May 28, 2010

From the Front: 05/28/2010

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

Memorial Day - They Sacrificed their tomorrows for us - "If our eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us." - General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868, Headquarters, Grand Army of the Republic. "The solemn trust." "Ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us." The quote above is from the order establishing a day in May to gather and present flowers upon the graves of the Fallen. In other words, it is our duty to remember those who gave all on Memorial Day. The General Order continues: Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan. As it was one hundred and forty two years ago, it is the same today. (READ MORE)

MAJ C: Memorial Day - I am going to do a number of articles about this weekend. I wanted to take them in bite size chunks per say, and address individual topics. Today I wanted to take a moment and talk about what I personally feel this very moment about Memorial Day. You see I was sitting here taking a break -- listening to the jets taking off and it got me thinking. How many young men have sat in a similar situation, listening to jets taking off, or going overhead? How many of them left their Country that they loved more then their own life and traveled to a distant land? How many of them fought for their Country and their Brothers and Sisters in Arms? How many never came home.....I don't ask those questions because Im looking for a number. Those numbers are out there -- and thats not the point. I think the point is to stop and think just about all of those individual men and women who at some point looked up and listened to jets going overhead. (READ MORE)

MAJ C: Memorial Day Part Two - I was going through some pictures last night from past deployments, and I took this one in the Pat Tillman USO at Bagram Air Base a couple years back. It was created by a TSgt Michael Bishop in 2004, and hangs in the foyer area of the USO. The reason I wanted to highlight this is the idea of all of those who have sacrificed so much for all of us. As we approach Memorial Day, Pat Tillman is one of many who gave their lives in service to and out of love for their Country and their fellow man. But I believe he is a wonderful example to highlight. He was a College Football Star, and a National Football League Player. He walked away from the money and fame after 9-11 though, and enlisted in the Army and joined the Infantry and the Rangers. He sacrificed his life for his Country in 2004 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan. You don't see that too often anymore. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: “Idiots on the Internet” week? - This has been a hell of a week in the milblog world. For some reason the sun and warmth of the cusp into the summer season has brought out idiots across the internet that have felt it necessary to pick fights with many of the leading milblogs. Between David Axe, Michael Yon, Craig Hooper, Robert Pelton Young and others the idiots have come out of the woodwork this week. I was thinking about calling it the 1st Annual “Idiots on the Internet” week, but several of my friends thought I would just give these guys traffic and credit they don’t deserve. I used to like and respect Yon, but over the last month I have not only read many of his whacked out postings on his Facebook account, but also on his blog and have talked with several “behind-the-scenes” folks that know him personally and I have determined this guy lost his mind. He is like a mix of Marlon Brando’s COL Kurtz and Dennis Hopper’s character in Apocalypse Now. (READ MORE)

Greg Mills: Kandahar Through the Taliban's Eyes - For U.S. President Barack Obama, ruminating about the course of the war in Afghanistan from Washington, the distant provinces of Helmand and Kandahar cannot be far from his mind. Winning back Afghanistan's critical southern heartland is the primary focus of the 46-country International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is surging its troop strength past the 100,000 mark. As if to highlight the allied forces' anxiety, this month U.S. commanders downgraded the Kandahar offensive to a "process." Whatever you call it, shifting the locus of attention to Kandahar makes strategic sense. Kandahar city is the birthplace of the Islamist movement, considered even before the birth of the Taliban as the "Philadelphia of Afghanistan" for its central role in the creation of the modern state. Kandahar, once the capital city of 18th-century Afghanistan, has been swelled by an influx of refugees and is now the home of approximately 900,000 people. (READ MORE)

Andrew Lebovich: Daily Brief: Afghan Police: Pakistani Taliban leader rumored killed - Afghan police claim that Maulana Fazlullah, the chief of the Swat Valley Taliban, was killed during clashes in the eastern Afghan province of Nuristan, after several days of fighting there. Fazlullah's death has been reported before and has not been confirmed, and the self-proclaimed military commander in Nuristan denied that Fazlullah had been killed, or had even staged the attack in the province. Elsewhere Pakistani aircraft bombarded militant positions in Orakzai agency, reportedly killing 15 fighters. The United States today released $288 million today under the Coalition Support Fund, which is designed to help Pakistan pay for ongoing operations against militant groups. And unidentified fighters killed a pro-government tribal elder and his family in Bajaur. Separately, the World Bank has given Pakistan a 48-hour deadline to implement a Value Added Tax (VAT) and electricity tariff hike, in order to receive $300 million in June under the Bank's poverty support credit program. (READ MORE)

Army Live: Eyes of the Army’s Boots on the Ground - One MILLION flight hours. I picture Dr. Evil saying this with his pinky up. The Army Unmanned Aircraft Systems recently surpassed one million flight hours. What’s the big deal you ask? Those one million hours represent time spent keeping Soldiers safe. What’s also interesting is it took the Army 13 years to fly the first 100,000 miles. Eighty-eight percent of the million hours were flown in Iraq or Afghanistan. To celebrate the milestone, several interactive aircraft displays were set up in the Pentagon Courtyard this week. No, they didn’t fly in, land, or take off, but their operators had some good stories. I got the chance to hear from a few UAS flight operators and combat veterans about all the new technology and their own roles on the battlefield. Are you wondering why the Army even has unmanned aircrafts when the Air Force has them as well? Let me tell ya, there’s room for both. (READ MORE)

Brad's Excellent Adventure: Memorial Day - Thursday 27 May 2010, 2330 - Today I had an experience that was hardly unique, but that was a first for me. I attended a memorial service for two soldiers who recently died in combat in Afghanistan. It was a very moving and sobering experience. I would not want to repeat it, but I do not want to forget it. The service was held this morning at 10:00 AM in the chapel at Patrick Henry Village, the U.S. housing area where I live in Heidelberg. The announcement of the service came a couple of days ago via email. I didn’t know the soldiers personally, but one of the NCO’s in our section knew one of them, and we all went. (Well, almost all of us. One of my colleagues was headed in the other direction and I asked him if he was going. He said “No, I’ve been to too many of those.” I sort of shrugged it off and went on my way.) The two men served with V Corps in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

One Marine's View: Remember Memorial Day and America's freedom fighter - This Memorial weekend I got it, you have things to do, people to see. Families will travel, rest will be taken. But for all that is holy, please take if it’s only a few minutes and think of your warriors who will and have in the past walked through fire for you and this great country. It has been my humble pleasure to serve with some of the greatest citizens that routinely make the ultimate sacrifice to America and its people. For you they go into the usually worse conditions, at the worse time and make the biggest difference. Politics aside throughout the years, your warriors have gone and did the unpopular, the impossible and the unachievable and returned with stellar results and then got ready to do it again. On the flip side of that coin, there is unseen group of family members that wait, worry, cry, and cheer when they return one way or another. (READ MORE)

American Ranger: Memorial Day 2010 - Remembering Our Lost Warriors - I remember the 18-year-old kid from Tennessee who let me use his transistor radio, the baby-faced private from North Carolina with the big grin, the staff sergeant and the two sergeants stretched out in body bags at my feet. All of their names are on the Vietnam wall because they gave their lives for their country. I also remember one particular lieutenant. Late in 1970, after several months as an infantry platoon leader, I got sick as a dog one morning after we returned to the firebase. At first the medics thought it was malaria, but it was another miserable jungle virus, and I was laid up in the rear area for about a month. Unfortunately, another lieutenant was sent to take over my platoon. When I recovered, I asked the battalion commander to re-assign me to another platoon in the field. He said he would let me fill the next platoon leader vacancy. When the lieutenant for the second platoon of Bravo Company rotated back to the States, I politely reminded the battalion commander of his promise. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: School’s in for British troops on Afghanistan’s frontline - Lieutenant Laura Bullen (28) from Bridge of Allan, Stirling is an Educational Training Services officer with the 1st Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, or 1 Lancs, currently based out of forward operating base Shawqat in Nad-e-Ali. She says: “My job here is to continue the education of 1 Lancs soldiers. The soldiers have periods of down time, they’re not continuously out fighting, and it is during these periods that I’m here to do education. “I open up the education centre in Shawqat and then anyone can drop in. I have lots of guys on camp who are doing courses at the moment and they pop by when they have a spare five or ten minutes, ask some questions, get some more work from me and then get back to their day jobs.” Whilst on tour, it’s Laura’s job to teach the soldiers of 1 Lancs and get them through the necessary courses that they need to do. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: No Honour, Plenty of Shame - The State of Law and INA are still talking about a united front. A spokesman for the State of Law said he understands the Sadr movement's reluctance to accept Maliki as prime minister again. But Iran is still pushing for the Shiite lists to form a union. The Sadr gang is so opposed to Maliki that they started a rumour that his retirement pension is $30 million (U.S.) a year. The Maliki people reportedly said no, his pension is actually $145 thousand (U.S.) a year. That's a nice sum anywhere, but it's especially big in Iraq. He has every reason to retire and enjoy his life. But of course he insists that he should be prime minister again even though he didn't win the March 7 election. Maybe he wants to skim more from all the deals coming to Iraq. While the politicians continue their fight for the eleventh week, Austria's capital city Vienna was named the best place to live in the world and Baghdad the worst. (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: Soldiers’ Perspective: The M320 Grenade Launcher - In the damned if you do, damned if you don’t category, the Army’s new M320 grenade launcher is facing stiff criticism over one of the principle advantages of the system requested by Soldiers and touted by the Army. There were lots of M320s among Joes in the 3rd BCT of the 101st Airborne — in fact I don’t remember seeing a single M203 among them. But just about everyone I asked about the new H&K-made M320 was that they miss the 203. I got the sense that this was mostly a reaction against changing from a tried and true system to one with a couple more whistles and bells than the simple, streamlined M203. Soldiers complained about the pistol grip handle catching on things, the forward grip and the sighting system. Even the side loading mechanism didn’t impress — though the Army touts that capability as a plus since it allows the M320 to take longer, more high-tech rounds. (READ MORE)

Knights of Afghanistan: Twisting in the Wind - Well, no sooner do I touch down in Kabul than I get an email from the DoD's Joint Contracting Command that the solicitation for the TWSS program has been cancelled. The entire solicitation, a proposal we and our partners have spent six months working on, and the contracting office just up and decides that they're not going to proceed. No explanation given beyond "the U.S. Government has determined the subject Solicitation no longer meets it's needs." The TWSS program (Theatre-Wide Security Services, pronounced Twist) was intended to be an umbrella program for the provision of static security at U.S. Army facilities throughout Afghanistan.* The idea was that JCC would solicit proposals from all the major PSCs and then elvaluate them based upon techincal/operational capabilities, companies' financial resources, and of course, price. The top six or eight outfits would then be selected as "pre-approved" for future work. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: RIP Lt John Finn… - A little over a year ago I met some very amazing men. The all had received the Medal Of Honor and wore it with pride for all those who served with them. None of them claimed it as their own. I was told before going to this gathering I had to take Guinness and drink one with Lt John Finn. And so I did. On Dec 7th 1941 many Heroes were made. John Finn is one of those men who received the Medal of Honor for his bravery on that day. He said he didn’t deserve it and simply held it for all the others who fought and died that December day. I disagree. On that Dec. Morning John held his position firing on the enemy for over two hours even though he himself had been hit 21 times. Several of his wounds serious. Once the skies were quiet he sought medical help after being ordered to and then returned to help rearm the remaining airplanes at Kanoehe Bay. Because Kanoehe was hit 5 minutes before Pearl Harbor many believe that John Finn is the first one to earn the Medal of Honor during WW2. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Nuristani Taliban commander denies Fazlullah killed - A top Taliban commander in eastern Afghanistan denied a wanted Pakistani Taliban leader was killed in fighting in the region. Mullah Munibullah, the Taliban's military commander for Nuristan, denied that Mullah Fazlullah, the Taliban leader of the district of Swat in Pakistan, was killed during clashes along the border region. Munibullah said that while Fazlullah had been in the region, he was no longer there and would not have led a military attack regardless. "There is no truth in Afghan government claims and media reports that Maulana Fazlullah-led Pakistani Taliban attacked some posts of the Afghan army and police at Barg-e-Matal," Munibullah told The News. "I am military commander of Nuristan province and no such incident happened here." "It is almost impossible for an outsider like Maulana Fazlullah to raise a group of 300 militants in Nuristan and attack security posts," Munibullah continued in his interview with The News. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Mullah Fazlullah reported killed in Afghanistan - An Afghan police commander claimed that his forces killed a top Pakistani Taliban leader during a clash in Nuristan province. The report has not been confirmed by US officials. Mullah Qari Fazlullah, the Taliban commander of the Pakistani district of Swat, was said to have been killed during a clash last night by Afghan border police. "Maulvi Fazlullah was killed in direct clash with Afghan border police...last night," Mohammed Zaman Mamozai, the chief of the border police force for eastern Afghanistan told The News. Fazlullah was reported to have been killed along with six other Taliban fighters. US military and intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal could not confirm or deny the reports of Fazlullah's death. "If the Afghan border police killed him, we should see the corpse," a military officer serving in the region told The Long War Journal. "It shouldn't be difficult to confirm or deny it is him." (READ MORE)

Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army: Another Update - Well, it has been a little while since I wrote anything that was worth reading. Now I am going to see if I can keep your attention for a little while. Tomorrow is Courtney’s birthday and she will be six. SIX!!! My little girl is six. Where in the hell did time go? Oh wait…that’s right…I spent a year of that in Afghanistan and now another one. Being a father and in the military is not easy. You miss a lot and it hurts at times. Oh and she is graduating Kindergarten today as well. I am so proud of her and wish her mom would answer the phone for once so I could tell her. It drives me crazy. Life here isn’t too bad. I have been doing the best I can, but of course I keep screwing up. It is little stuff that is adding up. OK, one was very important. But I fixed it. My room is pretty crappy. It is not as nice as Bagram but the only thing I do there is sleep. The rest of the day I am in the office. Hopefully it will get better. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: Field of dreams - Chief Warrant Officer Michael McHugh was serving in Iraq when heartbreaking news reached him from another post-9/11 battlefield. His hero, mentor, and guiding voice had been tragically killed in Afghanistan. Chief Warrant Officer McHugh quickly boarded a plane to Kuwait and soon knelt beside the departed warrior's flag-draped casket. The fallen soldier was his father, Col. John McHugh, and it was time to bring him home. While losing any servicemember is devastating, the scope and far-reaching impact of this tragedy is nearly incomprehensible. Col. McHugh was not only a key U.S. military leader, but a bedrock of unconditional love, neverending support, and strong principles for his family, particularly his five children. After spending much of the morning and early afternoon reading moving articles and incredible posts shared on a Facebook group dedicated to this honorable man and his family, it is clear that his legacy is already beginning to take shape. (READ MORE)

The Security Crank: Nomad Assault Fuels Afghan Disarray - Pick up the paper — or listen to many military commanders – and you’d think Afghanistan was a two-sided war: NATO vs. the Taliban. The reality is way, way, waaayyyy more complicated than that. Take one the boiling conflict between a group of semi-nomads, the Kuchi, and a long-suffering minority group, the Hazaras. The fight threatens to upend order in Afghanistan’s Wardak province. But there is literally not a peep about it in the Western press. Thousands of Afghans staged protests last week in Kabul, Daikondi, and Bamiyan. At issue was something of an annual ritual: violent clashes between Kuchis and Hazaras, in the two Behsud districts of Wardak province. The Kuchi were roaming with their herds of sheep and camels through Central Afghanistan on one of their annual migrations. Some years, they clash violently with settlers along the way. This is one of those years. (READ MORE)

News from the Home Front:
DOD Announces Units for Upcoming Rotation to Afghanistan - The Department of Defense announced today the alert of replacement forces scheduled to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (READ MORE)

U.N. Official Set to Ask U.S. to End C.I.A. Drone Strikes - A senior United Nations official is expected to call on the United States next week to stop Central Intelligence Agency drone strikes against people suspected of belonging to Al Qaeda, complicating the Obama administration’s growing reliance on that tactic in Pakistan. (READ MORE)

House votes to end 'don't ask, don't tell' policy - The House voted Thursday night to repeal "don't ask, don't tell," the controversial policy barring openly gay men and lesbians from serving in the military. (READ MORE)

President Obama will skip Memorial Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery - President Obama is skipping the traditional Memorial Day visit to Arlington National Cemetery, a move that has dismayed some veterans -- and comes at a sensitive moment in the administration's relationship with the military. (READ MORE)

John Finn, oldest WWII MoH recipient, dies - Retired Navy Lt. John Finn — the first American to receive the nation’s highest military award for defending sailors under a torrent of gunfire during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — died Thursday. He was 100. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

A Monument to Hope, but Also Sorrow - The occasion was the rehabilitation of the Foreign Ministry, badly damaged in a large-scale attack nine months ago. Ambassadors and reporters were invited for the occasion. (READ MORE)

Death And Betrayal Stalk Police In Iraq - At 10 a.m. (2:00 a.m. ET) on Monday this week, Lieutenant-Colonel Ali Khalaf says the police department in the Iraqi town of Ramadi issued an order for him to return to the force after eight months out of work. (READ MORE)

Afghan Forces Battle Militants Near Eastern Border - Afghan forces battled militants in a remote region near the Pakistan border for a sixth day Friday, and officials were trying to confirm reports that a key Pakistani Taliban leader was killed in the fighting. (READ MORE)

Development Continues for Afghan Legal System - Servicemembers in Afghanistan are working with the country’s interior and defense ministries to provide legal advice and development in the country. (READ MORE)

Afghans say Pakistani Taliban commander may be dead - A Taliban leader who led an uprising to wrest control of Pakistan's Swat Valley might have been killed Wednesday in a battle with security forces in eastern Afghanistan, Afghan security officials said. (READ MORE)

Gunmen Attack Mosques, Take Hostages In Pakistan City - Gunmen attacked worshippers from a minority sect in two mosques of the northeastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Friday, taking hostages and killing at least 30 people, officials said. (READ MORE)

25 dead, 30 injured in Lahore terror attack - Lobbing grenades and firing indiscriminately, Taliban guerrillas stormed two mosques of the minority Ahmadi sect Friday, leaving at least 25 people dead and more than 30 injured, police and eyewitnesses said. (READ MORE)

Fighting rages in eastern Afghanistan - Afghan forces battled militants in a remote region near the Pakistan border for a sixth day Friday, and officials were trying to confirm reports that a key Pakistani Taliban leader was killed in the fighting. (READ MORE)

US reaches 1,000 death marker in Afghan war - The American military death toll in Afghanistan has passed the 1,000 mark at a time when President Barack Obama's strategy to turn back the Taliban is facing its greatest test - an ambitious campaign to win over a disgruntled population in the insurgents' southern heartland. (READ MORE)

Cross posted at Castle Argghhh!

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