January 23, 2009

From the Front: 01/23/2009

As we return to our regularly scheduled programming....

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

In their own words:
Afghanistan Shrugged: Dear President Obama - Dear, President Obama, I know that you just took office about 48 hours ago and you’ve got a lot on your plate; but I thought I’d provide you with a small letter for SA, situational awareness. I’m sure that GEN Petraus will provide one for you also; but mine comes from the trenches of the War On Terror. My team is out here every day making sure that the policies you set forth get carried out; so we see the impact, successes and failures first hand. First, let me describe the current situation from my fighting position. It’s not great. Currently we’re chasing the wrong thing, that being enemy forces. They can always recruit more people, we need to attack the motivations to join the enemy. Eliminate the supply. Predators, ROVER and other implements that we’ve paid billions for are most often used to second guess the guys on the ground and tell them that they’re not seeing what they’re seeing. If this seems convoluted it is! (READ MORE)

Back In the Army Now (at 54): Schedule Change One - This change is good. We just got an email saying we report for duty on January 29, but we do not yet have a departure date. So unless something changes, we will be at our drill hall until 5pm on the 29th, then soldiers (like me) who live within 60 miles can go home for the night. The next day we have a morning formation, work until 2pm, then go pick up our families for the going away ceremony. After the ceremony and dinner, we go home again and report for the day on the 31st. Right now, we go home again on the 31st. I'll be home on February 1. We may leave that day for our US training base, but if we don't I may be home watching the Superbowl with Nigel. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Ryan Crocker Gets It - Ambassador Ryan Crocker yesterday warned against a rapid withdrawal from Iraq. “If it were to be a precipitous withdrawal, that could be very dangerous,” he said. Sure people will say they've heard this argument before, but the diplomat added hopefully, “but it’s clear that’s not the direction in which this is trending.” President Obama should listen to Crocker, who was a diplomat in Baghdad during the Saddam Hussein era, because he is one of few who actually thinks about civilians. He said Iraq had been “traumatized” by Saddam Hussein and had not yet recovered. “He created a dramatic climate of fear that all Iraqi communities still suffer from,” he said. “If there’s one word that still does describe a state of mind in Iraq, it would still be fear.” (READ MORE)

Blogs Over Baghdad: RHIP - There’s a saying in the military, and I suppose it applies to lots of organizations, “Rank has it’s privileges.” In the military, most people take that to mean that soldiers in higher ranks may enjoy certain benefits or luxuries that a junior soldier would not. Most people who have devoted a large part of their adult life to an endeavor would probably say that such privileges are just part of the deal — it’s an incentive for younger soldiers to stick around. I can hear the reenlistment advisor now: “Hey soldier, don’t quit now. You’ve got 10 years in the Army and you are a staff sergeant. By the time you reach 16 years, you could be a first sergeant….all that great pay and better housing. Plus, you’ll be making all the decisions.” (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Taliban rule Pakistan's 'valley of death' - The Pakistani government has promised to restore its writ in the Taliban-controlled settled district of Swat in the insurgency-infested Northwest Frontier Province. Swat, once renowned as Pakistan's vacation paradise that has been described as the Switzerland of South Asia, is now referred to as the "valley of death" by the fearful Pakistanis still living there. The district has become the model Taliban police state. The Taliban have full control of the district and have implemented their austere version of sharia, or Islamic law. The Taliban consolidated control in Swat over the past several months after nearly two years of fighting. Led by Mullah Fazlullah, the Taliban have defeated the Army, destroyed the police force, established a shadow government, and imposed sharia. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: Brrrrrrr! - If I had to pick three words to describe yesterday's weapons qualification training I'd pick: brrrrrr!; bang!; and brrrr! To say it was cold would leave some room for a bit of warmth. As it was, it was freakin' cold. We were at three different ranges to qualify with our M4s...one to zero both the weapon and the optics, one for day/NBC qualification, and one for limited visibility qualification, i.e. after the sun had already started to set. Not sure how, but it was colder in the middle of the day for qualification than it was a 7:30 in the morning to zero. All three ranges did provide a warm room for breaks and for those not shooting, but still...lying on the ground or standing behind those shooting is still freakin' cold! (READ MORE)

SFC Burke - My Point of View: Have I talked about how much I love where I live? - I believe I've mentioned it a few times. This week has really made me love Houston all over again. This week, here at Fort Dix, the temperature has not risen above 35 degrees. We shot 9mm and M4s the past two days and both days I felt like my fingers and toes were going to fall off. Now, mind you, I'm not complaining...I'll jump around in between firings and cuss a lot when it's 20 degrees out (or lower!) and you have to remain as still as you can to hit your target. I'm merely writing about how the weather was....compared to Houston. So, yeah, I don't see how/why people up north can enjoy winter. A few of us surmised that, when it's that cold or worse, people don't even go outside. I know I wouldn't! (READ MORE)

Pocket Rockets: Mailing address and a few other tidbits… - Setup here isnt too bad. We’re currently living in tents for about 2 weeks, but we do have wi-fi. Eventually we’ll be living in “chu’s” with one roomate. The facilities are pretty decent, the food is slightly above average, but good, and the gym is pretty bangin, at least for an Army gym. The people we are replacing will be with us until the 3rd of Feb to get us up to speed, but I suspect after a few days their services will no longer be needed. I have soldiers in my section who are just as good at broadcasting as I am, if not better…should be a great year for OUR section. This is also the time where having 4 previous deployments is starting to come in handy. To me this feels just like being on Active Duty again, like I was my first three years in. (READ MORE)

Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army: Comments.... - As always, I'm starting out by saying thank you to those who continue to show your support and check out our blog. Comments....I'll get straight to it. THANK YOU! Thank you for your request for this to continue when I get home. Much appreciated. I didn't know that someone cared that much to keep hearing how things are going once back in the states. And, to answer your question, yes. I'll keep posting when I get home. I'll take my computer with me on my much needed vacation and do my best to write some things on here. I'll put up some pics of me snowboarding all over the east coast. I'm SO excited about going snowboarding!! I just can't wait!! But back to the comment asking me to keep writing. I've thought about that just about all day and told myself I would not go to bed until I had written a response. So, to all of our 'adopted family' yes, I will do my best to keep the thoughts coming. (READ MORE)

Dena Yllescas: Charlie Brown Kids - Julia and I attended the Charlie Brown Kids support group last week. At first, Julia was clingy and didn't want me to leave her, but eventually she let me go to be with the adults and she was just with the other kids her age. The adults spoke about how their spouse died and they gave advice about certain things they learned through their process. It's nice talking with other adults who are in the same situation as me. When Julia was done, I asked her how she liked it. She said "It was good." She didn't really say more on the subject which is pretty common I've been told since children internalize things. Over time, I think she'll open up more. She was the only girl in her group of about 8 children. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

Rashid district opens Doura Public Library - BAGHDAD – Soldiers of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, and Iraqi Security Forces joined local civic leaders Jan. 21 to commemorate the opening of the Doura Public Library in the Rashid district, christening a cultural and educational landmark for the Iraqi citizens of southern Baghdad. (READ MORE)

Leaders meet to discuss SoI future in Kirkuk province - FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARRIOR, KIRKUK, Iraq –The Iraqi Army held an information briefing Jan. 19 at the Iraqi Army’s K1 base in Kirkuk City to discuss the future of the Sons of Iraq in the province. Provincial government officials, police and army leaders met with the shaykhs who lead the SoI, a group of almost 9,000 Iraqi men providing security in neighborhoods and at critical infrastructure locations across the province. (READ MORE)

Cuscatlán Battalion closes out Iraq mission - FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – The Salvadorian flag lowered for the last time in Iraq as Cuscatlán Battalion XI held its end-of-mission ceremony, marking the end to their mission here Jan. 22. “The biggest accomplishment that the Cuscatlán Battalion had was the development of 319 reconstruction and humanitarian assistance projects,” said Col. Cesar Acosta, Cuscatlán Battalion XI commander. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces disrupt IED network in Zabul - KABUL, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed six armed Taliban militants and detained one suspected militant during an operation to disrupt the Taliban’s foreign fighter and roadside bomb network in Zabul province Wednesday. In Daychopan District, approximately 150 km northeast of Kandahar City, Coalition forces targeted a Taliban commander wanted for his ties to the roadside bombing network along Highway One and recent attacks against Coalition forces in Zabul province. (READ MORE)

Panjshiris benefit from poppy-free status - KABUL, Afghanistan – More than 100 Afghans attended the Good Performance Initiative ribbon-cutting ceremony, signifying the official handover of agriculture machinery and irrigation system projects at governor’s compound in Bazarak, Panjshir province, approximately 100 km from Kabul, Jan. 13. Last year, General Khodaidad Khodaidad, Minister of Counternarcotics, awarded Provincial Governor Haji Bahlol Bahej and the people of Panjshir $1.4 million for being a poppy-free province. (READ MORE)

Afghan officials, Coalition forces investigate claims of civilian casualties in Kapisa - KABUL, Afghanistan – Coalition forces are meeting with Afghan officials to look into allegations of civilian casualties as a result of operations conducted in Kapisa Jan. 20. Statements from Kapisa leaders and Coalition operational reports maintain Coalition forces only killed Taliban commander Mullah Patang and 18 other militants. However, Pahjwok Afghan News reported Tuesday Kapisa residents said Coalition troops killed 25 civilians during the operation. (READ MORE)

Coalition forces disrupt terrorist networks in eastern and southern Afghanistan - KABUL, Afghanistan – Coalition forces killed twenty-two armed militants, including two Taliban commanders, and detained eleven during multiple operations targeting the Taliban and Haqqani terrorist networks in eastern and southern Afghanistan, Monday. In Kapisa, Coalition forces killed Taliban commander Mullah Patang and 18 other militants during an operation to disrupt the Taliban’s terrorist network in the Tagab Valley, located approximately 50 km north of Kabul City. (READ MORE)

ANP and Coalition forces target foreign fighter network in Khost - KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghan and Coalition forces detained eight suspected militants, including the targeted Haqqani militant and Taliban financier, during operations in Khost and Kandahar provinces, Friday. Afghan National Police and Coalition forces detained three militants in the first operation, including the wanted Haqqani militant. In Sabari District, approximately 140 km southeast of Kabul City, the combined force targeted the Haqqani foreign fighter network, netting a militant known to coordinate and facilitate the movement of Arab fighters into the region. (READ MORE)

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