August 4, 2008

From the Front: 08/04/2008

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

In their own words:
A Major's Perspective: Just Plain Wrong - Normally I really like the columnist Thomas L Friedman, I even own a couple of his books. He is usually dead on the money, and even if I disagree with something he is discussing I can understand the validity of his discussion and it makes me think, and develop my own opinions more. Not this time though....In his latest column published in the NY Times he starts off like normal, making a great deal of sense. But, then towards the end he goes off into almost a tangent that is just plain wrong and down-right incorrect. (NY TIMES): “The truth is that Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Pakistan are just different fronts in the same war. The core problem is that the Arab-Muslim world in too many places has been failing at modernity, and were it not for $120-a-barrel oil, that failure would be even more obvious.” (READ MORE)

1st Marine Logistics Group: IA, Marines combine efforts during medical engagement - KABANI, Iraq – Iraqi Army Soldiers, and Marines and Sailors from Bravo Battery, 2d Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group facilitated medical care to more than 130 Iraqis during a cooperative medical engagement, July 24. During the CME, three doctors and several corpsmen tended to and filled prescriptions for residents of Kabani who do not have a clinic in their town. Maj. Tahseen Muallah, commander of the 1st IA Division’s clinic in Habbaniyah, said bringing healthcare to Kabani strengthens friendly ties with the town’s residents. Muallah, 41, from Baghdad, noted that without the CME, those in need of medical assistance would have to travel to Ramadi or Fallujah to see a doctor. (READ MORE)

Back in the Army: Are you going to miss your family? - I get that question at least weekly, often from very earnest people who must think I have not considered that getting deployed might involve being separated from the people I love. With 181 days to go till we go on active duty, and at least 35 of those days in training, I do think about being separated from my family--a lot. Our motor officer has been deployed twice--once with 48 hours notice, once with almost a year's notice. He prefers 48 hours. "You don't have to keep thinking about it," he said. "Just pack your shit and go." Our motor officer is a warrant officer, the rank between enlisted soldiers (like me) and commissioned officers (captains and generals and so forth). Warrant officers are like consultants in the business world--experts, but not managers. So people turn to them for advice about everything--in the same way kids expect teachers to know everything. (READ MORE)

Back on the Homefront: A long way to go... - So we still have a long way to go with Evan learning how to handle his anger....Evan woke up this morning crying once again. He had big tears and sobs again and said he wanted his daddy. I brought him downstairs and calmed him down. He said he wanted to watch the daddy video, so I told him we would, when it was actually time to wake up (it was way too early I thought, maybe I should go ahead and do it next time!). We never did get to the video yet. When Evan is angry, it takes just one small thing to set him off. When Micah first left, we went for a good month where Evan had tantrums that lasted up to 3 hours. Now, Evan is prone to acting out, but not for that long under normal circumstances...3 hours, almost nightly, had me thinking I was going insane. (READ MORE)

Cheese's Milblog: first mission back - I did a couple of convoys as soon as I got back to Phoenix, but yesterday I got to interact with the locals again. We were recon-ing an area that we may return to and, as usual, I was on kiddie-watch as I guarded my truck. Unfortunately, I made the rookie mistake of wearing my CVC helmet instead of my normal one, so I was tethered to the truck by a 3 foot radio cord for the entire stop. At least I could pretend that I couldn't hear the kids because of the huge headphones that are permanently affixed to my CVC. It drives them crazy when you pretend that you can't hear or see them even though they're only three feet away. They'll jump up in the air to get in your line of sight. It's hilarious. These kids were worst than most. The place that we stopped was right next to a military base, so the kids not only spoke English, but were fluent in profanity as well. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Chasing the Insurgents - WaPo says today that al-Qaeda in Iraq's lead murderer several of his top lieutenants have fled to Afghanistan. Things must be going really well, and they must have won the hearts and minds of the Iraqi population. Of course this does not mean they're done with Iraq. Reports are that a suicide car bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle against the wall of a police station south of Mosul on Thursday, killing three policemen and wounding four others, the fifth attack this week. The question is whether Barack Obama still believes Iraq is a disaster that must be written off. Has al-Qaeda been pretty much pushed out and have Mookie's militia been defanged? Iraqis seem to think so. Life is slowly returning to normal throughout the country. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Teachers Union reopens in Ramadi - RAMADI, Iraq – Ramadi Mayor Latif Obaid joined Iraqi and Coalition leaders for the reopening of the Teacher’s Union building in Ramadi July 21. The building will be used by the region’s education instructors to come together for meetings to discuss ideas and increase their effectiveness in teaching students. “This building will help the teachers in Ramadi become even better at their jobs,” said Abdullah Abd Shaib, the teacher’s union manager. “It’s a place where all of the teachers can come for special activities and meetings.” Shaib was a key proponent in reopening the building, and believes it is a necessary component to improving education in Ramadi. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Senior al Qaeda commander in Afghanistan killed in US airstrike - The US Air Force killed an al Qaeda field commander in Afghanistan during an airstrike this month, al Qaeda said in a statement released on the Internet earlier this month. Abu Abdallah al Shami, one of four senior al Qaeda operatives who escaped from Bagram prison on July 10, 2005, was killed in an unspecified airstrike, said Mustafa Abu Yazid, al Qaeda's senior commander in Afghanistan. "Al Qaeda announces the martyrdom of one of the heroes and field leaders who performed well in facing the modern crusade, our brother Abu Abdallah al Shami," Yazid said, in a statement translated by Reuters. "Since his feet touched the battle field (after the escape) he resumed jihad with stronger zeal ... he had led and took part in several successful military operations." (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: Your Filthy Little Mouth - I wrote this while smoking a La Gloria Cubana Wavel. Every platoon has one. He is that private or specialist who always has that one sarcastic sidebar comment. He is the kid who agrees to do a detail and then complains about why he was picked afterwards. He is the one who could be such a good soldier if only he would keep his mouth shut. Mine is Private Jell-O. [OPSEC] “Boy, I wish Sergeant Blackjack [OPSEC] was my platoon sergeant!” I heard Private Jell-O’s comment all the way from my end of the tent. Did that private just say what I think he said? I got up from my chair and walked down the rows of cots. The tent was suddenly transformed into an old western movie when the gunslingers met at high noon. But instead of women herding children indoors and saloon keepers closing their shutters, my platoon saw me coming and dove onto their cots or suddenly became interested in their boots. They heard the comment as well. (READ MORE)

Manrymission: Mosul Courthouse - This past Monday morning, Mike F and I visited the Mosul courthouse. Mike is managing a project at the courthouse to provide some improvements to the physical security. In addition to providing blast walls along the street, the project includes a new screening building, floodlights, and a security system. We’ve driven by the front of the courthouse several times in the past week on our way to other sites. Each time, I’ve noticed that construction on the new security building has not progressed, so I wasn’t expecting to see much else happening during this visit. However, when we walked through the courthouse to the back side, I was pleasantly surprised. The contractor has installed the two new trailers for the security personnel, 38 out of 40 new floodlights, and placed the concrete pad for the new generator. The contractor’s on site supervisor, wearing the red keffiyeh on his head, was eager to talk to us about the project. (READ MORE)

A Major's Perspective: Torture? - There is a very good article in the NY Times this weekend about a new book that has hit the streets. The book is called "The Dark Side", and its discussion is about the use of torture in the War on Terror. I'm not here to argue what or what not certain people within the administration did. I'm quite positive that until classified documents are declassified 30-50 years from now, no-one will know for sure. But the argument on whether torture should be used is a valid one to have, and more importantly is the understanding of why it should never be used. This is not a discussion of what torture is, that is another discussion for another day. What this is though, is the reason why we as a Military and as a Country should never engage in this. I am sure people could argue that torture is valid when time sensitive information is needed. Terrorist X is captured and we just have to have this information now. It deals with a direct plot against the US Homeland. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Argghhh! And The Red-Headed Stepchildren - During my time at Ft Riley, we were told that we were the main effort; that everyone on that fort wished they were us. I volunteered for the ETT mission in Afghanistan through Guard Bureau after seeking a conventional rotation to Iraq with anybody who was going. My unit had nothing projected and I felt the need to contribute. The SGM at Guard Bureau’s deployment desk recommended that I look into the ETT mission in Afghanistan. My response: “Huh?” I, like the rest of the Army, was clueless. At Ft Riley we were, if not the main effort, a very significant effort of that installation and the 1ID. It wasn’t until we got in country and downrange that the problems began. To top that off, after rumors of some of the ETT’s who had law enforcement experience being assigned to the developing ANP mission. I had no fear of that, having been only the subject of law enforcement, but having never carried a badge myself. (READ MORE)

Brad's Excellent Adventure: Still Waiting for Orders - 1 August 2008 1930 - My current mobilization orders end next Thursday, and I am still waiting for my new orders. To those not familiar with how the military does things, this may not seem like much. But in the military, orders are everything. Ever heard the saying “nature abhors a vacuum”? Well, the Army abhors a soldier without orders. Everything depends on them. If you have orders, you belong someplace, and they can take care of you. Without orders, you can’t do anything and it’s hard for people to do things for you. Everywhere you go, people want to see your orders. If you are getting some kind of service (such as a plane flight), you often have to give them one or more copies or your orders. It’s like having a passport when you travel. Soldiers in transit usually have a folder with multiple copies of their orders. You need three copies here, six copies there, etc., depending on what you are doing and where you are going. (READ MORE)

From the 'Stan: Update on Sgt. Lewis, and other good news - Just got word from Chad that his son-in-law, Sgt. Lewis, is back home and recovering. Sgt. Lewis, who is with 1/6, was injured in an IED blast on June 14 and spent some time in Bethesda Naval Hospital before returning home. Chad said the care at Bethesda was great, and they received a lot help and support from the Semper Fi Fund as well. There were a lot of visitors, but Sgt. Lewis got two very special visitors who presented him with his Purple Heart… in case you don’t recognize them, it is the commandant and sergeant major of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Conway and Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent. Some other good news, I just learned today that the MEU has been working on putting MWR (morale, welfare and recreation) tents up at FOB Dwyer and FOB Bastion so the Marines will have access to the Internet and more phones. It took a while to get it all set up, but the tents and Internet/phones are now up and running. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: “The Wizard” shares counterinsurgency knowledge with 2/24 Marines - CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq – Just over 36 years ago Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jim M. Roussell, the assistant intelligence officer for 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, was deployed to Thailand in support of the war in Vietnam. Today, Roussell is walking the streets of Iraq with an abundance of combat experience and more than enough understanding of counterinsurgency to pass on to Marines in his battalion. Deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom for the third time, he remains humble when it comes to his service saying, “I’m here for these young guys who have embraced the concepts we have taught them very well – to try to teach them everything I know.” (READ MORE)

Nathan Webster: In Pictures: US and Iraqis in Tarmiyah - Soldiers with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion/14th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division interacted with Iraqis in Tarmiyah, Iraq, in a variety of settings during the month of June. The company commander engaged the local tribal leader at dinner. Enlisted soldiers talked to Sons of Iraq members during patrols of their citywide positions, but still searched and questioned those Iraqis they encountered in the less-stable countryside. Most of their days are not spent on typical infantry missions, but as one Alpha Company platoon sergeant put it, “infantrymen haven’t been doing typical infantrymen’s jobs for a long time.” The area has been free of active combat for some time. Yet, insurgent forces still target the more vulnerable Sons of Iraq members, and roadside and vehicle-borne bombs killed several of them in recent weeks. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Al Qaeda's East Africa operations chief escapes raid in Kenya - Senior al Qaeda leader Fazul Abdullah Mohammed escaped a raid in the resort town of Mandali in Kenyan, police stated. Kenyan police raided a home after "intelligence reports show that he came into the country from Somalia to seek medical attention because of a kidney condition," an anonymous senior detective told Reuters. Two men were detained and two of Fazul's passports were found. Fazul appears to have received a tip that helped him escape. "We sealed off the whole area and had sea and land patrols but unfortunately, Fazul got leakage of the intended raid and escaped," the official told Reuters. "We are still looking for him." (READ MORE)

Omar: Iraq Requests to Buy $11 Billion Worth of American Arms - For the last few years, Iraq has been working to build its new armed forces with invaluable American support. In the course of the process Iraq purchased large amounts of arms and equipment from the US. But a tendency towards getting eastern bloc arms was evident, largely due to decades of dependence and familiarity with such arms. This trend seems to be changing fast recently. From time to time we hear about Iraq trying to strike some small/medium size deals to buy arms. The past seven days saw a spike in requests to buy arms; this time, all are American-made. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of six major requests by Iraq to purchase arms, equipment and services with a total value of about $11 billion. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Unfiltered: Before deployment, an introduction - To start off, I would like to welcome everyone. My name is Brett Kinney and I am a combat medic with the National Guard unit stationed out of Woodstock IL. I was recently interviewed by the Northwest Herald for an article devoted to our upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. After reading the article, I went online to read the comments posted by members of the community. There were many comments wishing me a safe journey and to those people, I greatly thank you. I also read conversations about the actual necessity of the war in Afghanistan and its true purpose. After reading the posted comment, I noticed that there was great confusion on both sides of the fence about what is going on overseas. (READ MORE)

Manrymission: MAO Replacements - My replacement, LTC Rob [OPSEC], arrived today along with Rick’s replacement, MAJ John [OPSEC]. They hit the ground in Kuwait in the wee hours of the morning, rested for a few hours, then jumped on a C17 and flew to Mosul. Rick and I picked them up at the airfield about midday. We brought them back to the USACE compound, dropped off their bags, then walked over to the DFAC for lunch. After lunch, we took care of the most important business first, computer paperwork. I had them go through the various IT policies and briefings so that they can get their computer accounts as soon as possible! I’m looking forward to sending an email that says “Please add LTC Rob [OPSEC] to all emails for the MAO OIC”. (READ MORE)

Fobbits Need Ice Cream Too: Another day another dollar - So today (this morning) we had what we call a somo run. This involves us prepping trucks as normal and escorting them to the Kuwait/Iraq border to customs. However, once through customs, instead of suiting up and riding out, we turn them over at the border to a private security firm run by Iraqis (I think). This was my first time doing this, because I am a gunner and gunners were never previously required; just the driver and TC (truck commander). Recently though, these private security guys have been getting hijacked on a daily basis; our briefs daily were filled with how somo runs were getting demolished shortly after we handed them over. Today I found out why. We rolled up to the gate, sat there for 3 hours because these guys were no shows and were almost about to be told from higher to turn around and head back. (READ MORE)

One Marine's View: The 'Hoofs' dept - Ways to keep both fronts happy. As you battle the daily contingencies while being deployed, not much sleep, sharing the heads with 100 of your closest buds, and dinning in the swahut of food, you still have to balance that juggling act back home. Although you miss birthdays, wedding anniversary???s and moments that will never be brought back except for pictures and stories from you kids you know your mission deployed is important and so does your spouse. However, without divulging all the Op Sec in the world, your spouse doesn't really "get" what you're doing, and if they do, you probably peaked over the Op Sec rules. So you try to tell and explain to them all the little corks about being deployed, the funny stories of people getting locked in the port a johns, sun crazy dogs chasing you as you try to PT, having all sorts of bugs crawl up you leg at night and finding dirt in every crease of your body, good times! (READ MORE)

Rocinante's Burdens: Day 44 - We went out today to destroy some old captured bombs, rockets, mortar shells and other explosives. We do that by piling them into a pit and blowing them up with explosives. First we load the truck. How NOT to load a truck with old rusty high explosives: I also got the explosion on video but am having trouble editing it. So instead, here is a picture of a donkey. Here is a picture of a different kind of donkey. That is me, doing what I have been told for 25 years to never do: Handle UXO (unexploded ordinance). "Let the professionals do that, it's what they get paid for." (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: Here’s Looking at You, Kid - I wrote this while smoking a La Gloria Cubana Wavel. I feel like I’m back in high school again. I’m not Big Tobacco. I’m just BT, a ninth-grader with bad acne, an asthma inhaler and a Guns ‘N Roses concert t-shirt. Sometimes, women have a way of turning back time for me. The nurses at the hospital were different. I was in my element, smoking, warmed up, ready. And anyway, they were mostly officers and privates. I knew they were out-of-bounds. But this one! She is beautiful! Her dirty blonde hair pulled back tight in a bun. Her nose a gentle slope that ends in a slight upswing. She has gentle, caring blue eyes. Her body is as thin as a twig, a sure sign that she is a runner. Her breasts are small yet look firm and assertive. They push through the blouse of her ACUs, demanding my attention. The two of us wait in the short order line for a hamburger. She turns slightly and sees me. Her eyes twinkle and she gives me a tight-lipped smile as if saying: “Well, looks like you and me are waiting for hamburgers.” (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Coalition operations target AQI leadership - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces captured four wanted men and 17 additional suspects during operations Friday targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders in Baghdad and Mosul. Fifteen suspected terrorists, including two wanted men, are in Coalition custody after an operation in a village southwest of Mosul. One man is reportedly a liaison between AQI leaders in Mosul and the foreign terrorist network in northwest Iraq. (READ MORE)

ISF detain suspected AQI financier, 7 others in Diyala province - BALAD, Iraq – Iraq Security Forces detained a suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq financier and seven others in separate operations in central Iraq July 29-30. The 5th Iraqi Army Division detained a suspected AQI financier in as-Sadiyah, approximately 116 km northeast of Baghdad, July 30. The suspect is believed to be an AQI financier and facilitator in the Lake Hamrin region. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers aid young boy injured in IED attack - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers and combat medics provided emergency medical treatment for a young Iraqi boy inured in an improvised explosive device attack in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad July 30. Soldiers medically evacuated the boy to a coalition Combat Support Hospital in the International Zone after an Iraqi citizen in the Abu T’shir community reported to a joint security station that the child had been injured. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers detain suspected IED, EFP manufacturer, discover cache - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers detained a suspected criminal and discovered a small weapons cache July 29 – 30 in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad. At approximately 11:45 p.m. July 29 in the Shurta community, Soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division detained a suspected explosive device manufacturer. (READ MORE)

ISF detain five suspected AQI terrorists in separate operations throughout - BALAD, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces detained five suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists in separate operations throughout Iraq July 28-29. Haditha Special Weapons and Tactics team detained a suspected terrorist on a Haditha district warrant in Barwanah, northwest of Baghdad, July 29. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers detain key suspects in Rashid - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers detained nine suspected criminals, three of which were highly sought after, July 30-31 in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad. At approximately 5:30 p.m., July 30, Soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, detained a suspected Special Groups criminal near the Jihad community. (READ MORE)

Coalition operations striking al-Qaeda bombing networks (Bayji,Baghdad) - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained five suspected terrorists, including a wanted man allegedly involved in planning suicide bombings for al-Qaeda in Iraq, during operations Thursday in central and northern parts of the country. Using information from operations Jul. 23 and 24, Coalition forces conducted a precision operation and captured a wanted man in Bayji, about 160 kilometers south of Mosul. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces capture suspected Kata’ib Hezbollah associates in east Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces captured two suspected criminals associated with Kata’ib Hezbollah Thursday morning in east Baghdad. Based on intelligence information, Coalition forces targeted the location of an individual suspected of being a part of a propaganda cell for Kata’ib Hezbollah. (READ MORE)

Korean filmmaker faces criminal charges - Korean documentary filmmaker Kim Young Me has been directed to stop production of her current project by U.S. Army media officials. Kim has been ordered to return to Baghdad where she faces criminal charges for allegedly violating a new Korean law that prohibits travel inside Iraq. (READ MORE)

Dust storms delay Korean filmmaker's removal from war zone - Korean documentary filmmaker Kim Young Me is being housed on a forward operating base in Diyala province, Iraq. Repeated efforts by the U.S. Military to deliver Kim to Baghdad have met with delays. Recent dust storms have grounded helicopters across central Iraq. (READ MORE)

Four Iraqi citizens killed, seven wounded in Adhamiyah explosion - BAGHDAD – An explosion in the Old Adhamiyah neighborhood of northeast Baghdad killed four Iraqi citizens, injured seven more and destroyed six vehicles at approximately 9 a.m. Aug. 3. Initial reports indicate the unknown explosion involved a vehicle and a government office was the alleged target. (READ MORE)

ISOF, Ramadi SWAT capture five suspected terrorists in separate operations - BALAD, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces captured five suspected terrorists and detained two others in operations around Iraq July 31- Aug. 2. On Aug. 2 in Mosul, Iraqi Special Operations Forces arrested three suspected members of Islamic State of Iraq, a front organization for the foreign-led al-Qaeda in Iraq, on a local warrant. (READ MORE)

Al-Qaeda in Iraq loses operatives, support - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained 15 suspected terrorists during operations Saturday and Sunday targeting al-Qaeda operatives in central and northern Iraq. In Baghdad, Coalition forces captured a wanted man who is reportedly responsible for establishing a foreign terrorist facilitation hub in the city. Two additional suspects were detained. (READ MORE)

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