December 3, 2008

From the Front: 12/03/2008

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

In their own words:
Cool, Calm & Collected: I'll Be Home For Christmas - Two years ago, Jim was in Iraq. "I'll be Home for Christmas" made me cry because I knew he couldn't be home for Christmas. I thought maybe there was a chance it would be like a movie, and he would show up at my door on Christmas Eve. No such luck though. It was a rough year. He got me the perfect gift though. Last year was extremely hard, to say the least. Jim was killed earlier that year, and I was maybe the biggest Grinch ever. I didn't want to 'do' Christmas at all. I put on a happy face for my sisters, because they love Christmas, but let me tell you it was rough. Christmas music made me cringe. Christmas lights made me cringe. Everything 'Christmas' made me sad. This year? I know Jim is home for Christmas. He's been there for sometime now. It's just taken me awhile to come to the realization that he is actually there, and he's okay. And you know, it's been hard, but I wouldn't have God's plan for my life any other way. Jim is supposed to be in Heaven right now. (READ MORE)

Cassandra: Captain Rob Yllescas - Yesterday, while you and I went about the mundane business of every day living, a good man - a warrior - finally put down his burdens and walked into the light. For his good lady that final parting cannot yet seem quite real. It never does at first, especially when there have been so many goodbyes over the years. Captain Rob Yllescas, 31, spent the first 18 years of his life in Guatemala. His father Otto still lives there. His mother, Barbara Yllescas-Brodsky, now lives in Treynor, Iowa. Rob graduated from the University of Nebraska. He met and married Dena in her home town of Osceola, Nebraska. Their marriage produced two lovely daughters, Julia and Eva:
"He was my hero and my daughters' hero," said Dena, a native of Osceola, Neb. "They absolutely adored him, and they didn't care that he was a soldier or not. He was their daddy." (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Shrugged: Tooth Fairy and Mail (Two things that don't exsist) - Warning: I'm now about to go on a tirade!! I've purposely trend not to complain about the Army system in my blog. There are just certain things that about being in the Army and being deployed that are frustrating; but I've now reached my breaking point. I was always taught in the Army you don't mess with three things and soldiers will do anything. FOOD: Ours sucks and it's not the cooks fault. They get nothing and to work with and they actually create something out of it. So shout out to the cooks. Down 20 lbs from when I got here, Jenny Craig should have sent Christy Alley here and she would have lost lbs. PAY: I have now just jinxed myself by mentioning that my pay isn't messed up. Damn! MAIL: And therein lays the rub! Our mail is broken. Now when I say broken I mean really broken. Not like; hey this letter got bent-but this letter never got here broken. Maybe broken isn't the right word: (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: No news yet - I know you are all very anxious to know the plans about the funeral arrangements. As of now we don't have any more details. They said it could take 5-7 days before Rob is in Nebraska. We're hoping we can get this coordinated within the next couple of days to help with travel arrangements for those of you who are wanting to attend. We're hoping the funeral will be on Sunday (7th) but we won't know for sure until we get more details. I'll let you know as soon as we do. Thank you all so much for the comments. Our families are all being wonderful support for each other and we're hanging in there. (READ MORE)

Bullet Wisdom: Long Absence and Transition Team Update - Another beautiful sunset at the National Training Center. Over the years I've never tired of the Fort Irwin sunsets. Well, it's been almost a month since my last post. Needless to say, lately I've been a horrible blogger. Unfortunately between Facebook and my Combat Advisor education, I keep managing to find other things to do than scroll on my experiences here at Fort Riley. I apologize up front for the recent lack of communication. In the last month our team made a trip to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin California to participate in a mission rehearsal exercise with a brigade from the 25th Infantry Division. The Brigade Combat Team was participate in an Afghanistan scenario in preparation for a deployment later in 2009. Our team was sent in to give the Brigade an appreciation for what it means to have a team of advisors assigned to their coalition partners. (READ MORE)

The Left Captain: Distillation - As I round the corner on my last month in Afghanistan I have been thinking about why it has been hard for me. There was a time back in September when I wasn't sure if I could make it, and this was mostly due to my fears that I wouldn't make it. Serving as the regional shrink and de facto confidant of so many people I have gotten a unique perspective into the hearts and minds of these Americans, and I know that my fears do not set me apart. One thing that many of us share is the grinding repetitiveness of a 7 day work week overlayed with a perpetual sense of malevolent unpredictability. When something unpredictable happens, it is almost always bad. You don't get many "good" surprises here. There is an ever-present sense of the reality that it isn't a matter of "if", it is a matter of "when." For some of us this is less imminent than it is for others. For those Soldiers who experience this daily or weekly, it changes them. (READ MORE)

Like the sands of time these are the days of my life: TIME GIVE ME TIME - Up in the m0rnnig before the break of day, you know how the cadence go. I don't like it no way but as soldiers we do what we must do for the security of the country that we love. Twenty-four hours seven days a week we train in the sleet, snow, and rain. Maybe not the snow and rain because we are in Texas. The greatest state on earth, the land where everything is big, Texas has enormous houses large, several professinal teams, singers, rappers and even movies stars. Texas has many exceptional things as you can see but the most exceptional that Texas has is me. (READ MORE)

DJ Elliott: Iraqi Army develops the heavy mechanized and 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, Iraqi Army light infantry, and light armored forces already have been addressed in The Long War Journal. The focus of this article is on the announced arms purchases and what they indicate for developments in the Iraqi Security Force's heavy mechanized and 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 1 is intended to build a basic force. By the end of this stage, the Iraqi Army is apparently planned to be 20 or 21 divisions organized into four corps. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistani Taliban hit NATO convoys for third consecutive day - The Taliban have hit NATO’s precarious supply line through Peshawar the third time in three days. Today, Taliban fighter detonated a bomb under a bridge as a NATO convoy was passing through Peshawar. The bomb was detonated as the lead vehicle crossed the bridge. Two drivers and a driver’s assistant were wounded, and the bridge was heavily damaged. The convoy was stopped dead in its tracks, but the Taliban did not follow up the bombing with an ambush. A rocket attack at a truck terminal in Peshawar on Nov. 30 killed a driver and wounding another, and set three NATO shipping containers ablaze. The next day, a Taliban force of 25 men assaulted the truck terminal and killed two drivers and torched 21 trucks. Several Humvees being transported to Afghanistan were burned. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: And then there were 20... - At first there were 18. Even though the Soldiers of the 211th have been training together since October 10, and even though the Soldiers of the 211th have bonded well, there has always been a hole that we couldn't fill...until yesterday. We had 20 Soldiers on our battle roster when we arrived at RTC on 18 October but we had 2 Soldiers who couldn't train with us, so we were incomplete. These two Soldiers were attending school and graduated while we were at RTC so they were waiting for us when we returned to Bryan in November. And then there were 19. Unfortunately, we lost a Soldier off of our battle roster at the end of RTC for reasons known to him. That was a dark day for me and for the rest of the unit. (READ MORE)

SPC Alperin - My Point of View: Treats and delicacies... - Training continues in Bryan/College Station, Texas and we are covering as many areas as possible. Training has been fun and educational because we always have soldiers in the unit that keep things light, but focused. We have been keeping up with our public affairs guidance and doctrine which maintains our energies towards the mission. Mainly, we are trying to prepare for when we hit ground in Iraq, so that we are ready to cover the stories. Our physical training continues as well. We are using the Bryan High School track to workout and keep our bodies fit. We do plenty of muscle failure and cardio activities. But, the Golden Corral has been a major obstacle to keeping the weight down. (READ MORE)

LT Douglas - My Point of View: Let the blog wars begin ... - Well, here it is – the first of (hopefully) many blogs to document the journey of the 211th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment’s upcoming deployment. I’ve been with the unit for going on three weeks now, and it’s been a great experience so far. It’s incredible to see how the Army can bring Soldiers from all walks of life together. The Soldiers of the 211th MPAD are a perfect example of this. We have a mix of Soldiers who volunteered for the deployment and others who were transferred. We have Soldiers from all over the mainland to include Texas, New Jersey, Chicago … the list goes on. Despite such different backgrounds, we all share one common foundation as part of the 211th family. (READ MORE)

SPC Logue - My Point of View: T-day - I had a pretty great Turkey day. It started on Wed. night. I arrived in the beautiful Corpus Christi, Texas around 11 p.m. I dropped my gear and my dog at my mother's house and left to visit my friends. It was like a reunion, there was people that I grew up with everywhere!! I ran into people at get-together that I have known since Pre-K ( that was over 15 years ago). Then, my Turkey day was great. We had a big Turkey dinner with the family, watched the Cowboy game of course, and then I took an astounding nap. Then I went to play poker with some of my friends, and of course lost. I tried not to watch the T.U/A&M game, but it was inevitable. That was a bad game....almost as bad as my poker.... (READ MORE)

SGT Taylor - My Point of View: OUR MISSION - Standing on the fore front of adversity / We hold true to all that we have learned / Rising to the call of our country / Willing to die for the rights we've earned / As the people of the world come together / People of every race, religion and color / To stand against these tyrants of terror / Every man standing, now our brother / We fight for honor, life and freedom / Our family, friends and loved ones / We fight for a peace that may never come / We shoulder this burden for our sons / Despite how the world views our life / We chose this, it was our decision / No matter the pain, ridicule and strife / We are Soldiers, this is our mission. (READ MORE)

The Angry American: Video Find - This video was taken I believe during the summer of 2007. Our Bravo Company was occupying the DAK hall when they started taking fire from the building you see getting destroyed in the video. Later in April '08 when Sadr lifted his ceasefire the insurgents tried to attack the Iraqi Police and a Platoon of Bravo company again from that building, that time they dropped a JDAM on it. It was at our COP when they dropped the JDAM and we all heard it scream over head followed by a huge explosion. Later during that siege we had to go to the DAK hall to help resupply the Iraqi Police, and assist our BSB, and Delta Company to recover a vehicle that had been hit with the EFP that killed 2 and injured the rest of the men in that truck, and also escort a Platoon of Bravo, back to the FOB. A huge fire fight ensued and my gunner Hannibal would later be awarded an ARCOM with Valor for his keen eye and M240B finesse. (READ MORE)

Embrace the Suck: Another Sunset Over The Barrel Of A Gun... - Wednesday, December 3, 2008 1204 hrs. Well its been a bit since the last time I wrote. Why? Because we have been stuck on 96 hours of guard duty for about 56 hours now. Only about 40 to go. If we aren't in the towers then we are down as the reactionary force if something happens. Loads of fun for me. I can't even take off my uniform to sleep. But whatever, its the Army. Now lately, I have been feeding the Taliban tiger. Some of you nice folks out there were kind enough to send us some little cans of tuna. So I figured that I would make nice with the beast and see if I couldn't make a new friend. Needless to say, a little bit of tuna goes a long way...with a cat. So anyways, what has happened that makes me laugh. Well its a bit disgusting, but it was hilarious. (READ MORE)

Embrace the Suck: The Sky Smiled At Me Just Now... - I am not kidding. It is easily one of the weirdest things I have ever seen in my life. The moon is in its crescent shape tonight and there are two stars above it, spaced about eyes width apart and it makes the unmistakable form of a smiley face in the heavens. I wonder if its a good thing or a bad thing? I wonder if it means God is smiling down on us, or is God sitting up there laughing at us. I'd have to go with the latter of the two. Moving on, I know its been a while since I last posted but that is because nothing has gone on around here that I can actually write about without risking a few years in prison. So it goes. But I will take care of one loose end before I end this post. I asked for some help with the kids a few posts back and I am going to give out the address so that anyone who would like to help, can. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

IA, SoI seize weapons in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Army soldiers and Sons of Iraq members seized two weapons caches in Baghdad Dec. 2. At approximately 1:30 pm, SoI members confiscated a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and two anti-personnel rounds from a market in Rusafa. Four hours later, an Iraqi citizen unearthed a cache while operating a bucket loader in Mansour and reported it to Iraqi Army soldiers with 4th Battalion, 54th Brigade, 6th IA Division. (READ MORE)

School opening offers hope for children of Ghazaliya - BAGHDAD – The day was bright – as were the smiles on the faces of the families and children in attendance at the opening of Nahwaran School in the Ghazaliya district of northwest Baghdad Nov. 25. With more than 100 people in attendance, the event began with local Iraqi Police, Iraqi Army and teachers handing out backpacks, notebooks and pencils to the school children. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces hone in on AQI leadership networks, detain five suspects - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces continued to unravel al-Qaeda in Iraq leadership networks in the country’s central and northern regions Wednesday, capturing one wanted man and detaining four additional suspects. Forces captured one suspected terrorist and detained a man believed to be his associate in Abu Gharib, 25 km west of Baghdad. The wanted man is assessed to have connections to various AQI leaders in Anbar province. (READ MORE)

NP, tips help MND-B Soldiers discover explosives - BAGHDAD – National Police handed over two separate explosively formed projectiles to Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers in Northern Baghdad Dec. 2. Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, MND-B, responded to a call at approximately 9 a.m. when an 10-inch copper lined EFP was brought into a Joint Security Station Ur by an NP in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah district. (READ MORE)

Sadr City residents take pride in their neighborhood - BAGHDAD – In the not too distant past, Sadr City was considered by many to be one of the worst places to live in Iraq. There was trash in the streets, violence throughout the district, sewage-filled gutters that overflowed onto the roads and children played on trash piles containing concertina wire and rubble from houses – the remnants of the violent fighting that drove Special Groups elements out of the area. (READ MORE)

Canal Refurbishment Highlights $50 Million Iraqi Project - BAGHDAD — Iraqi civilian and military dignitaries broke ground on the Army Canal Rehabilitation Project in Baghdad’s Sadr City district yesterday. The ceremonial groundbreaking marked the beginning of a commitment by the Iraqi government to spend $50 million during the next three years in reconstruction efforts along the al-Kanat Road and surrounding areas. (READ MORE)

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