December 10, 2008

From the Front: 12/10/2008

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

In their own words:
Bouhammer: No lull in fighting? I am withholding opinion - I will withhold my opinion for now. I am sure the 101st is doing great things in Afghanistan, but the comments in this article almost sound like the self-indulging comments made by BG Votel last winter about the 82nd. The US Army and coalition forces don’t sit back and relax in the winter. It is not like every winter has meant snow-angel making and snowball fights for the US soldiers in country. The reason the fighting has been light in the winter is because there is typically nobody to fight. In most places, except Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz and other provinces in the southern end of the country, the Taliban and Taliban supported fighters head back across the border and spend their winters in Pakistan (this is also becuase many of the enemy are Pak-Mil, Pakistan ISI or at least supported by them). This is a known fact. (READ MORE)

Back on the Homefront: We get to see him Friday!! - So it has been confirmed through the FRG phone tree that we get to see Micah on Friday! Only three more!! I was actually watching TV while I worked out tonight and there was a commercial for a Christmas show on next week that I thought the boys might like to watch. Suddenly, it hit me that we can watch it as a FAMILY!!!! It seems like forever since we've been a whole family and I can't wait to get back to doing things together! I told Evan that daddy comes home on "show and share" day, so he's VERY excited too! He's already been planning things for them to do together and has actually set aside some of the Halloween candy (yes, we're still eating it!) that was too hard and said daddy could have it. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: Why I'm not allowed to go anywhere fun - It's Eid right now (the week of feasting after Ramadan), so there's not much going on in the Civil Affairs world. We could go out and annoy the locals during their holiday, but decided that would be unsmart. Instead, we packed up our MRAP and headed out on a two-day vacation to Camp Comfy - where our company headquarters is located. We were packing up yesterday before we hit the road. The Boss lives over near me, and the boys were pulling the truck around, so my front porch was a staging point. The Boss and I were having smokes and discussing my recent mouse-killing spree. Yes, sir. Look in that box right there. There's like six in there. I waved toward the trash box into which I'd deposited the night's mice. The Boss looked. Pondered a second. What are you going to do with those? (READ MORE)

Cheese's Milblog: Done. - Today was my last patrol. Ever. I didn't even realize it until I was carrying my guns to the weapon locker. It was definitely fitting that I end my career in the turret, as that's where I've spent my best time as a soldier. It feels great...but not nearly as good as American soil(read: snow) will feel under my feet. The people replacing us are competent and reasonably excited to take over. I'm proud of my guys for not infecting them with the attitude that most of us carry after a tour as SECFOR in Pogueland. I'm guessing that my platoon's new found enthusiasm is in part due to the number of females that are flooding our FOB. This has been problematic for us, though. You may think that you can imagine what kind of conversations take place within an all-male Infantry unit, but you really have no idea. (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: Funeral - Yesterday was Rob's funeral. It was beautiful. Again, the Patriot Guard showed up holding flags outside the auditorium and a bell was being rung. During the service they had a 16x20 photograph of Rob in uniform in front of a flag. I looked at it most of the service. That picture made it feel like he was right there. They played a slide show before and after the service. My friend Nancy is going to put it on here when she gets the chance so everyone can see it. She did an amazing job. Thanks, Nancy. After the service we went to the cemetary. The police were in front with the Patriot Guards on their bikes, then Rob, and then more Patriot Guards leading us to the site. It was so surreal that the 21 gun salute and presentation of the flag was for MY husband. I still can't believe he's gone. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Irregular Warfare - Recently the Pentagon released a Department of Defense Directive on Irregular Warfare. This has been greeted with a few articles in the press and much discussion amongst the various players on the ground in Afghanistan. When you see documents that say “The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff strongshall/strong…” that is a powerful piece of paper from on high and thus to be treated with a certain amount of reverence by military aficionados. There are a finite number of people in the world who can task four star generals or deputy secretaries of defense so guys like us pay attention when they publish directives. Professionals in the business study them if they were the Dead Sea Scrolls. We engage in endless discussions about meaning, intent, who wrote it, what it will mean on the ground; really boring stuff to normal folks. This comment came from a discussion thread amongst a group I correspond with regularly. (READ MORE)

Lt. Col. Paul Fanning: The end is near - The 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the New York Army National Guard is nearing the end of its tour in its mission as Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix VII. The 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team of the Illinois Army National Guard is slated to succeed the 27th as Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix VII following a formal Transfer of Authority later this month. Col. Brian K. Balfe, commander of the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, took command April 26 at Camp Phoenix, Kabul. The reorganized task force presently comprises more than 8,000 servicemen and women from all U.S. branches, including Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, coalition military partners and civilian professionals, spread over nearly 260 Forward Operating Bases throughout Afghanistan. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Bush's Children - Some writers try to come off as concerned about Iraq's civilians. They even say that it's wrong to use them as political pawns. But actually that's all Iraqis are to the mainstream media. The journalists hate George Bush so much that they put the Iraqi population in the same recycle bin with Bush. One example is Gary Kamiya, who writes in Salon about the security agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, and says it's one big yawn. He says that "the American people tuned out the Iraq war long ago." Perhaps they did. But Kamiya, who writes as though he is the conscience of war observers, might ask why people tuned out the war. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Jaish-e-Mohammed leader placed under ‘house arrest’ - Pakistan has placed Masood Azhar, the founder and leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, under house arrest in the wake of mounting international pressure to act against terror groups involved with the Nov. 26 terror attacks in Mumbai, India. Security forces have reportedly surrounded Azhar’s home in Bahawalpur and are preventing him from traveling. Azhar is one of an estimated 20 Pakistani terrorists wanted by India for their role in the Mumbai attacks. Azhar is a long-time jihadi who trained at the same religious seminary as Afghanistan Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Azhar was released from an Indian jail in exchange for hostages held in an Indian Airlines flight hijacking in December 1999. Azhar’s brother, Mohammed Ibrahim Athar Alvi, took part in the hijacking. (READ MORE)

Almo - My Point of View: Icy Surprise Conjures Up Fond Memory - I woke up this morning thinking 'blah blah blah, just another day', till I walked out of my room at the EZ and was greeted by an icy surprise. A thin fresh layer of snow covered everything as far as my eyes could see. For a minute, I was transported back in time to one of my fondest memories. While staying at a resort hotel in Germany, mid winter, I had the privilege of swimming in an indoor/outdoor pool. I saw people swimming in the outdoor section and thought 'they must be insane; it's cold and it's snowing out there'. But the joy on their faces could not be ignored. I was eventually drawn beneath the threshold that separated the indoor folk from the out door folk and was immediately overcome by the thrill of it all. I felt like I was in a living, breathing 'snow globe'. (READ MORE)

SPC Alperin - My Point of View: Soldier stays in top form with public affairs duties - His recruiter wanted him to be a fire direction control specialist, someone who determines the trajectory of rounds needed to hit targets coming from various weapons. But, the 24-year old from Bountiful, Utah, knew that working with angles associated with artillery were not the kind of angles best suited for him. He wanted to be a journalist and tell the stories of fire direction control specialists. Fortunately, the recruiter found a position at the 426th Medical Unit in Salt Lake City, and Anthony J. Martinez found his calling. These days, 1st Sgt. Martinez is training for another deployment to Baghdad, Iraq. His schedule has temporarily taken him away from a position at the U.S. Army Reserve Command Headquarters in Washington, D.C. (READ MORE)

SGT Heise - My Point of View: Not Just A Great Band From The 70's - Well, my fellow 211th members and I have been through a lot over these past couple of months. Blood, Sweat and Tears...most of us have experienced 2 out of the 3 at some point during our time together...but yesterday we hit the triple. Bloody Sunday I think would be an appropriate thing to call it. It was I.V. stick day. Now, having been with this group for a while, I've learned that I can trust them. (well, most of them!) They've pulled me into a second story window, yanked me to my feet when I'd fallen and couldn't get up (some of this equipment is crazy heavy!) I've seen them clear rooms, hurl grenades and fire machine guns with the greatest of ease, but somehow putting my very small veins in their medically untrained hands didn't seem so appealing. (READ MORE)

1LT Sarratt - My Point of View: I've been around! - "No #*&% there I was..." seems to be a standard preamble to all of my conversations with the young Soldiers of the 211th MPAD. Me being the "Oldest living 1LT" in the Army today, I have succumbed to the fact that if it happened anytime before today, I was probably there. For example; I served wine at the last supper, I participated in the Civil War alongside General Lee and some say I even helped sign the Declaration of Independence. I don't want to shatter anyone's illusions of grandeur about me, so I keep quiet. In reality, I only got to stomp on the grapes, work in the blacksmith shop where he kept his horse and was the hired help in the printing office. (READ MORE)

Rocinante's Burdens: Day 173. Big Events - Today I took a dump in one of Saddam's toilets. The most expensive toilet I have ever used. That said, it did have a few deficiencies. The solid gold toilet seat had been removed and replaced by an ill-fitting cheapest-plastic-toilet-seat-that-money-can-buy. The Bidet was full of toilet paper rolls. The sink had no paper towels. I hope someone remembered where they put the gold toilet seats. I hear we have to restore these palaces to original condition when we leave. (yes, that is the kind of treaty American diplomats would sign). Other than that... Nothing. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Can’t Touch This - It’s underreported, but sexual assault is an ongoing battle within the military. Seattle PI reporter Robert Jamieson Jr. recently wrote an article about Suzanne Swift, a 21-yr old specialist who went AWOL when she found out she’d be returning to Iraq. During her first tour, she was a victim of “command rape,” which is described as doing something sexually because you’re told to do. Her superiors would proposition her and when she refused, talk to her like she was an idiot in front of her peers. One SGT made her feel like she had no other choice but to sleep with him, because otherwise he’d make her life a living hell. Swift is now confined at Fort Lewis, Washington and officials are looking into her claims. Things like this give the military a bad name, but I think we need to take a good look into our organization and open our eyes to what is happening to our soldiers. I have no doubt that her stories are fact. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: New Jersey: Part Deux - The unit got back to Fort Dix this past Saturday the sixth. We were greeted with the wi-fi internet shut down on post because of a security breach. I don’t know how they can do that, but they sure did. I’ll talk about some of the things we’ve done over the next few days. This post is going to stay short because bandwidth is short and we just got out of a two-hour long brief on counter insurgency (COIN). If you want to get a taste of the two hour brief, read Dr. David Kilcullen’s brief on COIN (via Abu Muqawama COIN reading list). He is kind of a big deal in the COIN community. The night before we left, we had our 343rd Christmas Party at the Clinton Library. It was a nice and casual event where the staff all volunteered their time. (READ MORE)

The Gun Line: Father! The Sleeper Has Awakened!!! - Well, sports fans… This is it. This is where all of the hard work has led to. All of the preparations, all of the drills, all of the self-development. All of it… I’m here. In Iraq. Four years ago, you could have told me that I would be sitting in the middle of Iraq, where so many stories of valor, of sacrifice, of grit, and of fighting prowess have been written in the annals of military history in the blood, sweat, and tears of those who have gone before, and I would have looked at you like you had grown a second head. Four years later, I am here, and I am content to be here. In a few days, there will be a ceremony, where those who currently wear no insignia on their upper right arm (if they be Soldiers), will gain the right to adorn their upper right sleeve with the insignia of the brigade, the brigade that took them to war. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Iraqi families get sheep in Kut - FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – The Wasit Farmer’s Union provided sheep to 205 families in and around al Kut Dec. 8 to help compensate for a lack of meat in their diets. The Farmer’s Union procured the sheep and designated the families needing them most. The purchase was facilitated by U.S. forces, said Capt. John Manion, a Civil Affairs officer with the Wasit Provincial Reconstruction Team. (READ MORE)

SoI, MND-B Soldiers find weapons caches in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – At approximately 8:50 a.m., a Sons of Iraq member found four artillery rounds near the Nissan Village east of Baghdad. The SoI turned the munitions, which consisted of a 125 mm round, a 115 mm round, a 106 mm round and a 100 mm round, to Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers from Company C, 4th Battalion, 27th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division. (READ MORE)

Lightning strikes twice (Tikrit) - TIKRIT, Iraq – The 25th Infantry Division uncased its unit colors and took responsibility for operations in Multi-National Division – North during a ceremony held at Contingency Operating Base Speicher Dec, 9. The Tropic Lightning Division, from Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, returned to the same region of Iraq, and same base, where it served during a 15-month deployment in 2006-07. (READ MORE)

Iraqi medics complete aeromedical evacuation course (MNSTC-I) - New Al Muthana Air Base, Iraq - Instructors from the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, San Antonio, Texas, graduated 14 Iraqi air force medics from an Aeromedical Evacuation Basics Course here Dec. 4. The graduation ceremony was the culmination of 12 days of training that ended with a patient movement exercise requiring the students to prepare a C-130 for in-flight patient care. (READ MORE)

Forces target AQI in central Iraq: one terrorist killed, 18 suspects in custody - BAGHDAD – One terrorist was killed and 18 suspects were detained during Coalition force operations targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq leadership and bombing networks in central Iraq Tuesday and Wednesday. Coalition forces further disrupted terrorist command and control nodes Tuesday, detaining three suspects during an operation targeting an AQI leader in Bayji, about 160 km south of Mosul. (READ MORE)

Route Clearance Academy graduates third, final class - TALLIL, Iraq – The 555th Engineer Brigade’s 14th Engineer Battalion, concluded their Route Clearance Academy on December 2nd by graduating the third and final class of Iraqi Army Engineers. The Route Clearance Academy was an important aspect of the critical partnership mission of the brigade in an effort to turn missions and responsibilities over to the people and government of Iraq. (READ MORE)

NP, MND-B Soldiers detain suspected criminals in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Iraqi National Police and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers detained five suspected terrorists and Special Groups criminals in Baghdad Dec. 8-9. Policemen with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st National Police Division, arrested two suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq members east of Baghdad at approximately 6:30 a.m., Dec. 8. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Police Graduate Over 900 in Mosul - MOSUL — Iraq’s police force continues to add to their growing numbers after 926 police recruits graduated Dec. 7 from the Mosul Police Service Academy. During the four-week course, the recruits were trained in weapons marksmanship, basic police skills and hand-to-hand tactics. (READ MORE)

Japan Marks End Mission in Iraq - BAGHDAD — The Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force held an end of mission ceremony at Al Faw Palace to commemorate the conclusion of their operations in Iraq with Coalition forces, Dec. 6. Japan showed its support to the mission with a military force of more than 600 Soldiers supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. (READ MORE)

ANSF, Coalition forces provide medical assistance to more than 900 Afghans in Kandahar province - KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces medics provided medical treatment to more than 900 Afghan villagers in Qalat District, Kandahar province, Dec. 5-6. With the assistance of district government officials, the combined forces medical team treated a variety of illnesses including the flu and other cold weather related ailments. Medications and toys were distributed to patients. (READ MORE)

Afghan forces lead security efforts in Helmand province - KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and Coalition forces killed four militants in separate clashes yesterday, in Nar Surkh district, Helmand province, located approximately 160 km west of Kandahar. The combined forces were conducting a combat security patrol when they were attacked by militants using small-arms firing from an illegal check point. The combined forces responded with small-arms and heavy weapons fire, killing two militants. (READ MORE)

ANP, Coalition forces disrupt Haqqani terrorist network in Khost - KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan National Police and Coalition forces detained nine suspected militants during a combined operation to disrupt the Haqqani terrorist network in Khost province, Monday. The combined operation in Khost District, approximately 150 km southeast of Kabul, targeted a Haqqani commander known to direct and assist with the movement of weapons and foreign fighters into the region. (READ MORE)

Afghan Commandos prevent assassination of Nangarhar Provincial Governor - KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army Commandos, assisted by Coalition forces detained suicide IED facilitator Zia Rahman in Jalalabad City, Nangarhar Province, located approximately 230 kilometers east of Kabul. After receiving credible information from local officials on an impending assassination plot against governor Sherzai, the Nangarhar Provincial Governor, ANA Commandos conducted a raid on a Taliban safe house in Jalalabad City. Within minutes of entering the home, the commandos detained Zia Rahman, aka “Hamid”, the individual responsible for transporting and training the potential suicide bomber. (READ MORE)

ANSF, Coalition forces disrupt terrorist activities in Helmand province - KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces killed six militants during a security patrol Sunday in Sangin District, Helmand province, located approximately 105 km northeast of Kandahar. The combined forces positively identified an armed enemy reconnaissance element posing an imminent threat to the patrol and engaged it with small-arms fire and killed two militants. In a separate incident the combined forces received enemy small-arms fire from militants in a concealed position along the patrol route. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces disrupt terrorist networks in Kapisa - KABUL, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed three armed militants and detained four suspected militants during operations to disrupt the Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) terrorist network in Kapisa province, Saturday. The operations in Tagab District, located about 50 km northeast of Kabul, targeted a HIG commander known to facilitate the movement of weapons and foreign fighters into the region. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces maintain pressure on terrorist network in Paktika - KABUL, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed two armed militants and detained five suspected militants during an operation targeting the Taliban terrorist network in Paktika province, Friday Coalition forces searched a compound in Ziruk (Zerok) District, located approximately 150 km south of Kabul, targeting a local Taliban commander suspected of foreign fighter and weapons facilitation. (READ MORE)

Afghan, Coalition forces provide medical care in southern Afghanistan - KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan and Coalition forces medical personnel Tuesday treated 120 Afghan civilians at a clinic in Nahr Surkh District, Helmand province, in southern Afghanistan. Medics treated the local villagers, mostly women and children, for a variety of minor illnesses, burns, cuts and abrasions at a nearby Coalition clinic. Many received medication for existing health conditions. (READ MORE)

ANSF, Coalition forces attacked, respond by killing 4 militants in Helmand - KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces killed four militants Thursday in Nar Surkh District, Helmand province, in southern Afghanistan. The combined forces were conducting a combat security patrol when militants attacked from a wooded area, using small-arms and machine-gun fire. ANSF and Coalition forces responded, killing four militants. No ANSF, Coalition forces or civilian casualties have been reported. (READ MORE)

ANSF, Coalition forces disrupt militant activities in western Afghanistan - KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces, assisted by Coalition forces, detained three suspected militants Wednesday in Shindand District, Heart province, in the far western part of Afghanistan. Afghan National Army Commandos used the early morning operation to target an area suspected of being the headquarters for an improvised explosive device cell operating in the Zer-e-koh Valley. (READ MORE)

ANSF, Coalition forces kill seven in Nad Ali - KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces killed seven insurgents in the Nad Ali district, located approximately 515 km southwest of Kabul, Helmand province, Tuesday. The combined forces were conducting a combat reconnaissance patrol when they were engaged by militants from multiple fighting positions using small-arms, indirect and rocket fire. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces disrupt road-side bomb cell in Ghazni - KABUL, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed three armed Taliban militants and detained one suspected Taliban militant during an operation to disrupt the Taliban’s terrorist network in Ghazni province, Tuesday. In Andar District, located 200 km southwest of Kabul, Coalition forces targeted a known Taliban militant believed to coordinate and direct the Taliban’s terrorist activities in Ghazni. (READ MORE)

ANSF, Coalition forces building bridges for community - KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers from the 205th Corps and Coalition forces celebrated with local villagers Monday at a ribbon-cutting for a new low-water bridge near Kandahar city. The new bridge, called the Commando Bridge, will provide easier access to areas around the city, including a bazaar, a school under construction, and a nearby highway. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces continue to target Haqqani network in Paktia - KABUL, Afghanistan – For the third time in as many days, Coalition forces targeted the Haqqani terrorist network’s Islamic Jihadist Union (IJU) and foreign fighter groups in Paktia, and detained three suspected terrorists Monday. The operation in Zadran district, located 135 km south of Kabul, targeted a known Haqqani militant believed to be in direct contact with senior Haqqani leaders and to coordinate and direct terrorist activities aimed at destabilizing the region. (READ MORE)

US Rep. Murtha visits Camp Eggers, Afghanistan - KABUL, Afghanistan — Service members at Camp Eggers shared breakfast with Rep. John P. Murtha, D-Pa, House of Appropriations Committee-Defense Subcommittee delegation during a visit on Nov. 30, to Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan headquarters. Service members from the state of Pennsylvania had the opportunity to ask questions of their representative. Murtha talked to the military members on various subjects such as Stop-Loss and Tri-Care. (READ MORE)

ANSF, Coalition forces disrupt militants narcotics activities - KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan commandos from the 205th Kandak and Coalition forces conducted a search in southern Afghanistan Sunday that yielded narcotics, weapons and bomb-making caches. The combined forces air assaulted into an area near Maywand District, Kandahar province, about 75 kilometers west of Kandahar city. (READ MORE)

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