October 27, 2008

From the Front: 10/27/2008

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

In their own words:
Eric Owles: Live Blogging an Embed in Ramadi, Day 1 - CAMP TAQADDUM, Iraq – (12:21 p.m. Iraq time) Waiting around all day in a comfortable civilian airport can be a numbing experience. Waiting around in military hangar is probably worse. Will it be worth the wait? My trip to Anbar Province to embed with a Marines Recon Combat Team in Ramadi began at 0655 with a trip to LZ Washington, a landing zone for helicopters in Baghdad’s Green Zone. Washington is where many reporters begin their embeds and it is where many American soldiers and their Iraqi counterparts spend their hours waiting for flights; a few inside a trailer but the overflow, sometimes scores of men and women, outside in blazing heat or bitter chill, depending on the season. The dry weather this year has led to an increased number of sand storms and other weather conditions that ground all but the most essential helicopter flights. And so I’ve spent more hours than I would like this year sitting and waiting in Washington for flights that never materialize. (READ MORE)

A Battlefield Tourist: Breakthrough in Bajour - The Pakistani military claims their forces have captured the key militant stronghold of Loi Sam, Bajour Agency, in a fierce push to wrest control of the area from Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. Loi Sam sits at a pivotal intersection connecting three major roads that extend into different regions deep into Pakistani territory. The battle is the latest in an ongoing series of offensives that kicked off August 6. The stated goal of offensive is ridding Bajour of thousands of militants who use the agency as a staging area and command and control for militants fighting the security forces defending Afghanistan. Leaders of the security effort in Afghanistan, led by the United States, says attacks in Kunar Province (directly across the border from Bajour) are noticeably down since the offensive began. (READ MORE)

Brad's Excellent Adventure: Soldier’s Stories - Friday 24 October 2008 1700 - I’ve been deployed in the AOR as a part of OIF and OEF since October 2006, but I have always been “in the rear with the gear”. As a result, I have often felt disconnected and remote from the people who are on the front lines doing the actual fighting as well as the challenging and rewarding work of helping the Iraqi and Afghan people reclaim their countries from repressive regimes and start to build peaceful lives. I know that just by being in theater I am much closer to the wars than most people, and that for many Americans the difference between one country and another in this region is essentially academic. I’m “over there” (as they said in WWI), and that’s enough. It’s certainly true that the entire region is full of bad actors who are hostile to American interests and that we are consequently targets for them. That’s at least part of the reason that this is still considered part of the combat zone and an “imminent danger area”. (READ MORE)

Conversations in the Desert: Dichotomous - Thanks to all you folks who are still around. I was kind of worried nobody would care anymore. What's that old anti-war saying about what if you hosted a war and no one showed up... So yeah, um, Afghanistan, yeah. Well, I'm involved in the contracting process here. Basically myself and a few other people contract local companies to build schools, roads, clinics and the like. It is a very dichotomous experience. For those of you about to look that word up it means that there are two equal parts to it. It is both extremely rewarding and extremely frustrating at the same time. It's very rewarding when a project is finished and the people are grateful for it. Especially schools or orphanages. Unfortunately it frequently happens that you finish a project and a week later the locals are complaining that it's not good enough or that Ahmed the villager thinks he is an engineer and says that a building made of stone, cement and rebar is going to fall in after a stiff breeze. (READ MORE)

Fobbits need ice cream too: Heart of Darkness - Another day. All the same really; hot in the day, cold at night. It's like Groundhog's Day here; wake up, eat chow, go up north, sleep, eat chow, go back up south...etc. It's started to rain recently; there's a thunderstorm outside right now and I am running on battery power because the generator is down. Giant steel boxes full of electric parts don't do well with lightning. I am “off” today; 16 hours in a guard tower, guarding nothing. Empty connex's and an LMTV in a pit surrounded by hesco barriers and razor wire. We were recently delighted to learn that we are now able to go back out with less than the required 8 hours of sleep! Since an entire troop has been pulled from the line to train the new guys, our names are now highlighted in red on the trip ticket, enabling us to be manifested for missions with 6 hours of sleep, 4 hours of sleep or even no sleep. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Ramadi children to receive donated school books - RAMADI, Iraq – Service members with embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team-Ramadi, Regimental Combat Team 1, met with the mayor of Ramadi, Iraq, to donate educational books to local schools recently. The books, designed to teach children in elementary schools from first through sixth grade, will be given to teachers in the city for use in their students’ daily curriculum. The books are designed to help improve daily lessons in core classes and will supplement courses Iraqi teachers and headmasters of district schools are already teaching. “We are very grateful for the books given to us today,” said Latif Obaid Ayadah, mayor of Ramadi. “The books will immediately be put to good use to teach the future of Iraq.” (READ MORE)

Bot @ Free Range International: Poles Apart - It was a regular Saturday night in Mazar-e-Sharif quiet, cold, yet comfortable as I say having dinner with a friend at one of the only restaurants catering to internationals – the mighty Oak. We were passing the time with small talk. It was towards the end of our evening that my mate received a phone call from a member of the international community telling him there had been an accident and he needed help immediately. My driver, who was waiting outside rapidly saddled up and we flew across town to lend a hand. We arrived at the residence, my accomplice started getting the patient’s history and checking the vital signs. I checked out the scene and saw blood everywhere – lots of it. I knew that there was no time to lose - this was a ‘Fair Dinkum’ MEDIVAC! Time to do a ‘Harry Bolt’ up to RC North. RC (Regional Command) North is an ISAF base on the outskirts of Mazar-e-Sharif. (READ MORE)

Sgt B: Here… In Country… - Well, we made it, we are “in country”… Task Force Godzilla finally got in the war… There will be changes, I’m sure, but the first and foremost change that anyone will see will be in the content and format of this blog. This is out of OPSEC necessity, not wanting to give the bad guys any info that they can use. Besides, this blog isn’t really about what I am doing; it’s about what I am thinking. I mean, we’ve been at this for going on seven years, and there have been plenty of works published that describe the equipment, environs, weapons, technology, so I really don’t need to describe in even the most vague detail the MK-171 High Energy Anti-personnel Laser System (if there were such a thing), do I? You already know where I am (hint: it’s hot, with lots of sand and camels)… And I’m not going to use The Gun Line as a platform to complain about my higher ups. The military is the military, and not everybody had their collective gear in one bag all the time. (READ MORE)

Hilla's Histories: Security Portfolio Turned Over to Babil Province - On October 23, Babil was the latest province in Iraq to transition to Provincial Iraqi control (PIC) of security. The event was cause for a big ceremony next to the Babylonian ruins that received lots of coverage in the Baghdad and regional media (e.g., Al Jazeera) but little beyond that. The handover of security responsibilities in Babil leaves only the province of Wasit in southern Iraq that has yet to make the transition. At a celebration prior to the PIC signing, Babil Governor Salam Saleh Mahdi Al-Muslimawi said the event was "a gift from God." He was speaking to a crowd of several hundred people gathered for the event that took place next to the ancient ruins of Babylon. Others addressing the crowd include Prime Minister Maliki's National Security Advisor, Mowaffaq Al-Rubaie, Multinational Iraq Corps (MNC-I) Commander Lieutenant General Austin and Provincial Council Chairman Muhammed Ali Hussain Al-Massoudi. (READ MORE)

Kaboom: A Soldier's War Journal: An Overdue Update - I am not even going to try to come up with an excuse for the delay in posts. Let’s just say it’s a combination of lack of time and lack of information to share. CPT G finally has a new position. I will not say it is permanent, since obviously so much can change with the army; but as of now, he will finish up his deployment as an Intel Officer. His new commanding officer saw how much time he had as a platoon leader and a new 2nd LT came along, so they found a new job for CPT G. He is stationed at a combat outpost, which he prefers to the FOB, and gets to deal with all of the platoons. He sounds like he is enjoying the new people he works with and the adjustment to a new schedule. He gets the mix of both a more structured schedule, as well as time out in the field. As for myself, I love my new job. It has been a lot more work than I anticipated, but is completely worth it. (READ MORE)

Omar: US-Iraq Negotiations Come Down to the Wire - Negotiations over the Status of Forces Agreement have reached a very difficult moment as time runs out quickly. Tension and an exchange of blunt statements and warnings have dominated the environment in the last few days. On the one hand, the Iraqi cabinet and many in the parliament rejected the final draft, demanding unspecified adjustments. On the other hand, the American administration largely rejected those demands and warned of the consequences of an Iraqi failure to ratify the agreement. It appears that direct communications are not in their best shape, to the extent that the British commanders in Iraq are playing the moderator role between the Iraqi and American sides, according to state-owned Al-Sabah: “A parliamentary source said that Britain has become the moderator between Washington and the parliamentary powers. The source revealed that a meeting was held between Ali Adeeb of the UIA [United Iraqi Alliance] and the deputy commander of British forces, and lasted for an hour. This meeting was followed by another meeting [between the British commander] and members of the Accord Front and a third one with a number of other parliamentary powers.” (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Senior Taliban commander reported killed in US strike - A senior Taliban commander has been reported to have been killed in Sunday's airstrike in South Waziristan. Haji Omar Khan, a senior Taliban leader in South Waziristan who strong ties to Mullah Omar, is said to have been killed in the strike that is believed to have killed an estimated 16 to 20 people, including "foreigners." Omar's death has not been confirmed, and the Taliban have yet to release any statement acknowledging his death. "The death toll has gone up to 16 as six more bodies have been recovered from the site," Mawaz Khan, a local administration official in the Shakai region told AFP. "Senior Taliban commander Haji Omar died in the strike." The attack, carried out by US unmanned Predator aircraft, occurred in the Shakai region in South Waziristan on Oct. 26. Shakai is a stronghold of Haji Omar. The attack is said to have struck a compound run by Omar. Pakistani intelligence officials described it as a "facility." (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Syrian strike aimed at al Qaeda's coordinator in Syria - The US military incursion into Syria was aimed at the senior leader of al Qaeda's extensive network that funnels foreign fighters, weapons, and cash from Syria into Iraq, a senior intelligence official told The Long War Journal. US special operations hunter-killer teams entered Syria in an attempt to capture Abu Ghadiya, a senior al Qaeda leader who has been in charge of the Syrian network since 2005. US intelligence analysts identified Ghadiya as the leader of the Syrian network, The Washington Post reported in July. Ghadiya was identified as a “major target” by the US military in February 2008. The raid to capture Ghadiya occurred in the town of Sukkariya near Abu Kamal in eastern Syria, just five miles from the Iraqi border. Four US helicopters crossed the border and two of the helicopters landed to drop off special operations forces, who then proceeded to clear structures. (READ MORE)

Notes from Tommie: Closer and closer… - Yet again I’ve I’ve been drawn away from my blog by the every day occurrences of Iraq. Lately I’ve been trying to jot down all my ideas about politics and government, story ideas, and keep up with work. On the bright side I did sign off my leave counseling statement a few days ago which means it is only a few weeks left to go. In addition to getting ready for leave and redeployment now I got to get my stuff ready to change rooms. That means narrowing down the crap that I have somehow managed to gather during this deployment to what I actually intend to keep, shipping home the additions to my book collection and mail my keyboard home. But back on track and in large in Iraq. Work is just as slow and busy as usual. Long shifts of the same thing day in and day out; however, it is much better than going out of the wire I suppose. (READ MORE)

Photography, Software, and Sand: Still in Al Asad - I'll be here in Al Asad for a few more days while I'm conducting more training before I move onto another base to take care of more training there. Fun times -- its nice to get face time with the folks that will be using my system on a day-to-day basis and get their suggestions and feedback. The weather here cleared up since our little flood yesterday morning and has been pretty nice. Its a bit chilly, but a welcome change from the heat and the skies are clear here for the first time since I got here, which has given me a few decent photography opportunities. The photo above was taken at sunset with a CH-53 Pave Low below the sun and the top of a satellite dish in the foreground. (READ MORE)

Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army: Back at it! - Hello everyone!! Once again, thank you for all of your support that you have given to my brother and I!! THANK YOU!! Back at it...well, I've had a REALLY nice transition back to being over here. I've the last three days off! WOW!! That's two more than I expected! SO basically I've slept the last three days. It's nice to just lay around all day. When there's not much more to do, why not? And, it's been raining the last couple days so there wasn't much more to do. I enjoyed catching up on the news from my room on the internet, but other than that I only left my room to shower, shave, brush my teefers, and use the wonderful potty....oh, and to eat once a day....I mean come on, how much food do you really need if you're just laying around all day? Plus the food isn't that good anyway. I miss the food from back home! I was really fortunate to get to eat a great variety of foods while i was home. (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: A Time for Joy and A Time To Weep - I wrote this while smoking a La Gloria Cubana while sitting in the middle of the Polish soccer field. I’ll explain why in a few paragraphs. Some administrative notes: I’m cranking away on the novel and am up to Chapter 7 of what should be a 12 chapter novel. Hell, it’s not like I have a job to do or anything. You’ve probably noticed my new banner. I love it. If any girls out there would like to support Big Tobacco, just take a picture of you in bed, with your nude back facing the camera. Place a cigar and a note or a rose and a note on the other side of the bed. Extra points of you have something funny on the note or send me a quote to include on the banner. Extra points for butt cleavage too, but keep it PG-13. Note to all you graphic artists out there. If you want to design a banner for me, do it and send it to me. My only request is that you have the words “The War on Big Tobacco” on the banner. (READ MORE)

Michael Yon: Bloody Border, Messy Politics - 27 October 2008 - Yesterday, U.S. special operations forces struck positions across the Syrian-Iraq order, inside of Syria, apparently killing nine people, most of whom were non-Syrian Arab fighters on their way into Iraq. Of course there is a great cry rising from the Syrians today. For years, tons of explosives and a long line of foreign terrorists have streamed across the Syrian border into Anbar Province and Nineveh Province, Iraq. I must have spent a total of about nine months in Nineveh, about eight of which were in the capital of Mosul, and another month in Anbar. Foreign terrorists were caught or killed on a regular basis, and they all had the same story: They came from an alphabet soup of Arab countries: Algeria, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen, to name a handful. They had come through Syria. I remember the day the Libyan was captured in 2005. (READ MORE)

Back and still writing:
Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Now You're Going To Make Me Talk About You - I would like to personally thank all who have written to Nick and to the Telegraph to voice their outrage at Meo's self-serving article. I will also ask that any further correspondence with either of them remain civil, yet uncompromising. Perhaps you can consider this an open letter to Nick Meo and the Telegraph. Nick, there has not been enough justice done in this case. You could have taken the high road and taken your well-deserved spanking with reddened cheeks. You could have printed a clarification, admitting to your faults and some well-made points. You could have copped to the melodramatic flair with which you portrayed this traumatic event. You could have reclaimed some semblance of dignity earned through humility. No, you chose not to do that. You have chosen to wriggle again; to justify an article so self-centered that even though a good man actually did die, the title of your article is all about you. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Coalition detainee population falls to 16,900 - Baghdad – Task Force 134 Detainee Operations, in its continuous effort to ensure fair releases not mass releases of its detainee population, has released nearly 15,900 detainees so far this year. Those individuals have been returned to their families and communities, in recognition that these internees no longer pose a threat to Iraqis and as an example of the Coalition Forces commitment to promoting an environment of care and respect in the conduct of detainee operations. (READ MORE)

5 attackers killed after SAF attack - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces killed five criminals after a small arms fire attack in Baghdad’s New Baghdad security district,Oct. 27. At about 1:20 a.m., Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers were attacked with small-arms fire at a joint security station. The Soldiers were able to identify those responsible for the attack and returned fire. A total of five attackers were killed with no U.S. casualties. (READ MORE)

2 Iraqis killed, 6 injured in blast - BAGHDAD – Two Iraqi civilians were killed and six injured by an explosion in eastern Baghdad at approximately 6:30 a.m., Oct. 27. Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 66th Infantry Regiment, attached to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, responded to an explosion in the New Baghdad area of Baghdad to assist Iraqi National Police secure the site. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces target AQI networks; four terrorists killed, seven detained - BAGHDAD – Four terrorists were killed and seven suspects were detained during Coalition force operations targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist networks throughout the country Sunday night and Monday. Coalition forces captured a wanted man Sunday who intelligence reports suggest is connected to an AQI car bomb and improvised explosive device network. It is assessed that the suspected terrorist was actively planning attacks against Coalition forces in the region. (READ MORE)

Tip leads IA to weapons cache in greater Baghdad area - BAGHDAD – With the help from a tip from an Iraqi citizen, Iraqi Army soldiers serving with 24th Brigade, 6th IA Division, seized a munitions cache in the al Shiha neighborhood west of Baghdad at approximately 12:15 p.m. The seized items included a 57mm rocket and improvised launching tube, 15 glass beakers, five pounds of ammonium perchlorate, five pounds of propellant and four five gallon jugs of nitric acid. (READ MORE)

Muhallahbiyah School for Girls undergoes major renovations - MOSUL, Iraq – Renovation work began mid October at the School for Girls in Muhallahbiyah, a village outside of Mosul. The repair of the girls’ school is part of a larger effort by the Iraqi government to rebuild damaged public buildings in and around the city of Mosul and is scheduled to be completed by Nov. 15. “Reopening schools for the children of Iraq is essential to the future of the Iraqi people,” said Capt. Tia Winston, public affairs officer, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. (READ MORE)

Reconstruction continues in Tarmiyah - CAMP TAJI, Iraq – When students throughout Tarmiyah returned to school in September, they were welcomed by new classrooms full of new furniture and supplies; the school, located northwest of Baghdad, was also outfitted with new electrical and sewer systems. This school is one of many reconstruction projects throughout Tarmiyah designed to provide the city’s residents more opportunity and a better way of life. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Joint Headquarters hosts logistics symposium - TAJI, Iraq – The Deputy Chief of Staff - Logistics for the Iraqi Joint Headquarters hosted a logistics symposium in Taji Oct. 27 to develop the sustainment system that supports Iraqi military operations. During opening comments, Staff Lt. Gen. Abdullah, DCoS – Logistics, invoked everyone “to participate actively according to their knowledge and experiences to design and develop the methods to maintain resources and distribute them to units.” (READ MORE)

Adding mega watts to Iraq’s electrical grid - Baghdad, Iraq – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region Division’s largest remaining electrical generation project added two work shifts to keep pace on one of Iraq’s most important infrastructure projects, the Qudas Generation Plant. The Qudas expansion initiative, first started in September 2006, will result in an additional 200 mega watts of power added to the electrical grid. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army Takes Over Patrol Base Inchon - CAMP STRIKER — The Iraqi Army (IA) officially assumed authority of Patrol Base Inchon during a base turnover in Qarghuli Village, Oct. 20. The 1st Company, 1st Battalion, 23rd Brigade, 17th Iraqi Army Division took over from Co. D, 3rd Bn., 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). (READ MORE)

Basrah Neighborhood Welcomes New Primary Healthcare Center - BASRAH — A newly-opened primary healthcare center in Basrah is providing improved medical care and much-needed jobs for the local community. “We plan to double our staff of 30 personnel within the next few months and offer additional services,” said Dr. Hadeel Sami, the PHC’s administrator who reports serving about 90 patients daily. “Local families tell us they’re very happy to have this facility in their community.” (READ MORE)

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