May 27, 2008

From the Front: 05/27/2008

News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

In their own words:
Michael Yon: SPC David Lee Leimbach - CSM Jeff Mellinger in honor of our latest fallen warrior, SPC David Lee Leimbach, who gave his life in our defence: “Afghanistan - This morning at 0600, we paid final respects to SPC David Lee Leimbach, a Taylor, South Carolina, National Guard soldier killed yesterday in the mountains of Afghanistan. Just before 0500, an announcement came across the Bagram Airfield PA system for everyone to dress in their combat uniforms and assemble along the road which cuts through the middle of Bagram Air Base. Little by little, troops from all services and many coalition countries began lining the main street of the base. They stood literally shoulder to shoulder on both sides of the road for nearly a mile. At about 0530, a USAF C-17 landed (ironically from Charleston, SC), taxied, pulled into a space in front of the formed troops, turning its tail towards them. The ramp dropped, the engines shut down, the crew disembarked and lined up in front of the plane. All down the flight line, warriors stood at parade rest; talking and whispering stopped.” (READ MORE)

Courage Without Fear: Memorial Day Memories - Once again I'm celebrating a Memorial Day from the desert. This marks the second time I've been in uniform, overseas for Memorial Day. Even though I hate to say it, I don't think it'll be my last. After 9/11/01 it's a different world we live in. Memorial Day was originally celebrated as Decoration Day following the Civil War. It was a time to decorate the graves of our Civil War dead. For many, this day of remembrance has merely become a reason for a 3 day weekend. For many of ushowever, its a time to reflect on those we've lost in the wars our country has fought and in the tragedies that have befallen our great nation. Since 2005 I've worn a POW bracelet on my right wrist for SGT Keith "Matt" Maupin. (READ MORE)

One Marine's View: Memorial Day - Memorial Day definition for those that may have confused it with other focuses of efforts. Memorial Day is a United States Federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May (in 2008 on May 26). Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. men and women who perished while in military service to their country. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War, it was expanded after World War I to include casualties of any war or military action . This Memorial Day as 3 others that I have spent on a deployment I ponder of the warriors who came before us, the ones we try to emulate. It’s an unwritten rule, that we try to fulfill the expectations of those that have gone before us and have changed the world. WW I, WW II, all the wars and battles before and after, one constant theme has been in every one, American men and women have volunteered to stand for the country and keep the wolf at bay. Some returning home, many paying the ultimate sacrifice. (READ MORE)

Those Wacky Iraqis: Two Months - It has been almost two months since I wrote anything here. I have just been living in Saudi Arabia and getting by and have not really put much thought to the war the last couple of months. I am insulated from the war, news of the war and being around the military. I see the guys everyday that were up North with me but we all find that we don't talk about it much. There is a guy here who was with me in Taji for a couple of years. He and I are with different companies but we are very close to each other already. After all, no one else here has laid beside me in a an open field while rockets fell around us and Iraqis ran in circles like Turkeys cornered at a fence line. I guess all of us know that it is still there looming across the horizon like a bad thunderstorm or even a horse mounted group of Huns, Mongols, or the like. (READ MORE)

Iraq: The Purgatorium: Final Minutes - The Strykers pulled back onto the FOB, about a week or so ago, and the ramps dropped. We piled out and pointed our rifles at the clearing barrels. "Clear." "Clear." We mounted back up, stripping off our gear and shutting radios down. I didn't know it at the time, but that was my last mission. We turned in all sorts of high tech sensitive type items and gadgets. Turned in what ammo we had left. Cleaned gear, packed huge metal containers, the type of shit you see at docks, repacked them, unpacked them, had them inspected. We kept busy with all manner of Preparing To Leave busywork. And the whole time, it was never real. Just going to a new tent. Maybe a new FOB. That's it. The States? Shit son, that's just a myth to keep morale up. There is no world, there is only Iraq. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Mookie, the Iraqi MLK - If you thought WaPo broke up with Mookie, today's love letter to the guy will convince you that they're still an item. The Post reporter, as always, did not interview Moqtada Al Sadr himself. Rather, the lengthy story is based on conversations with Mookie's friends, aides, etc. WaPo makes it look as though recent improvements in Sadr City were all because of Mookie. No, the Iraqi Army had nothing to do with it. Iran had nothing to do with it, etc. "His decision last week to allow the Iraqi army to enter the capital's Sadr City district, his base of power, was the latest in a series of calming edicts that began last summer. In August 2007, he ordered his militia, which had been responsible for some of the most horrific sectarian violence in the country, to lay down its weapons." (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Iraq Must Act Now to Avert Real Crisis - When supposed experts on Iraq argue over whether Ayatollah Sistani permits Iraqis to sell food to the Americans, they expose their own ignorance. We all know most Americans in Iraq are not about to skip a top-rate, free meal at their cafeterias and go out for guss. But do the experts know the danger of the government's decision regarding the country's football team? Last week Nouri Al Maliki's cabinet disbanded the national football association, ultimately denying the Asia Cup champions a chance to play in the qualifiers for the World Cup 2010. (READ MORE)

James Aalan Bernsen: Outside the wire - On a mild Spring morning a while back, I climbed into an armored vehicle and took up my seat. With my body armor wrapped tightly around me and my Kevlar helmet firm about my head, I took my seat inside what is known as a Rhino - a fortified bus. But this was no ordinary morning commute. At a final stop before passing through our gates, we were told to load our weapons. There are many people who come over here and never once leave the confines of a fortified military base. In fact, the number of such people would be astounding to most un-initiated. Many jobs simply don't require it. A vehicle maintenance crew doesn't need to go "outside the wire" - as it is called. The vehicles damaged by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are towed back to base and worked on there. Helicopter ground crews, similarly, have no need to leave the base either. (READ MORE)

Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal: The Bon Jovi IED - O Dark Thirty. Memorial Day weekend, not that any of us were really aware of that at the time. Patrolling up and down Route Daytona, the highway stretch that serves as the logistical spinal column for the massive American body draped across this part of Iraq. “Gravedigger 1, this is X-Ray.” My entire vehicle groaned along with me. Radio calls at this time of night rarely bring good news. I responded and waited for the details for the latest goat symphony we needed to conduct. “Roger … move south, to Checkpoint AL5. There’s a convoy that has come to a halt on the far side of that checkpoint … claims they see a box with some wires coming out of it. They need someone to check it out.” (READ MORE)

Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal: AngerSadnessHope: Two Half - There was a boy who went to war, like many other boys before him. Maybe it made him a man, maybe it didn’t. Maybe he already was a man, maybe he wasn’t. Maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe none of it does, maybe it all does. Maybe. Maybe amongst many other sentimentalist pseudo-intellectual theories, this boy had a theory that the only emotions that matter are anger, sadness, and hope, and that everything else branches off from those in convoluted absurdity. He liked oversimplifications. The Green was first. Now the Orange. Well before LT G was IrishSlim, and before he devolved into Awkward the Red, lived Kid Wonder – a child whose existence vacillated between idyllic and galvanizing, a truth that would eventually survive for far too many years than any child, of any country or station or class, has a right to. (READ MORE)

LT Nixon: Iraq News (27 May) - The Good Muqtada al-Sadr might be trying to brush up on his studies and boost his theological credentials according to WaPo, but the LA Times reports that the Mahdi Army is losing popular support in the Shi'ite district of Sadr City due to its racketeering and thug-like tactics. The U.S. Presidential hopefuls may address the women in combat issue. Haha, silly politicians, military women are already in combat roles, get with the times! Reuters reports that major heads of the state-run oil industry have been replaced, which is most likely an attempt to curb the corruption that has plagued the Iraqi oil industry. Six young boys, who were being trained to be utilized as suicide bombers by a Saudi foreign fighter, have been rescued by Iraqi security forces in Mosul. The Long War Journal reports that a Special Groups commander has been detained in the Shula neighborhood. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: RCT-1 HQ Co. Commander letter to friends - My Dear Friends: Once again, I find myself apologizing for the long delay between E-mails. I'm working on getting into a better E-mail "battle rhythm," and I greatly appreciate your patience. I also greatly appreciate all of the encouraging words you all sent to me in the last few weeks. I greatly appreciate them and treasure them. Please know that I am well. I am also very encouraged by what I am seeing around me. Last Saturday I had the opportunity to go to a local Sheik's home as the Fallujah Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team delivered a solar-powered water pump and filter unit. The photo labeled, "the well," shows you what the sheik and his family (tribe) used for a well up until we delivered a new one. You can see that it is just a small hole in the ground tapping into a very neglected water infrastructure. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: ISF and Regimental Combat Team 1 discover significant caches - CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq – Elements of Regimental Combat team 1, including Iraqi Police and Iraqi Army units, working off tips from Iraqi civilians uncovered numerous caches in AO East this week. Between May 18 and 24, caches were found that consisted of 1,329 types of indirect fire munitions such as mortar rounds, rockets and artillery rounds. The caches consisted of thirty-three rocket propelled grenades, along with fuses and other miscellaneous equipment,1,200 pounds of explosives, 19 weapons, including light and heavy machineguns, anti-aircraft weapons and sniper rifles, approximately 5,000 types of small-arms ammunition such as .50-caliber, 7.62 mm, 9 mm and sniper rifle ammunition, approximately 1,600 types of improvised explosive device making materials... (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Afghan Adventure: Where Is Osama? - I have been asked this question many times since I've been home. I was asked when I was on leave, and people who I don't even know have asked me as well. I have often had to explain where I have been for the last year and a half while conducting business that I haven't been here to conduct. Very often, the question is posed, "So, where is Osama?" I have two answers: 1) Pakistan and 2) It doesn't matter. Where I was, I was looking for Mullah Mahmoud and Qari Nejat. In the Tagab Valley, the biggest problems were the local Taliban leaders. (READ MORE)

The Angry American: NEVER FORGET - This Memorial Day remember those who gave all and sacrificed their lives for God, and Country, Family, and Friends. The following are the Soldiers of 2/16IN who were killed during the "Surge" 2007-2008. Never forget these men, their faces, their sacrifices, or the people that they left behind. I'm very greatful to have known a few of them but wish that I could have known all of them, and I'm very proud to have served during the same time and within the same Battalion as them. Remember all those who were wounded and forever changed on the battlefield. Do not forget those still out there on the Dangerous routes of Afghanistan, and Iraq. Never Forget! Semper Paratus (READ MORE)

IN-iraq: Over 140 Iraqis lay down arms in Balad - Key tribal leaders ended their standoff with U.S. and Iraqi forces by bringing in men from their areas who have insurgent histories. The commander of 1st Squad/32nd Cavalry Regiment of 1st/101st ABN, who control security around Balad, had previously set deadlines for known insurgents to reconcile by. Reconciliation is a process in which insurgents meet with US and Iraqi forces to officially lay down their arms in exchange for some amnesty. Much of this is based on relationships. Local sheiks and militia spread the word that time is running out. Of course, when the Airborne backs up the "or else" with raids that kill or capture high-value targets, that could be called an incentive. (READ MORE)

IN-iraq: Chicken feed and city council, working civil affairs in Iraq - Tikrit, Iraq- From checking in on chicken farmers to city councilmen, it takes a lot of patience to work on a Civil Affairs team in Iraq these days, more so because there are signs of progress. Captain Carlstein Lutchmedial, originally from Trinidad, asks a ton of questions. When the village catfish farmer tells him he only has a thousand fish in his pond at one time, Lutchmedial asks why he can’t breed more. When the water plant operator says he needs more gas to keep the generators going, Lutchmedial asks how much more he needs. When Tikrit city council members say they want a new clinic, Lutchmedial asks them to recall what happened to the last clinic. He asks about rent, cost of living, fuel and jots their answers down in his green book. (READ MORE)

The Satirist at War: Back from the most brutal mission I've ever experienced - Two dramatic events from my most recent Operation, both of which bear remarking on. The first is that I was part of a rout involving a Battalion-minus element from an ally that will remain nameless. The second concerns a series of incidents that occured on a mountaintop somewhere in Eastern Afghanistan. The picture is of me on that mountaintop, as coincidence would have it, not long before the first of those incidents. I'm looking to the South, and I don't like what I see. You'll see. So, for OPSEC reasons, I can't go too far into detail with either, but we'll begin with a description of the rout. For those of you who have never imagined a rout, or read of another's imagining, a rout occurs when two elements clash, one is soundly defeated, and runs away without concern for anything, anything, but getting to safety. The other element is then left in sole possession of the battlefield. (READ MORE)

Fun With Hand Grenades: FOB Garrison - I don't really know when it happened or why. Maybe it's that the officers are worried about their evaluations and careers. Maybe it's the simple fact we've been in Iraq for so many years and things like this are inevitable. Or, maybe it's the Army's defeatist attitude; we all know the war in Iraq is completely lost so the mentality has shifted from "fighting the war" to "worrying about standards." I would like to know when the chain of command lost their testicles (see "careerism") and put them in a purse. Somewhere along the line, "this is absolutely fucking ridiculous, my men are NOT doing that" turned into "roger, sir." Attention all officers; If you want your NCOs to enforce your policy, try not making them stupid ones. I'm not even kidding when I say I get more stressed out from dealing with the retarded bullshit than I do from anything involving combat. (READ MORE)

SSG Frank Broncato: Making life a little better - I'm SSG Frank Broncato from Buffalo, and I am Humanitarian Aid Coordinator in the Civil Military Affairs Section of 27th Brigade Combat Team, CJTF Phoenix VII Kabul, Afghanistan. I keep track of all incoming and out going aid supplies. I distribute clothes, toys, food and school supplies, which are desperately needed here. We are opening up a lot of schools for the children of Afghanistan. In the picture I am at the Aschiana School for Street Children near Kabul. These children are really poor. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Iraqi Special Forces capture Special Groups commander in Baghdad - Iraqi Special Operations Forces have captured a senior Mahdi Army Special Groups leader in the Shula neighborhood in the Ghazaliyah district in northwestern Baghdad. The Shula neighborhood has been a target of US and Iraqi forces over the past several weeks as the fighting in Sadr City has largely subsided. The Iraqi Special Operations Forces captured what Multinational Forces Iraq called a "mid-level Special Groups leader" along with two associates during a raid on May 25. The commander, who is "affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps," is thought to lead a 300-man battalion of Mahdi Army fighters. He has been behind the kidnapping and murdering of Iraqis, and works for the Ministry of Interior. (READ MORE)

Matt Dupee: In Pictures: Eastern Afghanistan's most wanted - Shortly before the Combined Joint Task Force-82 transferred authority to the incoming 101st Airborne Division on April 10, CJTF-82 shared a list of the most wanted insurgent operatives' active in the areas under Regional Command East with The Long War Journal. The list is separate from the 12-most wanted Taliban list drafted up by the US military in October 2007. The current list includes a plethora of regional, provincial and district level insurgent commanders and criminal kingpins wanted for facilitating attacks against Coalition and Afghan National Security Forces. The list marks the first glimpse into the ground-level hunt for key insurgent commanders in areas such as Logar and Laghman provinces. Many of the names are unfamiliar, and their photographs are either classified or nonexistent. More than half of the listed fugitives were last seen in various locations in Pakistan; only nine listed individuals were known to be hiding inside Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Navy Gal: monotony - The monotony of it all has begun. I knew it was going to happen. I have heard the tales and read the stories, but never thought it would actually happen to me. But alas, it has. BOREDOM is setting in and taking it's sticky, gooey, hold upon my life here on this base. My days are getting longer and the time off getting shorter because we for whatever reason can't seem to find anything more productive to do but work. If I really enjoyed working that much I would have to call it a hobby instead of WORK. Even the strykers that used to elicit such oohs and ahhhs are now nothing more than an occasional 'cool a stryker'. This is not a good sign seeing as how I still have 6 months left in this God-forsaken land of Iraq. I feel like a little hamster running in that wire ball just hoping to make it to some sort of new destination. (READ MORE)

From the 'Stan: I’m sorry - Hello all, I just read a comment on one of my stories about the Court of Inquiry from someone who was offended by the fact that I was able to go to Afghanistan since my husband is there. He also said my husband should not have eaten meals with me because his Marines didn’t have that option. In light of that, I just wanted to apologize to any of you who are or were upset and/or offended by me going to Afghanistan. I know we are all under a lot of stress when our loved ones are deployed, and I certainly did not want to cause any additional stress for any of you. As I mentioned early in the blog, I did discuss that issue at length with my editors and we determined that our readers were better served by me going and writing about what life and work is like over there than by me staying home. (READ MORE)

David Wood: Breaking point - GARMSIR, AfghanistanIn - In the dying sunlight, the day's heat radiates from a farm compound's baked adobe walls, which enclose Marines slumped wearily against their rucksacks. Here in southern Afghanistan, where the men of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit are battling Taliban insurgents, life comes in a simple equation: There are men out there who will kill you, unless you kill them first. Out here, you've got to figure out how to handle the stress of that exhilarating and awful equation. Bust it or park it, use guesswork or patchwork or whatever works. Suck up the heat, the dust, the physical exhaustion, the fear, the loss. Help is a long way away. (READ MORE)

Something on the staff: Chai Boys and the Iraqi Army - I spend much of my time with the Iraqi Army, and it is good. I learn about the culture, see how they do things and learn a bit of Arabic here and there. But, there are some odd requests. One of the Iraqi officers learned I was on my way home in a few weeks, and asked me to look in on a medical issue for him. Sure, why not? He has ‘weak sperm’ issues. Today on Things I Never Thought I’d Have to Deal With: weak Iraqi sperm. No, I don’t know what to do with weak sperm. Eat an oyster? Would anyone trust seafood from the Persian Gulf? (READ MORE)

1st Marine Logistics Group: Undercover of the night - HABBANIYAH, Iraq (May 17, 2008) The roaring of engines and the snarling of Rhinos disrupted the still of the Iraqi night as Marines worked on reconstructing an area outside of Habbaniyah during the early morning, May 17. Working under cover of the night, the raucous Rhinos of Heavy Equipment Platoon, Engineer Company, Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, worked from dusk until dawn to reinforce an area outside of the city. “We’re reconstructing the security positions and helping clean up the area,” said Staff Sgt. Robert L. Leatherman, the operations chief for H.E. Platoon. The rhinos charged through the project, uprooting the old barriers and beefing up protection by placing concrete barriers around the base of the bridge. (READ MORE)

1st Marine Logistics Group: ‘Dirty Dozen’ brings heroes home - AT-TAQADDUM, Iraq (May 12, 2008) – Green sandbags spell the unit’s abbreviation on the outer wall of its large bunker. On a clear day, the sprawling letters can be seen from a mile away. Despite its visual prominence, many stationed at Camp Taqaddum don’t know what “PRP” stands for and have no idea what goes on here. Those who do would rather not think about it. “When I see the tail end of a C-130 (transport aircraft) go up with transfer cases draped in American flags, I’m definitely proud of what we do,” said Lance Cpl. Nick Divito, a mortuary affairs specialist with Personnel Retrieval and Processing Detachment, Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group. The team is formed by volunteers from the Marine Corps Reserve. Mortuary affairs units are new to the Marine Corps and didn’t become an occupational specialty until after the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (READ MORE)

Back but still writing:
The Iceblog: Memorial Day 2008 - Fiona said, "Memorial Day is a great opportunity to lay out and get my summer coat in:" Doogan said, "Memorial Day weekend is a great opportunity to go fishing with my grandpups." Here is a picture of them getting ready - Doogan is showing them how to bait a hook. And here they are fishing. They had a professional guide who helped them to find the fish: Then I asked Josh what his plans were. He said "I think Memorial Day is a great opportunity to go visit some old friends and co-workers." So that's what we did: L to R: SGT Bryan McDonough (2-136 IN, 1/34 BCT), SGT Nicholas Turcotte (2-135 IN, 1/34 BCT), SSG James Wosika (2-136 IN, 1/34 BCT) (READ MORE)

Marine Historian: Memorial Day 2008 - Memorial Day. We are here today to remember. To give thanks. To pay tribute. We do this because it is the right thing to do. Our fallen heroes are worthy of our time, our attention, our honor. We also do this to support and comfort the families and friends of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. We hope to remind them that their loss has paid the mortgage on freedoms we all cherish. Finally, we do this to demonstrate our values as a people; that courage is honorable, that service is essential, that sacrifice will be sanctified. In doing so, we shape the next generation of young Americans. These are all worthy reasons for us to gather here today. As a history teacher, I would like to offer one additional benefit that this time of remembrance offers us: Examining our past and placing it in context helps us to better understand our present and more successfully guide our future. (READ MORE)

Army of Dude: Photo Story Monday - Recollections - On a radio interview I did for Memorial Day, I had a hard time describing how I would spend it this year. Before I enlisted, Memorial Day seemed a convenient way to have a long weekend away from school. In my first year in the Army, it was spent sleeping in without having to do any PT. No push ups in the mushy Ft. Lewis grass for us that day. A year ago, Memorial Day was spent in the confines of our small outpost on the east side of Baqubah. We had converted a two story house into a fortress deep within the city to keep close to the roads and buildings that concealed homemade bombs, waiting for us to wander helplessly into them. It was part of the surge strategy: total immersion in the communities we patrolled. (READ MORE)

A Battlefield Tourist: My War - Since the attacks on America in 2001, I have spent more than 260 days, in either Iraq or Afghanistan, covering US troops and their allies in their counter-insurgency struggles. As most of those familiar with my work know, I am primarily a videojournalist, but also enjoy taking a couple of still shots every once in a while as well. Recently, I have assembled my favorite pictures from these experiences in the expectation of putting together an exhibit. With that said, I would love to get some public involvement in this project and it doesn’t cost a dime. (READ MORE)

M&M's Home Blog: Thoughts on Memorial Day - So, it's 2:00 AM and I'm sitting beside my husband at his job, keeping him company and looking at articles on a few major "news" providers. I saw a collage of pictures taken from a variety of protests, and it took me a minute to organize my thoughts on a hot topic of our time: peace. I don't find peace demonstrations by their basic nature to be offensive. I appreciate people who pray for peace and demonstrate for peace when peace itself is all they are requesting. However, when they cross the line into anti-Bush, anti-military, anti-violence, I get really angry. (READ MORE)

Pearl in the Desert: Home - After a long but uneventful flight, I arrived back home to a hero's welcome last Thursday. Not only was my family there (they were able to meet me at the gate as soon as I walked off the plane - special deal the airlines offer for just this sort of thing) but the officers from my parent command were waiting just outside the security boundary to welcome me home as well. It was a wonderful arrival! Yesterday was my first full day home and mostly I was struck by the dichotomy of feeling out of place "back in the world" and also feeling like I'd never left somehow. It is hard to adequately explain but I hope you get the idea. Being home isn't 100% normal just yet but having the long weekend to ease back into my routine should help that transition. (READ MORE)

Heading Out:
Big Tobacco: Memorial Day 2008 - I did not smoke while composing this. Kids really put a damper on acting like a kid. I am at a buddy’s lakehouse with several other guys from my Guard unit. We are all trying our hardest to drink as much as possible without tipping the scale toward drunkenness and raising the ire of our wives. It’s dark now. Some of the children are still running around. Others have conked out in strollers. One of my friends is out on the lake in a paddle boat, singing “A Pirate’s Life For Me” and drinking cup after cup of rum. We are combining alcohol, boating fireworks and children… it’s as if infantrymen are programmed for self destruction. As the adults sit on the dock to smoke and overtired, rambunctious children turn the inside of the house into the Battle of Fallujah, talk turns to our deployment. None of us really want to go. It’s not a sense of fear or opposition to the war. Rather, it’s a general feeling of inconvenience. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

ISF learn combat camera skills, document missions - BALAD, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces are taking ‘shooting’ to a new level as they learn to use cameras in their quest to bring security and stability to their country. Over the past six months, some Iraqi Special Weapons and Tactics teams, and Iraqi Special Operations Forces have been learning how to combat terrorism and insurgency through the use of imagery. U.S. Army Maj. Joseph Peterson, Civil-Military Operations Officer of the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula in Balad, is a proponent of a new program to teach camera skills to ISF. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Special Operations Forces detain Special Groups leader - BALAD, Iraq – Iraqi Special Operations Forces captured a mid-level Special Groups leader in the al-Shuala area of Baghdad, May 25. The ISOF conducted a successful operation to capture the suspected leader of a 300-member criminal group who is accused of kidnapping and murdering Iraqi citizens and is affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The suspect is an employee for the Ministry of Interior. This suspect’s group is also allegedly responsible for weapons smuggling and improvised explosive device and explosively-formed penetrator attacks against Iraqi and Coalition forces in Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces capture suspected Special Groups criminal - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces captured a suspected Special Groups criminal Tuesday in Suwayrah, about 50 km southeast of Baghdad. Coalition forces detained an alleged Special Groups leader and explosively formed penetrator expert believed to be responsible for coordinating and directing attacks on Coalition forces in the Wasit province. He is also suspected of sending members of his criminal ring to Iran for paramilitary training. Coalition forces also detained another suspected criminal at the targeted individual’s location. (READ MORE)

Alleged car bombing facilitator, 20 other suspected terrorists detained - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces captured a man wanted in connection with a car-bombing cell involved in an attack that killed four Iraqi police, and detained 20 additional suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists during operations Monday and Tuesday. A wanted AQI suspect believed to be an operative responsible for constructing car bombs is in Coalition forces custody after an operation Tuesday northwest of Baghdad. His cell is allegedly responsible for a May 16 car bombing in Fallujah that killed four Iraqi police and wounded another nine. Reports also indicate the wanted man was building another car bomb for use in an imminent attack. One additional suspect was detained with him. (READ MORE)

Sons of Iraq tips MND-B Soldiers to weapons cache - FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq – A Sons of Iraq tip led Patriot Brigade Soldiers from 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light), to a cache in the Rusafa security district of eastern Baghdad May 26. In addition, the SOI identified four suspects who were detained for questioning. Soldiers from 3rd Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment at Joint Security Station Rasheed traveled to the site and linked up with explosive ordnance detachment experts who safely secured the weapons cache. (READ MORE)

Unknown explosion kills ISF, civilians - BAGHDAD – An unknown explosive detonated near an Iraqi security checkpoint killed five Iraqis, including four Iraqi security force persons in Tarmiya, northwest of Baghdad, May 26. “We send our deepest condolences to the families and friends of our security partners for their loss. Their dedication and service helped to provide a safe and secure Iraq for all,” said Lt.Col. David Davidson, deputy commander 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division - Baghdad. “We absolutely condemn this violent act and will stand with our Iraqi counterparts to find those responsible.” (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers find weapon caches, UXOs in Rashid on - FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers seized weapons caches May 25-26 in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad. At approximately 7:30 p.m. May 25, Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, located three 60mm mortar rounds while conducting route clearance in the Masafee community. Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division found two explosively formed projectiles while searching a residence in the Bayaa community at approximately 2:30 p.m. May 26. (READ MORE)

Operation Siegfried Line nets detainees - FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers detained numerous suspected criminals in the Bayaa community as a result of Operation Siegfried Line May 24 in southern Baghdad. At approximately 11:45 a.m. Soldiers from 1st BCT, 4th Inf. Div., MND-B, detained 40 suspected militants for questioning. Soldiers from 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, MND-B, detained a known criminal at 12:15 a.m. during an early morning operation in the Jihad community of southern Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Coalition Forces Care for Obeidi Tribe - FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU — Members of the Obeidi tribe in Maderiyah, 25 kilometers south of Baghdad, have always relied on one another through difficult times. Now, thanks to successful implementation of the counterinsurgency policy, the tribe can also rely on Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, for help. Soldiers from 1st Platoon, Battery B, 1-9th FA, met with an Obeidi woman May 21 to coordinate treatment options for burns she suffered during a mortar attack aimed at coalition forces. (READ MORE)

Caches Continue to Pour in to Coalition Forces - FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU — Amnesty drop off points are not a new idea in the Army. Whether coming off a range, field exercise or going through customs returning home from deployment, such drop off points give Soldiers a chance to discreetly dispose of contraband and avoid repercussions. Now, in the Maderiyah area, 25 kilometers south of Baghdad, the same privileges are being offered to citizens. “The biggest fear a lot of these people have is getting arrested,” said 1st Lt. Greg Highstrom, platoon leader for 2nd Platoon, Battery B, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. Getting arrested is a guarantee for those who hold caches in their homes or backyards and refuse to turn them over to Coalition forces. However, many people who have no ill will toward Coalition forces are still afraid to contact them to remove caches for fear of reprisal from al-Qaeda. (READ MORE)

Government Officials, Coalition Forces Work to Heal, Unite - PATROL BASE KEMPLE — For the first time in recent history, the government of Iraq came to the aid of local residents requiring medical care in al-Betra and Owesat, about 25 kilometers southwest of Baghdad, on May 20. Assisted by Soldiers of Company A, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), GoI officials and Iraqi doctors flew to a school in the remote community of al-Betra to provide medical care and discuss the extension of government services to the area. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Security Forces Approach Full Manning, British Officer Says - WASHINGTON — Iraq’s security forces should be manned to near capacity by the end of the year, a senior coalition official said yesterday. “Force generation has been the focus of our efforts and still really remains the focus of our efforts up to now,” British army Brigadier Johnny Torrens-Spence, deputy commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, said in a teleconference with online journalists and bloggers. Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq’s job is to generate and sustain Iraqi security forces, not to be directly involved in combat operations, Torrens-Spence said. (READ MORE)

Local Guard prepares for Iraq - Especially in times of war, most people know Memorial Day is a day set aside for more than firing up the grill with family, friends and neighbors. This weekend, many soldiers with the local National Guard unit will be doing just that. Hot dogs, hamburgers, parades, ceremonies. But they, and their families, will have something else in the back of their minds. Those soldiers will soon be serving in Iraq. The 100 or so members of Battery A of the First Battalion of the 108th Field Artillery, based in Hanover, will be among the 4,000 Pennsylvania Guard members deploying to Iraq with the 56th Stryker Brigade. (READ MORE)

A spring offensive by any name – May 10 - Yesterday, Reuters reported Colonel Johnson of the 101st Airborne Division as saying "there is no spring offensive" in Afghanistan. Colonel Johnson commands Task Force Currahee, which is responsible for security in six of the provinces along Afghanistan's eastern border with Pakistan, including Khowst, where I am embedded. It must have come as quite a shock to him, then, when he arrived at Bermel the next day for a security meeting with the Pakistani military, to come under rocket attack from the border. Of course, readers will know that since I arrived at Bermel in mid-April there has been a notable upsurge in rocket attacks, not only on the forward operating base in Bermel itself, but at the outlying Malakshay combat outpost. (READ MORE)

Homeland Security secretary gives oath of citizenship - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (May 26, 2008) – More than 40 Soldiers and Marines received U.S. citizenship here today in a ceremony administered by the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff. Chertoff made a brief stop here to give the oath of citizenship to 44 troops from 21 different countries who are serving in the War on Terror here in a large ceremony. “It takes an incredibly dedicated person to serve in a military of a country that they are not yet a citizen of,” Chertoff said. He commended the Soldiers and Marines for their courage and commitment in the face of danger for a nation built on immigrants, just like them. (READ MORE)

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