June 2, 2008

From the Front: 06/02/2008

News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

In their own words:
Mohammed: The Mideast Won't Change From Within - The Middle East has witnessed dramatic changes over the past few years, including the adoption in some countries – Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories – of the democratic system as the means for the transfer of political power. Though all of these countries are still troubled, the huge turnouts in all three electoral processes were clear evidence of the willingness of their peoples to switch to ballots over bullets. Unfortunately, some Arab intellectuals seem bent on rejecting democracy as a foreign – in particular, Western – concept. I recall before Saddam's fall that many were repeating a slogan that says "No America and No Saddam," which ostensibly aimed at touting a nationalistic project for change. Today the same slogans are reiterated; sometimes out of good will and naïveté, other times to support the totalitarians and the extremists. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Obama Needs to Rethink Iraq - Often the lone voice of reason, the WaPo editorial writer makes another interesting observation today. The writer says "There's been a relative lull in news coverage and debate about Iraq in recent weeks -- which is odd, because May could turn out to have been one of the most important months of the war." It indeed is odd. But the mainstream media have dismissed the relative lull as a common "breathing spell like so many others before." Still, I do hope Obama's press assistant cut this piece out of the paper for him. WaPo's editorial writer points out that "While Washington's attention has been fixed elsewhere, military analysts have watched with astonishment as the Iraqi government and army have gained control for the first time of the port city of Basra and the sprawling Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City... (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: French Connection - The war in Iraq has brought about some unexpected results. One of the newest is that France joins the supporters of Iraq. Today Adel Abdul Mahdi welcomed French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Nasriya. Kouchner told Abdul Mahdi that his country will help rebuild Iraq and promote national reconciliation. A nice change from the earlier rhetoric. Everyone remembers that France was one of the fiercest critics of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. That is why this, Kouchner's second visit to Iraq in less than a year, is noteworthy. Meanwhile, back in Baghdad, another political surprise was announced. Ibrahim Jaafari, the former prime minister, says he's forming an anti-sectarian party. The longtime Dawa member calls the new group the Islah, or the Reform Party. It is meant to "renounce the sectarian quota system and fight the militias," he said. (READ MORE)

James Aalan Bernsen: DUMBO MUST DIE! - The whole palace compound here is full of some pretty strange art. There are these life-sized stone chickens over by one of the buildings, but there's a photography ban over there, and I can't show them. Over in another palace, with a similar ban, there's a large bas relief of a kind of sylized Iraqi eagle and a battle scene. But the weirdest piece of art is on a small side building along the lake. I call the piece "Dumbo Must Die!" Picturing an idealized Arab hunting scene, it shows several brave, courageous, tough Iraqi warriors taking down what is obviously merely a baby elephant. Worse than that, the elephant's already on the ground, his legs crumpled. Not only have they clearly exhibited manly prowess by taking down the most helpless and cuddly of pachyderms, but one of the hunters - with evident glee - is in the process of stabbing poor little Dumbo in the eye with a spear. (READ MORE)

Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal: Biggie's Lifetime Ban, or: Leave - I’m running the FOB-gauntlet, complete with stops in Molasses Swamp and Gum Drop Mountain from the Candy Land board game. It certainly would appear that these super-fobbits graze in Candy Cane Forest more than three times a day, too. I didn’t know they made uniforms that big, you dig? My battle buddy, LT Demolition’s driver who’s going home to North Carolina for leave with his well-deserved Purple Heart in hand, and I are trying our best to play nice and hide our contempt for this land of excess. Like SSG Bulldog always says, “it ain’t their fault, LT. They just don’t know no bettah.’” I’m sporting the cleanest of my uniforms, which is still trulymadlydeeply filthy for these parts – dirt, grime, and lacquered gallons of man-sweat permanently stain the ACUs, apparently. This revelation and accidentally shocking a too earnest Brigade staff lieutenant with tales from the front over breakfast have been the highlights of the trip, thus far. (READ MORE)

IN-iraq: To wear a mask or not to wear a mask- Iraqi police conundrum - Here in Saddam's old town police are everywhere. Checkpoints are set up at traffic circles and they ride around in distinctive white and blue pick ups with machine guns mounted on the back. But you don't see many walking through the community, and many are wearing masks, which doesn't seem to make sense. At the Adwar Iraqi Police station, Staff Sgt. Virgil Langford, a reserve MP from Lake City, FL had that problem. Langford asked the station's commander- Lieutenant Colonel Samir why one of Samir's men insisted on wearing a mask while he was out on city patrol with Lanford's team of 320th MPs from St. Petersburg, FL. Apparently the officer refused to go on patrol in his own neighborhood without wearing a mask. (READ MORE)

Major John: Why do I fight? - Or, more specifically, "why do I help the Iraqi Army?" There are many reasons - but Sudarsan Raghavan seems to have captured the images of what it is I seek to make common and ordinary. Never mind the hedging and such - that is de rigeur for almost all in the media when reporting on Iraq. But instead, give them credit for bringing these pictures out for everyone to see. (READ MORE)

A Battlefield Tourist: The Coalition “Spring Offensive” Across Afghanistan - It isn’t clear just how much of May’s combat action was coordinated among allies, but what is clear is that the offensive initiated by various coalition forces, around the same time, has the Taliban taking heavy casualties as the fighting season picks up steam. US/British Efforts in S. Helmand - June 1st - Allied forces launch another operation in Garmser as British troops seal the right flank of BLT 1/6, allowing the American Marines to push farther down the Helmand River valley toward the Pakistani border. The offensive, which is in the heart of the insurgency’s drug trade, is forcing Taliban fighters toward Farah Province to the west. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Corpsman overcomes odds, achieves life-long goal - Habbaniyah, Iraq (May 27, 2008) – When he first had thoughts of joining the military, 42-year-old Petty Officer Second Class 2nd Class Adam F. Kinney, a hospital corpsman with Company E, 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, was laughed at by recruiters because of his age and doubted by many who thought he couldn’t physically do it. Through determination and triumph, Kinney overcame the odds and proved to all doubters he wasn’t just some wannabe trying to fulfill a childhood fantasy. (READ MORE)

Cheese's Milblog: Guess who's back? - Sorry I have been away for so long, but my computer is currently in the shop. We use this foreign internet provider here and it's just a pipeline for viruses...add this to my notorious lack of finesse with electronics, and you get one seriously busted laptop. There isn't a lot to talk about anyway...things have been going pretty smoothly and we're in a pretty comfortable groove right now. We're still pretty "garrisonized", but we're dealing with it. It's funny, because I still feel like we've just gotten here, but we're already talking about leave. I think this deployment is going to fly by for me. I can only hope that it does the same for my family! I miss everyone a lot, even more than last time, and I find myself wondering if my dog is even going to recognize me when I get home! (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Iraqi Army interdicting Iranian operations in the South - Iraqi and Coalition forces press operations against the Mahdi Army in Baghdad and Basrah despite the cease-fire signed with the Mahdi Army in Sadr City. The Iraqi Army has expanded its operations in Basrah province to the east just along the Iranian border, while 11 Mahdi Army fighters have been captured during operations in Baghdad over the past 24 hours. Iraqi soldiers and police, backed by US and British advisers, have expanded Operation Knights’ Assault to the eastern town of Abu Al Khasib, in a region east of Basrah on the Iranian border. A brigade from the 1st Iraqi Army Division, backed by a battalion from 14th Iraqi Army Division and two Iraqi National Police battalions conducted operations along the border over the past two days. One suspect was detained and 52 AK-47 assault rifles and one submachine gun were found during the sweep. (READ MORE)

From the 'Stan: Marines launch new operation - Marines with the 24th MEU and the British forces of Task Force Helmand have launched a new operation in Southern Helmand province, according to a June 1 press release. The operation is designed to clear the area of insurgents by capturing a series of identified enemy strong points and defensive positions. “The British forces of Task Force Helmand pushed south from one of their forward operating bases to secure routes west of the Marine positions. Marines then used the newly secured British position to push into new areas of Garmsir District previously held by insurgents,” according to the press release. (READ MORE)

1st Marine Logistics Group: Buying a better tomorrow: CLB-6 dispersing, CAG use money as a weapon in Haditha Triad - AL ANBAR, Iraq (April 14, 2008) – Across al-Anbar province, local workers help restore schoolhouses, neighborhood clinics treat patients, and a massive water pump pushes running water into thousands of Iraqi homes. These are all victories in the battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, a battle where money is a weapon. “Where money was just a force enabler in conventional warfare, in Operation Iraqi Freedom, it’s a potent arm in the commander’s arsenal much like a rifle or an artillery round is to the soldier in the kinetic fight,” said Col. Thomas Horlander, the comptroller for Multi-National Corps – Iraq. (READ MORE)

1st Marine Logistics Group: Iraqi Army continues to grow - HABBANIYAH, Iraq (May 28, 2008) – The Iraqi Army added more than 2,100 to its ranks during a graduation ceremony here May 28. “It makes me so proud that these large numbers of Soldiers come through here to serve their country and its people against terrorism,” said Iraqi Army Col. Namir Dawod, commander of Habbaniyah Regional Training Center. These numbers have increased dramatically since 2006, when Marine Col. Joel P. Garland deployed to Camp Habbaniyah as the Basic Combat Training liaison officer for Multi-National Force – West. An average class had 400 to 600 recruits. (READ MORE)

Major John: Hekmatyar back? - While there are plenty I dislike, there are few in this world I truly hate. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is one of them. He is probably one I would kill without hesitation. He is evil, embodied in someone that could have helped his country, but has chosen to bathe in the blood of his own people instead. Reading this did not help. I can only hope the ANA or a Predator with a Hellfire missile catches up with him. (READ MORE)

Back but still writing:
Michael Yon: An Open Offer to U.S. Senators - One of the biggest problems with the Iraq War is that politics has frequently triumphed over truth. For instance, we went into Iraq with shoddy intelligence (at best), no reconstruction plan, and perhaps half as many troops as were required. We refused to admit that an insurgency was growing, until the country collapsed into anarchy and civil war. Now the truth is that Iraq is showing real progress on many fronts: Al Qaeda is being defeated and violence is down and continuing to decrease. As a result, the militias have lost their reason for existence and are getting beaten back or co-opted. Shia, Sunni and Kurds are coming together -- although with various stresses -- under the national government. If progress continues at this rate, it is very possible that before 2008 is out, we can finally say "the war has ended." (READ MORE)

Iraq: The Purgatorium: For The Nam Guys - While I'm busy here in Kuwait, fucking off and wasting more time on the internet than I have in a single month in Iraq, I'd like to address something. Some of the coolest emails and comments I get come from Vietnam vets. If anyone gets it, they do, and then some. I've heard some amazing stories from these guys, and I also read John Leppelman's book Blood On The Risers. It blows my mind, because I end up feeling a little guilty for all the gratitude I get, when we don't have it anywhere NEAR as bad as these guys did. Most of us don't get spit on, at most, an idiot will spout their mouth off about how evil and brainwashed we are, and we laugh it off and that's it. Nam vets got fucked every step of the way. (READ MORE)

Yellowhammering Afghanistan: Freedom of movement - One of the greatest contrasts between being home compared to where I was a month ago is the ability to go anywhere I want. I've certainly taken advantage of that freedom. Alison and I got away to New Orleans Memorial Day weekend. We didn't have to wear body armor, put together a convoy request or submit a request for an air movement. We just made airline reservations and went. I love New Orleans and even lived and worked there for a short time. I have certain places I have to go when I'm there. The day has to start with beignets and cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde. The lunch and dinner options are limitless, but while in the Big Easy, I have to go to Mother's for a Ferdi Special and I have to go to Central Grocery for a Muffuletta. You also can't go wrong with Acme Oyster House or Johnny's Po Boys. (READ MORE)

Heading Out:
Big Tobacco: Super Yenta - I smoked a Fincks Mexican Fiesta while composing this essay. The kids are at the in-laws and Bitchzilla and I aren’t quite sure what to do. Saturdays don’t seem normal anymore without at least one kid crying and the other begging for a popsicle. We are alone in the house. Nobody needs anything. She retreats downstairs to throw out some old toys and I go upstairs to read the newspaper. What the hell am I doing? Why are we not downstairs fucking each other until we collapse into a sweaty pile of arms and legs? Considering that I’m going to go a year without sex…well, sex with anyone but myself…I should be taking every moment to be with my wife. Lately, things have been getting better, but if you graphed my marriage, the last few months uncannily resemble a chart of General Motor’s stock price. Makes me wonder when the board is going to vote a split… (READ MORE)

Back In the Army Now (at 54): Memorial Sunday - I spoke for five minutes during both services at my Church last Sunday--Wheatland Presbyterian in Lancaster. Most of the people in the Church found out I was going to Iraq by reading the Lancaster Sunday News article, so I thought it might be good for me to give some sort of update about what is going on in my life and with my family, the Army, etc. I also talked about why I joined and about getting deployed what I might be doing after we return. In Presbyterian Churches, we write things out. Here's what I said: Serving Our Country, Serving Our Lord - For those who know me and know my family, they know without a doubt that the last year has been quite exciting—way too exciting for most people, to say the least. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Two terrorists killed, 31 detained in Coalition operations - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces killed two terrorists, detained 31 suspects and destroyed bomb-making materials during operations targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq in central and northern Iraq Sunday and Monday. Coalition forces spanned several target sites Monday northwest of Tikrit, about 160 kilometers north of Baghdad, to target associates of an al-Qaeda in Iraq leader in Salah ad-Din province. Information from an operation May 15 led the force to the area, where they immediately encountered machine gun and small arms fire from multiple enemy positions. Responding to the hostile threat, Coalition forces returned fire and called for supporting aircraft to suppress the enemy fire. Two terrorists were confirmed dead as a result of the engagement. (READ MORE)

Volunteers Assemble Donated Wheelchairs - ‘Transforming lives through the gift of mobility’ runs across the website of the Free Wheel Chair Mission. Joint Area Support Group service members and coalition members volunteered to assist the National Iraqi Assistance Center (NIAC) with assembly of more than 100 wheelchairs. The donated wheelchairs will be given to a waiting list of Iraqis from around the country. “We have a waiting list of more than 100 patients who have filled out the paperwork – many have cerebral palsy, downs syndrome or are paraplegics,” said Cdr. CJ Jessup, deputy director of NIAC. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers capture key criminal (Tarmiyah) - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers captured the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team’s number two key criminal in Tarmiyah, northwest of Baghdad, May 31. The Soldiers from 14th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, MND-B,captured the criminal during operations in the Tarmiyah area. The criminal is the suspected head of an improvised explosive device manufacturing and emplacing cell that operated near Taji and is responsible for the deaths of numerous Iraqi civilians and members of the Iraqi Security Force. (READ MORE)

Iraqi National Police discover munitions cache (Baghdad) - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Security Forces personnel discovered a cache at approximately 2 p.m., June 1, in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad. Policemen from 5th Brigade, 2nd Iraqi National Police Division, who are partnered with 4th Bn., 64th Armor Regiment, attached to 1st Bde. Combat Team, 4th Infantry Div., Multi-National Division – Baghdad, discovered the cache in an abandoned building during an area reconnaissance mission in the Risalah neighborhood. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Security Forces lead Operation Charge of the Knights in Abu Al Khasib - BASRA, Iraq – Operation Sawlat al-Fursan, or Charge of the Knights, lead by the 1st Iraqi Army Division, a battalion from the 14th IA Division, and two Iraqi National Police battalions, continued searching and clearing operations in Abu Al Khasib of Basra, Iraq May 31. The Iraqi Army led the sweep from early May 31 to early June 1. Two Iraqi National police battalions followed as a support component searching for criminal elements and weapons caches. The National IP detained one suspect and discovered a cache of 52 AK 47 assault rifles and one sub-machine gun. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army, Coalition forces conduct clearing operation (Zaganiyah) - TIKRIT, Iraq – Battery C, Fires Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, along with Soldiers from the Iraqi Army took part in a clearing operation outside of Combat Out-Post Zaganiyah in the densely packed palm groves May 28. IA Soldiers, along with members of the Sons of Iraq from three different Iraqi towns took part in the palm grove clearing operation, said Capt. Charles Knoll, Battery C, Fires Squadron, 2nd SCR. “The city of Bukais used to be an al-Qaeda in Iraq stronghold in northern Iraq,” said 1st Sgt. Richard Perez, Battery C, Fires Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Security Forces detain 49 suspects in Hit - HIT, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces conducted joint raids in the vicinity of Hit today detaining 49 suspects for possible connections with a deadly suicide vest-borne improvised explosive device attack near the city’s government complex Saturday evening. Elements of the 7th Iraqi Army Division, Hit Iraqi Police and Provincial Security Forces planned and executed the joint raids, which resulted in the roundup of suspects for questioning at an Iraqi Police Headquarters in Hit. The deadly SVEST attack in Hit Saturday resulted in four Iraqi Police killed, five civilians killed, four IP wounded and 15 civilians wounded. Among the dead are Hit IP Station 1’s Chief Lt. Col. Khaleel Abarhim Jaza’a and a three-year-old child. (READ MORE)

Four wanted men captured, ten other al-Qaeda suspects detained - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces captured four men wanted for their ties to al-Qaeda in Iraq and detained ten additional suspects during operations around Mosul and Baghdad Sunday. Coalition forces captured two wanted men in Mosul who are believed to associate with al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leaders in the city. The force also detained three additional suspected associates and four individuals allegedly tied to an AQI leader who conducts bombing attacks. West of Balad, about 80 kilometers north of Baghdad, Coalition forces detained four suspected terrorists, including a man wanted for his ties to AQI senior leaders in Salah ad-Din province. (READ MORE)

2nd BCT Plants Seeds of Success - FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU — After nearly a year in Iraq as the last of the "surge brigades," the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, has seen the south Baghdad area transformed from insurgent stronghold to model of peace and security. The gains made in security may not hold, however, unless citizens of this area are able to successfully continue their way of life. In the 2nd BCT's area of operations, that mostly means agriculture. Mike Stevens, a U.S. Department of Agriculture representative and agriculture adviser for the U.S. Dept. of State's Baghdad-7 embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team, put it simply: "If you feed the people, they can concentrate on their other needs, and thus it becomes a more peaceful area." (READ MORE)

Coalition Forces In Iraq Detain Dozens of Suspects, Seize Weapons Caches - WASHINGTON — Coalition forces in Iraq captured dozens of terrorism suspects and continued to uncover enemy weapons stockpiles in operations over the past few days, military officials reported. In operations June 1: - Coalition troops captured four men believed to be members of Iranian-backed “special groups” in Baghdad’s Kadhamiyah district. Intelligence sources led coalition forces to the residence of a suspect wanted for of smuggling Iranian weapons and coordinating special groups training in Iran. The man also is suspected of training others in sniper tactics and acting as a key conduit among special groups leaders in western Baghdad. Forces detained the man and three others without incident. (READ MORE)

Flight Crews Carefully Map Details before Moving Infantry Troops into Dangerous Areas - CAMP TAJI — Under the cover of darkness, Soldiers seem to appear from thin air, and within seconds, they converge on a house. For the militants targeted by these precision infiltrations, it’s a mass of confusion. The Soldiers who came from out of nowhere are now everywhere – and the only sound is the unmistakably deafening roar of low-flying helicopters. Countless adrenaline-throttling videos and photos show missions like these – ground forces kicking doors open to capture high-value targets and information, but have you ever wondered … how did they get to that house? (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army Recruiting in Basra - BASRA — Soldiers with the 1st Iraqi Army looked to increase their numbers and support in Basra, Iraq May 29. Operation Charge of the Knights has been successful in rooting out criminal elements and restoring the rule of law to the city as well as increasing local support for the government of Iraq. The increased support for the government is something the Iraqi army is trying to take advantage of by recruiting new soldiers from the local communities. At a recent recruiting drive in the Hayyaniyah district, over 3,000 men came out to sign up for service with the army. Unfortunately for many of them, there were only 1,000 positions available during the drive. (READ MORE)

Preventative IED Training to Save Lives - TIKRIT — Improvised explosive devices are the number-one killer of coalition forces deployed to Iraq. Tougher and larger vehicles are one way of protecting Soldiers on the roads of Iraq, but another is preventative training. Sailors with Task Force Troy North who specialized in counter IED measures, spend many days at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, located in Tikrit, Iraq, teaching Soldiers what to look for and how to react on the battlefield. “We are training units to raise their level of awareness, give them an idea of what devices look like up-close, and give them ideas of what indicators they might see,” said U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Russell Juhl. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army, Gimlets Work to Provide Aid - BAGHDAD — The line extended out the gate, around the corner and disappeared up the narrow street. The residents of Dehna Village, west of Baghdad, lined up waiting for aid May 29. The mood was the same at any point in the line; excitement, relief and gratitude. Whether it was a woman, there for her family, or one of the scores of children waiting for a free toy and maybe some candy, all were very grateful to the soldiers who brought with them help and hope. (READ MORE)

Marines Turn Over Outpost to Iraqi Army - COP TIMBERWOLF — It’s a trend seen more and more frequently around al-Anbar province; Marines packing up their gear and returning their positions to the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) so they can continue providing protection and security to the Iraqi citizens. Combat Outpost Timberwolf, near Baghdadi, is one of the latest to continue that trend of transitioning from Coalition force control to Iraqi Army (IA) control. COP Timberwolf began the transition process earlier this year when Marines assigned to Headquarters Company, Regimental Combat Team 5 relieved Marines from 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, RCT-5 earlier this year so the battalion could focus on other missions. (READ MORE)

Improved Iraqi Forces Contribute to Four-Year Violence Low - BAGHDAD — Last week, Iraq experienced the lowest level of “security incidents” since March 2004, a reduction that military officials attribute in part to improvements in Iraqi security forces. “The collective efforts … to increase the capacity of the Iraqi security forces is a key part of the reason why we saw last week the lowest level of security incidents in Iraq the past four years,” Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesman, said May 28 during a news conference in Baghdad. “It is also why we are seeing Iraqi citizens increasingly supporting their security forces by calling in tips on criminal activity and illegal weapons,” Bergner continued. (READ MORE)

CTF Rugged hands off to CTF Castle - FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHARANA, Afghanistan (May 29, 2008) – The Afghan sun was already high and hot as Combined Task Force Rugged, 36th Engineer Brigade Headquarters, handed over responsibilities to Combined Task Force Castle, 420th Engineer Brigade Headquarters. During their 15-month tour, CTF Rugged engineers were credited with expanding and securing bases and roads throughout Regional Command-East. Army Brig. Gen. Paul E. Crandall, CTF Castle commander, praised the outgoing CTF Rugged Soldiers and thanked them for their dedication and perseverance. (READ MORE)

Operation Longest Mile: ANSF, Able Co. show flexibility - KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (May 30, 2008) – Service members from the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Policemen and Able Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment air assaulted into the Watapoor valley under the cover of darkness May 10 to start Operation Longest Mile in Kunar province, Afghanistan. The Afghan National Security Forces took the lead in the search-and-clear mission of the village of Kur Baugh to search for weapons, ammunition, explosives and other contraband. They were also there to find and question three local Afghan men designated as “high-value targets,” which were believed to be assisting enemy fighters. Service members from the 2-503rd, also known as Task Force Rock, maintained supporting positions. (READ MORE)

Service members compete in Iron Chef competition - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (May 30, 2008) - “There is no love truer than the love of food,” said Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. That love of food, both preparing and serving, coupled with a dose of friendly competition led to the first-ever Iron Chef competition at Bagram Air field, May 28. The competition, held at the Aviation Dining Facility, was based on the popular ‘Iron Chef’ television series. It pitted two teams of food service specialists, one representing Task Force Destiny and the other representing Task Force Lifeliner, against each other to see which team could woo a panel of judges senses of sight and taste with their culinary delights. (READ MORE)

ANA, Sky Soldiers launch Op. Rock Penetrator - KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (May 30, 2008) – Afghan National Army soldiers and paratroopers from Able Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment air assaulted into the Narang Valley on the evening of May 16 for a scheduled 24-hour mission in Kunar province, Afghanistan. A part of Operation Rock Penetrator, the ANA soldiers took the lead role in this mission, which was to search and clear Bidal Village, designated “Objective Grappa”, while Able Company Soldiers secured overwatch positions. Under the moonlight, approximately 150 American and Afghan soldiers flew into Kunar’s Narang Valley aboard CH-47 Chinooks and UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters. (READ MORE)

Weekly shuras bring progress to Afghan Valley - KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan (May 30, 2008) – Soldiers from Able Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, welcome local Afghan village elders from the Pech river valley onto Forward Operating Base Able Main every Thursday morning to conduct a weekly shura. The shura gives village elders from the surrounding area and senior leadership from Able Company a chance to sit down together in the “shura shack” to share thoughts and concerns covering a host of topics. The shura, conducted May 15, consisted of 25 village elders and two representatives from Able Company. They spoke together for about two hours. (READ MORE)

Fallen Soldier immortalized in COP name - NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (May 29, 2008) – Soldiers from Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, renamed their combat outpost, located in a remote area of Nuristan province, Afghanistan, to remember a fallen comrade, May 12. Combat Outpost Kamu was renamed to Combat Outpost Lowell to remember Spc. Jacob Lowell, who was killed in action June 2, 2007. Lowell was manning a 50-caliber machine gun on a reconnaissance mission in the Gowardesh Valley when he was killed while engaging insurgents who ambushed his convoy. (READ MORE)

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