December 17, 2008

From the Front: 12/17/2008

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

In their own words:
Bouhammer: AFGHANISTAN IS NOT IRAQ!!! - I don’t think this is a good idea and I have to say I am not looking forward to seeing the outcome. The Afghan military and in fact the entire government is corrupt to the highest levels. This is a known fact and not a new revelation from the Bouhammer. The steps that worked in Iraq were great for Iraq. AFGHANISTAN IS NOT IRAQ!!! It isn’t. Anyone that has been to both, to include many in the recently returned 2/7 Marines will tell you that Afghanistan it nothing like Iraq. When I give my briefings on Afghanistan I tell people that there has been no other war in our lifetime like the one in Afghanistan. The only thing that is similar is that people die the same. They bleed the same, and they are ripped apart by IEDs the same. That is about the extent of it. (READ MORE)

Afghanistan Shrugged: Illum, Ilum Where for art Thou? - The sweat under my IBA and in my ACUs is starting to freeze, I can feel it against my skin. I'm wishing right now that I'd put on some long underwear before we'd come out here, it's too late for that now. Currently, we're holding about 200 meters short of the target khalat, it's aprox 2330. The moon has finally risen giving us better illumination than when we started this about 4 hours ago. In this shallow wadi are a platoon of US infantry, a company of ANA infantry. We're watching the khalat from a defilade position waiting for the ANP, Afghan National Police., who are making their way across about 400 meters of plowed fields. As soon as they get here we're going to jump off on the last stage of this operation. In a small cluster are the US platoon sgt, Kandak Commander, one of my captains and me. As we talk in hushed whispers about how we're going to move up this khalat and search it, we each look like something out of a scifi movie. (READ MORE)

Down Range 46: A Letter To The Parents of Our Soldiers - By Top: Dear Parent, Twenty-one years ago, I joined the U.S. Army. Memories were still somewhat fresh about the War in Viet Nam back then and when I told my parents I had made a decision to join up and serve my country, they were supportive, but reticent. I was 24 years old then and so I'm sure my parents felt that outright discouragement would be counterproductive. I didn't quite understand their lack of full-on support back then. "They should be happy about my desire to do my patriotic duty," I thought. I wanted them to feel and see my decision the same way I did. Today, I have three children, I got started late on the family thing and so my family is pretty young - ranging in age from one month to three years. Today my eyes are wide open to why my parents might have felt less than fully supportive of my decision. I'm sure they were proud that I had taken my life by the horns, made a decision about how I would support myself and so on. (READ MORE)

Free Range International: Fab Lab Jalalabad - A lot is going on in the Taj Fab Lab and it’s pretty exciting. The lab was deployed quite recently - equipment and I hit the ground in June 2008 - so expectations from all of our supporters and critics alike were quite low. Nonetheless the lab has already seen tremendous activity and growth in meaningful ways, even during the long slow ramp-up. We’re having some angst over long term support and funding but for the moment at least activity in the lab is exceeding expectations. Each day approximately 45 users come to the lab and patiently deal with power and network and other issues and have been cranking out simple projects in staggering quantities. They have self-organized a system where some of the more advanced students hold classes and workshops for newer or less advanced users. There is a mix of genders, ages, background, ethnicities, and economic status. (READ MORE)

Jake's Life: Memorial - Friday was our memorial service for the 20 men that we lost in Afghanistan. There's really nothing to write about regarding it. The weather was fittingly dark and gloomy, lots of friends and family of the deceased were present. For my old platoon, Golf-3, many former members, now out of the Marine Corps, came back to help us honor the dead. I hadn't seen many of them in a very long time. Brian Wilson, who skipped his graduation ceremony from Texas Tech, Steve 'Machine Gun' Wherry and his wife, expecting their first child, Anthony Williams, rocking out in his grunge goatee (I expected nothing less), and many more all showed up to offer support. The magnitude of the number didn't really strike until the Sergeant Major called final roll. The first three or four names he read out were met with instant "Here sergeant major", the final twenty that he called were met only with silence. (READ MORE)

Knottie's Niche: Christmas With the Troops - About a week ago I was asked by a Solider in Afghanistan what I thought about doing a blogtalk radio show for the troops. A show that the guys who are way from home this Christmas could send in messages and have them read, request songs and hear greetings from home. Instantly I was smiling. One I was thrilled with the idea and two honored that those who are serving would ask me to be involved. They had already contacted one host and I was able to help bring 2 other shows on board with this project. I want to thank the man who's idea this was, Cpt Kevin, for not only thinking of this but for involving me. Please if you can join us... it should be a fun and touching evening. Three Blog Talk Radio shows are banding together to air a six hour Christmas show that is all for the troops. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban desecrate body of slain opposing tribal leader - The Taliban have defeated the primary tribal opposition organized against it in the insurgency-wracked district of Swat in Pakistan's northwest. The leader of the tribal resistance was killed and two of his aides were beheaded last weekend after the Taliban overran the region controlled by the opposition. Pir Samiullah, a rival tribal and religious leader opposing Mullah Fazlullah's forces in the Matta region of Swat, and eight of his followers were killed in a Taliban assault on Dec. 16. Two of his aides were subsequently beheadeed in public, while an estimated 40 of his followers have been captured. "The Taliban also torched the houses of Samiullah and 15 elders of his group," Daily Times reported. After Samiullah was buried, the Taliban returned, dug up his body and hanged it in public. The Taliban made an example of Samiullah and those who oppose Fazlullah rule. (READ MORE)

Navy Gal: Is this it?? - Is this what I have to look forward to now? Days filled with wishing I was anywhere else but home. I don't fit in here. I went to the mall yesterday and as I was walking around I felt so alone in a crowded place. For the past 10 months I have been surrounded by people who knew exactly what I was going through because they were going through it right along with me. Now, I'm thrust back into a world that could care less. Their biggest worry is cutting you off to get to the red sweater across the aisle before you do. I don't think we could have come back from deployment at a worse time of year.....Christmas. (READ MORE)

Pink's War: Christmas Shopping - Let me start off by saying I am not one of those females that enjoys shopping. I don't shop, I purchase. I get in, get what I need, and get out. And I hate crowds in stores. Which is why I absolutely loathe Christmas shopping. Thankfully, this year, I did all of it online. I think I got all my Christmas shopping done. I went crazy with the kids, I got my bonus back in October and just went wild. 12,000 spent on clothes, toys, comforter sets, and all kinds of fun stuff for them, with a few new toys for me also. Yes, I bought myself a few things for Christmas. I got a couple new dresses (I am in love with the 50's style pin-up dresses!), a couple pairs of sexy heels, a 1TB external harddrive, a new digital camera, a new cell phone, and an 80GB Zune. I may have bought a bit much for the kids, but seeing as how the ex didn't leave me with anything and we're having to start over from scratch, I don't see it as being too horribly excessive. (READ MORE)

Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army: Counting the days... - Counting the days...yep. That's about the highlight of my days. Knowing that I'm another day closer to getting the heck out of here! OH the things that I have to look forward to when I get home....and the things I don't have to look forward to...ah we won't think about that stuff for now. I'm not REALLY excited about going home's close, but not that close. I know some of my group is really getting excited, but I don't think it will hit me until we have about a week or so left. It doesn't seem like I've been here that long, but I guess I have. Unfortunately, I have some friends that are leaving pretty soon. I'm gonna miss those guys and gals. I can't say that for everyone over here I have contact with...but the folks up here that are going home I'll miss 'em. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: Urinalysis - Now I’m officially in the Army. I’ve participated in my first unit 100% urinalysis since I was last on active duty in 2000. First Sergeant Hammons, my old 1SG at A Co. 125 Signal, never believed in random drug testing. He always did a 100% unit test (that’s where everyone gets tested, period). It’s a great way to get back at people. Any NCO (sergeant) that’s been acting up is always assigned as an observer. That’s where they get to watch the testee pee into a bottle and keep positive control of the sample. Sometimes when a soldier doesn’t like this certain NCO, it’s not beyond them to splash a little on the outside of the bottle. The observer has gloves on, but they still have to touch the warm bottle. Gross is gross. The NCO’s with the biggest mouths get to administer the entire test. (READ MORE)

S4 at War: Reporting - A unit’s staff section thrives on reports from subordinate units and sometimes those reporting requirements get carried away. For example, once a month I have to report to my Brigade the number of flame retardant ACUs my unit has. In case you missed that; monthly I have to report the number of a specific type of uniform on hand in my Battalion. I also have to report how many pairs of gloves and host of other safety equipment. My Brigade requires the report because our Division requires it. That is one of about 15 other reports I have to compile and send up weekly/monthly (the all important mileage report for the pickup trucks we have is one of them-I try not to waste too much brain power figuring out who needs that but he should probably have some of his free time taken away). (READ MORE)

S4 at War: PVC Pipe? - I spend a significant amount of government money with Iraqi and third country national vendors who can get supplies I need quickly. I recently had to purchase a monumental amount of PVC pipe. A resourceful Indian guy who we sometimes work with said he could get us what we needed. A few days later he showed up with 4000 ft of coiled up plastic hosing, nothing even remotely close to PVC pipe. I told him I couldn’t use it, that its not PVC pipe to which he replied, “I know sir, the PVC pipe is very expensive, this much cheaper.” I cut the guy some slack since this was a rare break from the norm (the norm being he-and all local vendors-gouge us for as much money as is humanly possible knowing full well that we don’t have many options). (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: Burn Before Reading - I smoked a La Gloria Cubana Churchill while I composed this. “Hey staff sergeant,” my first sergeant calls to me. “Yes, first sergeant?” I say. “You can’t smoke over there,” he responds. I am standing at our company’s burn barrel. The burn barrel is a 55 gallon drum that is used to burn sensitive documents. One of the jobs in the TOC on the night shift is to burn sensitive documents that were created during the day. I am burning documents and smoking simultaneously. “First sergeant,” I respond. “What you are saying is that I can’t smoke a cigar while I am burning documents.” “No” he says. “I’m saying that FOB rules state that you can’t smoke within 50 feet of any equipment.” I look down at the burn barrel that is belching acrid black smoke. Someone must have tossed out a document that was still in a plastic binder. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Tip leads MND-B Soldiers to weapons cache - BAGHDAD - Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers found a weapons cache south of Baghdad Dec. 16. At approximately 11:50 a.m., a local citizen showed MND-B Soldiers from the 65th Military Police Company, 793rd MP Battalion, 8th MP Brigade, a weapons cache consisting of 23 57 mm projectiles, an 82 mm mortar and four bottles of unknown bulk explosive material south of the Mahmudiyah area of Baghdad. (READ MORE)

IA, MND-B Soldiers confiscate weapons in Karadah - BAGHDAD - Iraqi Army soldiers and Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers attached to 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division confiscated illegally-possessed weapons and associated items in Baghdad's Karadah district Dec 15. Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 37th Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division, and Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment conducted a clearance mission in Muhalla 969 and found several illegal- weapons. The Soldiers confiscated 12 AK-47 assault rifles, 10 AK-47 magazines, four 9 mm pistols and four 9 mm magazines. (READ MORE)

1 NP, 2 civilians killed, 13 wounded in IED attack - BAGHDAD - One National Policeman and two civilians were killed and 13 wounded in an improvised explosive device attack in central Baghdad Dec. 16. At approximately 3 p.m., Soldiers from Company D, 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Brigade, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, responded to an explosion in the Rusafa district targeting a NP patrol. The wounded were evacuated to area hospitals. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces transfer 39 high-value detainees to Iraqi authorities - Baghdad – Multi-National Force – Iraq’s Task Force 134 – Detainee Operations transferred custody of 39 high-value detainees who were former members of the regime of Saddam Hussein to the Government of Iraq, Monday, Dec. 15. The detainees were all transferred from the Coalition theater internment facility at Camp Cropper in Baghdad to an Iraqi-controlled prison. These detainees are all either already convicted or are scheduled to stand trial in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Army achieves milestone at Bayji National Ammo Depot - BAJI - The Iraqi Army achieved a new milestone in their path towards self-sufficiency on Dec. 14 when Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq’s Coalition Army Advisory Training Team - Logistics Military Advisory Team contingent departed Bayji National Ammunition Depot. The Iraqi Forces accepted full depot management and all associated operational control at BNAD for the Iraqi Ministry of Defense at a ceremony in late September 2008. (READ MORE)

Department of Border Enforcement, Coalition Forces Ground Smuggling Operations - CONTIGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER — The 2nd Battalion, 11th Iraqi Department of Border Enforcement, partnered with Soldiers of the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, to assist the Iraqi Security Forces in the disruption of smuggling networks in November. The American troops used air assets on a mission that began at the al Hawayza Border Fort. The operation was led on the ground by DBE personnel. (READ MORE)

Women’s Newspaper 'Tackles' Issues in Southern Iraq - BASRA — Honor killings, high numbers of widows and a need for a women’s prison are among the topics covered in a new publication targeted toward women in the Southern Iraqi region. The Southern Woman newspaper, Al Jenubia, hit the streets of Basrah, Nasiriya and Amarra with its first edition last month. (READ MORE)

Basra Receives Boost in Clean Water - BASRA — Basra Province will soon see a dramatic increase in the availability of clean water. The $9.5 million water project will increase the Qurmat Ali water facility’s capacity from 4,000 to 16,000 cubic meters per hour. Mahmood Lafta, Basra water directorate’s design team chief, says the facility’s production will be sufficient to meet the needs of most neighborhoods throughout the province. (READ MORE)

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