Well, I'm no longer accountable for any property here in Baghdad. At least none that I signed for while I was here. It's a good day when your replacement can sign what used to be your property book and everything is accounted for.
Inventories are the bane of just about everyone in the military. I hesitate to say everyone because somewhere out there is a masochist who just loves to crawl through dusty storage closets and squint his beady little eyes to read serial numbers on widgets just so that he can get another bullet on his evaluation. I, however, am not one of these creatures, but I do make a concerted effort to do a good job because if I don't I could go to jail.
There are some pieces of equipment that if lost through my negligence I could become a guest of the federal government at sunny Ft. Leavenworth where I would get to make big rocks into little rocks for a number of years. I keep this cheery thought in the front of my mind whenever it comes time to do inventories and it does a lot to motivate me to do a good job. On the other end of the spectrum, there are some things that if lost I would simply have to fork over the money to replace them. While this isn't as motivating as not going to a federal "pound-me-in-the-_ _ _" penatentary, I'd still rather not have to spend the money.
For this inventory, not only did I not lose any equipment, but neither did any of my Soldiers. None of us have to pay for new equipment and none of us will become Bubba's special lady. That makes me happy.
In much more significant news ... when was the last time you heard a civilian body count? I sure haven't been hearing those headlines of "Hundreds die every day in Baghdad" like I used to. Could that maybe be because civilians aren't being killed by the hundreds? ... curious
Maybe it has something to do with the Iraqi Security Forces. Listen to what MG Caldwell had to say about them:
In total today, there are six of 10 Iraqi army divisions in the lead, 30 of 36 Iraqi brigades, and 90 of 112 Iraqi battalions in the lead. And we operate in support of them. All across Iraq, we continue to see an increasingly capable Iraqi security force continuing to take the lead. [And let's not forget two whole provinces!]
There have been isolated clashes recently in locations around Iraq between the militias and government of Iraq forces, such as in Amarah, Diwaniyah. We've seen sectarian violence in Balad and Saba al-Bor, primarily between Sunni and Shi'a. These clashes have garnered sensational headlines, however, they are not clashes that had uncontrolled continued violence. What we saw, to the credit of Iraqi security forces and local leaders, was some action. In each case, Iraqi security forces, acting on their own, played a critical role in quelling the violence within days. Local leaders, both political and religious, in coordination with Iraqi security forces, came together to take action necessary to prevent the violence from spiraling out of control.
So what we see in actions taking place all over Iraq is that Iraqis are taking charge of their country, and they're doing it valiantly. Violence will flare up again in areas that are under Iraqi control. The question will be, can they handle these situations themselves? In all these incidents they did; they responded and they returned calm to the areas. The Iraqis brought an Iraqi solution to an Iraqi problem, which is precisely the strategy for Iraq.
Yeah ... it's quite the quagmire here. Ya know, I don't claim that the strategy or our execution of it is perfect, but what I do claim is that it is working. People portray things as lost and beyond control, that everything we're doing is 180 degress off course in order to further their agenda, whatever it may be. These people are wrong. There may be a better way to win this war, but this is the way we're doing it and we are winning.
PT tests, inventories, weapons ranges... we've been really busy here lately. The busyness comes in bursts though. Half of the day will be spent twiddling our collective thumbs, something will happen and the rest of the day is spent running around like madmen with our hair on fire.
It's all ok though. Whatever hoops they put me through, I jump with a smile on my face because I know that I'll be headed home soon.
The news has been looking pretty good lately too. Of course all you're hearing in the MSM is body counts, car bombs, sectarian violence, blah, blah, blah... To the collective 'Chicken Little Media' I only wish to quote General Casey:
The tearing down that our enemies do is infinitely easier than the building up that Iraq requires after three decades of neglect. But building is what Iraq needs, and we have committed $400 million already to projects in support of the Baghdad effort, with almost 600 more million dollars in additional projects to kick in here over the next couple of months
Make no mistake about it, we are in a tough fight here in the center of the country and in Anbar province. But I think it's important to remind people that 90 percent of the sectarian violence in Iraq takes place in about a 30-mile radius from the center of Baghdad; and that secondly, 90 percent of all violence takes place in five provinces. This is not a country that is awash in sectarian violence. The situation is hard, but it's not a country that's awash in sectarian violence.
The American people already know what a magnificent job the men and women of their armed forces are doing here, and we continue to be grateful for their continuing support. But they should also know that the men and women of the armed forces here have never lost a battle in over three years of war. That is a fact unprecedented in military history. They and our Iraqi security forces continue to carry the fight to the enemy every day, and I continue to be in awe of their courage, their agility, their resourcefulness, and their commitment. You can be confident that our service men and women are well-trained, well-equipped, and well-led.
And here's my challenge to the American media:
How about you take the knife out of the back of the those of us who protect your freedoms and stick it in the evil-doers who would pull said knife from our back only to cut our head off with it.
These Chicken Littles say that troops are doing a magnificent job in spite of our civilian leadership. I say we're doing a magnificent job in spite of the subversion of the media.
General Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, held a press briefing in which he tactfully and subtly leveled the same accusation at the media. Basically he said that the bad guys know that the will of the American people is what allows the military to do its job and that the media was doing a good job of helping them defeat that collective will. To all you 'average Americans' out there, this means that the bad guys are trying to make you think it's not worth it and we should come home... this is what the bad guys are saying, sound familiar?
Oh yeah, let's not forget Anbar. The Iraqi Army assumed security responsibility for more of Anbar during the week. This is in spite of media reports claiming Anbar was 'lost'. Also, in the Salah ad Din province, which borders Baghdad to the north east, the tribal leaders followed the example of those in Anbar and are coming together to help secure their province. Shia and Sunni working together to make life better for everyone.
Well, my replacement has been here for a few days and I've almost totally got him spun up on how to do my job, but that doesn't mean that I'll be leaving any sooner though. There's a date in the near future that someone picked from a calendar as the magic day when I pass off my cell phone to the new guy and put him in charge and until that day comes it doesn't matter how competent he is, I'm the one who get's poked in the eye if something goes wrong.
It's interesting to talk with him and listen to how he thinks things should be run. I remember when I first landed here and talked with the guy I was replacing. I listened to all the things he complained about and worked up solutions to his problems in a matter of seconds. "Wow, this place is messed up! I'm going to turn this place around! I'm going to fix everything!" I said to myself back then. Now as I hear him saying things much the same as I did I realize that it's more of a relay race than a contest of who can do better. The guys before me started from zero and handed me the baton at 50 meters which I percieved to be zero. Now that I've moved it forward another 50 meters, the new guy thinks that he's starting at zero again just like I did.
I guess it's a good thing though. If he landed here, looked around and said to himself, "Ok, I just gotta go through the motions for a year and go home," then nothing would improve. One day, about a year from now, he'll look back and think something simliar to what I'm thinking now as he's getting his replacement ready.
The days are starting to run together now and I imagine that this phenomena will only get worse ... or better depending on your point of view. It's nice because time seems to go faster, but that also means that I run the risk of missing deadlines. I haven't yet, but only because of reminders from my NCOs and my To-Do list.
When I first deployed I had two foot lockers, a ruck sack, a laptop bag, and a duffel bag. A year later I'm headed back with four foot lockers, a back pack (smaller than a ruck sack), and a laptop bag. Some stuff I used up, some I already sent home, some stuff is in the same wrapper it was when I was first issued it, some stuff I'll wear until I step off the bus at home. Both coming and going, the foot lockers were shipped so I didn't have to mess with transporting them myself, but stumbling off a bus while balancing a ruck sack, duffel, laptop case, a weapon, and body armor isn't what I'd call a good time. On the way back I plan to limit myself to the back pack, laptop case, weapon, and body armor. Each piece can be worn or slung over a shoulder and I will still have use of my hands so I can squeeze my wife and hug my kid when I see them.
Anyway, good things are still happening in Iraq, check these stories out:
Anbar Progress Remember this map? It shows you how much of the country is under Iraqi military/police control. Notice Anbar? Yeah, it's the big white area on the left. No worries though, the 7th Iraqi Army Division responsible for the province is beginning to assume more and more of their territory.
1st Battalion of the 1st Brigade of the 7th IAD assumed a portion of the Ramadi area on 14 October. Let me remind everyone that our goal here is not to kill every last terrorist in the country, but to diminish their (the terrorists) capacity to operate while building the Iraqi Security Forces so that they can maintain security in Iraq and free us up to come home. These kind of events are excellent milestones along that path- along the path of progress and victory.
Supplies Without supplies no military force in the world can operate, including the bad guys. Troops from the 10th Mountain Division conducted Operation Commando Hunter in the Yusufiyah area which is 20 miles southwest of Baghdad and rounded up 78 weapons caches. Rocket launchers, RPGs, dynomite, 82mm mortars, IEDs, machineguns, AK 47s, Dragunov sniper rifles... the list goes on and on. Think of this kind of stuff as preventative surgery - there will be that much less of a body count now because these troops captured this stuff.
Transport Tying the previous two stories together is this one. Supplies do no good if they can't get to where they're needed, but thanks to the 4th Motor Transport Regiment of the 4th Iraqi Army Division that will be less of a problem now.
The 4th MTR recently took the lead of it's own operations which means that it now answers to an Iraqi command structure or more importantly, it takes orders from the Iraqi command structure. Without the beans and bullets in the right place at the right time, the troops that conduct combat operations won't be able to do their job. With the 4th MTR in the lead now, the Iraqi military is that much closer to sustaining itself.
Chances are you know the drill, but on the off chance you don't, this is your chance to ask or say anything to a Soldier in the US Army that you've ever wanted. Just bear in mind that whatever answer I give is mine alone and should not be considered an official DoD statement.
The picture on the left is the last picture of Mark that I took before getting back on the bus/train/plane back to Iraq, he was about 10 days old in this picture. The picture on the right is the newest picture that my sweetie has sent me. Mark is about 3.5 months old in this one.
When I look at the newer pictures of Mark my initial thought is, "Hey, that's a cute kid!" Then I remember that he's MY kid.
Before troops go back home, the Army sends us to a bunch of different briefings that try and prepare us for life outside the war zone. In one of those briefings we hear a guy tell us that even though we've been gone for a year that the world has kept spinning and that things have changed back home. "It won't be the same as when you left," they tell us.
When I first left for Iraq, my wife was barely (emphasis on barely) showing that she was pregnant. When I came back for R&R she was 9 months pregnant and when I left again for Iraq we had an adorable little prune named Mark. Now I see pictures and videos of this little person smiling, wiggling, making noise. Yeah, things have changed.
It's something of a bitter-sweet occasion today, but a lot more sweet than bitter. I'll soon be meeting the guy who's going to replace me here and will be working to get him spun up on how things work and what his responsibilities will be. As such, my attention may have to shift more away from the blog and towards handover preperation.
While this is most assuredly NOT the last news update, the past week is probably the last full week of daily updates. I haven't really figured out what kind of schedule that I'll keep posting on, but rest assured I'll still do my part to help raise awareness of the progress we're making.
I'm not sure if my replacement will continue the blog, I'd imagine that if he's anything like me, he'll be so busy trying to figure things out for the first few months that he'll barely have time to eat let along write in the blog. I'll pose the question, but no promises.
And now, the good news from Iraq-
'Lost' Anbar Remember when it was reported that Anbar was 'lost' to the insurgents? I guess the 300 Iraqi Army Soldiers who just graduated from boot camp there in Anbar didn't hear that one.
“The (Iraqi Army’s) noncommissioned officers are really stepping up. They’re developing their own schedules and teaching all the classes,” said Army Master Sgt. Kary C. Allen, school commandant and senior advisor at the Regional Training Center here. “The instructors had a lot in front of them, and overall they’ve done an admirable job.”
Sadr City Raid On the 10th I posted a story about a combined Coalition/ISF raid in Sadr City that resulted in the capture of IED builder. In yesterday's MNF-I press briefing, MG Caldwell released a chart with much more detailed information about that specific raid and made the following comment:
More specifically, you can see it there. You can see the troops from the operation that night coming in towards the objective site. They drove into Sadr City. Primary target -- it says two here -- it was actually five persons that were detained. There was one hostile that was killed in that engagement, but there was no escalation of force required other than that. So they were able to get the specific person in question.
The reason we went in -- that person we assessed to be an IED maker and key member of an illegal armed group that had links clearly to death squad activities. No question who this person was, and we wanted him. He had been on one of our high-value target lists, and he's now currently in detention, along with five other personnel we picked up at that site.
So I mean, we're conducting operations still throughout the city. It's not any one particular focus area. If we find somebody like this -- doesn't matter where they are -- and they're operating outside the law, we're going to go after them. We just did it on the 9th of October, just a couple days ago.
Man's Best Friend While not strictly a "good news story", I couldn't not post this picture. It was taken by SGT Thomas Wheeler of the 138th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
I think that one of the larger reasons that so many Americans think that the war isn't going well is because they've adopted what I like to call the "microwave mentality" or M&M for short. Some people call it instant gratification, but I like to keep things simple and easy to understand so that the M&Mers don't have to waste time thinking about it for it to make sense.
Think of it like this: you grab a Crispy Crust Hot Pocket out of the freezer, toss it in the microwave, set the timer for 3 minutes and presto, you've got dinner. What the M&Mers do is apply this same logic to pretty much everything else including war; grab some troops, toss them into Iraq, set the timer and presto, you've got victory. What's so deceptive about this is that it's almost true. Take out the step where the timer is set and you've got it.
Perhaps a short review of what happened to other countries after we beat them militarily would help M&Mers understand how well we're doing:
Germany - 10 years from the end of combat ops to sovereignty despite having previously had an elected government. US troops still present.
8 May 1945 - Surrender
23 May 1947 - Establishment of West Germany Government
5 May 1955 - West Germany is sovereign
12 October 2006 - US troops still present
Japan - 6.5 years from the end of combat ops to sovereignty, never previously had elected government. US troops still present.
2 September 1945 - Surrender
3 May 1947 - Constitution is ratified
28 April 1952 - Japan is sovereign
12 October 2006 - US troops still present
Iraq - 3 years from the end of combat ops to elected government despite decades of tyranny. US troops still present
1 May 2003 - End of combat ops against Iraq
15 October 2005 - Constitution is approved
8 June 2006 - Democratically elected government is seated
12 October 2006 - US troops still present
Patience M&Mers, we're doing good over here.
IED Hunters Raise your hand if you'd like to go looking for IEDs today. Anyone? Here's what SSG Ramon Martinez says about that,
“I want to go out there and find bombs,” said Martinez, a native of Yuma, Ariz. “It’s our job to look for, and contain, bombs. We get hit hard sometimes, but we still continue to sweep. We take it upon ourselves to look at every little thing.
“You get an attitude that comes from (terrorists) trying to blow you up. When (terrorists) put an IED out there, I’m gonna find it! That’s my contribution to this war.”
At the time this story was written, SSG Martinez had personally survived 19 IED explosions and his battalion was responsible for finding 310. It's reported that when SSG Martinez returned to his FOB he backhanded Chuck Norris who then sobbed like a little girl.
SWIFT, Iraqi Style SWIFT was the secret program that the US used to track terrorist finances right up until the NY Times made the world aware of it. The spies of WWII wish they had it so easy as the American media.
Well the Iraqis conducted their own version of the SWIFT program on 9 October when they shut down a hawala, an informal local financial system for banking and money exchange. Bad guys were laundering money and using it to get their hands on weapons that would be used against us.
But wait, that's not all! This particular operation was kicked off because local Iraqis provided tips to the good guys. This is how it's supposed to work.
I had worked up a nice little narrative about my experience of the explosions that resulted from the fire at FOB Falcon, but as I reread it I started thinking OPSEC and decided that if I had to think twice about it that chances are I shouldn't post it.
According to MNF-Iraq.com's report, a bad guy's mortar landed in the ammo dump and was responsible for the fires and explosions. Let me just say that these guys were shooting blind and just happened to land a lucky shot somewhere that made a lot of pretty sparkles and loud noises that got them in the news.
Today I've been reading some of the reports in the news about last night and couldn't help but laugh at how wrong they are. Two early reports, one from Reuters and another from eCanadaNow, claimed that the explosions were actually in the Green Zone... Sounds to me like some chicken-s**t reporter was hiding in a bunker and made a quick cell phone call to his editor after hearing the first few explosions and didn't bother to make sure that he had his facts straight.
Afghanistan to Basrah Umar Faruq had been detained in a prison in Afghanistan, but he had managed to escape only to be waxed in Basrah.
Ground forces have verified the death of Mahmoud Ahmed Mohammed Al-Rashid, also known as Umar Faruq, through DNA testing.
During a raid, Sept 25 in Basrah, ground forces killed Mahmoud Ahmed Mohammed Al-Rashid Faruq. As forces maneuvered to the objective, they received small-arms fire from suspected terrorists. Forces killed an individual wielding a firearm as they reached the objective. After taking photographs and gathering DNA evidence from the individual, ground forces left the suspected terrorist remains at the site. It was later determined through DNA gathered the individual killed was Umar Faruq.
But Iraq isn't a part of the war on terror or anything so he was probably visiting family or vacationing in sunny Basrah... nevermind the AK47 he was firing.
This week, one brigade and three battalions of the Iraqi Army assumed the lead in their areas of operation, bringing the total of Iraqi units in the lead to six Iraqi Army division headquarters, 30 brigades and 89 battalions, he said. Of the 110 bases that Coalition forces have occupied since 2003, 52 have been turned over to Iraqi control, he added.
In September, Iraqi and Coalition forces killed more than 110 terrorists and detained more than 520 suspected terrorists in 164 operations, Caldwell said. Based on information received from a recently detained al-Qaida member, Coalition forces detained a former driver and personal assistant of Abu Ayyoub al- Masri, the purported leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, along with 31 others during a series of raids in the Baghdad area Sept. 28th.
But aren't we supposed to be bogged down in an untennable quagmire? That's what the media keeps telling us. Maybe I just don't know what I'm talking about.
Sorry for the short post today, I'm really swamped with work today so I won't have time to really dig in to the good news from around Iraq. That said, here are a few links to stories that I would like to draw people's attention to.
Also, be on the look out for the second installment of 'The Wiz Interviews' which should be coming shortly. I know he's been busy lately, but I think he'll be able to contribute sometime this weekend.
ISF Raid in Sadr City Iraqi troops conducted a snatch-and-grab raid yesterday in Sadr City that resulted in the capture of a known IED builder.
"So what?" you ask. Let me pare it down and add emphasis: Iraqi troops captured a bomb maker in Sadr City. Good guys went into unfriendly territory and caught a bad guy.
CF/ISF Catch More Bad Guys ... this time in southern Baghdad. Coalition and Iraqi troops rolled into a neighborhood, captured a wanted bad guy, and fought their way back home with the bad guy in tow.
BlackAnthem Ops Roundup BlackAnthem.com is a military themed news site that I've only recently came across and I find that I really like it. I would highly recommend it as a source of good military news.
In this story, the guys at BlackAnthem give a good summary of various operations from around Iraq.
So it seems that body counts are making headlines again, except that this time they belong to the bad guys. I'm referring to the battle in Diwaniyah that caused about 30 bad guys to reach room temperature which is somewhat elevated here in Iraq. Of course the media can't focus on our successes too much and are quick to mention that an Abrams tank was disabled by RPG fire, but allow me to help frame that based on reports from MNF-Iraq.com, DefenseLink.mil, and FoxNews.com.
Bad guys put up a stiff defense against a combined CF/ISF patrol that included armor assets. During the fight, as many as 10 RPG teams were engaged and 6 were eliminated, but not before they disabled one of the tanks. Disabling a tank means exactly that, it didn't explode in a fireball or burn to the ground, it was simply disabled much like a car with a flat tire. The crew of the tank made it out just fine. Once the site was secured (code for killing the bad guys or running them off) the tank was recovered; think tow-truck for tanks here.
But that wasn't the end of it. After all this, the patrol was still able to see their mission through to a successful end in the capture of a high-value bad guy. Mission complete.
Anbar Police Chief Drives On A few days ago I posted a story about the tribes of Anbar banding together to drive terrorists from the province. PM Maliki recenlty threw his support behind their efforts to clear out the bad guys so now we just need to keep an eye on it and make sure it happens.
An example of making happens was provided by Iraqi Police Colonel Sha'ban al Obeidi. After being wounded in an ambush on his patrol, he passed on the following message to his fellow policemen
Continue to take care of the people, continue the fight. No food, no drink, no pleasure, only fighting the terrorists and eradicating them.
Troop Makes Kids Lives Better What can one troop caught up in the war for civilization do to make a difference? SSG Valrica Pollard decided to do what she could. Pollard said she visits the clinic whenever she gets a chance, usually about every other weekend.
After turning in the boxes of goodies, she likes to play with the Iraqi children, who get excited about new toys and the animated movies playing in the waiting area.
“Regardless of what your purpose is, you have a good feeling that you did your part,” said Pollard.
During the week I weed out the occasional idiotic rant because I don't want this blog to deteriorate into a flamewar firepit that I've seen so many become. An ounce of prevention don't 'ya know.
Sundays are different though. On Ask A Troop Sunday I invite moonbats of every pursuasion to spill their bile all over the comments section in hopes of containing the child-like "did not, did too" arguments that are so pervasive on the net.
If you've got a question that you've always wanted to ask a Soldier in the US Army then now's your chance. The only disclaimer is that the answer you get will be my opinion based on my observations and experiences as a troop and in no way represents an official statement by the DoD. I also will not answer questions that my give bad guys a piece of the puzzle they can use to figure out how to hurt my buddies over here.
When my sweetie sent me this picture I wasn't sure if I should smile or put on my war face, but when I heard the story behind it I couldn't help chuckling.
It would seem that little Mark was left in the care of some kids from the youth group that my sweetie and I volunteer at while my sweetie was attending to some necessary chores. I can't recall what it was exactly that drew her away, but it was during this time that the kids hatched their diabolical plot. They put a new liner in the garbage can which was followed by an unsuspecting Mark and both were put in the middle of the room the kids were in. After completing this step of their plot, one of them produced a camera and positioned herself by the door to capture my sweetie's expression upon discovering her only child wasn't on the can, but in it.
I'm told that her expression was captured in pixels and was well worth the trouble, something of a mix between amusement and the urgent desire to shred the limbs of those responsible. I'm still looking forward to seeing that one, but I doubt I'll share it here.
It's another picture to put in the album to show girlfriends we don't approve of.
In other news, the go-home day is quickly approaching and I find that I'm starting to have to find distractions to keep from thinking about it. Unfortunately for those efforts, a lot of the tasks we're doing right now are go-home tasks so I have no choice but to think about it.
I have noticed that when I do start thinking about home, my thoughts don't extend much further past being with my family. Going places and doing things with them, heck I'm even fantasizing about sitting on the couch and napping with them.
As far as my job goes, my official title is Platoon Leader which is typically a job you get for no more than 12 months. I've had it for 15 so there's no doubt that I'll be getting moved out shortly after getting home. I've heard rumors about where they'll be assigning me and what I might be doing, but in any case it's back in Germany with my family. Right now I'd be happy to dig a hole and fill it up every day if it meant I could go home and see my sweetie and my son at the end of the day.
Even though I'm really looking forward to seeing my family again, don't be mistaken; serving my country and the people of Iraq for these last months is something that I'm extremely happy and proud to have been a part of. The day when my son is old enough to start asking questions about the world and he asks me if I was in the war will be a very proud day for me. Being able to look him in the eye and say, "Yes I was, I was in Baghdad," and answer all his questions will be one of the thrills of my life.
By way of www.mnf-iraq.com I got my hands on the al-Masri video which you can see below.
I did a bit of research and found that it was two months to the day between when we captured Zarqawi's 'fumbler' video and when we gave him the 500lb lobotomy. Based on this and the fact that we've been nabbing his buddies left and right, I'd say that he's got less than two months left until he's either captured or finds out if he gets his virgins.
Iraqi Troops Learn Fiber Optics This one is particularly near and dear to me as this story is about the kinds of things that my troops do every day. Along with all of the shooter training that Iraqi troops are getting, they're also getting trained up on how to do ... my job and my troops job.
Fiber optics is a great (expensive!) way to build a network, or at least the backbone for a network. You can run it farther than you can run regular copper cable and it carries more bandwidth. It also provides the opportunity for a lot of "fiber" related jokes. In the picture above is a cross section of some fiber optics cable. On the outside all you see is the thick black cable, but inside you see several individual, color coded strands. A cable can have differing numbers of strands in it, but each cable can make half as many links as it has strands.
For example, if I had a 12 strand cable I could make 6 connections. Each connection uses two strands, one for transmitting and one for receiving.
Troops Deliver School Supplies We don't just build and protect schools, we also supply them - and it's not just us. A combined patrol of troops from 3rd Brigade of the 5th Iraqi Army Division and US troops from the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division delivered school supplies to kids in the Diyala province.
Despite the heavy attacks from eager school children, there were no reported casualties for anyone involved. Except, I guess, for the bad guys who are being increasingly marginalized.
Macedonian SF Train Iraqis By Spc. C. Terrell Turner 1st BCT PAO, 4th Inf. Div. CAMP TAJI, Iraq – Iraqi army soldiers from 1st Platoon, 5th Special Troops Company, 3rd Brigade, 9th Iraqi Army Division, graduated from the Macedonian-led basic combat training course Sunday at Camp Taji.
The course was designed by the Macedonian Special Forces Regiment, which is attached to 1st Battalion, 66th Armor Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, to supplement the training the soldiers received in basic training and to allow them to better execute their daily missions alongside the Macedonian soldiers.
“For more than 16 days, we assisted the Macedonians in providing the Iraqi soldiers with additional combat training, to include marksmanship training, two ranges, a shoot house, structure clearing procedures and first aid,” said Sgt. 1st Class Russell Coughenour, noncommissioned officer-in-charge, 3rd Bde, 9th IAD Military Transition Team. “We also focused on basic discipline and noncommissioned officer development during the training.”
Six MTT members and 28 Macedonian soldiers trained the platoon of 52 Iraqi soldiers from start to finish. The platoon will return to its area of operations to conduct military operations.
“It was fabulous,” said Coughenour. “They were a refined crew by the time they were done. They’re just a super bunch of guys.”
The training came to fruition after the Macedonian SF Regt. conducted an assessment of the Iraqi forces during some initial missions.
“Our job is to assist and advise the Iraqis,” said Capt. Zoran Ivanov, contingent commander, Macedonian SF Regt. “The training will allow them to be more confident and proficient in their training.”
The Iraqis seemed to appreciate the additional instruction.
“The training was tough, but good,” said Pvt. Ali, an infantryman with 5th STC, in his second year of service in the new Iraqi army. “I learned some new skills and they taught us things like self-confidence, duty, loyalty, respect and discipline.”
The soldiers are the first to go through the training, but not the last, Ivanov noted. Two more cycles of training are scheduled, which will mean 150 Iraqi soldiers will have gone through the additional training.
“I feel good that I graduated from this course, and I hope I will be able to fight the terrorists,” said Spc. Adel, infantryman, 5th STC. “I want my nation to be at peace.”
Ivanov said he recognized an almost instant change in the soldiers after they completed the training.
“They will go back to their units and begin going on missions after this,” he said. “The soldiers displayed lots of effort. They want to learn. At the end of the training, the difference was obvious. The ‘Scorpions’ of 5th Special Troops Company are completely different soldiers.”
The next graduating class is scheduled for late October.
There are some headlines floating around right now claiming that Al Masri, the new leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed in a recent raid in Haditha. I would advise readers look past the headline and read the whole story before they start dancing in the streets. (FoxNews) (BBC)
Al Masri Aide Captured We may not have gotten Al Masri yet, but we got a buddy of his along with 31 of his buddy's buddy. I believe that the interrogators are using the tickly-feather-of-death technique to extract further information about insurgent actions aimed at gutting and beheading people who don't want to convert to Islam. As long as they don't make him uncomfortable I'll be able to sleep at night.
Wait, is that how it works? Or will I be able to sleep at night because the men who want to gut me and cut my head off are being hunted and killed? Anyway, what's on MTV?
ISF Take Out Terrorists An increasingly capable ISF conducts many operations throughout Iraq, here is one that you get to hear about.
After receiving reports that bad guys were kicking people out of their houses, troops from the 2nd & 3rd Brigade of the 8th Iraqi Army Division, which is in the lead, rolled into the Obiedi area and set up a cordon and search resulting in 8 bad guys captured. Weapons Siezed, Rape/Murder Prevented Troops in Baghdad have had a busy few years protecting innocents and killing bad guys and the last few days are no exception. In two seperate operations troops siezed a whole heck of a lot of weapons, ammo, and explosives along with the bad guys who were trying to hide them.
On top of those siezures troops also stopped a bad guy from raping and killing a woman along the side of the road. While they were investigating they found that the bad guy had a stash of weapons and body armor.
One less bad guy roaming around.
Goes Around... So what happens to those weapons once we put our hands on them? Much of it is destroyed, but some of it is finding a new home in the hands of the ISF.
By Lance Cpl. Ben Eberle 1st Marine Logistics Group CAMPTAQADDUM -- Since March 2003, coalition forces have seized thousands of unauthorized small arms through security patrols and urban search operations.
Marines and civilians with Ammunition Platoon, Supply Company, Combat Logistics Regiment 15, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), are redeploying these weapon systems into the Iraqi Army, turning insurgent resources into coalition assets.
“We need to arm our allies,” said Warrant Officer Robert P. Smith, officer-in-charge of Camp Taqaddum’s Ammunition Supply Point (ASP). “We not only need to train them on our tactics, we need to arm them with what they need to fight the insurgents.”
Thousands of weapons, mostly AK-47 assault rifles, have been brought to the ASP where a team of specialists inspects the recovered items to determine which are still operational.
“As units conduct patrols, they come up with unauthorized weapons that eventually come to one of these collection points,” said Gunnery Sgt. Mark W. Scarlata, electro-optics maintenance chief for Maintenance Company. “Our primary function is to sort the serviceable and unserviceable, authorized and unauthorized (for use by the Iraqi Security Forces).”
To determine which weapons are operational, the team forms an assembly line with each individual conducting a separate function check. The team can make basic repairs on location, such as changing a pair of hand guards or replacing a bolt assembly, said Scarlata, a 38-year-old from Lakeland, Fla.
Some of the weapons coming to the ASP are unsalvageable. Faulty trigger mechanisms, for example, commonly keep weapons from redeploying. Some weapons never have a chance for redeployment. Homemade mortar tubes and rocket-propelled grenade launchers are destroyed along with the assault rifles, shotguns and pistols that are beyond repair.
“We’ve got a good crew here, everyone’s playing their part,” added Scarlata. He refers to his team as a “hodge-podge” of Marines, some of whom have military occupational specialties as motor transportation operators, administration specialists and legal clerks.
“We give them the rundown of what to look for, and with the seven (small-arms repairmen) we have here, we’re not running into any problems,” said Scarlata.
Three of the seven specialists are civilian contractors with prior military service.
“I never expected to be here, but I decided to come out because I knew I had something to contribute,” said Chris Piepgrass, a 50-year-old from Springfield, Ore., who retired after 22 years in the Air Force. “It feels good to be a part of this.”
One of the small arms repairmen is a former Marine who is getting his first taste of a deployment to Iraq.
“I’m just doing my part to help out, turning some of these guns around and getting them into the right hands,” said Adam G. Garner, a Robbins, N.C., native. He served in the Marine Corps from 2001 to 2005.
What Garner might lack in deployment experience he makes up for in his knowledge of small arms.
He rummaged through a bin of weapons and randomly pulled out pistols and shotguns and at a glance, described their features - even where they were manufactured.
“I’ve seen Egyptian, German and Czechoslovakian Mausers,” said Garner, referring to some of the rifles he’s seen since the weapons started coming in. “Some of these (AK-47s) are more than 30 years old. They’re fairly indestructible,” he said as he gestured toward the assembly line.
Camp Taqaddum is not the only base contributing to the redeployment of seized weapons. The Marine Corps has also established collection points in Al Asad and Fallujah.
“This is going to help arm the Iraqi Army with what is authorized, giving them more of a starting point than they already have,” said Scarlata. He added that once the IA is properly trained, they can assume responsibility for the security of Iraq.
MG Caldwell is the spokesman for Multi-National Forces-Iraq, the headquarters that drives the fight in Iraq. Every week he holds a press conference here in Baghdad that is the source of the OTF maps that I post here. At the end of each brief he opens up the floor for a question and answer session with the media. Digital copies of the whole brief are published on the MNF-I.com website and I watch them all.
While watching this one I was struck by the questions that were asked of MG Caldwell and thought I would make it easy for everyone else to see what he goes up against every week. I cut together clips of the questions that these 'journalists' asked into a single video that you see here.
MNF-I just released the latest update on Operation Together Forward. The map on the right is from last week, on the left is this week. If you remember, last week's map was different than previous maps because they got rid of the 'hazy yellow' sections that were highlighting the neighborhoods that we were operating in. The black and yellow striped sections now illustrate areas that are being patrolled in a focused manner. MG Caldwell can give you some more insight into exactly what these maps mean.
And while I'm at it, the picture you see here shows everything I've consumed today in support of Rolling Victory Fast.
It's a 1230 as I write this and so far I'm not feeling too hungry. I've gone 24 hrs without food before and I've been working myself up for this so I'm confident that I'll be able to make it. So far I've had one cup of coffee and half a red gatorade.
If you haven't signed up for a day to fast in support of victory (and in opposition of the nutcase surrender mom), then I'd highly advise you do! Go see the Tanker Brothers for more information!
Iraqi Air Assault In a recent raid near Taji, north of Baghdad, Iraqi Special Ops Forces (ISOF) conducted an air assault operation to snatch a terrorist with sparkling results. Air assault is a tactic that relies on helicopter insertion much like what was seen in the popular movie Black Hawk Down. It's a technique used with a lot of success by our military and now by the Iraqi military.
The video below is an example of what an Iraqi air assault looks like. This is not footage from the actual operation.
School Opens in Babil A small example that despite what you may be hearing in the news, good things continue to happen in Iraq. Under the storm of bad news, troops are driving on and making it happen, though not without a large helping hand from Iraqis.
The construction of this particular school was done by an Iraqi contractor who employed Iraqis and used Iraqi materials. The building of the school cost about $128,ooo and all that money went directly into the local economy through the workers and the suppliers, not to mention the benefit that the school will provide to the children of the community who had previously had to walk 10 miles to the nearest school ... uphill ... both ways.
Support for PM Maliki Despite the recent rumors of a coup and the car bombing threat in the IZ, PM Maliki continues to unite Iraq and help make life better for his people. To help combat the sectarian division in th government, PM Maliki announced a four point plan that called for the creation of local committees whose members hail from each sect, ethnicity, political party and tribe in the district they represent. This way if one group feels like they are being ignored or abused their representative can raise the issue in the committee.
Lawmakers from each stripe agreed to support this plan - Sunni, Shia, Kurd, they all agreed that this was a good idea. Now it's just a matter of making it happen.
UPDATE!!! Remember the Doc? Last Friday I posted a story about Navy Seaman Samuel L. Blanco, a corpsman attached to RCT 5 west of Fallujah in Anbar province. Today I came across this picture of the Doc and couldn't help but post it here.
Today is my day to fast in the Rolling Victory Fast sponsored by the Tanker Brothers! It's 0800 and I've had precisely nothing to eat. If you'd like to know why I'm chosing to abstain from food for 24 hours, you can read more about it on the Tanker Brother blog. I'll also be following this up with another fast on Saturday!
I was looking at my referral list on my hit counter yesterday and came across an unusually high number of hits from WillToExist.com, a milblog run by a fellow patron of the IZ. When I checked out his website I saw that he had posted a link to my blog as an alternative to his own as he's getting ready to redeploy (go home).
It got me thinking about how I'm going to handle this blog once I follow his lead and vacate my spot in the IZ, a day that's not too far away (big smile here). I think that once we start to really buckle down with getting ready to roll out of here I'll drop back to only posting the news once or twice a week and continue that pace once I get back as most of my free time will be put into my family.
ISF Own Fallujah Yesterday in a ceremony held in Fallujah, the 4th Brigade of the 1st Iraqi Army Division was turned over to Iraqi control. Fallujah is one of the larger cities in the Anbar province, a province that I've revently been focusing on in reaction to the negative coverage.
To followup on the 'Optimistic in Ramadi' story I posted yesterday, I found this clip of COL MacFarland talking about why things are improving in Ramadi.
ISF Own Diyala In another ceremony yesterday, Iraqi troops from the 3rd Brigade of the 5th Iraqi Army Division also took responsibility for their area of operations. With the 3rd Brigade now under Iraqi control, all of Diyala is protected by Iraqis so the next time you see a graphic highlighting the areas of Iraq controled by Iraqis you'll see a lot more green.
Iraqi Army Schools Training is a big deal in the US military. We are trained by the best in everything we do so that we can become the best, be it shooting, driving, or building communications networks. The Iraqi Army is using the same model to train their troops in their areas of expertise, and one job that has no room for untrained troops is explosive ordnance disposal (EOD).
EOD is the group of guys who are responsible for destroying IEDs, they're the bomb squad, and in Iraq there is plenty of opportunity to perfect your skills as an EOD technician.
That knucklehead that got picked up for trying to blow up some car bombs was looking to blow them up here. Understand though that the last ground attack was back in 2004, it doesn't mean that we're safe forever, but it does mean that the guys who are responsible for making sure that the IZ stays "heavily fortified" are doing a good job of it. I slept just as good after hearing about this as I did before I heard it, it's not a macho thing, just that if I worried about every threat or possibility for attack I'd be wound so tight I'd snap.
To the troops who put the flexcuffs on this guy - good job, thanks for making me safe.
Sadr Backs His Thing Up If images of the rotund Sadr gettin' jiggy don't send you into a fit of laughter then they'll send you to the hospital and I'm sorry for that. However, images of Sadr telling his militiamen to back down from confrontations with the Iraqi and Coalition forces though should make everyone happy. It's taken a while and a couple good battles, but it seems that Sadr is getting the idea that he isn't above the law.
According to the reports, Sadr gave his leaders the following instructions:
Reduce the size of units to 75 fighters, from as many as 400, to make the units more manageable.
Issue new identification cards to Mahdi army members to replace IDs that have been forged.
Send every member to an orientation course that would outline the group's mission.
Lay down weapons temporarily.
Optimistic in Ramadi COL MacFarland of the 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division says that the situation in Ramadi has tipped in favor of the good guys. Ramadi is located in the Anbar province which had been getting a lot of bad media recently after a leaked classified report was interpreted as portraying the situation as a stalemate. Well, even if that was true, now with the support of the majority of the tribes in Anbar, the Iraqi government is set to put a hurtin on the bad guys.
If I was someone who was interested in what was going on in Iraq, I'd keep an eye on Anbar in the next few months.
SGT Leigh Ann Hester On 20 March 2005, one squad of MPs escorting a supply convoy was ambushed by 34 bad guys. After applying a hearty helpin' of whoopass there was one squad of MPs escorting a supply convoy while 27 bad guys were dead, 6 were wounded and one was captured. SGT Hester was awarded the Silver Star for her part in the fight.
Hester, 23, who was born in Bowling Green, Ky., and later moved to Nashville, Tenn., said she was surprised when she heard she was being considered for the Silver Star.
"I'm honored to even be considered, much less awarded, the medal," she said.
Being the first woman soldier since World War II to receive the medal is significant to Hester. But, she said, she doesn't dwell on the fact. "It really doesn't have anything to do with being a female," she said. "It's about the duties I performed that day as a soldier."
Hester, who has been in the National Guard since April 2001, said she didn't have time to be scared when the fight started, and she didn't realize the impact of what had happened until much later.
"Your training kicks in and the soldier kicks in," she said. "It's your life or theirs. ... You've got a job to do -- protecting yourself and your fellow comrades."
If being interrogated by a woman is an outrage on a bad guy's personal dignity, I wonder what getting killed by one is.
I met this 'little' guy early Thursday morning as I was getting ready for my first meeting of the day. I had just sat down at my desk and was leaning forward on the desk while I clicked open my email when I felt a slight brush on my right ear. The door was open behind me and I figured I had just caught a gust of wind so I didn't think anything of it, but then I felt it again, a bit more scratchy though. As I lifted my hand to brush away whatever it was the wind had blown onto my neck I turned to watch it fall. That's when I saw the tail.
I only saw it from the corner of my eye, so when it started moving I thought it was a scorpion. I jumped out of my chair and started swatting at my shoulder, trying to knock the scorpion away and after a furious bout I stopped to look around and see where it fell. That's when I felt it scratch my ear again.
With visions of scorpion stingers stuck in my ear I frantically started shaking my ACU top with one hand to keep him off balance while trying to unzip it with the other hand so I could toss him away. I managed to get the zipper about half way down when the bug fell off and landed at my feet.
I stopped to get a look at the vicious menace that was threatening my earlobe and watched in slight amazement as he scrambled back over to my boot and up my calf. After showing him off to my buddies and recounting how I had done the disposal dance I ended up setting him free on a nearby palm tree.
Ask A Troop Sunday is the day when I entertain anyone with any point of view no matter how idiotic it is. If you want to claim that President Bush is actually being controled by space aliens who are trying to get us to thin eachother out so they can swoop in and plunder our corn crops to power their interstellar craft, here's your chance.