August 12, 2010

From the Front: 08/12/2010

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


Afghani Kush: four months back - Adjusting is hard, some days I'm more homesick for Afghanistan than I was for my family while I was gone. People change over 15 months, they move on and change while you stay the same, stuck in the ever changing never changing limbo of combat. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: They are prisoners, they don’t get any friggen rights - I just read this article and it made me sick to my stomach. “The prisoner escaped a room where he was observing prayer time, acquired a rifle and subsequently engaged Afghan and coalition forces. The Marines were killed while trying to subdue the prisoner,” said NATO in a statement. This is what we get for being comfy-feely with these despicable piece of crap that are our enemies. I cannot imagine what the families will feel when they find out their loved ones were killed so this oxygen stealer could have his “prayer time”. When will our government and military leadership realize and understand that the muslim culture takes kindness for weakness. They don’t appreciate or respect that we give them prayer time, be nice to them or give them their favorite meals. What we need is Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to be in charge of all detainee operations and policies on the battlefront. (READ MORE)

The Rumor Doctor: Can being overweight cost you campaign awards? - If you spend most of your time on a big forward operating base, you might be tempted to frequent the chow hall more than the gym. But before you get to know the guy at the ice cream bar on a first-name basis, The Rumor Doctor feels obliged to inform you of a recent rumor he heard that might affect you, your belly and any future decorations on your suddenly stretched uniform. Is it true that soldiers who exceed height/weight standards are not eligible for awards, including campaign medals and ribbons? One soldier in Iraq who spends about 12 hours every day at a desk with no time to work out during his shift, doesn’t like the sound of that. “I am 6-1 and about 280 depending on the scale and actually am pretty healthy overall,” the soldier said in an e-mail to The Rumor Doctor. “I can work just as long and just as hard as many others in the Army. Sadly enough those that smoke five packs a day don’t have any restrictions placed on them yet I can outperform most of them in many areas.” (READ MORE)

The Rumor Doctor: Follow-up visit: Helping 'fobbits' get fit - The Rumor Doctor reported earlier this week that soldiers flagged for being overweight are not eligible for campaign awards. The blog sparked a lively discussion on the comment thread about keeping fit downrange, with most readers falling solidly into the “just stay in shape” camp. But the Doctor knows it can be a real challenge for some troops to exercise, especially those who never get off the forward operating base. And today, he’s got the prescription. The Doctor enlisted Nick Palmisciano, West Point grad and now president and CEO of Ranger Up, to offer up a few suggestions for how “fobbits” can get fit. And be sure to check out the full Web slideshow for step-by-step illustrated instructions. Enjoy. Exercise No. 1: Fobgeneration - It takes nine seconds from the time you die in “Call of Duty” until you regenerate. Most people waste that time sitting in a chair getting fatter. You can maximize it for an optimal workout. (READ MORE)

ACU's, Stiletto Shoes, and Pretty Pink Tutus: A place where branch is the last thing you'll think of. [Guest post by: Wife of a Wounded Soldier] - Bryan, my husband, was in the Army for almost 12 years before he was medically retired from injuries sustained by an IED. He always felt very proud to be in the Army and loved the branch of service that he chose. I was involved with other Army Wives but until Bryan was injured I had never been around other branches of the military. Some branches think they are superior to others, or they think certain branches have better qualities. When we arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Center all the branches were put on the same Ward. There was no division of branch we were all there for the same reasons, to rehabilitate. Later we started to notice when going to a Gala or Ball and the service members were in their dress uniforms that many branches of the Military were represented. As these warriors were receiving treatment they were not lucky enough to be able to wear their uniform every day. (READ MORE)

Erica Gaston: The problem of "population protection" - The U.N. and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission have just issued their statistics and analysis on civilian harm in the first half of 2010. According to their findings, the tactical restrictions put in place by former ISAF commanding General Stanley McChrystal in 2009 and largely retained by General David Petraeus, his successor, are working: the number of civilian casualties caused by "Pro-government forces" (largely international forces) is down. Insurgents are responsible for the majority of civilian casualties (deaths and injuries) - 76% according to yesterday's U.N. report. But if you were to ask the average Afghan who was more to blame for civilian casualties, their answer would most likely not reflect the bald statistics. My organization, Open Society Foundations, conducted research across all regions of Afghanistan in the fall of 2009 and spring of 2010, asking community elders about their views of the different warring parties, and what they saw as the causes of the conflict. (READ MORE)

Battle Rattle: ‘Oorah,’ ‘I’m tracking,’ and other well-worn cliches - Fellow blogger ninja Phil Ewing has an interesting post on Scoop Deck today that pokes fun at some well-worn phrases that are as common in the Marine Corps as brass on a range. As Phil points out, a Scoop Deck commenter and sailor expressed displeasure that the Corps’ throaty “oorah” is apparently making inroads into the Navy — although the sailor wrote it “Hoorah,” so maybe he was talking about some sort of Army motivation. In any event, the sailor also mentioned that he’s sick of hearing ” You tracking?” from individuals who want to know whether not the person they’re speaking with understands what they are saying. I have to admit: Spending day after day with Marines, that’s something I certainly have done, along with acknowledging in the affirmative that, yes, I was indeed “tracking” on something. Now, a variation on a cliche that is sure to blow Scoop Deck’s mind. (READ MORE)

Capt. Henry Brewster: The Way Forward in Iraq - In January 2009, Newsweek published a cover story about what victory in Iraq really looked like. The reporter drew his conclusions largely from interviews conducted in the area of Iraq in which my battalion was operating. The article was bleak in its assessments and contained the phrase, “Iraqi good enough.” Initially when I read it, I was incensed and upset with the defeatist tone. In rereading the article a half-dozen times at various points throughout my deployment and in the months since returning home, though, I have come to accept more of its premise. The shift for me, I suppose, is from that of an enthusiastic idealist to a reluctant realist. I now believe that while there have been successes founded in the American-Iraqi partnership, the utility of the large, forward-deployed United States military force in Iraq is eroding. Throughout 2009, the Bush administration worked bilaterally with the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to broker an agreement on the future of the U.S. military presence in Iraq. (READ MORE)

Candace de Russy: ‘Non-Terrorist’ Taliban’s Slaughter of Aid Team Latest in Atrocities - The Taliban – never formally recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. – took credit for the recent execution of ten Western doctors, nurses and translators in northern Afghanistan, where they were delivering free medical care to the poor. Add this to this radical Islamist organization’s many other assassinations and abductions of aid workers that, according to the Agency Coordinating Body of Afghan Relief, has spiked dramatically in recent years. As acknowledged in a new State Department report on terrorism, the Taliban also murders and maims Afghan civilians, with special attention to young girls attending school, kills foreign diplomats, and plots against the U.S. homeland. It has, of course, targeted our troops in the nearly nine-year-old war in Afghanistan. These disfigurements (such as cutting off arms or ears) and executions are, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, a “war tactic”: (READ MORE)

Family Matters Blog: Website Helps Families ‘Know Before You Go’ - A new American Forces Press Service Web special, “Focus on Family: Know Before You Go” is highlighting how military families prepare for and deal with deployments. The special features a variety of stories, from single dads preparing to deploy to dual-military couples who will be deploying together. It also includes links to helpful information, including service-specific deployment resources. The goal of the special is to help people “know before you go,” and we hope you find it useful. We’d also love to hear from you. If you have some tips that have helped your family prepare for or handle a deployment, don’t hesitate to write in. (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: Army Now Issuing Medium Ruck for Afghan Ops - You’ll remember Kit Up! broke the news in May about the Army’s selection of the Medium Ruck — a middle-road backpack that allows troopers to carry enough gear for a couple nights at a remote firebase or COP. The Army selected an external frame design along the lines of the current MOLLE Ruck, with a 3,000 cube+ capacity. “It’s going to the capability for Soldiers to carry equipment between that 24 and 72 hours,” said Lt. Col. Mike Sloane, a top PEO Soldier official. “The intent is to have everything they need but not too much, because when you’re climbing up and down the mountains of Afghanistan, every ounce counts.” “We’re trying to right-size the Soldier for a specific mission and tailor his equipment to do that.” The Medium Ruck is now being issued to Soldiers kitting up for deployment to Afghanistan in their new (now it’s called OEF Camouflage Pattern) MultiCam. And the airborne center is in the process to get the same pack certified for airborne ops. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Afghan, US forces target al Qaeda, Pakistani fighters in southeastern Afghanistan - A combined Afghan and Coalition force targeted al Qaeda and Pakistani fighters during raids in the southeastern province of Zabul. Twenty suspected Taliban fighters were detained during the operations. The target of the two raids was an "al Qaeda foreign fighter facilitator" in the district of Shamulzai, which directly borders the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, a haven for the Taliban across the border. Fifteen Taliban fighters were detained in the first raid, while five more were detained during a second raid that "pursued a group of suspected Pakistani foreign fighters who fled the targeted compound," the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release. Al Qaeda maintains a presence in Zabul province, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal. US military press releases document the presence of al Qaeda and "foreign fighter" cells in the districts of Shamulzai and Shah Joy; or two of Zabul's 11 districts. (READ MORE)

Magnolias and Mimosas: My life is made up of bizarre stories - The type of stories that when retold, often leave people wondering "how does that happen?" For example, I could tell you how I crashed my husband's truck into our house and caused $10,000 dollars worth of damage to both the house and the truck. (Thank God for insurance!) Or, I could tell you how that was the SECOND time I have had a vehicle collide into a house. Yes, I said second. But that is a story for another day. Tonight, my home phone rang, and I realized I do not know my own phone number. And not because I simply can not remember my home phone number, but because C and I were never given a home phone number when we signed up for service. Let me explain. About a year ago, C and I moved to Virginia. Since we were only going to be there for a few months, we decided to forgo the land line and rely on our cell phones. Then we moved again, and since we were used to using only our cell phones. We did not really feel like bothering with another service. (READ MORE)

Red Bull Rising: Water, Water Everywhere - The heat at Camp Shelby, Miss., is a gut-punch, and the back-and-forth between allegedly air-conditioned buildings is a forced march along molten blacktop. If there's any breeze at all, it smells of pine and asphalt, skunk and sweat--his sweat, her sweat, your sweat. After even a short walk between buildings, your uniform will be soaked. The trick to survival is to learn how to not mind being sweaty. Or sticky. Or smelly. The brigade commander has issued a uniform policy that includes the wear of a "hydration system" wherever you go(canteens went out with the 20th century Army). The need to drink water is constant, and everyone reminds everyone else to "drink water!" There are even official Army posters about how to self-diagnose the color of one's urine. I remember working Washington, D.C., and sweating the walk between pools of cool. I'd pop out of a dark Metro tunnel, and trudge and sludge my way to an office kennel. (READ MORE)

Rajiv Chandrasekaran: Kandahar mayor's claim to shopkeeper-occupied land dividing residents - To the north of this city, U.S. soldiers are in the throes of an arduous operation to clear insurgents from lush vineyards and pomegranate groves. To the east, other newly arrived U.S. units are preparing for another wave of clearing operations. Not to be left out, Kandahar's feisty mayor has decided to do some clearing of his own: He recently ordered a bustling bazaar next to the governor's palace to be razed in the name of counterinsurgency. His goal was not to rob insurgents of a sanctuary -- the 500 chockablock stalls were no more of a Taliban redoubt than any other place in the city -- but to build a new high school for boys. The merchants, he said, had been squatting on land that belongs to the government. A new school, he argued, would provide a valuable service to the population. "This will be very good for the people of Kandahar," said the mayor, Ghulam Haider Hamidi. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Korengal Abandoned, Pech River Valley Still Problematic - It’s obvious that there are TIC (troops in contact) in the Pech River Valley, and it’s also obvious that there are plenty of insurgents in the area. Friend Joshua Foust, with whom I seldom disagree, argued for leaving the rural, isolated areas in favor of heavy force projection in the heavily populated areas, a strategy that was and is being employed by the administration in a tip of the hat to population-centric counterinsurgency. I argued, on the other hand (in the context of Helmand and Kahdahar), that: It is a strange argument indeed that sends Marines to Kandahar while the insurgents in Now Zad have separated themselves off from civilians and invited a fight. So send more Marines to Kandahar to control the streets. The Taliban bullying will stop once a Regimental Combat Team arrives. This should not be too difficult to pull off. (READ MORE)

BostonMaggie: The Social Graces - I am not exactly the Duchess of Windsor, but I was raised to be polite. I was taught how to act in polite society. When people say "How are you?" I reply "Well...and yourself?" It's an automatic thing. I know that rarely in casual conversation do other people actually want to know that something is wrong. They don't want to hear about your troubles. Well sometimes it's just silly. For example, yesterday. I was sitting on the exam table waiting for Dr. Miller to come in. I had just detailed my problems to Kate the nurse practitioner. "How are you?" "Well, and yourself?" He laughs and says he's heard that I am not so well and I say "Well, this is how I was raised." Then we go on to our discussion. Once he penetrates my profound shock with his insistence that I must begin chemo in an hour, I began to cry and I could not stop. There was a constant stream of tears rolling down my face. We were having this whole conversation about the medications and dosages and schedules....and I am quietly crying. (READ MORE)

Some Soldier's Mom: MY COUNTRY: SMASH HITS to Benefit Military - As those of you who are familiar with my blog know, Fisher House is very near and dear to my heart as the DH and I were guests at the Fisher House in Landstuhl, Germany when our son was wounded in Iraq in '05. The Fisher House Foundation provides housing for the military, both active and retired as well as the families of military personnel who are receiving treatment at a military medical center. Fisher House Foundation has a network of 50 comfort homes in the United States. Each facility is 5,000 to 16,000 square feet, with as many as 21 suites, donated to the military and Department of Veterans Affairs by the Fisher House Foundation. There is NO FEE to stay at these homes. I have extolled Fisher House and the tremendous service they provide. We love Fisher House and will always be grateful that Zach Fisher (and the Fisher Family) so loved our military, saw a need and filled it! (READ MORE)

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