March 21, 2008

From the Front: 03/21/2008

News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

In their own words:
Matt Dupee: Inside the Bridge: Behind the scenes of a strike into Pakistan - Its looks are deceiving. It is just a large room, very utilitarian, filled with simple workstations covered with keyboards and multiple screens. Fluorescent lights keep the room bright 24 hours a day. The sheer amount of computer equipment is a striking feature. The workers dressed in uniform go about their business. But inside this overhauled Soviet-era hangar on Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan's sprawling main hub for international operations, lies the heart of the effort to hunt Taliban and terrorist masterminds: The Joint Operation Center's operation cell, aka "the Bridge." (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Relieved of command - On the western outskirts of Mosul, Combat Outpost Inman sits on a dusty and violent stretch of road that serves as an al Qaeda supply line from Syria into the provincial capital. The soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Iraqi Army Division are assigned to secure a vital stretch of this road leading from Tal Afar, but they have come short of its task. The leadership of Iraq's 2nd Division arrived at Inman on March 20 with one goal in mind: fix the problem. And on that day, today, a big part of the problem was fixed. The battalion commander was relieved of command. (READ MORE)

Phil Peterson: Tension and tea along the Pakistani border - Outside the wire, Captain George Navarro of the 1st Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, an embedded tactical trainer for the Afghan National Army, led his Afghan squad on a patrol to the area east of Forward Operating Base Tillman in the Paktika province. The mission -- a search for a local Taliban leader and a suspected enemy cache -- took the squad through several small villages close to the Pakistan border. This area of eastern Afghanistan, known as Spera, is rocky terrain. Steep mountains, valleys, and riverbeds punctuate the landscape, and stands of trees that vary from sparse to dense make for great places for insurgents to hide. (READ MORE)

THE MESOPOTAMIAN: NOTES - Hi, Perhaps one of the most difficult things in life is to be a kind of stickler for the truth; to have a kind of allergy against the slightest strain or trace of falsehood or inconsistency in any set of beliefs, morals, political movements, or generally in situations that one faces during a lifetime. This makes life difficult and makes it difficult to belong to any particular label, because sadly, during a long life time search, I have yet to discover a creed that is entirely free of inconsistency or falsehood. Besides, it certainly doesn’t help one in making friends. Although the bitter struggle for survival does not really allow time for such luxuries as blogging, nevertheless it is difficult to remain silent too long. There are so many thoughts in one’s mind that I would love to share with my friends. I would like to talk about subjects other than the situation in Iraq: (READ MORE)

Hello Iraq: Nancy Pelosi, Congressional Democrats, here is the truth about Iraq you don’t want the American Public to know! - I am reprinting, in entirety, a copy of an article from one of our troops which was sent to me by Gathering of Eagles by email in our newsletter. Capt. Pete Hegseth is the author of the article. He is writing about his observations in Al Doura, Baghdad upon his arrival there for a new tour. Capt. Hegseth was previously stationed in Al Doura. The Capt. says, when I was last in Al Doura, “The Al Doura I knew was the heart of sectarian violence, with daily body counts in the dozens.” If the Democrats and those cross-over Republicans against “our troops” staying the course in Iraq can read Capt. Hegseth’s article and still demand immediate withdrawal from Iraq, then I suggest it is time for those elected officials to step down and let newly elected officials take their seats. We need elected officials in Congress who love America and believe in the Democratic ideology. (READ MORE)

Sergeant Grumpy: This and that - So yeah, it has been a while since my last update. I have been both busy and unmotivated to blog much (or maybe I've been drunk the whole time !?), plus have not had much interesting to write, although I have had several interesting things happen. I'm just not really able to write about them. All in all things are okay, mostly life is sort of like the movie ground hog day. With no days off to mark the weeks, one week, then one month, bleeds into another. Muqtada al-Sadr's extension of the freeze was complicated recently with a "clarification" that is was not against the cease fire for JAM members to "defend themselves." This has resulted in the militia being seen back on the street around their political offices (imagine if there was a Republican/Democrat Militia) and mosques. (READ MORE)

Yellowhammering Afghanistan: Returning to dust - No sooner had the snow melted away than the dust returned. In addition to giving the landscape a different color and slowing down the activities of the enemy, the best thing about the snow was it stopped the dust from filling the air and covering everything. But now the dust is back and we're dealing with it again. It will get progressively worse as the summer months come and the ground gets more and more arid. For now, the worst thing about the dust is what it does to our weapons, particularly our crew-served weapons we mount in the turrets of our Humvees where they become dust magnets. (READ MORE)

Yellowhammering Afghanistan: Birthday surprises - Usually March 20 is a day of scheming and surprising for me. My wife, Alison, was born on this day 47 years ago. To celebrate, I try to do something special for her each year. Sometimes that involves taking her out on a date. Or I may take off from work early and get home to fix her a nice dinner and dessert. My crowning achievement was when she turned 40. I schemed with her boss and co-workers to give her the day off, even though she was to show up for work as usual. While she was at work, I pulled up in a limousine with a bouquet of flowers in my hand prepared to whisk her away for the day. I took her to the Wynfrey Hotel where we got a room. I had arranged for friends to babysit the girls for the night. (READ MORE)

Iraq: The Purgatorium: Switch It Back On - We poured into someone else's strykers, bags and all, and sweat in the dark all the way back to the FOB. When the ramp finally dropped, we stumbled out into horribly familiar territory and sulked our way back to our tent, dropped our gear, and began getting "normal" again. This uniform really does do something to you. Being in this place, all of it, it pulls a different side of you out. Already, I'm not the person I was in Japan. Not the person I am when I wear what I want, do what I want, and don't have to worry about anything. This person is bitter, cynical, loudmouthed and rambunctious, dark humor and raucous profanity, arrogant and blasphemous. It's just what the uniform does to me, like that movie "The Mask" with Jim Carrey, it transforms some of us. Some more than others. But atleast now I know that when the uniform comes off, it all switches off. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Five Years On: Who's Learned What? - In marking the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, the NYT writes of the "hard and very costly lessons for a country that had emerged from the cold war as the world’s sole remaining superpower. Shockingly, President Bush seems to have learned none of them." Actually, both the administration and especially the military have learned something about Iraqis and their enemies. Much of the media, not so much. Certainly not the NYT editorial board, which concludes, "One of the cruelest ironies is that Iraqis have not taken advantage of the American troop surge, which was intended to create space for them to resolve their political differences." Yeah, it's the Iraqi people's fault. Some of that paper's own reporters, on the other hand, have come to know Iraq well. (READ MORE)

Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal: Counter-insurgency 101 - The U.S. Army manual on counter-insurgency, also known as Field Manual 3-24 and literally written by General David Petraeus, defines counter-insurgency as: “a mix of offensive, defensive, and stability operations, conducted along multiple lines of operation. It requires Soldiers and Marines to employ a mix of both familiar combat tasks and skills more often associated with nonmilitary agencies, with the balance between them varying depending on the local situation. This is not easy. Leaders at all levels must adjust their approach constantly, ensuring that their elements are ready each day to be greeted with a handshake or a hand grenade, to take on missions only infrequently practiced until recent years at our combat training centers, to be nation builders as well as warriors, to help re-establish institutions and local security forces, to assist in the rebuilding of infrastructure and basic services, and to facilitate the establishment of local governance and the rule of law. The list of such tasks is a long one and involves extensive coordination and cooperation with a myriad of intergovernmental, indigenous, and international agencies.” This is how that looks in practice. (READ MORE)

Army of Dude: A Different Kind of Anniversary - Media outlets are bursting at the seams with hard numbers this week: five years of war in Iraq and nearly 4,000 soldiers killed since March 2003. But for the few Americans that have seen action in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a number that is more somber and reflective than any body count: one. Some of us were lucky to not have friends die, others had many comrades killed in action. My battalion suffered twenty-one KIA in our fifteen month deployment, but many in my platoon and company were affected by the loss of Brian Chevalier the most. We got him a few months before our deployment and like all new guys, he was treated like shit for a good while before he was accepted into the 'crowd.' We poked fun at him for his badly drawn tattoos and his thick Georgian accent. Unlike most of us, it rolled off his back and he took it in stride. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: 2/11 CAG Hopes to Improve Iraqis’ Quality of Life - HABBANIYAH, Iraq (Mar. 17, 2008) – Civil Affairs Group (CAG), 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, recently arrived to Iraq where they’re already making improvements on the quality of life for the Iraqi people. During a routine mission Mar. 17, the 2nd Bn., 11th Marines CAG stopped by the Mayor of Habbaniyah’s office for a meeting with the mayor and also assessed the quality of the water treatment facilities in the Coolie Camp area. Unfortunately, the mayor wasn’t available. We were supposed to pick-up some documents from him, but he was called to Ramadi by the governor,” said 2nd Lt. Matt R. Ashton, the 2nd Bn., 11th Marines Civil Affairs Team officer-in-charge. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Five Years Past, Iraq Shows More Hope Than Ever Before - FALLUJAH, Iraq (March 19, 2008) – March 20, 2003, televisions glowed in living rooms across America. Families glued to the screens, watching Coalition troops brave austere desert conditions and cross the threshold, invading the hostile nation of Iraq. Advances in the media’s technology gave unprecedented coverage of troops, humvees, and armored vehicles rolling across desolate stretches of sand. For the first time, Americans and people around the world were able to witness two nations wage war on live television; capturing step by step, the reality of combat and the raw emotion of American sons and daughters. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Marking Time - Patience. How much patience does it take to wait through wasted time while your kids wait for you over 7000 miles away? How much patience does it take to wait for days to do ten minutes worth of out processing and then wait for days to do the next little bit? How much patience does it take to out process at a place that you never in processed, just so that an intermediate command can assert its authority? How much patience does it take to spend three days to go to that intermediate command to do their dog and pony show before you can finally go to the final authority and get your ass out of the country? Less than I've got. (READ MORE)

The Angry American: ASS IN 9 - Ok so I know that I said I was going to post pictures (lied) I know I said I was going to post a thrilling new post in the never ending saga to bring peace to Iraq (lied). Not really I didn't really so much lie as I did maybe misinform- DON'T JUDGE ME! I learned it from the military! Well I mailed the lap top home today so its one less thing I have to carry on the freedom bird when and if I do so make it on said imaginary airplane. Due to a series of misfortunate events i.e. sleeping in, I didn't quite get on there and write what I said I was. I will though.......... Pictures, I got the pictures on a thumb drive and when I get back out to the COP I will upload them. It seems as if the MWR computers inherited viruses from peoples thumb drives so they don't let them load up anymore. Right now I'm supposed to be back at the chews going through my Soldier's computers checking for porn and inappropriate pictures, i.e. savage death shots, and burnt up trucks and the like. (READ MORE)

ToySoldier: The Return of a Season - The heat is returning slowly to Iraq, or at least Baqouba now usually I'd curse it but it's a welcome sign to me and my fellow soldiers. It's a sign that we've already seen the summer once, and the second coming of summer means the end of deployment. It makes me contemplate, all that we've accomplished, all that we've lost, and how much we all have changed. We arrived in Baghdad in late April, taking over operations in the Dora neighborhood. That was a crazy time for us, we lost 3 close friends during the 3 months we spent there. Before we left Dora, we had secured it; unfortunately handing over a neighborhood to a unit that refuses to dismount meant all of our hard work had been for naught. (READ MORE)

Miserable Donuts: A Solemn Time - On March 12th our base was hit by rockets – the worst happened, and three Soldiers were killed. On Monday they were honored at a memorial ceremony given by their unit. Hundreds of American service members, civilian contractors, and Coalition soldiers all attended. Their friends and fellow Soldiers told us about them in their eulogies; they were husbands, fathers, and sons. And they were United States Army Soldiers all. Their stories differed, to be sure, but they all came back in the end to the impact they made – the NCO who was a friend and mentor, the cheerful soldier who never left a comrade without a good word or thought, the soldier with the great desire to serve and to help. The final call of the roll, Taps being played…it hits home in a way that is hard to describe. (READ MORE)

The Alley: on call at AFTH - I'm the SOD (Surgeon Of the Day) on call tonight here at the Air Force Theater Hospital, and it's just after 1:15 AM. We've just "tucked in" two injured US troops who came from Baghdad, which is sort of a nightly occurrence. One of them had to go back to the OR on arrival here. I can't believe it's been two weeks since I last posted...sorry. It's been a little busier here lately, with lots of Iraqi thoracoabdominal injuries and our fair share of postoperative complications. Thank the Lord for small victories. And really shout your thanks when you get big victories! We had two of those this week. The first one, who we call Lazarus, is a young man who walked out of the hospital (on crutches) this week after being shot in the groin and bouncing between Iraqi hospitals before being sent to us. (READ MORE)

That Krazy Korean: Newbs - Everywhere I look, I see the doe-like eyes of the new arrivals to our unit looking back at me, eagerly taking in the sights and wondering what in the heck they've gotten themselves into. There is part of me that wants to heckle them and say cruel things like, "Bet your recruiter didn't tell you about this place," but I refrain. All of them will soon find out that no amount of training or homework would prepare them for the journey they are embarking on in this world of transition commands, and that is insult enough. Besides, most of them will be home by Christmas of this year as the new requirement for reservists called up to augment the OIF/OEF slots is only a one year of total activation (which includes their train up). Does it make those of us who are on their 15th month away from home a little bitter? Yes, but life is not fair, and neither is the military. So in the meantime, those of us who are fast approaching month 12 of boots on ground will console ourselves by making fun of the newbies every chance we get. (READ MORE)

Back Stateside but still writing:
Desert Dude: 19 March - ok, when I left you off I was awaiting a flight out of Bagram….finally got it…we sat around doing nothing for another few hours…finally after being pushed back a number of times, we finally got called thru customs with our carry-on bags…that took another hour and a half…afterwards we sat in a confinement area –that was way too small for the 175 people–basically sitting in uncomfortble chairs and all over the floor trying to catch some zzz’s….nobody could get any sleep, we all became a little delirious, and after being awake for 25 hours straight, we finally got the call to head out to the bird…C-17…we all got on and sat down…of course, our PRT was called last and when we got on the plane all the aisle seats and side seats were taken…so we had to squeeze into the middle 4 seats and climb over people and gear to get squished in…I got a little lucky, there was a girl that was stationed with Stu a long time ago sitting next to two open seats…(READ MORE)

News from the Front:
IED kills MOI official, wounds Iraqi civilian (Baghdad) - BAGHDAD – An improvised explosive device detonated on the Karadah Peninsula in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad March 19. Initial reports indicate a Ministry of Interior official was killed and a civilian was wounded in the attack. Al Karadah Iraqi Police headquarters report that an explosive device was placed under an IP vehicle. IPs from the Al Karadah headquarters responded to the attack. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army, U.S. Special Forces detain two suspected insurgents in Al Qayyarah - BAGHDAD – A platoon from 2nd Iraqi Army Division, advised by U.S. Special Forces, detained two suspected insurgents in Al Qayyarah. Both men are reportedly responsible for supporting insurgent activities in Northern Iraq by giving money and supplies to al Qaeda in Iraq, as well as facilitating the movement of foreign fighters toward Mosul. (READ MORE)

First Brigade Combat Team transfers authority - CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq – The 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division completed a transfer of authority with Regimental Combat Team 1 March 20. The Raiders First Combat Team, comprised of elements of 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade Troops Battalion; 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment; 3rd Brigade Support Battalion; 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment; 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment; 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, relinquished control of a central portion of Anbar province, previously known as area of operation (AO) Topeka, to Regimental Combat Team 1. (READ MORE)

Baquba Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics unit, U.S. Special Forces detain 25 suspects - BALAD, Iraq – The Baquba Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics unit, advised by U.S. Special Forces, detained 25 suspected insurgents in an operation March 17 near Baquba. Acting on intelligence reports, Baqubah ISWAT conducted an operation to investigate possible al Qaeda in Iraq prisons which may have held kidnapped civilians. (READ MORE)

ISF detain 10 in overnight operations (Iskandariyah) - BALAD, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces, advised by U.S. Special Forces, detained five suspected insurgents and five additional suspects during three separate operations March 17. In Iskandariyah, the Hillah Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics unit captured three suspected insurgents who are believed to be responsible for a suicide attack at an apartment complex in the city. According to intelligence reports, the suspects also participated in attacks against Iraqi and Coalition forces in Babel province. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army, U.S. Special Forces recover large weapons cache (Hawijah) - BALAD, Iraq – The 4th Iraqi Division Army, advised by U.S. Special Forces, recovered a large weapons cache linked to al Qaeda in Iraq during an operation in Hawijah, Kirkuk province, March 16. Acting on intelligence reports, Iraqi Scouts and U.S. SF conducted a combined patrol where a cache was reported to be hidden. (READ MORE)

‘Black Lions’ Rescue Kidnapped Iraqi - BAGHDAD — Following a tip, Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldiers rescued a kidnapped man in the northwestern part of the Rashid District of the Iraqi capital March 18. The tip led Soldiers of Company D, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division to a building in Bayaa where they found a battered man locked in a room. (READ MORE)

Raid Leads to Capture of High-Value Target - FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER — A high-value target was captured during a night raid in Narhwan by Soldiers of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team March 16. Scouts from Troop B, 3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, currently attached to 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery, cleared three houses during the mission and detained three men for questioning, in addition to the target. (READ MORE)

National Geospatial Intelligence Agency Brings Clarity to ‘Fog of War’ - CAMP VICTORY — Multi-National Division - Center formed in spring 2007 as part of the U.S. troop surge. The progress made since then has been well-documented as Soldiers have built a network of patrol bases covering the “belts” of suburbs and agricultural communities surrounding southern and eastern Baghdad. What is less well-known is the surge in support required from other U.S. government agencies in bringing about those gains. In MND-C, one of the most significant of those surge partners is the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. (READ MORE)

Real life hero: A Soldiers Silver Star story - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Heroes are made, not born. And a hero like Spc. Monica Brown, 19, a Lake Jackson, Texas, native is no different. She is the second female Soldier since World War II to be awarded a Silver Star for her gallant actions during combat in Afghanistan in 2007. She was presented her Silver Star by Vice President Dick Cheney during a ceremony here March 20. It was dusk April 25, 2007, when Brown, a medic from the 782nd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, was on a routine security patrol along the rolling, rocky plains of Paktika’s isolated Jani Khail District when her convoy was attacked by insurgents. (READ MORE)

Afghan, Pakistan, 173rd Special Troops Battalion enhance communication, cooperation - NANGAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Communication and cooperation between Afghan and Pakistan border security forces is essential to the success of containing insurgents threatening both countries. To this end, the Afghan and Pakistan border security forces at Torkham Gate, held a Border Flag Meeting Feb. 28 with the 173rd Airborne’s Special Troops Battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Milhorn, to address security and communication issues, as well as the upcoming opening of the Khyber Border Coordination Center. Preventing insurgent operations in the border area requires constant communication between the Afghan and Pakistan border forces, said Milhorn. (READ MORE)

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