September 15, 2008

From the Front: 09/15/2008

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

In their own words:
Michael Yon: Death in the Corn: Part I of III - The soldiers are living like animals at a little rat’s nest called FOB Gibraltar. They call it “Gib.” Named after the lynchpin of British naval dominance in the Mediterranean, this cluster of mud huts in the middle of hostile territory is more like Fort Apache, Afghanistan. The British soldiers from C-Company 2 Para live in ugly conditions, fight just about every day, and morale is the best I have seen probably anywhere. The few outside visitors arrive in helicopters that are sometimes spaced days apart, so that if a visitor stays overnight, he could be stuck for a week or more. The closest Afghan dwellings are a few hundred meters away, and each is surrounded by a mud wall. The Brits and Americans call these dwellings “compounds,” because in fact they are little forts. Most Afghans here are a primitive lot who live far outside of cities, and even villages. The Brits say that locals live as their ancestors dwelled in the fourteenth century. (READ MORE)

3rd MAW: CG gets bird’s eye view of Harrier operations - AL ASAD, Iraq – As the commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), Brig. Gen. Randolph G. Alles has visited and flown with every squadron under his command – even those squadrons whose aircraft don’t come with passenger seats. Through mixed section flights, Alles takes his more than 30 years of experience as an F/A-18 pilot to the air alongside the AV-8B Harriers flown by the “Tomcats” of Marine Attack Squadron 311. The flights provide the general with an up-close view of day-to-day operations of the squadron while providing the Harrier pilots with a unique opportunity to familiarize themselves with the capabilities of the Marine Corps’ other fixed-wing attack jet. (READ MORE)

Back on the Homefront: He was in the US...I didn't get to see him :( - Micah has made it back safely to Kuwait now. But just a few short days ago, he was in the US. He was one of a few men who were sent to Ft. Hood to help train the next group coming over to take their place. It makes me excited that it means there really is "something" happening to help get him home...BUT it sucked having him in the States and not being able to see him. At least when he's in Kuwait, I know there is no possibility of seeing him with that sort of distance. Compared to Kuwait, Texas is just a short distance from Indiana. That meant that for the week and half he was there, it kept occurring to me, that if I really could, I would be able to just hop on a plane and see him. But ahhh, there were many reasons why that couldn't happen. (READ MORE)

Fobbits need ice cream too: Little late - I wanted to make a 9/11 post but I spent the day providing overwatch on a bridge in our AO for the passing convoys. Such is life. I am actually glad I didn't have the day off or just a convoy because I didn't have the day to spend in thought. 9/11 makes me sad, not in a crying way, but in a way that I couldn't be there to help. It happened when I was a sophomore in high school on the way to school from getting my braces off and I remember being pretty apathetic about it. I was a 400lb worthless sack of shit going to school and coming home to play video games. This day also makes me feel happy though, because now I'm here helping out instead of getting my stomach stapled to stay alive. On the way back today, our convoy commander's ASV exploded right outside the FOB gate. That was awesome. All we heard on the net was the driver, Ricky Bobby, yelling "we're evacuating the truck, send help" followed by a loud explosion. (READ MORE)

Lt. Col. Paul Fanning: Task force announces award recipients for Afghan service - Nearly 30 soldiers assigned to Afghan Integrated Security Command-Kabul of Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix received awards during a ceremony at Camp Phoenix in Kabul. The soldiers are nearing the completion of their tour of duty and will be returning home in the very near future. “Service is about willingness. Thank you for being willing to come here and a job well done,” said Col. Todd Plimpton of Lovelock, Nev., commander of Afghan Integrated Security Command-Kabul. Afghan Integrated Security Command-Kabul provides trainers and mentors for the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police in the Kabul area, which is also the Afghan national capital. The command also includes security force troops who support the trainers and mentors. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Right Adviser, Right Call - Fred Hiatt's piece in WaPo today hopes that that the next national security adviser again has the strength to resist the crowd and the deftness to steer the country in the right direction. Hiatt reminds us that President Bush was wise enough to make the right call "with public opinion, Congress, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and most of his administration pushing toward a 'consensus' option of managed failure, Bush insisted on a policy that would yet provide a chance of success." He says Bush never would have been in position to make the hard but correct call had it not been for his national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley. (READ MORE)

The Left Captain: Temporary Break - I just got back from another mission and I am now at my FOB, hopefully for a few weeks at least. I have now visited every FOB and combat outpost in my area of responsibility. I am going to take a temporary break from blogging, until I sort some things out in my head. I'm going to keep writing, just not publish for a while, maybe a week, maybe more, maybe less. I am walking a thin line between sharing information and descriptions that need to be shared and also sharing too much of myself right as this all happens. It really comes down to the fact that I can't write about what I am experiencing without writing about grief and fear and I don't want my family and friends to go on the grief and fear ride with me. (READ MORE)

IN-iraq: The impostor - Imagine how ridiculous you would feel to enter an Iraqi Ministry building wearing a helmet and bullet proof vest surrounded by four armed guards, two in front and two behind, also wearing full body armor, carrying AKs and checking the blind spots on the crumbling stairwell, while employees stare at you as if you are some dignitary or at least a functionary, when in fact you are an impostor, a writer with very little to contribute, except perhaps to take some notes on the meeting for your colleague, the former director of Peruvian statistics, a man famous in his own country for his bow tie and withering attacks on the current president. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Who is Abu Omar al Baghdadi? - The identity of Abu Omar al Baghdadi, the leader of al Qaeda's Islamic State in Iraq, has been called into question after the US military released letters written by senior al Qaeda leaders discussing the state of Iraq and the viability of the terror group's leadership. The letters, found on the body of al Qaeda in Iraq's information minister after a shootout in Baghdad, clearly refer to Baghdadi, the pseudonym for the leader of al Qaeda's Islamic State of Iraq. Baghdadi is greeted in several of the letters, and Zawahiri wrote a letter to Baghdadi to provide advice and inquire on the state of the insurgency. Baghdadi's true identity has been the source of controversy since the establishment of the Islamic State in 2006. The appointment of Baghdadi as the leader of the Islamic State caused rifts within the Sunni insurgency. (READ MORE)

Matel-in-Iraq: Anbar Reconstructs - A lot has changed in Western Anbar since I arrived here almost a year ago and as my assignment comes to an end, I can appreciate them. The first big difference is the physical appearance. Last year much of this province looked like what it had recently been – a war zone. Shops and homes were boarded up, in ruins or flattened. People looked shocked and sullen. Anbar is still not up to what most of us would consider acceptable standards, but improvements are phenomenal and the change palpable. Along the whole Western Euphrates River Valley (WERV) and into the desert oasis cities of Nukhayb and Rutbah markets are open; streets are busy; the shops are full of goods; things are happening. We used to use a “banana index” where we looked at produce in the shops as a proxy for goods being available. (READ MORE)

Rocinante's Burdens: Day 86. Moving around - Not much going on today. It is very dusty outside and cool. By noon it still was only 99 degrees outside. I swear it felt like 80. I didn't even start to sweat yet. Egrets...I've had a few.... but then again.... too few to mention... This is a can of Pringle's potato chips. More specifically, this is a can of pieces of Pringles potato chips, since none survived shipping. These are our showers. This is me checking on an Iraqi Army Check point. They stop random cars (guys from out of town) and search their vehicles. They never find anything because all the bad guys know where the checkpoints are and avoid them. They don't search people they know because "they trust them". That is why Americans check on them. (READ MORE)

Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army: Hello!! - Hello all! First like always I want to thank all of those who are supporting my brother and I by checking the blog, sending us care packages, and praying for our safety. It all means a LOT! I apologize for the delay in putting a post on here. And thank you John for helping me out by putting this on here. My internet is still out and I'm not sure when it will be back up. It sucks because I can't call home as easy and I can't browse the internet like I want. I even tried to call home from the office today but the phones were messed up. Well, I'm still hanging in there. Not much going on really. Same old stuff just a new day. I'm getting closer to coming home on R&R! (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: Tikva Gabora - I smoked a CAO Brazilia while composing this. She is familiar. She is warm, yielding. She pushes herself on me. Her lips meet mine. I remember those lips. My Russian doll is smaller than me. It hurts to kiss without bending my back awkwardly. This has been a problem since we met ten years ago, but I always considered our passion to be worth the pain. She senses this and pushes me toward the bed. She falls on top of me. Her searing breath scorches my neck. I kiss her again and her body presses into me. We are both desperate to get our clothes off, but reluctant to separate our bodies. I tug at her dress, pulling it up, exploring her rear end with my hands. My thumbs find her panties and I push them down. (READ MORE)

Zen Traveller: One Stop On The Orient Express - We visited the Baghdad railway station yesterday, which as my history buff partner pointed out was on the old Orient Express line at one time. I was trying to picture Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman and Sean Connery (1974 film) rolling into the dusty and neglected station. I don't think they would have been all that pleased. We spent an few hours walking around the rail yards looking at the various trains and cars. Some of the locomotives were Chinese-made, the passenger cars were Turkish, and Sadam's personal car was French-made, complete with kitchen, conference room and bedroom. Everything was coated in dust and stifling hot inside as the air conditioning wasn't functioning. The correspondent doing the story had to flee from inside the car at one point to change his shirt as he was covered in sweat. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Petraeus’ Final Letter to the Troops - In one of his last acts as the top American commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus has drafted a final letter of thanks for the troops ­– and underscored his view that the struggle to bring stability to Iraq is far from over. “The progress achieved has been hard-earned,” he wrote. “There have been many tough days along the way, and we have suffered tragic losses. Indeed, nothing in Iraq has been anything but hard. But you have been more than equal to every task.” (READ MORE)

Bomb sites off-limits to press - When a thunderous blast Sunday shook a Baghdad neighborhood that is home to the Los Angeles Times and other news organizations, photographers did what photographers are supposed to do: grabbed their cameras and headed for the huge cloud of black smoke, which was clearly visible despite a dust storm and the creeping darkness of night. It was about a three-minute walk to the scene, but if you don't see many photographs of the bomb's aftermath, which killed at least two people and wounded seven, that's because Iraqi soldiers seized photographers' camera equipment. They got their camera bodies back, but the Iraqi officials refused to give up the memory cards inside them. (READ MORE)

IA soldiers seize IEDs, rockets inside attack vehicle (Baghdad) - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Army soldiers found rockets and improvised-explosive devices inside a vehicle used to carry out attacks in the Rusafa district of eastern Baghdad Sept. 14. After receiving a report of a rocket being fired from a vehicle in the Muthana-Zayuna area of Rusafa, soldiers assigned to the 1st Battalion, 43rd Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division, tracked down the vehicle and uncovered rockets, IEDs and equipment used to handle them inside the vehicle. (READ MORE)

Coalition, Iraqi Forces complete Operation Viper Pursuit, capture over 30 terrorists - TIKRIT, Iraq – Soldiers with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry teamed up with 1st Brigade, 10th Mountain’s VIPER Military Transition Team and elements of the Iraqi Army, conducted Operation Viper Pursuit to disrupt local terrorist cells within the Sulayman Bak area Aug. 1-30. Operation Viper Pursuit combined air and ground assaults to cordon and search specific parts of local villages. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers find ordnance, detain 4 in Baghdad - FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq – Multi-National Division –Baghdad Soldiers found unexploded ordnance and detained four Special Groups criminals in Baghdad’s Rashid district Sep. 13-14. At approximately 8:15 p.m., Sep. 13, Soldiers from Company C, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, found an 82 mm mortar round in the Jihad community. (READ MORE)

Operations degrade al-Qaeda attack capabilities - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces captured three wanted men and detained five additional suspects during operations in central and northern Iraq targeting al-Qaeda operations and attack cells Saturday and Sunday. Two precision operations in the Baghdad area Sunday netted suspects wanted for their alleged roles in AQI attacks. A man captured in the city is reportedly a bombing-cell leader who procures explosives for attacks and helps foreign terrorists move into and around Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Local citizen’s tip leads IA to large cache in Sadr City - BAGHDAD – A local citizen’s tip provided information that led Iraqi Army soldiers to a substantial munitions cache in the Sadr City district of Baghdad Sep. 13. Based on information provided by a concerned citizen, Iraq Army soldiers from 1st Battalion, 54th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, seized a substantial munitions cache believed to be used to construct explosively formed penetrators and improvised-explosive devices at approximately 1 p.m. in Sadr City. (READ MORE)

NP, MND-B Soldiers seize weapons caches throughout Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Iraqi National Police and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers seized weapons caches throughout Baghdad Sept. 13. At approximately 8 a.m., policemen with 2nd Battalion, 8th Brigade, 2nd National Police Division, seized 18 grenades, 10 AK47s, 15 AK47 magazines with ammunition, and more than 1,700 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition and eight load-bearing vests in the New Baghdad area of Baghdad. (READ MORE)

IA, MND-B Soldiers detain suspected Special Groups leader in Baghdad - FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq – Multi-National Division –Baghdad Soldiers detained a suspected Special Groups leader in Baghdad’s Rashid district Sep. 12. At approximately 10:20 a.m., soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 53rd Brigade, 14th Iraqi Army Division, and Soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, MND-B arrested a suspected Special Groups leader in the Jihad community. The suspect is responsible for an attack on Baghdad International Airport, Jul. 10. (READ MORE)

Four local nationals killed, one kidnapped (Mosul) - NINEWAH, Iraq – Four local nationals were found murdered and one missing after a kidnapping in the Al Borsa neighborhood of Mosul in Ninewah Province Sept. 13. All five victims were at a food distribution point when the kidnapping took place. “This act shows the brutality and callous nature of cowards who have no regard for human life,” said Maj. Peggy Kageleiry, a Multinational Division-North spokesperson. (READ MORE)

Soldiers repair Grand Canal Bridge (Baghdad, Taji Qada) - BAGHDAD – The 74th Multi Role Bridging Company, 20th Engineer Brigade worked Sept. 8 to repair the Grand Canal Bridge in Taji Qada, Iraq, on one of the busiest routes connecting northern Iraq to southern Iraq. “There’s been a lot of traffic using this bridge, which has damaged some of the decking that we’re here to repair,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Madden, 74th MRBC 2nd Platoon noncommissioned officer in charge. (READ MORE)

Successful Anbar Model Validates Security Approach in Iraq - WASHINGTON — When security responsibility for Iraq’s Anbar province was turned over to the Iraqi government this month, it validated the security model that has been applied throughout the country, a Coalition spokesman said Sept. 11. Successful coordination of a surge in U.S. forces, the emergence of the Awakening movement, and political movement by the Iraqi government resulted in the weakening of the al Qaida in Iraq terrorist network into a more containable scattering of individual cells, said Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, director of strategic communications, Multi-National Force - Iraq. (READ MORE)

Micro-Grants Revitalize Northern Baghdad Furniture Market - BEIDHA’A — “At first, when we would come to the market, people just stared at us,” said Spc. Jose Perez, originally from Orlando, Fla., and now a driver with Team Steel’s Red Platoon, “and I think they just weren’t used to us being here.” In late February 2008, Perez and his platoon conducted an initial reconnaissance of a furniture market, located on the southeast side of Beidha’a neighborhood in northern Baghdad, with the intent of determining its viability for future rehabilitation. (READ MORE)

Talabani Praises Bush as Iraq's Liberator - WASHINGTON — The Iraqi people look upon President Bush as a liberator who delivered them from a brutal despot, Iraq’s chief executive told reporters at the White House Wednesday. Bush is a hero who saved Iraq “from the worst kind of dictatorship” under Saddam Hussein, President Jalal Talabani said. And Iraq has “no stronger defender” for its people than Talabani, Bush told reporters after meeting with the Iraqi president. Talabani has served as Iraq’s president since 2005. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army Raises Colors, Assumes Control of Combat Outpost - FOB HAMMER — The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, handed authority of Combat Outpost Cleary to Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 34th Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division in a ceremony at the outpost near Salman Pak, Sept. 9. Iraqi Soldiers celebrated with song and dance after raising the Iraqi flag, which signified Iraqi authority over the outpost. A large contingent of Iraqi media attended the event, along with a large crowd of Soldiers and leaders of the 9th IA Div., local sheiks and local government leaders. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police Transition to Baghdad’s First Line of Defense - BAGHDAD — A large Iraqi security force (ISF) convoy, which included several Iraqi Army Humvees, exited the international zone in Baghdad at midday, Sept. 10, 2008. At the front and back of the convoy was an Iraqi Police (IP) patrol vehicle providing escort security for the convoy. “That says something in itself,” said Capt. Nathan Brookshire, a Military Police commander, while viewing the long line of Humvees exiting the international zone. “Iraqi Police pulling security for an Iraqi Army convoy, you don’t see that every day.” (READ MORE)

Two more Navy SEALs die 'taking the fight to the enemy' - By institutional culture, the Navy SEALs don't let out much information about their combat missions. But recent death announcements suggest the SEALs are playing a major role in the increasing battle against the resurgent Taliban and their allies in Afghanistan. On Sept. 3, the SEALs announced the death of Petty Officer 1st Class Joshua Harris, who drowned during a combat operation in Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

Med team augments Afghan doctors, builds treatment capacity - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Sept. 14, 2008) – With the assistance of Panjshir Provincial Reconstruction Team medics, doctors in Panjshir province treated 473 Afghan patients this week in two districts, Rohka and Shutol. Crowds of people gathered at the clinics shortly after Air Force Capt. Glenn M. Little, medical team chief, Staff Sgt. Janine Duschka, medical technician, and Tech. Sgt. Dawn Tiemann, medical technician, arrived to support the medical engagements. (READ MORE)

Runners honor fallen Special Operations warriors in Afghanistan - BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (Sept. 13, 2008) – The warriors of Special Operations Task Force-73 have endured the loss of three comrades during their tour in Afghanistan. On Sept. 6, the troops hit the pavement for an eight-mile Bagram Airfield perimeter run in remembrance of their fallen brothers. “We wanted to have a race to honor our friends, primarily to show our support for their children who won’t have their fathers at Christmas this year,” (READ MORE)

Commandos lend helping hand to Kandahar villagers - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Sept. 13, 2008) – Commandos of the 205th Commando Kandak are the tip of the spear for the Afghan National Army on the mountainous battlefields of Afghanistan. The Commando’s leadership isn’t limited to defeating insurgents in battle. They’re also lending a hand to villagers in need of a little help. The Commandos, with the help of Coalition forces, visited the village of Mandi Sar in the Kandahar District, Kandahar province, Sept. 8, to distribute humanitarian aid, religious items and toys for children. (READ MORE)

TF Ripcord begins mentorship for new Afghan MP Company - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Sept. 13, 2001) — Working for the past six months to train and certify the first-ever Afghan National Army military police company, Soldiers from Task Force Ripcord, the 503rd Military Police Battalion (Airborne) have been in coordination with Afghan Regional Security Integration Command – East to see this endeavour through at Forward Operating Base Thunder, Paktya province. Helping to train a host nation’s military police force presents many levels of challenges. (READ MORE)

More than 800 Afghans attend Gardez-to-Khowst road Shura - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Sept. 11, 2008) — Soldiers from the Gardez Provincial Reconstruction Team and 1st Sqaudron, 61st Cavalry Regiment worked with the local government of Paktya province to plan and assist Gov. Alhaj Juma Khan Hamdard, host a regional Shura and ground-breaking ceremony for the Gardez-to-Khowst road project at Forward Operating Base Gardez, Aug. 28. More than 800 Afghans citizens attended the Shura, which was held to show the local Afghan leadership the visible progress of the project. (READ MORE)

Reconstruction efforts spawn hope in Southern Afghanistan - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Sept. 11, 2008) – Signs of development are popping up in Southern Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province. The Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan and the U.S. Agency for International Development have been working hand in hand with the local government in the Khas Uruzgan District on a number of developmental projects. “The [Security Forces] team has a close relationship with the villagers in Khas Uruzgan and is trying to empower the district administration: (READ MORE)

Haqqani network targeted again in Khowst - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Sept 14, 2008) – Afghan National Police and Coalition forces killed several armed militants and detained two suspected militants while targeting the Haqqani terrorist network during an operation in Khowst province, Saturday. The operation targeted a suspected Haqqani militant in Sabari District who works with other Haqqani subcommanders to carry out IED attacks. (READ MORE)

Insurgent activities distrupted in Helmand - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Sept. 13, 2008) – Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces killed two insurgents during an engagement in Nar Surkh District, Helmand province, Sept. 10. ANSF and Coalition forces were conducting a security patrol when they heard automatic gunfire from the vicinity of an ANSF checkpoint. Upon investigation, they found militants attacking the checkpoint. (READ MORE)

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