June 1, 2010

From the Front: 06/01/2010

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

Dispatches:
Learning to Live:
remembering - Just like every other day we remember . . . not just Sean but all our soldiers and families who have lost so very much. Yesterday we went to the cemetery . . . (MORE)

Kandahar Diary: A Can of Coke and a Close Recce - Of course, I know we are being watched all the time (and I don’t mean by my Higher!) There are a row of shops outside the compound – like everywhere else in Afghanistan – and we all know insurgents sit there monitoring our movements; but yesterday really brought it home. About 1115hrs one of the client’s workers, outside the wire, noticed three Afghan men, traditionally dressed, with long beards, wild hair and wrapped with blankets over their shoulders, walked casually into a shop that has recently sprung up outside our outer cordon. As the worker and his partner glanced at them, one of the three men accidentally dropped his blanket from his shoulder to reveal chest rigging and AK magazines. The two workers legged it back towards the gate and, seeing them run, the three men bolted as well. We stood to, sat it out for a while then went into our drills to ensure the perimeter was secure. Nil result. (READ MORE)

Kandahar Diary: Countdown to Leave - Single figures and I’m out of here for ** glorious weeks at home with L and the kids. I’ve only just allowed myself to think about it and now I can’t stop thinking about it. ** weeks without dust, flies, sand, IEDs, snipers, irate clients, irate bosses, whining LNs, razor wire, Hesco walls, armoured vehicles, suicide bombers, sleeping with my weapons and one ear open, checking on the Neps, inedible food, power cuts, the dig of a Glock at my hip, stinking septics, rusty water, clenching my jaw (and arse cheeks) when I drive over a culvert, RFI, CIR, CSR, CSD, MDS, BDA, Sitreps, Morreps, Shotreps, Route Assessments, Threat Assessments .... Bliss. (READ MORE)

A Handful of Dust: LT Wompum Will No Longer Be Blogging - The title says it all. Rest assured he is fine and well and still serving in Afghanistan but unfortunately he has been told to stop blogging. I wish I could explain further but I cannot at this time. Let me just say also that it has nothing to do with him violating OPSEC or DOD regulations regarding blogging in any way shape or form; we strenously adhere to those regulations here at AHOD and have since the start. Nor does it have anything to do with the content in the “Nerve Center of War” post. The original is still able to be read in the March archives. (READ MORE)

A Handful of Dust: Meet LT Gorman - In an effort to replace LT Wompum who was forced to take a permanent hiatus, we have recruited another Army infantry officer currently serving in Afghanistan to take his place, a man we shall call LT Gorman. LT Gorman is not the pseudonym for one of our two Kandahar infantry leuitenants (they still have not yet arrived in theater), but a different person entirely. While his location and unit will be kept a secret for now, he will allow AHOD to continue our frontline posting from Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

A Little Pink in a World of Camo: Pre Memorial Day - I wish Memorial Day weren't so personal to me. I wish it weren't my husband who had a memorial. I wish I could just be reverant but still fancy-free tomorrow like I once was before I realized the reality of what Memorial Day is. Or better yet, I wish we didn't need Memorial Day because there were no wars and no fallen heroes. I'm not going to lie, I wasn't always an avid celebrater of Memorial Day. It was an extra day off school and the mark of the beginning of summer. We usually had a cookout and spent time with family and friends. I am not stupid and I know there are sooo many people in America who still have that thought, and I don't blame them, not at all. Not everyone realizes what this day really signifies. Like I said, I didn't give it much of a thought years ago. I always had what I hope was a little more reverance than "average" because of my dad being a Vietnam Veteran and knowing so many people who have fallen, but never did it mean to me what it does to me now. (READ MORE)

Maj C: Your Questions -- My Answers - A couple of days ago a number of you poised questions to me. Im going to start with the first one tonight. "What do the Afghan People think about all of this? How are they receiving it?" The first thing that I would highlight is the intelligence of the Afghan People. Even if they did not attend a school -- they are some of the most intelligent and industries people I have ever met. The military leaders that we work with are some of the best leaders, and most intelligent people I have had the honor to work with. The children are unbelievable smart and very technology savvy. My personal opinion, reinforced over two tours of duty here, and daily interaction with them is that they know that we (The Coalition / ISAF) are here to help. They know that we are not occupiers or here to try and impose our will by use of brute force like the Soviets did. They want a better life for their children, as any parent, anywhere would. (READ MORE)

FaST Surgeon: Memorial Day Weekend - Part III - Memorial Day 2010 - This is my final tribute for this Memorial Day - 2010. I made this a three part series (one post for each day of the 3 day weekend) to remind myself and others that the holiday weekend has been set aside by our government to give us the opportunity to honor our men and women that have died in war. Today I honor two soldiers. One who is memorialized at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Orgun-E and the other from which FOB Shank is named. "Army Pfc. Dennis was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Dennis died of wounds sustained during a firefight with enemy forces in the vicinity of Ne Shkin after his platoon was ambushed. Jerod graduated from Antlers High School in May 2002 where he was a popular and fun-loving student. He was quite an achiever – one who went all out on anything in which he was interested whether it was winning championships in tennis or aggravating the teachers in that endearing way of his." (READ MORE)

Old Blue: The Second Memorial Day - This is SGT Jon Stiles’ second Memorial Day. THere are many who have lost good friends, and many who have lost family members in this war. Jon was my friend. My good friend, and a good man. He died, and I am still here. He paid all, and I have paid so very little in comparison. Memorial Day was always a little bit more abstract before Jon earned his share in ownership of the day. It had meaning, but never to this extent. So very many of us out there now have that personal knowledge of a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine who has given that last full measure of devotion. For many of us, it is no longer those men of history who are now joined daily in death by compatriots and contemporaries who lived on to complete full lives. Men like 1LT Bob Rice. No, these are those who have gone far ahead of their comrades. Many will never know the joys of life, such as parenthood; their child’s prom, graduation or wedding. (READ MORE)

Old Blue: Trending Positive - Obviously, the posts this tour have been few and far between. There are a number of reasons for that, including the massive amount of information and knowledge that I’m exposed to. It’s hard to take it all and present it in a way that makes sense short of writing big papers about it. There are lots of complexities, interactions and initiatives. It’s difficult to gel them into concise pieces. There is also the factor of priorities. My ability to contribute and to influence events, meager though that ability may be, is more important than writing about what I see. The trust of my leadership in my discernment is more important than demonstrating or sharing what I have been exposed to, which is considerable. I have been back in Afghanistan for about ten months now, and my perceptions have run the gamut during that time. There have been times that I have been so frustrated that I could spit. I have seen things from time to time that have just flat disgusted me. (READ MORE)

CJ: My Memorial Day - I’ve just returned from one of the longest 4-day weekends I’ve had in a long time. Usually, they go by so fast and you wonder where the time went, but this one was different. On Thursday night, I flew up to meet my family in Montana. Emily was the only one that knew I was coming Thursday night. Everyone else figured I wouldn’t be there until sometime Friday afternoon. Anissa was still awake when I arrived, so she knew when I walked by her room to mine. Chris had fallen asleep in the rocking chair in the living room and I went in to wake him up and tell him to go into his room. It only partially registered that it was me and he went downstairs to go back to sleep. The next morning he would ask me if he was dreaming that I woke him up. I joked with him I had no idea what he was talking about and kept that going for a little while before telling him he wasn’t dreaming. The next morning, Hannah came in to turn on the light and grab her school bag. (READ MORE)

AfghaniDan, Part II: Multinational Memorial Day - This evening I caught a somber Memorial Day ceremony at Camp Eggers, which included as a participant the widow (also military herself) of the slain Army captain after whom the camp is named. I've been deployed for a few Memorial Day ceremonies before, and even seen participation by one or more U.S. allies, but this was by far the most global one yet in my experience. Afghanistan's national anthem was played in addition to our own, and a NATO anthem stood in for our many partners in that alliance. The roll call of fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and civilians was a particularly poignant reminder of the price paid so far in this conflict, by some estimates now the longest war in American history. I found it fitting that the evening call to prayer went out in a neighborhood beyond during the ceremony, and wondered how many of the longest- or most-deployed service members on hand even hear it anymore. (READ MORE)

AfghaniDan, Part II: Bagram bemused - What can you say about a former Soviet base you can wait around for days and days, wondering how on earth we actually get anyone or anything where it needs to be? If you manage to find an advocate who has a good hookup with those who hold power over the manifests, you might get out in a relatively timely manner, as I did thanks to a smooth-talking corporal. Only a day's wait! If not, you'll be in suspended limbo and required to stay put...with your four bags worth of gear, your body armor & kevlar helmet, and your dreams of a bed sometime in your future. I'll leave it to my new friend Chris from pre-deployment processing, following me out here by a few days, to succinctly describe the big base alternately known as the Black Hole... "I have been rotting at Bagram waiting for a flight. This place is a zoo and nobody seems to be doing anything. I can't wait to get out of here." (READ MORE)

Army Live: The meaning behind Memorial Day - We live in a country that loves holidays – from Christmas to Thanksgiving, Mardi Gras and Fourth of July, an excuse to celebrate is always a welcome occasion. But, in the midst of the hoopla and festivities, it is sometimes all too easy to forget the true meaning of many holidays. Memorial Day, in particular, exemplifies a national crisis in party versus purpose. As you prepared to celebrate Memorial Day, what went into your planning? Scheduling a picnic or planning a party? Sleeping in or yard work? Cheerfully celebrating a three-day weekend without giving pause to those whose lives were sacrificed to create this special day of workplace hookie? Memorial Day calls for a greater tribute, and the day demands more of your time and attention if all it brings to mind are thoughts of the beginning of summer and opening day at the pool. When I need a reminder of the reason behind these holidays in celebration of men and women who have served, I need look no further than my dad. (READ MORE)

Army of Dude: Metal Memorials - “Hey man, just so you know, I’m going to set this thing off.” I don’t have a metal plate in my head or shrapnel in my legs, but I carry with me something that might as well be lodged deep under my skin. After Vietnam, soldiers and civilians alike would wear bracelets etched with the names of prisoners of war so their memory would live on even if they never came home. Veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continued the practice, but with a twist. The same bracelets are adorned with the names of friends killed in action. The date and the place are also included as a testament to where they took their last steps. One of the first things my platoon did after coming home was order memorial bracelets from the few websites that specialize in military memorabilia. You don’t even have to type in the name or the date; their system uses the DOD casualty list. All you have to do is filter by name and a software aided laser will burn the selection onto an aluminum or steel bracelet. (READ MORE)

C.J. CHIVERS: Shoot at American Patrol. Get Shot. Ditch Rifle. Ask Patrol for Bandage. Repeat? - It is an age-old axiom that little creates absurdities like war, and this notion remains evergreen today. Take the case of the two victims of gunshot wounds shown in Tyler Hicks’s photographs, which accompany this post. Both men were struck by bullets in a gunfight between Marines and the Taliban in Marja on May 29. The first victim, the elderly man, had been shot through the right hip. The Marines assumed he was a civilian. Under NATO rules, when civilians are wounded in any way related to NATO activity, including when they are struck by stray bullets or caught between fighting forces, they are eligible for military medical care. This man’s wound led to the standard reaction. The Marine patrol in the firefight called for an Army medevac helicopter, which was located on an airfield to the south. The air crew scrambled. (READ MORE)

TIM HSIA: Memorial Day Is Every Day - Memorial Day for many Americans is a nice reprieve from the demands of work and a day perhaps spent on a family picnic. Many communities also hold Memorial Day functions for uniformed service members and pay tribute to veterans killed overseas. For many veterans, Memorial Day is no different than any other day. The memory of friends, superiors, and subordinates killed in combat is an ever present thought that continues long after Memorial Day. Last week when President Obama gave the commencement address to the graduating West Point class he paid tribute to the graduates of West Point who had “given their lives for our freedom and our security in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Unfortunately, my graduating class of 2004 has the ominous distinction of having the most graduates killed in combat, currently at 11. The events of Sept. 11, 2001, occurred our sophomore year, and my class was the first class afterward that had a choice of whether to stay in the military or opt out prior to our junior year. (READ MORE)

Battle Rattle: Marines in Afghanistan remember their lost on Memorial Day - It was a sobering reminder in more ways than one. Marines here marked Memorial Day this morning with a ceremony honoring veterans of all wars, but with a special emphasis on those who have sacrificed their lives here in Afghanistan. With the flags of the U.S., Afghanistan and Great Britain flying overhead, a single bell tolled once each in the name of 15 Marines and a Navy corpsman who have died since I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) took over April 12 as the command element of Marine operations in southern Afghanistan. Fifteen of those 16 service members have died since May 2, when photographer Tom Brown and I arrived here with plans to embed with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, in Marjah, a former Taliban stronghold that is still hotly contested. Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, commander of Marine forces in Afghanistan, asked a crowd of 300 Marines assembled to put the deaths in perspective. (READ MORE)

Battle Rattle: Memorial Day is no summertime kick-off for these Marines - It’s been five years since 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines made the headlines for becoming the heaviest hit battalion in Iraq. The Reserve unit from Brook Park, Ohio, lost 46 Marines and two Navy corpsmen during its seven-month deployment to Al Anbar province, and while the headlines may have faded for the many, the memory of those lost brothers burns brightly for the few. A group of Marines currently and formerly in the 3/25, has organized an ambitious Memorial Day weekend event, a 106-mile run that will begin on Saturday at 7 a.m. at the Virginia War Memorial in Richmond, Va. They’ll run north on Route 1 and with a schedule based on a 13-minute mile, the runners expect to be in Fredericksburg at approximately 5 p.m., in Quantico around 9 p.m., with a projected finish-line crossing around 7 a.m. on Sunday. They hope to see at lot of people along the route – runners, walkers and flag wavers. (READ MORE)

better when we're together: A very special day - First, I just want to say thank you to all of the men and women who have fought all day every day for our freedom. I know that I am incredibly blessed because my soldier came home. There are so many out there who watched their "soldier" come home in a flag draped casket. I have been thinking a lot about Mrs. P the last few weeks. Her story has changed me. Remember the countless families like hers while you are cooking out today. This isn't just a day off of work and out of school. There is a very important meaning behind this holiday that is all too often overlooked. Now that I have said that, I have another reason to celebrate today. This time last year, I was spending my last day in SC running countless errands and packing up my stuff. It was the day before I left for Texas to welcome my husband home from a year in Iraq. That same day, somewhere near Dallas, our precious little Nani was born. (READ MORE)

CI-Roller Dude: My Flag - From the Soldier side: On the flight line in Mosoul Iraq, Jan 2005. My team and I were waiting for our “taxi ride” back to Baghdad, Iraq. (Do I really need to put “Iraq” after the city of Baghdad?) Our taxi for this trip was 2 Army Blackhawk helicopters. We were leaving that place after a mission was over…and we were very happy to get the heck out of there. As I always did when we were flying somewhere, I’d go to flight ops and tell them who we were and they’d look on a list and see if our travel agent had done his or her job and made the proper reservation…. “yep, you’re on the list. Your flight should be landing in about 20 minutes, so stay close, we’ll yell when the birds are inbound.” The flight ops sergeant told me. I left flight ops and walked over to where my team and our terp were waiting. Going back to Baghdad would mean we’d get a day or two off, and have mail waiting for us…so my guys were eager to go. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: The Keller precedent - Looking back into history for a precedent for the dismissal of the Task Force Kandahar commander, the guy who until yesterday was in charge of executing the lynchpin of the COMISAF/Obama strategy in Afghanistan this year, brings up slim pickings in the Canadian experience. The one exception would be the sad end of MGen R.F.L. Keller, commander of the Canadian division at D-Day. As Jack Granatstein wrote in The Generals, "Rod" Keller was considered by his colleagues before Normandy to be spending too much time with a married mistress while they were planning the invasion. It wasn't the only problem with Keller, either, even if he remained popular with his troops. As his 3rd Infantry Division began to falter after the initial success of the landings, Montgomery and other generals increasingly advocated for his firing, but Canadian corps commander Guy Simonds kept him on until he was accidentally wounded by a wayward U.S. bomb at the start of Operation Totalize. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Jalala-Not So Bad and Not So Good - Security incident rates around Afghanistan are skyrocketing and this year it appears that Jalalabad is, for the first time, going to get its fair share of attention. This unfortunate fact is forcing outside the wire implementers to spend an inordinate amount of time tea drinking and jaw jacking with various local officials and ISAF people in order to get a handle on just how safe we are. My assessment? We’re in for a bad summer, but not as bad a summer as the few internationals working outside the FOB’s in the south. There are two reasons for this; the first is most of us working outside the wire in the east have been here a long time and have developed networks to local people who provide both warning and protection. The second thing going in our favor is that the attacks are amateurish and stupid; even if we were being targeted, the chances of being caught in an effective attack are minimal. (READ MORE)

Hellcat Betty: Memorial Day - I've been hesitant to write about Memorial Day because I know many people have strong opinions about it and the general public's lack of awareness really ruffles some feathers amongst the military spouse crowd. The truth is, I used to be one of those people who thought of Memorial Day as a nice 3-day weekend and a good excuse to BBQ with friends. Just four years ago, I went on a long weekend camping trip with sunshine, a speedboat, and a lot of beer. I didn't give a second thought to the meaning behind the day. I was a typical American. When I started dating my husband, I didn't understand or respect the military way of life (you can read about this in more detail by clicking on the link to "Our Military Story" in the sidebar). Now it has become a part of me and who I am just as much as anything I've known from birth. I am a very proud military wife, and I get fired up when people are disrespectful to something I've come to love so dearly. (READ MORE)

Home From Iraq: Editorial in Today's Sunday News - I wrote an editorial in today's Lancaster Sunday News about Conservative Talk Show hosts who never served in the military. I like the headline they wrote. Radio/TV patriots snipe from safety of homefront - I was surrounded. I was taking fire on all sides. No, not from Iraqi insurgents, but from the conservatives I was eating lunch with in a dining facility or DFAC on Tallil Ali Air Base in Iraq. Last year I was deployed to Iraq with the 28th Combat Aviation Brigade, Pennsylvania Army National Guard. I knew I would be in the minority when I voted for Barack Obama for president, but sometimes I really felt like an Army of one — the one white, male Obama voter among the thousands of soldiers and airmen on base. We were real curiosities for each other, the conservatives and I. The most ardent among them listen to Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and others tell them that liberals are cowards and trying to destroy the nation and who knows what else. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Palestinians Matter More than Iraqis? - In the Middle East, and perhaps the rest of the world, the big news is that Israeli commandos attacked a convoy of six aid ships heading to Gaza. The ships reportedly carried food and medical supplies and a group of pro-Palestinian activists in defiance of the Israeli blockade. The attack, which each side blames the other for, resulted in the deaths of 19 activists and several injuries of both activists and Israeli commandos. This news was greeted with anger and several demonstrations and protests against in several Middle East capital cities. The TV stations have non-stop coverage of this story. Who can blame them? Nobody deserves to be killed. But I do understand that the activists had to know there would be trouble when they heard the Israeli warnings. And the Israeli soldiers know they face death every day when they put on their uniforms. I repeat, nobody deserves to be killed. But why is it that so often people are more horrified by the deaths of Palestinians than others? (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Current Rumours - The political stalemate has led to accusations and stories about Nouri Al Maliki and Ayad Allawi. Of course Maliki hasn't helped his case much. He appeared at a press conference and announced that he is the State of Law's one and only candidate for prime minister. Today one of the television stations quoted the Sadr movement's Haydar Ebadi as saying that Allawi's list was behind the recent bombings. The way these TV images are being analyzed by Iraqis hints at how they perceive the political situations. A dentist friend says that the Green Zone is Maliki's fiefdom. His people are in complete control of the area. Nobody can enter nor exit without the approval of Maliki and his gang. I have no idea whether this is true, I'm only telling you what I hear. Hillary Clinton's assistant told the Arabic paper Asharq Al Awsat that the United States does not wish to be involved in the settling of the Iraq government crisis. He said the White House sees this as an Iraqi issue. (READ MORE)

Kerplunk: Catching up with ... Hot Wheels - I hope everyone is enjoying a peaceful and relaxing Memorial Day weekend. And tomorrow ... I just hope we all remember and honor. One of the soldiers I'll be thinking of is Corporal Matt Wheeler - known as Hot Wheels in the Kaboom universe - a Gravedigger critically injured in a 2008 fire during our deployment to Iraq. Still at the Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas, where he's preparing to receive his honorable discharge, Wheels was kind enough to answer some questions for the interwebz. The last many readers heard from you, was June 2008, after you got hurt. Walk us through your recovery process since then - where have you been, who have you worked with, and how has the experience gone for you? Well, I've been at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio since then. I mainly worked with physical and occupational therapists that specialize in burn rehabilition. In the beginning, I would also see the burn clinic for routine check ups on my burns. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Should We Be In Afghanistan? - Having read Sebastian Junger's reasoned response to the same question, I've had awhile to think of my own. Unlike Sebastian, this war stuff is relatively new to me. My resume reads less like a human rights campaign than it does a bookworm who happened to raise kids. Sure, I'm an Army wife now, but for 23 years I was just a regular civilian wife with absolutely no ties to the military, and any engagement with world events was entirely selective. I think that's how most Americans live. We can turn off the tragedies, violence, inequities, murder and suffering at our choosing. We can spend more time thinking about Fair Trade and buying relatively green goods to make our houses more pleasant, than about infant mortality rates in the Sudan, or the selling of girls in Burma into prostitution rings in Thailand. There are people who don't even know about this stuff, and I can't blame them. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Remembering on Memorial Day - A few days ago I received a message from an Army medic. Angelia.. I tried so hard not to make memorial day a day for Moms to have to remember. I tried really hard to make sure it was a day their sons and daughters came home to see them, not the other way around. I just feel like crap this time of year. It tore my heart out because I know to him he is seeing Memorial Day as a mark of his failures. I want nothing more than to make him understand that he never failed. He did it all perfectly and yes there were those who died but not because he did not do his job well, perfectly, but because sometimes they were just too broken to fix. I know he and many others who served are not only remembering our Fallen this weekend but wrestling with their demons and yes even remembering the times of laughter and brotherhood. I hope they will focus on the memories of laughter and make Memorial Day a day more about celebrating those we lost and the lives they lived. (READ MORE)

Life as an Army Duck: An effort and a rant - This last weekend I made an effort and invited a fellow Army wife to the movies. It's funny because as I finished typing the message I thought about just deleting it and not bothering, I clicked send any way and ended up meeting and spending the weekend with a great bunch of people. I'm not a shy person and I love having friends but sometimes when B is away I feel like going through my days alone. It's comfortable being alone. I call my family less and most of my spare time is spent watching movies and reading. Although my weekend didn't have a moment of alone time it felt comfortable and it ended to fast. I'm now invited to dinner on Tuesday and Friday too :-) In other news I have finally conformed and am now the owner of an iPhone. We are still getting to know each other but so far I like it apart from the fact that the battery life is pretty crappy when you are actually using it and that it's pretty much impossible to text while driving (ok, ok, I know that it's illegal). (READ MORE)

Loving A Soldier Blog: "Happy Memorial Day"? Lets talk about it. - This post is coming from the reading of a number of blogs today and of some facebook conversations. Some people wonder why many say "Happy" memorial Day. This is legitimate , but I want to give a possible explanation. If you disagree, or have something to add, I would love to have you do that, since I think that this is a national conversation, and we can learn something valuable perhaps from each other. I saw many well meaning people, even military people, saying "Happy Memorial Day". I myself said it once today, early in the day, and though I don't generally feel comfortable with the "Happy" part, learned to watch myself after reading of the pain that it was bringing to those who have suffered the loss of a hero. (it is not just their loss but ours as well). Memorial Day is set aside to honor the lives lost in battle. It is a solemn and heartwretching time. Our culture now does not do solemn. (READ MORE)

Our Army Life: Deployment 2010: Thank God That Such Men Lived… - When five fireman died in a blaze in New York City in 1908, Chief Ed Croker had this to say at their funeral: Firemen are going to get killed. When they join the department they face that fact. When a man becomes a fireman, his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. What he does after that is all in the line of work.” Just like firemen, the men and women of our military accomplish their greatest act of bravery when they sign on the dotted line, writing a check made payable to the United States Government “up to and including my life.” In the memo line is written, “In Defense of our Great Nation.” I wrote my check to the United States Government 6 years ago this past Friday, on May 28th, 2004 at the Military Entrance and Processing Station (MEPS) on University Avenue in Des Moines, Iowa. I remember the fear and anxiety I had simply signing the papers. The contract had been drawn up, the benefits were all in order: (READ MORE)

Rajiv Srinivasan: Memorial - My Platoon Sergeant and I saunter behind the massive formation of Attack Company soldiers heading towards the Chapel on FOB Ramrod. Heads hang low under a somber overtone. There are no drums to synchronize our steps; we march only to the beats of our heavy hearts. The chapel is a hideous building with tawdry colors and chipped paint. A large gravel patch forms a courtyard outside the chapel’s entrance. Around its edges are twelve Strykers, stylistically postured to add a military touch to the scene and create a closed setting in the Kandahar desert. Attack Company forms to the front of the memorial display in front of the chapel. We walk to the cold wrap of a classical guitar adagio. The ceremonial display itself is nothing spectacular. Crossed staffs bearing an American Flag and the 2-1 Infantry Regimental colors form the backdrop for the small shrine. An M4 rifle stands upright, its bayonet lodged into a felt covered wooden desk in front of the flags: (READ MORE)

SemperFi Wife: Promises Kept. Memorial Day 2010 - My son's unit deployed to Afghanistan in the fall of 2009. All of these men were volunteers. Most of them raised their right hand and swore an oath after 9/11. To join the military at this point, knowing you will most likely be deployed to a combat zone is enough to make someone very proud that these young men exist. My son's unit returned from Afghanistan this week. Seven families in his unit won't get the homecoming they had dreamed of. Seven men raised their right hand, took an oath, accepted the risks and gave all. These seven men made promises and they kept them. When these men died, I made promises to their families (if I was able to be in touch) or just to myself that I would remember them always. These men kept their promises. I am keeping mine. (READ MORE)

Terry Glavin: Massouda Jalal, Jose Maria Aznar Win UN Watch Human Rights Awards - Dr. Massouda Jalal, the first woman in Afghanistan to run for presidential office, and who later served as Afghanistan's Minister for Women’s Affairs, has been given UN Watch’s Morris B. Abram Human Rights Award, a prize named after the late founder of UN Watch. “It is not the sole responsibility of the international community or the UN to ensure our freedom. But how can it be that under their watch, we women, and many men too, have seen their freedoms eroded so substantially?” asked Dr. Jalal. “Women’s rights are the key to fighting dictatorship and extremism, militarization and warlordism. Women are the key to the future.” Dr. Jalal will visit Canada soon to testify before Parliament. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Canadian general sacked for hanky-panky within the rankys - (I'd like to thank Tom Ricks for that little euphemism) A few months ago, military blogger Michael Yon leveled a number of accusations against Canadian Brigadier General Daniel Bernard, the commander of Canadian (and a contingent of American) forces in Southern Afghanistan. Among them were accusations of an improper relationship with a subordinate soldier. At the time, Yon gave no further evidence to support his claim, leading me to believe that the accusation may have simply been a rumor. Such rumors seem to always be flying about during deployments. However, as I spent the weekend in Toronto, I just happened to open today's Globe and Mail, where, lo and behold, I discovered that Michael Yon was right. General Menard was, in fact, relieved of command in Afghanistan, pending investigation into an inappropriate relationship with a fellow soldier. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Court Confirms Election Results - Iraq's supreme court ratified the results of the March 7 election, officially ruling that Ayad Allawi's Iraqiya list won the vote. The announcement has almost gone unnoticed. The focus here is more on the Green Zone checkpoints, which are under Iraqi control as of today. And, of course, people are still talking about the Israeli raid on the Gaza aid boat. Even here in Baghdad, a few hundred people protested [Arabic] the Israeli attack. The group was led by the Sadr gang, but nevertheless some Iraqis expressed their anger at Israel. When I wrote yesterday that Iraqis often ask why nobody protests the attacks on the civilians here, I did not mean that Palestinians should not be supported. I only ask why can't people sympathize with both plights. One guy wrote maybe if a boat of aid for Iraqis was attacked by another country, people would express their disgust. Wow. Who would have ever thought Iraqi civilians had to prove themselves this way. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Afghan commandos retake eastern district from the Taliban - Afghan commandos, backed by Coalition advisers and air support, have retaken a district in eastern Afghanistan that had been captured by the Taliban last weekend. More than 200 Afghan commandos “assisted by a small contingent of coalition partners” retook the district of Barg-e-Matal in Nuristan province yesterday, the International Security Assistance Force said in a press release. The district was recaptured just two days after Afghan police abandoned Barg-e-Matal as part of a “tactical retreat” to avoid civilian casualties. The operation to retake the district began early on May 31, when Coalition air support engaged the Taliban with “precision-guided airstrikes on known insurgent locations near Barg-e-Matal,” ISAF stated in a press release. “The airstrikes were requested by local officials and ANSF [Afghan National Security Force] commanders,” ISAF said. (READ MORE)




News from the Home Front:
Redefining Gender Roles in Combat - Should women be allowed to serve in combat? The military and some in Congress are creeping toward “yes,’’ and the reality in Iraq and Afghanistan is that many women already do. (READ MORE)

As ‘Don’t Ask’ Fades, Military Faces Thorny Issues - For opponents of the ban against homosexuals serving openly in the military, the steps by Congress this week to repeal the policy, known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” were a major victory. (READ MORE)


News from the Front:
Iraq:

A Farewell to the Green Zone - Perhaps it is inevitable, the way momentous beginnings have small endings. The destruction of the Salam Palace was big, wrecked by the Americans as they invaded in 2003 and established the Green Zone. (READ MORE)

The Praying Women of Sadr City - Every Friday, thousands of men arrive for prayers in the tattered street outside the headquarters of Moktada al-Sadr in the neighborhood that bears his name. Hidden behind the concrete office walls, a couple hundred women gather as well. (READ MORE)

Iraqi high court certifies March vote results - Iraq's Supreme Court on Tuesday certified the final results of a March 7 parliamentary election, affirming the narrow victory of a cross-sectarian coalition led by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. (READ MORE)

Iraq's supreme court upholds March election result - The supreme court has ratified the result after months of delay Iraq's supreme court has ratified the results of the March election, officially ruling that Iyad Allawi's Iraqiyya party won by a narrow margin. (READ MORE)

Service members in Iraq mark Memorial Day - Inside the ornate palace of the late dictator Saddam Hussein, now the main headquarters of U.S. forces in Iraq, dozens of U.S. service members bowed their heads in prayer at a Memorial Day commemoration. (READ MORE)

Iraq’s Psyche, Through a Green Zone Prism - The term was coined by the American military. But unlike some others — say, entry control points — the name managed to stick in the popular imagination. (READ MORE)

Iraq's Sunni insurgent groups gather to plot comeback amid political crisis - Seven years after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, dozens of Iraqis representing various insurgent groups checked into a five-star hotel in Istanbul this spring to plot a comeback. (READ MORE)


Afghanistan:
Backward at Bagram - One of the most vital jobs of the federal courts is to check excessive claims of presidential power. The courts have stepped up to the task at important times since President George W. Bush embarked on a campaign after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to create an imperial presidency. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Suspends Two Aid Groups - The Afghan government suspended the operations of two church-based relief groups on Monday over suspicions that they were involved in converting Afghans to Christianity, even though the evidence against them apparently consisted of nothing more than a listing in a telephone directory. (READ MORE)

In Afghan region, U.S. spreads the cash to fight the Taliban - In this patch of southern Afghanistan, the U.S. strategy to keep the Taliban at bay involves an economic stimulus. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan's Jirga Is A Centuries - Old Institution - Afghanistan is this week holding a peace jirga, or meeting of tribal councils, to discuss President Hamid Karzai's plan to seek reconciliation with the Taliban to end the insurgency. (READ MORE)

Taliban Scorn Afghan National Peace Conference - Afghan insurgent groups Tuesday dismissed this week's national conference on how to lure fighters off the battlefield, saying the three-day meeting would merely draw government loyalists to rubber-stamp a program that cannot succeed. (READ MORE)

NATO Has High Hopes for Afghan Peace Council - Western leaders are banking on a national peace council set to begin here on Wednesday to start a new chapter in Afghanistan’s political life, bringing the country together and strengthening President Hamid Karzai, even as security deteriorated on Sunday in several areas of the country. (READ MORE)

American general to take command of British troops in Helmand province - An American general will today take over command of all British forces in Helmand province in a symbolic move that underlines Britain’s diminished role in southern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Afghan, Foreign Forces Recapture District From Taliban - Afghan forces backed by international troops have retaken a remote district near the Pakistan border that was captured by the Taliban at the weekend, officials said on Tuesday. (READ MORE)

McChrystal: Evidence is 'clear' Iran aids Taliban - The commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan said on Sunday there is "clear evidence" that some Taliban fighters have trained in Iran. (READ MORE)

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