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

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Monday, July 30, 2007

New Vehicles Support Mission in Anbar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sailors help bridge comm gap for Soldiers in Baghdad

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

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CJTF-HOA helps provide education to Pemba Island children

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WARNING: Not age appropriate; Video

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

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

MNF-Iraq

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

(No sound.)

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

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

WWW.MNF-IRAQ.COM.

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

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Chairman of Taliban's Military Shura KILLED!

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

Qari Faiz Mohammad killed in a raid in Helmand province

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

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

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

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

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

North Bend, Ore. native inspires Marines with art

20 Jul 07
By Sgt. Andy Hurt
13th MEU
.

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

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

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

Roots

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honor, Courage, Commitment … and tattoos

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

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

Company Artist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Italian police to train Iraqi National Police

20 Jul 07
Spc. Emily Greene
Combined Press Information Center
.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Iraqi Police Station Opens in Wahida

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Operation Diablo Dragnet Links People to Government

18 July 07
By Army Sgt. Tony J. Spain
22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
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KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Paratroopers with 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, conducted air assault missions as part of Operation Diablo-Dragnet the end of June.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lifeblood Pumped Into Farming Community in Mrezat

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

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Navy ‘Riverines’ are irreplaceable asset to 13th MEU

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

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CENTAF chaplain visits Djibouti orphanages

16 July 07
by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class John Osborne
Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa Public Affairs Office
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CAMP LEMONIER, Djibouti -- The U.S. Central Command Air Forces command chaplain visited Camp Lemonier July 10 to 13 to meet with servicemembers and spent time at two local orphanages where he and members of the Alaska Air National Guard joined the boys in a basketball game.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ice and Fire: Eskimos in Kuwait

16 July 07
By Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau News
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CAMP BUERHING, Kuwait - Hot like a giant hairdryer; like standing under a giant magnifying glass; or like turning an oven to 127 degrees, jumping in and closing the door. These are ways Eskimo members of the Alaska National Guard's 3rd Battalion, 297th Infantry Regiment explain the Kuwait heat to family and friends back home.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

President Bush Discusses War on Terror in South Carolina

Cross-posted at Rosemary's Thoughts. This is a reprint from the White House.

Charleston Air Force Base
Charleston, South Carolina
11:50 A.M. EDT.

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Please be seated. Thank you, Colonel. Thanks for the hospitality and kind introduction. I'm proud to be with the men and women of the Air Force, the Navy, the Marines, the Army and the Coast Guard. Thanks for serving. Thanks for wearing the uniform of the United States of America.

I'm proud to be back here in the great state of South Carolina. I'm proud to be with some of the Palmetto State's finest citizens. I'm glad to be eating lunch with you. The food is pretty good, Colonel. (Laughter.) I always like a good barbecue.

I also am proud to be with the military families. You know, our troops are obviously engaged in a tough struggle, tough fight, a fight that I think is noble and necessary for our peace. And so are our families. Our military families endure the separations. They worry about their loved ones. They pray for safe return. By carrying out these burdens, our military families are serving the United States of America, and this country is grateful to America's military families. (Applause.)

I appreciate Colonel Millander leading the 437th Airlift Wing here at the Charleston Airbase. Thank you for the tour. Nice big airplanes carrying a lot of cargo. And it's good to see the amazing operations that take place here to keep our troops supplied.

I'm honored here to be with Deb, as well. That's Red's wife. I call him Red; you call him Colonel. He did a smart thing; he married a woman from Texas. (Applause.) So did I. (Laughter.) And Laura sends her very best to you all.

I'm proud to be here with Mark Bauknight -- Colonel Bauknight -- Acting Commander of they're 315th Airlift Wing, and his wife Leslie.

I am traveling today with one of the true stalwarts of freedom, a man who understands the stakes of the war we're in, and a man who strongly supports the military in accomplishing the mission that we've sent you to do, and that's Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. (Applause.)

This base is represented by Congressman Henry Brown, of South Carolina. (Applause.) He understands what I understand; when we have somebody in harm's way, that person deserves the full support of the Congress and the President. And you'll have the full support of the President of the United States during this war against these radicals and extremists.

I appreciate the Lieutenant Governor of this state, Andre Bauer. Thanks for coming, Governor. I'm proud to be here with the Speaker of the House of Representatives for South Carolina, State Representative Bobby Harrell. Mr. Speaker, thanks for coming.

We've got some mayors with us, and I appreciate the mayors being here today: Mayor Riley, Mayor Hallman, Mayor Summey. I'm honored that you all would take time out of your busy schedule to come by and pay tribute to these men and women who serve our nation so ably.

I'm proud to be with Chairman Tim Scott of the Charleston County Council. I'm proud to be with other state and local officials. And I'm really glad to be with you all. Thank you for your courage.

Since the attacks of September the 11th, 2001, the Airmen of Team Charleston have deployed across the globe in support in the war on terror. During the liberation of Afghanistan, air crews from Team Charleston flew hundreds of sorties to transport troops and deliver supplies, and help the liberation of 25 million people.

Team Charleston is playing a crucial role in Iraq. Every day C-17s lift off from Charleston carrying tons of vital supplies for our troops on the front lines. Your efforts are saving lives and you're bringing security to this country. Every member of Team Charleston can take pride in a great record of accomplishment. And America is grateful for your courage in the cause of freedom. And your courage is needed.

Nearly six years after the 9/11 attacks, America remains a nation at war. The terrorist network that attacked us that day is determined to strike our country again, and we must do everything in our power to stop them. A key lesson of September the 11th is that the best way to protect America is to go on the offense, to fight the terrorists overseas so we don't have to face them here at home. And that is exactly what our men and women in uniform are doing across the world.

The key theater in this global war is Iraq. Our troops are serving bravely in that country. They're opposing ruthless enemies, and no enemy is more ruthless in Iraq than al Qaeda. They send suicide bombers into crowded markets; they behead innocent captives and they murder American troops. They want to bring down Iraq's democracy so they can use that nation as a terrorist safe haven for attacks against our country. So our troops are standing strong with nearly 12 million Iraqis who voted for a future of peace, and they so for the security of Iraq and the safety of American citizens.

There's a debate in Washington about Iraq, and nothing wrong with a healthy debate. There's also a debate about al Qaeda's role in Iraq. Some say that Iraq is not part of the broader war on terror. They complain when I say that the al Qaeda terrorists we face in Iraq are part of the same enemy that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001. They claim that the organization called al Qaeda in Iraq is an Iraqi phenomenon, that it's independent of Osama bin Laden and that it's not interested in attacking America.

That would be news to Osama bin Laden. He's proclaimed that the "third world war is raging in Iraq." Osama bin Laden says, "The war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever." I say that there will be a big defeat in Iraq and it will be the defeat of al Qaeda. (Applause.)

Today I will consider the arguments of those who say that al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq are separate entities. I will explain why they are both part of the same terrorist network -- and why they are dangerous to our country.

A good place to start is with some basic facts: Al Qaeda in Iraq was founded by a Jordanian terrorist, not an Iraqi. His name was Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Before 9/11, he ran a terrorist camp in Afghanistan. He was not yet a member of al Qaida, but our intelligence community reports that he had longstanding relations with senior al Qaida leaders, that he had met with Osama bin Laden and his chief deputy, Zawahiri.

In 2001, coalition forces destroyed Zarqawi's Afghan training camp, and he fled the country and he went to Iraq, where he set up operations with terrorist associates long before the arrival of coalition forces. In the violence and instability following Saddam's fall, Zarqawi was able to expand dramatically the size, scope, and lethality of his operation. In 2004, Zarqawi and his terrorist group formally joined al Qaida, pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, and he promised to "follow his orders in jihad."

Soon after, bin Laden publicly declared that Zarqawi was the "Prince of Al Qaida in Iraq" -- and instructed terrorists in Iraq to "listen to him and obey him." It's hard to argue that al Qaida in Iraq is separate from bin Laden's al Qaida, when the leader of al Qaida in Iraq took an oath of allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

According to our intelligence community, the Zarqawi-bin Laden merger gave al Qaida in Iraq -- quote -- "prestige among potential recruits and financiers." The merger also gave al Qaida's senior leadership -- quote -- "a foothold in Iraq to extend its geographic presence ... to plot external operations ... and to tout the centrality of the jihad in Iraq to solicit direct monetary support elsewhere." The merger between al Qaida and its Iraqi affiliate is an alliance of killers -- and that is why the finest military in the world is on their trail.

Zarqawi was killed by U.S. forces in June 2006. He was replaced by another foreigner -- an Egyptian named Abu Ayyub al-Masri. His ties to the al Qaida senior leadership are deep and longstanding. He has collaborated with Zawahiri for more than two decades. And before 9/11, he spent time with al Qaida in Afghanistan where he taught classes indoctrinating others in al Qaida's radical ideology.

After Abu Ayyub took over al Qaida's Iraqi operations last year, Osama bin Laden sent a terrorist leader named Abd al-Hadi al Iraqi to help him. According to our intelligence community, this man was a senior advisor to bin Laden, who served as his top commander in Afghanistan. Abd al-Hadi never made it to Iraq. He was captured, and was recently transferred to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. The fact that bin Laden risked sending one of his most valued commanders to Iraq shows the importance he places on success of al Qaida's Iraqi operations.

According to our intelligence community, many of al Qaida in Iraq's other senior leaders are also foreign terrorists. They include a Syrian who is al Qaida in Iraq's emir in Baghdad, a Saudi who is al Qaida in Iraq's top spiritual and legal advisor, an Egyptian who fought in Afghanistan in the 1990s and who has met with Osama bin Laden, a Tunisian who we believe plays a key role in managing foreign fighters. Last month in Iraq, we killed a senior al Qaida facilitator named Mehmet Yilmaz, a Turkish national who fought with al Qaida in Afghanistan, and met with September the 11th mastermind Khalid Shaikh Muhammad, and other senior al Qaida leaders.

A few weeks ago, we captured a senior al Qaida in Iraq leader named Mashadani. Now, this terrorist is an Iraqi. In fact, he was the highest ranking Iraqi in the organization. Here's what he said, here's what he told us: The foreign leaders of Al Qaida in Iraq went to extraordinary lengths to promote the fiction that al Qaida in Iraq is an Iraqi-led operation. He says al Qaida even created a figurehead whom they named Omar al-Baghdadi. The purpose was to make Iraqi fighters believe they were following the orders of an Iraqi instead of a foreigner. Yet once in custody, Mashadani revealed that al-Baghdadi is only an actor. He confirmed our intelligence that foreigners are at the top echelons of al Qaida in Iraq -- they are the leaders -- and that foreign leaders make most of the operational decisions, not Iraqis.

Foreign terrorists also account for most of the suicide bombings in Iraq. Our military estimates that between 80 and 90 percent of suicide attacks in Iraq are carried out by foreign-born al Qaida terrorists. It's true that today most of al Qaida in Iraq's rank and file fighters and some of its leadership are Iraqi. But to focus exclusively on this single fact is to ignore the larger truth: Al Qaida in Iraq is a group founded by foreign terrorists, led largely by foreign terrorists, and loyal to a foreign terrorist leader -- Osama bin Laden. They know they're al Qaida. The Iraqi people know they are al Qaida. People across the Muslim world know they are al Qaida. And there's a good reason they are called al Qaida in Iraq: They are al Qaida ... in ... Iraq.

Some also assert that al Qaida in Iraq is a separate organization because al Qaida's central command lacks full operational control over it. This argument reveals a lack of understanding. Here is how al Qaida's global terrorist network actually operates. Al Qaida and its affiliate organizations are a loose network of terrorist groups that are united by a common ideology and shared objectives, and have differing levels of collaboration with the al Qaida senior leadership. In some cases, these groups have formally merged into al Qaida and take what is called a "bayaat" -- a pledge of loyalty to Osama bin Laden. In other cases, organizations are not formally merged with al Qaida, but collaborate closely with al Qaida leaders to plot attacks and advance their shared ideology. In still other cases, there are small cells of terrorists that are not part of al Qaida or any other broader terrorist group, but maintain contact with al Qaida leaders and are inspired by its ideology to conduct attacks.

Our intelligence community assesses that al Qaida in Iraq falls into the first of these categories. They are a full member of the al Qaida terrorist network. The al Qaida leadership provides strategic guidance to their Iraqi operatives. Even so, there have been disagreements -- important disagreements -- between the leaders, Osama bin Laden and their Iraqi counterparts, including Zawahiri's criticism of Zarqawi's relentless attacks on the Shia. But our intelligence community reports that al Qaida's senior leaders generally defer to their Iraqi-based commanders when it comes to internal operations, because distance and security concerns preclude day-to-day command authority.

Our intelligence community concludes that -- quote -- "Al Qaida and its regional node in Iraq are united in their overarching strategy." And they say that al Qaida senior leaders and their operatives in Iraq -- quote -- "see al Qaida in Iraq as part of al Qaida's decentralized chain of command, not as a separate group."

Here's the bottom line: Al Qaida in Iraq is run by foreign leaders loyal to Osama bin Laden. Like bin Laden, they are cold-blooded killers who murder the innocent to achieve al Qaida's political objectives. Yet despite all the evidence, some will tell you that al Qaida in Iraq is not really al Qaida -- and not really a threat to America. Well, that's like watching a man walk into a bank with a mask and a gun, and saying he's probably just there to cash a check.

You might wonder why some in Washington insist on making this distinction about the enemy in Iraq. It's because they know that if they can convince America we're not fighting bin Laden's al Qaida there, they can paint the battle in Iraq as a distraction from the real war on terror. If we're not fighting bin Laden's al Qaida, they can argue that our nation can pull out of Iraq and not undermine our efforts in the war on terror. The problem they have is with the facts. We are fighting bin Laden's al Qaida in Iraq; Iraq is central to the war on terror; and against this enemy, America can accept nothing less than complete victory. (Applause.)

There are others who accept that al Qaida is operating in Iraq, but say its role is overstated. Al Qaida is one of the several Sunni jihadist groups in Iraq. But our intelligence community believes that al Qaida is the most dangerous of these Sunni jihadist groups for several reasons: First, more than any other group, al Qaida is behind most of the spectacular, high-casualty attacks that you see on your TV screens.

Second, these al Qaida attacks are designed to accelerate sectarian violence, by attacking Shia in hopes of sparking reprisal attacks that inspire Sunnis to join al Qaida's cause.

Third, al Qaida is the only jihadist group in Iraq with stated ambitions to make the country a base for attacks outside Iraq. For example, al Qaida in Iraq dispatched terrorists who bombed a wedding reception in Jordan. In another case, they sent operatives to Jordan where they attempted to launch a rocket attack on U.S. Navy ships in the Red Sea.

And most important for the people who wonder if the fight in Iraq is worth it, al Qaida in Iraq shares Osama bin Laden's goal of making Iraq a base for its radical Islamic empire, and using it as a safe haven for attacks on America. That is why our intelligence community reports -- and I quote -- "compared with [other leading Sunni jihadist groups], al Qaida in Iraq stands out for its extremism, unmatched operational strength, foreign leadership, and determination to take the jihad beyond Iraq's borders."

Our top commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has said that al Qaida is "public enemy number one" in Iraq. Fellow citizens, these people have sworn allegiance to the man who ordered the death of nearly 3,000 people on our soil. Al Qaida is public enemy number one for the Iraqi people; al Qaida is public enemy number one for the American people. And that is why, for the security of our country, we will stay on the hunt, we'll deny them safe haven, and we will defeat them where they have made their stand. (Applause.)

Some note that al Qaida in Iraq did not exist until the U.S. invasion -- and argue that it is a problem of our own making. The argument follows the flawed logic that terrorism is caused by American actions. Iraq is not the reason that the terrorists are at war with us. We were not in Iraq when the terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. We were not in Iraq when they attacked our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. We were not in Iraq when they attacked the USS Cole in 2000. And we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001.

Our action to remove Saddam Hussein did not start the terrorist violence -- and America withdrawal from Iraq would not end it. The al Qaida terrorists now blowing themselves up in Iraq are dedicated extremists who have made killing the innocent the calling of their lives. They are part of a network that has murdered men, women, and children in London and Madrid; slaughtered fellow Muslims in Istanbul and Casablanca, Riyadh, Jakarta, and elsewhere around the world. If we were not fighting these al Qaida extremists and terrorists in Iraq, they would not be leading productive lives of service and charity. Most would be trying to kill Americans and other civilians elsewhere -- in Afghanistan, or other foreign capitals, or on the streets of our own cities.

Al Qaida is in Iraq -- and they're there for a reason. And surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaida would be a disaster for our country. We know their intentions. Hear the words of al Qaida's top commander in Iraq when he issued an audio statement in which he said he will not rest until he has attacked our nation's capital. If we were to cede Iraq to men like this, we would leave them free to operate from a safe haven which they could use to launch new attacks on our country. And al Qaida would gain prestige amongst the extremists across the Muslim world as the terrorist network that faced down America and forced us into retreat.

If we were to allow this to happen, sectarian violence in Iraq could increase dramatically, raising the prospect of mass casualties. Fighting could engulf the entire region in chaos, and we would soon face a Middle East dominated by Islamic extremists who would pursue nuclear weapons, and use their control of oil for economic blackmail or to fund new attacks on our nation.

We've already seen how al Qaida used a failed state thousands of miles from our shores to bring death and destruction to the streets of our cities -- and we must not allow them to do so again. So, however difficult the fight is in Iraq, we must win it. And we can win it.

Less than a year ago, Anbar Province was al Qaida's base in Iraq and was written off by many as lost. Since then, U.S. and Iraqi forces have teamed with Sunni sheiks who have turned against al Qaida. Hundreds have been killed or captured. Terrorists have been driven from most of the population centers. Our troops are now working to replicate the success in Anbar in other parts of the country. Our brave men and women are taking risks, and they're showing courage, and we're making progress.

For the security of our citizens, and the peace of the world, we must give General Petraeus and his troops the time and resources they need, so they can defeat al Qaida in Iraq. (Applause.)

Thanks for letting me come by today. I've explained the connection between al Qaida and its Iraqi affiliate. I presented intelligence that clearly establishes this connection. The facts are that al Qaida terrorists killed Americans on 9/11, they're fighting us in Iraq and across the world, and they are plotting to kill Americans here at home again. Those who justify withdrawing our troops from Iraq by denying the threat of al Qaida in Iraq and its ties to Osama bin Laden ignore the clear consequences of such a retreat. If we were to follow their advice, it would be dangerous for the world -- and disastrous for America. We will defeat al Qaida in Iraq.

In this effort, we're counting on the brave men and women represented in this room. Every man and woman who serves at this base and around the world is playing a vital role in this war on terror. With your selfless spirit and devotion to duty, we will confront this mortal threat to our country -- and we're going to prevail.

I have confidence in our country, and I have faith in our cause, because I know the character of the men and women gathered before me. I thank you for your patriotism; I thank you for your courage. You're living up to your motto: "one family, one mission, one fight." Thank you for all you do. God bless your families. God bless America. (Applause.)

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Soldiers Defend Body Armor's Performance in Combat

13 July 07
By Debi Dawson
Army News Service
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FORT BELVOIR, Va. - Soldiers are volunteering dramatic personal accounts of lives saved and injuries avoided thanks to the Army's body armor. Their first-hand accounts of what happens demonstrate confidence in what the Army is doing to protect them.

Interceptor Body Armor is a modular system that features an outer tactical vest with hard protective plates. Spc. Gregory T. Miller, 101st Airborne Division, told Congress at a hearing last month that this body armor saved his life while he was on patrol in Kirkuk in preparation for Iraqi elections in December 2005. He was hit in the back by a sniper with what was supposed to be an armor-piercing round. Spc. Miller, who wound up with a bruised back, said he didn't even realize he'd been hit at first.

It all seemed to happen in slow motion, he said. The water bottle he was holding flew out of his hand; he thought his team leader had hit him on the back - hard. When he realized he'd been hit, he checked himself and then turned to return fire.

When the round was pulled from his armor back plate, ballistics tests identified it as a 7.62 armor-piercing round. "I trust my gear," he told the congressional panel. When asked why, he replied matter-of-factly: "It saved my life."

Staff Sgt. Jeremie Oliver of Fort Hood, Texas, has been in Iraq since October 2006, wearing his body armor every single day. "It works very well," he has reported. The husband and father of four children was shot on Father's Day this year.

"We were on patrol securing a site ... a shot rang out and I got hit in the chest. I was in a Bradley, standing up in the hatch, plotting a grid on my GPS. At first I didn't know what had really happened, but then I felt the pain. I sat down, realized what happened, and opened my vest. The bullet had not penetrated the vest, so we continued the mission and went after the enemy."

Sgt. 1st Class Jody Penrod described his combat experience with IBA: "I took a couple of IEDs and some shrapnel, and I had a fire bomb and it didn't light on fire. So I was pretty pleased."

Because the IBA vest protected his entire chest area, Sgt. 1st Class Penrod didn't have so much as a scratch from the shrapnel in the blast. He recounted how insurgents had made Napalm-type bombs with soap so that it would stick to Soldiers while on fire. "I got some on my vest, but it just went right out. So I was kind of happy that the vest didn't go up in flames."

Spc. Jason C. Ashline, an infantryman with Fort Drum, N.Y.'s 10th Mountain Division, survived a round from an AK-47 in Afghanistan in 2002 thanks to his body armor. He stated at the recent dedication of MIT's Institute for Nanotechnologies: "If it weren't for technology I wouldn't be standing here today."

Spc. Ashline was hit twice in the chest during a 12-hour firefight with al-Qaeda insurgents in 2002. The slugs lodged in his body armor. He was stunned but unhurt, and was pulled to safety by his buddies.

Documenting personal accounts of positive body armor experiences is difficult because the Army doesn't keep count of Soldiers not killed or injured. Still, there are more stories like these and Army leaders at all levels recount apocryphal tales by the dozens.

Capt. David Beard, now stationed at Fort Myer, Va., previously served in Iraq. "I remember a guy in Najaf got shot with an AK right in the chest," Beard said, "and his IBA plate saved him!"

Capt. Daniel Leard, also at Fort Myer by way of Iraq, called his body armor "a great protective asset." He said it routinely stop rounds. "In our own unit we had, on several occasions, Soldiers pulling bullets out of their body armor or helmet. It clearly saved their lives."

Brig. Gen. R. Mark Brown, Program Executive Officer, has repeatedly asserted that the Army is providing Soldiers with the best, most protective body armor - bar none. He particularly resents the fact that Soldiers' Families have been misled by conflicting media reports that left them concerned that the Army might not be doing all it can to protect its Soldiers.

"Force protection is the number-one priority of the Army. We value our Soldiers very highly and we do everything we can do to ensure they have the finest in force protection as they go into the battle," Brig. Gen. Brown said. "I want to assure the American public, the Soldiers and their Families that they have the best equipment when and where they need it."

PEO Soldier designs, produces and fields virtually everything the American Soldier wears or carries. The organization's Soldier-as-a-System approach ensures that equipment works in an integrated manner, thus preparing troops for peak performance.

Photo - Staff Sgt. Jeremie Oliver of Fort Hood, Texas, shows where he was shot in the chest with while patrolling in Iraq on Father's Day this year. The bullet did not penetrate the vest. Courtesy photo.

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Role-model Town Produces Positive Results

13 July 07
By Cpl. Eric C. Schwartz
2nd Marine Division
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ANAH, Iraq - The air smelled clean, the roads were paved and spotless, and the laughter of children echoed through the streets. A young girl, in a lilac colored dress, sprayed her driveway down with a garden hose proving the plumbing worked in her town. Men, women and children gave friendly waves to the Marines and Iraqi policemen as they patrolled through the secure streets here.

“Patrols like these let the people know we are fighting for them, and they see that,” said Lance Cpl. Charles Tobin, a SAW gunner with Bravo Company Proper, Task Force 1st Battalion, 4th Marines proper, attached to 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2.

The mixed patrol of Iraqi police and Marines passed through alleyways and side streets where instead of littered ground and walls covered in graffiti, the curbs had neatly swept piles of dirt and the houses freshly painted.

“The average Anah person seems more affluent than the average Iraqi,” said Cpl. Steven Kreyenhagen, a team leader with Bravo Company. The Iraqi police explain that the townspeople here are mostly college educated, and all of their children attend school. “There are schools established in town, and the teachers speak great English,” Kreyenhagen said.

The Marines and IPs stopped into the local markets, full of vegetables, dry goods, electronics and clothing, to buy snacks for local children and bread to share with their brother Marines not on patrol. "I like interacting with the people,” Tobin said. “You can be having a horrible day and the kids will crack you up, making your day all better.”

Children waved at the patrol and saluted the IPs with the open-handed salute traditionally given to Iraqi officers as a sign of respect. “The area has some five and six-year-olds speaking better English than me,” Tobin said.

A grasp of the English language doesn’t make the people of Anah superior to other towns but understanding the language of its protector’s means they have a worldly view on the coalition’s mission in Iraq.“My squad’s been invited to dinner twice already by friendly homes,” said Sgt. Tacoma Parris, a squadleader and native of New York City. “They’ve gained our trust.”

Trust aside, the town still hides some insurgents rather willingly, or by force. “Most of the time the locals won’t tell us who planted the IEDs,” Parris said. “They’ll tell the IPs because the IPs are from the neighborhood.” The townspeople know their neighborhood, and they tell their IPs because they want safety.

“They’d rather tell a buddy or brother they grew up with,” Parris said. “They trust us, but not wholeheartedly.”

Anah is filled with hardworking, educated citizens, but those who travel outside of the safe town are affected by the less positive situations occurring in other parts of Iraq.

“I used to take the bus five days a week to work before the war,” said Ghassan Thabet, an electrical engineer living in Anah. “The road is now dangerous to Al Qa’im.”

Food rations are given to the unemployed people of Iraq by its newly established government. With help from coalition forces and the strength of local police, the roads will become safer and buses will carry hard working people like Thabet.

Constant, friendly patrols, mixed with IPs and Marines, keep the citizens of Anah safe and help the locals here see there is a transition happening, and that terrorism will eventually subside.

Photo - An Iraqi policeman enters a gateway into a townsperson's home along with Marines from Bravo Company, Proper Task Force, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, attached to 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 2, on June 24, 2007. Marines and Iraqi police speak with homeowners providing a friendly face and show the cohesion of Iraqi and coalition forces.

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Surge progress may lead to troop reductions in northern Iraq

15 July 07
by John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
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BAGHDAD - Now at full strength, the U.S. troop surge in Iraq is showing “definitive progress” and the number of forces serving in Iraq’s Multi-National Division-North could be halved by summer 2009, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon said.

A reduction of U.S. forces under the general’s command could begin as early as January 2008, he told Pentagon reporters via videoconference.

Mixon, commander of both Multi-National Division-North and the U.S. Army’s 25th Infantry Division, is responsible for six Iraqi provinces in northern Iraq, including the city of Baqubah -- site of the ongoing Operation Arrowhead Ripper.

He said he has given U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander, Multi-National Corps-Iraq, a plan indicating a possible reduction of force in Multi-National Division-North during 2008.

Mixon said the current debate over troop withdrawal should revolve around reaching a strategic “end state.”

“It seems to me that we should first decide what we want the end state to be in Iraq, and how is that end state important to the United States of America, to this region and to the world, and then determine how we can reach that end state, and how much time that will take,” he said. “To me, that seems to be the most important thing, because there will be consequences of a rapid withdrawal from Iraq.”

“It cannot be a strategy based on, ‘Well, we need to leave,’” he added. “That’s not a strategy, that’s a withdrawal.”

U.S. forces that remain in the region after a reduction could focus on training and assisting their Iraqi counterparts as needed, Mixon said.

“Over time, in a very methodical and well thought out way,” he said, Multi-National Division-North could be drawn down to “a minimum force that would continue to work with the Iraqi forces in a training and assistance mode, have the capability to react and assist the Iraqis if required, and provide them those capabilities that they don’t have, like attack aviation, Air Force fixed-wing support, and medical support,” he said.

Speaking about Iraq’s Nineva province, the general said the provincial government and security forces there continue to grow and improve. Mixon said he has observed the 2nd and 3rd Iraqi Army Division and Iraqi police providing security to provincial residents requiring scant coalition assistance.

“Based on this assessment, I have recommended that Nineva province go to provincial Iraqi control in August,” he said. Though a handover to the provincial government is a sign of progress, Mixon added that it alone won’t usher in a reduction of U.S. troops, who will continue to partner with Iraqi security forces there, he said.

As part of the troop surge, which reached full strength in mid-June, Mixon received two brigades based out of Fort Lewis, Wash. The general credits the additional forces with helping to improve security in Diyala province, and cited Operation Arrowhead Ripper that was launched last month.

“Operation Arrowhead Ripper kicked off on June 19 with the arrival of 3/2 Stryker Brigade and will continue until Baqubah is secure and the government center there is functioning,” he said. “We have had to clear numerous complex obstacles, including 24 houses booby-trapped with explosives … and 100 other types of improvised explosive devices.”

In the ongoing operation, troops are clearing Baqubah’s city blocks in an “intentionally slow” fashion to reduce the number of casualties. To date, Coalition and Iraqi security forces have killed more than 90 al-Qaeda operatives, discovered 45 weapons and munitions caches and detained about 130 suspected al-Qaeda operatives, Mixon said. During raids in Western Baqubah neighborhoods, troops also have uncovered al-Qaeda safe houses, torture houses, medical clinics and bomb-making factories.

Local leaders, tribal sheikhs and the Western Baqubah’s citizens are cooperating with combined forces, providing them valuable information about al-Qaeda, Mixon said.

“These people are coming forward because they have increased confidence in their security forces and they are simply tired of al-Qaeda dominating their lives and terrorizing their neighborhoods, as they have done over the last several months,” he said.

Mixon specified that al-Qaeda operatives in his area of responsibility primarily are Sunni Iraqis, some of whom received weapons and explosives training as members of the former Iraqi regime or army. The 1920s Revolution, composed “principally former Ba'athists” and others who oppose the new Iraqi government, is one of the multiple groups comprising the greater insurgency, he said.

Listing signs of progress in Baqubah, Mixon said Iraqi forces are beginning to take responsibility for security, and that a “small influx” of residents are returning to the city which they had previously fled. The city’s municipal employees also are working to repair the water and power infrastructure, the general said.

“We still have a long way to go in Baqubah and Diyala,” he said, “but with the influence of al-Qaeda diminished, the security situation will now allow Iraqi security forces and government officials to re-establish basic securities for the citizens of Baqubah.”

Photo - U.S. Marine Corps Pfc. Christopher Kluser, machine gunner with Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, stays alert while on the up gun in the turret located in a 7-ton truck in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, July 9, 2007. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Timothy M. Stewman.

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Blackfive's Video Potpourri

Cross-posted @ Rosemary's Thoughts.

This first video will last 4:05, and I'm not quite sure if they rescued one of the guys being held or if he was one of the insurgence. Maybe you could help me understand? The name of this clip is "Operation Ithaca - The Fight." (Do not worry. You will not be seeing anything gross.)

In this next clip comes the answer to my question! This clip is 7:59, and the title of it is "Operation Ithaca - Interview." They were successful in this mission, killing 29 and capturing 23 of the enemy. They also rescued 8 hostages who were about to be executed on the day of the mission. Whew! That was close.

This clip is 3:11, and it's title is "AH-64 and C-130 Engage Insurgents." Five insurgents are killed in this one by none other than our USAF! Great job, guys. :)

These next two clips sort of go together, if not by nature then by name. This one is 32 seconds long, and the title is "Crispy Terrorists on the July 14th Menu." It is almost like watching a silent movie, except it is real life...or death to the terrorists as I like to put it. The next clip is titled "Crispy Terrorists on the July 15th Menu" and lasts for 58 seconds.

And to say that the last one is the least one would be an incredibly wrong assumption! This young lady sends it home as to why a Soldier would serve. Here she tells us why she serves. Why I Serve - SSG Shannon Fezer. This clip only lasts for 1:02, yet I wish it were longer. It is people such as she who make me proud to be an American. If you cannot understand this genuine concept, please don't tell me. I don't care if you're a nutjob, just don't prove it on my site! :)

I received these videos through my subscription. You may also subscribe if you wish. You may do so by clicking here. Have a great day, and remember our men and women in uniform who are protecting this freedom for you to have such a day. Maybe you could even send up a prayer or two...

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1st Cav Soldiers Sing Toby Keith's "Beer For My Horses"

There is just no way I could let this one slide by! LOL. Blackfive has captured the essense of the fighting spirit in this clip. I love this song by Toby Keith!

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Downed Pilots Endure 30 Minutes of Intensity Before Rescue

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

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The Real Kite Runners flying the Afghan Skies

6 July 07
By Army Spc. Micah E. Clare
4th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 82nd Airborne Division
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FORWARD OPERATING BASE SALERNO, Afghanistan - Even though best-selling books have painted pictures of Afghan children flying colorful kites high in blue skies against backdrops of snow-capped mountains that tower over quaint villages, not all Afghan children are fortunate enough to own such simple, yet wonderful toys.

However, when the Polish Battle Group arrived in Ghazni province’s Andar district near the end of June, the local children were finally able to take part in an activity shared by children in almost all countries in the world: flying kites.

While conducting patrols throughout Andar district during Operation Maiwand last month, the Polish soldiers of 1st and 2nd Platoons, Company B of the Polish Battle Group, made many humanitarian aid deliveries to the poor families living in the area. The extreme poverty of some of the areas was quite a shock to many of the Polish.

"It seems like time stopped here 2,000 years ago," said Polish Pfc. Chris Demko, a gunner on one of the giant Rosomak armored personnel carriers. "We see these kids running around with nothing, not even shoes, and we want to change that."

Everywhere they went, children crowded around the vehicles as the smiling soldiers pulled out boxes of shoes, clothes, school supplies and toys. But the biggest hit of all were the multi-colored kites that the soldiers unfolded for them.

With big grins and excited chattering, the children jumped up and down shouting, "Patang! Patang!" (the Pashto word for kite.) Soon the sky had several of the yellow, green and red kites with International Security Assitance Forces logos flying, much to the delight of the children dancing around below.

"These kites are so much fun," said Mahmad-Amid Hahn, a 12-year- old boy, as he made whooping sounds while his kite dipped and swerved in the air. "The Taliban would never give us these things." For the children who had never seen a kite before, some of the Polish soldiers stepped in to assist, unfolding the kites and showing them how to take off with a running start to get it airborne.

"Any time spent with children is a good thing," said Polish Pfc. Michal Ozog-Warclaw. "It is wonderful to see children who have been through so much with smiles on their faces."

Ozog-Warclaw, who has a daughter of his own back home in Poland, spends as much time as he can with her when he is home. "I spent many days playing with her just like this in the park, or forest," he recalled.

While the children enjoyed their kites and new shoes, the Polish also gave out school supplies as an encouragement for them not only to play, but to learn and attend nearby schools. The soldiers hope that their presence and influence in these areas will be able to help change an environment where the Taliban threatened parents against sending children to school.

"It is sad, because most children here have not had the same opportunities that my own daughter does," Ozog-Warclaw explained. "It is not their fault either. Back in Poland, my daughter is developing in school in a safe, loving community where she is free to learn, play, and interact. Every person should have access to these things, because being educated is a weapon against people who would tell you to be something you are not."

While the small youngsters who were screaming with excitement have many things to face as they grow older in their still unstable country, the pristine scene of children flying kites, completely free to enjoy their youth, still feels like it could come out of the pages of a book.

"We’re simply helping them make their lives better," said Polish Maj. Thomas Stachera, commander of Company B, while watching the children playing as his men prepared to move on. "I believe this to be a picture of what these people really want, a stable, peaceful, productive society," he said. "These children are the ones who will be able to make it happen."

Photo - Two Polish soldiers from the 1st Platoon, Company B, Polish Battle Group, show an Afghan boy how to fly his new kite June 24, 2007, in Andar District, Ghazni Province. Photo by Spc. Micah E. Clare.

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