31 July 2009

Gun Bloggers for Valour-IT - Updated and bumped

The Gun Bloggers, a group of people whose interests in blogging and responsible use of firearms intersect, gather each year for a Gun Blogger Rendezvous to share a fine dinner, enjoy target shooting, and hang out with some of their patriotic blogging buddies. This year they're going help some wounded troops, too!

The Gun Bloggers have supported Project Valour-IT since the beginning by helping to spread the word and by joining the online fundraising teams. Two years ago they invited Valour-IT co-founder Chuck Ziegenfuss to speak about his experiences as a wounded veteran, and they took up a collection that resulted in over $2,000 for Valour-IT. This year they've created a raffle to raise even more money! They are also inviting people to donate to Valour-IT when they register to attend.

The raffle items include a handgun, and a choice among several two/four-day practical firearms training classes worth $2,000. Raffle winners will be required to verify that they are a US resident and that they can legally receive and own the handgun won. Tickets can be purchased online for $10 each, and will also be sold at the Rendezvous (regardless of purchase method, all tickets will have equal chance of winning). Click here for information about the raffle.

Soldiers' Angels thanks the Gun Bloggers for their ongoing support of America's wounded heroes and for their generosity in developing this raffle!

About Valour-IT
Project Valour-IT provides technology to service members recovering from serious injuries. Technology supplied includes:
- Voice-controlled and other adaptive Laptops allow wounded service members to maintain connections with the rest of the world during recovery.
- Wii Video Game Systems which are used as part of physcial therapy program, and
- Personal GPS, to build self-confidence and independence by compensating for short-term memory loss and organizational challenges related to severe TBI and severe PTSD.

Update 31 JUL 2009:
It appears as though SA's relationship with the Gun Bloggers has caused us some problems with PayPal. This is unfortunate, as SA relies heavily on dontations processed through their service.

See this story at Blackfive: Anti-Gun PayPal shuts down Soldiers' Angels Contributions

See also this post at Argghhh! in which Bill notes the following:

PayPal sooooo doesn't like guns, it wanted to insure anyone even remotely connected with guns, including those who used to carry them in our defense, and were wounded while carrying them in our defense, suffered the Wrath Of PayPal.

Follow those links to find numbers to call if you would like to respectfully and politely inform PayPal about your opinion on this matter.

Donkey Run on the Shaunkrai Pass

The 10th Mountain Division Soldiers in this photo are intercepting a donkey run into Pakistan.

The inurgents load the donkeys up with wood in Afganistan and send them off up over the mountains. Apparently the donkeys have done this so many times they don't need an escort and just "hit the trail" into Pakistan. They are met by someone on the other side, the wood is sold to a furniture company, and the money goes back to Afganistan to fund Taliban activity.

Poppy crops are the major source of Taliban funding, particularly in the southern part of Afghanistan. But up in the mountains along the northeastern border with Pakistan, it's all about wood.

30 July 2009

"They did all that for my son?": Coalition medical personnel team up to save lives - and to support each other

The intense scene at Camp Bastion, the British base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan:

The pace of the surgeons’ work is extraordinary. “If we hear there is a ‘T1’ casualty coming in — a double amputation — then we pretty much know this patient is going require 20 units of blood, a surgical team on standby, intensive care and early medevac access,” he said.

“We may have a pair of consultant surgeons operating on one limb, a pair operating on another limb, a pair operating on the head, the belly, the neck. It’s incredibly intense." ...

There is a general team of five surgeons, working with another three orthopaedic surgeons. With anaesthetists, emergency doctors and junior doctors, there could be 20 staff working on a single patient.

A surgeon at work in Camp Bastion field hospital: 157 wounded arrived for treatment in one week. Photo: Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images.

In a recent case I'm familiar with, a surgical team of Brits, Americans, and Danes worked together to save the life of a young British Soldier at Camp Bastion. The Landstuhl-based Acute Lung Rescue Team flew to Afghanistan to bring him back on a dedicated aircraft - not to Landstuhl, but for specialized treatment at a German civilian hospital. (Followup story here.)

Told about the entire process, his Mom tearfully exclaimed with gratitude and amazement, "They did all that for my son?"

However, the high operations tempo can take a toll on the medical personnel, too.

The surge in British casualties in Afghanistan has left Army surgeons so exhausted that an American surgical team has had to be drafted in to help.

Extra British plastic surgeons have also had to be sent out to the field hospital along with additional x-ray technicians and specialist nurses.


“Recently because of exhaustion among our surgeons an American surgical team from elsewhere came to reinforce the hospital at Camp Bastion,” Surgeon Rear Admiral Lionel Jarvis, assistant chief of defence staff (health), disclosed.

Colonel Peter Mahoney, defence professor of anaesthesia and critical care at the Royal Centre of Defence Medicine at Selly Oak in Birmingham, gave a graphic description of the emotional strains suffered by the British medical staff at the Bastion hospital.

“It has been very stressful dealing with all these young people, cutting away the camouflage (uniform) that you know is one of your own. It’s very distressing,” he said at a press conference at the Ministry of Defence to launch the latest casualty figures.


However, the Bastion hospital was not only treating wounded British personnel, [Dr Kate Harrison] said. The medical teams were also dealing with injured Americans, Danes and Estonians serving in Helmand as well as Afghan troops and civilians. The hospital treats “enemy patients, too,” she added.

A related story out of Camp Bastion (via Greyhawk) involves two brothers in Afghanistan - a journalist and a Soldier.

Body armour and bags packed, I was waiting in Camp Bastion, the British base, counting down the hours until we were due to fly and worrying about whether I would be able to understand the Jocks’ thick accents.

Jim, recently arrived in Afghanistan as a second lieutenant in the Rifles, was on another operation.

The telephone in the camp’s media tent rang and I was called in. I thought it would be the press team querying an article I had written.

“I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your brother has been badly wounded in an explosion,” said a voice I did not recognise.

The stories of our Heroes and those who care for them at all three links are well worth your time.

Followup on the British Soldier's medevac: The needs of the one...

29 July 2009

Landstuhl hospital receives more casualties from Afghanistan than Iraq in July

From left to right, Navy Capt. (Dr.) Eric Pagenkopf, Dr. Michael Weingarten and Dr. Peter Trafton operate Wednesday at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center on the legs of a soldier wounded earlier this month in an improvised bomb explosion in Afghanistan. Photo: Chuck Roberts/Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

Full story here.

Landstuhl sees more casualties from Afghanistan than Iraq
By Steve Mraz, Stars and Stripes
Online edition, Wednesday, July 29, 2009

LANDSTUHL, Germany — The number of combat-wounded troops from Afghanistan treated at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in July has far surpassed the number of wounded from Iraq this month, a result of the United States’ renewed combat efforts in Afghanistan and the recent restrictions placed on U.S. troops in Iraq.

Landstuhl has seen 105 U.S. troops with battle injuries from Afghanistan so far in July while the hospital has treated just 14 battle-injured U.S. troops from Iraq, even though the number of U.S. servicemembers in Iraq (130,000) far exceeds the number in Afghanistan (58,000).

The hospital is the first stop for U.S. wounded troops from the war zones.

The uptick in wounded from Afghanistan coincides with the record-high 39 U.S. troops killed so far this month in the country.


The number of combat-wounded from Afghanistan is the highest of any month since the war began in 2001, statistics show. It’s also only the second time there have been more casualties in Afghanistan than in Iraq: From mid-May to October 2008, Landstuhl received slightly more battle-injured troops from Afghanistan, according to hospital records.

In previous years, as much as 80 to 90 percent of the battle-injured troops at Landstuhl came from Iraq, said Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Raymond Fang, Landstuhl’s trauma director.


In Iraq, operations have slowed. U.S. troops completed their withdrawal from Iraqi cities at the end of June as part of the long-term security agreement struck last year between the two countries, and the number of casualties immediately fell. From June 29 to July 6, Landstuhl saw a seven-day stretch during which it received no combat-injured servicemembers from Iraq — the third-longest such span for the hospital in the last six years, hospital officials said.

Landstuhl’s doctors expect to continue seeing more wounded from Afghanistan, especially as troop levels there approach 68,000 later this year.

“Their mission is to go in and root out the Taliban, so I would expect there will be engagements and casualties,” Fang said.

Insurgents Attack Medical Mission in Afghanistan

Insurgents Attack Medical Mission
International Security Assistance Force HQ Public Affairs
Date: 07.29.2009

KABUL, Afghanistan – Earlier this afternoon, an International Security Assistance Force convoy, in southern Afghanistan, struck an improvised explosive device resulting in the wounding of soldiers. When helicopters arrived to evacuate the wounded soldiers the insurgents opened fire on the medical evacuation operation, damaging one of the helicopters.

An attack on clearly marked evacuation aircraft is in clear violation of international accords for the protection of medical personnel

One helicopter left the scene with all the wounded personnel whilst the damaged helicopter remains on the ground.

27 July 2009

Congratulations, JR - Men's Log Rolling World Champion!!

J. R. Salzman, who lost an arm in Iraq, with his sister after winning his seventh logrolling title. Photo: Justin Maxon/The New York Times.

We always knew you could do it, JR.

Seventh Logrolling Title, First With a Prosthetic Arm

HAYWARD, Wis. — Sgt. J. R. Salzman remembers reaching for his ballistic glasses just as the roadside bomb blew apart his right arm. He remembers being unable to reach the handle of the Humvee’s passenger door and realizing that his arm was instantly shortened. He remembers the look on the face of the medic.

Just about everything from Dec. 19, 2006, when he was in the lead truck of a tanker convoy in northwest Baghdad, is lodged in Salzman’s mind. That includes what he thought when he realized he would not die: I’ve still got my legs. I can still logroll.

And that explained why Salzman cried when he won his seventh men’s logrolling title at the Lumberjack world championships on Sunday, his first with a prosthetic arm.

“It’s what I do,” he said in the quiet shadows after a lengthy standing ovation. “This is my life in the summertime.”

And here's the story from his local TV station with video. Read them both!

‘No one dies in my aircraft’

Over the past three weeks the MEDEVAC crews from the 2nd Platoon “Gypsies” of Company C, 3rd Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade have pulled dozens of wounded U.S., British and Afghan troops from the battlefields of the Helmand River valley. Here are some of their stories.
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The UH-60 Black Hawk medevac helicopter descends into a maelstrom of swirling brown dust and touches down in a field with a bone-jarring thump.

Staff Sgt. Robert Cowdrey, a flight medic, jumps off the aircraft, a stretcher in one hand, an M-4 carbine in the other. He makes his way through the dust to a group of Marines about 50 meters away.

The Marines are standing between two armored trucks outside a mud-brick compound. They’re clustered around a wounded Marine. He is stripped to his underwear, partially covered in a thin foil blanket.

The wounded Marine has been hit by a Taliban bomb. He has no visible injuries, but he’s barely conscious, and clearly in need of further medical help.

Cowdrey, 37, of La Junta, Colo., puts a neck brace on the Marine, who is taken to the waiting Black Hawk. It lifts off as soon as he and Cowdrey are aboard. The helicopter has been on the ground less than five minutes.

Later, after Cowdrey’s Black Hawk is safely on the ground again, the Marine regains consciousness while being transported to a field hospital.

“Where am I?” he asks. “What happened?”

Cowdrey tells the Marine he’s been in a bomb blast. The young man immediately tries to sit up.

Cowdrey puts a firm, but gentle hand on the Marine’s chest.

“Take it easy,” he says. “You’re OK. You’re in an ambulance, and everything is going to be fine.”

“I sure hope you’re right,” the Marine says, as he drifts out again.

One recent morning, [Sgt. Nathaniel] Dabney’s crew is first in line for missions. The first call comes at 9:15 a.m. It’s listed as a priority.

The patient is a British soldier who has been hit by a concussion grenade. He’s loaded onto the aircraft in just his underwear and boots. He has no visible injuries, but he’s clearly hurting and scared.

Dabney puts an oxygen mask over the soldier’s face, then starts him on an IV drip. He then leans in close, rubs the soldier’s forehead and tells him he’ll be OK. The soldier’s eyes are shut tight, and he motions for someone to hold his hand. He doesn’t let go until the Black Hawk gets to Camp Bastion, the main British base in Helmand, about 30 minutes later.

“Blood and guts, don’t affect me,” he says. “But it’s that personal bond that you establish with your patient, that’s what gets to you.”

Dabney has one rule: “No one dies in my aircraft.” So far, it hasn’t happened, he says, even if it is probably just a matter of time.

This is a must read article at Stars & Stripes with accompanying photo slideshow.

Update, October 2011: Godspeed, SSG Robert 'Brian' Cowdry.

24 July 2009

Sinh Tho Nguyen is a great American

Army and National Guard veteran Sinh Tho Nguyen, of Fort Worth, is walking across America to honor America and its troops. He is approximately 1,000 miles into his journey and arrived in Dallas on Wednesday. Photo: STEELE BURROW/DMN.

Fort Worth man puts heart, soles into message with walk across America
Thursday, July 23, 2009
By REBECCA SIMON / The Dallas Morning News

Many consider it a huge accomplishment to go 26.2 miles and finish just one marathon. Sinh Tho Nguyen has walked about that distance every day since June 10.

Nguyen, who moved to Fort Worth after growing up in Vietnam, is about 1,000 miles into his walk across America. The 40-year-old said his mission is to remind Americans to have faith in their country and take pride in their nation. And, on Wednesday, he finally made it to Dallas-Fort Worth – home for one week before he hits the road again.

"I owe to America so much, and I don't have any talent at all," Nguyen said. "I have two legs and a heart. So I decided to walk across America to give thanks to her."

The water-meter reader – whose walking-intensive job gave him the idea to walk across America – is not getting paid for his cross-country trek or raising money for a cause. The walk, he said, is just his way of saying thanks to America and its troops.

"This walk is about America and those who suffer," he said.

Nguyen said his father was a U.S. soldier in Vietnam but that they never met. In 1992, Nguyen applied for a visa to come to the United States and was approved in 60 days. He enlisted in the National Guard and Army after moving to the United States.

Nguyen always carries an American flag and has a sign strapped to his back displaying his message: "Shore to Shore: A Walk Across America to Honor Those Who Serve."

Read the whole article at the link, and make sure to see the first comment from Mr. Nguyen himself.

He reminds me of this story about Cathy Frederic's Landstuhl fundraising efforts of 2006 in the Plano, Texas community and amongst her fellow employees at Texas Instruments.

But the most impressive response that Cathy received from anyone about the project was from the members of the Vietnamese Initiative, which she describes as "swift and decisive". They took it on as their own project and in 2 week's time had raised over $600 to contribute.


According to one of their members, "Many of us came to US as refugees between 1975 and 1987. We understand very well the values of freedom and democracy which we risked our lives to seek. We really appreciate US soldiers who leave behind their beloved families and a dream country to fight for freedom and democracy around the world. We value their sacrifice."

TF Paladin's counter-IED training

Bob Woodruff reports on JIEDDO's counter-IED Task Force Paladin in Afghanistan in this fascinating ABC News video story.

23 July 2009

Wounded Warrior trains for 2012 Paralympics

Army Sgt. Jerrod Fields, an Army World Class Athlete Program sprinter and Paralympic hopeful, works out at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. A below-the-knee amputee, Fields won a gold medal in the 100 meters with a time of 12.15 seconds at the Endeavor Games in Edmond, Okla., on June 13, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps.

This is such an inspirational story I couldn't excerpt it, so here's the whole thing.

Face of Defense: Amputee Pursues 2012 Paralympics Berth
By Tim Hipps
Special to American Forces Press Service

CHULA VISTA, Calif., July 22, 2009 – Army Sgt. Jerrod Fields hasn’t just learned to adapt as an amputee since hitting a roadside bomb in Iraq. He is on his way to becoming a record-holding sprinter.

Fields capped his track and field season by winning a gold medal at the 2009 Endeavor Games and setting his sights on the 2012 Paralympics.

A below-the-knee amputee sprinter in the Army World Class Athlete Program, Fields won the 100 meters with a time of 12.15 seconds June 13 in Edmond, Okla., site of the Endeavor Games for athletes with physical disabilities.

This spring, he finished second against an able-bodied field of collegiate sprinters with a 12.0 clocking in the 100 meters at the Occidental Invitational in Los Angeles.

Fields’ coach, Al Joyner, said he believes his sprinter will flirt with world records on the road to London for the 2012 Paralympics.

“I think he’s a potential world record-holder,” Joyner said in early February. “I would put my money on him in both the 100 and 200.”

There’s little reason to doubt Joyner, an Olympic gold medalist and Jim Thorpe Award winner who helped his late wife, Florence Griffith-Joyner, and sister, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, sprint and jump for Olympic gold during their illustrious careers.

Joyner, Team USA’s sprint and high jump performance coach, began working with Fields in November at the U.S. Olympic Training Center here.

“In terms of track and field, he’s just a baby,” Joyner said. “He’s just now starting to learn techniques. He may be that one athlete that ends up changing the barrier as far as how people look at things.”

Joyner became the first American in 80 years to win an Olympic gold medal in the triple jump at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. He and Jackie were the first brother-sister duo to strike Olympic gold in the same event. And he coached 100- and 200-meter women’s world record-holder Flo-Jo to five Olympic medals.

“In my family, we have a total of 12 Olympic medals,” Joyner said. “And I have been coaching for the past 27 years.”

Among Joyner’s current crop of athletes, Fields received a special nod of approval.

“If I had to pick a most-improved athlete, he would get the award,” Joyner said. “He’s getting better and better by the second, so it’s going to be really great to see over these next three or four years as we get ready for London. He’s going to surprise a lot of people.

“He really has improved in leaps and bounds with his mechanics,” the coach continued. “If somebody came out and watched him run from afar, they could not see that he had a prosthetic leg. But if you saw him the year before, he was falling all over the place. It’s really like night and day.”

Fields is chasing the world marks of 11.3 seconds for 100 meters and 22.48 for the 200.

“I’m almost there,” he said. “This is my second season and my first real year of training. Everybody else that I’m competing against either was born without a femur or foot or something. I’m just coming on brand new. I’ll catch them by London Games. I’ll be ready.”

Fields, 27, who played football, basketball and baseball for Carver High School in Chicago, encountered an improvised explosive device in Baghdad in March 2005.

“I was out on a routine reconnaissance with my platoon, and we got a tip that there were explosives inside of a dog,” he said. “At that time, they were cutting dogs and cattle open and placing explosives in them. We got the call for the mission to go out and to handle the situation. We saw the dog and kept our distance to see what the situation was. We didn’t want to get too close to it, but it turned out that was a decoy.

“We got the call to return home,” he said. “I was in the trail vehicle in the convoy. As we turned around, [mine] became the lead vehicle, and that’s when an IED went off underneath it. The first IED took the floor plate of my Bradley [fighting vehicle] out. The second one got me in the leg. It took from the calf muscle all the way down to the heel of my foot – the Achilles tendon and muscles. I was able to continue the mission. I didn’t feel it really at first. I just felt a lot of fire.

“To be honest, when I first looked down to see what happened, I laughed, because I thought I had dropped a grenade,” he continued. “I was thinking to myself: ‘Man, these guys are never going to believe what I’ve done.’ I finally heard over the net that it was an IED and that I had been hit. When I looked at my leg, I saw that it was mangled.”

Fields reported to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. After six rounds of surgery and six days of contemplating his most difficult decision, Fields requested amputation below his left knee.

“It would have taken 22 surgeries, and they were going to fuse my ankle,” he said. “I would not have been able to play basketball any more.”

Fields resumed walking a month later, on April 2. By mid-June, he was playing basketball in a Chicago summer league.

“I never got down or angry about this injury,” said Fields, who since has graced the cover of ESPN The Magazine for his “streetball” prowess. “I just felt that it was a new step or direction that I had to go in,” he said. “I try to go back [to Walter Reed] as often as I can to mentor some of the others.”

Fields said he never considered leaving the military, as long as it would have him.

“I saw more support by staying in the Army,” said Fields, who was 22 when he suffered the injury. He noted that President George W. Bush had signed a bill allowing injured servicemembers to stay on active duty pending a test to see if they were physically fit for duty and could return to duty. “That was my intention,” Fields said. “Then this program came along.”

Fields received a call from John Register, a former member of the Army World Class Athlete Program and a Paralympian in both swimming and track and field, who now serves as director of community and military programs for U.S. Paralympics.

“He told me the Army had something for me if I wanted to continue active duty and also become an athlete,” Fields recalled. “He faxed me all the paperwork. I got in contact with WCAP, they looked into it, and we went from there. Now, I think I can retire from active duty and come back as a coach to work with some younger soldier-athletes coming up.

“I was a career soldier the day I signed up,” he added.

Fields suggests that wounded warriors get active as soon as physically possible.

“I would say to get out here and face those fears, if any, and have fun,” he said. “This beats sitting in a house and being depressed, or being off your leg or your arm, or thinking how people might view you because of your disability. Just get out and have fun.”

Fields is still learning to run on the prosthetic leg.

“When next season rolls around, I’m going to be ready to roll,” he said. “I am more focused, and I’m finally able to put my workouts together, transferring the benefits from the weight room to the track. I just feel more confident in what I’m doing. The prosthetic is starting to be a part of me. I’m still learning how to get full usage of it, and it’s showing on the track.”

And on the field, where Fields recently began dabbling with the long jump.

“I’m going to let the event find him,” Joyner said. “He’s going to run the 400 to keep his strength. Getting ready for the Olympics, it’s mental, so I’m going to attack his body to let him know that he can do anything he wants as long as he puts his mind to it. I look at him as a dedicated athlete, and he just keeps raising the bar. My job is to get him competing against himself.”

Landstuhl hospital offers new 8-week PTSD Treatment Program for Germany-based Soldiers

This is very good news for Soldiers based in Germany - and hopefully soon Europe-wide - whose PTSD symptoms require therapy of a duration and intensity offered only in the U.S. until the launch of this pilot program.

New PTSD program answers need
By Capt. Bryan Lewis

LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, Germany (July 21, 2009) -- Symptoms of combat stress and post-traumatic stress disorder include continual nightmares, avoidance behaviors, denial, grief, anger and fear.

Some Soldiers, battling these and other symptoms, can be treated successfully as an outpatient while assuming their normal duties. For others, however, returning to work and becoming their old selves again were challenges recognized by several mental health professionals across the European theater.

"We were looking at how we can best meet the needs of our clientele, and we were identifying that a lot of the Soldiers needed more than once-a-week outpatient, individual therapy and probably needed more than once- or twice-a-week group therapy," said Joseph Pehm, chief of Medical Social Work at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

The solution came in the creation of an intensive eight-week therapeutic Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Day Treatment Program called "evolution" that began in March 2009 at LRMC. During the eight-hour days, patients enrolled in the program participate in multiple disciplines and interests, including art therapy, yoga and meditation classes, substance abuse groups, anger and grief management, tobacco cessation, pain management and multiple PTSD evidence-based practice protocols.

"I am a great believer in the kitchen sink, meaning I throw everything, including the kitchen sink, and something will stick," said Dr. Daphne Brown, chief of the Division of Behavioral Health at LRMC. "And so we've come with all the evidence-based treatment for PTSD that we know about ... We've taken everything that we can think of that will be of use in redirecting symptoms for these folks and put it into an eight-week program."

Though few have completed this young program, signs of success have already started to surface.

"With the last group, the shift from 'I have to be here' to 'I'm so glad I came' was really phenomenal," said Pehm.

"One of them said that he didn't think he was getting anything out of the program," Brown said. "It was about week six until he saw himself react differently to a situation that came up, and watched himself do it differently using skills that he didn't know he learned. He went 'Wow,' maybe I am getting something out of this."

It is too early, and the numbers are too small, to generalize the early trends, but self-completed PTSD checklists showed a significant decrease in reported symptoms for three of the four patients in the first cohort. Additionally, anxiety and depression symptom measures decreased.

"The whole idea is that we know all the changes aren't going to take place here," said Brown. "But we hope we give them enough learning to send them in a different direction. My hope is that we can build a program to provide valid, effective treatment to folks who have put themselves in harm's way at the request of their country, and help them live happier and better lives."

There's much more at the link.

22 July 2009

'Hello mum, this is going to be hard for you to read ...'

Hard for anyone to read, but do it anyway. You'll be sad, but also incredibly impressed with this young man. Bring a tissue.

Via Carrie & Cassandra.

Go Army!! Army colonel completes first spacewalk

Astronaut Col.Tim Kopra works to prepare the berthing mechanisms on the Kibo laboratory and the Japanese Exposed Facility for installation onto the International Space Station. When the Endeavour crew returns to Earth, Kopra will stay aboard the station to serve as a flight engineer. Photo credit: Courtesy of NASA.

10th Mountain Soldiers give Afghan man the gift of speech

Time and time again, their actions prove that the American Soldier is our country's best ambassador.

Soldiers Give the Gift of Speech
Combined Joint Task Force - 82 PAO, Courtesy Story
Date: 07.22.2009

KUNAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- Soldiers from Task Force Mountain Warrior's, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, helped Jallal, a local village elder in the Kunar province, regain his voice.

While patrolling during a Key Leader Engagement, Feb. 9, the elder's situation was brought to the Soldiers' attention. Jallal's voice box had been removed as part of a cancer-removal surgery in Pakistan.

After hearing of the man's situation, 1st Lt. John Carlson, a medical platoon leader with Task Force Chosin, felt that something had to be done. With the help of fellow 1st Bn., 32nd Inf. Reg. Soldiers, Carlson decided to try to acquire an electro larynx, an artificial voice box, which costs approximately $600.

After Carlson's first attempt to acquire the voice box proved unsuccessful, Maj. Jennifer Bell, brigade surgeon, TF Spartan, felt she could help with the situation.

She turned to a friend in Chicago, who was eager to help, and the artificial voice box was on its way to the Company C Soldiers, arriving at Combat Outpost Monti, April 26.

When Jallal was handed the new device, the Soldiers all gathered around to watch the joyful expression on his face. Jallal's family was in awe as the man spoke for the first time in years.

When coalition forces returned to the village, Jallal approached the Soldiers and greeted them with his new voice.

According to Jallal, through the device he received, it's the small things in life, such as gifts like these, which really make a difference.

Aeromedical evac teams face off at RODEO 2009

RODEO is the U.S. Air Force's and AMC's (Air Mobility Command) premier air mobility competition. It's an international combat skills and flying operations competition designed to develop and improve techniques, procedures and interoperability with international partners to optimize mobility partnerships and enhance mobility operations.

Teams compete in the aeromedical evacuation events for Air Mobility RODEO 2009 at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., July 20, 2009. More than 100 teams are participating in RODEO competition, including teams from seven foreign countries. U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol.

7/20/2009 - MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Air Mobility RODEO continued today with numerous events including the aeromedical evacuation competition testing the skills of AE (aeromedical evacuation) crews from around the world.

The aeromedical evacuation events, which range from patient offload tests to a timed scenario that calls for preparing a C-17 Globemaster III for an AE flight, are part of the overall RODEO goal to provide U.S. and international mobility air force partners the chance to further develop skills needed in today's fight.

Members compete during the Aeromedical Evacuation Competition for Air Mobility RODEO 2009, at McChord Air Force Base Wash., July 20. These Airmen are from the 86th Airlift Wing, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. U.S.Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Michelle Larche/Released.

"These competitions allow AE Airmen to improve on our mobility operations," said Senior Master Sgt. Rich Wallace, an umpire for the AE events. "They are able to hone their skills and practice on aircraft universally trained on."

"Timing for contingency flight begins on the ground with initial preparations and the crew being briefed," said Maj. Melissa Smith, the chief umpire for AE events. "Next, the teams prepare medical equipment during pre-flight operations, and when the first member steps on the aircraft to configure for patients."

Capt. Joe Foss assists Capt. Joel Oyama with his MA-1 walk-around bottle for the Aeromedical Evacuation Competition during Air Mobility RODEO 2009, at McChord Air Force Base, Wash., July 20. U.S.Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Michelle Larche/Released.

The team then receives the patient report and move about 12 to 16 patients onto the aircraft. These are patients simulating conditions based on what is seen in deployed war areas such as traumatic brain injury and amputations. The AE event will finally end once the team lands.

Three trophies will be awarded, including awards for best flight crew, best configuration crew and overall performance.

New Saint Michael the Archangel Protector T-Shirt from Ranger Up

Ranger Up is proud to present their newest shirt, the Saint Michael Archangel Protector shirt. Saint Michael is the protector saint of Warriors, Paratroopers, and Police Officers.

Featuring an oversize image of Saint Michael with the latin words "Non Timebo Mala", meaning "I Fear No Evil", this is the perfect shirt for anyone who has prayed for or received his protection.

Get yours here. I just did.

21 July 2009

During a chance encounter in Afghanistan, Bob Woodruff thanks the men who saved his life over 3 years ago

In an amazing coincidence, Bob Woodward runs into two of the medical professionals who helped save his life three years ago - at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. One of them is the former head of the trauma unit here at Landstuhl.

Watch the video here (MUST SEE).

A Chance Encounter in Afghanistan

Three years ago ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff suffered a severe brain injury in a roadside IED attack in Iraq. He was flown to a military hospital in Balad, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, Iraq, where the medical team there saved his life.

Woodruff made his first return to Iraq last week since his injury, in the hopes of visiting Balad for the first time since his injury. He planned to report on the medical professionals who had saved his life and risked their own lives every day to save others.

In the end, one thing stood between Woodruff and Balad — a blinding sandstorm.

Grounded in Kirkuk,Iraq, and unable to make the planned one-day visit to Balad, Woodruff reluctantly left the next day for a scheduled trip to Afghanistan with Adm. Michael Mullen.

The change in schedule landed Woodruff at a military hospital at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.

This hospital and others like it are seeing a growing number of doctors, nurses and medics who first served in Iraq and ended up to Afghanistan.

Coincidentally, two of the men who saved Woodruff's life in 2006 are now working in Afghanistan saving others.

After the initial disbelief wore off, Woodruff showed his gratitude and embraced both men, a nurse, Lt. Mike McCarthy and Col. Warren Dorlac, a doctor and chief of the trauma unit at a U.S. hospital in Germany, who treated Woodruff after he was airlifted out of Iraq.

Dorlac credited the medics for making sure Woodruff made it to a hospital the day he was injured. "You probably wouldn't be alive without the medics in the field," he told Woodruff.

"I'm giving them hugs, because this is personal," explained Woodruff. "These are the guys who saved so many lives, including mine. It's emotional.

While the hospital in Kandahar is a harsh reality of the war in Afghanistan, for Woodruff it's also an unexpected chance to say thank you.

A Hero Comes Home

Sgt 1st Class John C. Beale, 39, of Riverdale, Georgia was killed near Kapisa, Afghanistan on June 4, 2009 along with Maj. Kevin Jenrette and Spc. Jeffrey Jordan. He was deployed with the Georgia Army National Guard's 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. This is his homecoming.

Former Marine fights off mountain lion with chain saw

That's gotta be the best headline evah.

Man Says He Used Chainsaw to Fight Starving Mountain Lion
Friday, July 17, 2009

CODY, Wyoming — A Colorado man used a chain saw to fight off a mountain lion that attacked him during a camping trip with his wife and two toddlers in northwestern Wyoming.

The adult male lion, described as emaciated and showing other signs of starvation, was later killed by wildlife officials after it attacked a dog brought in to track it.

Dustin Britton, a 32-year-old mechanic and ex-Marine from Windsor, Colo., said he was alone cutting firewood about 100 feet from his campsite in the Shoshone National Forest when he saw the 100-pound lion staring at him from some bushes.

The 6-foot, 170-pound Britton said he raised his 18-inch chain saw and met the lion head-on as it pounced — a collision he described as feeling like a grown man running directly into him.

The wounded animal retreated after Britton inflicted a six- to eight-inch gash on the lion's shoulder, leaving him with only a small puncture wound on his forearm.

"You would think if you hit an animal with a chain saw it would dig right in," he said. "I might as well have hit it with a hockey stick."

After the confrontation, Britton and his wife, Kirsta, decided to spend the night in their pop-up camper with their two children rather than risk packing up with the lion still on the loose.

The family later carried on with their vacation, continuing to camp at sites in Wyoming and Montana.

Mountain lions are normally highly reclusive and sightings are rare. I was lucky enough to see one during my last trip to the same area of Wyoming in May. It was about 100 yards away from our cabin, but just passing through, minding its own business.

Anyway, crikey!

20 July 2009

Prayer request

Please join us in praying for SFC Mark Allen of the Georgia Army National Guard who remains in serious but stable condition at Bethesda Naval Hospital after being wounded in Afghanistan. Prayers are also requested for his wife Shannon and their children Cody and Journey, as well as for the two other Soldiers wounded in the same attack.

If you are on FaceBook, you are invited to join the prayer group for Mark.

Other stories about Mark:
Prayer request
Gold Star Father Robert Stokely interviewed about SFC Mark Allen fundraiser
Wounded Warrior's Spouse: "My husband is GI Joe in a National Guard uniform"
Two Newnan Guardsmen among three wounded in Afghanistan
Wounded soldiers arrive in U.S.
Injured soldiers helped by Soldiers' Angels
How Could I Know?

17 July 2009

Want to help a platoon in Afghanistan?

Geronimo Scouts of the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne) in eastern Afghanistan Photo: Chad Hunt.

Photographer Chad Hunt was recently with these guys and says they could use a supply of quality hiking socks.

While there, I was embedded with a platoon of Airborne Ranger Scouts near the border of Pakistan. I accompanied them on a grueling, five day mission through a Taliban valley. The terrain was brutal — sharp shards of rocks, on extremely steep slopes. My feet have never taken such a beating...

Good hiking socks are absolutely essential, and they don't last long under these conditions. If you're interested in helping out, email me for address and sock recommendations.

You can see more of Chad's photos in the current issue of Popular Mechanics.

Update: As a token of his appreciation, Chad Hunt is offering an 8" x 10" print from his Afghanistan 2009 collection of photos for all who are so generously responding to this request. Thank you Chad!

16 July 2009

Film "The Way We Get By" opens in New York Friday

The Way We Get By - Trailer from The Way We Get By on Vimeo.

The SXSW Special Jury Award winning "The Way We Get By" is a deeply moving film about life and how to live it. Beginning as a seemingly idiosyncratic story about troop greeters - a group of senior citizens who gather daily at a small airport to thank American soldiers departing and returning from Iraq, the film quickly turns into a moving, unsettling and compassionate story about aging, loneliness, war and mortality.

Information about screening locations and times at the film website.

15 July 2009

MG Michael Oates honors fallen NCO

KFBB News Team, July 10, 2009 - Hundreds of people gathered at St. Bernard's Parish in the Billings Heights [Montana] Thursday morning to say goodbye to a young man who proudly served his country.

Twenty-two year old Army Sergeant Terry Lynch of Shepherd served with the 10th Mountain Division stationed in Fort Drum, New York. He was on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan when he was killed by a roadside bomb.

Major General Michael Oates, based at Fort Drum [New York], awarded Lynch two medals Thursday: the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

It only became clear to me by watching the video that MG Oates, Commander of the 10th Mountain Division, actually attended and spoke at SGT Lynch's funeral. In Montana.

I've always believed that a true leader serves his subordinates, not the other way around. In my opinion, Major General Oates has displayed a deeply moving and humbling example of true leadership with this gesture. Thank you MG Oates. And thank you and rest in peace, Sergeant Lynch.

Prior post about Sergeant Terry Lynch: A Hometown Hero.

West Point's Camp Buckner Task Force named after fallen paratrooper

Task Force Ferrara motto is “Train Strong, Be Strong” — A tribute to our Fallen

A house shines white amidst the New York summer surrounding Camp Buckner. The sounds of radio chatter and personnel hard at work are heard as one enters its two screen doors, but nothing is as loud as the words that echo above these doors at Camp Buckner––Task Force Ferrara: Train Strong, Be Strong.

The 263 cadets that serve over 1,200 subordinate cadets all comprise Task Force Ferrara. However, this name is not just a simple label. In 2008, a tradition was started––naming each Task Force at Camp Buckner after a Soldier and warrior who paid the ultimate price for our country.

Last year, we were Task Force Dicenzo, named after Capt. Doug Dicenzo, Class of 1999, killed in action in Baghdad, Iraq, May 25, 2006; and now Task Force Ferrara, after Capt. Matthew Ferrara, Class of 2005, killed in action Nov. 9, 2007, in Aranus, Afghanistan.

Dicenzo and Ferrara represent all of the warriors who have given their last measure of devotion on behalf of the nation––they represent all of our nation’s best. In naming our Task Force, we reinforce who we are and who we represent, that we are no longer our own and we now strive to honor them and those like them with our actions day to day.

We, as future Army officers and leaders, are grateful to all of the fallen warriors, all of those whom have gone before us and paved the way. We shall not forget the lives they led as professional warriors and the lives of those they represent.

Received the link earlier today from Linda Ferrara, currently visiting her youngest son at West Point. She added, "Andy is the S-3 at Camp Buckner Cadet Field Training for the yearlings (2nd year cadets). The camp honored Matt this year by calling itself Task Force Ferrara. Very special with Andy being instrumental in running the camp. We sat with him during the awards ceremony and presented the Ferrara award for the best platoon leader for the summer training."

Blankets of Belief 2009

Last holiday season our deployed troops loved receiving their homemade Blankets of Belief from Soldiers' Angels, and the project is on again this year! The blankets were a reminder to our guys and gals that we believed in them as they faced the challenges of deployment to a war zone during the Holidays.

A chief warrant officer wrote from Iraq last December:
Christmas came early this year and I just wanted to say thank you. If only you could have seen the looks on my troops' faces when all those boxes came in. I have never seen such a giddy group of grown men. The blankets were snatched up first.

Blankets can be sewn, quilted, or fleece "no-sew" blankets - see the Blankets of Belief page for all the details. Knitters and crocheters, please email crochet@soldiersangels.org to learn how you can get involved. Blanket kits can also be purchased in the Angel store.

Please join Soldiers' Angels in helping to make sure our service members deployed this holiday season know that we remember them and believe in them!

14 July 2009

With the 10th Mountain in Barge Matal

Watch CBS Videos Online

CBS News reports from the village of Barge Matal in Nuristan province, Afghanistan, where the Taliban are conducting a violent intimidation campaign to prevent Afghans from voting in the August elections.

Matthew Currier Burden Joins Soldiers' Angels Board of Trustees

Matthew Currier Burden Joins Soldiers' Angels Board of Trustees

Top Milblogger 'Blackfive' Makes Long Relationship with Nonprofit Official

PASADENA, Calif., July 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Leading military support nonprofit Soldiers' Angels announced this morning the appointment of military veteran, IT executive and blogger/author Matthew Currier Burden to its Board of Trustees, approved by unanimous vote on July 11. Burden is expected to focus on a variety of projects for Soldiers' Angels, using his skills and contacts in technology, active duty military and politics to help the 200,000-member organization continue to care for America's military personnel, veterans, and their families.

A longtime supporter, Burden has worked closely with Soldiers' Angels in an unofficial capacity since 2003. "I've been doing a lot of soldier support on my own and with SA on a variety of projects for the last six years, but I wanted to do more by taking an official role," he explains. "I'm looking forward to using my military and social media experiences to assist Soldiers' Angels any way I can."

After enlisting at age seventeen, Burden served in the 82nd Airborne, Special Forces and the Defense Intelligence Agency as he moved from enlisted to officer. He started the influential military blog Blackfive (www.blackfive.net) in 2003 to address the unreported stories of America's heroes and in 2006 edited Blog of War, a collection of essays from military blogs. Burden recently co-founded the Warrior Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit committed to protection and promotion of the reputation and dignity of America's Warriors, and is President of independent reporting and advertising production company SOG Media. He holds masters degrees in business and computer science and is currently an IT executive in Chicago.

Soldiers' Angels founder Patti Patton Bader warmly welcomes Burden. "It is truly an honor to serve wingtip to wingtip on the Board of Trustees with Matt," she enthuses. Board of Trustees Vice-chairman Richard M. John adds, "We are very excited to have Matt join the Board. His wealth of knowledge and contacts with the military, bloggers, and other military support organizations will be vital to Soldiers' Angels continuing to accomplish its mission. Matt has demonstrated time and again that his first concern is the welfare of our service members, and we look forward to having his formal input and participation as a Board member."

Established in 2003, Soldiers' Angels is a volunteer-led 501(c)(3) providing aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, as well as veterans and military families through a variety of hands-on projects and volunteerism. For more info, see www.soldiersangels.org or call 615-676-0239. Tax ID# 20-0583415. CFC# 25131.

# # #

SOURCE: Soldiers' Angels

‘Camouflage Angel’ Spends Last Moments With U.S. Combat Casualties

Army Sgt. Jennifer Watson, non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the Casualty Liaison Team at Joint Base Balad, stands in Hero's Highway. Each patient brought via helicopter to the Air Force Theater Hospital passes through Hero's Highway. Watson, a native of Peru, Ind., is deployed here from Fort Campbell, Ky. Photo by Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing.

‘Camouflage Angel’ Spends Last Moments With U.S. Combat Casualties

By Staff Sgt. Dilia Ayala, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing.
Friday, 10 July 2009

JOINT BASE BALAD — The emergency-room trauma call and the medical staff's immediate action upon his arrival is only a memory to her now; sitting quietly at the bedside of her brother-in-arms, she carefully takes his hand, thanking him for his service and promising she will not leave his side.
He is a critically injured combat casualty, and she is Army Sgt. Jennifer Watson of the Casualty Liaison Team here.

Although a somber scene, it is not an uncommon one for the Peru, Ind., native, who in addition to her primary duties throughout the last 14 months, has taken it upon herself to ensure no U.S. casualty passes away alone. Holding each of their hands, she sits with them until the end, no matter the day or the hour.

"It's unfortunate that their families can't be here," said Watson, who is deployed here from Fort Campbell, Ky. "So I took it upon myself to step up and be that family while they are here. No one asked me to do it; I just did what I felt was right in my heart. I want them to know they are heroes.

"I feel just because they are passing away does not mean they cannot hear and feel someone around them," she continued. "I talk to them, thanking them for what they have done, telling them they are a hero, they will never be forgotten, and I explain my job to them to help them be at ease knowing the family will be told the truth."

In general, Watson explains to the patients that the CLT works within the Patient Administrative Department here, acting as a liaison for all military and civilian patients in-theater and initiating the casualty-notification process to the patient's next-of-kin.

Upon their arrival at the Air Force Theater Hospital, Watson speaks with each combat casualty getting as accurate information as possible about the incident. Once the doctor gives their diagnosis and severity of the patient's injuries, Watson and her team complete and send a Defense Casualty Information Processing System folder report to the Department of the Army or the patient's respective service so that their next-of-kin can be notified.

"I make sure we tell their family everything they want to know, so they know everything that's going on," said Watson. "[Through the report], we'll tell the families everything that is going on with their family member ... so that they don't have any questions."

Furthermore, once the initial report has been sent, the CLT and Watson make hourly rounds to the intensive-care ward or unit to check on the patient's well-being, or, for the more critical patients, to check on their stability.

"We are constantly communicating and making sure the family knows everything we know," said Watson. "We want to put the families at ease and let them know that everything is being done for their loved one. From the moment a servicemember is brought in through Hero's Highway, they are never alone."

Each month, the AFTH, the equivalent of a U.S. Level-1 trauma center, treats more than 539 patients; more than 101 are trauma cases in the emergency department. Although Watson can never predict if and when her fellow brothers- or sisters- in arms may need her, she is always available here.

"The hospital staff is wonderful," said Watson. "They know how important it is for me to be there with them and if they know it's time, someone will come and get me no matter where I'm at.

"I see it as a form of closure, not just for me, but for the families so that they know that somebody was there with their son or daughter," she added. "My heart goes out to every patient that comes into the hospital, especially my wounded in action Soldiers. I feel like everyone who comes through the door is my brother or sister."

Not surprisingly, Watson's dedication to duty and her hard work have not gone unnoticed. She has touched the lives of all those who she has come in contact with, to include the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group commander, Col. Mark Mavity.

"Sgt. Watson's story is one of the most compelling here in the Med Group," said Mavity. "She is a Soldier's Soldier who combines an unparalleled level of compassion and commitment to our most grievously wounded warriors with amazing professionalism each and every day.

"What is truly incredible is that she is a personnelist by training but with the heart of a medic who has taken it upon herself to hold the hand and keep a bedside vigil with every mortally wounded Soldier who has spent their last hours within the AFTH," continued the colonel. "She will not let her brave brothers or sisters pass alone. This is a heavy burden to bear and at great personal emotional cost to Sgt. Watson, but she is unwavering in her final commitment to these Soldiers. You don't have to look any further than Sgt. Watson to find a true hero."

"Angel" and "hero" are only two of the many titles Watson has been given since arriving at JBB; although she is appreciative of the kind words, she remains humble.

"I am far from an angel," said the sergeant with a smile. "I just do what is in my heart. I guess for me, I think about the family and the closure of knowing the Soldier did not pass away alone. To say I'm a hero ... no. The heroes are my guys who come in [through Hero's Highway]."

Reflecting on her time here, Watson said she is extremely thankful for the opportunity she has had to work side-by-side with the Air Force.

"The staff of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group has done an amazing job since I have been here," she said. "They are incredible. They have done procedures and saved the lives of the most critically injured Soldiers, and have been some of the most professional people I have ever worked with.

"I want the families to know that their servicemember was a hero," Watson concluded. "They made the ultimate sacrifice, but before they passed on, they received the best medical treatment, and the staff did everything they could -- they were not in pain and they didn't die alone."

13 July 2009

Remembering the Heroes of Wanat

"I just hope these guys’ wives and their children understand how courageous their husbands and dads were. They fought like warriors." - SGT Jacob Walker

Im Memoriam:

1LT Jonathan Brostrom
SGT Israel Garcia
SPC Matthew Phillips
SPC Pruitt Rainey
SPC Jonathan Ayers
SPC Jason Bogar
SPC Sergio Abad
SPC Jason Hovater
SPC Gunnar Zwilling

All Sky Soldiers of Chosen Company, 2/503 Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. They were killed in action at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler near Wanat in Nuristan Province, Afghanistan on July 13, 2008. 27 Americans and four Afghan soldiers were wounded.

Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and with all of the men who were there that day. We will always remember.

11 July 2009

LRMC Change of Command - Welcome Colonel Cho!

Col. (Dr.) John M. Cho (left) accepts the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center colors July 1 from Brig. Gen. Keith W. Gallagher, signifying Cho as the new LRMC commander. Gallagher is the Commanding General for Europe Regional Medical Command and the Command Surgeon for U.S. Army Europe. (U.S. Army Photo/Liz Paque)

Col. Cho Assumes Command of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center

By Chuck Roberts
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center Public Affairs

LANDSTUHL REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, Germany – Col. (Dr.) John M. Cho assumed command of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in a July 1 ceremony also honoring the departure of Col. (Dr.) Brian C. Lein. It marked the second time Cho succeeded Lein as commander.

“I stand before you honored and humbled to assume this command from Colonel Brian Lein,” said Cho, who also followed Lein as commander of Evans Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson, Colo. Cho, a cardiothoracic surgeon, described his new command as an “outstanding organization with a world-class reputation.”

Cho, whose previous assignment was as Chief, Healthcare Business Operations, J3, Joint Task Force Capital Medical Region, expressed his appreciation to the LRMC staff gathered before him.

“Thank you for all you have done and thank you in advance for your continued commitment for our number one priority – providing the best care for those returning from the theater of operations.”

Lein, who will serve as the senior medical officer for U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson, Ga., said he envied Cho in his new position.

“You are getting the opportunity to command the best organization in the entire Department of Defense. This joint team before you is ready, willing and able to accept any challenge before it. You are all a perfect fit for each other and I with you all the greatest success,” said Lein.

LRMC, which falls under the command of Europe Regional Medical Command, is the largest American hospital outside of the United States and is verified by the American College of Surgeons as a Level II Trauma Center, making it the only U.S. medical facility overseas to hold that distinction, and only one of three in the Department of Defense. LRMC provides primary care, tertiary care, hospitalization and treatment for more than 245,000 U.S. military personnel and their families within the European Command. It is also the evacuation and treatment center for all injured U.S. servicemembers, contractors and members of 44 coalition forces serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, treating more than 55,000 since January 2004.

10 July 2009

Dawn Patrol*

A U.S. soldier of 2nd Platoon from the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division is silhouetted against the moon while preparing for a predawn mission at Combat Operation Outpost (COP) Conlon in the mountains of Wardak Province in Afghanistan July 9, 2009. Photo: Reuters.

* with a tip of the hat to Mrs G.

09 July 2009

US releases Iranian Qods Force agents in Iraq

US releases Iranian Qods Force agents

By Bill Roggio
July 9, 2009 2:50 PM

The US military released five Iranian Qods Force agents who posed as diplomats and were detained in northern Iraq in late 2006. The Iranian agents were released to the Iraqi government, who is expected to promptly turn them back over to Iran.

The five Iranian agents were detained by US forces in the Kurdish city of Irbil in mid-January 2007. Iran claimed the men were part of a diplomatic mission in Irbil and protested the arrest, however the men were operating from a liaison office which did not enjoy diplomatic privileges.

The US military accused the five Iranians of being Qods Force agents assigned to help support Shia terror groups inside Iraq.

"The five detainees are connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – Qods Force (IRGC-QF), an organization known for providing funds, weapons, improvised explosive device technology and training to extremist groups attempting to destabilize the Government of Iraq and attack Coalition forces," noted Multinational Forces Iraq in press release announcing the arrest in January 2007.

The Qods Force agents have been turned over to the Iraqi government and will be turned over to the embassy in Baghdad, according to Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi.

"The five Iranian diplomats abducted in Iraq were handed over by the occupying US forces to the Iraqi prime minister (Nuri al-Maliki)," Qomi said.

Qomi himself has been accused of being a Qods Force agent by General David Petraeus back in November 2007 while he commander Multinational Forces Iraq. Petraeus now commands US Central Command.

The detention of the Qods Force agents in Irbil along with Iranian agents in Baghdad at the end of December 2006 kicked off the campaign against Iran's terror network in Iraq. The US and Iraqi militaries cracked down hard on the Ramazan Corps, the command set up by Qods Force to direct operations inside Iraq. The campaign culminated in a major operation led by the Iraqi security forces to dismantle the Iranian backed Mahdi Army and allied Special Groups in Baghdad and central and southern Iraq.

The release of the Irbil Five, as they became to be known, was preceded by the release of Laith Qazali, the brother of Qais Qazali.

Qais Qazali was the commander of the Qazali network, which is better known as the Asaib al Haq, or the League of the Righteous. Qais was a spokesman and senior aide to Mahdi Army leader Muqtada al Sadr. The terror group, which was part of the Mahdi Army until the spring of 2008, has received extensive financial and military support from Iran's Qods Force.

The League of the Righteous was directly implicated by General David Petraeus as being behind the January 2007 attack on the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala as well as other high-profile terror attacks in Iraq. Five US soldiers were killed during the Karbala attack and subsequent kidnapping attempt. The US soldiers were executed after US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team.

Laith was released as part of negotiations to free five British contractors who were taken captive by Qais' group shortly after their leader was detained. The League of the Righteous responded to Laith's release by turning over the body of two of the hostages and demanding all of the group's leadership before releasing any other captives. The two hostages were murdered months ago.

The US will continue to release the Iranian and Hezbollah agents captured in Iraq as power is transferred back to the Iraqi government.

US intelligence officials who directly deal with the Iranian threat in Iraq are dismayed by the release of the Qods Force agents, and say the release of more is in the pipeline.

"If you didn't like the release of Laith and the Irbil Five, you better get used to it," one official told The Long War Journal in disgust.

"We worked hard to catch these bastards, now we're cutting them lose with little thought to the consequences of doing this.”

10% of all US troop deaths in Iraq have been caused by Iranian-manufactured armor-piercing EFPs (explosively formed projectiles). Many more of our guys have suffered horrific injuries caused by these bombs. Here's just one example of what I have seen. Words cannot express how sick and outraged I am about this.

Bill has much more on the background of Iranian activities in Iraq as part of his report.

Update: Lance Fairchok at American Thinker, Betraying America's Soldiers: Iranian War Criminals Go Free

Afghan flag raised above Khan Neshin for the first time

The Afghan national flag was raised above Khan Neshin castle in the Rig District Center, July 8, for the first time, signaling the arrival of Afghan governance in the southern reaches of Helmand province. Photo by Cpl. Aaron Rooks.

Afghan Flag Raises Above Khan Neshin
2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade
Story by Cpl. Aaron Rooks
Date: 07.08.2009

KHAN NESHIN, Afghanistan - The Afghan national flag was raised above Khan Neshin castle in the Rig District Center July 8 for the first time, signaling the arrival of Afghan governance in the southern reaches of Helmand province.

Khan Neshin and the areas south of the Helmand River have never experienced the sustained presence of coalition forces or Afghan national security forces, until now, seven days after the beginning of Operation Khanjar.

"The number one question we get from the people is, 'when are you leaving?'" said Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commanding general of Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan. "The answer is we're not leaving until the transition for security is made to the provincial government, to include the Afghan forces."

Afghans from the local populace came to Khan Neshin shortly after the flag was raised, where they heard statements from Helmand Gov. Gulab Mangal and newly-appointed Rig District Gov. Massoud Jan. Dozens of locals then gathered around a large courtyard within the district center to sign up for voting in the upcoming national elections.

"Look at them," said Gen. Muhaidin, brigade commander, 3rd Afghan National Army Brigade, 205 Corps, gesturing toward the crowd. "Now they know that the government is here and they have security. [The Afghans] have hope, that's why they're here."

B-roll of U.S. Marines and the Afghan national army occupying the Khan Nechion castle in south Helmand Province. Scenes include a firefight between Marine and Afghan army soldiers against insurgents, various views of the castle, a Marine Corps bulldozer that hit an improvised explosive device (IED) and interviews with Marines discussing entering the Khan Nechion castle and surviving a IED explosion.

• Pfc. Ryan Martin of Tracy, CA.
• Cpl. Wilfredo Jimenez of Laredo, TX.
• Cpl. Markus Hillman of Ann Arbor, MI.
• Cpl. Derrick Unitaowski of Slippery Rock, PA. (Who says what his parents "don't know won't hurt them". Well... they know now, Cpl!)

And finally, a podcast interview with Brig. Gen. Nicholson from Afghanistan via @MarineCorpsNews.

See also: Life with the Marines in Helmand (photos) and Op Khanjar (photos).

Life with the Marines in Helmand

A U.S. Marine with the 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment adjusts his gear before going on patrol during an operation in the Helmand province of Afghanistan, July 5, 2009. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Pete Thibodeau/Released.

U.S. Marines from the 2nd MEB, 1st Battalion 5th Marines rest during a patrol in a town in the Nawa district of Afghanistan's Helmand province Monday July 6, 2009. Photo: AP.

A U.S. Marine from the 2nd MEB, 1st Battalion 5th Marines, who was overcome by heat exhaustion, lies on a stretcher as he waits to be picked up by a medical evacuation helicopter in the Nawa district of Afghanistan's Helmand province Monday July 6, 2009. Photo: AP.

The tattoo of a U.S. Marine from the 2nd MEB, 1st Battalion 5th Marine, is seen through a hole on the back of his uniform shirt, as he stands guard at a compound in the Nawa district of Afghanistan's Helmand province, Wednesday, July 8, 2009. Photo: AP.

U.S. Marines from the 2nd MEB, 1st Battalion 5th Marines watch as a helicopter drops an emergency water resupply outside a compound where they stayed for the night, in the Nawa district of Afghanistan's Helmand province, Wednesday, July 8, 2009. Photo: AP.

U.S. Marines from the 2nd MEB, 1st Battalion 5th Marines reach the end of a patrol in the Nawa district of Afghanistan's Helmand province Tuesday July 7, 2009. Photo: AP.

U.S. Marines from the 2nd MEB, 1st Battalion 5th Marines arrive at a compound to sleep for the night in a town in the Nawa district of Afghanistan's Helmand province Monday July 6, 2009. Photo: AP.

Bravo Company commander Cpt. Drew Schoenmaker of the U.S. Marines from the 2nd MEB, 1st Battalion 5th Marines shaves his face and head inside a compound where they stayed for the night, in the Nawa district of Afghanistan's Helmand province, Wednesday, July 8, 2009. Photo: AP.

U.S. Marines from the 2nd MEB, 1st Battalion 5th Marines sleep in their fighting holes inside a compound where they stayed for the night, in the Nawa district of Afghanistan's Helmand province, Wednesday July 8, 2009. Photo: AP.

So. How was your day?

See also Op Khanjar (photos) and Afghan flag raised above Khan Neshin for the first time.

08 July 2009

Marine Aviators to move from Iraq to Afghanistan

Serving in two different operational theaters within one deployment - pretty interesting.

HMLA-169’s OIF detachment to join squadron in Afghanistan

Cpl. Jennifer B. Poole, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd)

AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq, 7/8/2009 — After serving in Iraq for approximately three months, a detachment of Marines from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 169 will soon join the remainder of their squadron serving in Afghanistan.

“This is an amazing opportunity for every Marine within the squadron, because there aren’t a whole lot who get to serve in two operational theaters within one deployment,” said Maj. Gerry Kearney, detachment officer-in-charge for HMLA-169.

More than half of the squadron is already in Afghanistan and the remaining Marines will be joining their counterparts.

“We have been operating with about a third of the personnel, but we still have half a squadron’s worth of aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Sean McBride, senior enlisted advisor for HMLA-169. “It’s been difficult and taxing on the Marines, but Marines do what they do best, and they have adapted to what the mission requires.”

McBride says leaders within the squadron recognize and appreciate all of the Marines’ hard work.

While in Iraq, HMLA-169 has flown approximately 500 hours throughout the Al Anbar province.

“Since arriving in Iraq, we’ve supported a wide variety of missions to include convoy escorts, medical evacuation escorts, leader’s reconnaissance missions and air security patrols,” said Capt. Jake Olson, operations officer for HMLA-169.

The mission of the “Vipers” in Afghanistan will be to continue to provide offensive air support and utility support for units currently serving in operation Enduring Freedom.

More at the link.