October 7, 2010

From the Front: 10/07/2010

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

AfghaniDan, Part II: Trailblazing women - So what was the mission that took not just my sizeable entourage (ahem, yes), but Defense Minister Wardak, General Karimi (Chief of Afghan General Staff), Lt. Gen. Caldwell (my commanding general), Maj. Gen. Azimi (my advisee), and a couple dozen other folks -- including more NATO and Afghan generals -- by helicopter to a training center on the edge of Kabul? It was an historic event, of course...the commissioning of 29 new lieutenants from the Afghan National Army's first Officer Candidate School class exclusively for females. After a rigorous selection and 20 weeks of training by Coalition and Afghan instructors and mentors, the newly minted officers were ready to pin on their bars, and the minister and generals recognized the significance with a special awards ceremony the day before their actual graduation...and I was fortunate enough to be asked along. (READ MORE)

Drifter Abroad: Witness to a Fallen Hero - No pics of this one. Was asked yesterday morning if I would be free to fly out to Bagram with other Embassy staff to attend what is called a Fallen Hero ceremony. It is unfortunately exactly what you think it is: the beginning of the final trip home for a fallen American serviceman or woman, some father, son, wife, or sister escorted with incredible solemnity onto a military aircraft. I and an Air Force officer from our shop showed up early at the landing zone, a soccer field which serves double duty as a helicopter LZ. While he started checking people off as they arrived for the lift, I jogged out on to the field to tell the two young male soccer coaches that they needed to clear the field. I was wearing my flak and helmet out of habit, even though we weren't required to do so. I can't remember the last time I flew on a helo without a flak and helmet. (READ MORE)

Laura Stultz: Army Strong Community Centers provide a ‘Human Touch’ - No one has done more to preserve our liberty and our way of life than the men and women in our military and their families, but it has demanded more of them in the last nine years than at any other time in our nation’s history. As an Army Reserve spouse for more than 35 years, I experienced the challenges of Jack’s deployments beginning with Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm some 20 years ago. Since then, he has deployed to Bosnia in 1997 and to Kuwait and Iraq from 2002 to 2004. During his deployment to Desert Storm, our four young children were with me, but I often felt quite alone. Letters from Saudi Arabia were few and phone calls even fewer. When he deployed in 2002, technology was vastly improved, and I printed every e-mail Jack sent me. But even with better communication, feeling out of the loop was my biggest problem, a problem thousands of Army Reserve families – who often live hours from an Army post and who may not know what resources or services are available to them – continue to face today. (READ MORE)

FaST Surgeon (in Afghanistan): Picture Of The Day - 07 OCT 2010 "Boys" - Every boy loves a girl with a gun! Especially if she's an Army captain and a nurse to boot. :) .... This photo comes from the vault of CPT "T". The boys are perpetual fixtures at the heavy weapons range in the area and they love to pose for the camera. They also like to pick your pocket when given the opportunity. I almost lost my camera to a 6 year old jack rabbit. The boys are on the range to collect the brass that can be sold for a relatively good price. Although, I doubt that they see any of the money. My impression was, they looked like poor orphan boys with no place to live. In reality, I have no idea where they came from or if they had family at all. As best as I can surmise, this was there only means of subsisting. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: U.S. apologizes, Pakistan doesn't reopen border - U.S. ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson offered an apology to Pakistan yesterday for the NATO helicopter strikes just over the border which left several Frontier Corps troops dead last week, and a U.S. statement said the American pilots mistook the soldiers for insurgents they were pursuing. Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the helicopter incursion was an accident and not part of any new NATO strategy. There were two separate attacks on NATO convoys in Pakistan yesterday, both claimed by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. The attacks, in Nowshera and Quetta, damaged as many as 57 oil tankers and left one driver dead. Pakistan has not decided when to reopen the checkpoint at Torkham in the country's northwest. The Journal's big story today reports that some members of Pakistan's intelligence agency the ISI are encouraging Taliban commanders in Afghanistan to fight the U.S. and NATO, threatening to arrest those who do not. (READ MORE)

The Kitchen Dispatch: Restrepo At The Getty, A Night At The ER, and New Troop Supporters - The screening at the Getty Center in Los Angeles last Saturday went well. Over 200 film auteurs with a sprinkling of military attended. Tim Hetherington did a Q&A. It was a coup for the filmmakers and Nat Geo to bring RESTREPO to The Getty Center. The museum has an interest not only in photography, but also the documenting of world events through film. I was supposed to have spent all evening with Tim and Nat Geo Films promoter Laura Kim, but alas, a mishap took place at home. Upon arrival at the museum, I received a phone call that daughter (I call her my brunette Goldie Hawn) had an accident and hurt her foot. Badly. A few frantic minutes calling around (which also involved calling the hubs who lives 3000 miles away), and I got the neighbors to look in on her. Since I was there, I made sure to touch base with Tim and the film promoter for Nat Geo films Laura Kim. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US launches second Predator strike in North Waziristan - Unmanned US strike aircraft struck again in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, killing three "militants." Remotely piloted Predator strike aircraft, or the more deadly Reapers, fired two missiles today at a compound owned by Qasim Khan in the village of Hormuz near Mir Ali, the second largest town in North Waziristan. Pakistani intelligence officials said that five "militants" were killed, according to Dawn News. The Taliban immediately surrounded the compound and began recovery operations. No senior al Qaeda or Taliban operatives were reported killed in the strike. Today's strike is the second today. Earlier, US aircraft killed six "militants" in Miramshah, the stronghold of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network. The strike is also the second in Mir Ali in three days. On Oct. 4, Predators hit a mosque in the town, killing between five and eight German nationals belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. (READ MORE)

The Unknown Soldiers: The best of the best - On January 25, 2008, thousands of Americans were out skiing. Half a world away, a close-knit group of Green Berets was trudging through the cold, treacherous terrain of eastern Afghanistan. "It has been said that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point," President Obama said Wednesday afternoon at the White House. "For Rob Miller, the testing point came nearly three years ago, deep in a snowy Afghan valley. But the courage he displayed that day reflects every virtue that defined his life." Leading Afghan soldiers through Konar province was something Staff Sgt. Rob Miller and A Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina, had done before. But something was different about the snow that day. "It was freezing cold and silent, except for the crackle of their radios and the crunch of snow under their boots," the president said. "Like so many times before, Rob was up front." (READ MORE)

Unambiguously Ambidextrous: How has the Canadian government’s Afghan policy come to this? “All hat, no helmet. And no skillet neither.” - That policy remains: all Canadian Forces out next year. Yet in August 2009 the Liberal, very left, Toronto Star editorialized: “Subject to Parliament’s approval, Canadian troops and police might still play a useful role mentoring their Afghan counterparts, with a view to working themselves out of a job. We can protect aid projects. And perhaps provide transport aircraft and helicopters, as well as surveillance drones, to assist our allies…” Over the last few months the Liberals have indicated a willingness to consider a post-2011 role in Afstan for the CF (e.g. a non-combat mission training the Afghan National Security Forces). So why the Conservatives’ so obdurate insistence on “troops out” next year? Perhaps because, against all hopes, they are a little party, a silly party (scroll down here to “T.E. Lawrence: So long as…”; ignore for current purposes the “barbarous, and cruel”). (READ MORE)

Spencer Ackerman: Doc Of The Day: Military, Spooks Step Up War on Leakers - Are you a soldier? Did you have a chat over beers to a friendly reporter the other night? Tell the journalist embedded in your unit what road you were going to drive down on one mission? Congratulations: you may have run afoul of an Army regulation against leaking classified information. Never mind the fact that the military classifies all kinds fo things that aren’t real secrets. Never mind the fact that the top officials in the military and intelligence fields who warn against the dangers of leaking are news-sieves themselves. (Check out Bob Woodward’s new book, if you don’t believe me.) They can leak, soldier, just not you. On Monday, the Army issued what it billed as a “major revision” to its regulation about turning in snitches. (Kudos to Secrecy News for catching the change.) Mostly, it informs soldiers how to stay alert against the ever-present “threat of espionage, sabotage, subversion, and international terrorism” that the Army faces. (READ MORE)

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