26 September 2007

More Marines Silent Drill Platoon

There are better videos than this, of course. But I like this one because the crowd is just going wild.

25 September 2007

Quote of the Day

"Let him speak--let him open his mouth," said Pearl Atkins, 74, a Manhattan resident who lost relatives in the Holocaust. "This is America; people get their say here, not like in Iran. He only makes himself sound more stupid with every word anyway."

- New Yorker quoted in the WaPo, via Best of the Web Today.

San Francisco "just says no" to the Marines

The City of San Francisco sure doesn't seem to have a problem closing off city streets to accommodate protests and demonstrations, but don't ask for permission to film a recruitment commercial for the Marines. The filming would have required one lane of California Street to be closed for a few minutes at a time during the morning rush hour on the anniversary of 9/11.

Captain Greg Corrales commands the police traffic bureau that works with crews shooting commercials, TV shows and movies in the city. He's also a Marine veteran and his son is serving his third tour of duty in Iraq.

He says Film Commission Executive Director Stefanie Coyote would only allow the Marine's production crew to film on California Street if there were no Marines in the picture. They wound up filming the empty street and will have to superimpose the Marines later.

But New York City had no issues with the Silent Drill Platoon performing at Times Square yesterday morning.

Manhattan was packed with diplomats and world leaders on Monday, but it was a platoon of Marines that took the city by storm.

It all started at 2:30 a.m. at 46th and Broadway, with a line of Marines lit only by the glaring displays of Times Square. They came to film another portion of the America’s Marines commercial. But it became a destination event for nearly 150 future and former Marines.

It was a curious scene, people trying to keep quiet in the perpetually noisy Times Square, all intensely focused on the line of 26 Marines performing.

The filming wrapped up just as the sun began to rise, but the Marines’ work was far from done. They quickly relocated to the sidewalk outside Fox News' studios (48th Street/6th Ave) for a live performance on Fox & Friends.

Pedestrians on their way to work were treated to several highlights from the silent drill platoon's regular performance. By the time the brief segment was over, there were crowds on the sidewalk craning to get a better view.

Then it was on to The Early Show at CBS, 11 blocks away. The Marines boarded a bus, but soon hit rush hour gridlock. The Marines made one call and, suddenly, morning commuters were treated to a column of Marines marching, with rifles at port arms, past The Ritz Hotel.

I love New York!

h/t Gateway Pundit

24 September 2007

Soldiers at Landstuhl talk about Soldiers' Angels

While at Landstuhl I often run into soldiers who know about SA, but this weekend was something else.

It seemed like every time I turned around another Soldier was coming up to me and shaking my hand and saying, "Did I hear you say you're with Soldiers' Angels? Well, I just want you to know that... "

" ...I've been deployed for 13 months and you guys were the only ones who sent me mail."

"... there's a Wii at our FOB from you guys. We treat it like a trophy - when we're not using it we cover it up with a sheet and put it in a cabinet to keep the sand out."

"... during my fist deployment in 2005 I was adopted by a family in California and I could not believe all the stuff they sent me."

" ...after I got blown up they flew me to the hospital in a Blackhawk. I didn't have any of my stuff, and they had to throw away my uniform. So they gave me some of those Soldiers' Angels shorts and t-shirts and stuff. Everything I had in the hospital in Iraq was given to me by Soldiers' Angels."

" ... everybody had those Soldiers' Angels coffee mugs. We all put our names on them."

" ... you guys have no idea how much it means to be there and know that people are thinking of us."

And my personal favorite:

" ...when I get back home, I'm going to become a Soldiers' Angel."

They all wanted me to make sure to "PLEASE TELL ALL THE OTHER ANGELS THANK YOU!!!!"

Whether you've adopted a service member, sewn a blanket, written a letter, or made a monetary donation, please know that you are making a difference. Thank you!

20 September 2007

U.S. Senators at Work

...each in his own way.

From PowerLine.
The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by Senator Cornyn that condemns the recent "General Betray-Us" ad by MoveOn.org. The vote was 72-25.

The amendment was to:
To express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces.

The following Senators, all Democrats, voted against condemning such attacks on General Petraeus and our troops:
Akaka, Bingaman, Boxer, Brown, Byrd, Clinton, Dodd, Durbin, Feingold, Harkin, Inouye, Kennedy, Kerry, Lautenberg, Levin, Menendez, Murray, Reed, Reid, Rockefeller, Sanders, Schumer, Stabenow, Whitehouse, Wyden

Obama and Biden didn't vote. Of those Democrats who did, a majority voted against Cornyn's amendment.

Quote of the Day

"I am always thankful, as a Canadian, that we have a neighbor like this - one that is willing to take care of all the messes."

- Tom Renney, coach of the New York Rangers, after a team-building exercise at West Point.

From the New York Daily News:

"It's so cool, especially for a Canadian," Renney said. "It's so neat to be around people who are willing to lay it on the line for their country."

Don't get the Rangers' coach wrong. Nobody is prouder of his Canadian heritage than this British Columbia boy who learned his craft during a distinguished career with Hockey Canada.

But seven years in the Rangers' organization - especially one terrible day in September of 2001 - have fostered in Renney a profound respect for the United States, in general, and the city of New York, in particular. And he cherishes the opportunity to be around the corps of cadets while having his players interact with them - if only for a day this time.

"I feel very strongly about this," Renney said after practice yesterday. "How could you not if you were around here that day?

h/t my sister Carrie who adds, "Nice that somebody noticed!!!!"

SGT Eddie Jeffers - Hope Rides Eternal

I just received the following very sad news from Flag Gazer.

Wednesday evening - I had just popped dinner in the oven and sat down at the computer to check my email. Up pops a message from David Jeffers, Eddie's father. It was titled Hope Rides Eternal. I expected a new essay from Eddie - a follow up to Hope Rides Alone. Sadly, that was not to be. I was not prepared for the sad news. This is what my email read:

It is with great personal sadness but joy in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that I announce the death of my son Eddie Jeffers. Eddie was killed around 7 am Iraqi time from an accidental vehicle roll-over.

Although our personal loss is traumatic, we know he is in a better place. All of you have been so wonderful to my son and my family and he was so blessed and humbled by your love for him. He told me this past summer after the wonderful gift you gave his wife and him that he didn't understand why people were so generous and kind to him. You see to Eddie, he was just doing his job and what he believed was his life mission from God.

I've said this often; Eddie was my hero. My dear brother in Christ Rod Martin told me that Eddie died a hero for not just the soldier he was but the person. Eddie, through his writing, touched so many people's lives, yours and you so lovingly touched ours back.

We thank you in advance for your condolences and prayers. Please pray especially for Eddie's wife Stephanie; as you can imagine she is devastated. Our prayer is that Eddie's death will exalt Christ as did his life.

In lieu of any flowers we are asking all donations be given to the Fisher House in memory of Eddie; he loved that charity.

Love in Christ Jesus
The Jeffers Family

"Blessed be the Lord my Strength, who teaches my hands to war, and my fingers to fight." -Psalm 144:1 (Eddie's favorite Bible verse)

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
-Revelation 21:4

I write this tonight with a heavy heart and great sadness for the loss to the spirit of our country. Eddie was so special to so many of us who never had the honor of knowing him, but whose hearts he touched with goodness and honor. He was a hero to so many of us. We felt fortunate to be able to show our appreciation for what he gave to so many of us... honesty, faith, hope and the American spirit.

I was fortunate to correspond with Eddie's father this year. We were part - a teeny, tiny part - of a surprise for Eddie and Stephanie on his leave. Eddie Jeffers was more than a name on a page to me. He was a part of the spirit of America that has soared for over 200 years - a young man who loves his country enough to fight for her and to speak out for her, a young man of profound faith in God and in America, a soldier who believed in his mission and was willing to tell us all how much.

Tonight, I grieve for the loss of a friend, the loss of a soldier, the loss of a fine American, and for his wife and family. Our prayers are with them all.

We are all much richer as a nation because Sergeant Eddie Jeffers walked among us.

To read Eddie's essays, click on the titles:

Hope Rides Alone

Freedom Feels Good

Real Deal in Ramadi

All of these essays were originally printed in http://www.newmediajournal.us/

Messages for the Jeffers family may be left in the comments section and will be forwarded to them.

Please take a moment to read Eddie's essay, Hope Rides Alone, and leave a message for his family at Flag Gazer's blog.

Rest in peace, young warrior.

It is because of your sacrifices, and those of many others, that today in Ramadi, Hell is Over.

18 September 2007

173rd Airborne Brigade - July Hooah Video

Courtesy of the 173D ABN BDE PAO.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

“I don’t need the big ceremony or the big white dress. But, I do need Craig.”

I found this incredibly romantic. Congratulations to the young couple!

Rachel Holmes stands with a single pink carnation during her marriage to Spc. Craig Bowes, a Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, who is currently serving in Iraq.

The couple had planned to marry before Bowes' deployment, but a death in his family forced them to postpone their wedding plans.

“We decided six weeks ago to just do it,” Holmes said. “We wanted to get married and decided to worry about a ceremony later. He’s been gone since October of last year. I miss him so much.”

They were wed via video teleconference Sept. 7. (Courtesy photo)

Rachel Holmes stands with tears in her eyes during her marriage to Spc. Craig Bowes. The couple were able to see and speak to each other through the entire ceremony and after. The first words Bowes said to his fiancée via the connection were, “You look so beautiful, Rachel.” (Courtesy photo)

By Janna Lewis, Fort Hood Sentinel Staff

16 September 2007

General Petraeus' comments about the MoveOn ad

Now that's class and intelligence (and humor!). Gotta love this guy.

(Apologies if you've already seen this, but I'm still catching up.)

Seen at the WorldwideStandard.com.

Sheikh Abdul Sattar Bezia al-Rishawi

When I heard about Sheikh Sattar's assassination on the way to Newark airport Thursday afternooon I had to fight back tears in the back seat of the taxi. The loss of this courageous man and Iraqi patriot saddened me deeply.

It was the second time that day I teared up.

Earlier, an acquaintance had commented about how "expensive" the war in Iraq was. Perhaps it was prescient, because my in my spontaneous response I talked about the bravery of Iraqis standing up to participate in grassroots activities and how significant that was.

About how when scores of applicants lined up outside ISF recruiting stations get blown up, the next day hundreds more line up to replace them. About how the Iraqis who are paying for their freedom in blood have earned our support.

Have we forgotten our own struggle for liberty?

O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave?

Thursday, 13 September 2007

For Immediate Release

Joint Statement by Charge d'Affaires Patricia A. Butenis and Lieutenant General Raymond T. Odierno Regarding the Assassination of Sheikh Abdul Sattar Bezia al-Rishawi

It is with outrage that the United States and Multi-National Force Iraq condemn the assassination today of Sheikh Abdul Sattar Bezia al-Rishawi. Sheikh Sattar headed the Abu Risha tribe since the murder of his father by Al-Qaeda in 2004. He founded the Sahawat Al Anbar, or Anbar Awakening Council, an alliance of 42 tribes pledged to fighting Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

We extend our deepest condolences to his family and to the families of the others killed in the attack, and our prayers for those who were wounded, including Sheikh Sattar's nephew.

Sheikh Sattar will be remembered for his commitment to peace and security in Anbar. He had the courage to build unity in the face of ruthless violence. Sheikh Sattar exemplified the strength of the Iraqi people in the face of terrorism. His work will go on, and his legacy will never be forgotten.

We stand in solidarity with all Iraqis in expressing our sorrow at this barbaric and senseless killing. We will continue to work with the leaders and people of Iraq as they strive for peace and stability for their country. Our policy in this regard will not change. The Coalition will work with the Government of Iraq to bring those who perpetrated this heinous act to justice. Further, we will continue to work with the Government of Iraq to honor the work and sacrifice of Sheikh Sattar who was a martyr in the honorable cause of peace in Iraq.

# # #

Update 16 Sept: Matt Sanchez is reporting today that Coalition forces have captured a suspected al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist linked to the assassination of Sheik Sattar.

On 2 Sept, Matt conducted what is apparently the last known interview with Sheikh Sattar. I look forward to the in depth report. Another photo here.

15 September 2007

The Light Dragoons, "England's Northern Cavalry"

Lots of action in this one, especially for Armor and Arty fans. It's C Squadron of the UK's Light Dragoons ("England's Northern Cavalry"), who were deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan on Operation HERRICK 5 from October 2006 to April 2007 with 3 Commando Brigade Royal Marines.

The Surge: Security and Transition in Baghdad

Rapid City, S.D., native Staff Sgt. Shane Glowcheski (right), a platoon sergeant, and Sgt. Hector Hernandez (top), a squad leader, are joined by a young student while taking a breather on the steps of an elementary school being renovated in the Graya’at neighborhood of Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District Sept. 9.

I liked this story because it really gives a good, all-around picture of what the surge is all about and what our guys are accomplishing.

Security: By taking an "agressive stance" early on, the paratroopers of the 2-319th 82nd Airborne (“Black Falcons”) not only made the civilians feel safe, it also removed the major threats to coalition and Iraqi security forces which freed up manpower for reconstruction and training.

Reconstruction: More than 35 projects have been completed so far by this battalion alone.

ISF Training: Iraqi Army troops have been embedded with the Black Falcons while they execute security and reconstruction operations.

Commitment: “In the beginning, we didn’t believe them, because there have been a lot of promises made by the Coalition Forces,” said the headmistress at a local school... but she was eventually won over by the commitment she saw.

The value of 15-month deployments (my friends who are spouses will surely bash me for that): “If you’re only here for six months, you can just say, ‘OK, let me just do my time and go home.’ But 15 months? It’s a commitment."

Results: “Our area is really going somewhere. A lot of people didn’t believe in us, but now they are seeing it with their own eyes.”

Rapid City, S.D., native Staff Sgt. Shane Glowcheski, a platoon sergeant, surveys the progress in a school being renovated by his battery in the Gray'at area of Baghdad's Adhamiyah District Sept. 9.

BAGHDAD – Staff Sgt. Shane Glowcheski is normally a man of few words. Out on patrol, the platoon sergeant with the 82nd Airborne Division is all business, dark sunglasses and an unreadable expression on his face.

But on a recent afternoon, as he described the renovations his unit was helping to make on a girls’ school in the northern section of Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District, Glowcheski’s poker face suddenly lit up with enthusiasm.

“We got marble floors. We got computers. We got art work up on the walls. We’ve even got gardens. It’s Beverly Hills!” boasted the Rapid City, S.D., native.

Glowcheski and the rest of his platoon from Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, have good reason to feel proud about their achievements. With the new Iraqi school year just around the corner, the platoon has six school renovation projects on the verge of completion. Even so, when his deployment began eight months ago, he never imagined he would care so much about a flower garden at a girls’ school, Glowcheski said.

“We’ve done stuff I never thought we would do, let alone be excited about,” said Glowcheski.

Early this year, the 2-319th “Black Falcons” became one of the first units to push into Baghdad as part of the “surge,” an influx of thousands of troops into Baghdad neighborhoods to improve security and give the government breathing room to get on its feet. They know they are making an impact on this community, one they think will be sustainable. And, in some surprising ways, the community is making a lasting impact on them.

“If you’re only here for six months, you can just say, ‘OK, let me just do my time and go home.’ But 15 months? It’s a commitment. We’re going to have guys who have lived in Iraq longer than they’ve been in the Army,” said Fayetteville, N.C., native 1st Lt. Larry Pitts, Battery B’s commander.

“It’s hard for the Soldiers and it’s hard for their families back home, but in the long run, with this 15-month, stable operation – not moving around from sector to sector – we’ve been able to provide exactly what the surge was intended to do: security and transition,” Pitts said.

Stabilizing the security situation was the first priority when the Black Falcons moved into the northern portion of Adhamiyah in February and established their headquarters at Coalition Outpost War Eagle, a joint U.S.-Iraqi Army compound straddling the east bank of the Tigris River. The immediate task was to clear the area of hardcore insurgent cells responsible for attacks on Coalition and Iraqi forces. The first few months were a blur of constant foot patrols and nighttime raids, Pitts said.

Sgt. 1st Class John Duggins, a platoon sergeant, and Loneoak, Texas native Pfc. Tommy Shumpert, a squad automatic weapon gunner, patrol through the streets of Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District Sept. 7.

“In the beginning, the most important thing was to make the people feel secure,” said Staff Sgt. Antonio Alvarado, a squad leader from Edcouch, Texas.

The aggressive stance the battalion took early on allowed it to dismantle the major explosively-formed penetrator, improvised explosive device and weapons smuggling cells in the area, said Capt. Andrew Woodward, of Baltimore, the battalion’s assistant intelligence officer. By removing the major threats to the area’s security forces, the battalion freed up more combat power for other tasks, Woodward said.

The improved security situation left the Black Falcons with what was, in many ways, an even more difficult challenge: rebuilding the local community’s shattered political and economic infrastructure. As spring turned into summer, the battalion’s officers found themselves struggling with purchase requests and work contracts, instead of operation orders. Nineteen-year-old artillerymen were suddenly acting as social workers. For many of the paratroopers in the battalion, this was uncharted territory.

“I’ve been trained how to do things like enter and clear a room, react to contact, give first aid to a casualty, but there’s no way to train someone how to build a school, or get the Iraqi government to pave a road. You just have to figure it out,” said Warner Robbins, Ga., native Capt. Joe Miller, a military transition team advisor attached to the Black Falcons.

Still, the paratroopers approached their new mission as professionals, Glowcheski said.

“Regardless of the task you get, you want to make sure you do the best job possible,” he said. To get the job done, the paratroopers had to overcome some initial distrust from Adhamiyah residents.

“In the beginning, we didn’t believe them, because there have been a lot of promises made by the Coalition Forces,” said Gahenyah Sinshehab, the headmistress at a local school who has worked closely with the Black Falcons on improvement projects.

But Gahenyah was eventually won over by the commitment she saw from the paratroopers. With each of Battery B’s school renovation projects, for example, the paratroopers were involved in every step, inspecting the sites on a regular basis with the contractors to make sure the work was on track. During a visit to one of the schools recently, Pitts checked every classroom. At one point, he stood in a doorway, poking chunks of loose plaster out of the wall with a massive, gloved finger.

Fayetteville, N.C., native 1st Lt. Larry Pitts, commander, meets with contractors while reviewing progress on a school renovation project in the Graya’at neighborhood of Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District Sept. 7.

“Is this first class? This is not what I call first class,” Pitts told the contactor, as the plaster dropped to the ground. Before he left, he made the contractor promise to fix the problems.

That same level of commitment has been displayed in projects ranging from the creation of a new water pumping station, to the rehabilitation of a local park, to hiring contractors to suck up the rivers of waste water that flooded the streets, and more. More than 35 projects have been completed so far and more than $3 million paid out to local workers, said Wichita, Kan., native 1st Lt. Brook Carrier, the assistant civil-military operations officer for the battalion.

The projects have had a ripple effect, Pitts said.

“It’s provided the community a sense of pride, it’s put people back to work, the markets are busy thanks to the new income. There have been a lot of benefits,” he said.

In time, the people were won over.

“People didn’t trust the U.S. Soldiers, at first, but now there is a bond,” Gahenyah said. “Now, we don’t want them to go.”

Hillsboro, Ohio native Pfc. Todd Thomas (left), a radio operator, shares a laugh while sitting with one of his platoon’s embedded Iraqi Army troops outside a school being renovated in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District Sept. 7.

One of the most unexpected benefits, at least for some of the paratroopers, has been the personal stake they developed in making the area better.

“You try not to put a personal touch on it, but eventually it wears on you. You see the kids, and you see their faces – how happy they are. It’s a good feeling,” said Pitts.

As the projects go forward, the paratroopers have noticed a new sense of optimism in the community.

“I don’t think you can change people over night, but we’ve definitely made an impression,” said Pvt. Todd Thomas, of Hillsboro, Ohio, a radio operator with Battery B. “There’s definitely a new sense of pride.”

Even for an old-school paratrooper like Glowcheski, that’s something to feel good about.

“Our area is really going somewhere,” Glowcheski said. “A lot of people didn’t believe in us, but now they are seeing it with their own eyes.”

Story and photos by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs

06 September 2007

Jihadists with "profound hatred of U.S. citizens" target American facilities in Germany

A German GSG-9 anti-terrorist unit has arrested three suspects from an Islamic group linked to al-Qaida who were planning "imminent" bomb attacks against Americans in Germany.

Federal Prosecutor Monika Harms said the three suspects intended to attack institutions and establishments frequented by Americans in Germany, including discos, pubs and airports. Her office said the plan was to set off car bombs.

"We were able to succeed in recognizing and preventing the most serious and massive bombings," Harms said at a news conference. She declined to name specific targets.

"There was an imminent threat," Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung told ARD broadcaster.

A senior State Department official said German investigators determined that Frankfurt International Airport and the nearby U.S. Ramstein Air Base were the primary targets, although other sites may have under consideration.

Ramstein AB is about 5km from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

Anti-terror authorities have been watching the suspects since late 2006 when they were observed carrying out surveillance of U.S. military facilities in Hanau, near Frankfurt.

03 September 2007

01 September 2007

Meanwhile, back on the front...

Hello Soldiers' Angels,

I am currently deployed to XXX, Afghanistan, and we've been out here for about 5 months now. Let me tell I had no clue there was such an organization out there that supported troops as much as you do. I thank God for your organization and pray that it continues to be a blessing to myself and all the other troops that are serving around the world.

You know it's funny because the people that I actually was really close to back at home all said they would support me when I got here and up till now I have not seen anything from any of them. I even tried getting my church involved to help the local kids out here and they have declined. That was my biggest dissappointment. But hey life goes and the mission still gets accomplished.

I always say it's a blessing to have my mother still in my life cause if I did not have her I might not have any support... then we received stuff from your organization, and my hope was restored.

I really, really, really do appreciate everything you guys do for us. Getting mail is one of the few high points of the day and you guys sure do put a smile on every one's face. Thank you immensely. It's almost always like Christmas when we see stuff from you guys, so I needed to take time out to tell you how much we care.

Please continue to support us, pray for us and keep us close to your hearts as we continue to keep America free and proud.

Thank you again and be blessed.

Hospital Corpsman (HM2)