31 August 2006

Rolling Victory Fast

For those who don' t know, you can find out more about the Rolling Victory Fast at the Tanker Brothers blog.

I just signed myself up for 4 October 2006. When is your day?

Commander in Chief on the War in Iraq

President Bush will be holding a press conference in a couple hours addressing the war in Iraq. You can bet that yours truly will be watching.

Check back for updates after the conference!

"The United States of America will not leave until victory is achieved."
These words were spoken today by President Bush. Let's follow this statement to its logical end:
  1. We're winning the war in Iraq.
  2. As long as we don't quit, we'll win.
  3. When we win, we go home.
Winning AND going home, sounds good to me!

The President also said that he will be giving more speeches over the next few days with the goal of showing the American people just how we are winning in Iraq. This is a mighty step forward in the battle for the hearts and minds of the American people, or what I like to call, the Second Front.

The battle in Iraq is being won. As long as we continue to move forward with our progress, it will end in victory. The biggest obstacle to winning now is the commitment of the American people, the Second Front.

The bad guys know this and they are doing their best to break the will of the American people. If the bad guys manage to convince enough Americans that victory isn't worth the sacrifice and those Americans convince the policy makers to tuck tail and run, then we will have lost.

Let's pause for a moment and think; what is the bad guy's best weapon on the Second Front? What are they using to convince Americans that it's not worth it? Do I even need to say it?

As long as you let us stay in Iraq, we will win. When we win, we will come home.

B36 News - 31 August 2006

After four days and more than 2800 hits, the challenge has been answered.
Interesting challenge.
I think we are losing the war in Iraq because the American people think we are losing or rather, that we cannot win. When the support erodes enough, we will lose.
The similarity to Vietnam is interesting.

Logical, sensible, supported by my own claims in Winning in Iraq. It offers a broad perspective of the war in Iraq and shows that the war isn't only being fought on the ground in Iraq or in the hearts and minds of Iraqis (a fight that we're winning), but it's also being fought in the hearts and minds of the American public. This battle is one that we're losing.

There is definately more to come on this one. Stand by.

Giving Better Than They Got
You may have recently heard in the news about a battle between the Iraqi Army and the militia known as the Mahdi Army, or Jaysh al-Mahdi, that left 23 IA Soldiers dead. What you probably didn't hear was that the Mahdi Army lost at least 50 militiamen. As GEN Casey put it, the IA "gave much better than they got."

As we continue to take control of battlespace away from the militias you will see more stories like this one. Be sure to remember that we are choosing the time and place of this violence. Taking territory from the bad men will be violent, but it will lead to a lasting and just peace.

Marines Try to Save Innocent Iraqi Girl
Hadael Hamade suffers from the same hereditary kidney disease that has already claimed the lives of four of her siblings. Marines from the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment first became aware of her condition several months ago during a routine patrol where she and her father, Ahmed, a 46 year old school teacher, befriended LCPL Aaron Simons.

A few days before his death, LCPL Simons promised to do what he could to help Hadael get the treatment she needed to survive.
“I remember the young Marine and how he was interested in getting help for my family,” said Ahmed. “I am very sorry for his death. Without him I would have never gotten help for my daughter.”
ISF Doctors Aid Iraqis
A couple days ago I posted a story about a South Korean hospital that offered free medical care to local Iraqis. In that story I talked about how the South Korean doctors aren't only treating patients, but they're also training local doctors so that they can continue to provide the same level of service once we pull out.

These Iraqi doctors make housecalls:
BAGHDAD – Soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, along with Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, attached to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, provided medical treatment to residents of Ghazaliya during Operation Ghazaliya Aid Saturday.

The medical operation in the Baghdad neighborhood attracted nearly 200 residents, who were treated for a variety of medical conditions.

“The medical operation was a great event that helped a lot of people in Ghazaliya,” said Capt. Robert Callaghan, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Bn., 23rd Inf. Regt. “It showed what could be accomplished by the neighborhood council, Iraqi police and the National police, when they work together in the best interest of the people.”

Iraqi army medical personnel, supported by MND-B Soldiers, treated each person who waited in line and referred future medical concerns to the Ghazaliya Primary Care Clinic, which recently reopened in the neighborhood.

Along with medical aid, the Iraqi Security Forces and MND-B Soldiers worked to build support and cooperation with the local population. Sgt. 1st Class Cesar Valdez, HHC, was among the MND-B Soldiers who worked with the ISF as Ghazaliya residents waited to receive medical care.

“The Iraqi Security Forces were instrumental in managing the long line of residents who showed up to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Valdez.
(Story by Capt. Robert Callaghan, 2nd BCT PAO, 1st Arm. Div.)


$20mil for B36 News?
Well, almost. MNF-I has put out a $20 million statement of work for somene who can...
"...ensure current and thorough understanding of our communication environment, develop communication strategies and tactics, identify opportunities, and execute events to pursue the strategic engagement of our strategic audiences, to effectively communicate Iraqi government and Coalition’s goals, and build support among our strategic audiences in achieving those goals."
(read the whole statement of work - .doc format)
So you see, winning the battle for the hearts and minds of "strategic audiences" (psst, that's you America) is quickly becoming a military priority.

30 August 2006

B36 News - 30 August 2006

Over 2100 hits and only a couple serious attempts at the challenge. I particularly appreciated Daniel's comments as he did a great job of laying out his position in a logical, sensible manner.

I sincerely hope that I'm not going to win this challenge by default. There has got to be someone out there with some insight into our defeat that extends beyond assumptions and rhetoric.

Double Dose of SECDEF
In seperate articles posted on the DefenseLink website, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld issued strong support of what we milbloggers are doing. Mind you, the words "Bandit is a cool guy," didn't come out of his mouth, but this did:
“Those who know the truth need to speak out against these kinds of myths and distortions that are being told about our troops and our country,” Rumsfeld said while addressing the American Legion National Convention. “The struggle we are in –- the consequences are too severe, the struggle too important, to have the luxury of returning to the old mentality of ‘Blame America first.’”
(read the whole story)
He then went on to reinforce the assessment that as long as Americans at least tolerate the mission, we will succeed:
"History has shown time and again that if Americans have the patience and perseverance to see an effort through -- that we prevail," he said. "And the result of that perseverance is a safer and more secure world."
(read the whole story)
If you don't quit, we will win.

Kidnapped Sunni, Shia Freed
Thanks to Operation Together Forward, two men were freed shortly after their kidnapping. The friends, one a Sunni and the other a Shiite, had been riding their motorcycles when they were abducted.

This is how it works; bad guys do bad things, good guys (us and the ISF) hunt them down and capture or them, we leave good guys (ISF) in place to make sure that bad guys don't come back. This particular group of good guys, 1st Squadron, 67th Cav Regiment, have found and freed 10 kidnapping victims in the last two weeks.

Iraqi Commo
For those who don't know, my job in the Army is in communications. As such, I found this story about the Iraqi Defense Network of particular interest. It's great to hear about things like this in the news. In the commo world, it's a good day if no one's yelling at you because they only yell when it doesn't work.
The Iraqi Defense Network is a command and control and data communications network exclusive to the Iraqi military. IDN allows the military to send secure data without going through a commercial internet provider, according to U.S. Air Force Capt. Karen Zoebisch, the IDN program manager for Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq.

“This capability will give them their own private network,” Zoebisch said. “The network is the Iraqi equivalent to the Non-secure Internet Protocol Router Network, or NIPRNet, on the U.S. military side. For the Iraqi military, this will be their first command and control data communication network.”

29 August 2006

B36 News - 29 August 2006

More than 1500 hits since I first posted my challenge and still no serious contender. I've seen replies to the challenge that readers have posted on various boards that try to discredit me, some even claim that I'm not really a Soldier, that I'm some teenager in high-school. Even though there have been plenty of attacks on me personally and on the decision to go to war, they have yet to put a significant dent in the fact that we're winning.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, read this and then read my challenge.

As for news, I decided to focus today on the humanitarian efforts that have been achieved here in the last week or so. News of Together Forward continues to be positive and even though the bad guys are hitting back at us, it still isn't stopping our progress.

40,000 Innocent Iraqis Get Free Medical Treatment
A large section of northern Iraq is controlled by the South Korean military and one of the many activities they conduct is a free hospital. In less than two years, this hospital has offered free service to 40,000 Iraqis. But I guess none of them were abused, raped, or murdered so I doubt if you'll be hearing about this in any of the broadcast or print media.

The hospital works on a ticket system where local clinics issue tickets to patients that entitle them to see the doctors and nurses at the South Korean hospital. Not only does this hospital treat patients, but they offer supplies and training to the local clinics so that when it's time to go they can maintain the same level of service.

Soccer Anyone?
In Mudiq, Iraq, a soccer fan, who just happens to be the commander of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment operating in the area, promised local children that if they cleaned up a local dump that he would supply the goals and soccer balls required to turn it into a soccer field. Ten days later he made good on his promise.
The Iraqi children got excited about the soccer field as soon as Marines started unloading the gear. A recreation area like this is rare in an urban neighborhood such as Mudiq.

“You should have seen the kids,” said Cpl. Mario O. Huerta, a 22-year-old from Dallas, who serves as platoon sergeant for Desgrosseilliers’ jump team. “I was patrolling up and down the street and the whole town was happy.”

Huerta said he could relate to the young soccer stars. He shares their passion for game.

“Soccer is my life,” he said. “I’m a soccer player, so if someone did that for me when I was a kid, I know it would make my day.”
(full story by LCPL Ray Lewis, RCT 5 posted in comments)
Innocent Iraqi Children Get New School
In Al Tina, Iraq, a Civil Affairs team just finished building a new school for local children.
by Sgt. Dennis Gravelle
138th MPAD

AL TINA, Iraq -- The primary focus of Civil Affairs teams in northern Iraq is helping the Iraqi people rebuild the infrastructure, from roads and bridges to renovating schools for children.

Local schools in the north are in need of several upgrades and renovations due to years of neglect. The renovations are needed to help the children learn in an environment more conducive to learning.

For the village Al Tina, Iraq, their school held a ribbon cutting ceremony to feature the grand opening on Aug. 22. On hand for the ceremony was the Mayor of Qayyarah, Muktar Ali Shahab, and Gen Ali, commander, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Iraqi Army Division.

CA teams hired a local contractor to get the project started. The contractor then hired local villagers to assist with the repairs. Hiring locals improves short-term employment in the area, while instilling pride and improving the educational environment.

Money to complete the project came from the Commanders Emergency Relief Fund, which helps local villages in the Ninevah Province, northern Iraq rebuild after years of neglect.

“CERP is a sub category under a funding called Iraqi Reconstruction & Relief Effort,” said Lisa Lawson, project engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, gulf region north. “This is what Congress authorized to help restore Iraq.” Lawson is from Tulsa, Okla.

The school was formerly a hut-like structure, but now has fans, flushing toilets, a headmaster’s office, and most importantly, an environment that facilitates learning.

28 August 2006

B36 News - 28 August 2006

The current count is just shy of 1000 page views for my Open Challenge and I have yet to face a serious contender. Surely there has to be someone out there who can back up the claim that we're losing. I won't be suprised by what the Tanker Brothers call "drive by comment posting" in which the poster levels personal attacks at me rather than at my position on the issue, but if someone can logically explain how we're losing I'll be impressed.

Also, thanks to those of you who have helped me reach those who would otherwise not hear my challenge. I'd like to keep up that effort so if you know of some deep-dark defeatist hole, please let me know so I can shine the light of victory on them.

I just don't get why Americans would WANT us to lose.

Operation Together Forward Expands
After securing several districts in southern and western Baghdad, Iraqi and Coalition forces are beginning to move into the northern district of Adhamiyah. Remember, we're sending men with guns into neighborhoods looking for other men with guns. Chances are good that in these places there will be temporarily increased violence. Also remember, this NEEDS to happen before violence will decrease. Ignoring the bad men with guns is not the path to peace. Taking their guns, by force if necessary, will lead to peace.

Reconcilliation Gains Support
Over the weekend, PM Maliki held a reconcilliation conference that resulted in tribal leaders from all sects signing what was called a 'pact of honor' aimed at helping reduce violence in Iraq. This is another critical step forward for Iraq. For years there has been a rift between the different sects in Iraq and now we're seeing a lot of progress towards overcoming those divisions and the creation of a unified Iraq.
Al-Maliki won endorsement of his program for bridging religious, ethnic and political divisions at a national conference of tribal chiefs. A representative of the chiefs read their agreement on live television, calling it a "pact of honor."

"Realizing the gravity of the situation our country is undergoing, we pledge in front of God and the Iraqi people to be sincere and serious in preserving the unity of our country," said the agreement signed by tribal leaders and sheiks.

Kidnapped Sunni Lawmaker Released
Before anyone falls out of their chair when they click this link let me give fair warning; yes, it's the New York Times. Showing further progress towards unity, a Sunni lawmaker (who is a woman, by the way) was set free by her Shiite captors thanks in large part to the personal involvment of PM Maliki. There was no military operation to free Ms. Mashhadani, instead she was delivered to PM Maliki's office, at her request, where she personally thanked him.

Now before you think, "Oh, isn't that nice," and move on to the next story, think of the significance of the details here. A democratically elected Sunni female politician was taken hostage for 55 days and released after the involvement of the democratically elected, Shiite PM.

Got unity?

I found this story VERY interesting. I think I'll just quote it and let the author of the article speak for himself:
The second trial of Saddam Hussein, which began this week, has included stomach-churning evidence of his atrocities against the Kurds. It's yet another lesson why removing him was the right thing to do.

Somehow, among the many reasons for the war in Iraq, the one that's perhaps strongest gets shortest shrift: the moral one.

We say this because Saddam's career as usurper and ruler of his nation is an object lesson in evil -- the kind that, if not opposed, festers, grows and infects even those who think they're immune.

27 August 2006

Ask A Troop Sunday

So far no takers to my challenge even though it has been seen by hundreds. To those of you who worry that this may result in the wackos ruining the blog, don't worry, the idiocy rule will still apply to the other posts.

For those who don't know, "Ask A Troop Sunday" is designed to be the place where anyone can say or ask anything. I do my best to completly answer each question, but I may do some tap dancing to aviod compromising OPSEC if you ask too pointed a question.

So if you want to call me a babykiller and are upset because I deleted your comment on another post, here's your chance! Enjoy that freedom of speech that me and my buddies are just dying to protect!

26 August 2006

Open Challenge!

I've decided it's time to step up to the plate and publicly challenge the defeatists. Over a month ago, I published my explanation for why I believe that we're winning the war in Iraq and I now issue a challenge so listen up: prove me wrong. I'm willing to debate those who can present a logical explanation for why we're losing the war and should their explanation top mine I'm willing to admit my wrongs.

Here is my request; whenever you hear or read someone who thinks that the war in Iraq is going badly or being lost, send them to me. Put up a link to this post and tell them they better bring their "A" game.

I want this challenge to reach as many of the defeatists as possible and ask for the readers of this blog to assist me in reaching them. I haven't spent much time looking for defeatist websites (mainly because I get it shoved down my throat by the MSM), so if you know of any please send me a link so I can properly introduce them to the truth. I know that I'm making myself a target with this challenge and I'm very willing to do so because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are in fact winning this war.


Mark and MarksMomma made it back to the states last week so that Mark could get introduced to the rest of his family.

MarksMomma continues to send me videos of my son. In the newest one, Mark meets the kitty.

It's still strange for me to watch these because I always think, "Wow, that's a cute kid!" Then I remember that it's mine and it takes me a minute or two to collect myself.


It's HOT!

25 August 2006

B36 News - 25 August 2006

I was watching the news this morning and I heard one of the "experts" say that the issue of the war in Iraq should be avoided by those who supported it because of the fact that it's a failure. He supported his claim by citing recent polling data that shows that most (51%) Americans don't associate the war in Iraq with the war on terrorism.

This is extremely disheartening, but it's also very motivating. We're winning the war in Iraq. I'm willing to listen to a logical argument to the contrary, but I have yet to hear one. If we're winning the war, why do so many people think we aren't? Because they get their information from the media. Why is the media telling the American public that we're losing the war? What does it benefit the media to mislead the public? The motivation for this lie is an interesting topic, but what concerns me more is result of the lie and that is that the American media is truely and undeniably stabbing troops in the back.

The troops are the war. We are here to win the war. When the media portrays the war as being lost they are portraying the troops as losers. Please don't believe this lie and help your friends see through it as well.

And on a final note before I get to the news from Iraq, forgive me for a moment while I get a little tactical and call it like I see it:
Opposing the war and supporting the troops is bullshit. You spineless wimps who mindlessly bleat this motto need to stop and think for a second ... well, maybe longer in your case. How can you oppose the reason for the troops being here AND support the troops? The troops support the war, we're fighting it. If you don't support the war, you don't support me. You can't have your cake and eat it too.
MSM Good News?
As good as it can get I guess. I'll take what I can get with these people though. Baby steps, remember?

Amazingly, CBS had this to say about the progress of Together Forward:
"...in one west Baghdad neighborhood, killings have plummeted 85 percent. Since the security crackdown began in Baghdad, the murder rate citywide is down 41 percent. It's progress — but it's been less than three weeks..."
The whole article follows pretty much the same track. Talk of progress with a smattering of negativity. The tone of the article led me to believe that this progress upset the reporter and, try as he might, he just couldn't twist it into another knife to stab us in the back with.

MORE MSM Good News?!
Yeah, I couldn't believe it either. In this one, the reporter only takes one subtle jab at negativity, claiming that...
"The scene of American forces sitting casually with Iraqis is a rare sight in many parts of Iraq, especially in dangerous Baghdad and Anbar province, where the little that American troops see of the country is usually through bulletproof glass."
(picture is of me standing casually with Iraqis in "dangerous Baghdad", see the smiles?)

I'd like to know how she came to that conclusion. Probably not from the hundreds of convoys she went on to visit local leaders. Anyway, to the reporter's credit she quickly turns that frown upside-down:
"In the relative quiet of Shiite-dominated southern Iraq, the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division, is moving forward with ambitious reconstruction efforts, planning to spend $15 million in a yearlong deployment compared to $2 million spent by the units it replaced over the previous 18 months."
Going Towards the Gunshots
How many people do you know that upon hearing gunfire or explosions would move towards those sounds? That's exactly what these troops in Ramadi are doing. These guys rolled into the middle of downtown Ramadi and started setting up a base camp. As one company commander put it:
“This is like the enemy putting a little safe house next to our chow hall,” said Capt. Michael P. McCusker, commander of Warrior Company, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment. “They don’t like this at all. Things will be getting very energetic here over the next few days.”
"Energetic," that's code for "lots of fighting." Ladies and gentlemen, running away from the fight will not win anything. Moving towards the fight, towards the bombs and bullets is how we win. It's how we stop those who plant bombs and fire bullets.

In whatever manner you pray, say a special prayer for these guys. They're getting rid of bad guys that would cut your throat as quick as they would swat a fly if they could.

24 August 2006

B36 News - 24 August 2006

In my posts here I have gone to great lengths to check myself and make sure that I'm not violating operational security (OPSEC), not because they told me that I would get in trouble if I did, but because I recognize the threat that poor OPSEC poses to troops on the ground.

For a long time I had always suspected that the warning that blogs were being watched for OPSEC violations was just a ghost story told to keep us milbloggers in line. Well, that changed yesterday. Shortly after posting the story "Progress of Together Forward" I received an email from the "they" who checked for violations informing me that posting the maps violated OPSEC. In response I immediately removed the maps and asked for clarification on the issue because I had obtained them from www.mnf-iraq.com, an open-source news outlet. After a review it was determined that because they had been officially released in a public news briefing conducted here in Baghdad, that there was no violation and that I was authorized to re-display the maps.

Let there be no doubt; I am very happy that there is someone who does what "they" do. The threat of poor OPSEC directly impacting troops on the ground *cough*NewYorkTimes*cough* is very real and "they" are helping prevent that.

Thank you, "they".

Uniting Iraq
In an unprovoked display of national unity, military, political, and religious leaders of all stripes met in the city of Al Hillah at the local police station to discuss the future of their province. Remember the reconcilliation plan? It's one of those things that PM Maliki is pushing to try and bring peace to Iraq. Remember that thing? Yeah, so here is a small scale example of the progress that's being made by Iraqis to secure Iraq. Not all progress involves bullets and bombs.

“This was Iraqi generated, Iraqi led,” said Col. John Tully, commander, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, an invited guest of the ISF leadership present at the conference “They are clearly trying to come to grips with the issues their society is facing.”

The meeting was orchestrated by Maj. Gen. Qais Hamza, Babil provincial police chief, to bring representatives of every facet of Babil culture to the conference and provide them a forum to speak. It is hoped the meeting would signify the commencement of a new era in the region and the end of terrorism in southern Iraq, said a sheik in attendance.

“We have Sunnis, Shias, women, children – that is a miracle in this day of age,” he said. “Everybody knows what needs to be done, but Gen. Qais is the person who decided that it was time to quit talking and start acting.”

CNN Learns Armyese
Yesterday I posted a story from a reporter from FoxNews. Thanks to my Google Alert on "Green Zone" I found a similar story, this time from CNN. Michael Holmes spent some time here in the IZ (as nearly every single reporter does) and struggled with the heavy usage of acronyms by the military. It reminded me of a funny story my wife told me about a friend of hers who was going to a military graduation ceremony on a nearby post. When she got to the parade ground, the guard told her where she neede to park her POV (personally owned vehicle). She responded by pointing to an open space and asking, "Can I park my C-A-R over T-H-E-R-E?"

(As I re-read that I get the feeling that it may only be funny if you were there.)

Interesting Omission
I've heard it said that the things we regret most are not acts of comission, but acts of omission. Here's something that was omitted from every single report I read or heard about the shootings that killed 20 during the recent pilgrimage.

Try to imagine yourself as a fly on the wall ... or donkey ... or whatever when the shooting occured. What kind of response would you expect from security forces? Perhaps you have images of troops standing guard while medics treat the wounded and collect the remains of the dead. Perhaps you see troops surveying the remenants of the shooting before jumping back in their HMMWV and heading home. Here's what actually happened:
...the loss of life is tragic, and we regret the deaths of those innocent Iraqis who were killed in the cold blood by the small-arms fire on Sunday.

These, like so many other terrorist attacks, are aimed at innocent civilians. According to the Ministry of Defense, Iraqi security forces quickly responded to these attacks, controlling the situation, killing six of the terrorists and detaining 19 others.

What this means is that the ISF quickly responded to the violence and acted to stop it. Am I missing something here or is this a great example of progress? The ISF went towards the sound of gunfire. They went looking for the bad guys and killed/captured them. This is how a government protects its people.

23 August 2006

B36 News - 23 August 2006

This sunrise photo was taken a few days ago. There's still a lot of dust in the air which makes for very uninspiring sunrises and sunsets. I decided to post this picture as it goes along with the opener.

I received an email from a friend who is a retired Army officer that included a link with the comment that he thought I would identify myself as a "sheepdog". Strangely, he was right.
Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, "Thank God I wasn't on one of those planes." The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, "Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference." When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

While there is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, he does have one real advantage -- only one. He is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population.
(read the whole article)
Progress of Together Forward
This picture is a map of Baghdad that shows the progress that's been made so far with Operation Together Forward. This not only shows our successes, but gives some insight into the management process of how to tactically and tactfully clear out a city. Clear, hold, rebuild. The city was divided into sections and each section is being systematically cleared. Once a section is cleared, the ISF sets up shop to hold the area, and then once the area is secured it is rebuilt.

This graphic shows operations that have been aimed at taking out death squads in Baghdad in conjunction with Operation Together Forward. Is it just me or does it seem like there's a connection between the location of these operations and the sections of Baghdad that have been, or are being, cleared.

All Growed Up
In a matter of days the 8th Iraqi Army Division will take the final step in training; independence. As of 3 September, the 8th IAD will be operating independently of Coalition support and will be the first division level element to do so. The Coalition teams that have been helping to train the 8th IAD will still be there to offer advice and support as requested, much as in Muthanna, but the 8th will be fully in charge of planning and executing security operations. Obviously, this is another huge step towards Iraqis securing total independence and autonomy for Iraq.

I recently found an article on FoxNews written by Reena Ninan who's been traveling around in Iraq for the last few weeks getting stories from the front lines. Overall I'd say that she did a good job with her article. What I found very interesting was the seemingly honest observations of the military. As I read her stories about her interactions with troops I was reminded that not everyone knows the dress code in a DFAC, or even what a DFAC is (psst, it's a Dining FACility or chow hall). I could easily understand why the troops did what they did in her story and chuckled as I realized that I have become "the man" or "the system".

It's a good story and worth the read.

22 August 2006

B36 News - 22 August 2006

The Wiz makes a guest appearance in today's news. In this picture he's posing with a mold of Mark's foot that MarksMomma sent me in a package recently. The story about how she had to 'splat' his little foot in the goo to make the cast is a funny one, but only if you can make the sound effects to go with it.

Successful Pilgrimage
Making major headlines was the sniper attacks that killed 20 Shia pilgrims in Baghdad. What you didn't hear so much about was the other 999,980 or so who weren't killed. The last time this pilgrimage occured, hundreds died when rumors of suicide vest attacks panicked a crowd that trampled many of its participants. Ladies and gentlemen, this was a major target for terrorists, a large sectarian based gathering, and it passed with relatively little violence. Proof positive that progress is being made.

ISF Catch Bad Guys
Even while ensuring the safety of the roughly 1 million Shia pilgrims, the ISF continued to conduct raids. Great, so they conducted operations, what does that mean?
  • Found and freed 7 kidnap victims.
  • Captured 11 kidnappers, two of which also led death squads.
  • Found one weapons cache.
Innocent Iraqi Teens get Schoolhouse
I guess that since no one died and one can't show how the big bad American military oppressed/violated/insulted someone that you won't hear this story anywhere else. As with most of Iraq, the girls school in Qurtajah was greatly neglected during Saddam's rule. It was neglected right up until the 'American war machine' decided to repair it.
“This is what we came over to Iraq for,” said Hale. “It feels great to be a part of something so positive that these girls probably wouldn’t have experienced before.”

The smiling girls who clutched their gifts and sneaked peeks through the doors and windows into the classrooms couldn’t hear what was being said, but their expressions seemed to confirm their agreement, concluded Hale.
(full story by SPC Christopher Minshall posted in comments)


Yesterday's sunset and today's sunrise were somewhat unspectacular. There's a lot of sand in the air which makes it seem like a very cloudy day. It also makes the sun appear white, which is pretty cool. You can look right at the sun for a short time and see a perfect outline.
That's the sun in the gap in the palm trees in the middle-bottom of the picture

Again, the sun is in the middle between the palm trees.

This picture is of yesterday's sunset. Shortly after this picture the clouds that are partially obscuring the sun completely obscured the sun and it was nearly impossible to tell where it was.

21 August 2006

Convoy Baghdad

Before I get into my story, let me first say that what I did is the same thing that thousands of troops do repeatedly every day. My short trip doesn’t make me hooah-hooah-hardcore, the guys who we went with fit that description. The road warriors who do this every day have my unyielding respect. That being said, what follows is my experience.

Several days ago we got a request for some support at a FOB out in the Red Zone. As my Platoon Sergeant and I were going over our list of available troops we quickly realized that none of them had been outside the blast walls of the IZ. This was a problem since we try to pair up troops who have gone with those who haven’t so that everyone can get a chance to go. The only other available troop who had been outside the IZ was me.

As with most important decisions, this one brought with it a lot of mixed feelings. As a husband and new father I want to make sure that I do the things that will get me home to see my family. Volunteering to go outside the protection of the IZ is not one of those things. As a Soldier and a leader of Soldiers I want to set a good example for my troops. Sending my troops into a dangerous area while sitting behind my desk is not a good example. The though of having been deployed to Iraq for a year and spending most of my time behind a desk dealt a heavy blow to my ego. It would be a great personal disappointment if the day comes that my son asks me if I was in the war and the best story I have to tell is about contaminated shrimp at the DFAC.

I also viewed it as a test of manhood. A man would strap on the body armor and roll out. A man would stand with his troops to face the enemy. A man would go. So I went.

I had no part in the mission as far as getting the work done, my only contribution would be my previous Red Zone experience and as I had responsibilities back at the office I would have to ride with my troops out to the FOB and return to the IZ with the escort (the guys who do this daily). Since I was the only one with any experience in our unit outside the IZ I thought it only appropriate that I should drive (remember my fleet?).

The morning for our trip came and we all loaded up in one of the trucks and linked up with our escort. We ended up having to wait since the guys who would be escorting us were already on a mission and would be returning shortly to pick us up. While we waited we joked and talked about how we would inflate the stories we told our friends and families about this trip.

“So there I was, driving through downtown Baghdad when suddenly 20 insurgents popped out from nowhere! Wait, did I say 20, I meant 50…”

After a bit our escort returned and we finalized the plan. I would drive out with my troops and when we got where we were going I would jump out and get in one of the escort trucks for the ride back. Everyone in the convoy got briefed up and we rolled out. My first trip outside the IZ was on foot, for my second I was a passenger. This time I was a driver.

The trip to the FOB was pretty quick. There was a ban on vehicle traffic that day due to the Shia pilgrimage so the roads were pretty clear except for all the pilgrims (images of John Wayne letting the word “pilgrim” slip from the corner of his mouth running through my head). While driving I split my attention between the truck in front of me and the people around me. “Watch the hands,” the guys from the escort told us, “you gotta use your hands to try and pull any &$!%#.” With all the pilgrims on the streets there were a LOT of hands to watch.

As we drove through Baghdad we passed by a bunch of ISF checkpoints and got friendly waves from the Iraqi troops manning them. When we got where we were going I jumped out of my truck, gave some final guidance, and loaded up in one of the escort trucks. Once I was in the escort truck I got the quick brief on my responsibilities as a member of the truck team. The first brief I got was from the .50 cal gunner.

“Sir, if we get engaged and I call for ammo, you need to cut this strap here and hand me the whole can. I’ll take care of it from there. Also, if I get hit, your job is to push me out of the way and man the gun. Don’t worry about giving me aid, ok?”

“Roger, got it.”

My next brief came from the truck commander.

“Sir, while we’re driving make sure you’re looking out the window and watching their hands. If someone opens your door from the outside … shoot the mother$^%#!”

“Roger, got it.”

Now that I had been properly briefed we rolled back. Doing my best to appear to be a competent troop in the field, I watched the other guys in the truck and did my best to imitate them. I noticed that the truck commander had his M9 pistol in his hand and his M4 stashed next to him. I figured that given the advice he just gave me that should the door get opened it would be easier to maneuver the pistol so I stashed my M4 and readied my M9.

The trip back ended up being as eventful as the trip out (not very) which is obviously a good thing. We got back to the IZ and I thanked the guys for the trip.

B36 News - 21 August 2006

What does Baghdad really look like? This. This photo was taken during the recent Shia pilgrimage to comemorate the death of the 7th Imam. Troops convoy in this kind of situation every day. On this particular day there was a ban on vehicle traffic in the city to help the security situation so the streets were even emptier than they usually are.

Can you spot the insurgent?

Weapons Cache Siezed
The 172nd Stryker Brigade made headlines recently since they had their deployment extended by about four months in order to help out with securing Baghdad. Now they're making headlines for the huge weapons cache that they siezed recently. Do these guys kick butt or what!

See the video here. Everything you see in this video could have been used to attack me, my buddies, or civilians. Now that it's off the street Iraq is a safer place.

Making Iraqis Safer
No, that's not a misprint. The non-profit group "Brotherhood of the Badge" recently sent a shipment of 2000 ballistic vests to Iraqi police in Baqubah. I'm so glad that things like this are going on because it not only helps to secure Iraq, but it shows cooperation between Americans and Iraqis as regular people, not as strategic/military allies. Creating a personal connection and friendship between Americans and Iraqis is very important because it will continue to pave the way towards developing a strong and lasting political relationship.

To all you Americans out there, the people of Iraq are our friends. We may disagree on some things, but no relationship is perfect.

Operation Together Forward
Baghdad continues to get safer as a direct result of Operation Together Forward. I get the feeling that when people think about military operations, they only think about troops in body armor and up-armored HMMWVs (or Humvees to those who don't speak Armyese) looking for bad guys to shoot. There is SO much more to it.
“We exist to help our people,” said an imam through a translator. “We feel very happy and feel safer if we see American and Iraqi forces in this area.”

Another imam described an incident where Iraqi unity proved more important than sectarian division. He explained that, earlier that day, there was a group of Shiite soldiers patrolling an area next to a mosque guarded by local Sunnis.

At first, he continued, both sides were nervous about being so close and “exposed” to each other. The guards, however, brought food and shared a meal with the soldiers; the Soldiers followed suit for the next meal.

By sharing food and companionship, both sides parted with a new sense of trust and confidence that they could work together, said the imam.


Here are today's sunrise photos.

20 August 2006

Ask A Troop Sunday

It's Sunday again, one more week gone. For those who don't know, Sunday is the day I open up the comments section and let anyone with any opinion (idiotic or not) pose a question or make a statement. I do my best to answer every question fully, but I obviously won't do something stupid like violating OPSEC. So if you have a question you've always wanted to ask a troop, here's your chance!

19 August 2006


The big news from the family side is that Mark and MarksMomma are trying to get back to the States to properly introduce the little guy to his grandparents. Before I was able to make it home for the birth, MarksMomma's Momma came over to Germany to be there to help out and meet Mark (tracking?). Unfortunately Mark decided to hang out until after Grandma had to head back to the US and the two weren't able to meet. This will be the first time that my son will have been in the US even though he is an American. I sure wish I could be there to introduce him to his country.

18 August 2006


MarksMomma sent me this video of our son wiggling around on the couch. A wiggly son can cure any bad day out here.


Work kicked my butt today, didn't have time to go out and get some good locational pictures. Snapped these two from the front lawn (yes, LAWN) by where we work.

B36 News - 18 August 2006

The sunrise in this picture happened a couple weeks ago now. It's not particularly beautiful if you don't know the story behind it. At the time of the picture, I had been working with these troops for about 20 hours trying to run the fiber optic cables that you can see in the bottom of the picture. The guys who specialize in running cable are lovingly referred to as "Cable Dawgs" and until this day I had never really experienced what it means to run cable. I had talked about it a lot in meetings and I knew what they did, I just didn't know how they did it. Now that I do, I have a whole new respect for these guys.

The reason I was out with these guys is because I had to be a jerk and flex my rank to get them to come help us. Rather than being that guy who orders troops to stay up all night working and get some rest myself, I decided that I would work with them, hopefully showing them that the work they were doing was important enough to warrant me being a jerk. By the time it was over, we had run about half a mile of fiber through pipes that had been filled with mud and had been awake for roughly 27 hours and working for at least 20 of them. I can't really get into too much detail about the affect that their work had, but I can say that it supported the 172nd Stryker Brigade's new mission in Baghdad and resulted in the team being awarded Army Achievement Medals in recognition of their work.

It was among the most personally rewarding 27 hours I've spent in Iraq.

Boo Frickin' Hoo
I try to avoid talking about other people's opinions that don't deal with the success of the war, but this one was too good. The Saddam trial continues and I found this piece in Reuters particularly interesting:
"Based on extensive observations of the tribunal's conduct of its first trial ... Human Rights Watch believes that the Iraqi High Tribunal is presently incapable of fairly and effectively trying a genocide case," the group [Human Rights Watch] said.
Later in the same article I found this:
"Our investigation showed the Iraqi government ordered the extermination of part of its Kurdish population. But individual guilt or innocence in the Anfal case can only be determined through a fair trial," Dicker said [director of Human Rights Watch's International Justice Program].
... *stunned silence*

Real Clear Progress
When I found out I was being deployed to the IZ, I signed up with Google News to receive alerts when stories were published that had the words "Green Zone" in it figuring it would be a good way to get some intel before I got there. Yesterday, an alert landed in my inbox titled "Is Iraq a Lost Cause" which, as you can imagine, I found very interesting. As I read the article on Yahoo News, I found that it was actually a cross-post from Real Clear Politics. I'd recommend reading the whole story, but let me post a summary:
Taken together, the impressions from General Caldwell and Secretary Nicholson give a much different picture than the one provided in the New York Times today - and on most days, for that matter. If even you discount Nicholson's comments for administration spin, or assume that Caldwell is putting the best possible face on the security operations in Baghdad, you're still left to confront the fact that some progress is being made. Instead of hearing about it, however, we get the relentless negativity of the media, epitomized by the Times story today. The situation in Iraq is serious, no doubt about it. But it is far from hopeless. U.S. troops, and Iraqi forces and leaders haven't given up hope that Iraq can be saved. We shouldn't either.
I think I'm going to start reading RCP.


The arch in the second picture is on one end of the main road that leads to the palace. There's another one on the opposite end. It's the archway featured on some GZBI apparel.


Sorry I didn't post sunset pictures yesterday, I was exhausted lastnight so I just took the sunset pictures and went to bed. Here are the best ones from that batch.

17 August 2006

B36 News - 17 August 2006

One of the stranger things that I've seen here is the birdcage in the MWR area. I don't know the history of it, but it's a pretty huge cage with about 20 or 30 birds in it. I'm not much of a bird buff so I don't know what kind they are, but they're all pretty colorful. Must be one of those things that someone thought, "Hey, it'd be cool if we had birds," and poof someone got birds. Man, that makes it sound like a disease.

*cough* *cough*

"Hey man, you ok?"

"Nah, I got birds."

Securing Baghdad
I've posted a lot of news lately about the current push to secure Baghdad and if you've checked the links you probably noticed that they come from government sources. Well, here's how it looks from a civilian reporter's point of view:
The nightlife is zero and most shops are shut, but U.S. and Iraqi forces said Wednesday that a three-day security sweep has cleaned up — at least for now — a mostly Sunni neighborhood in west Baghdad, notorious for kidnappings, murders and bombings.

"I think the security situation has improved. We haven't seen corpses on the streets, which were a daily scene," said Saad Jawad al-Azawi, a 45-year-old taxi driver. "I hope our area will have a permanent patrols of joint U.S-Iraqi forces."
IA 4th Brigade Assumes Baghdad Neighborhood
Here is yet another example of the progress we're making on a daily basis. More and more of the country is being handed back to the Iraqis and as we clear out Baghdad it's being turned over. This is the exit strategy that a lot of people have been crying for, but I guess it's better for those people to try and keep the focus on supposed failures. Hmmm... what could it possibly benefit someone to portray failure on the part of the military?
... that's almost a rhetorical question.

Blogging Policy
So what restrictions are imposed on us milbloggers you may ask? Well read the policy for yourself. Personally I think it's pretty relaxed, here's a few exerpts:
Prohibited information. Any official information that is generally not available to the public and which would not be released under the Freedom of Information Act. Examples include but are not limited to:
1) Classified information
2) Casualty information before the next-of-kin has been formally notified by the Military Service concerned.
3) Information protected by the Privacy Act.
4) Information regarding incidents under ongoing investigation.
5) For Official Use Only information.

Personal web sites and web logs. Personal web sites and web logs produced in a personal capacity and not in connection with official duties need not be cleared in advance. However, it is the responsibility of MNC-I personnel to ensure that any personal web sites and web logs do not contain prohibited information as defined in this policy. MNC-I personnel who have any questions regarding prohibited information may submit the information to their servicing S2/G2/C2 for classification questions or to their PAO for other questions.