United States Central Command: Military News from Northeast Africa, Southwest Asia, and Central Asia AOR

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

DoD Daily News-2 has moved to Rosemary's Thoughts

I thank you for your patronage, and I would like to keep this. Therefore I am letting you know that all of the same articles, opinions, news articles, etc. shall be available to you over at Rosemary's Thoughts. You will come upon other writings as well, but the Military is a high priority to me.

I love serving you, and I love helping those that I can. Please continue to visit me over at the new site. Why did I move? Because I wanted to merge all of my writings into one site. You have no idea how difficult it is to write for 8 different sites. Neither did I!

I will be moving each article over to the new site, while leaving a link here so that you may find the article. This is taking an enormous amount of time. However if you would stop over, you will find some posts that are directly related to CentCom, Blackfive, LFG, etc. It is also a cleaner site. You know how us gals are, right guys? lol. Thank you, have a great day, and keep your heads down and your powder dry. :)


Monday, August 13, 2007

Oh my! I'm still here!

I have been so busy with Linkfest's Open Trackbacks that I completely forgot to post those Military articles that I posted over at Rosemary's Thoughts! Please stop over.

I have a problem when I try to post from there over to here, also. Yes, that is my problem and not yours, so I shall tredge on. Happily. Just wanted to let you know I did not forget you. :)


Saturday, August 11, 2007

Security Detachment enables EOD to focus on task at hand

Cross-posted @ Rosemary's Thoughts.

31 July 07
By Staff Sgt. Matthew O. Holly
13th MEU

NEAR KARMAH, Iraq -- Explosive Ordnance Disposal, without question, is one of the most stressful occupations in the Marine Corps, and, if at all possible, it makes sense to rid EOD Marines of unnecessary stress and tension.

Enter the Personnel Security Detachment of 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit EOD, also known as “Task Force AWESOM-O,” headed by Staff Sgt. Jason D. Walker, MEU force protection chief. This unit, made up Command Element and Combat Logistics Battalion -13 Marines, enables EOD to focus on their ever-important task of neutralizing IEDs and reducing weapon caches.

“Our mission is to come out here and provide security for the EOD team,” said Walker. “That way EOD can concentrate on their duties while knowing they have security watching their back.”

To build “Task Force AWESOM-O,” sections throughout the MEU were asked to give up qualified Marines who were willing and able to lay their current duties aside. As many Marines were eager to participate, there was competition for the limited number of spots on the team. This, and finding the right people for the job, was a task in itself. Ultimately, the appropriate Marines were identified, put in place and more than two weeks of solid training commenced.

“We had to come a long way and complete a lot of training in a short span of time,” said Cpl. Anthony J. Principe, an infantry assault man with the 13th MEU and a Placerville, Calif. native. “Very few Marines on the team have an infantry background, but the roles were assumed, just as Marines are trained to do, and the security detachment came together.”

Walker said he has a great group of Marines and is impressed with how they jumped into their individual roles and took the initiative to come together as a team in a very important function.

“I would take any of these Marines into battle with me,” said Walker. “I look forward to watching them grow into their responsibilities and do what they’re trained to do-- so EOD can do what they do.”

Although they have only been called upon a handful of times to date, the Marines of “Task Force AWESOM-O” are standing by and ready to assist EOD.

Photo - The Personnel Security Detachment of EOD, also known as “Task Force AWESOM-O,” headed by Staff Sgt. Jason D. Walker (center), force protection chief for the 13th MEU, and made up of Marines from the 13th MEU command element and Combat Logistics Battalion 13, set up security for EOD as they prepare to neutralize a weapons cache near Karmah, Iraq. Photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew O. Holly

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Coalition Reclaims al-Jamea'a

30 July 07
By Spc. Alexis Harrison
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs

BAGHDAD - As Operation Arrowhead Ripper moves along in Diyala, ever so quietly, Operation Rogue Thunder swept through a section of the capital in hopes of ridding the area of anti-Iraqi forces for good.

The 3rd Battalion, 5th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army, their Military Transition Team and Soldiers from the U.S. 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, cleared al-Jamea'a of caches, bombs and insurgents while helping to ramp up security efforts to reclaim the area terrorized and bullied by al-Qaeda.

Terrorists in the area had been ruthlessly controlling every action of the people according to Maj. Chris Norrie, the transition team's commander. Women were forced to cover their faces, men were arrested for no apparent reason and children weren't even allowed to play soccer in the streets.

At one time al-Jamea'a was occupied by white-collar professionals until insurgents began scare tactics that led many of the well-off residents to leave their homes. Many of the mansion-sized homes in the neighborhood are empty, and as Capt. Peter Kilpatrick said, the empty homes are seen as an opportunity for insurgents to move in.

"Only 30 percent of al-Jamea'a was occupied," said Capt. Kilpatrick. "The vacancies made it vulnerable."

Several caches had been found during previous operations around the Najra Mosque area. During the first day of this operation, streets and shops around the mosque were empty. A few people cautiously came out to see the Humvees, tanks and Iraqi army vehicles stage. This would begin the lengthy process of securing the area.

Sgt. Kenneth Swartwood said many of the residents are happy to see the Coalition forces move into their neighborhood. More importantly, the combined presence of Iraqis and Americans working together proved to the people just how important the area's security was.

"We came in with open arms to the Iraqi army," said Sgt. Swartwood. "A big reason Adel and Jamea'a are good now is because of the partnership with the IA. They actually worked with them hand-in-hand. The civilians feel a lot better when it's a partnership. They feel like it's twice as secure."

After many of the new security measures were in place, the commander of the Iraqi Army battalion, Col. Raheem went to the mosque to use its loudspeaker to make an announcement to the people in the neighborhood.

He let it be known to the people that coalition forces were in the area to make a change for the better. He said security will improve for the people and that they have not only God watching them, but the entire coalition.

"Almost immediately, people began to come out of their homes," Col. Raheem said. "These people deserve to live in peace after al-Qaeda had oppressed them for so long."

Now that security measures are in place, Capt. Kilpatrick said coalition forces in the area will have 24-hour surveillance over the entire area.

"We've established several static positions," he said. "However, I don't think locals would have felt comfortable with putting a coalition outpost next to the mosque without help from the Iraqis."

Col. Raheem said many of the locals feel that having a combined presence in the area is good and that it helps gain the trust of the people even faster.

Photo - The commander of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, Col. Raheem, points out locations of traffic control points and other security measures being placed in Al Jamea'a during Operation Rogue Thunder. The Iraqi army battalion, along with a Military Transition Team and Soldiers from the U.S. 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, swept the area and implemented several new security measures during the operation. Photo by Spc. A. Lexis Harrison.

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Balad F-16s destroy terrorist training camp

Cross-posted @ Rosemary's Thoughts.

27 July 07
by Maj. Robert Couse-Baker
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFPN) -- F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing here destroyed an al-Qaida training camp southwest of Baghdad July 21.

In a coordinated attack, joint air terminal controllers on the ground cleared seven F-16s to drop 500-pound and 1,000-pound guided bombs on the terror complex near Karbala.

The precision-guided weapons destroyed the target, degrading al-Qaida's ability to mount attacks on the Iraqi government, coalition forces and innocent civilians.

The destruction of the terrorist facility is part of aggressive and comprehensive operations to hunt down, capture or kill terrorists trying to prevent a peaceful and stable Iraq, said Col. Charles Moore, the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group commander. "Our Airmen and other coalition forces are helping Iraq achieve a stable government and ultimately, helping the United States and our allies to defeat terrorism," he said.

A large part of the 332nd AEW's combat effectiveness stems from the Air Force's culture of excellence. "We train day-to-day to make sure when we are called upon to deliver, we do it with precision and professionalism," said Capt. Kevin Hicok, a pilot with the 13th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, deployed here from Misawa Air Base, Japan. "Deliberate coordination and careful planning goes into every weapons drop," Captain Hicok said, "to ensure that we have a positive ID on the target and that everyone is on the same page."

The recent increase in air operations is part of the coalition's increasing pressure on violent extremists, primarily in Baghdad and nearby areas. In a separate air strike north of Baghdad July 22, another F-16 from Balad AB dropped a precision-guided weapon on a terrorist weapons cache in a rural area, destroying it and detonating the explosives stored inside.

"I could not be prouder of the way our Airmen performed on Saturday," Colonel Moore said. "The events of this past weekend once again demonstrate the Air Force's ability to deliver decisive combat airpower any place and at any time."

Photo - An F-16 Fighting Falcon takes off for a combat mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom July 22 at Balad Air Base, Iraq. The two F-16s are deployed from the Oklahoma Air National Guard's 138th Fighter Wing at the Tulsa International Airport. F-16s from the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing destroyed an al-Qaida training camp southwest of Baghdad July 21. Photo Senior Airman Olufemi A. Owolabi

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Iraq's Prime Minister Visits Diyala for First Time

Cross-posted at Rosemary's Thoughts.

27 July 07
By Multi-National Division-North Public Affairs Office

BAQUBAH, Iraq - Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, met with the governor of Diyala, provincial leadership, key tribal leaders, Diyala’s Iraqi security force leadership and senior coalition officers during a meeting at the Baqubah Government Center, July 26.

“The prime minister’s visit is vital, not only for the government and security officials, but for the people of Diyala to see that their effort in achieving peace and fighting against terrorist groups does not go unnoticed,” said Col. David W. Sutherland, commander of coalition forces in Diyala province.

The visit, which focused on current operations in the province as well as provincial-level government issues, was Maliki’s first trip to Diyala province since taking office.

“This is a great day for Diyala province because the prime minister is among us,” said Ra’ad Hameed Al-Mula Jowad Al-Tamimi, governor of Diyala.

“We are here to thank all the excellent efforts by you (the government and security officials), and we also came to thank the people of Diyala,” Maliki said in his opening remarks. “We can say that the suffering of Diyala people is ending, and we in the central government appreciate all your efforts.”

During the meeting, Maliki addressed the peoples’ ability to rise above terrorism, assuring those present that the central government will continue to work closely with the provincial government and is committed to the people of Diyala.

“This province suffered a lot from the outlaws,” Maliki said. “They wanted it to be a huge graveyard, but we wanted something else for Diyala – and we succeeded when the Iraqi army, Iraqi police, tribes and all other people found out what the terrorists are really made of. “We are fighting against the terrorists and we will prevail,” Maliki added, before discussing the importance of tribal reconciliation.

“Iraq is not only for some people, it’s for everyone,” Maliki said. “We cannot ignore our nation and we have to be united in our efforts to build Iraq.”

“The tribes have to support the government in its war against the terrorists – they play a big role,” the governor added.

“Iraq, with all its (rich resources) and people, can eliminate all kind of threats,” Maliki continued. “We will all work together for the prosperity of this country and we will not let anyone interfere with our affairs or with the political process.”

“The ultimate success of Diyala lies in the hands of the people,” Sutherland said. “Today’s meeting continued to prove that the governments, both central and provincial, care greatly for the peoples’ safety, security and well-being. “The will of the government drives the hope of the people,” Sutherland continued, “and I hope today’s visit, along with recent operations throughout Diyala, continue to restore that hope – a hope that the terrorists tried to destroy, but couldn’t.”

Photo - Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, left, walks with Staff Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem, commander of Iraqi security forces in Diyala province, after arriving at the Baqubah Government Center for his first visit to the province since taking office, July 26, 2007. Photo by Sgt. Serena Hayden.

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KABOOM: Countering IED attacks

Cross-posted @ Rosemary's Thoughts.

27 July 07
By Spc. Mathew Leary

Hearing the explosion just around the corner from his vehicle July 15, Army Sgt. Felix W. Bala knew that some of his fellow Paratroopers had just been hit by an improvised explosive device.

"We were cruising along about to make a turn when all you could hear was the explosion," Bala said.

Commanding his driver to quickly take the next turn so they could help their presumably injured comrades, Bala’s truck executed a sharp left turn and pulled up near the damaged HMMWV. By this point, the other vehicles in his platoon had formed a wide perimeter around the blast area. As their truck rolled to a stop, the Soldiers were relieved as they looked back at the truck in question, Bala said.

"By that time, the guys in the truck were getting out of the vehicle under their own power," he said. While this IED attack involved Bala and Paratroopers of 1st Platoon, Troop A, 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, it is a reminder that for all U.S. servicemembers serving in Afghanistan, the fight against IEDs is critical.

"The way to cut down on IEDs is to build the relationship between local citizens, the Afghan National Security Force and the [Islamic Republic of Afghanistan]," said Army 1st Lt. Briton M. Crouch, 1st Plt. leader for Troop A, 4-73rd Cav. For this reason, the Paratroopers of the 4-73rd Cav. are headed back to the town of Hassan in Gelan district, the village where an IED went off under one of the trucks, the day after the attack.

IED-DAY Minus 1.

Leaders from the 4-73rd Cav. are determined to pursue all leads relevant to the IED attack on Troop A just the day prior to July 16. The return trip to the village is designed to achieve one simple goal--stop further IED attacks. "We are doing a follow-up in the area to garner more support," said Army Capt. George E. Bolton Jr., commander of Troop A. "You have to work with the people so they will prevent [IED attacks] from happening."

As troopers from the 4-73rd Cav. arrive in town, a handful of local villagers begin to fill the streets to see what is going on. After a few minutes, more and more locals enter and begin approaching and talking to the Soldiers, although often neither party can understand the other due to the language barrier. Although not all the conversations can be translated, fortunately there are interpreters with Troop A to facilitate some communication, the fact any talking is taking place is a good sign, Bolton said.

"They showed up and that’s the first step," he said. A group of village elders, who are the authoritative figure for Hassan, gather together with ISAF to hold an impromptu shura, a sort of town meeting in Afghanistan.

Speaking with Bolton and Army Lt. Col. David J. Woods, commander of the 4-73rd Cav., the locals speak their minds about the conditions in their town. They address the security situation and lack of ANSF forces in the area.

One of the problems facing the developing ANSF in the past is they have not had the capabilities to visit all of the villages in their area. However, as they grow and mature, they are slowly extending their hold over areas of Afghanistan that have been void of any law enforcement for several months, Woods said.

"They told me the Taliban comes in at night driving through the village to harass and intimidate the people," Crouch said.

IED-DAY Minus 2.

The Paratroopers are preparing to head back to Hassan to again engage the local populace, but this time with the aid of ANSF and District Commissioner Mubaballah, who is the head of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Gelan.

"This is where we assist the ANSF in their mission," Bolton said. Mubaballah and ANSF soldiers independently wanted to visit the town, but with their police and military forces spread out on other missions they lacked the resources to travel there. So they teamed up with ISAF to make the trip.

"That’s part of our role here, to allow the establishment of their government in their own country," Woods said. "That’s our job, that’s our purpose."

ISAF support ANSF by providing the police force the extra manpower to cover most of the district and provides training to the ANP and ANA, showing them standard military techniques and strategies, Woods said. Really, this is the best way to curb IED attacks that injure not only military forces but Afghan civilians as well. Developing a congenial relationship between the people, IRoA and ISAF are the key, Woods said.

At this shura, ISAF personnel take a back seat as the district commissioner engages the village elders, again encouraging them to work with ANSF and government officials. "When a police chief or government official comes down to see them, it makes the people feel like they are loved and cared for," Bolton said. The results are evident as the townspeople speak freely about their need for new roads and schools, as well as the threat of Taliban insurgents who plant IEDs on their roadways.

"The whole thing is for us to separate the Taliban from the people," Bolton said. "These people are afraid of the insurgency and unsure of their government," Woods said. "But that’s why we are here, to help them establish those relationships, and show them that the ANSF and [IRoA] are going to give them that sense of security."

"By providing that link between the people and their government, while simultaneously distancing the insurgency from the people is exactly the way to slow down the emplacement of IEDs in these remote towns and villages," Woods said.

It is evident some form of bonding is taking place as children run up to Soldiers tugging on their sleeves playfully and the villagers and troopers exchange waves and smiles.

Perhaps that will prevent more Soldiers from cruising along and suddenly hearing that sound no Soldier wants to hear:


Photo - Communicating through means other than talking, Sgt. 1st Class Matthew S. Parrish, mortar platoon sergeant for Troop A, 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, demonstrates the art of "high-fiving" to a group of Afghan kids July 16 while visiting Hassan village in the Gelan District, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan. Photo by Spc. Matthew Leary.

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Precious Poets Remember Our Troops; Back a Play

There was a young gentleman who read Beyond Glory: Medal of Honor Heroes in Their Own Words by Larry Smith. After reading this book, he felt compelled to write a play about these men and tell their stories in words. It opened in 2004 "on the edge of Arlington Cemetery, at a small theater inside the Women in Military Service Memorial." Eight of these men were chosen of the twenty-four available to represent the men to be honored. There was an apolitical play, meaning this was not about politics. It is about our Heroes.

So how did it Mr. Lang, the performer, come to travel the world performing his play for our men and women in the Middle East, on the DMZ (dividing line between North and South Korea), Europe, and many other places? This is where our precious poets step up to the plate to support our Troops.
Mr. Peede had been asked to direct a new NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] program called Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience. Its intention was to help soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, or their families, to put their experiences into writing--fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The idea was suggested to NEA Chairman Dana Gioia, a poet, by Connecticut poet Marilyn Nelson, who'd recently served as a visiting writer at West Point. Good for the poets.

Reluctant to wait years for Congressional funding or to divert money from other NEA programs, Chairman Gioia sought private funding for Operation Homecoming. Quietly, the Boeing Company stepped up, ultimately giving $1.2 million. The soldiers' tutors at NEA's workshops included writers such as Barry Hannah, Tobias Wolff, Mark Bowden, Victor Davis Hanson and Tom Clancy. The result is a book, "Operation Homecoming" (Random House), which--again some understatement--is breathtakingly good. [Continue reading Mr. Henninger's article.]
It is a wonderful thing that has been done, finally, by the NEA and the Opinion Journal's article. You may purchase Operation Homecoming at Amazon.com. I thought you might like to know. Have a wonderful day! :)

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    Sunday, August 05, 2007

    Marines take to skies to hunt insurgents

    25 July 07
    By Lance Cpl. Joseph D. Day
    2nd Marine Division (FWD)

    Ramadi, Iraq -- The scout-sniper platoon from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, left the ground behind as they took to the skies to hunt for weapon caches and insurgents. As part of the aeroscout mission, the Marines travel by helicopter to areas not normally checked because of their remote locations.

    “The average size group for this type of mission is usually two platoons. We’re doing it with about half,” said 1st Lt. Jordan D. Reese, the executive officer for Weapons Company, 3/7. “We train constantly, so that we are comfortable with each other. The Marines know what type of air power they have behind them. We believe there is no objective we can’t handle.”

    Marines from the scout-sniper platoon conducted aeroscout operations south of Ramadi, in the desolate lands of the Razazah plains July 22.

    The Marines loaded onto the helicopters at 9 a.m. They carried with them a full combat load, and packs of food, blankets and water to pass out to the people they encounter on the mission.

    “The food drops are our way to show that we are on their side,” the Rockford Ill. native said. “In the city this might not be a big deal, but this food could mean life or death to these people. There is nothing out there in the far desert. Maybe it will keep them happy enough to have them stay working with us, and not the terrorists.”

    During the flight, Reese observed different sites looking for anything suspicious. After flying around for about 15 minutes, he spotted a tent with vehicles around it and people walking around. He decided to insert the team to take a closer look.

    The two CH-53 Sea Stallions landed and the two scout-sniper teams moved fast out the door of the helicopter and began to provide security for the landing zone.

    “With a unit this small conducting the operation, it is real easy to maneuver,” Reese said. “We can get in, hit the objective, and get out in about 20 minutes.”

    Once the helicopters lifted the scouts went to work, moving fast, but cautiously toward the tent. Between the two teams, one team held security while the other team searched the people and the structure.

    After a quick, but thorough search the Marines decided there weren’t any suspicious items or information, so they called in the helicopters for extraction.

    “These missions give us a presence in an area which hasn’t had any coalition forces in it for years or even ever,” Reese said.

    “This will keep the bad guys on their toes and that is really what we’re going for. Keep them guessing so we can catch up to them and get them.”

    Though the Marines had finished with the objective, they were not done. While observing a different area, Reese noticed some additional suspicious activities. They went back to work.

    “The Marines showed the ethos of being a professional warrior today,” said Capt. Miguel A. Pena, a forward air controller for the battalion. “They showed the people we’re here to provide help to them.”

    As the Marines sprinted toward their second objective, men came out with their hands up as the Marines approached their vehicles.

    “We are able to reach far into the desert winds and help some people who we had no contact with before,” Pena said. “We are conducting these missions in a nonstandard way. Before they were ground driven, now we bring the air element to the fight.”

    The Marines questioned the men through the interpreter. They asked them about where they were from, why they were there, and if anything suspicious happened recently. The Marines gave the group of men the one of their packs of food for co-operating with them.

    The Marines then set up landing zone security again, while Pena called for the birds to come pick them up.

    “These missions provide us with the opportunity to hit the enemy before they hit us,” Reese said. “We will continue to do it because of all the positive effects it has on the people and on our mission here in Ramadi.”

    Photo - Lance Cpl. Adam A. Ramirez, squad automatic weapon gunner for the scout snipers, runs off the CH-53 Sea Stallion toward the objective. The Marines only have a short time on the ground so they move fast to ensure they can get everything they need done at each site.

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    Airmen prep battlefield dropping 120,000 leaflets

    24 July 07
    by Capt. Teresa Sullivan
    379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

    SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) - Airmen of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing dropped 120,000 leaflets over the Helmand Province in Afghanistan July 22 to help prevent civilian casualties while prepping the battlefield for future operations.

    The nine-member crew of the 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, all based out of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, successfully accomplished a short-notice mission to release leaflets over four southwestern Afghanistan drop zones in a dangerous Taliban hot spot, despite challenging winds and dust storms.

    The leaflets were designed to deliver a message to the people of the province to take refuge in their homes and also discourage them from harboring Taliban members. In the meantime, coalition forces continue efforts to eliminate the insurgent's stronghold while avoiding loss of innocent lives.

    The mission began several days prior to C-130 Hercules' takeoff when the squadron was alerted and planners began developing their strategy. Their computer-based plan considered route, location, wind forecasts and leaflet size in its calculations. High winds and dust storms throughout the area made planning a challenge.

    Prior to the mission, the aircrew gathered to discuss the game plan.

    "It's going to be a long night, but you are all prepared," said Lt. Col. Joe Sexton, the 746th EAS commander to the C-130 crew after the mission brief. "It's no coincidence that you all are on this (mission). I have full confidence in all of you. You guys are going to go out there and do it right."

    Ready to put their plan to the test, they set off for the airdrop.

    "We were originally scheduled to do a different mission, but we were alerted to come into work because we were going to be doing a 'special' mission," said Capt. Brett Cochran, a C-130 pilot and native of Pflugerville, Texas. The captain was responsible for flying the aircraft over four drop zones. "This is the first mission of this kind for our squadron during this deployment so far, so it's important we get things started on a good note."

    A lot was on the minds of crew members who were new to the combat zone airdrop business. "What-if" discussions included the dust storms, fuel, shifting winds, contingency plans and defensive tactics on the way to Kandahar International Airport to pick up the leaflets.

    The Air Force uses leaflets to deter enemy forces or reduce their will to fight. In this case they were being used to encourage innocent bystanders to stay out of harm's way. While the leaflet-drop mission may be new to some of the pilots of this expeditionary squadron, it's a mission that's tied closely to the 379th AEW's heritage.

    In the summer of 1944, leaflets were dropped over Germany by the 379th's ancestor, the 379th Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force, intended to shape the adversary's psyche, and to destroy their ability to wage war.

    Then 379th BG's leaflets were designed to spread the word on allied progress during World War II. Some provided words of encouragement to the people of enemy-occupied countries while others focused on relentless bombings of Nazi airfields, oil refineries and cities undermining the enemy's will to resist.

    Knowing the wing's forefathers carried out similar missions 63 years ago reminded the aircrew that they're part of a long tradition of airpower.

    "It's neat that we can continue on with the legacy," said 1st Lt. Mike Heddinger, a 746th EAS co-pilot from Wichita Falls, Texas. "It's also great that we'll be helping the guys on the ground by prepping the battlefield."

    As the crew departed Kandahar for the Helmand Province, pilots reviewed their play book once more while loadmasters rehearsed the drop in their minds preparing the harnesses, oxygen tanks and boxes of leaflets.

    "What we're going to do is line these boxes up as advertised and push them out the door at the right time," said Master Sgt. Larry Lambert, a 746th EAS senior loadmaster from Asbury, N.J.

    The loadmasters in the back of the C-130 were responsible for the drop portion of the mission, communicating closely with the crew in the cockpit.

    "We've been around the block a few times, so I can put my faith in the guys up front (of the C-130)," he said. "These leaflets can save innocent lives, so we're fired up to be a part of this."

    As the aircraft approached the drop zone Sergeant Lambert established contact with his two loadmaster teammates using designated hand signals, letting them know when they were 20, 10, four, three, two and one minute away.

    The crew was 5,000 feet above the target and everyone was fully prepared in safety gear. Within the hour the mission was complete. The crew went four for four over the Helmand Province, dropping the leaflets on time and on target. Within minutes it would be raining leaflets over the Helmand Province.

    "It was a good day. We accomplished what we were asked to do," said Captain Cochran. "We completed the mission at hand and it's a great feeling."

    This is what it's all about, said Maj. Pat O'Sullivan, the 746th EAS director of operations, from Sebring, Fla.

    "We love this stuff. Missions like this drop with little to no notice," he said. "As soon as we received the word, they started moving, planning for and coordinating every possible scenario and variable. They were ready for every situation, guaranteeing a successful mission."

    Photo - Tech. Sgt. Matt Rossi drops 30,000 leaflets July 22 over a drop zone in the Helmand Province in Afghanistan. The squadron successfully met their objective of dropping 120,000 leaflets over the Helmand Province, prepping the battlefield. Sergeant Rossi is a 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron instructor loadmaster. Photo by Capt. Teresa Sullivan.

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    Soldier Chefs Keep Units Fueled at Remote Outpost

    24 July 07
    By Sgt. Natalie Rostek

    COMBAT OUTPOST CLEARY, Iraq - It has been said that an Army runs on its stomach, and most Soldiers would agree.

    Soldiers from the 15th Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion here rely on a five-member team to supply them with the culinary fuel they need to carry out their missions.

    A typical day for the Soldier chefs starts at 4 a.m.

    "Half of cooking is presentation," said Pfc. Emril Getscher. "We try to make everything we do look good as well as taste good."

    After breakfast is served and the area is cleaned, the food-service team usually has a few hours before repeating the process for dinner. Their work finally ends around 9 p.m.

    The team receives rations, supplies and supplements every few days from the 203rd Brigade Support Battalion's Company F. Each meal comes with a menu and instructions.

    Food sanitation is a large part of a cook's job, and harsh conditions in Iraq - like dust - can make the job even harder, according to Staff Sgt. Russell Slouffman, senior NCO in charge of food service at COP Cleary. The conditions also make transporting and storing food difficult.

    "One of the biggest problems is not getting the food and supplies we ask for... it's the conditions," said Staff Sgt. Slouffman. Ice cream, for example, is one of Soldiers' biggest requests when the temperatures reach 120 degrees.

    "But it would have to be transported on dry ice or in freezers. We just don't have those capabilities," he said.

    Of the meals they do receive and prepare at the outpost, Staff Sgt. Slouffman and Pfc. Getscher agree that steaks, hamburgers and hot dogs are Soldiers' favorites.

    "When we cook hamburgers and hot dogs, everyone feels like they are at home," Pfc. Getscher said. "We have the grill going, and we bring out chili and chips and it kind of brings us all back to the states."

    Despite the long days and challenges, the food service specialists say they love their work.

    "And when people say thank you," Pfc. Getscher said, "it makes it all worth it."

    "We are the No. 1 morale booster out here. When Soldiers get excited to eat something we cooked, I get excited," added Staff Sgt. Slouffman. "It's all about seeing the smiles on their faces when they come to chow."

    Photo - Pfc. Emril Getscher, a cook for the 15th Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion, serves mashed potatoes to Spc. Brendan Murphy, a medic at Combat Outpost Cleary, Iraq. Photo by Sgt. Natalie Rostek.

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    Iraqi Army Takes Security Lead

    24 July 07
    By Lance Cpl. Joseph D. Day
    2nd Marine Division (Forward)

    RAMADI, Iraq — As the evening sun started to set, the Iraqi army geared up. After looking over each other’s equipment thoroughly, they prepared to step off.

    On July 21, the 1st Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division, led Marines on a foot patrol through the ghetto of Ramadi to identify local populace needs and how their basic utilities were working

    “This area of Ramadi used to be one of the most dangerous,” said one local citizen. “Every day there were bombs and insurgents fighting the coalition. Now, this area is so quiet that it may even be considered the best in the city.”

    One of the local residents claimed, “I believe that most of this is due to the Iraqi army patrolling this area constantly. Bad guys would walk these streets as if they owned them. Then the Iraqi army started patrolling here, and they haven’t been back since.” With a smile, the patrol and the citizens parted ways.

    The soldiers of the Iraqi army sniper platoon walk through each street carefully, moving from corner to corner, but taking the time to talk to the locals. Everywhere they walked the people came running up expressing their gratitude saying "hello" and "thank you."

    When asked what the Iraqi army philosophy was when dealing with the people, Iraqi army Sgt. Maj. Abbas Abud Kadin, the senior enlisted man of the Iraqi Scout Sniper Platoon said, “I talked to them with my heart open. I will do anything for these people whether I share a joke, give them candy or just listen to their problems, I do it all with an open heart. I do it because if I help them, they will help me.”

    Walking up to a group of men sitting in the front lawn, Kadin extends his right hand to them and greets them. The rest of the soldiers take a knee and provide security as the group talks.

    The men also said the security in the area has improved drastically in the last two months. Whereas they used to be afraid to sit on their front lawn drinking tea, now they know that no one will bother them. The man said that he can enjoy his time out there with his friends and know that the only interruption they might have will be from friendly Iraqi army soldiers and policemen, stopping by to say "hello."

    “I try to teach my men to respect the people here, because they could save our lives,” Kadin said. “If we show them respect they will show us respect and help us fight the insurgency.”

    Kadin found a 7.62mm shell casing on the way back to the base. A little curious about why it was in the street he asked some nearby residents.

    They told him the casing had come from a local who had a celebration the day prior.

    “My goal here is to help the good people of Ramadi rid themselves of the insurgency that plagues them. I want all of this country to be safe,” Kadin said. “If it starts here in Ramadi, then so be it. I know that my men and I are doing a very good job. I will terminate as many insurgents as I can, until there are no more to fight, then I will know we are done here. But we will move to the next city to do the same for them.”

    Photo - Iraqi Army Sgt. Maj. Abbas Abud Kadin, the senior enlisted man of the Iraqi Scout Sniper Platoon, hands out candy to some children during a patrol here. The patrol was trying to find out what the citizens of Ramadi needed to make their neighborhoods a better place to live. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Joseph D. Day.

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    Monday, July 30, 2007

    New Vehicles Support Mission in Anbar

    23 July 07
    By Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard
    Regimental Combat Team 6

    CAMP FALLUJAH, Iraq — Marines with Regimental Combat Team 6 recently got their hands on the Marine Corps’ newest counter to attacks by terrorist forces in Anbar Province. The Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rapid Response Vehicle, or JERRV, is the latest melding of technology and combat firepower to find its way onto the battlefield in Iraq. Like any new weapon fielded to Marines, instructors are needed to certify potential operators in its use

    One of the JERRV operator instructors for the regiment is Cpl. Miarco T. McMillian, a motor transportation operator with Headquarters Company. He is one of a handful of instructors responsible for training the Marines who will be driving the trucks on combat and logistics patrols throughout Al Anbar Province.

    The JERRV is one type of vehicle in the category of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles, or MRAPs. It’s the usual alphabet soup of military acronyms that all boils down to one thing: protecting Marines in combat. Unlike the Humvee, the current workhorse of the American vehicle fleet, the JERRV chassis was designed with heavy bomb-proof armor in mind.

    “There’s a higher sense of security with brand new vehicles. They’re designed to carry the weight of the armor,” said McMillian, a Las Vegas native and 1998 graduate of Meadows High School. “(The JERRVs) are 40,000 pounds but they can go up to 52,000 pounds with extra modifications. Being surrounded by all that armor makes you feel safe.”

    Gunnery Sgt. Matthew A. Larson, the motor transportation maintenance chief for RCT-6, echoed McMillian’s sentiment. “They're like no other vehicle I have ever driven,” Larson said. “They are like riding in a bank-vault with wheels. You can't help but feel safer in the JERRV than in an armored Humvee. These vehicles will definitely save lives.”

    Larson said the process of training Marines on the JERRV will be a “continuous process. The intent is for RCT-6 instructors to train instructors in all of the subordinate units, while simultaneously teaching all potential operators in the RCT headquarters,” said Larson, a Hubert, N.C., native. “When all is said and done, we should have in the ball park of 700 or so Marines trained to operate the MRAPs.”

    RCT-6 will need every one of those operators to man the fleet of vehicles it is slated to receive. Around 500 MRAPs, including the JERRV and other variants, will make an immediate impact on the mission in Anbar Province, according to Capt. Russell W. Wilson, the motor transportation officer for RCT-6.

    “The MRAP will go a long way in the IED force protection of our Marines, sailors and soldiers; however, this added protection comes with a price. The price is reduced visibility, maneuverability, off road capability … and (experienced operators),” he said. “That is where training becomes critical to the success of the vehicle and the adaptation to accomplish the mission.”

    McMillian said his first experience with the JERRV was something any civilian can identify with.“It smells like a brand new car. It’s got that nice, plastic, clean car smell,” said McMillian. “There’s nothing else like it in the world.” More important than the smell, McMillian said, is how the 20-ton, six-wheeled behemoth handles.

    “Surprisingly, it handles very well. It’s a lot more nimble than you would expect from a 20-ton vehicle. Its turning radius is amazing, and its versatility and terrain capability is way up there,” he said.

    A versatile vehicle requires a versatile operator. This is the value in having Marines like McMillian in the instructor seat, said Wilson.

    “The Marine Corps is one of the only places in the world where a corporal, with relatively minimal training, teaching, and public speaking experience, can get out there and teach all ranks and grades with confidence and professionalism,” he said. “With the training of Cpl. McMillian and the cadre of instructors like him, we aim to safely and rapidly field the MRAP for convoy security and give Marines a better fighting chance against the tactics of the enemy.”

    Photo - Marine Cpl. Miarco T. McMillian is a certification instructor for the new Joint Explosive Ordnance Disposal Rapid Response Vehicle, or JERRV, with Regimental Combat Team 6. The JERRV, pictured behind McMillian, is the newest addition to the Corps' arsenal to combat the threat from roadside bombs. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Stephen M. DeBoard.

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    Sailors help bridge comm gap for Soldiers in Baghdad

    This post has been to Rosemary's Thoughts. Please find it over at my new site. I apologize for any inconvenience, but it's better than not being able to find it at all. Thank you. ;)


    CJTF-HOA helps provide education to Pemba Island children

    22 July 07
    by Maj. Kristi Beckman
    CJTF-HOA Public Affairs

    CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti – “Asalaam aleikum,” (may God’s peace be upon you) and “karibu,” (welcome) are common words you will hear on Pemba Island of Zanzibar, Tanzania, in East Africa, which was the site of a primary school dedication by Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa on July 16.

    A dedication is an event the coalition of Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa holds when they complete a civil-military project. The dedication symbolizes turning over the completed project to the local community. So far this year, CJTF-HOA has dedicated 22 projects throughout the Horn of Africa.

    Through building wells, constructing schools and conducting numerous other Civil-Military Operations, CJTF-HOA is building capacity throughout the Horn of Africa to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect coalition interests in order to prevail against extremism.

    The construction of this dedication project was the result of a combined effort of the U.S. military, U.S. State Department, United States Agency for International Development, the Government of Tanzania and the Zanzibari Department of Education. The delegation consisted of the U.S. Ambassador to the United Republic of Tanzania, Michael L. Retzer; Zanzibari Minister of Education, Honorable Haroun Ali Suleiman; Country Director for USAID, Pamela White; Director of Strategic Communication for CJTF-HOA, Navy Capt. Robert Wright as well as numerous other U.S. and Tanzanian government officials.

    The U.S. military delegation traveled to the island to dedicate the Matale Village Primary School to the people of the village. The village is home to about 3,000 people. A winding dirt road, which runs through the village, intertwines through a lush green jungle of thick palms and banana plants where women are dressed in colorful scarves and children stare at the passersby with big brown, curious eyes as the men wave from the doorsteps of their homes.

    As the party pulled up to the school, they were greeted by several hundred children singing and dancing at the top of their lungs. “Leo twashangiria shule ku fungui wa.” Translated, it means, “Today we are celebrating because our school is opening.” The school, built by a local contractor, TRADETECH, Limited, and funded by the U.S. Government, will become a learning center for more than 250 children, ages 7-13. Until now, the children walked between three and five kilometers (one-way) to go to school. This walking distance contributed to a high drop out rate and ultimately a higher illiteracy rate in this rural area.

    After cutting the inaugural ribbon and unveiling two new dedication plaques in English and Kiswahili, Minister Suleiman praised the children for their excellent academic marks and called the new Matale Village Primary School the “number one” school in all of Zanzibar. He thanked the U.S. government for working in close partnership with the government of Tanzania on this and other important assistance projects.

    The plaques state “Matale Village School is a gift from the people of the United States of America to the people of the United Republic of Tanzania. Dedicated July 2007 by Ambassador Michael L. Retzer.” The $210,000 invested by the U.S. government in building and outfitting Matale Village Primary School are part of a total U.S. government assistance program in Tanzania totaling over $540,000,000 in 2007.

    “On behalf of the American people, I wish to congratulate the Matale community, and I would like to encourage the children of Matale to study hard in the classroom,” said Retzer. “Your future will be brighter indeed.”

    The party toured the new school, which is one of the only schools on the island with electricity. In the spacious classrooms were long wooden bench desks furnished by USAID. They were designed to fit three children each and the tops of the desks held school supplies of notebooks, coloring books, pens, pencils, glue, calculators and athletic equipment. The school supplies were donated by Mrs. Waldrop’s class at Rhodes Elementary School in Milton, Fla. The relationship between the two schools was established by Chief Petty Officer Shane Peterson, Country Coordination Element Senior Noncommissioned Officer in Charge.

    “I explained to my wife what we were doing for the children of Matale village and she decided to contact my children's teachers at Rhodes Elementary and propose a sort of school partnership; not only to help the children and teachers of Matale, but to educate the children at Rhodes about the culture of the Island of Pemba.”

    The dedication of the Matale Village School was a significant event for CJTF-HOA and its interagency partners, exemplifying U.S. capacity building efforts in Africa, said Wright. He was overwhelmed by the day’s events. As he spoke to the children, he said, “I have never seen so many beautiful children and so much hope. While we celebrate these beautiful new buildings today, we also celebrate the friendship and partnership between the people of the United States and Tanzania.”

    Adding to the comments during the dedication, Minister Suleiman recognized the significance of the contribution to the lives of the children of Matale Village and to the future of education in Tanzania. “Mister Ambassador, you did a good job” said Minister Suleiman, who followed with similar praise for CJTF-HOA’s effort saying “Captain Bob, you and your team did a good job”.

    Summing up the dedication, Captain Wright said the Matale School was a huge collaborative success. “The project results exceeded everyone's expectations and will undoubtedly contribute to increased quality of life and opportunity for the children of Pemba,” he said.

    Pemba Island is the world's leading clove producer boasting more than three million clove trees. More than 350,000 people inhabit Pemba, also known as “Al Jazeera Al Khadra” (the green island, in Arabic). Pemba forms part of the Zanzibar archipelago, lying off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean.

    Photo - U.S. Ambassador Michael Retzer, Director of USAID Pamela White; Zanzibar Minister of Education Honorable Haroun Suleiman, and Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa representative Navy Capt. Bob Wright dedicates a Matale Village Primary School, to the village of Matale, Pemba Island, Tanzania July 16. Photo by MC1(AW/SW) Clinton C. Beaird.

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    DepComm Gen, 101st Airborne Div visit marks change for Kandahar Airfield

    23 July 07
    By Army Capt. Vanessa R. Bowman
    22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - The deputy commanding General, 101st Airborne Division led a site survey visit to Kandahar Airfield July 20. The purpose of Brig. Gen. James McConville's visit was to gain information and situational awareness for future deployments on roles and operations of the command and support elements here.

    McConville met with senior leaders and increased his familiarity with the missions of the U.S. National Command Element (South), U.S. National Support Element (South), Regional Command (South) Headquarters and the International Security Assistance Force. He also received updates on logistics hub and base operations, aviation asset management and the NATO transition process.

    The visit began with an overview of the historical strategic significance of Kandahar and an explanation of the dynamic, multi-national environment that defines KAF and RC (South).

    "Kandahar has a long history," said Army Maj. Doug Brown, S3, Task Force Anzio. "It has been and remains a strategically significant geographic location because of the trade routes through the country. Kandahar itself dates back to Alexander the Great, who the Afghans still hold in high esteem."

    "The history of this place is amazing," remarked McConville. Kandahar remains strategically important to modern Afghanistan. Because of this and the important multi-national effort that is based from KAF, ISAF's largest operating base, the installation remains an important military asset. KAF is a complex installation headed by four lead stake holder nations.

    Currently, these nations are the U.S., which also has overall installation command, the U.K., Canada and the Royal Netherlands. The nations primarily share responsibility for providing life support and maintenance of facilities and structures on the installation. At the end of July, KAF will transition from the U.S., as lead nation, to NATO in a change of command ceremony between Army Col. Richard L. Stevens, current commander of KAF and U.K. Air Commodore Ashley Stevenson the incoming COMKAF (designate).

    "The change of command follows a 12 month period that started July 2006 when the official KAF to NATO transfer of authority happened," explained Stevens. "Over the year between the transfer of authority and the change of command the U.S. remained the lead nation as NATO grew their capabilities to support the logistics operations and the installation infrastructure."

    Despite the many changes happening at KAF, most noticeably the transition from U.S. control, the installation will remain important to U.S. forces. "U.S. forces will continue to perform a wide range of missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and ISAF using KAF as a power projection platform," said Stevens. "Logistics support of these forces remains a national responsibility."

    The U.S. NSE will remain here as the driving force behind that support dedicated to their primary goals to arm, fix, fuel, move and sustain the warfighters they support. "Timely and uninterrupted logistic support to all U.S. forces is our mission," said Air Force 1st Lt. Donell Pittman, NATO transition lead officer, U.S. NSE. Matters of supply and support aren't the only reasons KAF will remain important, there are tactical ones as well.

    "Kandahar is a major tactical objective for the enemy forces," said Stevens. "If they can separate Kandahar from Kabul they will consider that victory." While changes are on the horizon the importance of KAF will remain.

    McConville expressed his thanks for the overview of the U.S. operation in RC (South) and encouraged the Task Force Anzio team to continue the outstanding support of U.S. forces. "In this business you fight the fight for those that replace you," said McConville. "The reality of the NCE is that it is here to stay to support the U.S. presence in RC (South) as long as we're needed," said Stevens.

    Photo - Brig. Gen. James McConville, Deputy Commanding General 101st Airborne Division shakes hands with the new Task Force Corsair Commander Lt. Col. Jayson A. Altieri following the Task Force Corsair change of command ceremony that was held his Kandahar Airfield site survey visit July 20. Photo by Capt. Vanessa R. Bowman.

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    WARNING: Not age appropriate; Video

    This is a video where you must be over 18 years old to view. That is why I am linking to the video instead of having it here.

    There is some writing on this video, however, which I believe would be alright to share. Sometimes these videos go by so fast that I cannot read it all, so I have decided to write it down for you in case you missed it.


    A sniper that fired on Coalition Forces was killed by an attack helicopter Northeast of Baghdad. July 14, 2007.

    (No sound.)

    After the sniper was killed, Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division were able to proceed beyond the bridge where they later discovered a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device factory in the Qanat Banat al Hasan area.

    The car bomb factory contained 2,000 lbs. of ammonium nitrate, 1,000 lbs. of nitric acid, 10 large shape charges and two trucks already rigged for detonation. Artillery fire was used to destroy the factory.


    It lasts only 1:46 minutes. Great job, guys.

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    Chairman of Taliban's Military Shura KILLED!

    Bill Roggio is an excellent writer who decided he was not going to write about those things which he did not have first hand experience, so he suited up and became an embed both in Iraq and Afghanistan. (He's had experience from before, but he just felt compelled to do this.) His latest article (I think he is home now) is wonderful news written this morning or very late last night.

    Qari Faiz Mohammad killed in a raid in Helmand province

    Afghan and ISAF have been conducting major offensives up and down the Helmand River Valley in the northern portion of the province over the past several months. Major ground and air strikes have been ongoing in the Musa Qala, Kajaki, Nari Saraj, and Sangin districts in Helmand province, as well as in the Ghorak district in Kandahar and in southwestern Uruzgan. Coalition forces have been attempted to clear the Taliban stronghold and reopen the vital Kajaki Dam. The Taliban openly control the Musa Qala district. Upwards of 150 Taliban fighters have been killed in strikes in the region during the past week. (Please continue reading at Bill's The Fourth Rail.
    Such wonderful news! I hope you have not forgotten that we are still in Afghanistan. I hope you have not forgotten why. If you do remember, then you should know that when we removed them from power they would need a place a to go. THAT is why they are in Iraq. To join in the fight for our very existence.

    Why do I say, "...our very existence"? The Taliban and al Qaida are interchangeable names they call one another. This is to give some of the terrorists cover. Do not be fooled. Now that that's cleared up, let us turn our heads towards reason, shall we?

    If they need somewhere to go, they will find a place to go. Right? What will they do once they get there? Will they continue the war they have waged upon us? YOU BETCHA.

    No matter when, where, who, what and no one gives a flying hoot about why, the fight will continue. They want every Christian, Jew, Atheist, Agnostic, Hindu, non-proper Muslim, and everyone else who does not subscribe to their way of interpreting the Koran DEAD. Are we clear on this now? Good. Have a nice day.

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    Sunday, July 29, 2007

    North Bend, Ore. native inspires Marines with art

    20 Jul 07
    By Sgt. Andy Hurt
    13th MEU

    NEAR KARMAH, Iraq -- On a blistering hot day here in the Al Anbar province, Marines not conducting patrols seek solace in shade and machine-cooled air, books, video games and word finds. It’s highly unlikely to find a Marine outdoors unless he has to be. One of those Marines is Lance Cpl. Cory Howland. A gunner for Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines, Howland is working on something special. His latest masterpiece is a table-top drawing of a comically voluptuous she-devil, complete with horns, tail and menacing eyes. It’s huge, and perfect. Although Howland has spent the last two days here scratching away at the table with a map pen, wiping dust from his eyes after every pen stroke, he wouldn’t rather be doing anything else. Howland is a company artist.

    The drawing is Howland’s submission in an art competition. The Marines of Kilo Company recently moved to Combat Outpost Lincoln and have worked around the clock to make the base livable. Filling hundreds of sandbags and erecting camouflaged netting in uncovered areas have been the main tasks, and now the finishing touches are being added. For the completion of the table, set between two company tents, Howland was pitted against a fellow company artist, Lance Cpl. Michael Morgan. Although there isn’t a prize, the reward, says Howland, is completion.

    “I could care less what people think. When I’m done, I love looking back and saying ‘I made this.’”


    Howland hails from the Great Pacific Northwest. Bedded along Oregon’s rocky pine-peppered coast lies North Bend, pop. 10,000, Howland’s home town. It’s the kind of place, Howland says, where “everybody knows your name.”

    “North Bend is the one place I’ve always known where everyone is nice and always in a good mood … you feel comfortable walking down the street.”

    From the age of twelve, Howland has been drawing. Everywhere on everything. He’s never without a pencil and paper. North Bend High School was the perfect place for a young artist to branch out. “In high school, I took an art class every term,” he said. “I did everything, from painting to molding jars of clay.”

    His true love of drawing, however, was apparent to his instructors, and Howland says they gave him free reign, whatever the period of instruction was. “After a while, my teachers kind of realized that I loved to draw, so I really didn’t have to do what the rest of the class was doing. They’d just let me chill out and draw.”

    The relaxed atmosphere, combined with raw talent produced excellent results. When Howland was a sophomore, his work was added to a permanent installation at a local museum. Howland says the accomplishment has been his proudest moment. “It’s still there,” he said, “Just a simple drawing of a vase and a flower.”

    Another of his favorite pieces is a twelve-inch clay figurine of “Jack the Pumpkin King” from the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas. Howland said the sculpture, which took him the better part of three months to complete, was a tribute to his instructor who worked as an animator on the film. “I’m pretty sure it’s still at the school.”

    While producing his art, Howland says he was all-along considering service in the military. After careful deliberation, he whittled his future down to two options – art school, or the Marine Corps. The final decision came from, what else?, a televised omen.

    “I remember sitting on the couch, watching TV, and a commercial came on for an art institute. I asked myself ‘should I pursue an art career, or the Marine Corps? And no kidding, the next commercial that came on was the Marine Corps commercial – the one where the guy is climbing – and I pretty much made up my mind then.”

    Honor, Courage, Commitment … and tattoos

    Howland said when he came in the Marine Corps, one of his biggest fears was losing his drawing skills. The hustle-and-flow of Marine Corps life has made personal time a commodity. “There’s just no time to draw,” he said. “I’m always training or working on my weapon system or something … I worry that I’ll lose my skills. This isn’t like riding a bike you know.”

    Howland has found plenty of time. Recognized in recruit training for his abilities, Howland was selected as an “Artist Recruit”, tasked with creating motivating range flags and other projects. During his time at the School of Infantry, Howland drew countless tattoos for young Marines, all the while filling sketch pads with personal work and sending them back home for storage. He says he used proceeds from his tattoo commissions to buy more materials.

    Company Artist

    In Iraq now, doing his countries dirty work, Howland continues to create and inspire. His time is divided between patrols, guard duty and “COP Beautification (filling sandbags).”

    Howland’s unit, the “Thundering Third” Battalion, 1st Marines, serves as the ground combat element for the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Setting sail this spring, the unit traveled aboard Navy ships, stopping for liberty calls in Guam and Singapore prior to landing in Kuwait. Since mid-June, Howland’s brothers in Kilo Company have dwelled in the arid Iraqi deserts, conducting 24-hour counter-insurgency operations. Life is dismal and dreary at times, frequent sand storms and scorching heat make for tedious off-hours. Still, Howland practices his passion. He’s even drawn on goat skulls.

    When Kilo Company moved from the relatively pleasant Combat Outpost Pacers – seated on the shores of Lake Thar Thar – to the apocalyptic ruins of COP Lincoln, the Marines did whatever they could to add comfort here. Constantly looking for opportune motivation, Howland’s seniors looked at a blank piece of plywood and saw a canvas.

    “Howland’s a good kid,” said Staff Sgt. Michael Bate, Howland’s platoon sergeant. “When he came to us from security forces, he didn’t really know anyone, and his drawing has been a great way to get to know everybody.”

    Bate, a native of Philadelphia, says although the subject matter of the massive drawings could be considered taboo, the Marines aren’t trying to exploit anyone. Drawings of women were popular on World War II airplanes, and often serve as momentary inspiration for troops marching into battle. At COP Lincoln, pictures of beautiful women were also the most available subject matter.

    “They just grabbed a magazine they had, and the squad leaders picked out two pictures. They’re focusing on the art, and it’s a contest. The subject matter makes for added difficulty … shading legs and the detail of the hair and everything.”
    Bate added that for anyone to negatively criticize the drawings would be openly insulting Howland’s work ethic.

    “Howland stayed up all night working on the drawing, and when the Marines woke up this morning, they had something nice to look at. He sacrificed his sleep for the morale and welfare of his fellow Marines.”

    Howland is still out there, adding careful shadows to contours and shapes. Painstakingly filling in “negative space” so the she-devil’s hair looks incredibly real. He’s working under critical eyes, and Led Zepplin tunes blast from tiny speakers nearby.

    “Is that the girl from the magazine,” asks one Marine.
    “Yes, sergeant,” says Howland. Another Marine walks by and smiles.
    “If she was Satan, I wouldn’t mind going to hell.”

    What’s ironic is that Howland, as he draws this sensual demon-girl, is in heaven.

    Photo - Lance Cpl. Cory Howland, a squad automatic weapon gunner with 1st squad, 2nd platoon, Kilo Company, adds details to his recent “devil girl” drawing on a company table. Kilo Company and 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines have been conducting counter-insurgency operations in the Al Anbar province here. Photo by Sgt. Andy Hurt.

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    Italian police to train Iraqi National Police

    20 Jul 07
    Spc. Emily Greene
    Combined Press Information Center

    BAGHDAD — Italian Army Maj. Gen. Alessandro Pompegnani, Deputy Commander of NATO Training Mission-Iraq spoke about his country’s efforts to help train the Iraqi National Police at a press conference at the Combined Press Information Center Thursday.

    Since 1814 the Arma dei Carabinieri (Force of Carabinieri) has ensured the rights of the Italian people, both at home and abroad. The Carabinieri are Italian military police whose mission is to control the crime and to serve the community through respect for the Law.

    Now the Carabinieri will share their training techniques with the Iraqi National Police as part of the efforts of the NATO Training Mission in Iraq.

    “The Gendarmeria-type training provided by the Carabinieri will help establish the Iraqi National Police as a professional military police force, filling the gap between the police and the armed forces,” said Pompegnani.

    This will not be the first time the Carabinieri have worked with the Iraqi National Police. In 2005 they helped train a specialized police unit at the regional police level in Nasiriyah.

    “The training will build on the very effective basic training that the Civilian Police Assistance Training Team (CPATT) already provides for the national police since 2004,” said Pompegnani. “It is not intended to replace that training in any way, it is a specialization that builds upon the basis that CPATT has laid and continues to provide for the national police.”

    Pompegnani said the Carabinieri have a two-year plan to train Iraqi National Police leadership. Eight battalions of national police will train at Camp Dublin, close to the Baghdad International Airport. Each course will last three months and will initially be staffed by about 40 Carabinieri in training and support roles, he said.

    The training will focus primarily on counterinsurgency methods and forensic investigation to help the Iraqi Police fight the terrorism they are faced with daily said Pompegnani.

    “The national police can connect with the public in a way that armed forces cannot and the NATO Training Mission in Iraq considers that the training the Carabinieri provides will help build the Iraqi people’s trust in the national police,” Pompegnani said.

    Currently there is an advance planning team in Baghdad which is working with the Iraqi National Police authorities to adapt the European Gendarmerie training model to the needs of the Iraqis, said Pompegnani.

    “The NATO Training Mission in Iraq has had success in helping build up leadership training for the Iraqi Armed Forces and is committed to support the Iraqi National Police training to its fulfillment,” Pompegnani said.

    Photo - Italian Army Maj. Gen. Alessandro Pompegnani, Deputy Commander of NATO Training Mission-Iraq speaks about the Carabinieri training to be provided to the Iraqi National Police at the Combined Press Information Center. Photo by Sgt. Sky Laron.

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    New Iraqi Police Station Opens in Wahida

    19 July 07
    By Sgt. Natalie Rostek
    3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Public Affairs

    COMBAT OUTPOST CLEARY, Iraq — The Wahida City Council opened a new police station in Wahida July 17 in the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment’s area of operation.

    When Lt. Col. Jack Marr, 1-15 Infantry commander, Lt. Col. Ryan Kuhn, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team’s deputy commanding officer, and Capt. Ravindra Wagh, commander of Company E, 1st Battalion, 125 Infantry Regiment, arrived at the new police station, they were greeted by a mob of excited Iraqi policemen and local leaders.

    The visit began with a tour of the new facility followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony signifying the end of the project and the opening of a brand new Iraqi police station.

    On paper, the project began in October 2006 with a request for a new Iraqi police station. According to Wagh, who headed the project from start to finish, the Iraqi Police of Wahida received the title to an empty lot and the appropriate funds to get the project under way. Wagh said the former Wahida police station, which was co-located with a mosque, did not have the resources fit for a unit whose main mission is providing security to Wahida.

    “The old police station was right down the road from the new one,” Wagh said. “It had three rooms and the front of the building was a mosque. It wasn’t fit for jurisdiction in Wahida.”

    After the ribbon cutting ceremony, members of the Wahida police, along with leaders of the community and Coalition Forces, sat down for a conference to discuss the new station. “It is very nice to have the new police station here (in Wahida,)” Jawad Khadum, chairman of the Wahida city council said through a translator. “I would like for you to all be equal, to work as one, to serve the community and enforce the law.” He then saluted the policemen for a job well done on the project.

    Lt. Col. Kareem, the station commander, also spoke at the conference. He thanked the Coalition Forces for their efforts on the project. He also reminded his policemen that they have a brand new station and encouraged them to maintain the station as it stands today.

    According to Wagh, the project is a symbol the citizens of Wahida can see that proves the government is capable of listening to the requests of the community and spending the $3.5 million it took to fund the project on the community. “This government has a commitment to security,” he said. “Many people believed the government was getting all this money and they would never see it. "This project proves the government is spending the money on their communities.”

    Wagh, who has been in Iraq since August 2006, said he was privileged to be able to see the new Iraqi police station project from start to finish. “The problem with many of these projects is that one unit is there for the beginning and then has to leave so another unit gets to the final outcome,” he said. “I am glad I was able to see the conception on paper all the way up to the building we see today.”

    Although the new police station doesn’t necessarily increase the capability or the capacity of the Iraqi police, Marr believes it does a lot for the morale of the policemen. He said it also shows the Wahida citizens that progress is being made and normalcy is being restored.

    “This project gives the good people of Wahida confidence in their police,” Marr said. “The project was Iraqi driven, which means we are coming along the way we have always wanted. We want to help the Iraqi people help themselves. The best solutions are the Iraqi solutions.”

    Photo - Army Brig. Gen. Allawi, deputy district commander, cuts the ribbon with Army Lt. Col. Jack Marr at a ceremony July 17 to open the new Wahida police station in Wahida, Iraq. Photo by Sgt. Natalie Rostek.

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    Operation Diablo Dragnet Links People to Government

    18 July 07
    By Army Sgt. Tony J. Spain
    22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Paratroopers with 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, conducted air assault missions as part of Operation Diablo-Dragnet the end of June.

    The operation involved three different units and the help of an Islamic Republic of Afghanistan official disrupting Taliban operations around the Maiwand District located on the Helmand and Kandahar province borders.

    Mohammad Zarif, a member of the National Security Directorate for the Maiwand District, served as the eyes for the governor of Helmand province and reported directly to him about the situation in the area. His presence also helped international security assistance forces bring a familiar face to local Afghans.

    “We prefer to have IRoA involvement in all of our operations, especially when we have such close and constant interaction with the local populace as we did during Operation Diablo Dragnet,” said Army Capt. Don L. Cantera, Company B, 1/508th PIR commander. “Fortunately, we had the assistance of the National Security Directorate to facilitate our search.”

    Operations ran smoothly for the paratroopers as they moved through the small farming villages of De Kalakhan Kalay and Garm Abak Jonubi. Zarif led the way from building to building, knocking on doors declaring that the ISAF forces were there for their safety and not to be afraid.

    “After the town was deemed ‘cleared’, several mini shuras were held with local elders,” said Army 1st Lt. Daniel Capello, fire support operator, Company C, 1/508th PIR. “They came with a look of uncertainty in their eyes, but after meeting with the professional paratroopers and Mohammad Zarif they left with smiles on their faces.”

    Zarif helped explain to the elders the purpose of the paratroopers’ mission and explained as long as the Taliban was able to operate in the area they would not be safe.

    “The new Afghan government and ISAF forces are here to support the Afghan people,” Zarif told them.

    The local elders then began discussing issues that concerned them and what ISAF could do as a link between them and the government to bring resolution. Most of the villagers were concerned about security and the potential for development in their village, which lacks proper roads, schools and medical facilities.

    “Zarif was a great help in communicating our intent to the people of Maku and in facilitating a security shura with the village elders,” said Cantera. “He was very knowledgeable about security in the Maiwand area and a direct link between the local populace, ISAF and IRoA.”

    After the shura, local leaders promised ISAF they would elect a representative for the village to regularly meet with government officials in the district center.

    “It’s pretty clear that the future of Afghanistan rests solely on the shoulders of the Afghans,” said Army 1st Lt. Adam Werhle, Co. C., 1/508th PIR. “We were initially skeptical of having the NSD representative with us on our operation, but he turned out to be a real asset almost immediately.”

    Werhle noted the keys to success in Afghanistan will be getting government representatives out to meet the people, more Afghans involved in fighting the Taliban, and a well trained Afghan national army.

    Photo - Paratroopers from 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, return from a patrol in the Maywand District on the border of Kandahar and Heldman provinces in Afghanistan June 29. Photo by Spc. Matthew Littel.

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    Lifeblood Pumped Into Farming Community in Mrezat

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    Navy ‘Riverines’ are irreplaceable asset to 13th MEU

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    CENTAF chaplain visits Djibouti orphanages

    16 July 07
    by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class John Osborne
    Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Public Affairs Office

    CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti -- The U.S. Central Command Air Forces command chaplain visited Camp Lemonier July 10 to 13 to meet with servicemembers and spent time at two local orphanages where he and members of the Alaska Air National Guard joined the boys in a basketball game.

    Chaplain (Col.) Gregory Tate also looked at the camp's religious support team to get a sense of morale among servicemembers and coalition forces at Combined Joint task Force - Horn of Africa.

    In addition, the chaplain met with David Ball, the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy. Chaplain Tate said he could not have been more pleased with the hospitality, camaraderie and dedication to mission he experienced during his visit.

    "We have been well-received by everyone at Camp Lemonier," Chaplain Tate said. "Chaplain (Navy Cmdr.) Walter Dinkins and the CJTF-HOA command chaplain's staff are doing a great job engaging this area of responsibility. They are doing groundbreaking work as they spend time at the orphanages and build partnerships within the (defense, diplomacy and development) infrastructure. The people serving here now are going to be invaluable to the future as they pass on their lessons learned."

    Djibouti is just one of 20 sites Chaplain Tate and Senior Master Sgt. Jeff Sawyer, the CENTAF chaplain assistant functional manager, will visit during their one-year remote tour at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. They travel the Central Command area of operation to observe Air Force chaplain services and religious support teams.

    "I have the best job serving the best commander in the AOR," said Chaplain Tate, who spent 14 years as a line officer before becoming a chaplain in 1996. "I love to travel and learn and this job provides the opportunity to do both. It's great to see our folks doing the duties and missions they have been trained to do, because they know how important the mission is. It thrills my heart to meet people and help them meet their needs."

    Sergeant Sawyer said his job is especially rewarding because it provides the opportunity to be a hands-on senior enlisted leader to a great number of people in a variety of situations.

    "The most satisfying and fun part of this job is traveling and interacting with the troops, particularly the chaplain's assistants, both my peers and those who are just starting their careers," Sergeant Sawyer said. "I have the chance to mentor, teach and get to know new people. The unique thing I liked about our visit to Djibouti was the opportunity to participate in the humanitarian efforts because we usually don't get a chance to take part in those things."

    Photo - Chaplain (Col.) Gregory Tate surrenders his cover to a child during his July 13 visit to the baby orphanage near Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. Chaplain Tate, the U.S. Central Air Forces Command chaplain, visited Djibouti as part of his Central Command area of operation tour, observing Air Force chaplain services and religious support teams. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class John Osborne.

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    Ice and Fire: Eskimos in Kuwait

    16 July 07
    By Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
    National Guard Bureau News

    CAMP BUERHING, Kuwait - Hot like a giant hairdryer; like standing under a giant magnifying glass; or like turning an oven to 127 degrees, jumping in and closing the door. These are ways Eskimo members of the Alaska National Guard's 3rd Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment explain the Kuwait heat to family and friends back home.

    The hottest weather that many of them experienced before the Alaska Guard's largest deployment since World War II brought them to the desert was 70 degrees, depending on the part of Alaska they're from, since the state has a wide range of temperatures over an area more than twice the size of Texas. Unit members claim the heat has approached 150 degrees in Kuwait during their deployment.

    "Big difference for us; horrible," said Pfc. Darin Olanna, 23, from the Alaskan coast near Nome where the record high is 86 and the record low is minus 54. "As soon as I smell the ocean, it feels like home. I miss the mountain tundra. The wilderness is right out your back door."

    A wilderness is right out the back door of Camp Buerhing, too – a sparsely populated flat desert. The coldest temperature on record in Kuwait? In January 1964, 21.2 degrees, according to the country's United Nations representatives. No "minus" in front of that number.

    Drinking water, increasing food intake, seeking shade and – perhaps counter-intuitively – increased exercise regimens have helped the Alaskans cope with the heat, they say. Some douse themselves in cold water, as they would during peak heat back home.

    "To me, it's the same survival techniques as being in the Alaskan winter," said Master Sgt. John Flynn, 40, a Yup'ik Eskimo. The extreme cold presents similar challenges to extreme heat, including dehydration, he said. Blinding sandstorms remind him of blinding snowstorms. "The only difference is when it's cold you put more layers on, but here even when it's hot you cannot take layers off," he said.

    Near Nome, a "polar bear swim" is an annual tradition, swimmers diving into the water in May, when there is still ice. "If I could do that now, I wouldn't hesitate," Olanna said.

    More than 80 Alaska communities are represented in the 3rd Battalion. "There's people from all over the state," Olanna said. "From Barrow to Dillingham to Nome to Sitka. You've got Athabascan Indian, Yup'ik Eskimo, Haidan Tlingit Indians from southeast. All walks of life."

    Their mission in Kuwait, where they arrived in October 2006 and which they expect to leave this fall, includes providing security, including quick reaction forces that can cross the Iraqi border, and performing infrastructure vulnerability assessments.

    In their civilian lives, the Eskimos hunt and fish for a smorgasbord of walrus, whales, Canada geese, moose, reindeer, bear, caribou, salmon, white fish, trout and pike. Some are full-time Guardmembers back home or have other jobs such as working in a halfway house counseling petty criminals, but their roots are in a way of life as radically different from most of their colleagues as is the lifestyle of Kuwait's desert nomads.

    "The way I grew up, until I joined the Guard, was surviving off the land," Flynn said. "You need a little bit of money, but money will not make you survive where I'm from. The land will. Mammals, geese, wild flowers, berries, that's the way of life I grew up with – hunting and fishing." In Kuwait, rifles are the tools for personal protection. Back home, rifles are the tools for hunting.

    "I miss the food from back home," said Spc. Reuben Olanna, 27. Darin Olanna's cousin fantasizes about a filet of salmon cooked within minutes of being caught. Darin Olanna missed corralling his friend's reindeer herd this year. The Olanna cousins are Inupiaq Eskimos from Brevig Mission and Nome.

    For some, military service is the only reason they have ever left Alaska – to attend basic combat training in Georgia or South Carolina, pre-mobilization training in New Jersey, professional development in Arkansas. They have never previously deployed outside the state, which was exempt from overseas deployments during the Cold War because Alaska Guardmembers were considered forward deployed against the Soviet Union. "I have uncles that were in World War II and Vietnam," said Sgt. 1st Class Homer Nunooruk, 38. "Relatives that were in the first Gulf War and Afghanistan. It brings a deep pride in me."

    Nunooruk, an Inupiaq from Nome, Alaska's northernmost town, said many Eskimos choose the National Guard for the educational opportunities, training and discipline. "A lot of my relatives that I talk to from other communities, they do it so that they have an alternative income and training and education," he said.

    For Flynn, the National Guard was a life-changing opportunity. Orphaned at 13, inspired by the camaraderie he witnessed at a military funeral, reminiscent of an Eskimo extended family, the 19-year-old enlisted to turn his life around. Twelve of Nunooruk's relatives deployed with him. Another died in a vehicle accident during their pre-deployment training at Camp Shelby, Miss.

    "Every once in a while, I'll pull them aside and we'll talk," he said. "We'll just talk about what's going on back home. Things that we miss. Hunting and fishing. Being outdoors. The biggest consensus is we miss being in the outdoors in Alaska, especially wintertime."

    It has been a deployment of firsts – first exposure to such extreme heat, to a sand desert, to overseas travel, to separation from extended families. "Being away from home," Reuben Olanna said. "I can depend on no one else but all these other guys I've been training with."

    Nunooruk said the deployment has helped him follow his parents' advice. "They always said 'See what's outside of Nome, '" he said. "When I went to Anchorage, they said, 'See what's outside of Alaska.' One thing they always wanted me to experience was different cultures and lifestyles. I always loved meeting new people and trying new foods."

    Nunooruk moved his family to Palmer, where it reaches the 80s, before the deployment. "It's so hot at night, I can't sleep," his wife told him during one call home. "It's 123 degrees here," he replied. "80 is pretty cold here." He wondered if he would feel cold back home on leave.

    The Eskimos say extended families are a blessing for a deployment. "I'm getting a lot of support from them, from all my cousins and friends. They've been telling me to hang in here," Reuben Olanna said. "I tell them I am enjoying it."

    Unit members say they will miss something about their deployment in Kuwait – but it's not the heat. "Being around all these guys on a daily basis," Darin Olanna said. "It wouldn't be a bad place," Flynn said, "if it wasn't so hot."

    Photo- The Alaska National Guard's 3rd Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment has left its mark at Camp Buerhing, Kuwait. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill.

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