November 28, 2008

From the Front: 11/28/2008

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

In their own words:
3rd MAW: U.S. military begins partnership with Haditha Hospital - HADITHA, Iraq – U.S. military medical personnel from the 345th Combat Support Hospital aboard Al Asad Air Base have taken the first steps toward establishing a partnership with the Iraqi hospital here. Army personnel from the 345th along with service members from the Navy and Marine Corps headed to Haditha Hospital Oct. 30 to participate in the first key leadership engagement between the two hospitals. The partnership is designed to increase the capabilities and quality of care available at Haditha Hospital. During the visit, Army doctors met with Iraqi doctors and hospital administrators to gather information regarding what it will take to return the Iraqi facility to its full capabilities. (READ MORE)

Bouhammer: Guest Blogger: A Soldier’s Thanksgiving - Bouhammer’s Note- The following blog post is an entry written by my good friend, LTC Paul Fanning who is currently deployed in Kabul, Afghanistan. It’s been weeks since I have submitted an entry. I have been very busy, and the end of our mission here in Afghanistan is in sight. Our successors from the Illinois Army National Guard’s 33rd Brigade Combat Team are beginning to arrive here at Camp Phoenix and we are conducting the hand off of responsibilities known as Relief in Place - or RIP. With Thanksgiving arriving tomorrow I have given thought to the many things that I am grateful for, not the least of which is the prospect of coming home in the not too distant future. I am extremely grateful that I have had the honor and the privilege to serve in the New York Army National Guard for 31 years and was deployed to Afghanistan with friends and comrades, some of whom I have known for many years. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Shrugged: Things I'm Thankful For - It’s Thanksgiving morning here; tomorrow it will be T-day in the United States. You wouldn’t think that I’ve got too much to be thankful for today; but I do. It’s not the things that you normally think of on Thanksgiving. Neither I nor any of my soldiers are with our families so to speak, but we are all together here, safe, warm and dry so for that I’m thankful. I’m also thankful that I have the privilege of serving with these great Americans. I say privilege because that’s what it is; a privilege. These are America’s best and brightest, when they’re country called they answered. Not with "Who me"? But with; “Yes, I’ll serve”! (READ MORE)

American Soldier: Thanksgiving 2008 - As America wakes up this morning they will turn on the TV to see why we are fighting in these wars. Today is supposed to be a special day for our country, to celebrate why we are thankful and to gather family. For guys like myself, I will break bread with the men that I serve with here. We’ll play it off and pretend that we don’t care but deep down inside we all do. We all know what it’s like to be home and be with out families. That is not the case this year. I am here now and I am thankful for being able to serve our great nation. The ability to serve is something that I wish all American’s could experience. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: Another day - ...another Big Adventure. I did something today that although I've never done before, just about every woman in Civil Affairs does at one point or another - I attended a Women's Council meeting. With another female NCO in tow, and an interpreter (male) who'd been cautioned that he was severely outnumbered and should behave accordingly, I made my way into a room full of the Women In Black. It was something else. On one level, meeting with the women was great. Unlike those in attendance at a lot of our other meetings, the women had no sense of entitlement. They did not sit and explain why Coalition Forces should give them stuff and money. I don't think much of anyone has ever appeared like a Fairy Godmother and given rural Iraqi women (all of them mothers, most of them widows) a damn thing. (READ MORE)

Cheese's Milblog: Thanksgiving - I've been on the night shift for almost a week straight now. When we rotated back from the small base where we pull tower guard, I volunteered to take the graveyard shift at the front gate. Part of this was because I'm sick of hearing Joes, who are far too self involved to know any better, complain that the squad leaders never have to do anything. I'm thankful that they let me sleep in my own hooch instead of the RRF shack. I woke up in time to walk to dinner chow. I had forgotten that today was Thanksgiving. The smell of turkey and stuffing didn't hit me as hard as the tacky decorations that took up more than half of the chow hall. There was a carved wooden statue of pilgrims running a flour mill. There were far more cakes and pies than anyone on this FOB needs. Over the din I heard Captain Willard's voice warning, "The more they tried to make it just like home, the more they made everybody miss it." (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: Happy Thanksgiving - I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family. We had a nice dinner at the Fisher House. A family provided us with a wonderful meal. This morning I was told that Rob was opening his mouth some. That's really great because he hasn't done that yet. The other day they loosened the rubberbands in his mouth so he would be able to do this. He didn't do it for me while I was there today but I'm excited he's made this little step. Even if he was able to, he wouldn't be able to speak right now. He has a trach in his neck. Eventually they'll switch it out and put in a different one that has a cap to put on so he can speak. But, he's not there yet. He's still not doing many commands. Right now I think he feels really yucky and doesn't want to do anything. (READ MORE)

Embrace The Suck: Spiderman Sheets, Burning Playstations, And Turkey Dinner... - Thursday, November 27, 1735 hrs. So it is Thanksgiving here in beautiful, sunny AssCrackIstan. And it really is sunny. It was unseasonably warm today. Probably somewhere around 65 degrees and given the temperatures we have been dealing with for the past few weeks it felt like summertime around here. We got up this morning. Our first full day as the mission platoon. Basically that means that we are the guys who have to do all the work while the other platoon housesits, err guards the FOB. I guess since it is Thanksgiving the commander decided to give us the day off. However, our platoon sergeant didn't quite see it that way. Now something that anyone who has been in the military for more than a day or two will tell you is this, when they have nothing for you to do, they have no qualms about making it up. So he decided to have us clean out the platoon conexes. (READ MORE)

Fobbits need ice cream too: Day Shift - Well, the company is now on a day shift. And by company, I mean our squad. The other squads in the platoon sleep peacefully, unbothered by micromanaging NCOs. SGT 300 has a schedule for us starting at 0600. If there is no PT, like today, wakeup is 0700. He comes in, turns the lights on and yells at us to wake up. Then we sit here until 2200 or so until it's time to go to sleep again. ShittyTC comes in and informs me that I owe $13 for a company t-shirt. I was not aware I agreed to buy a company t-shirt. Unit shirts are usually worn in place of the PT shirt in PT gear, but ours is not authorized, so it is just a civilian t-shirt. I inform ShittyTC that I have no use for a unit t-shirt and he screams in my face doing the drill sergeant bit about how he has better things to do then track down money for company t-shirts. I smile. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Change you can believe in - Today started out great – I am back in Jalalabad after completing a short job which I cannot freely blog about and the weather is perfect. I fired up the computer and checked in with Power Line to find this excellent story about a Marine rifle platoon who were ambushed by 250 Taliban. They routed the Taliban and sent them fleeing from the battlefield in panic with the designated marksmen putting down dozens of the enemy fighters using their excellent M-14 DMR. The M-14 DMR fires a 175 grain 7.62×51mm match round through a 22 inch stainless steel match grade barrel at 2,837 fps out of the muzzle. Marine marksmen can routinely hit individuals at 850 meters with this rifle and because of the round it has real stopping power. You won’t see a Taliban fighter take six hits with this beast and keep on running (happens a lot with the M4) in fact you won’t see a Taliban or any other kind of human take two rounds and keep moving. (READ MORE)

The Left Captain: Return - I returned from that FOB and it was remarkably uneventful. I was on my fifth day, steeling myself for a seven to eight day stay, when I found out that there was a flight coming in that would be headed to Salerno, a large regional base that is situated right on the Pakistan border. Getting on would be a gamble, because I wouldn't go to my home, but I would be out of that place. I made some phone calls to some people I knew at Salerno (I've been here long enough and traveled enough to actually know people around this country) to try to arrange some lodging and arrange some social interaction. Salerno has a coffee shop and frequent flights to my home FOB, so I figured that I would give it a shot. I packed my rucksack and geared up about an hour before the flight was due and I went down by the LZ to wait. After two and a half hours of sitting in the dust the Chinook roared in over a ridge. (READ MORE)

DJ Elliott: Iraqi Army develops its light armored forces - The Iraqi Government has been ordering substantial numbers of weapons this year. These orders, combined with known training plans, and existing force structure, provide insight into the eventual planned force structure of elements of the Iraqi Security Forces. The Air Force and Iraqi Army light infantry forces have been previously addressed. The focus of this article is on the announced arms purchases and what they indicate for developments in the Iraqi Security Force's light armored forces. The three stages of upgrading the Iraqi Security Forces are organized into five year plans. The first stage started with the establishment of the first elected Iraqi Government in 2006 and it lasts until 2011. Stage one is intended to build a basic force. The Iraqi Army is apparently planned to be 20 to 21 divisions organized into four corps by the end of this stage. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: Soldiers' Thanksgiving Meal - Today, we as Americans are reminded of how much we have for which we can be thankful. The Soldiers here on an American base in southern Baghdad, where a wall divides us from a co-located Iraqi Army base, are thankful for the decline in violence that has held for months. The chow here included all customary staples: turkey, dressing, greens, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie. My team ate around 1pm. The dining facility is rather small, but this is a blessing in disguise. The cooks have more liberty with seaoning here. Some of the best food that I have had in Iraq has come out of this small dining facility. Unit commanders and first sergeants served the chow to the Soldiers. (READ MORE)

Photography, Software, and Sand: Thanksgiving in Baghdad - Happy Thanksgiving to everyone... I'm writing this on my first of three Thanksgiving dinners. Yep, thats right... three. We had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for lunch today and will have it again tomorrow for lunch, each sandwiched around a Thanksgiving dinner. It makes for a few sleepy, belly-aching days to be sure. The DFAC here was very well decorated, with streamers and banners hanging around, a huge center table set up with a cornucopia and large fruit and vegetable spread, several carving stations, the staff all wearing pilgrim hats, and the senior-ranking enlisted and officers performing their traditional role of doing the serving of food to military members. (READ MORE)

Pink's War: You Can't Rape The Willing - "I thought I asked you to wake me up by raping me?" he asks me as he pulls me on top of him. "You were sleeping, you took that Ambien, I didn't want to wake you up." "Since when do you let me do things like sleep?" Ok, so he had me there. Since I've been here, neither one of us has gotten very much sleep. I say its his fault, he says its mine because I'm such a bad influence. I'm still going with the whole its his fault side of the argument. As you all know from a previous post, I've moved to a different part of Iraq. It just so happens that some people from my old unit are still here until December 1st. I've seen these people only a couple of times, I've had to come here to grab some paperwork when my Admin Captain was busy, but I never had much time to get to really know anyone since they were stationed elsewhere from me. (READ MORE)

Rocinante's Burdens: Happy Thanksgiving. Life Stinks. - Thank you all for your warm wishes on this festive holiday. On a personal note, I am not enjoying life right now. I won't go into why. I have recently been transfered to Baghdad. Everything is worse than it was and not looking like improvement will be likely soon. The Army hierarchy went to special trouble to make the thanksgiving meal special. They started by closing the main mess hall for breakfast, and half of the backup mess hall. They needed to do this to have enough time to decorate. No breakfast for me. Then for lunch, it took 50 minutes just to get inside. (READ MORE)

S4 at War: Chance Encounter - I was at an impromptu meeting at a neighboring Mayor’s compound when I had the opportunity to witness an equally impromptu meeting between our Chaplain and the city’s Imam. The conversation itself I had heard a million times, “Terrorists don’t represent Islam,” “The two religions are so similar,” “Mohammed referred to Jesus as his brother,” etc… Not that it wasn’t sincere, I’m sure it was, but it was the first time I had seen it take place between two people in that position. They got along pretty well and ended up talking for about 45 minutes. Oddly, everyone else in the room got up and left, American and Iraqi alike. Apparenty no one wanted to hear the pontifications of their religious leaders on a day not otherwise reserved for religious pontifications, i.e. Friday/Sunday. (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: Band of Geldings - I did not smoke while composing this. This is the third time that I have eaten Thanksgiving dinner out of a Styrofoam tray because I have been deployed. Boo fucking hoo. Poor me. Hey, I should write a heartfelt, rambling post where I act like I’m smarter than everybody and spend the entire post complaining. Better throw in some pictures of the Iraqi sunset too. There you go. Now maybe I’ll get published on The Sandbox. Wait! Better cover all my bases. I better throw in a picture of the Victory Over America Palace and The Flintstone Village. Look, I know I’m supposed to write a long essay about how I couldn’t spend time with my family during Thanksgiving, so I spent it with my other family. My Band of Brothers. Friendships forged by war. I’m supposed to write something heartfelt and memorable. Yeah, sorry, guys, that was 2004. I hate the broke dicks and retards I work with now. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Marines settled at Camp Ramadi, continue improvements for future units - CAMP RAMADI, Iraq (November 25, 2008) – Recently, Marines with Regimental Combat Team 1’s headquarters element packed their bags and for the first time since the war in Iraq began, moved an entire Marine regiment out of Fallujah. Regimental Combat Team 1 moved out and stuck their guidon in the sands at Camp Ramadi. Camp Fallujah was ideal; a former military compound, much of its infrastructure was already in place and fortified walls surrounded its inhabitants. The Marines found their Camp Ramadi facilities in a much different state. Most of their new offices needed renovations, and others had to be built entirely. New lots for the motor transport and supply sections had to be graveled and fenced. And some Marines lived in large tents until living quarters were renovated. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Marines, Iraqi Security Forces search for answers to Ferris attack - FERRIS, Iraq – A recent enemy attack at a hospital in Ferris, Iraq has Marines and Iraqi Security Forces searching the city for clues to find suspects linked to the incident. Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, assisted the ISF during a joint operation in the city to gather information, recently. ISF work daily to ensure safety of the citizens by walking through local streets and visiting businesses to talk with those who live, work and commute in the area. IPs from the Ferris station often gather useful information and work with many of the citizens to help prevent violent attacks. They ask questions about suspicious activity that goes on in the cities neighborhoods and investigate their findings. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Female IP recruits on target (Baghdad) - BAGHDAD – In the distance, behind the small clouds of dust rolling behind a formation of marching Iraqi Police recruits, is a small group receiving information from their instructor Nov. 25. The 19 female recruits, who have come to train with other former Sons of Iraq, have again made the decision to continue to further serve their country by registering at the al Furat Iraqi Police Training Center, where now they are only a week from graduating as the first SoI graduating class of IP recruits. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers detain 4 suspected criminals (Baghdad) - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers detained four suspected criminals Nov. 27 in southern Baghdad’s Rashid district. At approximately 12:10 a.m., Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, MND-B, detained a suspected criminal during an operation in the Abu T’shir community. The detainee is wanted for conducting attacks against Coalition force units two months ago. (READ MORE)

Two suspected AQI terrorists captured Thursday - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces captured two wanted men during operations Thursday night, as they continued to disrupt al-Qaeda in Iraq’s bombing and leadership networks. AQI bombing networks were further degraded by Coalition forces Wednesday. Forces in Byji, 160 km south of Mosul, captured a suspected terrorist believed to facilitate car bomb operations in the city. (READ MORE)

IA, NP, MND-B Soldiers seize weapons, munitions throughout Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Iraqi soldiers serving with 55th Brigade, 17th Iraqi Army Division, acting on a tip found a cache in a Sayafiyah residence at approximately 5 p.m. Nov. 25. The large cache consisted of 705 projectiles, 25 mortars, 12 high-explosive, anti-tank rockets, 12 rocket-propelled grenades, an RPG launcher, a hand grenade, eight propellant charges, 51 fuses and improvised-explosive device-making material. The weapons and munitions were turned over to MND-B’s 2nd Brigade, 1st Armor Division. (READ MORE)

NPs seize weapons, MND-B Soldiers detain bombers - BAGHDAD – Iraqi National Policemen seized weapons and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers detain two suspected bomb cell members Nov. 26 in the Rashid district of southern Baghdad. At approximately 11 a.m. in the Masafee community, Iraqi NPs from 3rd Battalion, 7th Brigade, 2nd NP Division, found and seized 16 AK-47 assault rifles and a Simonov sniper rifle during a cordon and search mission in support of the Baghdad weapons-free zone policy. (READ MORE)

Leaders discuss new change for Sons of Iraq in Diyala - FORWARD OPERATING BASE GABE, Iraq – Coalition force leaders Brig. Gen. James Boozer, Brig. Gen. James Nixon and Col. Burt Thompson, along with Iraqi Army Diyala Operations Commander Staff Lt. Gen. Abdul Kareem Khalaf and the 5th Iraqi Army Division Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. Bayaz Ahmed Ramaden, conducted a rehearsal and meeting to discuss the future of the Sons of Iraq at Forward Operating Base Gabe in Diyala, Iraq, Nov. 26. (READ MORE)

Forces target leadership, bombing cells: 1 terrorist killed, 10 detained (Baghdad) - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces continued to degrade AQI networks in central Iraq Wednesday. Near Karmah, about 41 km west of Baghdad, forces targeted a wanted man assessed to have connections to a terrorist killed during an operation earlier this month. As the assault force entered the building believed to house the suspect, a man appeared with an AK-47. The force, perceiving hostile intent, returned fire and killed the armed terrorist. Forces then detained the targeted suspect and another individual believed to be his associate. (READ MORE)

New Elementary School Offers Hope to Nablus Children - BAGHDAD — The Nablus School in northwest Baghdad’s Yarmouk community opened Nov. 23. The refurbishing project, also underway in more than 200 schools in Baghdad, added six new rooms, a computer lab and a science lab in addition to the school’s auditorium being refurbished at no cost by the local contractor. “The Nablus school should be the model that the other 220 schools currently under reconstruction follow,” said Dr. Nihad, Karkh District Deputy Minister of Education. (READ MORE)

Iraqi, Coalition Reps Spread Smiles to Iraqi School Children - COB ADDER — Local Iraqi Security Forces distributed school supplies in Maysan Province Nov. 23 with assistance from the Maysan Provincial Reconstruction Team. Iraqi and CF (Coalition Force) troops handed out various school supplies such as crayons, rulers, pencils and even backpacks to elementary school children. While some of the troops issued school supplies, others provided security at the scene. (READ MORE)

Reconstruction Teams Work One Block at a Time in Iraq - FOB WAR EAGLE — Reconstruction in Iraq means more than fixing broken walls and stocking store shelves. It means securing a future where Iraqis can sustain themselves, a provincial reconstruction team leader said. “The mission is to help bring a sustainable, democratic government, promote moderate [leaders] and encourage economic development in Baghdad,” said Ted Andrews, team leader for Provincial Reconstruction Team 3 in Baghdad, which is embedded with the 4th Infantry Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team, Multi-National Division - Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Warriors Bid Farewell to Macedonian Army Partners - CAMP TAJI — After eleven rotations since the beginning months of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Macedonian Soldiers are ending their part of the Coalition forces mission here. The end-of-mission ceremony was “bittersweet” for Coalition forces, as this longtime partner was closing a chapter on its partnership in Iraq. “Around 450 troops have passed through this mission, and a lot of experience has been brought to the republic of Macedonia and the Soldiers of Macedonia,” said Col. Krume Velkov. (READ MORE)

Mass Grave Found In Diyala - Diyala, Iraq – A mass grave site was found in Diyala Province Nov 26. The 1st Battalion, 24th Striker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division received a report from a local contractor of a mass grave. The 23 bodies appear to have been deceased for about a year and a half. Local Iraqi Police will hand over the remains to respective families for proper burial. (READ MORE)

ANSF, Coalition forces disrupt militant activities in Helmand - KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces killed seven militants today and uncovered three caches containing drugs and improvised explosive device-making materials during a clearing operation in Nahr Surkh District, Helmand province. Militants fired on ANSF and Coalition forces with machine-gun and rocket-propelled grenade fire. ANSF and Coalition forces responded with small-arms and supporting fires, killing seven. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces clear a known IED command node in Kandahar - KABUL, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed 15 militants, and detained six suspected militants during an early morning raid in Anizai, Zhari district, Kandahar province, Nov. 26. Coalition forces were clearing a compound known to be an IED command and control node when they were fired upon. Coalition forces returned fire with small arms weapons killing 15 insurgents and detained six. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces keep the heat on terrorist networks - KABUL, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed ten armed militants, and detained four suspected militants during operations to thwart the Taliban and Haqqani terrorist networks in Paktia and Paktika provinces, Tuesday. The operation in Paktia province targeted a senior Taliban commander in the Zormat district – believed to act as a liaison between the al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorist networks, assisting with the movement of foreign fighters into Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

TALIBAN RIDING HIGH ON DRUG MONEY - LONDON - The Taliban has earned up to $470 million from the Afghan opium trade this year - and is using that windfall to finance the insurgency against the United States, according to a UN report released yesterday. Along with the income from taxing farmers and from processing and trafficking the drug, there is evidence that the Taliban is hoarding opium stocks to prop up prices, the UN report said. (READ MORE)

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