August 30, 2010

From the Front: 08/30/2010

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


FaST Surgeon (in Afghanistan): Picture Of The Day - 29 AUG 2010 "Instructions" - My first encounter with Army "instructions" for the simplest of tasks was in 1984, during basic training. I remember picking up a LAW rocket and seeing the instructions right there on the launch tube. How convenient. I thought, why is that silly drill sergeant expending so much energy telling me how to use this thing, when it's all right there on the launch tube? Flash forward 25 plus years. Instructions are posted everywhere. This is even worse that the PowerPoint epidemic noted by our friend, Starbuck at Wings Over Iraq. But seriously, isn't this just going a bit too far? Do we really need to see instructions for how to flush a toilet? Are we that stupid, or is the toilet engineering that suboptimal? I really hope it's the engineering. If not, I vote to "use stick located in center of latrine" for beating yourself senseless. (READ MORE)

A Little Pink in a World of Camo: Bubba's Belly - I am posting from Tybee Island, Georgia, right outside of Savannah. I'm spending a weekend with 14 of the most awesomest women... fellow military widows. So far, things have been going great. I feel like I've really gotten to just be myself, talk about whatever I want and no one is thinking I'm nuts or judging - in fact many have thought, felt, or did the things I sometimes wonder make me a little on the crazy side. Thank God for fellow widows and how much sanity, comfort, and most importantly friendship I feel from being around them. I'm taking a break from my widow adventures to blog about something really awesome real quick though. I have met a widow this weekend, Nicki Bunting, who is doing great things. The first great thing, is she worked her butt off to hold the plane for me when I was literally RUNNING through the airport. Luckily I made it before take off, phew. (READ MORE)

ACU's, Stiletto Shoes, and Pretty Pink Tutus: I'm clinging to the promise... - A lot of people are wondering about my status updates on Twitter and Facebook yesterday. I haven't even started responding to all the comments and messages yet because I'm exhausted but trying to stay positive for my G.I. Joe. I had planned a really happy post about the re-enlistment process. I was all giddy about how I got one really fundamental military wife experience recently besides just saying goodbye all the time. Last week I got to with G.I. Joe and talk to his recruiter! Haha such a thrill :) But it really was. I haven't gotten to see much of military life besides 1 homecoming, 1 formal ball, and a whole lot departures. So this was awesome. One of the most fun things about this has been that the Marine recruiters work right next to the Army ones and those Marines are very persistent. For some reason they've decided I was meant to be one of the few and the proud. (READ MORE)

AfghaniDan, Part II: Braadar Urdu - (Title translation: Army brother.) This post is a shout out to my little bro Steve, who celebrates a birthday today and begins his real period of military service tomorrow. Two months ago he was commissioned as a shiny new 2nd Lieutenant, as was my cousin Liam, and I couldn't be prouder of them. Since I was here and not there, I'll take the unusual step of posting photos from some places I was not (well, with exception...read on). As these two lieutenants begin formal schooling in active military service, I want them to know a few things...and not just that they are still kids to this suddenly very old-timer. First, your family is behind you always, and will support you in everything that you do. Crucially, you will encounter days that make you regret like hell the decision to join up. Even as a Marine, I have experienced more than my share of those, and you joined the Army, for God's sake! (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: floods in south Pakistan receding - After thousands more people fled the Sindhi city of Thatta and nearby towns in southern Pakistan as another levee was breached on Saturday, emergency officials said earlier today that floodwaters are beginning to recede, though cautioned that it could be 10 to 12 days before the swollen Indus River reaches "normal flow". The Pakistani Army has deployed units along the length of the Indus in Sindh, the province now worst affected by the flooding, which has suffered damages of at least Rs 438 billion ($5.1 billion). The effects of the last month of flooding will likely be felt in Pakistan for years; the Post reports that "1.2 million houses, 10,000 schools, 35 bridges and nine percent of the national highway system have been damaged or destroyed," and livestock losses and "extensive agricultural ruin" are "unique to this disaster". The U.N. has assessed that some 3.5 million Pakistani children are at risk for waterborne diseases. (READ MORE)

Castra Praetoria: Under the black flag. - America's 1stSgt Vents - The problem with being a Marine is sometimes lesser beings try to hobble you with their own perceived limitations. In the case of FAST Co this takes the form of Sailors losing their minds over the day to day activities of Marines. In Bahrain any time a FAST Marine is seen doing anything resembling training with an actual weapon we always get a phone call from the Naval Security types. "There are Marines with rifles! THEY HAVE RIFLES!" Seriously? I would trust the average Marine with a rifle over most anyone else. Lately my favorite thing is getting calls about Marines conducting physical training (PT). It is summer in the Middle East which means it is furiously hot and in Bahrain, humid as well. In deathly fear of heat injuries no one is allowed to PT when the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature is over 90 degrees. We call this black flag conditions. In the Marine Corps units generally cancel all non-essential physical activity outside. (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: ‘We want to talk to the Taliban. But they would rather kill themselves - Control of Kandahar is key to withdrawal from Afghanistan. But the coming US offensive there will be a bloody one, writes Kim Sengupta, The Independent. The first sign of the attack was somewhat mystifying: a tractor suddenly going up in flames on farmland beyond the base. But there no ambiguity about what followed. A group of men charged, the first blowing himself up as he reached the fence, the others behind opening up with rifle fire. At the same moment, the first of a salvo of rockets launched from a distance landed inside Kandahar airfield. It lasted no more than a few minutes. Once the tractor packed with explosives had prematurely detonated there was little chance of the Taliban fighters getting through, their suicide vests exploding as the Western troops cut them down. As the gunfire ended, and the smoke and fire began to clear, body parts and dismembered heads could be seen lying amid the unused arsenal – rocket-propelled grenade launchers, hand grenades and Kalashnikovs. (READ MORE)

Julie the Army Wife: Daddies, Deployments & Bonding - I love taking pictures like this. AJ is so completely bonded to his daddy. DW is too. But there is a difference. Ben joined the Army when DW was 13 months old. He was there for the whole pregnancy, birth and all that time. When Ben left for Germany, they were solid. We didn’t see Ben again until DW was 18 months old but they picked up right where they left off. There has always been something so special between DW and his daddy. AJ was born while Daddy was in Iraq. Ben left for R&R hoping to make it home in time for the birth but he missed it by 3 days. Actually he called from the Baghdad Airport and my mom answered the phone to tell him he had been born. Ben arrived when he was 3 days old and we had 2 wonderful weeks together. Then it was time to say goodbye. My parents were visiting so I left the boys with them and took him to the train station. He leaned down to kiss AJ goodbye and I lost it. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: RESTREPO: What A Parent Doesn't Know - Tonight, I'm packing a care package for a friend's son who is deployed to a combat zone. The friend is a journalist, the son a Marine. It's not the first time the son has been deployed, but his family worries endlessly. Whenever I meet another parent, I give them attention and respect, along with my card. I want them to contact me on nights they can't sleep. I look forward to seeing their photos when their sons our daughters come home. If they live close enough, I want them at my house for dinner. And should something happen, all of us should be there for one another as well. Still, there's a lot us families don't know. The reasons are many. From them not wanting to upset us, to not being able to speak about some of the emotionally ratcheting things they have seen. But the journalist, who has embedded many times, knows the specifics and dangers the son faces. While each of us tries to find out as much as we can, my journalist friend knows so much more than most. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Pokey and the Packers… - Sitting here watching the Green Bay Packers play I can’t help but think about Micheal. The last night we spent with Micheal we watched the Packers play. Oct.7th 2007 They played the Bears.. I can’t remember who won. I just remember he and his Dad and his brothers in my dad’s living room on the edge of the couch watching the game. Many months later his team Leader Sgt W would tell me that during playoff in Jan. 08 he was up in the middle of the night alone watching TV. “Hey Phillips, why aren’t you sleeping?” “It’s the Packers” As if that explained everything. I laughed when the story was told me. I can see him alone in the TV room at the FOB in Iraq watching the playoff game…yelling at the play. Micheal was such a huge Packer fan. I guess that comes from the years of living in Green Bay just a few blocks from Lambeau field. And I am sure watching them play was a connection to home for him. (READ MORE)

One Marine's View: Life while he’s gone - This summer while Lance Cpl. Tom Geoco is supporting the war in Afghanistan, his wife Ashley will be giving birth to their third child. She will miss him. She will miss his laugh and bright smile … his presence. She will miss how, when he walks into a room their two boys, Kellan and Carter, light up and run to him yelling, “Daddy!” He’ll miss the family routine. He’ll miss 7 o’clock, after he’s read the boys a story and put them to bed. He’ll miss when it’s just the two of them, curled up together on the off-white sofa watching their shows together — the married with kids version of a date. As much as he’ll miss his wife, with her unconditional love, he’ll miss those boys. They’re at the ages where the world is just starting to come into focus for them. He could watch them explore all day, showing them things along the way — their tour guide to life. He’ll miss being there for the boys and he won’t be there for her. He won’t be there for the odd cravings as her stomach swells. (READ MORE)

Wings Over Iraq: Al-Qaeda: Franchise or Conglomerate? (Redux) - Counter-terrorism experts have long debated the relationship between al-Qaeda headquarters in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region and its numerous "spin-off" groups: al-Qaeda in Iraq, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Shabaab, et alia. Some of the best work on the subject comes from US Army Captain Josh McLaughlin, a field artillery officer who blogs at al-Sahwa (Arabic for "The Awakening"). McLaughlin has written a series of articles examining two popular theories on the nature of al-Qaeda: the "franchise" model and the "conglomerate" model. In an article posted to Small Wars Journal in January, McLaughlin discussed the relationship between al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab, a Somali-based terrorist network. According to McLaughlin, franchises—the usual term applied to al-Qaeda affiliates all over the world--operate with a high degree of central control, generally taking marching orders from a corporate headquarters. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: 72 painful hours - On Monday, America woke up to more solemn news from Afghanistan's southern front. According to NATO's International Security Assistance Force, seven coalition troops were killed in two improvised explosive device attacks. The Associated Press reports that all seven fallen service members are Americans. The tragic developments come just hours after we learned that seven volunteer warriors, also Americans, were killed over the weekend in southern and eastern Afghanistan. After losing 14 American troops in the last three days, the unofficial August U.S. casualty total in Afghanistan now stands at 49. Of course, the men and women we've lost this month are not statistics. Marines, soldiers, airmen, and sailors fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq signed up to defend our nation and are willing to give their lives for causes greater than themselves. While the national media often has more interest in prying into the lives of celebrities and sports figures, The Unknown Soldiers was created to tell the personal stories of these valiant warriors. (READ MORE)

The Captain's Journal: Marines Posture Over Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle - The Orange County Register has an interesting article on the next U.S. Marine Corps installment of their defense of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV). "CAMP PENDLETON – On a cool day in late June, the Marines asked local media to board this seaside base and learn more about a new 80,000-pound hulking war machine – the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle or EFV. They handed out information packets with glossy brochures, touting the $16.7 million amphibious machine as far more lethal, agile and sophisticated than the current assault vehicle, now nearly 40 years in service." The OCR also has an interesting multimedia presentation in which the following question, among others, is posed: “Would helicopters and Ospreys ferrying troops to shore, landing behind enemy beach positions, remove the need for a beach landing under fire?” Indeed. Has the OCR been reading The Captain’s Journal? It isn’t that I don’t see the tactical value of the EFV. (READ MORE)

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