27 August 2008

Confidence in War on Terror and Iraq at Highest Level Ever


Optimism about the situation in Iraq is also at an all-time high. Forty-eight percent (48%) now expect the situation in that troubled country to get better over the next six months. Only 17% expect things to get worse.

In addition to being the most optimistic assessment ever recorded, these numbers reflect a remarkable turnaround over the past year. Last August, just 27% thought things were going to get better while 47% were pessimistic.

Good to see public opinion catching up with reality.

Via Instapundit

Joint Task Force - East prepares for continual presence in Romania, Bulgaria

"We need and appreciate the efforts of NATO countries like Bulgaria that are committed to freedom and democracy. Bulgarian Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown great professionalism, dedication, and skill. Thanks to our Defense Cooperation Agreement, American Soldiers will train shoulder-to-shoulder with Bulgarian Soldiers on Bulgarian bases to improve our ability to fight common enemies while making our own two countries stronger friends and allies."

- U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria John R. Beyrle

The Russian army marched into South Ossetia, Georgia just as most of the 1000 U.S. troops participating in a joint training exercise called Immediate Response 2008 had left that country. The exercise involved soldiers from Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Black Sea, another group of about 1000 U.S. troops and civilians had arrived in late July to take part in a two-month exercise preparing for future, larger deployments to Romania and neighboring Bulgaria.

Aboard a C-130 en route to Bulgaria from Germany.

Some of you know my fellow SA Germany volunteer Jessica (seen, for example, in the top photo here). That's her husband Mike towards the back of this photo on the right. He's the only one awake and reading ;-)

Joint training exercises have been carried out in Romania and Bulgaria since the fall of the Soviet Union. But ten-year agreements signed in 2005 and 2006 allow for larger-scale deployments and a continual presence in both countries.

The agreements also permit the United States to refuel aircraft, preposition materiel, and launch military operations from the Bulgarian and Romanian installations.

JTF - East headquarters will be based in Romania and staffed by Soldiers from USAREUR headquarters and the 1st AD out of Germany, the Southern European Task Force out of Italy, as well as Navy Seabees, U.S. airmen and Romanian and Bulgarian troops.

There are about seven installations within the 2 countries available to the U.S. military, including the Babadag Training Area in Romania and Novo Selo Training Area in Bulgaria.

The range.

The current aid station and living quarters at the installation near Sliven, Bulgaria will likely be replaced with permanent structures after the current exercise.

When JTF-East reaches its fully operational level, brigades of 3000 - 4000 U.S. troops will begin rotating into the sites for six-month tours.

The current 2-month deployment involves the usual live-fire exercises with individual and crew-served weapons, situational training and other soldiering skills together with Romanian and Bulgarian counterparts.

It also involves medical training, in which Jessica's husband Mike is participating.

CPT Mike McDonald, an ER doctor at Landstuhl hospital, trains Bulgarian military health care professionals with the help of an interpreter.

Base alignments in Germany have resulted in closures of a couple of Army clinics. Some of the medical equipment and supplies no longer needed because of those closures has been sent to the Bulgarians, for which they're very grateful.

Later, training on medevac procedures.

In the future, troops from multiple nations could train jointly here, as during the recent Immediate Response exercise in Georgia. Or, U.S. troops stationed here could rotate to Georgia and the Ukraine for shorter training missions there.

Sources: S&S, JTF - East. Courtesy photos.

26 August 2008

Soldier's nonprofit group helps Georgian orphans

With the help of translator Vakhtang Saladze, Jarrod Gozy, second from right, a sergeant first class based in Hohenfels, Germany, talks to Layla Meribishle, the director of a Tbilisi, Georgia, orphanage. Photo: Michael Abrams/S&S.


At the Tbilisi orphanage, Gozy wasn’t on official Army business during the Sunday night visit. Instead, the Hohenfels, Germany-based soldier was there as a volunteer to check up on how the children were doing since he last saw them a few days before the trouble started.

As the founder of the nonprofit group Give Children a Chance, Gozy had adopted the orphanage as a special project. And on training missions to Georgia, he and other soldiers from the Joint Multinational Training Center spent much of their free time pitching in to help out.

The concern for now is how the facility will be affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Georgia, where thousands of people have been displaced in the aftermath of the country’s conflict with Russia.

For Gozy, a native of Chillicothe, Ohio, the idea of helping out children began in 1994.

"It started when I was deployed to Haiti, handing out candy," he said.

After that, he taught English to school children in Bosnia. He built an orphanage in Romania in 2002. And during a deployment in Afghanistan, his foundation donated $40,000 worth of school supplies to 20 schools, Gozy said.

(emphasis added)

Read the whole thing.

Gimme 20!

An aide to U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, commanding general, Multi-National Force - Iraq, stops, drops, and knocks out 20, as local children watch during a tour of the market in Abu Ghraib, Iraq on, Aug. 2, 2008. Photo: Spc. Charles Gill

25 August 2008

Vietnam Vet honors families of those serving today

...by learning to sew and making Blue Star and Gold Star Service Banners which he sends to the families. He's former Marine Rod Robeson who was chosen by ABC News as Person of the Week back in March.

He recently attended the 2nd Anniversary Celebration of the Blue Star Mothers of Massachusetts, Chapter 1 in Leominster, MA. Secretary Tina Veves, who sent me the link to this story, describes him as an "unassuming and quiet" man, and a "true patriot and caring veteran".

I would also like to give a big shout out to this chapter of the Blue Star Mothers, for their generous, enthusiastic, and ongoing support of our mission at Soldiers' Angels Germany. Thank you Tina, Treasurer Linda Tackett, Vice President Rosemarie Annese, President Sharon Bouchard, and all of the members of this wonderful chapter. You rock!!

15 August 2008

More C-130s leave Ramstein AB for Georgia with aid, relief personnel

Update: Video of flight arrival in Georgia.

115 Soldiers from Immediate Response 2008 exercise remain in Tblisi, medical team on stand-by in Germany. Flights to continue until further notice, Naval expansion planned.

Ramstein C-130s bound for Georgia with humanitarian aid, medical team

By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, August 16, 2008

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Two Ramstein Air Base C-130s left for the embattled nation of Georgia on Friday and more are expected to deliver additional humanitarian aid shipments in the coming days.

"Our plan is to conduct one to two flights a day until further notice," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker, a U.S. European Command spokesman.

Each of the C-130s that flew from Ramstein on Friday carried three pallets of humanitarian aid. Together, the planes carried 13,000 pounds of goods bound for Georgia. Also on the flights were nine airmen with the 86th Contingency Response Group and one U.S. Agency for International Development employee who will stay in the country to help with the relief effort, said Air Force Capt. Erin Dorrance, 86th Airlift Wing spokeswoman.

"We’re going to continue the support as long as the State Department and the host nation say they have a need," Dorrance said.

A team of 24 doctors, nurses and medical technicians from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center’s 435th Medical Squadron are on stand-by to travel to Georgia, said Landstuhl spokesman Chuck Roberts. ...

As early as Tuesday, soldiers began securing loads bound for the country.

"The whole purpose of this humanitarian effort is to assist Georgian civilians on the ground who are in desperate need of this support," said Army Lt. Col. Bob Curran, commander of the 39th Transportation Battalion.

About 115 U.S. soldiers in Tbilisi remain on stand-by in case they are needed for the ongoing humanitarian effort, Barker said.

"We’re in the assessment phase to determine what level of support to provide," Barker said.

A U.S. Army Europe survey team is currently in Georgia to judge the scope of the humanitarian need and determine what level of assistance will be required. The team will be in the country through the weekend.

The soldiers, who have been in the country since the start of the conflict between Russia and Georgia, could possibly help with the distribution of supplies. They also could soon be returning home if it is determined their presence isn’t needed, Barker said.

The soldiers were initially in the country for Immediate Response 2008, which is part of an on-going training partnership between the Georgian and American militaries. Virtually all of the 1,000 member U.S. force that took part in the exercise was out of the country by the time the conflict started more than a week ago.

Stripes reporter John Vandiver contributed to this story.

Meanwhile, stateside:

Scope of U.S. aid to Georgia widens

By Lisa Burgess, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Saturday, August 16, 2008

ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. military is preparing to expand its humanitarian mission in Georgia, with plans under way to use ships as well as aircraft to ferry relief supplies in the coming weeks, according to the senior military logistics planner for the effort.

"We anticipate that the scope of the operation, and the needs, will grow," Navy Rear Adm. Steven Romano, European Command Director of Logistics, told reporters in a Friday conference call with reporters from Stuttgart, Germany.

As a result, Romano said, "we are positioning and planning to respond to that growth, using strategic airlift and increasing [both] capacity and supplies."

U.S. Naval forces, meanwhile, are making plans to deliver supplies through the Black Sea to Georgian ports, although Romano did not say which ports, or which U.S. ships, might be used.

14 August 2008

Strykers use MICLICs for route clearance in Diyala

Sgts. Troy Myers, 25, of Jamestown, Pa., right, and Ryan Leist, both combat engineers with the 84th Engineer Company, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment based in Vilseck, Germany prep a mine clearing line charge made of 1,600 pounds of C4 explosvie. The MICLIC, as it's called, explodes into a giant fireball to destroy explosives. All photos and story: Sean Kimmons / S&S

The MICLIC, a 100-meter long strand of C4 explosive, ready for use.

A rocket pushes the MICLIC down a road in southern Diyala province between Baghdad and Baquoba. This method of route clearance is unusual, but the road is so bomb-infested the Soldiers have been "treating it like a minefield," according to platoon leader 1st Lt. Trevor Needham.

The MICLIC explodes into a giant fireball, taking all the IEDs with it.

[Clearing the road] has been a time-consuming endeavor filled with unexpected bomb blasts. In three days, the platoon has cleared just a four-kilometer stretch. Four armored vehicles have been hit by roadside bombs. ...

Spc. Casey Watson found a roadside bomb the hard way — triggering it with his armored vehicle. The explosion destroyed the engine, blew the hood off and sent a tire 50 feet away.

"My ears were ringing and I had a slight headache," the 22-year-old Atlanta native said. "You know, I’m a soldier. I survived," he added with a grin.

Humanitarian aid for Georgia leaves Ramstein AB

International press photograph the first of 16 pallets containing $1 million in U.S. donated life support equipment and medical supplies donated to the republic of Georgia. The delivery was a joint-service effort between U.S Army Europe Soldiers and Airmen representing Air Mobility Command. Photo: Master Sgt. Scott Wagers

The airlift begins...

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - The 21st Theater Sustainment Command and the U.S. Air Force - Europe began providing emergency humanitarian assistance Aug. 12, 2008 for the people of Georgia in response to the crisis situation.

Soldiers from the 66th Transportation Company and the 39th Transportation Battalion, and airmen from the 723rd Air Mobility Squadron worked 36 straight hours to palletize over 75,000 pounds of emergency shelter items and medical supplies which include tents, blankets, bedding, hygiene items, clothing, beds, cots, and medical supplies in order to support this mission to the Georgian people.

"Due to the real world situation on the ground in Georgia, European Command, United States Army Europe, United States Air Force Europe and 21st TSC expeditiously planned and executed the initial humanitarian supply flight within 24 hours of the cease fire agreement to help bring relief to the Georgian people," said Lt. Col. Robert Curran commander of the 39th Transportation Battalion.

The humanitarian aid supplies were provided from State Department stock at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Center - Europe's Humanitarian Assistance Program Warehouse in Pirmasens, Germany.

The first C-17 Globemaster departed Ramstein AB here in Germany and landed at Tbilisi International Airport yesterday, delivering $1 million in humanitarian aid.

MilBlogs TV - The Surge

Trailer for the upcoming series on the surge from MilBlogs TV.

I just love it when Greyhawk puts things into historical perspective. Bet there are some quoted here who would rather their words disappear down the memory hole, but we're not going to forget.

Quote of the Day

"This is not 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia where Russia can threaten its neighbors, occupy a capital, overthrow a government, and get away with it."
- Condoleeza Rice, 13 August 2008.

13 August 2008

Military volunteers run burn clinic in Iraq, providing "tenderness and Tylenol"

Here are two videos about the burn clinic for children at CSC Scania in Iraq. It is operated by volunteers from the US Military and using donated medical supplies.

SGT Joseph Barzeski of 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division is the current NCOIC, but the clinic was started by 1st Battalion, 125th Field Artillery, 34th Brigade Combat Team, Minnesota National Guard.

It began as a Family Practice clinic for the local Iraqis, but as time went on the medics saw more and more burn victims due to the high number of cooking and heating accidents common in Iraq.

The story actually made the CBS Evening News recently.

Sgt. Joe Barzeski is the closest thing in Central Iraq to a miracle worker.

And 11-year-old Ali is going to need a miracle to get over burns from a kerosene stove.

"(The skin) has to come off so that the medicine will work," Barzeski tells CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer as he starts treating the child. "Plus, this will get all crusty, and scab up and that will be an ugly scar."

The soldiers turn up the radio to drown out the crying. Conditions are primitive. But even so, the burn unit is filled to capacity.

It's tucked away on a U.S. base that's known as the biggest gas station in Iraq. It's where military convoys refuel - while on the far side, Iraqi families, as many as 80 a day, wait patiently to be admitted to a clinic that's more M.A.S.H. unit than E.R.

Barzeski had no medical training before he joined the Army - so he's been learning on the job.

Many of the volunteers are tough convoy security guards. They dish out tenderness and Tylenol, or painstakingly changing burn victims' dressings while their trucks are serviced.

If you'd like to help, the top video has contact information included near the end.

12 August 2008

Bing West in the WSJ

The War in Iraq Is Over. What Next?

"It's time we stopped debating about yesterday and displayed national pride in our soldiers."

What Bing West has to say is always worth reading, and I'm especially looking forward to his new book.

11 August 2008

A friend in need

Georgian soldiers are seen past U.S. and Georgian flags during the opening ceremony of "Immediate Response 2008" at the Vaziani military base, outside Tbilisi, July 15, 2008.(Reuters)

The joint training exercise included 1000 U.S. troops together with allies Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. It ended last Thursday.

Georgian soldiers marking Georgian Independence Day in Baghdad on June 6, 2006 (epa)

At least 1000 of the 2000 Georgian troops currently deployed to Iraq will be returning home to help with the fighting there. The U.S. will be providing transport. The Georgians have been our friends and allies for some time. We must be there for them now. Although this conflict ostensibly concerns the separatist Georgian region of South Ossetia, Russian troops have pushed through that area and have advanced further into central Georgia.

Mikheil Saakashvili, president of Georgia, in today's Wall Street Journal: The War in Georgia Is a War for the West.

05 August 2008

Reunion on the Aviano flight line

Spc. Jesse A. Murphree, Destined Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), greets his 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team comrades returning from deployment in Afghanistan, on the flight line at Aviano Air Base, Italy, July 22. Murphree lost his legs in an improvised explosive device attack in the Korengal Valley, near Ali Abad, Afghanistan, Dec. 27, 2007, and has been undergoing treatment at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Photo: Dave Melancon.

The whole story is here.

Click here for more 173rd ABCT Afghanistan posts.

01 August 2008

Idaho Guardsmen train ANP

Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Junier, Parwan Police Mentoring Team member, deployed from the Idaho National Guard, instructs an Afghanistan National Police officer how to search a person during a training event in Charikar District, Parwan province, Afghanistan, June 3. The class is given as part of ongoing training the ANP receive from the Parwan PMT. U.S. Army photo/Army Sgt. Jessica R. Dahlberg.

This group of Idaho National Guardsmen left in March for a 12-month deployment to Afghanistan.

U.S. European Command: Limited press coverage of Obama Landstuhl visit would have been permitted

Landstuhl clarifies press rules for aborted Obama visit

LANDSTUHL, Germany - Although news outlets have reported charges that Sen. Barack Obama canceled his trip to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany because the media weren't allowed to cover the event, U.S. European Command officials say plans were in place to allow limited press coverage.

All media, including local press and the more than 40 journalists accompanying the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee on his eight-day international trip last week, would have been able to photograph the Illinois senator entering and leaving the hospital, said Air Force Lt. Col. John Dorrian, a U.S. European Command spokesman.

Defense Department public affairs policy guidance on media coverage of candidates visiting military installations states "under no circumstances may a candidate receive approval to make a campaign or election-related statement or to respond to a campaign or election-related media query."

The guidance also states that "the candidate may appear on camera and in photographs as an official participant and may make a statement or answer questions about the official business being conducted." ...

In 2008, Landstuhl has hosted eight congressional delegations, and each of those delegations was composed of three to eight Congress members, Dorrian said.

McCain last visited Landstuhl on April 5, 2007, as part of a congressional delegation.

McCain's visit was closed to the press.

Related: Iraq’s Interior Minister visits wounded US troops at Walter Reed and thanks them for liberating Iraq

KIAs in Iraq fall to lowest of war

U.S. Deaths In Iraq Fall To Lowest Of the War

Five American troops died in July as a result of combat in Iraq, by far the lowest monthly U.S. death toll of the five-year war.

The number of Iraq-related American troop fatalities in July -- a total of 13 when noncombat deaths and the discovered bodies of two missing soldiers are included -- is a dramatic drop from just over a year ago, when more than 100 troops a month were confirmed dead for several months in a row.