May 29, 2008

From the Front: 05/29/2008

News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

In their own words:
Iraq: The Purgatorium: Oakley Bandits - As we continued our reign of terror in this big Pleasantville FOB full of M16-toting clerks, I saw a couple of my friends standing by some concrete bunkers, with a group of Air Force MPs. Apparently, one of the insidious Anaconda Gangs broke into the Oakley shop and stole a bunch of shit, and when some of my friends walked into the shop this morning looking to waste money, they found the door open and a bunch of shit missing. The vendor ran up on them, spazzing out, and the almighty authorities were summoned. [Sgt BenHur] had been in the PX earlier and had bought a Monster energy drink. The Oakley Shop was his next stop. In all their action-seeking glory, the MPs commanded him, "PUT THE CAN DOWN AND STEP AWAY! STEP AWAY FROM THE CAN!!!" (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Iraqi Optimism On the Rise - File this under how dare they feel good about their future. A reporter returns to Iraq and finds cautious optimism and "palpable change." Howard LaFranchi of the CSM writes, "As families stroll and children squeal at swings and slides, Nahem says this tentative return to old ways is cause for cautious optimism. 'God willing, it means all Iraq is getting better, that security is coming back,' he says. 'I think there's a chance this can be true.'" Poor fool. If he would only read U.S. newspapers, he'd know better than to feel that way. The papers would tell him that his life is a mess. Presidential candidates such as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would tell him Iraq is a lost cause. From their own perspective, the Iraqis say they have reason to feel positive. (READ MORE)

James Aalan Bernsen: R&R in Qatar - I haven't had enough rest, or so my boss, an Army major, said. Forget the fact that I went on leave just 2 months ago, and that I even had a whole day off once this month. Nope, he said, I needed to take some time off to rest and relax in the civilized land of Qatar. I was reluctant to go, not because Qatar wasn't an exotic, fun-sounding place. The people are friendly, and think of Americans less as infidels, but more like good oil-guzzling maniacs whose driving habits have transformed the Qataris' squalid scrap of desert into one of the richest countries on Earth. No, it wasn't that. I just didn't want to go through Kuwait. Nothing wrong with Kuwaitis either, but as any servicemember who's gone through the transit experience at a certain facility there can say, it's just about the worst thing ever. But, as my boss informed me, the flight to Qatar was a direct one. (READ MORE)

Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal: The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide is Press Coverage - I’d brushed aside the informal inquiries for months now. No, not me. Not interested. Keep me on the line. I want nothing to do with a promotion to XO (Executive Officer) that involves becoming a logistical whipping boy and terminal scapegoat for all things NOTGOODENOUGH. I’ve been out here in the wilds too long, dealing with matters of life and death, to go back to Little America for PowerPoint pissing matches. Not me. I’m that too skinny, crazy-eyed mustang who drives a hippie van with a McGovern bumper sticker and keeps his hair long and actually read the counterinsurgency manual rather than pretending he did, even quoting it during meetings and out in sector in this era of recentralized warfare, remember? You aren't gonna break me, no matter how enticing the fires of the FOB are. Semper Gumby. I guess they forgot, and instead focused on matters of competency. Cue outright offer. (READ MORE)

LT Nixon: Iraq News (29 May) - The Good - ABC News has cited Maliki's "Midas Touch" as Sadr City's markets are opened back up again after a huge Iraqi Army offensive. Another surge brigade of U.S. forces (~4000 troops) is being redeployed with no replacement, as U.S. force structure decreases to 15 Brigade Combat Teams. FIFA has lifted the ban on the Iraqi Football Association so that Iraq can play in the World Cup qualifying match. U.S. forces killed 10 IED-emplacers just outside Sadr City, and Iraqi troops have made huge cache finds in Sadr City. Recommended reading from AFP: Now that Al-Qaeda has fled Mosul, the citizens are allowed to drink and smoke again. I don't know how the Iraqis could have gone without smoking. Almost every Iraqi male I know smokes. One gentleman mentioned he could open up his ice factory again. Ice was banned by Al-Qaeda, because it didn't exist in the time of Prophet Mohammed. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: “Walking Dead” Marines hit lake for Spring Break - RAMADI, IRAQ (May 16, 2008) - For most individuals, Spring Break is a time to take a break from studying or work, head out to the beach and get a bronze tan while enjoying the sun and sandy beach. However, for the Marines with 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 1, Spring Break 2008 was a time to search for insurgents in the gleaming sun, hold security and perimeter watch during a gusty sandstorm, and concentrate on the mission at hand. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines assist Iraqi Police with reintegration - KARMA, Iraq (May 18, 2008) – The Karma Iraqi Police Station was bustling with activity. Men lined up inside the station as family members waited outside, waiting for the words that they have been waiting to hear, “You are free to go to your families.” Marines of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, assisted the Iraqi Police release approximately 40 Iraqis back to their families and home May 18. (READ MORE)

A Battlefield Tourist: Cannon Cockers Turn the Tide of Battle in South Baghdad - With additional firepower in the field during the U.S. surge strategy that began in early 2007, artillery units are firing off more rounds than ever during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Recently, soldiers of “B” battery, 1/9 Field Artillery, 3rd ID (2nd BCT, 101 ABD), topped the 10,000 mark in regards to rounds sent downrange during their most recent tour which began in May, 2007. As their tour wraps up, Bravo battery will have shot more than 12,000 rounds. The previous artillery unit based at FOB Mahmudiyah, 2/15 FA (10th Mountain), was honored for shooting nearly 2,500 rounds. Word among the troops is that Bravo has shot more than any American artillery unit during OIF I or II or Desert Storm. Bravo is also the battery that fired an Excalibur round into Arab Jabour last summer, killing the top Al Qaeda leader south of Baghdad. (READ MORE)

ToySoldier: Leaving On A Jet Plane... - Don't know when I'll be back again. Or so the song goes, here I sit at a terminal at an Airbase in Iraq awaiting that magical flight to Kuwait...then more waiting, and then the magical flight guarantees on the date, the Army doesn't give itineraries, they don't plan re-deployments apparently, ha ha. "Hurry Up And Wait", that should be the motto not "Army Strong". It's all so surreal, I don't think it'll hit me that I'm leaving this place till I've set foot on American soil. Sure, no more patrols, no more milvan details, no more "[Insert Name Here] Base this is Red 6 Romeo" none of that; but I'm still in Iraq, still here amidst the dust and the rising temperatures. Still on deployment but not working, this is Limbo. My friend Suspect referred to this tour as Purgatory, I disagree...this right here is the Purgatory. Endless waiting for a chance at heaven. (READ MORE)

Talisman Gate: Cat’s Out of the Bag: Onwards to Maysan - Well I guess enough people are openly discussing this now in Baghdad that it’s okay for me to write about it. Mind you, all the following is classified under the category of gossip: The Iraqi Army and the Marines are preparing for a major campaign against Mahdi Army and Iranian targets in Maysan Province (‘Amara). Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki may even put the entire elected leadership of ‘Amara—many of whom are Sadrists—out of a job, by flexing his authority under emergency powers. There is even talk of air strikes against military targets—weapons depots, transportation vehicles and individuals—on the Iranian side of the fence; these are targets that are arming and otherwise supporting the Special Groups throughout Iraq. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: "Key" Special Groups financier captured south of Baghdad - Coalition Special Operations Forces captured a "key Special Groups financier" with direct links to Iran's Qods Force in the city of Mahmudiyah on May 28. "He is suspected to be the primary financier between Iranian intelligence elements and Special Groups criminals in Mahmudiyah and southern Baghdad and was reportedly distributing funds to weapons smugglers supplying criminals in those areas," Multinational Forces Iraq reported in a press release. The Special Groups financier has conducted his activities outside Iraq, according to Multinational Forces Iraq. He is "believed to travel to Iran and Syria to procure funds on behalf of Special Groups senior leadership." Mahmudiyah is about 10 miles south of Baghdad. The city sits on what has been described as a sectarian fault line, where well-defined Sunni and Shia communities abut. (READ MORE)

IN-iraq: "I love being over here man," 'Cold Steel' making a difference - Patrol Base Woodcock- They live inside the serpentine halls of an old factory that used to make communications equipment for the Iraqi Army. The Soldiers of Charlie 1st/327th Infantry Regiment of the 1st/101st Airborne are so used to the power going off, every 20 minutes or so, they don't flinch when the lights go dead. Their area of operation, the city of Adwar, ten minutes south of Tikrit is famous for being the town where Saddam was pulled from his spider hole without firing a shot. Now Charlie company of the 1st/327th, or 'Cold Steel' as they call themselves do more work to boost local Iraqi police and CLC checkpoints than shooting it out with the Ba'athists who used to control this area and lived in opulent houses along the Tigris. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistan strikes deal with the Taliban in Mohmand - The Pakistani government has signed another peace agreement with the Taliban in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province. On Monday, the Pakistani government signed a peace agreement with Taliban commander Omar Khalid in the Mohmand tribal agency, making this the third such agreement in northwestern Pakistan since April 20. The deal requires the Taliban to renounce attacks on the Pakistani government and security forces. The Taliban will maintain a ban on the activities of non-government organizations in the region and agreed not to attack women in the workplace if they wore the veil. Both sides exchanged prisoners. Eight members of the Saafi tribe were exchanged for a doctor. Khalid is a member of the Saafi tribe. The Taliban immediately moved to establish a parallel government in Mohmand. (READ MORE)

Back but still writing:
Yellowhammering Afghanistan: Life and death - The military calls it "re-integration." It's the process of re-connecting with your family and your previous life after being deployed for war. Such touchy-feely concepts don't sit well with soldiers who are convinced they can do anything and there should be nothing to picking up where you left off when you get back home. The truth is, re-integration has been easy for me and I'm sure it has for others. But I also know it's hard on families. This deployment has caused divorces and strained relationships in families among many soldiers close to me. We spent over a year focused on a mission. We had almost a singular purpose in life and each day was spent advancing that mission. In some ways it was larger-than-life. The intensity of each day and the dangers we faced amplified everything for us. (READ MORE)

Acute Politics: Memorial Day - Those men I remembered on Monday... The three Badgers you already know about, if you’ve been reading here long. Good men, taken much too soon. We all know far too well that the bomb that took them could have claimed any three of us. A sniper killed Major Olmstead while he tried to talk insurgents into surrendering, rather than running away and forcing his men to shoot. Captain Casey was killed when he went to aid Major Olmstead. Major Olmstead became the first milblogger that I know of to be killed in action in Iraq- his last post was published by a friend and spoke at length of his life’s philosophy and final regret at having died. LTC Jack Friedrichsen was my grandfather, an Army Air Corps veteran of World War II. He died while I was in training to deploy to Iraq, just days after my 22nd birthday. In the birthday card he sent to me that year, he told me how proud he was that I had chosen to serve my country and wished me safety in Iraq. I was reading it on my bunk when they came to tell me he was dead. (READ MORE)

Greyhawk: The Battle for Anbar - A look at mainstream media coverage of events as they unfolded - this entry is designed as a companion piece to an upcoming series here. In January, 2006, USA Today ran a story headlined "General sees rift in Iraq enemy " - a rift described as "an opportunity for American forces to try to persuade local guerrillas to put down their weapons and join the political process": "Now you actually have a wedge, or a split, between the Sunni population and al-Qaeda in Iraq," said Maj. Gen. Richard Zahner, deputy chief of staff for intelligence for multinational forces in Iraq. "It poses a significant crossroads for these groups as they look at where they head." (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

MND-B Soldiers engage RPG team, seize munitions - BAGHDAD, Iraq – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers killed 2 criminals and seized munitions during operations in Baghdad May 28. Soldiers from 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, discovered 240 57 mm rocket warheads at approximately 2:10 p.m. northwest of Baghdad. (READ MORE)

VBIED kills 2 IPs, wounds 2 - TIKRIT, Iraq – A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device killed two Iraqi Police officers and wounded two additional police officers in Mosul May 29. The attack was conducted near the IP Special Weapons and Tactics Headquarters in northern Mosul. (READ MORE)

Conference brings key-Iraqi energy leaders together - TIKRIT, Iraq – Northern Iraqi leaders came together for an energy conference at Contingency Operating Base Spiecher in the province of Salah ad Din May 28. The conference, which lasted until mid-day, covered the generation, transmission and distribution of electricity within the northern region of Iraq. (READ MORE)

Large cache of explosives discovered in Mosul - TIKRIT, Iraq – Iraqi Army Soldiers discovered a large cache in the al-Jazair neighborhood of Mosul, Ninewah Province, May 26. The IA conducted a search operation on a two-floor building, which was divided into two parts. The first part was used as a market, and the second part contained a small door, which led to the large cache. (READ MORE)

Mosul pinch continues: Two wanted al-Qaeda suspects, nine others captured - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained 11 suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists, including two men wanted for criminal activities, during operations in Mosul Wednesday and Thursday. Coalition forces targeted al-Qaeda in Iraq cells in Mosul that are known to attack Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces. Two wanted men and nine additional suspects were detained during operations spanning Wednesday and Thursday. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces capture key Special Groups financier - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces captured a key suspected Special Groups financier May 28 in Mahmudiyah, about 15 km south of Baghdad. Intelligence sources led Coalition forces to the residence of the individual believed to be a key Special Groups financier. He is suspected to be the primary financier between Iranian intelligence elements and Special Groups criminals in Mahmudiyah and southern Baghdad and was reportedly distributing funds to weapons smugglers supplying criminals in those areas. (READ MORE)

‘Surge’ Brigade redeploys (Diyala) - BAGHDAD – Approximately, 4,000 Soldiers from the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, are redeploying back to Fort Lewis, Wash., next month. The 4th Stryker Brigade deployed in April 2007 to secure the Diyala Province north of Baghdad to improve the safety and quality of life for the approximately 1.2 million people living there. During this time, the 4th Stryker Brigade was part of the initial surge of five additional brigades into Iraq. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces kill 10 criminals in New Baghdad - FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq – Coalition forces killed 10 Special Group criminals in the Fedaliyah neighborhood of the New Baghdad district in eastern Baghdad May 28. Coalition forces engaged the criminals after observing them emplace improvised-explosive devices. The criminals were also carrying illegal weapons. (READ MORE)

Improvements being made at FOB Hammer - When Spc. William Hughes, found out he would be stationed at Forward Operating Base Hammer in April 2007, all he knew about the FOB was it had been recently built. “I knew that the FOB was practically brand new,” said Hughes, a Soldier in 9th Psychological Operations Battallion. “I was expecting tents, water bottle showers and hoped that we would have phones or internet.” The fact was that FOB Hammer had been constructed only a month prior to his arrival by the 557th Expeditionary Red Horse Squadron. (READ MORE)

200-pound bomb discovered in Arab Jabour field - A member of the Sons of Iraq in Arab Jabour found a 200-pound bomb while clearing a farm field May 27. Ahmed Razaq, an SoI leader, found the bomb in a field, and with help from other SoI, loaded the bomb in his truck and brought it to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division Soldiers stationed at Patrol Base Hawks. Although tests have yet to be conducted to see if the bomb still contains explosives or was just the shell, 1st Lt. Jeno Giorgi, leader of 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, said it is a major find whether active or inert. (READ MORE)

Soldiers help Iraqis with drinking water, irrigation - Iraqi farmers near Patrol Base Copper received new means to irrigate their fields and provide clean water for their families through Coalition assistance May 25. Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, distributed water pumps and filters to local sheikhs at the base, approximately 30 kilometers south of Baghdad. The pumps help residents use canal water to irrigate crops; the filters provide drinkable water. “We’re very thankful for the support the Americans give us,” said Sheikh Nahid, with the Gourani tribe. “We haven’t been able to farm our fields without water, but now we can make a living for ourselves.” (READ MORE)

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