30 April 2008

Brits in Afghanistan

British combat medic Jodie Kayhill, 21.

From Robert Wilson's gallery at Times Online. Striking and intimate images of a British Army brigade in Afghanistan.

Update: Link fixed. Sorry about that.

Marines launch assault in Helmand province

U.S. Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit wish one another well as they prepare to leave in convoy from a forward operating base in southern Afghanistan, Monday April 28, 2008. AP Photo/David Guttenfelder.

OUTSIDE GARMSER, Afghanistan (AP) — Marines stormed into a Taliban-held town before daybreak Tuesday, trading gunfire with insurgents on the ground and using helicopter gunships to destroy a militant compound in one of Afghanistan's most violent regions.

Several hundred Marines, many of whom have fought in Iraq, reportedly met light resistance in the assault, which is the farthest south in years that American troops have operated in Helmand province.
"We haven't seen anybody who isn't carrying a gun," [Maj. Tom] Clinton said of the mostly deserted town. "They're trying to figure out what we're doing. They're shooting at us, letting us know they're there."

The assault on Garmser was the first major task undertaken by the 2,300 Marines of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which arrived in April from Camp Lejeune, N.C., for a seven-month deployment.
Attack helicopters "obliterated" a compound used as a base by the insurgents, said Clinton, 36, of Swampscott, Mass. He said he didn't if anyone was killed by the airstrike.
Many of the men in the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit served in 2006 and 2007 in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province in western Iraq. The vast region was once the stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq before the militants were pushed out in early 2007.

Capt. John Moder, 34, a company commander from North Kingstown, R.I., said before the assault began that the experience in Iraq would affect how his men fight in Afghanistan.

"These guys saw a lot of progress in Ramadi, so they understand it's not just kinetic (fighting),but it's reconstruction and economic development," he said.

Two Schweinfurt soldiers receive Silver Star

Spc. Jarrod Taylor, right, an infantryman with the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade in Schweinfurt, Germany, shakes hands with 172nd commander, Col. Jeffrey Sinclair, after being decorated with the Silver Star at his battalion headquarters Tuesday. At center is Staff Sgt. Octavio Nuñez, who, like Taylor, was decorated Tuesday for heroic actions in Baghdad last May. Photo and story Mark St.Clair / S&S.

SCHWEINFURT, Germany — Two infantrymen were awarded the nation’s third-highest medal for wartime valor on Tuesday in a short ceremony on Ledward Barracks.

Staff Sgt. Octavio Nuñez, 28, and Spc. Jarrod Taylor, 22, were decorated with the Silver Star by Col. Jeffrey Sinclair, commander of the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade, for heroic actions in Iraq on May 14, 2007.

Telling of how the two heroes chose their friends over themselves, Sinclair said people who have never served may not understand how someone will repeatedly put themselves in harm’s way to save a fellow soldier.
“You’ll never be prepared for something like that,” Nuñez said when asked whether or not his training kicked in during the attack. “I never thought I was going to see my buddies running around on fire.”

Paratroopers Get Hands-on Training During Live-fire Event

Paratroopers assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division perform the stacking techique on a door as they prepare to clear a building during a training event on April 15 at Live Fire Village complex. Paratroopers train on all aspects of combat operations to prepare them for deployments in support of the war on terror.

29 April 2008

The Virtues of Our Sons

From JD Johannes via Blackfive.

THE VIRTUES of our sons, hope, love, fortitude are tested in a crucible every minute of every day in Iraq and Afghanistan. For centuries, these virtues were lauded as the foundation of culture and society. But in the post-modern era they are shunned precisely because they are virtues and most of all fortitude is ignored because it is virtue that can be witnessed in action.

Hope is used as a campaign slogan, love as a lyric, but fortitude requires a choice and action during encounters with mortal adversaries of the good.

A society that denies the virtues of its sons in battle, will cease to exist, because it is only through battle with the mortal enemy of the good that evil is defeated.

28 April 2008

Welcome Home, SSG Matt Maupin

U.S. Marine Sgt. Micah Maupin salutes the casket of his brother, Army Staff Sgt. Matt Maupin as it arrives at Lunken Airport.

Thousands lined the roads along the procession route, paid their respects at a public viewing, and attended the public funeral at Great American Ball Park for SSG Matt Maupin this weekend.

Welcome home, Matt. Your mission is complete.

h/t and more links at Blackfive.

JAM's days numbered - Updated and bumped

Army Capt. Will McNutt, a native of Deridder, La. and assigned as the 2nd Battalion, 42nd Iraqi Army Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division Military Transition Team chief provides security from a building rooftop as Iraqi army soldiers from the 42nd Iraqi Army Brigade, 11th Iraqi Army Division battle armed militiamen in the Sadr City district of Baghdad April 17. U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Adrian Cadiz.

From The Long War Journal:

The showdown with the Mahdi Army continues in Baghdad and outlying areas to the North as Iraq's prime minister says the days of the militias are over. US and Iraqi forces engaged the Mahdi Army in Baghdad and the towns of Rashidiyah and Hussaniyah in northern Baghdad Province over the past several days, killing 16 Mahdi Army fighters and capturing five. Seventy-two Mahdi Army fighters have been killed in Baghdad since Muqtada al Sadr threatened to initiate a third uprising.

Well done to the IA and the US MiTTs teams. Keep up the good work.

Update: US, Iraqi troops killed 41 Mahdi Army fighters in Baghdad clashes

ANA Commandos and US Special Forces capture and kill insurgents in Kapisa province

Members of the Afghan National Army’s 207th Commando Kandak move toward their objective during a pre-graduation mission, in Kapisa province, April 21-24. During the operation, the Commandos, supported by Coalition [Special Forces] forces, captured one insurgent, killed one other who tried to mount an attack against them and recovered weapons, IED material and rockets. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Corey T. Dennis.

Update 30 April: Matt Dupee at The Long War Journal provides lots of context around operations in Kapisa province.

“The security situation in Tag Ab remains unstable,” a US military spokesman told The Long War Journal in a recent interview. “Afghan National Security Forces and International Security Assistance Forces are working hard to uproot the localized insurgency. Kapisa is being used as a staging area for attacks into the capital including suicide attacks. Various Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami commanders, in and outside the Valley, realize the importance of maintaining support in this area to keep this facilitation hub open.

The 1st Kandak of the 201st Corps of the Afghan National Army along with other Afghan National Security Forces and supported by Coalition Forces, are currently conducting Operation Mouje Sealam to disrupt insurgent activities, increase the support of the populace for the Afghan government and increase the level of security in Kapisa. The local populace is the most important aspect of bringing safety to the villages of Tag Ab.”

26 April 2008

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

Two Afghan men and a group of boys gather at the Gowerdesh Bridge after U.S. and Afghan government troops had taken control of it. Drew Brown / S&S.

More top-notch reporting and photography from Drew Brown of S&S about operations of the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment in Nuristan Province. Operation Mountain Highway II is Task Force Saber’s largest operation to date.

U.S., Afghan troops retake key bridge

NURISTAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan — U.S. and Afghan troops have secured a key bridge in volatile northeastern Afghanistan, a move U.S. military officers say will allow Afghan border police to return to the area and help quell the insurgency there.

The seizure of the Gowerdesh Bridge on Tuesday will also allow U.S.-funded efforts to widen and improve the main road into Nuristan province to resume. U.S. officers say this will bring badly needed economic development to the remote mountainous region.

“This road is important,” said Maj. Nathan Springer, a staff officer for the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, also known as Task Force Saber. “Where the road stops is where the insurgency starts.”

The region around the Gowerdesh Bridge had been under insurgent control since last August, when border police abandoned the checkpoint after anti-government fighters threatened to kill them if they did not leave.

The border station controls a crossing point into Pakistan, which is just beyond the next mountain range.

Road construction stopped about 10 kilometers south of the bridge two months ago, when four Afghan contractors working on the project were captured and beheaded by insurgents.

But now road work can start again, Springer said. U.S. forces have set aside $40 million to widen and pave the road from Asmar to Kamdesh, a key town in eastern Nuristan province, he added.

“The next thing the local people are going to see is an immediate infusion of development dollars,” said Springer, 31, of Norman, Okla.

Economic development will bring jobs, which will give young fighting-age men an alternative to toting a gun for the insurgency, he said.

The latest operation to retake the bridge started about a week ago when U.S. forces flew in by helicopter at night and set up three hilltop outposts overlooking the bridge and the road.

But the work began long before that.

Tuesday’s operation went smoothly because it came after weeks of negotiations with a 100-man shura, or council, of Kamdesh tribal elders, said Lt. Col. Christopher Kolenda, commander of Task Force Saber.

The Kamdesh shura is the most influential tribal body in this part of Nuristan province.

“They’ve been going from village to village telling the enemy not to fight and to work with the government,” said Kolenda, of Omaha, Neb. He added that the tribal council’s message has been simple: “You’re either going to reconcile or you’re going to be an enemy of the whole tribe.”

Kolenda met Monday with about two dozen members of the Kamdesh shura, and they gave him the final go-ahead to retake the Gowerdesh Bridge.

That same group of elders drove up a couple of hours after U.S. and Afghan forces secured the bridge.

They met briefly with Capt. John Williams, commander of Workhorse Troop, who thanked the men for their efforts to bring peace to the region.

Afghans are notoriously wary of outsiders, and the elders were clearly ambivalent about the presence of U.S. troops in the valley. But one of them thanked Williams for their efforts.

“We are very, very happy about this,” the tribal elder said quietly.

Article with photo gallery here.

More on roads, bridges, and COIN at the SWJ via Mrs. G's Dawn Patrol.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

25 April 2008

ANZAC Day 2008

Half mast ... the Australia flag in Sydney's Darling Harbour flies at half mast as a mark of respect to the nation's fallen. Picture: Charlie Brewer

Lest we forget ... Hobart's Cenotaph was the venue for many to remember the contribution of Australias servicemen and women. Picture: Kim Eiszele

Pilgrims ... Australian visitors gather at Anzac Cove on the Gallipoli peninsula, northwestern Turkey, as they wait for the dawn service / AP

Reunited ... four of the famous Desert Rats enjoy a drink as they catch up at Sydney's Gallipoli Club after the march for a reunion. Picture: James Croucher

Return ... former World War II prisoner of war Bill Haskell, 88, makes his way on part of the death railway after the dawn ceremony to mark ANZAC Day at Hellfire Pass in Kanchanaburi province, western Thailand / AP

Early start ... Vietnam veteran John Everingham has a beer at 7am at The Grand Hotel in Sydney after the dawn service in Martin Place. Picture: Stephen Cooper

Diggers mark last Anzac Day in Iraq - ABC News AU

All photos news.com.au except where noted.

Task Force Saber builds outpost in 6000-foot Afghan mountains

Great article and photo gallery by Drew Brown about the 1-91 Cav, 173rd ABCT setting up shop on the Afghan-Pakistan border in Nuristan Province.

It’s only a 200-meter climb [from where the Chinooks dropped them], but the going is steep and rocky, and the soldiers resemble pack mules under the bright glare of the full moon. Many of them carry rucksacks that weigh 100 pounds or more, not including their body armor, helmets, weapons and ammunition, which easily add another 40 to 50 pounds.

The altitude is nearly 6,000 feet. The peaks of the high mountains in the distance are covered with snow. As Lt. Col. Chris Kolenda, commander of 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, also known as Task Force Saber, puts it, hiking up and down hill at that altitude, under that much weight, can be “a significant emotional experience.”

From setting up a command post under a clump of trees, blasting bunkers for machine gun pits, JTAC personnel calling in air support, and local "visitors" bringing gifts as a ruse for conducting reconnaissance of the American positions, this story has it all.

Despite the drudgery of their days, few of the soldiers complain. Instead, they go about their jobs with a wry sense of humor.

[Capt. Matthew Kikta, 27, of Lake Forest, Calif.,] was standing below the command post, as Pfc. Cory Cook, 22, of Chickasha, Okla., came slogging up the hill. He was covered in sweat and breathing heavily.

“I think I’m going to have a heart attack now,” he said, stopping to catch his breath.

“Are you all right?” Kikta asked.

“[Expletive], no,” Cook answered. “I’m in Afghanistan.”

Read the whole article.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

24 April 2008

On patrol with the 173rd ABCT on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Border

Robin and Linda both send the link to this 27-minute C-Span documentary about the 503rd PIR of the 173rd ABCT at COP Spira and OP East. Great insight from freelance journalist Doug Grindle during his fifth trip to Afghanistan this winter. He was embedded with the 173rd in the mountains of Khost Province in eastern Afghanistan as they patrol the border with Pakistan.

Soldiers interviewed are: PVT Andrew Felder, SSG Michael Gorman, SSG Ronaldo Gotierrez, CPT Chris Hammonds, 1LT Andrew Peppler, 1LT Walter Spangler, all of the 503rd PIR and CPT George Navarro, Adviser to the ANA.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

23 April 2008

Aeromedical Evacuation from Balad, Iraq to Ramstein Germany

B-Roll of Airmen preparing a medical transport fight from Balad, Iraq to Ramstein, Germany.

This video shows the transport of non-critical and ambulatory patients. Information and video about the transport of critical patients can be found here.

First you'll see the CASF in Balad. The patients are awake and conversing with the Airmen of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing.

From there the patients on litters are taken from the CASF to the bus for transport to the aircraft. You'll see the first patient carried out has a blue folder on his chest - those are his medical records. Everything is also in a computer system, of course.

On the bus the litters are suspended to reduce jarring during the short ride, but they're also fastened to the floor to prevent too much movement.

Then you'll see the inside of the aircraft where the litter patients are placed on "racks". Behind the racks you can get a glimpse of the ambulatory patients who sit along the outer sides of the aircraft in troop seats.

Specialized in-flight medical personnel care for the patients during flight. They are the ones in the flight suits (overalls).

After the staff of the CASF say goodbye to their patients, the plane takes off for Germany.

At Ramstein Air Base the patients are taken from the aircraft to the exact same type of bus for the short drive to Landstuhl hospital. Here's what it's like to arrive at Landstuhl.

A big shout out and THANK YOU to our friends of the 332nd AEW for taking such good care of our guys!

See also:
Critical Care Air Transport: Balad, Iraq to Ramstein, Germany

Important information about testicular cancer and self-exams

Ok, this is an unusual post. But it's really important because we see quite a few cases of testicular cancer at Landstuhl due to the gender/age group of the patients.

Please help raise awareness about the importance of deployed men doing testicular self-exams.

There's very high awareness for breast cancer and the need for women to carry out self-exams.

However, there's much less awareness about testicular cancer (TC), which is the most common type of cancer affecting guys between the ages of 15 and 35.

Most often, TC is found by men themselves. The thing with being deployed is that you don't want to look like you're playing with yourself in the shower or whatever while checking yourself out. Also, back home, it's often found by wives/girlfriends.

But a monthly self-exam of the testicles is the best way of becoming familiar with your body and thus enabling detection of TC at an early - and highly curable - stage.

Information about self-exams.

General information about TC.

Important to Know:
- TC has a VERY high cure rate.
- Treatment usually involves removal of the affected testicle and follow up.
- Having one testicle is almost always sufficient to keep everything "working".

Finally, embarassment is a poor excuse for not having things checked out. If you think there is something wrong or something has changed, get your butt to sick call!

Please help by passing this information on to those you know in the sandbox. Thanks.

Update: In the comments Mrs. G shares this cancer prevention tip ;-)

22 April 2008

Special Forces bring Afghan and American students together

Students and teachers from Jan Qadam school wave to students from Calvert City Elementary School. Coalition forces facilitated a video teleconference between elementary school children from Bagram, Afghanistan, and children from Calvert City, KY on Bagram Air Field April 16. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marie Schult.

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Elementary school children from the U.S. and Afghanistan met face to face last night, over video teleconference, facilitated by the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, as part of a partnership program and cultural exchange.

CJSOTF-A has been working with village elders, teachers, parents and students of the Jan Qadam Elementary School, outside the gates of Bagram Air Field, to enable the school to become a more effective center of education.

Coalition troops have been able to supply more than 1,200 students with notebooks, pens, pencils, backpacks, rulers and glue to get them started on a good school year, with the help of Calvert City elementary School in Calvert City, Kentucky.

The Jan Qadam students used a conference room on Bagram Air Field while the Calvert City students used a conference room at Fort Campbell, Ky.

I love this story! Read the rest and see more photos.

The first day of school at Jan Qadam was on March 24, when a dedication ceremony was held for the the new school library and science lab. The science lab is th eonly one in the Bagram school district. The library, filled with books from USAID, was dedicated to Gen. Baba Jan, a retired Afghan commander. Gen. Baba Jan donated the land to build the school on.

173rd ABCT February Hooah Video

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

Wounded Warrior transition program helps soldiers continue military careers

Vilseck WTU declares first soldier fit for duty

GRAFENWÖHR, Germany — A program that started last year to help heal injured soldiers is bearing fruit, with warrior transition units worldwide starting to declare personnel assigned to them “fit for duty.”

“The (WTU) process takes about six months, so we are just starting to see fit-for-duty status,” Bavaria Medical Command public affairs officer Anne Torphy said Friday.

At WTUs, established at Army bases all over the world last year, injured soldiers can get help with rehabilitation, retraining or medical discharge from the Army. In February, 242 soldiers were assigned to WTUs throughout Europe, and an additional 204 were having their cases reviewed for acceptance, according to the Europe Regional Medical Command.

Sgt. Keith Gautreaux joined the Vilseck Warrior Transition Unit after sustaining a serious spinal injury while serving in Iraq with 1st Battalion, 155th Infantry Regiment in 2005. The WTU helped Gautreaux, the unit's first soldier declared fit for duty, trade a rucksack for a computer. Seth Robson / S&S.

“I expected to be medically discharged from the Army,” said the 38-year-old Westwego, La., native, whose rehabilitation involved two surgeries and a change of military occupational specialty from infantryman to automated logistics specialist.

[At the Vilseck WTU] he received help with doctor appointments and school work that helped him change his Military Occupation Specialty. He’s now an automated logistics specialist, working as an assistant operations officer at the 7th Army Non-Commissioned Officers Academy.

Many in WTUs want to stay in and finish their military careers. “[The WTU cadre] want to ensure you get healed and educated and they don’t want to put you out,” said Gautreaux, who has served eight years in the Army and plans to stay in another 12.

He said he’ll miss the camaraderie of the infantry, but that he’s looking forward to new challenges.

“I’m glad I made it through the program, and I’m glad the Army decided to let me finish my career. I think I’ve got more opportunities now than I would have had before. I can still do a lot of the things I used to do. I just can’t wear body armor for a long time or lift heavy things,” he said.

In May, Gautreaux will head back to the U.S. to pursue his new career with a different unit. In the long term, he hopes to become a nurse, he said.

21 April 2008

CPT Dan Kearney of Battle Company, 2-503rd PIR receives MacArthur Leadership Award

"The American Soldier is America's greatest asset."

Interview with CPT Dan Kearney, Commander of Battle Company, 2-503rd PIR, 173rd ABCT. Kearney is one of a handful of Soldiers selected this year to receive the Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award for his actions in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.

The award recognizes company grade officers who demonstrate the ideals for which General MacArthur stood - duty, honor, country.

You may remember CPT Kearney and Battle Company from the great Vanity Fair article earlier this year (as well as the more recent and not-so-great NYT article).

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

iTunes Gift Cards and iPod Shuffles

The Soldiers' Angels have adopted the Combat Support Hospitals in Iraq and all the Military hospitals worldwide. Soldiers’ Angels Germany supports the patients at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. See About Medical Evacuations to Germany.

Almost all service members these days have iPods. Unfortunately, they can get left behind during a medevac to Germany or destroyed during the incident in which injury was sustained. Without music, a hospital stay can be very boring for a young Soldier or Marine, and the medevac flights are long.

iTunes Gift Cards

Similar to a phone card, an iTunes Gift Card enables patients to purchase new music online and load it onto their iPods. Available in increments starting at $15. Apple does not ship directly to APOs, so please have sent to your address and then send on to us. Because gift cards are like cash please do not itemize them on the customs form. Just say "Get Well card" or similar.

iPod Shuffles

1GB iPod Shuffles are available at the Apple Store for $49 each. You may find lower prices at your local Best Buy, etc. Please do not itemize these on your customs form.

Please send all items to:

Attn: Soldiers' Angels
CMR 402
APO AE 09180

- Please notify us when items are shipped.
- Include a note with your name, Email address, and short description of items sent in your packages. Without this information, we regret we will not be able to confirm their receipt.
- Allow 6 - 8 weeks for receipt confirmation.

Thank you for your support on behalf of the patients at Landstuhl!

This information is current as of June 2009.

On Patrol with TF Saber 1-91 Cavalry, 173rd ABCT

B-roll of Task Force Saber in Afghanistan. Scenes include a rundown of objectives, Humvees and Soldiers on patrol over bridges and by a river, the firing of a mortar, and Soldiers climbing up a mountain from the river valley. Date Taken: 04-09-2008.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

17 April 2008

Stupid is as stupid does

Emphasis mine.

Clashes in Sadr City continue as the Mahdi Army attempts to disrupt the government's attempts to gain a foothold in the neighborhood. US troops killed five "criminals" in a series of engagements starting on the evening of April 14 up through this afternoon.

Two "criminals" threw grenades at an M1A2 main battle tank followed by an additional two criminals engaging the armored patrol with small arms fire," Lieutenant Colonel Steven Stover, the Public Affairs Officer for Multinational Division Baghdad told The Long War Journal. "The patrol of Abrams Tanks and Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles fired 25mm and 1 x 120mm HEAT round and killed all four."

From The Long War Journal's continuing coverage of CF operations against the Mahdi Army in Baghdad and Basrah.

Honoring those who "endure the unendurable"

Aloha Dragon Families,

We are approaching 5 months since we’ve left you, and though our rendezvous with destiny still continues our reunion with you still awaits. As many of you already know, President Bush announced his decision to return to twelve-month theater deployments. Unfortunately, this decision will not affect the Golden Dragons. It will affect units deploying after 1 August 2008.

I know that all of you held hope that there would be some reprieve bestowed onto our families, but what you need to know is – this decision was made possible by your Golden Dragon. It was by their hands that security improved in Tarmiyah, Iraq and the fruits of precious family time are given to others so they may RESET before return.

This type of selfless sacrifice is an uncommon attribute among the world today. The average citizen getting a latte at Starbucks does not comprehend the profound sacrifice that you and your soldiers endure. It is a fact, we Dragons are enduring the unendurable; our entire families are selfless servants to the Nation’s Mission – Provide security and stability to the people of Iraq, notions of freedom for those who may otherwise never experience these tenets.

Now, the battlefield calculus is enabling sustainable security. We are doing this through two means - Securing the population where they sleep and developing Iraqi Security Forces (both Army and Police). We are fighting, too. When the International Zone (IZ) was pounded by dozens of rockets from Sadr City, thus killing and injuring both Iraqi and Coalition civilians, we were called upon to fight the Jaysh al Mahdi uprising in Sadr City and Bravo Company (Bushmasters) fought magnificently.

In four hours, Bushmaster assembled from the most distant location in our battle space, rearmed and deployed to Sadr City. Many of you have seen their exploits on CNN, CBS and in the NY Times… these boys are the real deal. What you need to know is their success kept the Government of Iraq (GoI) intact. Sadr wanted to displace the GoI from the IZ, thus delegitimizing it. I well up with emotion when I talk about them.

As I noted to you before, we must develop “waypoints.” The best waypoint is R&R Leave. We are 10% complete. Each month we will push 10% home and our program will end in November. I use a colorful analogy with the men to illustrate just how important block leave is – it’s like swimming out to a life buoy, you have to battle the ebb and flow of the tide, but you know when you get there you can rest before you swim back. Please ensure your team is developing routine contacts in the form of weekly mail, phone calls on the speakerphone, or a monthly VTC. Any method you choose… it’s all about contact. Notes and Photos are every bit a morale boost as a big care package. Sound Familiar?

I am astonished by a group called “Soldiers' Angels.” This organization is unbelievable. It’s cared for by great Americans with true character that empathize with our sacrifice. They send me packages and mail that I deliver to our Dragons out on Patrol Bases. It impacts soldiers. I’ve seen them stop what they are doing, sit on their cots and start reading their cards from a complete stranger that simply says – “Thank You” in their own words. It’s because of you and the people of Soldiers’ Angels that we endure the unendurable. I will close with a note from a Soldiers’ Angels Card – “May No Soldier Go Unloved.”

God Bless You - Golden Dragons!
“Right of the Line”

LTC Thomas D

As I read this letter, I couldn't help thinking of Cassandra's extraordinary post yesterday. Or this one today.

16 April 2008


2-part video from the 3rd BCT, 3rd ID on the accomplishments of the Sledgehammer Brigade as well as their fallen comrades.

From FOB Keating to COP Warheit with the 1-91st Cav and Marines ETT in Nuristan

Afghan National Army soldiers and Marine embedded tactical trainers struggle up the last part a patrol from FOB Keating to COP Warheit in Nuristan province, Afghanistan, March 2. The patrol originated on the valley floor and ended near the top of the mountain.

Army Staff Sgt. Brandon Aird of the 173rd ABCT PAO describes a COP Warheit:

The surrounding mountains dominating COP Warheit’s landscape are covered in snow. Large tree covered valleys, rivers and towns dot the landscape below. The outpost is so remote supplies can only be delivered by helicopter. The other option of hand carrying supplies from valley floor from FOB Keating isn’t feasible.

Bravo Troop manages both FOB Keating and COP Warheit. The Soldiers work side by side with their ANA counterparts.

“We fight together. We patrol together. We live together,” said Sgt. 1st Class Mike Burns, platoon sergeant for 1st Platoon.

Bravo Troop even shares showers with ANA Soldiers at FOB Keating because of the limited facilities in the remote area.

“The hardest part of being up here is not being able to shower,” explained Burns, who’s last shower was 29 days ago.

The outpost’s only "running" water is the melting snow. A platoon from Bravo Troop rotates monthly to COP Warheit along with a platoon of ANA Soldiers.

Just days earlier a large fight had taken place between Bravo Troop and the Taliban. FOB Keating was on high alert and extra vehicles were set around the perimeter with 50 Cal. machine guns and Mark 19 grenade launchers locked and loaded.

A paratrooper from Bravo Troop, 1-91 Cav, 173rd ABCT, pulls security during a patrol near FOB Keating in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan, March 1, 2008.

Chief Warrant Officer Byung Kim, of the Marines Embedded Training Team led the group of 20 Afghan national army soldiers up a mountain to COP Warheit.

“I just wanted to go up and see how my ANA Soldiers were doing,” explained Kim.

The Marines ETT work together with Bravo Troop, 1-91st Cav, 173rd ABCT to help spread Afghanistan government influence to this remote part of the country.

Relationships between tribes and villages are complex here, and they have been fighting amongst each other long before coalition forces arrived.

“You see that village over there,” pointed Burns. “The buildings were destroyed and the farms were mined by the other villages. The Kushto tribe used to live in those homes. The only thing left standing is that mosque. They now live over behind the next ridge.”

Bravo Company and the ANA have been working to establish peace between the villages of Nagar, Papristan, Jimjuz, Binuz, upper and lower Kamidesh. They promote local development and build working relationships amongst the villages and coalition forces. ANA Soldiers also hand out humanitarian aid supplies to help the villagers during the winter season.

The 1-91st Cav Soldiers have endured one fighting season in Afghanistan this deployment, and have one more to go before they can head home.

“In the ten months we’ve been here we improved the outpost and our relationships with the locals, explained Burns. “The progress takes a lot of hard work, but we’re getting there."

Read the complete article and see more photos.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

15 April 2008

2nd LAR Assumes Control of Western Anbar

Lt. Col. Russell E. Smith, battalion commander of 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 5, tours around Trebil, Iraq, with Maj. Howard Gordon, commander, Border Transition Team of the 3rd, 5th, and 2nd Iraqi Border Brigade, during an initial visit of 2nd LAR. The battalion assumed control of western Anbar province, March 31. Photo Cpl. Ryan L. Tomlinson.

CAMP KOREAN VILLAGE, Iraq – The battalion will have several missions to conduct, but one of the most important is the continued transition from coalition forces to Iraqi security forces controlling the area.

“We are here to return the control of the country to the Iraqi people and to provide them with a self-sufficient and stable government,” said Maj. Stuart M. Harness, executive officer of 2nd LAR Bn.

“Since the Marines came to Iraq in 2003, my country is a lot better than before,” said Aziz Shalan, a commando with Iraqi border patrol. “Life is good here.”

Warhorse Troop Passes Guidon

Lt. Col. Antonio Aguto, a Chicago native, sheaths the saber of Warhorse Troop, 4th Squadron (Reconnaissance and Target Acquisition Squadron), 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Multi-National Division - Baghdad, during a change of command ceremony Apr. 2. U.S. Army Photo/Master Sgt. Ruth Eggert.

CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - Many traditions in the Army are time honored events. But none are more enduring or revered as those held by the cavalry. After the guidon is passed and secured by its barer, one of the revered cavalry traditions begins, “Passing of the Saber.”

Lt. Col. Antonio Aguto, of Chicago, who serves as the commander of 4th Sqdn., 2nd SCR, MND-B, dons his riding gloves and draws the saber from its sheath which is no longer in pristine shining glory and passes the saber that shows wear from years of use. He passes the saber to McGarry who salutes Melton as a sign of respect and worthiness to carry on command of the cavalry troop. With the saber held forthright in upward-facing palms, the relinquished commander then offers the saber to the new commander who returns the salute, bows, and kisses the steal he will loyally serve. Once returned to Aguto, the saber is re-sheathed and returned to his chamber where it is secured.

This change of command marks another chapter in the oldest continuously serving cavalry regiment in the U.S. Army today. 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment will celebrate its 172nd anniversary on May 23rd. “From the Swamps of Florida to the Deserts of Iraq, we 2nd Dragoons have lived up to our Motto Toujours Pret (Always Ready),” said Aguto.

14 April 2008

Chosen Company Medic Awarded Bronze Star

Col. Charles Preysler, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team commander, pins a Bronze Star for valor on Army Sgt. Kyle S. Dirkintis, a medic attached for Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), April 1 on Forward Operating Base Fenty, Nangarhar province. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Nicholas Sternberg.

On August 22, 2007, the remote Ranch House Outpost near Aranis in Kunar province - defended by only 25 Soldiers led by 1LT Matthew Ferrara - came under a large, coordinated attack from a company-sized group of Taliban using machine guns, small arms and RPGs.

Some of the members of ASG, an Afghan security company, had fled their posts allowing roughly 20 insurgents to breach the outpost’s perimeter within minutes. Then the outpost's aid station and tactical operations center were hit.

“Post 4, post 3 and post 2 had all called in and said they had made contact,” said Dirkintis. “At that point in time, we sustained our first casualty in the fight. Our forward observer received some shrapnel to his face.”

Dirkintis treated the Soldier’s shrapnel wounds while insurgent fighters approached 40 meters south of his position.

“I exchanged weapons with him (for the Soldier’s M-4) and ran down to the TOC to let the guys know what was going on with the casualty. Rounds were skipping by me. I was seeing rocks explode everywhere. You could hear RPG after RPG exploding. I kept thinking is this really happening?”

As information of further casualties flooded in, Dirkintis and SSG Eric Phillips headed back out of the TOC. At one point they were pinned down for 15 minutes by heavy machine-gun and small arms fire. Unable to advance, both Soldiers took defensive positions and returned fire.

Soldiers manning a nearby post yelled down that insurgents were maneuvering around their position. Phillips threw hand grenades around one corner while Dirkintis wheeled around to fire down another corner.

“As soon as I kneeled and looked around the corner I took a shot to the chest,” said Dirkintis. “At first I didn’t know I had been shot. My vision had gotten real blurry. It was difficult to breathe. My entire body felt really, really numb.”

The force of bullet knocked Dirkintis to the ground and punctured a lung.

“I tried to crawl to all fours and to get up, but that’s when I started coughing up blood,” said Dirkintis.

The battle raged for another hour and a half. The Soldiers used hand grenades, claymore mines, small arms and heavy weapons to repel the attacking Taliban. A-10s were called in to provide close air support. By the end of the fighting, 11 of 25 Soldiers defending Ranch House Outpost had suffered injuries.

Against doctors advice, Dirkintis returned to Afghanistan after recovering from his injuries and now works in the pharmacy on Forward Operating Base Fenty, Nangarhar province.

1LT Ferrara will be awarded the Silver Star for his actions on August 22, 2007 at a ceremony planned for September at West Point. He, four other Soldiers of Chosen Company who participated in this fight, and a Marine were later killed in an ambush on 9 November, 2007 while returning from a meeting with a local elders council.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

11 April 2008

Wounded last fall, 173rd Paratrooper returns to the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan

April 9, 2008 interview with Squad Leader SSG Kevin Rice and Team Leader SGT Francisco Oquendo of 2-503rd PIR, 173rd ABCT.

SSG Rice was wounded in October 2007 during Operation Rock Avalanche. In the same attack, SSG Larry Rougle was killed.

Sebastian Junger of Vanity Fair had this to say about Rice after spending time embedded with the unit late last summer:

He walks into the open like he’s in his bathrobe going out to get the morning paper...

Bravery comes in many forms, and in this case it’s a function of Rice’s concern for his men, who in turn act bravely out of concern for him and one another.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

"Let's 'surge' some more"

Michael Yon at the WSJ:

The change goes far beyond the statistical decline in casualties or incidents of violence. A young Iraqi translator, wounded in battle and fearing death, asked an American commander to bury his heart in America. Iraqi special forces units took to the streets to track down terrorists who killed American soldiers. The U.S. military is the most respected institution in Iraq, and many Iraqi boys dream of becoming American soldiers. Yes, young Iraqi boys know about "GoArmy.com."

Meanwhile, in Sadr City (via Ace):

As the Iraqi and American officers huddled, the Iraqi lieutenant said some of his soldiers had been receiving threatening calls on their cellphones from members of the Madhi Army warning them to leave...

As the discussions continued, one stocky Iraqi soldier stepped forward and announced that he was not afraid of the fighters from Jaysh al-Madhi — or JAM as it is called by American military — regardless of the threats.

“In case I see a bad guy I will not arrest him,” the Iraqi soldier said through an American military interpreter. “I will kill him immediately to get revenge for my guys who were lost.”

Back to Michael Yon:

Over the past 15 months, we have proved that we can win this war. We stand now at the moment of truth. Victory – and a democracy in the Arab world – is within our grasp. But it could yet slip away if our leaders remain transfixed by the war we almost lost, rather than focusing on the war we are winning today.

Mike Monsoor and Spanky Gibson

“Every day I’d beg the surgeons — I'd beg ’em, ‘Just cut it off, close me up. Get me out of here.’ ” - Spanky Gibson.

I'd heard about MGySgt Gibson, but never realized there was a connection between him and PO2 Monsoor.

Via HotAir

10 April 2008

F Troop deals final blow to building that set off IED

March 29 - A tank from Ft. Hood-based F Troop, 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, is seen moments after firing its main gun at a house used as a trigger point for an IED attack on their commander's Humvee near Balad Ruz.

CPT Torre Mallard was killed along with SGT Phillip Anderson and SPC Donald Burkett in the attack on March 10. Their interpreter was also killed and another Soldier injured.

“It was a little bit of a psychological operation,” 1st Sgt. Zeneido Gonzalez said.

Photo and story Michael Gisick / S&S.

America's Favorite Mom Contest - Next Steps

Thanks to all of you who voted for Patti Patton-Bader of Soldiers' Angels during Teleflora's "America's Favorite Mom" contest in March.

With your support, enough votes were generated for Soldiers' Angels to win the March prize of $5000. The funds were used to make a bulk purchase of 1000 sweats for medevaced service members and veterans.

The America's Favorite Mom Contest continues in April, and this time the prize money is $25,000.

In the world of Soldiers' Angels, $25,000 can buy 425 Valour-IT laptops for our wounded hereos. It can buy 500 wounded hero backpacks to send to those most in need. It can buy 50 airline tickets for families and soldiers in need to get back and forth in emergency situations.

So we'd like to ask for your support again. Every day, for the next three weeks, please vote for Patti Patton-Bader for the "Most Popular Mom" in America's Favorite Mom Contest.

09 April 2008

Hooah, Senator Graham!

"I can't tell you how proud I am of both of you."

Well said, Senator. Thank you!

Now - and leaving all politics and opinions about the war aside - compare and contrast with this rude, disrespectful, classless, ill-informed, and self-centered individual.

I suggest you watch the first one again to clear your palate.

Related: "See No Progress" at the WSJ.

Update: At Cassandra's: Coffee Snorters, It's Boxing Time! Edition

08 April 2008

US Navy SEAL Mike Monsoor to be Awarded Medal of Honor

The White House MoH ceremony is today. Tomorrow, Mike will be inducted into the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon. His name will be engraved beside the names of some 3,401 other service members who have also been awarded our nation's highest honor. Monsoor was previously awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star (with Combat V) and the Purple Heart.

Please take a few moments to read the complete tribute to this American Hero at Blackfive.

Update: Here's video of the White House ceremony. (Update 2009: The video has unfortunately been removed from the White House website.)

06 April 2008

Critical Care Air Transport: Balad, Iraq to Ramstein, Germany

B-roll of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing members of Balad Air Base, Iraq. Scenes include Airmen preparing aircraft and loading patients on board a C-17 and treating them during the flight to Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

The first green litter you'll see holds supplies/equipment. Later a team of six Airmen carries the first patient on board the aircraft. At about the 1:52 mark you get a good look at what is required to safely transport critical patients out of theater. The patient's head is to the right of the shot. Equipment is mounted on a raised rack over his lower extremeties.

The medical equipment includes miniature versions of everything found in a typical critical care hospital environment: Complete monitoring of vital organ functions, ventilator, an electronically-controlled multi-channel infusion (IV) system, electronic wound vacs, and drains and other catheters as required by the patient's condition.

The CCATT, or Critical Care Air Transport Team, is a highly specialized medical asset experienced in the in-flight care of critically injured patients with multiple trauma, burns, and other life-threatening conditions.

An entire flight (or mission) complete with aircraft, flight crew, and CCAT Team may be put together for a single patient if his condition warrants immediate medevac to Germany.

The complex, critical nature of patients in hemodynamic (i.e., circulatory) flux requires continual stabilization, advanced care, and may even require life-saving intervention during transport.

In fact, Chuck Ziegenfuss owes his life to (among others) the CCAT Team who revived him after his heart stopped for several minutes during one of his medevac flights.

After arrival at Ramstein Air Base the patients are accompanied by the CCAT Team during the 5km drive to Landstuhl hospital. Once in the Intensive Care Unit, the CCAT Team and the ICU staff transfer the patients onto standard critical care equipment and systems.

A few days later the process is reversed as the patients are again prepared for flight, this time from Germany to the US - the last leg of a long journey home.

See also:
Aeromedical Evacuation from Balad, Iraq to Ramstein Germany

04 April 2008

Anybody here seen my old friend Martin? Can you tell me where he's gone?

Juan Williams on the 40th anniversary of MLK's death.

While speaking to black people, King never condescended to offer Rev. Wright-style diatribes or conspiracy theories. He did not paint black people as victims. To the contrary, he spoke about black people as American patriots who believed in the democratic ideals of the country, in nonviolence and the Judeo-Christian ethic, even as they overcame slavery, discrimination and disadvantage. King challenged white America to do the same, to live up to their ideals and create racial unity. He challenged white Christians, asking them how they could treat their fellow black Christians as anything but brothers in Christ.

When King spoke about the racist past, he gloried in black people beating the odds to win equal rights by arming "ourselves with dignity and self-respect." He expressed regret that some black leaders reveled in grievance, malice and self-indulgent anger in place of a focus on strong families, education and love of God. Even in the days before Congress passed civil rights laws, King spoke to black Americans about the pride that comes from "assuming primary responsibility" for achieving "first class citizenship."

I miss you, my old friend.

03 April 2008

02 April 2008

No medals or citations, just "love of country and brothers in arms”

Although I was familiar with the story of PFC Channing Moss, I missed Bruce McQuain's Someone You Should Know segment about him at Pundit Review back in December. Nor did I know about the video of the story until Bruce posted about it the other day.

In March of 2006 PFC Moss was hit by an RPG while serving with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan. Watch the video and you'll understand why Moss, Sgt. John Collier, CW3 Jorge Correa, SFC Daniel Brown, MAJ John Oh, and many others who risked their lives to save his, are all Someone You Should Know.

By the way, MAJ Oh, the surgeon of the 759th Forward Surgical Team at Orgun-E in Afghanistan, served again in 2007 with the 28th CSH near Baghdad.

01 April 2008

What media bias?

Steve Schippert at The Tank:

Iranians Told Sadr to Stand Down

Rich Lowry notes at The Corner that the media is reporting that the Iranians Told Sadr to Stand Down.

So my question is; where were the reports telling the public that Iran told Sadr to stand up?

Oh, wait... That's apparently our job.

The MSM reporting on this over the past week has been incredibly, indescribably poor. Either by laziness or design, they are repeating nothing but second-hand rumor and blatant propaganda. I turned on CNN last night and Nic Robertson was apoplectically spewing all kinds of wild nonsense.

Thank God for informed jourmalists like Steve Schippert and Bill Roggio.

Oh, and get this doozy caught by Greyhawk over at the Mudville Gazette.

Overcoming all odds, wounded Marine to return home after three long years

May, 2007:

Into the light: A wounded Marine and his Vietnam Veteran father

I've never written about Josh Cooley, but not a day has passed since July 7, 2005 that I haven't thought about him.

That was the day I received an email from Sandy Gay, whose husband Norman worked with Josh at the Pasco, FL Sheriff's Office. Josh had been hurt in Iraq two days before. It was bad, and his wife and mother were flying to Germany on orders.

Josh had always thought about joining the military. After all, the Cooley men have served since the Battle of Bull Run. Josh's grandfather was a Marine, as was his father Ed. And his two older brothers served with the Corps in the first Gulf War.

But Ed and his mother Christine didn't want Josh to follow in their footsteps. He went into law enforcement instead, where he became a sniper with the Paco Sheriff's Office SWAT team.

Until 9/11.

Ed tried to talk Josh out of it, although the circumstances must have been familiar to him. Ed had enlisted as soon as he could after his 18-year-old cousin, Edward Monahan Jr., was killed in South Vietnam in 1965.

Wounded near Da Nang in May of 1968, Ed's real injuries were inflicted later.

When Christine had to pay her own way to visit him in Hawaii where he had been medevac'd. When he got back home and was called a baby killer. When he was pelted with eggs. When the military sent his Purple Heart and other decorations via Parcel Post several years after he had left the service.

But after Josh's injury, Ed's wounds started to heal along with his son's.

Make sure to read this whole incredible story of courage, determination, healing, and love.

Josh can now talk, help dress himself, and walk short distances with a walker. He will be coming back home to Florida this summer. Donations in kind and funds are being raised to help build him a wheelchair-accessable home through a local non-profit which has been set up.

Prominent businessmen have been meeting weekly at an Italian restaurant to make it happen. The group includes WellBuilt Homes owner Scott Walsingham, who is serving as project contractor, and Port Richey attorney Steve Booth, a longtime booster of the Angelus, a home for developmentally disabled individuals.

New Port Richey Mayor Dan Tipton, Joe Cash, Orville Williamson, Tom Chittum and Gary Joiner also are part of the planning effort.

Booth said group members didn't need convincing to pitch in on Cooley's behalf.

"Josh's situation really struck a chord with all of us," Booth said.

They are hoping to secure a Veterans Administration grant to help defray costs. Otherwise, the men have reached out to their community contacts for donations of material and labor. They've gotten a strong response, they said, though the effort has been hampered somewhat by the housing downturn.

They still need cabinets and drywall, plus someone to install them. They are on the lookout for donations of frame material, baseboards and interior doors.

Want to be part of this?

Checks can be made out to the New Port Richey Rotary Foundation (write Josh Cooley in the memo line). Mail tax-deductible donations to attorney Steve Booth, 7510 Ridge Road, Port Richey 34668.

If you'd like to participate in other ways, call Steve Booth at (727) 842-9105.

WTF is wrong with some people?


Or, as John Hinderaker said when he posted this at PowerLine the other day, "It's a constant effort to remind oneself that not all liberals are jerks."

TF Gladius transfers authority of Parwan and Kapisa Provinces to TF Gladiator

Command. Sgt. Maj. Brenda Kadet and Army Lt. Col. David L. Dellinger unfurl the 101st Division Special Troops Battalion colors at a ceremony March 29 marking the transition of authority from the 82nd Airborne's Task Force Gladius to the 101st DSTB's Task Force Gladiator. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Elizabeth Casebeer.

Bad Voodoo’s War

Acting platoon leader Sgt. 1st Class Toby Nunn talks about his fallen friend Sgt. Jake Demand. "I couldn't help thinking about his children and how they will never really know what their father experienced over there... and I don't mean the harshness... I mean the sweetness. How he cared for his guys, how he was always good for a laugh... and a great broiled salmon."

Watch Bad Voodoo's War, tonight, Tuesday, April 1, 2008, at 9 P.M. ET on PBS.