December 2, 2008

From the Front: 12/02/2008

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

In their own words:
Dena Yllescas: Rob is with God now - Well, today Rob went to be with the Lord. Last night his ICP's went really high and they took him for another CT scan. The scan results were devastating. So, we decided to let him go Home. He went very painlessly and quickly. I don't know when his funeral will be but it will be in Nebraska in my hometown. I will let you all know the details when I get them. Thank so all so much for the thousands of prayers you sent for my husband. We now have an angel looking over us. (READ MORE)

Craig Stewart: Thanksgiving Mass - When I mention that our museum will cover those who serve(d) our country on the home front during times of war, almost everyone thinks immediately of World War II and Rosie the Riveter. But what about today and what about families? Is their story being told? My family gathered in Fayetteville, North Carolina last week at my mother’s home for Thanksgiving. A highlight is always attending morning Mass at St. Patrick’s Church. The large sanctuary was nearly full and all came to give thanks to God in a reverent way for all our many blessings. Quiet and respectful…except for two little boys sitting three rows in front of us. These imps squirmed. They made noises. They dropped things. They behaved like…well… little boys. Nobody actually glared or said anything, but you knew that we all were thinking after 10 minutes or so, “Why doesn’t that mother do something about her disruptive sons. We came here to worship, not be distracted.” (READ MORE)

3rd MAW: MWSS-172 armorer keeps mission rolling - AL ASAD, Iraq – Tucked away in a corner of the Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 armory, Cpl. Christopher Loftin peered intently at the springs and pins of a trigger mechanism in an M-2 .50 caliber machine gun. A bead of sweat ran down the Valley Mills, Texas-native’s forehead as me made subtle tweaks and nudges to the weapon – ensuring it would fire correctly. Loftin undertook similar tasks every day while deployed as an armorer with MWSS-172, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward). Yet the repetitive nature of the job never dulled Loftin’s concentration. He knew that even in an increasingly peaceful Iraq the weapons he maintained and repaired could still be the only thing between a fellow Marine and an enemy. (READ MORE)

3rd MAW: Buffalo native serves as Huey crew chief in Iraq - AT TAQUADDUM, Iraq – One Buffalo native may be the only female crew chief with the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 here, but that’s not why she stands out among her peers. With a commitment to excellence and a strong sense of duty, Cpl. Lisa M. Bodenburg, a UH-1N Huey crew chief, has continually distinguished herself in her two years in the Marine Corps. “Corporal Bodenburg stands out not because she is a female, but because she is very knowledgeable about the job and her performance speaks for itself,” said Sgt. Daniel Basan, a fellow crew chief with the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) squadron. “Any command she goes to in the future will be lucky to have an asset like her.” (READ MORE)

Cheese's Milblog: Worth losing sleep... - I'm working towers again at the small base next to Phoenix. As I'm STILL on the night shift, I've been able to talk to Sarah more than usual and it's been good. Last night I was told that I'd have to get up early to do a kind of patrol in the Afghan National Army training area that surrounds the FOB. Crap. So we all dragged ourselves out of bed at the crack of 0900 to mount up and then waited for the indigenous pogues of this base to do the same. We listened to about a half an hour of radio checks and were finally on our way. Happily, we were able to break away from the main convoy and do some "exploring" of the training area. We were crossing a deep creek bed when I felt the humvee lurch to the left as the driver-side rear tire slid off of the culvert. I turned to my driver with a "what the hell?" look when my side of the humvee sank as well. In an odd way I was relieved, as this meant that we were not going to rollover. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: The Reconstruction Man - For the past five years I have listened intently to the senior generals, politicians, and U. S. State Department officials as they tell the world that the most important thing to be done in Afghanistan is reconstruction and the rehabilitation of infrastructure. In countries where a majority of the population is illiterate actions speak much louder than words. Our ‘actions” on the reconstruction and rehabilitation front – what the military would term Stability Operations – are so woefully inadequate that they should be a national scandal. I hold the military and the Department of State equally at fault. The reconstruction “battle” is a Department of State responsibility and they set the security parameters under which US contractors operate. The State Department and US AID implementers live in the US Embassy complex - a gigantic walled ultra posh compound with everything you could ask for, great gym, extra pay, dirt cheap booze and cigarettes. (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: New schools may set example - FALLUJAH, Iraq – Marines with Team 2, Civil Affairs Group, 2nd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, visited one of four new schools being constructed in Fallujah, Iraq, recently. The construction projects were launched by the government of Iraq in 2005, but insurgent activity in the city halted progress. Now, the CAG team and Iraqi provincial government agencies are working together to complete the projects. The team has been working with a local Iraqi contractor for the past month to ensure the schools will be finished and opened as quickly as possible. Marines with the team say that the progress is promising and the results will speak for themselves. (READ MORE)

Big Country: How We Won the War (the stuff the media won't tell you) - Lots of people have been asking me "Big Country, how do you know we've won? I mean you got shelled the other day. What makes you so smart?" OK: Well... to start with, it's the little things that show me that we've won. 1) The Iraqi Parliment (according to my sources) stated that the Status of Forces Agreement has been pretty much approved. Word is that despite the tantrums of the High Weirdbeard Mockretard Al Sadist, they want us here for another 3 years to insure stabilization, and that we're going to be supporting the Iraqis, rather than going it with the Coilition Forces and ourselves. The shelling that we took was a prime example of said aforementioned tantrum. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban are 'patriots,' says Pakistani Army official - A senior Pakistani military official called two senior Taliban leaders "patriots," signaling a shift in posture against the Taliban in the Northwest Frontier Province. The Mumbai terror siege and India's reaction may lead the Pakistani Army to negotiate peace agreements with the Taliban to free up troops for the eastern border with India. The official, who was not named, called Taliban leaders Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Fazlullah "patriots" during a briefing with senior Pakistani journalists, The News reported. He said the military and the Taliban are clashing due to "some misunderstandings." "We have no big issues with the militants in Fata [the Federally Administered Tribal Areas],” the official said. "We have only some misunderstandings with Baitullah and Fazlullah. These misunderstandings could be removed through dialogue." (READ MORE)

Michael J. Totten: What's Next in Iraq - BAGHDAD – For the past two weeks I’ve been embedded with the United States Army in Baghdad, and I find myself unable to figure out what to make of this place. Baghdad, despite the remarkable success of the surge, is as mind-bogglingly run-down and dysfunctional as ever, even compared with other Arabic countries. Iraq is a dark place. At times it feels like a doomed country that has only been temporarily spared the reckoning that is coming. Other times it is possible to look past the grimness and see progress beyond the mere slackening off of violence and war. Is Iraq truly on the mend, or has a total breakdown been merely postponed? Opinions here among Americans and Iraqis are mixed, but nearly everyone seems to agree about one thing at least: terrorists and insurgents will respond with a surge of their own in the wake of the upcoming withdrawal of American forces. (READ MORE)

Notes From Iraq: 01DEC08--Two Go on Leave - Today, my team dropped of two members at Baghdad Internationl Airport (BIAP), which has US bases surrounding it. Four months into the deployment, we have now begun rotating guys on leave, or rest and relaxation (R&R), back to the States. Major Aaron Wentworth of Michigan and Sergeant Daniel Colon of Puerto Rico got bumped from their flight and won't leave BIAP until on or about Thursday. After a few hops, they will likely arrive in the loving arms of their wives and five kids in Hawaii and four kids in Virginia, respectively, on or about Sunday. They will have 15 days to visit their families and will probably be back with us a few days before Christmas. I pray for their safe travels. Soon enough, no only will the rest of us rotate back to that States for leave, but also we will return home to our families for good. (READ MORE)

Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army: Here I sit... - Thank you to all of those who continue to support my brother and I!! Another 111 hits last week! THANK YOU!! Here I sit...again. Just hanging out after yet another awesome cookout. It was one of our Soldier's birthday today. Any reason not to eat at the DFAC is good to me. And i get to cook on a charcoal grill. NICE! We made it through Thanksgiving just great! Thanksgiving dinner was great. My entire group got to go to the DFAC for a lovely meal topped off with some nice conversation. I got to talk to my family and enjoy their happiness as well. I talked to my dad almost every day last week while he was in WV deer hunting. There were some pretty nice deer killed from what I hear...daddy hasn't gotten one yet, but his is coming. He over-looked some does, waiting on the big one to come strolling by. I can't say how much I wish I was there. It's so awesome to call up there, and just listen to the stories, the family, and all the comotion. (READ MORE)

S4 at War: Short Stories - There is a policy here when contracting out projects on our FOBs that the labor force must be at least 51% Iraqi. This is understandable, given our goals and our capability to employ people. However, many companies will hire Iraqi labor in order to be competitive for contracts even if said labor isn’t competent at said task. The result is a building which doesn’t quite meet the standard and when KBR comes to do their inspection it inevitably ends up condemned. KBR then gets to come along, redo the work, and charge the government again. Its the rainy season over here. Sand and rain don’t mix well (this isn’t build-a-sand-castle type sand. The sand over here is more like dust). When it rains everything turns to mud so we cover everything with gravel. Gravel is now big business. Recently one of the large COBs contracted for a sizeable delivery of gravel. The contract, unfortunately, didn’t include taking the gravel onto the COB and leaving it at its final resting point. (READ MORE)

Army Poet: In Transit - As soon as I touched the crinkles in your lips, / I knew that I would break my heart, / This journey began with that kiss, / But now, / I think maybe it was not the start. / Maybe you were just a lost passenger too, / Stepping accidentally onto my train, / We swayed together in the rolling carriage, / Easy riding, over down-hill runs. / Life was no effort. / Sitting contented, / Side by side, and happy when we bumped together, / Pushed close by bends in the tracks. / I thought the ride would never stop, / Each day was too easy, just simple. / But, while I dozed, / Anesthetized in the fumes of your love, / Somewhere you must have gotten off. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Task Force Arrowhead assumes mission from Bowie Team - BAGHDAD – A transfer of authority ceremony marked the end of mission for the 39th Infantry Brigade Combat Team and the beginning for the 56th Brigade Dec. 1. For more than 50 percent of the 56th Brigade Soldiers it marks their second deployment to Iraq. The 56th deployed to Iraq in 2005 and performed many of the same missions it now faces. They will conduct convoy security and force protection missions. (READ MORE)

MND-B, IA distribute meals to Sadr City families - BAGHDAD – Smiling faces stretched as far as you could see in the Sadr City district of Baghdad as Coalition forces, Iraqi Army, community project workers and two prominent Shaykhs helped distribute meals to more than 1,000 people, Nov. 28. The Soldiers of Task Force 1-6 Infantry, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, currently attached to 3rd BCT, 4th Inf. Div., Multi-National Division – Baghdad, worked with the people of this northeastern Baghdad district in an effort to enforce security and try to improve living conditions across the city. (READ MORE)

Scouting program takes life again in Iraq (Baghdad) - CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – The scouting movement in Iraq was revitalized in 2004 by the Green Zone Council, a group of Coalition forces in Baghdad who saw value in having Iraqi children involved with their communities. Today, service members continue to work with the youth of Iraq on Saturday afternoons at a small community just outside the Victory Base Complex. (READ MORE)

IA, MND-B Soldiers confiscate weapons in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers seized weapons and munitions in Baghdad Dec. 1. At approximately 12:30 p.m., Soldiers serving with 5th Battalion, 25th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, seized five AK-47 rifles, a shotgun, 300 rounds of shotgun ammunition, 15 magazines of AK-47 ammunition, 150 looses rounds of AK-47 ammunition and a pellet rifle scope. (READ MORE)

Zaytun Division celebrates achievements as Iraq mission ends (Irbil) - BAGHDAD – South Korea’s Zaytun Division, which has been operating in Irbil since 2004, bid farewell to its Iraqi and coalition counterparts during an end of mission ceremony Dec. 1. The division has been a presence in the northern region of Iraq for the last four years, focusing efforts on rebuilding the area and creating a better quality of life for the Kurdish-controlled region. (READ MORE)

Eight plucked from AQI’s leadership networks (Baghdad) - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces removed three wanted men from al-Qaeda in Iraq’s leadership networks during operations Monday and Tuesday which also led to the detention of five additional suspects. Two separate operations Monday targeted AQI’s leadership networks in northern Iraq. During the first operation in Bayji, 160 km south of Mosul, Coalition forces detained two suspects. (READ MORE)

Complex attack kills 12, wounds 35 in Rusafa - BAGHDAD – 12 Iraqi policemen were killed and 35 IPs and civilians were wounded when two improvised explosive device detonated at approximately 1 p.m. Dec. 1 in eastern Baghdad. The first IED blast occurred outside the Baghdad IP Academy in Rusafa and the second blast, a car bomb, exploded 150 meters north of the entrance and was specifically targeting first responders. The attacks occurred within a minute of each other. (READ MORE)

Iraqis, Romanians, Americans Build Artillery Skills Together - CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER — The Iraqi Army conducted indirect fire training in the Dhi Qar province, Nov. 25, with U.S. and Romanian counterparts. The 10th Iraqi Army Special Operations unit teamed with 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division and the 341st Romanian Infantry Battalion to develop their artillery and mortar capabilities. (READ MORE)

Service members charged in Article 32 hearing - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Day one of the Article 32 investigation into alleged detainee mistreatment concluded yesterday at Forward Operating Base Salerno. Capt. Roger T. Hill and 1st Sgt. Tommy L. Scott, both of 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, have been formally charged with detainee mistreatment and dereliction of the duty to report detainee mistreatment. (READ MORE)

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