January 19, 2009

From the Front: 01/19/2009

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

In their own words:
A Battlefield Tourist: Three Choppers Down in Afghanistan in Three Days; 14 Dead - US forces in Kunar Province, Afghanistan are investigating a downed helicopter that killed a service man January 17. The US military says seven people were on the CH-47 when it went down amidst ground fire while supporting an ISAF mission. The military is classifying the crash as a “hard landing” and say the cause of the crash is still under investigation. The day before, on January 16, a HH-60 Pave Hawk crash landed while on a medical mission. No one was injured. The chopper and crew are an Air National Guard Unit based out of Westhampton, New York. The chopper and crew is part of a 100 member deployment of the 106th Rescue Wing based out of Gabreski Airport on Long Island. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: Not-Fun-Fridays - Friday being the Muslim Sunday, is the day when we tend to have meetings and that sort of thing. So Fridays around here are usually dull and irritating. Today was no exception, and when I sat down to try to put something thoughtful together, I realized that about a half-page in, I was finding a lot of grumpy rage. So I though, the heck with that - I'll post a couple of pictures! Here we have Good Dinner at the FOB. Why is is it good, you ask? Because Roommate and I cooked it ourselves, on the grill. That's a nice slice of canned ham, some canned taters cooked in foil with garlic salt and butter, canned mushrooms and green beans. It was outstanding, which is kinda sad. But, it wasn't boiled, which put it miles ahead of chowhall food. And the other I have to share with you today has a special importance for me. See, you all know Abby's Mom is a nurse. As are lots of the ladies I grew up around, and some of my friends. (READ MORE)

Army Poet: Living in the USA - Somebody Get Me a Cheeseburger! - Hope some will recall that great Steve Miller song... Well I am back. Long trip, and have been taking it easy for a bit. Feeling pretty good, and much better than after last tour. Funny how that is...but there is no telling what factors may influence things and make one thing seem to be better or worse than another. My pet cat died while I was away...He was a sweet gentle thing. He seemed to take delight in every day...Something to be learned from that. I also envy his ability to sleep for 15-18 hours a day. (READ MORE)

Bullet Wisdom: Training at Taji - Last week I think we were waiting on a plane ride to Baghdad. Well, the plan arrived and we began our arduous journey north. Actually it was not all that difficult. We flew by C17 from Kuwait to Baghdad International Airport. They packed us into the huge aircraft like sardines. It was truly elbow to elbow with bags stacked everywhere. It was so crowded we were not allowed to get up to use the bathroom in flight. On a positive note, the C17 is a hell of an aircraft. It was a comfortable ride and one could barely feel the landing. Here's a hint for you future TT deployers: They'll let you have two carry-on's when you leave Kansas, a backpack such as an assault pack plus a laptop bag. They both fit in a wooden box they use a screening. However, The Air Force only lets you have one when you fly from to Baghdad. So make sure your laptop bag, it that's what you plan to use, can hold a bit more than a laptop i.e. about 24 hours of provisions (shave kit, poncho liner, etc). (READ MORE)

Blogs Over Baghdad: Sitting in Saddam’s former palace - Just an update for all family members — we are ALL here in Baghdad and doing fine. Most of us arrived yesterday afternoon (see yesterday’s blog about baggage handling) and one more of us — PFC Christine Bernat — followed behind us by a day as she completed some required medical appointments. Mid-day today we met up with the soldiers of the 126th PAOC from Michigan. They spent the day “showing us the ropes” as they begin making their exit from Iraq. It was a busy but productive interaction. We learned a little more about what we can expect, and got to see a bit more of Baghdad (last night it was very dark and we were very tired). One of the treats we discovered today is that our new temporary home at FOB Prosperity has quite a bit of history…and is in the process of being “gentrified.” (READ MORE)

Embrace the Suck: The 5-Gallon Bucket Brigade, Spray On Tans, And Beer Pong... - First of all I would like to introduce the latest in the never-ending cast of characters that is my company. I am going to call him "Spray on". Why would I call him that? Because he has one of the creepiest tans that I have ever seen. It never goes away! Regardless of the time of year. Now if we were at home I would just chalk it up to another emasculated metro-sexual going to the tanning beds all the time. However, we are here and I know for a fact that there isn't a tanning bed anywhere to be found. Apparently the complexion of the Afghani's is such that there is no money for "LA Tan" to make here. Nevertheless his tan has not so much as faded in the almost 3 months we have been in the suck. It's creepy. Which, to me, says but one thing, HE SPRAYS IT ON! Hence his moniker. Well spray on runs the flight line here; he's one of those guys who are the complete opposite of me. (READ MORE)

Fnvaughn's Blog: A Soldier’s Life, iss. 1 - After spending a year in Iraq from 2003-2004, I had it in my head that I knew exactly what training for this mission would be like. After all, I’m a veteran with a combat patch and a Combat Action Badge! After 14 years in the U.S. Army, I’m ready for anything, right? Uh…right. What a difference six years makes! I faced a good deal of culture shock when confronted with the training and equipment that is necessary for deployment to today’s version of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and it was honestly not from resting in the comfort of serving two days a month and two weeks a year as a reservist in the interim. I have spent most of my time since returning from Iraq serving on active duty stateside, but we didn’t need 40 pounds of body armor or live-fire convoy training for duty in North Little Rock, Madison, Wis., or New Orleans. (READ MORE)

Fraser From Iraq: War Reporting Conundrum - We’re all wondering what the new boss, President-elect / Commander in Chief-elect Obama is going to do when he takes office. We see things happening all around us. The Sand Box has lost its sex appeal. The hot blonde around the corner with the double D’s has gone to Afghanistan. Not that anybody on this side of the pond is looking for a sexy war. Hell, we would all like to be home watching the playoffs on our own TVs. But you can really see the press shifting from covering the Sand Box to covering Afghanistan and the search for Osama Bin Ladin (better known here as Waldo). Sure we still have guys running around here with S-Vests (suicide vest with C-4) and IEDs. But mostly it’s the locals that seem to be attacking each other, which is terrible, but apparently not newsworthy. Don’t get me wrong. There is still hostility within the borders towards the United States and its dwindling members of the Coalition Of The Willing. (READ MORE)

Sgt B: The Iraqi Dream… - We’re still in a combat zone, against an enemy that uses deception and stealth (because they can’t face us in a stand up fight…) so access by local nationals is strictly controlled. Most of the folks on this base haven’t met an Iraqi, and certainy haven’t had the chance to sit down and talk with one… I was fortunate, one of the vehicle maintenance operations aboard base is managed by an Iraqi, an Iraqi who speaks outstanding English, and has worked with Americans since the start of the war. While I was getting one of our vehicles serviced, I had the chance to talk with him, and actually get into some deeper subjects; like how the Iraqis felt things were going. “Haseem” is a slim man in his mid thirties. His English is laced with properly used expletives when he speaks of foreign nationals coming to his backyard to kill Americans, and there is anger in his eyes. (READ MORE)

Houstan Central: A great party indeed! - Hooray! Noah's 1st birthday party was absolutely a success! So much fun was had by all! I can't begin to thank everyone for coming, for all their sweet thoughtful gifts and just plain good company!!! So, we had a camo theme, to honor Noah's Daddy serving! Everyone came in camo and it was great! I had to wake the boy up for his own party...lil dude was sleeping when he got there and still sleeping as people arrived...so I had to wake him up..I didnt want him to miss his very own party! I made a homemade Birthday Banner, an authentic Army Humvee Birthday cake...just like the one Daddy has been in...and a dog tag smash cake for Noah. Jon's Dad (a super talented Architect) helped me to sculpt the awesome vehicle...and he also designed lil tents for table decor... (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Iraq's Upcoming Vote - It's a good thing most Iraqis don't read the NYT or other U.S. news outlets. Because if they did, they would just forget the upcoming provincial elections. What's the point? It'll never work. The AP reports that Iraq's electoral commission says it is investigating allegations that nearly 60 candidates for the Jan. 31 provincial elections have submitted fraudulent certificates for their educational degrees. The Iraqi High Electoral Commission said last week that it had uncovered 45 cases of campaign violations, including tearing down posters, illegally using religious symbols in campaign advertisements and bribery. (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: More networking, and Pashto fonts/keymaps - We’ve completely reconfigured the network topology within the Taj compound and now have a very spiffy setup where people can roam automatically between wireless access points. Now rather than having three different wireless networks in the Taj and one in the Fab Lab, there’s just one in total for the entire compound. Also, rather than having four separate DHCP servers we just have one. The FabFi’s are also, in theory, working. Last night Andreas, Keith and I figured out how to get the point-to-point connection to work correctly using NAT, but after they went to bed I had an idea for how to do it without NAT that we still haven’t tried. The benefits of skipping the NAT is that bidirectional communications are possible (although they can still be prevented if we want), and overhead for connection tracking is reduced significantly. This also gives us the option of remote management of the routers at Op Mercy and the hospital, etc: (READ MORE)

The Left Captain: Seven movies later... - At 2am on January 10th the World Airways DC-10 left Manas. I was seated in an aisle seat with four empty seats to my left. I sunk into the seat with my iPod and tried to sleep. Three movies and two meals later we landed in Leipzig Germany for fuel and a crew change. We disembarked into a large departure lounge area. There were clean bathrooms, comfortable chairs, a store, telephones and internet kiosks. I took twenty minutes to call home and send a few emails. I browsed the store and picked out some chocolate to bring home but the lines were long-- stacked with Afghanistan-bound Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division. Another four movies and three meals and we had started our descent into BWI. When we touched down a huge cheer went up from the rows of Soldiers and Airmen. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Pakistani Taliban: 'Suicide bombers are the atomic weapons of Muslims' - Taliban commander Qari Hussain released a 40-minute long propaganda tape showing statements of suicide bombers and the aftermath of their attacks inside Pakistan. The videotape was distributed by Taliban commander Qari Hussain during a press conference held in the provincial capital of Peshawar. The press conference demonstrates Taliban feel they are not under a serious threat in the capital of the Northwest Frontier Province. The military has launched three operations to relieve the Taliban pressure on Peshawar, but the Taliban continue to encroach on the city. The tape "shows men and youths, some apparently in their teens, addressing the camera about their intention to carry out suicide attacks to background music of Urdu-language militant anthems," AFP reported. (READ MORE)

Misuchan's Milblog: Frank is a victim of fratricide. - Some members of my team and myself were outside last night smoking and complaining about how crappy our lives are now. During the conversation, I heard what sounded like nothing other than an animal being held against it’s will. At first I thought it was a cat giving birth, but then I heard two gunshots. Pow pow… I get a gut feeling that the French had shot one of our dogs, which they did not have authority to do. Their colonel had ordered them to shoot all the wild dogs in the area, and our dog had a red collar with an ISAF tag on it. I ran over to the other American team’s area and tell them an animal was just shot. Then I run to check the dog houses and one is missing- Frank. So me and two of the guys go out to the burn pit where we throw all our trash. Sure enough, Frank is there, with wire tied around his body. I could tell by the look on his face that he had suffered. That is what bothered me the most, that he was not shot point blank in the head, but he had suffered. (READ MORE)

Note From Iraq: 18JAN09--Commando Training: Dismounted Patroling - The last two days of training the Iraqi commando company have centered around dismounted patrolling, which is conducting a tactical movement on foot. They have the concept down, and when we took them on a practical exercise, it was an actual combat patrol. With the Iraqis commandos up front and the American trainers following in the rear, we patrolled a neighborhood. The people smiled and waved to us and generally seemed at ease. We walked through side streets of the neighborhood, where donkeys outnumbered automobiles 15 to 1. The company's first sergeant had excellent control of his element, and the patrol was completed without incident. Overall, the training has been effective, yielding significant results on the commando company. The Iraqis appeared to be competent to conduct dismounted patrols on their own, and they are learning more every day. (READ MORE)

Pink's War: Introducing SGT Travolta - As I write this, I'm talking to one of my Sergeants of the E-5 type on Yahoo Messenger. We don't see a lot of each other, he's always out running missions and I work in the office. But he makes a point to touch base with me at least once a week. He loves hearing about what kind of problems I'm causing and the new guys that follow me around like little lost puppy dogs. I think he lives vicariously through me. And I think he wants to fuck me. We got to talking tonight about this unexpected boyfriend I have and a few of the other guys that I'm dealing with right now (I'm only sleeping with the one, thank you very much). SGT Travolta (OPSEC): sounds like u got yourself a predicament...hopefully it won't cause you any drama later...or sooner. Me: and I thought it was the girls who were supposed to get attached too quickly, Army men, I swear, they're crazy...lol (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: CARE Packages - A while back, an old friend of mine said he was going to send me a CARE package, and asked what I wanted out here. Cookies? Candy? The answer, surprisingly (since I'm a big fan of cookies) is: nothing with sugar. Please. We have sugar coming out the wazoo out here. The DFACs have fresh-baked cakes and piles of big chocolate chip cookies, as well as an ice cream section. My office still has candy bowls filled with Hershey Kisses and gummy bears and all sorts of other goodies dating back to Halloween. And lots of people get packages from home filled with sweets of all kinds, much of which winds up in the "Take it, please!" pile. So we are not lacking for sugar. But CARE packages are always welcome. So what do we like to get out here? Toys. Yup, toys. Silly little footballs that we can throw at each other. Doodads that we can stick on top of our computer monitors. Gooey balls of some kinda slimey silly putty that we can stick on each other's desk and gross them out. Stuffed animals. Little monster trucks. Things that make us laugh. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Fobbits - Fobbits are everywhere in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan. What is a Fobbit, you might ask? It’s simply a soldier who never leaves the wire, or the safety of the Forward Operating Base. Last time I deployed, my friends and I were set on not becoming Fobbits and went so far as to make Fobbit Cards which were hole-punched every time you came back from outside the wire. Being a Fobbit isn’t a good thing to most people, and anyone who travels outside the wire a lot considers Fobbits to be spoiled to the amenities they never have to go without. They complain without their ice cream, their 2-hour gym workout and their cable TV. They are mad when the chow hall runs out of Gatorade or Frosted Flakes. Fobbits get stuck on rules and regulations and are usually the ones trying to correct everyone else on the proper wear of the uniform and reflective belt. After all, they don’t have bigger problems to worry about… (READ MORE)

S4 at War: Car Repair - I had a mechanic working on our FOB a couple of weeks ago. He spoke zero English and my NCO and I decided not to use an interpreter…because we like the challenge apaprently. On day 1 the mechanic determined that three of our trucks could not be fixed. On day two and three he fixed each of those vehicles. He did this using only the tool set we gave him and no spare parts. The “tool set” was about three screw drivers and a wrench. We might have given him a leatherman to borrow at some point. We learned that there is such a thing as a Silf-which might be a starter, a dynamo (Iraqi for alternator), and most important, the Brain Box (which we have not yet figured out beyond that it is important and we need one). (READ MORE)

Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army: Back by popular demand... - Well hello! Thank you to each and every one of you that continue to keep up with my brother and I. We appreciate the support you show us by visiting our page. Thank you! Back by popular demand...well, you're right. It has been a while since we have posted anything on here. I apologize for that. Personally, it's not because I haven't wanted to, but by the end of the day, I've been pretty exhausted lately. I'm not really sure why. I think it's because I'm mentally exhausted. At the end of the day, I usually make a call home to talk to the folks, and then head to bed. I may send an email or two to some pretty helpful people that have made this last three months or so a lot better just by chatting with them about "stuff"... Like you may know, I try not to put anything personal on here and those emails have been keeping me sane...personally. As much as I'd like to say I live a pretty low drama life... it's not the case sometimes. I'd say for the most part, my life is pretty drama-free. And to some people's scale...it is. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: Update: The Kuwaiti Tease - Yesterday we packed up our 5000 lbs. of gear, from video cameras and computers to military gear on a large truck and made our way to Ali Alsalem Air Terminal. The plan was for the unit to make our way to Baghdad three or four at a time using Space R travel. When we showed up, the people running the flights wanted nothing to do with this. They saw us as trying to sneak a small unit into Iraq and wanted it done their way. They promptly turned us and our gear back to Camp Beuhring so we can live in a tent for several more days. They say we could be on a flight to Baghdad anywhere from two days to three weeks from now. I’m sure the unit we’re replacing wants us there a little quicker than three weeks. The thing I liked most about loading our gear is that most of us thought the chances of us getting out of Kuwait yesterday were close to zero. (READ MORE)

Big Tobacco: Dear Sister Thistletwat’s Third Grade Class - I wrote this while smoking a La Gloria Cubana, but make no mistake, smoking is very, very bad for you. I received your care package today. It’s so nice to hear from you again. Thank you so much for all of those drawings and letters from the class. I know that many of you think that the desert is hot, but it gets very cold at night. Our heater in the BDOC doesn’t work, so we break up forklift pallets and burn them in a barrel outside. Each of us takes turns going outside to warm up, and those drawings are very useful for starting the fire. Please send more drawings with construction paper. They tend to burn slower and hotter than notebook paper. The men really appreciated the hard candy. We put it with the other boxes of hard candy that twenty other schools have sent us. We use this candy to help the men stay awake at night, and not just by eating it. (READ MORE)

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