April 14, 2008

From the Front: 04/14/2008

News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

In their own words:
Those Wacky Iraqis: A day like any other - The day started like the ones before. I got up and made some coffee. I showered, got ready, and then strolled the 50 feet from hooch to office. I walked out to the front and started talking with Big Lou and Billy. We were discussing what we would do with our 43 people that day. We had lots of work, no material, few tools, and big heap of can do spirit. While we were talking one of the ops folks came out to tell me that the head shed in Baghdad was on the horn and that they needed to talk to me. I went in and picked up the land line handset. The XO in Baghdad was on the line. He was a no nonsense ring knocker from West Point who also had a MBA from the Wharton School of Business. What he told me chilled my blood. (READ MORE)

Iraq: The Purgatorium: Ah Shit....The Experiment Continues - Now and then I take it upon myself to firmly assert my position as the Bastard of All Bastards, Shithead Supreme. I can do this, even from the other side of the planet. With minimal effort, I had a gallon (yes, GALLON) of gorilla shit (yes, shit from a live gorilla's ass) delivered to someone's house. Was I wronged in any way? No. Of course, this individual COULD act as my extended reach and use this newly acquired gorilla shit to get someone else for me, but in all likelihood, the dooker has already been disposed of, which is tragic. (READ MORE)

Yellowhammering Afghanistan: Liquid sunshine - We've seen more rain in the past couple of weeks in Ghazni than we saw the first 11 months combined. While the U.S. forces here probably don't care too much for it - especially the guys in the gunner's hatch - all this rain is a Godsend for the people of this country. Afghanistan has suffered through several years of rain deficits and droughts, which is a big reason why the agriculture-based economy has been slow to take off. So let our guys moan and complain about another rainy day. If it helps make a better Afghanistan, then we should all be singing in the rain. (READ MORE)

Yellowhammering Afghanistan: Hope for the future: Afghanistan's future in its children's hands - GHAZNI, Afghanistan -- There are moments here - never full days or even hours, but moments - where I think about the problems facing this country, and I wonder if Afghanistan will crumble under the weight of it all, despiteour best efforts to prevent it. It's easy enough to do. The problems are vast and complex. A culture that holds on to anchoring ideas about women and tribes will have difficulty progressing. An economy unable to move into the modern age is subject to the whims of weather and corruption. A government too young and weak to fight its own battles and serve all its people is vulnerable to enemies. But then I think about the children. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Adding to the Confusion - The Boston Globe asks today whether its readers are confused about Iraq. The paper has a piece that is supposed to explain the conflict, but it actually confuses more than ever. The writer tells us the trouble is there are three civil wars in Iraq at the same time. The wars are in Basra, in Northern Iraq, and in Baghdad. He adds that it will only get worse when the Sunnis return to fight Shiite rule. The real trouble is the piece is messy and based on nothing. Here's what the writer says: "When the United States took Baghdad in 2003, it was about half Sunni and half Shi'ite. In January 2007, Baghdad was 65 percent Shi'ite. By summer of 2007 it was 75 percent Shi'ite. Hundreds of thousands of Sunni Arabs were displaced to Syria." (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Mookie's Fat Chance - The news today is, as the NYT reports, Ambassador Crocker's remarks that Iran is fighting a proxy war with the United States in Iraq. WaPo agrees that Iran is now the top threat to Iraq. With al-Qaeda "in retreat and disarray," the focus has turned to another obstacle, namely Tehran. Okay, fair enough. But maybe we should look into what the ayatollahs think of Moktada Al Sadr these days. For example, also today in WaPo, there is a story about the killing of Moktada's top aide, Riyadh Al-Nouri. It quotes Al Sadr's reflex: "The occupier has a hand in this crime in one way or another," Al Sadr said in statements released by his aides. "I pledge before God and before the people that I won't forget this precious blood. The occupier won't feel happiness in our land as long as I'm alive." (READ MORE)

James Aalan Bernsen: Heroes and Citizens - The stirrings of patriotism run deep in all who fight for their country. For many of us, it is a calling and a debt we owe to those who have gone before, as well as to those who are yet to come. Serving our country is a part of our heritage. Among the many soldiers in Iraq are some who can trace ancestors who fought in the Revolution. Two of my ancestors fought in the Civil War - One North, one South. Almost all have grandparents who fought in World War II. When we raise our right hands, it is honorable, but certainly not extraordinary. But look deep at the faces, names and backgrounds of many in our military, and you will find another group. Quiet, unassuming. Neither asking for special treatment, nor expecting for anything to be given them without sacrifice. Indeed, if a debt is owed, they do not owe it. If sacrifice is demanded, it is not demanded of them. Yet they pay. And they sacrifice. (READ MORE)

Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal: There are no Saturdays in Iraq - I woke up this morning and it was last year. A rolling haze of nothing. That’s all I see and hear and feel until a faint sound pings at my mind like a stone tossed down a well. I roll over and pick up my cell phone. Five minutes past 11. Damn it, I think. I was dreaming I was having a near-life experience. Whether this is true or not, I cannot recall. I never remember what I dream. It’s a text message from City Girl. “Wake up sleepy-head!” it says. “And call your adoring girlfriend!” I smile, in spite of my creeping consciousness. It takes a special kind of being to be both classy and demanding in a text message sent from six time zones away. (READ MORE)

LT Nixon: Iraq News (14 Apr) - The Good: The Government of Iraq has ordered a crackdown on militias selling black market fuel to Iraqi citizens (about damn time). This has been a continuous cash flow for the Mahdi Army, and this move will put the squeeze on their ability to purchase weapons and payoff their thugs. They might need to stock up as the Iraqi Police have seized a cache that was concealed in a hay truck bound for Baghdad. The Iraqi Cabinet has passed the draft Provincial Elections law and it will be sent to the Iraqi Parliament. This will most likely be bitterly disputed, but is ultimately necessary for political progress in Iraq. The Bad: A mass grave of badly decomposed corpses has been found in Diyala province, which was Al-Qaeda in Iraq central through the better part of 2007. (READ MORE)

LT Nixon: Generation Y-We Suck - Burt Prelutsky writes an excellent article for Pajamas Media characterizing the 1960s long-hair, draft-dodgin', leftistas as a mere self-indulgent movement that stood on the good side of the civil rights movement, but was wrong about everything else. I sent the article to Generation X scholar, Wek of Latchkey Man, for his further analysis, since there has always been some underlying generational tension with that demographic of the population. Not without justification either, as Gen Xers will most likely have to foot most of the bill as the boomers retire off to their expensive yoga retreats to become one with the cosmos...at a very heavy cost to the taxpayer. Being born in 1980, I kind of hoped I was part of the angst-ridden generation that had good taste in movies like "Slacker" and viewed the world with a cynical eye. But, alas, I think I was born several years too late, as I am part of, arguably, the worst generation in the history of America! (READ MORE)

Doc in the Box: Break down - I’ve complained about my laptop for the past year or so, battery had gone out on it, the fan was making strange sounds and it was having problems processing anything. So I cleaned out the fan, added another gig of ram and got the biggest battery they make for my model and why? A while back, being the unit photo dude, I was asked by one of my higher ups to make up a mid deployment unit video and started putting my pictures and video footage together and ran into a snag, even with the 2 gigs of RAM from Newegg I had purchased, my computer still wasn’t cutting it. My new camera’s video footage was more then the poor thing could handle and each time I added something new, it would lock up for hours at a time which caused my brain to start melting down. (READ MORE)

Badger 6: No Longer Held in Reserve - Good article from the WaPo on what it is like to prepare a Reserve Component Company for mobilization and deployment. We deployed a Battalion, that is is nominally made up of a Headquarters Company, and three line companies. None of the three line companies were at full strength so we collapsed one company into the other two and another line company was mobilized out of Wisconsin to join us. In order to keep some unit integrity my company and Team Wolf made one of our platoons from the third company. Those guys were able to keep together. We also had a few guys that were "cross-leveled" but they all fit right in - many of them, but not all, were volunteers. (READ MORE)

Charlie Foxtrot: Words of Warning - I am just starting to work my way through Steve Coll's 'Ghost Wars', in preparation for my vacation to the Shomali Plain. Early during a recitation of William Casey's efforts of working with the Pakistanis to support the burgeoning Mujahadin, Pakistani President Zia-ul-Haq offered the following insight that Iraqi leaders may want to keep in the back of their minds: "...being an ally of the United States was like living on the banks of an enormous river. 'The soil is wonderfully fertile,' he said, 'but every four or eight years the river changes course, and you may find yourself alone in a desert." This is not to say that Iraqi leaders should root for one result or another in this fall's election, but just be warned that we are going to fight this Long War, with a many short term strategies. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Iraqi government: "We will continue until we secure Sadr City" - The Iraqi government has committed to wresting Sadr City from the control of Shia militias, an Iraqi government spokesman and a US military spokesman said in a press briefing today in Baghdad. "We will continue until we secure Sadr City. We will not come out, we will not give up until the people of Sadr City have a normal life," Ali al Dabbagh, the spokesman for the government of Iraq, told AFP. "(Security forces) will do what they have to do to secure the area. I can't tell you how many days or how many months but they will not come out until they have secured Sadr City." (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US, Iraqi troops prepare the battlefield in Sadr City - Three weeks after the Iraqi government initiated Operation Knights Assault in Basrah, US and Iraqi forces have squared off against the Mahdi Army daily in the Shia slums of Sadr City. Additional US and Iraqi forces have moved into northeastern Baghdad to prepare for a possible major engagement against the Mahdi Army. While Muqtada al Sadr, the leader of the Mahdi Army and the Sadrist political movement, called for his fighters to pull off the streets on March 30, the Mahdi Army has continued to attack US and Iraqi forces in Sadr City and northeastern Baghdad. The Mahdi Army began seeding the streets of Sadr City with roadside bombs just days after Sadr declared the unilateral ceasefire. "Outlaw groups have planted roadside bombs and other explosives in most of the streets of Sadr City," the Baghdad Operational Command reported. (READ MORE)

Back Stateside but still writing:
A Surgeon's Letters Home From Iraq: Burned boy evacuated from Balad - I read a great announcement from the AF news service that they had been able to airlift a burned boy from Iraq to the Shriner's' Burn Hospital in Cincinnati. He is a three-year-old boy who had been burned over 45% of his body by a cooking fire in his home. I saw this exact scenario so many times in Iraq. Many of the homes are one-room dwellings that have an open or poorly shielded cooking fire in the middle. It is so easy for the crawlers and walkers to stumble into the fire and get burned by the cooking fuel or scalded by the meal. We never were able to keep alive a child who had been burned over more than half of his body. In comparison, at US burn hospitals, the specialized staff is frequently able to save children who have been burned over 90% of their bodies. I hope this Iraqi child does well and is home soon. (READ MORE)

The Angry American: Finally - I sit here posting this one from the comfort and safety of my own home. Hanging out with my wife and she finishes up some homework she has due on Monday. It felt like forever from Rusty, to BIAP, to Kuwait and then to here. I stay in Kuwait was nice and short and they have the Customs portion down to an exact science it seems. With customs knocked out we were herded into the waiting area until our plane was ready for us. The weight of 15 months slowly started to drift away as the pilots roared away from Kuwait. We ate a light meal on the plane watched a movie and before we knew it we were in Germany. A quick pit stop and much needed smoke break for all the smokers and we were back on the bird for the long leg of the flight. I sat next to Doc so I had access to the best sleeping aides. When I woke up I saw the green hills, and forests of Maine. (READ MORE)

Heading Out:
Big Tobacco: Giving Birth to a New Lieutenant - I did not smoke while writing this. A soldier's life is a life of shit. I don't necessarily mean a life of bad situations, but a life that is intimately involved with releasing excess waste from the body. This function, which is normally performed by people in the privacy of their own bathrooms, is usually on public display and available for public comment. This is the kind of behavior that would get a person fired in an office environment but is positively encouraged when you put on the green (or grayish) stupid suit. When eliminating waste in the field, the soldier usually digs a 1x1x1 foot cat hole, squats over the hole, evacuates their waste in the hole, and then covers it up with dirt. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
No news is good news - Camp Speicher, Iraq- A soldier’s wife hears about an IED attack on her husband’s unit, she passes the news to another soldier’s wife. Pretty soon a dozen families are in panic. Is my husband ok? Why weren’t we notified? It’s the kind of rumor mill that spins out of control. “We’ve had it happen twice already,” said Lieutenant Colonel Ronald A. Westfall, Commander of the 1st/151st Infantry Battalion out of Jasper, IN. Westfall said the first time he was in Iraq in 2003, there was one computer and one phone for an entire battalion of 600 soldiers. (READ MORE)

Trigger finger wound can’t take out Sniper - Sergeant Jarrad McGregor, 30, of Evansville had eight years active duty experience, but it was his Indiana National Guard brothers who motivated him to return to a war zone despite just coming off a surgery to his trigger finger. “You meet guys in active duty,” Sgt. McGregor said, “but these are the guys I grew up with. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” McGregor almost didn’t make it. He graduated from sniper school just before the Indiana National Guard’s deployment. (READ MORE)

A different tour and different mission - Sgt. Michael Zarth of Hammond is a truck commander on his second tour of duty with the Indiana National Guard, part of a convoy squad providing security for tractor-trailers hauling supplies to and from U.S. bases in Iraq. Back in 2003, during his first tour, he was a medic attached to the 205th out of Camp Attebury and was stationed in Kuwait and Southern Iraq. A lot of things have changed in Iraq since 2003. (READ MORE)

Criminals’ IED strike sets market ablaze - BAGHDAD – Criminals attacked a Multi-National Division – Baghdad patrol with an improvised-explosive device in eastern Baghdad April 13. The IED attack ignited a major fire at the nearby Al Ummal market. The market blaze began at approximately 11:30 p.m. (READ MORE)

One terrorist killed, 14 detained in operations targeting AQI leaders - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces killed one terrorist and detained 14 suspected terrorists while targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq’s senior leaders and criminal operations Sunday and Monday. In eastern Baghdad Sunday, Coalition forces used information from an operation Feb. 7 to target a senior leader in the Baghdad AQI propaganda network. When the ground force entered the building, one man drew a weapon. Coalition forces responded to the hostile threat by engaging and killing the armed man. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers defend themselves, kill 6 criminals - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division - Baghdad soldiers killed six criminals after they were attacked in eastern Baghdad at approximately 10:30 p.m., April 13. Soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, were attacked by rocket propelled grenades while conducting a patrol in their M1A2 Abrams tank. A rotary-wing air weapons team was called in to assist the soldiers on the ground. (READ MORE)

Operation Charge of Knights continues progress in Basrah - BASRA, Iraq – Operation Sawlat al-Fursan, or Charge of the Knights, entered a new phase of operations in Basrah, April 12. The operation, which began March 24, has now started the process of clearing strongholds previously dominated by criminal militias. A deliberate house-to-house clearance operation of the south-western Basrah district of al-Qiblah was conducted without major incident. It resulted in significant quantities of arms, ammunition and explosives being found. (READ MORE)

Cache discovered in Salah ad-Din - TIKRIT, Iraq – Iraqi Army soldiers discovered a weapons cache in Salah ad-Din Province, April 13. The cache contained approximately 100 57 mm mortar rounds. A Coalition forces Explosive Ordnance Disposal team recovered the cache and transported it to a secure area for proper disposal of the items. (READ MORE)

Mass grave discovered south of Muqdadiyah - TIKRIT, Iraq – Multi-National Division – North Soldiers discovered between 20 – 30 bodies buried in a mass grave south of Muqdadiyah, Iraq, April 13. All the bodies were badly decomposed and appear to have been at the site nearly eight months. The Coalition forces were unable to determine whether or not the bodies had been tortured at the time of death. The remains will be moved to a nearby cemetery. (READ MORE)

MND-B CG presents 6 impact Bronze Star Medals to 768th Eng. Bn. Soldiers - CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq – It had been only a few hours since the Soldiers of 769th Engineer Battalion, 35th Engineer Brigade, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, returned from the monumental task of installing approximately 130,000-square feet of rocket-propelled grenade fencing and sniper-screen material over a 1,200 foot distance, with heights measuring up to 40 feet, at Joint Security Station Ur in the Sadr City district of Baghdad to veil the aerostat and its docking station. (READ MORE)

Air Weapons Team kills IED triggerman, wounds one - CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – One criminal was killed and another wounded after being engaged by an air weapons team in Jabella April 12. The AWT was providing aerial protection for a Coalition force convoy when an improvised explosive device struck one of the vehicles. The AWT observed the strike and identified two individuals near the scene as the triggermen. Once the triggermen were positively identified, the AWT engaged them with their primary gun system, killing one and wounding the second. (READ MORE)

Iraq’s Largest Power Plant Awaits Improvements - FORWARD OPERATING BASE ISKAN — There’s a reason the lights never go out at FOB Iskan, and it’s not because of Coalition forces. The brightly-lit Iskandariyah Thermal Power Plant located there has been chugging along since long before troops arrived. The plant is the dominant visual feature of FOB Iskan, with four enormous smokestacks rising above an imposing labyrinth of iron girders, spindly ladders and steaming pipes. The electricity is churned into existence at Iskan, which runs on Iraq’s plentiful supplies of raw crude oil. (READ MORE)

Private First Class Brandon L. Davidson - Following an air assault in the village of Tsangar to conduct a search and attack in order to disrupt Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in the Watapor Valley, PFC Davidson’s platoon was attacked by 80 personnel in a deliberate attack with a heavy barrage of small arms, PKM, RPG and accurate sniper fire. Within minutes, his platoon had suffered five casualties. PFC Davidson immediately moved to the hasty CCP, where his capabilities as an EMT were critical and prevented a mass casualty incident from overwhelming the platoon medic’s ability to treat casualties. Throughout the contact, which lasted hours, he continued to treat casualties in spite of rounds impacting all around his position. (READ MORE)

Provincial Vet and Civil Affairs Team help Local Ranchers - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Farah Government veterinary officials, assisted by Coalition forces, treated a number of animals and taught the local shepherds how to care for their livestock at a veterinarian capabilities event at Farah Fire Base, April 2. The civil affairs team stationed at the Farah Fire Base assisted the provincial veterinarian in hosting the event. Dr. Gulam, the provincial veterinarian, coordinated and organized the event by putting out radio messages and sending his veterinarian technicians to remote villages to invite ranchers to the event. The team organized the supplies and requested volunteers from the Provincial Reconstruction Team’s medical personnel to assist with the event. (READ MORE)

Retired 20th Special Forces Group Soldiers Send Aid to Afghanistan - KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces, assisted by Coalition forces, distributed aid donated by the retired 20th Special Forces Group Soldiers to the Tarin Kowt Hospital in Oruzgan province, April 6. The donation was made possible with the help of $11,750 in funding, clothing donations, school supplies, the help of National Guard trucks, 20th Special Forces Group retirees and the coordination of current Special Forces Soldiers. According to one of the event organizers, the money and supplies were mainly donated by U.S. citizens. (READ MORE)

Joint forces detain Haqqani network commander - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – A Haqqani network commander was detained during a joint Afghan National Security and Coalition operation to disrupt Improvised Explosive Device operations in the Khowst province, April 12. The Combined forces conducted a search of several compounds in the Gurbuz District. The Haqqani network commander was associated with IED facilitation, financial and logistical support operations. The combined force also detained target other individuals with suspected ties to the targeted militant, as well as Haqqani IED facilitation and support operations. (READ MORE)

Detained IED facilitators identified - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Coalition forces have released the identity of six extremists detained during a joint Afghan National Security and Coalition forces operation to disrupt militant Improvised Explosive Device operations in Khowst province, March 12. The extremists, identified as Mohammad Ghanam, Khan Gul, Nik Mohammad, Sheikh Soup, Ahmad Jan and Mohammad Wali were apprehended in several compounds in the Tani District. Mohammad Ghanam, 33, was one of two militants who were the focus of the operation. He was directly involved in the preparation of vehicle-borne IEDs for the Haqqani network and has conducted attacks against Coalition bases throughout Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Medic recognized for actions during insurgent assault - KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Army Sgt. Kyle S. Dirkintis, a medic from Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), also known as “The Rock”, was awarded a Bronze Star for valor, April 1, for his actions at Ranch House Outpost, Kunar province. Aug. 22, 2007 Dirkintis, a Racine, Wis., native, woke to the sound of gun fire, something he hadn’t heard during the first three months of his deployment at Ranch House, a remote outpost defended by 25 Soldiers. Minutes after the first shot, roughly 20 insurgents breached the outpost’s perimeter. (READ MORE)

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