March 10, 2008

From the Front: 03/10/2008

News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

In their own words:
Michael J. Totten: In the Villages of Al Anbar - ANBAR PROVINCE, IRAQ – The Iraqi town of Al Farris looks like a model Soviet city up close and a rounded square from the sky. Saddam Hussein built it to house workers in the now-defunct weapons factory to the east, and they live in neighborhoods called City 1, City 2, City 3, City 4, and City 5. “Socialist living at its finest,” Sergeant Edward Guerrero said as we rolled through the gates in a Humvee. The place made me think of Libya, where I have been, and North Korea, where I have not. Al Farris was part of Saddam’s attempt to launch Iraq into the sci-fi future before he ruined his country with four wars, two genocides, and an international sanctions regime. It was a failure. Like all utopian cities, Al Farris is dreary. (READ MORE)

Michael Yon: Guitar Heroes - Mosul, Iraq 10 March 2008 Men crept in darkness to plant a bomb. They moved in an area where last year I was helping to collect fallen American soldiers from the battlefield. Terrorists. The ones who murder children in front of their parents. The ones who take drugs and rape women and boys. The ones who blow up schools. The ones who have been forcibly evicted from places like Anbar Province, Baghdad and Baqubah by American and Iraqi forces. Terrorists are here now in Mosul. They call themselves al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). AQI cannot win without Baghdad, and cannot survive without Mosul. The Battle for Mosul is evolving into AQI’s last great stand. (READ MORE)

Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal: Stepson of Iraq - A walking exit strategy, the Sons of Iraq – also known as the Sawha – spread across Mesopotamia with an industrialist’s spirit and the subtlety of a drunk weatherman. When I stop playing Army and finally grow up, I want to be one. Every LT worth a fuck dreads the harsh inevitability that his platoon leader time is a transient experience; a fleeting familiarity with the hands-on and the hardy reality of the front lines. After that, it’s off to become the XO, a logistical whipping boy and desk jockey, or even worse, to staff, where the Iraq War is simply something for the Powerpoint gurus and TOC-roaches to design reports around, and firefights occur so photographs can be taken for the after action storyboard. (READ MORE)

Northern Disclosure: Hair Today Gone Tomorrow - As you all can imagine or deduce from my irregular writing that we here in Bad Voo Doo are still pretty busy. We are looking towards the summer and the changes it will bring us. There have been some changes and we are adapting to them. The biggest is to the changes in our living conditions, NOT an improvement with more changes yet to come. So, with these changes we are trying to come up with new and improved ways to entertain ourselves. (READ MORE)

Yellowhammering Afghanistan: Risky business: Afghan interpreters for U.S. put themselves in jeopardy - GHAZNI, Afghanistan - Najib should have been killed by the Taliban. He still may be. "I'm not afraid," he said. "Let them do what they want." That bravado probably comes from the fact that Najib has spent the past several months hiding out in his home in Kabul but has mustered up enough courage today to travel to Ghazni and visit his family and meet with me to tell his story. Najib's only crime that makes him a target of the Taliban is that he once worked as an interpreter, a profession he is scared to return to, despite that it is one of the most lucrative jobs in this impoverished country. He continues to get threatening letters and phone calls, never knowing if someone is waiting for him the next time he steps out his front door. (READ MORE)

Yellowhammering Afghanistan: Working the line - Despite our commitment to try to stay out of the recent humanitarian assistance visit as much as possible, we couldn't resist doing a little something for the boys who showed up. The operation was planned and executed in a cooperative effort between the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army. Those of us who wear the U.S. Army uniform intentionally kept a low profile. But with a bag full of candy, toys and Mardi Gras beads in my Humvee, I couldn't avoid letting our guys do some distributing of our own. (READ MORE)

Iraq Pundit: The Missteps of the Academics - Did he really say that? Did Juan Cole actually elevate Moktada Al Sadr to a new level of sanctity today? In talking about Mookie's stay in Iran, the professor said, "It should be noted that for a Shiite holy figure to 'vanish' is hardly unprecedented. Such an absence recalls the Twelfth Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, who disappeared as a child and was said to communicate with the faithful through 'agents.' A vanished leader sometimes has an extra cachet because of this Shiite tradition." Hahaha! Is that nuts or what? Nobody but Juan Cole thinks that Al Sadr has earned "cachet" among Shiites by fleeing into Iran at the first whiff of the "surge." (READ MORE)

LT Nixon: Iraq News (10 Mar) - The Good: While the recent car bombing in Baghdad may have been devastating, it is not an indication of an escalation in violence across Iraq according to military spokesmen. I agree, since it's a desperate, brutal attack by Al-Qaeda to destroy confidence in the security situation. With the stability in the once violent Anbar province, there is work in progress to fix up one of the oil refineries. With record-high demand and prices for crude, I'm inclined to say that this is a wise investment for the Iraqis. The Bad: Violence in Mosul and Tikrit killed a few Iraqi civilians by means of a car bomb and IED respectively. But otherwise, in the words of the LA Times Baghdad Bureau: "A typically low-key day". (READ MORE)

LT Nixon: Strange Sunday Ramble on Iraq 5 Years Later - Generation-X scholar and OYE contributor, Wek, has tipped me off to an AP article discussing the lives of Americans involved in the Iraq war 5 years after the invasion. It’s an excellent read for a Sunday, and the Tanker Brothers have already offered their insightful observations on it. Perhaps, it’s time I offer up my own modest opinions on war and the current paradigm of our American society. Not trying to be pompous, just my opinion from where I’m sitting… For centuries, human civilization has struggled for the freedom from tyranny. Whether it be the despotism of monarchs, the atrocities of communist leaders, or even institutionalized practices which targeted specific aspects of mankind for extermination. (READ MORE)

Eighty Deuce on the Loose in Iraq: Mission Accomplished! - It is over. The words I have been waiting to say for so long while doing this blog, I AM DONE! And a job well done. I know back in the day when President Bush made his whole Mission Accomplished speech from the Navy aircraft carrier, the mission that most Americans assumed he was talking about was the Iraq War, which at the time was no where near done. There was and still is much controversey over his decision to make such a statement. My statement is a little less bold. I don't refer to accomplished as in the war is over, send the troops home kind of accomplished. I am referring to the work that we have done, ourselves and the job we have done. Our mission is accomplished. We received word of our deployment a few days after Christmas. (READ MORE)

all expenses paid afghan vacation: goodbye Afghanistan - My war is over, pretty much. I still have a little while longer in country before I head to the states, but I am now in the land of the Fobbits wearing my arm out with all the saluting we have to do every 5 steps we take. My last week on the FOB were pretty uneventful, my squad picked up QRF duties for that last week and we didn’t have to roll out the whole at all. I was kind of hoping for one last hurrah of a mission but it never came. It’s hard to believe it’s coming to end. We knew weeks ahead of time an estimated date we would leave, but the days leading up to it just didn’t feel like we were leaving. Even the morning we left it still felt like a surprise, somewhate surreal. We performed an intense cleaning of the barracks and our rooms getting ready for the new guys, packed up all our bags, headed to the LZ, boarded the chopper, and said goodbye to my FOB and home in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Iraqi Army Executes Operation Spider Web, MTT Provides Over Watch - Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division launched phase one of the first-ever Iraqi command and controlled operation in the area surrounding Saqlawhiya, March 3. Operation Spider Web is a four phase joint operation between the Iraqi Army battalion, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, and the local Provincial Security Forces. The focus is to rid the area of insurgents, but also to serve as a crucial training tool for the IA. It is designed to teach the Iraqi leadership the necessary skills to not only organize but execute multi-faceted operations across other unit’s areas of operation (AO). (READ MORE)

borzou: IRAQ: A typically low-key day - Incidents of violence have decreased 60% in Iraq since the peak of the sectarian conflict a year ago. But violence still persists, especially in parts of Iraq's Sunni Arab north. On Sunday, a car bomb targeting a passing Iraqi Army patrol in Mosul killed two civilians and injured five. And a roadside bomb in downtown Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, killed two police officers and injured two. U.S.-led coalition forces were also the move. They killed five suspected Sunni Arab extremists and captured 49 by the end of two days of operations in the vicinities of Samarra, Mosul, Balad and Taji. At one point in Mosul they encountered an insurgent with a suicide vest. (READ MORE)

Tony Perry: IRAQ: Fallen Angel going home - I was on a helicopter flight Friday night with Marines and soldiers from Camp Fallouja to Taqaddum with a couple of scheduled stops in between. But when our Chinook got to the Balad air base, the pilots shut down the rotors and told everyone to stand outside. "Got to refuel," said one crewman. But that was only a secondary reason. "There's a Fallen Angel on the other bird that needs to be transferred," said another crewman. Fallen Angel. Military jargon for a troop killed in action. Helos always travel in tandem, so both were ordered to stand down until the metal casket could be transferred to a vehicle from the base mortuary affairs unit. (READ MORE)

Paul McLeary: Part I: The Farmhouse - “Looks like most of this stuff has been placed here pretty recently,” Captain Jeffrey Higgins observed as we walked a reed line along a canal with Sergeant Jamie Giles, inspecting a weapons cache 1st platoon found there earlier that morning. The two noted that the jugs of homemade explosives, 155mm and 120mm projectiles, blasting caps, and command wire (commonly used for IEDs) looked relatively clean, meaning they hadn’t been sitting outside for very long. They also found a Soviet DSHK (“Dishka”) rifle, a mounted heavy machine gun that can burn through several hundred rounds a minute, which is a pretty heavy-duty piece of weaponry to have lying around. The cache was spread over a couple hundred meters, and to walk the dirt road next to the canal was to find an insurgent arms bazaar. (READ MORE)

Desert Dude: 9 March - Got up early this morning—only because my new roommates get up at the butt crack of dawn, because they go to bed at 7:30 every night…but, whatever, I got enough sleep, and I don’t really have much to do…we got word the rest of the new crew would be in around noonish…so, I just hung out doing nothing for a little while…I was told I would be giving a couple more classes on the hummers this afternoon for the incoming crew…had lunch with some of the old infantry guys—it was crap and all I thought about was how good real food is gonna be in a couple weeks…only a couple more meals out here till I am gone… (READ MORE)

Desert Dude: 8 March - Well, went on my last mission today—should be the last one anyway…we went wwaaaayyy up north…into the badlands…it was a pretty good trip overall…nobody shot at us and there were no IEDs…we did apprehend one guy video taping us…so, me and two new guys in my room woke up around 6am and started the day…I made some coffee and hit the showers—this place is way too crowded…had to wait on a sink to shave and brush my teeth, then had to wait in line for a shower…whatever, only a few more days here…anyway, I was the driver today so I went out to the truck and checked it out—oil, steering fluid, tranny, fuel, belts, etc… (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
MND-B Soldiers detain 3 in Rashid - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers detain three suspected insurgents during operations in the Rashid District of the Iraqi capital March 8. During the early morning hours, Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, detained the three suspects in West Rashid’s Risalah neighborhood. One of the men is suspected of numerous indirect fire and improvised-explosive device attacks in the area. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers seize weapons cache in Tarmiyah - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers seized weapons and munitions during ongoing operations in Tarmiyah, located north of Baghdad, March 8. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, seized the weapons cache near Joint Security Station Tarmiyah. The munitions seized included SK5 rockets, PG7 rockets, type-69 rockets, 160 mm mortars, 120 mm mortars, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, projectiles, Iraqi hand grenades, and various other munitions and weapons. (READ MORE)

Al-Qaeda targeted, weapons caches destroyed; five killed, 26 detained - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces killed five terrorists, detained 26 suspects and found several weapons caches Saturday and today during operations to disrupt al-Qaeda networks operating in central and northern Iraq. Coalition forces conducted an operation northwest of Samarra today, targeting an alleged al-Qaeda in Iraq leader involved in propaganda operations for the network in al-Anbar province. The suspect is believed to be associated with several AQI leaders, including foreign terrorists operating outside of Iraq. (READ MORE)

Haditha girl returns home after heart surgery in U.S. - HADITHA, Iraq – A two-year-old Iraqi girl returned to Haditha March 7 after undergoing open-heart surgery at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt University. Ala Thabit Fattah, the girl’s father, and several family members traveled with Marines to Baghdad International Airport to meet Amenah, who departed Iraq Jan. 22 with his wife. “I am very happy. I was very worried that my daughter would not come home alive,” Fattah said. “I am very grateful for the great treatment the American people gave to my family.” (READ MORE)

Coalition Forces Discuss Security with Mada’in Qada Leaders - FOB HAMMER — Coalition leaders from the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team (HBCT) met with leaders of the Iraqi security forces (ISF) in the Mada’in Qada, March 5, at Forward Operating Base Hammer. Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., commander of the 3rd HBCT, hosted the meeting to discuss security in the qada, the brigade’s area of operation, and to welcome Maj. Gen. Kassim, commander of the 9th Iraqi Army (IA) Division. “From this day on, you are part of this family,” said Grigsby, from Prince George’s County, Md. “We are all working together to support the mayor and the good people of the Mada’in Qada.” (READ MORE)

Last Week’s Iraq Ops Leave 10 Terrorists Killed, 16 Captured - WASHINGTON — Ten terrorists were killed and 16 captured in operations across Iraq Friday, military officials reported. Northeast of Samarra, Coalition forces targeted an alleged al Qaeda in Iraq leader for the Kanan village. In the raid, forces killed eight terrorists, including the wanted individual. Seven suspects were detained. Also in Samarra, forces captured three suspected terrorists. One of the suspects allegedly is a leader for the al Qaeda in Iraq network in Samarra. Another is believed to be a direct associate of al Qaeda in Iraq senior leadership. (READ MORE)

Weapons Found Near Babbahhani - FOB KALSU — Based on a tip, Coalition forces found a weapons cache containing (20) 100 mm guided Cobra missiles near Babbahhani, March 4. Soldiers with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, currently attached to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, made the discovery. “We have to continue to take steps to create a better environment for the Iraqi people and Coalition forces,” said Sgt. 1st Class Xavier Perdue, from Philadelphia, 2nd Platoon sergeant. (READ MORE)

East Rashid Goes to Voting Booth - BAGHDAD — In the United States, “Decision ‘08” is getting into full swing with political parties holding primaries and caucuses in states around the Nation. In southern Baghdad, the story is no different as the people of East Rashid held elections this week to determine who will represent them to the Government of Iraq. The people voted on seven representative positions: chief, first vice, second vice, terrorist casualties, security, essential services, and a mediator for the people. Brig. Gen. Saad, the executive officer for the 7th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi National Police Division, said the neighborhoods having a security representative will help his shurta (police) better do their jobs. (READ MORE)

Woman earns Silver Star in Afghan war - CAMP SALERNO, Afghanistan - A 19-year-old medic from Texas will become the first woman in Afghanistan and only the second female soldier since World War II to receive the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest medal for valor. Army Spc. Monica Lin Brown saved the lives of fellow soldiers after a roadside bomb tore through a convoy of Humvees in the eastern Paktia province in April 2007, the military said. After the explosion, which wounded five soldiers in her unit, Brown ran through insurgent gunfire and used her body to shield wounded comrades as mortars fell less than 100 yards away, the military said. (READ MORE)

Sergeant Major James McDowell - SGM McDowell has been bringing in aid for the past ten months with the help of friends and family. This humanitarian aid is coordinated through the Spirit of America agency. SGM McDowell created “Operation Spicy Devil” an effort to assist Afghan farmers. SGM McDowell has received donated items from family and friends in the United States that he then gives to farmers to assist them in growing crops. Some of these items include farm tools, bulbs and seeds, as well as clothing. (READ MORE)

Excalibur round debuts in Afghanistan - KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan –Soldiers of Charlie Battery, 3rd Battalion, 321st Field Artillery Regiment, fired the first 155mm GPS-guided Excalibur artillery round in Afghanistan Feb. 25. The GPS-guided Excalibur round was given the proper grid coordinate to seek out and destroy a target using the Enhanced Portable Inductive Artillery Fuse Setter by placing the system on the tip of the round and sending a digital message containing the coordinate for the round to find. "The Excalibur round travels farther and is designed to hit targets that conventional ammo does not always hit,” said Army Staff Sgt. Darius Scott, 36, of Sumter, S.C., deployed with C Battery, 3-321st FAR. (READ MORE)

Taliban insurgent networks disrupted in Oruzgan - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Ten suspected insurgents were detained during a Coalition forces operation in Oruzgan Province to disrupt Taliban leadership networks March 8. Coalition forces searched compounds in the Jawara District targeting a Taliban commander who was conducting anti-government activities. While conducting their search, Coalition forces found and detained 10 individuals with suspected links to Taliban insurgent networks. The detained individuals will be questioned on their involvement in Taliban operations as well as other extremist activities. (READ MORE)

Chosen Company maintains presence in Nangalam - KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Soldiers of 1st Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, conduct frequent patrols to the Nangalam to reassure citizens that Coalition forces are here to help. For some, this may seem like a tedious and redundant task, but the Soldiers of 1st Platoon understand it is necessary for them to complete these patrols in order to keep good relationships with the Afghans around their base. (READ MORE)

Soldiers gain easier access to family, friends - Forward Operating Base Sharana, Afghanistan - One of the many challenges faced by deployed Soldiers is the ability to stay involved in the lives of their loved ones. Starting in April of 2007, Task Force Pacemaker communication specialists helped Soldiers overcome this major challenge by providing civilian Internet in their quarters. With an ever-expanding population here, the existing Morale, Welfare, and Recreation system has not been sufficient to accommodate Soldiers without long-wait times and minimal actual time on the system. Many times, Soldiers would stay up late waiting to use the phone and end up cutting into their sleep, thereby affecting their work. (READ MORE)

ANSF secure, aid Khak-e Safid, Farah - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - One of the harshest Afghan winters on record, Combined with the criminal and terrorist acts of insurgents, sprung Afghan National Security Forces into action to give aid to citizens and clear the Khak-e Safid region, Farah Province, of enemy fighting positions, weapons and improvised explosive device making materials. In response to a plea from elders for assistance, the Afghan National Army’s 207th Kandak, advised by Coalition forces, provided humanitarian and medical aid to Afghan citizens and drove out the insurgents. The ANA treated numerous patients and supplied various items, primarily winter clothing. As the teams moved through other villages, a family approached the ANSF for assistance. (READ MORE)

Sky Soldier receives Bronze Star - FORWARD OPERATING BASE FENTY, Afghanistan— Sgt. 1st Class Michael Loetz recently received a Bronze Star Medal for Valor for saving the life of an Afghan truck driver last year. The story behind the rescue is both harrowing and heartwarming. The Distribution Platoon of Fusion Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, had just taken over combat logistics patrol operations and were taking a load of ammunition to troops in the Korengal Valley on May 30, 2007. “I took over a platoon with a lot of brand-new privates with no experience,” said Loetz, a 37-year-old native of Charleston, S.C. (READ MORE)

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Cables, dispatches and memoranda from Peace Like A River

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