July 12, 2008

From the Front: 07/12/2008

News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

In their own words:
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd): Marines awarded for heroism - AT-TAQADDUM, Iraq – Two Marines from Marine Light Helicopter Attack Squadron 367, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (fwd), earned Navy and Marine Corps Medals for their heroic actions during a January 2007 building fire at Forward Operating Base al-Qaim. Sgt. Scott K. Piccoli and Cpl. Joshua S. Ybarra received the medals during a ceremony here July 1. Their award citations detail the heroism and bravery of Piccoli and Ybarra as they rushed to the aid of Marines struggling to get free of a burning building. Without hesitating, Piccoli ordered Ybarra to alert a Crash, Fire and Rescue unit, then charged into the smoke filled structure. Ybarra ran more than half a mile to notify emergency responders of the fire, then raced back to assist Piccoli’s efforts to evacuate the living quarters. (READ MORE)

A Major's Perspective: PTSD - A great number of people have asked me over the last few weeks about PTSD and what is the Army doing about it. I was going to write about it in the future but then a good friend asked me about it and I decided that the time was now. The only item that I need to clarify is that I am only going to write about my personal experiences. I wont speculate, I wont make assumptions, nor will I make judgements. Also I will be speaking from an active duty perspective, not for any other reason other then that is what I know. But if there is any Reserve or National Guard Soldiers that can add information to this, please chime in and add to the discussion. I have deployed twice to combat as many of you know. So I have seen the return process twice now, and I have seen many changes, but one thing remains the same and that is the Army trying to do all it can for its soldiers. (READ MORE)

IN-iraq: Killer Troop takes pulse of Mosul - Mosul, Iraq- We snaked through stone alleys, under marble arches, briefly following a channel of water down the narrow street into the Tigris. Children's heads sprung from doorways to watch the strange sight 3/3 ACR's "killer" squad patrolling apart from their heavy vehicles or Iraqi counterparts. On one corner was an ancient Assryian church, on the next the curved Al Hadba minaret of the Nurridine Mosque. One man was building a handmade boat whose bow breached his tiny shop as we passed. Children shaved logs on lathes. A fire peaked from a dark tunnel. We were in Segovia or Florence, only older, in a Biblical land strung with hundreds of low hanging electrical wires. (READ MORE)

Omar: IAF using Iraqi airspace? - The IDF and Iraq’s defense ministry deny that Israeli air force is using Iraqi airspace to prepare for attacks on Iran. The claim is obviously part of Iran’s propaganda campaign which is based on deterrence through threats to expand the war. After all, to travel the 200 miles that separate Iraq’s most southern territory from Bushehr in five minutes means that aircraft will have to fly at the speed of Mach 3. This is technically impossible, and it gets even more impossible if the presumed airbases from which Israeli aircraft are supposed to operate (like Assad and Tallil) are many miles farther to the northwest in Iraq. Anyway, if I were the PM of Iraq, I would gladly allow the Israeli air force to use the desert south of Samawa as a forward operating base-Tehran’s threat to Israel’s long-established democracy and to Iraq’s fledgling democracy must be stopped at all costs. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: "More than 100 terror camps" in operation in northwestern Pakistan - Al Qaeda continues to grow its network and expand its capabilities in northwestern Pakistan, US military and intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. The peace agreements have given the Taliban and al Qaeda time and space to re-establish their networks, which pose a threat not only to Pakistan, but the West as well. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and allied terrorists groups, collectively called al Qaeda and allied movements, or AQAM, by some in US military and intelligence circles, has set up a series of camps throughout the tribal areas and in the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. "More than 100" terror camps of varying sizes and types are currently in operation in the region, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal. As of the summer of 2007, 29 terror camps were known to be operating in North and South Waziristan alone. (READ MORE)

Mohammed: Anbar tribes to enter politics - The Anbar Salvation Council announces plan to nominate candidates for the upcoming provincial elections and accuses the Islamic Party of plotting electoral fraud: “Chief of the Anbar Salvation council sheik Hameed Hayis announced the formation of ‘The Democratic Bloc of Anbar’ that will enter the upcoming provincial elections in November and later general elections in 2009. Hayis said the salvation council will work to expose plots by the Islamic Party that is trying to sideline technocrats and intellectuals, manipulate election results and establish a one-party reign ‘this we shall not allow.’” From following the course of security and political events in Anbar, it appears that this particular province will witness the most dramatic political reshuffle when provincial elections take place later this year. (READ MORE)

David Wood: Afghanistan: Building security - It's been heartening to see the return of more than 5 million refugees back home into Afghanistan since U.S. forces ousted the Taliban in 2001. Many Afghan families had fled from the long war with the Soviets and then the Taliban's brutal rule, ending up in refugee camps in Pakistan or Iran where life was a grim struggle for clean water, shelter and dignity. The camps I've seen, outside of Peshawar, bred hopelessness ... and extremism. Out of that cauldron came the concept and planning for 9/11. Ironically, many returned refugees now face the same struggle at home, where clean water, adequate housing, jobs and schools also are in short supply, according to an alarming new report from Refugees International. (READ MORE)

ManryMission: Mosul Healthcare Clinic - Yesterday morning, I visited a healthcare clinic we are building on the west side of Mosul. Since the summer of 2007, USACE has built 8 healthcare clinics in Mosul. Four of these clinics are fully operational and receiving patients on a daily basis. Three of the more recently completed clinics are not yet staffed, and the last clinic (the one I visited) is still under construction. This clinic is in the Hai Nablis neighborhood, which has been a very unstable area for the last few months. Just recently the clinic was damaged by a VBIED. The explosion blew out numerous windows and damaged the ceiling tiles. Fortunately, there was no structural damage. Yesterday, everything seemed pretty quiet. I guess you can expect that when you visit at 0600! The construction contractor has a security guard stay on site to make sure no one breaks into the clinic at night. He was happy to show us around, even though we woke him up! (READ MORE)

Omar: Iran sends "sticky IEDs" to terorists in Iraq - First, it was flying IEDs...Now, sticky IEDs. Iraqi newspaper Al-Madad reports: “The government is taking measures to prevent assassinations by magnetic IEDs that militant groups have been using to target members of security forces, judges and civilians. A source in the government said the cabinet asked all state officials to take utmost caution and to constantly inspect their vehicles before traveling even if the vehicle was left unattended for a short period of time. [...] The statement comes amid increasing attacks with sticky IEDs against government officials of various levels. Military analysts in Baghdad see that the successful operations by security forces in many parts of the country forced militants to change their tactics and switch to sticky IEDs that can be remotely detonated and do not require teams to place.” (READ MORE)

Vince's experiences in Iraq: Vince in the local paper - "Since deposing Hussein, we have helped the Iraqis guarantee clean water, get sewage out of the streets and underground, provide sanitation services for the first time and begin the process of rebuilding the electric grip to serve all the people of Iraq not just the privileged few. That's in addition to building schools, improving roads and building hospitals and medical clinics." U.S. military presence in Iraq is sometimes met with some skepticism. Efforts made in Baghdad by groups such as the USACE are often shadowed by more negative misconceptions of the United States' motives for its occupation of Iraq, he said. "[The Iraqis] still want a little more help for a little while longer because they know their newly paid for freedom and independence are still fragile and reversible. (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: Crazy from the Heat - I wrote this while smoking a La Aroma de Cuba. This will take some time. I open my travel humidor and select a La Aroma de Cuba Sixty. That will last about two and a half hours. Just the time I need to counsel 80% of my platoon on their physical fitness (APFT) failure. Only one other NCO, Cpl Blade (OPSEC) in my platoon passed the APFT. I spoke with him as I watched the final runner cross the 2 mile finish line: at 36:06. Thirty six minutes to run two miles. I could have walked faster. I am depressed. This is my fault. I haven't pushed the soldiers hard enough. To top it off, my first sergeant already cast me the evil eye. Tonight's training meeting will be a hell on earth. I have the highest percentage of APFT failures in the company at 80%. Even my lieutenant failed and this too is my fault. I sat down in the dirt at the finish line, too depressed to go and eat breakfast. (READ MORE)

Omar: Coalition forces, US embassy ban Iranian media from accessing coalition bases - Coalition forces and the US embassy decided to ban reporters working with Iranian media from accessing coalition bases and American offices in Iraq. Coalition forces media advisor Abdul Latif Rayan said security concerns are behind the decision and added “From a security standpoint, we think it’s inappropriate to grant Iranian networks or their employees the permission to access American or coalition bases and offices in Iraq”...Source: Radio Sawa. Stopping potential spies from entering sensitive facilities is a long overdue decision. It makes perfect sense! (READ MORE)

Matt Dupee: Taliban "shadow" governor slain; Female warlord surrenders - Afghan civilians confronted a group of twelve Taliban fighters in the desolate northwestern province of Faryab on Thursday, sparking a clash that left two Taliban fighters killed and sent the rest fleeing for their lives. Among those killed was Abdul Hamid Akhundzada, the newly appointed Taliban “shadow” governor for Faryab, making it the second Taliban-appointed governor killed this season. In May, the Taliban shadow governor for Ghor province, Mullah Jalil, and Mullah Abdul Saraj, who was appointed as police chief for the province by the Taliban leadership, were killed along with four other insurgents during an Afghan security operation. The Taliban’s feared shadow governor of Helmand province, Mullah Faizullah, was killed by Coalition forces last December. (READ MORE)

Back but still writing:
Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Information Operations - There is a reason why we lost the Viet Nam War. There is a reason why we are struggling with this one. We are counterinsurgency-challenged. We are not highly skilled at it as a whole. The Army is a rigid, inertia-bound organization which is in motion, but finds it difficult to change course. We are conventional warriors who find it very difficult to make the shift to being unconventional, asymmetric warriors; which are exactly what we need to be. The basic soldier skills are not that difficult to teach or to train. How to think like an insurgent; not so easy. How not to think and behave like an elite better-than-thou soldier; not so easy. How to be a highly trained and proficient as soldiers without having to look down on everyone else; not so easy. How to see unfamiliar patterns, unfamiliar situations, unfamiliar social structures, unfamiliar relationships and find a way to read them, to come to understand; not so easy. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Education is the key - Go to http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7415315.stm and read this story. It is a prime example of how the Taliban and Al-Queda are trying to keep the people of Afghanistan back in the stone ages. I know the Ghazni province well as I spent many weeks during my tour in 2006-2007. Many of the blog entries I wrote during my tour were based on my time in Ghazni. This is a place where I went into villages and was the first American they had ever seen, much less met. Even though we had been there for 5-6 years already, Afghanistan is so rural and spread out that the US forces had not gotten everywhere. In fact I am sure there are still places that US soldiers have not ventured into yet. There were even villages where they had never even seen a Afghan Army soldier or police officer before. (READ MORE)

LTC Rich Phillips: Fort Lewis, Washington - Here at Fort Lewis, reminders of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are never far away. Recently, the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team returned after 15 months in Iraq. The ceremony welcoming them home reminded everyone of the cost of freedom. During 15 months of combat in Iraq the brigade suffered 54 killed in action and over 300 wounded in action. Many of the wounded Soldiers, even the seriously injured Soldiers, participated in the ceremony on crutches or in wheelchairs. For me the hardest part of being back here is reading the news from Iraq and Afghanistan. I wish I was still there, still in the fight. In Afghanistan I felt needed and in control of my own destiny. My mission was real and immediate and there was no ambiguity. Here, I have no mission, or the mission is less real and immediate, and everything is ambiguous. Here I'm not really needed and I have no control of my destiny. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

IA seize munitions in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Army soldiers seized weapons in Baghdad July 11 as they continued on-going efforts to secure the capital city. At approximately 7:30 a.m., Iraqi Army soldiers with the 22nd Brigade, 6th IA Division seized nine rocket propelled grenade launchers, 14 anti-armor RPG warheads, an anti-personnel RPG, small machinegun ammunition, wires and detonators in the Kadamiyah district of Baghdad. (READ MORE)

National Police confiscate weapons in Karadah - BAGHDAD – Iraqi National Police officials confiscated hundreds of weapons during a clearance mission in the Karadah security district of eastern Baghdad July 11. Police with the 3rd Brigade, 1st National Police Division seized scores of weapons while clearing Muhalla 727 in the Sumer Al-Ghadier area of Karadah. They confiscated 221 AK-47 assault rifles and six pistols without incident, injury or property damage. (READ MORE)

SoI, locals key to uncovering multiple caches (Salah ad Din province) - SALAH AD DIN PROVINCE, Iraq – Soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, were led to the site of several weapons caches in the Salah ad Din province by Sons of Iraq groups and local citizens July 8-9. Over the 48-hour period, 1st BCT Soldiers across the province were able to uncover numerous rockets, mortar rounds, artillery rounds, mortar tubes, grenades, rocket propelled grenades, RPG launchers, land mines, explosives, trigger mechanisms used for detonating explosives, explosive propellant and other items linked to improvised explosive devices. (READ MORE)

NP, MND-B Soldiers seize weapons in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Iraqi National Police and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers seized weapons caches as they continued operations to increase security in Baghdad July 10. Soldiers with the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, found a weapons cache consisting of six 100 mm mortars, over 100 82 mm mortars, nine 120 mm mortars, a German mortar, multiple 100 mm rockets, five 57 mm rockets, two 85 mm RPG-7s, two mines, nine 60 mm mortars, a few 85 mm RPGs, a 57 mm projectile, two 40 mm grenades, a 40 mm star cluster, 88 20 mm projectiles and a recoilless rifle system north of Baghdad at approximately 11:30 a.m. (READ MORE)

Al-Qaeda in Iraq bombing cell disrupted - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces continue to undercut terrorists’ ability to conduct attacks against innocent Iraqis and the security forces that protect them, detaining an alleged bombing-cell leader and eight additional suspects in separate operations Friday. Coalition forces captured the suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq bombing-cell leader near Bayji, about 160 kilometers south of Mosul. The man is believed to be associated with a suspected network leader detained July 10 and allegedly targets security forces and civilians in the Tigris River Valley. (READ MORE)

New IP station in Siniyah to offer more security - SINIYAH, Iraq – Provincial leaders from the Salah ad Din province and city officials from the Bayji area attended as Iraqi Police opened the doors to a new IP station during a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Siniyah July 8. The station will provide IPs a better opportunity to house and train police and give them the ability to store more items needed to sustain day-to-day police operations. (READ MORE)

Operation Iron Round-up uncovers caches, detains suspected terrorists - TIKRIT, Iraq – Coalition and Iraqi forces discovered weapons caches and detained three suspected terrorists as part of Operation Iron Round-up II, a Multi-National Division—North operation in pursuit of al-Qaeda in Iraq. The week-long operation wrapped up July 6 and resulted in several weapons caches from provinces north of Baghdad—Diyala, Salah ad Din, Kirkuk and Ninewa. (READ MORE)

Generals Say Increasing Iraqi Capabilities Turning Tide - WASHINGTON — The Iraqi Security Forces’ increasing capabilities have been making a world of difference in the country, a top coalition military commander said July 10. Army Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, commander of Multi-National Division - Center, briefed Pentagon reporters from Baghdad via teleconference along with Maj. Gen. Ali Salih Farhgood Oothman, commander of 8th Iraqi Army Division. (READ MORE)

Literacy Program Key for Iraqi Women - RAMADI — A middle-aged Iraqi woman, widowed and a mother of two young children, walks into a cream-colored concrete classroom filled with women of all ages. The woman, draped in a black abaya, sits down in a wooden desk-chair and gazes at the instructor with a look of determination and conviction. She knows, along with the other women in the classroom, she must learn to read and write if she is going to continue to support and properly care for her two children and has taken the initial steps in bettering her family and herself. (READ MORE)

Bergner: Violence in Iraq Drops - BAGHDAD — Iraq experienced the lowest number of acts of violence in more than four years last week, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq said July 9. Security progress in Iraq is unmistakable, Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner said. Civilian deaths around the country were at their lowest point in three years, the general told reporters, adding that the reduction in violence is allowing the Iraqi government and the coalition to put in place projects that improve the quality of life in the country and create jobs for Iraqis. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Citizen Leads IA, CF to Large Cache - FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA — Iraqi Army scouts led American special forces and explosives ordinance disposal personnel to a large cache of explosives near Numaniyah, Iraq, early July 8. An Iraqi citizen reported the cache and guided the convoy to the specific site. (READ MORE)

Bagram stands up new Warrior TF, Cincinnatus stands down - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (July 11, 2008) — A new task force assumed base operations authority here and at surrounding forward operating bases in a ceremony at the Bagram Air Field Morale, Welfare and Recreation clamshell, yesterday. TF Warrior assumed mission responsibilities and officially stood up operations, replacing TF Cincinnatus, who sustained the operations mission since January 2007. The TF commander and command sergeants major were also identified. (READ MORE)

Unit awarded Army Chief of Staff Supply Excellence Award - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (July 10, 2008) — A supply unit here won the Army Chief of Staff Supply of Excellence Award recently. The 101st Airborne Division’s Division Special Troops Battalion Property Book Office earned recognition for their excellent efforts with a Department of the Army-level award. Supply units begin by competing on a division level and go through a thorough inspection of their records, standard-operating procedures, and how well they follow Army regulations. (READ MORE)
Women sew clothes for the future - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (July 9, 2008) —Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces, in conjunction with the Gereshk Women’s Center, distributed more than 130 sewing machines to women in the Gereshk District, Helmand province, July 5 and 6. A representative of the Department of Women's Affairs for the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan was present to speak with the local women and to encourage the economic empowerment of Afghan women. (READ MORE)

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