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Sunday, April 22, 2007

What Can You Do?

Capwiz Update

4652 messages have been sent this year.
228 messages were sent this week.
1672 messages on Guard Empowerment.
2700 messages were sent on TRICARE fee increases.

Top 5 States:

1. Georgia - 717 messages
2. Tennessee - 514 messages
3. Oklahoma - 192 messages
4. Missouri - 191 messages
5. Florida - 184 messages

Our Goal for 2007: 54,000 messages. Get writing!
Only 49,348 messages to go!

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

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Capitol Challenge Race

Every year the American Council of Life Insurers puts on the Capitol Challenge three mile race in Washington DC. This event is an invitational race for teams representing the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the government and the media. All of the profits from the event benefit the Special Olympics of D.C. This year the National Guard magazine will be sponsoring a team of NGAUS employees to participate in this race. The “All Stars” will be representing NGAUS and the National Guard Empowerment Act’s effort to elevate the Chief of the National Guard Bureau from a three- to a four-star general. Wish our team luck on May 2nd!

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What’s Happening At NGAUS?

State Conferences

The NGAUS staff continues it’s effort to attend many state conferences this spring. Last weekend NGAUS had representatives at the New Mexico and Indiana conferences. This weekend the NGAUS staff will spread across the country in Montana, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado, New York, and Missouri. We are pleased to be able to visit all of our State National Guard Associations and are happy to provide briefings and various information and support at these events.

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House Asks Where UAVs Belong

Yesterday the House Armed Services Air and Land Forces Subcommittee held a hearing on the proposed fiscal 2008 budget. In particular, the hearing focused on the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle program and the issue of single control of the program under one service. Many issues of efficiency and effectiveness were discussed, leading to a request for answers in writing from the panel explaining how many service members are currently working within the UAV fields for each service and also a detailed response on how having the Air Force as the executive agency for UAVs would effect other services getting what they needed when they needed it. The question on the number of service members comes from a previous hearing where General Moseley stated that 75,000 airmen are performing jobs normally filled by the Army.

During this hearing Michigan Representative Candice Miller brought the importance of the National Guard’s role with UAVs to the committee’s attention, noting that the UAV has an important place in border security particularly within the National Guard.

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Senate Takes a Look at MILCON

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veteran’s Affairs and Related Agencies held a hearing on the proposed fiscal 2008 appropriations for programs within its jurisdiction. The Senate has shown that it is fully aware of the significant impact that the elimination of MILCON dollars is having on the Army and Air National Guard.

More information on this issue can be found in next weeks LEGIT publication.

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What’s Happening In Congress?

Reserve Retirement in the Senate

On Wednesday, April 18, 2007, the Senate Armed Services Subcommittees on Personnel, Readiness and Management held a joint hearing on the readiness impact of quality of life and family support programs to assist families of active duty, National Guard, and reserve military personnel.

During the course of this hearing, the committee discussed retirement benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserve and Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) provided a statement on his bill, S.648, The National Guard and Reserve Modernization Act. During his statement, Senator Chambliss noted that “Since September 11, 2001, an annual average of about 60 million duty days have been performed by Reserve Component members – the equivalent of adding over 164,000 personnel to the active strength each year…this represents almost a five-fold increase since the 1990s…”

Referring to the cash bonuses now in place to enhance retention, Senator Chambliss said that, despite the effectiveness of these bonuses, he would “much rather motivate behavior over the long-term by providing an early retirement benefit based on continuous service and deployments.”

Given that “Guard and Reserve members are the only federal retirees who must wait until age 60 to collect retirement pay,” Senator Chambliss’ bill will reduce the age for receipt of retirement pay by three months for every 90 days a Guard member spends on active duty in support of a contingency operation or while responding to a national emergency since September 11, 2001.

Senator Chambliss said that the bill is the right thing to do because Guard members who are called away to duty are “sacrificing their civilian careers, including their retirement benefits.” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) agreed, calling the bill “a great idea” and further stating that “now is the time to look at the retirement system of the Guard and Reserve.”

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This Week in Guard History

April 21, 1969: Fire Support Base "Dottie," Vietnam - Capt. Roland Labonte, commander of Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 197th Artillery (N.H.) is killed and two of his men are wounded during an enemy mortar attack on the base. He was visiting "Dottie" as a liaison officer between the battalion and men of its "Jungle Battery." The Battery is an experiment combining three 105mm howitzers from a regular Army artillery unit along with three 155mm howitzers from the 197th.

The entire unit is moved by helicopter making it deployable to hilltop positions inaccessible to trucks. Often the men and their guns found themselves surrounded by deep, thick foliage, hence the name Jungle Battery.

Captain Labonte, the first of six New Hampshire Guardsmen to be killed in action in Vietnam, is also the highest ranking Army Guard officer to die in combat in that war. He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star and New Hampshire Commendation medals.

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NGAUS History

The Korean War brought a change in venue for the NGAUS General Conference in 1951. Originally planned for New York City, it was moved to Washington, D.C. Reasons for the change were the same as the 1950 conference, which was relocated from Houston, to Washington, D.C.: proximity to the Capitol and the Pentagon. This allowed lawmakers and military chiefs to easily address delegates. The most recent change of venue took place last year, when the damage from Hurricane Katrina forced a shift from New Orleans, to Albuquerque, N.M.

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Policy Change Boosts GI Bill Eligibility for Some

A recent Defense Department policy change widens the eligibility window for some Guardsmen and Reservists who want to use their Montgomery G.I. Bill education benefits, a senior DoD official said Tuesday.

The DoD policy now aligns with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) rules, which say Guardsmen and Reservists are eligible to receive Montgomery G.I. Bill education benefits for the period covering the amount of time they served on active duty, plus four months, said Tom Bush, with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs.

The previous policy, he said, only recognized the amount of active-duty time as applied to the G.I. Bill coverage period for reserve-component members but still required the member to continue serving in the Guard or Reserve. The change means the benefit can be used by those who leave the Guard or Reserve for the amount of time that they served on active duty, plus four months.

The total amount of G.I. Bill coverage for Guardsmen and Reservists is still 36 months, Mr. Bush said. So, if you've used part of the benefit, it may eat into that 36 months, he said.

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Army Guard Marks Hitting End Strength Benchmark

The Army Guard celebrated reaching its full authorized troop strength with a small party at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, Va., Wednesday. The event marked the Army Guard's return to 350,000 soldiers for the first time in three and a half years.

"This is a day of celebration for us, a piece of history, really," said Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, Army Guard director. "People said the Guard was not capable of making 350,000." The Army Guard ended the month of March with 350,421 soldiers - the first time it hit or exceeded 350,000 troops since September 2003. Army Guard personnel strength fell gradually after that, standing at about 333,000 troops in September 2005.

Army officials wanted to cut funding in fiscal 2006 for the empty positions, but Guard officials vowed to restore the force's personnel strength. General Vaughn said they turned the situation around with increased bonuses, a larger recruiting force and new marketing and advertising campaigns.

One key, he said, was the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP). The program pays qualified part-time soldiers up to $2,000 for every person they help enlist. Officials said 31,026 of the Army Guard's new soldiers were recruited through G-RAP.

During Wednesday's party, pictures of flying pigs adorned the Readiness Center lobby. General Vaughn said the artwork was intended to poke a little fun at the Army Guard's doubters. "[They] said the Guard will make 350,000 when pigs fly," he said. "Pigs are flying."

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NGAUS Leaders, Staff to Attend State Conferences

Several key NGAUS leaders and staff will fan out across the country over the next two weekends to attend state Guard association conferences. Their goal will be to share timely association information and to take membership feedback. They will also discuss top Guard issues and provide a progress report on the current legislative session.

Most State Guard associations hold conferences in the winter and early spring, with a high concentration the last two weeks of April. These meetings gather association members and leaders and local officials to discuss Guard matters important to that state. NGAUS leaders and staff try to attend every state conference to which they are invited.

Retired Brig. Gen. Stephen M. Koper, NGAUS president, will attend the Colorado conference in Vail, Colo., this weekend. Meanwhile, Brig. Gen. Norman E. Arflack, vice chairman (Army), and Chris DeBatt, head of Army activities, will attend the Illinois conference and retired Brig. Gen. Richard Green, legislative director, will be at the New York conference. In addition, Hazell Booker, industry and association liaison director, will attend the Missouri conference while Pete Duffy, deputy legislative director, will be at the Montana conference and Emily Breitbach, head of Air Activities, will attend the Kansas conference.

Next weekend, NGAUS leaders or staff will attend conferences in Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. In May and June, association officials plan, at a minimum, to be at state association gatherings in California, Michigan, Minnesota and New Jersey. Earlier this year, NGAUS leaders or staff attended conferences or business meetings in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah. For more information, please contact NGAUS's website.

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Pentagon to Offer Time Off for Added Deployments

The Defense Department unveiled a program Wednesday to provide administrative leave to service members whose combat deployments don't meet Pentagon objectives for "dwell time" between deployments. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates first announced the development of the program during a White House press conference Jan. 11, 2007.

It was to be part of a new force management policy with stated goals of giving active-duty troops two years at home station for every year deployed and reserve-component troops five years at home for every year deployed. The program, he said, would help "compensate" those forced to deploy without the prescribed dwell time.

But Michael Dominguez, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, described the actual program Wednesday as more "recognition" than compensation. Under the new policy, Guardsmen and Reservists will earn one day of "administrative absence" a month for every month beyond 12 they are mobilized in a 72-month period. They will earn two days a month if they are mobilized past 18 months in a 72-month period, and four days a month if they are mobilized past 24 months in the same period.

Administrative absences are days off authorized by the commander, and are separate from normal leave, Mr. Dominguez said. He acknowledged that a monetary package had been considered but insisted the final decision to provide only time off was not linked to budget issues. The policy is retroactive to Jan. 19.

NGAUS officials are urging Pentagon officials to reconsider their decision to "abandon compensation for recognition." For more information, contact NGAUS at their website.

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Clearing operation nets five weapons caches in Baghdad

Sunday, 22 April 2007.

Clearing operation Nets Five Weapons Caches in Baghdad’s Mansour district
Multi-National Division – Baghdad PAO 3rd SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div. Public Affairs Officer

BAGHDAD – Coalition Force members and Iraqi Army troops continued clearing operations in the Iraqi capital’s Mansour security district, uncovering five weapons caches April 21 during Operation Arrowhead Strike 9.

The weapons and ammunition discovered included one submachine gun, five AK-47 assault rifles with eight full magazines, two pistols with four full magazines, one full can of blasting caps used for improvised explosive devices, two small two-way radios and one sword.

Iraqi Army troops from 1st Battalion, 5th Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division, along with U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division participated in the clearing operation.

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One terrorist killed, 19 suspects captured, bomb-making cache found

Sunday, 22 April 2007

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Coalition Forces killed one terrorist, detained 19 suspected terrorists and found caches of weapons and chemicals used to make improvised explosive devices during operations Sunday.

An armed terrorist was killed and 19 suspected terrorists were detained when Coalition Forces raided several buildings southeast of Fallujah.

During that raid, Coalition Forces found large amounts of chemicals used to make IEDs, several weapons and bomb-making accessories, including more than 50 pressure plates and a suicide vest. A controlled detonation destroyed the materials on site.

A vehicle found on the scene loaded with explosives was destroyed by an air strike.

“Coalition forces continue to remove dangerous stores of weapons and explosives from the hands of terrorists and the enemies of the people of Iraq," said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, MNF-I spokesperson. "This represents one more small victory in the war against those that would deny safety and security to the Iraqi people.”

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Coalition, Afghan Forces Counter Taliban Offensive

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, April 18, 2007 – Coalition and Afghan National Army operations have blunted the Taliban spring offensive in eastern Afghanistan, Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Votel said at a Pentagon news conference today.

Votel, the deputy commanding general for operations for Combined Joint Task Force 82, spoke to reporters via a video hook-up.

Votel said coalition operations seem to have countered the long-anticipated Taliban spring offensive.

“We have been more offensive than I think they have in our posturing and in our ability to dominate areas on the battlefield,” Votel said. “As a result of that, I think we've seen a decrease in activities along the border. And our ability to be in more places, along with our Afghan national security force partners, has enabled us to address a broader area across Regional Command East.”

Coalition and Afghan leaders began preparing to counter the Taliban offensive over the winter. More NATO and U.S. troops are in the country, there is closer cooperation with Pakistani forces, and more Afghan forces moved to the border area to stop Taliban infiltration. This seems to have paid off, Votel said.

“So I would not necessarily characterize it as any kind of offensive,” he said. “We certainly haven't seen it manifest itself to any great degree.”

There have been attacks, the general said, “but we have not seen what I would describe as a spring offensive by the Taliban.”

Regional Command East is part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. U.S., NATO and Afghan forces continue to hunt Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists. The command helps train Afghan soldiers, police and border patrol personnel. It also helps extend the influence and control of the central and provincial governments.

The command is in the midst of Operation Eagle Teamwork, which builds on the counterinsurgency strategy of clear, hold and build.

“In the clear phase, we are focusing on separating the insurgents from the population,” Votel said. “This requires the Afghan national security forces' participation at all levels to kill or capture the enemy and disrupt his command and control capability. To this end, we are conducting military operations in the interior of the country and along the border area with Pakistan.”

In the hold phase, the command helps the Afghan government establish a permanent presence in the region. In the build phase, the command invests in developing and expanding government capabilities into these provincial and district areas, the general said.

“We are working very closely with the U.S. Agency for International Development and other national and international non-governmental organizations to ensure our military operations are quickly followed by reconstruction and development activities that extend the reach and influence of the district, provincial and national governments,” he said.

Regional Command East has spent more than $125 million of the Commanders Emergency Response Program funds to make a difference in the lives of Afghans in the region, Votel said.

“Our top development efforts are focused on provincial coordination centers, district coordination centers, the development and capacity building within the Afghan national security forces, roads, agriculture, border security, education and health care,” he said.

In the past three months, the command has funded 14 agricultural projects, more than 60 educational projects, about 20 electricity projects and more than 40 health care projects. “Water is a key aspect here in Afghanistan, and as a result, we've worked 25 irrigation projects, repairing dams, water systems, flood walls and canals,” Votel said.

Roads are key in the landlocked country. The command has nearly 65 transportation projects -- roads, bridges, and retaining walls -- under way, the general said.

U.S. soldiers have taken the news that they must serve 15-month tours in Afghanistan in stride, Votel said. “Nobody wants to stay any longer than they're required to stay here in Afghanistan,” he said. “But that said, you know, we are relatively early on in our deployment here. It was not unexpected completely that we might be extended.

“I think in talking to most soldiers out there – and I do have a pretty good opportunity to get around and visit with them and talk to them – they are glad to be here participating in this mission,” he continued. “They believe in it. And I think they're committed to stay and accomplish the mission. And we will trust that our leaders will be taking care of our families and get us back as soon as we can and when we've completed our portion of the mission.”

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Iraq Resolution Important to Region, World

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
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CAIRO, Egypt, April 18, 2007 – The situation in Iraq dominates the political landscape of the United States and of Middle Eastern countries, where citizens have “watched developments in that country with growing concern,” U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told a group of American businessmen here today.

Speaking to the American Chamber of Commerce here, Gates urged people to put aside disagreements they might have “over how we got to this point in Iraq,” and realize how devastating a failed state in Iraq could be.

“The consequences of a failed state in Iraq, of chaos there, will adversely affect the security and prosperity of every nation in the Middle East and the Gulf region,” he said. “There may be some who, over resentment or disagreements over what happened in the past, might be cheering for failure.”

The secretary called such sentiments “dangerously short-sighted and self-destructive.”

“The first and second effects of a collapse in Iraq -- with all of its economic, religious, security and geopolitical implications -- will be felt in capitals and communities in the Middle East well before they are felt in Washington and in New York,” Gates said. “The forces that would be unleashed -- of sectarian strife, of an emboldened extremist movement with access to sanctuaries -- do not recognize or respect national boundaries.”

He stressed that the primary victims of violence in Iraq are not American, coalition or Iraqi servicemembers, but “tens of thousands of innocent civilians -- men, women and children whose major crime was to go to the market or to attend Friday prayers.”

“Where extremists have seized and controlled territory in the past -- in western Iraq, eastern Afghanistan, or elsewhere -- the result has been misery, poverty and fear,” Gates said. “We have seen the future promised by the extremists: a dark, joyless existence personified not by piety and virtue, but by the executioner and the suicide bomber.”

Gates also explained the importance of the Baghdad security plan, “a strategy focused on providing basic security to the Iraqi people,” which is under way now.

“The immediate goal is to create the breathing room necessary to allow reform and reconciliation to go forward, steps that will give all of Iraq’s communities -- majority and minorities alike -- a stake in that nation’s future,” he continued.

During a meeting this morning, Gates thanked Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for the Egyptian leader’s willingness to host and meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki later this week and to host an upcoming conference of Iraq’s neighbors to try to form regional solutions to Iraq’s problems.

During the speech to the Chamber of Commerce group, the secretary urged Iraq’s neighbors “to play a constructive role going forward.”

“We certainly encourage Iraq’s Arab neighbors to use their influence to dampen homegrown insurgency and alleviate sectarian conflict,” Gates said. “Other nations who have not been good neighbors to Iraq, such as Syria and Iran, should start becoming part of the regional solution that encourages political reconciliation and reduces violence.”

In response to a question from the audience, Gates said he believes progress is being made in Iraq, but political reconciliation progress could be moving more quickly.

“I believe that Iraq’s neighbors can help facilitate that reconciliation process, and I think that could all come together relatively quickly once the different sectarian factions or groups in Iraq decide to live together peacefully with one another,” he said.

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Suicide Bomb Attacks Present Top Challenge in Iraq, Fallon Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, April 18, 2007 – Suicide-bomb attacks on coalition and Iraqi troops and civilians, orchestrated by Al Qaeda and Sunni extremists, present the top challenge in establishing security and stability in Iraq, the commander of U.S. Central Command testified at a Congressional hearing on Capitol Hill today.

“Of all the things that we have on the plate in Iraq, the one that I think is first and foremost as a target for us to try to get a grip on and to neutralize is the group that is very clearly al Qaeda-motivated that is linked to Sunni extremists in this country that are perpetrating these big suicide bombings,” Navy Adm. William J. Fallon told House Armed Services Committee members.

Al Qaeda in Iraq and affiliated Sunni extremists want to kill and maim U.S. troops in Iraq in order to sap the coalition’s will, Fallon said. The extremists also want to kill and injure as many civilians as possible to foment sectarian strife and destabilize the new Iraqi government.

“In Iraq, we need an essential degree of security and stability so that the fledgling institutions in this country can actually be able to benefit the citizens,” Fallon said, adding he’d like to see “a substantially reduced level of bloodshed and violence.”

Fallon took over as CENTCOM’s chief March 16. Since then, he told the committee, he’s traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern couintries that come under his command’s purview.

After discussions with key U.S. and Iraqi military and civilian leaders and sifting through reams of data, Fallon said, he found significant signs of a reduction in the number of murders and other kinds of sectarian violence in Iraq.

“However, I will tell you quite honestly that it bothers me and I hold my breath regularly in anticipation, regrettably, of the suicide bombers,” Fallon said. “These people that are just seemingly, totally bent on creating as much chaos and bloodshed as possible, particularly against the civilian communities. I think we are challenged to work against this problem.”

The best way to circumvent al Qaeda’s strategy in Iraq is to convince the country’s Sunni population that it has a viable stake in the new Iraq’s future, Fallon said.

The al Qaeda-Sunni extremist nexus “is the most destabilizing” element in Iraq today, he reiterated.

A key to establishing stability across Iraq is to convince its people there’s a better life for them down the road, the admiral said.

“I’d like to see a place in which people have confidence that their future is going to be better than what they’d seen in the past and what they have today,” Fallon said. “And how we’re going to measure that (Iraqi confidence) is one of the key things that I’m working on right now.”

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Fallon: Radical Islamic Leader’s Aims Remain a Puzzle

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, April 18, 2007 – The intentions of radical Islamic cleric Muqtada al-Sadr largely remain cloudy amid the shifting sands of power politics in the new Iraq, the commander of U.S. Central Command testified at a Congressional hearing today.

“This is a guy that’s pretty difficult to understand for us,” Navy Adm. William J. Fallon told House Armed Services Committee members. “He holds, clearly, a large amount of influence within segments of the Iraqi population, but of late he has been absent.”

Sadr is a Baghdad-based Shiite religious leader who commands the Mahdi Army militia, which has fought U.S. and Iraqi troops on many occasions.

The fiery cleric advocates an immediate withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq. But, he has mostly disappeared from public view since the mid-February start of the surge of U.S. and Iraqi forces into Baghdad and parts of western Iraq, Fallon noted.

“By all accounts he appears to be in Iran,” Fallon commented on reports of Sadr’s whereabouts. Yet, the cleric’s “particularly nasty” militia members, he said, remain a nuisance to U.S. and coalition troops in the Baghdad area.

News reports attribute the recent resignation of six Sadr loyalists in the Iraqi Cabinet as a stunt arranged by the cleric to protest the lack of a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday during a visit to Amman, Jordan, that the cabinet resignations may prove to be advantageous to the Iraqi government. The secretary acknowledged that Sadr’s motives are unclear at this point and remain, for now, “a mystery.”

Fallon said not one of Sadr’s many public proclamations issued since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime have been helpful to the coalition or the new Iraqi government.

Yet, Sadr’s militia hasn’t tried to stop the movement of U.S. and Iraqi security forces into Baghdad as the surge continues, the admiral noted.

However, the cleric’s followers “are attacking our forces sporadically,” Fallon said. There is currently no indication of a Mahdi Army-staged mass uprising against U.S. troops, he added.

Fallon told the House committee that most Iraqi citizens are weary of sectarian strife and bloodshed and are likely not interested in Sadr’s overtures for continued violence. It’s therefore important, he said, that Iraqi leaders publicly denounce the extremists at every opportunity.

The admiral took over as CENTCOM’s commander March 16. Since then, he told the committee, he’s traveled to Iraq, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries that come under his command’s purview.

After discussions with key U.S. and Iraqi military and civilian leaders and sifting through reams of data, Fallon said he sees significant signs of a reduction in the number of murders and other kinds of sectarian violence in Iraq.

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Iraqi Police Join the Security Mission in Diwaniyah

Multi-National Division, Baghdad
4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division


DIWANIYAH, Iraq, April 10, 2007 — Operation Black Eagle moved into a new phase of operations with the Iraqi police joining the Iraqi army and Coalition Forces in security operations here, April 8.

Iraqi police began manning key checkpoints throughout the city, further adding to the security forces already in place.

"The Iraqi police are now out in force helping to enforce the rule of law in Diwaniyah," said Col. Michael Garrett, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division.

The Iraqi police were not involved in the initial operation for many reasons. They were asked to stay at their stations in order to protect them from the possibility of reprisal attacks from the militias.

"The Iraqi Police lacked the training necessary to conduct this type of operation," said Brig. Gen. Sadiq Jafar Ali, provincial police chief. "Thanks to the help and expertise of the Iraqi army and Coalition Forces, the Iraqi police will now be able to cooperate with them to secure the city."

The Iraqi army was asked by the government of Iraq to rid the town of militia members and other terrorist groups who had waged a campaign of murder and intimidation against the people of Diwaniyah and the security forces charged with protecting them.

Summing up the attacks, Maj. Gen. Oothman Farhood, commander of the 8th Iraqi army Division and leader of the assault against the militia, mentioned hundreds of attacks and dozens of kidnappings and murders in the city.

"We have received more than 700 requests for the help of the Iraqi army from the people of Diwaniyah," he said. "The Iraqi army is here for the people of Iraq and to help the Iraqi police provide security for the citizens of Diwaniyah."

According to Oothman, Operation Black Eagle has achieved tremendous success, but much work remains. From capturing terrorists and their weapons to giving the people of Diwaniyah the hope of returning to their normal lives, the cooperation of the Iraqi army and their counterparts is moving into the next phase of operations.

Fighting continued in the city April 8 as the Iraqi Army and Coalition Forces captured 39 militia members and several larges caches of weapons and explosives.

"We have freed the people of Diwaniyah from murder and intimidation that have plagued the city 24 hours a day, seven days a week for months," Oothman said.

Even with the assurances, concerns remain about the future security of the city once the Iraqi Army and Coalition Forces leave the city. "As with all wars, this is not a one or two-day event," Oothman stated. "We are going to be here until we have returned security and stability to Diwaniyah."

Maj. Gen. Pawel Lamla, commander of the Multi National Division-Central South, also talked about a long and thorough rebuilding and restructuring plan.

"As you can see, we are here together as a coalition of many countries for a common goal," he said. "We are here for the benefit of the city of Diwaniyah and its people."

Lamla also discussed the next phase of Operation Black Eagle, securing the city and repairing damage caused by the fighting.

"The terrorists and militias seek to destroy the city. We want to destroy the militias and rebuild and repair the damages that have occurred," Lamla said. He also talked of the link between the new Baghdad security plan and the on-going operations in Diwaniyah.

"As the Baghdad security plan goes into its next phase, we will do the same. We are going to establish joint security stations throughout the city. The Iraqi Army and police will supervise the stations alongside Coalition Forces," Lamla said. "With the JSS (Joint Security Station), we will maintain a constant presence within the city and improve the capability of the Iraqi police at the same time.

"As soon as the Iraqi police are capable, we will return security responsibilities to them," Lamla continued. "Until then, we will do what is required, for as long as it takes to make Diwaniyah safe."

Photo: Iraqi army troops and policemen patrol the streets of Diwaniyah, Iraq, alongside soldiers and paratroopers from Multi National Division-Central South and Multi National Division-Baghdad during Operation Black Eagle, April 8, 2007. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Steven Childers.

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Airmen, Soldiers Mentor Afghan Medical Instructors

10 April 2007
By Staff Sgt. Carlos Diaz
U.S. Central Command Air Forces Public Affairs


CAMP EGGERS, Afghanistan – A team of five highly-skilled Air Force and Army medics mentor Afghan National Army instructors at the combat medic school in Kabul.

Their mission is to guide the ANA instructors into leading the combat medic course, which was recently extended to eight weeks. As instructors, they serve as mentors and help promote the growth and professionalism of the ANA’s road to self-sufficiency.

“The ANA has never had medics in the field,” said Army Master Sgt. Jeffrey Ryle, combat medic course instructor. “So, after further discussions with the ANATEC (Afghan National Army Training and Education Command), a combat medic course was implemented.”

The course teaches basic emergency medical technician information, anatomy and physiology theory, airway management and patient assessment, just to name a few.

Initially, the course was six weeks, but after further evaluation, it was determined that two more weeks needed to be added to the curriculum.

“We just didn’t have enough time to get them trained during the original timeframe,” Ryle said. “This extra training is necessary to enhance those basic medical skills even more.”

Inside of a lecture classroom in the basement of the combat medic school, Sen. Airman Phillip Bordé teaches a note-taking class to a roomful of students.

“I noticed a need for the students to have good note-taking abilities,” said Bordé, who’s deployed from the 42nd Medical Operations Squadron in Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala. “This class should also improve their study skills.” the EMT with two years of outpatient clinic experience said.

Soon after the class ended, Master Sgt. Sherri Tarun, a medical mentor, addressed the students. “After these eight weeks, you’ll be disciplined combat medics ready for war,” she said.

Once the students graduate, they receive sustainment training in the field, Tarun, who’s deployed from the 375th Aeromedical Squadron in Scott AFB, Ill., added.

“It’s great for the students to see us working with the ANA instructors side by side,” Sergeant Tarun said.

One of the ANA instructors is a four-year member of the medical corps. He enjoys working with his American counterparts.

“We’ve learned so much from the American instructors,” ANA Master Sgt. Mohammad Sohaib said. “They’ve guided and helped us in teaching the students. That help allows us to produce the best leaders from this course.”

Sohaib said the students receive classroom lecture during the morning hours and in the afternoon perform hands-on-training in the field.

In the afternoon, the students walked several cement steps toward a rocky knoll. Scattered rocks dominated the hill’s walking path while tall trees dotted the rest of the site.

The students were separated into five groups.

Bordé approached his group, removed his desert camouflage uniform top and wrapped a blood pressure meter around his arm.

The students then took turns with the meter to monitor their systolic blood pressure and stethoscope to hear each other’s pulses.

In another group, Army Master Sgt. Craig Abrom, NCOIC of the combat medic course, took advantage of — what he calls — “opportunity training.”

“I enjoy this type of training because I can quiz and ask questions,” the 22-year Soldier said. “It reinforces what the students have just learned.”

Abrom enforces communication within the students’ learning. He asked the shy students questions so they can become more vocal and comfortable with the material.

“I really enjoy working with these young soldiers, “he said. “I get a kick out of seeing the light bulb come up above their heads. We’re really making a difference with them.”

Two of those students were Mohammad Haleem and Mohammad Sadiq. Their first name wasn’t the only thing they shared.

“We really like the course,” they said. “The medical teachings are well done, and we enjoy learning from the ANA and American instructors, too.”

ANA student Sadiq seemed to grasp the course material. “This course makes sense to me, and I understand it well,” he confidently said.

Abrom noted the students’ gradual improvement and progression.

“The quality of the medics’ knowledge has vastly improved,” he said.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

National Recruiters Day May 19th

Eric Cooper is leading that effort through Gathering of Eagles. He is also involved with Soldiers' Angels.

Eric has asked Soldiers Angels to assist getting the word out-thus far there has been commitments from the following states:

AZ CA CO FL GA IA IN KY MD MI MN MO NC ND NJ NV NY OH OK PA SD TX VA VT

You may reach Eric Cooper through e-mail.

You may also reach him at the GOE site.

To get involved- please contact Eric and ask if a leader is set in place yet-- and if not- sign up!! and if there is a leader- contact them to assist with a game plan for the state.

Greetings! As announced by the Gathering of Eagles.

Chairman on 6 Apr, GOE is planning to recognize the critical contributions of America's military
recruiters.

Larry Bailey's directive follows:

"Our first nationwide project will be "Operation Recruiter Appreciation (ORA)." On May 19th, Armed Forces Day, Eagles will independently set up appreciation demonstrations outside undreds of military recruiting offices across the country. each effort will be planned and coordinated by local Eagles, and each effort will, accordingly, have its own "hometown" flavor."

So what do you need to do to take part in GOE Recruiter Appreciation Day? Use your imagination!

Below I have listed some suggestions, but that's all they are. I hope to see this thread become quite active as people come up with their own ideas of how to honor and thank our military recruiters.

Suggestions for ORA:
  • Deliver a pizza and some sodas to the recruiter's office around lunchtime.

  • Drop off some VIP movie passes you picked up from a nearby theater.

  • Set up a table outside the office (after receiving permission) with some signs/banners advertising GOE and, more importantly, your efforts to honor the recruiters' service and sacrifice. Perhaps have some goodies and a card for passersby to sign, contributing their appreciation.

  • Have your kids help you whip up some homemade cookies and/or brownies, and have the kids deliver them. Once the ice is broken, the kids and recruiters will definitely enjoy the visit. Trust me!

  • Invite one or more of the recruiters to your home for dinner later in the week.

  • Please don't let a limited budget prevent you from participating. A simple hand-made card from a child, or even a smile and a warm handshake won't cost anything but will lift some spirits and let our troops know you care.

  • During your visit, get some of the recruiters to pose with you for a few photos, so that we can share in your visit here on the forum. (Please remember to get permission to use their mages/names)

  • Take a homemade sign saying "Thank you!" or "God bless our military" along with a few friends and stand outside a local recruiter's office
You get the idea. We'll leave times flexible, but I would recommend around lunchtime in your areas. Not only is it easy to tie in with food and beverages, but hopefully the recruiters won't have to work too late on a Saturday. (I said "hopefully".)

We do ask that all participants try to connect their shows of support with Gathering of Eagles. It's a nice way for your particular recruiters to find out about our mission, and it will be the perfect excuse for you to share with them that others across our nation are conducting similar shows of support and appreciation.

If you can't afford to purchase a large GOE banner, consider buying and/or wearing a GOE armband instead. Or simply have a homemade sign and/or business cards with our name and website.
How do I locate a recruiter?

Find information on local U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard recruiters by entering your zip code here.

For an Army recruiter specifically, you may need to go to this location instead.

As always if you do not want to recieve these emails and want off of SA lists please send an
email with full name, email address, and State to help us know where to look and please send them to Soldiers' Angels alert team.

Part 1 is here. This is part 2. Please try to do whatever you can. It will be greatly appreciated. :)

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Detainee Denies Running Al Qaeda Training Camps in Afghanistan

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, April 16, 2007 – An alleged terrorist being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, denied U.S. government accusations that he managed al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan or facilitated a failed terrorist attack on Los Angeles in 1999, according to a transcript released today from his March 27 tribunal hearing.

The detainee, Abu Zubaydah, told the tribunal through an interpreter that he didn’t support Osama bin Laden’s philosophy of targeting innocent civilians as part of waging jihad, or holy war. He was captured during a raid at a safe house in Pakistan on March 28, 2002.

The tribunal was held to determine if Zubaydah, 36, could be designated as an enemy combatant.

A U.S. government witness, Ahmed Ressam, who is also being held at Guantanamo, told officials at the hearing that Zubaydah was a staunch bin Laden supporter, had run at least two terrorist training camps for al Qaeda in Afghanistan and had also helped him, Ressam, gain access into the U.S. to conduct terrorism before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States.

Ressam was arrested after crossing the U.S.-Canadian border at Port Angeles, Wash., Dec. 14, 1999. A Los Angeles federal court found him guilty on several counts of terrorism and other felony charges on April 6, 2001. Federal prosecutors alleged Ressam’s car contained bomb-making materials and that the Algerian was planning to bomb New Year’s celebrations in the United States.

Ressam, who told U.S. officials that he’d planned to place a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport, stated that he studied for the mission in April 1998 at a terrorist training camp near Khwost, Afghanistan, a facility that Zubaydah had overseen.

A Federal Bureau of Investigation source said Zubaydah, who was born in Saudi Arabia, had traveled to Saudi Arabia in 1996 and delivered $600,000 to al Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden.

Zubaydah told officials at the tribunal that he never visited bin Laden at that time or had transported money to the al Qaeda chieftain.

“I only met him in the year 2000,” Zubaydah said. “I’m not his (bin Laden’s) partner and I’m not a member of al Qaeda.”

Regarding Ressam’s accusations, Zubaydah acknowledged he had assisted in the obtaining of passports, but “not fake ones.” He did not dispatch Ressam to perform mayhem in the United States, he said.

“I wanted five real Canadian (only) passports to be used for personal matters, not terrorist-related activities,” Zubaydah said.

The government said Zubaydah had expressed his desire to wage holy war on the United States through some entries in his personal diary, in which the detainee stated he would instigate racial riots and set off timed explosives targeting gas stations, fuel trucks and forests. Zubaydah responded that his writings “were strictly hypothetical – they were not plans that I intended to execute against non-military targets in America or anywhere else.”

Zubaydah also told tribunal officials that he’d never visited or managed the Khalden training camp in Afghanistan that was cited by Ressam. Instead, Zubaydah said he’d worked out of Pakistan to help facilitate logistics for people en route to the camp.

“But, I knew nothing about the details of the actual training at the (Khalden) camp,” Zubaydah said, noting that he “was not the head of the training camp.”

Zubaydah also told the tribunal that he didn’t support al Qaeda’s philosophy of conducting total war against enemies of Islam, including the killing of civilians.

“I disagreed with the al Qaeda philosophy of targeting innocent civilians like those at the World Trade Center,” Zubaydah asserted.

“I never believed in killing civilians,” he added.

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Bush Thanks Military Families, Urges Congress to Pass War Spending

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, April 16, 2007 – President Bush thanked families of troops serving overseas for their sacrifices and praised organizations that support veterans and military families today at the White House. He also urged Congress to quickly pass an emergency war spending bill so that the troops can get the funding they need to accomplish their mission.
“I appreciate very much to be in the presence of moms and dads, husbands and wives, sons and daughters of some of the finest citizens our nation has ever produced,” Bush told military family members in the audience.

The president noted the challenges faced by military families during war.

“A time of war is a time of sacrifice for our nation, but especially for our military families. Being left behind when a loved one goes to war is one of the hardest jobs in our military,” Bush said. “The families here today inspire our nation -- inspire them with their sense of duty and with their deep devotion to our country.”

Bush also expressed his gratitude to representatives of troop-support organizations in the audience.

“I want to thank the leaders of organizations that support our military families. I appreciate your tireless work to send a clear signal that many in the United States of America support our troops,” Bush said. “Each of you knows what is stake -- what is at stake in this war on terror. And I appreciate your efforts to rally our nation to support our troops, and to support the mission for which they have risked and, in some cases, have given their lives.”

Bush said the troops must be given “the tools and resources they need to prevail,” and he is looking forward to meeting with members of Congress April 18 to iron out differences between the administration and Congress.

The disagreement is over the fiscal 2007 Emergency Supplemental Request. The $93.4 billion request will fund operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and other operations in the war on terror. Both the Senate and House versions of the supplemental have a timetable for the exit of U.S. troops from Iraq. President Bush said he will not sign any legislation with a withdrawal date.

“I think it is wrong for Congress to restrict our military commanders,” Bush said. “I can understand having a difference of opinion about Iraq, but our commanders need the flexibility necessary to meet the mission. We should not be substituting political judgment for the judgment of those in our military.”

Bush said honest differences over the best course in Iraq should be debated. “That's healthy,” he said. “That's normal. … But our troops should not be caught in the middle.”

Bush said failure to fund the supplemental quickly will impact military readiness, and that “will mean that the readiness of our forces will suffer. This is unacceptable to me; it's unacceptable to you, and it's unacceptable to the vast majority of the American people.”

The U.S. must provide its troops with the support they need to accomplish their mission, Bush said.

“We owe it to every sailor, soldier, airman, Marine in harm's way to give them the tools they need to prevail,” Bush said. “That's what we owe them.”

The president said he is open to trying to settle political differences in order to provide the military with the funding it needs.

“I am willing to discuss any way forward that does not hamstring our troops, set an artificial timetable for withdrawal and spend billions on projects not related to the war,” he said.

Bush said the American people expect the White House and Congress to work together.

“Congress needs to put the partisanship on hold; it needs to get rid of all the politics right now and send me an emergency war spending bill that I can sign that gets our troops the support they need and gives our commanders the flexibility they need to complete this mission,” he said.

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Navy Senior Chief Petty Offic

Source: Heroes in the War on Terror.

There is rarely a break for those chosen to be part of a personnel security detachment (PSD) team – the individuals charged with providing security and transportation for military leaders on the ground. The task requires a state of readiness 24 hours a day, seven days a week – and it requires a keen awareness on the battlefield, since any senior military leader is a high-value target for insurgents.

Chief Taggart, a submariner, was sent to Iraq in the summer of 2003 as a communications specialist. When he arrived, however, Taggart found that his background in law enforcement made him an obvious choice to take over as the Coalition Military Assistance Team’s PSD commander – a job that required him to form, train, and deploy the PSD forces. And a job that required versatility in widely diverse settings: patrolling busy streets, scouting dangerous roadways, and securing the sites before and after high-level meetings, whether in a municipal building or a palm grove.

Taggart quickly formed two five-man teams, which completed more than 200 missions stretching from Iraq’s border with Turkey and Syria down to Kuwait. Their duties were often dangerous: twice the teams encountered roadside IEDs, which forced them to clear the area, set up security, and wait for the explosive ordnance disposal teams to declare the area safe before they could move on. In one incident, Taggart was injured by an IED but refused to leave the area until the mission was complete. He was also involved in four separate firefights with enemy forces.

While it is quite unusual for a sailor to perform what would normally be considered a soldier’s job, Taggart was eager to gain the experience. “Throughout my military career, I volunteered to go many places. . . . I’ve been trying to do something different than just submarines.” For his leadership and work, Taggart received the Bronze Star with Combat “V” on March 4, 2005.

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Former Kentucky Army National Guard Spc. Ashley Pullen

Source: Heroes in the War on Terror.

The Kentucky National Guard’s 617th Military Police Company has turned out a long list of heroes – among them Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester, Staff Sgt. Timothy Nein, and Sgt. Jason Mike. Spc. Pullen is yet another addition to those ranks.
On March 20, 2005, Pullen was driving one of three Humvees providing security for a 30-vehicle convoy traveling in Iraq. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary – which is often how the prelude to an ambush appears. Suddenly insurgents sprung a complex operation and began pouring heavy fire from multiple directions, stopping the convoy in its tracks. Pullen’s unit moved out from behind the convoy to flank the insurgents and prevent them from escaping. Pullen’s team began firing back.

Then she heard a call for help over the radio. Pullen backed her Humvee into a better position, jumped out, and ran 90 meters through the line of fire toward the injured soldier. She administered first aid and tried to calm him down. As she was treating him, another soldier launched a shoulder-held rocket toward a nest of insurgents. Although he warned of the impending firing, Pullen couldn’t move out of the way fast enough. She threw her small frame over the wounded soldier to protect him from the blast – a blast that threw her off the soldier onto her backside.

About 27 insurgents were killed during the fight, and six were injured. For her efforts, Pullen was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" on June 16, 2005. MNF-Iraq story; USA Today story.

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Joint operations root out terrorists

11 April 2007
Courtesy story of Multi-National Division-North


TIKRIT — Iraqi and Coalition forces began major operations to root out known terrorists at Mujamma and Ad Dawr, Iraq, March 28.

Anti-Iraqi forces in the area used the town as a safe haven while orchestrating attacks against the towns’ people and Iraq security forces such as an attack on the Ad Dawr police headquarters, which left 12 Iraqi policemen killed and 22 wounded.

Iraqi Soldiers and Coalition troops from Task Force Loyalty established a city-wide cordon and 24-hour curfew, then began round-the-clock presence along the Tigris River and in small villages to the east of Ad Dawr, conducting raids and patrols.

“The citizens of Ad Dawr and Mujamma Housing Complex have endured long enough,” said U.S. Army Maj. Christopher Moretti, an executive officer in Task Force Loyalty.

The Iraqi Army, Police and the cities’ Joint Coordination Center worked together to provide food, fuel and medical care on a daily basis to ensure its citizens well-being while confined to the city.

The Iraqi policemen provided checkpoint security and escorted trucks with humanitarian aid, while Iraqi Army and Coalition forces conducted combat operations.

Iraqi security forces agreed to conduct joint patrols to re-establish security and credibility with the local citizens. Coalition forces remained in the city to continue patrols and joint operations with Iraqi Army troops.

“It is time for the Iraqi Army and Police to work together and take charge of the security situation,” said Moretti.

The joint operation also yielded more than 150 detainees, which are in Iraqi Army and Coalition custody.

Numerous weapons caches including large numbers of various mortar rounds, automatic machineguns, remote detonation devices and other types of explosives have been discovered throughout the operation.

There has been no Iraqi Army, Coaltion or civilian casualties during the operation. Two insurgents sustained injuries.

“We are not here to cut the branches from the tree; we are here to pull the roots out from the ground,” Moretti said.

“Task Force Loyalty is here to facilitate cooperation between the Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police and Joint Coordination Center for the benefit of the proud and honorable citizens of Ad Dawr and Mujamma,” he said.

Photo: Iraqi Soldiers and Paratroopers from 2nd Platoon, Battery A, 1st Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division rush through a gate during operations in Ad Dawr, Iraq. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Joshua R. Ford.

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Ordnance disposal makes for no ordinary day

11 April 2007
By Master Sgt. Bryan Ripple
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs


BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq (AFNEWS) -- Airmen assigned to the 332nd Civil Engineer Squadron's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight have a dangerous mission that keeps fellow coalition forces safe.

It takes nerves of steel and a steady hand to do the work these Airmen do. After all, getting anywhere near an improvised explosive isn't something most people want to do.

Airmen from the EOD flight put their extensive combat training and experience to the test every day in support Operation Iraqi Freedom. When they are not on a mission, they keep busy maintaining their equipment, vehicles and robots for their next time out, or they're destroying unexploded ordnance, or UXOs, from in-direct fire attacks or ridding munitions that have exceeded their shelf lives.

"This is my third deployment to Iraq since the start of the war in 2003. I'm amazed at how the battlefield is ever changing," said Master Sgt. Michael Pitts, deployed here from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. "We get smarter, but so does the enemy. It's a crazy cat and mouse game. Sometimes we win, sometimes the enemy does. Thankfully, we win a lot more!"

The explosives Airmen have two distinct missions, one on base and one outside the wire. They are here on six-month deployments, which are more like eight months when you include their mandatory Combat Skills Training and the Global Anti-terrorism and Operational Readiness training that prepares them for 'outside the wire' work.

The EOD missions vary from day to day. One day the teams might respond to unexploded ordnance, or UXO, on base, or they may assess damage done to buildings and equipment after an indirect fire attack. On another day, they may go off base to perform their Army "in-lieu-of" mission. This can range from rendering IEDs safe that have shut down a convoy route, to conducting a post-blast analysis on coalition vehicles struck by IEDs.

The latter mission can be the most difficult to perform.

"We see ... the personnel who were injured or killed in these attacks. It's hard to focus on the task at hand seeing all the destruction, but we have to. The intelligence we gather from these incidents and others allows us to gain valuable intelligence on how the enemy operates," Sergeant Pitts said.

The equipment and vehicles EOD Airmen have used over the years have evolved to keep up with the ever-changing requirements of the tactical battle space. Armored vehicles have evolved from standard armored Humvees in early 2003, to the Joint EOD Rapid Response Vehicle being used today. The JERRV is a massive vehicle that allows EOD teams to safely travel to and from an incident site and allows them to vary operations in and around the vehicle during a call. Inside the armored EOD vehicle, there is room for the EOD team, their robots, and all the other gear needed to work outside the wire, including their 70-pound bomb suits. The JERRV also has multiple optical camera capabilities providing day and night vision, as well as forward looking infra-red technology that allows EOD Airmen better visibility of their surroundings.

Senior Airman Stephen Ohge is deployed from Anderson AFB, Guam, and operates the new joy stick controlled technology provided within the JERRV as easily as a young person playing a favorite video game.

"Cutting-edge technologies are paramount to today's EOD operations outside the wire," said Airman Ohge. "As new equipment emerges and is integrated into our career field, situational awareness and efficiency are intensified; this results in not only a more cognizant and rapid response, but also an immeasurable increase in our mission capabilities," he said.

"Since our initial employment of our optical systems, we have spotted multiple triggermen and aided our security in the capture and exploitation of these individuals. This is just one of the many benefits we have experienced thus far. These systems also assist our use of robots for remote reconnaissance and disruption of IEDs, directly relating to a decrease of time spent in a kill zone. We're very lucky to have such an amazing apparatus to perform our duties," he said.

Airman 1st Class Robert Wester is also deployed from Hickam AFB. Airman Wester exercises extreme care while operating the Talon Robot, one of three robots EOD uses to respond to IEDs.

"It's my job to disrupt and eliminate IED hazards in hostile situations. I use various robots, one being the Talon," Airman Wester said. "It's an excellent robot, and I would rate it as being the best one in theater. Using the Talon is like an extension of my own arms. There is no time for fumbling or room for error. Robot operators must work quickly and thoroughly without letting stress affect their performance," he said.

The EOD Airmen know that where there is an IED, there is most likely someone watching.

"A good friend of mine was shot by a sniper not long ago. A good robot driver will minimize all team member exposure to sniper fire and explosive hazards. Most hazards can be cleared with a robot, but sometimes there is a need to have eyes on to know the scene is cleared," Airman Wester said.

EOD Airmen are not immune to the dangers IEDs pose, however.

"It's a struggle to stay two steps ahead of the enemy. We learn from other people's experiences and survive based on our strict adherence to our tactics, techniques, and procedures. In this game, you only get one shot to get it right. This is evident by our EOD motto, 'Initial Success or Total Failure," Sergeant Pitts said.

Staff Sgt. Octavia Washington is deployed here from the 5th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Minot AFB, N.D., and works supply requests for the EOD flight helping ensure EOD Airmen have all the equipment they need to do their jobs.

"Every time we have a successful mission or another controlled detonation to keep the base safe, I know I had a hand in our success," she said. "It's imperative these guys have what they need, when they need it, to do their jobs."

EOD Airmen here feel they are making a positive difference in Iraq.

"When we roll down the street heading out to the next reported IED, and we see a young girl in an Iraqi village heading off to school with her book bag, I know we've changed her life for the better. She has an opportunity she would never have had if our military wasn't here helping Iraq combat this insurgency and establish its new democratic government," Sergeant Pitts said.

Throughout their missions outside the wire with Army units, EOD Airmen here have smoothly integrated with the Soldiers who provide cover for them while performing their EOD duties.

"EOD is a prime example of the joint brotherhood that develops in this area of operations," said Capt. Jay Ferguson, deployed here as the EOD flight commander from Hill AFB, Utah.

Sergeant Pitts agreed. "The soldiers put their lives on the line to protect us, he said. The uniform we wear doesn't matter when we're outside the wire; we're there to help each other."

Photo: Airmen with the 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron's Explosive Ordnance Disposal Flight conduct a controlled detonation March 20 at Balad Air Base, Iraq. The Balad EOD periodically disposes of unserviceable, excess, or dangerous ordnance by fabricating explosive demolition charges in a controlled environment. (U. S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth).

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Gates Extends Army Tours in Iraq to 15 Months

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, April 11, 2007 – All soldiers in the U.S. Central Command area of operations will serve 15-month tours in the region beginning immediately, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced today.

“Effective immediately, active Army units now in the Central Command area of responsibility and those headed there will deploy for not more than 15 months and return home for not less than 12 months,” Gates said, during a Pentagon news conference.

This policy applies to all active duty Army units with the exception of two brigades currently in Iraq that have already been extended to 16 months. The policy does not apply to Marine Corps, Navy or Air Force units serving in Central Command. It also does not apply to Army National Guard or Army Reserve units deployed to the region.

The 15-month tour applies to active duty soldiers serving in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and all the countries in the region. U.S. Central Command stretches from Kenya to Kazakhstan and Egypt to Pakistan.

Soldiers will receive an extra $1,000 a month for each month or portion of the month that they serve longer than 12 months, Gates said.

Gates called this policy an “interim change.” The goal for active duty units is 12 months deployed followed by 12 months at home station. Ultimately, the Army would like to see soldiers deployed for 12 months and home for 24 months.

“My objective was to set clear guidelines that our commanders troops and their families could use in determining how future rotations in support of the global war on terror would effect them,” Gates said.

Upon taking office in December 2006, Gates learned that even the sustaining the level of deployed Army forces needed before surging five brigades into Iraq would require active duty units to flow into Iraq before they had spent a full 12 months at home. He said this reality was a significant factor in his decision to recommend to President Bush that defense officials increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps over the next five years by 62,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines.

The deployment change is intended to provide better clarity, predictability and sustainability in how the Defense Department deploys active duty Army forces, Gates said.

He said the changes produce clear, realistic, executable, and long-term policy goals to guide the deployment of active duty forces. The change will also allow the Army to support the 20 brigade goal of the surge as long as it is needed, he said.

“Without this action we would have had to deploy five Army active duty brigades sooner than the 12-month at home goal,” Gates said. “I believe it is fairer to all soldiers that all share the burden equally.”

The secretary said he realizes his decision will ask a lot of Army troops and their families.

“We are deeply grateful for the service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform and their commitment to accomplishing our mission,” he said. “In the end, this new approach will better allow the Army to better support the war effort while providing a more predictable and dependable deployment schedule for our soldiers and their families.”

Photo: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Marine Gen. Peter Pace conduct a press conference at the Pentagon, April 11, 2007. The secretary announced that active-duty U.S. soldiers currently within or deploying to the CENTCOM area of operations will have their deployment extended from 12 months to 15. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen.

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Resignation of Iraqi Cabinet Officers Can Turn Into Positive Step

American Forces Press Service

AMMAN, Jordan, April 17, 2007 – The resignation of six Iraqi Cabinet ministers loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr can become a positive development if the country’s prime minister appoints new ministers that are more representative of the Iraqi population, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.

Gates’ comments came in a news conference after morning meetings with Jordan’s King Abdallah and Gen. Khaled Jamil al-Sarayrah, the country’s chief of defense.

“My understanding is that while the ministers are withdrawing as Cabinet ministers, they will remain as members of the Council of Representatives, so I think that they are not walking away from the process, as it were,” Gates said.

Sadr is an influential figure in Iraq with many loyal followers. According to various media reports quoting Sadr followers, the cleric pulled ministers loyal to him from the Iraqi government in protest because the government has so far refused to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Gates said it’s too soon to tell what effect the cleric’s distancing himself from Iraq’s legitimate government will have.

“I think the impact that … these resignations have will depend in some measure on who is selected to replace these ministers and their capabilities and whether those vacancies are used in a way that perhaps can advance the reconciliation process,” he said.

“There is the opportunity to turn what might seem like a negative, potentially into a positive development,” he added.

While Gates said he believes strengthening representation in the Iraqi Cabinet would be a positive step, he said the Iraqis will have to make those decisions for themselves. “That’s a judgment that the Iraq leadership is going to have to make,” he stressed. “It’s really their business.”

“I’m not sure really that we fully appreciate the meaning of the action that’s been taken and how significant it is,” Gates said. “I think we’re going to have (to) wait and see a little bit about that.”

Gates, a former director of central intelligence, stressed that he has no insight into Sadr’s motivations.

“In the intelligence business, we divided all the information that we wanted to know into two categories: secrets and mysteries,” the secretary said. “I think that his motives right now, at least for me, are a mystery, not a secret.

Gates went on to say that he believes open debate in the U.S. Congress about the future of U.S. involvement in Iraq is instructive, in that it shows the Iraqis that American patience has limits and that it’s time for the Iraqis to make concrete progress on their own. “As General (David) Petraeus (commander of Multinational Force Iraq) has said, there’s a Baghdad clock and there’s the Washington clock,” Gates quipped.

Still, he added that he opposes specific deadlines for withdrawal from Iraq.

“I’ve been pretty clear that I think the enactment of specific deadlines would be a bad mistake,” he said. “But I think that the debate itself, and I think that the strong feelings expressed in the Congress about the timetable, it probably has had a positive impact -- at least I hope it has, in terms of communication to the Iraqis that this is not an open-ended commitment.”

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Gates Describes ‘Excellent Visit’ to Jordan

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service


AMMAN, Jordan, April 17, 2007 – Jordan’s King Abdallah today pledged his country’s continued support to Iraq’s fledgling democracy, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said here today.

In what he called a “really excellent visit,” Gates today had wide-ranging discussions with King Abdallah and with Gen. Khaled Jamil al-Sarayrah, the country’s defense chairman.

“His Majesty affirmed Jordan’s support for (Iraqi) Prime Minister (Nouri al-) Maliki, and we talked about efforts that others could take to contribute to the reconciliation process in Iraq itself,” the secretary said following a meeting with the king.

Jordan is a long-time U.S. ally in the Middle East. “This is a relationship that goes back a long way,” Gates said, noting that the first time he visited Jordan was 20 years ago at the invitation of Abdallah’s father, King Hussein, who died in 1999.

The secretary pointed out that the U.S. and Jordanian armed forces have strong military-to-military ties. “There are frequent exchanges, exercises and visits between the military officers of both sides,” Gates said.

Some 370 Jordanian troops are manning a field hospital in Afghanistan, and another 220-plus Jordanian servicemembers are performing a similar mission in Iraq. In addition, Jordan has trained 40,000 to 50,000 Iraqi national policemen at the Joint International Police Training Center in Jordan.

“I thanked both His Majesty and the chairman for all of the things Jordan has done to help us, a great deal of training of Iraqi security forces, both police and army,” Gates said.

Other topics discussed included Syria and its involvement in the Mid-East peace process and Iran. Gates said he reaffirmed President Bush’s commitment to the Middle East peace process.

He added that he and Abdallah “agreed that diplomatic and economic pressures were the most profitable way to try and get the Iranians to change their behavior.”

After leaving Jordan, Gates is scheduled to visit Egypt and Israel. As he travels through the Middle East, Gates is encouraging regional leaders to bring Maliki and his unity government more fully into the political landscape of the region, a senior official said as Gates was en route to the region.

“I think that there is not yet confidence in the region that Iraq’s government represents all Iraqis,” Gates said today. “My own view is that (the Iraqi government is) working hard in that direction. … And I think the more encouragement the neighbors can provide, the more support for the Iraqi government and with it encouragement of a broad-based government approach to governance, I think would be a positive contribution.”

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Iraqi Police continue to improve safety in Baghdad neighborhood

17 April 2007
Story by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Elisandro Diaz
Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq Public Affairs


BAGHDAD — Iraqi Police continue to improve security in the Al-Karkh district here Friday.

“Our mission is to investigate crimes and respond to emergencies,” said Iraqi Police Capt. Majid, deputy commander of the Juaifer Police Station, which is responsible for the Salhiya neighborhood.

Majid had pointed out that the Salhiya neighborhood is an area composed of Shia and Sunni residents, which borders the Tigris River and contains Haifa Street and attributes the change in the area’s crime patterns, over the last few months, to several factors beginning with increased patrols.

“Our police conduct many patrols in cars and on foot throughout the neighborhood,” he said. “We have several vehicle checkpoints and a patrol in the market.”

The neighborhood is safer because of improved law enforcement measures. Also, the Iraqi Police in the area routinely works with the Iraqi Army.

“The Iraqi Army will provide escort [security] for our police and work side-by-side at checkpoints,” said Majid. “We used to have up to three to four murders a day, but since Fardh Al-Qanoon started, murder and attacks have decreased tremendously.”

While security and crime investigation remain positive factors, being community leaders and building relationships with local residents during patrols has also helped the Iraqi Police gain a foothold in the neighborhood.

“Children and adults come out to greet the police and seem happy they are in their neighborhoods,” said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Elizabeth Zerwick, a Police Transition Team advisor who is helping the Juafer Police Station. “The people will flag down the police when they drive through their areas.”

However much the Iraqi police station has improved, they still face challenges.

Many Iraqi policemen have left the station because they fear for their families lives while others have simply been fired, said Majid. However, most of the 115 policemen who make up the force have several years experience in the field and are making a difference in the neighborhood.

In spite of challenges, Majid remains hopeful for the police station and envisioned new vehicles, more weapons and more manpower to build his workforce to continue making the Salhiya neighborhood safe.

“This police station helps Iraq because it helps make it safe for people to live here,” said Majid.

Photo: Two Iraqi policemen, from the Juaifer Police Station, staff a checkpoint in Baghdad’s Salhiya neighborhood. Photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Elisandro Diaz, Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq Public Affairs.

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Veterinary mission morphs into life saver

18 April 2007
Story by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Carrie Bernard
CJTF-HOA Public


DIKHIL, Djibouti – With only seconds to react, U.S. military members made a daring rescue April 14, pulling a young African man out of a raging torrent.

After a day of heavy rain, the Combined Joint Task Force—Horn of Africa team was assessing a river crossing site they planned to use the following day as part of a veterinary civic action program when they saw a man signaling frantically for help.

As we drew close, it became obvious that the individual trying to flag down our vehicle was desperate,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Joseph Gamble, mission commander. “After stopping and engaging the individual, the team was told that two people had been swept away by a flash flood.”

The military members followed the swollen river in their vehicle until they came to a wide ditch that couldn’t be driven across. Further down the river, they could see a crowd of people gathering so they continued following the river bank on foot.

“At this point we discovered that one of the individuals who had been swept away had been pulled to safety on a small partial of high ground in the middle of the raging torrent,” said Gamble. “The individual had sustained numerous injuries.”

With a powerful current of water standing between them and the injured 19 year-old man, three military members, accompanied by a local Djiboutian, tethered themselves together with a rope and made their way into the river.

“At that moment, we weren’t thinking about anything but rescuing the guy,” said U.S. Army Sgt. Rovell Thomas, force protection for the VETCAP. “The scene was chaotic.”

When they reached the stranded teenager, the team provided immediate aid and then Senior Airman Travis Manning placed the young man on his shoulders and, along with the help of his fellow servicemembers, brought him back across the swift-moving water.

“It was second nature,” said Manning, a combat camera videographer. “We had to get him across the water to safety and my self aid training kicked in. At that moment, I was working off sheer adrenaline.”

Once on shore, Manning and Thomas carried the injured Djiboutian to a waiting vehicle that then brought him to a local hospital. “At the hospital, the father of the injured youth continuously thanked those involved in the rescue,” said Gamble.

The news wasn’t all good. Later that night, a search team found the body of the other individual.

“I’m glad we were there and able to help,” said U.S. Army Col. Vic Adamson, 350th Civil Affairs Command Functional Specialty. “We were able to save a life that evening that may have otherwise been lost.”

The mission of CJTF-HOA is to prevent conflict, promote regional stability and protect coalition interests in order to prevail against extremism. The CJTF-HOA organization began operations at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti May 13, 2003. It works with partner nations on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, consequence management, civic action programs to include medical and veterinary care, school and medical clinic construction and water development projects.

Photo: Senior Airman Travis Manning, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Combat Camera, carries an injured youth on his shoulders with the assistance of U.S. Army Col. Vic Adamson, 350th Civil Affairs Command Functional Specialty (left) and U.S. Army Sgt. Rovell Thomas, Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (right). (Photo by U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Bryan Boyette).

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ISAF team trains ANA humanitarian de-miners

17 April 2007
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Oshawn Jefferson
American Forces Network – Afghanistan


BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – ISAF soldiers empowered Afghans with taking care of their own security by training humanitarian de-mining teams here.

“This training is a step forward to making a safer Afghanistan,” said Army Capt. Chris Nuckols, 207th Regional Security Assistance Command embedded tactical team. “The work we are doing here today will make for a safer tomorrow.”

Members of the Afghan National Army spent April 12-14 learning two levels of de-mining. Taking the de-miners course and de-miners pre-deployment course the ANA members were learning de-mining to international standards. This training made them qualified to conduct de-mining operations anywhere in the world.

“After these ANA members complete this training they will be able to clear land for buildings or farming,” said Australian Maj. Alex Thomson, Royal Australian Engineer officer in charge of the Operation Enduring Freedom mine action center. “Being trained will help them be ready to serve their community.”

In the past, the de-mining course graduated individual Afghan humanitarian de-miners. Even if those de-miners cleared a field they would still have to wait for someone else trained to international standards to come behind them to clear a field. This new course will graduate highly skilled teams so they can clear the fields without help.

“We can now help our own people ourselves,” said ANA Sgt. Said Arif, ANA humanitarian de-miner. “The classroom instructors have been enjoyable and helping me to be able to serve my country.”

When the class graduates, the ANA will have three new de-mining teams of 12-14 members capable of clearing 1,500 to 2,000 square meters of fields per day. Not only will the ANA members be able to clear mines they will also be able to clear unexploded ordnance.

“Seeing the Afghan people empowered to help themselves is something we take pride in,” Nuckols said. “They love our assistance and we enjoy helping them help themselves.”

The new ANA humanitarian de-miners are expected to graduate April 23.

Photo: Members of the Afghan National Army go through a field training exercise during the De-mining Pre-deployment Course here April 12. The first teams of Afghan Humanitarian De-miners are scheduled to graduate April 23. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Oshawn Jefferson).

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Joint statement

Joint statement by Ambassador Asquith, Ambassador Crocker and Gen. Petraeus on the transfer of Maysan Province

April 18, 2007
Multi-National Force - Iraq Press Release


BAGHDAD - Today's transfer of security responsibility in Maysan Province from the Multi-National Force-Iraq to the Government of Iraq and civilian-controlled Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) demonstrates another step towards a stable and secure Iraq. Maysan is the fourth of 18 provinces to be transitioned and this reflects Iraq's continued steps toward a capability to govern and protect itself and its citizens as a sovereign nation.

The joint decision of the Iraqi Government and the MNF-I to transition security responsibility reflects their assessment of the situation in Maysan and the capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces there. It also reflects an assessment of Maysan's provincial leadership as having the ability to perform governance duties at the provincial level. Transition teams are in place to facilitate the transfer process, and Coalition forces stand ready to provide assistance if needed.

Even after today's transfer, Multi-National Force-Iraq will remain committed to the development of Maysan Province. To date, the US Army Corps of Engineers has completed 211 projects in Maysan Province, totaling $98.2 million, and it will provide further funding for 15 additional projects totaling $14 million dollars. In addition to this, the Maysan Provincial Reconstruction Team is working with provincial officials to increase their ability to access central government funds and to improve the capacity of provincial institutions to spend revenues effectively. The PRT is also funding $8 million of health and road infrastructure projects, which will speed the delivery of essential services to the people of Maysan.

The transition of responsibility in Maysan Province represents another step toward Iraqi self-reliance. With the continued support of the Coalition, Iraq will continue to progress along a path to national unity, improved security, and increasing prosperity that benefits all its citizens.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT Rosie Tapper by e-mail or phone: 914 822 6778 or +964 7901 926 588. FOR THIS PRESS RELEASE AND OTHERS VISIT WWW.MNF-IRAQ.COM.

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Air mobility keeps fast pace with war ops surges

10 April 2007
By Senior Airman Erik Hofmeyer
379th Air Expeditionary Wing


SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNEWS) -- Squadrons across the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing have increased operations to enhance theater-wide support for the current surge of troops throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.

One such example is the 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron, a 379th AEW tenant unit that links air mobility operations together to facilitate direct support to warfighters uprange. The squadron is currently processing two major separate Army movements in support of Operation Enduring Freedom including two Force Provider Module transportable base camp systems and 32 M916 semi trucks for an engineering battalion.

On average, the squadron has been loading an extra 27 to 36 pallets per day for transport on C-17 Globemaster IIIs, flown by 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron aircrews, and commercially-contracted aircraft in support of the surge, said Maj. Todd Dyer, 8th EAMS operations officer.

Three hundred and sixty pallets of force provider cargo began showing up March 22 at the 379th AEW. Force Provider modules provide housing and operation space for a variety of military missions ranging from support of a small military outpost to fully operational, forward deployed base camps and air bases.

The combinations of military and commercial products provide climate-controlled billeting, dining facilities, hygiene services, and morale, welfare and recreation facilities for deployed servicemembers. Modules vary in size and can accommodate a maximum of 3,300 people each, Major Dyer said.

A single force provider site requires five to 10 acres of land. Site preparation takes three to four days, and an entire camp can be operational in about 14 days using about 50 personnel, Major Dyer said.

Personnel receive and process the force provider cargo, inspect it, calculate weight and balance measurements, and palletize the equipment and work with loadmasters to get it onto aircraft.

Squadron load planners work with force provider personnel to prioritize what needs to be moved first and determine the sequence that cargo should be loaded, said Tech. Sgt. Warren Brockman, 8th EAMS load planning NCOIC.

The precise loading of equipment is necessary because warfighters uprange depend on supplies processed by Airmen, and commanders must have full accountability of their equipment. There's no room for error because the force provider equipment is trucked to forward operating bases soon after arrival in Afghanistan, Sergeant Brockman said.

Photo: Tech. Sgt. Garth Chablal guides one of 32 M916 trucks onto scales for weighing in preparation for shipment on C-17 Globemaster IIIs. Squadrons across the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing have picked up operations along with surge operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sergeant Chabal is the air freight supervisor of the 8th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Erik Hofmeyer).

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Afghans, Coalition Have Forces Needed to Deal With Taliban

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, April 10, 2007 – Taliban capabilities have gotten more robust, but so have the capabilities of the Afghan National Army and police to deal with them, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan said today.

Army Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez told ABC reporter Diane Sawyer it will take a long time to rid the country of the “scourge of terrorism.”

The Afghan National Army now has 35,000 soldiers trained and equipped. The Afghan police number about 63,000. Ultimately the Army will have 70,000 soldiers, and there will be 82,000 police in the nation of 25 million.

There are 47,000 troops from outside Afghanistan in the country, including 25,000 Americans. Rodriquez said the United States has enough troops in country.

“We've asked for some trainers for the police and everything, and they're taking a look at when and how they can get them here to support that,” he said. “But overall, yes, we have enough U.S. troops for what we need to do.”

Taliban Web sites say that a reconstituted force of 6,000 fighters and more than 1,000 suicide bombers are ready for spring attacks in Afghanistan. Rodriguez said he thinks that number should be reduced by about half.

“That's still a lot of suicide bombers, relative to what we think we're going to see,” he said. “But, it'll be an increase over last year.”

The general said killing or capturing Osama bin Laden is important symbolically, but more important is to defeat his intentions, his network and his capability to inflict harm outside a limited area.

The Taliban will not win in Afghanistan, Rodriguez said, even though the terror group will continue to attack and come after NATO, U.S. forces and Afghan government forces. “I think they see their opportunities starting to slip away,” he said.

Rodriguez is not writing the group off as a combat force. The Taliban will continue to come after forces providing stability in Afghanistan, he said. U.S. forces will have to remain in the country for a “couple of years” at least, the general said.

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