January 26, 2009

From the Front: 01/26/2009

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

In their own words:
Back In the Army Now (at 54): Goodbye For Now at Church - This morning I spoke for a few minutes at both services. We are members of a Presbyterian Church, so this kind of testimony is written out. Here's what I said: Good morning brothers and sisters. If all goes according to the plans the Army has for me as of now--and they could certainly change--the next time we will worship together at Wheatland will be in February of 2010. For those of you who don't know, I am going to Iraq in May after spending the next 2 1/2 months at Fort Sill in Oklahoma then a couple of weeks in Kuwait to acclimate to the rather warm weather in the Middle East. So I wanted to say goodbye for now and to let you know I will be praying for you as you face the difficult months ahead. (READ MORE)

Bad Dogs and Such: Amazing - We made the trip up to FOB/Camp Comfy to hang out with Higher for a couple of days. Our headquarters has, of course, a really nice wireless internet connection running throughout the building. It's great. No waiting in line for timed access, no crappy community keyboards where half the consonants don't work (great fun in the Age of Complex Passwords), no tremendous slowdown from some funny-looking E3 downloading video from the mail-order brides website... There are about ten of us visiting up here right now. You can tell which ones we are at a glance - we're the soldiers giggling with glee and crowing, "Yeah, ask me for updates NOW!" (READ MORE)

Bullet Wisdom: RIP/TOA - Relief in Place/Transfer of Authority (RIP/TOA) is the process where one coalition unit takes the place of another. Over the next several days, each member of the team will spend his time following around his counterpart trying to absorb everything that was accomplished over the last year, as well as the mundane stuff such as admin, reports, etc... We had an initial dinner with the IA (Iraqi Army) brigade executive officer. It was an informal sit down dinner where both teams had the opportunity to dine at the Iraqi officer's mess. Not all our IA counterparts were present. Mine was currently unavailable so I will have to wait until another time. Their manning is run different than ours. The either live with the unit, or with their family. Because of the danger to them and their family, the two do not mix. They will spend a few weeks living on the base, then quietly slip out to return to their family. (READ MORE)

Blogs Over Baghdad: PC neophytes - When we arrived here in Baghdad and met with the leadership of the MNF-I organization, they made one thing clear: press conferences were a top priority. That message was received loud and clear, and echoed by the soldiers of the 126th PAOC, so we obsessed about it for the past 10 days. Of course the 126th continued to oversee a handful of press conferences during that week and half. They were usually sparsely attended, so it gave us a chance to see how they got the job done without interfering with the needs of the media. The day finally arrived today, however, for the soldiers of the 314th to step out of the nest and flap our press conference wings. If you have ever seen a press conference on TV — maybe on C-Span or a few seconds of it on evening news — you might think it is pretty easy. You turn on the microphone and let someone talk, right? (READ MORE)

Down Range 46: Winding Down, In time for the Wind-up - Since January 6th we have been here at Fort Dix, NJ completing our required training prior to our deployment downrange. I've mentioned before, and if you've kept up on any of our Soldier blogs you'll have heard, that our time here has been C-O-L-D, cold. The cold weather, which no words could truly convey the severity of, has been a useful marker to the moments we have spent here. All of our training opportunities here have been emphasized by the morning ritual of determining just how much cold weather gear one should wear. One layer? Two layers? No, wait, maybe three layers! It is a never ending guessing game at just how far to go. This one aspect of the time we have spent here will make it memorable. (READ MORE)

Embrace the Suck: Smoking A Hookah, Riding A Camel, and 3 Beers A Day... - So that was my day. I rode a camel, I smoked a hookah on the beach, and now I am sitting here writing to all of you right before I go and have my authorized 3 beers for the day. Fun for me. If you ever get out to Qatar, I recommend the grape flavored smoke it was wonderful. Anyways, moving on. Well I have come to several realizations while I have been here. What are they? Well allow me to enlighten you. 1. Indoor plumbing is the most wonderful thing that anyone, anywhere, has ever invented. 2. Award winning chow halls are not a good place for a fat guy to go. 3. Combat zone habits make you look like an absolute retard if you are not in a combat zone. The first two are self-explanatory. The third one may require some clarification. Then again, maybe it doesn't but I am going to do it anyways. (READ MORE)

The Intrepid Reporter: Despite the Recent Mortars... - I've been really busy on the job, but have been trying to update and such. FINALLY though, I"VE GOT BANDWIDTH!!! Which means y'all get a few pictures, and later, hopefully if it works (not in this post mind you) but video too. The pic above is of a new 7 or 10 story building in the Baghdad area... It's a new business center, and as you can see, they want YOU to KNOW that they are, as the sign sez "OPEN." It's a sure-fire positive sign of things getting better. A picture that would NEVER be published in the states, but here it is, Brought to you by the letter "F", the number "69" and the World Famous Intrepid Reporter.This one here I just sort of snapped on the way home. What struck me is how the Media, Other Governments and Liberal Fucktard Assholes of the planet (and in our own country) try to make us out to being an "Army of Occupation." Let me ask thid: In World War Two: Did we allow the krauts to keep flying the Swastika when we won? (READ MORE)

Fightin' 6th Marines: Iraqi Police, Marines upset insurgent activity in Lahib - KARMAH, Iraq – In an effort to keep Karmah free of insurgent activity, Lahib Iraqi Police (IP) and Marines from 2nd Platoon, Company W, Task Force 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, spent more than 12 hours searching Lahib for insurgents and weapons caches during an Iraqi Police-coordinated operation, Jan. 10. The effort resulted in the IP detaining 11 suspected insurgents and the discovery of a stockpile of materials normally used to make improvised explosive devices (IEDs). (READ MORE)

Fearless 1st Marines’ blog: To our friends, families, and all those who support us... - Well everyone, our tour has come to an end. We, Regimental Combat Team 1, have accomplished a lot over the last year. Just see our last post to learn more about that. But none of it would have been possible without the great support of our friends, families and everyone else who has our backs there in the U.S. We have received countless care packages, letters, e-mails and other gestures of support throughout this tour and we owe our fondest gratitude to you all. We are on our way home now and we look forward to arriving back on U.S. soil. We have missed the everyday luxuries that we sometimes forget about until we don't have them anymore, especially spending time with our loved ones. Deployments are always difficult on everyone, but I think I speak for all of us when I say we are proud to serve you, the great citizens of the United States of America. (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Cautious Optimism in Basra - The Daily Telegraph has a story today about the cautious optimism of Iraqis in Basra. The people had been terrorized by gangs, as criminals looted, and kidnapped while the religious zealots of the Mahdi Army enforced a harsh Islamic rule. The story reports that the city is recovering: "Strolling with his wife on Basra's corniche as a refreshing breeze blew in from the Shatt al-Arab waterway, Aladeen Hassan observed that a year ago enjoying this simple pleasure would have been to invite death. 'If I had come here with my wife then we would have been killed or abducted for sure,' Mr Hassan said with a grin. 'But now we come here all the time and in the afternoon it is so crowded you cannot find a seat in the cafes.'" (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: $40,000 - It’s our last full day here and we’re alternating among frantically finishing projects, collecting stuff for the trip home, and seeing more stuff. We’re all a little sad to leave, there’s so much to do, could do. The guesthouse was bursting at the seams, even though some of the FabFolk were stuffed three to a room, and that in and of itself made it fun. It’s like camp for grown up little geeks. I spent part of the morning dealing with invoices and payments the like, making sure we settle up all our debts. The financial load was pretty hefty for a bunch of unemployed / students. I’m often asked to post our costs but I’ve been resisting for several reasons, the most of which is that I don’t want to seem like we’re complaining about our travel costs. We’d much rather see contributions going directly to FabLab users and infrastructure. To bring the FabFi project to the state it’s at, we’ve spent a total of about $40,000 where the bulk of that is travel costs across two trips (one in November and one in January). (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Swat Taliban summon government officials to sharia courts - The leader of the Taliban-controlled district of Swat in Pakistan's northwest has ordered more than 50 political and tribal leaders to appear before a sharia court within a week or face "dangerous consequences." Mullah Fazlullah, Swat's radical Taliban leader, issued the order in a broadcast over his illegal FM radio channel after convening the Taliban shura, or council. "They (the political leaders) have destroyed peace in Swat and they should be tried in the Taliban's sharia courts," Fazlullah said in the radio broadcast, according to a report in The Hindu. "If they do not appear in the courts, they will face dangerous consequences." (READ MORE)

Whatever It Takes: Iraq - Well, I have finally made it to Iraq. The Soldiers of Apache are still conducting training in Kuwait but will join me soon. I am here to attend a school and hopefully link up with the unit we are replacing and start the ball rolling. The weather here is much warmer than it has been in Kuwait. I am glad to see more followers everyday. I hope this is informative and entertaining. Keep the comments coming. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: All Good Things... - ...must eventually come to an end. It's official...the 211th MPAD is no longer a "unit in training for mobilization". We are done...no more training, no more PowerPoint classes, no more ranges. With the exception of a few loose ends we are "validated" and ready to depart. It's mostly paperwork and getting the last of our uniforms...a downhill slide for us. Our final moment came and went quietly...no fireworks, no cannons, no thunder. Perhaps that's because our last scheduled training event was a live fire exercise with live ammunition and lots of pyrotechnics going off around us. Perhaps it's because after almost 4 months of ongoing training there is just nothing left to say. Whatever the reason that day that we all have strived for since 10 October is here. Iraq...here we come! (READ MORE)

Almo: Best Laid Plans.... - One of the things we enjoy most in this life is the ability to plan for our future. Whether that future lies in minutes, hours, days, weeks or even years ahead, the ability to plan for it is ours and ours alone. For some people, these plans, once laid, come to fruition. It is amazing. It is as if all they do is think 'it', and 'it' happens. Then there is that other group of people who plan as best they can, but it is like the pieces keep getting moved around. As frustrating as it is to have your plans changing every time the wind blows, have you ever stop to notice that the unexpected changes can actually yield pretty amazing results? I plan to take notice of these unexpected, but amazing results more often. Care to join me? (READ MORE)

SFC Burke - My Point of View: Public Affairs Killers... - After just about four months of training at College Station and here at Fort Dix, we're finally finished with our pre-mobilization training and are gearing up for a flight to the Middle East. Yesterday was our last training event and we went out with lots of bangs...shooting to be exact. We had to participate in a base firing exercise which is basically a scenario where our camp or base is getting attacked and we have to defend. Now, if that scenario was real, that means the crap REALLY hit the fan. If public affairs Soldiers had to race to defend after the MPs and the QRF had their shot...let's say we would do well. Our set up consisted of two towers and two fighting positions flanked by hummers. Each team held a tower and a fighting position and out in the open were a series of targets we had to kill. Orange targets represented civilians and the green were the enemy. (READ MORE)

SGT Heise - My Point of View: Christmas at the Arms Room - “Holy Crap are those things brand new?!“ I said it before I realized it. I walked into the arms room vault and suddenly recognized what I was there to do. All my years in the army I had never seen/smelled brand new weapons, right off the truck and out of the box. It felt like Christmas. A pyramid stack of boxes, one for each soldier. I lovingly opened boxes, ripped open bags and pulled out the new M4’s. For me it was that slightly euphoric feeling you get when you get behind the wheel of your first new car. I closed my eyes and the smell of the freshly oiled weapon (minus the smell of carbon) was something to savor. I guess the Army gives you an appreciation for things that are a little weird and most people never get lucky enough to understand. That M4 is about to become my new best friend for the next year or so and I wanted to introduce myself properly. (READ MORE)

Pink's War: Porta-Potty Fishing - "Check it out Pink, I got a new phone." "Why did you get a new phone? Your old one worked fine. And why do your hands look like they're rubbed raw?" "Well, what had happened was..." At this point I'm thinking this is going to be an amusing story. SGT Crazy never disappoints in the amusing story category. He launches into his story... "I dropped it into the porta-potty. I don't care about the phone, but I didn't want to lose all the numbers stored on the sim card..." "Please don't tell me you went in after it." "Yes, I did. I dropped a 30.00 phonecard that I just bought in there too, so I went in after both. I just spent an hour scrubbing my hands and arms. I never did find the phonecard, but I found my phone. There was no way that I was going to use it after it being in the porta-potty, so I had to buy a new one." (READ MORE)

Pocket Rockets: War is Hell - Had today off, and waited till 2300 to post. Gotta love procrastination. Things have been rather laid back since we got here. The people we are replacing are still around showing us the ins and outs of our day to day mission. I can honestly say it’s a bit different than what I had envisioned, with a heavier emphasis on the Broadcast mission than I thought, which is good. I’d rather be busy for the next 10 months than sit around and play with myself…just kidding Theres still plenty of off time for that shit. One thing I am not happy about is having to send 3 of my troops out to the field almost right away. I was really hoping to avoid it for as long as possible, as I looked forward to working beside them and learning a lot from their experience, as I am not the broadcaster some of them are. This is easily the best group of soldiers I have ever had in my section, and I only hope that as we continue on our journey that at some point Ill be able to have them back for a while and really see what we can do. (READ MORE)

Sorority Soldier: Nomadic Living - We’re still in transient tents, but 1SG (TOP) apparently buttered up to some lady in housing and we’ll be moving into our Containerized Housing Units (CHU) in a few days. I won’t be able to enjoy it too much, because I’m leaving for Kalsu (CAL-SOO) pretty soon. I’ll be there for three weeks filling in for a journalist on leave. I was pretty bummed when I found out last night, but then my supervisor told me they requested a female because there is another female in the office. Hopefully the people will be cool to work with, and it’s only three weeks. By the time I get back to Baghdad, we’ll be one month down! Brian and Adam are going out on missions too, so I’m glad I’m getting out and not left sitting back here without my buddies. The outgoing MPAD is pretty psyched to leave. Tonight we’re all having a cookout and playing some Rock Band… is this really war? We’re pretty lucky to have two of the active duty guys with us. (READ MORE)

Two Brothers, Two Countries, One Army: Going home.... - Well, again, thank you for all of your continued support that you keep showing my brother and I by reading our blog. Thank you for the comments as well. Well, this may be the last post for a couple weeks from me. My internet is paid for monthly and it doesn't always re-new on the 1st of each month. SO basically, my internet is about to shut off and I'm not going to pay $50 for a partial month. I can't say exactly when I'll be leaving here, but I will be leaving kinda soon. Soon enough for me not to want to pay for a whole month of internet. Blah blah blah, my internet is going to be shut off soon and I won't be able to post on here from the government computer in my office. SO the next post I make will probably mean that I'm back in the states. I that is something I'm REALLY looking forward to!! BUT, as promised, I will keep you updated. I will post when I get home. I'm not REALLY sure when that will be. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: “Same Thing we do Every Night… - Try and take over the world!!!” Here’s a conversation I had the other night in the sauna after working out. SGT Maryland was like, “Hey Stone, what’s up with that second toe?” “Oh, check this out,” as I extended my foot to let SGT Maryland and the Commander inspect my talons, “my second toe is a solid knuckle longer than my big toe.” I got the long second toe beauty mark from my dad. “Wow, that’s kinda freeky and weird…you could go stand on the back of a billboard and hunt for field mice, like a hawk” (READ MORE)

News from the Front:

The weight of democracy - As Iraq approaches its watershed provincial elections on Saturday, polling teams are doing no small amount of heavy lifting. According to the Iraq's Independent High Electoral Commission and the International Electoral Assistance Team, contractors are delivering more than 1,300 tons of election materials manufactured in China, India, England, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates to almost 50,000 polling sites across the nation. (READ MORE)

Election fever sets in - With just one week to go before millions of Iraqis vote in elections that could drastically alter the power equation across the country, campaigning is at a peak, and it's hard to find a signpost, wall or building facade not plastered with election material. More than 14,500 candidates are vying for 440 seats on the country's provincial councils, so there is stiff competition not only for seats but for places to hang campaign signs. (READ MORE)

Leaders break ground at Radwaniyah greenhouse - FORWARD OPERATING BASE FALCON, Iraq – Community leaders and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers conducted a ground-breaking ceremony for the Radwaniyah greenhouse project in southwestern Baghdad Jan. 22. Leaders from Troop B, 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, MND-B, witnessed the Radwaniyah greenhouse ground-breaking ceremony with their Iraqi Security Forces partners as the Radwaniyah farmer’s cooperation association erected the first of 100 greenhouses. (READ MORE)

ISF takes lead in Mansour to ensure safe elections - BAGHDAD – For the past several weeks, Iraqi Security Forces have stepped up their presence in the Yarmouk, Qadasiyah and Hateen neighborhoods of northwest Baghdad to ensure that the local populace will be safe for the upcoming elections. The Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police have patrolled polling sites to review the barrier layout and made recommendations aimed to improving security where needed. Leaders have also reviewed their procedures to ensure each site has the appropriate personnel to provide necessary security. (READ MORE)

NATO Codification System presentation to the Government of Iraq - BAGHDAD - Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, Commander, Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq welcomed senior Iraqi Army leadership, along with MNSTC-I logisticians and the Defense Logistics Information Service, to the Blackhawk Conference Center on Jan. 21 to discuss and promote the NATO Codification System. Helmick remarked that the Government of Iraq was being presented a unique opportunity to seek sponsorship as a ‘Tier 1’ member nation of the NCS. The DLIS commander, USMC Col. Laura Sampsel, explained the NCS organization and the benefits of joining. She stated by joining the NCS, Iraq would become “a member of the international logistics community.” (READ MORE)

SoI, IA soldiers seize munitions in Baghdad - BAGHDAD – Members of the Sons of Iraq discovered an improvised explosive device Jan. 24 in the Ghazaliyah neighborhood of northwest Baghdad. At approximately 4:25 p.m., troopers from the 5th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, maneuvered to the site of the possible IED and verified the find and discovered a secondary device while cordoning the area. (READ MORE)

Military, government leaders hold SoI coordination meeting - DIWANIYA, Iraq – Iraqi military and government leaders met with Coalition forces to coordinate the Government of Iraq’s plans for the Sons of Iraq program at the headquarters of the 8th Iraqi Army Division Jan. 21. Lt. Gen. Ali Salih Farhood Oothman, 8th IA Div. commander and host of the meeting, discussed the importance of the transition and his confidence in the 8th IA Div. and the local government to take control of the program, which is scheduled to be entirely under GoI control in March. (READ MORE)

IA, Coalition forces support Basra schools - BASRA – An Iraqi Army civil military operations team along with support from a Dallas based Army Reserve unit provided humanitarian assistance to Basra public schools on Jan 15. IA Soldiers from the 14th Division along with Soldiers of the 490th Civil Affairs Battalion, traveled to the Al Zubair and Karowaan kindergartens in the Al Zubair district of Basra to deliver school supplies and make further refurbishment assessments. (READ MORE)

Baghdad Medical Professionals Meet, Talk Shop in Beida - BAGHDAD — Medical professionals from the Rusafa area met at the newly renovated Beida Health Center here to seek continued medical education to advance in their fields, Jan. 19. Approximately 25 doctors and pharmacists from the Adhamiyah district and the Istaqlal Qada met for the first time in the new facility in northern Adhamiyah to share knowledge on Rheumatic Fever, Hemorrhagic Fever and Internet studies as part of a continued education program for the doctors here. (READ MORE)

Al-Qaida Murder Attempt Thwarted by SoI - BAGHDAD — Three suspected al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) criminals armed with AK-47s and a pistol attempted to murder a local shaykh while he played a soccer match in Mahmudiyah Qada, Jan. 23. The shaykh, a Sons of Iraq (SoI) leader known for his strong and open support of Coalition forces, was playing a game of soccer with his men at approximately 4 p.m. when three armed men approached them. A witness at the scene said the attackers were shouting that they were there to kill the shaykh. (READ MORE)

Report Charts Continued Progress in Iraq - WASHINGTON — The lack of essential services has replaced security as the major concern in Iraq, pointing to the progress the country has been making, according to a Defense Department report released this month. The report to Congress, titled “Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq,” said the security situation in the country continues to improve. The report covers the period through the end of November, and does not address the change of responsibility to the Iraqi government for security under the status-of-forces agreement that went into effect Jan. 1. (READ MORE)

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