November 2, 2010

From the Front: 11/02/2010

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

A Little Pink in a World of Camo: Missing again - I'm on the go (again) so don't be surprised if you don't hear from me as much as usual. I came up to Maryland to visit and spend Halloween up here and all that good stuff. Got to go out Saturday and Sunday night and had a great time! I really do enjoy dressing up for Halloween. We had the Halloween wedding of a family friend on Saturday during the day and that was a lot of fun. I went Friday night and got a $25 costume. It turned out pretty cute though. It was a flamenco dancer-type ensemble. Or as we later determined it, "a hot mamacita" haha. I am on the go again starting Friday and it will be non stop throughout the month. I'm pretty excited though, I think it will be a great time. I am going to San Diego on Friday to check things out, to really evaluate the moving situation. Then I've got the Marine Corps ball in NC, then Mexico with some friends for a couple days and then a cruise with the family. Go-go-go!! (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Bouhammer steps in to the Merwin/Anderson controversy - Let me first say I know Clayton Merwin very well. I have met him and his family and believe 100% in what he is doing with the “Untold Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan” graphic novel that I have a couple of stories in. Over on YouServed Radio we have had Clayton on a few times highlighting the progress he has made with this project and the great work he is doing with it. Let me emphasize that Clayton has no family members in the military or that have served in the current wars. He is doing this because he has a gift/talent and wants to use it to support the troops and help tell their story. That is his total motivation. Clayton recently took on another project because he felt it was the right thing to do. He decided he wanted to spearhead a project to memorialize the fallen soldiers from his local area. A soldier that fell not to long back is a Mr. “Bucky” Anderson from his local area. (READ MORE)

Brad's Excellent Adventure: Demobilizing at the CRC - Friday 29 October 2010 - 1500 - It’s been an interesting week. I have spent it demobilizing at the CRC (CONUS Replacement Center) at Fort Benning, Georgia. Inasmuch as CONUS is an acronym for “Continental United States”, CRC has the dubious distinction of being an acronym within an acronym. I wonder how many more of those there are in the language? Fort Benning is a large Army base in central Georgia, known as the “Home of the Infantry”. Among other things it houses the Infantry School, Airborne School, Officer Candidate School, Infantry AIT (Advanced Individual Training), Third Infantry Division, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, U.S. Army Sniper School, and the School of the Americas (or whatever they call it now). The CRC is kind of a mini post-within-a-post at Fort Benning. It’s a fenced-in area out in the boonies that basically consists of barracks, a DFAC, an MWR building, a gym, a PX, and some administrative buildings. (READ MORE)

Bruce R: He's the good cop AND the bad cop - Just an additional comment on what I wrote a few days back about whether an upwardly trending situation in Kandahar in the fall should be seen as a positive. A correspondent has kindly reminded me of a journalistic juxtaposition of some possible interest. This was what the Washington Post wrote about the use of the Afghan Border Police belonging to Spin Boldak warlord Abdul Razziq to assist ISAF in clearing insurgents out of the districts around Kandahar last month: "On the border, [Razziq] developed an outsize reputation - part Robin Hood, part warlord. He was a close ally of the Karzais with thousands of tribal warriors at his command. "If you need a mad dog on a leash, he's not a bad one to have," said a U.S. official in Kandahar. U.S. troops hastily planned support and coordinated to have Afghan forces ring the neighborhood, while Razziq, cellphone and satellite phone in hand, roared up from the southern desert with a few hundred men. They arrested about 20 suspected insurgents and found scores of explosives." (READ MORE)

Free Range International: On The Border - The military campaign in Afghanistan is going well apparently. I read that last Monday here in the Washington Post so it must be true. But two days ago it took a turn for the worst. I know that to be a fact too because I read it here in the Washington Post. The truth is that it is not terribly important how well the military is doing right now. The military is fighting to do the “Clear” portion of the “Clear, Hold and Build” component which is the backbone of our current counterinsurgency strategy. The people responsible for part of the holding and all of the building are about to head out of the country. President Karzai is determined to implement the ban on private security companies and apparently it has just dawned on the various embassy’s who are funding most of the projects that this time President Karzai is serious. There are now frantic consultations happening in Kabul with the Americans in the lead and they are asking for mountains of information, due in 48 hours... (READ MORE)

Insight of the Moment: End of October and a Case for Adopting Black Cats - We, in the office, are practically euphoric that another calendar month is GONE! Our activities include the daily routine but now there are hints of looking towards the transition, our exit out of this country, and to shaping the future back at Fort Hood. Indicators are an awkward administrative restructuring of the office and talk of what to pass to the "new guys" when they get here. A lot of the NCOs are already getting their new assignments. Lots of excitement in the air. The weather! It is cooler!! Yesterday I took my first afternoon run and the experience was therapeutic. Even though I ran a familiar route the afternoon sun made it feel different. I forgot how much I love running in the afternoon. I will always try to run in the morning because that's when the races are and, you know, "train as you fight!" It sounds, from the banging around next door, that I have a new neighbor. I sure hope she/they can figure out how to be quiet after 2000. Still no roommate but I know that can change. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Sadness in Iraq - It's another sad day for Iraqis. An unknown number of people were killed after suicide bombers stormed a Catholic church in Karrada and held at least 100 people hostage. Iraqi antiterrorist forces stormed a church where gunmen had taken close to 100 hostages on Sunday in an afternoon of chaos that became a bloodbath. At least 30 hostages and 7 security officers were killed, and 41 hostages and 15 security force members were wounded, according to a source at the Ministry of the Interior. Officials said on Monday that the death toll had risen to around 50, according to news reports. Some reports say 52 killed, others put the death toll at 67. Officials say al-Qaeda in Iraq was behind the attack. The killers demanded their jailed fellow terrorists be released from prison in exchange for the hostages. Why they attacked a church is not known. Why the murderers thought people attending Sunday services could get their terrorists out of jail is not known. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: After the Massacre - There have been some efforts to explain the massacre at the church. Explanations maybe, but still no answers. The lawmakers continue to disappoint with their useless responses to just about everything. The Iraqi people are still recovering from Sunday's horror. “They came to kill Iraq, not Iraqis,” said Bassam Sami, who huddled in a room for four hours before security forces managed to free him. “They came to kill the spirit of Iraq. They came to kill the reason to live, every dream that you want to make true.” One thing that is clear, Sunday's attackers were not Iraqi. Survivors said they heard non-Iraqi Arabic dialects, and there were Yemeni and Egyptian passports at the scene. WaPo says the attack was in response to some charges of kidnapping Muslim women in Egypt. The president called for more security at Iraq's churches. And the prime minister, who continues to emulate Baathist tacts, had the Army brigade commander of the area arrested presumably because the massacre took place on the commander's watch. (READ MORE)

Letters to You: 10 years from now - ..where will you be? This question was asked today. I was in a class doing an assignment and this was part of it. When the professor asked, it hit me like a ton of bricks. For the first time in years I had absolutely no idea what to say. I don't have a freaking clue. I swear I have OCD when it comes to planning. I mean, you know that. I always had everything figured out perfectly. We had our life figured out and that was perfect too. Now I'm just not sure. Where do I go? What do I do? Will I get married? Will I have a family? Is someone going to love me and take care of me? I don't know. I was so happy with you. I'm not happy now and I want to be so badly. I want the pain and hurt to just go away already. We're pushing 9 weeks and it's not getting any better. I can do a million things to try and forget about it for a little while, but it never works. "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass.. It's about learning to dance in the rain.." (READ MORE)

When Three Becomes Two: Get your tissues ready - Cody's best friend, Zack wasn't able to be in Idaho, because he was in Afghanistan continuing the fight. I'm posting this to show someone else's perceptive of Cody instead of just my own. Zack is a lot more than a friend, he is our family. This is what was read on his behalf at the funeral... "To the family, friends, and loved ones of Lcpl Cody Roberts, My heart is heavy, full of sorrow and pain. My eyes are blurred with tears and my thoughts are full of great memories of your husband, father, son, brother, grandson, nephew, and friend. I really cant imagine what you all are goin thru right now but its pretty darn close. Although there is no blood relation, I consider Cody my brother, my best friend, and now my hero. He didnt die supporting combat operations in Southern Helmand Province, Afghanistan like the articles will say in the papers. Cody died defending freedom so his friends back home didnt have to and so baby Colten didnt have to worry about losing his freedom." (READ MORE)

Rajiv Srinivasan: NPR Remembers SPC Jenkins - Right before I left the Kandahar Province, I traveled from COP Howz-e-Madad eastward to FOB Wilson to transport a detainee to the headquarters of the new battle-space owner of the Zhari District. The 101st ABN had replaced our company area of operations with a whole battalion, so it was exciting to see the potential that could come with increased manpower patrolling the streets. After the formal paperwork was processed, I handed authority to my medic who used a handful of soldiers to do a last minute medical check up on the detainee’s vitals. Feeling the need to explore the power a full brigade could bring to Zhari, I strolled around the FOB’s intricate design of bunkers and containers, eventually running into a young 19 yearold soldier named SPC Jenkins. He was lingering around his air conditioned tent in the 120 degree heat, presumably right after smoking a cigarette. I thought how crazy he must have been to be smoking in this scorching heat, but then again, most of my soldiers used some form of tobacco to keep their sanity during the tour. (READ MORE)

Amy: It's Not Really About You - Throughout the 1990s and over the last (long) ten years Americans got used to hearing politicians, particularly conservative ones, tout the importance of marriages, families and the family support structure as being vital to society. As military spouses we hear it over and over again -- the family is the backbone of the fighting force. And of course it is. Without the support of wives, children, mothers and fathers our service members wouldn’t be very resilient at all -- it only makes sense. Who wants to go and do the hard job far away without knowing that there is someone back home cheering you on? Strong families, officials remind us, equal strong Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors. “The health of our all-volunteer force, our soldier volunteers, our family volunteers, depends on the health of the family. The readiness of our all-volunteer force depends on the health of the families,” said then Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, at the unveiling the Army’s Family Covenant in 2007. (READ MORE)

Katherine Tiedemann: Daily brief: Afghans protest election problems - More than 300 Afghans -- disgruntled candidates, lawmakers, and supporters -- protested in the streets of Kabul today against problems with September's parliamentary elections, the final results of which have not been announced. Nearly a quarter of ballots cast have been tossed because of concerns about fraud. The Post reports that U.S. Marines are beginning to transition control of Nawa, a farming district of around 80,000 in Helmand, to Afghan security forces, the first among those that received additional forces "because they were assessed by commanders to be too critical to fail" to start the handover. In the coming months, Marines reportedly say they will begin transitioning three other districts in Helmand that saw "comprehensive" operations last year, and Afghan, U.S., and NATO officials are working to put together a list of provinces, mostly in the north, that can begin transitioning in the spring to present at a NATO conference in Portugal next month. (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: 2 years already.... - It’s hard to believe that it’s been 2 years since I received that horrible, life-changing news. 2 years ago, my husband fought for 34 days for his life. And, boy, did he put up a fight. 2 years ago was the beginning of an emotional rollercoaster ride that still continues today. Although the 2nd year has been harder for me than the first, I continue to hold on to faith and know God has a bigger plan for us. He had a bigger plan for Rob. There is not a day go by that we don’t miss him and think of him. His presence constantly surrounds us. My dad was with Julia when she looked up in the sky and written in the clouds was “I love you”. That was daddy sending his little girl a special note. Yesterday I flew back to Lincoln from Washington DC where I attended a Survivors’ Outreach Summit. This is an Army program that is still fairly new to help survivors stay connected to the military and help us with issues we may have. (READ MORE)

To Afghanistan and Back: how can I properly say thanks - Yesterday I did absolutely the wrong thing, and basically yelled (via email) at a pen pal that I developed through this blog because she has been too nice to me. I got another care/package from her and I got frustrated at her for all the nice things that she has done for me. Unfortunately she was received the brunt end of my frustration at all the support that I have received from many different, and sometimes random families. What made me mad was that I have no way in which I feel that I can properly say thanks to her and others for their kindness, other than to write a card or email and say thanks. This to me just seems wrong. Perhaps most troubling is that I do not feel that I have done nothing to warrant her, for lack of a better phrase, love and affection. I have trouble seeing and accepting how me working and living in Afghanistan makes me anymore special than someone's neighbor down the street. (READ MORE)

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