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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Civil Affairs Help Make a Difference for Iraqis

By Staff Sgt. Tony M. Lindback,
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary)

LSA ANACONDA, Iraq – Rifles, pistols and tanks are a few tools of war. Active listening, patience and cooperation are a few of the tools used by Capt. Glen A. Stambone, a civil affairs officer with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).

Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, starting at 8:30 a.m., the Civil Military Operations Center (CMOC) lets the people’s voices be heard.

Most of those voices are speaking Arabic. In order to provide good customer service, the civil affairs office here uses two interpreters. Stambone said one is more of a “street smart” interpreter, the other is used for legal document translations.

“Tex” is the street smart guy. He’s called Tex to protect his identity.

Stambone said everything the civil affairs unit handles at the CMOC falls into two categories: claims and all other issues.

Under the claims category people can seek resolution for property damage, wrongful death, confiscated property and similar issues. If the responsible unit is under the command and control of the 13th SC (E), civil affairs will process it. If the unit does not belong to the 13th SC (E), civil affairs will collect information and turn it over to the appropriate unit.

In the other category, the civil affairs unit here has helped people get jobs, disclose intelligence to the proper authorities, seek medical attention, gain access to the on-post Iraqi bazaar and has facilitated construction contracts in the local area.

“There was a 5-year-old little boy, brought in by his dad, who was shot twice by terrorists,” said Stambone. “He had surgery in an Iraqi hospital before coming here. He wasn’t doing well and we got him into the Air Force Hospital here. The boy had a number of appointments here. His dad kissed me on both cheeks after each appointment.”

Though Stambone was able to get medical attention for that little boy, it was more of an exception than it was the rule.

“We’re not able to help everyone all the time. A lot of times, it’s the first impression they get of us (Americans),” Stambone said noting the importance of trying to make a good impression on the Iraqi people even when he’s unable to provide assistance.

“We’ll go out and investigate issues, see what people we can help. It’s a good impression we’re leaving and that goes a long way. We’re trying to establish a relationship with the local nationals and set up some kind of good rapport,” said Stambone.

Working with Iraqi people is all about customer service, said Stambone. “Just show that you care. You don’t want it to be like when you go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and get the ‘what do you want’ attitude. We want people to walk away with that good customer service feeling.”

As much as he tries to give good customer service and be courteous to people, there are occasions Stambone’s methods simply won’t conclude the meeting, explained Tex.

“It’s a different community between the U.S. and here,” said ‘Tex.’ “I often have to explain to people that just because he’s a captain doesn’t mean he has all the power.

“These are simple people. They believe a captain can control all things. For what I do, it’s all about explanation… Otherwise I tell them what the captain is saying over and over again and it goes in circles.”

Running the CMOC is approximately 70 percent of the civil affairs mission here, said Stambone. The civil affairs unit has built a database to track all visitors and their claims since their arrival here in September. Since then, they’ve processed more than 760 claims.

Photo - U.S. Army Capt. Glen A. Stambone (right), a civil affairs officer with 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) listens to a request from an Iraqi citizen through “Tex,” a translator for the unit. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Gary A. Witte.

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Earning, maintaining trust of residents

31 May 2007
By Sgt. Mike Pryor
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division

BAGHDAD — It’s the usual happy chaos when 1st Lt. Josh Rowan arrives at neighborhood advisory council member Abu Muhanned’s house for their weekly meeting – children running amuck in the yard, women crowded into the kitchen, and Muhanned standing in the doorway in pajamas and bare feet, a cigarette in one hand, jabbering into his cell phone.

He greets Rowan warmly and ushers him and his Soldiers inside his home nestled in eastern Baghdad’s Adhamiyah District. While a security team sets up on the roof, Rowan and Muhanned move to the living room to talk. By now, it’s a familiar routine.

It should be.

Muhanned’s house was the destination of Rowan’s very first patrol in Iraq, almost four months ago, and they have met regularly ever since to plan development projects for the area.

Today, however, will be Rowan’s last visit. Rowan, a platoon leader with 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, from College Station, Texas, is moving to a different job. The purpose of this final meeting was to introduce Muhanned to his replacement, 1st Lt. Jeremy Tillman, of Walnut Ridge, Ark.

“All I’m here to do is introduce Tillman and close the loop,” Rowan said.

In the Army, the only constant is change. Soldiers are always moving from one position to another and taking over different duties. But in Iraq, the challenge for new leaders like Tillman is, how do you take over a relationship? Rowan and Muhanned worked successfully together because they had a strong personal bond. Tillman will have to build that trust all over again.

“That’s the challenge of counter-insurgency warfare,” Rowan said.

“It’s difficult,” agreed Tillman. “It’s really just about the individual person’s personality.”

Over tea and cigarettes at Muhanned’s house, Rowan made a big show of introducing Tillman.

“Sir, I look forward to working with you,” Tillman told Muhanned, when Rowan was done.

“I will put my hand in your hand. You will protect me, and I will protect you,” Muhanned replied.

The meeting continued for almost two hours, with conversation bouncing from topic to topic. One minute they were talking about putting trash cans on the street corners, the next minute about a trip Muhanned’s son was planning and the next about security threats in the area. In between, Muhanned’s wife served a huge lunch.

When the meeting was over, Tillman said it had been an eye-opening experience. At his previous unit, the focus had been almost entirely on raids and kinetic operations. Tillman could only remember a few times when he had actually sat in an Iraqi’s house and talked.

“Here, they’re interacting. They’re constantly getting out there and talking to local leaders,” Tillman said. “The mindset is just totally different.”

Since the 2-319th took over its section of Baghdad in February, the paratroopers have adhered to classic counter-insurgency theory, balancing military operations with efforts to engage local leaders, build the economy, and improve essential services. Rowan said the strategy, though slow and difficult to measure, is showing results.

“People are moving here from other parts of Baghdad because they say this is a safe place,” he told his platoon members just before his last patrol with them. “It’s the little things that we are doing that are making a difference.”

In the end, it all boils down to personal relationships, said Capt. Jonathan Harvey, Rowan and Tillman’s battery commander.

The challenge when a key leader gets switched out is to maintain the existing relationships.

“You have to be very delicate in the hand over,” said Harvey, of Nebraska City, Neb. “Iraqi culture is big on trust.”

Harvey said he made sure Tillman had plenty of time to shadow Rowan and meet one on one with all his Iraqi counterparts.

“Back in the states, a change of command is nothing more than an inventory. Here, it’s a much more deliberate process,” Harvey said. “(For Tillman and Rowan) we took 11 days, and each day had a different leader engagement.”

Despite the introductions and the crash course he received on Adhamiyah’s kaleidoscopic array of political and religious groups and their rivalries, Tillman said he still has a lot to learn. It will take time to build up the kind of personal relationships that Rowan had, where he knew not just someone’s name, but their wife and son’s names and what brand of cigarette they smoked, too.

“I know the area. As far as terrain, how to operate, tactics - I know all that,” Tillman said. “What I need to learn is who I can trust.”

Photo - 1st Lt. Josh Rowan (left), of College Station, Texas, goes over some information with 1st Lt. Jeremy Tillman, of Walnut Ridge, Ark., at a meeting with the chairman of the neighborhood council in Rabi, Adhamiyah May 21. Tillman would soon be taking over for Rowan as a new platoon leader with B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. Photographer: Sgt. Michael Pryor.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Preventive Medicine Techs Keep Troops Mission-Ready

By Petty Officer 1st Class Mary Popejoy
Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa Public Affairs

CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti — Personnel deployed to Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa’s Camp Lemonier can rest easy knowing that Petty Officer 2nd Class Abran Gonzales and Petty Officer 3rd Class Steven Ashe of the Seth Michaud Expeditionary Medical Force, are doing routine health and sanitation inspections around camp to keep them healthy and happy.

Gonzalez and Ashe, preventive medicine technicians, took a break from their corpsman responsibilities May 16 to do a monthly inspection of the dining facility. The inspection consisted of looking for sanitation and hygiene concerns, proper food handling and correct food temperatures.

“Food is a big part of our daily lives here, so it’s important the personnel are getting the best food possible so they can remain healthy, happy and mission ready,” said Gonzales. Their attention to this matter gives personnel piece of mind, he said. “When they go into the dining facility the only thing they need to worry about is what they want to eat, not whether the food was prepared, cooked or stored properly. … We do what we do because their health is what matters most to us,” he said.

Their diligence in this matter keeps customers mission-ready. “We want to reduce the risk of serious diseases from making their way into the human body and establishments, so if our efforts are making a difference then we’re doing something great, and I am proud to be a part such an important mission,” said Ashe.

The inspections also help the dining facility staff see the little things that sometimes get lost in the shuffle during a 23-hour day. “The knowledge we have and the knowledge they have help us better serve the customers here,” said Alaa Hassan, food service area supervisor.

The PMTs conduct health and sanitation checks at the camp Burger King, the latrines, showers, beauty and barber shop, The Post and Base Exchange, laundry rooms, swimming pool, tents and the Coffee Cafe. They also conduct bacteria and E.coli testing, and water surveillance on the wells both on base and in town.

Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa is a unit of U.S. Central Command. The organization conducts operations and training to assist partner nations to combat terrorism in order to establish a secure environment and enable regional stability. More than 1,800 people from each branch of the U.S. military, civilian employees, Coalition forces and partner nations make up the CJTF-HOA organization. The area of responsibility for CJTF-HOA includes the countries of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Photo - Petty Officer 2nd Class Abran Gonzalez, a preventive medicine technician, inspects food containers inside the Bob Hope Dining Facility, Djibouti, Africa, to ensure they are not dented or expired, and that they are being stored at the correct temperature, May 16, 2007. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mary Popejoy.

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Khowst PRT Winning the Fight in Afghanistan

May 30, 2007
BY Pfc. Micah E. Clare
4th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, Afghanistan - Less than 10 miles from training camps that produced many of the 9/11 hijackers, a team of coalition servicemembers are working together to make sure the area once home to Osama Bin Laden's terrorist organization becomes an environment that will deny such people a support base ever again.

But for this joint service team spearheading the fight against terrorism in Eastern Afghanistan's, Khowst province doesn't involve executing tactical military operations but in providing reconstruction assistance.

The Khowst Provincial Reconstruction Team, based in Forward Operating Base Chapman near Khowst City, serves as the main effort in rebuilding Khowst province by distributing humanitarian aid, mentoring local government officials, planning for construction projects and providing security for important events, said Navy Cmdr. Dave Adams, commander of the Khowst PRT.

"We're a reconstruction organization with a military arm," Cmdr. Adams said. PRTs were established in Afghanistan when it was realized in 2003 that units needed to focus on winning the security fight, and a separate military organization was required to head up the badly needed reconstruction efforts. The Navy and Air Force answered the call and stepped up to assist, explained Cmdr. Adams, a submarine officer of 21 years who volunteered for this command.

A team of military advisors, United States Agency for International Development and Department of State officials, joined together as a PRT; a board of directors working to synchronize their efforts and resources. The Khowst PRT has brought assistance to the province in the past few years by sending its Army Civil Affairs teams to live in local communities to send back updates on area needs. Many construction projects such as irrigation systems, diversion dams, wells, schools, and roads have been set into motion by the PRT in this way, Cmdr. Adams said.

"These projects serve not only to improve the quality of life for the residents, but also to put shovels in the people's hands, providing them with jobs," he said. A big part in bringing these quality of life improvements to Khowst is the necessity for security, he said. This is where the PRT security force comes in, typically provided by the Army National Guard.

"Good security is vital for the PRT's mission to be successful," said 2nd Lt. Cory Marr, platoon leader for 2nd Platoon, Company B, 1st Battalion, 158th Infantry Regiment, Arizona National Guard, who provides security and maneuver support to the Khowst PRT. The security is beginning to take care of itself, he said. The overall security in Khowst has improved greatly, which is the result of locals seeing the many improvements that have come in the past year, the fruit of their efforts in securing a safe environment. This has allowed the PRT to extend its reach, he explained.

"There's no place we're afraid to go," 2nd Lt. Marr said. "We work with the Afghan National Security Forces and get plenty of intelligence from the locals. For instance, we stop at police checkpoints as we enter an area, and they update us on the local situation. We always have a good understanding of the areas we're going into." "In some of the more remote places we go, the locals have become extremely helpful to us," said Spc. Doug Schletz, an infantryman in 2nd Plt. "They used to look at us like we were aliens, but recently they've seen what we're here to do for them, like seeing us helping the ANSF provide security for many of their events."

This increased security is so successful, international reconstruction agencies and foreign investors that have in the past shieded away from helping Afghanistan due to safety concerns are being drawn back, Cmdr. Adams said. Recently, a delegation from the United Arab Emirates arrived in Khowst City to visit projects they have invested in, such as the city university and main mosque. Cmdr. Adams was able to confidently assure the delegates that any future projects built by their country would be safe in Khowst.

"Security here is stronger than ever," he said to UAE representatives during a meeting at the provincial governor's compound in Khowst. "The Taliban no longer have a foothold here. The ANSF can protect anything built here by the U.S. or the UAE." This is a big step forward in winning the fight in Afghanistan, the commander said. "We're helping the Afghans create something for themselves that the Taliban couldn't: a safe environment, a growing economy and an increasing standard of living," he said.

"This is a terrific mission we can all be proud of," he said. "By helping the Afghans permanently cast off the tyranny the enemy brought to them and to us, we're providing hope to them and their children, and for us and our children."

Photo - A convoy from the Khowst Provincial Reconstruction Team visits a district center in the Spera district of Khowst province, Afghanistan to assess the area's security situation. Photo by Pfc. Micah E. Clare.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Airmen deliver strategic aid to Lebanese military

29 May 2007
By Capt. Teresa Sullivan
379th Air Expeditionary Wing

BERUIT, Lebanon (AFPN) - C-17 Globemaster III crews of the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron delivered bullets to Beirut as part of a short notice ammunition re-supply tasking in support of the Lebanese military.

The 816th EAS, a tenant unit of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing based out of Southwest Asia, was given the order to deliver ammunition to the Rafic Harari International Airport in Beirut. The delivery was critical to the Lebanon Armed Forces due to a rise in hostilities this week.

"We're happy to support national security objectives and provide support to the Lebanese military for their effort in fighting terrorism," said Capt. Judd Baker, 816th EAS aircraft commander and a Charlotte N.C., native who flew a 10 hour mission from the evening of May 25 through the morning of May 26. "It's makes perfect sense to me that we would be tasked with this mission. The C-17 is the best instrument for cargo delivery in the military inventory."

Due to the strategic location of the 816th EAS and the versatile range of capabilities, it was an easy fit for the squadron to fulfill the requirement, said the captain.

"We may be flying combat sorties day and night in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we can also handle supporting high priority missions like this, especially since we're close by," Captain Baker said of the airlift mission to Beirut. "It's a great feeling to know leadership has the confidence in the C-17 and our aircrews to get the job done."

The crew of eight - one aircrew commander, a pilot, a co-pilot, two loadmasters, one flying crew chief and two security forces Airmen - said they were glad to be a part of this airlift mission.

"This mission is very important because it relates directly to fighting terrorism," said Capt. Jeff Liegl, 816th EAS pilot and a Cleveland, Ohio native. "We've been involved in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom for years now so these missions are second nature to us. This is a high priority - everything we do we treat as a high priority."

The crew began their mission to Lebanon from the 379th AEW. They then flew to another base in Southwest Asia and quickly uploaded about 180 pallets of munitions. Then the cargo and crew made a bee line for their destination in Beirut.

"It's exciting to deliver ammunition in such a short amount of time to someone who needs it," said Staff Sgt. Greg Rada, 816th EAS senior loadmaster from Southbury, Conn. "It's our job to support national interests and this is another way we can contribute."

The squadron flew about 10 sorties over a three-day period to support the re-supply mission to Lebanon, while maintaining support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Photo: Staff Sergeants Greg Rada and John Quick, Senior Airman Dale Adkins and 1st Lt. Alex Hanna joined with two forward-deployed Airmen to upload about 180 pallets of ammunition for delivery to Rafic Harari International Airport in Beirut, Lebanon May 26. The C-17 Globemaster III is capable of rapid delivery of troops and cargo to any location worldwide. Sergeant Rada is a 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron loadmaster. Sergeant Quick and Airman Adkins are 436th Security Forces Squadron Ravens. Lieutenant Hanna is an 816 EAMS copilot. (U.S. Air Force photo/Capt. Teresa Sullivan).

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USS Underwood visits Doha, Qatar

29 May 2007
By Lt. Nathan Christensen
USS John C. Stennis Deputy Public Affairs Officer

DOHA, Qatar - USS Underwood (FFG 36) arrived in Doha, Qatar, May 13 for a two-day port visit to take part in Qatar-American Friendship Day and enhance theatre security cooperation within the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO).

During the visit, Underwood Sailors took part in many events designed to help build and foster relationships between the U.S. and Qatari Navies.

“It is an honor for the ship to pull into Doha,” said Underwood Commanding Officer Cmdr. Thomas Dearborn. “I've deployed to the region since 1989 and have never been to Qatar. It is my hope that through our visit we will further strengthen the relationships that exist between the United States and Qatar.”

Besides helping to build and foster relationships, the ship’s visit to Qatar is also aimed at strengthening bilateral ties by increasing the level of professional and maritime interaction between the two countries, as well as promoting security and stability within the region.

"In order to establish a secure maritime environment that promotes peace and stability, it is important for us to form strong partnerships with countries in the region like Qatar," said Dearborn.

While United States naval ships (USNS) and patrol crafts (PC) have conducted port visits to Doha in recent months, Underwood is the first U.S. Navy warship to visit Qatar in three years, according to Cmdr. Cody Loosefoot, the U.S. Embassy Naval Attaché in Doha.

"Improving cooperation between the United States and Qatar is very important," said Loosefoot. "Port visits by U.S. Navy warships to Doha help do just that."

Commander, Combined Task Force (CTF) 152, Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn, flew to Underwood prior to the ship’s arrival in port and rode into Doha with the crew.

"Port visits are an opportunity for people of a foreign country to see what good ambassadors U.S. Sailors are," said Quinn. "Theatre security cooperation missions like this help maintain important ties between our two countries."

While operating in the Arabian Gulf during its deployment as part of the USS Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), Underwood joined CTF 152 in support of Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the region.

CTF 152 conducts MSO in the Central and Southern Arabian Gulf and operates under international maritime conventions to ensure security and safety in international waters so that all commercial shipping can operate freely while transiting the region.

MSO help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrrorism and security efforts of regional nations. These operations deny international terrorists the use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

Upon arrival into port, U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Chase Untermeyer met the ship at the pier and welcomed Underwood's crew to Doha.

"Since becoming ambassador, we've worked to have more U.S. vessels pull into Qatar," he said. "It is our hope that our country's ties will become closer and more U.S. Navy ships will be able to pull into Doha as a result of this visit."

Official visits and exchanges were planned as part of the ship's visit to Doha. Underwood played host to five officers and 10 Sailors from Qatar's Navy while in port. The Qataris were able to take part in shipboard damage control and firefighting training and received a tour of Underwood as well.

"We appreciate the opportunity to interact with our Qatari friends and share our ship with them," said Lt. Dave Leiker, Underwood's chief engineer.

"It's been several years since a warship like this pulled into Doha," said Ensign Lisa Masso, Underwood's combat information center officer. "Any type of theatre security cooperation that our ship can participate in is not only good for morale, but also is positive for international relations."

A reception was also hosted as part of Qatar-American Friendship Day, and many of Underwood's crew were able to attend. Other Qatari officials as well as U.S. government and naval officials also attended the reception.

Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet, Quinn and Untermeyer were among the event's attendees.

"Port visits like this one strengthen and deepen U.S. relations with countries in the region," said Quinn. "Having Underwood pull into Doha and take part in the national holiday celebrations as part of Qatar-American Friendship Day is a sign of our commitment to the country of Qatar."

Underwood departed its homeport of Mayport, Fl., Jan. 8 with the USS Bataan ESG on a regularly scheduled deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet AOO.

Photo: USS Underwood's (FFG 36) Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Thomas Dearborn, talks with three Qatari naval officers on the quarterdeck. Underwood is in port Doha, Qatar, as part of Friendship Day. Underwood is part of the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group and joined Combined Task Force (CTF) 152 in support of Maritime Security operations (MSO) in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. Official U.S. Navy Photo by Lt. Nathan Christensen.

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Security in northern Iraq aids economic opportunities

29 May 2007
U.S. Army story by Maj. Juanita Chang
5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

IRBIL — International businessmen representing more than a dozen companies continued traveling through northern Iraq in search of economic opportunities Friday.

In northern Iraq economic promises have boosted confidence in the population, international businessmen and investment potential.

The group traveled the stable northern region of Iraq and met with local business leaders, members of chambers of commerce and key government officials as some arranged for return trips to begin projects.

“I was very impressed with the enthusiasm, zeal and passion of the Kurdish people and their government,” said Subhas Sircar, regional vice president of Marine Middle East, Mediterranean and South Asia Insurance Company Ltd.

A lot of work needs to be done in a short amount of time, but we look forward to supporting them in their endeavors and being partners in their progress, Sircar added.

Irbil is the capital of the Kurdish region, Iraq’s fourth largest city and was seen by investors as a secure and economic hotspot with a 400-store mall, world-class hotels, amusement parks and a zoo.

“Projects such as this are our response to the destructive activities of terrorists,” said Nechervan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdish Regional Government. “Whatever they do, the terrorists cannot stop our progress.”

Along with the economic boom in the area, an international airport with high level security measures lands flights daily with direct routes to popular hubs such as Vienna, Stockholm, Amman, Dubai and Amsterdam.

According to the businessmen, a huge potential for investment dwells in Iraq’s northern region.

Some apartments in the area were selling at $130,000 per apartment.

The business executives also stopped in Dahuk and Salaymaniyah, Iraq, to be greeted by provincial governors and given a tour of their respective cities in hopes of luring investors to the area.

The Iraqis in this northern region have come together and worked as a unified group to achieve these common goals. Leaders of business and industry praised the KRG for setting the conditions for future prosperity.

Photo: A view from the tenth floor of the new Naz City Apartments in Irbil, located near the new state-of-the-art convention center and Irbil International Airport. A group of international investors traveled the stable northern region of Iraq and continued to meet with local business leaders, members of chambers of commerce and key government officials as some arranged for return trips to begin projects Friday. U.S. Army photo by Maj. Juanita Chang, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.

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Army paratroopers share thoughts on surge

Tuesday, 29 May 2007
By Sgt. Michael Pryor
2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division

BAGHDAD — In the first days after his battalion began operating in east Baghdad’s Sha’ab neighborhood, Capt. Will Canda said he often saw the beds of Iraqi police trucks stained red with dried blood.

“It was like they had just come from a butcher shop,” said Canda, a Westcliffe, Colo. native and commander of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment.

Like wagons rolling through plague-stricken villages in medieval times, the police trucks were being used to pick up the bodies of murder victims found littering the neighborhood.

That was in February, when Canda’s battalion became one of the first units to move into a battle space as part of Operation Fardh al Qanoon – which translated, means “enforcing the law” and is the name for the strategy to stabilize violence in Baghdad by pushing thousands of additional U.S. and Iraqi forces into the city’s neighborhoods.

Since then, troops have continued to pour in, dotting Baghdad with small outposts and joint security stations.

Top U.S. commanders have cautioned that any verdict on the overall success of the plan will have to wait until after all units are in place and conducting operations. But Canda and his paratroopers have been on the ground long enough to begin drawing their own conclusions.

Three months after they arrived in Sha’ab, the bodies are gone, the murders have stopped, and the neighborhood has come back to life, Canda said.

“It’s night and day from when we got here,” he said.

It’s an impressive claim considering the challenges facing the paratroopers when they first arrived here in early February.

One obvious problem was the sheer size of the region. The battalion’s area of operations comprises a huge section of east Baghdad, including the Sha’ab, Ur, and Sadr City neighborhoods.

Twenty percent of the city’s total population lives within this area of operation, said Maj. Trey Rutherford, the battalion’s operations officer. That equals out to a rough ratio of one paratrooper for every 26,000 Iraqis.

But the numbers weren’t the paratroopers’ only obstacle. They also faced an entrenched and hostile militia organization, an inefficient local government and a breakdown in essential services for the population.

None of these problems have been completely solved yet, Rutherford said.

“We’ve still got a ways to go,” he said.

But, he said, the accomplishments are already starting to pile up. The battalion has sent almost 200 criminals into the Iraqi justice system. People in the area are slowly beginning to look to the government for protection, rather than the militias. The economy is booming, thanks to improved protective measures at the markets. And the local government is starting to play a more active role, beginning at the neighborhood advisory council level, Rutherford said.

Most importantly, said Canda, security has improved. Life for the people of Sha’ab is returning to normal, to the way it was before the killing and bombings turned a walk to the market into a life or death gamble.

“I know that we’ve made a difference and made this area safer. Every time I go out, people tell me that,” said Spc. Herrick Lidstone, of Littleton, Colo., a radio operator with Bravo Company.

The battalion runs operations out of Coalition Outpost Callahan, a fortress-like building that was once an upscale shopping center. The place was empty and abandoned when the paratroopers arrived, but it’s now a constant blur of activity.

Day and night, the stairs are crowded with soldiers either on their way out on a mission or coming in from one. The whirring, clanging, hammering sounds of the motor pool continually echo through the COP as mechanics patch up damaged vehicles for the next patrol.

Each time the paratroopers leave the wire, the mission is different.

A typically hectic day might find them handing out Tylenol and tooth brushes at a medical assistance operation in the morning, doing detective work to track down members of a bomb-making cell in the afternoon, and kicking in doors on a full-combat raid at night.

“We ask them to do a thousand different things,” said Rutherford, “and we ask them to do it every single day.”

It’s a steep learning curve, said 1st Lt. Andrew Smith, a platoon leader with Charlie Company from Apopka, Fla.

“When I leave Iraq, I’ll have been a salesman, a cop, a politician, and a school principal,” Smith said.

Some of the paratroopers wish they could hand the “hearts & minds” missions off to some other unit.

“I didn’t sign up to hand out soccer balls,” said one sergeant.

But gaining the support of the population is the key to making the surge work, said Sgt. John Reed, a Bravo Company squad leader from Sanford, Fla. The people are the base that military, political, and economic progress has to be built on, he said.

“Without a base, without a foundation, you have nothing,” Reed said.

The results of the paratroopers’ efforts to engage the population are clearest during their daily patrols through the zigzagging streets of Sha’ab. Out on the streets, where people used to lock their doors in fright when Americans appeared, the paratroopers are now greeted warmly.

One afternoon 1st Lt. Rusty Bodine, of Fairfax, Va., was out trying to get residents to fill out an employment survey.

He knocked on one door and was welcomed in by the man of the house, who was dressed in a rumpled shirt and bare feet. He looked like he might have just woken up. While he looked at the survey, his sons brought out extra chairs and stools for the paratroopers to sit down.

While Bodine and the man talked, Reed and Sgt. Unberto Espinoza wandered into the next room. The man’s wife was there watching television surrounded by three of her children and several neighborhood kids. The kids swarmed around the two paratroopers, barraging them with questions.

“What is your name?” “Where is your home?” “You speak Arabic?”

Two teenage daughters peeked their heads out from behind a curtain, then disappeared again, giggling, when the paratroopers looked back. Stools and chairs were brought out, then cups of tea. When one of the paratroopers took out a picture of his baby son, the whole family passed it around, each one giving it a little kiss.

When it was time to leave, the family asked the paratroopers to come back the next day. They waved from the doorstep as the trucks drove away.

Inside the Humvees, everyone was feeling good. At more and more houses, they were getting similar receptions. Each one was a little victory for the paratroopers, who had worked hard to bring the people to their side.

Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Antonio Garcia, from San Angelo, Texas, a paratrooper with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, pulls security while his platoon leader talks to the owner of a house during a cordon and search operation in Sha'ab, Baghdad, May 10, 2007. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael Pryor.

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Pace Says Iraqis Must Step Up to Governance Challenge

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 28, 2007 – The Iraqi government needs to step forward to make progress in governance and revitalize the economy, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today during appearances on various morning television talk shows.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace also used the television appearances to thank servicemembers and their families on Memorial Day.

“It is very difficult to talk about numbers of those who have died in combat, but the fact of the matter is that freedom is not free,” Pace said on NBC’s Today. “We must protect our freedoms at home and abroad, and the men and women in uniform today understand how important their service is. This is not an easy fight, but they understand its value and importance to our nation.”

On CBS This Morning, Pace said that American servicemembers serving in Iraq understand they are buying time for the Iraqi government to set its house in order. “It is time for the Iraqi government to stand up to lead, to pull their people together, to make it so we can do what we would like us to do and they would like us to do: Come home,” Pace said.

The Iraqi security forces are increasing and the readiness rates are going up. “But their leadership is going to have to show that they can pull together a unity government and lead their people,” he said.

The general wants the Iraqi government to emulate the Sunni sheikhs of Al Anbar province. A year ago, the outlook in the province was bleak, he said. But tribal leaders and sheikhs saw the carnage that al Qaeda in Iraq was inflicting on the country and they joined with coalition forces and Iraqi security forces to drive the terrorists from the region.

“The example has been set in al Anbar by Sunni sheikhs who last year were fighting against us and their own government,” Pace said. “It’s a great example for the central government in Iraq to pull people together.”

The enemy in the war on terror is a bloodthirsty one with a 100-year plan. The general said that coalition forces found an al Qaeda torture chamber in Diyala province and freed 41 Iraqis.

“We are up against a very ruthless enemy and this nation is going to have to defend itself for as long as it takes,” he said.

Pace said he sees the enemy increasing attacks over the next few months as Americans debate the war and the surge. In part, they will increase attacks to affect the debate inside the United States. Ryan Crocker, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, and Army Gen. David Petraeus, Multinational Force Iraq commander, will issue an assessment in September as to the way forward.

“We will see the enemy in July and August try to increase our casualties,” Pace said. “That said, there has been progress.”

Planning goes forward across the spectrum for future operations in Iraq.

“You would expect us to be looking forward and planning ways to ramp up or ramp down depending on the situation on the ground,” Pace said.

He said the assessment in September will inform leaders on the next steps in the country. “We’re looking at an entire spectrum of ‘next steps’ to either reinforce success or make changes that may be necessary,” he said.

The chairman said that when he visits troops, he often gets asked if the American people still support them.

“Americans do understand the sacrifices that have been made over 232 years to let us live free,” Pace said. “They are reaching out in very special ways today to the men and women in uniform. I was in Charlotte, N.C., yesterday for the NASCAR race. (There were) 180,000 fans at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway who were on their feet cheering and screaming for the troops that were there.

“I think America has found a special way regardless of their feelings about the war to reach out and say thank you to those serving today,” Pace said.

On Memorial Day, Pace, a Vietnam combat veteran, said he has “some names in my head that I’ve carried for almost 40 years. They are very special to me, I think all of us who have served in combat have names like that. They remind of the sacrifice that’s required for the nation to live free. They remind me of my very special responsibilities to those who are serving today to ensure as best I can, that we have as little sacrifice as possible, but as much as required to keep us free.”

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Let us remember and be grateful to all of you

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Interesting Times

Tomorrow, for the first time since February 1979, the USA will sit down with that rogue regime known as Iran. Why? Hell if I know. I am very upset about this, so I am going to lead you to someone who is in the area of the meeting place.

Omar, from Iraq the Model, has written this article to keep us up-to-date on what is going on over there. You we cannot count on our dinosaur media, but I'll leave that for another day.

I could go into the reasons why this is such a terrible idea, such as human right, nuclear weapons, murdering of our troops, etc, but this has already been said time and time again. Is their anything I could say to stop this from happening?

Why don't we stand them up? They felt all big and mighty when they pulled out of the last meet. Why don't we do it right back? Childish? Then you do not understand what carries weight over in the Middle East! There's always tomorrow.

First, they have to turn over Osama's son...

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Two more great posts for Memorial Day

My hat's off to Dagney on this Memorial Day.
I have just read Dagney's post for this Memorial Day, and it is very good. Thank you for all you do for our troops, Dagney. May the wind always be at your back, and may God's blessings be more than you've ever dreamed.

A wonderful Memorial Day post at Bereft's.
I read this yesterday, but I believe it is one that should be shared. Serendip is a very good writer and friend. She keeps the world aprised on what is happening in Iran, and she is a true-blue American. Thank you for the wonderful post, Serendip. Have a nice Memorial Day!

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Memorial Day 27 May 2007

Today my heart is filled with sadness. I know it is not supposed to be, but I have never lied to you before. I am not about to start now. I have decided to share with you some prior Memorial Day posts. I hope you enjoy them.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day. At 3 pm, the nation will take one minute out of the year for a moment of silence to reflect on all the sacrifices made to preserve our freedoms. I think we should do this more often, but I hope you join me tomorrow at 3 pm, wherever you are.

Blackfive has a very moving and somber article about tomorrow. Please take the time to read it. They took the time for us.

To all the Viet Nam Vets: Welcome home.

La di da La di da La di da. La di da Da di da Da di da da. Da da di Da da di da. Da di di Da di da da di da da. Didada dadidada.

Well, you get the idea. (Sorry about that. I just looked at it, and it does NOT make sense. And I'm the one who wrote it! lol)

That is (was supposed to be) my parade for you. I know it is simple and probably off tune, but I wanted to at least do something.

Thank you to all of you who have risked it all to keep us free. I appreciate all your sacrifices. That includes you, too, family members and other loved ones. Thank you so very much.

Update: Greyhawk has a moving post today. You will surely be blessed by reading it. You may even find peace. After all, isn't that what we all want?

Update: Smash has a wonderful coverage of some heroes you would be proud to have met. If you want to know what is going on in the hearts of our vets this day, read this article. You will understand why they love each other so much.

Yes, they are proud to serve the greatest country in the world. Yes, they miss their families. Yes, they have their own points of view. Yet, they all come together when the time is necessary to protect you and me. These are remarkable men and women.

Be proud that they live amongst us, and be honored they chose to protect us. Be grateful they sacrificed for us, and do not forget their loved ones they have left behind.

This is a day of mixed emotions for them. They are grateful their loved one(s) is being remembered, while at the same time would much rather have them here to celebrate this day. This may be healing or too painful. Only God knows, and only time can help, if at all. Pay your respects. Please.

Update: You should see the pictures over at Willisms. He also has some precious words for this remarkable day. Sometimes the shorter the words, the more they say. Go over and check it out.
This one was written May 29, 2005. This next one was written the next day of the same year.
I pray your Memorial Day was a happy and healthy one. I also pray for our men and women who were unable to join us either because they are on duty risking their lives, shuffling paper (that is important, too), or they just happen to be with the Father. Whatever the case, I remember you.

I thank you for all you have risked for me. I understand the struggle of the ones you leave behind...well, not really. How could I? I pray for the Peace that the world does not understand be upon them. Thank you all.

I feel so honored and humbled to live in a country where people would do this for me. Who am I? I am no one. I am everyone. What a great society in which we live. Where an idea is worth more than gold, a friend is true to the end, and we are free to believe in whomever we choose and how.

I believe in Jesus Christ. He has never failed me, while I cannot say the same for myself. I thank You, Lord, for this day. Please keep the USA's Military, their family's and other loved ones, and our coalition partners protected from harm and evil. Grant them coolness in the heat, heat in the cold, food that doesn't taste awful, grace, mercy, understanding, knowledge, wisdom, guidence, strength, and complete and total Victory over the enemy. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.

I would like to link some other posts that are very special about today:
Michelle Malkin.
Roger L. Simon.
There were actually more links, but they either are no longer accessible or they are included above.

It is my pray that our men and women in uniform are hidden underneath God's wings, that their families are provided for and well, and that each American remembers this day with the reverence it so richly deserves. Thank you for your service, God bless you, and welcome home.

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Found one MIA, now KIA, others unknown

The other day the news came, and I could not write about it. I don't know how to spell his name, and this is Memorial Weekend. The headline says it all, though, doesn't it? And the fight goes on, as it should. Rest in peace, my dear neighbor. Godspeed, comfort and healing to your family.

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Exposing the Enemy: 27 May 2007

Al-Jazirah carries video remarks by 'new' al-Qa'ida official in Afghanistan.

Al-Jazirah Satellite Channel Television in Arabic at 1201 GMT on 24 May carries the following announcer-read report over video: Al-Jazirah has obtained video footage of a person called Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid, who presents himself as the general official [Al-Mas'ul al-Amm] of the Al-Qa'ida Organization in Afghanistan. In this videotape, Abu-al-Yazid affirms that Al-Qa'ida fighters received training during the winter to launch major attacks during this season. He adds that Arab fighters from Al-Qai'da are working side by side in these attacks with non-Arab fighters, and that they are enjoying the support of the Afghans in what he described as the Islamic emirate in Afghanistan.

[Recording begins] The situation of jihad in Afghanistan is going from good to better by the grace of God Almighty. The mujahidin's strikes against the Americans, NATO, and the agent governor are continuously increasing. God enabled the mujahidin in winter to train their soldiers and unify their ranks in preparation for swooping down on the tyrant enemy during this present season, which, God willing, will be a season of conquer and victory for the mujahidin and a season of vanquishing, defeat, and disappointment for the crusaders and their apostate helpers, as noted by Commander of the Faithful Mullah Muhammad Umar, may God save his soul.

Thanks to God, the mujahidin of the Islamic emirate are continuously increasing in number and their support by Muslims inside Afghanistan is almost full, particularly in the southern and eastern provinces. This support was manifested when Muslims realized the big difference between the agent government and that of the Islamic emirate, especially following the spread of injustice, bribery, corruption, insolence, lack of security and safety, killing, destruction, and prisons. This is in addition to the plantation of drugs and the increasing poverty and deprivation, all of which have come through the blessings of Mr Bush -- sorry -- Bush the liar and his servant Karzai, the puppet. I would like to bring good tidings to the Islamic nation, which is that there are hundreds of volunteers for martyrdom operations in Afghanistan, particularly Afghan citizens. [Recording ends]

Al-Shayib introduces Muntasir al-Zayyat, an Egyptian researcher and expert in Islamic groups' affairs, via satellite from Cairo, to comment on the video excerpt that was carried.

[Al-Shayib] Mr Al-Zayyat. First, what do you know about Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid?

[Al-Zayyat] There is nothing that is worth mentioning about Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid and we cannot classify him as being one of the well-known leaders that rotated within Al-Qa'ida during at least the past ten years; that is, since the date the Taliban Movement took power in Afghanistan in 1996 and until today. He is not one of the well-known leaders.

[Al-Shayib] This could urge asking another question related to the standards used in selecting what they are called commanders of the Al-Qa'ida Organization in different countries, such as Afghanistan for instance?

[Al-Zayyat] He must certainly be known at the Al-Qa'ida and the jihadist organizational level, because nobody can assume such responsibility or acquire this rank unless he is qualified for it, at least at the organizational level. Also, there could be ambiguity with the name. However, there are some question marks in this regard. It is obvious that Al-Qa'ida operates within the Taliban Movement, and he is still considering Mullah Muhammad Umar as commander of the faithful. Accordingly, we view Al-Qa'ida as a brigade of the Taliban or part of the army that is carrying out resistance operations against occupation. Second, concerning Al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan, which is the main base there, it looks strange that Shaykh Usama Bin Ladin does not appear in this scene, although he has been absent for some time. What is more strange is the absence of Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is the spokesperson for Al-Qa'ida and its brain. They usually appear whenever there is something involving Al-Qa'ida in Afghanistan, which is the main capital of Al-Qa'ida. What we have observed now seems strange. What is obviously important is that the jihad project during the past stage and until now has been progressing and achieving successes at the expense of the Karazi government.

[Al-Shayib] What is the objective behind showing Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid in this video?

[Al-Zayyat] It is obvious that Al-Qa'ida has had a mainstay and that there are Afghans who are providing it with security or military cover. Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid could not appear in this video had he not been confident that he is protected with this Afghan cover. It is a message noting clearly that the Afghan brothers or the mujahidin are exchanging duties with them and that the Arabs are working in harmony with the Afghans. Thus, it is a message indicating that Al-Qa'ida has returned to the theater in Afghanistan.

[Al-Shayib] Mr. Al-Zayyat, please remain with us and let us view together another part of the video recording that shows Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid as saying that the Al-Qa'ida member Abd-al-Hadi al-Iraqi, who was sent by the Al-Qa'ida Organization a short while ago to lead the organization in Iraq, was arrested in Turkey and that the Turkish Government handed him over to the United States.

[Recording begins] Concerning the arrest of brother hero Abd-al-Hadi al-Iraqi, may God release him from prison, strengthen and support him; we would like to clarify some of the matters that are related to his arrest. While on his way to Iraq, longing to fight the Americans in his birthplace and the country that witnessed his youth, he asked the command early enough to go to Iraq, but he remained patient until he was permitted to travel approximately one and a half years ago. He was arrested in Turkey and the agent Turkish Government handed him over to the Americans with the hope that the extradition would urge the master to mediate with the Europeans to enable Turkey to join the infidel alliance that is called the European Union. He was handed over to the Americans despite his request for political asylum, which a Turkish court decided to grant to him. The agent Turkish Government arrested the lawyer that filed brother Abd-al-Hadi's case. What freedom or justice they are claiming and to what type of Islam they belong? Their penalty will come from God and then from the mujahidin and it is imminent, with God's help. We ask God to strengthen brother Abd-al-Hadi and all Muslim prisoners and to expedite their release, because he is the one who can do so. [Recording ends]

[Al-Shayib] Mr Muntasir al-Zayyat, in our attempt to become more acquainted with Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid, do you think that Al-Qa'ida, through this video recording and Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid speech, is seeking to bring into view a new face in order to prove that there is always a second row of leaders that are ready to assume responsibility?

[Al-Zayyat] It is obvious that this matter is part of the message and that you can tell from his accent that Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid is an Egyptian citizen, which emphasizes the Egyptian role in Al-Qa'ida's leadership. His talk about Turkey implies a puzzle since there are European countries that refused to meet US demands to extradite prominent Islamic figures from their countries. The question mark or the strangeness in this case is that the Turkish Government rushes to extradite Abd-al-Hadi al-Iraqi to the United States; an act which had deepened differences between the school that stands behind the Turkish Government and the Al-Qa'ida Organization.

[Al-Shayib] We will resume our talk with you, Mr. Muntasir al-Zayyat, and let us view more of the video recording, in which Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid denies that the arrest or killing of some Al-Qa'ida members have affected the Organization.

[Begin recording] Those plotters pretend to be ignorant that our plan was to lure the Americans to a war of attrition outside their borders in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Live fronts have been opened for us in Iraq, Afghanistan, Algeria, Somalia, and elsewhere, some of which were for training purposes, proportionate to the capacity of those countries. Thanks be to God, who granted success to our emir Shaykh Usama, may God keep his soul, and his mujahidin brothers in what they were seeking to achieve; namely, the globalization of the jihad ideology. It is more than enough that Shaykh Usama and Shaykh Ayman [Al-Zawahiri] constitute a lump in Bush's throat to taste its bitterness day and night.

Second, jihad will continue until judgment day and will not be stopped by the martyrdom or arrest of some cadres or commanders. On the contrary, the blood of martyrs and steadfastness of the prisoners will breathe life into the hearts of thousands of the nation's cadres and drive them to join the ranks of the mujahidin. We receive new Islamic nation's cadres everyday who are brave and anxious to fight infidels. [End recording]

[Al-Shayib] Mr Muntasir al-Zayyat, do you think that there is a relation between appointing Abu-al-Yazid in charge of Afghanistan and intensifying the coordination with Taliban in the future?

[Al-Zayyat] Certainly, his presence inside Afghanistan and his open appearance emphasizes that the Mullah Muhammad Umar emirate of the faithful confirm that Al-Qa'ida is operating within the Taliban inside Afghanistan. Shaykh Mustafa also wanted to confirm that Al-Qa'ida is existing, contradicting the belief of many researchers during the past phase, as an organizational structure that has preserved its entity, not only its ideology, by saying that there are camps for training here and there. He also firmly referred to what we have been analyzing that the movement is full with cadres in an attempt to deviate attention from the Shaykh Usama Bin Ladin's absence or the absence of Shaykh Sulayman Abu-Ghayth al-Kuwaiti. In fact, this video recording has many indications that reveal the deep existence of Al-Qa'ida and its regional, local, and international expansion as well as its close ties with the Taliban Movement, which were, and are, still close.

[Al-Shayib] Finally Mr. Muntasir al-Zayyat, how do you expect the reaction of certain parties or countries, which are declaring war against terrorism to this video recording and its content?

[Al-Zayyat] We said before that Al-Qa'ida made actual successes and was able to efficiently mange the battle on the media level in a way that surpassed US media capabilities and those of its world allies. Now, we discover that Al-Qa'ida is making military successes inside Afghanistan, where the Bush Administration launched what it called a war against terrorism. This video recording opens the door anew at the Bush Administration's failure in achieving any of the targets that it sought. In the recording, Mustafa says that what is important is keeping Shaykh Usama Bin Ladin and Shaykh Ayman al-Zawahiri alive, free, and far away from US handcuffs or claws.

[Al-Shayib] Mr Muntasir al-Zayyat, researcher and expert in Islamists groups' affairs, from Cairo. Thank you very much.

At 1300 GMT Al-Jazirah carries a repeat of the video footage of a person called Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid, including new recorded part of his speech as follows:

The Al-Qa'ida official in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid, gave what he called some 'advice' to HAMAS, asking the movement not to accept the international or the Arab resolutions.

Abu-al-Yazid is then heard saying: "We advise our brothers in HAMAS -- we strongly urge them, for the sake of the brotherhood based on faith between us and for the sake of the martyrs who sacrificed themselves cheaply to please God, and for the sake of the entire Muslim nation and our nation in Palestine in particular -- we advise them to recant their participation in apostate councils and rescind their commitment to respect the international and Arab resolutions, which impose on them the relinquishment of most of Palestine to the Jews. We also advise them not to put their hands in the hands of the traitorous, hirelings, and apostates in the Palestinian Authority. They have to correct their understanding of the doctrine of loyalty [to God] and renunciation [of the apostates] and they should not abandon the application of the Islamic sharia in return of alleged interests."

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Iraqis taking the lead at Al Suleikh

Friday, 25 May 2007
By Sgt. Mike Pryor
2nd BCT, 82nd Abn. Div. Public Affairs

BAGHDAD - Capt. James Peay was starting to feel like a third wheel.

Peay, a battery commander with the 82nd Airborne Division from Nashville, Tenn., was accompanying Iraqi police chief Lt. Col. Ahmed Abdullah on a combined engagement patrol through the east Baghdad neighborhood of Suleikh.

Whenever they stopped to speak with people on the street, Ahmed did most of the talking. Peay stood off to the side, listening as his interpreter translated. His comments were mostly limited to hellos, goodbyes, and thank-yous.

This was Ahmed’s show, and Peay was more than happy to give him the spotlight. It’s not that he is shy, Peay said later, it’s that, ultimately, stability in Iraq depends on the Iraqi security forces – and people like Lt. Col. Ahmed - taking the lead.

Successfully negotiating that difficult transition has become one of the major focuses of the entire war effort, especially since the kick-off of the new security plan for Baghdad, which has placed thousands of additional U.S. and Iraqi forces in Baghdad communities, often living together in the same compounds.

Peay commands one of those new shared bases – the Suleikh Joint Security Station. For more than three months, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division have been living and working side-by-side with the Iraqi police and Iraqi army at the JSS to coordinate security efforts in Suleikh.

The paratroopers from Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, man the JSS 24 hours a day.

They have a cramped section of the building to themselves, stacked high with boxes of canned food, water and other supplies. The police stay on the other side of the same building, and the Iraqi soldiers stay in another part of the complex. At least once a day, liaisons from the three units meet in the conference room to discuss operations.

When the JSS was first established, the area was so dangerous that the police rarely left the station. Some days, they went out only to pick up one of the dead bodies regularly dumped in the neighborhood.

Three months later, things changed. The U.S. presence helped bring the level of violence down significantly. At the same time, it emboldened the ISF to raise their profile in the area – particularly the police.

“They know we’re here to support them, but at the same time, they’re getting to a point where they know security as a whole is in their hands,” said 2nd Lt. Jesse Bowman, an Alpha Battery platoon leader from Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

The difficult part, now, will be to maintain the security while the U.S. forces step back and the ISF step up.

Peay’s patrol with Ahmed, May 18, his first as the new battery commander, gave an encouraging glimpse of the future.

Before the patrol started, platoon sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Nichols, of Lewisburgh, W.V., went over tactics and procedures with the Iraqis. When he was satisfied everyone was on the same page, the patrol moved out.

With a phalanx of police and paratroopers around them, Peay and Ahmed spent several hours walking a loop of the neighborhood around the JSS. They talked to people in their houses, outside washing their cars, on their way to work or anywhere else they found them. Almost everyone complained about sewage or electricity, which, in the big scheme of things, Peay found promising.
“If they’re complaining about the power, security must be pretty good,” he said.

Sometimes people came right out of their gates to talk with Ahmed in the middle of the street, an act that newly-arrived platoon leader, 1st Lt. Larry Rubal, from Old Forge, Pa., found incredible. At his old unit, people were afraid to be seen talking to U.S. or Iraqi security forces.“I was very surprised by how willing people here were to come out and talk to us in the middle of the road,” he said. “They were just very open.”

Peay rarely had to ask a question. Ahmed was running the show. At one point Rubal asked his interpreter to make sure a man they were talking to received a pamphlet with the number of a crime tip line. The man produced one from his pocket. Ahmed had already given it to him.“You’re too quick,” Rubal said to Ahmed, laughing. Ahmed shrugged.“He really took the lead and got out there,” Peay said afterwards.

Peay said he’d like to build on the day’s success by conducting more joint patrols and joint operations. And whenever possible, he’ll continue to keep the U.S. in the background.
“I’d rather our guys just stand outside and have (the ISF) do everything,” he said.
In the meantime, Peay has another patrol scheduled with Lt. Col. Ahmed. And as the ISF continue to make gains in securing the streets of Baghdad, it looks like Peay will have to get used to being the third wheel.

Photo - 1st Lt. Larry Rubal (kneeling), platoon leader with Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, watches as Lt. Col. Ahmed Abdullah, the local police commander, asks an Iraqi woman some questions during a joint patrol. Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Mike Pryor.

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NGAUS Legit: 25 May 2007

What’s Happening In Congress?.

House Removes Deadlines from War Funding Bill.
The House Thursday voted on a new war funding bill that included benchmarks for Iraq’s government but contained no timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the embattled region. In a reversal of their previous position, House Democrats conceded on the issue of a deadline for troop withdrawal in an effort to pass the legislation by Memorial Day. The new legislation includes additional military funding which was conspicuously absent from the version that passed last Thursday. That bill served only as a “placeholder” and asserted the House’s intention to support the troops.

There were several additions to the bill, including a measure that raised the national minimum wage and $22.2 billion in funding that was not requested by the White House. The bill’s passage in the House cleared its way for approval by the Senate on Thursday night.

Senate Begins Markup of Defense Authorization Bill.
In committee hearings this week, the Senate began its deliberations on the FY2008 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The subcommittees on Airland, Personnel, Emerging Threats and Capabilities, and Strategic Forces approved their respective portions of the NDAA.

In a positive move for the Air Force, Senate authorizers on the Airland subcommittee voted to shift all funding for the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) program to that department’s budget line. In a move that differs greatly from the House version of the bill, the committee did not include any restrictions on the program.

The Senate authorizers also differed from their House counterparts and opted not to fund the purchase of any additional C17s. The House had authorized $2.4 billion to buy 10 planes that were not a part of the Air Force’s request.

House Passes Bills to Improve Veterans’ Health Care and Benefits.
On Wednesday, the House passed a number of bills that will expand health care and benefits for veterans. Designed to coincide with the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, the bills easily met the two-thirds majority required under the suspension of the rules. H.R. 612 (highlighted in last week’s LEGIT) extends the term of free health care for returning veterans from two to five years; H.R. 2199 authorizes research and funding for traumatic brain injuries; H.R. 1470 allows for improved chiropractic care; H.R. 67 authorizes a new grant program for veterans’ outreach services; H.R. 1660 authorizes a national veterans’ cemetery in Colorado; and H.R. 2239 expands vocational rehabilitation benefits to disabled servicemembers for a select group of personnel.

What’s Happening at NGAUS?

Legislative Alerts are New and Improved.
We’ve made it easier than ever. A link to our “Write to Congress” feature is now contained in the text of legislative alerts posted on the NGAUS website. This new feature alleviates the need to back out of the alerts and move to a separate page in order to send messages to Congress. The addition of the Capwiz link within the alerts will enhance ease of use and should lead to a substantial increase in the number of letters sent to Members of Congress.

One Week Remains for State Resolutions
The resolutions deadline of June 1 is just 5 business days away and we have only received input from 16 states. Please be sure to send your finalized, approved resolutions to Bernie Phelps, Senior Legislative Analyst at B. Phelps as soon as possible. Any resolutions received after the June 1 deadline will be treated as emergency resolutions.

What Can You Do?

Capwiz Update:
16,331 messages have been sent this year.
2135 messages were sent this week.
3375 messages on Guard Empowerment.
4193 messages were sent on TRICARE fee increases.
7296 messages were sent on retirement.
752 messages were sent on JCA

Top 5 States:
1. Georgia – 2118 messages
2. Tennessee – 2001 messages
3. Mississippi – 1096 messages
4. Ohio – 656 messages
5. Indiana 540 messages

Our Goal for 2007: 54,000 messages,
Only 37,669 messages to go!

Rich Green, Director
Pete Duffy, Deputy Director
Chris DeBatt, Army Programs
Emily Breitbach, Air Programs
Bernie Phelps, Senior Legislative Analyst
Gareth Vaughan, Legislative Analyst

PS: These are emails that I receive. I do not write them myself. The Notes are broken up into different sections over at DoD Daily News. Have a wonderful Memorial Day, thank you for your service, welcome to those of you whom have made it home and God bless you.


Thursday, May 24, 2007

C-17 employs 'screamer' in combat airdrop

Air Mobility Command Public Affairs Office

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. (AFPN) - A C-17 Globemaster III deployed to Southwest Asia conducted the first C-17 combat airdrop May 24 using the Joint Precision Airdrop System with a screamer. Screamers are steerable GPS-guided container delivery system bundles.

The mission was also unique because it conducted airdrops in two locations using two types of delivery systems. The drops delivered food, water and ammunition to U.S. forces in two remote locations in Afghanistan. The crew first delivered about 21,000 pounds of supplies using 14 of the JPADS steerable screamer chutes. It then resupplied a different group of ground forces with more than 8,000 pounds of supplies using six Improved Container Delivery System bundles.

The benefit of the C-17 is that it can carry about 40 container delivery system bundles and drop at multiple locations during a single sortie, said Lt. Col. Paul Eberhart, the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron commander.

JPADS has been operational on C-130 Hercules and C-17s in theater for about eight months. Until now, C-17s only used the JPADS mission software to support drops using the ICDS.

The JPADS mission software computes a release point based on a four-dimensional forecast wind model and the actual wind data relayed to the aircraft. The data is then sent via wireless transfer to GPS receivers located on the top of each CDS bundle. Each bundle has GPS-guided autonomous actuators mounted at the top that steer the chute while it drops at 100 mph to a point above the drop zone. A larger parachute then deploys to slow the descent rate, allowing for a soft touchdown of the bundle directly over the drop zone.

Officials said using steerable chutes allows guaranteed accuracy for ground forces while keeping the aircraft at high altitudes and away from ground threats.

"This type of airdrop demonstrates the versatility of the C-17 aerial delivery system," said Lt. Col. Fred Boehm, an 816th EAS operations officer.

When the eight-member crew from the 437th Airlift Wing at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., was notified about the drop, it began planning the mission, said C-17 loadmaster Tech. Sgt. Gary Kleinfeldt.

"This isn't a mission planned by one unit. We worked closely with planners at the combined air operations center's air mobility division, joint airdrop inspectors at the 774th EAS, and parachute riggers at the 11th Quartermaster Detachment at Bagram Air Base," said Maj. Kevin Peterson, the aircraft commander. "It was a total joint effort to make these drops happen."

"The system was amazing to watch," said Staff Sgt. Derek Howard, the crew's evaluator loadmaster. "When the bundles departed the aircraft and the chutes deployed, you could instantly see them turning in what appeared to be a formation as the guidance system began steering the bundle directly over the drop zone."

"This capability was first used by C-130s in theater," said Colonel Eberhart.

The 816th EAS has been using the JPADS software with ICDS for some time. But the mission May 24 was the first combat airdrop using screamer chutes, expanding C-17 employment capabilities to include the use of true precision vertical resupply.

Photo - Staff Sgt. Derek Howard watches six container delivery system supply bundles as they parachute from a C-17 Globemaster III to the ground over Afghanistan May 24. The C-17 employed the Joint Precision Airdrop System in combination with the Improved Container Delivery System to increase accuracy of airdrops. The ICDS airdrops provide resupply to forward operating locations in Afghanistan supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Sergeant Howard is from the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Gary Kleinfeldt).

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Al Qaim detachment plays role in Iraq transition

May 24, 2007
By Cpl. Andrew Kalwitz
2nd Marine Logistics Group

AL QAIM, Iraq - The Marines of Detachment 2, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), are working to provide for the stabilization of an increasingly self-sufficient Iraq.

The Marines of Detachment 2 supply 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment with the essential tools needed to accomplish this mission.

"We provide logistics to 1/4 and support the rest of our (area of operations)," said 2nd Lt. Aaron L. Serrano, the officer-in-charge of Detachment 2.

The detachment provides this region with transportation and heavy equipment support, postal services, fuel and water. They are also in charge of maintaining medical, exchange, and disbursing services here.

“We all pull our part around here,” said Cpl. Brandon J. Bergeron, an electrical equipment repair specialist with the detachment. “There is a need for every one of us.”

Bergeron, a Williamsburg, Va., native, was deployed here and to Al Asad in 2005 for a seven-month deployment and said their work seems to be paying off.

“There is a major difference,” he said. “We’re making tons of progress. It went from where it was a stronghold for terrorists to everyone being back to daily life and we barely get hit by (improvised explosive devices). It’s a lot calmer than last year.”

A watch clerk with the detachment, who is on his first deployment, said things have been easier than he expected. He said the methodic schedule of the Marines around him is one reason for this.

“I expected things to be a lot more hectic,” said Lance Cpl. Rafael Rivera, an Ocala, Fla., native. “The way they do things makes everything go so much smoother.”

Rivera said he wants to see his daughter in the states more than anything. But he, as well as many others with the detachment, extended his deployment time from seven months to a full year because of what he feels is the importance of their mission.

“I am out here doing this for her. So she has less to worry about,” he said. “So everyone in the states has less to worry about.”

Gerry P. Graham, works on hinges for a door his detachment will install in their building. The detachment is here for a seven-month deployment and is responsible for providing logistics support to 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment. Graham is a motor transportation mechanic here. Photo by: Cpl. Andrew Kalwitz.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

With Honor

New Medal of Honor Museum honors selfless service to country, comrades.
By Jack Jacobs
Military analyst
Updated: 9:02 p.m. PT May 20, 2007

This Wednesday, May 23, Brian Williams will host NBC’s "Nightly News" from Charleston, South Carolina, and moored nearby is the USS Yorktown, a World War II aircraft carrier. Brian is a member of the Board of Directors of the Medal of Honor Foundation, and the occasion is the grand opening of the new Medal of Honor Museum aboard the Yorktown.

The Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military award, was the brainchild of Abraham Lincoln, who sought to recognize exceptional bravery during the Civil War. At the time, the only battlefield distinction was the Purple Heart, awarded in those days for meritorious service, not as it is today, for wounds received in combat.

Since then, about 3,500 Medals of Honor have been awarded. In more recent times, since World War I, most have been posthumous, and there has been no living recipient for any conflict since Vietnam. Today, there are only 110 living recipients, and many of them will be on the Yorktown on Wednesday for the grand opening of the Medal of Honor Museum in South Carolina.

Among them are the oldest living recipient, John Finn, who will be 98 this July and was decorated for action on Pearl Harbor Day. He enlisted in the Navy in 1926 and can transfix the most jaded audience with first-person descriptions of life in America before World War I and tales of his participation in American naval operations in China a decade before the Second World War.

The museum is the principal repository for artifacts relating to the Medal of Honor, but the real thrust of the place is not just the display of things but also the perpetuation of the concept of selfless service to country and comrades. There is an emotion generated there that can be duplicated nowhere else, and one reason is the actions of people. Try these:
Jack Lucas
Jack Lucas was a bit bigger than other kids his age and spent some time at a military prep school. So, when World War II began, he successfully lied about his age and enlisted in the Marines Corps when he was 13 years old. He was so good in boot camp that he was made an instructor, at 14. Not content to serve in the States while his buddies were in combat, he got himself aboard a ship bound for the South Pacific. Landing on Iwo Jima, Lucas saved his fellow Marines by throwing himself on two hand grenades. He miraculously survived devastating injuries, and when he received the Medal [of Honor] from President Harry Truman, Lucas was the youngest recipient since the Civil War.

George Sakato
In danger of being sent to an internment camp like other Japanese-American families, George Sakato moved to Arizona and tried to enlist after Pearl Harbor, but he was rejected as an undesirable alien. In 1943, the government wised up and allowed Sakato and thousands of other patriotic Americans of Japanese descent to fight, and he became a member of the legendary 442nd Regimental Combat Team. In eastern France, in difficult, mountainous terrain, he singlehandedly attacked a German strong point and then, only a 22-year-old private, led his squad through ferocious enemy fire to capture dozens of German soldiers.

Jim Stockdale
After being shot down and injured over North Vietnam, Jim Stockdale was a prisoner for eight long years, and for three of those years he was in solitary confinement. By any standard, the treatment he received was criminal and inhumane: beaten, tortured, strangled until he was nearly asphyxiated. He was brought to the brink of death and resuscitated, time and time again, year after year.

But he never gave any more than his name, rank and service number.

He had told his fellow prisoners that they were honor-bound to resist, and he led by example. Rather than let himself be used by the North Vietnamese in a propaganda film, Stockdale beat his own face to a bloody pulp and cut himself with a dull razor so that he could not be presented on film.

They threw him in solitary again, and he feared that he would ultimately break under the torture and cooperate. So he shattered the window of his cell and slit his wrists with the glass. He was found before he bled to death, but the torture stopped because the guards realized that Stockdale would rather die with honor than serve their purposes.

Clarence Sasser
In 1967, Clarence Sasser was a medic in the Mekong River delta of Vietnam. Under continuous and intense enemy fire, and without regard to his own safety, he crawled from soldier to soldier to aid the injured. He ignored his own many painful shrapnel and bullet wounds to save others and did not cease his assistance until loss of blood made him incapable of continuing.

The behavior of these gallant people was extraordinary, but the basic underpinnings of it are not. American service members are imbued with a code that transcends background, race and every other demographic distinction: don’t surrender if you can fight, never cooperate with your captors, accomplish the mission at all cost, love your comrades.

And so it’s not surprising that every recipient of the Medal of Honor will tell you that he wears it not for himself but for those who can’t: all the men and women who sacrificed so that we can live in freedom. It’s something worth remembering each time we have a chance to help our neighbors and instead turn the other way.

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Soldiers help legitimize Iraq’s legal system

23 May 2007
Story by Spc. Mike Alberts
3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs

KIRKUK - He downloaded chickens as a member of his high school’s Future Farmers of America club. Growing up, he worked the sun-drenched oil fields of southern Arkansas. He’s no stranger to rolling up his shirt sleeves to get a job done, a quality that is serving him well during his mission as a Soldier in northern Iraq.

He’s Capt. Duane Kees, brigade judge advocate, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, who is currently working to instill integrity and legitimacy into a legal system weathered by decades of neglect and distrust in Kirkuk, Iraq.

Kees was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and raised in Pine Bluff. He is the prosecuting attorney on criminal and administrative matters for 3rd Brigade, and advises commanders at all levels on a variety of legal issues. While deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Kees is one of the brigade’s legal experts in areas unique to a war zone.

“I’m constantly giving legal assistance to commanders and Soldiers on all variety of things out here,” explained Kees. “At war, there is an operational aspect of our work that is unique to being deployed,” he said. “We provide training, teaching and advice on things like the rules of engagement, escalation of force and the law of armed conflict [among other things].”

Perhaps most challenging for Kees, however, is his additional responsibility of bringing legitimacy to a dysfunctional legal system. Kees is one of dozens of attorneys country-wide who is involved in helping to improve Iraq’s rule of law.

“Iraq has a foundation for the ‘rule of law’ as it’s called. It has a codified judicial system, and a legislature and government based on that system. Yet, through the Saddam Era, the country lost it, didn’t abide by it and strayed from it when it was in their best interest to do so,” said Kees. “We’re trying to help Iraqi citizens have faith again in their laws by improving a legal system that can be trusted.”

Kees works to provide more accountability in the region’s detainee operations, evaluates infrastructure needs like courthouses and jails and speaks with judges to offer operational recommendations. That said, Kees often works more by “feel” and instinct than he’s accustomed.

“When I practiced law in Arkansas and Hawaii [where I am stationed when not at war] there was always a book that provided guidance. Out here, there’s no book on how to help bestow dignity to a people’s legal system, a system that’s foreign to me. Out here, at times it’s like I’m playing chess in the dark,” he said.

Although he might now know for certain whether he’s making the right move on occasion, in those moments Kees relies on “gut instinct” and with confidence knowing that he’s been taught by the best and raised and educated well.

Growing up in Arkansas, Kees’ parents emphasized learning. His mother holds two masters degrees and works as a librarian at Watson Chapel located in Pine Bluff, Ark. His father is the Superintendent of the White Hall School District also in Pine Bluff.

Kees himself excelled academically, first while a high schooler in small town Stevens, Ark., and later at the University of Arkansas where he attended on an academic scholarship. Form there, all it took was a little back-braking work in the oil fields of southern Arkansas to push the future Army lawyer to law school also in his native Arkansas at the University of Arkansas School of Law.

Of course, Kees understands that the War on Terror will not be resolved by his efforts or those of his legal colleagues. But legitimizing the rule of law in Iraq will be a cornerstone of a better future for its citizens.

“Often, a stable society comes down to the court system. Laws are no good if you can’t enforce them. Laws are no good if you can’t apply them. Laws are no good if you cannot interpret them. All that is accomplished by the rule of law,” Kees emphasized. “If [citizens] don’t view [their] court system as legitimate, you can have the most honorable judge but if he is not seen as such, if the system isn’t viewed as fair, you really don’t have much.”

Photo - Cpt. Duane Kees (right) brigade judge advocate, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, listen's to a Soldier's question during Kees combat rules of engagement class at Forward Operating Base Warrior, Kirkuk, Iraq. Photo by Sgt. Maurice Smith.

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