31 March 2008

Déjà vu all over again: Al Sadr calls for end to fighting

This is getting repetitive.

Six days after the Iraqi government launched Operation Knights’ Charge in Basrah against the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backed Shia terror groups, Muqtada al Sadr, the Leader of the Mahdi Army, has called for his fighters to lay down their weapons and cooperate with Iraqi security forces. Sadr’s call for an end to the fighting comes as his Mahdi Army has taken serious losses since the operation began.
Since the fighting began on Tuesday, 358 Mahdi Army fighters were killed, 531 were wounded, 343 were captured, and 30 surrendered. The US and Iraqi security forces have killed 125 Mahdi Army fighters in Baghdad alone, while Iraqi security forces have killed 140 Mahdi fighters in Basrah.

Well, you know what they say: When the going gets tough... pretend to surrender.


"My heart sinks, but I know they can't hurt him anymore"

SSG Keith "Matt" Maupin. Photo - AP.

Those were the words of Keith Maupin, Sergeant Matt Maupin's father upon learning from the Army on Sunday that his son's remains had been identified.

Maupin was captured on April 9, 2004 in an ambush on his fuel convoy west of Baghdad. He was assigned to the 724th Transportation Company based in Bartonville, IL.

[Maupin's father says] he doesn't hold the Army responsible for his son's death, but that he did hold the Army responsible for bringing his son home.

"I told them when we'd go up to the Pentagon, whether he walks off a plane or is carried off, you're not going to leave him in Iraq like you did those guys in Vietnam," Maupin said.

Rest in Peace, SSG Maupin. We look forward to welcoming you home.

More from Michelle Malkin.

30 March 2008

A Triumph of Spirit

Fatima Ali, Mrs. M, is flanked by North Dakota National Guard soldiers Sgt. 1st Class Shayne Beckert and Maj. Grant Wilz as they place their hands on a wall to bless a West Fargo house built by Habitat for Humanity for the Iraqi family of a man who was killed for helping the Americans. The soldiers helped to bring the family to the United States three years ago. Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

The soldiers had told M many times to be careful. They worried about him. He smiled and dismissed the warnings, they said, and asked just one thing: "If something happens to me, take care of my family."

After he was killed, Beckert and Wilz went to console Mrs. M and the children. She was terribly frightened, they said, certain that her children were in danger. She looked at the soldiers and asked: "We go America?"

"We looked at each other," Wilz said. "Then, we looked at her and said, 'Yes.' "

Fatima Ali watches as son Theer, 9, and daughter April, 2 1/2, reconnect with Maj. Grant Wilz (holding April) and Sgt. 1st Class Shayne Beckert. Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

Read this inspiring story about the North Dakota National Guard soldiers of the 141st Engineer Combat Battalion and the Iraqi family who became their own. And bring a tissue.

28 March 2008

Task Force Iron in Mosul

26 March - SGT Timothy Puckett of 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment prepares to exit a paint shop at the close of human intelligence-driven raid in eastern Mosul based on information gained from presence patrols out of Combat Outpost Rock. The COPs allow soldiers to live in the city and provides constant contact with Iraqi citizens and fosters trust. US Army photo by CPT Richard Ybarra, TF Iron PAO.

25 March 2008

Ramstein CASF receives 50,000th patient since 2003

Capt. Ronald Eller, front left, Airman 1st Class Micheal Zangri, front right, Lt. Col. David Levitt, back left, and Master Sgt. Joseph Schleper, all airmen from the 435th Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility, transport a wounded servicemember from a C-17 to a bus bound for Landstuhl Regional Medical Center on Friday on the Ramstein Air Base flight line. Maj. Langevin is the CASF commander. Photo: Ben Bloker / S&S

The 435th Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility (CASF) at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany recently received its 50,000th patient since 2003.

Contrary to popular belief, not all medevacs out of theater are Wounded in Action. WIAs have accounted for approximately 11,000 or 22% of the patients. A roughly equal number are classified as non-battle injuries. NBIs can result from vehicle rollovers or work with dangerous equipment. The remainder are called "Disease/other" by the DoD. Service members downrange are subject to the same ailments they might have suffered back home.

Although violence is down throughout Iraq, the number of total medevacs has remained fairly stable due to the high number of deployed service members.

Statistics show that the number of inbound patients from Iraq has gone down from a peak of 771 in June 2007, to 564 in February this year. But Maj. John Langevin, the facility’s commander, cautioned that the number of patients historically has gone down from summer to winter. In February, facility members moved patients 1,046 times. Last year, airmen moved patients 1,122 times in February and 1,070 in March.

Most medevaced service members are taken to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center where they are evaluated and treated before being transferred to the US for further care or being returned to duty downrange.

The 435th CASF serves as a terminal for patients waiting to get a flight or transportation to another hospital. The 95 active-duty airmen, Reserve and Guard personnel also are responsible for moving patients to and from transport aircraft.
In the past five years, the facility has gone from a staging area set up in a base gymnasium to its own building with a capacity of about 100 beds.

See also About Medical Evacuations to Germany.

21 March 2008

Five Years?

J.D. Johannes:

The United States was barely a Nation when in 1785, Tripoli's ambassador to England, Abdrahaman informed John Adams that Tripoli and the U.S. were at war.

Abdrahaman further informed Adams that a treaty could be purchased[.]
Peace, did not endure, and by 1805 U.S. Marines were fighting on the shores of Tripoli.

The U.S.'s war with Mohammedan Jihadism began more than 223 years ago and continues to this day--only the location has moved from the shores of the Mediterranean to the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris.

Read the rest.

While you're over there, take a look at the trailers for his new DVD and order yourself a copy.

h/t Mudville Gazette's Dawn Patrol

Inside Bagram's Joint Operation Center

At The Long War Journal, a fascinating look into the JOC's operating cell known as "the Bridge". Here, amidst huge amounts of electronic equipment, information is gathered and operations are planned.

For example, over the past few months intelligence about insurgent movements and habits has been gathered through a series of operations called Winter Stand.

Carried out by elements of the 173rd ABCT (and presumably other coalition forces), the goal of Winter Stand has been to establish a presence along Taliban transit routes between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the Taliban often seek safety during the winter months.

Winter Stand operations contributed to the development of the March 12 strike against the Haqqani Network just across the Pakistan border, destroying a safe house. Initial intelligence reports of that day indicated three “high-level Haqqani network commanders” were killed and that “many” Chechen fighters also died in the blast.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

Marines return to Afghanistan

March 15, 2008 - Marines with Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, sort through their gear after arriving earlier this week. The 24th MEU will deploy approximately 2,400 service members under ISAF command to conduct full-spectrum operations to capitalize on recent ISAF and ANSF successes in providing a safe and secure environment for the Afghan people in which to rebuild their lives. This deployment, of approximately seven months duration, will temporarily fill a standing ISAF request for a maneuver force in southern Afghanistan. Photo by: Staff Sgt. Robert Piper

March 19, 2008 - Marines with MWSS 271, attached to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, NATO International Security Assistance Force, lay down AM2 matting while in the Kandahar Province, Afghanistan. This AM2 matting will be essential in the support of aircraft while conducting operations in support of NATO. Photo by: Cpl. Andrew J. Carlson

March 20, 2008 - Marines from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 (Reinforced), 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, NATO International Security Assistance Force, prepares a KC-130J prior to a flight. The KC-130J pilots and crew have been crisscrossing the country, flying cargo and passengers for ISAF. Photo by: Cpl. Randall A. Clinton

19 March 2008

Fighting the terrain and the elements in Nuristan Province

Paratroopers from Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment (Airborne), recover a vehicle out of a river during the summer near Forward Operating Base Keating in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan 2007. The road gave way during a patrol causing the vehicle to roll over. (Photo provided by unit)

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Mechanics from Bravo Troop, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment (Airborne), complete numerous odd jobs beside their average nuts and bolts mechanic work in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan.

The mechanics are stationed at Forward Operating Base Keating located in a valley between a junction of two snow-melt fed rivers in the Hindu Kush Mountain Range. Vehicle roll overs, flash floods, road wash outs, rock and snow avalanches are just a few of the hazards that make maintaining vehicles a challenge.

During the winter months, both Taliban extremist and Coalition forces are forced to stay near their homes and bases, or face battling the elements.

“One of the things about the snow, when it fell, it made things very difficult around here,” said Spc. Larry Gonzales, a 33-year-old construction and vehicle repair mechanic from East Los Angeles, Calif.

During winter more than four feet of snow fell in the valley. Combat Outpost Warheit, which over looks FOB Keating, had over eight feet of snow. The snow made movement extremely difficult.

“Mobile wise, air wise, water wise- everything was freezing up,” explained Gonzales. “The fuel even started to gel.”

And here's another cool pic from Parwan Province.

A Soldier mans an M-249 light-machine gun while maintaining a perimeter during a Village Medical Outreach March 12 in Gadaykhel, Kohe Safi District, Parwan Province. Coalition and International Security Assistance Forces treated nearly 400 Afghan in Gadaykhel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman James Bolinger)

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

18 March 2008

Though we walk through the valley

But if you could... do you think you would
trade in all the pain and suffering?

Ah, but then you'd miss
the beauty of the light upon this earth
and the sweetness of the leaving.

Update: Here's the first article published about the 3 soldiers, their friends, and their families for whom this was posted.

It’s the phone call every parent of a service member dreads receiving.

The father recalled saying: “ ‘All his dreams, all his dreams.’ ”

To which his wife responded, “He’ll have new dreams. You can go on without legs, and he’s going to soar.”
The mother said she began praying and not long after that looked out her kitchen window and experienced a vision.

“I saw James in his hunting camouflage with a friend. They were out in the field hunting deer,” Nancy Hackemer said. She believes one day her youngest son will again walk on the land he knows so well. “We are very strong believers. That’s all we have. We’re grounded,” she said.

12 March 2008

A small reminder of what The Long War is all about

Fanatical, ideological oppression.

Then, in Paris, they came for the novelists.

One by one, from Morocco to Saudi Arabia to Iran, Muslim governments have signed up for the boycott of the international book fair opening Friday in the French capital. The reason? It showcases Israeli literature this year...

Impromptu or official boycotts of Israeli commercial goods or national sports teams are nothing new. But the assault on words -- merely for being written in Hebrew by writers who happen to carry Israeli passports -- adds a revealing wrinkle to a familiar story.
Moroccan novelist Abdelouahab Errami told Le Journal du Dimanche of his "disappointment" at the boycott. "I don't share the position of my government. But I won't go.... It is difficult to have a different individual position without exposing yourself to a campaign of pressure."

This is what we're fighting. Because "[c]oercion, abuse of power, and tyrannical submission of individual rights and liberties cannot go unchecked."

11 March 2008

COIN in Afghanistan


Thoughtful piece from SGM Curtis L. Regan of CJTF-82 on the complex nature of the mission in Afghanistan.

The necessity and required outcome of this conflict remain unchanged. Strong resolute men must remain steadfast in the prosecution of terrorists and insurgent forces and a strong, capable, self-reliant Nation must follow in the wake of fanatical tyranny.

Evil must be eradicated, and ideology must be constrained to lawful and legitimate means of debate. Free people must be endowed with the choice of personal religious practices, the pursuit of happiness, and the rewards that come with hard work, creative thinking, and personal expressions of excellence. Coercion, abuse of power, and tyrannical submission of individual rights and liberties cannot go unchecked.

So where are we? Six years ago, there was no Afghanistan government, there was no Afghanistan President, there was no Afghanistan Army, there was no Afghanistan police force, and there were no Afghanistan border patrols. Criminals did not go in front of duly appointed judges in modern courtrooms, and convicted felons did not go to prison. Afghanistan children did not go to school, young adults did not go to college, and farmers’ produce did not travel to market. Commerce did not flow, engineering projects did not get off the ground, and corruption reigned supreme.

"No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen." Epictetus

Along with the need for the resolute will of the American people and their government, kinetic and nation-building operations, and the role of the media, SGM Regan also discusses the challenges faced by smalle units and their leaders.

Counter-insurgency operations are inherently complex and place especially great demands on small units and small unit leaders. These leaders are required to develop interpersonal skills such as cultural awareness, negotiating techniques, and important language phrases while maintaining critical war-fighting skills.

They must also remain calm and exercise superb judgment under considerable pressure. Soldiers and units at every level must be flexible and adaptive. These operations require leaders with the mental and physical agility to shift from noncombat to combat operations and back again in an instant.

There's much more at the CJTF-82 site, including a photo gallery and charts outlining the principles of Counter-Insurgency.

Related articles cover Able Company's visit to the Shangar ANP station and Shangar School construction site, and Task Force Med's experimental remote medical training program to build the capacity of Afghan health care providers.

Elsewhere, C Battery, 3rd Bn., 321st FAR test fired the first 155mm GPS-guided Excalibur artillery round in Kunar province.

09 March 2008

Paratroopers patrol in Nuristan

Soldiers of 3rd Squad, 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, navigate their way through steep and rocky terrain during a presence patrol conducted March 1 in the Jamachgal-Khwar Valley, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan.

173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs - The Soldiers of 3rd Squad conduct these patrols to put boots on ground in the hard-to-reach areas of the valleys and show the Afghans they are available for assistance.

“The purpose of these patrols is to keep the enemy off balance and provide FOB Bella with more security.” said Staff Sgt John Oftinoski, 26, of Middleton, Conn., a squad leader in 2nd Platoon.

By conducting the patrols in the valleys surrounding their FOB, the Soldiers of 3rd Squad are providing the base with more separation from the enemy and strengthening relationships with Afghans in the area.

“We like to make our presence known and let the locals know that we are not going anywhere and we are here to help,” said Spc. James Schmidt, 26, of Decatur, Ill., a gunner and radio-telephone operator for 3rd Squad.

Although the Soldiers of 3rd Squad did not see much activity during the day’s patrol, it helped them become more familiar with the area they will be protecting throughout the summer.

Meanwhile, 1st Platoon conducts patrols in Nangalam village.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

SPC Monica Lin Brown to receive Silver Star

Spc Monica Lin Brown from Lake Jackson Texas of the 82nd Airborne stands guard at a forwarded operating base in Khost, Afghanistan, Saturday, March 8, 2008. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)

CAMP SALERNO, Afghanistan - Brown, of Lake Jackson, Texas, is scheduled to receive the Silver Star later this month. She was part of a four-vehicle convoy patrolling near Jani Kheil in the eastern province of Paktia on April 25, 2007, when a bomb struck one of the Humvees.

"We stopped the convoy. I opened up my door and grabbed my aid bag," Brown said.

She started running toward the burning vehicle as insurgents opened fire. All five wounded soldiers had scrambled out.

"I assessed the patients to see how bad they were. We tried to move them to a safer location because we were still receiving incoming fire," Brown said.

Brown, of the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, said ammunition going off inside the burning Humvee was sending shrapnel in all directions. She said they were sitting in a dangerous spot.

"So we dragged them for 100 or 200 meters, got them away from the Humvee a little bit," she said. "I was in a kind of a robot-mode, did not think about much but getting the guys taken care of."

For Brown, who knew all five wounded soldiers, it became a race to get them all to a safer location. Eventually, they moved the wounded some 500 yards away and treated them on site before putting them on a helicopter for evacuation.

The military said Brown's "bravery, unselfish actions and medical aid rendered under fire saved the lives of her comrades and represents the finest traditions of heroism in combat."

Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, of Nashville, Tenn., received the Silver Star in 2005 for gallantry during an insurgent ambush on a convoy in Iraq. Two men from her unit, the 617th Military Police Company of Richmond, Ky., also received the Silver Star for their roles in the same action.