May 17, 2010

From the Front: 05/17/2010

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

Dispatches:
Knottie's Niche:
Happy Birthday Son - Happy Birthday Son.. I really want to be baking your German Chocolate cake and making you chili mac like I had every year for your birthday. But instead today I will visit your graveside and leaving fresh flowers. And as I go on through the day I will try very hard to celebrate you and your life. Happy 22nd Birthday Pokey.. I love you. (READ MORE)

Kandahar Diary: Haji in a dust storm - Just another day in Kandahar...It started with a mix up in convoy guarding and routes that saw me receive a hell of an email from Higher that included the word ‘idiot’ and a call for heads among my staff. We sorted it out pretty quickly and the convoy rolled, well protected, but I had to respond to the email with an offer of my resignation – I’m old-fashioned enough to believe that I am ultimately responsible for the actions of every man under my command, so if any heads were to roll mine had to be the first. I spent a nervous 30 minutes until the reply came in along the lines that no terminations were necessary but the message stood. I didn’t really see that as ‘closure’ (as shrinks and other assorted hand-wringers like to call it) and was left pretty flat for the rest of the day. Early afternoon and I was outside the perimeter checking the progress of our defence works in a howling dust storm. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: The war between McChrystal and Eikenberry - I have made it very clear on this blog and to many that I have talked to that I never have and never will like Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. I wrote about him here, $5 billion unspent by the Anti-Morale Device as one example. When he was the Commander in Afghanistan (for 3 years) he grossly mis-managed the war effort. He tried to implement a false sense of success. This is why ADM Mullen stated in 2007 that the war was not managed correctly for the previous 3 years. Eikenberry was known on Camp Eggers and by his staff as the “Commander, Morale Suppression Team”. When he was not on the Camp all of his staff celebrated. One time he came down to my FOB to talk to some of the guys on the “tip of the spear” my ETT team. We welcomed the chance to tell him the real deal ground truth. However right before he showed up we were told he did not want to hear bad news or anyone talking bad about Afghans. He only wanted “good news stories”. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: coordinated suicide bombers attack Kandahar police - Three suicide bombers in Kandahar city attacked a police headquarters earlier today, sparking a 40 minute gunfight and damaging the compound. A Marine official added to the chorus of those saying there is "tough fighting" ahead in southern Afghanistan, where some locals are puzzled by the U.S.'s clear telegraphing of the coalition's operations ahead of time. International forces have been working toward making political progress via house calls and conversations with local residents. The Taliban, on their part, have been "systematically targeting precisely the kind of people on whom Western planners are relying to help woo the populace to the side of the Afghan government". Three months after the coalition's last major offensive, in Marjah, a district in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, farmers have fled a resurgent Taliban, whose campaign of violence is halting the delivery of economic aid and reconstruction. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Unlimited OPM - OPM stands for “Other Peoples Money” and our politicians are getting so good at spending it they are currently spending OPM which OP have not even earned yet. Conventional wisdom is that having access to unlimited funds would be a good thing for a military engaged in extended combat operations, but the exact opposite is true. The abundance of money (in theory, mind you, America really doesn’t have any more to be spending now) is a curse to the military leader and our current military effort. It allows us to get away with things like procuring a million dollar ATV MRAP for every fireteam of every squad of every platoon deployed here, which for a Marine infantry battalion would equal somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 MRAPs for the entire battalion. If you think it is a good thing for a Marine infantry battalion to have 120 million in MRAP rolling stock, you’re wrong. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: Stopped clock watch - Okay, I'll admit it: Ralph Peters (shudder) is making a lot of sense here: "Our obsession with creating a centralized, Westernized state extends to our efforts to build an Afghan military. Our model is the romanticized WWII squad in which every possible ethnic group's represented, all Americans...The Brits cracked the code on how to get tribesmen to fight for them: You give them a substitute tribe that's an extension of their hereditary tribe. The Indian Army's regimental system fit the bill perfectly: Recruited from an exclusive tribal network or ethnic group, the regiment could count on soldiers performing well to avoid shaming their families (think Gurkhas). Plus, the regiment offered its own tribal rituals. If you want to succeed in a tribal society, you exploit tribal identities. Our officials insist that would undercut our goals. Well, perhaps our goals should be more realistic..." (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Recount Confirms Original Results - The results of the recount don't appear to faze Nouri Al Maliki, and his refusal to give up the prime minister's seat is making him look worse each day. Even people who voted for him say they're ashamed of him. This process took time, cost money, and it frustrated the Iraqi people. He's going to have to face reality soon. The electoral comission spokesman said the results of the recount matched the original numbers with no evidence of fraud. Qasem Aboudi told a press conference that the seats in parliament will not change from the original count. That is Ayad Allawi's list has 91 seats and Al Maliki's list has 89. In other words, Allawi's still ahead. Allawi reportedly sent a high-level delegation to Najaf to talk with leaders of the Sadr Movement. As a co-worker said, we may not like Moktada, but his thugs do have their weight. It looks as though the politicians are moving ahead with their so-called unity government. The four top vote getters will get together to form a government. (READ MORE)

Matt G: On COIN, Courageous Restraint, and Clowns - Like most able-minded people, I think the courageous restraint medal idea isn't a good one. Our troops have to deal with enough ambiguity on the ground already, and even in a counterinsurgency, they need to be warfighters willing and able to kill in an instant. The piling on against this idea, particularly in the blogosphere, has been pretty massive, to include such tactical luminaries as Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Malkin. While I hate the idea of this medal, and am pleased that it looks to be going the way of the dodo, some of the undertones in the reactions against it have been troubling. The aforementioned military deferment expert Rush referred to it as the "Yellow Heart medal," because presumably, there is nothing courageous about restraint. Any cursory Google search on the topic will yield a litany of cowboy wordage on the subject, essentially proclaiming the American way to be shoot and ask questions later. Sigh. (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: Gear Review: Soldiers Like Army Plate Carrier — With Some Improvements - One of the newest pieces of kit out here that’s a bit controversial among Soldiers is the Army’s new plate carrier body armor. While significantly lighter and lower profile, the KHD-made Magnum Tac plate carrier Joes are wearing in Afghanistan settles all the weight of the Level IV ballistic plates and smaller side plates on the shoulder, making for a pretty uncomfortable fit after even a short hump. Add to that MOLLE pouches of ammo and other gear, and those shoulders start to blaze pretty bad. Soldiers here say this problem could be fixed pretty easily with a cummerbund-style attachment that would help shift the weight to the hips and waist, rather than the shoulders. Another gripe is that the side plates hang a little low, covering the hips and waist rather than the vitals on the side. A few Joes had already purchased their own plate carriers before deploying – ones that fit better and had more robust coverage without sacrificing weight and adding bulk. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US Predators carry out first strike in Khyber - US Predators fired missiles a Taliban compound and a vehicle today in the first recorded airstrike in Pakistan's Khyber tribal agency. The unmanned Predators or the more deadly Reapers attacked a home "and two trucks loaded with militants" in Khyber, Pakistan's gateway to Afghanistan, The Associated Press reported. Between five and 15 Taliban fighters were reported killed in the attack, which took place in the Tirah Valley. The target of the attack is not clear, and no senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders or operatives have been reported killed. The attack is the first in Khyber since the first US airstrike was recorded in 2004. Most of the attacks have focused on North and South Waziristan. The 135 recorded strikes in Pakistan's northwest are distributed as follows: 81 in North Waziristan, 43 in South Waziristan, three in Bajaur, two each in Kurram and Bannu, and one each in Arakzai and Khyber. (READ MORE)

Loving A Soldier Blog: Have you noticed? - Over the last few months, I've noticed that my husband's last deployment (our first and only together thus far) not only changed him in some ways, but it also changed me. I've noticed that I am SO much more emotional than I was before his deployment. I was an emotional basket case then, and it's worse now. For example, when he was deployed, every Sunday during church I would break down and cry at some point. Now, every week - certain hymns or when they pray for the military, I still lose it. Maybe it's because I'm just so thankful that he's home or maybe it's because I know how tough it is for our men and women who are deployed. I don't really know why, but those small things effect me in such a huge way. I cry when I see military related commercials or when people thank us for our service. I still get choked up just talking about his deployment. When he's in the field for a drill weekend and we don't get to talk but for maybe 2 minutes on the phone at 1 am... (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: A Raspberry to the Beret - By reputation, the new non-commissioned officer (N.C.O.) in charge of our brigade headquarters company tends toward the "immovable object" school of first-sergeantry, but darned if out of the starting blocks as more of an "irresistible force" type. It's always better to come off tough and gruff at first, I suppose, and then to lighten up as you want and need. For some administrative reason, the first-sergeant of the brigade headquarters goes to a cavalry-scout soldier. It's a good tradition to have--throughout both Army and 2-34th BCT history, the Cavalry has always enjoyed a hard-charging, fast-moving, where-the-heck-are-they-now kind of reputation. The first-formation of the morning goes off OK. The platoon sergeants and squad leaders are still a little skittish about the new guy, trying to read his drill-and-ceremonial habits: How he calls for the attendance report, how he pushes out information, how he executes a hundred little details that every NCO does the same, but that everyone does different. (READ MORE)

Asher Kohn: Better Late than Whenever - This is a long time coming, but I got this tip from Jakob over at Rug Pundits way back in March and finally got around to commenting on it. After discussing how the US Military has been pretty haphazard and delinquent in setting up their language programs, a Dr. Jeff Watson has written a short bit comparing different branches’ language and cultural training that is worth a read. In short, the different branches focus on exactly what their stereotypes would lead you to expect they do. The Army worries about language retention, the Marines think its largely irrelevant to the killin’, and the Air Force thinks it’s only needed for a select few of their folks (my favorite Air Force bro quote: “I’m taking this class in Arabic History so I know what the people I’m bombing have done wrong”) Dr. Watson argues, and I’m inclined to agree, that language training is great as a key to cultural understanding. (READ MORE)

Sic Semper Tyrannis: Is the US Army still competent in real combat? - "In recent months, the battle of Wanat has come to symbolize the U.S. military's missteps in Afghanistan. It has provoked Brostrom's father to question why Jonathan died and whether senior Army officers -- including a former colleague and close friend -- made careless mistakes that left the platoon vulnerable. It has triggered three investigations, the latest initiated last week by Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And it has helped drive a broader reassessment of war strategy among top commanders in Afghanistan, who have begun to pull U.S. troops out of remote villages where some of the heaviest fighting has occurred. Senior military leaders have concluded that they lack the forces to wrest these Taliban strongholds away from the enemy and are instead focusing on more populated and less violent areas." Greg Jaffe is a great combat reporter. I don't know him but wish I did. (READ MORE)

Guard Wife: Borrowing Trouble - It's an old expression, but one my family swears I invented. I'm always "borrowing trouble" or worrying ahead. I find, though, that preparing for the worst is the best way for me to be prepared for it. And, even if the situation turns godawful, my imagination proved approximately 45% worse. So, worrying ahead made it seem not as bad as it could have been. Did I mention I also rationalize things in a circular manner? As if I didn't have enough to worry about on a daily basis, we mixed it up in March. My husband arrived home on a Monday from his year-long deployment to Iraq. At his homecoming ceremony, our adoption agency called to tell us we needed to be in Ethiopia that following Tuesday for our Embassy appointment. That meant we needed to leave that Friday to be in country in time. And so begins the trouble borrowing... Most of the families I have met through the adoption process are not military families. If they are, few of them are National Guard families. (READ MORE)

Andi: Lady, Would You Please Go Away? - My husband has used the same bank for over 20 years. When we married, his bank became our bank. For most of our married life, there was no online bill pay or any of the other convenient services that the internet now allows. Our bank was generally 1,000 miles away from wherever we were stationed so if we had to make a deposit or deal with paperwork, we had to mail everything in. This trend continued for years and years and years. I remember when we purchased our first home, we had to have the bank overnight a certified check for the closing funds because there wasn't a branch close enough for me to get to. On those rare occasions when you really needed to go into a branch, it was an impossibility. A few years ago, our bank began purchasing other banks and opening new branches. Of course, when they did this there was rarely a need for me to go into a branch and conduct business as you can do most things online now. (READ MORE)

She of the Sea: What They Didn't Explain - I've learned a few things during my time as a military spouse. What I find most interesting, however, is the stuff that I thought I understood before getting into this life, but later discovered that I didn't understand at all. My first big surprise came a few months after we got married. My husband finished his schools and arrived at his first real duty station. I knew that he would be deploying at some point, and I had prepared myself for his six month absence. After a few days at the new job, he came home with his "workup schedule." I'm guessing this has different names depending on your spouse's branch of service, and what type of job he or she does, but for us, this was the schedule of all the pre-deployment trainings, exercises, and classes. Six months of gone for two weeks, home for one week, gone for another then back for a whole month. You know the stuff. "Wait!" I said. "What is all of this ? I didn't know about any of this! This is not what I agreed to!" (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: Humble savior - The parents of 1st Lt. Salvatore Corma II recently asked their son why he wanted one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet. While enormously proud of his accomplishments, they knew disabling improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan could be a perilous assignment. "He said, 'Mom, you have to lead from the front. You never lead from the back,' " his mother said. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently profiled 1st Lt. Corma, who was born in the city of brotherly love and raised in Wenonah, New Jersey. From a young age, Corma was interested in competition and adventure, excelling in karate, baseball, football, track, and roller hockey. His experience as a Boy Scout may have first given him the idea to serve in the military. Like everything else Corma tackled in life, there was no such thing as going halfway. The high school honors student was accepted at West Point, graduated in 2008, and earned his Ranger badge at Georgia's Fort Benning before being assigned to the legendary 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. (READ MORE)



News from the Home Front:
Army Recalls 44,000 Combat Helmets - The Department of the Army announced today that it has initiated a recall message for approximately 44,000 Advanced Combat Helmets produced by ArmorSource LLC (formerly Rabintex USA LLC). These helmets do not meet Army specifications. (READ MORE)



News from the Front:
Iraq:
Iraq Recount Fails to Overturn Allawi Election Win - A cross-sectarian coalition led by secularist former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi held its two-seat win in Iraq's March 7 election after a recount of votes cast in Baghdad, elections officials said Sunday. (READ MORE)

Recount in Iraq Preserves Victory for Maliki Rival - A dispute over the counting of ballots in Iraq’s parliamentary elections in March came to a tentative end on Sunday, with the country’s election commission saying that a partial recount had preserved the narrow victory of the leading rival to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. (READ MORE)

Baghdad Vote Result Unchanged After Recount - An Iraqi election official says a recount of votes in Baghdad from Iraq's March 7 election has not changed the parliamentary seat allocation. (READ MORE)

Combat Trucker Delivers Crucial Supplies Downrange - Life on the road doesn't come easy, especially when that means traversing the war-torn streets of Iraq. (READ MORE)

'Chop Shop' Soldiers - The sign out front may say 'Chop Shop,' but inside the massive tin sheet metal building located at the south end of Forward Operating Base Warhorse, there are no stolen vehicles or illegal activities. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Insurgent Group Names New Leaders - The Islamic State of Iraq, the insurgent group that serves as a front for al-Qaeda in Iraq, announced Sunday that it had replaced two senior leaders killed in a raid last month. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
Airplane with 43 on board crashes in Afghanistan - A local Pamir Airways plane with 38 passengers and five crew on board, including six foreigners, crashed in Afghanistan on Monday in the inaccessible mountainous Hindu Kush region near Kabul, officials said. (READ MORE)

Roadside bomb kills 2 Italian soldiers in Afghanistan - Two Italian soldiers were killed and two others seriously wounded when their convoy struck a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, the Italian army said on Monday. (READ MORE)

Turkey sends humanitarian aid to flood-hit Afghan city - Turkey sent humanitarian relief material to the flood-struck Jowzjan province of Afghanistan. Responding to the call of the governor of Jowzjan, where some 2500 families were affected in the inundated areas, Turkey sent 11 tons of humanitarian relief. (READ MORE)

Australian troops to play significant role in Kandahar offensive - AUSTRALIAN forces are set to play a significant role in an offensive to eject Taliban insurgents from the city of Kandahar, regarded as the insurgent fighters' spiritual heartland. (READ MORE)

One Soldier, 19 Taliban Killed In Pakistan Clashes - Taliban militants attacked a security checkpost in a restive northwestern Pakistani region on Monday, sparking clashes in which 19 insurgents and one soldier were killed, officials said. (READ MORE)

U.S. Is Still Using Private Spy Ring, Despite Doubts - Top military officials have continued to rely on a secret network of private spies who have produced hundreds of reports from deep inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to American officials and businessmen, despite concerns among some in the military about the legality of the operation. (READ MORE)

Afghan Opium Blight Fuels Anti - Government Suspicions - With livelihoods threatened by a mysterious blight on opium crops, many farmers in southern Afghanistan suspect policies of the U.S.-backed government of President Hamid Karzai may be behind the disease. (READ MORE)

Afghan Troops Free Kidnapped UN Workers - Officials say five Afghan U.N. staffers kidnapped in northern Afghanistan a month ago have been freed in a military operation. (READ MORE)

Taleban bullets bounce off ‘lucky platoon’ - THEY are not so much the dirty dozen as the fortunate few. A band of 12 British soldiers has been described as the “luckiest platoon” in Afghanistan after repeatedly cheating death at the hands of the Taleban. (READ MORE)

Joint NATO-Afghan Military Operations Kill 25 Insurgents - Afghan officials say international and Afghan security sweeps Friday and Saturday across the country killed at least 25 insurgents. (READ MORE)

Taliban Say They Killed 4 Afghan Interpreters - A Taliban spokesman boasted on Saturday that the group had kidnapped and killed four Afghan interpreters, one on his wedding day, apparently because they worked for the United States military and a Western contractor. (READ MORE)

Marine official says there is more 'tough fighting' ahead in Afghanistan - Marines from Camp Pendleton and other bases are making progress in defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan but there is more "tough fighting" ahead as the war enters a critical year, the top Marine general in Afghanistan told local reporters. (READ MORE)

War of persuasion: The modern U.S. officer emerges in Afghanistan - Lt. Col. Robert B. Brown could hear the fear in his 24-year-old lieutenant's voice on the patchy radio. "We have enemy inside the wire. It is really bad here," 1st Lt. Andrew Bundermann said. "We need those [expletive] birds now." (READ MORE)

Taliban Hold Sway in Area Taken by U.S., Farmers Say - Farmers from the district of Marja, which since February has been the focus of the largest American-led military operation in Afghanistan, are fleeing the area, saying that the Taliban are terrorizing the population and that American troops cannot protect the civilians. (READ MORE)

Kandahar fears greater peril as West rethinks its planned offensive - As Kandahar's 61-year-old deputy mayor prostrated himself in prayer at a mosque a few steps from his family home, Taliban assailants pumped five bullets into his body, then made an easy escape along a street that was supposed to have been tightly secured by Afghan police. (READ MORE)

Afghan President Meets New British PM - In his first meeting with a foreign leader, Britain's new Prime Minister David Cameron has gotten a first hand assessment of the situation in Afghanistan from the country's president, Hamid Karzai. Britain's role in Afghanistan is one of Mr. Cameron's top foreign policy issues. (READ MORE)


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Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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