May 27, 2010

From the Front: 05/27/2010

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

Kandahar Diary: The WolfPack Grows - This is ‘Lucky’. He is another of our ‘rescues’ and still only a pup, but is growing every day. The Neps have tied a bell around his neck and at night you can hear him tinkling around the compound, chasing Junior and annoying Kandy (who has taken on the role of matriarch and pack leader). Lucky is a real ball of mischief and all the lads love the dirty little sod. (MORE)

CI-Roller Dude: What's that day for? A day off work.... - From the Soldier side: Memorial Day will be here soon. I’ve found that for most of my civilian friends and family this is another holiday they get off from work. Maybe a chance to head to the beach, have a bar-b-q and drink a few extra beers on the 3 day weekend. Yep, that’s what it used to always mean to me. Several years ago, I am not sure I even knew what the hell it was for. In 2004 and 2005 that changed a little for me. Oh, it’s still a day to have a Bar-b-q and all that other stuff, but I remember two really good guys who died in Iraq and now I look at Memorial Day a little different. I try not to get sad and depressed, and I try to think about the things I liked about these two guys…but I do think about them. And I think that they are two of the best soldiers I ever knew. I both cases, they did not have to go to Iraq . One came out of retirement to go (Mike) and the other switched his MOS (Army job) to go. (READ MORE)

Ssg B: The War Over Facebook - There is a lot of debate about whether military personnel should be allowed to use social networking sites. I know I would have loved to connect with my family on Facebook when I was in Iraq. (In between nasty firefights, eating chicken noodle MRE and burning poop – not necessarily in that order ) Here is a blog from about the issue. Everybody is dumping on Facebook right now – and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s non-apology apologies for giving away customers’ personal information is not helping matters. But in the military community, there’s an interesting twist on the Facebook-as-privacy-sieve debate. Turns out the names of soldiers dying in Afghanistan are sometimes appearing on Facebook before they’re officially released. This is not a small deal in military circles. U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan go into what’s called “River City” — with access to the outside Internet shut down — when one of their troops is killed in action. (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Help Combat Stigma of Seeking Help - What do you think when you hear the phrase “Neck Up, Check Up?” As part of a monthlong campaign in support of Mental Health Month, the Defense Centers of Excellence Communications Office is spreading the “Neck Up, Check Up” message around the social networking world. The goal is to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help for psychological health concerns and to educate and increase awareness about all of the resources available. The Neck Up, Check Up campaign aims to help combat any stigma that may prevent our warriors, veterans and their loved ones from seeking help for the invisible wounds of war. To be a part of the campaign, DCoE suggests posting “Neck up, Check up” in your Facebook or Twitter status sometime to get the conversation started. Once there’s a buzz, direct your friends and followers to the DCoE Facebook page to learn more. Ask your friends to do the same. Let’s break the silence of stigma and spread the word! (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Votes and Bullets - The process of forming a new government continues to crawl forward. The electoral commission (IHEC) turned over the papers to the supreme court, which will certify the votes. IHEC also said it rejected the appeals of people who complained of ballot issues. There remain three candidates whose fates are up in the air. One man from Diyala, a memeber of Allawi's list, was accused of breaking the law. Another man is a member of Maliki's list, he is a member of the military and is not supposed to run for office. The man says he quite eight months earlier than the election. The third person has not been named. Also today the State of Law people and the INA are scheduled to meet yet again to form a union. The sticking points include Maliki's desire to be prime minister -- something that the INA does not share. The Sadr movement's representatives once again said they don't want Maliki. (READ MORE)

Kerplunk: Good and Evil - I interviewed a young Marine corporal yesterday, recently back from Afghanistan, for a magazine article I'm putting together. Over the course of our discussion, he brought up an experience of his that defies human comprehension, even in the context of war. "We were on a dismounted patrol in Marja ... and walked up on a box in the middle of the street. The IEDs we found were never that obviously placed, but we called EOD (explosive ordnance disposal), just to be on the safe side ... long story short, they came out, checked the box out, and then called us [on-the-ground leaders] up ... the box was empty except for a dead baby. It must've suffocated in there, or starved ... we later found out (through intelligence reports) that The Taliban did it for two reasons: One, it was the kid of a local that had turned some of them in. Two, they just wanted to fuck with us, like they were showing they were capable of anything." These are ambiguous times we live in. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistani Taliban assault district center in Nuristan - A large Taliban force under the command of a wanted Pakistani leader attacked Afghan police in the northeastern province, sparking clashes that lasted for hours. An estimated 300 Taliban fighters, reportedly under the command of Swat Taliban leader Mullah Qari Fazlullah, launched an assault today on a district center in Barg-e-Matal in the province of Nuristan, which borders Pakistan to the east. The outnumbered Afghan police held off the attack, killing seven Taliban fighters and suffering the deaths of two of their own officers. The police called for reinforcements from Kabul but they did not arrive in time to fight the battle, according to the BBC. "There are many fewer police than attackers but we have the locals helping us," the provincial chief of police said. The Barg-e-Matal district is a known Taliban transit area to and from the northern Pakistani district of Chitral. (READ MORE)

Loving A Soldier Blog: Military Family & Stouffers: Let's Fix Dinner Challenge - Meet the Beehners, from Sayville, NJ. Dad, William, has been away on active duty for all but 6 months out of the past 5 years. Now that he is home, he is struggling to reconnect with both his daughter and wife. Daughter, Madison, likes having Dad back in her life, but she doesn’t like having him as an authority figure. The family agrees that regular family dinners together would be the best place for William and Madison to bond and get to know each other again. Determined to slow down and connect as a family, the Beehners have taken part in a very special project with STOUFFER'S, called the LET”S FIX DINNER Challenge, which asks families to commit to eating dinner together more often. The Beehners were followed by Stouffer's cameras as they took on the challenge of making regular family dinners together a priority. Video episodes of the family are now featured in the national Stouffer's Let's Fix Dinner advertising campaign. (READ MORE)

wifeunit: "Every coin has two sides, kiddo." - That is what my dad said to me earlier this morning. And it pretty much captures where my mind is at right now. The Navy threw us a curve ball. Orders were in for an unaccompanied tour. Granted the two year old waited until his dad was completely inside the terminal, but our goodbyes were said and Seadaddy was dropped off at the airport. Turns out we have new orders. With two small kids at home this is great news. More time with dad means getting thrown up in the air while mom gets queasy, having a parent around who can give their child a proper haircut, bedtime stories will be told with great and ridiculous voices and accents mom just can't manage. All kinds of things. Rather than miss his third summer in five years with my stepdaughter, she will get to come stay with us for our time and that is fantastic news. Being the noncustodial parent is hard enough, pcs-ing further away is even worse but extended paid government vacations can really hurt the hearts of both parent and child. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: The volunteer - While growing up in the Volunteer State, Spc. Jeremy Brown always had an ultimate goal in mind. He wanted to follow in his family's footsteps by serving with honor and integrity in the Armed Forces. "I asked him before he left if he was sure, and he said, 'This is what he was meant to do.' He knew this was his destiny," said Denise Hill. WSMV-TV reports that Spc. Brown joined the Army after graduating from Warren County High School three years ago. Deanna Lambert's article said he deployed to Afghanistan with 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division four months ago. According to the Defense Department, Brown was killed on May 9 at Contingency Outpost Zerok when terrorists attacked his unit with small arms fire. Before deploying to the war zone, the soldier was stationed at Kentucky's Fort Campbell. News of Brown's death had an immediate, penetrating effect on his hometown of McMinnville, Tennessee. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: The Defense Industry: Committed to Excellence - America can take pride in the professionals in the defense technology industry. Our planes are made with the best materials, our ships made in the safest conditions, and our soldiers' helmets are made by the most skilled prison inmates in the nation. Wait, what? Last week, the Army began ordering soldiers to return over 44,000 Advanced Combat Helmets (ACHs) made by the company ArmorSource LLC (formerly Rabintex). This is in addition to another 30,000 helmets produced by Gentex, recalled last year. ArmorSource, one of four contractors which produce the ACH, sub-contracted its work to Federal Prison Industries (FPI). FPI currently produces over half the US military's helmets. How do you know if you have a defective helmet? Head over to Jeff Schogol's article at the Stars and Stripes for a detailed walkthrough, or just check out the picture below. (READ MORE)

War is Boring: Embedded with Afghan Civil Society - Afghanistan is more than a war, and though violence is spreading, much of the country remains peaceful. Events in Afghanistan seldom make headlines abroad unless they involve violence, fanaticism or government malfeasance. Regrettably little attention is paid to civilian life, which goes on — because it must — in spite of deteriorating security. One of the great untold stories of Afghanistan since 2001 is the emergence of a civil society that has begun to assert itself as a force for progressive change at the grassroots level, with the poorest and least empowered segments of Afghan society: ethnic minorities, poor women, residents of slums and internal displacement camps, orphans, civilian victims of war and persons with disabilities. (READ MORE)

Deebow: The Battle of Another Gun... - Let me start out this post by just saying this. Never, not once, dirty, clean, dusty, snowy, muddy, wet or dry did my M-4 fail to go "BOOM" when I pressed the "BOOM" switch. It never jammed, double fed, stove piped or just went "CLICK." That is what I tell my partners (who are gun guys who like to spend hours debating the minutiae of caliber, tactics etc.) who ask me about the use of the M-4/5.56 combination in combat. I tell them it is like having a super model girlfriend; she will get dirty with you, but she's got some rules, and one of those is that you better treat her good afterward. It never failed me, and it always placed the bullets where I wanted them to go. I found that some carb. cleaner down the gas tube (to dissolve the carbon buildup--DEFINITELY not in the dash 10 manual), a bore snake through the barrel and a wipe down of the bolt was all I needed after any patrol to get it back to normal. (READ MORE)

Blackfive: Rules of Engagement and Weapon Status - First of all, the R.O.E. in Afghanistan is not new. This is not something that has never worked. It is not something that Obama's team foisted on anyone. It's been around for years, and don't take my word for it...Over at the Mudville Gazette, you can find the best examples of why the R.O.E. exists as it does. It is a must read. Next, Jimbo, Crush, and Deebow have all expressed concern over the claims of Amber Status of weapons in Afganistan. Crush wrote a piece for Human Events (that got Deebow to post). I've refrained from commenting on the hopes that we're not giving the enemy a reason to test this theory out - that units aren't Red. But it's been all over the place lately and common practice in both theaters so let's try to put this to bed. FWIW, I was once a Cavalry Scout Officer. We never allowed bullets to be in the chambers of small arms because, if there was an accidental discharge, the ricochet would turn the inside of the Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, 113 APC or even an MRAP today, into a human blender. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: McChrystal Calls Marjah a Bleeding Ulcer - From “Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top allied military commander in Afghanistan, sat gazing at maps of Marjah as a Marine battalion commander asked him for more time to oust Taliban fighters from a longtime stronghold in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province. ‘You’ve got to be patient,’ Lt. Col. Brian Christmas told McChrystal. ‘We’ve only been here 90 days.’ ‘How many days do you think we have before we run out of support by the international community?’ McChrystal replied.” Is this a bad joke or a sorry episode of The Twilight Zone? It’s a serious question. Names are supplied, so the author apparently doesn’t mind us fact-checking him. Is this report for real? Did McChrystal really say those things and interact with another officer in this manner? Seriously? This is an important milestone in the campaign. Apparently, we now know the real expectations for the campaign. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
‘Service Before Self’ - The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff came to the front range of the Rocky Mountains on Wednesday to remind the Air Force’s newest officers that America’s wars were far from over and that they would soon be tested by combat. (READ MORE)

Army Launches Acquisition Review - The Department of the Army announced today that it is launching a detailed, comprehensive review of its acquisition organizations, policies, workforce and processes, including how it acquires and manages equipment. (READ MORE)

Prisoners no longer making helmets for troops - Federal prisoners will no longer make helmets for U.S. troops after the Army recalled 44,000 helmets that were made by UNICOR –- also known as Federal Prison Industries. (READ MORE)

Service Chiefs Seek to Delay Vote on Gays - The chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines objected on Wednesday to a compromise plan to repeal the military’s ban on allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly, a position that put them at odds with President Obama and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. (READ MORE)

Just another act of deadly treason - Yesterday, The New York Times published another front-page article based on a leaked classified document. This time, it was an order signed by Gen. David Petraeus authorizing black operations against adversaries and such dubious friends as Iran, Syria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Baghdad's Trade in Wildlife Anything but Tame - A dozen fluffy white kittens with piercing blue eyes frolic in a wire cage, perched perilously atop a pen containing two African lion cubs. (READ MORE)

Iraq dissolves its national airline in dispute with Kuwait over war reparations - Iraq's cabinet decided Wednesday to dissolve Iraqi Airways after the national airline was forced to halt flights from England and Sweden as part of a dispute with Kuwait over war reparations. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Airways closed to avoid paying $1.2 billion for Saddam invasion - Iraq is shutting its national airline to avoid paying $1.2 billion (£833 million) in reparations for damage caused during Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Vote Results Sent to Court for Certification - Iraq’s election commission on Wednesday sent the final results of the March 7 elections to the Supreme Court for certification, which could clear a major obstacle to forming the new government after weeks of delay. (READ MORE)

U.S. withdrawal from Iraq will be on time, Vice President Biden says - President Obama called Iraq his predecessor's war of choice. Now it is his war to exit -- and quickly. (READ MORE)

Joint Training Sharpens ISF Skills - The capability of Iraqi security forces is paramount to keeping Iraq safe, and U.S. Soldiers are training Iraqi troops to provide that stability and security for their country. (READ MORE)

New Life Yields Hope for Displaced Iraqis - An estimated 1.21 million Iraqis were displaced before 2003 under the Ba'ath government, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. (READ MORE)

Marez Force Protection Shields Base - Surrounded by Mosul, Iraq, an ethnically diverse city of 2 million people, Soldiers who protect Contingency Operating Base Marez employ a myriad of methods and force protection technologies to maintain security. (READ MORE)

‘The Poo Pond’ - Visiting a city like Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, the subject of human excrement is not something that ordinarily occupies much of your thinking. (READ MORE)

Commander Cites Progress and Frustration in Afghanistan - The commander in charge of southern Afghanistan acknowledged on Wednesday that “we are not yet where we need to be’’ in the farming zone of Marja, the site of a major offensive in February that sought to flush out the Taliban. (READ MORE)

Improving Schools in Northern Afghanistan - Soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Brigade Special Troops Battalion, from the 10th Mountain Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team have been coordinating efforts recently to help improve school facilities in Dehdadi District in northern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Afghan Army Chief, Advisor Shape Growing Force - As the Afghan army rapidly approaches a 171,000-troop level this year, the force's top-ranking uniformed leader is tackling growing pains with help from an U.S. Army advisor. (READ MORE)

ISAF Forces Set Sights on Kandahar - With ISAF forces preparing for a gradual push into Kandahar, Afghanistan, a top commander underscored the complexity of their charge, citing "political problems and impunities" as the main challenge to overcome. (READ MORE)

Pakistan Plans to Relax YouTube Ban - Pakistan will restore access to YouTube but will block videos offensive to Muslims that are posted on the video-sharing site, the government said Wednesday. (READ MORE)

Militants Storm House, Kill 3 in NW Pakistan - Insurgents in northwest Pakistan shot and killed a pro-government tribal elder, his wife and a son Thursday, while a clash elsewhere in the volatile region left a police officer and two militants dead, authorities said. (READ MORE)

Afghan Army Chief, Advisor Shape Growing Force - As the Afghan army rapidly approaches a 171,000-troop level this year, the force’s top-ranking uniformed leader is tackling growing pains with help from an U.S. Army advisor. (READ MORE)

Coalition Forces Capture Provincial Taliban Commander - A combined Afghan-international security force captured a Taliban operations facilitator and other suspected militants in southeastern Afghanistan last night, military officials said. (READ MORE)

Trial Marks Change at Prison for Afghan Detainees - The new American-run prison outside the capital will hold its first trial of an Afghan detainee next week, American officers said Wednesday. (READ MORE)

Taliban learning first aid from Red Cross workers - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been providing medical training to members of the Taliban, including some high-ranking combatants, in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Afghan Police Say Pakistani Taliban Leader Killed - A top leader of Pakistan's Taliban may have been killed in a clash with Afghan forces near the border, a senior Afghan police officer said on Thursday, possibly improving security in the Swat Valley. (READ MORE)

U.S., NATO Forces Set Sights on Kandahar - With U.S. and NATO forces on the verge of major operations in Kandahar, Afghanistan, a top commander there today underscored the complexity of their charge, citing “political problems and impunities” as the main challenge to overcome. (READ MORE)

US, NATO Gear Up for Major Offensive in Kandahar - Thousands of additional American forces are heading into southern Afghanistan, part of the troop surge that President Barack Obama has deployed to help end the Taliban-fuelled insurgency. (READ MORE)

U.S. puts hopes in bedraggled Afghan police - Afghan national police checkpoint No. 4, substation 3, is a blighted shell of a building ringed by garbage and shaded by scruffy trees whose leaves are coated with fine gray dust. (READ MORE)

IJC Operational Update, May 27 - An Afghan-international security force detained several individuals suspected of insurgent activity in Kandahar province last night. The security force detained the individuals while searching a series of buildings south of Kudeza'I, Zharay district. (READ MORE)

Pakistani troops kill 40 militants near Afghan border - Pakistani warplanes bombed militant hideouts in the Orakzai region on Thursday, killing 15 fighters and bringing the insurgents' death toll from attacks to 40 in the past 24 hours, officials said. (READ MORE)

Obama’s July 2011 Draw-Down Date for Afghanistan Sends Mixed Messages, Former Afghan Presidential Candidate Says - Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, a candidate in the 2009 Afghan presidential election, said the July 2011 date set by President Barack Obama for U.S. troops to draw-down from Afghanistan is problematic because it creates a perception of mixed messages about U.S. commitment to the country. (READ MORE)

Afghan president's half-brother denies corruption - Mr Karzai said that mistakes had been made in the past The half-brother of the Afghan president has denied any involvement in corruption. (READ MORE)

Case filed against Noristan governor - The presidential complaint commission has filed corruption case against governor and police chief of Noristan province in the office of attorney general, head of the commission said Wednesday. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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