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Monday, January 29, 2007

Interview with Capt. Traversa

I had the honor of interviewing one of our Air Force Captains by the name of Douglas Traversa.
He is currently stationed somewhere in Afghanistan. This interview was arranged for me
through SGT Eric Jensen at CENTCOM. I would like to thank him very kindly not only for this interview, but for all the work he and the others do behind scenes that never receive any recognition. Let us begin.

Rosemary: Thank you for agreeing to this interview Capt. Traversa. I pray everything is going well. Speaking of going well, what are the temperatures there? What is the difference in the temperature between summer and winter?

Capt. Traversa: The summers here in Kabul are nowhere near as hot as in the south, or in Iraq. Highs are usually in the upper nineties, but we rarely hit triple digits. The winter has been exceptionally cold, and we’ve had snow cover since Christmas. The last few weeks it has rarely gotten above 32 degrees, and many nights have been in single digits.

R: Which do you prefer?

CT: I prefer winter by far. I love cold weather and even the bitter cold here is preferable to summer, which just sucks the life out of me.

R: Tell us a little about your family and the effect this is having on them.

CT: My wife of 22 years, Jancy, is my best friend, and we miss each other very much. However, she is holding up well, but we are both ready for this to be over. My oldest son, Taylor, just graduated from college in December, and my daughter Elise will graduate in May. My youngest son Ryan just turned 16 and got his driver’s license. I think my absence is hardest on Ryan, since he’s still living at home. He played football for the first time, and I missed the entire season. My parents live near us, so they have been helping out a lot. They send an e-mail everyday, and are very supportive.

R: Is there anything you would like people to do to support the troops? Is there anything you would like? Books? Music? Etc?

CT: There is not anything I need. I have been buying anime (Japanese animation) DVDs for myself, and that’s about all I would anticipate purchasing for myself for the remainder of my time here. But I don’t need anyone sending me any, as I can buy them easily through the internet. The guys here always like to get new DVD releases, and we have a library of them that we share. That’s probably the single most desired item here.

R: Do you take advantage of the web and e-mail? If so, what is your weblog address?

CT: E-mail and the internet are incredibly valuable in making the deployment more bearable. I have a blog at Traversa.typepad.com called “Afghanistan Without a Clue.” I’ve had lots of fun blogging and have met many great people on line.

R: Have you learned anything in Afghanistan about yourself? What?

CT: Although I was very content with my life and I knew I was living a great life compared to most people in the world, being here has been pretty amazing. People here who are considered well-to-do live in tiny houses without bathrooms, sinks, or many other things we take for granted. It has helped me to put things in perspective, and I think when I get home I will be much less concerned about minor annoyances.

R: What do you miss the most, beside your family?

CT: No question that after my family, I miss my dogs. We have five, and I love them dearly. We aren’t allowed to have pets over here, and that hurts.

R: Now I would like to ask you to explain to the American people when and why you joined the Air Force. Are you satisfied with your job, or do you regret your decision?

CT: I was a teacher for four years, got tired of being poor, looked around, and decided the Air Force was a good option. My father was an Air Force officer, so I knew what I was getting into. I don’t regret joining at all. It’s been a great job, and right now it’s also been quite an adventure.

R: When are you ‘tentatively’ scheduled to come home?

CT: May or June 2007.

R: Do you understand that there are very many Americans who support you? Well, there are! Do you read the papers? Do you watch TV News? Where do you get your outside news?

CT: We have been getting wonderful support from all sorts of folks back home. We know many, many people care about us, and it means a lot to us. We get the Stars and Stripes newspaper for free over here, and get all the major news shows on TV. We also get news from the internet, and I never miss The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

R: If it is possible, could you share with us generally what you do?

CT: My fellow Airmen and I stationed at Camp Phoenix and Camp Eggers are called ETTs, derived from “Embedded Training Team,” which means we are embedded with the Afghan National Army (ANA). Our job is to “mentor” our ANA counterparts, in an effort to rebuild the ANA and make it self-sufficient. Unfortunately, there is no textbook, no regulation, no course we can attend, on how exactly we are supposed to do this. As you may imagine, this makes our jobs challenging, exciting, and frustrating, all mixed together with a large serving of the unknown.

Even though “mentoring” is poorly defined, we do have a plan of attack. I work with fourteen other Airmen at the Central Movement Agency (CMA), the only transportation unit for the ANA. Our job is to make sure CMA can run convoys throughout the country and maintain their vehicles properly. We oversee the maintenance shops, and train the ANA on proper maintenance procedures and record keeping. We also oversee convoy operations, and train drivers until we can get the ANA to start their own training. Finally, we have just started transporting cargo flown into the Kabul International Airport. Maj Apple (my boss) and I work with the Commander and his staff, trying to teach everything from the importance of wearing the uniform properly to trusting NCOs with more responsibilities. The most basic principles of our military are strange new concepts here.

The challenges are many and not quite what you might expect. First, we are Airmen lent to the US Army for a year, working with a foreign army. You can find many Air Force and Navy personnel taking on traditionally Army roles as we help to relieve the Army of some of its taskings. Fighting two wars simultaneously has stretched the Army too much, and we are helping to relieve some of the pressure. But that means we need to learn how the Army does things, and then try to teach the ANA the “Army Way” to operate.

R: What is your average day like? How many times a week are you bored, and how many times a week is it chaotic? What can you do when it is boring?

CT: My work day varies considerably. Much of my current schedule is driven by when we need to unload airplanes. We do have a fair share of chaos at the airport on occasion, but I have a good team, both American and Afghan, and we haven’t failed to accomplish any mission yet.

I am never bored. When I am not working, I am writing, playing sports, or watching anime. I usually spend about two hours with my blogging and writing each day, so I have little time to be bored.

R: Could you please give us an idea about all the good things that are being done to help the Afghanis?

CT: We are working hard to train the troops we work with to be self-sufficient. In the eight months we’ve been here, CMA has become a very active, very vital part of the Afghan military. We are building a very nice base for them, and trying hard to equip their troops properly. I don’t have much insight into what is being done for the civilian population.

R: How many people are you responsible for, and how many do you have to answer to?

CT: We have 15 Americans working at CMA and over 200 Afghans which we assist. I am the second highest ranking American. My boss is Maj Apple, a great guy to work for. He puts a lot of thought into how we can best motivate the Afghans to be the best unit possible.

R: Do you find yourself counseling anyone? Is this how bonds are created?

CT: I have not had to counsel anyone. We have an unusually excellent group of men at CMA. We have lots of time to talk as we travel, or sit waiting for planes to land, so we get to know each other pretty well that way. We also play sports together.

R: Are you free to do your job the way you were trained? Has political correctness crept in to hamper you? Do you ever feel as if your hands are tied behind your back?

CT: Anyone in the military has limits on their free speech. We are not allowed to criticize our leadership, so when I blog, I have to make sure I stay within regulations. Everyone has their ideas about how the wars are being run, but it’s not our place to comment in an open forum like this. As far as doing my job, I have been givin great freedom to do the job as I wish. I have no complaints there.

R: What is the best day you have had over there, and what is the worst day?

CT: The worst day was the night before the anniversary of 9/11. We were going to have to travel that day, and the night before I was sure we would get hit by a suicide bomber and I would die. I’ve only had one bad night like that.

It’s hard to say what my best day was. I really enjoy working out at the airport, and I’ve had some great days out there. Christmas Eve was also a great day, because the guys in my hut had a good time together celebrating. You can read about it in my blog.

R: If you had it to do all over again, would you?

CT: No, I’ve had a very happy, fulfilling life. I don’t have any significant regrets.

R: Will you think about re-enlisting? Is this a career move for you?

CT: I retire in two years, and staying in past that is not an option for me.

R: Are there many terrorist attacks? Are you allowed to gestimate about how many terrorists are in or around Afghanistan?

CT: I have no ideas on the numbers here. We usually have at least one attack a day somewhere in Afghanistan, but not too many here in Kabul. Last week a suicide bomber rammed the front gate of Camp Phoenix, where I lived. He was caught, but the bomb went off when they were trying to defuse it. That was pretty exciting!

R: Does the rhetoric in Washington encourage the terrorists? Do they hear what we talk about?

CT: Of course they hear what we are talking about, but I have no idea if it gives them encouragement. They are motivated by a religious hatred of non-Muslims, so I doubt anything we say really makes any difference.

R: Have you lost any of your men? If so, could you please share with us a little about their lives? Who they were, what they loved, what they hated, so that they are not just numbers for the evening news?

CT: Fortunately, now of our people have been harmed in any way.

R: Is there much corruption in the Karsai government?

CT: I have heard that corruption is very common over here, or so my interpreters tell me. But they do not want to go back to the Taliban government.
R: If you were POTUS, what would you do about Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China and Darfur, Sudan? Just a simple question to follow those other tough hitting ones. I know it’s above your pay-grade, but give it a shot. Who knows? Maybe someone will consider it!

CT: No Comment

R: I know there is a problem with the poppy. Is anyone focusing on this? Are they planting other things such as food, cotton, etc?

CT: I read about an effort to use the poppy crop for medicinal purposes in the US. They will not be spraying to kill the crops. I know little else about this topic.

R: Does Afghanistan have a stable government outside of Kabul? What do they need to accomplish a stable government to the whole country?

CT: I think it will require a whole new generation to grow up and take over before we see a really stable government. There are so many factions here; creating unity is going to be a slow process.

R: Is there a form of Sharia law being practiced?

CT: Not in the Kabul area, but in areas the Taliban control, I would think so. But I have no first hand knowledge.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Iraqis celebrate school reopening

26 January 2007
Courtesy of American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD — A neighborhood north of Ramadi celebrated the reopening of a school Tuesday. Also this week, U.S. and Iraqi forces provided aid to citizens in Adhamiyah, and Iraqi Forces distributed winter clothes and blankets to students in Tal Afar Monday.

Iraqi Soldiers and Coalition troops joined the celebration in Ramadi, and community leaders asked Maj. Derek Horst, civil affairs team leader, 4th Civil Affairs Group, to cut the ribbon for al Haitham School. The school provides classes for the children of Abu Jassim tribe.

The school temporarily closed in November for renovations. Tribal leader Sheik Taher, who oversaw the renovations, led the group of military and community leaders on a brief tour of the building after the ribbon cutting.

"We're making progress day after day," said 1st Lt. Stuart Barnes, civil affairs team leader, Company B, 486th Civil Affairs Battalion. Barnes said school attendance proves the increase in stability there.

The school, which began holding classes again earlier this month, has an estimated 200 to 300 students, Barnes said.

In other news, residents of the Adhamiyah section of eastern Baghdad picked up needed supplies this week following a visit by Soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team and their Iraqi Army counterparts.

U.S. Forces and Iraqi troops cooperated with the Adhamiyah district council to deliver clothes, toys, vitamins and toiletries to more than 500 residents.

“Soccer balls and comic books were especially popular with the children,” said Capt. Drew Corbin, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment. “This would have been impossible without cooperation between both the Iraqi’s and the Americans.

The Iraqi police were very helpful today. They provided security and helped distribute the humanitarian assistance bags."

The humanitarian assistance drop is part of a U.S.-Iraqi effort to reduce sectarian violence and help bring security to Baghdad.

In another operation in Tal Afar, students from the Kawla and Darar Primary Schools received an assortment of winter clothing, school supplies, and additional treats from Tal Afar's Mayor Najim, Iraqi Police officers, and Soldiers of the 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, during Operation Warm-Up Jan. 22.

Mayor Najim and the delegation traveled from classroom to classroom, providing the students with winter clothing and Iraqi flags. In addition, the school headmaster at each location received a first-aid kit and instructions for medication.

The total items distributed included 280 items of winter clothing, 650 pencils, 250 pens, 200 erasers, 60 spiral notebooks and 30 folders. Every child received school supplies and candy.

Operation Warm-Up was part of the ongoing Iraqi Police and Coalition humanitarian assistance program Operation Kids.

Photo: An Iraqi policeman gives thumbs up to Iraqi children during a school opening in Baghdad, Jan. 10, 2007. Official Department of Defense photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Tierney P. Nowland.

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Iraq’s ESU leads cordon and search

Thursday, 25 January 2007
Story and photo by Sgt. Michael Tuttle
5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

KIRKUK, Iraq — The Emergency Services Unit here, with support from 25th Infantry Division Soldiers, conducted an early morning cordon and search operation Saturday outside the city.

The ESU searched three villages for contraband with 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment Soldiers, while an American civil affairs team spoke with locals to gauge living conditions in the area.

"The villages were thoroughly searched,” said 1st Lt. John Byler., A Company platoon leader, 2-35. “These guys are allowed to have one AK and one magazine. A couple guys tried to get away with five so we’d take the extra four.”

While no contraband was found during the search, the ESU’s professionalism should help build confidence with the populous, Byler said.

“The ESU are some of the better guys that we work with,” Byler said. “They’re well-trained by and large. We’re here for support and guidance.”

While the ESU searched house to house, Spc. Richard Hy of the 402nd Civil Affairs Battalion, spoke to the mukhtar of Ilnhraom, a village of about 1,000 residents. The mukhtar is the village leader and a valuable source of information.

The mukhtar expressed the village’s desire for a medical clinic, Hy said. The village is also in need of a water treatment system to replace their current irrigation system.

Hy said that after his team has collected the information, they will figure out what they are able to do to help the village, in hopes of building better relations there.

Photo: A Kirkuk Emergency Services Unit captain opens a case during a cordon and search operation Jan. 6. The ESU, along with Soldiers from A Co., 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, searched houses in three villages outside the city of Kirkuk and spoke to locals about village needs durng the early morning operation.

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Transition Team Braves Attacks to Train Iraqi Police

Jan. 22, 2007
By Spc. Daniel Bearl
25th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs

— The morning is chilly as Sgt. Alexis Medina briefs his squad on its mission.Medina and his soldiers, from Company D, 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment from the Florida Army National Guard, are one of several squads that make up the police transition team working in Tal Afar. Their mission is to see that the Iraqi police are properly trained so that they can operate on their own.

As they prepare to go to a meeting with local Iraqi police leaders, Medina updates his squad on route conditions and recent enemy activity.

Once he's done, the soldiers don their protective armor and climb into their vehicles. It's a short drive to the police station, but recent suicide bomb attacks give reason for extra caution and vigilance as they roll out.

This particular mission is nothing new to these soldiers, though.

"We go out a minimum of five days a week to IP stations," Medina said. "We train them up on essential tasks that they need to become effective Iraqi security forces throughout the sector."

Their destination is what they, appropriately, call "The Castle." It's an impressive stone structure complete with walls and ramparts that sits on a hill overlooking Tal Afar. It was built by British forces during their colonial occupation of Iraq a century ago. Inside is a compound for Iraqi army, Iraqi police and coalition forces.

Working with the PTT are civilian police assistant teams, which comprise civilians with backgrounds in law enforcement, to help the Iraqis learn the skills they need to provide security for their communities.

The PTT's job is one of oversight, to allow the Iraqi police to do their job while providing professional training and support, Medina said.

That doesn't mean these troops don't see plenty of action. While they're waiting for their meeting to start, a bout of explosions are heard outside the compound. Insurgents have fired a barrage of mortars into the neighborhood near the Castle.

Medina and his squad are quick to react as they jump back in their vehicles to go help the Iraqis search the area the mortars came from.

Though there are some cultural challenges, and progress is sometimes slow, the police forces of Tal Afar have been doing comparatively well, Medina said.

The police stations are regularly graded on their progress in force protection, equipment maintenance and command and control as well as other areas, Medina said. Once they have achieved certain criteria, they are deemed able to operate autonomously. In Tal Afar, several of their stations are close to autonomy, Medina said.

In addition to training, the PTT also provides some logistical support to the Iraqis, even though they are now mostly responsible for their own supply management.

Their training and level of confidence is apparent when, after Medina and his squad have returned from reacting to the mortar attack, Iraqi polic e bring in a sack full of explosives and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher that they had seized from insurgent gunmen that morning.

A few days after their meeting with the local police leaders, Medina and his squad were preparing to take supplies to the Coalition soldiers manning the Castle when they receive a call that Iraqi police were engaged with insurgent fighters and were running short on ammo.

Before rolling out, the squad grabs several crates of ammunition to help resupply the embattled Iraqi police. Sporadic fire fights have been ongoing for several days in the city, so Medina emphasizes that everyone in the convoy must remain alert and cautious.

Sudden mission changes like this, which can turn a relatively routine mission into something much more dangerous, are common for the soldiers, but they drive on regardless.

After they finish their supply mission, the squad drives to a nearby police station, where civ ilian trainers with them conduct an impromptu class with the police officers there.

Speaking through an interpreter, the trainers instruct the Iraqis on proper care and handling of their weapons, while Medina meets with their leaders to discuss any issues they have that need to be addressed.

After the class is over, the squad heads back to base. Clouds have rolled in to cover the sky and a rapidly setting sun casts the world in the gray light of twilight. The chill of winter seeps into the heavily armored humvees and the city is eerily quiet. It's clear that everyone is eager to get back to base and to get some rest. They haven't encountered any hostile gunfire - this time.

"It's been a long week," Medina said, without going into further detail.

Despite the hazards, long hours and unexpected mission changes, Medina finds merit in his work.

"The most rewarding part of the mission is knowing we're doing something t hat is going to permanently affect the country," Medina said. "It's something that's going to go down in history, something that helps millions of people. It's not for me, it's for them."

Photo: U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Ryan Swinford, from the Florida Army National Guard, talks with Iraqi police officers at one of their stations in Tal Afar, Iraq. Swinford is part of a police transition team, which works daily to train Iraqi police forces to operate autonomously. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Daniel Bearl.

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Mahmudiyah project boosts economy

22 January 2007
By Norris Jones
Gulf Region Central District

BAGHDAD — Mahmudiyah’s mayor wants to chart a new course and believes a signature project for his community would be welcome news.

Mayor Muayid Fadil Hussein Habib is viewing several possibilities including a Vocational Technical College, a soccer stadium, and a vegetable and fruit processing factory.

“My hope is that we can convince Iraqi and American officials to invest here in a facility that will have a meaningful impact for decades to come,” Muayid said. “These projects would employ local people not only in the construction phase, but would benefit our area and help the local economy as a lasting legacy,” he noted. He was also hopeful that a facility like a Vocational Technical College would encourage other small industries to open in his community, such as a new cement plant or metal fabrication shop.

“We need to boost our local employment opportunities that will benefit not only Mahmudiyah, but the surrounding villages.” He was hopeful farmers in his areas could qualify for low-interest loans so they could expand their agricultural opportunities including fish farms, poultry and beef operations. “If we can help them with the start-up costs, they will be able to repay those loans with the profits. It’s another way to help the local economy,” Muayid said.

David Schmidt with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently met with Muayid to discuss those possibilities, as well as ongoing work in his city. Schmidt encouraged the mayor to work through his Iraqi officials and the Baghdad Provincial Reconstruction Team to determine what was possible and to identify funding.

Ongoing work includes repairing the community’s water treatment plant, rebuilding Mahmudiyah’s Market, school renovations, a new primary healthcare center, and electrical distribution upgrades.

Regarding such projects, Muayid asked that local contractors be utilized. Schmidt said his office is interested and willing to schedule a meeting with local contractors to provide them training on how to prepare bid proposals -- the documents and references that are required. He also suggested that someone in the mayor’s office attend so they could offer that information to others in Mahmudiyah. “It shows them the steps necessary to qualify for the work,” he added.

Schmidt complemented the mayor on his interest in economic development. “This is a definite priority for all -- business and job creation is something we’re all interested in,” Schmidt said.

“We need new projects offering long-term benefits,” the mayor noted. “This is how we’re going to build a new Middle East. Such efforts will encourage trust and friendships we’re all looking for.”

Photo: Mahmudiyah Mayor Muayid Fadil Hussein Habib walks through his community’s downtown market Jan. 18 with a fellow city leader talking about improvements he’d like to see get underway in the next few months.

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Petraeus Supports Troop Increase in Confirmation Hearing

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2007 – President Bush’s pick for command of Multinational Force Iraq today supported the new strategy for Iraq, emphasizing that additional U.S. forces are essential in accomplishing the mission there.

“If we are to carry out the Multinational Force Iraq mission in accordance with the new strategy, the additional forces that have been directed to move to Iraq will be essential, as will greatly increased support by our government’s other agencies, additional resources for reconstruction and economic initiatives, and a number of other actions critical to what must be a broad, comprehensive, multifaceted approach to the challenges in Iraq,” Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus said at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Petraeus was nominated Jan. 17 to be promoted to general and take over command of MNFI from Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who has been nominated to become the Army’s chief of staff.

The new strategy for Iraq shifts the U.S. focus in Iraq to securing the population and creating secure conditions to enable the Iraqi government, Petraeus said. Solving security problems will not be the ultimate solution for Iraq, he acknowledged, but the Iraqi government cannot deal with the political issues it must resolve while violence in Baghdad creates life-or-death situations for citizens every day.

“The objective will be to achieve sufficient security to provide the space and time for the Iraqi government to come to grips with the tough decisions its members must make to enable Iraq to move forward,” Petraeus said. “In short, it is not just that there will be additional forces in Baghdad; it is what they will do and how they will do it that is important.”

When questioned directly, Petraeus said he would not be able to do his job as commander of MNFI without the additional 21,000 troops President Bush has pledged to Iraq. Deploying these additional forces will make it difficult to increase time between deployments for troops who have already been burdened by the war on terror, he said, but plans are under way to sustain increased force levels.

The increase of 92,000 in the overall strength of the Army and Marine Corps, which Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced Jan. 11, will also help alleviate this strain, he said. “Our ongoing endeavors in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere are people-intensive, and it is heartening to know that there will be more soldiers and Marines to shoulder the load,” he said.

The coalition will continue to transition control of Iraqi forces and provinces to Iraqis, and the U.S. advisor effort will be reinforced, Petraeus said. The focus on security in Baghdad will require that U.S. and Iraqi commanders become familiar with the areas they are operating in and work together to establish a permanent presence in areas where violence has been eliminated, he said.

In addition to overcoming security challenges, success in Iraq depends on actions in political and economic areas like governance, the distribution of oil revenues, national reconciliation, improvement in the capacity of Iraq’s ministries, the establishment of the rule of law, and economic development, Petraeus said. To bolster progress in these areas, all agencies of the U.S. government need to step in and provide assistance, he emphasized.

“Our military is making an enormous commitment in Iraq; we need the rest of the departments to do likewise, to help the Iraqi government get the country and its citizens working, and to use Iraq’s substantial oil revenues for the benefit of all the Iraqi people,” he said.

The situation in Iraq is serious, and it will take time for the new strategy to be effective, Petraeus noted. The additional U.S. forces will need time to deploy to the region, become familiar with the situation, and set the conditions for successful security operations, he said.

“The only assurance I can give you is that, if confirmed, I will provide Multinational Force Iraq the best leadership and direction I can muster; I will work to ensure unity of effort with the ambassador and our Iraqi and coalition partners; and I will provide my bosses and you with forthright, professional military advice with respect to the missions given to Multinational Force Iraq and the situation on the ground in Iraq,” Petraeus said to the committee.

If confirmed, this assignment will be Petraeus’ fourth deployment of one year or longer since the summer of 2001; three of those deployments were to Iraq. Petraeus led the 101st Airborne Division in Mosul during the first year of Operation Iraqi Freedom, served as the first commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq from June 2004 to September 2005, and commanded the NATO Training Mission Iraq from October 2004 through September 2005. He is currently serving as commander of the U.S. Army Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth, Fort Leavenworth, Kan., where he oversees the organizations that educate Army leaders, draft doctrine, craft lessons learned, and help units prepare for deployment.

Petraeus acknowledged that the command of MNFI will be a heavy burden, but he said he is ready to take on the position. Not only is he eager to serve again with America’s deployed troops, he said, but he feels an obligation to help the Iraqis, who are struggling to lead normal lives while their government forges a way ahead that will be anything but easy.

“Hard is not hopeless, and if confirmed, I pledge to do my utmost to lead our wonderful men and women in uniform and those of our coalition partners in Iraq as we endeavor to help the Iraqis make the most of the opportunity our soldiers, sailor, airmen and Marines have given to them,” he said.

Photo: U.S. Army Lt. Gen.David H. Petraeus gives his opening statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee during testimony for his nomination as the new commander of Multi-National Forces-Iraq, in Washington, Jan. 23, 2007.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

NGAUS Legislative Update: 1/26/2007

What’s Happening In Congress?

Petraeus’Awaiting Confirmation.
Army Lieutenant General David H. Patraeus received overwhelming support yesterday with a 25-0 vote from the Senate Armed Serves Committee for his endorsement as the new Iraq Multi-National Force Commander. The full Senate will consider his nomination today and will likely give him overwhelming support as well. Patraeus has extensive experience in Iraq, commanding the 101st Airborne Division during the invasion in 2003 and also serving as the lead trainer of Iraqi forces. Patraeus has recently assisted in writing the Army’s revised manual on counterinsurgency doctrine.

An End to Stop-Loss.
As the new Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates has recently outlined new guidelines for the deployment policies of both active duty and reserve forces. Gates directive has asked for plans to minimize the use of the stop-loss policy by the end of February. This plan comes at the same time that the President has ordered an increase in the number of troops in Iraq by 21,500. This increase in the troop level could generate stop-loss orders which in effect would extend the tours for troops already in Iraq. A stop-loss order has been in effect since November 2002 for National Guard and Reserve units activated for the war on terrorism.

This plan to reduce stop-loss comes alongside some other proposed changes. The new idea is that reserve force members will now have an involuntary mobilization time of one year followed by five years at their home stations. Mobilization for ground combat and combat support will also be managed on a unit basis rather than an individual augmentee basis. Gates has warned however, that the current demands may not allow these initiatives to work in every circumstance. A number of Guard and Reserve members may temporarily need to be mobilized sooner than outlined. The intention is that this will only be temporary. Gates is working out an incentives program for those in both the active and reserve forces that deploy earlier and often, or are forced to extend their tours of duty longer.

What’s Happening At NGAUS?

NGEDA Conference
The annual meeting of the National Guard Executive Directors Association was held this week in San Juan, Puerto Rico to facilitate planning of the 129th NGAUS Conference in August. Brigadier General (ret.) Stephen Koper along with Brigadier General (ret.) Richard Green and all of the other NGAUS department directors attended this meeting.

Resolutions Packages.
The resolutions packages for consideration at the 2007 state association conferences and for final consideration at the 129th NGAUS General Conference will be sent out to all states today. These are draft resolutions and will be accompanied by a memorandum, a table of contents, and a task force assignment for each resolution. Look for the resolutions package to arrive by email later today.

State Visits Schedule.
Listed below are the currently scheduled state association visits to the NGAUS Memorial Building in Washington D.C. These dates represent events such as breakfasts, lunches, briefings, and receptions. Every state association is welcome to use the NGAUS building in order to host an event for your Guard members and your state Congressional delegation. If interested contact Emily Breitbach at emily.breitbach@ngaus.org for a state visits/receptions request form.

6 Montana, Tennessee
7 Connecticut
7-8 Arkansas
14 Texas

1 Wisconsin
6 Pennsylvania
7 Illinois

CACO Conference to be held on March 5-6, 2007.
The 2007 Congressional Action Contact Officers Conference will focus on how to deliver your legislative message to Congress. Highlights will include a briefing from Pennsylvania CACO Brigadier General Stanley Jaworski on his state’s program of hosting Congressional visits; panel presentations from Hill staffers on how to successfully communicate with Congress; and an overview presentation from NGAUS Director of Army Activities, Chris DeBatt, on understanding the Congressional process. NGAUS will also give grassroots primers on using its website to contact Congress and using letters to the editor to support Guard legislative issues. We will break early Monday afternoon for visits to the Hill followed by the Congressional reception at Bullfeathers from 6:00 - 8:00 pm featuring an open bar and famous appetizers.

If you have not already registered for this event make sure to do so by completing the registration form and making your hotel reservations at the Phoenix Park Hotel.

Published by the NGAUS Legislative Staff:
Brig Gen (ret) Richard M. Green, Director
Col (ret) Pete Duffy, Deputy Director
Chris DeBatt, Army Programs
Bernie Phelps, Senior Legislative Analyst
Emily Breitbach, Legislative Analyst


NGAUS Notes: 1/26/2007

Guard Suffers Highest Combat Fatality Incident in 50+ Years.
Ten Army National Guardsmen were among 12 U.S. soldiers killed in a helicopter crash near Al Jadidah, Iraq, on Jan. 20.

It was the highest number of National Guard fatalities in a single combat incident during the five-year war on terror, and it marked the highest number of Guardsmen killed in a single combat incident in more than 50 years, according to National Guard Bureau (NGB) officials.

Fatalities included Staff Sgt. Darryl Booker, 37, from Virginia; Sgt. 1st Class John Brown, 43, from Arkansas; Lt. Col. David Canegata III, 50, from the Virgin Islands; Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Haller, 49, from Maryland; Col. Paul Kelly, 45, from Virginia; Sgt. 1st Class Floyd Lake, 43, from the Virgin Islands; Capt. Sean Lyerly, 31, from Texas; Maj. Michael Taylor, 40, from Arkansas; 1st Sgt. William Warren, 48, from Arkansas.

Also killed was Command Sgt. Maj. Marilyn Gabbard, 46, of Iowa, who was the national secretary for the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States and the Iowa Guard’s first female command sergeant major.

“I cherish their service, honor their sacrifice, and mourn with their families,” said Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, NGB chief. “These National Guard soldiers were bearers of the torch of freedom carried from one generation of Americans to the next since 1636.”

Active-component soldiers Col. Brian Allgood, 46, from Oklahoma and Cpl. Victor Langarica, 29, from Georgia were also among the fatalities.

Jan. 20 was one deadliest days for U.S. forces in Iraq with 25 troop deaths across the country.

Common Health Record System on Tap for DoD, VA.
The Defense Department and Veterans Affairs announced plans this week for a common inpatient electronic health record system.

The two departments now have separate systems that require upgrade.

“This collaboration is a further extension of the highly successful partnership we have established with the Department of Veterans Affairs and is another example of the commitment our departments have made to work hand in hand to provide continuity of care for our beneficiaries,”said William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs.

Both VA and DoD have been independently working on the enhancement and improvement of their respective inpatient electronic health record tools, officials said. AHLTA, DoD’s electronic health record system, supports the documentation and management of outpatient health care for nearly 9 million beneficiaries worldwide.

VA is planning to modernize VistA, its own electronic health record system, including its inpatient module. Common need and the potential benefits led the two departments to discuss the feasibility of jointly implementing a common inpatient electronic health record, officials said.

Despite mission differences, such as DoD’s requirements to support its combat theaters, pediatric and obstetrical patients and VA’s requirements to support domiciliary care, officials said, both agencies believe the similarities in clinical and business processes may make the adoption of a common inpatient electronic health record a viable option.

Both agencies will examine their respective clinical processes and requirements and assess the benefits and the effects on each department’s timelines and costs before making a final decision on the inpatient electronic health record.

Military Channel Wants Stories from War on Terrorism.
The Military Channel is asking service members across the armed forces to submit videotaped stories about their war service for broadcast on television.

“We want to give a voice to the troops to allow them to tell their stories,”Jill Bondurant, Military Channel publicist, said during an interview with American Forces Press Service Jan. 19.

The Military Channel will use service member-submitted video for broadcast during nightly one-hour programming blocks beginning in early February, but the specific dates are not yet determined.

Service members can submit digital or taped video online at My War Diary, through e-mail at My War Diary or by regular mail to:
Military Videos
c/o Discovery Productions
8045 Kennett Street
Silver Spring, Md. 20910.

The initiative seeks to illustrate some personal stories of military service during wartime, Military Channel spokesman and former soldier Pat Lafferty told the Pentagon Channel in a recent interview.

“There’s only so much that the normal media can get out as far as the stories [and] what’s going on,” Mr. Lafferty said. “And, oftentimes, that really isn’t the story about individual service members and what they’re doing on a day-to-day basis.”

A component of Discovery Communications, the Silver Spring, Md.-based Military Channel was the first television media outlet to collaborate with America Supports You, a Department of Defense program connecting public and corporate support for the troops to service members and their families.

Communications Dept. Seeks Seasoned Staff Writer.
The National Guard Association has an immediate opening for an experienced staff writer. Selected candidate will contribute to NATIONAL GUARD, the association’s monthly magazine, NGAUS NOTES and the NGAUS Web site.

Duties include writing short news stories and covering a variety of hearings on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.

For the magazine, the successful candidate will contribute at least one substantial feature story each month and assist in editing and producing the final product. Some travel is required.

Candidates must have five years of reporting experience. Familiarity with the military and the National Guard is preferred.

Interest in writing about military/legislative topics a must. Car required. Salary: low- to mid-40s. Excellent benefits include health and dental coverage and a 401k plan. Convenient Capitol Hill location.

Please send cover letter, resume and three writing samples to:
Communications Department
National Guard Association of the United States
One Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, D.C., 20001.

Fax: 202-682-9358.
E-mail: Chris Prawdzik.

Please enter “Application” in the subject line if sending e-mail.

NGAUS History.
Maj. Gen. William H. Harrison Jr., then-NGAUS president, announced the appointment of the National Guard Memorial Commission in November 1959, established to set policy for the operation and maintenance of The National Guard Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Maj. Gen. James F. Cantwell, who would later serve 10 years as NGAUS president, was named chairman. Other members included Maj. Gen. Ellard A. Walsh, Maj. Gen. Milton A. Reckord, Maj. Gen. Joseph E. Nelson and Brig. Gen. Howard T. Markey.

The commission’s first order of business was to develop a program for procuring and placing busts of former U.S. presidents who served in the militia or Guard. It also sought to obtain a Minuteman statue for its entrance.

Its mission was a success. The busts are on display at the memorial, including a bust of President Bush, which was unveiled in February 2006.

This Week in Guard History.
Jan. 25, 1787: Springfield, Mass. - Nearly 2,000 farmers and laborers led by Daniel Shays storm the federal arsenal looking for arms in what became known as Shays’ Rebellion.

In the years following the end of the American Revolution, Americans faced many problems—from a poor economy and nearly worthless currency still issued by each state, but not honored in other states, to the imposition of a “poll tax” to keep the poor from voting.

Shays and other Massachusetts farmers, unsuccessful in the courts, took violent action to prevent friends from serving jail time for unpaid debts.

The revolt—one of several in the 1786 to 1787 period—started in August when Shays’ men seized the courthouse in Northampton, Mass. About 1,200 militiamen repulsed the attack and captured Shays. He was sentenced to hang but was soon pardoned.

Produced weekly by the NGAUS communications department. Comments and questions should be directed to ngaus@ngaus.org. NGAUS members can sign up for electronic delivery of NGAUS NOTES at NGAUS.org.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Al-Zawahiri Video on Bush's Iraq Security Plan

On 22 January, a jihadist website posted links to an Al-Sahab video showing a speech by Ayman al-Zawahiri in which he responded to the recent announcement by President Bush that the US will send 20,000 additional troops to Iraq, daring the President to send his "entire army." Although the video - which is of poor quality and suffers from audio synching problems - is marked as an Al-Sahab production, its release was not official; forum participants posted links to the video as found on jihadist monitor Laura Mansfield's blog at www.lauramansfield.com.

In a later post, a jihadist forum participant explained that links to the video were originally leaked to Al-Jazirah, but that Al-Jazirah offered them to US intelligence and that Laura Mansfield has a "link" with the CIA.

A transcription of the video's subtitles as they appear follows:

[video begins with excerpts of statement]

"'So send your entire army to be annihilated at the hands of the Mujahideen, to free the world from your evil and theirs'

'Al-Qaida and the Taliban, under the command of the Commander of the Faithful, Mulla Muhammad Umar (Allah protect him), are the ones who have deprived America of safe haven in Afghanistan'

'Security is a shared destiny. If we are secure, you might be secure, and if we are safe, you might be safe. And if we are struck and killed, you will definitely - with Allah's permission - be struck and killed.'

'It is the duty of every Muslim today to bear arms, and to serve or support those who are bearing arms.'

'Isn't it time we reject the hateful patriotism which makes some regard Muhammad Dahlan and Mahmoud Abbas as their brothers, when both of them know that they are Palestine-selling secular traitors who are hostile to the Shari'ah and loyal to America and Israel.'

'I call on Arab nationalists and leftists to come back to Islam, the religion of honor, dignity, and freedom.'

'And what a huge difference between the stance of those who accepted Resolution 1701 and the Imam Husayn bin Ali (Allah was pleased with him), who refused to give himself up, saying: 'No, by Allah I will not them my hand like the meek and lowly, nor consent like a slave.''

[title] 'The Correct Equation'

In the name of Allah, and all praise is due to Allah. And may peace and prayers be on the Messenger of Allah, and on his family, companions, and allies.

Muslim brothers everywhere: peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah and His blessings.

Bush raved in his latest speech, and among his latest ravings was that he will be sending 20,000 of his troops to Iraq. So I ask him: why send 20,000 only - why not send 50 or 100 thousand? Aren't you aware that the dogs of Iraq are pining for your troops' dead bodies? So send your entire army to be annihilated at the hands of the Mujahideen, to free the world from your evil and theirs, because Iraq, land of the Caliphate and jihad, is able to bury ten armies like yours with Allah's help and power.

Also among his ravings is that he has deprived al-Qaida of a safe haven in Afghanistan. The entire world bears witness to his naked, barefaced lie, because al-Qaida and the Taliban, under the command of the Commander of the Faithful, Mulla Muhammad Umar (Allah protect him), are the ones who have deprived America of safe haven in Afghanistan, by the grace of God, until they have no choice but to bring in the forces of NATO through coercion and under duress, to seek protection behind them.

And I address the American people, saying to them: I know that most of you don't understand the language of religion, morals and principles, and instead understand the language of running after pillage and plunder and desires, so that's why I address you with what you understand. I tell you: if you want to live in security, you must accept the facts of what is happening on the ground, and reject the fantasies with which Bush tries to deceive you. You must honestly try to reach a mutual understanding with the Muslims, for then and only then, you might enjoy security. If, however, you continue with the policy of Bush and his gang, you will never dream of peace.

Security is a shared destiny. If we are secure, you might be secure, and if we are safe, you might be safe. And if we are struck and killed, you will definitely - with Allah's permission - be struck and killed. This is the correct equation, so try to understand it - if you understand. You have cooperated in Afghanistan and Iraq with the traitorous movements and leaders who trade their religion and values, and with some of the states around it, and they have only brought you more ruin. It is imperative that you understand the realities of history and religion as they really are, and not as Bush's buffoons try to present them to you. Ask your experts and historians; they either hide the facts from you, or reveal them in embarrassment. You are facing Islamic rage and facing the Jihadi awakening of the Muslim Ummah, and what awaits you - should you press on - is much worse than anything you have yet seen.

As for my Muslim Ummah, I tell it: it is the duty of every Muslim today to bear arms, and to serve or support those who are bearing arms. And his service and support must be in accordance with what those who bear the arms must ask of him, not in accordance with the institutions of those who flee from bearing arms. Every Muslim today is directly responsible for defending Islam, Islam's homeland, and the Islamic Ummah. And he is responsible for the efforts to liberate the Muslim captives - foremost of whom is Shaykh Umar Abd al-Rahman - from the prisons of the Crusaders and their helpers. And we reaffirm to the families of the Guantanamo captives, who are demonstrating these days in Cuba, that we - with Allah's permission - have not and will not forget our captives, and that their liberation is a debt on our necks, and that the Americans must expect to pay the price for everything they have done to them.

My Muslim Ummah: it isn't possible that Bush send his soldiers to kill the Muslims while we flee from the battle in the mazes of political ploys and elections on the basis of secular constitutions. There is no excuse for anyone today to stay behind the battle, and the Muslims must deafen their ears to all who attempt to spread in them the calls to betrayal, inaction, or inclination to the corrupt rulers. They must deafen their ears to the calls of the scholars of beggars who serve those who serve Bush, the calls of the religion-sellers who entered Kabul on the back of American tanks, and the calls of those who paint themselves with sectarianism and are prisoners of the spaces which American and its corrupt agents drew up for them.

It isn't possible that Bush send his soldiers to kill the Muslims while we continue to be prisoners, restrained by the shackles of organizations and foundations from entering the fields of battle. We must destroy every shackle which stands between us and our performing this personal duty. The reason for joining the Islamic organizations and foundations is to attain obedience to Allah, so if these organizations become an obstacle to performing Allah's obligations, then we must free ourselves from their shackles and confinement.

My Muslim brothers everywhere: the enemy has admitted before the friend that those who broke the back of the Americans and Crusaders in Afghanistan and Iraq, and defeated the American plot which wanted to swallow the states of the region are the Mujahideen, those who believed in Allah as their Lord, Islam as their religion, and Muhammad - peace be upon him - as their Prophet and Messenger, those who rejected national affiliations, nationalist fanaticism, the Sykes-Picot border, and international law. They, O my Muslim Ummah, are your righteous sons, and the true defenders of your honor, religion, and sanctities. So, O my Muslim Ummah, isn't it time that we reject and disbelieve in narrow patriotism which has torn apart the Ummah just as an international Crusade is being waged against it, which brings together Jews and Crusaders from every corner of the world. Isn't it time we reject the hateful patriotism which makes some regard Muhammad Dahlan and Mahmoud Abbas as their brothers, when both of them know that they are Palestine-selling secular traitors who are hostile to the Shari'ah and loyal to America and Israel. Allah has forbidden us in the Quran to take them or their like as friends and allies. The Truth, Exalted is He, says: 'Yee shall not find any people who believe in Allah and the Lord by loving those who oppose Allah and His Messenger, even if they be their fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or their clan.'

How can we possibly regard the sellers of the religion and land as brothers? My Muslim brothers in Palestine: al-Aqsa will only return through Jihad in Allah's path, and Jihad in Allah's path is only achieved when fighting is for the supremacy of Allah's Word, fighting solely for Allah's sake, which disowns the secularist traitors, even if they be from our people and clan, and is loyal to the believing Mujahideen, even if they have no ties of kinship or proximity to them. Anyone who takes a look at the secular nationalist movements in Palestine see an example of what most - if not all - the nationalist and leftist movements in the Arab world would have come to. They have submitted to international laws, agreed to give up the land which they used to consider the nexus of brotherhood and affiliation, joined the American train, and satisfied themselves with the ground reality imposed by Washington.

That's why I call on Arab nationalists and leftists to come back to Islam, the religion of honor, dignity, and freedom, because it is the real safeguard against humiliation, repression, and invasion. It is the revealed religion of Allah, the religion of truth and justice, which prohibits submission to created beings and fear of them. It is the religion of submission to Allah alone, and seeking His pleasures and His alone, and that's why you will only find honor in Islam.

Nationalist calls split the Muslim Ummah into Arabs, Persians, Kurds, Turks, Afghans and others, then split the Arabs into Egyptians, Moroccans, Syrians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Saudis, Yemenis, and others, and thus provide the best possible service to the Crusade invading the Islamic world. And instead of the Ummah uniting to confront the colonialist campaign, as it previously united in the face of the Crusader and Mongol invasions, the Ummah fell apart and fought itself.

Hasn't the time come to reject and disbelieve in the international law which imposed on us the Sykes-Picot borders and the existence of Israel in one of the holiest places of Islam, imposed on us the Crusader presence in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and South Lebanon, and even imposed on us the pulling back of the real borders of Lebanon to 30 kilometers inside Lebanon. The one who agrees to Resolution 1701 is approving the international Crusader presence in South Lebanon, and is approving the isolation of the Mujahideen in Palestine from their brothers in Lebanon. Accepting this resolution is an historic fall which cannot be justified or excused. What a huge difference between the stance of those who accepted Resolution 1701 and the stance of the most sincere one, Abu Bakr, (with whom Allah was pleased), who, when the Arabs apostatized, said: 'By Allah, if they refuse to give me a hobble which they used to give the Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, I will fight them over their refusal.' And what a huge difference between the stance of those who accepted Resolution 1701 and the Imam Husayn bin Ali (Allah was pleased with him), who refused to give himself up, saying: 'No, by Allah I will not them my hand like the meek and lowly, nor consent like a slave.'

And before I end my talk, I repeat my invitation to Bush to send his entire army to Iraq, because the lions of Islam are lying in wait to send them back to him killed and injured, with Allah's help. I also can't forget to give him the good news that he has embroiled his Ethiopian slaves in a definite disaster in Somalia and that the Mujahideen will break their backs with Allah's help and power. And they won't be cried over by the Americans, who pushed them into harm's way while continuing to command them from afar for them to die in their place.

At the end of my speech, I remind the Muslim Ummah of the duty towards its sons, the Mujahideen in Chechnya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Somalia, Algeria, and all lands of Islam. Back them with men, money, opinion, expertise, and prayers. And I mention specifically the two Islamic emirates in Afghanistan and Iraq, for they are waging battle in the two most crucial fields against the Zionist Crusade. The Truth, Exalted is he, says: 'When a chapter comes down, enjoining them to believe in Allah and to fight with His Messenger those with wealth and influence among them ask for you for exemption and say, 'Leave us be with those who sit [at home].' They are happy to be with those [the women] who remain behind. Their hearts are sealed and so they understand not. But the Messenger and those who believe with him fight with their wealth and their persons. For them are [all] good things and it is they who will prosper. Allah has prepared for them gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein. That is the supreme triumph.'

And our final prayer is that all praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds, and may peace and prayers be upon our master Muhammad and upon his family and companions."


Air Force Maj. Matthew R. Glover

While transporting men and equipment from Baghdad to Fallujah by helicopter on Nov. 13, 2004, Major Glover and his wingman came under heavy fire from the ground.

His crew immediately returned fire--but suddenly insurgents started shooting at them from the opposite direction as well. Glover and his co-pilot dodged enemy fire as his men tried to protect the other helicopter. After escaping the immediate kill zone, Glover realized that his wingman’s helicopter had been damaged. He escorted the other helicopter to Baghdad.

The evening wasn’t quite over though; after arriving in Baghdad, Glover immediately directed his crew to reload their weapons to support a second mission planned for that night. That mission, an assault on an enemy safe house, led to the capture of three high-value targets and the detention of 10 suspected insurgents. For his leadership and actions, Glover received the Distinguished Flying Cross on June 10, 2005.

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SecDef meets with military leaders in Afghanistan

17 January 2007
By Army Cpl. Tremeshia D. Ellis
19th Public Affairs Detachment

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met with U.S. military leaders at Bagram Airfield today for intelligence updates and discussions on current and future operations in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon’s top official made the trip to Bagram, the operational headquarters for the eastern regional command in Afghanistan, just a month after taking the reins at the Pentagon and dropping in on troops in Iraq.

This is part of a whirlwind effort Gates is making to get a first-hand perspective of the war on terror by visiting senior U.S. and Coalition senior leaders and troops on the ground in the Central and Southwest Asia, officials said.

Gates was accompanied by Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, commander of Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan. He was welcomed to Bagram by Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-76 and the 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).

During Gates’ time at Bagram, military leaders explained current and future capabilities of the airfield and how those capabilities will affect the overall mission in Afghanistan to defeat terrorism, provide humanitarian assistance and aid in infrastructure and economic development.

“It was a good exchange of ideas. The secretary and his entire team seemed very open and receptive,” Freakley said. “It’s great that the secretary would want to assess the situation, meet with his commanders on the ground and get their viewpoints and recommendations so early on in his tenure and during a time when he is preparing to make significant recommendations to the president.”

Though not unusual, Freakley said he feels these types of visits are of the utmost importance.

“Key leader visits are crucial to getting strategic guidance and also to fully understand the mission in Afghanistan,” he said.

The Defense Secretary agreed. Gates, who called success in Afghanistan one of his “top priorities,” said the objective of his visits are “to go out, listen to the commanders and see what I can learn.”

Photo - U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates discusses Bagram operations with senior U.S. leaders. Marine Gen. Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Center), looks on. Gates and Pace visited Bagram Airfield today. (Photo by Army Cpl. Tremeshia D. Ellis).

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Iraqi Army Unit Gains Full Operational Independence

17 January 2007
By Sgt. Paula Taylor
4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs

AL KINDI, Iraq — Coalition Forces joined their Iraqi Army counterparts in a Memorandum of Understanding signing Jan. 15 to mark the official handover of the 2nd Iraqi Army Division from Coalition to Iraqi control.

Prior to the MOU, the 2nd IA was working under the direction of the 25th Infantry Division and commander of Multi-National Forces-North, Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon. The memorandum signing turns control of the 2 IA over to the Iraqi Ground Forces Command.

Signing the documents, which were written in both English and Arabic, was Gen. Jamal, commander, 2 IA, and Col. Stephen Twitty, commander, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, who was representing Mixon.

“This ceremony is so important today because the 2nd Iraqi Army Division has demonstrated their capability to lead without Coalition Forces,” said Twitty. “They have demonstrated their ability to fight terrorism and conduct themselves as a division. They will be in the lead and we will be there to assist them whenever required.”

During the ceremony, Jamal addressed the Iraqi attendees and his soldiers.

“We have worked together with Coalition Forces since the formation of this division,” said Jamal. “During this time, we have been getting our equipment and training our soldiers. Now, today, we are ready to take full control of the battle space. We will continue to work together and cooperate with the Coalition Forces. We are confident we will succeed because the 2nd Division has trained hard and is well equipped to deal with any situation and handle the security of Mosul.”

Twitty, who also addressed the group, agreed with Jamal that the unit is ready to take over the battle space in Mosul.

“This is truly a historic event for the people of Iraq and the 2nd Iraqi Army Division. On behalf of General Mixon, the 25th Infantry Division, and the 4th Brigade Combat Team, I would like to applaud you for this historic occasion that you are about to embark on. This division has more than proven it is capable of bringing peace and security to the people of Mosul. You have gained the trust and confidence of the people in the city, the Iraqi police, and Coalition Forces. Your soldiers have demonstrated the capability to destroy terrorists wherever they may hide. I look forward to watching you lead your organization throughout the streets of Mosul. You are the future of Iraq,” said Twitty.

Photo: Col. Stephen Twitty, commander, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, sitting in for Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander, 25th Infantry Division, signs a Memorandum of Understanding with Gen. Jamal, commander, 2nd Iraqi Army Jan. 15 in Al Kindi, Iraq. The MOU marks the handover of Jamal's division from U.S. control to the Iraqi Ground Forces Command. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Paula Taylor, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs).

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mine Countermeasure ship arrives in Bahrain

MANAMA, Bahrain -- USS Gladiator (MCM 11), an Avenger-class mine countermeasure ship, arrived in Bahrain Jan. 23.

The 1,300 ton, 224-foot Gladiator is one of two new Avenger-class minesweepers that will be forward deployed here.

Gladiator and another mine countermeasure ship are replacing two recently decommissioned coastal mine hunters. The arrival of the two sister ships will maintain the current U.S. Navy presence of four mine countermeasure ships in the region.

“Mines are indiscriminate in their victims. They pose a threat to all maritime traffic, regardless of nationality or purpose,” said Deputy Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Rear Adm. Scott Swift. “Gladiator contributes to an important defensive capability for the coalition maritime force in our efforts to help safeguard the region’s vital links to the global economy."

Gladiator joins USS Dextrous (MCM 13) and USS Ardent (MCM 12) in support of ongoing Maritime Security Operations (MSO). Mine countermeasure ships provide the ability to protect ships and their crews from seemingly invisible threats in the water. Additionally, seaborne mine countermeasure ships contribute to MSO by conducting waterborne security missions and protecting oil platforms. The ships also perform escort duties, direct liaison and joint operations with coalition patrol forces and combatants.

"Maritime security operations help ensure local commerce can benefit this region and the world. Gladiator’s capabilities demonstrate our commitment to freedom of navigation,” said Swift. “We work closely with regional partners to provide security from mines in international waters so all commercial shipping can operate safely while transiting the region."

For further questions, please contact Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs Office at 011-973-1785-4027 or PAO.

Created at 1/23/2007 4:51 AM by Boughen, MAJ Marie A.

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16 terrorists killed, 10 detained in raids

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Coalition Forces killed 16 terrorists and detained 10 suspected terrorists while conducting operations Tuesday morning in the Baghdad and Haditha areas.
Intelligence reports indicated foreign terrorist facilitators were operating in an area northwest of Haditha. As Coalition Forces approached the area, several armed men exited buildings. Coalition Forces killed two armed terrorist and detained six other suspected terrorists as they attempted to flee the area.

Three terrorists made their way to a boat along the bank of the Al Qadisiyah Lake. They sped away to the opposite end of a small peninsula where they met up with four more men and were seen entering a tent. As Coalition Forces approached the area, the men exited the tents withweapons and ammunition vests.

Coalition Forces engaged the enemy force with rotary wing aircraft killing seven terrorists. Several weapons including grenades, machine guns and pistols were found in the tents.

In other operations in Baghdad, Coalition Forces approached a targeted building and called for the occupants to come out. Two men, a woman and four children exited the building, while several armed men were seen moving across the rooftop from an adjacent building.

Coalition Forces moved the women and children to a safe area away from the buildings and directed the men to surrender. The men began shooting at Coalition Forces and throwing grenades. One of the grenades started a fire in the building. Coalition Forces returned fire killing six terrorists. The two men who surrendered were detained for questioning.

The woman and her children were placed under Coalition Forces care until the area was deemed safe for return.

A raid in Yusufiyah targeted foreign fighter facilitators and individuals involved in the production of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices. Upon arrival at the objective building, one terrorist fled the building and maneuvered toward the ground forces.Ground forces assessed the terrorist as hostile and shot and killed him.One suspected terrorist was detained.

While searching the building, Coalition Forces discovered materials and equipment used in the detonation of explosive devices.

During a raid in Mosul, Coalition Forces detained a suspected foreign terrorist facilitator.

Coalition Forces are working diligently to eliminate foreign terrorists trying to prevent the development and building of a new stable and peaceful Iraq.


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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Kidnapping victim freed

BAGHDAD – Iraqi Army and Multi-National Division Baghdad Soldiers rescued a kidnapped Iraqi man while resuming clearing operations in a southern neighborhood of the Iraqi capital Jan. 18.

Soldiers with the 2nd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army and elements of the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, continued operations to clear and secure the Hadar and surrounding neighborhoods in Baghdad’s Al-Doura district to disrupt insurgent and militia activities.

While searching a house in the area, the joint patrol found a man handcuffed and noticeably tortured in the basement of the residence. The victim claimed he was taken from a local market for selling bread to Americans. In the cellar, the patrol found blood soaked rags, additional signs indicating the area was being used to torture captives.

In addition to the rescued individual, searches in the area also yielded seven caches, seven detainees and the corpses of nine murdered victims. The caches included numerous weapons, grenades, ammunition and improvised explosive device-making materials.

This section of Al-Doura is believed to be a dumping site for the bodies of murdered local nationals. Iraqi police operating in the area were called to remove the dead bodies and take the kidnapping victim to a nearby hospital for medical care.

The on-going operation in the Al-Doura district has resulted in 26 suspected insurgents detained to date, and the recovery of various weapons, ammunitions and bomb-making material.

All seven suspects detained in the operation are being held for further questioning. The weapons and ammunition uncovered have been handed over to explosive ordnance teams for disposal.

These joint efforts continue in Al-Doura to ensure the safety of the local population and improve the security of the community.


Created at 1/21/2007 10:43 PM by Matthew Hasson.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

NGAUS Notes: 1/19/2007

What’s Happening In Congress?
New VA Chairman and a Whole New Staff

Following former Congressman Lane Evan’s withdrawal from duties and retirement due to health reasons, Congressman Bob Filner of California has taken the realm as the new Chairman of the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee.

In taking this new position, Chairman Filner has also replaced three of the committee’s most senior Democratic staffers. Filner dismissed the full committee’s staff director, the Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee staff director, and the Health Subcommittee staff director. The incoming full committee staff director is retired Army Lt. Col. Malcolm Shorter. Shorter has experience as an Army Liaison on Capitol Hill and as a legislative assistant to Congressman Marty Meehan of Massachusetts. Shorter will begin his duties as the committee’s staff director on Monday, Jan. 22.

The VA Committee also has not yet formally organized or established the chairmen or members for the subcommittees. The Republican staff under ranking member Congressman Steve Buyer is not expected to change. The stability and continuity on the senior level of the Republican side could give Buyer an edge over Filner for the next two years of the 110th Congress.

What’s Happening At NGAUS?
CACO Conference Reminder

The 10th Annual Congressional Action Contact Officer (CACO) Conference will be held in Washington, D.C. on March 5 and 6. To register for this event we ask that you fill out the registration form that is located on our website and return it to emily.breitbach@ngaus.org or fax it to (202) 682 - 9358. To make hotel reservations contact the Phoenix Park Hotel at 1-800-824-5419 and mention group code 9641. The cut-off date for hotel reservations at the discounted rate is Feb. 2, 2007.

Congressman Rogers Receives Award.
On Wednesday Major General Donald Storm, the Adjutant General of Kentucky and Brig. Gen.(ret) Stephen Koper, President of NGUAS, presented the Charles Dick Medal of Merit to Congressman Harold Rogers (KY). The Charles Dick Medal of Merit is awarded to an individual who has distinguished themselves over an extended period of time in their support of the National Guard through service in a state or national elected legislative body. The support from this individual must be such that it has a lasting effect on the future of the National Guard. Also at this event were Congressman Geoff Davis and Congressman John Yarmuth, both representatives from Kentucky. After the award presentation the Kentucky National Guard presented a legislative briefing to their representatives in attendance and to the staffers of those not present. The briefing covered Army and Air equipment needs and also one important issue to both, reduced retirement age.

Kansas Stops By.
A group of Kansas National Guard members made an informal visit to the NGAUS Memorial Building after visiting with their state congressional delegation this week. Lt. Col. Tony Dejesus, Area IV representative on the NGAUS Committee on Membership, and some fellow Kansas Guardsmen spent time touring the NGEF Museum and the NGAUS Memorial Building.

For three of the Guardsmen it was their very first time at our building. The Kansas Guardsmen were very impressed with the building and the dedicated full time staff who work their issues for lobby for benefits in our nation’s capitol. The Kansas Guardsmen pledged to go back to their state and share their experience to encourage fellow Guardsmen to become members of NGAUS.

Keeping You Up to Date on Your Benefits.

Effective Feb. 1, 2007, the TRICARE Dental Program premiums will increase. The increased rates are as listed:

Active Duty

Single Premium $11.05
Family Premium $27.63

Selected Reserve

Sponsor Only $11.05
Single Premium $27.63
Family Premium $69.07
Sponsor-Family Premium $80.12


Sponsor Only $27.63
Single Premium $27.63
Family Premium $69.07
Sponsor-Family Premium $96.70

What Can You Do?
This is Your Building

The NGAUS staff would like to remind all of our members that this is your building. If ever you would like to hold a reception in the Hall of States or use the Montgomery room to go over legislative issues, you are welcome to give us a call and we will be happy to assist you in planning the event. The NGAUS Memorial building is located at One Massachusetts Avenue NW in Washington, D.C. This makes it a very convenient location both because of its close proximity to Union Station and the United States Capitol. Union Station is located only one block from our front door and the Capitol is approximately a 10 minute walk away. We encourage you to use the NGAUS building to receive legislative briefings prior to visiting your Congressional Delegation or to invite your delegation over for a meeting, breakfast, or even a reception.

Published by the NGAUS Legislative Staff:
Brig Gen (ret) Richard M.
Green, Director
Col (ret) Pete Duffy, Deputy Director
Chris DeBatt, Army Programs
Bernie Phelps, Senior Legislative Analyst
Emily Breitbach, Legislative Analyst

For more information on NGAUS, check out our website: NGAUS.

'Train the Trainer’ Membership Workshop Set for March

State and territory association leaderswill discover the latest membership recruiting and retention practices when NGAUS hosts a special “train the trainer” workshop March 11 and 12 at The National Guard Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Workshop participants will hear what helps many states consistently achieve 100 percent NGAUS membership within their ranks.

They will also review the association Web site, learn how to clarify the benefits and value of joining NGAUS and discuss a variety of membership committee initiatives.

Every state and territory is invited to send a participant.

Ideal participants, according to Lt. Col. Tracy L. Settle of South Dakota, the new NGAUS membership committee chairman, include state and territory association presidents, executive directors or membership chairs.

The workshop’s intent, he said, will be to provide attendees with all the tools necessary to go home and train their unit membership points of contact.

The association board of directors approved the workshop at its November meeting.

NGAUS will cover hotel and meal costs for participants.

Additional workshop information will be provided in NGAUS NOTES, on the Web site and directly to each state and territory association.

The workshop will likely generate conversation next week when state Guard association officials gather in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for the annual National Guard Executive Directors Association (NGEDA) meeting.

NGEDA meets every January in the NGAUS general conference host city to share information and begin planning for the larger event, this year set for Aug. 25 to 27. The exhibition will open Aug. 24.

Guard Continues its Torrid Recruiting Pace.
The Army National Guard signed up more people than the active-component Army, Marines and Air Force combined in December, according to Defense Department figures released Jan. 11.

The Army Guard’s 5,035 December accessions—119 percent of its goal—coupled with high retention rates enabled the organization to post its sixth consecutive quarter of personnel end-strength growth.

The 347,129 Army Guard soldier total is almost 14,000 more than it had 15 months ago. The Army Guard’s authorized end strength is 350,000.

The active-component Army also exceeded its December recruiting goals. Its 861 accessions were more than 123 percent of its goal of 700 new soldiers. The Air Force enlisted 2,330 new airmen while the Marines had 1,761 accessions in December.

Air Guard recruiting also remains strong. The Air Guard signed up 827 people in December, the eighth straight month it has exceeded its monthly recruiting goal.

National Guard Bureau officials attribute the Guard’s recruiting success to a continuing high propensity to serve among young people, more robust recruiting efforts and the new Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP).

G-RAP, which is designed to stimulate Guardsmen to talk up their service among peers, pays participants $2,000 dollars for every person they help enlist.

More than 100,000 Guard soldiers and airmen have signed up online to be recruiting assistants.

NGB officials said G-RAP produced 39,902 potential Army Guard soldiers in fiscal 2006, the first year of the program.

They said increased bonuses also have stimulated both recruiting and retention.

NGB: State Guard Leaders Support Mobilization Policy Changes.
Governors and Guard leaders nationwide have “reacted enthusiastically” to changes in Defense Department policy that will limit mobilizations to 12 months total, according to Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, National Guard Bureau chief.

In a Jan. 11 conference call with representatives of the 54 states and territories, General Blum answered questions about the policy changes Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced earlier that day.

He said those on the line “universally accepted and sincerely appreciated” the changes.

Among the changes, which primarily affect Army Guard and Reserve units, are that mobilizations will now be managed on a unit, not individual, basis.

The goal, the defense secretary said, is for a unit to have five years at home after every one-year mobilization. He acknowledged, however, that some Guard and Reserve units would remobilize sooner.

But those personnel required to remobilize sooner or stay longer will be compensated, Mr. Gates said, as part of a new program not yet announced.

Guard leaders have called for policy changes of this type for the last few years, General Blum said.

Reducing mobilization time will also impact how Guard units train for combat.

Unit commanders and their adjutants general will now be the certifying officers for individual through squad-level readiness in all areas: medical, personnel, equipment and training.

This should provide a stimulus for the Defense Department to better re-equip Guard units after they return from overseas, General Blum added.

Communications Department Seeks Seasoned Writer.
The National Guard Association has an immediate opening for an experienced staff writer. Selected candidate will contribute to NATIONAL GUARD, the association’s monthly magazine, NGAUS NOTES and the NGAUS Web site.

Duties include writing short news stories and covering a variety of hearings on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.

For the magazine, the successful candidate will contribute at least one substantial feature story each month and assist in editing and producing the final product. Some travel is required.

Candidates must have five years of reporting experience. Familiarity with the military and the National Guard is preferred.

Interest in writing about military/legislative topics a must. Car required. Salary: low- to mid-40s. Excellent benefits include health and dental coverage and a 401k plan. Convenient Capitol Hill location.

Please send cover letter, resume and three writing samples to:

Communications Department
National Guard Association
One Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, D.C., 20001.
Fax: 202-682-9358.
E-mail: Chris Prawdzik.

Please enter “Application” in the subject line if sending e-mail.

In early 1911, the NGAUS magazine sponsored the National Indoor Rifle Team match. It included 24 teams from across the United States participating at their local ranges, who mailed their marks to the magazine, which compiled the results.

Total scores were tallied from five stages: 500 yards, 600 yards, 1,000 yards, rapid fire and skirmish.

Company A, 2nd Battalion from Staunton, Va. finished first with a score of 3,271. Although the Virginia Guardsmen did not win any early stages, their skirmish score was 66 points from perfection as they edged Company K, 2nd Battalion from St. Peter, Minn., by 57 points in the final competition. The University of Iowa finished third.

The targets were all carefully scrutinized by the executive officer. Provisions were made the following year for scores to be sent via telegraph so that weekly reports could be tabulated before the start of the next stage.

This Week in Guard History.
Jan. 21, 1903: Congress enacts the Militia Act sponsored by Rep. Charles Dick, an Ohio National Guard major general and NGAUS president.

The law, which repealed the Militia Act of 1792, made the Guard part of the federal reserve, giving birth to today’s Guard.

The Guard would now receive more federal funding. And its members now had to meet stricter training requirements. In addition, Guard officers would have to be federally recognized as meeting certain physical, professional and moral standards.

All ranks now received pay for a fiveday summer encampment. Later, there would be compensation for all training and funds for armory construction.

The law eventually became known as the Dick Act of 1903. The award NGAUS bestows on elected officials bears the name Charles Dick.


U.S., Iraqi Troops Capture High-Ranking Aide to Sadr

This is a Fox News Report:
    BAGHDAD, IraqU.S. and Iraqi forces arrested one of Muqtada al-Sadr's top aides Friday in Baghdad, his office said, as pressure increased on the radical Shiite cleric's militia ahead of a planned security crackdown in the capital.

    Al-Sadr said in an interview with an Italian newspaper published Friday that the crackdown had already begun and that 400 of his men had been arrested. La Repubblica also quoted him as saying he fears for his life and stays constantly on the move.

    The raid came as Defense Secretary Robert Gates began his second trip to Iraq in less than a month, arriving in the southern city of Basra to consult with British and other allied commanders.

    Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Darraji, al-Sadr's media director in Baghdad, was captured and his personal guard was killed, according to another senior al-Sadr aide.

    Visit FOXNews.com's Iraq Center for more in-depth coverage.

    "We strongly condemn this cowardly act," said Sheik Abdul-Zahra al-Suweiadi.

    The U.S. military said special Iraqi army forces operating with coalition advisers captured a high-level, illegal armed group leader in Baladiyat, an eastern neighborhood near al-Sadr's stronghold. It did not identify the detainee, but said two other suspects were detained by Iraqi forces for further questioning.

    Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has pledged to crack down on Shiite militias as well as Sunni insurgents in a planned security operation. His reluctance to confront the Mahdi Army of al-Sadr, his political backer, has led to the failure of previous efforts to stem sectarian violence in Baghdad.

    In the interview with La Repubblica, al-Sadr said his militias would not fight back during the Muslim holy month of Muharram, saying it was against the faith to kill at that time.

    "Let them kill us. For a true believer there is no better moment than this to die: Heaven is insured," he was quoted as saying. "After Muharram, we'll see."

    The Muharram starts Friday for Sunnis and Saturday for Shiites.

    Al-Sadr said he is being targeted.

    "For this reason, I have moved my family to a secure location. I even have had a will drawn up, and I move continuously in a way that only few can know where I am," he was quoted as saying by Repubblica.

    Militia commanders have said the Shiite prime minister has stopped protecting the fighters under pressure from Washington and have described pinpoint raids in which at least five top commanders of similar standing were captured or killed in recent months.

    The U.S. military accused the main suspect captured Friday of having ties with the commanders of so-called death squads, which have been blamed for many of the killings that have left dozens of bodies, often showing signs of torture, on the streets of Baghdad.

    The suspect was detained "based on credible intelligence that he is the leader of illegal armed group punishment committee activity, involving the organized kidnapping, torture and murder of Iraqi civilians," according to the military statement.

    It also said he was reportedly involved in the assassination of numerous Iraqi security forces and government officials.

    "The suspect allegedly leads various illegal armed group operations and is affiliated with illegal armed group cells targeting Iraqi civilians for sectarian attacks and violence," the statement read, adding he was believed to be affiliated with Baghdad death squad commanders, including Abu Diraa, a Shiite militia leader who has gained a reputation for his brutality.

    Al-Suweiadi did not give more details, but another official in al-Sadr's office said al-Darraji was captured during a 2 a.m. raid on a mosque in Baladiyat, less than a mile from a U.S. base.

    The official and an Iraqi police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of security concerns, also said one of the mosque's guards was killed in a firefight during the raid that damaged the mosque walls, while four other people who were with the sheik were arrested.

    Abdul-Razzaq al-Nidawi, an al-Sadr aide in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, demanded that al-Darraji and other detainees from the cleric's movement, be released and called for demonstrations after the weekly Friday prayer services.

    "America is playing with fire and our patience is beginning to fade," he said. "This savage barbarian act will not pass peacefully."

    Gates, who met earlier with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, said they had expressed concern about whether al-Maliki can deliver on his promises to rein in the violence and "quite frankly, these are reservations that have been expressed in Washington, and we will be watching."

    Highlighting the challenges, a rocket struck a British military base late Thursday in Basra, wounding six soldiers, spokeswoman Capt. Katie Brown said, hours before Gates arrived.

    Britain, which has the largest troop contingent among the U.S. allies, with about 7,000 soldiers in the Basra area, is planning to withdraw a large portion of them this year.

    A roadside bomb killed one U.S. soldier and wounded three others in an attack against a patrol that was escorting a convoy in northwestern Baghdad, the military said Friday.

    U.S. and Iraqi forces are gearing up for a major neighborhood-by-neighborhood sweep to quell the spiraling violence in the capital...
Very good news. I hope to see much more news like this. You go guys!

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