February 25, 2008

From the Front: 02/25/2008

News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

In their own words:
Acute Politics @ The Long War Journal: In Pictures: Sons of Iraq members turn over anti-aircraft weapons - The Sons of Iraq program in southern Arab Jabour is managed by troops from 5th Squadron of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, the 5/7 Cav. The villagers of southern Arab Jabour, around the towns of Sayafiyah and Al Sur, were trying to start a Sons of Iraq program before Coalition forces even secured their village. The Sons of Iraq program got under way almost immediately, and has paid constant dividends, as Sons of Iraq members continue to report improvised explosive devices, al Qaeda in Iraq members, and weapons caches. Feb. 16 was another day in a string of big days for cooperation between US troops and the Sons of Iraq. (READ MORE)

never as funny the second time: the grind - my theory was flawed. i’ll admit it up front, and add a hope that i will never get a chance to test alternate 12-month deployment theories. we are supposed to take our mid-tour leave somwhere in the middle four months of our tour. go figure. so, being the clever, system-out-smarting kind of guy that i believe i am (some evidence to the contrary, as you will soon discover) i pushed my leave to the very end of that period. the logic was simple - if i could get to 8 months, and then return from leave around the 9-month mark, i would be coasting to re-deployment. flawed. flawed. flawed. i came back from leave 3 weeks ago, and i have to say, it’s been the longest 3 weeks EVER. (READ MORE)

Northern Disclosure: Little Savages - In the past little bit, Bad Voo Doo and I have been trying to incorporate some kind of humanitarain effort into some of our missions. We have taken some of the excess that our wonderful supporters like Sherri and Mike, along with Dennis and the many others that it would take to long to mention everyone, and distrubuted this items to truly needy kids. So far it has been a mixture of candy, dental hygiene products to correct the problems that candy creates, Blankets and some warm articles of clothing since they live in extremely primitive conditions. We are extremely spoiled as soldiers with our chow halls and equipment that keeps us safe and warm, so we try to extend a kind hand when possible not just for the strategic impact but for the emotional impact on them but selfishly us. (READ MORE)

Iraq: The Purgatorium: The Shire Of Fobbitton - In-transit limbo, the mind numbing foul tasting garbage that never finds it's way into the brochures, that's the current phase. Different flavor of purgatory. I'm waiting for a flight from one nowhere to another, killing time on some giant FOB filled to the brim with POGs (Personnel Other than Grunt). We lay on the floor of the terminal with our gear, trying to sleep while a butchered version of The Butterfly Effect plays on AFN. Of course I can't sleep, and that delirious jet-lag state is soon to follow. (READ MORE)

Yellowhammering Afghanistan: Ivey league - Camp Vulcan is not only home to the Ghazni Afghan National Police Embedded Training Team (ETT). As I've mentioned before, we share this FOB with Afghan National Army ETTs who train and advise the Ghazni ANA in the FOB that surrounds Camp Vulcan. Recently, one of those ETTs got a boost in rank from first lieutenant to captain. In a small ceremony in the MWR room, Maj. Boesen, the ANA ETT team chief, stripped Ivey of his single black bar to give him the double bars signifying the captain rank. Captain is an important rank in the Army. It is where you get your first unit command and valuable staff time learning different aspects of planning, operations and coordination. (READ MORE)

Yellowhammering Afghanistan: Birmingham on my mind - I try not to think too much about home because no good can really come from such pondering. But a recent blog entry and column by my friend and former Birmingham News cubicle neighbor John Archibald forced me to think about what I like most about Birmingham. In fairness to John, it wasn't really his fault for my temporary loss of focus, but rather my other friend, John Montgomery and his staff at Big Communications ad agency for coming up with the "In Birmingham" campaign (or "BirmINgham" if you will) for the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau. To try to name all the places I like about the Magic City would take too long and still be woefully incomplete. Instead, I can tell you the places I am itching to go to within the first several days of returning home. (READ MORE)

James Aalan Bernsen: Saddam's Party Boats - Saddam and his henchmen had a pretty cool setup here. This palace was kind of like a Hugh Heffner Playboy fun park in the middle of Baghdad. I keep finding evidence of this "Gone with the Wind" kind of opulence all around me. The Al Faw Palace sits on an island in the middle of a large man-made lake. There are also smaller lakes and canals all around this place. Back in the day, the elite leadership of the Ba'ath Party would use this place as their private playground. Hidden in plane sight right next to one of the busy bridges that cross one of these canals is an unassuming, barn-sized metal building. A quick look will tell you it's definitely abandoned and forgotten. Although one of our coalition units is headquartered only a few feet away, it becomes obvious on close inspection that almost nobody comes here anymore. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Nader's Announcement - There are those presidential candidates, such as Obama and Clinton, who promise to abandon the Iraqi people to the murderers of al-Qaeda and the Shiite militias. And there is McCain, who supports the Iraqi people. And then there is the presidential candidate who will "reverse U.S. Middle East policy in Israel/Palestine, Iraq and Iran." Ralph Nader announced today on NBC that he, too, is running for president. Because he is unlikely to take votes away from McCain, I say welcome to Mr. Nader. Wish you all the best with your peculiar run. (READ MORE)

Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal: A Defiled Star - It was the day after the Great Red Duststorms. Just over a week after my unit lost our first soldier to a deep-buried IED. I was lying in bed, staring at the wall from the top bunk, basking in the rarest of days in Iraq- one where I can sleep in. The old world calls this a day off, the Army calls this QRF (Quick Reaction Force). I was literally thinking about nothing and how awesome it was to be thinking about nothing and how if life goes well, this tryst with nothing can become a nuptial norm of nothingness. Even my subconscious appreciates alliteration. The gears of my mind were just beginning to grind towards muscle movement, mainly a product of memory rather than a conscious decision, when SFC Big Country barreled through the door. (READ MORE)

Jason's Iraq Vacation: Not Much to Say - My life has come to a grinding halt. At least, that's how I feel right now. I can almost taste being home yet its impossibly far away. Adapting to the new job has had its trials, but I am just starting to get the hang of what I think they want me to do. If only they knew what they wanted to do, I'd be all set. I have gained a different perspective on how the training of the Iraqi Army is going. Now that I have a birds eye view instead of a ground level view, it does appear that we are making some really good progress. (READ MORE)

Lt Nixon: That Mortar Attack and Disinformation in the Media - I normally don't discuss much about the Green Zone due to OPSEC considerations. But this recent mortar attack has been making a run in the media, and by the tone of the reporting you'd think it was Tet '08 or something. Huffington Post commenters were virtually masturbating with bloodlust as this meant the demise of the Bush administration's stronghold. Fox News decided to air some file footage that looked like a cross between battle damage from a truck bomb followed by a cat-5 hurricane (I have no idea where this footage came from). I remain in my normal zombie-like state and realize that this was probably the handiwork of a bunch of thugs and not part of a large-scale offensive. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Company E patrols the streets of Karma - KARMA, Iraq (Feb. 21, 2008) – Marines and sailors of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, recently arrived to the Al Anbar province, and are currently conducting operations and patrolling the streets here. For the past couple of weeks, Marines like Lance Cpl. Matthew Lembke, squad leader, 2nd Squad, 2nd Platoon, Co. E, 2/3, have been studying the area, taking notes on certain places and things throughout the city. He mentioned how he and others want to get out and learn as much as possible, and be able to introduce themselves to the locals. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Afghan Adventure: Reunions And Getting Short - I'm at Bagram now, and there have been a number of remarkable reunions since I've gotten back from Qatar. Sam, the combat terp, he of The Valley Operation back in August, was the first. When you get to know an Afghan, it all starts with a handshake. The single handed handshake of American business associates is the standard, although many Afghans don't have a lot of grip to it. However, to Afghans, handshakes are mandatory. To not offer a hand; or to not accept a proffered hand, is practically hostile. Stage two of a developing friendship is signified by the two-handed handshake, or the handshake with the forearm clasp. Stage three is the handshake with chest bump type hug over the clasped hands. (READ MORE)

Doc in the Box: Milblogging is tough.. - ..on electronic gear. Over the years, this has turned out to be quite an expensive hobby but then again, I'm a techno geek and would have probably bought most of the gear anyways. Not that I would trade blogging for anything but since 2004, I have gone though 5 digital cameras, 4 laptops (shopping around for number 5), 2 8mm camcorders and 2 external hard drives and an assortment of thumb drives. I can tell you how most of them went down, the first digital camera died in the middle of trip number one in 2004, the dust had made its mark so I ordered a digital Rebel which lasted till my Thailand trip in January of 2006, then the autofocus went out and my old eyes couldn’t get it to focus right so I passed it on to my photo taking niece. I got a second pocket Panasonic pocket camera in the middle of trip #2 and it lasted till the middle of trip number 3. (READ MORE)

False Motivation: The Sons of Iraq Part 1 - An organization that was a fairly new concept in Baqubah when my unit arrived in August. At the time we called them CLN, standing for Concerned Local Nationals; that of course evolved into a more politically correct name of CLC, Concerned Local Citizens. Now they've been renamed, and they're making headline news from Iraq, the Sons of Iraq are filling the gap that the US Military and Iraqi Military can't provide, and that is the 24/7 surveillance of hot spot areas. When we first arrived in Baqubah, I was not impressed by the CLN. Far from it in fact, I despised them and what they represented at the time. They were a bunch of out of town thugs for hire, who wanted to play Army and have none of the responsibility. They were established in the wake of Operation Arrowhead Ripper, and their leadership was questionable with rumored ties to a notorious Islamic Extremist group that had partnered with AQI in previous years. (READ MORE)

Desert Dude: 22 February - Well, today was just another day in the hood… nothing big except the boys got back from up north…they had a broken truck this morning when they started out, but some of the guys up there fixed it…but, they didn’t have the right part so we had to do some adjusting when it got back here …that was a whole 14 minutes of work…also, got the whole story about them getting shot at … I guess it was yesterday morning—they went out to check some project that we haven’t been to in about 8 months…there were about 4-9 shots fired at the convoy from some Taliban assholes… (READ MORE)

Desert Dude: 24 February - Went out on a missions today—I am back home safe and sound—more about that later…yesterday, a CMSgt (Chief Master Sgt.—Air Force E-9) came in from Bagram to stay with us for a couple days…he is the top enlisted guy on the Air Force side of the house for all the AF guys out at all the PRT locations…he has been here before, but he was with all the Colonels and didn’t really get a chance to do his own thing, and I also talked with him quite a bit last time I went to Bagram…he is a former Marine and is a really down to earth, cool, friendly guy…his visit to us this time is to talk with all the Air Force people here and find out how things are going, what’s on our minds, answer questions, and basically just let us know he is here for us… (READ MORE)

Back Stateside but still writing:
Bill Ardolino: Inside Iraqi politics – Part 4. A look at legislative progress: Reconciliation via wealth distribution - Some of the most important measures of progress are the Iraqi government’s efforts to propose and pass legislation allocating wealth. This includes the 2008 budget, which is immediately essential to executive functions and represents a de facto distribution of revenue among Iraq’s provinces and sects, and the hydrocarbons laws, which will have long-term ramifications for the apportionment and development of the country’s oil resources. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Mugniyah behind establishment of Mahdi Army - Imad Mugniyah, the senior Hezbollah military commander who was killed in Syria earlier this month, helped form the Mahdi Army, the military wing of the radical Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr, according to an Iraqi intelligence official. He was described as a “co-founder” of the Mahdi Army, Naharnet reported, based on a translation from the Iraqi daily Al Zaman. Mugniyah helped form the Mahdi Army after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in April 2003. He recruited from the Shia communities in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and then sent the recruits to Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley for training. “The 300 fighters were trained on the use of assault rifles, booby-trapping and kidnapping operations,” the unnamed intelligence official told Al Zaman. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
IRAQ: Hoping for peace on a long march south - Each year about this time, Iraq's roads fill with clusters of Shiite Muslims walking to the holy city of Karbala, often from more than 100 miles away. The pilgrimage is part of commemorations marking the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed. Last year, more than 200 Shiites died in sectarian violence as they converged on Karbala, but this year, with violence down, devoted Shiites are making the trek again and hoping it will be far more peaceful. "We are peaceful people and have no guns," said 23-year-old Hussein Abd al-Khadim Hussein on Friday. (READ MORE)

Suicide bomber attacks near mosque in Ferris Town - Ferris Town, Iraq – A suicide bomber killed himself, two civilians, three Iraqi Police and wounded 12 civilians outside of the Rahman mosque, Feb. 22. The suicide bomber appeared to be an adolescent, according to an IP who survived the attack. The Iraqi Police are currently investigating the incident. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces capture Iranian-backed Special Groups facilitator, detain seven suspects - BAGHDAD, Iraq – Coalition forces captured a suspected Iranian-backed Special Groups finance facilitator and detained six other suspected criminals early Sunday in the Suwayrah area, south of Baghdad. The targeted individual was reportedly a finance leader for Iranian-affiliated Special Groups criminals and militias in Iraq’s southern provinces to include Najaf, Karbala, Babil, Wasit and Qadisiyah. He was also allegedly a mortar and rocket specialist who had trained in Iran. Reports indicate he was an associate of several other senior-level Special Groups criminal element leaders involved in attacks on Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition forces. (READ MORE)

Sons of Iraq contribute to discovery of five cache finds - FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – Sons of Iraq, in coordination with Soldiers from Troop B, 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, discovered five enemy weapons and improvised explosive device caches in the Busayefi area Feb. 22. In three separate incidents, SOI members informed the Soldiers of three IEDs consisting of one 122 mm projectile, one 130 mm projectile rigged with a pressure plate trigger, and an eight-pound stash of unknown bulk explosives attached to three feet of detonation cord. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers detain 2 suspected Special Groups criminals - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad soldiers detained two suspected Special Groups criminals near Saba al-Bour, northwest of Baghdad, Feb. 22. Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 14th Cavalry Regiment, and 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, both from 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, detained the suspects, who are accused of financing Special Groups. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces discover disguised truck-bomb - MOSUL, Iraq – Coalition forces discovered a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device disguised as a Red Crescent food relief truck in southeastern Mosul Feb. 15. The truck was labeled with hospital markings but contained eight 55-gallon drums with more than 5,000 pounds of unknown bulk explosives. (READ MORE)

Iraqi, Coalition security forces detain 27, discover 4 caches in recent operations in Mosul - MOSUL, Iraq – Iraqi Army and Coalition Forces detained 27 suspects and discovered four weapons caches in the Ninewa Province in recent joint operations. During these operations joint forces also rescued a hostage from an underground prison. These operations are part of Multi-National Division – North’s continuing pursuit of criminals in the area. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces targets weapons facilitation, car-bombing networks; 14 detained - BAGHDAD, Iraq – Coalition forces detained 14 suspected terrorists Friday and today during operations to disrupt al-Qaeda operating in central Iraq. West of Samarra Friday, Coalition forces captured an alleged al-Qaeda in Iraq cell leader involved in the al-Jazirah network. The suspect allegedly commands a group of 10 to 15 terrorists who conduct attacks in the area. (READ MORE)

60th Street Progress Continues: More Than 50 Shops Open - BAGHDAD — During the past few months, Iraqis and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers have been working hard to make sure the economic resurgence thrives throughout Baghdad. The Soldiers of 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, attached to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div., have been working with the Iraqi government on major restoration projects in the southeastern part of the Rashid district. Among the projects was the effort to restore 60th Street, which involved a three-step process: provide security, clean and restore the streets, and begin the micro-grant program. (READ MORE)

Soldiers Search Houses in Rathwaniyah for Weapons, Explosives - BAGHDAD — After receiving complaints from local citizens about people taking weapons into Baghdad’s neighborhood of Rathwaniyah, Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers conducted a cordon and search operation, Feb 19. The Soldiers of Battery B, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), searched every house in their section – every room, every box and every vehicle – everything was checked to make sure nobody was hiding explosive material or weapons. (READ MORE)

Iraqis Join Cavalry Regiment for Joint Operation in Tameem - FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER — Soldiers from Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment conducted an operation with the 3rd Brigade, 1st National Police (NP) division, supporting the Iraq Civil Conservation Force and Sons of Iraq (SoI) in Tameem, a small village southeast of Baghdad, Feb. 18. The operation, planned by Salam Bedin, the nahia council chairman, Lt. Col. Emad, commander of the 3/1 NP, and the SoI, led to the establishment of several SoI checkpoints and allowed the Iraqi Civil Conservation Force to conduct cleaning projects in the village. (READ MORE)

IED, Indirect Fire Cells Disrupted by Weapons Find - PATROL BASE LUTIFIYAH — A significant weapon cache was discovered through a group effort between Iraqi Army and U.S. Soldiers Feb. 19, north of Lutifiyah. Led to the site by a tip from a local citizen, members of 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army (IA) division and 4th Platoon, Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), found a mass of weapons and homemade explosives. The cache contained various improvised explosive device (IED)-making materials, multiple explosive rounds, firearms and documentation. (READ MORE)

Government Center Opens in Historic City of Salman Pak - FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER — A new government center opened in the city of Salman Pak, Feb. 20, returning the local government to its seat in the heart of the Mada’in Qada. Sunni and Shia leaders of the qada, along with Soldiers and leaders of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), attended the opening ceremony. Lt. Col. Ryan Kuhn, from Clarks, Neb., deputy commanding officer of the 3rd BCT, said Salman Pak is on the verge of a revival after years of domination by Sunni extremists. “The city of Salman Pak has historic meaning,” Kuhn said. “It is the second oldest city in Iraq and one of the most historic.” (READ MORE)

Al-Qaida in Iraq Intelligence and Suicide Operations Facilitator Killed - BAGHDAD — A terrorist killed during an operation Feb. 17 has been positively identified as Abu Karrar. Karrar, also known as Arkan Khalaf Khudayyir, was a senior intelligence leader involved in the al-Qaida in Iraq network in Baqouba. He was also a terrorist facilitator for the suicide bombing network in the Diyala River Valley region, which conducts attacks in Baghdad, to include attacks by female suicide bombers. Reports indicate the network has been disrupted by recent successful Coalition operations in the area. (READ MORE)

Soldiers, Iraqi Leaders Deliver Wheelchairs to Disabled Citizens - FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER — Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery delivered wheelchairs to several disabled Iraqi citizens Feb. 20, in villages along Butler Range Road, near FOB Hammer. Chief Warrant Officer Chad Barrett, from Hookstown, Pa., targeting and plans officer for the 1-10 FA, said members of the Nissan advisory council had for several weeks asked for Coalition forces’ assistance in providing wheelchairs to some of the area’s disabled citizens. (READ MORE)

ANA adds new capability to arsenal - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Feb. 19, 2008) — A new program instructing Afghan National Army soldiers to effectively provide indirect artillery fire is due to graduate its first platoon in Paktya Province Feb. 25, according to a Combined Joint Task Force-82 official. The 21-day program instructs ANA soldiers on NATO firing tactics, techniques and procedures converting them for use with Russian 122 mm howitzers. (READ MORE)

Police grads bring 'hope and peace' for Afghan people - KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Feb. 21, 2008) — On Feb. 21, 259 Afghan National Police from Zabul province graduated from the Focused District Development eight-week training initiative at the Regional Training Center here. The graduation ceremony included numerous ANP and Coalition senior officers, as well as the governor of Kandahar, Assadullah Khalid, all of whom offered congratulations to the proud and well-trained graduates. (READ MORE)

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