December 4, 2008

From the Front: 12/04/2008

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

In their own words:
Afghanistan Shrugged: A Tale of Two Wars - It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. I plagiarized that one from a great novel; but it's a superb opening to illustrate the difference between the war that we fight as ETTs and the war the Combined Joint Task Force- Phoenix (CJTF-P) fights. CJTF-P is the headquarters for the ETTs here in Afghanistan. I could understand a marked difference between conventional coalition forces and ETTs; but there's such a huge dichotomy from us and our headquarters. The difference came to light recently when we received some replacements through Camp Phoenix.. We were briefing them on our day to day activities and they were telling us about what they were told at Phoenix. What they were told was shocking and if you followed their guidance it would ensure that you were universally disliked by the ANA and would accomplish nothing here. (READ MORE)

Back on the Homefront: Are the days really longer??? - How does it always happen that the closer you get to an event happening, the longer each day seems to be? From what we've been told, Micah is just about a week away from coming home...ahhh, that sounds so good to say...the only problem is that the days seem to be dragging on and on. We found out a couple weeks ago that he would be expected back sometime during the 2nd week of December. So, I finally had an end in sight. I began dreaming already of having my husband here to talk to after the kids go to bed, seeing my boys playing with their daddy and spending lazy Saturday mornings "just being a family." Ok, sidenote: I'm also secretly dreaming of a few other selfish things including number one: I can't wait to be able to take a shower in the morning and not have the rush of cold air blow in as someone opens the door to ask for more cereal (soon daddy can get it for them!). (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: This is not a job... - it's an adventure. Or something. So it rained here. Which brought fog, which brought everything to a screeching halt. Eventually, of course, the fog lifted and we had to start doing stuff again. Being CA types, we've found ourselves tasked with assisting a guy who has the super-fun assignment of finding all the water purification projects the US funded in the first five years here, and checking on their status. (Well, I can tell you their status. 90% of them are broken. Because Iraqis don't do maintainance. And their budget process somehow doesn't allow for hiring people to keep things running. It's a bit of a problem here) But apparently, there needs to be more verification than simply my grumbling. So we took off with a list of grids to find us some water purification facilities. In MRAPs. On clay. When it had just rained. (READ MORE)

Bill and Bob's Excellent Adventure: Information Overload And Memory - These days the data stream is so fat that some basic information becomes lost in the rapidly flowing stream. We all get a general impression of things as we flow through the world, surfing on this swollen and fast-flowing data stream. This rapid information flow sometimes makes us forget information that was there all along. Recently, a question was posed about the Taliban; are they a terrorist organization or an insurgent organization? I've even seen, in American blogs and comment boards, the Taliban referred to as "freedom fighters." We've got issues here in the States with people who identify with our enemies and even sympathize with them. While these people are in the minority, it appears that this minority is growing. (READ MORE)

Houston Central: You never know how much you LOVE phones... - Yep, you never realize how much you LOVE L O V E phones.... Until your husband is serving far far away....and you hang on to every last word he said before he left, playing it over in your head...UNTIL, The phone rings....... Your heart skips a beat.... And behold.....IT"S HIM!!!!!!!!!! My darling...calling me! Just the sound of his voice puts my heart at ease. Emails are awesome...but nothing beats HIS voice! (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Obama the Shiite - It all makes sense now. A friend sent me this link, which explains that many in the Middle East believe that Barack Obama is Shiite. You want proof? The Time magazine story says: "A Pew opinion poll a month ahead of the Nov. 4 election showed that 12% of Americans still thought Obama was a Muslim. There are no reliable statistics on how many in the Middle East believe that, but there's some anecdotal evidence that the notion is especially popular among poor, undereducated Shi'ites in Iran and Iraq." In reality, of course, Obama's father and his ancestors came from Kenya, where Shiite Islam is rare. But that kind of tidbit has never stopped the Middle East rumour mill. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Credit Report - So! These days, Moktada Al Sadr’s not quite as mighty as the mainstream media once thought he was. Back in the day, Mookie was Iraq’s “kingmaker,” a veritable “power broker.” Some of DC’s talking heads predicted that by now, he’d have the country in his pocket. Of course, some actual Iraqis (ahem) tried to tell people that Mookie was little more than a drooling idiot born into an illustrious family. Would they listen? Anyway, that was then. Now, reporting on the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) deal, the LAT writes: “The vote last week was a sign of how Sadr's clout has diminished since 2005.” How so? Says the LAT: “Sadr has lost some political and military run-ins with Maliki. Critics and observers say he has made some missteps.” I like that reference to “some missteps.” Missteps is how Mookie gets from any point A to any point B. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Do we still set a plate? - "Do we still set his plate? Do we still set his chair? Do we still buy him gifts and if we don't did we not care?" ~ Winter by Bayside The holidays are here and as much as I thought I was prepared I'm not. Thanksgiving has come and gone and we are now counting the days until Christmas. Last year I had two trees in my livingroom. The family tree with the ornaments collected and made over the years and a silver tree with red and blue balls on it and a yellow ribbon to top it. I called that one Pokey's tree. He spent Christmas in Baghdad waking up the barracks and blessing his brothers with a candy cane. This year I am not sure what to do. Part of me wants to skip the shopping and decorating and all those things Christmas. Just hearing the carols playing over the speaking today broke me. But Pokey loved Christmas. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Suicide assault targets Khost intelligence headquarters - A three-man suicide team stormed the Khost provincial headquarters of Afghanistan's intelligence service earlier today, killing six intelligence and police officials and wounding seven. The three attackers, likely members of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, dressed National Directorate for Security uniforms and drove a car with Afghan National Police markings up to the main gate of the headquarters and launched their attack, according to a report from the Afghanistan NGO Security Office (ANSO). The attackers threw hand grenades at the guards at the main gate, and then moved onto the second gate. Two of the attackers then exited the vehicle and engaged the guards at the second gate, while the driver detonated the car bomb. According to ANSO, the attack ended there. (READ MORE)

Navy Gal: Kuwait - Well, here I sit in Kuwait waiting on my time to dwindle before getting on that plane back to the States. Having been here at "Camp Cupcake" for the past couple of days I really appreciate my time in Iraq. It's hard to believe 8 months has passed and now my time is done. All the transition is complete and the gear has been dropped. It's not just a matter of time before Iraq and my customs mission is a thing of the past. Crazy how time flies. Before I know it, I'll be on an other plane headed to NYC for the New Year. I want to thank everyone for their support while I was out on this journey. It has been awesome knowing that people I have never met consider me a "friend". (READ MORE)

SPC Mitchell - My Point of View: Soon we will know.... - We will soon know if i'm going to deploy with the unit or not. I have an appoitment with the doctor on the 15th of this month to find out. I'm a little nervous about the whole thing. I hope that I won't need to be cut open but if it needs to be done then so be it. (READ MORE)

Notes from Iraq: 03DEC08--Barefoot Movers and a Female Soldier - We arrived at the Iraqi base, and and I saw the the Iraqis carrying Hesco barriers across the road to abandoned buildings. I spent a lot of time discussing their plans. Afterwards, I noted how Iraqis interact with a female soldier and take to instruction on maintaining a truck. A hesco barrier is sort of like a metal cage lined with fabric. Once filled with dirt, the barrier provides cover and concealment from the enemy. The large hescos are quite heavy, requiring at least eight men to move without dirt. Faced with the problem of not having enough space at their base, the Iraqis have expanded to abandoned buildings across the road and wanted to use hescos for protection around the buildings. (READ MORE)

Rocinante's Burdens: Update - My life has changed a lot. I have a long walk between sleeping area, eating areas and working areas. 10-14 hour days, 6 days a week. Only 6 hours on Sunday. In the past couple of days, I have attended 12 hours of meetings, printed hundreds of Powerpoint slides and then shredded them. The productivity is off the chart. A shame we can't accomplish anything. (READ MORE)

S4 at War: Look Ma, No Thumbs - The military relies on computers for a lot of its day to day activities. Battalion Staff Officers rely on a lot of Power Point slides to brief anything that could possibly be briefed, we use excel trackers to track all of our excel trackers. All of these things get passed back and forth on thumb drives. Thumb drives have become such a staple that we actually issue them to the staff and Company Commanders. Unfortunately, with thumb drives going back and forth across the military it was facilitating the spread of viruses. The solution? We are no longer allowed to use thumb drives. The USB ports on our computers no longer work for anything other than keyboards and mouses (mice?). Fortunately for me, who is plagued with printer shortages, there are printers which are now useless to me because of secondary USB ports. It has also dramatically increased demand on blank CD-RWs, the new thumb drives. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: A Happy Thanksgiving - As I return to the Army today, I got to thinking about how much I enjoyed my Thanksgiving break. Here’s a conversation I had twice in two different cities. “So Adam, what are you up to?” “Well, I’ve been doing some Army training in Little Rock and New Jersey since October. I’ll head back to get more training at the beginning of December.” “Really, why?” “Oh….um, I was moved into a reserve unit that’s deploying to Iraq.” “YOU’RE GOING TO IRAQ!” “Yea” “How long?” “The Army sends people for a year at a time.” “What are you going to do?” “It’s like video news. I’ll get to go all over the country and do stories on soldiers….it’s a pretty good gig. I’m doing a blog that I update pretty regularly called….I’ll send you a link.” (READ MORE)

Zen Traveller: Two Camps In Iraq - I got involved in a discussion the other day with one of the correspondents about her views of the state-of-play here in Iraq. She divides the country's political landscape into two camps; those of the pragmatist and the ideologues. The pragmatists, Iraqi President Maliki being one, realize that the U.S (Coalition) presence is necessary to provide stability to a very volatile society. The Americans are not the "occupying force" that the other camp would have one believe, but are trying desperately to get Iraq to be able to stand on it's own two feet, albeit for selfish reasons. The ideologues, on the other hand, are quite willing to watch Iraq burn so long as there are no American or foreign forces "occupying" the land. They represent the radical Islamists that would rather sacrifice their country and their lives, or more over the lives of their followers, than tolerate the presence of a foreign culture on their land. (READ MORE)

Armed and Curious: The big "if" - An anonymous poster asked me my thoughts on areas where a faster withdrawal is possible so I have been thinking about what it all means. It is a great question on how to speed things up and frankly, one I am underequipped to answer in many ways. However, in my opinion there are opportunities as the political situation there continues to stabilize. The thing about Iraq is that security is in many ways "where you sit". With the fall of the JAM after the government took Sadr City and Basra almost the entire swath from Baghdad south has now dramatically stabilized. As long as the ISF can maintain that security we have a huge opportunity to hand it all over quicker with the added bonus its closer to our exit points in Kuwait. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Tip leads MND-B Soldiers to large cache in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers seized a large munitions cache in Baghdad Dec. 3. Iraqi Army soldiers, Iraqi National Police, and MND-B Soldiers also discovered three additional weapons and munitions caches throughout the day. Soldiers serving with 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, acted on a tip from an Iraqi citizen leading them to a cache in Kadhamiyah at approximately 11 p.m. (READ MORE)

NPs confiscate weapons in Aamel - BAGHDAD – Iraqi Security Forces confiscated weapons during a clearance operation Dec. 3 in southern Baghdad’s Rashid district. Iraqi National Police from the 2nd Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd NP Division, confiscated a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, six AK-47 assault rifles, an RPK machine gun, a rifle scope, four PKC ammunition cans and an undisclosed amount of small-arms ammunition at approximately 11:30 a.m. in the Aamel community. (READ MORE)

NPs, MND-B Soldiers detain suspected ‘Special Groups’ criminal in Rashid - BAGHDAD –Iraqi National Police and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers detained a suspected Special Groups criminal during an operation Dec. 3 in southern Baghdad’s Rashid district. Policemen from the 2nd Battalion, 5th Brigade, 2nd NP Division and Soldiers from Company A, 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, , detained the man, suspected of murder and distributing propaganda, at approximately 5:30 p.m. in the Aamel community. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army presents gift to Nabi Younis mosque - MOSUL, Iraq – An Iraqi Army commanding general presented a replica great whale’s tooth to Nabi Younis, the famed mosque of the Prophet Jonah, Nov. 30. Maj. Gen. Abdullah Kareem, commander of the 2nd IA Division, presented the gift to the mosque’s Imam, who is also president of the Sunni Clerics in Mosul. (READ MORE)

Clean water - a first for millions of Sadr City residents - Baghdad, Iraq - “I am very happy for the 2 million people of Sadr City. I have been working here at the R-3 Water Treatment Plant for more than three years, since the start of the project. It’s the first in Iraq, fully automatic and with American standards of best quality. We meet the people in the streets of Sadr City and they are very happy. (READ MORE)

Four terrorists killed, 32 detained as AQI continues to crumble - BAGHDAD – Coalition forces dealt a heavy blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq networks during multiple operations throughout the country Wednesday and Thursday, killing four terrorists and detaining 32 additional suspects. During two coordinated operations in Kirkuk on Wednesday, forces targeted suspected AQI courier believed to conspire directly with AQI leadership in Tamim province. (READ MORE)

Terrorists target IP checkpoint - MOSUL, Iraq – A suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near an Iraqi Police checkpoint in a Shia neighborhood in Tal Afar, Dec. 2 killing five Iraqi civilians. Initial reports indicate 27 Iraqi civilians and one IP were also wounded in the blast. (READ MORE)

Push cart explodes near school - MOSUL, Iraq – An improvised explosive device exploded outside a primary school in the Al Sideeq neighborhood in northeast Mosul Dec 2. Initial reports indicate four Iraqi children and one adult dead with four children and one adult wounded. (READ MORE)

Day two of Article 32 hearing includes additional testimonies - BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Testimonies for an Article 32 hearing into allegations of detainee mistreatment by two Soldiers continued Tuesday at Forward Operating Base Salerno. This was the second day of the hearing, which could conclude as early as Wednesday. Five witnesses testified in Tuesday’s session. (READ MORE)

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