31 October 2007

Heaven Was Needing a Hero



In memory of SGT Joshua C. Brennan, 22, of Ontario, Oregon. SGT Brennan, of the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Combat Brigade, was killed during these combat operations in Korengal Valley, Afghanistan.

In a firefight with the Taliban in August, Josh was shot in the leg. After continuing to fight for several hours he made his way down the mountain for help.

On October 25, he was shot again. When the Taliban fighters tried to carry him off, SPC Hugo Mendoza, the unit's medic, protected Josh by throwing grenades at the enemy.

SPC Mendoza gave his life trying to save Josh.

Josh and his mother communicated through their My Space Pages. When SSG Larry Rougle was killed on October 23, Josh's mom played "Heaven Was Needing a Hero" on her page. "Never in my wildest dreams did I know heaven was needing him, too," she said.

Please take a moment to read these tributes to SGT Brennan and SPC Mendoza.

Thank you, Flag Gazer.


Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

30 October 2007

173rd brave Taliban, rugged terrain in Afghanistan

U.S. servicemen traverse a mountain trail on Thursday. The march took 10 hours for the men of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 173rd Airborne's 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment to complete. Most of the leadership ranks are Rangers as well.


Two radio men from Company A rest, heading a succession of troops who descended a 7,600-foot mountaintop in Afghanistan's restive northeast. The U.S. troops were wrapping up a six-day mission that left three of their own dead.


Staff Sgt. Brian Mading, 29, of Bonita Springs, Fla., and fellow paratroops negotiate rough terrain down a mountain in east Afghanistan, taking 10 hours to descend it.


U.S. Army Capt. Louis Frketic, 29, of Jacksonville, Fla., (right, no sunglasses) listens as an Afghan man talks about the hardships of living in the mountainous terrain of Kunar province in northeast Afghanistan.


Les Neuhaus of S&S reports from northeastern Afghanistan along the Pakistan border.

An endless patchwork of jagged mountains in the east pushes ever northward into the famed Hindu Kush, just beyond the Khyber Pass, and is home to the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade.

Parts of the brigade hike the trails of four provinces — Lagman, Nangarhar, Nuristan and Kunar — in search of al-Qaida and Taliban operatives. It’s a network that reaches deep into the hundreds of valleys and mountain peaks of this region.

Last week, Company A, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment descended a mountain peak well over 7,000 feet tall after spending six days encamped along a ridgeline.

They had been on the offensive against Taliban militants holed up in the Pech River Valley, which meanders and winds throughout the volatile Kunar province.

They had all of their gear, guns and ammo — and water. Each man’s backpack was between 60 to 100 pounds.

All the while they were in combat mode, as the “ex-filtration” of the operation involved searches and keeping on general alert. ...

The blue sky exploded overhead with occasional 155 mm howitzer and 120 mm mortar shells pelting ridge peaks opposite of Company A’s torturous trails, which only seemed to grow more and more steep.

Throughout the day, U.S. Air Force F-15 jet fighters also screamed by, with a constant pitter-patter of helicopter blades swirling within earshot.

Read the rest of Les' report here and take a look at more of his photos.

See also Operation Rock Avalanche In Afghanistan.


Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

1st AD assumes control of Multi-National Division - North

Multi-National Corps – Iraq PAO

BAGHDAD –The 1st Armored Division, out of Wiesbaden, Germany, officially assumed control of Multi-National Division – North at a Transfer of Authority ceremony at Contingency Operating Base Speicher today. Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling, commanding general of the 1st Armored Division, assumed responsibility from Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander of the outgoing 25th Infantry Division.

“The Soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division Headquarters have performed magnificently here in Iraq through the past 14 months. I am extremely proud of everything they have done and accomplished in Iraq,” Mixon said of his Soldiers, based out of Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

The 1st AD will continue to provide command and control capabilities to Multi-National Division - North. The division brings approximately 1,200 Soldiers to perform their mission in northern Iraq.

29 October 2007

Third Valour-IT Fundraising Competition Begins

Today marks the start of the third annual Valour-IT Blogging Fundraiser Competition, which will continue until Veteran's Day. The (more or less) friendly competition is between blogging teams representing 4 service branches, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, to raise a total of $240,000 for Valour-IT.

All donations go into one fund and will of course be used for members of all service branches.

Readers of this blog are familiar with Soldiers' Angels Project Valour-IT.

The goal is to provide voice-controlled software and laptop computers to wounded Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand and arm injuries or amputations at major military medical centers in the United States and Germany.

Again this year, Soldiers' Angels Germany is a proud member of the Marine Valour-IT blogging team.
You can donate via PayPal here.

Or by sending a check to:

Soldiers' Angels
Valour-IT Marine Fund
1792 E. Washington Blvd
Pasadena, Ca 91104

Please note "Marine Valour-IT Team" on your check so we get credit for your donation, because we want to WIN this thing!

You can check on the progress of the blogging teams here.

Thank you and Semper Fi!

Four East Baghdad Soldiers inducted into Sgt. Audie Murphy Club

Sgt. Daniel Smith, 2-17 FA Regt., Bartlesville, OK

Among them our own SGT Dan Smith, above, son of Mike Smith of the Soldiers' Angels eVoice Team. (Woohoo!)

Three other Soldiers assigned or attached to the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division were selected for induction into the Sgt. Audie Murphy Club in September at FOB Loyalty. They are:

Sgt. Adolphus Cline, 1st Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, of Salisbury, N.C.

Staff Sgt. Michael Donnelly, 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, of Newnan, GA

Staff Sgt. Brock Eckstein, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, of Elgin, OR


Since I know a bit about what Dan's doing downrange from his father Mike, I was surprised to discover he actually has time to study when I read this:

“We had battalion study groups,” he said. “It was a lot more difficult that I thought it would be, a lot more in-depth than other boards I had been to. It was definitely a lot more challenging.”

Other boards may quiz Soldiers on what regulation pertains to a certain subject. But here, Smith said, “It’s more about your character and your ability as a leader. How would you handle this, what you have you done to exemplify the character of Audie Murphy?”

Smith came in prepared, but still felt some jitters.

“I had a general idea what it would be like, but I had no idea exactly what they were going to ask,” he said. “I was nervous, I wanted to be in the club. And having sergeants major there doesn’t make it any easier.”

"You lead from the front."
- Audie Murphy


Named after the most decorated U.S. Soldier of World War II, the Sgt. Audie Murphy Club has exacting standards for membership. First, a noncommissioned officer’s performance must be exemplary enough for him or her to be recommended to appear before the board. Then they must demonstrate applied knowledge before a group of sergeants major. They also must recite Murphy’s biography word-for-word.

Congratulations Dan, SGT Cline, SSG Donnelly, and SSG Eckstein! We're so proud of you all. Stay safe and come home soon!

28 October 2007

At least 84 militants dead after firefight in Afghanistan

On Sunday in Musa Qaleh, Helmand Province:

ASADABAD, Afghanistan — A six-hour firefight ended with at least seven dozen militants killed by U.S. Air Force jets on Sunday after a U.S.-Afghan reconnaissance patrol was attacked by Taliban fighters in the south of the country, a U.S. military spokesman said. ...

The gunfight-turned bombing on Sunday resulted after insurgents ambushed the coalition forces patrol with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

U.S. forces then reacted tactically, returned fire and called in the Air Force to attack the Taliban, [Maj. Chris Belcher, a spokesman for U.S. forces based out of Bagram] said.

A statement released by the U.S. military also stated that “four separate precision munition(s) engagements” were carried out by those aircraft.

Belcher would only say the aircraft were fixed-wing and not helicopters.

Air Force F-15s and B-1 bombers, along with C-130 Specter gunships, are commonly used throughout the country to support troops on the ground.

Just like Daddy


Within hours of the blast, she'd been flown to Germany to be at the bedside of her severely wounded husband.

"I've talked about everything with our [pre-teen] children. They had a lot of questions, like if Daddy was going to be shorter now. But they understand that nothing important is going to change."

"Show her the Build-a-Bear, honey," says the Soldier groggily from his bed.

"The kids sent this over with me for their Dad," she explains, holding up the bear.

"See? It's wearing a bandanna on it's head just like the one Daddy likes to wear when he's riding his motorcycle.

They put a Harley-Davidson jacket on it, just like Daddy's.

And they cut off the legs and put bandages on them, just like Daddy's."


* * *


It's been a long time since this happened, but I'm still trying to figure out who the Hero of this story is.

I guess all of them.

26 October 2007

Coalition Forces seize huge EFP cache

Ignoring UBL's recent pleas, Iraqi citizens continue to stand up:

KHAN BANI SA’AD, Iraq – A concerned citizen led Coalition Forces to a large weapons cache yesterday in a home in Sa’ada Village, Iraq.

This cache is one of the largest discoveries of explosively formed penetrators found in at one location in Iraq. The find included more than 120 fully-assembled EFPs, more than 150 copper disks of four different sizes used in making EFPs (including 12-inch disks – one of the largest ever discovered in Iraq), 600-plus pounds of C4 and other explosive materials, 100 mortar rounds of various caliber, approximately 30 107mm rockets, two mortar tubes and 20 claymore-type mines.

“A find like this helps keep my Soldiers’ morale up because they know they’ve made a difference. It makes them feel good that they are saving Soldiers lives through their work,” said Capt. Jason Rosenstrauch, B Troop commander, 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.

“My first concern was for my Soldiers,” added Rosenstrauch. “I was worried that the room was unstable because it smelled like explosives and nitric acid.”

Last week such information from Concerned Local Citizens in a village near Muqdadiyah assisted CF to unearth a weapons cache and detain one suspected terrorist.

Coalition Forces detained the homeowner in the raid.

Rosenstrauch said the citizens of Khan Bani Sa’ad are now working closely with Coalition Forces to keep insurgents out of the city.

“We have a lot of peace in the city center now,” Rosenstrauch said. “We have had [many] CLCs reporting on enemy activity. The people are turning on the insurgents and telling us where they are.”

Landstuhl outpatients move into new facility

Spc. Shawn English, 22, from the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, surfs the net in his room located in the new Medical Transient Detachment barracks Tuesday at Landstuhl. English, an Austin, Texas, native, was deployed to northern Iraq. Photo: Ben Bloker / S&S.

Last weekend the outpatients at Landstuhl moved into their new facility, located directly next to the hospital on Landstuhl Post. Now they are within walking distance of their Liaisons, doctors, and case managers.

Before that, they were located almost 20 minutes away in nearby Kaiserslautern.

“That back-and-forth, back-and-forth is eliminated as far as appointments,” said Army Capt. Katrina Gawlik, detachment commander.

Being closer to the hospital is not the only improvement. Over $2.9 million was spent renovating the two buildings where the outpatients are now housed.

Like prior facility, the new buildings offer video game, TV, telephone, and craft rooms, as well as free wireless internet acces. But the sleeping quarters are very different.

Instead of rooms that sleep 10 people, the wounded — at the most — will share a room with one other person. Each room in the two, four-story medical transient detachment buildings has a phone, cable TV, DVD player, microwave, refrigerator and a computer, equipped with a webcam and free Internet access. Also, the buildings house laundry facilities and kitchens.

“Everybody who’s walked through has said, ‘This is better than my house,’” Gawlik said. ...

The facilities can house 230 outpatients, and there are 32 extra beds available if needed.

Airman 1st Class Robert Pelotte, a weapons loader from the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, shoots pool in the recreation area at Landstuhl’s new Medical Transient Detachment barracks Tuesday. Playing with Pelotte was Airman 1st Class Josh Vierra, also with the 455th. Photo: Ben Bloker / S&S.

Soldiers' Angels continues to provide comfort items to the outpatients in the form of gifts from our donors, including extra clothing, personal hygiene items, and hand made blankets from home. I'm also looking forward to getting some use out of the kitchens, including trying my hand the yummy soup Mrs. G used to bring over and a couple of recipes Laughing Wolf has promised to share ;-)

25 October 2007

For Butterfly Wife


Who has just sent us her 500th card for the wounded and ill soldiers at Landstuhl.

Thank you, Butterfly Angel.

Help, I think I need oxygen

Just now getting around to reading the already-famous comments to the already-infamous blog post (preserved for posterity and your entertainment pleasure here) from an ignorant reporter (guess I repeat myself) in Baghdad.

Background and slapdown from Jimbo at Blackfive.

Update: Bobby, We Hardly Knew Ye from Greyhawk. I'm dyin' here, people.

Knock, knock... who are you???

Here's a good one. Several Soldiers' Angels have been receiving lovely thank you emails from soldiers to whom they never sent anything directly. One of the Angels finally fessed up and told the Soldier she didn't know who he was...??

Here's his reply:

I know exactly how your cards found their way here. "G" [the Angel's *real* adopted Soldier] is here with us and he is one of those type of guys who shares what he has.

He recieved the box with many wonderful notes in it. I took one of the notes (your little ghost) and told G I'd be happy to write you.

I hope this solves the mystery of all the strange e-mail arriving from us - you have G to thank for that just as we have him to thank for sharing.

Another note about the cards we have recieved, in our little chow hall on each of the tables is a stack of your cards. During the evening meals we have our own card swap going on between the tables every night.

It is rather hilarious listening to grown men tell each other silly knock knock jokes and reading each other the other small gems they find in the cards.

Operation Rock Avalanche In Afghanistan

Spc. David Hooker, 22, of Palestine, Ark., shoots the MK-19, an automatic 40 mm grenade launcher, at suspected Taliban positions in the northeastern mountains of Afghanistan near the village of Aybot. His unit, Company A, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, is atop a 7,600-foot peak in the Watapor Valley of Kunar province, which borders Pakistan. Photo: Les Neuhaus / S&S.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade, along with Afghan forces, are conducting offensive operations in the Korengal Valley of northeastern Afghanistan bordering Pakistan. An unknown number of Taliban fighters - by some reports up to 20 - were killed in the battle.

Pakistan deployed 2,500 paramilitary soldiers to part its Northwest Frontier province on Tuesday (Update: see additional reporting about this deployment here), across the border from the Kunar province where Operation Rock Avalanche is under way.

ISAF officials said close-air support was brought in to help troops in the battle Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, three other companies conducted maneuvers on Wednesday in an effort to confuse Taliban rebels.

According to Capt. Louis Frketic, commander of the 503rd’s Company A, the mission is to weed out an organized foe. His men are atop a 7,500-foot mountain in Kunar’s Watapor Valley, another restive area close to the Korengal Valley.

“Our area is mainly comprised of hidden Taliban,” Frketic said. “The problem is that you get these huge ACM (anti-coalition militias) on the high ground, and getting control of that high ground is crucial.”

His men have endured two frigid nights, waiting for someone to make a move.

The soldiers of Company A have endured frigid temperatures in the mountains of northeastern Afghanistan while carrying out Operation Rock Avalanche. Troops got down time and used anything to cover themselves in order to keep warm. Photo: Les Neuhaus / S&S.

That move came on Wednesday afternoon after Taliban “chatter” intercepted by his men led to a call to cut loose with a 50-caliber machine gun, an automatic grenade launcher and a 81 mm mortar gun at suspected Taliban positions.

His men were due to move out after dark in search of Taliban positions to attack.

A 81 mm mortar shell is launched near the northeastern Afghan village of Aybot. The men were aiming at suspected Taliban militants. Photo: Les Neuhaus / S&S.

Sgt. Joshua Ochoa, 24, from Reedley, Calif., fires off a .50 mm machine gun in northeastern Afghanistan's Kunar province, near the village of Aybot. His unit is in an operation seeking to search and attack Taliban militants in the area. Photo: Les Neuhaus / S&S.


“We have had one incident with troops in contact and one ISAF soldier was killed during operations ... and two ISAF troops were wounded,” according to Maj. Charles Anthony, a spokesman for ISAF headquarters in Kabul.

Thursday, that Soldier's identity was released as SSG Larry Rougle of Battle Company, 2nd BN, 503rd Airborne Infantry Reg, 173rd Airborne BCT.

Godspeed, SSG Rougle. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family and your fellow Soldiers.

See also 173D brave Taliban, rugged terrain in Afghanistan


Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

24 October 2007

Shoes!!!

These photos were sent along by my friend Bob Connolly, whose wife Cynthia knitted and sent about 40 caps to our Soldiers for the children in Afghanistan. Photos of the kids with their new caps to follow in another post.

But first, the shoes...

Setting up shop in an Afghani village right near the border with Pakistan.


This young lady seems overwhelmed by all the choices.


Good thing the ANA and the US Army are there to provide fashion advice :-)


Woah! How are you supposed to stand in these things?!?


Ok, that's better.


Look, Ma!!


Thanks to Bob, Cynthia, and everyone else who helps our guys help children.

Private Honor

I didn't hear about this until today:

WASHINGTON - President Bush publicly honored a fallen Navy SEAL Monday by presenting his grieving parents with the Medal of Honor — and privately honored their sacrifice by wearing a dog tag they'd given him moments before.

The president posthumously awarded the nation's highest military honor for valor to Lt. Michael Murphy of Patchogue, N.Y. — the first given for combat in Afghanistan.

Before the emotional White House ceremony, Murphy's parents Dan and Maureen Murphy met with Bush and gave him a gold dog tag in tribute to their son.

"What we were most touched by was that the president immediately put that on underneath his shirt, and when he made the presentation of the Medal of Honor, he wore that against his chest," said the father.

After the ceremony, Dan Murphy said, Bush told the family: "I was inspired by having Michael next to my chest."

The father, who fought back tears during the ceremony, said they were "deeply moved" by Bush's gesture.

Microsoft and USO Announce "Above and Beyond" Awards

Patti Patton-Bader, founder of Soldier's Angels, has been nominated as a finalist in the first annual "Above and Beyond" awards, presented by Microsoft and in partnership with the USO. The awards were created to recognize the contributions of the military community - the friends, family, and other individuals who help brighten the lives of U.S. troops throughout the world.

According to Microsoft, the "Above and Beyond Awards is our way of publicly honoring and thanking the outstanding commitment, exceptional service, sacrifice and achievements of individuals who have shown extraordinary dedication in brightening the lives of our troops over the past year."

Patti has been nominated for the Effort Award, which recognizes an individual who:

* Offers outstanding support and comfort to our troops.
* Helps enhance morale and personal welfare of our troops.
* Through their mentorship, inspires other groups/individuals to create new and unique ways to show their support of the troops.
* Has impacted the lives of many through their leadership and guidance.

Please take a minute and vote here.

Congratulations on the nomination, and good luck Patti!

23 October 2007

Welcome home, Dan!


About 15,000 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers are beginning to come home to Ft. Bragg, and here's the first 267 at Pope Air Force Base last Friday.


This group is mostly from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team’s support and special troops battalions.


WOOHOO, Sara!! Here's my friend Sara with her son Dan, both quoted in this article at the FayObserver. Dan is a member of the Green Falcon's TUAV platoon, whose achievements during this deployment exceeded all others since the introduction of their UAV. The Green Falcons are part of the 2nd Brigade, most of which is still deployed.

Welcome home Dan and all of the paratroopers - thank you and job well done!

All the way! Airborne!

Lt. Michael Murphy awarded Medal of Honor

Daniel and Maureen Murphy, parents of Lt. Michael Murphy, receive their son's Medal of Honor from President Bush. Photo Joe Gromelski / S&S.


Maureen and Daniel Murphy and their son John are joined at a press conference by former Petty Officer 2nd Class Marcus Luttrell, right, the only member of Lt. Michael Murphy’s team to survive the fight with Taliban. Photo Joe Gromelski / S&S.



Video of the award ceremony via Blackfive, who has posted the entire citation.

The Fox & Friends interview with Lt Murphy's parents, brother, and Marcus Luttrell is at Pat Dollard's.

And here is Marcus Luttrell describing that day in 2005.

Dagger Brigade Soldiers start coming home

Spc. Marcus Leslie walks with his comrades after landing Sunday at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Photo Ben Bloker / S&S.

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — After spending most of the last 15 months in one of Baghdad’s most dangerous neighborhoods, 126 members of Task Force 1-26 got to go home Sunday night.

The task force is among the first wave of Schweinfurt, Germany-based troops expected back from Iraq this week and throughout October and November.

“I’ve been in (the Army) for 16 years, and this is one of the tightest companies I’ve been in, and it’s a result of some of the struggles we’ve been through,” said Cpt. Cecil Strickland, commander of Company C, one of three companies that make up Task Force 1-26, which lost 26 soldiers during its 15-month deployment in Iraq.

In Adhamiyah, a Sunni enclave, the task force played a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with the enemy, Strickland said. “As we progressed, they progressed,” he said. “When we adjusted something, they adjusted.”

At least 60 soldiers from Schweinfurt have been killed in combat since the main body of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, known as the “Dagger Brigade,” deployed last year. The brigade has endured the deadliest deployment of any Europe-based U.S. military brigade in Iraq. ...

“We’re all ready to be back,” he said. “It’s been a long 15 months.”

Besides getting to know his family again, Strickland said he was looking forward to sleep and good German beer.

Staff Sgt. Octavio Nunez prepares his bags for customs. Photo Ben Bloker / S&S.

22 October 2007

On the brotherhood of war

" ...and I was really glad about that. Because I always thought if something happened to us, I wanted to be the one who was hurt the worst."

- A Soldier at Landstuhl recounting how he had switched positions with another Soldier just moments before their vehicle was hit. Because of that he was, in fact, the only occupant to sustain serious injury.

Eye on Baghdad


An AH-64D Apache from Company B, 1st “Attack” Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, flies over a residential area in the Multi-National Division-Baghdad area Oct. 12. The Apache crew was conducting a reconnaissance mission to keep an eye out for enemy mortar and anti-aircraft systems. U.S. Army photo by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Daniel McClinton, 1st ACB.

18 October 2007

Schweinfurt holds memorial for Sky Soldier PFC Christopher F. Pfeifer

SCHWEINFURT, Germany — He was a proud paratrooper, a proud husband, a proud father-to-be. On Tuesday, the military community assembled at Ledward Barracks chapel to pay their respects.

After fighting for almost six weeks, Pfc. Christopher Franklin Pfeifer, 21, died Sept. 25 at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. His daughter, Peyton, was born the next day.

During an Aug. 17 firefight at Camp Keating in eastern Afghanistan, Pfeifer was shot after pulling his injured buddies to safety. He was a member of 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team “Sky Soldiers.”

Rushed to Forward Operating Base Naray after he was hit, Pfeifer was operated on for six hours, using 33 pints of blood. Paratroops lined up to donate. When he was soon moved to Bagram air base en route to the States, more than 100 more servicemembers lined up, said Lt. Col. Chris Kolenda, commander, 1-91, in an Oct. 1 ceremony in Afghanistan, whose remarks were read by 1-91 rear detachment commander, Capt. John Opladen, during the Tuesday service.

He was absolutely committed to the mission and the team, Kolenda said of Pfeifer.

“In difficult times, tough things are asked of tough men … We will remember his smile, remember his professionalism, remember his devotion to his team, but most of all, we will remember his toughness,” Kolenda said of Pfeifer, who had taken part in all of the most intense battles the cavalrymen of 1-91 had seen since entering Afghanistan.

Kolenda also commented on Pfeifer’s “eternal smile.”

In addition to his baby girl, Pfeifer is survived by his wife, Karen; parents Michael and Darlina; brother, Sgt. 1st Class Aaron, 7th Special Forces Group; and sister, Nikki Griffith.

One of his fellow soldiers said, “I hope his daughter has his smile.”

PFC Pfeifer was laid to rest Wednesday, October 10 in Spalding, Nebraska after a funeral that drew 500 mourners to St. Michael's Catholic Church while several hundred others lined the streets outside. 200 members of the Patriot Guard Riders and dozens of American Legion members were also in attendance.

The small community of 600 had not lost a soldier in action since 1951.

Godspeed, PFC Pfeifer.


Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

17 October 2007

Like angry bees

The four continued to engage the insurgents while the sister Apache team that had arrived a few minutes into the fight remained at a higher altitude to prevent having too many aircraft in the area.

“We were trying to get them into the fight, but, from what they said, we were kind of all over the place looking like angry bees,” Loux said. “They didn’t want to get into the area and cause a mid-air (collision) while we were trying to engage the enemy.”


Quick reaction helps pilots thwart attack

CAMP TAJI, Iraq – For the past year, Apache pilots from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade have conducted countless reconnaissance missions in search of roadside bombs and mortar systems aimed toward forward operating bases or Iraqi neighborhoods.

Four pilots from 1st “Attack” Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st ACB, 1st Cavalry Division, were flying just such a mission when they happened upon up to 20 insurgents armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers and manning four anti-aircraft gun trucks Sept. 29.

Three short seconds after the pilots spotted the gun trucks, they were under fire.

“From the time that I first saw them first and could get (a visual) on them was probably three seconds until we were passing by. It was a pretty quick amount of time until we got into the actual getting engaged,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Terry Eldridge, pilot in command for the lead aircraft, who calls Killeen, Texas, home. “As soon as we passed, I kind of veered off to one side, and they started tracking us with the guns from the back of the trucks. As soon as they got where we were inside their range, effectively for their shots, they started shooting – so, about the time it takes to swing a turret, in this case a gun on a tripod mount.”

“It was pretty much instantaneous,” added Capt. Thomas Loux, air mission commander for the mission. “We saw them as they opened fire.”

Eldridge said that, in that short amount of time, he thought less about himself and his aircraft than of his wingman aircraft, which was about to fly into the same situation. He radioed Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kyle Kittleson, pilot in command of the trail aircraft.

“I came on the radio talking to (Kittleson) … to try to get him focused on where he was at, because he was coming along behind me. As quickly as possible, I tried to get the helicopter oriented back on the area where we were taking fire from and try to get some suppressive fire out to decrease the amount of effective fires they had on us.”

Meanwhile, Loux was talking on another radio to the ground unit from 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cav. Div. to alert them of the situation and see if any back-up aircraft were in the area.

“We had … a sister team from another company working pretty much the same area south of us,” said Loux, a native of Fort Myers, Fla. “I heard them checking out on the ground net. When I heard them, I called them to get them in the area. We weren’t too sure on how this was going to go. We saw multiple machine guns, and they pretty much had a bead on us.”

Eldridge and Loux had already taken fire and were turning back in to engage the insurgents before Kittleson and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cole Moughon flew into the area.

“As soon as he starts taking fire … and basically (returned) back to target, we were coming inbound,” said Kittleson, a Copperas Cove, Texas, native. “We suppressed one of the gun trucks with 30 millimeter (rounds) and rockets. On the second pass, Cole took a round in the canopy above his head. We coordinated our turns inbound-outbound between the two aircraft.”

Seemingly surprised by the Apache pilots’ quick reaction, the insurgents scattered.

“They were initially gathered there in the road,” Kittleson said. “As soon as Terry put his suppressive fire rockets down, they started dispersing. (They) had a guy in one of the gun trucks still firing, but, as we came around and suppressed with 30 (millimeter) and more rockets, they all pretty much scattered into the building like little cockroaches.”

Although they fled the open area at the four-way intersection, the insurgents continued to fire on the two Apaches once they found cover in nearby buildings.

“Pretty much every person out there hade a weapon of varying degrees,” Eldridge said. “For the first seven to ten minutes, somebody was shooting at us the whole time. We established a pretty on-the-fly dynamic plan. We put together the best attack angles that we could at the time to keep each other covered. That was … the primary intent – to keep their heads down, get effective fires on the enemy and keep each other protected.”

The four continued to engage the insurgents while the sister Apache team that had arrived a few minutes into the fight remained at a higher altitude to prevent having too many aircraft in the area.

“We were trying to get them into the fight, but, from what they said, we were kind of all over the place looking like angry bees,” Loux said. “They didn’t want to get into the area and cause a mid-air (collision) while we were trying to engage the enemy.”

By the time the Apache team was out of ammo, up to 15 of the insurgents were dead and the gun trucks were disabled. They handed off the targets to their sister Apache team to further engage the vehicles and destroy them, Loux said. (...)

The crews credit their success in the engagement to communication with each other and the ground unit and their experience as a team.

By Sgt. 1st Class Rick Emert, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs


(Left to right) Chief Warrant Officer 3 Terry Eldridge, Capt. Thomas Loux, Chief Warrant Officer 2 Cole Moughon and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Kyle Kittleson pose in front of an AH-64D Apache. U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Nathan Hoskins, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div. Public Affairs

16 October 2007

A sliver of moon the other night...

...and Ramadan is over. The enemy couldn't even mount the usual offensive.

As Greyhawk says, "We've won the war."

In this war, there's won't be a V-E Day or anything like that. But the tipping point has been reached.

College baseball player goes to bat for troops

Last weekend at the Vanderbilt football game my sister Jeannine, a sports reporter for ESPN, met someone she described as "an outstanding individual - intelligent, polite, ambitious."

She was talking about Alex Feinberg, a senior at Tennessee's Vanderbilt University who is the second baseman of their nationally ranked baseball team and Student-Athlete of the Month for October.

Alex has also started a non-profit business called Saturday Soldier to help the families of fallen and wounded troops:

If you see Vanderbilt football players wearing black-and-gold rubber bracelets tonight, they got them from Feinberg. They are "Saturday Soldier" bracelets. Feinberg hopes to eventually put them on every high-profile college athlete in the country.

Before the Alabama-Vandy game, Feinberg introduced himself to the Bama equipment manager. Feinberg asked him to place a Saturday Soldier bracelet in the locker of some of the star players. It was no surprise to Feinberg that he saw a number of players wearing them during the game.

The bracelets come in a variety of school colors, and it's all for a good cause.

At $2 a bracelet, all Saturday Soldier proceeds go to two charities — the Fisher House and Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. They benefit families of veterans killed or injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. (...)

"We have players wearing them in every major conference around the United States," Feinberg said.

"It's something the athletes really like. I figure if the athletes like them, then the general public will like them and we can make a lot of money for charity."

College football season is in high gear, so show your support for your favorite team AND for our troops by ordering a Saturday Soldier Battle Band today.

Troop to Sanchez: "Bite harder!"

Troops sounded off to S&S Monday on Sanchez's recent comments about the Iraq war.

My personal favorite:

“Does [Sanchez] sleep better at night knowing because he’s no longer a sworn soldier he can just vent, with the possibility that troops here and all over the world can pay for it?” Sgt. Brandon Culpepper, serving in Taji, Iraq, wrote in a letter to Stars and Stripes. “If he was able to bite his tongue during his career, why doesn’t he do the rest of us still serving in Iraq a huge favor: bite harder!”

Yowza. That's right up there with David Ballavia's words of displeasure about MG Batiste (via Blackfive):

Batiste laments that he lost his third star for his beliefs and retired. Our Combat Team lost 43 of our brothers and suffered over 300 injured for ours.

In his criticism of the press, Sanchez also singled out Stars & Stripes. He refused to talk to the newspaper during the last two years of his command in Germany for its “single-minded focus on Abu Ghraib.”

Hmmm... have we hit a sore spot?

The war - from people who are actually there

...and not from retired Generals and the like. The latest from Michael Yon:

Greetings:

Iraq is on the mend, al Qaeda is on the run, and the civil war has abated to a point where the term "civil war" no longer applies.

Accurate war coverage is increasingly important. Even prominent seemingly well-informed persons can get it wrong, such as retired Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez who previously commanded the war in Iraq. His recent public statements – selectively excerpted and then widely dispersed by the hot winds of media – made it clear that this former senior commander is far out of touch with the current situation.

But there are commanders with a finger on the pulse.

When earlier this year I wrote about the 1-4 CAV transforming an abandoned seminary in a Baghdad neighborhood that had been decimated by civil war, the "surge" had not even begun; but already pundits, politicians and editors had declared it a failure. Though I'd spent only a few days with LTC Crider and his 1-4 CAV soldiers at the new COP Amanche, I ended the dispatch on a note of hope based on observation. I recently received an email from LTC Crider with an update on that Baghdad neighborhood. Please read "Achievements of the Human Heart" and see for yourself.

I was in al Basra province when I saw news reports claiming that Basra city had descended into chaos in the wake of an announcement about the draw down of British Soldiers. I emailed the facts about Basra to several bloggers who hold the media accountable, and the resulting effort got the attention of Tom Foreman who anchors CNN's "This Week at War." We were able to make a CNN interview, and the result is a segment that accurately reflects a complex and changing situation. Bravo to CNN for setting the record straight, and to the tireless bloggers who are making a substantial difference in the way news about the war is delivered.

There are major developments to share with readers in upcoming dispatches. If things go at-least-mostly according to plan (which is all we can hope for in war), and if I can rely on the help of readers who share my frustration with the lack of accurate reporting, we can significantly widen the stream of news flowing from Iraq so more people can obtain a truer picture. This will require the will and generosity of readers. But more on that, soon.

Michael
Basra, Iraq

The CNN segment at the last link is a must see. It's about time they got a decent reporter at that outfit...

German-based ‘Ever Vigilant’ MP Brigade heads downrange


MANNHEIM, Germany — Nearly three hundred people from the Mannheim community gathered to bid farewell to the Headquarters, 18th Military Police Brigade, and the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 18th Military Police Brigade at their deployment and casing the colors ceremony held on September 21.

The headquarters recently received orders to deploy to Iraq for a 15-month deployment. The brigade headquarters will serve its third deployment in five years this time in the Iraq capital.

“Military Police are always in demand. There will always be another deployment on the horizon,” said Brig. Gen. Scott West, Commanding General, 21st Theater Sustainment Command.

“Remember that because you are ‘Ever Vigilant’ our nation is ever free,” said West.

14 October 2007

Michael Yon on medevacs to Germany

In his latest dispatch, as only he can, Michael Yon describes a medevac flight to Germany earlier this year.

After some time in the back of the C-17 sitting with patients, I went to the cockpit to talk with the pilot, looking at glowing instruments, occasionally seeing another jet streak by in the night, its ice trail glistening off the moonlight. Peering out the windows at the stars above, I remembered reading once that on a clear night a naked eye can make out roughly 2,000 individual stars. I wondered if it were true.

We glided down through the German night, where a large group of staff waited on the tarmac to load the patients into buses. During the bus ride to the hospital, electronic monitors beeped, IVs dripped, and the patients’ litters were jostled by the road. The ambulatory among us steadied the patients, to protect them from further pain.

Once at the hospital, the back of the bus was opened and we handed down the patients to volunteers and medical staff. Those sick and wounded who were able to communicate were greeted by liaison representatives from their service branches. Over the next couple of days, I saw these liaisons doing exemplary if inglorious duty, completing the paperwork that attends any and all aspects of military existence, making sure patients understood their options and advocating for services or resources.

The system for treating wounded soldiers and civilians is an example of the military at its best: the CSHs around Iraq, the “Mercy Flight” to Landstuhl, and then the Landstuhl staff itself, was among the best. It always amazes me that a soldier who is wounded in some strange Iraqi village in the morning, through a system of fast ground transport and aircraft, is in a top medical facility possibly before midnight on the same day. The first-class treatment and service for the patients, at every step of the way, has long been a source of both pride and controversy. (...)

Over the next couple of days in Landstuhl, dozens of wounded soldiers told their stories, and although soldiers can complain about most anything, no one had a single serious complaint about the treatment they’d received from the medical teams.

Much has been written about the excellent medical staff at Landstuhl, but very little about the "exemplary if inglorious" work of the liaisons (LNOs). The LNOs are among SA Germany's closest contacts and biggest "customers" at the hospital, and I have witnessed their dedication and long hours firsthand for years.

As Michael mentions, the LNOs meet their patients at the bus when they arrive from Ramstein AB, make sure they have comfort items like clothing and phone cards, handle paperwork between the units downrange, the hospital, and the Rear D and receiving medical facility back home.

They drive patients from the hospital to the Medical Hold if they are ambulatory, track baggage, do travel orders - a million things.

They often work 7 days a week (because flights come in every day) for the entire duration of their unit's deployment. The medevac planes, such as this "Mercy Flight", may arrive at any time of day or night.

It's a very tough job, for a lot of reasons along with the obvious ones, and I'm grateful to Michael for highlighting their service. These guys are my heroes.

Standing up for security


New Iraqi security volunteers from the eastern Baghdad neighborhood of Sha’ab wait to go through the screening process for new recruits on Sept. 27. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs.

11 October 2007

Medal of Honor to be awarded to US Navy SEAL Lieutenant Michael Murphy

From the Navy Times today:

“Mikey was ignoring his wound and fighting like a SEAL officer should, uncompromising, steady, hard-eyed, and professional,” Luttrell wrote in his recently published book, Lone Survivor, about his military experiences, his team and the events of that day and the deaths of his teammates, his friends.

The fighting grew more intense, but the team pressed on in the close-quarters battle. At one point, Luttrell wrote, Murphy took his mobile phone, “walked to open ground. He walked until he was more or less in the center, gunfire all around him, and he sat on a small rock and began punching in the numbers to HQ.”

“I could hear him talking,” Luttrell wrote. “ ‘My men are taking heavy fire ... we’re getting picked apart. My guys are dying out here ... we need help.’

“And right then Mikey took a bullet straight in the back. I saw the blood spurt from his chest. He slumped forward, dropping his phone and his rifle. But then he braced himself, grabbed them both, sat upright again, and once more put the phone to his ear.

“ ‘Roger that, sir. Thank you,’ ” Luttrell heard Murphy say, before the lieutenant continued to train fire on the enemy fighters.

“Only I knew what Mikey had done. He’d understood we had only one realistic chance, and that was to call in help,” Luttrell wrote. “Knowing the risk, understanding the danger, in the full knowledge the phone call could cost him his life, Lieutenant Michael Patrick Murphy, son of Maureen, fiancĂ© of the beautiful Heather, walked out into the firestorm.

If you haven't read Lone Survivor yet, you are missing an unparalleled story of courage and valor.

h/t and much more at Blackfive.

Security detachment rides with Latin flavor

I love this story.

BAGHDAD - The sense of brotherhood Soldiers have with each other, whether they served together, with separate units, or even in separate wars, comes from shared experiences that only fellow Soldiers would understand.

For the Hispanic troops on the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division’s personal security detachment, there is a special bond due to their cultural background.

“I bonded with these guys right away,” said Spc. Oscar Tovar, a medic with the 1-18 Inf. Personnel Security Detachment from Palm Springs, Calif., of his Latin American battle buddies.

“I try to get along with everybody,” said Spc. Gustabo Pena, a gunner with the 1-18 Inf. PSD from Miami, “but we grew up with the same things.”

While there are similarities between the Hispanic Soldiers on the ‘Vanguard’ PSD, they say their heritage had less to do with their decision to serve as much as a calling to do the right thing.


“Our culture has a lot to do with the Bible and about doing good things. Part of that is serving our country,” said Spc. Daniel Montanez (right), a driver on the 1-18 Inf. PSD from New York.


For Tovar (left), it had less to do with being a Latin American as much as simply being American.

“I’m American so it just seemed right. The last Tovar to fight in a war was my great-grandfather’s brother at the turn of the 19th century in the Mexican Revolution,” said Tovar, whose father was denied enlistment during Vietnam for medical reasons. “I just thought it’s my turn.”

For Pena (right), who moved to the United States from Colombia at the age of 18, it was about giving something back to his adopted country.

“The country took us in as refugees. They give us jobs, and you can actually get a life for yourself,” said Pena, who is currently going through the process of obtaining his U.S. citizenship. “You should give back to the country, so I stepped up.”

Being Hispanic has had little bearing on how they have been treated in the Army, said Montanez. Instead, they get treated like every other Soldier and are rated on one thing – performance.

“I don’t think (race) really matters as long as you just do your job,” he said.

Pena and his battle buddies have been doing their jobs and giving back to their nation, whether it’s their adopted or native land, for the past 14 months, and they don’t seem to be ready to quit anytime soon. Tovar, Montanez and Pena have all re-enlisted to continue their service to the United States in a time of war.

The ‘Vanguards’ of 1-18 Inf. are deployed out of Schweinfurt, Germany, and currently attached to the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division of Fort Riley, Kan.

Story and photos by By Pfc. Nathaniel Smith, 4th IBCT, 1st Inf. Div., Public Affairs.

10 October 2007

Busy weekend at SAG


We're all packed up and ready for the upcoming move!





Fortunately we had lots of help. Volunteers Jessica, Eric, and Dan were on hand, but the biggest contributor was Dorothy, shown here. Dorothy's a long-time donor to SAG and spent four days of her European vacation with us.



Everything must go! Dorothy also filled about 50 backpacks - using many of the items provided through Leslie's supply drive - for distribution at Landstuhl hospital. SGT Brown, Casualty Liaison for the 1st Cav, poses in the background.



1SG Lowe, Dorothy, and CPT (CDR) Gawlick of the Kleber Medical Transient Detachment (Medical Hold) facility, which is transitioning into one of the Army's new WTUs, or Warrior Transition Units. Soldiers' Angels Germany has been supporting the Landstuhl Med Hold unit since 2004 and has been located directly within the facility since 2005.



Landstuhl ICU nurse accepts a quilt made by one of Dorothy's fellow members of the North Ft Myers Elks. The Elks Veterans Committee is very active in local community services including support of the Bay Pines VA medical center as well as providing hot meals, clothing, and personal items to homeless veterans. In addition, Dorothy volunteers two days a week driving local veterans to appointments at the "nearest" VA hospital which is several hours away.

It was great having you here, Dorothy! When are you coming back? ;-)

09 October 2007

'Game on'

“It was pretty much ‘game on’ after that. Everybody ran to the rooftop, started opening up on them. I dropped almost two mags at the building that was shooting at us,” Horvath said. “It’s like an ultimate feeling of safety to fire back. Every round they shoot at us, we shoot a hundred back.”

BAGHDAD - Despite the dangers that linger behind street corners and on rooftops, the Vilseck, Germany-based 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, currently with Multi-National Division – Baghdad, wanted to send a clear message to the insurgency Sept. 20.

The Stryker Soldiers, who have been in the country for less than two months, are tackling their clearing mission one weapons cache, suspected insurgent and roadside bomb at a time in a fight that Staff Sgt. Jared Utter briefly described as possibly being "one of the biggest fights in Iraq right now.' ...

This particular day started off like all the others with the sun peeking above the horizon creating an orange backdrop behind the company’s formation of eight-wheeled Stryker vehicles. ...

It was a little after 1 p.m. and the company has been clearing homes all morning. Behind a shield of white smoke, 3rd Squad maneuvered across 60th Street, a road with a direct view of an open field, when something exploded and rounds started to fly.

“I saw tracers hit the ground. They opened up on us with PKCs (machine guns). We don’t know if it was a mortar or (rocket-propelled grenade that exploded), but it couldn't have hit more than 20 feet away from us,” said Spc. Eric Horvath of Mentor, Ohio, who later found pieces of shrapnel melted onto his gear. “It all happened so fast. It was like I teleported to cover.”

While they continued to receive heavy machine gun fire from the second story of a building across the open field, Spc. J. Jacobs of Bloomington, Ind., fell face down onto the cement.

Jacobs said he felt the blast, grabbed his neck, saw the blood and instinctively applied pressure to the wound, a piece of shrapnel in his neck.

“I felt loopy, was hot and dizzy, and fell,” the 32-year-old said. “At some point, I must have lost consciousness.”

“I heard the machine gun fire and turned around and got blasted in the face with something. I went to the corner and didn’t know he was down,” said Spc. Jason “Doc” Kucharski, the squad’s medic.

“I thought he was shot,” Utter said. “I thought he took one.”

Sgt. Michael Huffman said he saw his Soldier moving on the ground and then he stopped.

Three more smoke grenades were tossed out from different directions as rounds continued to fly over Jacobs. Pfc. Victor Flores who was the second Soldier in the file moving down the street rushed behind the cover of a building's corner and quickly laid down suppressive fire with his squad automatic weapon.

“The first thing that came to mind was to take cover and shoot back,” said Flores of San Jose, Calif. “I saw someone in a white shirt, blue collar, black jeans about 16 to 18 years old run into the building right before the contact.”

“We turn around and all we could see is Jacobs lying face first on the corner,” said Horvath. “We weren't sure if he was dead or if he was shot. I thought he was shot and so did Hawkins (Spc. Michael Hawkins, an infantryman from Palm Springs, Calif.)”

“We have a man down,” Owens echoed over the radio.

Huffman, a team leader, said he shot an M-203 grenade, as the rest of the company started to lay out suppressive fire.

“It took me about half a second to realize what was happening. You see bullets flying at you and that’s all it takes,” said Spc. Richard Main of Reno, Nev., “I was in the (vehicle commander’s) hole in the truck manning my 50-caliber machine gun.”

Main said knowing his buddy was down definitely made him fight that much harder. The infantryman fired more than 450 rounds at the enemy from the truck.

“Our main goal was to get him the (heck out of there),” Huffman said.

Still under enemy fire, Huffman and Kucharski grabbed the downed Soldier and pulled him into the closest courtyard.

“When we moved him, I saw a blood spot right where his face was,” said Kucharski. “He was struggling to breathe, but he was trying to.”

“When I came to, I was disoriented. I saw the blood. I couldn’t see or hear very well,” Jacobs said. “My chest felt like it was hit by a sledge hammer. I had a hard time breathing and I started to panic because I didn’t know what was going on.”

With a combat life saver, a combat medic, a physician’s assistant and his fellow Soldiers surrounding him, they assessed his wounds. He was quickly loaded onto a truck and medically evacuated out of the area.


“It was pretty much ‘game on’ after that. Everybody ran to the rooftop, started opening up on them (the insurgents). I dropped almost two mags at the building that was shooting at us,” Horvath said. “It’s like an ultimate feeling of safety to fire back. Every round they shoot at us, we shoot a hundred back.”

The company fired back with an AT4 (anti-tank rocket), two javelins and one wire-guided missile. They also support from attack aviation assets, both rotary and fixed-wing. Two hellfire missiles and a 500-pound bomb hit the structure.

“(The building) is nothing but the burnt skeleton of what once was a house,” said Hawkins as he pulled over watch on the rooftop.

Once the firefight came to an end, Utter told his Soldiers that they did a good job maneuvering. They went to their guy under fire and pulled him out.

As they loaded up and headed back to their base, they knew they will be back at it again tomorrow. This is just the beginning their 15-month deployment. ...

Jacobs, who suffered a concussion, a hairline fracture of the left check and sinus cavity, as well as the shrapnel wound in his neck, is recovering and is scheduled to be back out with his comrades in a week.

Story and Photos by Spc. Jeffrey Ledesma, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs
Oct 1, 2007

See you at Oktoberfest 2008, guys!


Bringing a bit of Germany to Southwest Asia, "Iron Soldiers" Staff Sgts. Jesus Cales-Rodriguez and McKinley Bradford of the 1st Armored Division's Headquarters and Headquarters Company recently painted their vision of how the division headquarters will celebrate this year's Oktoberfest on a wall at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.

The division troops are at the camp training and preparing for their pending move into Iraq to complete a 15-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Here Division Commander Maj. Gen. Mark Hertling (far right) and division Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Blackwood (second from right) pose with artists Bradford (left) and Rodriguez at the wall. U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Alfredo Jimenez Jr., 1st Armored Division Public Affairs

Meanwhile, back in Munich....

173rd Airborne Brigade - August Hooah Video



Courtesy of the 173D ABN BDE PAO.


Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

08 October 2007

Guess what's in these boxes?


About 345lbs of soldier "loot", including:

300 razors
165 toothbrushes
134 full size tubes of toothpaste & 50 travel size
110 white undershirts
85 phone cards
80 lip balm
59 nail clippers (many double packs)
36 pairs of flip flops
31 full size bottles of shampoo & lots of travel size
25 packs womens panties
28 sports bras
22 deoderant
19 packs mens boxer briefs
13 foot powder
19 color t-shirts
17 body lotion
8 shower gel
8 stuffed animals
7 towels
Get Well cards
misc. sweat, sleep, and wind pants and jackets

All of this started during a conversation about Blankets of Hope with Leslie of Soldiers' Angels. We were corresponding about the quilts she was working on for Landstuhl when she asked what other kinds of comfort items the patients here could use.

She mentioned the possibility of doing a supply drive and thought she'd bring it up at the next spouse coffee. Leslie's husband is based at RAF Mildenhall in the UK, and she works at RAF Lakenheath.

"After thinking it over I decided to go Bigger", Leslie says, adding "Everyone who knows me said, "You go bigger? No surprise there!""

Together with her friend Karen "who helped whenever and wherever I needed it", Leslie started working on publicity like flyers and announcements at spouse meetings and at their chapel, waded through red tape at the post office, booked tables at both bases, and prepared "shopping lists".

As the weekend of the drive drew near several people who planned to be out of town during the event began bringing stuff to Leslie at work. Seeing the bags coming in motivated her co-workers to donate items and voluteer to man the tables.

After the second day Leslie sent me this update:

"Another productive day. We had some of our young Captains helping out who just wouldn't take "no" for an answer. I think every person who walked into the Exchange today got a shopping list! It was amusing to say the least. My favorite quote, "Now come on, man, you know if you got hurt you'd want some clean underwear to put on. Help us out here." I had to turn away to keep from laughing!"

She adds it was a long and exhausting weekend but very exciting to have gotten such a great response.

"We were really overwhelmed at the generosity of people. As I unpacked the bags I noticed that some people spent $50 - $60 just on stuff for the drive. People really want to help our troops. They just need to know how."

When the boxes arrived here in Germany we were also overwhelmed. Many, many heartfelt thanks to all the fine folks at Mildenhall and Lakenheath, and in particular to Leslie for being the driving force behind this incredible fundraiser.

Oh, and a last word about the blankets... recently Leslie's husband and crew passed through Ramstein, Germany with a medevac flight.

On the flight he saw a nurse take a handmade blanket out of a backpack to cover a patient. He smiled and told his buddies, "Hey, my wife could have made that quilt."

Combat aviation brigade created "on the fly"

Spc. Isaac Mendoza of the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade readies for flight. Photo Allison Batdorff / S&S

BALAD, Iraq - About 700 soldiers in 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, based in Katterbach, Germany, will create a temporary aviation brigade for the 4th Infantry Division when it arrives in Baghdad in December.

This means the new brigade needs to be up and running in two months.

The 12th CAB has been in Iraq at Logistics Support Area Anaconda for a few months, which makes it easier, Col. Timothy Edens, the brigade’s commanding officer, said Friday.

“I think they’ll be able to pick up the mission quicker than starting over again with a new group,” Edens said.

The Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Task Force Storm, and 412th Aviation Support, 4-3 Air Cavalry will move to Camp Taji, while an Army aviation unit from Alaska will cover the home front in Iraq. ...

The new brigade will be temporary, lasting only eight months until 4th ID’s own aviation brigade is ready to deploy again.

And some of the nuts and bolts — like the name of the new brigade — are still up in the air.

05 October 2007

I will never leave a fallen comrade

Apache Troop, 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry, 1st BCT, 3rd ID fight off an insurgent ambush after a roadside bomb crippled one of their vehicles on July 26 near Fallujah.

“Some things happen that you just don’t expect,” said [Capt. Charles Randall] Zipperer, 33, of Keystone Heights, Fla. “Our water truck got hit on the hottest day in Iraq in seven years. People were engaged in enemy fire with I.V.’s in their arms and bags strapped to their Kevlar. We didn’t expect that.”

What started as a routine sweep down both sides of a road near the village of Saqlawiyah turned bad early when a roadside bomb blew up one of the vehicles, resulting in an injury.

Red Platoon — on the other side of the canal — found another explosive device and snipped the wires before catching sight of three people about to detonate it, Zipperer said.

Soldiers captured the three men and were waiting to fly them to a detainment facility when someone realized they’d forgotten some evidence and the trucks went back for it, Zipperer said.

In the lead truck were Spc. Jaime Rodriguez Jr., a 19-year-old from Oxnard, Calif.; Spc. Charles Bilbrey Jr., a 21-year-old from Oswego, N.Y.; and Sgt. William Howdeshell, a 37-year-old from Norfolk, Va. They were also carrying all of the water — eight pallets — to last the duration of the troop’s operation.

Though other trucks had crossed that point three or four times already, the lead truck hit the pressure switch of a roadside bomb.

Rodriguez, Bilbrey and Howdeshell were killed instantly.

Pfc. Dylan Marrow, a medic, helped recover the men. The 21-year-old from Houston will be haunted by seeing his friends this way forever, he said.

“I think of it every day,” Marrow said.

But the living soon needed his attention, as the temperature rose and men collapsed. Water was scarce. Men started dropping like flies, shedding their body armor in the oppressive heat.

“All hell broke loose and everybody went down,” Marrow said. “I couldn’t decide who was worse off, so I treated them in order.”

Medics Pfc. Dave Marek, 33, of Madison, Wis., and Spc. Randy Gene Fink, 23, Beckley, W.Va., came from the back of the convoy to help and saw many soldiers suffering from heat exhaustion — a potentially lethal condition.

“There were 20 to 40 guys all lying on the grass without their body armor on,” Marek said. “Usually taking off your gear is a big ‘no’ but we had to do it. It was just too hot.”

Soon, the enemy had arrived and were shooting rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire from houses, reed lines and mosques, Zipperer said.

A Marine air unit evacuated the men from the landing zone and started dropping ice in ammunition cans, as well as “lighting up” the enemy, Zipperer said.

Seeing the insurgents get thrashed was “the morale booster” of the day, Fink said.

And the men fought with IVs in their arms until 7 a.m. the next day.

“They’d go get stuck with needles and go back to the job,” Marek said. “It shows how dedicated we are.”

“We were all tired, we were all taking IVs, but we weren’t about to leave our fallen comrades,” Zipperer said. “We were going to get them home.”

Read the whole thing.

Garry Owen!

04 October 2007

"A very special day"

A modern-day "quilting bee" at Ascension Catholic Church in Bowie, MD where 168 blankets for wounded and ill troops were made in 5 hours by approximately 100 volunteers.

"A very special day."

That's how long-time Soldiers' Angels member Matt Dick described this past Saturday when over 100 volunteers converged at Ascension Catholic Church in Bowie, MD to make blankets for the wounded and ill troops at Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany.

Looking at these photos Matt's wife Lisa sent to me, I couldn't agree more. I had called in to give a "pep talk" to the group (during which I of course choked up) and could hear there were lots of people there, but I never imagined anything like this.

Among the volunteers were Ascension Parishioners, Jr. Girl Scout troop 570 from St. Pius X Regional school in Bowie, MD, families from St. Pius and Sacred Heart Catholic churches in Bowie, MD, 2 local Boy Scout Packs from Bowie, MD, and many community members.

Mrs. Bates (seated) encourages her group to keep up the great work.


A den leader gets help from Alyssa Burkhart age 6.

"We had people travel an hour from several cities away just to help out," said Lisa Dodson, who organized the event together with her husband Matthew Dick and with lots of help from their three daughters Amanda, Colleen and Kylie.

The husband and wife team say they couldn't have done it without the help and expertise of Valerie, Alyssa, Ashleigh, and Abigail Potter, a fantastic Mother & Daughters team. Flyers, advertising and many other things critical for the event's huge success were done by Maureen Barber.

Girl Scout Jr troop 570 Bowie, Maryland. Standing left to right Jacquelyn Peters, Megan Snider, Joanna Snellings, Gabi Nelson, Kiersten Baker, Mary Fitzpatrick, Brenna Baker, Samantha Friskey seated left to right Summer Cratty, Janine Corley, Rachel Stewart, Colleen Dick, Elizabeth Allen.


College students Ashley Pezeshkian and Amanda King work with supervision from Kylie Dick age 4

The goal was to beat the 47 blankets made at a similar event last year. But when the group had 168 blankets at the end of the day, even Matt was surprised.

"I had no idea that the response would be so great, the community really came through with the materials and labor to make the blankets. Everyone had a good time, and many have been inspired to join Soldiers' Angels and volunteer for this and other opportunities. It was a very special day"

4-year-old Kylie Dick gives perspective to the blanket pile.

After being blessed by Father Calis of Ascension Church the blankets were packed up and will be on their way to Germany shortly.

On behalf of our wounded warriors at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center I'd like to thank Lisa and Matt for their leadership, the rest of the organization team for their efforts, and all of the participants for their patriotism and their sense of community service.