Dear Interested Reader,
XV111 Airborne Corps mission comes to a close. IA mortar teams hone mission capability. Growing the Iraqi Navy crucial to oil security. Classes are in session at new school in Dahuk. IA gathers intel in Maysan. In Afghanistan, an inspiring story about an amputee pilot completing 3rd deployment. CF form National Guard Partnership Program. Combined forces strike at insurgents in Helmand.
March 31, 2009
Multi-National Corps - Iraq
Public Affairs Office, Camp Victory
APO AE 09342
XVIII Airborne Corps mission comes to close
Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph Allen, stares out the window of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter while en route to an ops briefing in Ramadi, Feb. 16. Allen travels across Iraq to meet with servicemembers in order to better assess their needs and quality of life issues.
(Army photo by SSgt. Jeremy D. Crisp)
BAGHDAD - The XVIII Abn Corp's 2008 - 2009 deployment is coming to a close, and many milestones have been met and passed in the nearly 14 months here.
Iraq held secure provincial elections; the U.S. and Iraq signed the Status of Forces Agreement, and CF conducted innumerable successful counterterrorism ops - bringing down violence while bringing up hope.
"Great people have done great things to make the mission here a success," said the MNC-I and XVIII Abn. Corps' top enlisted Soldier, Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph R. Allen. Allen and the Corps Cmdr, Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, said that people, the servicemembers in the fight, are selfless in their desire to accomplish this mission at all costs. "The guys and gals of the Corps may not get all the credit they deserve for the amount of work they put in here," Allen said. "But Lt Gen Austin speaks for all of us when he says that we don't want the credit, we just want to win."
Allen, a 33-year Army veteran, attributes the successful decline in violence to many factors; however, he gives the credit again to the servicemembers, and said winning the fight can only happen by having quality people in today's military. "I've never been more proud of the guys and gals that are in our military today," he said. "They don't do it because of the money. They do it because they love it."
"Our Army puts more responsibility on young NCOs and young officers .... we give those young guys guidance and we turn them loose and let them do their jobs. That has a lot to do with where we are today with this war here in Iraq," Allen said.
The Corps' cmdr echoed the sentiment of the man he calls his 'right-hand man.' "It's been truly an honor and a privilege for me to serve with our young service men and women here in Iraq," Austin said via press conference, Mar. 10. "They never fail to impress me with their motivation, their professionalism, and their fortitude."
"Not one time while we were here did we have to worry what was happening back at Fort Bragg," Allen said. "We knew we had a strong garrison staff back at Fort Bragg. We knew we had strong leadership in the family readiness groups: strong husbands and wives watching over our children. And we had the Fayetteville community watching over our Soldiers and families. We are truly blessed to have the post we do in the city in which it is located."
The sense of community - of peace and health and prosperity that the Corps feels in N.C. - is the same that Allen wishes all Iraqis had. When asked if he had the power to look into a crystal ball, to see Iraq in 5, maybe 10 years, Allen had the following to say: "The Iraqi people, at the end of the day, want the same things that any American wants," Allen said. "I think the Iraqi people, at the end of the day want to raise their kids, be with their families, feed and educate their children and live a peaceful, uninterrupted life. That's all the average Iraqi wants, and that is the same thing that we as Americans want. So that is how, if I had a crystal ball that I could look into and see the country of Iraq 5 years, 10 years from now, that is how I would want to see Iraq. And I think that is how most Americans wish to see Iraq."
Command Sgt. Maj. Allen meets with fellow command sgt majors while at an ops update briefing. Allen said of the quality of servicemembers he is currently working with: "This is the best corps staff I've seen in my 33 years in the military."
8th IA Div. mortar teams hone mission capability
SSgt. Nick Schmidt (right), holds a compass and checks alignment of a 120 mm mortar system, as he and Sgt. 1st Class Joel Kane, grade an IA mortar team.
(Army photo by Sgt. Rodney Foliente)
CAMP ECHO - IA Soldiers completed a 6-week mortar training course conducted by HHC, 2nd CAB, 8th Inf Regt, March 24, at the 8th IA Div. HQ.
The course ended with a competition between IA mortar teams, allowing teams to apply their cumulative knowledge during the event. "The overall training gives them a more immediate capability to hit targets with indirect fire and provide suppression and neutralization," said Sgt. 1st Class Joel Kane, mortar plt sgt with HHC. Kane said the mortar teams add a great deal of fire support capabilities to the IA units, leading to an increase in the division's strength and ability. "We applied some of our techniques and tried to add to their abilities to employ their mortar systems. We've given them advanced map reading courses and gun training drills so they can take their crews and form mortar cos," said Kane. "Things have gone very well and I am impressed with their ability to learn the mortar skills. Overall, it's a much more professional system than the last time I was here," continued Kane, who is on his 2nd deployment to Iraq. "There're some very good NCOs and officers that show the ability to take the lead away from CF."
The goal is to allow for a train-the-trainer environment where the IA Soldiers can continue to train their fellow comrades, said SSgt. Nick Schmidt, fire direction center chief with HHC. "We've had a lot of success with using students from previous classes to act as training assts," said Schmidt. "These student-instructors gain more experience to continue training their own Soldiers after we're gone."
The course not only helped with mortar systems, but also with advancing Soldiers' overall skills, such as map reading, said IA Sgt. Haider. His mortar team won the competition, but Haider modestly downplayed taking the lead. "The goal for this training is to learn and it doesn't matter who won," said Haider. "I think we are all the winners. This training will help us maintain security and defeat those who threaten the peace and lives of innocent Iraqis. The CF have given us a great deal of training, now and in the past. We've gained experience and we've become a stronger and greater army for it," the 11-year IA veteran continued. "It's good for us to work side by side with (CF) because we learn from them and also build friendships. My relationship with U.S. Soldiers has been great, and I call many of them friends and brothers. I want to remain a Soldier and continue to protect my country, my people and my family. The security in the area has been good and there have been no big issues," Haider said. "I'm confident we will be able to control the security of the country when the CF leave. We've been working hard and have learned much. We're stronger than we ever were, and have proven our ability day after day."
American Forces Press Service
Growing Iraqi Navy Crucial to Oil Security
By Tim Kilbride, assigned to the DoD Media Activity’s Emerging Media Directorate
WASHINGTON — More than 80% of Iraq’s revenue comes from the sale of oil channeled through 2 platforms in the Persian Gulf, and defense of those resources is critical to Iraqi national security, a Coalition naval advisor said.
Developing a professional naval force capable of various maritime duties is essential to safeguarding the flow of oil from Iraq, British Royal Navy Capt. Nick Hine told bloggers and online journalists during a “DoDLive” bloggers roundtable, March 25. Hine directs the Coalition Naval Advisor and Training Team, part of Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq (MNSTC-I).
In its mission to build and train the Iraqi Navy to defend Iraq’s territorial waters, essential infrastructure and shipping lanes, the Coalition splits ops between Baghdad and southern Iraq. Strategic plans and decisions are handled from the capital, while operational and tactical-level training takes place at Iraq’s sole naval base, located at the port of Umm Qasr in Basrah province.
“MNSTC-I works as advisors to the Iraqi MoD and the MoI to help develop the Iraqi SF into a well-trained and professional force, one that is capable of protecting the citizens of Iraq and its vital infrastructure components,” Hine explained.
In addition to Hine’s team, the Iraqi Navy coordinates with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command to facilitate ops in the Persian Gulf. Though the Iraqis are responsible for their own operational planning, liaison with the U.S. Navy ensures that “everything fits together in a seamless way,” Hine said. “You can imagine that the territorial waters of Iraq are a relatively busy place. There are lots of vessels trying to get to the oil platforms to embark oil. There are lots of fishing vessels. There's lots of merchant-vessel traffic. And of course, there is always the proximity to other countries: Kuwait and Iran,” Hine said. “This all has to fit in, in terms of a wider picture.”
The Iraqi Navy must continue to grow to fulfill its mission independently, Hine said. At its current level of 1,974 people, its size is on par with the Iraqi AF. Capabilities in areas like intel, engineering and construction support are necessary for full, independent operational sustainability, and are being developed with Coalition assistance, but at present are “very much in the embryonic stage,” Hine said. Developing those capabilities will be a priority in 2009 and 2010, he said.
Equipping the Navy is proceeding at pace. The Iraqis recently took delivery of 6 30-foot Defender Class boats -- “effectively a speedboat, for want of a better name,” Hine said. Twenty additional Defender Class boats will be delivered over the course of the next few months. In addition, the Navy is about to take delivery of 24 slightly smaller fast-assault boats, he said.
Four 53-meter patrol ships are under contract from Italy and expected to sail by mid-year, Hine said. The first of the Iraqi crews for those ships is currently in Italy undergoing training. The patrol ships will be the largest ships in the Iraqi Navy.
At present, the Iraqi Navy does not have a dedicated aviation capability, Hine said. They have plans to deliver both a maritime surveillance capability and support-helicopter lift capability, but both are in the requirements stage. To deliver these capabilities, the Navy may partner with the Iraqi AF, Hine said.
Gulf Region Division
Classes are in session at new Shindokha School
Dahuk – 600 middle and high school students will get an education thanks to the efforts of the Gulf Region Div, USACE-I. Engrs with the GRD North district’s Mosul Area Office participated recently in a formal ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the new 12- room, Shindokha School in Dahuk, in Northern Iraq. Local dignitaries and U.S. State Dept officials, and members of the Kurdish Regional Construction Team were also present.
The fact that the entire curriculum will be taught in English makes the Shindokha School unique, according to school administrators. To prepare for the English curriculum, prospective teachers must undergo 4 months of intensive language training, with only 50 of the top prospects offered positions at the school.
Since 2005, USACE has managed school construction projects in the Dahuk Province. Those projects include 94 school renovations and 17 new school construction projects, according to Terry Samson, the USACE resident engr in Dahuk. Samson says the renovation and new school construction projects provide educational facilities for more than 10,000 students. These new schools will also give an economic boost to the area by offering 500 new employment opportunities for teachers, administrators, the house keeping staffs, and security personnel, Samson said.
4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs RSS
Iraqi Army Gathers Intelligence in Maysan
Story by 1st Lt. Bryan Hammond
IA Soldiers and 5th Bn, 82nd FAR, 4th BCT, 1st Cav Div, travel toward the Al Kahla River in southern Iraq to speak with Iraqi citizens about possible smuggling routes that pass through the Maysan province, March 23.
FOB HUNTER – Iraqi and American Soldiers went door-to-door to speak with community leaders about info concerning operational security and illegal weapons smuggling along the roadways that line the banks of the Al Kahla River.
“This was not just another foot patrol for us. This gave us another chance to work hand-in-hand with our American partners,” said 2nd Lt. Ahmad Sulayman. “My men always look forward to working with the Americans to share the things that make both of our armies great.”
The Iraqi SF led the way as the American troops, also known as the ‘Black Dragons,’ assisted by providing added security and guidance when necessary. “We learned a lot about this area, and we would have never gained this info from our normal check point ops,” said Ahmad.
Sgt. Michael Dean, a Black Dragon troop said, “The mission couldn’t have gone any better once we were outside the wire. The Iraqi scout plt showed great flexibility and adaptability with the mission.”
The info and intel gathered will be used to paint a better picture of the area, and will help the IA and the U.S. forces better assess the needs of local Iraqi citizens.
Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Adam Monroe provides security during a patrol near a house in northern Ninewa province, March 18, 2009. The Marines are assigned to 3rd Plt, Delta Co, 1st Light Armored Recon Bn, RCT 8.
(Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dean Davis)
455th Air Expeditionary Wing RSS, Afghanistan
A Leg to Stand On: Amputee Pilot Completes Third Deployment
Story by Maj. Carie Parker
Maj. Alan Brown, 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron (EAS), is an amputee C-130 pilot deployed from the 187th Air Lift Sqdrn, Wyoming Air National Guard, Cheyenne, Wyo. Major Brown had lost his leg in a hunting accident 10 years ago. Before the accident had been flying for 5 years. It took Major Brown 7 years to regain his flying qualifications, but before he could get back into the cockpit, he had to do a testimonial flight to make sure he was not a liability. He is finishing up his 3rd deployment since the accident.
BAGRAM AIR FIELD -- What sets Maj. Alan Brown apart from other Airmen in the gym at Bagram Air Field's Camp Cunningham isn't his workout routine, it's his right leg. "When people see me in shorts at the gym, there's definitely a pattern," said the 42-year-old mobility pilot. "They glance at my eyes, look down at my leg and then look back at my eyes. It happens every time."
After 4 weeks in a drug-induced coma and 3 weeks of grueling rehabilitation he was released as an above-the-knee amputee. His family made the decision to amputate after several attempts to restore blood flow to the leg failed. That decision saved his life. "My body was shutting down and they made the tough decision to amputate not knowing how I would react," the major said. Once he woke up, remembering the accident, his eyes were drawn to his leg. He asked the obvious question, "I lost my leg right?" Then he asked if his then girlfriend (now wife) Gina was still around. His third question provided his family some kind of relief, "What can I do to fly again?"
The answer to the last question had already been researched while the major was in his coma. Knowing how passionate Alan was about flying, squadron mates had done some homework to find out exactly how he could fly again. Upon hearing his question, they shared with him the names of 2 civilian amputee pilots who had successfully returned to the cockpit following similar procedures.
Despite recommendations from medical professionals, Alan left the crutches and wheelchair behind, focusing on being back to normal. He never looked back. "Attitude is everything; either you're going to let an injury like this ruin your life or you resume your life," Major Brown said.
Thanks to his co-workers he returned to work just 9 weeks after the accident. He's found if he's willing to give everything he has toward a goal, people are willing to give everything they have to assist. One of those goals was getting back in the cockpit of the C-130, reestablishing himself as just another pilot. "I had invested a lot of time and energy into becoming a pilot," he said. "I wasn't about to walk away from the only career I had known."
First, Alan had to prove he should stay in the National Guard. Once he convinced leadership he was dedicated to the mission, the next step was to convince them he could deploy. He's done just that--his current deployment is his 3rd, since he regained his worldwide qualification in 2005.
In the meantime, a well-meaning co-worker offered him a handicapped parking spot, so he wouldn't have to walk so far to work. "I laughed, thanked her and explained that I wasn't handicapped," he said. "It totally went against everything I was trying to achieve. In my mind I couldn't be handicapped and convince people I was able to fly a plane."
His last and most challenging task was to assure anyone who would listen that he wouldn't be a liability as a pilot. He had to prove this with a testimonial from a flight doctor that he could perform as a 2-legged pilot. Before the accident he'd flown for almost 5 years. From start to finish it took another 7 years to get back in the saddle with the military. His dedication to the mission helped motivate him toward getting re-qualified. "In my mind I need to be deployed with my buddies. We've been training and flying together for years. It's not an option to stay home while they're here taking on the mission," the major said. "Flying is in my blood. It's what I do. And besides, I believe in what we're doing in Afghanistan."
He admits flying is different with a prosthetic. "As a pilot, using your feet is second nature," he said. "I just had to learn how to operate in a different way after the accident." The deployed environment does present one significant challenge to the pilot. "The gravel is rough," he laughed. "I haven't fallen yet but I can tell you that I know where every paved surface is on the base."
His prosthetic leg is slightly shorter than his remaining leg--to ensure he doesn't drag his foot on the ground--and has a hydraulic knee--to aid with stabilization--but it's much less maneuverable than his own leg. That lack of flexibility limits him at the gym with weight training and cardiovascular activity. He discovered he can ride the stationary bike with the help of a custom strap crafted by the unit's life support crew.
"Just about every day someone approaches me to ask what happened," he said. "People aren't sure if I'm sensitive about it, but once I let them know that I'm not offended and explain what happened, everything is fine." The one thing the major is reluctant to talk about is how he's helped others in his situation. He takes every opportunity to encourage other amputees there is life after a lost limb.
"This isn't about me and what I've accomplished. I made a big mistake. There's no one to blame for this but me, and I don't want to stand out," Major Brown said. "Being comfortable with my situation gives me a chance to answer questions other amputees may have on what they'll face."
On a recent trip to Walter Reed hospital in Washington, D.C., he visited many veterans facing the future without a limb. "I just wanted to answer any questions they had," he said. "Coming home and not knowing what the future holds can be overwhelming." He emphasized how impressive it is that the military has taken a wider approach with amputees, in light of the recent increase in those losing limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He also understands the importance of friends and family when facing difficulty. "Everyone faces challenges, but having the right mindset and the right people to support you makes the difference," said the major, who expects to be back home by the end of the month. "I'm the most fortunate guy around. Not only do I get to fly, but I'm surrounded by great people who have supported me, and have now accepted me as just another pilot. That's all I've ever wanted."
Maj. Alan Brown rides a stationary bicycle at Bagram Air Field. Maj. Brown works out daily riding the stationary bike using a custom strap developed by the Unit's life support crew.
5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment RSS
National Guard Partnership Program at OBSERVATION POST BARI ALAI, AF
(Photos by Sgt. Matthew Moeller )
An Afghan NA soldier marches with Latvian army Maj. Juris Abolins, leading Latvian officer in the Observer, Mentor, Liaison Team, and members of the U.S. Army and Afghan NP, after returning from Observation Post Bari Alai near the town of Nishagam in Konar province, Afghanistan, March 18.
Observer, Mentor, Liaison Team members, Maj. Jim Hickman and Latvian army Maj. Juris Abolins, patrols through the village of Nishagam, alongside members of the Afghan NA.
Latvian army Cpl. Deniss Makarous, from the combined U.S., Latvian Observer, Mentor, Liaison Team, shows an Afghan NA soldier how to use a sniper rifle at Observation Post Bari Alai.
International Security Assistance Force HQ Public Affairs RSS
Combined Forces Strike at Insurgents in Helmand
KABUL – Afghan NA and Int'l Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops launched an op to strike at insurgents in Marjah, central Helmand, on March 19. The 700-strong force, involved in Op AABI TOORAH, meaning “Blue Sword,” successfully targeted insurgents in a region where they were known to meet, equip and train their followers.
The op was followed by a shura held by District Gov. Habibullah and the Nad-E Ali District Community Council, with elders from Marjah. The shura was aimed at empowering the people of Marjah to express their wishes for development, through reps on the Nad-E Ali District Community Council.
“The enemy wanted to attack Nad-E Ali district but failed. Our brave ANA, Afghan NP and ISAF forces raided them and defeated them. Three bridges next to the school have been built; the boundary walls of the clinic, repair of town roads, and ditch clearance are in progress,” said Nad-e Ali District Gov. Habibullah. “Accommodations for the ANP will soon be built. Canal work is being planned now and schools and clinics will, again, be built in Marjah, in response to the people’s requests. An op will soon be conducted in the Marjah area, and the Community Council involving elders from Nawa, Marjah and Nad-E Ali, will also be prepared to serve the people of Marjah.”
“This was a very successful, deliberate joint op that demonstrated clearly to the enemy that the TF continues to operate where and when it chooses,” said Lt Col Al Litster, Royal Marines, Chief of Ops for TF Helmand. “We will continue to erode the capability and influence of the enemy, and enable the extension of legitimate governance throughout Helmand.”