February 2, 2009

From the Front: 02/02/2009

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

In their own words:
A Major's Perspective: Iraqi Elections Two - As we saw yesterday the election within Iraq went off without any issues. My hat is truly off to the Iraqi People. Just as they did in 2004/ 2005 when I was there, they acted with intelligence, courage, and tenacity. They went to the polls, they secured themselves, and in the end their voices have been heard. Seeing the pictures of Iraqi men and women proudly displaying their purple finger from voting brought back many fond memories. One area that I did want to clarify, is that I read in many major news outlets, that in the north of the country, specifically Nineveh Province, that many did not vote last time due to violence. Well, I hate to differ with the news reports, but being that I was there, we had record turn out in the city of Mosul. The people of the city of Mosul came out in tremendous numbers even though the battle for Mosul had just ended weeks before. I was extremely proud of them, as I am again today. (READ MORE)

A Battlefield Tourist: 32 Hours To Kabul - I cannot tell you how absolutely grueling it is to fly halfway around the world, especially when your final destination is Kandahar, Afghanistan and beyond. The flight from Roanoke to Dubai itself was more than 17 hours, landing me in the Middle East’s playground of Dubai around 8pm. If that wasn’t bad enough, straight off the top I volunteered to give up my seat to keep a traveling family together, which landed me two rows back in between two guys, one of which took up 25% of my space for half the flight. Misery is the only thing that comes to mind. Now in Dubai and with my next flight not scheduled to leave until 0700 (11 hours), I was definitely not looking forward to the wait… but wait I did. I spent some time looking for a restaurant and then borrowed some Finnish guy’s adaptor so I could charge my computer (note to self: Don’t forget your adapters when traveling overseas). The rest of the night was spent sitting in more misery because I couldn’t fall asleep. Figures. (READ MORE)

Bad Dog's and Such: Dog (deprived) - We sat outside, the Boss and Roommate and I, discussing the latest Bright Idea from Higher. It was, I declared, the absolute Stupidest Damn Thing I Ever Have Heard. In fact, I further elaborated, it sounded like the end product of a branding meeting conducted by rhesus monkeys. No, I corrected myself, since I am under the impression that rhesus monkeys are kinda bright and capable of learning simple tasks, this latest Bright Idea sounded like something that was dreamed up by carp. Or tree stumps. I folded my arms and glared. You are, the Boss pointed out, one angry lady. I shook my head. No, sir, I explained, that's just not so. I could deal with stupidity and the silliness and the fact that my feet kinda smell funny 'cause I wear boots all the time, but they made me leave my dog at home. (READ MORE)

Bullet Wisdom: Election Day - Yesterday was a great day. For the past week, out RIP/TOA focused on integrating our new team with our Iraqi counterparts and preparing for the 31 January Provincial Elections. The Iraqi and Coalition Forces managed to exceed all expectations in providing safe voting locations for the Iraqi people to come and practice their freedoms. For weeks in the region, enemy insurgent activity has been on the decline. There were two schools of thought on why. First, pressure on the insurgents is intense. In the weeks up to the elections Iraqi and Coalition Forces continually applied pressure throughout our region. Coalition patrols and a huge amount of checkpoints run by the Iraqi Army and Sons of Iraq denied insurgents freedom of movement throughout the sector. Second, most of our experts predicted that the downturn in violence was a tactic by insurgents to save up for large, attention getting strikes against the coalition and populace on election day. It made sense. (READ MORE)

PFC Brittany Gardner - Blogs Over Baghdad: Surreal Life - We’ve are now technically about two months into our deployment, but we’ve only been in Baghdad since Jan 15. The time has been flying by. It’s still hard for me to believe I’m in Baghdad. I use to hear about this place on the news constantly, but it never even crossed my mind that one day I’d be here in an Army Combat Uniform. And I really never imagined that I’d be driving around the streets of the International Zone after only being out of AIT, advanced individual training, for seven months. It’s all very surreal. When we arrived here in Baghdad on the 15th after our short flight from Kuwait, we basically hit the groud running. We dropped off our bags into our transitional sleeping tents, slept for about 2 and a half hours and then headed to work. Since then we’ve been going full speed ahead. Recently, we all moved into our CHUs, containerized housing units. (READ MORE)

SGM Troy Falardeau - Blogs Over Baghdad: Iraqi people everywhere - Unlike my experiences in Kuwait (seeking the elusive Kuwaitis), I get to meet Iraqi people every day. In fact, all of our soldiers do — and a pretty good cross-section of their society at that. In the morning as I drive to work , I can see Iraqis hard at work doing construction to rebuild their own national infrastructure here within the International Zone, as well as projects to support the U.S. military presence. My experience has been that most of these laborers work pretty hard in jobs that most Americans would probably not put at the top of their list; I can only imagine what it would be like to do these strenuous jobs in summer when the temperatures are 130 degrees in the shade. (READ MORE)

Down Range 46: The Jet Is Set - It's finally here. A date has been set for our departure Down Range (Down Range is the term we use when a person or unit deploys to a theater of operations). It has been a long time in the making to get to this point. In all we will have spent nearly two months here at Ft. Dix and another couple of months in Bryan, Texas in a training mode. Honestly, I think the Soldiers and command element of the unit are ready to get on with the real meat of the deployment and get to work. The training has been good, the opportunity to "gel" as a unit has been good, the memories have been many, the food has been mediocre, and the time is long past due to move on. (READ MORE)

Embrace the Suck: Thank God For Broken Planes... - So here is how my day went... I got to bed last night at about 0230 hrs. Why? Because I didn't want to leave this place and I wanted to enjoy as much of it as I could. Then I got awakened by my alarm at 0530, I hit the snooze and slept until 0600 when Duby shook me up rather incessantly, saying that I was going to miss the flight. I couldn't help but thinking, "You mean the flight back to AssCrackIstan? The flight back to the suck? The land of exploding roads, and mountain mounted machine guns? Oh, that is what you mean. I am good with that, I'm more than happy to miss that flight!" Alright, I'll get up. So I get up, jam all my shit into my ruck sack and a foot locker I just bought. (I had to buy the footlocker to transport the 20 cartons of cigarettes I had to get for all the GI's back at the FOB) (READ MORE)

Far From Perfect: Medevac Day - The title kinda sucks, but thats not the point. I was perusing YouTube, of all places, and found this little video from C 2/227. Its a pretty good representation of my life here, even some of the places they go in and out of are the same (I think I saw my very own FOB in a shot or two, but I am not sure). Anyway, its put together pretty well against a Rob Zombie music video. By the way, I have no idea when exactly these guys were here. Movie after the jump, of course. (READ MORE)

Far From Perfect: Iraqi Elections - Absolutely nothing happened. Complete quiet. Not one medevac related to violence or even combat. Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come here. I have to say though, that Iraqis take their elections much more seriously than do people in the US. Very little apathy in the voting public. I mean would you turn out to vote if you were unsure whether or not you would be killed for doing so? Especially if you are a woman? The security forces (Army, Police, etc) got to vote a day early just to make sure there would be enough people to ensure the safety of the public. Ok. That’s it for now. Just a quick update from someone actually here and not in some news office. (READ MORE)

The Gun Line MkII: Iraq! Do You See..? - Iraq! Do you remember your sons and daughters huddling in the night, frightened of the future? Do you remember when a tyrant forced his will upon you, and forced your sons to fight, while his own sons took your daughters from the streets, and violated them? Iraq! Do you remember when your army was confused, and dared not to protest against the crimes of a dictator? Do you remember when your sons went to war with only the shirts upon their backs? Iraq! Do you remember when there was no one to turn to when the electricity went out? When there was no water? When there was no justice? Do you? Iraq! Do you see now the proud faces of your sons, as they stand, shoulder to shoulder with us, wearing the proper equipment for their jobs? Do you see their pride? Do you see their professionalism? (READ MORE)

IraqPundit: Iraqis Want to Vote - A British newspaper says, "Landmark provincial elections to be held across Iraq on Saturday are being marred by widespread claims of vote-buying and intimidation, undermining faith in a ballot billed as the stirrings of democracy after four years of sectarian war." We could just hang it up and forget the elections, which is what Iraqi critics would love to see. But the newspaper says that the "Sunni bloc widely boycotted the last provincial polls in Iraq in January 2005, a move that was seen in retrospect as the impetus for a diminished role in Iraqi society and a spark for the lethal insurgency that raged for much of the next three years." Should the Sunnis give up on their vote? Iraqis don't think so. (READ MORE)

IN-iraq: Iraqi Provincial Elections- less carnage = more candidates - Yesterday, Iraq held provincial elections and no one died. In what is a sure sign that political parties are winning over the terrorists, no bombs blew people up on their way to the voting booths. A few mortars were reported to have gone off in Tikrit, some opposition candidates were executed in Diyala, but compared to last election in 2005, when Dexter Filkins reported voters had to weave through a concussion of bombs to get to the polls, it seemed the Iraqi citizens could, for the most part, now vote without fearing for their life. Our compound in Baghdad has been on lock down most of the week. We couldn't go out on the roads, local staff have been off since Thursday. These are called security precautions. (READ MORE)

Jalalabad Fab Lab blog: Bag[ged ]rami - After spending more than enough time down in the city, we got back to the roots of what this whole thing is all about--pushing data ahead of infrastructure on the fringes of civilization. It is on these fringes that the real battles here are fought, against hunger, poverty and Talibs. Considering how economically depressed it is here, the cities manage to function reasonably well, especially in our prime location as the first major anything on the road from Pakistan. You need not walk far, however, before subsistence farming and scavenging the barren earth for anything of value take over as the primary modes of existence. Somewhere in between there are millions of people teetering back and forth between progression and stagnation with the prevailing winds. In this boundary zone FabFi can be a lifeline to Modernity, or better (by about a century). We spent yesterday and today bringing up a link in the village of Bagrami. (READ MORE)

Bill Roggio: Suicide bomber strikes in Uruzgan police station - Twenty-one Afghan police were killed and seven more were wounded when a suicide bomber detonated his vest at a a training center for police reservists in the town of Tarin Kot in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan. The suicide bomber penetrated the training center's security by dressing as a policeman, Radio Netherlands reported. The bomber then detonated his suicide vest among a crowd of policemen. Several policemen were seriously wounded and the blast damaged several buildings. The Taliban took credit for the suicide attack. The Taliban have stepped up attacks on the Afghan police as they are poorly armed and not as well trained as the Afghan Army and Coalition forces. An estimated 720 Afghan policemen were killed during the last six months of 2008. Most were killed in frontal attacks, Afghanistan's interior ministry reported. (READ MORE)

MAJ Daneker - My Point of View: Did you feel that? - That shift? That slight movement? That indication that we finally...finally...have a flight to Iraq. All I can say on this unsecure blog is that it's midweek next week. :) We're finally going! Going to be a long flight, though...not looking forward to that. I thoroughly enjoyed my four days in NYC and it was hard to get on the Amtrak for the ride home. My hotel room was very nice and I enjoyed my afternoon naps and sleeping late in my king-sized bed with about 150 pillows. I arrived early Monday morning and wandered around Broadway and the diamond district. Went to Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. It was a 30-minute shortened version but still awesome to take Communion in the best-known Catholic Church in the US. I went into the gift shop and bought a St. Christopher's medal. I thought it was very appropriate to have one from the patron saint of travelers. (READ MORE)

Pink's War: Babysitting the TCN's - This happened about two months ago, but I still would like to tell the story. Our CO decided that he wants to take away all the gravel in front of our CP and replace it with grass, to do that he requested 4 TCN's to do the job. Usually they sent a male out to watch the TCN's, they didn't want to leave a female alone with them, and I can understand why. You never know what they might do. One day I come into work and my 1SG told me that me and another kid from the unit will be babysitting the TCN's that day. He decided that he wanted 2 people out there and since a male would be with me, it would be OK if I was out there too. (READ MORE)

Ramblings from a painter: Election Day in Baghdad - Today was provincial council election day in Iraq. What has struck me most about this event of potentially world-shaking importance is how normal it has been. All the news reports have said "little" violence ... I just saw a CNN report that three mortars exploded in Tikrit (about 100 miles north of here), and that's it. Pretty impressive for a country that was seriously at war with itself less than a year ago. From my own observation, I only heard one quick siren late in the day. No big booms from car bombs. No small-arms fire. The mullahs sounded normal during the call-to-prayer over the mosques' loudspeakers. My TV has been tuned to Iraqi channels this afternoon. They looked for all the world like American channels during our own elections. An assortment of anchorpersons (male and female) chattered away at anchordesks. (READ MORE)

The Stone Report: First mission - Tuesday I went on my first mission. My day began early in the morning waiting for the helicopter of Commanding General of the 10th Mountain Division, Major General Michael Oates. I got to be in his entourage, or posse, for the day. For those of you unfamiliar with the etiquette of flying with a General, here’s how it goes. Don’t be late because the General waits for no man. Don’t throw up on him while in the chopper. Don’t do anything stupid. You’ll be happy to know that I didn’t throw up and I was a solid hour early. It was my first time flying with a General. Next to first class, it’s the only way to fly. When our blackhawk taxi’s landed, I wasn’t sure which bird to get on. Two landed and I thought there would be only one. So, I saw someone walk to the first bird and get in, so I just followed him. I plop down next to a Colonel and strap in. I have a window seat and MG Oates likes to fly with the blackhawk doors open. (READ MORE)

Whatever it Takes: Super Bowl Sunday - Another day has come to pass here in Iraq. Almost all of the company has made it here safely. Our mortar men and port operations detail will be joining us soon. Some of the Soldiers who were injured during our train up are starting to be Released From Active Duty (REFRAD) and being sent home, others are preparing to join us in Iraq now that they have recovered, while others continue to be provided with health care at a Medical Treatment Facility (MTF). One of my focuses as a commander is to ensure that the welfare of our Soldiers is taken care of. I get reports from the senior Soldier at the treatment facility on a regular basis keeping me updated on their status and if our help is needed. Just because a Soldier did not make it all the way through doesn't mean my responsibilities to them has ended. They are just as important to me as the ones that are here on the ground. We cannot afford for a Soldier to get "lost" in the system and be left behind. (READ MORE)

News from the Front:
Iraqi elections end peacefully - CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Hundreds of Iraqi citizens pass through razor wire checkpoints manned by Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police on their way to prove their support for a democratic society. “This is a day for democracy,” said a Taji resident, after he left the voting site. Residents of the Taji and Tarmiyah Qadas, northwest of Baghdad, went to the one of the approximately 65 sites to cast their vote for their future provincial leaders Jan. 31. (READ MORE)

ISF, MND-B Soldiers discover cache, landmines in Rashid district - BAGHDAD – At approximately 3:30 p.m., the Radwaniyah Iraqi Police, partnered with Soldiers from Troop B, 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry, Division, discovered a 60 mm mortar round and two 30-pound containers of potassium nitrate while conducting operations in the Radwaniyah area. A Coalition forces explosive ordnance disposal team arrived and safely removed the munitions. (READ MORE)

Efforts underway to create standardized River Operations curriculum - BAGHDAD — Signifying a first step towards creating a standardized Iraqi curriculum for all Iraqi River Patrol training throughout the country, Iraqi Police Lt. Laith, training officer for the Baghdad River Patrol Station and Training CenterOperations Squadron, met in DecemberJanuary with members of the Directorate of Interior Affairs at Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq for the first time to discuss the way ahead. (READ MORE)

Iraqis vote while Soldiers show support - BAGHDAD – ADHAMIYAH, Iraq –Iraqi Security Forces with the support of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, provided security while Iraqis voted in Adhamiyah, Jan 31. “Our mission today is to allow the Iraqis to completely take the lead on this election process, and we will be out in sector for support if they need us,” said 1st Lt. Jeff Nelson, platoon leader, Command Security Detachment, Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 3rd BCT, 4th Inf. Div. (READ MORE)

Abandoned buildings revived to provide Iraqi Air Force a future - AR RUSTAMIYAH, Iraq – In the rubble of an abandoned, rocket-torn building, deployed USAF officers saw a future. Where others saw years of neglect and abandonment, leaders from Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq’s Coalition Air Force Training Team saw the answer to Iraq’s booming Iraqi Air Force commissioning program at the Iraqi Military Academy at Ar Rustamiyah. (READ MORE)

ISF find weapons caches, detain criminals - BAGHDAD – While conducting clearance operations Iraqi Security Forces confiscated a cache of weapons and detained criminals Jan. 30 throughout the Baghdad area. ISF from the 2nd Battalion, 54th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division discovered an RKG-3 grenade in the Yarmouk neighborhood of northwest Baghdad Jan. 30 at approximately 1 a.m. (READ MORE)

Iraqi Citizens Witness Monumental Day - BAGHDAD — The citizens of Mahmudiyah Qada went safely to the election polls to vote during the provincial elections, Jan. 31. With no reports of serious violence, the free election was a monumental effort and achievement for the Iraqi Security Forces. The 17th Iraqi Army Division and Iraqi Police were responsible for the security operations in the area, with Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers serving only in a supporting role. (READ MORE)

Iraq's ‘Eye in the Sky’ Safeguards Voters - BAGHDAD — Flying high above Baghdad, the Iraqi Air Force demonstrated its capability to view polling stations and other potential critical-incident locations in preparation for the upcoming Provincial Elections. This “eye in the sky” is a sensor system, similar to that of a U.S. Predator UAV, down-linked for display into the Iraqi Prime Minister’s National Operations Center. (READ MORE)

Iraqis Flock to Election Polling Stations - BAGHDAD — With protection from their Security Forces, Iraqi citizens went to the polls to cast their ballots in the provincial elections, Jan. 31. Iraqi Security Forces assigned to the 8th National Police Brigade, 2nd NP Division, were in charge of security during Election Day, with Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers acting in a supporting role. (READ MORE)

Elections Bringing Change to Iraq - SADR CITY — Something new is coming to Iraq. The signs are in the air, plastered on walls, buildings, light posts lining the road and even strung between buildings. Provincial elections are being held today, and most public structures have, in some way shape or form, campaign posters attached to them. (READ MORE)

No comments: