December 1, 2008

From the Front: 12/01/2008

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

In their own words:
Alex Strick van Linschoten: Panicked Solutions - Special agents from America, Germany and Pakistan are sent to a zoo in Afghanistan to track down some missing rabbits. The western agents start looking around, surveying the field, setting up field offices and establishing contacts. The Pakistani agent goes straight to a zebra. A few days later, the others still haven’t been able to find a rabbit, so they go over to the Pakistani agent to see how he’s getting along. When they come closer they see him beating the zebra with a big pole, shouting at the top of his lungs: “SAY I’M A RABBIT! SAY I’M A RABBIT!” This joke was told by a highly respected tribal elder in Kandahar last week at the end of a long and frustrating conversation about American plans to engage the tribes in Afghanistan and their apparent decision to support the (re-)formation of local militias. It would have been funnier were the situation down here not so critical. (READ MORE)

Michael Yon: "The Art of the End of War." - Baghdad, Iraq - On the morning of 14 November, soldiers from 2-4 Alpha of the 10th Mountain Division set off on a mission in south Baghdad, and I tagged along. About half the soldiers are combat veterans from Afghanistan and/or Iraq. For instance, SSG Zacchary Foust, the 1st Squad Leader of 3rd Platoon, said he had done two combat tours in Afghanistan, and this was his second go in Iraq, making this his fourth combat deployment. Working with multi-tour veterans makes my job much easier, especially when they have worked in more than one war. The words and expectations from the veterans are more measured and matured, even when the soldiers might be young. Combat veterans also tend to be much more relaxed with correspondents. Most of them seem to view correspondents as if we are zoo animals, since most soldiers, even if they have done multiple tours and seen lots of al Qaeda and Taliban up close, have never seen a correspondent up close. (READ MORE)

Armed and Curious: Funny how things go - Its been an interesting time in Baghdad according to my friends still there. Most of my colleagues are finding themselves in incredibly quiet times watching the Iraqis take more and more of the mission out of our hands. My media friends are about sick of the whole SOFA discussion. One told me she doesn't even want to hear the word SOFA ever again so furniture shopping is going to be a bear. But on Thanksgiving the Iraqi Council of Representatives finally ended the wrangling over the agreement and passed it once and for all...well...kinda. They passed it with an agreement to put it to a referendum for the whole country by July. So that gives them a provincial election in January, the referendum for the SOFA in July and then district elections in the fall. Man, they love their elections in Iraq. They just eat that whole democracy thing up. (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: Pray, Pray, Pray, PRAY! - A little while ago I had to make the toughest decision of my life. They found a huge blood clot in the main part of Rob's brain. I could either let it be and let him die a peaceful death or I could choose to do an emergency craniotomy on him. However, he has a huge chance of dying on the operating table and if he makes it, he has a huge chance of no quality of life. Rob told me specifically that he does not want to be a vegetable. However, I cannot believe that God got him this far to let him die now or let him live the rest of his life as a vegetable. The neuro dr said that the majority of the outcomes are not good but he has seen some cases where the person made it through fine. He said we may not know how much damage he's suffered for a year or more. (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: Holding the Faith - Well, Rob made it through the night. The dr's had said that he had a 90% chance that he may not make it during the night. You know it's scary when the crash cart is sitting in his room. But today his vitals signs and ICP's (brain pressure) held steady. You can see him moving his eyes behind his eyelids. I truly believe he can hear us so I just continue to talk to him quietly. I told him I hope he understands why I made the decision I did. If I didn't feel he was such the fighter he was, I wouldn't have done it. But Rob is amazing and has fought all the odds and I've got to hold strong that he can overcome this with God's miracles. When they suctioned his trach today he also coughed and moved his shoulders. When they cleaned out his mouth, he clenched down with his mouth (he hates getting his mouth cleaned) and I even saw him move his head and mouth. (READ MORE)

Fobbits need ice cream too: Awards - Today we had a battallion (squadron) formation. Our company was inducted into the Order of the Golden Spur, authorizing us to wear golden spurs on our ACUs or Class A footwear while attending a Cav function or while attached to a Cav unit. We can also wear Stetsons (the Civil War era cowboy hats). I was awarded an Army Achievement Medal and an Army Commendation Medal as well as a Squadron and Company coin. Shit like this used to excite me but it doesn't anymore. Last night ShittyTC came in and told me I had to run a PT test re-take for some of the failures. I tried to argue the fact that I am not an NCO and am not authorized to oversee a PT test or sign the scorecards, but was yelled at until I agreed to do it. I gave the test last night with other Joes as graders. Just like I said, when I turned the scorecards in, they were voided and thrown in the trash. The guys that took it will have to take it again. It's like I'm taking crazy pills or something. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: Giving thanks…in Iraq - CAMP RAMADI, Iraq (November 28, 2008) – Thanksgiving Day aboard Camp Ramadi, Iraq, started out like most days—Marines woke up early and went right to work. Some Marines with Regimental Combat Team 1 even said they forgot the holiday had arrived until someone greeted them with the stereotypical phrase, “Happy Thanksgiving!” But by mid-day, holiday festivities were in full swing. For lunch, the dining facility served turkey and ham, accompanied by dressing, corn-on-the-cob, yams and most other side dishes associated with a typical holiday meal. I got half-way through the serving line and my plate was piled high. Thankfully there are to-go boxes by the front door. (READ MORE)

The Intrepid Reporter: Maybe I spoke to fucking soon.... - The IR here again for a short update... Man... WTF is it about me and speaking my fucking mind? I must have been born brain damaged or under a fucked up sign... Here I am, Back In Baghdad, formwerly known as the Saddam-A-Go-Go, and things have been quiet. Too quiet as it were. Last Evening we're out having our first bar-b-que, and yes, the famous "Big Country Ribs" were being featured. Granted, I was showing off my culinary skills, and the fact that I'm out at 8 at night, bbq'in and theres nothing happening except good food, cool drinks and some cute babes rolling through, well, all was good and happy. I even commented on how absolutely quiet it's been, which of course just like in the movies, means the fucking killer/monster/whatever is about to jump out within a minute..... BBBBBBBBBBBRRRRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!! (READ MORE)

The Left Captain: Bare Feet - What do you tell a man who shuffles in smelling of dust and diesel, hands shaking, red rimmed eyes, voice quavering as he explains how the children's empty shoes were thrown haphazardly upon the road. What do you tell a man who beats his fist against the table, once for anger, once for pain, and once for shame because his body and mind went silent when he saw the children's bare feet and small fingers curled and still. What do you tell a man when he drops his face to the floor, lost in the thought that what was meant for him had turned the children into memories with one hollow thunderclap of combustion and shrapnel. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Captured Mumbai attacker implicates Pakistani military, intel - The only member of the jihadi assault team captured during the Mumbai attacks has fingered several Pakistani organizations as providing support to the group, according to reports in the Indian press. Ajmal Amir Kasab (or Azam Amir Kasav) was captured by police after a shootout near the docks in southern Mumbai. He was wounded and feigned being dead, but was picked out by police after he was seen breathing. The siege in Mumbai lasted 62 hours and claimed more than 195 lives. Terror assault teams held the city hostage as they fanned out through the city and attacked policemen, five-star hotels, a train station, a cinema, a cafe, and a residential complex. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: US military defines Mahdi Army as "militia insurgency group" - The US military has begun to directly identify the Iranian-backed "Special Groups" Shia terror groups with Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army in press information issued in Baghdad. The direct association between the Mahdi Army and the Special Groups is a change in how the US military has treated Sadr's militia for more than the past 18 months. Previously, the US military would make distinctions between the two groups. This was part of an effort to sow divisions within the Mahdi Army and split off the moderate elements willing to reconcile with the Iraqi government. Evidence of the change first appeared at the US military's DVIDS (Digital Video and Imagery Distribution System) website on Nov. 26. The Joint Combat Camera Center Iraq published five photos of Iraqi Army raids in Diwaniyah in southern Iraq. (READ MORE)

Notes from Iraq: 29NOV08--Rain - It's raining outside right now and inside, for that matter. Top lesson of the day is that my trailer leaks. The roof. Random spots throughout. Alls it is is a layer of aluminum. I have my trash can in the worst place and water bottles with their tops cut off strategically placed around the room. Luckily, my bed, computer and other possessions all stayed dry. It's actually quite amazing. The rain started earlier this evening and came in two half hour bursts. It even hailed for a short time. After the hail is when we went to our living trailers and discovered that they leaked. The problem is that we took the time to level the trailers, so the water just pools on top of the trailers where Sergeant Brian Parker and I had been standing on them when we carried them in via crane. (READ MORE)

Peace and War Times: When it rains, it pours! - About 14:00 hours today or 2:00PM, we were surprise by a strong rain that flooded our place of work, including our living quarters. While it kept getting stronger, I started to notice small pieces of ice. Among all the things I have experienced in this place; hailing was something unusual for me. I guess this will be the closest I will be to see ice falling from the sky, while in Iraq. The waters started to drip through the 12 feet tall concrete walls that surround our living and working areas. Right after, we all were walking on 3 inches of water and as I writing this blog, the water still rising. The sounds of thunders can be heard for miles. We all took our cameras out, to take pictures and video of this event, while standing on mud water. Others were taking the pieces of ices and started to play like it was snow. After attacking each other with it, we started to make balls with the ice and put it inside each others shirts. (READ MORE)

Rocinante's Burdens: Update from the Rear Eschelon - It is official. I am a REMF. Last week I got fired from my job as team leader. My new job description is "staff wienie, common". I work in one of the many palaces that we captured in Baghdad. A really nice place inside, if you like the whole "grand scale" thing. So I am going to update you well with this post, since it is unlikely I will ever do anything interesting again. 1. This place is like Disney world. Man-made lakes, waterfront palaces, ornamental sculpture and a migratory birds. 2. It rained a lot yesterday. There is mud everywhere. After 6 years of occupation we still don't have enough concrete and blacktop on our main HQ base. 3. There are too many troops here. Evidence: The band. Why does any modern army still take these guys (and gals) to war? I heard them warming up with Christmas music a few days ago. Yes, they get combat pay for being here. (READ MORE)

S4 at War: Almonds and Base Closures - Stay tuned for a post on how one goes about closing a FOB. I’d write about it now but I haven’t exactly come up with a plan yet. I’ll be doing that over the next few days just in case the SOFA requires us to close our FOB and collapse to the larger COBs. In the meantime, to keep up my energy, I’ll be resorting to the age old Islamist technique of carrying bags full of almonds. Seriously, in this article about the Mumbai attacks the AP said, “The gunmen were well-prepared, apparently scouting some targets ahead of time and carrying large bags of almonds to keep up their energy.” (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: Full Circular Saw - I smoked a La Gloria Cubana while composing this. “Did you hear?” SSG Rollercoaster says when I enter the BDOC. “The Other Company is looking for volunteers to run convoys.” My ears perk up. “The Other Company needs people?” “Yeah, I mean just for a week at a time cause their down people going on leave. Everybody wants to go on leave over Christmas.” Why on Earth do Christians feel the need to be home this one specific day of the year? Is there a genuine religious reason or do they just want to see their kids running down the stairs to their presents yelling: “It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas!” SSG Rollercoaster is a Methodist, and I am tempted to ask him, but I’m more concerned about the convoys. “So how do we get on the convoys?” I ask. “Talk to the commander.” SSG Rollercoaster says. “Actually, I think your name came up.” “I’ll be back in a minute,” I say as I run out of the BDOC and sprint to the orderly room. It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas! (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
‘They Will Not Leave’ - BAGHDAD — On the street here and in the well-furnished living rooms of the Iraqi intelligentsia, the recently approved Iraqi-American security pact is greeted with skepticism. People just don’t believe the Americans will leave. There are conspiracy theorists who believe there must be loopholes; there are anti-American types who simply do not trust anything the Americans say: (READ MORE)

Sister of fallen soldier sends love and remembrance to troops in Iraq - BAGHDAD - An O’Fallon, Mo. resident recently sent 19 boxes of Christmas gifts to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines her brother served with in Iraq. Each of them marked, ‘In Memory of Col. Stephen K. Scott.’ Kathie King wanted to make sure the men and women of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq Security Assistance Office, and her brother, were remembered this holiday season. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces continue to counter Iranian lethal aid - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces continue to degrade the Katai’b Hezbollah terrorist network, with the capture of four suspected network criminals during operations early Monday in Baghdad. Acting on special intelligence information, Coalition forces targeted two separate residences in search of suspected Katai’b Hezbollah members. (READ MORE)

MND-B Soldiers seize weapons cache in New Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Iraqi National Police and Soldiers from 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, confiscated multiple caches of weapons during clearance operations in eastern Baghdad’s New Baghdad district Nov. 30. National Policeman worked with Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, and Soldiers from 1st Bn., 66th Armd. Regt., to take the weapons off the streets. (READ MORE)

Raiders, NPs confiscate rifles in search operation (Baghdad) - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers and Iraqi National Policemen confiscated a number of rifles during search efforts Nov. 29 in southern Baghdad’s Rashid district. Throughout the morning, Soldiers from Company C, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, attached to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, conducted a combined search with the 7th Brigade, 2nd NP Division, and confiscated 13 AK-47 assault rifles, a sniper rifle and a rifle. (READ MORE)

Tips lead IA, MND-B Soldiers to weapons caches throughout Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Army soldiers and Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers seized weapons and munitions throughout Baghdad Nov. 29. Soldiers serving with 1st Battalion, 22nd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, found eight grenades while conducting a security patrol in Khadamiya at 1:30 p.m. (READ MORE)

Alleged AQI car bomb operative detained (Baghdad) - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces struck al-Qaeda in Iraq’s Baghdad bombing networks during an operation Saturday night, capturing a suspected car bomb operative. Forces were lead to a residence in the Karkh neighborhood after reports suggested the wanted man was there. The suspected terrorist, who is believed to have connections to a Baghdad-area AQI car bomb cell leader, was detained by ground forces without incident. (READ MORE)

ISF captures 8 suspected AQI terrorists in northern Iraq - BALAD, Iraq – Iraqi Security Forces, with Coalition force advisors, captured eight suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorists during separate operations in northern Iraq Nov. 27-28. Third Iraqi Army elements conducted an operation Nov. 28, capturing two AQI terrorists in Bulayj. One of the individuals is believed to be the Amir of a newly formed direct action cell operating in the area. The individuals are believed to be responsible for planning attacks against Coalition forces. (READ MORE)

IA soldiers stand in lead during joint patrol (Mahmudiyah Qada) - BAGHDAD –Iraqi Army and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers conducted a joint compliance neighborhood inspection patrol Nov. 26 in the town of Al Murtada in the Mahmudiyah Qada, south of Baghdad. Iraqi Army soldiers from the 1st and 2nd Battalion, 25th Brigade, 17th Iraqi Army Division and Soldiers from Company D, 1st Battalion, 63rd Combined Arms Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, conducted the dismounted patrol visiting more than 30 houses. (READ MORE)

Bosnians mark end of mission - BAGHDAD – In a ceremony at Hope Chapel on Victory Base Complex Nov. 29, a contingent of military forces from Bosnia-Herzegovina was honored by their Coalition partners for their service in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The historic event marked the end of a commitment that started in June 2005. (READ MORE)

Sunni, Shi’a, Christians Work Together to Equip Iraqi Security Forces - BAGHDAD — Senior Iraqi and Coalition leaders marked the transfer of the 3,000th armored Humvee to the Government of Iraq Nov. 22, through a program employing 522 Iraqis from different ethnic and religious backgrounds including Sunni, Shi’a and Christian. This milestone transfer is part of a program to produce mission-ready armored Humvees for issue to the Iraqi military and Police forces and to provide on-the-job training to Iraqi mechanics. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police Officers Graduate Leadership Development Course - JSS SULEIKH — Thirteen Iraqi Policemen (IP), a mix of officers and senior sergeants, gathered here in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District for their final training session, Nov. 26. The men were preparing for a weapons familiarization course prior to graduating from the Iraqi Police Leadership Development Course taught by Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces track down terrorist networks in Paktia - KABUL, Afghanistan – Coalition forces detained six suspected militants while continuing to target Haqqani terrorist networks in Paktia, Sunday. The operation in Zadran district, located 135 km south of Kabul and the second operation in as many days, targeted a known Haqqani militant believed to be in the direct contact with senior Haqqani leaders and to coordinate and direct terrorist activities aimed at destabilizing the region. Coalition forces searched the compound without incident, while protecting five women and six children, and detaining six suspected militants. (READ MORE)

ANSF, Coalition forces further disrupt terrorist networks in Paktia and Kabul - KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces killed 17 armed militants and detained ten suspected militants during operations to further decimate the Haqqani and Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) terrorist networks in Paktia and Kabul provinces, Saturday. In Zadran District, which is located 135 kilometers south of Kabul, Afghan and Coalition forces killed one armed militant and detained ten suspected militants, including the targeted Haqqani foreign fighter facilitator, during a combined operation in Paktia province. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces kill Taliban commander - KABUL, Afghanistan — Coalition forces killed four Taliban fighters, including a targeted Taliban commander who was dressed as a woman, during an operation to disrupt the Taliban’s roadside bomb and foreign fighter networks in Ghanzni province, Friday. Coalition forces killed Haji Yakub, a Taliban commander in Qarabagh district, which is located approximately 290 km southwest of Kabul. The Taliban commander was responsible for killing innocent civilians by directing roadside bomb, suicide and other attacks against GIRoA and Coalition forces in the region. (READ MORE)

ANSF, Coalition forces disrupt militant operations in Helmand - KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces killed 33 militants Friday in Nad Ali District, Helmand province, about 150 kilometers west of Kandahar city in southern Afghanistan. ANSF and Coalition forces were conducting a security patrol when they were engaged by militants who fired from multiple fighting positions with small arms, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. (READ MORE)

Alleged detainee abuse sparks Article 32 investigation in eastern Afghanistan - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — An Article 32 investigation commenced today at Forward Operating Base Salerno in eastern Afghanistan to review allegations of detainee abuse and several other lesser offenses by two U.S. service members. An Article 32 investigation, the military equivalent of a civilian grand jury hearing, offers testimony and a review of evidence to determine whether or not the individuals charged with these offenses should be brought to trial. (READ MORE)

Afghan and Coalition forces disrupt Haqqani network in Khost - KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and Coalition forces detained seven suspected militants during a combined operation aimed at disrupting the Haqqani terrorist network in Khost province, Wednesday. The province is located, approximately 250 km southeast of Kabul. The combined force searched a compound in Mando Zayi district, targeting a Haqqani militant believed to facilitate attacks against local civilians, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) and Coalition forces. Intelligence also suggests the militant facilitates and coordinates the movement of Islamic Jihadist Union (IJU) and other foreign fighters into eastern Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

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