30 November 2007

Medical Warriors

Matt Sanchez from the Air Force hospital in Balad (via Mrs Greyhawk):

Maj. Boyd read, as the hospital staff gathered around.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul."

The chaplain told me he liked to read Psalm 23 because it said the most with the fewest words.

"Attention," a female lieutenant colonel commanded. Everyone drew upright.

Men and women in their scrubs who looked very much like normal nurses and doctors revealed themselves to be something much more.

All were silent as two soldiers approached the body. They unfurled the American flag. One tucked part of the flag underneath the soldier, while the other folded the other end over.

"Present arms."

The two soldiers took out their comrade-in-arms and the men and women snapped to a salute.

Read the whole thing.

2nd SCR captures suspect in May abduction of 10th MTN Soldiers

A Company E, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment soldier takes part in raiding a house in Al Hadar, Baghdad, in search of al-Qaida in Iraq member Abu Raquyyah early Monday morning. Photo and story: Seth Robson / S&S.

Baghdad - A raid by 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment soldiers netted an alleged al-Qaida in Iraq operative who soldiers said was linked to the May 12 abduction of three 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division soldiers.

The three were taken in an attack that killed four other U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi soldier. The body of one of the missing soldiers, Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr., was discovered in the Euphrates River in late May but the Army is still searching for the other two soldiers — Pvt. Byron Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich., and Spc. Alex Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass.

Dragoons from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment’s Company E, 2nd Squadron, raided several houses in Baghdad’s Hadar neighborhood early Monday morning after a tip that Abu Raquyyah was in one of them. ...

Company E soldiers moved by moonlight to a group of houses, only a short walk from their base at Combat Outpost Blackfoot, then smashed their way into several buildings, clearing rooms as they went.

Raquyyah was unarmed and surrendered without a fight when soldiers entered the house he shared with a woman and four children.

29 November 2007

Quote of the Day

“The American feminist movement has not taken one stand to support the women of Iraq, the women of Afghanistan, the women of Iran,” she said. “It is the United States Marines who have been doing the feminist work by liberating women and children around the world.”

- Radio personality Tammy Bruce, former president of the Los Angles chapter of the National Organization for Women and past member of their board of directors, in an interview with FOX News.

Bruce criticized NOW for not taking a stand against Sudan's arrest of British teacher Gilliam Gibbons, who was charged Wednesday with inciting religious hatred - a crime punishable by 40 lashes - after allowing her students to name a teddy bear Mohammad.

Thanks to JHD.

28 November 2007

Tip from Concerned Local Citizen leads to massive weapons cache in southern Ninevah

From Multi-National Division – North PAO.

QAYYARAH, Iraq – Iraqi Police from Qayyarah discovered a large weapons cache in Kredi, located approximately 13 kilometers southwest of Qayyarah, Nov. 25 while conducting operations based on a tip from a Concerned Local Citizen.

The IPs discovered seven 82mm Iranian mortars and a fully functional suicide vest.

In addition, they discovered over 130 Russian 57mm rockets; over 60 Russian, Chinese, Yugoslavian and South African mortar rounds of assorted sizes; over 230 assorted high explosive and fragmentation hand grenades; approximately 70 Russian anti-personnel landmines; 100 various types of rocket-propelled grenades with motors; 150 pounds of unknown bulk explosives; and an assortment of propellant, detonator cord, grenade fuses, and bomb-making accessories – to include – four empty metal box bombs.

“This is a significant find by the Iraqi Police that will hurt the terrorists’ ability to launch future attacks that are intended to injure and kill Iraqi citizens and the Iraqi Security Forces,” said Lt. Col. Robert McLaughlin, commander of the 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

More stepping up:

HAWIJA, Iraq (AP) — Nearly 6,000 Sunni Arab residents joined a security pact with American forces Wednesday in what U.S. officers described as a critical step in plugging the remaining escape routes for extremists flushed from former strongholds.

The new alliance — called the single largest single volunteer mobilization since the war began — covers the "last gateway" for groups such as al-Qaida in Iraq seeking new havens in northern Iraq, U.S. military officials said. ...

The ceremony to pledge the 6,000 new fighters was presided over by dozen sheiks — each draped in black robes trimmed with gold braiding — who signed the contract on behalf of tribesmen at a small U.S. outpost in north-central Iraq. ...

The recently arrived militants have waged a campaign of killing and intimidation to try to establish a new base, said Sheikh Khalaf Ali Issa, mayor of Zaab village.

"They killed 476 of my citizens, and I will not let them continue their killing," Issa said. ...

"Hawija is the gateway through which all our communities — Kurdish, Turkomen and Arab alike — can become unsafe," said Abu Saif al-Jabouri, mayor of al-Multaqa village north of Kirkuk. "Do I love my neighbor in Hawija? That question no longer matters. I must work to help him, because his safety helps me."

That last line sounds an awful lot like "reconciliation" to me.

Meanwhile, MNF-I announces the world is now rid of these three charming individuals.

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Three terrorists killed during two recent operations have been positively identified as Abu Tiba, Abu Harith and Abu Nahr.

Abu Tiba, also known as Talal Abd al Aziz or Captain Talal, was the leader of a terrorist network operating in Samarra. ...

Tiba was involved in extortion, kidnappings, planting improvised explosive devices, the movement of foreign terrorists and conducting attacks against Iraqi and Coalition forces, and Iraqi police.

Tiba was killed during an operation east of Samarra Nov. 12. Coalition forces were targeting an al-Qaeda headquarters believed to be used as a safe house for foreign terrorists. As the ground force entered the target building, Tiba reached for a suicide vest. Perceiving hostile intent, Coalition forces engaged and killed him before the vest detonated.

Abu Harith, also known Abu Tariq, was a legacy al-Qaeda in Iraq member, most recently operating as the leader of a terrorist network in Kirkuk. Harith had numerous connections to senior terrorist leaders in Mosul and frequently made trips there to coordinate al-Qaeda activities for his network.

Abu Nahr was a member of a car-bombing network in Kirkuk. Nahr was responsible for coordinating numerous attacks against Iraq and Coalition forces and was believed to be acting as Harith’s deputy in the Kirkuk network.

Harith and Nahr were killed during an operation north of Hawija Nov. 21. The ground force called for the target building’s occupants to come out and they did not comply. The individuals attempted to draw their weapons and, perceiving hostile intent, the ground force engaged, killing Harith and Nahr.

“These were dangerous terrorists who are thankfully no longer part of the al-Qaeda in Iraq network,” said Navy Capt. Vic Beck, MNF-I spokesman. “We will relentlessly pursue any terrorist leader who tries to deny the Iraqi people a future of their choice.”

Nice going.

173rd ABCT 2-508 PIR in Waygal Valley, Afghanistan

Operations at Outpost Bella in the Waygal Valley, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, home of Chosen Company, 2-503rd PIR, 173rd ABCT.

Interviewed are: Commander CPT Matt Meyer, SAW Gunner PFC Justin Kalentis, Team Leader SGT Jeffery Mersman. After this report was filmed, SGT Mersman was killed in an ambush on 9 November 2007. (See reports here and here.)

Report by SPC Nathan Bowen of AFN.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.


The Soldier had lost one hand and most of the other. Took shrapnel to his face, and one eye is covered with a patch. Blood. Some dried but some fresh seeping out of his nose, ears, and from the shrapnel wounds inside his lips. Tubes coming out of his mouth and everywhere else.

He's not awake, but I talk to him.

Then, he tries to open his eye... first I see just the membrane, then the white of his eye, and finally the pupil rolls down and locks in on my eyes.

The look has the raw and naked intensity of a silent scream.

"You got hurt but you're going to be ok. You're at the Army hospital in Germany and we're taking good care of you."

The eye rolls up, then back down, and locks in on me again. I repeat what I'd just said, adding that his family and the guys downrange all know he's here and know that he's going to be ok, so he shouldn't worry about them.

"Joe! Joe!" The nurse on the other side of the bed says. "This is Lieutenant X... over here." The Soldier turns his head a little in the nurse's direction, but is reluctant to break eye contact with me. He finally does, but after only a second he gets lost and scared and has to look back to lock in on me again.

He lifts his arm, the one without the hand. Just holds it up, then starts waving it. His eye is still locked on to mine.

I see into the depths of a hell I can never understand. It's dust and smoke and fire and blood and pain and screaming and chaos.

I bend down close, put my hand on the side of his bloody face and say, "Your hand. I know." His eye rolls up, then back down. Lock.

He finally puts his arm down.

"We're going to take good care of you", I say. "Get some rest."

His eye rolls up, closes, and he slips back into unconsciousness.

27 November 2007

Mission complete

An air weapons team of two AH-64D Apaches from the 1st “Attack” Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, come in for a landing at Camp Taji, Iraq, after completing a reconnaissance mission in the skies over Baghdad Nov. 6. (U.S. Army photo by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Daniel McClinton, 1st ACB, 1st Cav. Div.)

Operation Santa at the Hospitals

This just in from my good friend Carrie:

Over the next 6 weeks, we'll be surrounded by Christmas carols of all types. One that always tugs at the heartstrings for me is "I'll be Home for Christmas".

"I'll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams"

What a line for the times we live in.

It will ring true for our military servicemembers in Iraq or Afghanistan or some other far flung location. Their families will miss them and they will miss their families. Operation Santa has programs to assist in sending Christmas love to them this holiday season.

Operation Santa also focuses on another group of heroes this Christmas season. Those men and women who will be in the hospital at Brooke, Bethesda, Balboa and Walter Reed over the holidays.

They won't be home for Christmas either. Operation Santa at the Hospitals will bring them some Christmas love in the form of a handmade, stuffed stocking.

We're stuffing stockings with all kinds of goodies like candy, cookies, crackers, little pads of paper and pens, gift cards to local fast food restaurants, cards from people all over the country, etc.

We can help them be home for Christmas even if it is only in their dreams. It's easier than you think.

This year, I'm partnering with Marine Moms-Bethesda and again operating under Marine Corps Family Foundation's Operation Santa project. Marine Corps Family Foundation is a 501c3 organization so monetary donations are tax deductible. If you are donating to our Operation Santa at the Hospitals project, please note that on your check and mail it to:

Connie Riecke
Marine Corps Family Foundation
4000 Lancaster Drive - Suite 57
Salem, OR 97309

You may also donate via PayPal here. Please note "Operation Santa at the Hospitals" in the note box.

Carrie's in particular need of funds to purchase the restaurant gift cards. We're talking Subway and Burger King here, so even $5 or $10 will go a long way in putting a smile on a wounded Soldier/Airman/Sailor/Marine's face this Christmas.

Thanks for your help!

26 November 2007

Air Assault at Salman Pak: "In the middle of the night, any given night, we can be in there”

Soldiers wait as a Black Hawk helicopter lands to take the troops and 13 detainees back to base after the raid. Photo and story: Joseph Giordono / S&S.

A pre-dawn air assault Sunday by members of the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment ended with the capture of 13 suspected insurgents, possibly including the No. 1 “high-value target” in the battalion’s area.

Some 40 soldiers sprang from Black Hawk helicopters around 4 a.m., raiding two compounds in a village of about 5,000 people near Salman Pak, southeast of Baghdad. Within minutes, the soldiers had gathered all the men they’d seized, questioning them and comparing their faces to a description and sketch of the target. ...

Planning and rehearsals for the raid had taken up much of the previous two days for the soldiers, led by the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry’s Company B, based at Combat Outpost Cahill, a small “surge” base on the edge of Salman Pak. Soldiers rehearsed landing about 500 meters from the target houses, then quickly setting blocking positions and searching a series of buildings.

It was at least the third raid targeting the man, described as a leading Sunni extremist who runs several cells in and around Salman Pak.

But just two hours before the raid was to launch, new intelligence said the target was at a different compound, some 500 meters away from the original target area, said Capt. Rich Thompson, Company B commander. The plan changed. ...

“Worst-case scenario, we disrupted what he wants to do,” Thompson, the company commander, said. Best-case scanario, they had their man.

But if the main target does not turn out to be one of those in custody, Thompson said, he now knows that “in the middle of the night, any given night, we can be in there.”

Update 27.11.: Well done.

COMBAT OUTPOST CLEARY, Iraq — The U.S. military confirmed that one of the men it captured in an early-morning air assault mission Sunday near Salman Pak was the “high-value individual” they were targeting.

Update: More action near Salman Pak on 7 November.

B-roll of Task Force Marne helicopters engaging two buildings and a tower from which an insurgent force was firing upon Combat Outpost Cahill. Scenes include gun tape footage of the buildings being fired upon. (Produced by MND-C HQ)

Photo journalist John McHugh back in Afghanistan

14 May, 2007:

A medic in a flight suit, from the Medevac helicopter, Staff Sergeant Peter Rohrs, knelt beside me. He talked to me as he checked me out, asking me where I was from, and why did I still have a camera in my hands. I asked him how bad it looked, and he said I had a hole in my back about the size of the palm of my hand... [and] "You’ve got another bullet hole in your chest. Looks like the entry wound.” This hole was the size of a penny, and I just couldn’t believe that something so small could cause so much pain.

As I lay on the stretcher I shot a few photographs of Rohrs tending the US soldier beside me, but by now I was really struggling to stay awake. When Master Sergeant Best’s face appeared before me I wasn’t sure if it was real or a dream. He was lying on the ground, with his face up close to mine, and holding my hand. He was upset, and I knew he would blame himself for what happened to me. I told him that he wasn’t to do that, that I had known the risks from the start and had accepted them willingly. At least I think I said that. That’s what I was thinking, but I might not have spoken at all. It was all pretty confusing in my head.

I was emailing with John's fellow photo journalist Chad Hunt last night who told me that John's returned to Afghanistan, where they both spent time with the 10th Mountain Division in 2006/early 2007. You can see some of Chad's excellent work at his website here. I find this "before and after" post particularly poignant.

In October, John, an Irish-born freelance photo journalist, finally wrote about the ambush of 14 May, 2007 in which he and five 10th MTN Soldiers were wounded. The ANA suffered 11 KIA and 4 WIA. This is a must-read.

On 2 November, 2007 - just over 5 months after being shot - he returned to Afghanistan (as he said he would when we met in Germany) and is now with Charlie Company, 1-503rd Infantry, 173rd ABN, currently attached to the 82nd Airborne Division. Go to his blog and read it all.

Be safe, John.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

25 November 2007

The Soldiers of Aid Station Orgun-E in Afghanistan

Aid-station Soldiers run with a patient suffering from a gunshot wound to the leg. The aid-station staff is made up of two units: 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry (Airborne) from Vicenza, Italy, and the 541st Forward Surgical Team from Fort Bragg, N.C. They function as one. The only thing separating them is the patches on their shoulders, said one medic. Photo and story: Air Force Staff Sgt. Daniel Bellis.

ORGUN-E, Afghanistan -- A Blackhawk helicopter screams down to the airfield blasting waves of dust, dirt and pebbles. The medics turn their backs to shield their faces from flying debris. Seconds later, they sprint to the helicopter door where a Soldier in a flight suit and helmet pounds chest compressions on a patient hidden from view. They grab the litter and sprint for the hospital doors. Life depends on their speed.

Inside, it’s a frenzy. Chest compressions continue. Voices are loud and commanding, but no one is yelling. Medics dart around the room grabbing supplies and equipment: needles, machines, tubes. Doctors sweat and furrow their brows as they work to stabilize the patient. A nurse stands to the side mentally sifting the tumult, documenting the essentials. The scene appears wild and random, but it isn’t.

The team is focused; every move is deliberate.

The forward surgical team and 1-503rd medics work to stabilize a critically wounded Soldier. The aid station is often the first stop for injured Coalition Soldiers evacuated from combat. The team’s job is to perform surgery if necessary, stabilize the patient for transport and prepare them for higher echelons of care at Bagram Airfield or Forward Operating Base Salerno, Afghanistan. Photo and story: Air Force Staff Sgt. Daniel Bellis.

“The best way to describe it is controlled chaos,” said Army Capt. Brian Shultz, of the 541st Forward Surgical Team from Fort Bragg, N.C., and one of two general surgeons here.

“You try to remain detached, do your job effectively and to the best of your ability and maintain the efficiency of the team. Afterward, if we do lose people, we sit down and talk about it — if there are things we could’ve done better.”

Despite the team’s best efforts, the patient has passed away.

Some of the medics sit motionless around a table on the aid station’s porch staring at the plywood floor. They only move to bring cigarettes to their lips. No one is ready to talk. One stands in the gravel and pours hydrogen peroxide on his boot. This helps get the blood stains out.

“Everybody deals with it a little differently,” said Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Junod, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry (Airborne) medical platoon sergeant. “Sometimes, I think just being together is the part that helps the most. ...

“It does take an emotional toll,” said Shultz. “Everyone has their own way of dealing with the shock of losing someone and realizing the finality of it that they’re not coming back. Some guys go to the gym, some guys run, some guys read.”

This team has done plenty. Some have been tasked with a nearly impossible chore: growing up facing loss, tough calls and suffering. Army Pfc. Joshua Ashford, of HHC 1-503rd and just 20 years old, is the youngest on staff. By American standards, he isn’t old enough to drink a beer, but he’s old enough to have someone’s life in his hands.

“When they come in, I kind of just ‘blank’ and I just work. You just do it,” said Ashford. “All your training comes back; you know what has to get done. You don’t really think about it. Once you’re all done and they leave, you kind of sit out back and think about what you went through.”

A member of the forward surgical team displays various items removed from patients during surgery at the aid station. Among them: shrapnel, a bullet and a rock. The large item in the center is a component of a rocket propelled grenade. The team called explosive ordnance disposal in to determine whether or not it posed a threat. Photo and story: Air Force Staff Sgt. Daniel Bellis.

Medical care here runs the gamut from IED blasts to gunshot wounds, shrapnel, burns and broken bones; intravenous lines, X-rays, splints, atropine and morphine.

“I think we do good things,” said Shultz. “I think we’ve made an impact on the field medical care available, especially in the forward emergency resuscitative realm. All in all, everyone likes what they’re doing here. This is what we’ve been trained to do, so everyone here is happy taking care of injured patients.”

“I sleep so well at night,” said Junod. “I like knowing that what I do counts for something.”

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

24 November 2007

173rd ABCT 2-508 PIR in Watapoor Valley, Afghanistan

Able Co, 2-503rd PIR during operations in the Watapoor Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.

Interviewed are: Squad Leader SSG Robert Smith, Team Leader Jonathan Smiley, and Forward Observer SGT Matthew Coulter.

Report from SPC Nathan Bowen of AFN.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

23 November 2007

Holy Shite

300,000 Iraqis, including 600 Shiite leaders, condemn Iran in a petition.

"The most poisonous dagger stabbed in us, the Iraqi Shi'ites, is the (Iranian) regime shamefully exploiting the Shi'ite sect to implement its evil goals. They have targeted our national interests and began planning to divide Iraq and to separate the southern provinces from Iraq."

Sure looks to me like we're approaching the "culminating point of victory".

Thanksgiving at the Landstuhl Fisher House

Army Pfc. Josh Young with the 173rd out of Vicenza and his wife, Lisa, hang up Thanksgiving decorations Thursday at the Fisher House on the grounds of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The couple has been staying at the house — which provides free room and board for Landstuhl patients and their families — on and off since Young was wounded in Afghanistan in August. Photo and story: Charlie Reed / S&S.

Army Staff Sgt. Josue Valles with the 173rd out of Vicenza (center) and his parents, Jose and Felicitas Valles, spent Thanksgiving at the Fisher House on the grounds of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. The family has been staying at the house for several weeks after Valles was wounded in Afghanistan in October. Photo and story: Charlie Reed / S&S.

Sgt. Clive Morton, Virgin Islands Army National Guard, based in St. Croixwas, and recently brought to Landstuhl Regional Medica Center from Iraq, shakes hands with boxing promoter Don King during lunch Thursday. King was visiting the hospital in Germany for the second time through the USO. Photo and story: Charlie Reed / S&S.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

Be careful what you ask for...

...you just may get it, as our friends Bob and Cindy Connolly have found out. "Two or three boxes" could turn into well over 100, totalling over 2400 lbs.

MaryAnn, I wanted to pass along some good news.

On Nov. 1, I sent around an email to the faculty and staff here at Kenan-Flagler Business School of the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill telling them I was looking to assist the paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne who were in the mountains, manning the COPs and FOBs along the border. I gave them a ‘Top Ten’ list of items. I hoped I would get some stuff and maybe get two or three boxes for the five addresses I had in the 1-503rd IN.

Be careful what you ask for... I have a 12 foot long, three and half foot wide table in the eating area off the kitchen. I have filled it five times, and packed boxes night after night for most of a week now.

I have 55 boxes packed (many of them large... 25 lbs. or so), I have another 7 boxes of coffee mugs with tops, the table is filled right now (I am sooooo tired of schlepping stuff), and tomorrow (the deadline I gave) promises perhaps the biggest take yet.

My staff colleagues were absolute champions, and some of the faculty jumped in, too. I have heard from more church groups than I can shake a stick at, and even a Ph.D. student brought six bags of stuff.

Also, it turns out that the Dean’s secretary sent this email to her counterparts in all the other schools/colleges on campus.

Today, I took delivery from the Pharmacy school; they told me a couple of boxes but it turned out to be 12. (They apologized that there wasn’t more stuff!)

A faculty member in the School of Public Health delivered a trunk-full of packages from her son’s Boy Scout troop. The boys voted unanimously to support this effort and then did it. I take delivery tomorrow from the School of Public Health faculty and staff. They are sending over the collection in a truck (!!!!), and wanted to know where the loading dock was.

I have people coming out of the woodwork with stuff that I have never seen before, don’t know, and every last one of them is keen to participate.

Today, the campus newspaper had a front-page story about all of this (people have already emailed to ask if it was ‘too late’ to participate), and tomorrow, the university’s faculty/staff paper will appear in mailboxes across campus and it has another story on this effort along with a photo.

My cup doesn’t runneth over... I have a damn flood.

America may be at the mall, but some of them are buying stuff for those who serve in harm’s way. My only regret is that I cannot watch any of this being opened by those paratroopers. That will surely be a wonder to behold.

And here's the (semi) final take:

Well, Cindy and I packed, taped, addressed, hauled, and mailed 99 packages between Monday and Wednesday, but I have 18 in the dining room just waiting for a few extra items to top them off. Cindy totaled the weight today: almost 2400 lbs. so far.

The "Silent Majority" strikes again. Great Americans all. Thanks Bob and Cindy for providing them an opportunity to make a difference.

Soldier of the Month competition on FOB Fenty, Afghanistan

Featuring Soldier of the Month PFC Jonatan Ward, PSD, HHC, 173rd BCT. Congratulations!

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

22 November 2007

High-value turkey

Patrol Base Dragon, Iraq:

Lt. Col. Andrew Rohling considers himself an avid turkey hunter around in the countryside nearby the 101st’s Fort Campbell, Ky., stomping grounds.

Unfortunately for Rohling, no one has reported wild turkey roaming the sands of Iraq.

However, soldiers from Rohling’s 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment spotted a farm with a few turkeys following an air assault into Owesat, southwest of Baghdad.

The battalion’s list of high-value targets quickly gained another member. Farmers tried to give Rohling a free bird, but he insisted on paying them.

“This is my third Thanksgiving here and every time we’ve gotten a turkey,” Rohling said.

The turkey made the trip successfully by Humvee to Patrol Base Dragon, except for an accident involving a staff sergeant’s uniform sleeve. Fortunately for him, PB Dragon has its own laundry machines.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Birthday, 3rd Infantry Division

Missed this yesterday.

Third Infantry Division - 2007 - Rock of the Marne

On November 21, 2007, the U.S. Army’s Third Infantry Division celebrates its 90th birthday and service to America, dating back to World War I when it’s "Dog Face Soldiers" first blocked German troops from entering Paris and earned them the nickname, "The Rock of the Marne."

From that day forward, the Third Infantry Division was on the front line of every campaign over the next nine decades.

Happy Birthday, all you Dog Face Soldiers!

All but 300 Dagger Brigade Soldiers home for Thanksgiving, relieved by 101st ABN Strike Brigade

With his son, Jonathan, 7, on his shoulders, and his daughter, Deanna, 10, by his side, Staff Sgt. John Garcia, of Company A, 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery Regiment, was all smiles during a redeployment ceremony at Finney Fitness Facility on Conn Barracks in Schweinfurt, Germany. Photo: Mark St.Clair / S&S.

SCHWEINFURT, Germany — Finney Fitness Facility was crackling with excitement Tuesday as more than 800 members of Schweinfurt’s Dagger Brigade returned home from Iraq.

With the 300 who arrived Monday — and the same number due Wednesday — 1,400 troops will have returned in 36 hours, leaving fewer than 300 soldiers of the thousands who deployed last year still far from home. ...

Along with the scores of soldiers from units such as 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, the 1st Battalion, 7th Field Artillery and the 299th Forward Support Battalion, Tuesday’s group included the brigade’s commander, Col. J.B. Burton.

Marching at the head of a 270-man formation, Burton looked tired, but proud of the tough job he and his soldiers did.

“We had 15 months of hard fighting and 15 months of positive change everywhere Dagger Brigade was located,” Burton said shortly before marching in. ...

“Thank God that our nation produces soldiers like that,” Burton said, when asked about his soldiers and the heroism they displayed over the past 15 months.

“(As commanders) we cannot become jaded to the fact that there are heroics every day,” Burton said, “what the soldiers do is not what normal people do. It makes my heart swell with pride.”

COL Burton handed over responsibility of northwest Baghdad to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), from Fort Campbell, Ky., during a transfer of authority ceremony Nov. 17, at the Camp Liberty Field House.

(Front to rear) Fort Worth, Texas native Spc. Douglas Hale, Phoenix native Sgt. Adam Hansen, Newport, Tenn., native Sgt. Cleveland Carr; Foley, Ala., native Sgt. Stoney Hall, and Spc. Jason Baxley, retire the colors following the transfer of authority ceremony between the Schweinfurt, Germany-based 2nd “Dagger” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division and the 2nd “Strike” BCT, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) from Fort Campbell, Ky. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James P. Hunter, 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. Public Affairs)

“… It is with great humility, but with great confidence in the abilities of the Strike Brigade Combat Team, that I relinquish responsibility for Coalition Force efforts in northwest Baghdad,” he said. “We have achieved the tasks that you put before us, but we leave knowing that there is still much to do.”

Col. William B. Hickman, commander of the 2nd “Strike” Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), speaks to Soldiers and distinguished guests at the transfer of authority ceremony in the Camp Liberty Field House in western Baghdad, Nov. 17. Hickman’s Fort Campbell, Ky.-based brigade assumed responsibility for the security of northwestern Baghdad from the 2nd “Dagger” Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, who returns to their loved ones at their home station in Schweinfurt, Germany. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James P. Hunter, 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. Public Affairs)

Though the day was a great one for the Dagger Soldiers, who will be returning home to their families in Germany, Col. William B. Hickman, commander of the 2nd “Strike” BCT, 101st Abn. Div. (AASLT) said, “It is truly a great day to be a Strike Soldier and now a part of the First Team serving in Multi-National Division - Baghdad.”

The brigade redeployed from south Baghdad in September 2006 and spent the last 12 months preparing themselves for this deployment where they look to, through combined efforts, set the conditions for a strong, prosperous Iraqi future.

“We know this mission comes at a pivotal time and that our actions will make a lasting impact,” Hickman continued. “I know our Soldiers and units are ready for the upcoming challenges and opportunities to serve with the Iraqi Security Forces.”

As the Strike Brigade assumes responsibility of operations in northwest Baghdad, they will have four combat-tested battalions, who have spent the last several months conducting operations throughout northwest Baghdad, fighting by their side.

Joining the 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div., will be the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment; 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment; 1st Squadron, 5th Cavalry Regiment; and the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment.

(Right to left)Fort Campbell, Ky.-based 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Soldiers Foley, Ala., native Sgt. Stoney Hall, Newport, Tenn., native Sgt. Cleveland Carr, Macon, Mo., native Sgt. Jesse Moore, Phoenix native Sgt. Adam Hansen, and Fort Worth, Texas native Spc. Douglas Hale, perform color guard duties during a transfer of authority ceremony at the Camp Liberty Field House in western Baghdad, Nov. 17. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. James P. Hunter, 2nd BCT, 101st Abn. Div. Public Affairs)

21 November 2007

President Bush pardons turkeys

Quip from President Bush during the traditional turkey "pardoning" ceremony at the White House in which he announced the names of the lucky turkeys:

I also thank everybody who voted online to choose the names for our guests of honor.

And I'm pleased to announce the winning names. They are "May" and "Flower."

They're certainly better than the names the Vice President suggested, which were "Lunch" and "Dinner."

I realize this story is a complete non sequitur here, but I just had to post it.

Meanwhile, no pardon for this turkey:

Coalition Forces Kill Top Mosul al-Qaida Leader

During operations In Mosul, Coalition forces killed a wanted individual believed to have been a senior leader in Mosul’s terrorist security network. Reports indicate the wanted individual planned attacks against Iraqi Security and Coalition forces, which included multiple suicide car-bombing attacks. Reports also indicate he purchased weapons and explosives for the terrorist network. As Coalition forces approached the target building, an armed man emerged. Perceiving hostile intent, the ground force engaged, killing the terrorist, who was later identified as the wanted individual by one of the building’s occupants.

We'll call him "History".

173rd Airborne Brigade - September Hooah Video

Includes footage from the Soldier of the Month competition at FOB Fenty (Nangarhar Province) and from Able Company, 2-503rd PIR in the Watapoor Valley of Kunar Province. Oh, and the Arty guys in the PT shorts are from the 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment at Camp Blessing in the Pech River Valley of Kunar Province.

Courtesy of the 173D ABN BDE PAO.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

20 November 2007

Operation Attal in Afghanistan: 1-503rd of the 173rd ABN BCT

A soldier with the 173rd Airborne Brigade watches as a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter carrying Afghan national legislators touches down near a meeting in the rugged country’s eastern mountains. The shura, as it is called, was attended by Afghan mullahs, imams, parliamentarians and Paktika provincial leaders. Security was heavy, with more than 20 U.S. Army snipers posted on the mountaintops surrounding the meeting. Photo: Les Neuhaus / S&S

Les Neuhaus continues his coverage of operations in Afghanistan with this report.

As a three-week Afghan-led sweep of Taliban forces wrapped up in the country’s east on Sunday, U.S. military leaders and Afghan officials sat down with civilians to discuss snuffing out insurgent influence in the area.

During the operation, more than 6,000 Afghan and U.S. Army soldiers searched Afghanistan’s rugged Paktika province, and more specifically, Charbaron district, where Taliban rebels have put up stiff resistance to coalition forces.

“We’ve had tremendous fighting since I’ve been here,” said Capt. John Gibson, 30, who commanded a company from the 173rd’s Airborne Brigade Combat Team throughout Operation Attal.

“The Taliban’s influence was to the point that they were threatening to kill people who didn’t support them.”

At the meeting, mullahs, imams, parliamentarians and provincial leaders took turns speaking, repeating their pleas for the citizenry to stand up to Taliban influence.

“The Taliban can’t stay here unless someone is helping them, and they are getting help,” Afghan parliamentarian Khaled Farouqi said over a microphone to the elders, who were huddled under large tents. Farouqi represents portions of Paktika.

“This is government in action, at the local level,” said Col. Martin Schweitzer, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade, from the sidelines of the conference.

Schweitzer was asked to sit with the Afghan VIPs front and center, but politely declined. It is part of his continuing bid to push attention on to the Afghans themselves, so that the U.S. military can step back, and start letting the Afghans step up.

The 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, a 173rd unit, serves under his command. The men of the 503rd, normally based in Italy, undertook much of the responsibilities for the U.S. in Operation Attal.

At the shura, U.S. Air Force jet fighters screamed low above dancing Afghans kicking up dust as others beat drums. The mood seemed upbeat, even though more than 20 snipers were perched on ridge tops surrounding the heavily fortified tent complex set up for the conference.

Though 2007 has been the deadliest year for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion, commanders remain focused on the long-term goals.

“This shura represents the passion for nationalism that Afghans have in their country,” said Lt. Col. Michael Fenzel, 40, from the meeting.

Fenzel, commander of the 503rd’s 1st Battalion, said some of the 1,600 at Sunday’s meeting had walked nearly 20 miles to get there.

Read the rest of Les' report here.

And during a recent email exchange Les asked me to pass this message on to the families of the 173rd:

"Please also extend my warmest regards to those families of the 173rd that you speak with - they are great troops, so they must come from great families."

Warmest regards and Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Soldiers' Angels, too.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

19 November 2007

358 Soldiers earn Expert Infantryman Badge at North Fort Lewis

Spc. Chad Sage, left, and Sgt. Stephen Jenkins, both of A Co., 4-23 Inf., camouflage themselves and equipment during EIB testing on North Fort Lewis. Photo Jason Kaye.

From the Northwest Guardian:

Leaders in 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division set their sights high for the Expert Infantryman Badge last week and their Soldiers reaped the rewards in hardware.

The U.S. Army Infantry School puts the average percentage of Soldiers who pass rigorous EIB testing at somewhere near 30 percent. But the NCOs of 5th Brigade didn’t see themselves as average.

By powering down the instruction and focusing for two weeks on the mission, more than 47 percent of the Soldiers in the three battalions who underwent testing earned the coveted EIBs. ...

The result by the end of the week was 358 new expert infantrymen of the 757 candidates who began.

The EIB was created in October 1943 and first awarded to Soldiers at Fort Bragg in March 1944. Only Soldiers holding infantry or special forces specialties are eligible to earn the award, a distinctive silver infantry musket on a rectangular blue background with a silver border.

The badge sets apart the Soldier as an infantryman who knows his job well. ...

Soldiers navigate through 34 tasks performed at 11 stations. “They have to get a ‘go’ on the station and they only get two tries, pass or fail, and if they fail both, they’re gone,” [brigade operations NCO, Master Sgt. Stan] Sobiech said. “You have to pass the performance measures at each station. If you don’t, you receive a double no-go and you’re out. A third means they’re done.”

Soldiers carrying two no-go’s are know as “blade runners,” he said. “I was one myself, and I earned my EIB.” ...

“It’s up to the squad leader to train all these individual tasks,” he said. “You might train a guy on the squad automatic weapon, but he doesn’t know the 240 (machine gun) until he becomes a 240 gunner. They don’t get that in basic. Out here, every Joe gets experience on every gun.”

Predictably, the weapons-heavy red lane proved most difficult for EIB candidates. But the single event generating the most no-go’s, said Sobiech, was the grenade throw, with its unforgiving margin for error. “This is the station that actually takes a lot of the people out of the fight,” said 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment operations NCO, Master Sgt. Jeffrey Sweezer. “You’ve got to throw it 25 meters into a small fighting position.”

Whether Soldiers earned EIBs or not, brigade and battalion leaders saw training benefit in the EIB process.

One of the new expert infantrymen is SA Robin's son, David. Here's a photo of them during David's homecoming from Iraq in August 2006.

Congratulations, David from all of us at SA!

16 November 2007

“Come back to Iraq. Come home.”

Michael Yon:

Today, Muslims mostly filled the front pews of St John’s. Muslims who want their Christian friends and neighbors to come home. The Christians who might see these photos likely will recognize their friends here. The Muslims in this neighborhood worry that other people will take the homes of their Christian neighbors, and that the Christians will never come back.

And so they came to St John’s today in force, and they showed their faces, and they said, “Come back to Iraq. Come home.” They wanted the cameras to catch it. They wanted to spread the word: Come home. Muslims keep telling me to get it on the news. “Tell the Christians to come home to their country Iraq.”

See what I think are some of Michael Yon's most moving photos ever.

Baghdadis “following the light in the west”

Sunnis applying for Iraqi security forces jobs are searched by a 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment soldier after they arrived at Joint Security Station Cougar. Photo Seth Robson / S&S.

Joint Security Station Cougar, in Baghdad’s Sadiahy neighborhood:

“This is an historic occasion,” said the 2nd Squadron commander [2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment], Lt. Col. Myron Reineke, as he shook hands, first with Fasul Abued Hasson al Joburi, a Sunni sheik who led about 100 members of his clan onto the base to apply for security forces jobs, then with Lt. Col. Fakhir Idair Al Bahadpy, who heads a 400-man battalion of Iraqi police.

Iraqis call the phenomenon of Sunnis joining local security forces “following the light in the west,” one of the U.S. soldiers at JSS Cougar said. In Anbar province, most Sunnis have switched allegiance this year, from backing al-Qaida to supporting the coalition, a move that has led to a drastic reduction in violence west of Baghdad. ...

“I bring my people here to join up to protect our area. It is something new in our life. We want all the Iraqis to mix in here without any problem. Just together in one Iraq. When the Sunni and Shia mix, it will be better. Not just one side,” al-Joburi said, through a translator.

Fallen Airmen, Soldiers honored at Aviano

Airmen from the 31st Fighter Wing carry a fallen Airman onto a C-130 Hercules during a repatriation ceremony Nov. 13 at Aviano Air Base, Italy. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ashley Wood)

11/15/2007 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy (AFPN) -- Aviano Air Base officials held a memorial service Nov. 15 to honor the lives of four Airmen and two Soldiers who were killed when an Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter attached to the 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment here crashed Nov. 8.

Friends and family members gathered to pay their respects and celebrate the lives of Capt. Cartize B. Durham, Staff Sgt. Robert D. Rogers, Staff Sgt. Mark A. Spence and Senior Airman Kenneth P. Hauprich Jr., all assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing, and Capt. Christian P. Skoglund and Chief Warrant Officer David Angelo F. Alvarez, both assigned to 1st Battalion, 214th Aviation Regiment.

Godspeed, warriors. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends.

15 November 2007

I Will Be Your Soldier

And here's a reminder from Stars and Stripes, which will again host a free online Holiday Message posting service.

Messages received by November 30 will be published in the December 22 editions of Stars and Stripes (Europe, Pacific and Middle East), just in time for Christmas Day. Messages received from November 30 until December 21 will be displayed online only at Stripes.com beginning December 22, for the benefit of our military servicemembers and their families, many of whom may be separated over the holidays.

Send a holiday message to YOUR soldiers!

14 November 2007

Seven 3/2 Stryker Soldiers Awarded Silver Star

May 2007:

Dear MaryAnn,

I just mailed two blankets this morning.

I also want you to know that the Stryker that got hit last Sunday was Casey's Stryker. The SGT that was killed saved Casey's life [back in March].

Casey told us that when he and two other soldiers were hit that Sgt. Harkins stood over them and returned fire all the time yelling for help for the fallen soldiers.

A few weeks ago, Sgt. Harkins told family members he had something to show them proving their prayers were being heard: the bullet which struck his helmet during the attack in which Spc. Casey Turner and two others were wounded but left him unhurt.

Spc. Josh Holubz is another of those soldiers who credits Harkins with saving his life:

“I came pretty close to dying that night,” he said. “I actually thought I was going to die that night.”

Before going out on that mission in March, Harkins handed out gauze pads to his fire team, including Holubz. That gauze was used to stop the bleeding when a terrorist bullet ripped through his shoulder and out through his chest.

"I never had a chance to talk to him or thank him for that."

On another occaison Harkins had gone into the kill zone and pulled one of his soldiers to safety, heroism for which he was slated to receive a Bronze Star.

Sgt. Jason Harkins always wanted to follow his father's footsteps into the Army since he was a little boy stalking the yard with a toy rifle. He enlisted in the Army Reserve in 1998 and went active duty in March 2003.

Harkins was a veteran of a previous deployment to Iraq with the brigade from 2003-2004. Between deployments he graduated from jump school and got married.

Last Thursday, Sgt Harkins and six other soldiers were decorated for their actions in Baquoba between March and June.

Staff Sgt. Shawn McGuire and other soldiers from his engineer platoon were in the midst of recovering a Stryker armored vehicle damaged by in a bombing in narrow alley in Baquoba, Iraq, when all hell broke loose.

Two rocket-propelled grenades sliced through the air and exploded, wounding five soldiers. Gunfire erupted every which way.

The platoon sergeant went down from his injuries. But despite being shot twice, and with shrapnel embedded in his neck and his right soldier, McGuire, 33, took control.

"I was just trying to get people out of there," he said of the March 16 firefight.

The heroism earned him the Silver Star, the nation's third-highest decoration for combat valor.

McGuire was one of seven soldiers assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division who received the award after returning from the Iraq war.

One soldier received the honor on behalf of Sgt. Jason Harkins, who was killed weeks after his heroic action.


Staff Sgt. Shawn McGuire

After his platoon sergeant was wounded in combat March 16 in Baqouba, Iraq,McGuire took over his responsibilities. Despite his own injuries, he organized a counterattack against the insurgents and coordinated the evacuation of the wounded, actions the Army says saved the lives of several soldiers.

Staff Sgt. Mark Grover

Grover braved gunfire to rescue four soldiers from a burning Bradley Fighting Vehicle on April 5. He also directed firefighting efforts and prepared his men for an enemy counterattack.

Staff Sgt. Jason Harkins

Harkins and several soldiers were wounded during an ambush March 17. Despite his injuries, he organized a counterattack and evacuated three wounded soldiers to safety. Harkins was one of six soldiers killed May 6 when their Stryker vehicle was destroyed by a bomb in Baqouba.

Spc. Curtis Lundgren

When Lundgren¹s squad was ambushed June 9, he braved enemy fire to rescue a wounded comrade. Shot in the back, he was still able to evacuate the wounded soldier to safety, using his body as a shield to prevent further wounds.

Spc. Gildardo Cebreros

On March 24, after an improvised explosive device struck his Stryker vehicle and wounded seven soldiers, Cebreros evacuated casualties three times while under intense gunfire.

Sgt. Steven Peters and Staff Sgt. David Plush

Both soldiers were recognized for their efforts to save a driver who was pinned under the wreckage of a Stryker vehicle. Plush was recognized for personally rescuing the pinned soldier while in the line of enemy fire. Peters entered the burning wreckage to rescue survivors and the driver.

Back to May 2007:

Casey had asked us to continue to send boxes to his unit [after he was wounded in March] and we addressed the last box to Sgt. Harkins and he returned the nicest letter to us so we feel really close to him.

He will always be in my prayers for the deceased.

His widow, Emily Harkins, said the words of Psalm 144:1-2 described her late husband well:

"Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war; My safeguard and my fortress, my stronghold, my deliverer, My shield, in whom I trust, who subdues peoples under me."

She said he loved being a Soldier.

Underreported and undermined

But still winning.

Tony Blankley at Townhall (via Ace):

...as of Veterans Day 2007, I think one can claim a very real expectation that next year, the world may see a genuine, old-fashioned victory in the Iraq war. In five years, we will have overturned Saddam Hussein's government, killed, captured or driven out almost all al-Qaida terrorists, suppressed the violent Shiite militias, induced the Sunni tribal leaders and their people to shun resistance and send their sons into the army and police and seek peaceful resolution of disputes -- and we will have stood up a multisectarian, tribally inclusive army capable of maintaining the peace that our troops established. (...)

All of this is the result of the most underreported successful military operation since the invention of the telegraph. For a detailed account of Gens. Petraeus and Odierno's counterinsurgency campaign, see Kimberly Kagan's meticulous article in The Weekly Standard. But the point to take away from the surge is that, though a brilliant military operation, it was never just a military operation. Rather it developed a political, economic and communications infrastructure that is permitting local-level reconciliation. We are creating representative governance from the bottom up -- not from the Green Zone down. Despite a frail and inept national government, the people in the towns and provinces (under the tutelage of the U.S. military) seem to be forming order out of the chaos.

13 November 2007

Aid and comfort

U.S. Army Capt. Edmond Hardy of 1st Armored Division, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, 4th Squadron, Outlaw Troop commander holds a local child and her new toy monkey while giving orders during an aide mission in the Al Doreen neighborhood of Iraq, Oct. 14. Outlaw Troop handed out blankets, toys and kerosene heaters in preparation for the winter months. Photo Spc. Larayne Hurd.

12 November 2007

The new "Silent Majority"?

Hollywood wonders why their new anti-war / anti-American films bomb, and people tell them.


Somewhat surprising: the number of commenters who are surprised by the number of commenters who share their opinions. I think what we have here may be a glimpse of the actual majority of Americans - who read in the news almost every day that they are a minority (and Nazis, to boot).

It's always nice to know you're not alone.

1-508 PIR Patrols Mountains in Afghanistan

Nov 3, 2007 B-roll of paratroopers from the 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment (Fort Bragg) performing a patrol and information gathering mission in the mountains of Afghanistan. Scenes include Soldiers on foot patrol in a mountainous area, meeting and speaking with Afghans, searching for weapons caches and interviews with participating Soldiers about the challenges of the mission.

Interviewed are: Platoon Leader 1st Lt. Andrew Davis, Squad Leader Staff Sgt. David Breeden, Spc. Andrew Wahl, and SAW Gunner Spc. Chad Holley.

The "package" (a narrated, edited version) can be viewed here.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

11 November 2007

America's Veterans: The Heroes Among Us

This is how I remember Veterans when I was a kid. Some of them were younger than this, like my Dad and his friends. But of course they seemed a lot older to me at the time.

They were just regular guys, like my Dad. They were his buddies at the Volunteer Fire Department, or they were cops, or they were the local shopkeepers. Some of them, like my Dad, got on a bus every day and commuted to the city to work office jobs. They were my parents' friends who showed up at the neighborhood 4th of July picnics and played horseshoes, or who got tipsy at the New Year's Eve parties.

A couple of times a year, though, they were different. Memorial Day. Veteran's Day. That's when they put on their uniforms and, although there was joking, they got a little more serious. They stood up straighter. They were proud. Not of themselves, you understand. They were proud to have served, proud of their fellow veterans, and they were proud of our country. You could tell they were thinking about old times, and old buddies. And there was a bond; they were a band of brothers.

Here's a story about one of these regular guys from a town near where I grew up.

An Army medic, Staff Sergeant Max Warshaw, was awarded 11 medals and a Combat Medic Badge in World War II.

He received his first Bronze Star medal in 1942, in the North African Campaign. His regiment was fighting the Germans in Algeria. He risked his life by exposing himself to the enemy to help his regiment's wounded lying in open areas.

Two days later, Warshaw was wounded by shrapnel. "An artillery shell blew up right near me," he recalled, "it didn't knock me out and I didn't require hospitalization. However, for many years I would still need to have artillery shrapnel removed."

In 1943, Warshaw received his first Silver Star medal for gallantry in action in Tunisia.

On D-Day, he landed with his outfit in Normandy, where he was one of the first to hit Omaha Beach. It was for his heroism on June 14 and 15, 1944, that he received his second Bronze Star medal.

His division kept pushing the German Army back to its own country. It was in Aachen, Germany, on October 13, 1944, that Warshaw received his third Bronze Star medal. He constantly exposed himself to the enemy to administer first aid to the wounded.

Three days later, he was again awarded the Silver Star medal for heroism and gallantry beyond the call of duty.

On November 25, 1944, Staff Sergeant Max Warshaw was captured by the Germans. They gave him a medical kit to care for the other prisoners of war. He was liberated five months later and sent to England for medical care.

Can you tell which one is him?

I can't, either.

It doesn't matter. It's all of them.

Honoring America's Veterans

If here today the cloud of thunder lours
Tomorrow it will hie on far behests;
The flesh will grieve on other bones than ours
Soon, and the soul will mourn in other breasts.

The troubles of our proud and angry dust
Are from eternity, and shall not fail.
Bear them we can, and if we can we must.
Shoulder the sky, my lad, and drink your ale.

- A.E. Housman

Today my thoughts, prayers, and gratitude are with all of the Veterans I know, and all those whom I have known throughout my life.

* * *

This is the last day of the Valour-IT blogger fundraising competition. As a someone who has met many of our Wounded Warriors, I would like to thank all of our donors and bloggers for their generous support.

If you haven't donated yet, there's still time: Just click on the PayPal button up to the right. Thank you.

10 November 2007

Fierce fighting in Afghanistan

Matt Dupree of The Long War Journal on the recent fighting in Afghanistan:

As the notorious Afghan winter weather draws near, snow already blanketing some areas in the eastern highlands, heavy fighting has exploded throughout most of the south and east. Taliban fighters staged a recent series of assaults on remote districts while International Security Assistance Force has aggressively responded, launching a series of offensives in northern Badghis province, Ghazni in the east, and in the rugged mountains of central Uruzgan. Season long fighting in Helmand province has also helped flush Taliban fighters westward, leaving a trail of destruction along the way and grabbing international media attention.

There's lots more in Matt's comprehensive analysis.

And from the LWJ's 10 Nov daily Afghanistan entry:

Six ISAF and three Afghan soldiers were killed in a Taliban ambush in eastern Afghanistan; eight ISAF troops and 11 Afghan soldiers were wounded during the fighting. "Several" Taliban were killed during fighting near the Nahr Surkh District of Helmand province. The ISAF and the Afghan military denied the Taliban controlled the Tarin Kowt-Kandahar road.

Update: More on Friday's attack in Nuristan from S&S.

U.S. Army spokesman Lt. Col. David Accetta said the soldiers were not on a combat patrol when they were attacked.

“They were actually on their way back from a meeting in a nearby village with elders,” Accetta said via telephone from Bagram air base, just north of the capital, Kabul.

He said that insurgents used rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire when they attacked the patrol. Officials said it was too early to determine whether the attack was carried out by Taliban or al-Qaida forces. Criminal gangs also operate in the area.

The U.S. has responsibility for a large swath of territory in Afghanistan’s volatile east along the Pakistani border. The area has been a hotbed for skirmishes in recent weeks, resulting in several deaths of U.S. and Afghan forces. Dozens of Taliban and al-Qaida militants have also been killed in those battles. (...)

[ISAF spokesman U.S. Air Force Maj. Charles Anthony] said the loss was being felt around the world. Most of the troops operating in the area of the attack are with the U.S. Army’s 173rd Airborne Brigade, which is based out of Germany and Italy.

There are currently two U.S. combat brigades - over 8000 troops - in Eastern Afghanistan, versus one last year.

"If you look back, last year we didn't have a significant presence in Nuristan and now we do," he said. "That all contributes to the fact there have been more casualties this year than there have been in previous years."

"With Sunday being Veterans Day, this is a reminder of the sacrifices that our troops and our Afghan partners make for the peace and stability of the Afghan people," Accetta said.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

The Wall: Vietnam Memorial 25th Anniversary

Photo Joe Gromelski / S&S.

25 Years of Vietnam Offerings

WASHINGTON — They are lined up like footnotes to the names etched on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial's polished black granite, leaning against its base, some a collective tribute to the fallen, others bearing a message for just one of the dead.

An American Legion uniform cap from Kansas, a police patch from a town in Georgia, a note to "GRAMDADAD" that appears to have been written by the unpracticed hand of a young child. A homemade plaque with plastic red poppies pasted to it, dedicated to a "Band of Brothers." Poems from middle school students.

"We met once when you played golf with my dad," reads one note, written hastily on a piece of yellow notebook paper, addressed to a Major Shaw. "You served together in Vietnam. He made it back to us. I'm saying goodbye."

Since the memorial was completed in 1982, it has become a de facto shrine with more than 100,000 offerings for the dead and messages from survivors left by the millions who visit it each year. (...)

The practice wasn't foreseen by the memorial's planners, but the first offering came even before the monument was completed, a Purple Heart laid in the foundation by the brother of a dead soldier.

At the beginning, a memorial staffer collected the items on the belief that people would want them back.

When they continued to pile up, with little sign of abating, the Park Service decided in 1986 to treat the items as museum pieces.

"It was unheard of for people to come to a site over a protracted period of time and leave objects," said Duery Felton, the collection curator and a Vietnam veteran. "These objects became a collection. Before that, they were just things left at the memorial." (...)

Park Service workers collect the mementoes every few days and ship them to a temperature-controlled warehouse in an office park in suburban Landover, Md., about 20 miles away.

Each piece is catalogued. Some are kept in locked cabinets, others alongside long shelves of antique furniture from other historic sites. (...)

"It is a beautiful thing," [Jan Scruggs, a veteran who came up with the idea for the memorial and president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund] said. "It shows that those who we know and who were a part of our lives and who aren't with us any more still have an impact on us."

Thanks to Richard of Blue Star Riders for the link.

Distinguished Service Cross awarded to 1LT Walter Bryan Jackson

First Lt. Walter Bryan Jackson is the seventh Soldier to receive the Distinguished Service Cross since 1975. He is flanked by Secretary of the Army Pete Geren and his former commander, Lt. Col. Thomas C. Graves. Photo by J.D. Leipold (ARNEWS)

Bob Connelly just received word of a CNN story on 1LT Jackson from the wife of one of the men whose lives he saved, 1SG David Sapp. The video about 1LT Jackson, SSG Sapp, and CPT Stainbrook is here.

John Donovan has the whole story about this hero.

09 November 2007

Their Sacrifice, Our Commitment

The Landstuhl ICU nursing staff have adopted the Soldiers' Angels logo for their team t-shirts. Recently, one was presented to me by the outgoing team of Navy Reservists before returning home at the end of their tour here.

Our service members have made their sacrifices. Their caregivers have done - and continue to do - their job fixing these guys up.

Now it's your turn. Please help Valour-IT award laptops to our wounded on behalf of a grateful nation.

08 November 2007

Able Company locks-in on Taliban during Operation Rock Avalanche

More on Rock Avalanche, which I am posting in its entirety because the SETAF website doesn't support permalinks.

These incredibly brave guys are doing amazing work under harsh and dangerous conditions. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers.

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Under the cover of darkness, Soldiers from Able Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry (Airborne) air-assaulted approximately three miles south of their forward operating bases located in the Pech River Valley Oct. 22 as one part of Operation Rock Avalanche.

Operation Rock Avalanche was a multiple-company mission running from Oct. 19-25 in the Chapa Dara, Korengal, Shuryak and Pech Valleys. Participating were Able, Battle and Chosen Companies from the 2-503rd, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry (Airborne) and multiple companies from the Afghan National Army's 201st Corps. The companies were positioned into different areas of Kunar Province at different times hoping to flush insurgents out of one area into another where U.S. and Afghan forces would be waiting for them.

With a vantage point from 7,500 feet up and overlooking the Shuryak and Pech Valleys, Able Company's four-day mission was to locate and destroy insurgent command-and-control and logistical elements operating in that area, according to Capt. Louis Frketic, Able Company Commander.

After setting up a perimeter and establishing a command post on the top of Phase Line Ridgeway, 2nd Platoon was dispatched to the nearby village of Aybot. Previous intelligence had suggested that Taliban leaders might be holed-up in that area.

"We were looking for two named [High-Value Targets]. One of them is the commander of the entire Shuryak forces and the other guy is an IED specialist," said Frketic, "We searched their compounds and they were not in there or in the area."

Frketic and his paratroopers were not dissuaded. A Low-Level Voice Intercept Team from Bravo Company, 173rd Special Troops Battalion (Airborne) was tasked to Able Company for the mission. The team had begun listening to Taliban radio traffic as soon as they hit the ground and were already getting a bead on the insurgents operating in the surrounding valleys.

The team was an invaluable asset; one that Frketic uses every chance he gets to collect intelligence on the enemy.

"A lot of times we will start getting locations and then we will pick up names," said Frketic, "It is usually specific to that cell what kind of things they are talking about. Sometimes they will start talking about people, fighters, locations, ammo, or weapons systems that they have."

Even the smallest details, including the specific words used, can yield valuable information, said Frketic.

"A couple days ago, right before the mission started, we heard a cell talking about their fighters and their leaders in the terms of soldiers and officers. Other times, we'll hear them talk about fighters and commanders. The one talking about officers and soldiers: that is a professional organization. Little details like that are very critical in my mind," explained Frketic.

With so much Afghan National Army and U.S. military activity on the surrounding mountains and in the surrounding valleys, the Taliban were never sure of Able Company's position and never mounted an attack on Able's position. The LLVI team used the time to continue to collect intelligence on enemy in the area. The formerly suspected enemy locations were now known.

Around noon Oct. 24, Frketic put that information to use and launched Soldiers from 1st Platoon, Destined Company into action. The platoon is a heavy-weapons platoon attached to Able Company for the deployment and commonly referred to as the Dragon Platoon. They had air-assaulted onto the ridgeline with their MK19 grenade launchers and M2 machine guns. A mortar team with an 81MM tube from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-503rd was also put in action.

Their fire destroyed one command-and-control node operating in the Shuryak Valley. But destroying the enemy position was probably the easiest part of the mission for the MK19 gun team, said Spc. David Hooker, from Palestine, Ark., and a Dragon Platoon member.

"I've never air-assaulted in with a MK19 before," said Hooker, "But since we just set in and manned a blocking position it was okay."

"The weight is the biggest challenge, getting it in and out," he said.

The MK19, without the tripod, weighs 75 pounds and the ammo cans weigh between 40 and 60 pounds each depending on the number of rounds in them. Many cans were brought for this mission.

The mortar team, one of the busiest in the battalion, also spent most of the day putting rounds on target. The team averages firing more than 1,000 rounds per month.

"As far as firing goes, this is hands-down the most intense deployment that I have been on," said Staff Sgt. Brandon Thomas, of Nashville, Tenn.

While there are Howitzers available for fire missions throughout the Kunar Province, the mortar teams are able to react the quickest when indirect fire is needed, said Thomas.

"We have eyes on a lot of the targets and our response is a little bit quicker," said Thomas, "The channels to clear the 155 go all the way through battalion and then back through their fires. Ours are cleared right here. If we are in direct contact, I can engage freely."

The number of rounds fired combined with the danger of their job has earned the team the respect of Thomas and the Rock leadership.

"These guys are awesome," said Thomas, "Everybody has been put in for valor awards."

The mortar team and the pit in which they work are a favorite target of the Taliban, making it a dangerous job.

"There is no overhead cover and they stand out there and fire throughout the entire engagement and also in support after by hitting exfil routes," said Thomas, "It's pretty remarkable what they do."

During the night of the 24th, Dragon Platoon was flown back to Able Main, but early the morning of Oct. 25, the remainder of Able Company began what would end up a 10-hour trek down treacherous, slippery and steep terrain back to their base. No small feat for even the most fit paratrooper, yet a regular occurrence for Soldiers in Kunar Province.

"We go on ruck marches into the mountains every other day or every third day," said Staff Sgt. Brian Mading, from Bonita Springs, Fla. and a member of Headquarters Platoon.

"The first couple are tough. Then, of course, the more you are doing it, the more you get built up," said Mading.

"The guys that come here right out of basic or other units usually get broke down pretty quick or get into it pretty quick depending on what their physical fitness level was before," said Mading.

All of the gear these paratroopers carry is heavy: helmet, protective vests, rucksacks, weapons, ammunition, and water. It makes packing before the mission extremely important, leaving little room for extra cold-weather gear or even extra food.

During the trip down the mountain, the Able Company Soldiers had hoped to 'drop in' on some insurgents the LLVI team had confirmed were hiding out in villages in that area. But none were spotted and no contact was made.

That's okay, according to Frketic.

"Those villages are only a three-to-four hour walk from our base. They'll be getting visits from us again soon."

Story and photos filed October 29, 2007 by Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Caldwell, 173rd ABCT Public Affairs.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

Bad news

We're winning.

IraqPundit (via Jules Crittenden):

While the following good news stories may come as a great disappointment to many people, we Iraqis welcome the developments: (...)

Frankly, I don't understand why so many mock us for wanting a future for Iraq. Is your hatred for George Bush so great that you prefer to see millions of civilians suffer just to prove him wrong?

It really comes down to this: you are determined to see Iraq become a permanent hellhole because you hate Bush. And we are determined to see Iraq become a success, because we want to live.

Meanwhile, Ace points to more grim milestones, as does McQ.

Oh, the humanity...

Update: Check this out.

10th MTN HQ to head back downrange

Ft Drum PAO:

The 10th Mountain Division's headquarters is scheduled to deploy to Iraq in Spring 2008 to support military operations and to assist training the Iraqi Army and Iraqi security forces.

"The 10th Mountain Division has supported the country's fight against terrorism since 2001 and we are proud and ready to redeploy in support of this fight again," said Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, 10th Mountain Division commander.

The division headquarters most recently deployed to Afghanistan from February 2006 to February 2007 where it comprised the core of Combined Joint Task Force-76. The division also deployed to Afghanistan from 2003 to 2004.

The 10th Mountain began earning its reputation as the Army's “most-deployed division” in 1990 after operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. The 1st BCT is currently in northern Iraq on their second OIF tour, and the 2nd BCT is now on its way home from a 15-month deployment to Iraq.

JR Salzman: I'm going to be a world champion again

h/t Mrs G

07 November 2007

We own the night

Los Angeles native Staff Sgt. Abraham Bitolas, a squad leader with the Vilseck, Germany-based 1st Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, attached to the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, provides security from the air hatch of his Stryker vehicle during a night patrol through Baghdad’s Sadr City District Oct. 29. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs)

06 November 2007

"...that's when I started to laugh"

Lt. Gen. Kenneth Hunzeker [Commander of V Corps] visits Army Spc. Sean Staggs, 21, from the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment out of Vilseck, Germany. Staggs was wounded near Bahgdad when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. Photo by Ben Bloker / S&S.

“When it blew up, I was knocked out for a minute,” he recalled. “When I came to, everyone was screaming. I didn’t know what was going on. I was confused.

“Then the pain hit. It was agony.”

At that point, he said, he resorted to some profanity.

“I tried to stand up. I fell on my face.”

He crawled his way over to an abandoned building, along with the other soldiers, and they called for a medical Stryker, he said.

They realized they were going to be OK. That’s when he started to laugh, he said.

“We were hurting,” Staggs said, “but everything else was fine.”

SPC Staggs and three other soldiers were wounded when a roadside bomb hit their Stryker on Oct. 21 in Baghdad. He's had surgery on his ankle which was shattered in the explosion. Staggs hopes to go back after he recuperates.

“I definitely want to go back. My team’s still there.”