30 April 2009

Soliders' Angels Mourns Army Sgt. William Patrick Sullivan

Cards and photos adorn the altar at Rose Barracks Church in Vilseck as family and friends celebrate the life of Sgt. William Patrick Sullivan II. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jerry Wilson, 2SCR, Public Affairs.

Wolf pack mourns the loss of a brother

2d Stryker Cavalry Regiment
Public Affairs Office
Vilseck, Germany

Vilseck, Germany (April, 24, 2009) – Soldiers of Hawk Company, 3rd Squadron. 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment gathered alongside their fellow Dragoons and Vilseck community members at the Vilseck Chapel Friday to pay tribute to, and celebrate the life of a noncommissioned officer who most described as a dedicated team player.

Sgt. William Patrick Sullivan II died April 22 from acute respiratory symptoms, stemming from an illness he had been battling since March. Sullivan was born June 15, 1985 in Oceanside, Ca. He is survived by his mother Yolanda and Father Joseph T. Sullivan, a former Marine.

“Sgt. Sullivan was a model Soldier,” said 1st Lt. Ryan Tallant, 2nd Platoon Leader. “He was the kind of Soldier every leader dreams about because he only made you better.”

“Letting down the team was not something Pat did, not ever” said Lt. Col. Bryan Denny, 3rd Squadron Commander. “The U.S. Army will be at a loss for not having Sgt. Sullivan in its ranks,” Denny continued. “The Wolf Pack family has lost a friend and a brother.”

“Sully” as he was nicknamed by his friends, was a man whose generally positive nature infected the lives of all those he came into contact with. To his friends, Sully was a guy it was tough to stay mad at.

“Most people know that Sully was sometimes a little slow at getting ready and normally that would freak everyone out,” said Spc. Brandon Galouch, a close friend. “But when he finally showed up, with his big smile on his face, all the anger was gone in a second.”

Sullivan entered the military on Aug. 17th, 2004, as an Infantryman and attended One Station Unit Training at Fort Benning, Ga. He served as a SAW Gunner while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom 2004. He arrived at 2SCR on August 10th 2007 and deployed with the unit to Iraq in 2008.

SGT Sullivan is making his final trip home to California today.

At War: The Film

On Friday evening at the MilBlog conference there was a screening of the documentary film At War, produced and directed by David Leeson and Scott Kesterson. I wasn't able to attend but to be honest, I have a tough time even watching the trailers. I haven't been to Afghanistan, obviously. But I feel like I've seen it all before through the eyes of a thousand soldiers, and it's haunting. Perhaps I'll watch it alone when the DVD is released.

From the film's website: "War is a dichotomy. The narrow bridge linking love and hate, joy and sorrow, courage and cowardice or honor and shame is an eternal reminder of the best and worst of ourselves."

Scott Kesterson is currently back in Afghanistan for the third time and blogs at Where is Kilroy? You can also follow him on Twitter.

If you're in upstate New York and would like to see the film, it will be shown this weekend at the Buffalo-Niagara Film Festival in North Tonawanda, NY on Sunday at 6PM.

29 April 2009

2009 MilBlog Conference

No way I'm going to have time to blog about the conference myself before going to Landstuhl tomorrow for the long weekend, but to quote Greyhawk:


Speaking of Greyhawk, he has a comprehensive list of other bloggers' posts here. One of the best overall summaries of the weekend (aside from the live blogging) is from TSO at This Ain't Hell, incorporating some of the video highlights of the conference.

This photo is a must-see. The story behind it was the "Jail and Bail" fundraiser for Honor Their Service which took place at the cocktail party Friday night. Great fun was had arresting and bailing out various milbloggers for a very good cause.

Special guest at the conference for a Q&A session via VTC from Baghdad was Major General Michael Oates of the 10th Mountain Division - who also happens to be a blogger. Part one here, and parts two and three here. Thank you MG Oates for your time!

While in DC I was invited to go to Bethesda with Ricky John and Beth of Soldiers' Angels and was able to visit one of "our" patients recently medevaced from Landstuhl. Our thanks to Kassie of SA and the Marines at Bethesda for hosting us.

And last but not least, huge thanks and kudos to Military.com and Andi Hurley for another fabulous conference.

Being so out of the loop over here, it was great to catch up with some good friends whom I haven't seen in a while (you know who you are). See you all next year!

It all starts with roads

Soldiers pull security while scouting out the site of a planned road in rural Kapisa province, Afghanistan. Leaders hope roads both spur development and educate officials on key government processes. Story and photo: James Warden / S&S.

The importance of roads in acheiving security, stability, and development in a country like Afghanistan cannot be overstated. It's one of many issues Bouhammer discusses in an interview with embedded blogger and film maker Scott Kesterson from Afghanistan, which you can listen to here.

A Promise Made Good
TF Saber and COIN in Afghanistan: “Where the road stops is where the insurgency starts.”

New Soldier's Angels Protector T-Shirt from Ranger Up

Many of us know and love the original Soldiers' Angels t-shirt designs. But when we asked the guys at Ranger Up to come up with something new in the edgy, Ranger Up style they created this awesome shirt. Definately something that the men in your life will enjoy wearing, too. They can be purchased here, and Ranger Up is donating $5 from every Soldier's Angel T-shirt purchased. Thanks, guys! They look great!

28 April 2009

Soldiers' Angels is now part of the Combined Federal Campaign Fund

Great news for Soldiers' Angels! We have been accepted as part of the Combined Federal Campaign Fund!

The CFC is the world's largest and most successful annual workplace charity campaign, with more than 300 CFC campaigns throughout the country and internationally to help to raise millions of dollars each year.

Pledges made by Federal civilian, postal and military donors during the campaign season (September 1st to December 15th) support eligible non-profit organizations that provide health and human service benefits throughout the world.

CFC #:25131
Organization: Soldiers' Angels
Statement: To provide meaningful services and support to deployed military personnel, veterans and military families through a grass-roots volunteer network, thus ensuring no soldier feels forgotten.
Federation: Military, Veterans & Patriotic Service Organizations of America

27 April 2009

The battle against fear... one village at a time

U.S. Army officers held a meeting, or shura, with Afghan elders in Maidan Shahr who read a threatening Taliban "night letter" sent to a village elder warning people not to associate with American forces. Photo: Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images, for The New York Times.

Earlier this month an intense meeting took place between officers of the 10th Mountain Division and elders of the village of Zayawalat in Wardak Province, Afghanistan. The subject: the new Afghan Public Protection Program, a pilot project to recruit, train and arm locals to guard their own villages. Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal covered the meeting.

Young men from two of Jalrez’s main ethnic groups, the Tajiks and the Hazaras, enthusiastically came forward; both have largely supported the American presence. Several dozen Pashtuns from other villages showed up as well. Two hundred forty-three volunteers were selected, each vetted by the police, the elders and the local religious leaders. The first crop of recruits went through the three-week course — presided over by American Special Forces officers — and graduated three weeks ago. They are now patrolling the dirt roads of Jalrez.

But the village of Zayawalat didn't send anyone. They are largely Pashtun, who are more closely associated with the insurgency.

The Americans setting up the guard force waited patiently, hoping to bring Zayawalat’s elders along. They agreed to a meeting with the elders, and then another and another. At a meeting last week, the fourth, the Pashtun elders said they would make a final decision and report back this week.

But when they showed up Monday morning, the elders said they still were not ready to give up their sons. “It’s not that the people in Zayawalat don’t support the government — they do,” said Hajii Janan, the leader of the Wardak provincial council, who presided over the meeting. “But, as you can see, people are under pressure.”

Mr. Janan was not exaggerating. Last month, a local Taliban commander, Abdul Jameel, based in Maidan Shahr, came forward with 10 of his fighters and declared that he would fight no more. Wardak’s governor, Halim Fidai, accepted his surrender and told him to go home. The governor offered Mr. Jameel no protection for this act of defiance of the Taliban. Two weeks ago, Taliban gunmen entered Mr. Jameel’s home and killed him, his wife, his uncle, his brother and his daughter.

Lt. Col. Kimo Gallahue, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division reminded the elders there were now two U.S. battalions and two Afghan National Army battalions in the province to provide security - a ten-fold increase. Now it was up to them. "The eyes of Kabul, the eyes of the world, are on Wardak Province," he told the elders.

Brig. Gen. Abdul Razeq, a respected mullah as well as the commander of the Afghan National Army forces in Wardak, was blunt. "This is for you. This is for your neighborhoods. This is for your communities. This is for your sons and daughters. Stand up," he said. "You have weapons. Stand up on your own two feet."

But the talk wasn't all inspirational. If the Zayawalat elders passed up the opportunity to provide 50 recruits, those slots would go to another village. And so would reconstruction funds, medical assistance and other aid.

Both articles ended similarly.

After two hours, the elders could not decide. Once again, they asked the Americans for more time.

The Americans shook their heads in exasperation.

“This is your last chance,” General Razik told the elders. “If you don’t take it, we are just going to associate you with the Taliban.”

And they agreed to meet again.

But that's not the end of the story. Here's the rest, from someone who is there:

Several of you wondered what the results were from this Thursday's deadline - did Zayawalat produce the 50 recruits, meaning they have decided to fight back against the Taliban, or did they cave to intimidation?

The answer?

That village produced not 50 recruits... but 80.

I felt like cheering when the village elder spoke passionately about how they have decided to fight back and not be intimidated by the Taliban. How they are sick of living in fear, they want their pride back, and they are willing to take some responsibility in protecting their own villages.

Amazing changes are happening here... one village at a time.

Related and found in the Dawn Patrol: Dr. Karl A. Slaikeu's Winning the War in Afghanistan: An Oil Spot Plus Strategy for Coalition Forces. Dr. Slaikeu is a Sr. Social Scientist on the US Army’s AF-4 Human Terrain Team (HTT) at FOB Ramrod in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

Back "in country"

Flew in this morning and boy are my arms tired ;-)

22 April 2009

Where in the world...

I'm out and about in the US, seen above with my Mom meeting Mike Huckabee at a banquet. Heading to DC tomorrow for the MilBlog conference. Hope to see you there!

13 April 2009

Medical ETT at Afghanistan's National Military Hospital

An American Embedded Training Team (ETT) works with staff at the Afghanistan national military hospital to improve conditions for their patients. The 400-bed Soviet-era facility is their equivalent to US military hospitals such as Walter Reed or Bethesda. Interviewed is US Navy Cmdr Chris Schmidt, ETT Chief Nurse.

Happy (belated) Easter!!

An Easter basket in the patient inprocessing area of the Medical Transient Detachment (outpatient facility) at Landstuhl. To give you an idea of perspective, those chocolate bunnies are about 4 inches tall.

And here's two more baskets. Jessica assembled and decorated the baskets for the third year in a row and always does a wonderful job. Here she is in 2007.

Another thing on the agenda this weekend was putting up the new shelving in one of our storage rooms. But before you can assemble the shelves, everything's got to come out of the room...

The hallway fills up with boxes from one side of the storage room.

Jens, Heidi, and Yvonne try to convince me they know what they're doing.

Wow! I guess they do!

Heidi and Yvonne start getting the clothing out of the boxes and on to the shelves.

Did I mention there's more than one wall?

Running out of gas :-)

Jens, the completed shelves, and the tower of razors.

Great job, guys! You rock!

And that's me with Yvonne.

Over the long weekend we also picked up a truckload of freight from the APO, did our weekly shopping to stock up the kitchen for the outpatients, visited hospital inpatients on behalf of their families, made our weekly rounds to the nurses' stations with candy and coffee for them and supplies for their patients, and of course kept the donations shelves for the outpatients stocked with blankets, clothing, and personal care items.

Our thanks to everyone who supports Soldiers' Angels. We couldn't do all this without you!

11 April 2009

Osprey Ramp

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Joseph Murray, of Flint, Mich., a flight mechanic with VMM-266, MV-22 Osprey transport squadron, adjusts his night vision goggles while sitting on the ramp of an Osprey during take-off. VMM-266 stood-up in March 2007, as the 3rd operational Osprey unit in the Marine Corps. Photo: Sgt. Denise M. Serrano.

09 April 2009

On this day in 2003

Greyhawk continues with his look back at the early days of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Today, an eyewitness account from the day Saddam's statue in Firdas Square was pulled down by the Marines.

Moonrise over Logar

The moon rises near FOB Shank in Logar province, Afghanistan. Photo: LTC Steve Osterholzer, TF Spartan. (click to enlarge)

08 April 2009

40-year exile of ROTC at Harvard to end?

From today's WSJ, written by two seniors at Harvard University who will be commissioned second lieutenants in the United States Marine Corps in June.

Sadly, the number of Harvard students who choose military service has dwindled. Harvard, where ROTC was founded in 1916 and which once boasted over 1,000 participants, is now home to only 29 cadets and midshipmen, spread over four years and four branches of service. Recruitment opportunities are deliberately limited, and the student handbook cautions students against joining ROTC, remarking that the program is "inconsistent with Harvard's values." And cadets begin every semester seeking to avoid the professors known to exhibit hostility toward students who wear their uniform to class.

Rather than embracing the mutually beneficial relationship Harvard might share with the military, the faculty prefers to stand in the way of progress, abdicating its responsibility to contribute to one of our nation's most important institutions. The same Harvard that once produced 10 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and warrior-scholars such as Teddy Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy, now turns its back on its proud, patriotic history.

But there are reasons to be hopeful that the 40-year exile of ROTC may be drawing to a close.

Read the enire opinion piece at the WSJ.

Bagram doctors say goodbye to little Nazia

Dr. Robert Elwood, chief of pediatrics, Craig Joint Theater Hospital, and Capt. LaRita Abel, nurse manager, CJTH, hold a press conference about Nazia's upcoming surgery at Cinncinati Childrens' Hospital with Afghan media at Bagram Air Field, March 30. In the middle Nazia sits on her brother, Hatiquallah Gardezi's lap. Courtesy Photo.

Afghan Girl Receives Help From Soldiers, Americans
Story by Pfc. Kimberly Cole
Date: 04.08.2009

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - A 2-year-old girl from Gardez province and her family flew to Cincinnati, Ohio earlier this month to have reconstructive surgery on the child's trachea after swallowing a battery a year ago.

Nazia Gardezi had been a permanent resident of the Intensive Care Wing at Craig Joint Theater Hospital, Bagram Air Field since October 2008 when she was brought back to the hospital with severe pneumonia due the family's inability to suction her airway properly.

"Unfortunately," explained Air Force Maj. Robert Elwood, chief pediatrician, Craig Joint Theater Hospital, "this kind of airway takes a certain amount of routine care. A lot of suctioning needs to take place and the family's living circumstances made it where they were really incapable of taking care of it properly."

Elwood said the team of physicians who treated Nazia here were able to repair the injury to her esophagus, but the airway had so much scarring resulting in a narrowing to the point Nazia could not move air in and out of her lungs.

"Fortunately, a group from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center learned of her case and has offered a team of highly-specialized surgeons to do a reconstruction of her trachea," said Elwood.

As the team of physicians prepared Nazia for her 4 to 6 month trip, Elwood said she will be greatly missed.

"She has learned to walk here and has learned a very impressive vocabulary for a 2-year-old," Elwood said. "The team has come to think of her like one of their own children. You have to stand in line to get a chance to play with her."

Air Force Capt. LaRita Abel, nurse manager, intensive care wing, reiterated those thoughts.

"She really has become a part of our family. Every nurse and every technician really adores her," Abel said.

As far as how it feels to be sending Nazia forward to the U.S. and putting her in other's hands, Abel said she will miss her dearly.

"She has been a real pleasure to take care of," Abel said. "It's been a challenge and it's been an honor."

Once the reconstruction to Nazia's trachea is complete, she will no longer need her tracheotomy and will be able to return to a normal life with her family.

That sits well with Elwood.

"She's been a star," Elwood said. "She is a very special little girl and we've been very fortunate to have her."

First J-model C-130 arrives at Ramstein

The first U.S. Air Force C-130J to be assigned to the Ramstein Air Base fleet taxies under pressured water from two Ramstein fire trucks during a celebration ceremony, April 7, 2009. The J-model landed on Ramstein for the first time during a ceremony today held to not only honor the arrival of the new aircraft, but also a new era in operations for the 86th Airlift Wing. The ceremony also included a ribbon cutting for a new 68,000 square feet dual-bay maintenance hangar, which can hold two C-130J aircraft or one C-17. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kenny Holston.

The first of 14 J-models in production for Ramstein's 86th Airlift Wing arrived on Tuesday. It's also the first Air Force Super Hercules to be permanently stationed at an overseas air base. Over the next 12 months, the current fleet of E-model C-130s whose average age is 40 years old, will either retire from service, be moved to other units, or refurbished and provided to allies such as Poland.

"This aircraft allows us to continue and to enhance the role of airpower, and especially airlift, in this vital part of the world," said Gen. Roger Brady, U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander, who personally piloted the new aircraft into place during the ceremony.

The new plane will be the primary aircraft used for the 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron's medical mission.

Hanoi Visit

U.S. Senator John McCain (R) of Arizona visits Hoa Lo prison, where he was jailed from 1967 to 1973 during the Vietnam War, in Hanoi April 8, 2009.
Photo: REUTERS/Kham

07 April 2009

Vietnam Veteran rejoins the Army to serve in Iraq

Maj. Robert Sexton returned to the Army after an almost 40-year hiatus, turning his career as a physician into a medical officer slot with the 425th Civil Affairs Battalion. He said a sense of duty motivated him. He spends his days largely outside of Camp Liberty, engaging in various projects like this free clinic day Wednesday in Baghdad. Photo and story: Geoff Ziezulewicz / S&S.

This is just the latest story I've found about retired service members who are medical professionals going downrange. Remember this one?

Oh, and Major Sexton's son, Lance Cpl. Owen Sexton, is a Marine deployed to Afghanistan.

"They murdered her in cold blood"

Some punks shot and killed Marcus Luttrell's therapy dog last week. And they laughed about it afterwards. Not sure where people like that come from, but I sure know where they're going.

If you didn't see Glenn Beck's show last night, here's the video from Ms. Underestimated, who has more at her blog (via Blackfive).

06 April 2009

Couple of "thank yous" from Afghanistan

LTC Steve Osterholzer, 3rd BCT, 10th MTN (TF Spartan) near FOB Shank in Logar Province, Afghanistan. Have you ever seen a bluer sky?

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for supporting all of us serving our country. My heart stirs with pride each time I look at the U.S. flag flying right next to the Afghan flag here at our base and I am proud to be doing my part in helping to give these wonderful people the basic liberties and essentials that I took for granted in the United States.

These young kids, these soldiers, setting aside their X-boxes and college parties, sleeping in on Saturday mornings and designer clothes, these soldiers have traded them in for exhausting and dangerous duty, cold food, no showers, dirty uniforms. All in the name of making this world a better place. They truly are the best our country has to offer and I am so honored and blessed to call them comrades.

You, in your very own tangible way, make a tremendous difference to these soldiers… and you have my deepest gratitude and thanks.

Lead From the Front,


Steve ready to leave the FOB.

Next up, VAMPIRE 06 who is currently serving as a Team Chief for an Embedded Training Team with the Afghan National Army at FOB Bermel in Eastern Afghanistan.

Supply lines out his way are not great, and as he wrote on his blog, "the food here at the FOB was almost non-existent and of extremely poor quality. Crap would be a generous term to describe its consistency, quality and desirability."

That's all we needed to hear, and his readers, Soldiers' Angels, Web of Support, and Operation Cookiejar starting sending packages. Lots of packages.

Operation Enduring Freedom has been going on for about eight years, and the war in Iraq for about six. So the American public has been supporting a huge number of troops for quite a while. Food, hygiene goods, movies, and books; lots of stuff has been sent to show deployed troops that the American public supports them.

Enter Team Vampire and our food dilemma.

It is ABSOLUTELY amazing the amount of stuff we’ve been sent. As you can see from the photos below we could open a 7-11 in our house, in fact we received so much stuff that we’ve been passing it on to the rifle company located with us here on the FOB. AND IT JUST KEEPS COMING!

I don't want to spoil the surprise, but you absolutely have to go to his blog and see the pictures!!

While you're there, look for this image and click to find out how you can order your own Vampires t-shirt. Not only is it a very cool shirt - $5 from each purchase is donated to Soldiers' Angels.

05 April 2009

There are those who use civilians as human shields

...and there are those who give their lives to shield them.

Insurgent Activity Causes Civilian Casualty in Logar

International Security Assistance Force HQ Public Affairs

Courtesy Story
Date: 04.03.2009

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan national security forces and International Security Assistance Force troops conducted an operation in Baraki Rajan, Logar province, today that resulted in the capture of five suspected insurgents.

The incident was initiated when ISAF troops discovered a large group of insurgents placing improvised explosive devices on a road. During their retreat to a nearby compound, the insurgents attacked ISAF troops with small arms fire. The compound was also fortified with heavy machine gun positions. The insurgents declined an ISAF offer to surrender peacefully once their compound was cordoned.

ISAF troops also requested that any women and children in the compound be released unharmed by insurgent forces. No civilians left the compound.

ISAF troops, along with ANSF forces responding to the incident, exposed themselves to great personal risk by choosing to assault the compound rather than initially using air munitions. During the gunfire that resulted from the incident, twelve male insurgents were killed. Upon subsequent investigation of the compound, ANSF troops discovered one woman who was believed to have been killed in the crossfire.

An investigation is being conducted by ANSF at the site. Initial indications show that the woman was killed by insurgent small arms fire.

Significant amounts of weapons were discovered in the compound, including eight AK47 rifles, two rocket propelled grenade launchers, several rocket canisters, 82mm mortars, and two heavy machine guns.
(emphasis added)

And then there are those who claim that we're "just air-raiding villages and killing civilians" in Afghanistan, who should read reports like this one.

Oh, and there are also those who report the same story like this (again, emphasis added):

Afghan battle kills 12 militants, 1 civilian

The Associated Press

KABUL - Coalition and Afghan forces killed 12 militants and one civilian in a province next to the Afghan capital in a mission that included airstrikes, an Afghan official said Friday, while a member of the NATO-led force was killed in violence in the east.

The joint coalition-Afghan mission late Thursday killed the 12 militants in Logar, one province south of Kabul, said Mustafa Mosseini, the provincial police chief. He said that militants forced their way into a civilian home and that a civilian woman was also killed during the battle.

“Miracles on the Mountainside”

Army Command Sgt. Maj. Bill Roy, a Special Forces medic severely wounded in Afghanistan, said participating in his first National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo., has given him new hope he faces the future. Department of Veterans Affairs photo.

Roy was visiting a forward operating base in Jalalabad, eastern Afghanistan, in March 2005 to check on his troops when enemy mortar rounds and rockets from across the Pakistan border came raining on him and his troops. A 122 mm rocket lifted Roy off his feet, throwing him 25 yards away.

Roy knew he was in pain and had mobility problems, but had no idea how badly he’d been wounded. He returned to his headquarters in Kabul the next day and “sucked it up” for the remaining 90 days of his deployment.

It wasn’t until he redeployed to his mobilization station at Fort Benning, Ga., that a medical examination revealed just how much damage the blast had inflicted. His diagnosis: “disintegrated” vertebrae that caused “major paralysis,” two fractured kneecaps, two torn rotator cuffs, shrapnel in his head, traumatic brain injury and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
But yesterday, Roy put all that aside, along with his cane, and slipped into an adaptive sit-ski. Flanked by two volunteer ski instructors, he schussed down Snowmass Mountain, leaving a cloud of fresh powder snow in his wake.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever do something like that again,” Roy said, shaking his head as an ear-to-ear smile stretched across his face.

More on the 23rd “Miracles on the Mountainside” winter sports clinic, an annual event jointly sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans.

03 April 2009

Canadians coming to Spangdahlem

The CF are going to be using Spangdahlem AB in Germany.

"With the mission in Afghanistan, we have experienced the challenges of maintaining a 12,000-kilometer supply chain and it hasn’t been easy," Maj. Gen. Daniel Benjamin, commander of Canadian Operational Support Command, said in a news release. "Our first priority was in Europe in the development of what will eventually be a network of hubs worldwide to meet any contingency that causes our government to deploy troops."
"Spangdahlem’s support for a Canadian hub would consist of refueling their aircraft and providing lodging for their aircrews. Operating hours of the airfield here will not be affected," U.S. Air Force Col. Lee T. Wight, commander of the 52nd Fighter Wing, said in a statement.

Although Spangdahlem is a fighter base, it will make a good hub because its runways are big enough to handle C-5s, and it is capable of accommodating the four C-17s the Canadians bought, which they call CC-177s, said Bacot, who is also a C-17 pilot.

Spangdahlem is only about 55 miles from Ramstein which, among other things, the U.S. uses for much the same purpose.

Three Okinawa Marines honored for valor in Afghanistan

From left, Cpl. Jason D. Jones was awarded a Silver Star; 1st Lt. Christopher J. Kearney was awarded a Bronze Star with “V” for valor; and Sgt. Norman J. Era was awarded a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a “V” device during a ceremony at Camp Schwab, Okinawa, on Thursday. The Marines, all with the 4th Marine Regiment, were recognized for their actions in Afghanistan. Photo: Cindy Fisher / S&S.

Three Okinawa Marines honored for valor in Afghanistan

By Cindy Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Friday, April 3, 2009

CAMP SCHWAB, Okinawa — Cpl. Jason D. Jones’ first thought when he heard the crack of rifle fire in the predawn hours was the possibility of an accidental discharge by one of the Afghan National Army soldiers he was mentoring.

"But then, the [rocket-propelled grenades] started going off," said Jones, a member of the 4th Marine Regiment.

That’s when he knew they were under attack, he said after a ceremony here Thursday, during which he was awarded a Silver Star for his actions on the morning of July 13, 2008, as part of Embedded Training Team 5-3.

The San Angelo, Texas, native hadn’t even put on his combat gear when an estimated 200 insurgents attacked Vehicle Patrol Base Wanat, a newly established combat operating post. Just the day before, they had placed wire around the camp, Jones recalled.

Inside the post, a platoon of U.S. soldiers, a platoon of Afghan National Army soldiers and the three embedded training team Marines immediately began returning fire, said Jones, 24.

His medal citation recounts how he and another Marine dashed 35 meters through enemy fire to rescue a seriously wounded Afghan soldier.

Then they heard a call from U.S. soldiers that their observation post was about to be overrun.

"We had to do something," Jones said.

He and a fellow Marine grabbed machine guns and ammunition and sprinted more than 100 yards through enemy fire to man the post and repel the attack.

Read the rest of the story about the Marines at the Battle of Wanat with more photos.

Soldiers' Angels Monthly Newsletter

Is ready for viewing and can be found here.

02 April 2009

Make her day

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Elizabeth Gonzalez looks over the flightline on Sather Air Base, Iraq, with a .50 caliber machine gun, March 26, 2009. Gonzalez, one of a few security forces members qualified on the .50 caliber machine gun, is assigned to the 447th Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron. U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jacqueline Romero.

Task Force Spartan launches YouTube Channel

Their first video is a pilot of the Spartan NewsBrief, an 8-minute news summary planned for bi-weekly release.

Hosted by SGT Brian McGovern of the 5th Mobile Public Affiars Detachment, stories in this edition include:

PFC Chris Baker reports on Operation Remove the Enemy from Jalrez Valley, Wardak Province with the 2nd Bn, 87th IN and 4th Bn, 25th FA. Interviewed are SFC Ron Toomey, Platoon Seargent, 1LT Jason Pham, Platoon Leader, and 1LT Tyjuan Campbell, Executive Officer.

Then SGT Rob Frazier covers mortar team operations as FOB Altimar. Featured are SGT Steven Bartelt, Squad Leader, and PFC Jonathan Dickson, Assistant Gunner.

At FOB Shank East, SGT Brian McGovern shows the 710th BSB as they provide combat medical training to the ANA's 5th Kandak. Interviewed: MAJ Matthew Pantsari, 710th BSB Surgeon, and SGT Lauren Hebrank, SMART Program NCOIC.

Finally, back at FOB Altimar SGT Frazier introduces sniper team SGT Joshua Renken, Spotter, and PFC Dennis Decker, Shooter.

The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, TF Spartan, assumed authority over Logar and Wardak provinces in Afghanistan from the 4th Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, TF Currahee in early February.

Tough day at the firing range

Spc. Michael Alfassa, 25, corrects an Afghan soldier’s grip during the training in Maiwand district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan. The U.S. soldiers are from Company D, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment and are helping the Afghan army make the transition from Soviet-era weaponry to the rifles used by the U.S. Army. Photo: Drew Brown/Stars and Stripes.

Patience, as they say, is a virtue.

First, the Americans had to provide the bullets. The Afghans, who are always short on the most basic supplies, had been instructed by their commander not to waste their own ammo.

So, the soldiers gave the Afghans three rounds each to start. That would be enough to establish a basic shot pattern, and then they’d adjust the Afghans’ sights from there. If things went well, they’d have the Afghans zeroed in after nine to 12 shots each.

But when the Afghans started shooting, it became evident few of them had learned much from Bradley’s instruction.

Several Afghans insisted on shooting without the support of the sandbags. Many of them jerked the trigger, instead of squeezing it. The U.S. soldiers zeroed them as best they could, and if the Afghans got close to the center of the target, they figured that was good enough.

Then it became clear that many of the Afghans weren’t using their own rifles, which rendered any effort to get them zeroed mostly pointless.

"He’s got a good shot group," said Sgt. Louis Arroyo, 35, of Miami, as he examined the target of one Afghan soldier. "If he’d had his own weapon, I’d have dead-centered him."

Arroyo turned to the Afghan soldier and congratulated him.

"Next time, use your own weapon, and I’ll put you here," he said, pointing to the middle of the target.

01 April 2009

Petraeus seeks more troops for Afghanistan in 2010

Army Times:

The U.S. general who oversees the nation’s current wars wants an additional 10,000 troops sent to Afghanistan in 2010 beyond the 21,000 newly approved for the current year, according to testimony today during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

If approved by President Barack Obama, the move would bring total U.S. forces in Afghanistan to about 78,000 some time in 2010. That would be an increase of 40,000 troops over the current total.

“There is a request for forces,” Army Gen. David Petraeus, chief of U.S. Central Command, told committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. “It did move through me. My understanding is it has not been sent beyond the Pentagon at this time.”

Last fall, [General] McKiernan, who commands U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, asked the Pentagon for four additional brigade combat teams and an unspecified number of combat “enablers” such as intelligence assets, to fight Taliban insurgents and train Afghan army and police. During a February news conference at the Pentagon, he confirmed that he had asked for a total of about 30,000 additional troops, but alluded to the possibility of a decision “later in the year” on sending additional troops.

Defense officials later confirmed that an additional 10,000 troops were part of McKiernan’s original request. It would be composed of a brigade combat team, a division headquarters and additional enablers.

The 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team arrived in Afghanistan in January. Obama authorized two more BCTs in February, and the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade is en route. The fourth unit, along with additional combat enablers — including about 1,000 whose deployment orders went out last week — will raise total U.S. strength in Afghanistan from the present 38,000 to a projected 68,000, [Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele] Flournoy told the committee.

In addition, Petraeus essentially confirmed that the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Division of Fort Bragg, N.C., will indeed serve as the 4,000-member training team authorized March 27 by Obama. A defense official had subsequently confirmed the identity of the unit but the Pentagon still has yet to make an official announcement.

SA helps welcome Florida Army Reserve Soldiers home

Story here.

Well done and welcome home to the Soldiers of the 576th Army Reserve Transportation Detachment!

Wanted to mention that this month month we celebrate the 101st anniversary of the United States Army Reserve. It was established by Congress April 23, 1908 as the Medical Reserve Corps and comprised a group of 360 doctors formed to provide the nation with a reservoir of trained medical officers in a time of war. To this day, the Army Reserve boasts many medical professionals in its ranks. If you meet a member of the Army Reserve this month, tell them Happy Birthday and thank them for their service!

Iraqi Special Ops Forces, Iraqi Air Force Conduct First Joint Medevac Mission

A wounded Iraqi special operations forces soldier, left, leaves the medical treatment facility at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, for the medical center at the Iraqi special operations forces headquarters in Baghdad, March 20, 2009. The patient was flown to Balad in the first Iraqi special operations forces and Iraqi air force medical evacuation mission out of Baghdad. Courtesy photo.

This is a huge step towards full operational independence.

Iraqi Special Ops Forces, Air Force Conduct Joint Medevac Mission
By Army Spc. Jeffrey A. Ledesma

BAGHDAD, March 31, 2009 – Iraqi special operations forces and their air force partners teamed up recently to conduct their first joint medical evacuation from the Iraqi capital.

Flying a newly refurbished Mi-17 helicopter for the March 20 mission, the Iraqi air force pilots transported an Iraqi lieutenant from Baghdad to the Joint Base Balad medical center to undergo surgery.

"Iraqis coming together for this mission means we are going forward to achieve our independence," an Iraqi special operations forces officer assigned to the Iraqi medical center said.

The patient said it made him feel good knowing the respective Iraqi forces were working together, because sooner or later Iraq is going to have to run things on its own.

Okinawa, then and now

Landing on Okinawa, 1 April 1945.

On 1 April 1945 the largest and last amphibious invasion of the Pacific campaign, codenamed Operation Iceberg, began at Okinawa.

The American attacking force consisted of 183,000 troops of the U.S. Tenth Army and Marine Divisions commanded by General Simon Bolivar Buckner, supported by Navy and Air Force fire and bombardment. Okinawa was defended by 77,000 troops of the Japanese 32nd Army commanded by Gen. Mitsuru Ushijima, assisted by Lt.Gen Isamu Cho and Col. Hiromichi Yahara, and augmented by conscripted 20,000 "Boeitai" (Okinawa Home Guard) as labor and service troops.

Pacific Commander Admiral Nimitz had assembled and launched the greatest amphibious invasion force of the Pacific War, filling the sea with hundreds of ships moving toward the invasion beaches. Among them were 10 older American battleships, including several Pearl Harbor survivors — the USS Tennessee, Maryland, and West Virginia — as well as 9 cruisers, 23 destroyers and destroyer escorts, and 117 rocket gunboats.

As the pre-H Hour bombardment of the heaviest concentration of naval gunfire ever expended to support an amphibious landing lifted, an 8-mile long line of amphibious assault and landing craft moved onto the Hagushi and Chatan beachheads landing 60,000 assault troops, initially without any enemy fire or resistance.

The U.S. military wanted Okinawa for three reasons. American medium bombers could reach the Japanese home islands from Okinawa, its seizure would cut supply lines to Japan, and it could be used as a support base for the planned invasion of Japan proper.

Shoreline 3 days after the landing.

More ships were used, more troops put ashore, more supplies transported, more bombs dropped, more naval guns fired against shore targets than any other operation in the Pacific. More people died during the Battle of Okinawa than all those killed during the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

By the end of the fighting three months later, casualties totaled more than 38,000 Americans wounded and 12,000 killed or missing, more than 107,000 Japanese and Okinawan troops killed, and an estimated 100,000 Okinawan civilians perished.

Thirty-four allied ships and craft of all types had been sunk, mostly by kamikazes, and 368 ships damaged. The fleet lost 763 aircraft.

Navy casualties were horrific, with a ratio of one killed for one wounded (!) as compared to a one to five ratio for the Marine Corps. Combat stress also caused large numbers of psychiatric casualties. The rate of combat losses due to battle stress, expressed as a percentage of those caused by combat wounds, was 48%.

American losses at Okinawa were so heavy they drew Congressional calls for an investigation into the conduct of the military commanders.

The cost of the battle of Okinawa, in terms of lives, time, and material, weighed heavily in the decision to use the atomic bomb against Japan just six weeks later.

Hideko Yoshimura was a 19-year old high school student on Okinawa when she was drafted to serve with the the Himeyuri Student Nurse Corps in March 1945. In 2007, Yoshimura spoke about her experiences during the battle, as well as her groups' surrender.

About 50 people, including the students, had surrendered. After they were gathered in one spot, a Japanese soldier disguised as a woman suddenly committed suicide with a grenade. In the tense atmosphere, the captors ordered all male prisoners to take off their shirts.

At that point, Yoshimura noticed a little boy beside a U.S. soldier. He was crying for his father as he tugged on the soldier's trousers. Yoshimura was frightened for the boy's life as she thought the soldier would shoot him.

Instead, she saw the soldier smile at the boy and sang softly, "don't cry baby, don't cry baby." Believing that Americans were demons, Yoshimura was shocked to see they, too, were human.

Today, the US maintains 14 bases on Okinawa, including Marine Corps Air Station Futenma and Kadena Air Base, comprising about 18% of the main island. Okinawa itself accounts for less than one percent of Japan's total landmass.

Maj. Bob Hanovich, with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 1, talks with Loy, an Okinawan boy whose American father is no longer with his Okinawan mother, during a Big Bear Club meeting on Camp Foster on Sunday. Photo: Cindy Fisher/S&S.

Marines volunteer as ‘Big Bears’

By Cindy Fisher, Stars and Stripes
Pacific edition, Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Too often, these mixed-race kids have trouble making friends with their Japanese peers. And when the American parent is not part of the family, they lose half of their cultural heritage, Kikuno Higa said. Higa has a 10-year-old, Austin, whose American father is not part of the picture.

"I wanted [Austin] to know about the American culture and then to have other friends of the same cultural background," Higa said Sunday during a gathering of the Big Bear Club at the Globe and Anchor club on Camp Foster. Marine volunteers spent the afternoon teaching the children about Easter and the art of dyeing eggs.

Michiyo Akamine started the club in 1998 after her own mixed-raced son had trouble fitting in with his Japanese classmates. It’s made up of American and Japanese volunteers, and Japanese mothers and their Amerasian children.

Volunteers teach English the first three Saturdays of each month. On the fourth Sunday, the children learn about American customs and holidays.

It’s similar to the Big Brothers/Sisters in the States, except here it is done as a group, volunteer Master Sgt. Mike Hansen said.

Through the club, her 5-year-old daughter is establishing her identity as an American, said Ikuko Goulding, who is divorced from her daughter’s father.

Goulding said that wouldn’t be possible without all the volunteers and the time they put in.

But the Marines get just as much out of it, said Maj. Bob Hanovich, a volunteer with Marine Wing Headquarters Squadron 1.

"I get to be with these wonderful kids," Hanovich said.

The club also builds better relations between the local community and the American military, Hansen said.

"This breaks the cycle of disliking Americans," Hansen said, adding that these kids are learning that Marines aren’t so scary after all.

And it also gets young, single Marines to interact with the local community in a positive situation, Hanovich said.

To volunteer with the Big Bear Club, call 090-8290-8860 or visit www.h7.dion.ne.jp/~big-bear/index.html.

Sources include Global Security, Wikipedia, US Army Center of Military History.