May 3, 2010

From the Front: 05/03/2010

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

A Little Pink in a World of Camo: Memorial - Not the first, not the last. I feel like poop. I am so incredibly sad today. I think back over my blog posts. I've had shocked, I've had angry, I've had decent... here's the sad. What's a widow without some sadness, right folks? Joking aside, I am in a gloomy, poopy place tonight. Let's see how many times I can say poop in one post (still think my writing's good? haha). And still, I joke... Back to the point at hand... 2nd MEB had a memorial today. It honored the guys fallen from May 2009 to April 2010. It was awful. Ok, that's not fair. It was beautifully done. The speakers had great things to say, the turnout was amazing, and our guys were beautifully and dignifiably (is that a word?) honored. But it was hard. And it sucked. And it made reality hit... again... hard. I'm sad. I'm angry and I'm sad and I want my life back. I want my Stink back. I want to be preparing for homecoming with my friends, excited that this stupid deployment is almost over, instead of going to yet another memorial. (READ MORE)

Army Blogger Wife: Deployment Question #17--Things I need for deployment - While Gunner has his packing list, I always have a list of things that I need before deployment. Of course, I need The Book, which will have wills, POA's, insurance stuff, all the paperwork I could need. I also need to switch my AAA membership to CO, just in case. It gives me a little bit of security. I'm horrible about putting numbers into my phone, but it needs to be done in case I am out and about and run into trouble. I need to make a list of maintenance to be done on the car so that I don't miss anything. (Actually, I usually buy a new car, but this time both of our cars are running fine (banging on wood), so I will be with two cars over 100K, and that makes me nervous--mental note to put rental car phone number in my cell). I need to make sure that all kids are up to date on their shots and enrolled in CYS. A few hidden rolls of toilet paper wouldn't be bad, "just in case". I mean, we do have three girls in this house! (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Pakistani Taliban claim failed NYC car bomb - On Saturday evening, a dark green Nissan Pathfinder filled with propane, gasoline, fireworks, and non-explosive fertilizer just off Times Square began smoking and was dismantled before it detonated, though the vehicle could have been "cut in half" in the explosion according to New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Police are seeking a 40-something balding man who was seen in surveillance and tourist video footage walking away from the scene. In a one minute and eleven second video Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan commander Qari Hussain claimed the TTP was responsible for the attack, saying it was revenge for the deaths of militant leaders, including Baitullah Mehsud and two top al-Qaeda in Iraq figures, the imprisonment of Aafia Siddiqui, and drone strikes in Pakistan. However, Kelly said there was no evidence of Taliban involvement, and the group has in the past claimed attacks it had nothing to do with. (READ MORE)

Army Live: Being a Leader - The characteristics that I think an exceptional leader should have are responsibility, respect, and courage. The person that I believe has these characteristics is my Dad. Responsibility to me means to be accountable for your own actions. It also means that you trustworthy to others. My dad is responsible because he is a squad leader in the army. He is in charge of thirteen to fourteen soldiers that are divided into four groups or teams. Each of these teams have different missions and therefore he has to watch over and make sure that they know where, when, and how to do their job. As a squad leader he also is responsible for helping his soldiers with their problems as far as health, deployment, their safety and more. On top of him leading these soldiers, he also has a family. He takes care of us by providing for us. He helps pay for food, clothing and a home. When he is home he makes an effort to spend his time with us. I see my Dad as the leader of our family and he proves this by taking care of his responsibilities. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Site Helps Families Find Child Care - Finding good, quality child care is never an easy task to tackle. I’ve shuttled my children from child development centers to in-home day care centers to a series of before- and after-school programs, all in a quest to find the best solution for our lifestyle and my work demands. My latest solution is an au pair, a live-in provider from overseas. I loved the idea of a live-in caregiver who also can teach my children about a different culture. After a week of training in New York, I picked up my Colombian au pair, Lady, at a nearby bus stop recently. She seemed a bit dazed at first and understandably so. This was her first time away from home, and Northern Virginia can seem a bit overwhelming to any newcomer. My kids were a bit overwhelmed at first, too. “What if I can’t understand her?” my daughter asked me right before we picked the au pair up. (READ MORE)

Hellcat Betty: The Great Debate - I've followed many milspouse blogs over the course of the year hubby was gone, and I've seen husbands return and blogs disappear. And I don't want to disappear! I've really loved connecting with y'all and sharing my sarcastic cranky thoughts with you. So now, I'm facing the great debate... what do I write about now that hubby is home? I will definitely do some reintegration posts, but what then? I could go on and on about how awesomesauce it is to have hubby home, but that would be obnoxious for all of you still missing your man. I could complain about the stupid crap he does, or whine about the toilet seat being up every time I go in to take a pee, but that's no fun for a wife with a still-deployed hubby either. And I'm sure I'd get a lot of "boo-friggin-hoo, at least he's home" type comments. So I've decided to ask you guys, my loyal followers, what would you like to read about? I won't guarantee that I'll take your advice, because I'm stubborn and pigheaded. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Maliki's Tantrum - Nouri Al Maliki is behaving very badly. In a speech excerpted on a couple of TV channels he asks why Ayad Allawi's list wants the UN and the Arab League to intervene. He asks what Allawi and his team fear in a recount? He asked sarcastically why all the tears? Maliki doesn't ask himself what he is afraid of when it comes to th election? Why is Maliki himself calling for a recount and basically having a big temper tantrum before the world? There is even a report that charges Maliki has threatened the life of another politician. Haidar Al Mullah says he was told [Arabic] on the telephone that he would be killed. Al Mullah is with the Allawi list, and he says the prime minister's office threatened him in a phone conversation. What was especially interesting in Maliki's speech, which took place in Karbala, was that he accused others, aka Allawi, of staging a coup d'etat via the election. Someone in Maliki's office really should explain this to him. (READ MORE)

Sgt Danger: How do you spell that? - Hello world! I have officially left Afghanistan and I am now in the (comparably) lush, green land of Kyrgyzstan. This country has been the subject to a dramatic uprising in the last month. Responding to a poor economy, media shutdowns, and an unpopular President, protestors took control of the government early in April. The provisional government in place has allowed the United States to continue its lease of the air base that I’m staying on, which is a hugely important avenue of getting supplies and soldiers into Afghanistan. Soldiers in my unit from E-2 to E-7 are visibly burned out; we just finished a baggage unload that took way too long because everyone was out for their own things instead of working as a team. I’m hoping, and somewhat confident, that we’ll be able to get the job of demobilizing in the coming 7-10 days done without a whole lot of drama. I think our couple days of downtime in Kyrgyzstan will help lower tensions. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US airstrike kills 4 'militants' in North Waziristan - The US killed four 'militants' in the first airstrike in a week in the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan. A flight of Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired three missiles at a moving vehicle in the town of Marsi Khel near Miramshah in North Waziristan, Dawn reported. No senior al Qaeda or Taliban fighters have been reported killed at this time. The strike in Marsi Khel is the second in the town in ten days. On April 24, US Predators hit a compound in Marsi Khel, killing seven Taliban fighters. 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. The Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on Bahadar or the Haqqani Network, a deadly Taliban group that is closely allied with al Qaeda and is also based in North Waziristan. (READ MORE)

Rajiv Srinivasan: Momma’s Boy - The village of Dasht is an oasis of peace in the heavily mined deserts of the Zhari District. My platoon dismounted and walked no more than fifteen meters before our formation succumbed to the swarm of hundreds of children running through our ranks. I suppose, on one hand, it’s good that the children feel so safe around American soldiers; in a strategic sense, it would be far worse if they were running away in fear. But in my tactical role as the platoon leader, I grew nervous. We weren’t necessarily in danger, but you must understand that these are a different breed of Afghan kids. The children of Dasht village are bold and unmerciful. They reach into the pockets of soldiers and will rob them blind. Where other kids are thrilled to receive the pens, paper, and candy we hand them, the children from this particular village give us the token South Asian “head wobble and cringe” which I saw so frequently growing up. It’s the trademark signature of whining. (READ MORE)

Terry Glavin: Afghanistan: A Country Driven Mad By War - "It is not just the death and all the damage you can see around the city of Kabul," says Sohaila Alekosai, a 48-year-old counselor, women's rights activist, lawyer, radio personality, and therapist. "It is the damage to the people. And a person who is damaged like this, he causes damage to other people. This is a very big effect of war." After the rout of the Taliban in 2001, a World Health Organization survey concluded that about five million Afghans, roughly a fifth of the country's population, had been driven mad, or close to it, from a quarter of a century of bloodletting. In 2002, a Centres for Disease Control study painted an even darker picture -- more than a third of the people were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Then a Healthnet International assessment found the country suffering "a huge morbidity of mental disorders," not least of which was clinical depression. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: Jersey Shore - Sgt. Ronald Kubik loved music. He played the electric guitar and was an enthusiastic member of a New Jersey metal band. He was also an American soldier making sure freedom's symphony was heard overseas. Ever since childhood, Sgt. Kubik wanted to be involved in life's many activities. In addition to his musical talents, he played football, wrote, wrestled, acted, and skydived. After high school and a few months of college, he decided to become a highly skilled rifleman. Before he could legally buy a beer at home, Kubik deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as an elite warrior with the 75th Ranger Regiment. Kubik's third deployment in the war on terror ended in tragedy one week ago in Afghanistan's Logar province. Next to his brother in arms, Sgt. Jason Santora, the 21-year-old Ranger was killed supporting combat operations. Kubik hailed from the Jersey Shore community of Brielle, while Santora grew up in the Long Island suburb of Farmingville. (READ MORE)

Zach Rosenberg: Altimur Manhunt, Part One - The building at Forward Operating Base Altimur — in Mohamad Agha district, Logar province — that contains the Tactical Operations Center is surrounded by a fence topped with barbed wire. To contact someone in the building, the unauthorized — interpreters, reporters, contractors — gather outside the gate, waiting for some kind soul with access to whom they can petition: So-and-so is inside, can you please tell him I’m outside? Most with access will readily agree to ask around on the unauthorized’s behalf; they are used to the routine. If the desired party is not available, as frequently occurs, the kind soul will open the door and step outside, holding the door open, announce the outcome, and duck back in. If not for their ready conduit, some key members of FOB Altimur would never be found, their existence only found through their effect on the battlefield, like a distant planet only known through its effects on its parent star. (READ MORE)

Zeke: Ghosts - Once upon a time young boys went off to war. We were going to do what we had always pretended; boy soldiers in the woods with wooden guns who, when they fell, would miraculously rise again to fight another battle. Once upon a time we were invincible and nothing could touch us. We were bullet proof and deadly. But when the time came, we found that we were all too human and our friends would fall, but there would be no rising to fight another battle. The guns were not wood, the enemy had no honor and dead is forever. Someone asked me a question the other day, they asked me if it was all worth it, the war. I couldn't answer for a while, and I got all choked up. How do you answer someone whose only source of information is CNN? Do I think for a minute that the lives of 10 Iraqi's were worth one of any of the finest young men I have ever had the privilege of serving with? NO! But I do believe we helped put an end to a tyrant who would see the genocide of a nation. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: End of the Adventure - The adventure is over. I'm back at home again, readjusting to life in the real world. Life is definitely good. My stay in Kuwait was pretty quiet. It felt really great to turn in my body armor for the last time. That's forty pounds of gear that I will NOT miss. I chilled most of the day Wednesday: read a book, took a nap (when was the last time I took a nap??), hit the gym, and made sure I had everything ready to go that evening. Then we headed out to the airport. The place was packed, and so was our flight. I wanted to turn in some of my miles for a business class upgrade, but United was having none of that - all seats were taken. We loaded up and left right on time. Sometimes I can sleep okay on planes, other times not. This was one of the "nots". Even with a bulkhead to lean against, I just could not get into la-la land. I'd been wondering about our route, what with the volcano in Iceland still spewing ash... (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: "Restrepo" Screens in Berkeley: First responses and the movie trailer - My friend, Eric Schmidt, went to the screening of the documentary Restrepo screening in Berkeley. It's about Battle Company, 2/503 in the Korengal Valley. Here's what he had to say: "the film was excellent. Everyone was very respectful. Mature, appreciative audience. Hetherington fielded some good questions following. Not a pair of giant pink gloves in sight. I felt it necessary to initiate applause for my airborne brethren & the film crew." Eric Schmidt served with A Company, 3/505 PIR at Fort Bragg 1985-1989. 129th Rescue Wing, Moffet Federal Airfield. To read more about him go here: Out of War, Art Must Emerge. In addition, I wanted to thank Sonya Sapro of Hachette Book Group and Sebastian Junger for sending me his book WAR. It's teaching me a lot about the brotherhood and the challenges they faced. It's apropos. Most of the men who came through the FST where my husband was a surgeon, were from the Korengal Valley. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Afghan Affirmative Action? - "An effort to give construction projects to Afghan firms is leading to delays at a time when NATO is rushing to accommodate tens of thousands more international troops, U.S. officials say." If you go to the link above, you will be able to read the entire article. When I read it, I wondered if this was an Afghanistan style of affirmative action? I understand why they want to give business to the local firms versus US or other country based companies, but there has to be a line of common sense that one should not cross. I mean if we are that worried about getting facilities built in order to support the troop surge, then that should be the priority. Give as much business as you can to the locals, but if they are not prepared to handle that business then either have the military do the construction or farm it out to non-Afghans. The Afghan people have been making money hand over fist from Uncle Sugar and the rest of ISAF for more than enough years now. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Language Training in Counterinsurgency: Is it Enough? - My son was involved in robust kinetic operations in Fallujah in 2007, but that isn’t the sum total of counterinsurgency. He was also involved in heavy contact with the population, including aggressive policing. Policing involves language, and while the Marine Corps included fundamental (phonetics based) language training over the course of the pre-deployment workup, I always lamented the fact that it wasn’t enough. He had to learn Arabic by immersion. The entire 101st Airborne Division is soon to deploy to Afghanistan, marking the first time an entire Army division has deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom within one year. Also interestingly, language training is part of the workup. He that converses not, knows nothing. The soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), understand that well as they plan to converse time and again with the Afghan people as they continue to ready themselves for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: Present ... or Accounted For - A couple of years ago, when Household-6 and I were considering having another child, I was having a hard time getting out of my own head. For a while, I couldn't see or hear a kid--any kid, including my own precious little girl--without somehow also instantly adding up all the potential money, effort, and parental heartache that child represented--past, present, and future. I tied myself into mental knots, worrying about everything from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) to paying for school. I was ... well, let's just say I wasn't exactly the happiest Sherpa around. Jeff W. has been a good and constant friend for years. I'd go so far as to call him my best friend, especially since he went and married my other best friend. Together, Jeff and I have heard the chimes at midnight. He's the guy with whom I discovered the joys of single-barrel bourbon, and dark-roasted Kenya AA coffee bean, and blasting loud music out of open windows on cool spring days. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
Military defends prosecution of SEALs - The U.S. military is issuing an extensive defense of its decision to prosecute three Navy SEALs on charges of abusing a terrorism suspect they had captured in Iraq, after two of the servicemen were found not guilty during courts-martial. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Attack on Iraqi Students Kills 1, Wounds 80 - Two separate bombs exploded along the road leading into the northern Iraqi city of Mosul Sunday killing at least one person and wounding at least 80 others. (READ MORE)

Iraqi FM: US, Britain Must Push to Resolve Impasse - Iraq's foreign minister chided the U.S. and Britain for not taking an active role in resolving his country's bitter election dispute, and accused Washington of being more concerned with sending home U.S. soldiers. (READ MORE)

Iraq Starts Vote Recount, May Take Almost 2 Weeks - Iraq began a manual recount on Monday of 2.5 million votes cast in a parliamentary election held nearly two months ago, a tally that stalled talks to form a new government amid rising fears of renewed sectarian violence. (READ MORE)

Election Victories Help Kurds in Iraq Push for More Sovereignty - Emboldened by his party’s electoral success, the president of Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdistan region is intensifying his demands for greater sovereignty and control of oil, adding more complexity to an already tumultuous government formation period. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Officials Fight Over Vote Recount - Iraqi election officials argued publicly with supporters of the prime minister who demanded a halt to a partial recount of votes just as the process got under way Monday, a sign of tensions over the measure that could change the outcome of the closely fought contest. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Taliban Leader Alive, Threatens U.S. Attacks - The leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, reported killed in a CIA drone aircraft attack in January, has appeared alive in Internet videos, threatening revenge suicide strikes in the United States. (READ MORE)

Pakistani Taliban Claims NYC Car Bomb Attempt - The Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the failed car bomb attack in Times Square in New York City. (READ MORE)

Afghan Attack Kills 1 Near C.I.A. Base - The leader of Pakistan's Taliban appeared in a video Monday threatening attacks against the U.S. three months after American and Pakistani officials believed he died in a U.S. missile strike. (READ MORE)

US Army Captain Becomes 'King' in Afghanistan - In the U.S. Army, Casey Thoreen is just a 30-year-old captain. Around here, he's known as the ''King of Maiwand'' district. (READ MORE)

German troops face pitched battles in Afghanistan as insurgency spreads - German troops are fighting the first pitched battles witnessed by the Bundeswehr since 1945 in the face of a growing Taleban insurgency in the north of Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Push for Afghan Role Delays Military Building - An effort to give construction projects to Afghan firms is leading to delays at a time when NATO is rushing to accommodate tens of thousands more international troops, U.S. officials say. (READ MORE)

Roadside bomb kills 7 in Afghanistan; civilian deaths up from last year - A roadside bomb tore through a minibus in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday evening as the government said civilian casualties are on the rise ahead of a military buildup to combat the resurgent Taliban. (READ MORE)

NATO Checks Report Of Afghan Civilian Deaths - NATO said on Saturday it was investigating whether shots fired by its troops in southern Afghanistan had killed two women and a child traveling in car. (READ MORE)

Afghan National Army Troops Receive Vital Training - Nestled in the mountainous outskirts of the nation's capital is the Kabul Military Training Center where more than 8,000 Afghan national army soldiers can be found training at any given time. (READ MORE)

Focus in Gizab Turns to Building Government - Governance and stability has been restored to the town of Gizab, Afghanistan, after the local community rose up and rejected the influence of Taliban insurgents, with assistance from Afghan and Australian forces. (READ MORE)

Coalition - A great number of innocent Afghan civilians are killed by the insurgency as a result of improvised explosive devices. Route Clearance units like 20th Engineer Battalion, Task Force LUMBERJACK, put themselves at risk every day to find and neutralize these devices before they can cause harm to local civilians or friendly units. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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