June 20, 2008

From the Front: 06/20/2008

News and Personal dispatches from the front lines.

In their own words:
A Major's Perspective: From Argandab to Amara - Within Afghanistan and the Argandab Region the news was all good today. (Link to NY Times Article) From all the information right now it seems as if whatever number of Taliban fighters were in the area are on the run. The actual information seems to still be debated, so I am going to hold off talking about it for another day or so until the dust settles and the reports solidify a bit more. The one clear take-away is that the Afghan Army and Police were able to plan, move large numbers of troops rapidly to the area from all over the country, and then conduct successful offensive operations against the Taliban. This is a huge good news story, and one that makes me very proud of them. The Afghan Army and Police are both top notch organizations and this just showcases that point even more. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Maysan operation continues to target Sadrist leaders - The Iraqi security forces have detained five senior Sadrist leaders and a department director in Masyan province during Operation Promise of Peace. The Mahdi Army, the armed wing of the Sadrist movement, has not put up any opposition to the government’s efforts to secure Maysan, a Sadrist stronghold on the Iranian border. Iraqi forces are conducting a series of raids in Amarah and throughout the southern province, "capturing key targets including government officials wanted by the authorities in a number of cases," said Brigadier General Abdul Karim Khalaf, a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: 3/6 Weapons Company demilitarizes station - FUHAYLAT, Iraq (June 13, 2008) – Joint Security Station (JSS) Commanche, located in the Fuhaylat Village of al Anbar Province, closed its doors to Coalition and Iraqi Security Force operations after they completed an area demilitarization June 11. The closure of the JSS is part of the transition of security to the Iraqi Security Forces. The security in the area has improved enough that the Iraqi Security Forces will take the lead and the JSS can be consolidated with another station. JSS Commanche was located in 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team-1’s southern area of operations. Its closure will return the privately owned sites to its owners, said Staff Sgt. Douglas H. Newsome, platoon sergeant, 81mm Mortar Platoon. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Civil Affairs, 3/6 Marines promote Fallujah progress - FALLUJAH, Iraq (June 11, 2008) – 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines augmented by civil affairs teams are continuously working with Fallujah City Council members, local tribal leaders and local citizens to carry out projects in an effort to improve the city’s infrastructure. Civil affairs leaders and Army Corps of Engineers met with the city council’s director generals today to talk about projects that will provide key services throughout the city, such as improving the water distribution systems. The city is now in the planning stages of establishing a new water distribution network. (READ MORE)

LT Nixon: Iraq News (20 June) - The Good: Iraqi Spec Ops have captured a militia leader in Baghdad. Col Ferrell talks about tactics in preventing extremists from re-entering the Sunni areas south of Baghdad during a press conference. Australian News is more optimistic about new development of Iraqi oil infrastructure stabilizing crude prices than the "no blood for oil" crowd in the states. This comes at a time when the Iraqi Finance Minister has announced plans for Iraqi natural gas to be transferred to Jordan from Anbar province via pipeline. The Iraqi-led "Promise of Peace" operation continues with big successes in Maysan province. The Bad: Kim Gamel of the AP reports that caches are turning up in the darndest places in Iraq as of late. A bakery, a fish farm, etc. (READ MORE)

Up Country Iraq: Who is in Control? - Here is another Iraq update. I first sent this back on 29 April. Remember, this is a lazy man's way of catching up to date rather than re-writing everything that has been happening in the past 2 months. It may sound as if I am starting this email off with a little negativity, but when you see the figures, you will understand why that is the case. Since last weekend, there were nearly 40 shootings in one of the northern cities of the country alone. In the past two weeks, there have been 19 murders in that particular city, with five bodies discovered dumped in one trashed house. Can you declare a country “civilized” or able to conduct self government when this type of violence occurs? Where are the police during times like this? They obviously do not control the streets or neighborhoods where this violence is occurring. (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: The Unbearable Lightness of Bacon - I did not smoke while writing this. This was also composed on my smartphone so the Fat Finger rule applies. "Come in Staff Sergeant, come in," the contractor begs as I wait in the wind for breakfast. I'm living in a tent city in the desert. I have air conditioning in the tent and I'm pooping and brushing my teeth in a shipping container. For an infantryman, this is good living. "What time is breakfast anyway?" I ask while looking at my watch. "Three thirty Staff Sergeant," the contractor says. "But you can come in now and get some coffee." This is my first exposure to the incredible loyalty and helpfullness of contractors. I'm having trouble letting my guard down. When you are from Jersey, people aren't this nice unless you are giving them money or you are Tony Soprano. Maybe this guy just doesn't want his legs broken with a bat? (READ MORE)

Zen Traveler: More Cultural Tidbits - Here’s a little stumbling block westerners have when trying to work within the Arab culture; Arabs lie. At first I thought that was a terribly racist observation until someone pointed out that it’s in the Qur’an. Muslims, not only have permission, but rather have a duty to lie to non-believers; it’s called, “taqiyya”. Wrap your head around that little tidbit. When talking to the throngs of Iraqis and other Arabs that we have working for us it’s all but impossible to get a straight, reliable answer to your question. At a minimum you will receive a gross exaggeration, but more likely you will be told a bold-faced lie with no remorse or compunction whatsoever. You will get whatever story, exaggeration, lie or fabrication which will save the most face and honor with the person you are speaking with. (READ MORE)

On the Home Front:
Phil Basinski: Fathers Day - I got a package from Judy the Monday after Fathers Day. I was flattered that she made the time to fill a box with a card & a few little goodies given the scope of her responsibilities and crazy hours she endures. In the box was a tee-shirt & towel with "Operation Enduring Freedom" logos, some sunglasses, a contact sheet with four photos and a news magazine called "Afghanistan Freedom Watch" published by "Combined Joint Task Force-101," whatever that is, although it's through the Dept. of Defense. The magazine outlines highlights and achievements of our troops in Afghanistan. It offers a different perspective of our troops' mission than we hear about in the media. The mission they talk about is multi-faceted. It talks about the Afghani army and police forces directly although separately successfully engaging the Taliban. This to illustrate how effectively our troops delivered training for both forces. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Iraqi Army consolidating spare parts logistics - TAJI, Iraq – During the next few months, the Iraqi Army will merge its two main spare parts depots for military equipment into a new facility at the Taji National Depot. The new Class IX warehouse building is up and the shelves are scheduled to be installed July 7, but already most of the parts purchased through the Foreign Military Sales program have been moved from their old warehouse. Several hundred shipping containers of materiel purchased with Iraqi Security Forces Funds are scheduled to be moved soon from the Taji Central Warehouse. (READ MORE)

Al-Qaeda networks disrupted - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces killed four terrorists and detained 18 suspected terrorists Thursday and Friday during operations around Baghdad targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq bombing networks. Coalition forces conducted a series of operations near Balad, about 80 kilometers north of Baghdad, targeting the financier behind a bombing network in the Tigris River Valley. At one location Friday, Coalition forces came under attack by small arms fire from a nearby rooftop. (READ MORE)

ISF clear insurgents out of Amarah - AMARAH, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces started clearing operations in Amarah June 19 following a four-day amnesty period for weapons turn in. The operation, planned and led by Iraqi Security Forces, is focused on routing out criminals and militants in the area. Coalition forces are providing advisory assistance to Iraqi Security Forces. (READ MORE)

Al-Qaeda network in Mosul disabled - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained 12 suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists in Mosul Friday, including two wanted men who are believed to oversee criminal attacks for the network. Operations continued to take a toll on terrorist leaders in Mosul when Coalition forces captured an AQI security “emir” in the city whose predecessor was detained April 21. In addition to overseeing terrorist activities in Mosul, the wanted man is believed to direct a group of extremists from Anbar province. (READ MORE)

Helping move Basrah forward - BASRAH, Iraq–The Basrah Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) along with the Gulf Region South district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (GRS), United States Agency for International Development – Iraq (USAID) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) recently concluded a two-day Basrah budget execution support workshop at the Basrah International Airport. Held June 17-18, the event provided a clear understanding of how the international community can support Al Basrah Governor’s Office and Technical Directorates for the design and implementation of projects in 2008. (READ MORE)

ISF seizes three major caches in Amarah operation - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Security Forces seized three major caches in the ongoing Operation Basha’er as-Salaam in Amarah, Iraq June 19-20. The ISF have discovered 19 caches so far during the operation. The first cache was discovered in a cemetery outside of the city, which contained more than 240 RPG warheads, approximately 250 mortar rounds and more than 675 anti-tank mines. Several rocket launchers were also found in the cache as well as explosively formed projectile components. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army soldiers discover multiple weapons caches in Sadr City - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Army soldiers seized several weapons caches in the Sadr City District of Baghdad June 19. At approximately 6 a.m., soldiers with the 3rd Brigade, 1st Iraq Army Division, seized a cache containing four rocket propelled grenades, an 82 mm round, a mortar aiming device, two RPG-7 propellants, a RPG-7 scope, a rifle, a flare gun and six full AK-47 magazines. (READ MORE)

Last Surge Brigade to Return After Successful 13-Month Deployment - WASHINGTON — The last of the five Army brigades to deploy with the “troop surge” in Iraq will return in July after a 13-month deployment, during which soldiers detained more than 800 terrorist suspects and helped foster Iraqi self-governance. The 3rd Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team has operated in the Arab Jabour area of southeastern Baghdad, where the number of attacks plummeted from about 30 a week when they arrived in May 2007 to about one a week now. (READ MORE)

Navy EWOs keep Coalition ‘music’ running - Working from a converted warehouse, a Navy crew keeps FOB Delta’s Counter Radio Electronic Warfare systems up to speed, ensuring that convoys in Wasit Province may confidently announce “music on,” signaling their CREW system is functional. The CREW system works with other technology to defeat IEDs, something Soldiers definitely appreciate, said Aviation Electronics Technician-1 (Aerial Warfare) Michael Rock. (READ MORE)

Chaplains jump start relationships - One might jump start a car; or maybe kick start a motorcycle. But how do you jump start a relationship? Taking his years of experience and counseling training, Chaplain (Maj.) Ken Godfrey, Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, is using his lunch hour to teach Soldiers how to do just that. “The purpose is to discuss, in a relaxed format, a variety of relationship topics to help people prepare to go home." (READ MORE)

National Police Save Kidnapped Child, Seize Weapons in New Baghdad - FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY — National police officers rescued a kidnapped 12-year-old Iraqi boy and seized a weapons cache while patrolling the New Baghdad security district of eastern Baghdad, June 18. Policemen from 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 1st National Police Division, answered a child’s calls for help while conducting a cordon-and-search mission of Muhalla 759 in the Kamaliyah area of New Baghdad, according to a National Police Transition Team report. (READ MORE)

Thousands Endure Storm to Become IP - CAMP VICTORY — As a sandstorm blanketed Baghdad, June 17, an estimated 2000 Iraqi citizens endured the elements to start the process of becoming Iraqi police at the Furat Iraqi Police Training Facility. Iraqi police officials and military police Soldiers with the 18th Military Police Brigade, Multi-National Division - Baghdad set up a four-day recruiting drive at the Furat facility to reach a goal of 1300 new recruits to send to Basic Recruit Training to become IP. (READ MORE)

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