of a medal for service while assigned to the theater of operations here in Afghanistan. This is a good thing, since recognition of soldiers and their hard work is both necessary and enjoyable. The only problem is getting there. In the US Army Awards Regulation (AR 600-8-22) it states "recommendations for awards need not be typed". Riiiiiiiiight. The truth is that there are certain things we do in the Army in spite of what the regulation says. Years of indoctrination and constant molding and remolding have developed certain habits in us that I think Pavlov would have found quite fascinating. Suffice it to say that we sometimes take our particular form of bureaucracy to the very limits of reason. (READ MORE)

A Little Pink in a World of Camo: Coping - The best (if there were a "best") and ugliest part of going through a tragedy is that you really see people's true colors. Some people can simply amaze you (like all of you bloggy friends and your amazing support, not to mention the majority of my Marine wives and sorority sisters and other friends, I can't believe how wonderful so many people have been to us through this) while others can shock you in not-so-happy ways. Some friends get really distant, some choose to let loose lips fly, and others are just not so nice in other ways. I think most of the negative comes out when people really don't know what to say (who does?), feel pressured to do something (you really don't have to, if you want to, I love it; but if you simply can't, I understand), or are simply grieving in their own ways as well. No matter the reasoning though, friends who don't stay faithful and supportive make the grieving process that much harder. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: Time is Running Out - Like an hourglass that has been turned upside down and the sand granules slowly deplete and amass on the bottom, so is the amount of time we have left on our deployment. But the time is measured in days instead of hours. Our ETT mission has officially ended and everyone is busy packing their bags and disposing of items they have accumulated throughout the year. It’s amazing how much stuff and junk you acquire. I am still tying up some loose ends and tomorrow I plan on delivering my last load of humanitarian assistance to the ANA family support center. Today Omid, Mir Wais, and I sorted through large bags of clothing, first aid kits, hygiene kits, and blankets. My plan is to give one third of the items to the family support center for distribution to wounded soldiers’ families and widows. Then the remaining items are going to be turned over to an Army SSG who is responsible for 7 regions. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: ANA On Their Own - Yesterday I mentioned that the ANA visited a village school and dropped off school supplies and Beanie Babies for the children. Today I had an opportunity to discuss the trip with Mir Wais, the interpreter who accompanied them and took these photos. Since there was so much stuff to transport, they piled everything into a 7 ton truck including some of the vitamins and medicines our medic provided. The shelf life on the medicines was expiring soon, so this was a beneficial way to dispose of them instead of throwing them away. The ANA Brigade surgeon along with his contingent of soldiers drove to the village school. This school hosts both boys and girls during the same time period. However, the buildings are segregated and inaccessible to each other. One side has the girls’ classrooms and the other side houses the boys. But in typical Afghan fashion, the girls are not provided the same resources as the boys. (READ MORE)

al Sahwa: Shifting Focus to Kandahar - As the US continues to build combat power as part of the Afghanistan surge, GEN McChrystal has already telegraphed his next major move - into the strategically vital Kandahar province. Recognizing the importance of Kandahar city (and its surrounding towns/villages), US forces are planning to focus several of the additional BCTs arriving in Afghanistan in the province. Additionally, McChrystal and ISAF are re-organizing the Regional Command (RC) structure in the South to split the existing RC-South into RC-SW (Helmand) and RC-SE (Kandahar). RC-SW will be led by a Marine 2-star and RC-SE will be led by British MG Nick Carter (the current RC-South commander). Beginning in 2011, a US commander will take over RC-SE and focus the command on conducting operations in Kandahar. Just as in the recent operation to clear and secure Marjah in Helmand province, the US has developed a comprehensive plan to improve security, governance, essential services, rule of law, and economic growth in the area… (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Afghan outrage after NATO troops kill 4 civilians - Three suicide bombers attempted to seize the main building of Afghanistan's intelligence service in Kandahar city earlier this morning, armed with guns, grenades, and suicide vests, before two of them were shot and killed and the third detonated his. The Taliban have reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack. Elsewhere in Kandahar, NATO security forces opened fire on a bus carrying Afghan civilians, killing at least four and wounding 18, and sparking a 200-man strong protest in the provincial capital. The protesters burned tires and shouted, "Death to America! Death to Karzai!," and NATO is investigating the incident; currently, the reason the convoy opened fire is unclear. On Saturday, three Italian aid workers and six Afghans were detained in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand, in an alleged plot to assassinate the governor of the province, Gulab. (READ MORE)

Martine van Bijlert: Karzai and confusion in Kabul - Over the last few days Afghan President Hamid Karzai has found it increasingly difficult to stop saying in public all the things that he has been saying in private for months: Who do these foreigners think they are, what are they playing at, and do they really think they can push me and my people around forever? Observers have sought to understand what this means in terms of his partnership with the international actors, his state of mind and his outlook for the future. The assumption in some of the commentaries seems to be that Karzai is speaking for the Afghan people when he slams the international presence and that his remarks on joining the Taliban, if things go on like this much longer, could signal an actual shift in the government's politics. Neither seems to be the case. But it is becoming increasingly difficult for western audiences to separate the government, the Taliban and the people. (READ MORE)

Army Poet: What We All Want... - Today is sunny. But I woke up with the most empty and alone feeling...It was not a nothingness or emptiness, because I don't think that hurts as much. I could not get up, did not want to face anything, yet felt miserable looking out at the empty branches against the white sky. Quite awful. Better now, but perhaps it was traveling preparations... Seems we all want to love and be loved; to give consolation and receive it. But the people who need and want to give are disconnected.... Wandering in some wild forest which is filled with thorns and dense vines. How can we not all connect...? I saw a girl's hand yesterday. She was holding a napkin at a restaurant I was in. Her hand had some faint scrapes on it. It was not adorned with painted nails, rings or overwrought delicacy... But it was lovely. (READ MORE)

C.J Chivers: Afghan Marksmanship: Pointing, Not Aiming - This blog has recently been examining poor Afghan marksmanship, focusing on remarkably bad Taliban performance with rifles in combat and some of the probable reasons behind it. We’ll shift now to a discussion of Afghan government units, which regularly provide an opportunity to assess outgoing fire. Puncturing some of the legends of Afghan fighting prowess has value for at least two reasons. First, when assessing the Taliban and other insurgent organizations — which few people dispute form a resolved and adaptive force – it is important to be wary of exaggerating their traditional fighting skills, as opposed to their social and political skills, their effectiveness as criminal organizations, and their shift in recent years toward improvised explosives. The Taliban’s shoddy marksmanship also raises questions about how fighting in Afghanistan has evolved. (READ MORE)

David Bellavia: Unapologetic About the Greatness of the American Warrior Spirit - After I wrote about the WikiLeaks tape and the absurd accusations that the American military had “murdered” Iraqis and journalists in cold blood, I have gotten a pretty heavy flow of nasty emails from Europe. Eleven today alone. Can’t call them threatening because I don’t honestly believe a Norwegian can legally threaten you. It has got me to thinking about the main differences between Europe and the US. Of course we can’t blanket any culture or people with tired cliches. These emails obviously do not represent the freedom loving Europeans, who understand we must defeat our enemies who wish us harm and appreciate all America has done for global liberty. God only knows the scores of brave British, French, German and Polish (Aussie and Canadian too) troops that have fallen on the same soil as our own heroes. However, we must admit that there is a large, vocal cross section of the European population that hates America simply because we are Americans. Period. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Death in the Morning - Yesterday morning started with an event so senseless and evil that it is hard to describe. An American army patrol was moving through downtown Jalalabad when the villains detonated a bicycle mounted IED. This IED had no chance of even denting the paint job on an MRAP, but it did throw out a bunch of shrapnel which killed one of the best diesel engine mechanics in town and wounded another 15 civilians – mostly children. I drove up behind the convoy a few minutes after the attack. They had stopped, dismounted and were treating the injured. I walked up to the rear vehicle turret gunner and asked if I could cut through the convoy and head into the downtown area. He pointed over to the scene and said they were treating a bunch of school kids and I could not get through the circle yet. I had thought that the IED had gone off much further down the street where there’s a stretch of road with very little pedestrian activity. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: Shocked... shocked - It's possible some people might be confused about the stories saying the Afghan NDS were reported to be cruel jailors, but also tended to take bribes to release insurgents a lot. In our kind of Western justice system that would seem... contradictory. But not in Afghanistan. One cannot rule out the likelihood here that this is just evidence the system is, in fact, functioning as designed: that is, functioning primarily as a mechanism for generating bribes for local officials through catch-and-release detention policies. The threat of ill treatment itself is itself a primary tool to efficiently extract the levy from the friends and family of the detained. If NDS custody were not seen as hard time, and the NDS themselves as hard men, there would not be the same sense or urgency to spring someone. The prompt releases and the reputation for abuse, deserved or not, go hand in glove in this way. (READ MORE)

Scott Fontaine: Reflecting on six months of war - Capt. Jason Sapp's worst moment in Afghanistan? The afternoon of Aug. 25, when he first learned a roadside bomb had detonated underneath a vehicle carrying soldiers returning from a humanitarian medical mission. The soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord's 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment were responding to a cholera outbreak in the Shah Wali Kot district of southern Afghanistan. The bomb exploded on their way back to battalion's headquarters, killing four people. "The deployment was tough at times," said Sapp, a Madigan Army Medical Center doctor who deployed as the 1-17 Infantry's battalion surgeon. "You see people you work with, people you take care of get killed or get injured. (The Aug. 25 attack) was the worst, though." As the battalion surgeon, Sapp oversaw all medical issues for the 1-17 Infantry – the hardest-hit battalion during the Afghanistan war. The unit, part of the larger 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, has lost 22 soldiers since it deployed in July. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: 3 RIFLES improve security along Helmand road - Riflemen from B Company, 3rd Battalion the Rifles (3 RIFLES), have been undertaking an operation to maintain security on Route 611 through Helmand province, thereby improving freedom of movement in the area. Based at Forward Operating Base Jackson, Sangin, since October 2009, B Company has been working closely with Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to secure the area to allow locals to go about their normal lives. Thanks partly to the ability of ISAF and ANSF to maintain security on Route 611, the primary route which connects the town to the outlying communities, the Sangin bazaar has grown considerably recently. Operation GHARTSE GHADMAHE 5 was the latest move by Combined Force Sangin to improve freedom of movement on Route 611, with the soldiers creating new checkpoints and improved culverts that are harder for the insurgents to lay IEDs in. (READ MORE)

TankerBabe: Remembering Dad; The Milbloggies; Incredible Friends - Yesterday was a roller coaster of emotion from one end of the spectrum to the other. April 7, 2008 I had spent a few hours of the day at Walter Reed Army hospital with, among others, Yankeemom, her daughter and ConcreteBob. The four of us had left WRAMC and driving over to Virginia to check into a hotel for them might with plans of attending some events in DC the following day. After we checked into the hotel we drove a short distance to a restaurant. As we were walking from the car to the front door my phone rang. It was an uncle I rarely hear from. He was calling ot tell me that my father had died. Even today when I reflect on that call is seems so surreal. I am thankful that I was with such dear friends who took great care of me along with many others. ConcreteBob took me back to the hotel. I called a friend of mine who works for Delta Air Lines. She got my information and made all of my flight changes and called me back. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: ANA and 1 SCOTS distribute school books to Afghan kids - Soldiers from 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS) and troops from the Afghan National Army (ANA) have distributed school books to children in the Wishtan area of Helmand province. The densely populated area of southwest Wishtan is home to one of the largest schools in the area, teaching 50 children for five days per week in an area where literacy among young adults is very low and public schooling is targeted by insurgent intimidation. On a previous visit to the area, teacher Hafiz Hekmatullah had explained to the British and Afghan soldiers that his school was in desperate need of exercise books and stationery; items difficult to find in Sangin. So, on a subsequent joint patrol, soldiers of B Company, 1 SCOTS, and their partners from the ANA Heavy Weapons Company, 2/3/205 Kandak, Hero Corps, paid a special visit to the students with some much needed school supplies. (READ MORE)

Insight of the Moment: More nothing, with some stuff in between - I feel like I literally have nothing to write about. You've already heard about how Sundays are what I live for. You've read all about my desire to sleep more and my determination to become more physically fit. I've whined about the passage of time, or lack thereof, and the chaos and flailing about that goes on at work that is all stretched out over the long days. I've talked about how pretty the palace is and the grounds at VBC are much more pleasant to look at than my environments of my previous two deployments. Tonight concludes another Sunday. It was a fast week but it was more of the same. Monday sucked. We're starting to return to "react" mode rather than plan and have some sanity. I didn't get much sleep but worked out anyway except for Friday when I took another rest day after Thursday. I was supposed to run on Friday. I guess I needed it because I felt a lot better afterwards. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Friendly Chat - I went to visit a friend yesterday. Naturally, we talked about politics. The friend had been a communist for most of his years. For this reason, he hates the Baathists because they cracked down in a very ruthless way on the communists. He was pretty angry at the situation. "They're coming back!" I said I didn't understand. "The Baathists are coming back!" My friend said he didn't vote for Ayad Allawi because he's a Baathist. I asked who he voted for, and he said Ayad Jamalaldin. I told him not to worry, that Allawi will not return Iraq to Baathist rule. "Just you wait," he said. "In four years he'll say why bother to vote, we'll keep the country running for you." In other words, Allawi would become dictator for life. I said what about the axe attack on Allawi and his wife in the UK? "Lies," he said, "All lies." He wanted the sympathy of the people who had suffered under Saddam. How could he make them pity him and vote for him? It's all a game. Don't you see? (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: Coalition of the Willing 2.0 - Today an article about Fabfi was Printed in the in the Sunday edition of the Boston Herald. I was initially very surprised at the paper's interest in the issue. The subject matter is a little outside I would typically associate with the publication, and I wasn't really sure it would resonate with the readership in a way I would be comfortable with. But any publicity is good publicity, right? As expected, there was some push-back in the comments of the online article of the type "what if this gets into the hands of terrorists?". I could dedicate 10 pages of text to why this fear is an unfounded construction of the mainstream media, but there's not enough time in the day to get on such a big soapbox... The internet is the most democratic medium the world has ever known. It is the easiest way for individuals to participate in social communities, allows every user to speak his or her mind and knows few national boundaries. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Tired of War - I'm tired of war. Not troops, not milsupporters, but like everyone else, I'm tired of it. And so I'm taking a break, fleeing in the morning up to my cousin's house in Carmel. There's a nice assortment of adults, teens and animals staying back at the house. They'll have fun. I'm excited because I'm getting back to some basic things I love. The creative side of me has felt fairly stifled for far too long. I just need to get out, prioritize, and relax. There will be 6.5 hours of driving time each way -- all alone. I shall relish it. First stop is to Tor House, the home of the late California poet Robinson Jeffers. The next day, it's off for some wandering in Carmel. I plan on walking in the village, and even driving to Asilomar beach to walk that stretch so familiar to me when I was a kid. We're also going to the Steinbeck Center to see Thomas Steinbeck (John's son) read from his new book, In The Shadow Of The Cypress. (READ MORE)

Manatee's Military Moms: A SMART gift: Unconditional love - There’s nothing more frustrating than having an amazing gift, and nobody to share it with. That’s the position Gail Clifton of SMART finds her organization in right now; a fantastic program for wounded warriors and veterans, with no takers. “We have the capability to serve any kind of disability, we are really set up well,” said Clifton, executive director of Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy. Horses for Heroes, a program set up a year ago for wounded warriors to help with brain injuries, amputations, PTSD, or challenges of any kind, has not had one participant—yet. Gail is hoping to get the word out so veterans can benefit from the free program. “I firmly believe this program is good for people. When it takes off, it will be successful,” said Clifton. “It improves core strength, spatial awareness, and increases confidence,” said Clifton, who went on: “I’ll accept a veteran from any war.” (READ MORE)

One Marine's View: 120 Days of Wind in Afghanistan - It sweeps across Afghanistan's desert steppes and mountains at speeds that can top 100 mph, pummeling the country relentlessly with sand and dust. Known as "The Wind of 120 days," the phenomenon is a blessing and curse for the millions of people who live in its path. "We have a saying," said Bagram resident Mohammad Safa, 54. "If you eat poison little by little, eventually you'll get used to it." The winds usually blow between June and September, they have arrived early this year , making it difficult to see and sometimes hard to breathe. But in the dry summer heat, they also ease the sweltering. (READ MORE)

One Marine's View: A HOT ONE today... - For all that is holy, it was hot today. We attended a few key leader engagements (meetings with locals) and when we came back my uniform was soaked. I’m not bitching, just describing it to you as there are hundreds of young studs out doing this daily without letting up. You know you are sweating when your boot laces are wet from the sweat running down your legs. I’ve downed 3 bottles of water and don’t have to go to the head….sorry kidneys. Guess that pot of coffee this morning wasn’t the best call. A cigar should help...Your Marines continue to chase the enemy. A savvy enemy at that but they aren’t very good. They get lucky sometimes but your Marines continue the relentless hunt that keeps the enemy looking over their shoulder. As your weekend approaches, take the time to look around and remember just how good we have it in America and know it’s up to all of us to keep it that way. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Jon Voight - A friend of mine, who is of the ultra-conservative mindbent (yes, I have friends on both ends of the spectrum) posted an admiring note on Facebook on Jon Voight. Voight has been back in the news with a scathing open letter to President Obama, accusing the President of orchestrating a great lie upon the American people. The letter is really disgusting. And it pissed me off to no end. Here's my reply to that Facebook post: Jon Voight is utterly and completely off-base. His letter is nothing but misrepresentations, outright lies, and outrageous and unfounded accusations. During the Bush years, Voight was staunchly in the camp that believed that to criticize the President, particularly in a time of war, was to criticize the country and was therefore unpatriotic. From an interview with Bill O’Reilly in 2008: “When I hear people saying quite unthinkable things about our President, when I see our President defaced, which is defacing our country..." (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: The Sun Also Rises ... on Red Bulls - Saturday morning, first formation of the day. Our former first sergeant handed off the guidon, then was promoted to sergeant major. He'll be top operations dog in the Tactical Operations Center ("TOC") now, riding herd on all us TOC-cats. The headquarters company commander--practically the lowest-ranking officer in our brass-heavy organization--told everyone to "form a horseshoe" and "take a knee," so he could read us the official "Red Bull" message about our mobilization dates. A day later, the Family Readiness Group (F.R.G.) rang down the telephone tree, to contact as many family members as possible. There are no surprises in the message. Last year's alert and the past week's rumor mill have taken all the drama out of the mobilization message. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single bootstep. "On the Objective!" (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: More than Rumors of War - Situation report, or "SITREP," follows: As you may have figured out, there's a lot of movement behind the scenes, both for the Sherpa family and for the Iowa National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th "Red Bull" Infantry Division. On the personal front, I'd like to mention that Red Bull Rising was featured on a Slate.com digest of military-themed blogs called "The Sandbox." (Click here for the RBR post that ran on Slate 09 April 2010.) The mil-blog feature is under Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury comics and related projects. Needless to say, I was humbled and honored to be included in such company, and glad to add my voice to such a community. Unfortunately, however, I don't have much time to dwell on little victories right now: There's a mobilization order in the works. Has been for more than a week, if the rumor mill is correct. Earlier this week, our unit's leaders began presenting deployment-related information in "Town Hall" events across the state. (READ MORE)

Ranger Up: Keeping The Home Fires Lit - I was listening to the radio on the way to work the other day and I was reminded, yet again, of the brilliance of publicly funded studies. You know the ones; they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and tell us things we already know, like $400K to discover that repeatedly hitting oneself in the head with a hammer can cause a headache. Duh. This particular study highlighted the problems women (not all spouses; this one dealt with wives) experience while their husbands are deployed. The report came to the following conclusions: 1. Wives of deployed service members experience more stress, depression, and anxiety than wives of non-deployed Soldiers. Duh. 2. The longer the deployment, the more likely a spouse is to develop feelings of anxiety, depression, or stress. Big Duh. 3. A spouse whose husband returns from theater with an injury is likely to experience increased amounts of stress. Seriously? A thousand burning suns of DUH! (READ MORE)

GRUNTSHIT: David Lane April 3, 1987 - Sept 4, 2007 - On April 3, 1987 David Lane was born in Mesa Arizona. I met David Lane close to 20 years later at Fort Riley Kansas. I sat on Staff Duty with him he was my runner. He asked me if he could have dinner with his wife since we weren't getting much family time. Later that week the "new" guy would role his pick up truck on the way into work. The initial reports that we heard was that he was in ICU fighting for his life. That later proved to be a stretch of the truth and shortly after Lane was back with us at work. He immediately made his presence known as the clown within the Platoon. He was put in SSG Rich's squad and they developed a father and son relationship that brought comic relief to everyone. In Iraq David brought smiles to all of our faces when people were worn out and dragging ass. You couldn't stay mad at him for long his antics and his silly faces would always make you smile. (READ MORE)

The Torch: Our vanishing Provincial Reconstruction Team at Kandahar? - A post from April 2009: The US and the Kandahar PRT--and Kandahar generally - Well, the PRT is now a "joint venture"--reasonable given the vastly increased US presence plus the CF's approaching 2011 departure. Yet it is not clear (good CP story) if our incredibly dithering government intends to keep Canadian civilians at Kandahar after then; an almost total "cut and run" in the end, eh? Kandahar reconstruction base now a Canada-U.S. venture - Canada's provincial reconstruction base in Kandahar [more here] -- often the source of great political pride for the Harper government -- is now a joint venture with the United States. A change of command was held early Sunday with no fanfare whatsoever, marking the handover of the base to civilian control. The reorganization also sees the U.S. take an equal role in the decision-making process, a move that raises questions about whether Ottawa intends to pull civilians out of the troubled province entirely when the military leaves next year. (READ MORE)

David Axe: Debating Chowkay Valley Engagement - Last month I accompanied a U.S. Army patrol let by Captain Joe Snowden into eastern Afghanistan’s Pashtun-dominated Chowkay Valley. The valley is a minor source of illegal poppies and a major source of local discontent and isolationism; Snowden wanted to get in there, convince the elders to stop growing poppies and try to get a foothold for the Afghan government. It didn’t go well. We were chased out of the valley by armed men. The elders at Snowden’s meetings scoffed at the captain’s suggestions. Afghanistan analyst Josh Foust insists Snowden is taking the wrong approach: So we have a tension-filled meeting, in an area the troops almost never visit, with a low-ranking officer berating elders to abandon their one source of income and betray their family members who have taken up arms against the coalition … and I guess it’s a surprise that the area is so hostile? … (READ MORE)

Nathan Hodge: Afghans Report More Roadside Bombs, Attacks on the Rise - In Afghanistan, civilians are reporting more roadside bombs to the coalition — but insurgents are continuing to plant record numbers of the deadly devices. According to latest figures released by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Defeat Organization, or JIEDDO, the Pentagon’s dedicated organization for combating roadside bombs, Afghans turned in 34 devices in March, more than double the number turned in during the same month in 2008. But the total number of roadside bombs, including those found and cleared by coalition troops, reached 989 in the same month. That’s close to a peak in August 2009, when over a thousand IEDs were laid. The number of effective attacks (i.e., those which injured or killed coalition forces) has remained relatively flat. According to JIEDDO’s numbers, 21 coalition troops were killed in March by roadside bombs, the same number as were killed in IED strikes the previous March. (READ MORE)

Home From Iraq: Celebrity (Author) in the House--Dr. Charles W. Hoge - On Saturday while I was waiting for one of the sessions to start I met Dr. Charles Hoge. He wrote the book Once a Warrior--Always a Warrior. I reviewed the book on March 14 and found it more useful than I would have thought for me. I would have thought it only applied to soldiers in direct combat, but there are things everyone in Iraq goes through that Dr. Hoge gives good advice on. (I can hear some of my friends saying "Going to Iraq for a year can be stressful--this is news to you?!) Anyway, Dr. Hoge saw my name on my backpack and introduced himself. We talked for several minutes about the book, Iraq, and reading and then I had to run off to move my car which was parked in a 2-hour meter zone. On the way down to the meeting, I talked to a friend who served was in Iraq last year and is having trouble getting back to the old routine. (READ MORE)

Yellow Rose: TWO events worth your while - For the past few days I have been following a couple of major sporting events and I don’t mean MLB or the Final Four. On April 6th, the Ride 2 Recovery Texas Challenge started at Brooke Army Medical Center and headed north toward San Marcus. From there they traveled to Austin, Ft. Hood, Waco, Cleburne and this weekend they will finish up in Arlington Texas. It’s called the “Don’t Mess with Texas” Challenge. The challenge is limited to 200 participants and the entry fee is $3000. Unless….you’re a wounded warrior and then you’ve already paid the entry fee. You’ve lost an arm or a leg or have a TBI injury – you get the idea. Participants cycle from point A to point B, up and down hills, sun or rain. They are escorted by American Legion Riders and also have numerous support vehicles. The American Legion Family along with Commander Clarence Hill and American Legion Auxiliary President Rita Navarette actively participated in the Florida Ride. (READ MORE)

ROFASix: Apache Combat Video - Was it Murder? - After watching the Apache gun camera video that shows a July 2007 engagement of personnel on the streets of Baghdad I just put it away. I didn't write about it at the time. I knew it captured so perfectly how there is no clear morality in war. It showed what appears to a classic SNAFU that happens too often in the fog of war. Missing with this video is the context of the event and without that, it is impossible to make a value judgment on what you see happen. Why did the Apache fire up a van that started evacuating what appears to be now unarmed and wounded personnel? I don't know. Without that context, no one else can either. Wikileaks called the video they showed of that mission "Collateral Murder (link to video)" so you know right off how it viewed the video. I called it disturbing, but not surprising in a COIN environment that lacks boundaries and the enemy hides and blends in with the population. My only surprise is that this seems to have happened so infrequently. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Strange Counterinsurgency: The Marines Join Other Tribes! - After seeing a few pictures in a commentary by Diana West, I felt that they were so laughable, clownish and ridiculous that they must be fabricated, so I set about to located them. And locate them I did. There are other pictures for your viewing. The pity with the story that these photographs tell is that there is nothing quite like it in U.S. Marine Corps history. The Marines have done counterinsurgency and stability operations for some 200 years now, and yet the history of these operations seems to have been all but forgotten. The most recent counterinsurgency success – the Anbar Province in Iraq – surely has been forgotten. Note that I have been careful to point out the need for warrior scholars: “When Marine Lt. Col. Bill Mullen showed up at the city council meeting here Tuesday, everyone wanted a piece of him...” (READ MORE)

Michael Yon: Under Cover of the Night - On Saturday, 10 April, a message came from military that this embed has ended. No reason was offered. The troops here have no idea why. On Sunday a reason was given: overcrowding by journalists. Haven’t seen a journalist in weeks. I had gone to great expense to be here with 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team and promised to stay with them until they leave Afghanistan. Then suddenly a nameless feature decided to pull the plug. The decision likely came from General officer level. It is a bad sign indicating that they think they are losing the war and don’t want anyone there to see it. Saw this in Iraq. It has been said that between Iraq and Afghanistan I’ve spent more time embedded with combat units than anyone in U.S. history. I do not know if this is true but it sounds good. It’s been a long journey and fortune favored my every step. Many people have been killed or maimed and I am walking out without a scratch. (READ MORE)

Yankeemom: Waiting - We’ve been spending a few days with our soon-to-be Mommy Soldier while the soon-to-be-Daddy Soldier is TDY. (shhh! Secret Squirrel Mission!) Ned came out to put the crib together this weekend and I’ll be helping with getting the house ready for the arrival of little William. With the two of them both working, they just haven’t had the time or energy to even think about it. And with the genes that run in this family, and the stubbornness, we really have no idea when that li’l boy may show up. The docs said she had another month but all signs point to anytime after this week ~ or maybe sooner ~ or not. The babies that have arrived in this family never did much listen to the experts… And I don’t want her to be alone. I’m so lucky that she’s based near enough that I can do be with her. Heck, she could be deployed overseas, far, far away, like so many who are Military. (READ MORE)


News from the Home Front:
Graduating to the next battle - Adversity has stalked 18-year-old Tyki Nelworth. His mother is in prison, his father is deceased, and for years he was bounced from home to home. Last week, he got his wish: He was accepted and received a four-year scholarship to the United States Military Academy. (READ MORE)



News from the Front:
Iraq:

The vice president bears good news from Iraq - Vice President Biden didn't use the jinxed phrase "mission accomplished." But he offered an optimistic assessment of Iraq after last month's parliamentary election, saying that Iran's covert bid for influence there had been "clobbered" and that Baghdad appears headed toward an "inclusive" coalition government. (READ MORE)

Iraq war video raises more than just ethical and legal questions - It is a given that governments try to control information in times of war, and they are particularly sensitive to photographs that reveal the hideousness of battle. (READ MORE)

Iran Wants Sunnis in Iraqi Politics - Iran, which has acted as a major power broker in Iraqi politics, called Saturday for Iraqi leaders to include Sunnis in the long-overdue new government and said Shiites would have to form an alliance with them for that to happen. (READ MORE)

Allawi's secularism may not fly in today's Iraq - In a nation where religion and politics have become nearly inseparable, can a secular politician be prime minister of Iraq? (READ MORE)

Iraqi Alliance Questions Vote Count in Election - The political alliance led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said Sunday that fraud and irregularities during vote-counting after last month’s Iraqi elections had affected as many as 20 seats in Parliament, suggesting that the two-seat losing margin was inaccurate. (READ MORE)

Iraqi PM's Alliance: Election Tainted by Up to 750,000 Fraudulent Votes - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's political grouping says its investigation into last month's parliamentary election has uncovered evidence of fraud affecting up to 750,000 votes. (READ MORE)

1-9 and Provincial Reconstruction Team Support Iraqi Election Process - Eight members from the U.S. Embassy and the Ninewa Provincial Reconstruction Team were tasked to observe the elections at several polling stations throughout the province. (READ MORE)

Sniper Training Provides 'combat Multiplier' for Iraqi Army - While "one shot, one kill," may be the sniper axiom, it doesn't begin to describe the sniper experience. Not only must snipers be excellent shooters, they must also be disciplined and patient. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
IJC Operational Update, April 12 - An Afghan-international security force captured a Haqqani improvised explosive device facilitator and several other militants in Paktiya this morning. (READ MORE)

Joint Team Assessing Civilian Casualty Incident in Zhari - ISAF deeply regrets the tragic loss of life in Zhari District this morning. According to ISAF operational reporting, four civilians were killed, including one female, and five others were treated for injuries at the scene of the incident today. (READ MORE)

Taliban pushed out of Swat make 'Kala Dhaka' their new terror base - The Taliban extremists, who fled the military operation in the Swat Valley and other areas of the Malakand district, have made Kala Dhaka as their new base. (READ MORE)

5 Afghan deminers killed in roadside bombing - A bus carrying Afghans working for a U.S.-supported demining group was struck by a roadside bomb in Kandahar province Sunday, killing five workers and wounding 13 others. (READ MORE)

Four dead as US loses first Osprey in Afghanistan - A US Air Force Osprey went down in southeastern Afghanistan, killing three service members and one civilian contractor in the first crash of the costly tilt-rotor aircraft in a combat zone, the US military said. (READ MORE)

Compromising with the Taliban - Some day the war in Afghanistan will end. If it's like most civil wars, it will end in negotiations -- in this case, negotiations with the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Learning to work with our man in Afghanistan - President Obama keeps saying that he intends to win the war in Afghanistan. "There will be difficult days ahead, but I am absolutely confident that we will succeed," he promised in this year's State of the Union address. (READ MORE)

The U.S. can't ignore Karzai's tantrum - Paging Dr. Khalilzad. That is, Zalmay Khalilzad, former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and now a wandering consultant on all things Afghan and Middle Eastern. Might we impose on him one more time? (READ MORE)

Kabul park offers Afghan women a taste of freedom and opportunity - On a recent day when the sun was finally strong enough to dry the Afghan capital's muddy streets, Habiba Sarwe sought her husband's permission to visit a spot that her daughter and all the neighborhood wives were talking about: a park, with swings, benches, flowers and a gazebo. (READ MORE)

In Kandahar, coaxing Afghan police into training - Lieutenant-Colonel Naeem of the Afghan police force had asked for his men to be trained, but had an abrupt change of heart when a U.S. military officer came back 10 days later with a new course lined up. (READ MORE)

Afghan air force struggles to take off - Dawran Masoomy was once in line to be Afghanistan's first man in space. Nowadays, as a lieutenant general commanding his country's air force, he's happy just to see his vintage planes and middle-aged pilots get back off the ground. (READ MORE)

Nato troops accused of opening fire on civilian bus in Kandahar - Nato troops killed four civilians and wounded 18 others when they fired on a bus in Afghanistan today, the Afghan government has claimed. (READ MORE)

Taliban wants France to arrange detainee swap - The Taliban demanded Monday that the French government push the U.S. and Afghan governments to release detainees in exchange for two French journalists kidnapped in December in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

NATO gunfire kills 4 on bus, sparks protests - International troops opened fire on a bus carrying Afghan civilians Monday, killing four people, officials said, setting off anti-American protests in a key southern city where coalition forces hope to rally the public for a coming offensive against the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Key Afghan town still at risk, U.S. general says - The safety situation for Afghan villagers remains precarious in Marja, where U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers mounted a massive assault in February to oust the Taliban from control, the Marine general who led the assault said late Sunday. (READ MORE)

Poison swirls around Hamid Karzai and Barack Obama - When Hamid Karzai started presenting the victims of British bombings in Helmand with medals commemorating Wazir Akbar Khan, one of the victors of the first Anglo-Afghan war, someone should, perhaps, have wondered which side Afghanistan’s president was really on. (READ MORE)

Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, threatens to block Nato offensive - The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has cast doubt over Nato’s planned summer offensive against the Taliban in the southern province of Kandahar, as more than 10,000 American troops pour in for the fight. (READ MORE)

U.S. seeks to ease strained relations with Afghanistan - Senior American officials on Sunday sought to smooth over a sharply quarrelsome interlude in U.S.-Afghan relations, with the special U.S. envoy to the region describing President Hamid Karzai's administration as "a government we can work with." (READ MORE)

Obama Administration Calls Karzai 'A Reliable Partner' - The Obama administration is downplaying differences with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, calling him "a reliable partner." (READ MORE)

Senior Officials Discuss Way Ahead in Afghanistan - The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command, and the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan are co-hosting an intense interagency review of U.S.civilian and military (civ-mil) efforts in Afghanistan for the coming year. (READ MORE)

Update on Afghan Police Training - The importance of developing Afghan police forces is equal to that of raising a strong military there, a senior officer involved in that effort said yesterday. (READ MORE)

Canada Pledges Additional Personnel to Train ANSF - The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, today announced in Kabul that the Government of Canada is committing up to 90 additional personnel, primarily to support the training of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). (READ MORE)


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Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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