August 31, 2010

From the Front: 08/31/2010

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

FaST Surgeon (in Afghanistan): Picture Of The Day - 30 AUG 2010 "Brawler" - Task Force (TF) Brawler is the air asset which provides rotary air medical evacuation (MedEvac) capability for the our area of operation (AO). They are, as Starbuck pointed out, an excellent organization. They deserve our accolades. But it also occurred to me that most people don't know what makes a MedEvac different from a Casualty Evacuation (CasEvac) vehicle. MedEvac and CasEvac are portmanteaus (I just like saying "portmanteau"), as described above. What makes a MedEvac has nothing to do with the mode of travel (air, land, or sea). Rather, a MedEvac is a vehicle (helicopter, truck, boat) that is standardized / dedicated (layout and equipment) to the mission of evacuating wounded/patients AND has a crew who's main purpose is to provide patient care. A CasEvac is therefore, any vehicle that does not serve as a dedicated means of transport for patient care and does not have personnel who have the capability to provide patient care past that of the now ubiquitous and basic "combat life saver". (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Afghan bombings kill U.S. soldiers - Seven U.S. soldiers were killed in two separate bombings in southern Afghanistan yesterday, and five today in the south and east, bringing the total of U.S. troops killed since Saturday to 19. The Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based insurgent group, has reportedly been expanding its operations across southern and eastern Afghanistan, and on the outskirts of Kabul, an unknown gunman opened fired on a bus of employees of the Afghan Supreme Court, killing three. Since 2004, nearly 13,000 wounded U.S. service personnel have reportedly been evacuated to the largest American-run medical facility outside the U.S., Landstuhl, next to Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan Gen. David Petraeus said earlier today, "I don't think anyone disagrees that the footprint of the Taliban has spread," and recognized that Afghan President Hamid Karzai has "legitimate concerns" about the "very clear linkage between attacks on Afghan soil by individuals who have come from Pakistan and are commanded and controlled from Pakistan." (READ MORE)

Muhammad Amir Rana: Thinking patterns of Pakistan's youth - It might come as a surprise to those concerned about a growing militancy problem in Pakistan that most of the people in the country believe that the Taliban and al Qaeda are not doing any service to Islam. According to the findings of a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, support for terrorism among Pakistanis is much lower compared to other Muslim states. Militants have expanded their targeting of public places and intensified sectarian attacks in the last few years, actions that have fuelled public sentiments against them, and undermined the formerly tacit support for the Taliban in many areas and segments of society. The very strong support for military operations against the Taliban in Swat and elsewhere also evidence the sagging public backing for the Taliban. In short, the people of Pakistan are concerned about a rise in extremism linked to religion. (READ MORE)

al Sahwa: Myopia: A commentary on military vogue - Recently, a string of articles on the milblog (note 1) has unintentionally highlighted a weak-link in the philosophical chains that string together the concepts and skills of the military profession. At first glance the debate appears to be a parochial, all be it professional, dispute centered on the future of the Armor Corps of the US Army and broadly on the state of the Army's high-intensity combat skills. Written mostly by career Army combat arms officers (mostly teaching at West Point, incidentally) the debate at first glance resembles the spirit of the rather intense branch infighting that characterized the US Army of the 1930's with the introduction of the battle tank (note 2). The tank of old threatened the primacy of the Infantry and sides were picked. There were conservative voices and liberal 'revolutionary' voices. There were also the moderate ones who seem to have won and integrated both for 60 yrs without accepting the absolutisms of the poles. (READ MORE)

Battle Rattle: On sharing a tent with Michael Enright, alleged cabbie stabber - Not long after I first started at Military Times, I had a conversation with a colleague, Andrew Tilghman, about a particular memory he had of an embedded assignment in Iraq. Covering Army operations in violent Mahmudiyah in 2006, he had several striking conversations with Army Pfc. Steven Green, who offered a simple statement: ”I came over here to kill people.” Tilghman, not yet employed by Military Times at the time, later wrote about the encounter for the Washington Post. The memory became especially vivid after Green was convicted of raping a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, then killing her and her family. Four years later, I feel like I’m having a bit of a Green moment. Playing catch-up with the news last night following a vacation, I learned that Michael Enright, a 21-year-old film student, allegedly attacked a New York City taxi cab driver who acknowledged being Muslim last week, creating a growing uproar. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: Born on September 11 - September 11, 2001 is a day that Americans will always remember. For Staff Sgt. Michael Bock, it was also the day he became a man. As terrorist attacks rocked New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, shattering the innocence of younger Americans who grew up surrounded by peace, Bock was supposed to be celebrating his 18th birthday. While watching in horror as innocent victims jumped from the World Trade Center, bodies were carried out of the Pentagon, and smoke rose above silent farmland in Shanksville, Bock knew he was making the right choice by becoming a United States Marine. "He was born on September 11 and was in the Marines. The incident on 9/11 sealed the deal for him enlisting," father David Bock told Action 3 News in Omaha, Nebraska. During a more than eight year military career, Staff Sgt. Bock distinguished himself as an exemplary volunteer warrior who always answered the call to crush America's enemies with his fist and extend a helping hand to civilians trapped in the middle of war and chaos. (READ MORE)

Terry Glavin: It's All Our Fault. - Toronto Star columnist Haroon Siddiqui's latest attempt to establish himself as Canada's poster boy for the delusional justifications for reactionary isolationism is quite adequately captured by his column's headline: "To tackle domestic terrorism, end foreign wars." Adrian McNair's careful and effortless deconstruction of the absurd edifice Siddiqui's relies upon to present his case is also quite adequate to show how plum crazy you'd have to be to be convinced by Siddiqui's case. But there is just one little nail you can pull from the structure Siddiqui builds for himself to cause the whole thing to come crashing down. Siddiqui knows this, so he has to hide it, with this: "No state can be held hostage by terrorists into changing its foreign policy. Such actors must be ferreted out, charged, convicted and jailed. . . Yet such cases should give us pause — so that we are not herded into blindly backing endless wars and occupations abroad." (READ MORE)

Adrian MacNair: Rationalizing ‘homegrown’ terror - It is not surprising to see that the reaction in the Toronto Star to the recent arrests pertaining to alleged “homegrown” Canadian terrorism is one of cautious skepticism. Though we must always remain fair in allowing the legal system to ascertain the guilt or innocence of the accused, it is another thing altogether to rationalize terrorism as the manifested effect of the cause of Western aggression. But that is precisely what Toronto Star op-ed writer Haroon Siddiqui does almost every time there is a report of homegrown terrorism. His latest missive, an equivocation of a magnitude rarely seen in print, attempts to mask his contempt for the Afghan mission as a sort of rebuke of Canadian journalistic integrity. We have not answered the five Ws, he explains, the most important being the “why.” The why, Mr. Siddiqui asserts, is that the common roots among the homegrown terrorists in Canada are their objections to the mission in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Charlie Simpson's War: War is Hell - I got a massage on-post at ISAF today. I’m not proud of this. (In fairness, my aforementioned headache was still lingering, combined with a brewing sinus malady. I was miserable from the shoulders up.) But still. I sort of can’t believe we can get massages less than a 100 yards from GEN Petraeus’ office at ISAF headquarters. There are a number of creature comforts at the Milano — the (MWR) coffee shop. You can get coffee (or as I call it, a “latte”), food that sucks less but costs a lot more than the chow hall, movies, haircuts, pedicures, and massages. All of these things will resemble things you’ve seen before, but are somewhat off. (For example, you can get your nails done, but not with “I’m not really a waitress” polish. I mean, what’s the point?) This is partially a function of the diverse Milano staff: Filipino’s running the cafe and the least charming former-Soviet women you’ve ever met at the “Green Spa.” (READ MORE)

Helmand Blog - Afghanistan: British forces mentor the next Afghan military leaders - At the Kabul Military Training Centre (KMTC), the first stop for recruits to the Afghan National Army (ANA), British forces are mentoring the Afghan instructors who are now doing the teaching. The KMTC is where Afghan soldiers receive their basic training on enlistment. The training itself is run by ANA instructors under the advisement and mentoring of ISAF forces. The British-run Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Training Team, or ‘Bridmal’ Team in Dari, and the Officer Candidate School (OCS) are part of the KMTC force. Captain Stu Rutledge, Royal Logistic Corps, explained the changes at the centre: “The lessons here are all taught by Afghan instructors. Twelve months ago we were teaching ourselves, then we moved into a mentoring role and just recently we have stepped back into an advisory role as the Afghan instructors here are getting more and more capable for themselves.” (READ MORE)

Bruce R: Fired colonel on the Afghan army - Fired anti-PowerPoint crusader Col. Lawrence Sellin: “Last autumn the US government announced that after 8 years and $27 billion, the Afghan Army training program was being declared a failure. Despite the fact that symptoms of failure were already appearing in the press years earlier, apparently no one in the chain of command spoke up*. I wondered how much American, coalition and Afghan blood was shed while the program was heading toward failure. I wonder how much blood will be shed before the Afghan Army is ready... We must stop treating the Afghans like children. They are not. It is their country and for better or worse, they should start taking responsibility for it. There is little reason not to begin turning over responsibility now. Regional Command West is possible because it is the most peaceful part of the country. That could be followed by Regional Command North. Between now and next July, the coalition can concentrate on Regional Commands East, South and Southwest.” (READ MORE)

HERMANEUTICS: AFGHANISTAN: HSC Hot Rod - This last week was tough for me after enjoying my freedom so much over my R&R. But, I take some solace in knowing that we can finally start counting down now instead of up. While I was gone, the guys in the Motor Pool concocted a surprise and worked magic with raw metal. The Allied Trades section has the capability to weld and fabricate almost anything. In their free time, using spare parts, the four Soldiers pictured below built a Hot Rod. Most of the parts are from used John Deere gators, others were made from scratch or improvised. In the end, everyone was in awe of the pet project (except for one of my superiors who thought it was a waste of their time and resources). But, after 10 months of monotony I applaud any attempts to improve the work environment or unit morale, which is exactly what this did for the motor pool. The Hot Rod is actually quite slow, considering it has a standard gator drive train and engine. (READ MORE)

Kit Up!: RUMINT: Aussies Going MultiCam - An alert Kit Up! reader tipped us off to something he’d heard about the Australian Special Operations Task Groups, or SOTGs, going MultiCam. Now, we already reported last week the Air Force is jumping on the OCP/MC bandwagon(talk about finally making what was “un” official “official”), and we know the Brits have made their own version of MultiCam to replace the DPM scheme. Well, it appears as if the Aussies are following their UK brethren in adopting at least some variant of the MultiCam for themselves — or for their snake eaters in Afghanistan. Now, this kind of bums me out, because as far as desert camo uniforms go, I’ve always believed the Auscam Desert pattern was the best of all the patterns in the OEF coalition. It’s got the perfect blend of old school GI Joe and new tech color swatches. As the picture above shows, the colors work well on a rocky, desert-like brush background and will blend in to all but the greenest of environments. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Haqqani Network took heavy casualties in recent assault on US bases - The al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network lost more than 30 fighters and a commander during the Aug. 28 attack on two US forward operating bases in eastern Afghanistan. The International Security Assistance Force said that US and Afghan troops "killed more than 30 Haqqani Network insurgents" during the early-morning assault on Forward Operating Bases Salerno and Chapman. Thirteen of of those killed were wearing suicide vests, ISAF stated. A US intelligence official told The Long War Journal that 35 Haqqani Network fighters were killed during the clashes. ISAF had initially estimated that 21 Haqqani Network fighters and a senior facilitator named Mudasir were killed during and immediately after the assault. After the fighting, Afghan and Coalition forces "capitalized on intelligence tips" and captured a Haqqani Network commander who was "involved in planning the attacks." (READ MORE)

Loving a Soldier Blog: Looking Back to Move Forward - There are times when it is helpful to look back. Particularly when you are going through a deployment, no matter where you are in the process, it can be helpful to stop and take stock of what you have accomplished. Our deployment is coming to an end, not close enough to start shaving my legs regularly, but close. I was feeling really low last week, struggling to get through my week. This morning I had to stop myself, stop the negative thoughts and look back at what I have done over the past eleven months. When the deployment first started I was not looking forward to annual flu shots. I even timed the visit to the clinic with one of my Mom's visits so I wouldn't have to wrestle four children alone. I was terrified and feeling alone. I remember thinking that I would never survive the deployment alone with four children. Several months later when the H1N1 vaccine became available, on a whim one afternoon we went to the clinic and all five of us got the shot. (READ MORE)

Jennifer See @ Regarding War: Has War Apathy Set In? - A friend of my daughter's came over to play the other day. I am friendly with the mom — not great, let's-go-on-vacation-together friends, but good enough where we tell each other things about our families and schedules and keep each other up-to-date about life in general. After dropping the girl off at home, I got an email late that night from her mother, saying, "Why didn't you tell me your husband was deployed? Please let me know if there is anything you need, at anytime." Obviously my daughter said something to her daughter about her daddy being gone, a detail I had failed to mention in the past few weeks. Oops. My bad. I think with this being my family's fifth deployment in six years, I really haven't given it much thought, or at least, not as much thought and at the same level as I have in the past. With the war raging on and no seeming end in sight, I'm almost embarrassed to say that I really don't talk about my husband's deployment to many people. (READ MORE)

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