April 26, 2010

From the Front: 04/26/2010

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

Dispatches:
A Little Pink in a World of Camo: At A Loss - I've been at a loss for words. This is especially not good because I have been invited to write a post for the Washington Post, but I just don't know what to say. Things have been ok. Sometimes I feel awful saying/thinking that and other times I feel good. I can't be sad all the time, even though I feel like I should, I know he wouldn't want it, but not feeling sad then leads me to feeling guilty. Ooooh the emotional roller coaster of a gold star wife. Last week I engaged in a little Retail Therapy. I bought myself an iphone. I'd wanted one for sometime, Jonny too, but we never wanted to make the switch from Verizon to AT&T and weren't sure if we'd be able to text on the keyboard and yadda yadda yadda. But well, I really wanted one, my phone was acting like a total poop, and I justified it with the fact that Jonny wanted one so it was for him (in essence) and the fact is... I love it. (READ MORE)

A Little Pink in a World of Camo: Hello, I'm in Delaware - One month. I've officially been a widow (still hate that word) for one month. This week has been rough. The day before yesterday, some more of his stuff came home. The stuff that was on him when the accident happened (the only stuff I'd gotten before was "sentimental" stuff - tags/jewelry - but everything at this point is sentimental). The items included his cards (humvee license, coach's certificate, etc), money he had on him, little red light I bought for him before he left - literally a few hours before he left, some papers he had (one being a note I'd written him before he left, he had been carrying it with him, I didn't know that...), and... the memory card from the camera. I couldn't get the camera itself back because it'd been broken too badly to be scanned by the people who go through his stuff before I get it - JPED - but the card was in working condition and so I got it. Of course, I went through it. (READ MORE)

A Major's Perspective: A Good Day - I have a number of pictures to post of my day today, but still need to get to a different internet connection. Those will be posted seperately but are tied to this post. I had the great honor a couple of months ago to communicate with Mr Greg Mortenson, the author of the book, "Three Cups Of Tea." In his book, Mr Mortenson details how understanding and building schools and other facilities can go a great distance to helping the individual people and local villages / groups within Afghanistan, and build that bridge of trust and understanding. He is truly an American Hero for his work that he has done. With these thoughts in the back of my head, we visited a shop that sells rugs today, that are created by a local orphanage. The orphanage cares for the children, and teaches them a trade and educates them. Now, I still have a lot of work and coordination to do, but I deffinitely want to help this orphanage with what we can. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Why we do it - Yesterday as I walked the halls of the US Capitol looking at the architecture, the paintings, the sculptures I was in awe. It was amazing to walk through the original Supreme Court chambers which are actually in the Capitol building. 70% of the furniture there, to include the big clock on the wall is the original furniture that survived the burning of the Capitol building by the British. To sit in the House of Representatives Gallery where our Congress debate and vote on laws is just humbling. To walk and experience the same building and rooms that our founding fathers did as they formulated the documents and laws that set this country up to be the greatest country in the world is simply awesome. It resets in one’s mind (at least mine) why we Soldiers, Airman, Sailors and Marines do what we do and why we do it. To Preserve a Country as great as ours. I wish most Americans could appreciate what a great country they live in and not take it for granted. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan My Last Tour: (VIDEO) Coming home - Despite delays caused by regime overthrow in Manas, a volcanic eruption in Iceland, a refueler strike in the Azores and delays caused by aircraft maintenance…. After 60 hours of sleeping in chairs – I am home at last! Warmest thanks to my wife Liisa’s former teaching assistant Sarah Wilson for this homecoming video. (VIEW VIDEO)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: 3 explosions strike Kandahar - Two blasts within a minute rattled downtown Kandahar earlier today, one reportedly targeting the city's police chief, and two hours later a third attack hit north of the city. Two civilians were killed and three others, including an Afghan policeman, were wounded. On Sunday morning, the 12th assassination in two months left the brother of an Afghan senator dead. Ahead of major coalition operations in the southern Afghan province, elite U.S. Special Operations Forces are "picking up or picking off" Taliban leaders in order to weaken the insurgency; the overt parts of the offensive are expected to begin "in coming weeks". On Sunday morning, around 100 Afghan protesters burned 12 NATO trucks carrying fuel to a base in eastern Afghanistan, objecting to two raids by joint U.S.-Afghan forces over the weekend that allegedly left civilians dead. Afghan and NATO officials said the men killed and captured were insurgents, however, and collected AK-47s and pistols along with Pakistani passports from the home in the raid. (READ MORE)

al Shawa: Lethal Targeting in Iraq; Success on an Unprecedented Scale - I think "WE" at al Sahwa would be remiss if we didn't try to put into perspective the recent lethal targeting events in Iraq. I will take a crack at it and hopefully the rest of the gang will fill in the blanks, as we have learned through trial and error, intelligence is always more accurate when it is a group effort. I will link many of the personalities to the LWJ because, as always, Bill Roggio does an impeccable job at providing detailed backgrounds on the myriad of targets. We in the military largely fail at providing the media with timely facts about our operations under the guise that it will hinder operational success. While this statement is true, it hinders the media's ability to accurately report on our successes (which I will cover in depth later). A side note to this; the military often withholds information from successful operations for days and even weeks... (READ MORE)

Army Blogger Wife: Deployment Question #13--What do you eat? - First deployment, it was just me, and I would make the same thing every week, a gigantic pot of bean soup and eat off it for a week. Talk about a cheap grocery budget! Second one, we had the girls, and I cooked. Third one, I discovered cereal. Fourth, we ate a lot of mac and cheese. This time I am hoping someone has some cheap, easy, kid friendly recipes that I can make. I still have cereal on the back burner. Oh, here's my easy kid friendly recipe that my kids gobble up and it takes about 1 minute to make and is healthy! I boil water in the tea pot, make a packet of instant oatmeal. Then I add a small container of fat free yogurt, some wheat germ or flax seed, and thicken it up with baby cereal with added DHA, etc. If I have time, I'll heat up some milk instead of water, but that requires me to watch it more so it doesn't burn. The kids think it tastes like custard, and I don't feel bad feeding it to them. (READ MORE)

Army Live: A Little Piece of Home - For the past several months, students at H.H. Poole Middle School in Stafford, VA have been raising money and collecting supplies and goodies to send to the troops downrange. They wanted to do something to help support the military, and two of their teachers, Mrs. Reilly and Mrs. Gaylord, who work closely with the Student Council Association, put the project together. Along with almost two dozen students, ranging from 6th thru 8th grades, they collected more than $600.00 in supplies and goodies from fellow students across the school. As I watched them stuff boxes on Friday, I listened to the students and teachers talk about why they performed this great service. And regardless of whether they had family in the service, or knew someone in the service, unequivocally they said they wanted to show our service members they care about the troops. And they thought that sending this “little bit of home” to the Soldiers was a good way to show their support. (READ MORE)

Bones: Enough - When is enough, enough? Perhaps it becomes over the top, or ‘enough’, when a Godly man like Franklin Graham is prevented from publically praying for our troops at the Pentagon on the National Day of Prayer (May 6). Graham was to be the key note speaker and is the co-honorary chair of the prayer task force. Why was he ‘disinvited’ by the Army? “The reason for the ‘dis-invite?’ Graham’s earlier comments about Islam were 'not appropriate,' said the Army (see more details below from Associated Press). In 2001, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham described Islam as ‘evil’ following terrorist attacks. More recently, he has said he finds Islam offensive and wants Muslims to know that Jesus Christ died for their sins.” It is time to defend the defendable, and chastise the indefensible. If one professes Christianity is it not a ‘good thing’ to proclaim that Jesus is Lord and that He died for all mankind, including Muslims? (READ MORE)

David Bellavia: Marine’s Murder Conviction Overturned - A military appeals court has thrown out the 2007 conviction of a Marine infantry squad leader accused of murdering an innocent man in the Iraqi town of Hamdaniya. Pvt. Lawrence G. Hutchins III, a former sergeant, was accused of devising a plot to kill Saleh Gowad, who Marines suspected of planting roadside bombs in and around Hamdaniya, and then leading his squad to Gowad’s house in the early hours of April 26, 2006. When they arrived and Gowad wasn’t there, prosecutors alleged, four members of the squad snatched another man instead, bound him with duct tape and dragged him to a nearby road where they executed him beside a freshly-dug hole. Citing errors in the reassignment of a defense attorney in the case, the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals in Washington voted 8-1 to “set aside” Hutchins’ conviction and the prison sentence. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Security For Me But Not For Thee - ISAF continues to reposition forces closer to the civilian population centers as part of their “population centric” strategy. They’ve set off a flurry of activity putting up blast walls, T barriers, concertina wire and Hesco counter mobility obstacles. Only none of this frantic building of security barriers is happening anywhere near Afghan population centers – it is all happening on the Big Box Fob’s. General McChrystal is leading by example – at the ISAF HQ in Kabul last week I noted that the finishing touches are going into a custom built, specially designed, multi-million dollar blast wall which is located inside the new giant T barrier wall, which was built inside the outer T barrier wall after the last VBIED attack on ISAF HQ. The original multi-million dollar T barrier wall was built inside the Hesco wall which itself is backed by a locally made rock and concrete wall shortly after a rocket landed near the ISAF HQ in 2006. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: Disavowed AND promoted - Feb, 2009: Ben Rowswell, charge d'affaires in the Canadian embassy in Kabul, mistakenly signs a letter coauthored with 2 other ISAF nations stating that the NDS will be notified in advance of any prison visits. “That reflected a misstep in the embassy. That letter had no status,” Mr. Hoffman told MPs. “I was in Islamabad at the time, and we had an employee who signed the letter prematurely.” Upon realizing what had happened, Canada quickly rescinded this offer and informed the National Directorate of Security that no forewarning would be given. “The provisions of the letter in fact had neither standing nor effect. The chargé d’affaires did sign the letter but the contents of the letter were not implemented,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Jamie Christoff said in a statement. Not mentioned in the Canadian press, but according to documents released in the British detainee trial (para 66), the letter Rowswell signed, apparently in error, to the national head of the NDS, Mr. Saleh, also committed the three countries to build the NDS a new prison in Kabul: (READ MORE)

Knights of Afghanistan: Beer, Booze and Bribery - As part of our continuing series detailing the depths of depravity and corruption that Afghanistan has sunk to, tonight I point you towards this story in the London Times, online edition. Last Monday night, the ANP* decided to mount one of their periodic raids on local Kabul establishments that sell alcohol. A total of five were targeted, four of which were shut-down immediately. The last one escaped being shut down because the district police commander is a regular customer and cut a deal with the owner. I know because I was there at the time. *Jerome Starkey, writing for the Times, describes these units as the "vice and virtue" police but that's not really accurate. There are no "vice" police here (and there damn sure ain't any virtue). It's just the regular ANP, supported by units of the NDS. As per SOP, the next day the police described these places as "the centres of immorality and the centres of alcohol." (READ MORE)

The Gun Line MkIII: ANZAC Day - 25 April 1915…ANZAC Day… It is believed that the national identities of Australia and New Zealand awoke, and amidst the bullets, shells, and blood of Anzac Cove, Helles, and Suvla Bay during the Gallipoli Campaign. Years later, during another world war, Australia and New Zealand would sacrifice a vast majority of their countries’ young men as they brought another evil empire to heel, and at the same time, provided aid and comfort to my own forefathers: The First Marine Division of the United States Marine Corps. The hospitality of Australia was such that the official song of the 1st MarDiv is “Waltzing Matilda”. As a result of the valor and courage of the Forces of the United Kingdom, which included the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, the Turkish Commander, Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) erected a memorial in 1934 with words that summed up the respect earned during the battle: Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… (READ MORE)

TankerBabe: Help Us Raise Money for a Great Cause by Purchasing 173rd Airborne Throws - A group of Gold Star families, Blue Star families, families of the wounded from OEF VIII and civilian supporters of the 173rd, 2-503 are selling throws as a fund raising project. The immediate goal is to raise funds to fly any medically cleared wounded of the 173rd ABCT from OEF X back to Italy and Germany at the end of the deployment to join their brothers in arms for Memorial Services and other official ceremonies. The response we received from the Wounded, their battle buddies and family members at the end of OEF VIII was overwhelmingly positive, and, at times deeply emotional. The battle buddies commented about how important it was to “see” that their brothers-in-arms were “ok”. The Wounded commented about how important it was to attend the Brigade Memorial Service and to talk with their brothers-in-arms about the ambush or attack and about those who didn’t survive. (READ MORE)

Hellcat Betty: Home At Last - My wonderful, amazing, handsome, incredible husband is FINALLY home! I haven't been this happy in a long time :) Here's some homecoming photos to tide you over while I disappear into reunited bliss for a while! ♥ (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: Nad-e Ali hosts “Super-Shura” - More than 1100 people from throughout the District of Nad-e Ali attended a ‘super-shura’ today to discuss the upcoming District Council elections. The shura was held in District Governor Habibullah’s compound and was attended by the Provincial Governor of Helmand, Gulab Mangal. The process to elect a new District Council was discussed as the current District Council, elected back in February 2009, is being dissolved. Governor Mangal and the Chairman of the Provincial Council spoke to the assembled crowds. They both commented on the improved security situation in the District after the run up to the February 2009 elections was plagued by insurgent violence and intimidation of the local nationals. Those elections eventually had to be held in nearby Lashkar Gah because the Nad-e Ali District was so unstable. Governor Mangal stressed the importance of local communities taking responsibility for their own futures. (READ MORE)

Insight of the Moment: May I be humbled - Completely lacking any creativity of my own, I call on myself, say, 7 years ago to entertain you tonight. Think 14 July 2003. OIF I. I feel bad for complaining about anything now. Counting: Counting the weeks and months is not my favorite hobby; it is practically my only hobby out here. I am finding new and creative ways to keep track of that time. Looking at a calendar is too depressing and besides, I don’t need to. I know exactly how many weeks have passed since I left (15) on a Sunday and how many weeks have passed since I arrived in Kuwait on a Tuesday. I think I’ve been in Baghdad the total number weeks since I’ve left minus 2. Last Malaria Pill Monday I realized that I had 13 pills left. If I take one a week, like we’re supposed to, when I run out it will be 13 weeks later which should put us in the beginning of October. How depressing is that? So I will faithfully take that little bitter nauseating pill every Monday because it is a concrete way to note the passage of time. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: What To Do Next? - I'm sorry y'all have lost your patience with Iraq and its people. I will stop trying to persuade you that Iraq is a worthwhile cause. I will stop trying to persuade you that Iraq's stability is important to the region and the entire world. I don't wish to irritate anyone. I'll just tell you what people are saying here. I talked with some friends. One guy lives in Sadr City. He swears most people in his area hate Moktada Al Sadr and his movement. My friend's brother tried to open a business. He rented the space and bought the supplies. Soon thugs from the Mahdi militia showed up asking for protection money. The guy said how is he supposed to make a profit and survive if he has to pay the thugs? That's why more people voted for Maliki than Sadr in the March 7 election. They're tired of the Mahdi militia thugs. And they definitely want to stop paying protection money. The guys said Iraqis are so beaten down, they hardly have the energy for anything. (READ MORE)

Kudzu's Wandering Through the Vines: Deployments. Flaming Cars… Home - I have been back from Afghanistan for a month and I have wrestled what I could write about. After all the hemming and hawing over what it is that I would discuss I boiled it down to simplicity before I went back into serious issues. Deployments? Suck. Period. You miss family. You get shot at. Some of us get hit and some of us get far worse. I am no hero. There are heroes and their families are the ones you should honor, not me. I still breathe. As long as I breathe, I shall serve this Republic. Afghanistan is a confusing place but its interesting. Do they deserve our compassion and blood spilled there? I’m hard pressed to give any answer really. But the people there are not the brightest and not like Iraqis in any fashion. Iraqis were smart enough to recognize that if they stopped shooting at Americans then we would not shoot at them. Afghans seem to fail in this basic comprehension of warfare. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US strike kills 8 Taliban in North Waziristan - The US killed eight Taliban fighters in the second airstrike in three days in Pakistan's lawless tribal agency of North Waziristan. An unknown number of Predators or the more deadly Reapers hit a compound owned by a known Taliban commander in the Khushali Toorkhel area just outside of Miramshah in North Waziristan. The US strike aircraft fired three missiles at the compound owned by a known "local rebel commander Haleem Khan", a Pakistani security official told AFP. Most of the eight Taliban fighters killed in the attack are said to be from South Waziristan. Khan is not thought to have been killed in the attack, and no senior al Qaeda or Taliban fighters have been reported killed at this time. Today's airstrike took place in a region administered by North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar. Al Qaeda and allied Pakistani and Central Asian jihadi groups shelter in Bahadar's tribal areas, and they also run training camps and safe houses in the region. (READ MORE)

One Marine's View: One dog, One Marine, One mission - Worse than turbulence, their truck sways side to side and bumps up and down along a path in Afghanistan. What would be an intolerable ride for most is just something Lance Cpl. Paul N. Krist, a dog handler for 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion and his dog Max have accepted as part of the job. Max, a black three-year-old Labrador, sits calmly on the floor next to his master Krist who is reading a book. Both are waiting patiently for their next opportunity to work. Suddenly, the back of the truck opens. “Get out, we need you and the dog,” says Cpl. Adam S. Rogers, combat engineer for 2nd CEB. Springing to action, Max immediately starts sniffing the area for explosive material. As they continue down the road they discover why they were called. A white van has been halted and surrounded by Marines discussing whether or not the bags found in its trunk are indeed HME (homemade explosives). (READ MORE)

Rajiv Srinivasan: The Bus Stop - I got called into our company operations meeting early one night last week. A terrible incident had occurred. The company commander detailed the serious engagement of an engineer Route Clearance Package (RCP) upon a bus of civilian local nationals. The engineer unit was traveling along highway one during the early morning in reduced visibility. The passenger bus came from the rear at a high rate of speed and the soldiers engaged the vehicle with heavy caliber machine gun fire, killing anywhere from 4-5 civilians and wounding dozens more. From what I understand, most of my family and friends also heard about the incident, but from a nightly news broadcast or an article such as this one from the NYT. I was actually a little surprised to see that the event created such big headlines. My unit and our area of operations has appeared in the papers several times, but there was something about this that was different. (READ MORE)

Registan.net: How to Write About Afghanistan - Always use the word ‘war-torn’ in your title. Subtitles may include the words ‘tribal,’ ‘Taliban,’ ‘corrupt,’ and ‘Sharia.’ Also useful are words such as ‘shuras,’ ‘fighters,’ ‘refugees’ and ‘insurgency.’ Do not distinguish between different ethnic groups with different languages, religions and histories, or regions with different landscapes and livelihoods. If people in Kandahar tell you something, assume people in Kabul feel the same way, and vice versa. Whenever possible, mention Pashtunwali. (Note: you do not need to understand what Pashtunwali is. You get points for mentioning it anyway.) Never have a picture of a well-adjusted Afghan accompanying your article. (Make an exception for Afghans you want to be president.) A stoned cop, a woman in a burka begging, a scowling man holding a Kalashnikov: use these. If you must include an Afghan who is not miserable or threatening, make sure you get an elderly farmer with very few teeth, or a little girl holding a baby goat. (READ MORE)

LTC Rich Phillips: Photos - Here are some of the pictures I promised! Thanks to my assistant editor, Joyce. :-) And my consultant, Rejenia. Here is a picture of the warren of B-Huts near my office. If you look closely down the middle you will see b-huts stretching off into the distance. B-Huts are high class living here, but they are really just crowded plywood shacks. Here is a view of the mountains in the distance (notice the b-huts in the near foreground). Bagram Airbase sits at approximately 5000 feet above sea level, the mountains in the distance reach to over 20,000 feet above sea level. Here is another view of b-huts on the way from my hootch to my office. The white building in the distance is an MWR for one of the sub-camps within BAF. Overall our quality of life here is good. We are overcrowded, hot and dusty but there are many others living without some of the comforts we take for advantage. (READ MORE)

Sketchpad Warrior: Sharing the Courage - Since last fall, I've been working with the folks at HQMC PAO, who asked me to help them create a series of graphic illustration pages, which tell the true heroic stories of Marines who have been decorated for valor. The series is titled "Sharing the Courage-- Stories of Marine Corps Heroism". We just sent off the second one to be published, and it details the heroism of Cpl Jonathan Yale and LCpl Jordan Haerter, who stood their ground in the face of death and saved the lives of 100 people at Joint Security Station Nasser in Ramadi, Iraq in April 2008. Here is the art, which we have formatted to be similar to a graphic novel (without looking too "comicky"), so that young Marines and people in the culture can be informed and inspired by the actions of real life heroes. (READ MORE)

Joan D'Arc: If you have ever lived OCONUS (outside the continental US), I could use your input... - For the first time in my almost 13 years of military spouse-dom, we are PCSing OCONUS. Hawaii, to be exact! We are all very excited and looking forward to not having to shovel snow or wear snow boots or have a whole "winter" and "summer" wardrobe. But, I am internally freaking out about how and what to get rid of, store, pack in whole/unaccompanied baggage, and what to send as household goods. Plus getting our animals (1 dog and 2 old cats) to Hawaii in the summer when airlines have so many travel restrictions for pets. So, if you have ever lived OCONUS, please help me! I've been talking to people who have lived, or currently live, OCONUS about all the what-ifs and don't forgets and make sure you... etc. My biggest question is what should we pack in our unaccompanied baggage? (READ MORE)

Michael Yon: Battle for Kandahar - Baghtu Valley, 25 April 2010, Afghanistan: The counteroffensive has begun. More accurately, it might be called a counter-counteroffensive. Close to a decade ago, we beat the Taliban and al Qaeda here. The Taliban regrew and waged an increasingly successful counteroffensive. And so our ninth year at war is the year of our counter-counteroffensive. The most remarkable feature of our counter-counteroffensive likely will be the Battle for Kandahar, or BfK. Kandahar was the birthplace of the Taliban and Kandahar City is the provincial capital. The Taliban is succesfully wresting Kandahar back into their control. The BfK is likely our last effort to halt and reverse Taliban influence from spreading. The winner in the BfK will be set to eventually take most or all of the chips off the table, and so BfK is crucial to the outcome of the war. Much of the BfK will take place not in Kandahar, or even Afghanistan, but in the mediasphere, and likely will affect U.S. elections this year. (READ MORE)

Terry Galvin: How The Media Spins Afghanistan - Reporting the speech of Afghanistan's newly appointed Independent Elections Commission head, Fazel Ahmed Manavi, the Associated Press presents this goofball version: Afghan Vote Chief - West Should Not Meddle, which appears to be a straight re-write of the Iranian government's propaganda version in Press TV: Kabul Warns Against Foreign Interference. Even the Chinese Communist Party news organ presents a more honest version than the AP account, here, leading with Manavi's statement: "IEC welcomes any proposal from national and international institutions for holding a free and fair parliamentary elections but security is vital for ensuring the electoral process." And Lynne O'Donnell is completely reliable and thorough in her account for Agence-France Press. So compare and contrast, and read for yourself a (slighlty stilted) English translation from Manavi's office, and note my emphasis in bold: (READ MORE)

Zach Rosenberg: The Aeromedical Evacuation Shuffle - This mission is extra-urgent. Instead of the usual hour given to Alpha alert launches, flight nurse Major Richard Foote and his Aeromedical Evacuation (AE) team have only a half hour to set up an airplane, receive four patients and get into the air. Foote’s AE team, composed of two flight nurses and three medical technicians assembles in the hut’s tiny conference room for a hasty briefing. Nothing is known about the four patients, save that they are coming from Bagram’s base hospital and that one is accompanied by a Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT, or “C-cat”), required by only the least stable patients. “It’s pointless to speculate, to try and guess about our patients,” Major Foote says. Though the patients would normally be brought to the massive Landstuhl hospital complex in Germany, a volcanic ash cloud has shut down European airspace; the patients will instead be brought to Balad Air Base in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Do Aviators Get COIN--A Resounding "Yes" - April in Upstate New York is usually a depressing affair. Large mountains of snow usually lay piled in parking lots, long since streaked black with soot, oil, and dirt. If it's not snowing--which it occasionally does as late as Mother's Day--then there's the misery of persistent cold rain. As the snow melts, it creates lakes and rivers of mud. The sky is usually overcast and grey. But the last few weeks have been different. Today, as I traveled to a seminar on counterinsurgency, held in a quaint lodge near a lake at Fort Drum, I opened the top on my Jeep, taking in the sunlight and enjoying a sky crystal-clear, and radiant blue. The grass was a deep, vibrant green, occasionally dotted with dandelions. The small lake--normally still frozen over this time of the year--had thawed, leaving behind a pool of water so clear and tranquil, it looked as if it were a mirror, dropped from the heavens. (READ MORE)

White Rose Adventures: PGR Mission for KIA SPC Anthony Blount - Over the last 3 days I have had the sad but honorable duty of riding escort for KIA SPC Anthony Blount. This was my second KIA mission, but this time I was able to participate all 3 days instead of just the day of the services. I am thankful that in a weird twist of fate, even though I can no longer drive a big truck, I can still ride my bike and am able to give these Heroes my support and stand a line for them. Thursday morning around 1020 a small jet landed at the Hattiesburg/Laural Airport with SPC Anthony Blount’s body. This was the first time I have met a plane at the airport and it was so very hard. I stood beside Kim and Wilma and let the tears roll down my face. Kim and I were lucky that our sons came home safe as they can, both suffering from PTSD. But Wilma is a Gold Star Mom and I know this day was very hard on her. We stood there arm in arm to comfort each other as they brought the coffin off the plane with the family standing at the edge of the flight line. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Counterinsurgency Zeal - COIN zeal grips Afghanistan. “‘It’s a very slow and tedious process and you take a couple of steps forward and you take a step backwards here and there,’ said Lieutenant Colonel David Fivecoat, commander of 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment in Paktika. Fivecoat talks about the ‘oil spot’ theory: bringing security and establishing a government presence in one population centre before branching out to smaller, outlying villages.” But that isn’t what we’re doing. In what I have forecasted will be a mistake, we have withdrawn from Korengal Valley and given the Taliban easy means of ingress and egress to Eastern Afghanistan and free reign to interdict lines of logistics, train, recruit and take safe haven. We have done this in order to focus on large population centers such as Kandahar. And we have take this approach because the COIN school of thought (as it is currently being promulgated) believes that the population – in all geophysical space, at all times and in all phases – is the center of gravity (CoG) of a counterinsurgency campaign. (READ MORE)

Greyhawk: Bad news from Afghanistan - This quote from Joe Klein's Time Magazine article was one of many from his account that disturbed me: “‘We've been asked to do a lot of different things,’ says Major Korey Brown, the battalion's executive officer. ‘They detached us from our brigade, which is headquartered in eastern Afghanistan, and sent us out here to Zhari district to be storm troopers -- that's what General Vance called us -- and that's what we were trained for, that's what we like to do. To find, fix and finish the enemy.’ But the mission changed with the arrival of General Stanley McChrystal, as commander of the International Security Assistance Force in the summer of 2009. ‘It's not about how you engage the enemy so much now. It's how you engage your district governor,’ says Brown. ‘That's a huge change for guys like us -- call us knuckle draggers or whatever, but we weren't trained to do COIN.’” Probably no more than a handful of Time readers understand that beyond the words "we weren't trained," which, if true, is really the only point that matters in the quote anyway. But now the quoted officer, Major Korey Brown, has responded: (READ MORE)

Kings of War: Apaches, Lies and Videotape - Jack McDonald is a PhD student in the War Studies Department. He submitted the following to KOW on the recently seen Wikileaks footage of an Apache attack in Baghdad which caused the death of two journaliusts and the death and wounding of other civilians. There has been quite a lot of debate about this elsewhere but not on KOW, for my part because I’m uncomfortable about second guessing what’s going on in these scenes. I can more or less understand the first strike–on apparently (if partly erroneously) armed men; but I don’t get the second strike on the vehicle. But that’s one opinion. What I find interesting is the illusion of knowing which seems to come with this sort of footage. On the one hand it is unambiguous, literally in black and white; on the other hand the camera captures none of the wider context. The viewer has to insert that his or herself. I think this is why such scenes tend to shift opinions relatively little one way or the other. (READ MORE)

Burn Pit: What separates us from them… - Every once in a while some jackass person will go off and apologize to another country over something that America is alleged to have perpetrated. The one that made me the maddest was “War-Resister” Matthis Chiroux who apologized to an Afghan Peace Activist saying: “[I]n 2005, for a brief time, I helped occupy Malalai’s country, and it was wrong. It was my mistake. I should not have been there. I should not have been supporting this oppression of her people. Today I want to look Malalai in the eye, and I want to tell you, Malalai, how sorry I am for the violence that my Army has done to your people, to your country. I want to apologize to you for the role that I played in it. I was wrong, and I will show you that my country and the rest of the world can come to a place where they can admit wrong, apologize, and offer some sort of reconciliation.” What really made this apology so asinine is that Matthis spent a grand total of 6 days in Afghanistan, and never left Bagram Air Base. (READ MORE)



News from the Home Front:
Feeling Warehoused in Army Trauma Care Units - A year ago, Specialist Michael Crawford wanted nothing more than to get into Fort Carson’s Warrior Transition Battalion, a special unit created to provide closely managed care for soldiers with physical wounds and severe psychological trauma. (READ MORE)

It’s the Military, Undergraduate - On Dec. 16, 2009, I boarded a plane to Kabul, where I would spend five weeks as a research assistant. I went to Afghanistan to study company level intelligence cells in the United States Army and Marine Corps. (READ MORE)

Some 500 pay tribute to Pierce County soldier, 21, killed by bomb blast in Afghanistan - Pierce County buried a hometown hero Sunday. U.S. Army Spc. Joseph T. “Joey” Caron was remembered as a man of many facets and talents who possessed one driving force: protecting freedom for family and friends. (READ MORE)

Charlie Company welcomed home at demobilization ceremony - They escorted convoys for more than 2.1 million miles under the hot Iraqi sun, helped transport 950 million gallons of fuel and engaged the enemy more than 43 times. (READ MORE)

Navy Names Amphibious Ship for Congressman John Murtha - Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced today the selection of the USS John P. Murtha as the name of the 10th San Antonio class Amphibious Transport Dock ship. (READ MORE)



News from the Front:
Iraq:
Louisiana's Tiger Brigade resumes role in Iraq's history - The Louisiana Army National Guard's 256th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), headquartered in Lafayette, La., formally assumed their role as Task Force Tiger in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom at a recent transfer of authority ceremony at Camp Adder in Iraq. (READ MORE)

US soldier apologises for attack on Iraq families - AN American soldier who took part in an attack in which 12 people, including a Reuters journalist, were killed and two children injured has written an emotional apology to the victims’ families in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Iraq Panel Wipes Out Votes, Result In Doubt - An Iraqi review panel on Monday threw the results of a March election into question by invalidating votes cast for 52 candidates, officials said, casting a shadow over the slim lead of a Sunni-backed alliance. (READ MORE)

Iraq's Sadr clarifies stance on militia's use - After a follower of Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr vowed to dispatch militia members to defend Iraqi mosques in the wake of a series of deadly bombings, a statement from Sadr that was widely distributed Saturday made it clear that the Mahdi Army would be reactivated only if the government accepted the offer. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Cleric Calls on Followers to Defend Against Attacks - An influential Shi'ite cleric in Iraq is urging followers to defend Shi'ite communities after a series of blasts killed at least 69 people throughout Iraq Friday. (READ MORE)

Qaeda Confirms Deaths Of Leaders In Iraq: Statement - Al Qaeda in Iraq has confirmed in a statement posted on the Internet that two of its leaders were killed in a joint raid a week ago by U.S. and Iraqi troops. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Insurgent Group Acknowledges Killing of Two Leaders - The insurgent group that includes Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia acknowledged in a statement circulated Sunday that its two leaders were killed in a raid a week ago, but it vowed to continue to wage war against “the Green Zone government” of Iraq. (READ MORE)



Afghanistan:
UN Curtails Operations in Kandahar After 3 Bombs - A wave of violence that has swept the southern city of Kandahar has forced the United Nations to tell more than 200 of its Afghan employees there to stay home, a U.N. official said Monday. (READ MORE)

Afghan Schoolgirls Fall Ill In Suspected Gas Attack - Dozens of Afghan schoolgirls fell ill after a suspected poison gas attack on their school, local authorities said on Sunday, blaming the incident on the Taliban who oppose education for girls. (READ MORE)

80 Afghan Schoolgirls Fall Ill; Poison Feared - Dozens of Afghan schoolgirls have fallen ill in recent days after reporting a strange odor in their classrooms in northern Afghanistan, prompting an investigation into whether they were targeted by militants who oppose education for girls or victims of mass hysteria. (READ MORE)

Indo-Pakistan Proxy War Heats Up in Afghanistan - Across Afghanistan, behind the obvious battles fought for this country's soul, a shadow war is being quietly waged. It's being fought with spies and proxies, with hundreds of millions of dollars in aid money and ominous diplomatic threats. (READ MORE)

Afghans burn NATO trucks in response to killing of 3 civilians - Afghan protesters torched NATO supply vehicles in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, hours after allegations emerged that U.S. and Afghan troops had killed three civilians, including two brothers, in their home. (READ MORE)

Fuel Trucks Attacked in Afghanistan - Twelve trucks, most of them carrying fuel to a NATO base in eastern Afghanistan, were burned by an angry crowd early Sunday less than 30 miles from Kabul, according to local officials and NATO reports. (READ MORE)

NATO: Joint Force Captures Taliban Sub-Commander in Afghanistan - NATO says a joint Afghan and international security force has captured a Taliban sub-commander and killed several insurgents. (READ MORE)

Elite U.S. Units Step Up Effort in Afghan City Before Attack - Small bands of elite American Special Operations forces have been operating with increased intensity for several weeks in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan’s largest city, picking up or picking off insurgent leaders to weaken the Taliban in advance of major operations, senior administration and military officials say. (READ MORE)


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Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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