August 17, 2008

From the Front: 08/17/2008

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

In their own words:
Collabman's Thoughts: That Look... - "My ears were ringing and I had a slight headache. You know, I’m a soldier. I survived" - Spc. Casey Watson 84th Engineer Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment - Evening... - Ms. Collabman's phone came to life this morning...Chris! It had been a while since we had heard his voice so this was nice. First things first - he is well, though tired. I can't say I am surprised given the long days they have been putting in on patrol. He answered questions about his health, morale, preparing for his next promotion board and things about his future...what he wants to do next, where he wants to be in a year or two from now. He had seen my latest blog and expressed his pleasure over seeing his teammates in the photos. I continue to be impressed with Chris' maturity and growth. He is growing up very quickly and it is all a wonderful thing to watch and sense, even if it is from a distance. I would imagine you have seen changes with your warrior too, yes? (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Marine Corps’ top enlisted visits Marines on Camp Baharia - CAMP BAHARIA, Iraq– With the hot Iraq weather sweltering down on an assembly of Marines gathered on Camp Baharia, Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent delivered a riveting speech about subjects ranging from progress Marines are making in Iraq and Afghanistan to the Marine Corps’ new physical training uniforms. Marines with 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment; 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines; and 3rd Bn., 6th Marines, all elements of Regimental Combat Team 1, listened attentively as the Kent congratulated them on the job they have done during their current and previous tours in Iraq. "As we were riding up, there were kids standing out there by the checkpoint waving at the Marines,” Kent said. “You would never have seen that back in 2004 and 2005, and even part of 2006; those kids would have turned their heads back then. Because of the job you all have done out here, that is possible today.” (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Security Platoon Blog - When I attached to Regimental Combat Team 1 at the beginning of this month from 2nd Battalion, 24th Marines, I wasn’t sure exactly what I would be doing while I waited to go on R&R leave at the end of the month. A couple days into my time here, my officer-in-charge told me that I would be spending the next couple of weeks with RCT-1’s Security Platoon, video taping the Marines’ every move to include everything from conducting missions “outside the wire” to sitting around laughing and passing the time. At first, I was a little tense about the assignment. I wasn’t sure how I would be treated as an “outsider” coming in with a video camera for just a couple weeks then leaving, not to mention the video I was to shoot would be put packaged as a documentary and released for the world to see. (READ MORE)

City Girl @ Kaboom: The Stresses of a Deployment - When I agreed to take over this blog I kept asking CPT G for some advice on what to write. He would tell me that it was my domain now, I could write whatever I wanted. For fear of tainting CPT G’s reputation among the military readers (I get it, retired Vietnam vets do not want to read a recent college grad bitching about missing her fiancĂ©e), I have kept it purely informative, giving everyone the weekly…usually bi-weekly updates on the Gravediggers and Anu- al Verona. After reading a few of my fellow army wives' blogs I have decided to give this public venting a shot. I am sure it will be a healthier release of my emotions than temper tantrums. After a wonderful summer spent in Italy and Nantucket (I nanny for a fantastic family), I have unfortunately returned to reality. Part of me has looked forward to the month of August for most of the summer, since it means finally securing a job and moving into my first apartment. (READ MORE)

Matt Dupee: Fighting in Uruzgan kills Taliban commander - Following a week of ferocious battles in the central mountain-province of Uruzgan, Coalition forces announced the death of a “known Taliban leader and some of his followers” after launching a deadly air strike on his position August 12. The air raid, apparently a different strike from the deadly August 11 incident in the Khas Uruzgan district that left an estimated eight civilians and 25 insurgents dead, resulted in the death of Mullah Akhtar Mohammed and several of his fighters. “This operation shows that ISAF can strike against the insurgency leadership who threaten innocent Afghans and attack ISAF forces,” said Brigadier-General Richard Blanchette in a press statement. “[Akhtar Mohammed] commanded large numbers of insurgent fighters and committed atrocities against Afghan Police officers who worked to improve the safety and stability of their country.” (READ MORE)

Nathan Webster: Tarmiyah’s Sons of Iraq: security for the short term - Abu Abad, not his real name, said he was one of the first members to sign up with Sheikh Imad’s Sons of Iraq group when it was set up last October to help protect the streets of Tarmiyah, a mostly Sunni city about 25 miles north of Baghdad. Now a captain in the 500-strong local Sons of Iraq membership, Abad is responsible for about 25 Iraqi men who occupy checkpoints near the Joint Security Station operated by the US Army’s Alpha Company, 1st/14th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division. Neither army nor police, the Sons of Iraq are made up local citizens, paid about $300 a month by the US, though not armed by the US. The money comes in the form of brand-new $100 bills, listed and accounted for by specific serial numbers. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Iran continues to train Shia terror groups for attacks in Iraq - Iran continues to finance, train, arm, and support Shia terror groups in Iraq. The Qods Force, via its Ramazan Corps command operating in eastern Iran, remains active in subverting the Iraqi government and attacking US and Coalition forces. The latest report on Iran's activities inside Iraq from The Associated Press is sourced from an anonymous senior US intelligence official. Elements from the AP report matches prior assessments from Iraqi intelligence officials as well as reports here at The Long War Journal and other publications. Qods Force and Hezbollah currently run training camps for the "Special Groups" as well as the Hezbollah Brigades in at least four locations inside Iran, at Qom, Tehran, Ahvaz, and Mashhad, the senior military officer told the AP. The camps are co-run by Iran's Qods Force and Hezbollah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon. (READ MORE)

Matel-in-Iraq: Iraqi Falafel - The ordinary is the extraordinary in a place like Anbar. I was reminded of that during a recent visit to a falafel stand in Hadithah. Instead of the usual chow hall fare, we decided to go out for lunch. It was a big deal, requiring a convoy, but I think it was worth it. The shop owner was delighted to have us come in and I think we contributed to the general feeling that peace and normality is returning to this recently-war-torn city. Reports of these kinds of gestures pass by word of mouth and have strong impact on local attitudes. Of course, we are not the first. The Marines at the nearby camp are the ones who told us about the shop, so they presumably have eaten here too. (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: A Little Ain't Enough - I did not smoke while composing this... Hey Joe. This one is for you. Yes, you too can be deployed without ever leaving the USA! How? Wake up. Grab a toothbrush from a travel kit. Take a toilet plunger and tie it to your shoulder. Take a brick and tape it to you thigh. Walk downstairs and circle the perimeter of your house twice. Go back into the house and walk to the bathroom. Pee, brush your teeth. For added effect, open the window so that your neighbor sees you. Walk around your house twice. Go back inside and make sure that everybody in the house is up and doing their chores. Walk around your house four more times. Then go inside and eat breakfast. Leave the table. Walk around your house ten more times. Go back inside and check your e-mail. Leave your computer and walk around the house ten times again. Go back up to your bedroom and get dressed. Make sure that the kids are ready for school. Make a couple of phone calls. (READ MORE)

Back but still writing:
Jason's Iraq Vacation: Learning to Fly - [...] 10 weeks ago I got the best news of my life - I am going to be a Dad. Yep, life is good right now. It hasn't been all vacations and promotions, though (ok, there's been like 3 vacations in 4 months, all of them awesome - not the point). There has been, and still is, adjustment challenges. The first couple weeks I was back were the toughest Rache and I have had in our marriage. We both had become accustomed to a great deal of independence and not having to communicate decisions with a partner; now our decisions had to be mutual. It sounds trivial, but we both changed from this experience and needed to get to know each other again. Thankfully, the3 weeks we spent in Italy and Paris really gave us the chance to reconnect and fall in love all over again. Corny? Sure! One of the best experiences of my life? Absolutely. There are still residual effects from the deployment. (READ MORE)

LT Nixon: NGO in Afghanistan Concerned with Civil-Military Involvement - Taliban thugs murdered four workers for the IRC NGO just south of Kabul in a brutal attack. AP has the story, and it was surprising to see that the director of the NGO cast doubt on military involvement in civil affairs, which can be rationalized to say the Taliban will target Westerners regardless of their military status: “The two IRC officials said they were concerned that international militaries are taking on humanitarian projects, potentially blurring the lines in the eyes of locals or militants between what humanitarian groups do and what the military does. NATO militaries carry out reconstruction projects throughout the country. ‘There are very real ethical and operational concerns that arise from the confusion between humanitarian and political and military objectives,’ Donnelly said.” (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Anbar's desert is better but still dangerous - It's not the Wild West anymore, but Marines are still prowling the desert stretches of sprawling Anbar province in search of oil smugglers, drug smugglers and insurgents. Oil smuggling helps finance what is left of the insurgency movement that once held the province in its grip, said Col. Patrick Malay, commander of the Camp Pendleton-based 5th Marine Regiment. (READ MORE)

Is a former Al Qaeda stronghold ready to go it alone? - The police chief of Iraq's Anbar province doesn't hesitate when asked how quickly he'd like to see Iraqi troops take over security from the U.S. forces there. "Soon. Very soon," said Maj. Gen. Tariq Yusif Muhammed between drags on his Pine Super Slim cigarettes. But the planned hand-over of security control in what used to be Iraq's deadliest region has been stalled since late June. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces thwart al-Qaeda bombers, facilitators - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained eight suspected terrorists in central and northern Iraq Sunday while targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq operatives who bring foreigners into Iraq and coordinate bombings. Coalition forces disrupted an AQI bombing network in the Tigris River Valley during two related operations. In Tikrit, about 160 kilometers north of Baghdad, the force used information from an operation Jul. 9 to capture an alleged senior member of the bombing network and another suspect. (READ MORE)

Attacks down except roadside bombs, rigged houses - BAQUBAH, Iraq – The numbers of houses rigged with explosives and roadside bombs have increased since the beginning of the Iraqi offensive in Diyala, while other attack trends have been decreasing. Iraqi-led Operation Glad Tidings of Benevolence and the Multi-National Division-North supporting Operation, Iron Pursuit have been pursuing Al-Qaeda in Iraq and other criminals in rural areas of Diyala. (READ MORE)

ISF, MND-B Soldiers discover weapons caches in Rashid - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Security Forces and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers discovered three weapons caches Aug. 15 in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad. At approximately 10:30 a.m. in the Saha neighborhood, Soldiers from Company D, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, attached to the 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, MND-B, responding to a tip, discovered two 155 mm artillery rounds and a 60 mm mortar round buried near a power substation. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers detain suspected criminals in Al-Amin - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers attached to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light), detained four suspected criminals in eastern Baghdad Aug. 16. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conducted operations in the Al-Amin area of the New Baghdad district resulting in the detainment of the four individuals, one of whom is considered a key suspected criminal. (READ MORE)

Suspected terrorist leader detained in al Hillah - FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces detained a suspected terrorist cell leader during an early-morning raid in al Hillah Aug. 13. The operation resulted from intelligence developed by al Hillah Special Weapons and Tactics Team and Coalition forces, and was carried out with assistance from the local Iraqi Police. (READ MORE)

Iraqi forces take over Georgians’ missions in Wasit - FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces will partner with the 41st Fires Brigade and occupy several checkpoints and patrol bases previously manned by the 1st Georgian Brigade. “We want to train and work with the U.S. Army,” said Sergeant Namel Watak, 32nd Iraqi Army Brigade. Namel is with a contingent of soldiers from the 32nd IA Bde., who are working together with soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 20th Field Artillery Regiment at checkpoints in Wasit to keep the province stable and secure. (READ MORE)

Explosion kills three, wounds eight in Sha’ab (Baghdad) - BAGHDAD – An explosion killed three local nationals and wounded eight others in the Sha’ab neighborhood of the Adhamiyah district in northern Baghdad at approximately 8:30 a.m. Aug. 16. A 120 mm round detonated in the trunk of a vehicle. The vehicle was destroyed and there was minor damage to neighboring structures. A building initially caught fire but was extinguished by the local fire department. (READ MORE)

ISF, MND-B Soldiers seize weapons caches throughout Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Security Forces and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers seized weapons caches throughout Baghdad Aug. 15 and 16. At approximately 3 a.m., Soldiers from the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, during a combined operation with soldiers with the 36th Brigade, 9th Iraq Army Division, found five AK-47 rifles, three AK-47 magazines loaded with ammunition, two Siminov rifles and a hand grenade near the Amir joint security station in Baghdad Aug. 15. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces apply more pressure to al-Qaeda in Iraq (Tikrit, Baghdad) - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces detained 13 suspected terrorists Friday and Saturday from al-Qaeda in Iraq’s intertwined financial, bombing and foreign terrorist facilitation networks in central and northern Iraq. Friday in Tikrit, about 160 kilometers north of Baghdad, Coalition forces captured an alleged bombing cell leader who also reportedly trains other AQI operatives how to use explosives. (READ MORE)

Special Groups suspect captured with help from own family (Al Kut) - BAGHDAD – With the help from his family, Coalition forces captured a key suspected Special Groups assistant during operations Saturday morning in Al Kut, about 170 km southeast of Baghdad in Wasit Province. Based on intelligence information, Coalition forces approached a building in Al Kut, where they found the targeted individual’s brother. (READ MORE)

IA Fosters Relationship with Community - PATROL BASE COMANCHE — In the three months since the Iraqi Army began patrolling inside the Sadr City district of Baghdad, the Soldiers conducting these patrols have worked hard to cultivate a relationship with the people there. Constant patrols, handing out food and water as well as providing medical services have helped advance this new relationship. In recent weeks, that relationship has also begun to pay dividends for the 11th Iraqi Army Division – the unit responsible for Sadr City. (READ MORE)

Radwaniyah Police Station Opens in Southwestern Baghdad's Rashid District - FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON — Leaders from Iraqi Security Forces and Multi-National Division - Baghdad came together Aug. 12 for the grand opening of a new landmark in local security for Iraqis in southwestern Baghdad. Iraqi police officers, working with Police Forces Command al-Karkh and Iraq’s Ministry of Interior, officially recognized the opening of the Radwaniyah Police Station during a grand-opening ceremony in the Rashid district. (READ MORE)

Special Transition Teams Assist, Develop Iraqi Police Systems - BAGHDAD — In January 2008, Multi-National Division – Baghdad’s 18th Military Police Brigade developed a new method to further improve the surging Iraqi police force by implementing the enhanced Police Transition Teams to concentrate on supporting IP systems in Baghdad. The ePTT is a group of Soldiers who have subject matter expertise in: personnel, communications and logistic operations and techniques in support of large organizations; their mission is to assess the IP organization and provide assistance to better the organizational management of the IPs in these areas. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Air Force Graduates Largest Training Class to Date - TAJI — The Iraqi Air Force training school graduated its third and largest basic military training class here, August 11. Nine Iraqi officers and ten warrant officers led 283 of their fellow countrymen through a rigorous physical and academic regimen that transformed them from ordinary citizens to professional Airmen. The instructor cadre is assisted by a group of 65 U.S. Air Force advisors from the 370th Expeditionary Training squadron, part of the overall Coalition Air Force training team. Lt. Col. Michael Dilda, deployed from Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., commands the team. He said in addition to graduation, the school can celebrate reaching some key goals within the basic military training program. (READ MORE)

Coalition, ANSF provide medical, humanitarian assistance in Maywand - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Aug. 15, 2008) -- Coalition forces and Afghan National Security Forces conducted a medical clinic and provided humanitarian assistance to Afghan villagers in Maywand District, Kandahar province Wednesday. More than 350 Afghan villagers were treated at the clinic for various ailments and injuries. Dentists were also on hand to provide fillings, teeth cleaning and tooth extractions. (READ MORE)

ANSF, Coalition forces kill militants in Helmand province -BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Aug. 15, 2008) – Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces killed two militants after they were attacked during a combat security patrol in Nahr Surkh District, Helmand province Thursday. Two militants on motorcycles engaged the patrol with small-arms fire. ANSF and Coalition forces returned fire and killed both militants. (READ MORE)

Militant killed in firefight in Kandahar province - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Aug. 15, 2008) – Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces killed a militant who attacked a combat security patrol in Shah Wali Kot District, Kandahar province Wednesday. Several militants engaged ANSF and Coalition forces with small-arms and indirect fires. ANSF and Coalition forces returned fire with small-arms and called for supporting fires, killing one militant. (READ MORE)

More Afghan women attending Shuras shows progress - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (August 13, 2008) — More than 100 local women attended the Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team Woman’s Shura in Anaba District, Aug. 4, participated in the welfare of their villages and addressed ongoing issues. Air Force Capt. Jillian Torango, Panjshir PRT, and Miriam Panjshiri, director of women’s affairs, represented their organizations at the shura. (READ MORE)

Afghan Commandos, Coalition forces disrupt Taliban stronghold in Zeriko Valley - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (August 12, 2008) — A team of Afghan National Army Commandos, advised by U.S. Special Operations Forces, attacked a Taliban sanctuary in western Afghanistan’s Zeriko Valley recently. The combined forces sought to liberate locals in the stronghold established by a Taliban commander, who is coordinating both the acquisition and movement of weapons and supplies, and the movement and employment of Taliban fighters within Farah province. (READ MORE)

Engineer team plans Bagram future - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (August 11, 2008) — The combined talents of 21 Soldiers and civilians comprise a Facility Engineer Team, whose task is to prepare plans and specifications, provide inspections on construction, and offer expertise for the steady flow of projects designed to improve and expand Bagram Air Field. In addition to the five officers, four enlisted Soldiers and 12 civilians that make up the FET, approximately 1,000 Afghan nationals are employed at any given time. (READ MORE)

Combined efforts thwart attacks - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (August 11, 2008) — Coalition forces recently patrolled a village in the Paktika province in an effort to build relationships and gain support from local villagers in a part of the country thought to be a Taliban safe haven. According to one team member, the mission was a success and they found the Afghans in a key village they visited had a shared interest in eradicating anti-Afghan forces from their area. (READ MORE)

ANA takes the lead to clear insurgents, take back their country - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (August 8,2008) – Four MI17 helicopters, flown by Afghan Air Corps pilots , simultaneously landed at separate locations in the Jowzak area, Parwan and Kapisa province, as the first ever Afghan-led air reconnaissance ensued, July 23. The recon mission was led by Afghan National Army Lt. Col. Aghagul Khalili, the 3rd Kandak, 3rd Brigade commander with the 201st Corp, in an effort to clear the area of suspected enemy occupation and to meet with local elders to discuss projects needed in the area. (READ MORE)

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