June 17, 2008

From the Front: 06/17/2008

News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

In their own words:
Major John: After the Charge - Back in late March, I was preparing for something quite different than what I have done the past 2 ½ months. I was called into the colonel’s office and told “things in Basrah have really heated up and everything has changed.” I was then informed that I was to be sent to Basrah to assist a US team in the area, and I would also be working with the Iraqi Army’s 14th Division. By nature I am a bit of a stick-in-the-mud. I try to get comfortable and find a routine wherever I am. Needless to say, this quite disrupted what I had settled into. I didn’t go kicking and screaming, but I was a bit perturbed. However, I was also interested and couldn’t really complain too much, as there were plenty of others in a lot worse situations than I. When I got to Basrah, the first “Charge of the Knights” had taken place, and the IA was readying for further operations into the city. (READ MORE)

Omar Fadhil: Iraq's political parties wrangle over the status of forces agreement - The signing of a long-term security agreement between the US and Iraq has been contentiously debated within Iraq. The status of forces agreement (or SOFA) is a proposed deal between the US and Iraq that is designed to establish the principles for a continued US military presence in Iraq beyond the expiration of the UN mandate at the end of 2008. Among the most debated points in the deal are the number and location of US bases, the legal status of US troops and private contractors, and the jurisdictions and freedom of US military to carry out counterterrorism operations and arrests without consulting the Iraqi government. Any attempt to understand the diverging positions of the various Iraqi political groups would be met by a striking lack of information over where the political players in Iraq stand. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Virtual Interview: SSG David Wichman - RANK/NAME- SSG David Wichman TITLE/UNIT- Afghan National Civil Order Police Mentoring Team, Task Force Phoenix VII Q-What is the biggest difference you have seen so far between the training you experienced at Ft. Bragg and what you have seen on the ground? The biggest difference is that the training at Ft. Bragg was designed for Company and platoon sized tactics. We are doing an ETT mission that most of my soldiers have not been trained for. Fortunately, I had experience training the Iraqi National Guard, which helps with this mission. Q-Now that you have been on the ground for about two months, are there any areas of training you wished would have been covered more or in better quality during Pre-Mobilization and Post-Mobilization training? Yes. We should have focused more on teaching through an interpreter, foreign weapons training- both PMI and marksmanship. We should have spent more time learning both Dari and Pashto... (READ MORE)

A Major's Perspective: Essential Developments in the News - There were a number of absolutely essential news articles today about Iraq and Afghanistan. The first batch dealt with Iraq and the Iraqi Army preparing for operations in Amara. (Link to NY Times Article) The city of Amara is a focal point for smuggling of Iranian arms, money, and trained fighters into Iraq. It is also one of the few remaining hold-outs of the Mahdi Army, and a defeat here, would signal the last of their major troop concentrations. Even more decisive though was the actions by Sadr to split his militia into a military arm and a political wing. There were even supporters that were abandoning his party and throwing their allegiances with other political organizations within the Iraqi Government. The decisive part of this is that historically speaking when insurgencies split their military and political wings it is because they are in very hard times. (READ MORE)

Zen Traveler: Quick Cultural Rant - We spent the better part of the day today driving around the city of Baghdad on various tasks. My Scottish partner was commenting that the nature of the Arab culture is so terribly fatalist. You can see this simply by they way that they drive; blasting through intersections, cutting off everyone else on the road, no regard what so ever for traffic laws or even norms. It’s as if no one else exists but them, as if they don't care what happens to them or anybody else. We remarked that courtesy and politeness in this culture are seen as weakness, and that if given the slightest opportunity an Arab driver will put his and your life in danger just to pull his car in front of yours. It’s simply amazing to watch, and you can almost count on an Arab driver doing something absolutely ludicrous, it’s inevitable. (READ MORE)

Zen Traveler: Live Well - I’ve always strived to lead a remarkable life, one that when I look back on several years from now, bed-ridden in a nursing home, that I will be proud of. My greatest fear has always been reaching that point in my life and suddenly realizing that I did nothing; that I wasted my time given to me on this earth. The challenge for me has always been leaping from the open ramp of the C-130, standing on the start line of an Ironman triathlon, or taking that first step on a long and epic journey. It’s hard to break out of the comfort and safety of ‘normalcy’ and throw yourself into the void. In the end, however, I've always looked back with pride knowing that I did the right thing and accomplished the ‘remarkable’, one step further away from the dreaded mundane and boring. (READ MORE)

Manry Mission: Gift from Riza in Dahuk - On COL Pfenning’s last visit, we spent some time in Dahuk. I love visiting my office in Dahuk because I get to spend some time with Gee. He took care of me when I first arrived in Mosul last year and became a quick friend. Another fun part about spending time in Dahuk is interacting with Riza. I’ve mentioned him before, but in case you forgot, Riza owns the company (Riza Company) that provides the life support services for my office in Dahuk. He rents the house for the offices and living space, provides the cook, meets the security guard requirments, and everything else it takes to support the Dahuk office. If Riza hears that I am in town, he will always stop by the office and insist that I go out to dinner with him. (READ MORE)

A Battlefield Tourist: Filling the Void - Now that the tide in southern Afghanistan is turning, how will the coalition sustain their gains? The US Marines fighting to regain control of Garmser have had an, “astonishing effect”, Britian’s Defense Minister Des Browne recently told Reuters. “We don’t intend to give up what we have created.” To back that up, Britian announced on June 16th that they are prepared to send more troops to Afghanistan in coming months. This on top of the extra maneuver unit they sent to reinforce last year. Holding Helmand: The key to keeping Helmand Province is to keep control of that provinces’ “green zones”. Afghanistan’s landscape in that area is incredible for a couple of reasons, but one of the main ones that sticks out in my mind is what are now called “green zones”. (READ MORE)

Back but still writing:
Army of Dude: Photo Story Monday - Burning Sensations - I was kind of lucky going on leave when I did. We arrived in Diyala Province just ten days before my scheduled day to go. My friend Steve and I decided to go to Europe together, and we were the very last in the platoon for a much needed break. Everybody knew it, too, and if you were ever in the military, you know that anything that could be made of, will be made fun of. My leave date was no different. [...] In the near month I was gone, my company saw some of the most intense fighting of our deployment. Firefights became more routine than patrols, and for the first 45 days of operations in Baqubah, 40 of them were spent outside the wire, sleeping in abandoned Iraqi houses as the summer slowly crept on. By the time I got back, my former team leader was killed and my squad leader was shot in the arm by a sniper. I had missed a lot, but was a bit anxious to be back in the mix. There was no point in looking forward to home. When I left for Europe, it was only two months away. When I came back, it was five. (READ MORE)

Heading Out:
Big Tobacco: Off To War - The trailer for the adventure of a lifetime... or the rest of my lifetime... or the second adventure of a lifetime if you count my first deployment. Or the fourth adventure if you count Ground Zero and New Orleans... Aw screw it, just light a cigar and watch the damn movie. Super Yenta dropped me off at the Armory Monday morning. I am on active duty and off to war. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Bombing and foreign terrorist networks disrupted - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces killed four terrorists and detained 10 suspected terrorists while targeting the al-Qaeda bombing and foreign terrorist facilitation networks in northern Iraq Tuesday. Coalition forces targeted members of a bombing network in Mosul and ordered occupants of the target building to surrender. Several people came out peacefully, but four terrorists, one armed with a pistol, refused to comply with the force’s instructions. (READ MORE)

IA Soldiers discover several weapons caches in Sadr City - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Army Soldiers seized several weapons in the Sadr City district of Baghdad June 16 during continuing security operations. Iraqi Army Soldiers with the 3rd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, discovered a weapons cache at about 4 a.m. The munitions included a rocketpropelled grenade launcher, two RPG rounds and a locally made rocket launcher. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers detain Special Groups criminal leader - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers detained a suspected Special Groups criminal leader in the Kamaliyah neighborhood of Baghdad’s New Baghdad security district June 16. The detained criminal leader is suspected of personally emplacing and detonating improvised explosive devices targeting both Iraqi Security and Coalition forces. (READ MORE)

Soldiers capture two militants, NPs detain suspects - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers detained two militants linked to attacks against civilians and Coalition force Soldiers in the New Baghdad security district of eastern Baghdad June 16. Base on tips from Iraqi citizens, Soldiers from the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light), conducted an operation in Beladiyat that resulted in the capture of two wanted criminals. (READ MORE)

IA, MND-B Soldiers uncover weapons caches - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers discovered two weapons caches June 15 – 16 in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad. At approximately 11:15 a.m. June 15, soldiers from 24th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division found several grenades of various types, an improvised explosive device, explosives and a tube with stabilizer fins while on patrol in the Saydiyah neighborhood. (READ MORE)

AQI conducts simultaneous IED attacks in Mosul - TIKRIT, Iraq – A member of the Iraqi Police was killed when al-Qaeda in Iraq conducted a simultaneous improvised explosive device attack against four houses and three vehicles belonging to members of the Iraqi Security Forces in Mosul June 16. Four local citizens were injured in the attacks, including an Iraqi Policeman’s child. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces destroy AQI hideout - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces dealt a blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq operations recently, clearing a former safe haven used for various terrorist activities near Tikrit during a four-day operation that ended June 13. The area, about 180 kilometers north of Baghdad, was suspected of being used for senior AQI leader meetings, foreign fighter training and as a staging site for terrorist bombers. Coalition forces also safely demolished an AQI detention facility that was discovered in the same area. (READ MORE)

Baghdad Al Jadida Residents Receive Refurbished Pool in Time for Summer - FORWARD OPERATING BASE RUSTAMIYAH — Citizens of Baghdad al Jadida in eastern Baghdad received a newly renovated swimming pool last week. Opening just in time for the hot months of summer, the Baghdad al Jadida pool is the first of three to be opened in the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light), operating environment. (READ MORE)

Soldiers Capture Suspected Militant Leader - BAGHDAD — U.S. Soldiers captured a suspected militant leader in the New Baghdad security district of eastern Baghdad, June 15. Soldiers from the 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light), captured the suspected criminal leader and detained two others during an operation. (READ MORE)

Public Works Substation Opens in Yarmouk - BAGHDAD — Multi-National Division Baghdad Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, opened a public works substation in Yarmouk, a neighborhood in northwest Baghdad, June 14. The Yarmouk substation will serve the southeast Mansour District and provides workers a place to store equipment used for basic services, such as trash removal and sewage maintenance. (READ MORE)

IA, Coalition forces conduct ‘Operation Chelsea Creek’ - Iraqi Army Soldiers, assisted by Coalition forces, conducted an air assault mission in Yusifiyah June 14. IA Soldiers from 4th Company, 4th Battalion, 25th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, joined by Iraqi Police and U.S. Soldiers, conducted respectful home invasions during “Operation Chelsea Creek”. (READ MORE)

U.S. Special Forces aid Afghan boy - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (June 16, 2008) – Jaweed Noor said he was tired, but in good spirits when he arrived at Bagram Air Field’s Craig Joint Theater Hospital, June 9. The 10-year-old Afghan boy, escorted by his father, Ahmad, and a U.S. Special Forces Soldier, was flown to the facility for tests after Afghan National Security and Coalition forces medics diagnosed a tumor on his upper arm. (READ MORE)

LCLA Services drop in, supply ground forces - FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, Afghanistan (June 16, 2008) – Imagine standing in the back of a turbo-prop cargo airliner, with a nervously rumbling stomach while holding on to a few pallets of supplies which would soon be dropped to Soldiers out in an isolated region of eastern Afghanistan. The flight doors begin to open and imagine seeing a different view of the country below, while simultaneously the pilot performs jaw-dropping maneuvers through the mountain valleys of Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Mayer assumes command of 3rd Bn. - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (June 15, 2008) – Soldiers stood fast at attention, keeping ‘Old Glory’ vertical and true as the 401st Army Field Support Brigade flag was ceremoniously dipped into a salute. Afterward, the 3rd Battalion, 401st AFSB commander handed his unit’s colors to Lt. Col. Donald Mayer, who assumed command of the 3rd Bn., June 10. Relinquishing command was Lt. Col. Iraj Gharagouzloo, who praised Mayer’s capabilities and showed full confidence in him. (READ MORE)

Colors, command change hands for 401st - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (June 16, 2008) - With a brisk salute and three words, "I assume command," Col. Jon K. Buonerba took command of the 401st Army Field Support Brigade from Col. Dennis M. Thompson in a change-of-command ceremony here, June 11. “(Colonel Buonerba) knows this Brigade and knows the mission,” said Thompson during his departure speech. “He will take it to the next level.” (READ MORE)

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