“We're working with the ANSF to secure the populace and deny enemy influence in the Cheheltan subdistrict of Baraki Barak, to legitimize GoA,” said Capt. Paul Rothlisberger, Co. C cmdr. Soldiers assigned to Co. C have been working hand in hand with ANP and the ANA in the district. Until recently, CFs have led most ops. “This mission was lead by the ANA from the beginning. It's been planned, and is being executed by the ANA,” said Rothlisberger. “This is the largest op this ANA bde has planned.”Historically, the winter has seen a decrease in Taliban influence in Afghanistan. “The winter campaign is taking advantage of the lull of insurgent ops to expand the security provided by the ANSF,” said Rothlisberger. “Significant progress has been made by the ANSF in planning and executing a night and day presence in the area of ops.” The extensive mission took the patrol through remote areas in the district. “Some villages haven't been visited by us in quite a while,” said 1st Lt. Daniel Walters, a plt leader assigned to Co. C. “Having the ANA roll into the remote villages shows that they care about them, regardless of how isolated they are.” Walters explained that it's different to see ANSF leading ops in villages instead of CFs. “The people saw ANA and ANP leading the mission, which seemed to instill confidence in GoA.” During the near weeklong op, the ANSF detained 13 suspects, recovered 200-lbs of ammonium nitrate, which is used to make explosive devices, and confiscated 25 kilograms of hashish. Also, they found a weapons cache.
“This was the first time we had been to this particular village. We really didn’t have any info on it,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Ott, infantryman, who is also trained in civil affairs and performs that role on missions. “We went there and introduced ourselves, and tried to identify the key leaders of the village. They always try to feel you out on the first visit.”"The mission was a joint patrol between ANA and their coalition counterparts," said 1st Lt. John Dundee, 1st plt leader, who led the mission from the coalition side. He said that the mission is typical of a daily patrol the units conduct together. Dundee said that while the village of Ghaziabad has not presented any problems for Afghan or CFs thus far, Watangatu, a nearby village, has been a haven of enemy activity.
“We can't carry out such ops without the presence of our Afghan partners. Whenever we plan such an op, we always cooperate with the ANSF,” said Polish Lt. Jakowiec, Battle Group Alpha, TF White Eagle.The op was made more difficult by the structure of the compound and terrain. The buildings are built as closed compounds, surrounded by high earthen walls. Most of the buildings are connected by underground corridors, which could provide insurgent hide outs and illegal cache storage. ANSF members gained useful info from village residents, and passed the info along to CFs.
Fidai, having already invited Chambers and some guests to his compound for Eid celebrations, viewed the soccer games as another opportunity to broaden relations and friendships with CFs.
“There was a plan in the works about this specific game. We had meetings and discussions with American and Turkish friends before the holidays came,” said Fidai. “I think it's a very good opportunity that we share entertainment with our friends; and it brings more attractions, more good partnership, not just political, but also things that all human being share with each other.”
Dec. 27, Kuehl, Sub-gov Shah Mahmood, and Sarkani District Agriculture Extension Mgr., Mangal Khan discussed the structure of the proposed demo farm, and agreed on the size and placement of 2 separate greenhouses. Mahmood and Khan were especially enthusiastic about the prospect of growing fresh vegetables during the winter.
“The farmers here don't know how to grow vegetables, but they bring a much higher price during the winter,” Khan said. “With these greenhouses, we can teach them how to grow vegetables they can take to market for more money.”After discussing outstanding irrigation issues confronting the district, Kuehl agreed to consider underwriting the rental of an excavator to clear the intake of a major canal. However, he insisted Mahmood get 3 bids for the work first. Mahmood readily agreed, noting “when we shop, we go to 3 stores before we buy anything.” Mahmood also expressed gratitude for the ADT’s help in improving agriculture in his district. He shared a vision of the future, involving the ADT’s return in a more leisurely role. “I hope you provide us enough help, so you can leave here and return to your country,” Mahmood said. “Then, you can come back here in a few years as tourists.”“I was very encouraged by the district leaders as to getting the demo farms and greenhouse established, and I anticipate getting tremendous results from the training of both the district officials and the Afghan farmers,” Kuehl said. “That way we can accomplish what we set out to do: help the maximum number of people here improve their life.”
During the op, soldiers discovered more than 20 mortar rounds and many more artillery rounds of different types and calibers. The cache was later destroyed by CFs.The op was successful in weakening insurgent activity in Ghazni Prov. Since the current rotation of Polish TFs arrived in Oct., TF White Eagle has seized more than 12 tons of explosive material, and more than 175 kilograms of illegal drugs in the prov.
“One of the PRT's main roles here is to connect the GoA to its people, and the key is knowing what's happening down at the grassroots level,” said Lt. Col. Reid Smith, PRT civil affairs cmdr. “This is where the civil affairs team comes in; providing the PRT cmdr with the ground truth, so that he can mentor provincial-level govt officials to better serve the needs of their people.”
The DST working in the Zormat District has recently taken on 2 major projects; the Clean Water Initiative for the Tamir Bazaar, and the Zormat Sports Field Initiative. “I would say our team has made some serious progress during our first month on the ground,” said 1st Lt. Tristan Boddicker, 415th CAB. “We've made ourselves available both in town as well as here at the COP, in order to facilitate the local population and expand the reach of the Afghan govt.”
“Despite being the only PRT civil affairs Soldier on site, Sgt. 1st Class Eric Conover is still responsible for both the Jaji and Ahmad Kehl districts, an area of over 500 square kms,” Smith said. “His current priorities are the opening of the recently completed Jaji District Center, and a road project that will connect the 3 main villages in the district to the Shista Bazaar. This bazaar is a primary center for commerce in the area, and will allow farmers in this agriculturally based community a better opportunity to get their crops to market.”
Hokum Khan, Chamkani District chief of police, addresses the newest group of ALP during their graduation ceremony at COP Chamkani. Full-time ANP serve Afghanistan as a whole; the mission of the part-time ALP mandates that they must protect their own village.
Mark Wahlberg visits troops at Camp Leatherneck
More than 100 anxious service members waited in line to meet and take photos with actor Mark Wahlberg during his visit at Camp Leatherneck, Dec. 19. Wahlberg shook hands and took pictures with the troops, while thanking them for their service.
CAMP LEATHERNECK – “I was very excited,” said Maj. Rhonda Martin, asst chief of staff, G-1, HQ, 1st MLG (FWD). “He's one of my favorite actors. He seemed very genuine and took the time to shake the hands of the Marines and talk to them," said Martin. “He made sure we knew that he appreciated our service. It’s nice to hear it; it makes us feel better knowing we're not forgotten,” said Martin.
“It’s the least I can do to thank you for what you do,” said Wahlberg to one of the Marines.
Along with meeting service members, Wahlberg promoted his latest movie “The Fighter,” based on the true story of Massachusetts boxer Micky Ward. Hundreds of service members watched his new movie from a big screen inside a hangar on Camp Leatherneck.
“Everyone was excited to go see the movie,” said Martin. “They were all pumped to see the movie after his visit.” After the movie, each service member walked away with gift cards, courtesy of Wahlberg. “I think it was a Christmas present for the service members,” she said. “I think everyone enjoyed the visit, and was appreciative for him to come out here and show support.”
Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Rebecca Burgess, PAO, 1st Marine Logistics Group (MLG)(Fwd), takes a photo with actor Mark Wahlberg.
Actor Mark Wahlberg signs a Sailor's cover.
The original energy supply, a generator, proved to be very problematic for the villagers, since it required constant refuelling and maintenance, which was too expensive for the people, shared Abdul Hadi, a village local through an interpreter.
“Now the locals can heat their homes with electricity, cook, or have electric lights,” said Maj. William Kerr, Kapisa PRT civil affairs. “This means they can work at night, their children can read or study in the evenings, and they can do a number of other things in their homes we often take for granted as Americans.”
“Each panel and battery set will provide approx 80 watts of power on a daily basis, which is enough to supply power throughout the night for 2 residences,” said Kerr. This equates to approx 32 families who now have an inexpensive renewable source of electricity.
“I don’t have words to explain how happy I am,” said Haji Khan through an interpreter, during the delivery of the solar panels. “There are more than a hundred reasons why I’m thankful for this.”
“These panels and batteries come with a 5-year warranty on parts, a 1-year warranty for labor, and can easily be installed by the residents,” explained Kerr. “Because of the warranty, maintenance costs throughout the next 5 years should be limited to nothing more than minor repairs or labor for replacement parts. Once the warranty expires, local officials have also agreed to take on responsibility for future maintenance needs.”
“We hope projects like this and others will help to create a brighter future for the people of Kapisa, by directly improving the quality of life for the average Afghan citizen and his family,” said Kerr.
COP Spera was a platoon-sized outpost about 2 kms from the Pakistan border, until U.S. cmdrs made the decision to close it, due in part to improved security in the district, provided by ANSF.
Fittingly, the very same platoon that first occupied it almost a year ago, “Red” or 1st Platoon, was tasked with the dismantling of the outpost.
According to 1st Lt. Paul Corcoran, platoon leader for Red Platoon, it's been a difficult process dismantling the outpost, and preparing major equipment and reusable supplies for transport back to Camp Clark.
It also has been hard emotionally on the platoon for the last 12 days, since they were notified of the decision to close COP Spera. “I was looking forward to sticking it out, more of a sentimental thing, I guess,” Corcoran said.
COP Spera’s closure is a victory according to 3rd BCT leadership, because security on the area has improved. At the beginning of their tour in Spera, A Troop saw enemy contact almost daily. But, because of the aggressive posture and combined patrols with ANA troops assigned to the district, violence decreased.
There had not been a significant attack on COP Spera in over a month prior to its closing; a victory by any measure, and one recognized by Khowst provincial officials. Khowst Provincial Gov. Naemi, Provincial Police Chief Brig. Gen. Ishaqzai, and the ANA 1st Bde cmdr of the 203rd Corps, Brig. Gen. Esrar, attended a small ceremony on COP Spera’s former site to mark the closing.
According to 3rd BCT officer Maj. Mark Kovalcik, the COP’s closure will also help U.S. and Afghan forces handle their missions in Khowst Prov. more efficiently. "Though the ANA forces in the area have never lost an engagement against the insurgents, the GoA realizes that the ANA at COP Spera can have more impact on the population and the district as a whole, by locating near the Spera District Center," Kovalcik said. "Their relocation to the Spera District Center will greatly improve development capacity and security for all of Spera District."
“I can understand the reasons behind closing it,” said Spc. Cody Jones, who was one of the most frequent residents of the COP, having lived there sporadically 9 of his 12 months in Afghanistan. Jones also said he prefers living there, because he's able to do his job as a forward artillery observer, and he developed close ties to the smaller group there.
According to troop leadership, each platoon shared responsibility for maintaining the U.S. presence on the COP by spending 3 months there on a rotational basis.
During the closure ceremony at COP Spera, the quiet was interrupted only by the explosive sanitation of the COP, reducing ordnance that could not be returned to inventory, and the heavy thump of rotor blades from the UH-60 Black Hawks and CH-47 Chinooks, carrying away the last U.S. forces.
Corcoran hoped to be the final U.S. Soldier to leave a boot print in the fine dust before rotor wash from the last flight out of COP Spera blew it away. “I guess in a way I'm going to miss it,” Corcoran said.
KAPISA PROVINCE - In Tagab district, a combined patrol was engaged by insurgents with small arms fire. After gaining positive ID, combined forces returned fire to the enemy position, killing and wounding numerous insurgents.
KANDAHAR, GHAZNI AND LOGAR PROVINCES - Combined patrols found 4 weapons and IED components caches in Panjwa’i, Bahram-e Shahid, Muhammad Aghah and Arghandab districts, during separate clearing ops. The caches consisted of 1,600 .50 caliber rounds, 1,650 12.7 mm rounds, 12 chest racks, 11 pressure plates, 260 14.5 mm rounds, 3 RPGs, 200 7.62 mm rounds, 122 82 mm mortar rounds, and several IED making electrical components.
URUZGAN PROVINCE - A combined patrol discovered a large weapons and IED components cache in Chorah district, consisting of 30 .50 caliber, 100 .50 caliber armor-piercing rounds, 500 7.62 mm rounds, 4 AK-47s, 30 9 mm rounds, 2 guns, 3 chest racks, a radio rigged for radio command device, 6 RPGs and 2 fuses.
“This was just an unbearable thought being told that there was a shortage, so I responded, ‘Well, if I were younger, then maybe I could help you.’ And they responded, ‘Don’t worry about that; we have age exemptions.’ So a recruiter decided to look me in the eye and say, ‘We desperately need you.’”
Lesser said that his age didn’t limit him from joining the NG. “I was told that age was not a consideration,” he said. “I was also told there was a limit to how long they send doctors out. So I didn’t think it could get any easier than that. I almost couldn’t imagine saying no.”
Lesser said that he learned a lot from his 4-week basic training at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. “The training did not consist of teaching us medicine,” he said. “The training was learning about the Army. .
The Army has a program for entering healthcare officers. That includes everybody from physicians and surgeons to dieticians and psychologists, and we all trained together. The training includes how to wear a uniform, and how to be in formation. Some of it is a traditional boot camp. Most of the classroom stuff is how the Army is organized. We had physical training every day at five in the morning. We did land navigation courses. We were introduced to firearms. We carried M-16s [assault rifles] with us just like any Soldier does.”
Lesser said that he got into excellent physical condition during his basic training. “I came out of it in the best shape I’ve ever been,” he said. “I knew that we couldn’t hire a private trainer that could duplicate something like that. I went from being sedentary to being able to run 4 ½ miles at the end of 4 weeks. I was very proud of that. What I liked most was formation. I liked just the idea that, in less than a minute, all 550 of us were assembled, and we knew where everybody was. We could move as a group.”
Lesser described how he learned to treat combat injuries at Fort Sam Houston during a five-day course that teaches technical combat medical care. This training includes stabilizing traumatic wounds and loss of limbs.
He went on to describe his experiences in Iraq compared to his work at home. “The experience has been very good,” Lesser said. “I had to first get used to the bureaucracy because before you can do anything, you have to know how to use the Army electronic medical records and their info sources. I had to get used to that. It was a little frustrating to learn that I had a lot of computer work before I could even see the patient, but once the soldiers came in, time just flew, and I loved it.”
Capt. Gabriel Fabian, surgeon section officer-in-charge (OIC), is one of Lesser’s colleagues during this deployment. He described his working relationship with Lesser. “Even though I’m the OIC, Maj. Lesser is the brains as far as the medicine is concerned,” he said. “As the logisticians and statisticians, we take care of that side of the house, but any medical decision that needs to be made on a patient—Dr. Lesser is the senior medical provider there. I handle the administrative paperwork side of the house; he handles the patient side of the house.”
Fabian described Lesser’s greatest strengths, which include his 18 years of experience in family medicine, and his willingness to accept guidance and advice from other people in the unit. “He’s been very open to any suggestions on how to adapt to the Army culture,” said Fabian. “He’s humble, but at the same time, he knows all his stuff pertaining to medicine.”
Fabian also described Lesser’s willingness to be in Iraq when the choice was completely up to him. “I just want to recognize that Dr. Lesser really didn’t have to be here,” said Fabian. “He felt the right thing to do was to come out here and provide medicine. I’m very grateful that he came to that decision, to be out here with us.”
COB ADDER - Soldiers with the 15th Trans. Co., showed appreciation and shared info about female soldiers during the NCOs Women’s Symposium, held Dec. 2-4. Hosted by the 110th CSSB, the event took place at several venues across COB Adder.
The event displayed different strengths, and discussed great dedication for their lives as American soldiers. “I'm greatly proud of being an America soldier serving next to my husband in this new era of the military,” said Cpl. Jermeika Rivera, a supply sgt with the 15th Trans. Co. “Soldiers in the 15th Trans. Co., took time out of their workday to give thanks and understanding to their female soldiers. The event gave the soldiers a chance to put aside their differences and appreciate having one another close during this time of year.”
"The event proved to be successful by the number of soldiers who attended to support it," said Staff Sgt. Antonia Silva-Warren, heavy equipment transporter squad leader. “Taking time from the day, just to be with other female soldiers, truly goes to show how many women are in the military today.”
To celebrate the event and the efforts of the female soldiers in the company, Silva-Warren made a collage of pictures and memories. She presented it to Capt. Stacey Jelks, cmdr. “I’m honored to accept this wonderful collage of our female soldiers,” said Jelks. “The Women’s Symposium has allowed us an opportunity to display our female soldiers’ hard work and efforts toward our mission here.”
Photos by Sgt. Sean Casey
Photos by Cpl. Matthew Troyer
Like Thanksgiving, Camp Leatherneck senior leadership served the Christmas meal. “I think the meal is great to actually give something to the troops from home,” said Staff Sgt. Robert Richardson, food service mgr. “It shows the Marines that their senior leadership cares. The Marines see them serving, and they see them doing something other than just their day-to-day routine, and they get a little bit of pleasure out of it.”
Even though the service members are away from home, they can still take a little bit of time to enjoy themselves with their brothers and sisters-in-arms.
Photo by Regional Command Southwest Team
“The last time an Iraqi Kids Day had been held at Speicher had been a couple of years ago,” said Stover. "What Iraqi Kids Day does is give local children in the community a chance to interact with soldiers," he said.
“The most important thing is that, for today, the children are happy,” said Khadijah Hikmet, who works with disabled children at the orphanage. The children got a chance to play games like ping-pong, make arts and crafts, and meet the soldiers who they might have only seen from far away. "Everything about the event was either donated or purchased for the children," said Stover.
“The Family Readiness Group from Freemont, Nebraska —wives, girlfriends, and family members mailed gifts to be given to these children,” said Spc. Sarah Ghyra, chaplain asst with the 394th. Ghyra, along with many other soldiers, had been "wrapping and packaging gifts since 9 a.m. the previous morning to make sure that everything went well for Iraqi Kids Day," she said.
“We received boxes upon boxes of donations from back home,” said Stover. “Most of them already wrapped!” It wasn't only the families in Nebraska that offered donations to the 394th for the event. Families from other States helped donate to the event, including those from Minnesota and Pennsylvania. As the kids left Speicher with arms full of gifts and smiles on their faces; it was everything that he could hope for, said Stover.
“Thank you so much for the soldiers’ help,” said Hikmet. “ And again, it’s great for the children, and that's what's important.”
Over the last couple of weeks, soldiers with the 565th QM Co. continued to receive Christmas care packages along with cards and letters from school children. “It's nice to know that there are people in the States who are thinking about us,” said Sgt. Timothy Hargers.
Soldiers with the 565th QM Co. took to writing back to some of the school children who so kindly wrote to them. “It's really kind of nice to get these letters and drawings from children back in the States,” said 1st Lt. Grant Workman, plt leader. Workman said that he thought the ones that really had nothing to do with being in the military were the best. “I got one letter which talked about how much he enjoyed and wanted a burrito—that was hilarious,” said Workman.
Despite their tough surroundings, Co. A came together to celebrate Christmas and share in some holiday cheer, Dec. 24. “You’re out here hanging out with a bunch of people you never thought you would,” said Sgt. Kenneth Cain, a squad leader with 2nd Plt. “After a deployment like this, getting shot at together, getting blown up, all that stuff, you dang near consider them family.”
Cain, 24, said he does have family here. His younger brother, Kurt, also is an infantryman, is at FOB Mehtar Lam, about 25 miles away. “We’ve seen each other 5 or 6 times now,” Cain said. “We make it a point to get a picture every place we’re together. Mom likes that.”
This is the 2nd Christmas being deployed for Cain, who also spent a Christmas in Kosovo. “I’d describe this Christmas as interesting, but definitely worthwhile,” Cain said. “We all came here to do a job, all on our own free will; nobody got drafted. I extended for this deployment, and we’re doing it so people back home can enjoy Christmas and the free life.”
The servicemembers took a day off from patrolling the mountainous area around COP Najil to enjoy the holiday. One person who did not have time off, however, was Sgt. Scott Stover, Co. E, the lone cook on COP Najil. He was still responsible for feeding several hungry platoons of Soldiers, which was nothing new for him. This time, however, he was cooking 2 lavish holiday dinners.
“It’s tiring,” Stover admitted. “You get to the point where you can pretty much do it without any sleep.” Stover and his asst, Spc. Lee Goddard, Co. E, prepared a dinner of ham and turkey with all the fixings.
Even though Goddard usually works as a truck driver, Stover said he’s learned to cook pretty well. “I told him when he gets home he’ll be able to cook his own meals, no more of that easy mac stuff,” Stover joked.
Meanwhile, members of 1st Plt convoyed to FOB Mehtar Lam, 1-1/2 hour drive south, to pick up mail which was piling up. When the convoy returned, the rest of the Soldiers from Co. A were lining the entrance roadway, waiting for their 8 pallets of holiday presents and care packages. They swarmed the trucks like bees on a honeycomb.
That night, Stover had prepared yet another special holiday meal. The Soldiers were treated to lobster tail, shrimp, crab legs and vegetables for their Christmas Eve dinner.
Yes, they were in a rough and tumble, dangerous place in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, away from family for the holidays. But, the company was doing OK; they'd become their own extended family.
Local GoA officials working in the municipal office have partnered with the USAID on the Regional Afghan Municipal Program for Urban Populations program - also known as RAMP UP.
RAMP UP focuses on cleaning the streets and improving the quality of life for Afghans.
“For mgt. reasons, the city will be split up into 4 districts. We've hired 25 laborers from within the city, and 27 more have just been approved from outside sources,” said Obaidullah Arif, the team leader for the Paktya RAMP UP program. “Seeing is believing, and we'll show the people that we're working for them.”
"The program will not only be effective in cleaning the city, and improving the quality of life for local citizens," said Arif. "It will also provide jobs for 52 individuals.
“(U.S. Agency for International Development) is also funding the use of two trucks and three motorbikes, as well as the provision of uniforms for these workers for the duration of this project,” said Herve Thomas, the USAID representative for the PRT.
In a meeting with Gardez Mayor Mohammad, Herve Thomas, the USAID rep for the PRT, discussed how locals have easy access to him and the municipal staff, where they can discuss important issues and voice their concerns. He also expressed his excitement for the RAMP UP program, and the good it will do for the city of Gardez.
“It's a good program,” said the mayor. “We're working hard to close the gap between the govt and its citizens.”
With the priorities from the national govt set, the district leaders must now plan how to incorporate that strategic vision into a workable solution that makes sense to the local people. “Just like if you were building a house, you would need to develop a plan to do it,” said Bevalian. “You need to consider the tools, materials and costs. The plan for developing a district over 1 to 3 years is done in the same way.”
“You need to listen to the people, and put that in the plan,” said Bevalian. “But, that plan must list the items in support of the ANDS.”
The budgeting and planning process is new in Nuristan. “When we would get requests from the local villages, we would prioritize them and give them first to the provincial govt in Parun, and also to the PRT,” said Abdul Abdullah. “Sometimes the PRT would help us, but we haven’t seen anything from Parun.”
“I understand the frustration,” said Bevalian. “That's why we want to get budgets done, and money to the districts in Nuristan. Then the leaders close to the people can work to solve their problems.”
This new system gives the Nurgaram District govt a better way to do business. “Now we have a system we can use,” said Abdullah. “I'm very happy.”
Story and photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan DeLong
A PRT consists of military officers, diplomats and subject matter experts working to support reconstruction efforts in unstable areas. They create and monitor projects in the region. In areas where the economy is dominated by the agricultural sector, the northern Baghdad PRT has focused on new farming initiatives, demo farms, directly showing locals new farming and crop watering methods, and improving on the current canals and pumps, some of which are nearly 100 years old. These are all things that help local farmers become self-reliant and stimulate the local economy.
“My men should always be prepared for an attack, and be thinking about what to do after that, such as casualty evacuation,” said 1st Lt. Kris Bates, plt leader. “We'll never be able to predict 100% when an ambush or IED attack could occur, but what we can control is what happens after that initial attack. At that point, we're in charge and can save each other's lives.”
To keep their skills sharp, Bates said the platoon regularly conducts infantry tactics, convoy security, first aid and squad-level training when they're not on security missions. This ensures that the entire platoon is in synch with each other, and improves their continuity.
The soldiers of the platoon say that they enjoy how this mission is different than those of prior deployments. “I enjoy getting the opportunity to go out and interact with Iraqis on a daily basis,” said Spc. Fanuel Price, a personal security detachment member. “I was in Baghdad on my last deployment in 2009, and I can see the progress that's been made since then.”
Gen. Casey spends Christmas in Iraq with USD-C Soldiers
Story and photos by Sgt. Kimberly Johnson
Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey Jr. shares a laugh with USD-C soldiers Dec. 25, during a holiday visit to Camp Liberty.
BAGHDAD – Casey and his wife, Sheila, spent their last Christmas before he retires from the Army, talking, eating and posing for photos with soldiers in Baghdad. During a town hall meeting, Casey discussed concerns facing the military, and reminded Soldiers of the Army’s strength, the direction the military is going in the 21st century, and commended them, as a whole, for a job well done.
“We’re finally getting to the point, after 5 or 6 years, where we can breathe again,” Casey said. “The fact that we’re getting to a sustainable deployment tempo for our soldiers and families, is going to enable us to hold this all-volunteer force together for the long haul.”
Casey said according to all the studies conducted on soldiers who deployed in the last 10 years, it takes 2 to 3 years to recover from a 1-year combat deployment. He said that although soldiers are resilient, when turned around to deploy faster than the time needed to recover, the effects build up quickly.
"Because of the high tempo and demands put on soldiers after Sept. 11, 2001, the Army has increased its size by almost 100,000 soldiers since 2007, and refocused strategies from Cold War to urban tactics," Casey said.
“While we’ve been growing the Army, we’ve also been completing a transformation of the Army from a very good Cold War Army, to an Army designed to handle the challenges of the latter part of the 20th century,” he said. “We have rebalanced many soldiers away from Cold War skills, to skills more necessary for today’s challenges in the Middle East.”
Casey said the Army has stood down about 200 tank companies, air defense and artillery batteries, and stood up a corresponding number of Special Forces, civil affairs and MP companies. “We're a fundamentally different Army than on Sept. 11, 2001, and a better one,” he said.
Casey said he specifically wanted soldiers to understand that although the defense budget is being reduced, it's still almost 3 times what it was in 2001, and family programs are the last items to cut down on budgeting. “We're committed to the families who sacrifice so much, and we're committed to you soldiers,” he said.
Before wrapping up his visit to USD-C HQ, Casey told the soldiers to remain steady and focused. “I've spent the first 30 years of my career training to fight a war I never had to fight, and the last 10 years learning to fight a war as it’s going on,” Casey said. “As resilient as we've been in meeting the challenges of this war, we must also prepare for the challenges of the second decade of this century. This war is a long-term ideological struggle against violent extremism, and our job is not done yet.”
Gen. George Casey Jr. gives Sgt. John Metress, an infantryman with Co B, 1st Bn, 18th Inf Regt, 2nd AAB, 1st ID, a coin.
Photo by Pfc. Gary Silverman
IA Soldiers unload backpacks filled with school supplies in Fallujah, Dec. 15, 2010. Soldiers assigned to Alpha Co, 3rd Bn, 7th Inf Regt, 4th AAB, 3rd ID, assisted the IA of Anbar prov., in distributing school supplies to Iraqi children in support of Op New Dawn.
Robinson received the medal in what he said was the first combat action he had seen in Afghanistan. “I bet you can remember the first time each of you saw your first action,” Casey said to the formation. “Now, did you all respond the same way Spc. Robinson did?”Casey went on to tell the stories of recent Medal of Honor awardees, and how Robinson’s actions were also in keeping with the finest tradition of heroism and courage under fire. The Army chief of staff said Robinson’s actions are an example of what kind of courage is spoken of when talking about heroes. Robinson explained the events that resulted in his receipt of the Silver Star Medal from actions at the 5th ABP compound near COP Zerok. “I was on guard and it was a typical morning. I think I had a 6-hour shift that night. There was a combat logistics patrol that was driving to COP Zerok, where the rest of my company was, and they'd been getting hit that morning,” Robinson said. “I heard Apaches firing .50-caliber machine guns all morning, and then it got quiet.” He said it was about 15 minutes before he got off of his guard shift, when a mortar round landed roughly 20 meters in front of his guard tower. “It knocked me back and when I got up I saw an explosion like nothing I had ever seen before going off,” Robinson said. “Then gunfire erupted from every possible side you could imagine.” Robinson grabbed a PKM machine gun, fired, and killed an insurgent who carried a RPG launcher about 35 meters outside of his guard tower. “There were about 15 more insurgents who were coming closer with PKMs, RPGs and AKs,” Robinson said. “So, I just shot all the ammo I could at them. Then a 240 was brought up, because more people were coming up, so I used that.” Another mortar round went off about the same time he ran out of ammo on the M240B. He then grabbed an AK-47 from one of the border policemen, and began shooting the remaining enemy, eventually killing a suicide bomber who was nearly 50 feet away. Even though the incident lasted only about 7 minutes, Robinson said he was able to fend off 15 to 20 insurgents. “Always expect the unexpected,” Robinson said.
“This op shows the true strength of the ANSF,” said ANA Maj. Agha, public affairs officer. “Together, we have proven to the insurgents that there's no place from which they can bring terror and violence to the people of Afghanistan.”In July, the Taliban launched an unsuccessful offensive, and tried to seize the Sherzad District center. Since that time, they remained active in the area and terrorized people there, preventing much-needed development projects from moving forward. “ANSF and TF Bastogne have shown the insurgents that they'll not be allowed to terrorize the people of the Sherzad District and western Nangarhar,” said Col. Andrew Poppas, cmdr of TF Bastogne, 1st BCT, 101st AD. “This joint op is helping set security conditions for the continued progress of law and governance in the region.” Ops are ongoing.
During a brief ceremony, U.S. Army Soldiers from the Troop C, 1st Sqdn, 32nd Cav. Regt, 1st BCT, 101st AD lowered the American flag at OP Mace, and ANA soldiers raised the Afghan flag over the post. Though the ceremony took less than 5 minutes, preparations for the transfer of authority had taken months.
Most of the Soldiers of Troop C arrived at OP Mace in early May. Army Capt. Mike Gansler, troop cmdr, said that his Soldiers immediately began training with their ANA counterparts on patrolling, heavy weapons, and combat medical skills. Soldiers of Troop C worked tirelessly to make OP Mace better and more defensible. They added concertina wire, built earthen walls and improved the facility, all while defending the post from attacks by insurgent forces. Gansler also praised the ANA soldiers and their leadership.
“The ANA cmdr and his NCOs are doing the right things,” said Gansler.“ I know they can hold this position. These guys are straight.
ANA Capt. Rohullah, the co. cmdr., also expressed confidence in the ability of his soldiers to defend and hold OP Mace. “We’re 100% ready to take over this post,” Rohullah said. “We’re very satisfied with the weapons and equipment we have. We have the same weapons and vehicles that CFs have.”
Soldiers from 3rd Sqdn, 89th Cav Regt, 4th BCT, 10th Mtn Div, subsequently requested ANP and National Defense Service (NDS) officials to secure the site, and investigate the possible terrorist actions. The Afghan forces cordoned off the area around the vehicle and contacted the Afghan Ministry of the Interior.“Without the ever-vigilant NDS and support from the ANP, this VBIED could have caused massive casualties in the heart of Kabul,” said 1st Lt. Frank Peachey, Team 17 counter-IED leader, working with 4th BCT. “The partnership between CFs and the ANSF in Maydan Shahr was key in the success of this op, and should serve as an example to all of Afghanistan.” When EOD experts arrived, they used a robot in attempt to verify if the vehicle contained explosives. The EOD personnel detonated a charge that caught the VBIED on fire, and initiated 13 secondary explosions, completely destroying the vehicle. Later, the explosive experts found a 100 mm projectile and remnants of spent RPGs inside. “The most important take away from this event is the fact that the info came from a concerned citizen who had enough faith in the ANSF to report what he knew,” said Capt. Bobbie Ragsdale, HHT, 3rd Sqdn, 89th Cav Regt’s TF Slugger info ops officer. “Thanks to the diligence of the ANSF, and the courage of at least one concerned citizen, no one was injured; but this incident could have ended very, very differently.
Under Pashtunwali, injustices call for badal, or revenge, while some aspects promote peaceful coexistence, such as nanawati, or, the humble admission of guilt for a wrong committed, which should result in immediate forgiveness from the wronged party. Justice is meted out by the village shura, or council of elders.Pashtunwali is still widely practiced in Afghanistan, especially in the rural areas. This ultimately leads to contention, when the traditional authority of the local elders is against the constitutional justice system provided by the GoA. It's the challenge of balancing tribal traditions with constitutional authority that brought district elders, provincial and district justice officials, and members of Kunar PRT together, for the rule of law shura at the provincial governor’s compound. After a number of successful and widely popular trials at the provincial level, govt officials were putting forth a concerted effort to promote public trials at the district level. “Today’s shura is meant to explain the judicial process to the elders, and to promote public trials at the district level,” said Abraham Sutherland, U.S. Dept of State rule of law adviser to Kunar Prov. “The support of the local elders is crucial; without their support and oversight of the judicial process through the district shuras, you can't have success at the district level.” Leading the event, Qazi Mohibullah, chief judge of the Asadabad Primary Court, said, “today is about the constitution and how we can implement rule of law in Afghanistan. Everyone must follow the law under Allah.” “God says there is no man who has 2 hearts in his chest; you can either be good or you can be bad with your one heart.” Malawi Jan paused as he spoke. The Chief of the Nurgol District Shura Hoquq (civil court) Committee had just touched upon a key issue and chose his next words carefully. “We are living with 2 hearts, love for our country, yes, but love too for our selfish ways. We must take care of our country and our people.”Kunar justice officials at the provincial level already reported progress. “Our people are following the shura and the Holy Quran,” said Kunar Chief Prosecutor Mohammad Shoaib, “and justice is being implemented by the judges according to the Holy Quran.” Over the last 6 months, officials conducted more than a dozen public trials in Kunar, including the one in Nurgol. "Since the public trials began," Shoaib said, "there has been less crime in Kunar." “If you want to see a decrease in criminal activity, you must have public trials to show the people what the law is,” Shoaib said. “We need the support of the tribal leaders to educate their people on the law, and their equal rights under the constitution. Rich, poor, man, woman: all are equal under the law.”Sutherland’s office, which doubles as his sleeping quarters, is bursting with a variety of items accumulated over the course of his 14 months in Kunar. He sits beside a row of open laptops as he tries to capture the success story he feels embodies rule of law in the prov. “The Taliban, if nothing else, provided swift and visible justice; they filled a vacuum. Now, the people are seeing that their govt is willing and able to provide an alternative,” he said. “It’s all about openness,” Sutherland continued. “With public trials the elders see that the law is not un-Islamic, and the people see the govt is responding to injustice. It also gives the judges and prosecutors the visibility, recognition and respect that they need to assume an authoritative position, in a culture that deeply values justice.”"Justice," Sutherland said, "is fundamentally an extension of the quest for security. Protecting the weak from the strong is one of the most basic tenets of civilization; there is no effective governance without rule of law. However," Sutherland emphasized, "the still-developing justice system in Kunar is not a complete replacement for the traditional code of Pashtunwali." “It’s not about the primacy of the constitution, but about the complementary relationship between the 2 systems, and seeing the courts as a legitimate option for justice,” Sutherland said.
Army Spc. Thomas Slaten, member of the SECFOR of the Nuristan PRT, reviews the area of responsibility in Nurgaram, Dec. 18. Maintaining security at all times allows for the shura to be held.
NURGARAM - Navy Cmdr. Bill Mallory, Nuristan PRT cmdr, and PRT civil affairs soldiers, visited Nurgaram village to observe the Afghan district govt’s line director meeting.The PRT visited the leaders, and with their permission, observed the meeting at the Nurgaram District Center, as the sub-governor, Dr. Mehirulla Muslim, and the deputy sub-governor, Abdul Aziz Abdullah, spoke with the leaders of various line ministries. District govts throughout Nuristan and all of Afghanistan are working to create budgets to submit at the provincial and then the national level. These budgets are required to get the funding local leaders need to provide basic essential services to the people. The budgeting and planning process is new for many local govts, including the govt of Nurgaram. The learning is made more difficult in the rural and mountainous Nuristan prov. “It's difficult for the people to share their issues together,” said Mehirulla. “We only have 8 kms of paved road in Nurgaram. It's also difficult to get to Parun, the provincial capital. We have lots of issues, but we have to work hard to build our country.” “You will never have what you need until you have a budget,” said Mallory. “Your govt realizes how important it is to budget for your future. We'll work with the district govs. to help the provincial govt come up with a plan, in accordance with the Afghan development plan, that serves the needs of all the districts in Nuristan.” “The PRT cmdr and I had a good meeting yesterday,” said Mehirulla. “I know that we'll be able to solve these issues together.” “It will require a lot of hard work and patience, and you won’t see results overnight,” Mallory told the line directors at the meeting. “You're here today, willing to put in the hard work. We're here to help you put together the plan that's due in April. We look forward to working together.”
“This way we strengthen the positive reception of the ANA soldiers among locals,” said Polish Maj. Zbigniew Marchlewicz, TF White Eagle Battle Group Alpha dep. cmdr. “At the same time, we show that cooperation between ISAF and Afghan soldiers has been very successful.”In each of 3 villages, ISAF soldiers organized a shura. These meetings marked the first time reps of the Ghazni City’s mayor’s office and Ghazni Prov. governor’s office participated in such a shura. “Residents were given the opportunity to submit not only their needs and problems that they suffer, but also to make their expectations for the CFs and local authorities,” said Polish 1st Lt. Jakub Weclawowicz, civilian-military cooperation, 1st Tactical Support Team cmdr.
GHAZNI PROVINCE – Soldiers from Co A, 1st Bn, 187th Inf Regt, were added to TF Rakkasan to help secure eastern Ghazni, for the remainder of their deployment in eastern Afghanistan.
Three days after Co. A arrived to FOB Andar, they packed up their trucks again and headed out on their first ops., Dec. 17 and 18. Their mission was to enter villages CFs haven't been in for several years, and assess the situation.“The Afghan locals in the villages were very receptive of the U.S. Soldiers and the AP,” said Army Capt. Michael Watson, cmdr. “The villages gave the impression of being strongly opposed to insurgent forces.” They successfully searched Dawlat Khan, Paumeda Khel, Laluh and Shadi Kala villages. During their patrols through the villages, the U.S. medics and AP provided medical assistance to a number of locals, including treating a 6 year old who burned his arm while helping his father cook bread. “This op greatly helped to spread the influence of ANSF to villages which have seen no other signs of SECFORs in the past 2 years,” said Army 1st Lt. Michael Marietta, an intel officer. “It demonstrated to the Afghans, as well as to possible insurgents, that the SECFORs have an extensive sphere of influence.”
2nd Lt. Peter Sprenger, plt leader; 1st Lt. Brady Hassell plt leader for Co. B; Capt. Trevor Saunders, EO for Co. C; and 1st Lt. Jesus Loya, plt leader for Co. A, represented their companies and the U.S. Army as they lived, worked and fought shoulder to shoulder with Polish soldiers for 4 days.“It was a great experience to work with the Polish Army for a few ops,” said Loya. “It let us see what our partners are doing on our left and right. This will help everyone to work together on future ops.” The exchange started with presentations on the Polish equipment, and a visit to the range to fire some of the weapons unique to the Polish army, such as the AR-47. The officers then participated in mission planning and the execution of 2 ops before moving on with the rest of the exchange. The U.S. officers were impressed with the Polish army’s cordon and search techniques, the maneuverability of their vehicles through rough terrain, and their ability to operate across all lines of effort, as they combined the security with the distribution of humanitarian aid to the locals. “They showed very strong tactical proficiency,” said Saunders. “Their vehicles performed very well with off-road maneuverability, firepower, and ability to carry dismounts. Overall, the op was very impressive.”
Shortly after arriving to his first duty station at Fort Campbell, Ky., in July 2008, Floyd got orders to deploy to Iraq. He had just turned 18, but it wasn’t until his current deployment, just 2 years later, that proved Floyd could step up to the plate, earning his place among the ranks like his grandfather had once done.“He performs scheduled and unscheduled maintenance on over 100 pieces of equipment, located at 8 different FOBs,” said Floyd’s senior-enlisted supervisor in Co. G, 1st Sgt. Corey Towns. “He has also manned the .50-caliber machine gun on over 170 logistical convoy ops throughout TF Bastogne’s battle space,” Towns added. “As a specialist, Floyd has the leadership ability and knowledge of a seasoned sgt.”"Also to Floyd’s credit, he earned his Air Assault Badge, graduated in the top 10% of his class at the Warrior Leaders Course, and most recently, competed in and won the Bn Soldier of the Month Board, and achieved his promotable status," said Towns. "Dressing up in a pair of his mechanic coveralls and stuffing the belly full of rags, Floyd did his best to lift his fellow Soldier’s Christmas spirits," said Army Staff Sgt. Gary LaMonda, Floyd’s supervisor. “He also got some white cloth and cut a hole in it to look like a beard, and tied it to his face,” added LaMonda. “He walked out of the office looking like a mechanic Santa Claus. The rest of the morning we all joked and took pictures with Santa Claus. I think this helped, and it made the day for most of the Soldiers. Specialist Floyd will go far in the Army, because he has a huge heart, and it shows he cares about his peers and his Soldiers,” LaMonda added. Even as Floyd worked his way up in the Army, he never forgot the wise words of his family. “My brother said to keep my head down,” said Floyd. “My sisters said to call home as much as possible. My mother said to pray and be safe, and my father was proud of me. This deployment has taught me to keep good faith, and take each day as if it were your last, because it might be your last.” Floyd is all too familiar with last days. At 20, he’s already been to war twice. So, he focuses on living life and leaving a legacy to his 1-year-old daughter, Mylee Mae, much like his grandfather did for him.
Written by Spc. Andrew Ingram, USD-North
“We try to go out there every 2 weeks,” said Maj. Richard Ojeda, Afghan NSF advisor assigned to 4th BCT. “When we go out on missions we'll take stuff with us for the children.” Ojeda said that he hopes the children will remember the help CF are providing them now, so that when they grow up they won’t be eager to believe that Americans are the bad guys.The Soldiers came prepared with many boxes of goodies for the children, as they entered the orphanage. The children met the Soldiers with excitement and anticipation. “The basics we try to give out are the long-lasting stuff, like blankets, clothing, and shoes,” said N.Z. Army Capt. Calvin McMillan, PRT supply logistics officer. “We like to give hygiene items, writing gear, stationery items, book bags, and stuff that will make a difference, and be more long lasting than candy.” Ojeda sat children on the back of his vehicle, and personally found pairs of shoes to fit the children. Their responses took him aback. “The children had smiles from ear to ear. It really does us a lot of good to see the happy children,” Ojeda said. “Every one of us in Bamyan has been to multiple combat tours. Ninety-nine percent of the time when you go on a combat tour, you’re focused on one thing, which is taking out the bad guy. For us to get the opportunity over here to also make this deployment mean something more than just finding the bad guys, it means everything. The children are so poor one almost has to see it themselves to believe it. Ojeda said the children at Bamyan orphanage pick up mule droppings and make patties out of them to stick on walls to generate heat. The mule dropping will burn for an hour in their stove, “and that’s one hour of heat that gets them through the night,” said Ojeda. Lotions, soaps and feminine-hygiene products were handed out to the girls of the orphanage by Sgt. 1st Class Luppa Gilchrist. She said that the Soldiers take up collections around the base, but otherwise depend on what people send them from the U.S. to have things to give the children. Ojeda uses his social network of friends to help send things for the children at the local orphanage. He said that the Soldiers at Bamyan get messages on social networking sites constantly asking what they need.
Sources reported the existence of an insurgent IED cell operating in the area just north of Gardez City. The AUP, with help from the MPs, investigated these reports by questioning local residents, and searching for explosive materials and weapons in the village. "We have expectations to search the identified qalats and bring the insurgents back to FOB Gardez,” said AUP Jon Muhamma through an interpreter.According to Rayat Ullah, an AUP plt leader, when the villagers see the AUP begin to question local residents, they understand there is a possibility of insurgent activity in the area. Because of this, the villagers may think the area to be unsecure. “Our presence in the area might cause the villagers to help us pull out insurgents and stop the bad activities,” said Ullah. During the investigation, the AUP and MPs presented themselves as amicable as tactically possible to the villagers. “Everyone will stay alert, but present themselves in a nonaggressive way,” said Capt. Bryan Anderson, cmdr of 615th MP Co. The AUP recorded statements during interviews in the village, explained what was going on, and thanked the participants for their time and providing input. “This is the first time I’ve seen a member of the AUP take notes and record statements by the villagers,” said 1st Lt. Patrick Jeffrey, 2nd Plt leader.
“My good buddy Kenny Thomas, who has done a lot of work for the Soldiers, were riding together a while back, and I said that I really wanted to get on one of these tours for a long time,” said Jewell. “A couple of weeks later the phone rings and he said, ‘There’s a spot available; you want to go?’ I said yes. It’s a thrill to be here.”Joe Cook, guitarist for Buddy Jewell, said he enjoys being here and entertaining the Soldiers, even if it means missing Christmas at home with his family. “Buddy called me up and asked if I wanted to participate,” said Cook. “I always wanted to, because all of my family is military.” Cook added that both of his grandfathers fought in World War II. He has an uncle who fought in Vietnam and a cousin who recently joined the Marines. The guitarist said that he respects the work of all the servicemembers in Afghanistan, and said that his job isn’t the same without the work done overseas. “I get to do what I do for a living, because of you guys protecting my freedoms,” said Cook. “It’s the least I can do, to be able to come over here. It makes me proud to do what I do. I can’t wait to get home and tell everyone I come into contact with, what you guys do over here for our nation.” To the delight of Soldiers from 4th BCT, 2 Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders came on the trip to entertain the troops. Brandi Redmond and Nicole Hamilton brought smiles and laughter to every person with whom they came in contact. Redmond said that she's especially motivated to do this tour because of her family. “I came out here because I wanted to give back,” said Redmond. “My brother is serving in the military right now; it means a lot.”
Hamilton said she was excited to see the Soldiers, and was amazed at their work ethics, and hoped to help them relax a little bit. “I guess it really makes me appreciate what you guys do over here,” she said. “All the Soldiers do is work, work, work. I got to see the Soldiers’ softer sides today.”
Riggers make difference in Kandahar
The Special Ops TF–South (SOTF-S) parachute rigger’s wall of fame, as seen here, Dec. 20, is for units whose teams have had at least one million pounds of supplies pushed out during their deployment rotation. The wall represents the types of blades that cut skid plates and cushioning boards used in resupply bundles. The current SOTF-S rigging crew is on tap to deliver more than 3 million pounds during their rotation at Kandahar Air Field, Kandahar province.
KANDAHAR – 631,684-lbs. That is the amount of food, ammo, water, fuel and more, that the parachute riggers have packaged and put out of aircraft in Afghanistan in the month of Nov. alone; parachuting into remote locations to supply Special Operations Forces (SOF) teams on the ground.“Anything I can fit, basically, I’ll drop,” said Sfc. David Doris, the air drop supervisor at SOTF-South. From plywood, to 55-gallon drums of diesel, to cases of MREs and water; everything gets packaged up at a facility on Kandahar Air Field. The parachute-rigging facility is one of three in the country run by Combined Joint Special Ops TF – A. It’s a place that never sees a quiet moment. Doris and his 8-man crew run around the clock, with a night crew that prepares bundles to be rigged by the day crew. “Just when my guys are done rigging, they’ll come in here, take a dinner break, catch a couple hours of sleep, and then they could have a load-out at 2 in the morning,” Doris said. “They’ll load the trucks, transport the equipment to the flight line, download it to the airplane and inspect it; then, get back up at 8:30 in the morning and do it again.”Setting up the container delivery systems, known as CDS bundles, are soldiers like Spc. Blake Howard. He and his crewmates can rig to a parachute anywhere from 500 to 2,200-lbs in a CDS bundle. "It’s a job they take great pride in doing," he said. “We know we're stopping IED incidents, and that is a good feeling,” said Howard, who has been a rigger for 3 years. “The drops put supplies right on the teams. It keeps them from traveling, or from supply trucks driving to their locations.”“Once we determine the best way to get supplies to the team is through the air, Sgt Doris and I get together and we work out a plan,” said Capt. Mike Woodall, commanding the service detachment. “It’s a team effort from everyone in the service det.,” Woodall said. “These guys do a phenomenal job.”
The riggers, too, say that it's a team effort. "Most have been working together for a couple of years," said Spc. Ian Stevenson, and they all work together back in their home station of Fort Bragg, N.C., as members of the 3rd Special Forces Group (Abn). Stevenson, a rigger on his first deployment, says he takes great satisfaction in doing his job, even if the hours are “long and crazy. It’s a good feeling knowing that the SF teams are able to eat and drink because of the work we do,” he said. “And the best part of the job is when a team member comes in here and thanks us.”Knowing whom they're helping is what keeps the crew motivated. It's also what helped fire them up when they were worn out a couple of months ago. The SOTF-South team has averaged, throughout its history over the years, roughly 200,000-lbs in total weight delivered per month. The current team went from that average in Sept., to doubling production in Oct., and increasing on that in Nov. There were 212 loads put out in Sept., to 405 in Oct. From 278,265-lbs in total weight, to 544,483-lbs. Their supervisor noticed the increased production was taking its toll. “These guys were really tired in Oct.,” Doris said. “I told them to focus on who’s receiving the supplies in the field. I told them: those guys are the ones getting shot at, and we need to get them the things they need.”The riggers reacted, and production levels continue to increase. Again, it came back to pride. “These guys are driven on pride, and these numbers are reflective of that,” Doris said. “If I didn’t have a rock solid team, these numbers wouldn’t happen, and that’s the bottom line.”On a wall in the riggers office and living quarters hangs decorated saw blades. They represent the blades used to cut the cushioning cartons placed on the bundles. The saw blades are painted and decorated with previous unit names, and the amount of total weight pushed out during the rotation. “It’s the million pound club,” Doris said.But he added with a smile, “We’re on track to push out more than 3 million-lbs this rotation.” That’s a feat no other SOTF-South crew has achieved.
Rows of container delivery system bundles stand ready to be loaded on aircraft.
Spc. Nolan Barbone, rigger, prepares fuel drums for an aerial resupply. Barbone says that he “sleeps better at night” knowing that he's helping the teams on the ground.
As he first walked through the town, no one recognized him as more than just another Afghan. Once he started speaking and mentioned the radio station, people began to catch on, and it quickly turned hectic.
Almost instantly, a crowd of elderly men, young men and children gathered around Farooq. “The people were really excited,” said Afghan DJ Farooq. “Being on the radio is very special for them. It’s something that sets them apart from their peers within their village.”
CAMP ADDER - In order to bring the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program to more Soldiers, the 3rd AAB recently opened the Iron Stronghold Resiliency Center (ISRC). The foundation of the program lies in the 5 Pillars of Comprehensive Fitness: physical, emotional, spiritual, Family, and social.
"It was important for us to build this center with our Soldiers and their Families in mind," said Command Sgt. Maj. Miles Wilson, 3rd AAB. "The brigade has put a lot of effort into this, because we owe it to our Soldiers. We send our Soldiers across the world and we put them in harm's way, so we owe them the opportunity to stay fit, stay resilient, and become better people from this deployment."
In addition to spiritual and equal opportunity guidance, Soldiers can visit the resiliency center to relax in one of the 3 massage chairs or take part in some friendly competition with a game of pool or a few video games. "I heard about some of the things they were going to have at the center, but I was still surprised to see how it turned out," said Spc. Justin Bartee, an infantryman with HHT, 3rd STB. "I could definitely see myself coming here to wind down after a hard day."
The Iron Stronghold is the second resiliency center to open in southern Iraq. The 1st ID HQ opened the USD-S Resiliency Campus on Basra Airfield in Sept.
The Iraqi students learned about Int'l Shipping and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code requirements, with a focus on developing formal security plans. The ISPS Code was instituted by the UNs' Int'l Maritime Org., shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the recognition of the need to improve the security of ships and port facilities around the world.
"One of the largest challenges in the implementation of the ISPS Code in Iraq is the lack of a centralized maritime authority with regulatory oversight of the ports," said Cmdr. Jim Robertson, the PACE officer-in- charge. "Our biggest problem is that currently we've 13 different ministries who have some operational ownership of Iraq's ports, so we have a lot of competing entities fighting for their piece of the pie," Robertson said.
"We have security measures in place, but they're not up to int'l standards and templates," Sager said. "And, I think once we get our certificate from the govt, the world will be more attracted to conducting business in Iraq, through the noticeable increases in stability and day-to-day port operation efficiency, as a result of ISPS Code compliance. Iraq is coming into a great deal of commercial opportunities in the future, so if we enhance the security environment in our ports, this will bring more and more business to the ports."
It is hoped the Port Facility Security Officers attending the USCG's course will apply the skills to implement ISPS at their respective ports. "The efforts to bring Iraq up to int'l shipping standards are worth the investment," according to Robertson. "I've always felt that this is one of the most important missions in theater," Robertson said. "If this course lights the fire of compliance in a few, they'll be the security pathfinders for Iraq's seaport community. The PACE Team will continue working alongside the GoI, and key stakeholders within the ports, as they move forward to build a port security network."
"We have the intention to follow up and to go back to the int'l community," Sager said. "This is one of the good steps that we've achieved over the 3 days. This course is the next logical and practical step in meeting the int'l standards, and was very rich with the right info for our future success in the security of our nation's ports. I'm very excited that this will positively affect Iraq's participation in the int'l community, and it will continue to bring more business to the Iraqi people."
Rarely; except when he talks about blowing things up. “I don’t like troops in contact, but I enjoy dropping rounds, and knowing that most of the time I hit the enemy,” said Spc. Joshua Wood. “It’s awesome to fire. It’s just a thrill to drop explosives. The enemy stops firing after you drop your rounds, and that’s just a great feeling.”Wood, a mortarman, comes alive when asked about his job firing mortars all over eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar Prov. “Out here we play a pretty big role,” Wood continued. “Usually when the troops get in contact, the mortars are there. They call us in to provide indirect fire on enemy locations, to either destroy or disrupt them, so we can move or gain fire superiority.” Just then, he got a call and began preparing fuses on the mortar rounds, and punched numbers into his handheld computer. Wood raised the pitch of his voice ever so slightly when he explained the technical specifications of his job, and what’s necessary to prepare for another fire mission. Next, he fired a few rounds at the enemy, listened for impact, and plunked back down into his fighting position to wait for more instructions from his forward observer. Settled, he continued his calm, relaxing southern conversation. “I almost got a bullet to the face once,” he said. “It went right past my face and hit the wall behind me, and cut my face up from the rock. I thought I was shot,” said Wood. “That was probably the closest I’ve come to a bullet. I could feel the burn on my face for about 10 minutes. That was pretty intense, but we actually killed 3 dudes with a mortar round. That ended the fight there, and I walked out of that valley.” He chuckled and had a faraway look on his face. “I’ve had bullets crack around my face, around my cover; I mean, we all have. We’ve all been in some crazy firefights,” Wood explained. But, not everybody has done what Wood did one day while in one of those “crazy firefights” a few months ago. “We were walking through the Ghaki Valley,” Wood said. “Our group took contact and, as we bounded back to hard structures, my platoon leader fell. I was about a 100 meters ahead of him. I turned around and saw that he fell. I ran back under heavy fire, picked him up and took him to safety.” He didn’t raise his voice talking about the incident. It was almost like he was explaining what he had for lunch: jalapeno cheese with crackers, poppy-seed pound cake and beef stew. Just like that. Then he continued. “Later, another ANA soldier was walking around in the middle of the firefight with a bullet wound to his head,” explained Wood. “I ran out with another Soldier, and we picked him up and put him behind some vehicles to let the medic patch him up.” Strawberry dairy shake powder, wheat snack bread and brown sugar toaster pastry. Just like that. “You just do it. You’re just trained to do it. I didn’t want to leave a friend out there,” Wood added. “I don’t know; you just react to things and do what you’re trained to do: to go help Soldiers whenever you can, whether you’re under fire or not.” He didn’t seem especially impressed that he was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor for these actions. For Wood, it was just another day deployed. “The platoon leader I saved said that, as I was running, he could see bullets bouncing around my feet and around my head on the mountainside,” Wood recalled. “I really wasn’t paying attention to it, but it was pretty effective fire. It was pretty close. It was ricocheting off the vehicles and across the ground. You could hear it whizzing by your head. I don’t know; I just remember running and picking him up. I wasn’t thinking about the bullets. It was pretty heavy fire, though.” For a guy who joined the Army right out of high school because he wanted to do something different, this mortarman has seen a lot. The forward observer called to Wood and his crew. It was time for another fire mission to quell the enemy. Wood perked up and started hollering coordinates back and forth. Well, not hollering, but definitely there was a little excitement in his voice.
GHAZNI PROVINCE – Soldiers of Co B, 3rd Bn, 187th Inf Regt conducted a search op in Shaf Khel Village in Andar District, Dec. 12. They found 11 weapons after 4 hours of searching, as well as mags and ammo, including 3 AK-47s, 10 AK-47 mags, hundreds of rounds, 2 Russian assault rifles, a Russian light machine gun, 2 rifles and a pistol.
Info regarding the location of the illegal weapons came from National Directorate of Security (NDS) interviews of the villagers. “The village elders called me and thanked me for coming,” said NDS officer Wahab. “They said I can take as many AK-47s as I can find in their village.”Later, locals brought 3 more AK-47s, and turned them over to the NDS during a meeting. “NDS agent Wahab proved invaluable during this op,” said Capt. Aaron Schwengler, cmdr. “His intimate knowledge of the insurgents in this area and their tactics, as well as his ability to communicate with the locals, resulted in a large cache of weapons captured. We'll continue to incorporate the NDS on our ops, and impact insurgent capabilities.” Schwengler followed through on his word the next day. The Soldiers of 1st Plt, conducted a patrol with the NDS and had a similar success. The Soldiers found 2 more AK-47s, 3 mags and 200 rounds of ammo based on his guidance. Some Co. B Soldiers said they were extremely impressed with the NDS officer. “CFs are committed to contributing to the safety and security of the Afghan people, but we're still foreigners, which limits our understanding of the locals,” said Sgt. 1st Class Paul Meacham, plt sgt. “Having an NDS agent on patrol allows the U.S. elements greater access to the local population.” “I look forward to our continued partnership,” Wahab said.
Maj. David Burnett (left), the Afghan AF Religious and Cultural Affairs Advisor with NATO Training Command-A (NATC-A), shakes hands with a shop keeper after buying beans, rice and tea that will be passed out in the coming weeks on the Afghan AF Base in Kabul.
KABUL - Members of the AAF and NATC-A visited a local market in Kabul to buy food, Dec. 21. The food will be distributed in the coming week to local Afghans that work as contractors, and their families.“Supporting the contractors is taking care of the troops. They might not be AAF members, but they're part of the team; they contribute so much to our mission. It’s important that we take care of them and their families,” said Maj. David Burnett, with the 438th Air Expeditionary Wing/NATC-A.Burnett said that Col. Basir, the AAF religious and cultural affairs, actually came up with the idea for a food drive for the contractors. “What we're trying to do is get food together so we can distribute it to the contractors on base; many of them are supporting large families. We received donations of money from the states, so we could purchase this food. Once we had the money in hand and the convoy ready to depart, we went to the trader and purchased large bags of beans and rice, plastic bags to distribute, cooking oil and tea,” said Burnett.He also said that this is important because coalition troops are trying to help foster the relations between the community and AAF. “A majority of the community doesn’t even know that they've an AF, so we're trying to build that relationship, and support the local contractors on base that support our mission every single day,” said Burnett.Burnett said that it brings a tremendous amount of pleasure for him to be involved in missions like this. “In some cases it really humbles me to see what these guys go through, and see them really struggling. Just to be a part of helping and contributing to make their lives a little easier brings joy to me,” said Burnett.Burnett hopes that more events like this will take place in the future, and that the relationship between the local population and the AAF will continue to grow.
Maj. David Burnett inspects beans that will be passed out.
GHAZNI PROVINCE - The Ghazni PRT traveled to Qara Bagh District, Dec. 17 to inspect the status of the ongoing road project between Qara Bagh city and Sanga Masha, in Jaghuri District.
The road project, contracted with RWA Construction Co., covers 28 kms, and connects the capitals of these 2 districts. "This road project is a major priority for the GoA and the PRT," according to Navy Cmdr John Doolittle, PRT cmdr. “We're working closely with GoA to ensure this road project is completed before the end of the next construction season,” he added.The road will provide access from the Jaghori capital to Highway 1, part of GoA’s objective to connect each district center with the highway that rings the country.
The brigade retention team credits dedicated Soldiers and leader involvement for its reenlistment success. "You can't achieve this type of accomplishment without having command involvement," said Sgt. 1st Class Gregory Zielsdorf, brigade senior career counselor, HHT, 3rd STB, 3rd AAB. "I firmly believe that each cmdr, each 1st sgt, and each platoon leader is actively engaging their Soldiers and saying, 'Hey, we want you to stay on the team.'"
Reenlistment goals are broken down into a series of categories, such as initial reenlistees and career reenlistees. The brigade has reached or surpassed every category. Along with the brigade's overall reenlistment goal, some bns within the brigade have achieved similar success. The 3rd Bn, 29th FAR, the 1st Bn, 68th AR Regt, and the 4th Sqdn, 10th Cav Regt have all reached their goals in every category, with the rest of the bns close behind.
Zielsdorf said that the brigade retention team always considers the short and long-term goals of each Soldier, and the team's recent success is proof that they stand firm in doing what's best for the Soldier, the brigade, and the Army.
A large number of Soldiers reenlisted for their choice of another duty station. "There's nothing wrong with moving," said Zielsdorf. "I've moved 6 times in my 15-year career. A lot of Soldiers joined the Army to see the world." With the annual goal of 427 met, the 3rd AAB isn't slowing its push for Soldiers to stay Army. The brigade is currently up to 470 reenlistments, and counting.
“If we didn’t treat her, these wounds would probably have ended up killing her,” said Voegtlin. “She would get an infection from dirt in the burn, which could potentially be mortal.”The medics treated Kamela every day for the first week, and now see her every other day. They wash the wounds with sterile soap and water, cut off the dead tissue from her burned areas, administer antibiotic cream to the burns, and then replace her old bandages with fresh ones. They said the wounds are painful, but they expect Kamela to heal fully, minus a few scars. The medics said they try their best to reduce the pain and comfort Kamela when treating her burns. Due to the number of nerve endings around the burns, Voegtlin said that any change in temp is extremely painful to the child. The medics administer pain medicine to Kamela to help ease the pain of the treatments, as well as multivitamins to help her heal faster. They said they are also teaching Kamela’s father how to care for her so he can eventually do it all himself. Voeghtlin does not like that the girl cries every time she sees her, but it's all in a day’s work for the medics.
Dep. Gov. Kabiri emphasized the importance of self-help projects during his opening remarks. “We shouldn’t wait for other people; we should wake up and be active. Instead of waiting for others, we need to build Panjshir ourselves, together as Panjshiris,” said Kabiri, through an interpreter.“The drinking water project was submitted through the CDC and implemented in July. The villagers built the reservoir as a self-help project. The cement was paid for by PRT bulk funds,” said 1st Lt. Hakan Togul, Panjshir civil affairs officer-in-charge. “The contractor originally asked for $30,000, but with self-help, the cost of the project was less than $5,000,” said Suleiman. “Even in times of despair, Panjshiris always rise up to the challenge,” said Suileman.
HELMAND PROVINCE – A joint ANS and ISAF patrol killed several insurgents during an op targeting 2 Taliban leaders in Lashkar Gah, Dec. 16. The 2 Taliban leaders are active in facilitating and conducting attacks against ASF and ISAF. The first leader has been involved in IED facilitation and attacks in Nad ‘Ali District. The other target is a Taliban tactical leader who is active in the emplacement of explosive devices, and direct fire attacks against Afghan and CFs.
Upon arrival at the targeted compound, the patrol surrounded the area, and Afghan forces conducted a call-out to allow the inhabitants of the compound to exit peacefully. Eleven women and 11 children exited and were protected throughout the op.As the SECFORs were clearing the compound, the joint force was engaged by numerous armed insurgents. The force returned fire, killing several insurgents. Rifles and a pistol were found during a subsequent search of the area. One man was detained during the op.
NANGARHAR PROVINCE - Afghan and CFs detained more than 5 suspected insurgents, as they targeted a Taliban cmdr associated with attacks on the Sherzad district center, during a security op., Dec. 19. Intel reports indicate the Taliban leader steals ANSF vehicles to convert them into assault vehicles, or possible VBIEDs.The SECFOR followed intel tips to a compound in Sherzad district to search for the leader. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit the compound peacefully, before the joint SECFOR cleared and secured the building.
The joint security teams conducted these ops in the hours of darkness to minimize the risk to local citizens. No women or children were injured or detained during these ops. The security forces conducted the op without firing their weapons.
Intel reports led the SECFOR to a compound in Terayzai District to search for the leader. As the SECFOR arrived at the targeted location, armed insurgents threatened them. The force followed the insurgents and when shot upon, they returned fire resulting in the insurgents being killed.The force continued to the targeted compound where Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit the compound peacefully, before the joint force cleared and secured the buildings. The Afghan and CFs detained the several suspects based on initial questioning at the scene. The force recovered multiple weapons to include a suicide vest, pistol, chest racks and grenades. Also in Terayzai District, Afghan and CFs captured a Haqqani leader, along with several suspected insurgents during a security op. Intel reports indicate the Haqqani leader was responsible for the coordination of IEDs and ambush attacks, targeting coalition and Afghan forces. He also was responsible for facilitating weapons for direct action cells in both Sabari and Terayzai Districts. The SECFOR followed intel tips to a compound in the district to search for the leader. After the area was secure, the SECFOR conducted initial questioning at the scene before detaining the Haqqani leader and several suspected insurgents.---In Bak District, a separate Afghan and CF detained several suspected insurgents, as they targeted a Haqqani IED facilitator. Intel reports indicate the Haqqani facilitator is responsible for the movement of IEDs and weapons for groups operating in Sabari District. He also planned attacks on coalition patrols in the prov.The SECFOR followed intel tips to a compound in Bak District to search for the leader. After the area was secure, the SECFOR conducted initial questioning at the scene before detaining the suspected insurgents.KUNDUZ DISTRICT - Afghan and CFs conducted another deliberate clearing op aimed at disrupting the Taliban’s freedom of movement in northern Afghanistan, Dec. 21. The joint SECFOR is continuing their efforts to disrupt enemy safe havens, where Taliban leaders use villages throughout the area to conduct operational planning and facilitate their attacks.
Intel reports indicated the targeted location near Shinwari village was the possible staging area for the Dec. 19 attack on the ANA recruiting center that killed 9 Afghan soldiers, and wounded 15 others. “Afghan and CFs continue to push forward removing Taliban from locations where they plan attacks and store weapons," said Lt. Col. Patrick Hynes, ISAF Joint Command Combined Joint Ops Center dir. “This op is an example of military alliance commitment to pressure insurgents during the winter months, ensuring they're unable to reorganize in local villages.”Afghan and CFs cleared more than 40 buildings suspected of insurgent activity in the area. Afghan forces used a loudspeaker to call for all occupants to exit the compounds peacefully, before the joint SECFOR cleared and secured the area.One of the buildings was identified to be an IED and weapons facility. The facility contained significant amounts of IED making material, and weapons to include mortar systems, machine guns with spare parts, shape charges, and numerous types of ammo. After determining that there were no other options to neutralize the facility, the SECFOR called in a precision air strike on the building.
Teenage boy's life saved in farm accident
HELMAND PROVINCE – Coalition troops and ANP recently saved the life of a local boy injured in an accident, Dec. 21.The national police and their coalition colleagues acted when a man brought his 15-year-old son, Payda, to Patrol Base Attal with a serious head injury. While working in his father’s field, a water pump broke and a piece of metal from the pump had become lodged in his skull.Afghan police officers and coalition troops moved Payda into the company aid post, where he received first aid from Lance Cpl. Graham Maloney, a combat medical tech with the Royal Army Medical Corps, currently attached to the 5th Bn, The Royal Regt of Scotland.Once the boy was stabilized, he was evacuated to the city of Lashkar Gah, where Afghan civilian medics took over his care. “We have one of the only medical facilities along Route 601, and locals who suffer serious injuries know that we'll assist them in getting the appropriate medical care,” Maloney said. “But, they wouldn’t come to us if they didn’t trust us, and more importantly, the Afghan police we work alongside.”Since the incident, the boy is recovering well. “When my son was injured by the water pump, I knew it was serious, and that the patrol base was the only place where we could get help,” said Sada Mohammed, the boy’s father. “Thanks to God that they've helped my son, and taken him to the hospital. We're very grateful to everyone who helped.”
"The Iraqis' request for a conference derived not from an unfamiliarity with the law, but from the lack of experience with practical application of the law. Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, the legal atmosphere, and the established methods that law enforcement personnel are required to adhere to, in Iraq have changed significantly," Strawn said. "That means having the police put together a packet of evidence, taking it to a judge, and asking the judge to issue a warrant," said Strawn.
Dave Hall gave the attendees a class on effective techniques they could employ in putting together an evidence packet. Over 30 individuals attended the meeting, which included reps from the IA, IP, Dept of Border Enforcement, MoD Inspector General, Iraqi highway patrol and members of the judiciary. "There were reps from the whole spectrum of the criminal justice system, as well as the military establishment," said Strawn.
The conference resulted from a month of planning between the Basra PRT, the BaOC Military Transition Team, and USD-S. All were pleased with the outcome of the conference. "We wanted a great forum," said Lt. Col. Russell Jackson, 1st ID, Deputy SJA. "Things really fell into place."Jackson said that the value of the conference was in getting all of the entities involved in the legal and judiciary process together, to sit and foster discussions that each unit had, that would result in a better understanding of the legal system in Iraq. "Stability requires that the rule of law actually be in place," said Jackson. "A functioning system to investigate criminal activity, capture the accused, bring him to justice, and to make sure that due process follows."
"It's important that they talk about these issues," Strawn said. "The fact that they requested this class demonstrates they recognize the importance of law."
Staff Lt. Gen. Huwaidi said the next step is to apply the lessons they've learned into reality. "That's where we have to go forward to make it happen," he said. Although the conference was intended to be a single event, the teams involved hope to use it as a springboard for future events, and to continue to build the relationship between the BaOC and Basra judiciaries.
Both Soldiers were awarded Army Achievement Medals for their actions. They're assigned to the eCAB, 1st ID, an aviation brigade from Fort Riley, Kan. "I don't like sitting on the sidelines," said Dutra, who works in the brigade as a satellite operator, "but if I can do my job and not be noticed, that means I'm doing my job correctly."
"I heard the incoming noise; if you ever hear a mortar come over your head, you can't miss that - and then immediately saw the explosion," said Dutra. "You hope for it not to happen, but we get trained for it every day," said St. Cin, who as a mechanic was just as surprised as Dutra to be treating an injury from a mortar attack.
Also like Dutra, St. Cin replies modestly to the accolades he has received over the last 2 months. "I was just following orders, and doing what I was told," he said.
“The U.S. needs to have unity of effort in helping the Afghan govt achieve the goals of a self-sustaining govt,” said Col. Robert Roshell, ADT cmdr. “Revitalizing agriculture is crucial, because it will allow Afghanistan to become an exporter of agricultural produce, versus an importer of commodities from the outside, specifically Pakistan.”The Afghan elders discussed poultry training, which was very successful this past summer with the previous ADT. McKinzie said that the ADT would be able to conduct poultry training, since the only major requirements for the training are a place to conduct the training, a qualified Afghan to teach the course, and a list of students interested in participating. “Poultry training takes place in a classroom and practical exercise environment of approx 60 students,” said Sgt. Lacy Spanier, ADT senior female advisor. “At the conclusion of the training, each student is provided 20 chickens to take back, to continue raising and breeding.” Another agricultural project addressed by the village elders was beekeeping, since bees provide a quick, manageable and easily maintainable source of pollination of crops. Crops that require pollination in Afghanistan are apples, almonds, melons and cucumbers. “Approx 60 students from across the district are allowed to attend the training,” said Spc. Crystal Sims, ADT project mgr. The students are chosen based upon families who have orchards or farms, which require pollination for agricultural production. During the training, the students learn about bee biology, social structure of the hive, wintering the hive, feeding, and basic hive maintenance. The ADT’s mission will allow the Afghan farmers to increase agricultural production across the district, and Paktya Prov. as a whole. Increasing agricultural production will further strengthen the relationship between the govt and local Afghans.
During their visit they received a short briefing on what TF Bastogne accomplished thus far in their deployment, and were escorted around the area to meet servicemembers. “Welcome to FOB Fenty,” exclaimed TF Bastogne cmdr, Army Col. Andrew Poppas. "The area has improved considerably, but it’s a hard fight wherever we go," he continued.At the conclusion of the brief, they received coins in honor of their visit to Fenty, and in return, they wished the colonel and his TF a Merry Christmas. The group was also taken to one of the hangars and shown the AH-64 Apache helicopter, an OH-58 Kiowa helicopter, and a medical helicopter.The group then visited the weapons range. They received the opportunity to fire various types of machine guns, shotguns, rifles and a pistol. “It was intense,” said an excited Armstrong after firing the M4 rifle, AK-47 and MK48. “I don’t do a lot of that. It’s pretty crazy ... a lot of power.”After firing, the entertainers and athlete made themselves available to the servicemembers at the range for autographs, conversation and photos. “It was a lot more fun than I was expecting,” said Spc. Jerrett Ransom, member of the quick reaction force (QRF), Transportation Plt, Co A, 426th BSB. “I think everyone out here had a good time shooting guns.”As their tour of FOB Fenty was winding down, the group stopped by the dining facility to eat, then gathered at the USO, where they sat, talked to servicemembers, and signed a few more autographs. “Lewis Black was a pretty nice guy, and Lance Armstrong was nice, too,” said Spc. Anthony Gordy. “I wasn’t expecting them to be as ‘hooah’ as they were.”Before departing, the group commemorated the trip with group photos with the troops at the USO building.
Manogai, located in the heart of the contentious Pech Valley, is currently the epicenter of violence in Kunar. However, the danger did not stop the elders from attending the elections, a positive sign of their willingness to participate in the legitimized Afghan process.Opening the ceremony, Haji Badir spoke in glowing terms of the previous shura, and shared his optimism for the future. “The previous shura was very successful,” he said. “I'm proud that we can come together as brothers, to choose our new shura.”The previous shura Badir spoke of began as a response to corruption in the Pech Valley, when 150 community leaders and elders held a public jirga in the Nangalam Hotel, Manogai District, March 5.
A press conference followed the meeting, during which Amb.Eikenberry announced a sister-city partnership between Ghazni City and Hayword, Calif. This partnership is in addition to the already established regional partnership between Ghazni Prov. and the Kujawsko-Pomorski region of Poland, which occurred during Khan’s recent trip to Poland.
“I knew there were insurgents living in that area,” said AUP Lt. Mahboob, a platoon leader in Jaji. Prior to the mission, the villagers hadn’t been receptive to CF.“Our predecessors told us the village was a bad place to go,” said Army 1st Lt. Mark Lucas, platoon leader with Co A. The combined forces embraced the village with a friendly smile, and treated the villagers with respect throughout the op. “The villagers at the end of the op wanted us to stay. They wanted to have a shura and chai tea with us,” Lucas said. During the movement out of the area, the combined forces took RPG and small-arms fire. The group quickly gained fire superiority, managed to keep the insurgents suppressed and allowed the ANSF and CF to move to safety.
M. Speaker: In the aftermath of the attack of September 11th, a young man answered his country's call to duty, and volunteered to take the war against radical Islam from our shores to theirs. His name was Sean Anthony Silva.
This nation survives today, and Americans remain safe today, because of the idealism, patriotism, heroism and sacrifice of young Americans like Sean Silva, who volunteer to defend us. Today, they're all that stand between the tyranny and terrorism that have arisen in the Middle East, and enlightened civilization. We defend principles like liberty and justice in this chamber every day with our words. Men like Sean Silva defend them with their lives.
And on the night of October 9, 2003, Sean Silva defended them with his. To understand the character of this young man, you need to understand what led up to that night. Sean was a young person who saw his country attacked, and instinctively rose to defend her. He saw his countrymen threatened and instinctively rose to shield them. When Sean told his parents, that he wanted to enlist, they were concerned. His mother worried that Sean would be dispatched to the Middle East within weeks of boot camp. Sean's reply was simple: "Mom, I'm ready." He wanted to be an Army Scout: always leading, always in motion, always protecting the path of his comrades.
Sgt. Timothy Sloan of the Army's Roseville, CA recruiting office remembered that Sean "wanted to be out doing things; he didn't want to be sitting behind a desk." Ultimately, he was assigned to the 2nd ACR based in Fort Polk, Louisiana, and from there, he shipped out to Iraq.
The night of October 9, 2003, he had already returned from one treacherous patrol, and was scheduled for another the next day. A night patrol was unexpectedly ordered, and Sean volunteered to go right back out into the deadly streets of Sadr City, even though it wasn't his turn. His cmdr reminded him that he'd already done much more than duty required, and Sean simply smiled and said: "I just want to learn to do my job."
A few hours later, Sean's patrol was ambushed, and in the fierce fighting that followed, he gave what Lincoln called "the last full measure of devotion." At Normandy, the Chapel bears a tribute to those who (quote) "endured all, and gave all, that justice among nations might prevail, and that mankind might enjoy freedom and inherit peace." At the age of 23, Sean Silva did exactly that. Sean would have turned 30 this year.
Friends still leave messages for Sean at the "Fallen Heroes" web site. There's one in particular that stands out. It comes from a little girl in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, whose father survived that terrible night. It reads simply, "Thank you Silva for protecting my daddy. He is here today because of direct actions that you have done. Thank you soo much."
Sadr City is no longer besieged. Its streets now bustle with commerce and enterprise, and young people look forward to raising their own families and starting on their own careers. They do so solely because of the sacrifice made by men like Sean Silva. That sacrifice is ongoing for Sean's family every single day. I met Sean's father at a Memorial Day event this year. He speaks of his son's death as if it were yesterday. Time does not heal the wounds borne by our Gold Star Families.
For them, every day is the day that the casualty officer came to call. We owe it to those families to honor what Lincoln called "the cherished memory of the loved and the lost." We owe it to these fallen heroes, as Shakespeare said, to see that their "story shall the good man teach his son." And we owe it to ourselves, our children and our nation to remember how precious is the freedom and peace that their sacrifice has purchased.
Abdl Qasim said that he and the company's senior engineer started working on solutions 8 months ago to resolve the wastewater problem, which had been forgotten during years of war. "We found that most of the pumps weren't working," said Qasim. "Five pumps were idle and all the spare parts were depleted."
Qasim said that the majority of the parts needed to make the repairs were manufactured through the skillfulness of the company workers, and the use of their machinery. "We repaired all of the pumps," Qasim said. "We were successful in completely separating the oil from the water, and channeled the oil back to the tanks for processing crude oil; the wastewater is very clear, free of oil content. To this day, we're not encountering any problems with the wastewater treatment facility."
Kountz commended them for their resourcefulness. "This was a total Iraqi-manned project. They took the initiative to assess the problem and fix the problem on their own," said Kountz of the 2nd largest oil refinery in Iraq.
The repairs made to the facility allowed the company to avoid an $18 million fine that would have been imposed by the Ministry of Environment. The company has also gone the extra mile the last several months by cleaning up areas outside its boundaries.
The SRC produces liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), kerosene, benzene, gasoline, and has a lube oil refinery, which produces a variety of lube oil. "The company is preparing for the future with new installation plans being discussed," said Qasim. "We currently have signed contracts, and plans to install a Maysan refinery," said Qasim. "We're also studying and discussing the installation of the largest refinery in the Middle East."
While working for the U.S. Forest Service in Wells, Nev., Stefani discovered the opportunity to take a 9-month assignment as a U.S. Dept of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service advisor, helping the people of Ghazni Prov. develop and implement agricultural projects.On the desolate hills of Afghanistan, one can’t be blamed for wondering how anyone could possibly make a living in such a place. Stefani was here to help the Afghans with just that. One of his many programs taught hundreds of women to raise poultry. He also helped to improve the grape production in the prov., worked to get a cold storage facility built, and planned for a sorely-needed tree farm. He raised the hopes of the inhabitants in this conflict-torn region, that the future could be better for their children.When he found the Ghazni City orphanage had been so torn apart due to conflict, that they didn’t have a playground, toys or even soccer balls to play with, it tore at his heart. Tragically, just as the plan was developing, Stefani’s convoy, returning from another mission, was hit by a roadside bomb, and the 28-year-old’s life was cut short, devastating his family and friends.His family, knowing how Stefani hated to leave a project unfinished, and wanting him to be remembered for something more than the way he died, decided to carry out his vision of a playground for this orphanage. They accepted donations in Stefani’s name to cover the cost of the playground equipment and shipping it to Ghazni.Today, Ghazni is still a dangerous prov., beset with insurgent activity and roadside bombs. Getting the equipment here was a complicated matter plagued with delays, but PRT members committed to get the playground ready for use as quickly as possible once it arrived.The orphanage is a fulltime home to 45 children and hosts a total of 120 children for the school day. It's led by orphanage dir., Mir Ameenullah, and staffed with 7 teachers and an administrator.
“I got my mom, dad, brother and sister a gift,” said Gomez. “I’m just looking for something that represents Afghanistan, to send back so they see what we see here in a sense.” Almost an hour later, they each carried a couple bags in their hands with the treasures they'd found.“I bought some jewelry,” said Wagner. “I’ve got a little lady back home. They’re really good on bartering here. I paid $34, and he started me off at $60.” Even though they only bought a few small items, the Soldiers said that just walking around and looking at all the items the bazaar had to offer was a lot of fun. “Down there,” Gomez said, motioning to a store at the far corner of the crushed stone lot, “they've a lot of really nice wooden boxes and chests; you can really see the work they put into each one.” Marble chess sets adorned with “United States” and “Afghanistan,” hand-carved wooden chests, jewelry boxes and other items, traditional clothing, scarves, carpets and flags, leather jackets, purses and handbags, antique swords, knives, guns and other weapons, tea sets, woven baskets, and embroidered patches are just some of the things servicemembers and civilians on Bagram Air Field can find at the bazaar. The bazaar features more than 30 local vendors, most from Parwan Prov. Wagner said that he likes the fact that most of the vendors are from the local area. “I like the culture,” Wagner said, as he looked along the row of connexes around him. “When I came here, I didn’t think we were going to have the opportunity to be part of a bazaar like this, and the culture here is something I definitely wanted to wrap my head around. This place definitely gives you an opportunity to do that.”Pfc. Anthony Weir, a medic with the 832nd Engr Co, attached to the 1st Sqdn, 113th Cav Regt, TF Red Horse, was also shopping at the bazaar. He agreed that many Soldiers are seeking something that represents their time here when shopping at the bazaar. “If it’s something authentic, that was made here, that I couldn’t find anywhere else in the world, that’s what makes me buy it,” said Weir.Pfc. Chad Cosens, also a medic and with HHC, 334th BSB, TF Archer, had his own strategy for Christmas shopping at the bazaar. “I’m just looking around for Christmas presents, taking pictures of stuff and emailing them to my family to see what they like,” said Cosens. “I probably won’t end up sending it til after Christmas, but it will still be nice to get them out a package.” Cosens said he enjoyed the antique weapons and currency, which he said one of his brothers may also enjoy, although his older brother is difficult to shop for. “My mom, she’ll probably like just about anything,” Cosens said. “Maybe some jewelry ...”1st Lt. Timothy Halbur, HHC, 2-34th BSTB, TF Archer, is the officer-in-charge of the bazaar. Halbur, said that TF Archer is working to improve the infrastructure of the bazaar, which is run by the Army and AF Exchange Service. He said that the TF inherited the bazaar from the 86th IBCT. “The real point of the bazaar is to form a COIN op,” Halbur said. “It’s to bring local money to the locals in Bagram.”
"TF Archer plans to make some changes and upgrades to the bazaa, to improve it for the servicemembers, civilian contractors and local nationals who use it," Halbur said. He said that among the improvements the unit is working on is the addition of a boardwalk around the shops lining the lot, so customers are walking on a solid surface rather than the crushed stone. Halbur also said theTF is working on adding a pavilion, as well as a working bakery, so customers can buy food while shopping.“You’ll be able to come to the bakery here, buy some pastries and a coffee, and shopping here will be more of an enjoyable experience,” Halbur said.
Tim Egan taught the leaders proper techniques to prepare the construction site and fix the roads, using reinforced concrete thick enough to support commercial truck traffic. “We're trying to instill in them better construction techniques, so the repair will last for years,” said Egan. “If you don’t repair it right the first time, you'll be back in a few days to do it again.”“It's very good. No problem,” said Haseebulla, Rural Rehabilitation and Development official. “We're going to take this slow, step by step, hand in hand together,” said Maj. Scott DeJesse, the district development team chief from the Laghman PRT. “We'll work through the first few projects together.” “I like this program very much,” said Fateh Muhammad, village affairs mgr. “The villages that want to work should be able to get help. I'm very excited.”
“Thank you for sharing the info with us, and teaching us how to make our district better,” said Mehirulla. “We have support and classes. It will be a good example for the next generation.”The PRT plans to work with villages to get ideas up through their leaders to the district govt. Then the line directors will help prioritize projects. This will help ensure the district govt is meeting the needs of the people. “We will work on this,” said Mehirulla. “We will work on this, and will share the info with the line directors, and I'm sure we'll have success in the future.”
U.S. Amb. to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, Polish Amb. to Afghanistan Maciej Lang, Provincial Gov. Musa Khan and Polish Brig. Gen. Andrzej Reudowicz, TF White Eagle cmdr, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, marking the launch of FOO.The idea of FOO came from Khan who saw the need for increased cooperation between Ghazni Prov’s authorities and ISAF reps. The FOO is also planned to be the location of PRT announcements. In addition, it will house a radio studio, which is one of the most useful means of communication for Ghazni residents.
Story and photos by Spc. Roland Hale, PAO
With the combat mission complete, fewer troops to fly, and IA helicopters active throughout the country, these crews are flying what are likely their last missions in Iraq. The crews on Camp Taji are assigned to the 3rd Assault Helicopter Bn, 1st Aviation Regt, a Black Hawk helicopter unit. The bn deployed this March from Fort Riley, Kan.
Most of the crews have previously deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, and to some of them it hardly seems like the same place. Like most U.S. forces in Iraq, the bn is no longer conducting a full-on combat mission. Instead, the unit is conducting what is known as stability ops. Their days of air assaults are numbered, and the crews are mostly occupied with moving troops and equipment between bases.
"We're not landing as much in the middle of Iraq," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Pete Klein. "It's nice being able to bring people home, instead of going out to raid a village. Klein, 29, is serving his 2nd tour to Iraq with the unit. While the mission has changed since his last tour, it's the same in some regards, he said. "We're the guys that'll go in and do anything," said Klein. "On both types of mission we're carrying people in the back, and everybody needs to come home."
Spc. Terren Blake, a crew chief assigned to the battalion, notices the differences from the back of the aircraft. "The air assaults were a rush, but I like this mission too," said Blake, 23. Blake was awarded the Air Medal on his last tour with the unit for his actions in combat. During a daytime air assault, Blake's aircraft was called back to help the troops they had just put on the ground. From both sides of the Black Hawk, Blake and another crew chief took turns firing their weapons at enemy troops on the ground. It was his first mission. Now, Blake said that while anything is possible in Iraq, he can't imagine something similar happening on this deployment. "It's a nice change of pace, knowing that we have a new mission now," he said.
The bn is not completely done with air assaults, but even the ones it still conducts have changed. Instead of bringing U.S. troops into harm's way, the crews now find themselves inserting platoons of IA soldiers. In preparation for the December 2011 deadline for all U.S. troops to leave the country, the Iraqi troops are on their way to completely taking over the air assault mission.
Spc. Trey Ross notices that change from his last deployment with the bn in 2007. "Our air assaults last tour were about 90% American and 10% Iraqi, and it's probably completely flipped this tour," said Ross, 26. What the crew chiefs are lacking in action, they're making up with heavy lifting. Their brigade has moved over 200,000 passengers, 7 million pounds of cargo, and flown around 95,000 hours since this March.
Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, the deputy chief of staff-effects coordinator for the 1st ID and USD-South, said that the program would make a big impact on the future of Iraq. "It's the first seed which has been planted from the Basra Int'l Business Center," said Kauzlarich. "This seed will grow from the student science program, into an incredible fruit for the future of Iraq."
Al Sarraf said there's a concern about maintaining continuity in the profession. "The scientists who are working right now are worried about the future," Al Sarraf said. "They want to see quality students replacing them. If students don't have an interest in science, become scientists themselves, who will replace them? This program will stimulate the children's interest in learning about science and math. It will develop their skills to become scientists themselves."
While the program is in its beginning phase, there are plans to shadow the COSH programs established in the U.S. "We're going to start from zero," Al Sarraf said, "but as it grows, I wish to establish more branches in other districts, and participate in the science expos. The expos' rewards every student; everyone is a winner." Al Sarraf said.
Each branch will have monthly activities, a science expo once a year, and participate every 2 years in the Int'l Science Expo with 85 countries. The COB will recruit volunteers from Basra such as doctors, physicists, geologists, professionals from the science field.
The initial funds to launch the program came from int'l oil companies, and will help establish satellite locations in the Qurnah, Central Basra and Zubair school districts. The operational funds will be raised through the COB's efforts in soliciting int'l companies in Basra.
In the eyes of Al Sarraf and Shuker Jasim, the COB chairman, the program will contribute to the future welfare of the people of Iraq. "Through this program, the students will be more effective to society," Shuker said. "They can work and contribute to the community, and develop relationships with colleagues in other countries."
"We have to build bridges between the people of Iraq, the U.S. and other countries, starting with the young people, the future generation of scientists," said Al Sarraf.
"Through this, we will be in touch with different countries and cultures," Shuker said. "We want to learn, build Iraq, and teach our children for the future of Iraq."
There is no record in recent history of a larger veterinary conference taking place in Kunar Prov. Haji Kahn, Kunar Prov. DAIL, gave opening remarks, and a crew from KRTA-TV in Asadabad spent the morning providing media coverage of the conference.Army Maj. Robert Paul, CMA unit veterinary officer, spoke about the importance of livestock nutrition to animal health. He pointed out modest improvements in the quality of food fed to livestock, translated into substantial gains in value when they went to market. “A well-fed head of cattle can weigh at least 200 lbs more than a poorly-fed head of cattle,” Paul said. “That’s more to sell and more money in the owner’s pocket.” Kunar Provincial Vet Dr. Ghalib gave a presentation on livestock parasite control. He noted that, after poor nutrition, parasites were the single-greatest factor contributing to poor weight gain in livestock. “Parasites are a big problem for the farmers, and you must educate them on how to deal with this problem,” Ghalib urged the vets. The ADT’s veterinary officer, Army Maj. Loren Adams, discussed rabies prevention and control. Rabies, which is largely under control in the developed world, is a major animal and public health threat in large swaths of Asia and Africa. Rabies is always fatal after the onset of clinical symptoms. According to the Global Alliance for Rabies Control, at least 55,000 people, mostly children, die from rabies each year, and the number may be much higher due to under-reporting of the disease. Rabies is endemic to Afghanistan. Every vet at the conference, including Ghalib, admitted personally seeing rabies in livestock or humans. “I’ve been a vet in a mixed practice for 25 years in Iowa and never once saw a case of rabies,” Adams said. “It goes to show you what a widespread problem it is here, that every single one of the vets here has seen it in an animal or a person.” Adams said, "vets play a vital role in rabies control and prevention efforts. Not only do they educate their clients and the public at large about rabies, vets also educate health professionals about the disease in many cases. The dog population in developing countries," Adams continued, "typically contains the largest reservoir of the rabies virus. Effective rabies control involves trapping, spaying or neutering, vaccinating and releasing dogs. Vets are central to such programs as well." “What I want to do in this prov., is talk to children and adults about rabies; we want to do some education,” Adams said. “We also want to begin a vaccination program for the dogs and, of course, I need the vets for that.” Adams emphasized that spaying or neutering dogs is also essential to rabies control, which is why he demonstrated neutering surgery on a dog owned by a local Afghan. The vets at the conference crowded around as Adams sedated and cleaned the dog. He quickly neutered the animal and began suturing the surgical incisions, then supervised as an Afghan vet completed the process long before the dog regained consciousness. For Afghan vet Dr. Bahadr Khan, who practices in the Narang District, the entire conference was “very important for Kunar veterinary doctors.” Khan expressed special enthusiasm for Adams’ emphasis on rabies control and prevention. “Rabies is a problem in all Afghanistan, but it’s an especially big problem for the people of Kunar,” Khan said. “If we can control rabies, we can help the people, the animals and the entire community.”
“This program allows Afghan citizens to partner with their local govt offices, and help them provide protection for their villages, by reporting any criminal or insurgent activity,” said Maj. Gen. John Campbell, comm. gen. for Combined Joint TF–101 and RC–East. “If the info they provide is beneficial to ANSF or CF, they're eligible for a reward.”All rewards are based on the value of the info provided and can be money, food or other “in-kind” necessities. Individuals reporting the info are instructed to call back to see if the info they provided qualifies for an award. At that time, if the info was accurate and useful, the individual is rewarded. “Guardians of Peace helps Afghan citizens to provide for their own security, and connects the local population to their SECFORs and govt,” said Chief Warrant Officer Steven Mehl, RC-East rewards program mgr. “Afghan citizens often have useful info regarding insurgent and criminal activities. They just needed a place to share this info, and the assurance of anonymity.”"Advertising of the program began Oct. 22, airing on 6 TV stations and 16 radio stations, as well on the placement of billboards and posters throughout RC-East," Mehl said. The program has picked up momentum, and partnering with MoI and MoD, ISAF is considering making Guardians of Peace a nationwide campaign. “There’s been a large increase in cache turn-ins in the last 2 weeks or so,” Mehl said. “There was a slight increase in turn-ins since the program started, but the numbers recently spiked, and there’s no doubt that there's a direct correlation between the increase in turn-ins and the program.” “Overall, the program has been very successful. The ANSF, GoA and CF have received info that has led to 5 insurgent leaders being captured, over 50 weapons caches, and numerous IEDs turn-ins, 4 of which were made up of 200 lbs of homemade explosives,” Mehl said. “Afghan citizens are using the Guardians of Peace to help secure their village and bring peace back to their families.” So far this year, 958 Afghans have been killed in insurgent attacks. “At the end of the day, this program is about saving lives,” Mehl said. “Not just the lives of ANSF or CF, but the lives of ordinary Afghan citizens. Insurgents target everyone who fights to improve Afghanistan and its future. This program has become a weapon to defend those people.
Simms shrugged off the shackles of the investment-banking world, and the pay that goes with it, to become an infantryman, 1st BCT, 101st AD. He now lives on a small, spartan COP. “I’m just a common American who loves his country, and wants to see great things come from our country,” Simms said while sitting and resting his bruised leg, in his room at COP Fortress.He had just returned from a 2-day mission in the mountains bordering Pakistan, where he slipped and injured his leg. But, that didn’t stop him from completing the op with his unit. “My dad taught me as a kid that you can do whatever it is you want to do,” Simms said with a grin. “Whenever an obstacle presents itself, take a step back, change your direction of battle, regroup and go back and attack the target again.” Simms readjusted the ice pack on his ankle and continued. “Growing up, my dad was kind of a hero to me, so I wanted to follow in his footsteps, and avoid some of the mistakes that he made,” he said. When asked about the mistakes his father made, Simms laughed nervously. “That would be getting into a whole different story; you have no idea of what you’re digging up right now,” he said. “The Army knows all about him.” Then Simms hefted his wounded leg out of bed and motioned to follow outside, to a more discreet bunker.
After Taliban threatened shop owners, they closed their shops and vacated the streets. “It’s been cold and uninviting until today,” said Sgt. Michael Zickefoose, a team leader. “Today's been nice since the kids are out and the shops are open.”
They graduated boot camp from the same platoon, then joined the same squad of Co C, 1st Bn, 181st Inf Regt, a Massachusetts NG unit based out of Cambridge, Mass. Both Howard and Coulliard agree that joining the Army gave them benefits they probably wouldn’t have gotten if they stayed civilians. “I'm definitely a lot stronger mentally and physically,” Howard said. “You put on this uniform and it makes you feel like a completely different person. It gives you some pride,” said Couillard.Now their unit is serving in Afghanistan as the SECFOR for Paktya PRT, helping the GoA provide public services and development projects. Together, they escort subject-matter experts to schools, clinics and meetings with village elders, throughout the prov. These missions provide meaningful experiences they couldn’t have imagined while they were still in high school. “It’s definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Howard said.
The 1st 10 days of Muharram, the 1st month in the Islamic calendar, take place in Dec., with Ashura, the 10th day, occurring on Dec. 16. The history of Ashura dates back to 680 A.D. when Husayn Ibn Ali and his followers fought the Umayyad Caliphate. In what would later be known as the Battle of Karbala, Husayn was killed, and a rift was created in the Muslim World. Those who believed in Husayn's cause would rally behind the banner of Shi'a Islam, while the people who supported the caliphate were known as Sunni.
The 10th of Muharram, the date of the battle, was then held as a day of mourning for the fallen Husayn, and a reflection on his life and teachings. Each Muharram, pilgrims travel from all over the world to Karbala and the Mashhad al-Husayn, a temple dedicated to the fallen imam.
The observance of Ashura in Iraq was prohibited during the reign of Saddam Hussein. The Ba'ath party forbade observing the days of mourning and the pilgrimages for years, until Hussein was ousted in 2003 and the Ba'ath party was dissolved.
Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Falah, a cultural advisor for USD - South, said that the ceremonies are a way for people to think and reflect on their lives, in the middle of the chaotic world. "Ashura is like ringing a bell, saying 'please don't forget there's something you have to do with your life, and the end of your life."
Falah said that the month of Muharram and the Ashura observance are important ways for all Muslims, not just Shi'a, to reflect on their lives. "I believe that all of the Muslim people don't have to act and beat their chests," Falah said. "But, they should observe Ashura and Muharram, just to stop and think a little bit about this life."
DIWANIYAH - As the sun rose over the city of Saniyah, the Diwaniyah PRT, supported by 3rd Sqdn, 3rd ACR, set out on the first of several planned youth outreach programs in the area. The setting of this mission was not to be the site of a newly reconstructed facility, or a meeting of provincial leaders, but rather a classroom full of Iraqi teenage girls.
Without any personnel who could specifically relate to the challenges faced by teenagers, the PRT requested support from 3rd Sqdn, in the form of 2 young female medics from Troop H.
Pfc. Rolanda Geneus and Pfc. Donya Glover, stood before the gazes of the young girls of Saniyah H.S. and Al Sediqa Middle School, leading discussions of what it's like growing up as a teenager in the 21st century. As the 2 Soldiers shared their experiences, the discussions became lively.
This joint venture offered a great opportunity not only to the girls of Saniyah, but also to the medics chosen to participate. "I thought that being chosen for the mission was exciting and different from what my usual mission is," said Glover.
Missions like these provide expanded opportunities to the Soldiers of 3rd Sqdn, and similar outreach programs are planned for the future. At the end of the day no criminals were arrested, no intel gathered, yet the result of the day's mission seemed a resounding success.
"There are many similarities and differences in our cultures, but only by interaction will we be able to learn how to live together and appreciate one another," said Geneus.
The AAFES and the 334th BSB, 2nd IBCT, 34th ID, run the bazaar on BAF. The bazaar is comprised largely of local vendors selling locally-made products. Servicemembers, as well as civilians, frequent the bazaar, which provides a boost to the local economy, and is particularly busy this holiday season.
Since August, as a result of Mayes’ relationships with Kohistani and Zareen, the bazaar also features 5 women vendors. The 5 women’s shops feature handmade clothes for men, women and children, blankets, rugs, shoes, jewellery, leather items and a slew of other products.
Mayes said she became involved with the bazaar after she was contacted by the 86th IBCT, the previous unit in charge of the bazaar. They told her they had some open shops at the bazaar, and would like to try to involve some female vendors.
“They couldn’t find any local women who would come to it, and I told them I had 2 very strong women who own their own shops, and so I asked Miss Kohistani and Miss Zareen, and even though Miss Zareen had received death threats before this, they said, ‘You know what, we’ll come on base,’” Mayes explained.
Mayes was able to convince Kohistani and Zareen to open shops at the bazaar, while the 86th also added 3 female vendors of their own. “They (Kohistani and Zareen) are the 2 highest women in the provincial govt,” Mayes said. “They came on base, and it’s been a struggle, but that’s how it came about. The threats they get are because they're so successful, and the men are not necessarily happy with that. But, these women show women can make money, and they can provide for their families. Eighty percent of the things these women sell go back to their families.”
Mayes said she met Kohistani and Zareen through her work with the ADT as women’s empowerment coordinator in the local area. Kohistani is the Parwan Deputy Director of Women’s Affairs. “These are the women who all the others come to for help,” Mayes said.
One of the ways Zareen helps the other local Afghan women is through the Women’s Handcraft Association of Parwan Prov. Zareen said 800 women in the local area work for her to make the clothes, jewelry and other handiwork she sells at her store at the bazaar.
“We're very happy because Major Mayes is a very kind woman, and she is helping all the women,” Zareen said. Even though there is risk involved, Mayes said that the women are courageous pioneers, proving that everything can benefit from a woman’s touch.
Yet, there's a darker side to this war. Hungry Afghan children with wide, inquisitive eyes, and dirt-caked faces stare back at U.S. Soldiers with curiosity and wonder. The children huddle close to each other, building up enough confidence to stare back, and maybe even break into a smile. Are the children here much different than anywhere else? No, they were just born into less-fortunate lives. Their lives don’t include white picket fences and manicured lawns.
A few weeks ago, U.S. Soldiers cleared a portion of the Pech River Valley. The area is typical of the region, with rocky and mostly undeveloped farmland, threatened continuously by Taliban fighters. Most of the children there only have a few sets of clothes. Most of those sets are tattered or ripped, and in constant need of laundering. Some of the villages have running water, but imagine taking a cold bath with one bar of soap about once every week.
Some Soldiers on the patrol were empathetic to the plight of these children, and used the opportunity to hand out food. The children tentatively accepted the small gifts and, once they figured out what the packages were, they clutched them close to their small bodies.
As the holidays approach, we should think about those less fortunate around the world. For the most part, Americans are lucky to be born Americans. This year, try not to think about what cool, new trinket would dazzle your friends. Instead, be appreciative for what you already have.
Recently, some other Soldiers did just that at COP Fortress. Army 1st Sgt. Corey Myers explained that this season he's grateful for what he has, and reflected on what he can do for others. Myers has a family with 2 growing boys, and expenses that go along with that. Yet, even while deployed, he's set aside money to help children from different nations experience their dream.
“All children want is to go to Disneyland or some place like that,” said Myers. One of the funds that he donates to allows for terminally ill children to visit Orlando, Fla., to live out their dream. “Every Thursday there is Christmas with a Santa Claus, because some of these children won’t live to see their next Christmas or birthday or holiday,” Myers said. Because he donates to children’s funds like this every year, he said he encourages his Soldiers to donate to whatever cause they believe in.
“I believe in karma,” said Staff Sgt. Jacob Murphy, tactical ops center NCO in Myers’ co. Murphy has 2 children and another one on the way. This year, he donated to a fund to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, because he said he believes in something greater than himself. “You do good to others and they do good to you,” Murphy said.
Walking around Afghanistan, it’s easy to see firsthand what a couple of dollars or a few packages of food can do for children throughout the world. As Myers said, he can take the $20 he spends in tobacco a month and put it toward something greater than himself.
This season when coming together to celebrate the holidays with family and friends back home, try to remember the examples of these different Soldiers deployed thousands of miles away. Try to remember that even though they live in a war zone, some still find it in their hearts to give what little food they have in their pockets, to hungry children with curious eyes.
During the patrol, many market business owners expressed gratitude for resources that the PRT provided in conjunction with the govt of Kapisa. One particular shop owner explained that the newly paved market road, which was funded by the PRT, has had a profound effect on his business. “Before, it took 4 hours to drive to Kabul,” he said through an interpreter. “Now it only takes 2.”
With the ability to travel from one location to another in a substantially shorter timeframe, business appears to have improved for Nijrab shop owners. “Based on what I saw today, I’d say the market is doing extremely well,” said Army 1st Lt. Eric Bowlin, Kapisa PRT SECFOR's platoon leader. “Today was the busiest I’ve ever seen the market. People were coming and going; a wide assortment of shops were open, and there was even some construction going on, which is a positive sign of expansion.”
When asked which recently constructed project best assisted the people of Nijrab, schools held the majority of local votes. “We’re very happy with all of the projects, but the schools have helped us the most,” said Allha Mohammad, a Nijrab store owner. "Before the schools were constructed, classes were held in private homes, supplies were very limited, and children had to study on the ground," he explained. One child, who attends the local school, eagerly showcased what he’s learned by introducing himself in perfect English.
In addition to collecting local feedback regarding recently completed development projects, and their impact on the Nijrab population, PRT members also took note of local concerns, and areas of opportunity for future projects within the region.
“During my conversation with local Nijrab citizens, water supply was identified as a primary concern,” said Army Sgt. Kenneth Ciesla, Kapisa PRT SECFOR. “Right now, the people have to walk more than 20 minutes to retrieve water from a nearby stream.”
Youngs said that it’s important for the PRT to conduct presence patrols like this, to remain aware of local concerns and problems. “By directly speaking with the local population, and asking for their input, we’re able to ensure that we’re focusing our efforts on projects that the people need and want, rather than what we think should be done for them,” he said.
Prior to leaving, many PRT members supported local business by indulging in a little personal shopping of their own, purchasing vibrantly colored headscarves, local fruits and vegetables. “I believe today’s mission was very rewarding,” said AF Master Sgt. Betsy Johnson, Kapisa PRT medic. ‘By interacting on a social and consumer level, we were able to strengthen relations with the local community. Overall it was a very positive experience for everyone.”
Army Lt. Col. Dave Updegraff, TF Red Horse cmdr, arranged to give the widow of ANP 1st Lt. Faridullah, the son of Aminulla, a payment of 109,500 afghani, at the family’s home. Updegraff was accompanied by ANP Col. Abdul Uruzgani, chief of the ANP for Bagram District.
“I told my husband several times to leave this dangerous job,” said the widow to the interpreters. “I told him I prefer to stay home and eat nothing, but he never accepted. Now he is gone.” Faridullah leaves behind a wife and 3 children ranging in age from 3 to 8. Shortly before he was killed, he bought property and was in the process of building a new home for his family.
“The money we were able to give to the widow will never replace her husband,” said Updegraff. “But, we hope it will help her along until the Afghan govt pension kicks in. The payment is the maximum amount we're authorized to give for a hero payment.”
“The hero payment,” Updegraff continued, “isn’t something we provide to every fallen ANP. Faridullah died attempting to disarm an IED which my Soldiers could have hit on the battlefield. He died in support of coalition efforts.”
Faridullah disarmed IEDs for 3 years as a member of the ANP EOD. The IED he was attempting to disarm was rigged with dummy wiring. When he thought he had disarmed the bomb, he began the removal when it detonated, killing him.
Stanford used the opportunity to ask villagers about security in the area, their essential daily needs, and where they felt improvements were needed in their villages. These issues were then brought up in a KLE, conducted with ANP Col. Masoom, the Koh-e Safi District ANP chief, Dr. Abdul Khan, the district sub-gov., and other Afghan leaders from the area, held at the district center Dec. 9.
“Walking through the villages and meeting with the people is a very good idea,” said Khan. “By doing this, you get a good idea of what their needs are and what type of life they lead. Koh-e Safi people are a very poor people, and any help you can give them is much appreciated, and by doing so it will keep your relationship strong.”
The meeting also included status updates of current reconstruction projects, like the court house being built in the district center. “We hope the court house can be a physical representation for the Afghan people, that the courts and police are working together to look out for the people, and provide the security that is so necessary to their daily lives,” said Army 1st Lt. Rodney Brock, Bravo Troop EO.
The meeting included coordination for joint patrols between the Soldiers and ANP in the following months, given more purpose due to a rocket attack on the VPB from insurgents the night of Dec. 9. “Even though winter is coming, the enemy is still here and active. We need to work together to remove them from the area,” said Masoom. “We have the same enemy, the same problem, and we'll fight them together.”
“Let me know where they’re at, and we’ll go get them together,” responded Stanford. “I trust the ANP, and I know if we go anywhere with you, that we'll be safe.” The ANP members and Bravo Troop Soldiers conducted a joint patrol Dec. 10, to the point of origin of the rocket attacks, and found a second device emplaced. Together, they disarmed and removed the rocket.
The day concluded with a traditional Afghan meal where Bravo Soldiers and ANP members shared goat, Afghan bread and vegetables. The goat was purchased by Stanford that day from a local Afghan, and traditionally prepared by ANP officers.
Written by Scott Knuteson, Air University PA
"The visit is of mutual benefit to both of us," Chief Roy said. "It can only continue to strengthen our great relationship with Iraq and the IqAF." The visit represents only a fraction of how the AF engages the IqAF.
"We have air advisers working with the IqAF every day," Chief Roy said. "They're there to advise and help Iraq continue to build their AF."
Chief Roy's visit to Air University comes on the heels of his visit to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., where air advisers are trained. The AETC course resides within the expeditionary center there. "I meet with my peers in different countries frequently," Chief Roy said. "When we need to call upon them, or they need to call upon us, we've already established those relationships."
"In a similar fashion, the enlisted, officer and civilian Airmen trained as air advisers will work with numerous countries' militaries," he said. Just weeks before the Iraqi Chief visited Air University, U.S. AF air advisers watched as Iraqi airmen completed their 2nd-ever launch of a Hellfire missile from an AC-208 Cessna Caravan, Nov. 8, at Sather Air Base, Iraq.
Maj. Devin Traynor, one of the air advisers present at the exercise, commented at the time on how air adviser involvement has been integral to such milestones. "We've been working with our Iraqi partners on the various pieces that make up such a complex mission," Major Traynor said. "The air advisers have played a crucial role in developing these capabilities within the IqAF."
The Iraqi Chief was accompanied on his trip to the U.S. by his air adviser, Chief Master Sgt. Scott Fuller, the command chief for the 321st Air Expeditionary Wing and Iraq Training and Advising Mission - AF, in Baghdad.
"About 250 U.S. Airmen serve as air advisers to their Iraqi counterparts," said Master Sgt. Mike Edwards at the 321st Air Expeditionary Wing PAO. They play an integral role in everything from fuels, to transportation, to maintenance, as well as flying aircraft. Almost everything that it would take to run an effective AF has an air adviser assigned to that mission.
BABIL PROVINCE - Sand and smoke filled the air as explosives specialists from the 8th IA conducted a joint demolition with U.S. Soldiers, to dispose of a stockpile of munitions. The cache was discovered by the IA in Babil, Dec. 4, and included 4 large barrels containing 2 dozen 115-millimeter projectiles, and 1,100 lbs of Dinitrotoluene, a common precursor in the manufacturing of TNT.
The IA used the detonation as a training opportunity between U.S. and Iraqi explosives specialists. Such joint training events have become common as CF seek to protect the citizens of Iraq, and thwart insurgent attempts to destabilize the region.
"I'm very happy to work in a position that allows me to keep the people of Iraq safe, and bring glory to the Iraqi people," said Capt. Jassim.
Op New Dawn, beginning in Sept., signaled a new role for U.S. forces in Iraq. Units like the 3rd ACR, the parent unit of 75th EOD Co., now carry the primary mission of advising, training, and assisting ISF. Much of this training does not occur in the classroom, but rather through live training opportunities such as these.
Explosives techs from 75th EOD Co. have established a unique working relationship with the 8th Iraqi Army Bomb Disposal Co., and the IP counter explosives teams, in the conduct of this dangerous training mission. A typical training day consists of basic demolition techniques, the use of bomb suits, robotics and remote door opening and detonation techniques.
"We're happy to conduct combined demolition ops with our Iraqi brothers," said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Raska, 3rd plt. sgt. of the 75th EOD. "The destruction of dangerous ordnance protects the citizens of Iraq from explosive hazards, and provides an opportunity to build our relationship through joint demolition ops."
A billowing, black smoke cloud in the Dec. sky put the exclamation point on another successful, high-stakes training event for this international group of explosives professionals.
TF No Slack Soldiers, with heavy combat loads, saturated the valley’s walls, and Op Eagle Claw II began. Within the first few minutes of the mission, it became real. “There were a number of fighters we saw,” said Capt. Ryan McLaughlin, Bayonet Co cmdr. “You could hear them on our infill when we were moving. They did attempt to react, and very quickly they were shown that that wasn’t a very good course of action.”Several volleys of hellfire missiles exploded, killing 5 insurgent fighters moving into position less than a few hundred meters away. They were armed and ready for a fight.
All Soldiers selected to perform duties in an ALSE shop must first travel to Fort Rucker, Ala., for a 6-week course on everything they need to properly manage all of the safety equipment. Soldiers learn about survival kits, how to sew, how to service flight helmets, vests, flotation equipment, and high-altitude gear and much more.Soldiers who complete the course return to their unit as certified ALSE maintainers. It's their mission to ensure that aviation Soldiers know how to properly use their equipment, and make certain all equipment issued is inspected at their proper intervals. “We hope the gear never gets used because it's the worst-case scenario for an aviation crew, so we're paranoid about our gear,” said Atkin. The shop has an inspection every 120 days – all of them never resulting in a score lower than 92% since Atkin took control. The ALSE shop is responsible for knowing where to find info within 89 manuals, keeping track of 6 classes of supply items ordered, and inspection mgt. of all aviation gear. “Being subject-matter experts is difficult,” said Sgt. Phillip Wiglesworth. “We have to be confident we're giving the right info to Soldiers.” At Bagram Airfield, the ALSE shop sustains 24-hour ops with Soldiers rotating through shifts. In addition to supporting Army personnel, TF Phoenix supports those from other branches, and from the international coalition. They've already assisted Korean, British, Macedonian and French aviators with their knowledge and tools. This unity of mission accomplishment emphasizes the saying, “one team, one fight,” as TF Phoenix’s ALSE shop ensures aviators have the gear to complete their mission as safely as possible.Wiglesworth created a database which allows the office to track expiration dates for medications they issue, as well as inspections and repairs. This allows the shop to complete quick reports to let TF Phoenix cmdrs know what is overdue within their unit. Wiglesworth has even included info in his database that will allow the shop to know which Soldiers have specific items in the event of a product recall. There is no official database like this within the military’s ALSE program just yet. Once perfected, Wiglesworth hopes to release it to other ALSE shops, so they may have a more efficient way of tracking their daily needs.
Written by Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service
“The big idea is we want to get as much done as we can,” Buchanan said. “We don’t want to start withdrawing forces and closing bases now, because that’s going to limit what we do.”"American forces will probably stay at the current strength through early summer," said Buchanan. "The troops are working to transition the police training capability, for example, to the State Dept in advance of the withdrawal.Buchanan said that the just-under 50,000 American forces now in Iraq also have 2 other missions to fulfill: conducting partnered COIN ops, and working the transition of the mission in the country to a State Dept lead."Terrorism is still a problem in Iraq, with al-Qaida trying to stage a comeback," he said.
Written by Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service
The prime minister agreed that the ongoing relationship between the 2 nations has to be discussed long before the last American troops leave Iraq, Dec. 31, 2011. The chairman would not speculate on what form the relationship might take. “There'll be an embassy here; there'll be an Office of Defense Cooperation, and we’ll support that,” Mullen said.No substantive discussions have taken place about what a relationship would look like, because Iraqi politicians have been haggling since the country’s March 6 elections to form the new govt. Maliki now is in the midst of forming the govt, and has promised that it will include all groups in the country. Mullen said he fully expects the Iraqis to have the new govt in place by the Dec. 25 constitutional deadline.The chairman discounted news reports about a residual U.S. force remaining in Iraq after 2011. He said that although he always is concerned about the influence that neighboring Iran has inside Iraq, he doesn’t believe the Iranians have been effective in swaying their neighbor.“Iran is still trying to exert itself, but I haven’t seen it become terribly effective through this govt formation,” he said. “There were predictions that the Iranians would dramatically influence the govt’s outcome. That didn’t happen. My own view is I think they overplayed their hand.”“Overall, I’m encouraged by what I hear, by what our people tell us, what leaders tell us, what our troops tell us about the ISF,” Mullen said. “They're pretty good, and they're better than a lot of people predicted.”The Iraqi forces are able to provide the internal security the country needs, Mullen said. “One of the longer-term questions is how do they handle the external security, and that question is out there to be answered,” he added.Millions of people are expected to come to Iraq next month for a religious pilgrimage. Iraqi forces must protect the pilgrims, but also must find the time to train, Mullen noted. “How do we literally get them off watch, so they can train and get better?” he asked. “There’s tremendous emphasis now to get them the kind of training they need to sustain themselves.”Mullen said that logistics and maintenance are among the capabilities that the Iraqis need to work on most. “It’s critical and is a great area of focus,” he said. “They need to get to a certain level to sustain what they have.”The chairman later spoke to the men and women of U.S. Division Center at Camp Liberty. The div HQ is built around the 1st AR Div, and the soldiers are soon turning over responsibility to the Hawaii-based 25th ID.
Written by Jim Garamone, Office of the Secretary of Defense
"This role of advise, train and assist is legitimate," Cone said. "It's really rare, and only in cases of self-defense, that U.S. forces are directly involved in combat ops." U.S. forces do provide enablers for the Iraqi forces, and American units provide logistics and maintenance, surveillance support, some communications and intel support. "But, even in these areas," Cone said, "the Americans are teaching the Iraqis how to develop and sustain the capabilities.""On a day-to-day basis, it's the Iraqis who maintain the level of security we see today," he said. "Intel reports indicated that terrorist groups wanted to launch as many as 15 car-bomb attacks on Dec. 4," Cone said. ISF did some major raids prior to that day and "rolled up a bunch of folks, and what you saw was only 3 such attacks," he added. "That's still bad -- they still killed people and it's tragic," he said. "But, the Iraqis proved they're capable now of really diminishing these attacks in an impressive way.""AQI has been remarkably resilient over time," Cone said. "Any time we don't maintain pressure against them, you'll find their capability regenerates," he said. "Recent al-Qaida attacks have been effective," he acknowledged, "but less so than in the past. In addition to having to weather attacks, the group is plagued with financial woes, and struggling to get foreign fighters in," Cone said. "And, they're unable to recruit among Iraqis," he added."The number of foreign fighters coming in is less than 10 a month," he said, "but the Iraqis have made some inroads in addressing this flow." What remains of AQI is a loosely coupled network that has sufficient communications to conduct lethal attacks," the general said, "but nowhere near what we've seen in the past.""Over the next year, the ISF are very much focused on learning as much as they can from us," he said. "That is very positive, because they have a large sense of urgency in understanding all of the professional skills that U.S. forces have here.
"Where we are today in Iraq has been paid for in blood, and in the riches of the American taxpayer," Cone continued. "Being at the level of violence we are today is an accomplishment that the U.S. and Iraqi forces share."
The Nangarhar officials present vowed continued cooperation with the PRT and ISAF, noting the extremely close bond that already existed between them. “We’re friends, and we need to be able to talk upfront,” said Shinwar Sub-gov. Haji Zalmay. “We know transparency, and we hope that we hear the same thing from you. If you think we have a problem, we're ready for any sort of accountability.”
“The Jalalabad municipality thanks the PRT for all the projects they've done,” said Hakim. “For example, the 26 roads you paved for us would have cost 10 years of income for the municipality.”
Officials did express some dissatisfaction with ISAF’s actions in the recent past. Many asserted that CFs had operated in their districts without informing them. “If we don't have sovereignty ourselves, then we’re not going to be able to do anything,” said Zalmay. “If we’re not in the lead, and if we don't have an effective role, then how are we going to convince the people we've a democratic govt in Afghanistan?”
The PRT members at the meeting recognized these concerns and assured the Afghans that ISAF wanted to serve in a supportive role to the GoA. “The PRT’s here to help the GoA; we’re not here to take over,” said Andrew Haviland, Nangarhar PRT senior civilian.
“When your grandchildren and your grandchildren’s grandchildren go to school, they'll not read about my name or Andrew’s; they will read about your names,” added AF Lt. Col. Mike Anderson. “You're the leaders of Afghanistan.”
“Personally, I know you lifted my spirits and made me laugh and smile on the worst of days, when I was in the worst of moods,” said 1st Lt. Trevor Shirk. “Sgt. 1st Class Jason Thomas and I could never be mad at you for very long, before we just started smiling and shaking our heads. You lifted us up like no one else could, by just being you. Thank you for that.”
“We all knew Harris as a good man with a benevolent heart. His innocence was like a child; his will was of a man,” said Cpl. John Pham. “Harris had a good head on his shoulders and a smile he carried with him every day.”
Shirk said that Harris performed his job very well, and was someone his fellow Soldiers and leaders could trust and count on, when confronting dangerous situations. He cited 2 incidents that occurred in Nov., during which Harris proved his courage, dependability, expertise, and self-sacrifice.
Shirk recounted a Nov. 9 patrol during which Harris found a command wire leading up the side of a mountain connected to an IED implanted along a route. "As Harris attempted to find the IED’s trigger point, he came under fire, bounded back to his comrades’ position, and helped them roll up the wire," said Shirk.
"During the RPG attack that killed him Nov. 27, Harris shielded his comrades from the blast," said Shirk. "Harris led the movement and suffered a blast that, otherwise, would have impacted several other Soldiers, who are all thankful for his bravery.
“You were on the cutting edge of the breach, and you didn’t waiver; you didn’t ask to be switched out; you didn’t try to stop,” said Shirk. “You kept pushing, because everyone following behind relied on you, not just breachers, but the entire movement into the valley was behind you. Thank you, Devon.”
“My heart eased with relief as I saw a dedicated Soldier perform his duties to the best of his ability, and he abided by the Army values we too live in our daily lives as Soldiers,” said Pham. “Deep down and even out and about, he was a very confident man, very religious in his belief toward God, and in tune with his heart and mind toward everyone and everything he encountered daily, in the struggle of life and the joys of it."
“Harris always held together high self esteem, smiles of purity and a silly laugh that brightened my day, as well as many others who interacted with him,” continued Pham. “Regardless of what may have happened, he moved like every breath mattered.”
Shirk said, "Harris was the epitome of the saying, ‘So others may live.’" He said, "Harris sacrificed his life on the frontlines, so other Soldiers could pass safely," calling Harris "a good soldier, a great American, and the best kind of person."
“He was more than just a person, a friend and a Soldier,” said Pham. “He is, and will always be, our combat engineer brother. Farewell Breacher 2 Delta.”
Gates Visits Marines on Camp Leatherneck
CAMP LEATHERNECK - Dec. 8, 2010 – Defense Secretary Robert Gates today noted the value of the work the 1st Marine Logistics Group does here for the war effort, and extended his personal thanks. Speaking to hundreds of Marines at this base in Helmand prov., Gates said that the Marines, as always, are fighting the toughest fight, and that the logistics and maintenance support they provide for combat forces “is critically important as to the successes that we’re enjoying.”
Marines with the 3/5 Medical Staff Save Lives in Sangin
When they're (thankfully) not treating wounded Marines, the medical staff of 3/5 are helping local afghans with everything from gunshot wounds, to the common cold and basic health needs. Sailors with the Shock Trauma Plt, Surgical Co A, Combat Logistics Regt 15 (Fwd), 1st Marine Logistics Group, and the sailors with 3rd Bn, 5th Marines Bn Aid Station have the same mission in mind: save lives in Sangin.
The medical staff with the 3/5 Bn Aid Station is trained and equipped for primary care medicine, and ensures that the fighting force is medically ready to conduct COIN ops in Sangin. The corpsmen with the STP are trained to provide life-saving medical care to the critically-injured.
"Yes, it's nice stopping the bleeding and protecting the wound, but you may never know when you may need to diagnose an illness," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Kelly Talavera, leading petty officer of STP. Talavera's normal work day consists of administering blood to critically-injured personnel, and treating gunshot wounds and injuries caused by IED blasts. As she works with the Bn Aid Station corpsmen, she'll learn how to treat non-life threatening illnesses as well, such as administering antibiotics for viruses or infections. In return, she and her fellow STP medical personnel will teach the Bn Aid Station corpsmen how to provide emergency medical care to those critically injured in battle.
"Our food is a definite morale booster," said Pfc. Ailea Hundley. "When soldiers come back from missions to more of a home-cooked meal, seeing how they can't be at home, our meals make a big difference."
Though the soldiers enjoy special desserts such as cheesecake and apple turnovers, made special for them, they also look forward to days with specific meals. "The soldiers really look forward to the days we cook things like soul food and Italian food," said Sgt. Aaron Shishido, a food service NCO.
"These are the best cooks I've had on a deployment so far, and I've been on four," said Staff Sgt. Edwin Davis, from Co D. "I love their tacos and chicken alfredo."
Though they enjoy keeping the soldiers full of delicious food, they also understand their impact on the Currahee mission. "Good meals keep the Soldiers focused on the battlefield," said Shishido. "This is how we help do our part, boosting morale with delicious meals and a few special desserts."
Without the small team of specialized Airmen at Camp Arena, ops may as well regress to smoke signals and indication mirrors, because any modern communications lie in their capable hands. "The services we provide allow leaders to manage and maintain the mission of U.S. forces across the west," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Haas, tech., deployed from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.
Det-West is responsible for supporting joint-American forces, as well as Italians, Spanish, Afghans, and many other coalition nations in the region. According to Langgaard, there's always a significant threat to cyber security here. "We're in place to deter threats and create a boundary between attackers and users," said Langgaard, who's deployed from Maxwell AF Base, Ga. "At the same time, we're tasked with maintaining the user's ability to communicate effectively and timely."
Keeping cyber threats at bay, while keeping network speeds at maximum speed takes effort. Recalling days where he started work at 8 a.m. and didn't finish until about 6:30 a.m. the following morning, Hass admits that the J6 team is incredibly busy, but takes heart, and relishes in a dream for Afghanistan's future. "In the next 5 years, I'd like to see less of a coalition presence, with Afghans maintaining security and stability for the country," he said.
Prior to his arrival at Camp Arena, Peterman, who's deployed from Sheppard AF Base, Texas, was on the combat-drive team at New Kabul Compound, in RC-Capital. Peterman said that he misses the daily convoys, and interacting with Afghan civilians, but knows that he's supporting Civil-Military Co-Op (CIMIC), development and kinetic missions, by ensuring secure and reliable communications for servicemembers in the western region.
Like Hass, the Texan also has dreams for Afghanistan's future, and envisions "a completely new self-supporting country, without the need of NATO forces to keep things secure," he said. "As a team, we get the job done quick and right," said Peterman. "We support each other, and know that whatever we have to do to get the job done, we'll do it."
The ZP has been of great importance for many years, as it's a main entry point from Iran into Iraq. Every day, thousands of people and tons of cargo and other goods pass from one country to the other. Security there has been a shared duty between USF and ISF since the beginning of OIF. With the timetable for the complete withdrawal of USF drawing nearer, a greater effort has been placed upon allowing ISF to take responsibility for the port.
"When I first came here in 2003, there was no functioning system," said Col. Reginald Allen, cmdr of the 3rd ACR. "Now I see that tremendous progress has been made to security in this region." Allen cited an "amazing difference" in the infrastructure at the site, expressing gratitude for the dedication and service of ISF at the border station.
Sabry stressed the importance of care and maintenance for the new facility and said that, if taken good care of, the facility will provide many years of quality function for whoever uses it.
"It's our wish to see Iraq prosper without outside influence," said Allen. "We'll surely see this happen if we continue to work together."
"The exercise focused on teaching the Iraqi forces the basics of what the Army calls air to ground integration," said Capt. Kurt Hunt, one of the pilots who flew in the exercise. The Army's air to ground integration tactics revolve around the cooperation of ground and air forces. The training taught the Iraqis how to designate targets for the helicopters to engage.
Hunt, who has now participated in 3 such exercises, noted improvement in the Iraqi troops. "It was nice to hear a confident voice giving us exact details on a target," said Hunt. "It's almost a sense of relief," he said. "It's nice knowing that we're leaving the country in capable hands."
The sqdn is part of the eCAB, 1st ID, a unit that is spread across the country, as the Army's only aviation brigade in Iraq. Lt. Col. Kenneth Chase, the sqdn's cmdr, said that the training mission has progressed well, since the reduction of forces in Iraq this summer. "They're doing unilateral ops by themselves everyday without us," he said. "At this point we're focused on maintaining a friendship."
Financial mgt. and record keeping are critical tasks for the Afghan students, as they work towards establishing profitable, sustainable agribusinesses. "The 3-19th ADT also requested lesson plans from each of Indiana’s 186 National FFA chapters, to help provide Afghan youth with practical experiences in agriculture," Lomont said.One of the first to respond with a proposed lesson plan was Bob Bowker, a vocational agriculture teacher at Huntington North H.S. His lesson plans are being processed by the ADT’s education team for use in the prov. “The lessons have been extremely helpful in teaching record keeping,” Bowker said. “I use a Farm Credit Record book to complete this project.” Army Maj. Jeremy Gulley, Huntington North H.S. principal and education officer for the 3-19th ADT, oversees the application of the program. “Improved education will illuminate the path to a future that 30 years of war have made impossible and unknowable,” said Gulley.
“This is the biggest deal for the Lal Pur District ever,” said Lal Pur Sub-gov. Hija Zuhaq. “It will be good for the economy, trade and commerce.”Presently, there are very limited ways of crossing the river, said U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. James Elliott, Nangarhar PRT civil engineer from Richburg, S.C. There is a bridge located 50 km away, but it is a five-hour drive due to poor road conditions. There is also a ferry at the bridge’s location. Both villages that border the Kabul River, Sarband on the east and Lal Pur on the west, are excited about the opportunities it will provide. Villagers on both sides expressed the same sentiment regarding the bridge; it's a dream come true. The bridge will provide closer ties for the people of the Ghosta and Lal Pur districts to greater Nangarhar and Afghanistan as a whole, said Elliott."There's no effective competition for the area separated by the Kabul River, because of the large distances to markets," said AF 2nd Lt. James Elliott. "It will bring easy access to the northern agricultural plains between the Kabul and Kunar Rivers, allowing faster movement of agricultural products to the other side of the river, and to the export route to Pakistan."“Once completed, it will provide a permanent crossing for the Kama, Ghosta and Lal Pur districts, all of which are annually cut off during the high flood season,” said Elliott.
In her short career, she has become an award-winning chef. Henry began her career as an honor graduate from her “A” school, a technical school for Navy culinary specialists. After placing 1st in the Navy Regional NW cooking competition, she won first place in the Iron Chef Competition 2 years in a row, first in August 2009 and then again in May 2010. “Having a good cook is vital to the morale of the whole team,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jack Morris, Khowst PRT EO. “Not all PRTs are as lucky as we are to have an award-winning cook.”Her daughter, Alana, who will be 2 years old in Feb., drives Henry. “Everything I do is for my baby. She gives me strength to always be better,” Henry said. She uses this strength as she strives to be a good leader to her subordinates, and plans to make her job in the Navy a career. “It was always my dream to join the military,” said Henry. “I joined the Navy because after researching all the other branches, I felt like I was made to become a Sailor.” Henry began cooking when she was 9 years old. She says she learns something new every day, and likes learning new cooking techniques. “I feel like you can never know enough when it comes to cooking, especially for a large group of people,” said Henry. As the current head chef for Khowst PRT, Henry leads a team consisting of Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Samuel Waits and Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Damian Murray. The 3 met at Camp Atterbury Joint Military Training Center in August for combat training prior to deploying to Afghanistan. Murray said that his cooking techniques have improved since working with Henry. “We've a great crew and have a lot of fun working in the galley,” he said. Three Afghans also assist Henry, Waits and Murray in the kitchen. One has been doing the job for 9 years, since the start of Op Enduring Freedom. Henry said she knows good cooking will not only boost morale, but can give members of Khowst PRT a little taste of home.
To some, it’s not surprising to hear Cecil, a 1st BCT, 101st AD Soldier, is doing so well. After all, he’s the 4th generation in his family to join the military, and deploy to war. “When Cecil was in the 3rd grade, his father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and was in and out of hospitals for treatment,” explained Barton.Cecil, 21, has known since he was a boy that he wanted to join the military. A few years after learning his father had MS, when Cecil was only 12, came the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. In response to those attacks, Cecil’s father, who was a regional mgr for Waste Mgt, was asked to assist in the clean-up efforts of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. On his last day on the assignment, he fell from the back of a trash container, landed on a concrete road barrier and broke his back. The injury was the cause of many years of painful surgeries, and combined with his pre-existing MS, made him unable to go back to work. It was only a matter of time before Cecil decided to drop out of high school, and start working full time to help support his family. After working only 3 years in various jobs, he decided it was time to join the military.
Written by Spc. Roland Hale
However, the story did not end there for Dominic. On the 7th anniversary of DJ’s death, he had a unique opportunity to pay tribute to his brother. Dominic, now 19, is serving with the Army in Iraq as an aviation ops specialist. His unit, the 1st Sqdn, 6th Cav Regt, a helicopter unit from Fort Riley, Kan., regularly flies missions in the area where DJ was killed.Recently, one of the unit’s Black Hawk helicopters made a small detour with Dominic aboard. Near the same street where DJ fell, Dominic and one of the crewmembers spread the flag across the open door of the helicopter. They flew especially low while Dominic held the flag.“It was pretty cool; I was lucky to do it,” said Dominic. “None of my brothers have been able to do something like this for DJ.” Dominic kept the flag with him, but sent home word about his experience. The news was particularly important to the boys’ mother, Mary Thorrez-Wheeler.“DJ's blood lies in the ground of that country,” wrote Mary in an email, “and to know that one of my sons got to be close to that hallowed ground; it filled my heart.” Mary hopes to visit the spot herself with the rest of DJ’s brothers, "five of whom are also serving in the Army," she said. “One day I’ll walk the area with all my Soldiers at my side in honor of DJ’s sacrifice,” she said.
Story and photo by Army Sgt. David Scott
Thirteen Marines escorted 5 members of the 1st Iraqi Marine Bde from Umm Qasr to Camp Bucca. The mission lasted approx 4 hours, and included a mission to procure necessary security materials and supplies from a Camp Bucca scrap yard.
“The mission helped to build better security for the Iraqi Marines, and build their relationship with the U.S. Marines,” said Marine Master Sgt. Roger Dill, senior enlisted advisor with the Iraqi Marine Training Team.
The Iraqi Marines needed basic things such as barriers for their entrances, gates and security barrier fencing for their entire compound. The Marines at Umm Qasr contribute to the overall mission of CNATT by training, advising and equipping the Marine component of Iraq’s maritime self-defense forces.“Our whole mission is to advise, train and assist,” Hood said. “Because Camp Bucca is closing, we had the opportunity to procure some items for them.”The U.S. and Iraqi Marines share a common bond, because they often experience the same dangers, even during relatively routine training missions. Furthermore, conducting missions such as this provides an opportunity for increased visibility among the local population.“The locals see a mission like this and know we're supporting someone from this country,” Hood said. “People here are more likely to have a favorable impression of Marines when they see us doing this.”“Building up a new Iraqi Marine org. requires us to advise, train and assist the new org.,” Dill said. “It's very important for us to do missions like these, because we have to establish relationships with the Iraqi Marines, who are our maritime security counterparts here in Iraq.”
The 1st Iraqi Marine Bde is training and living in a newly-assigned camp near the Iraqi Navy Base at Umm Qasr. “When they moved out there they had no force protection whatsoever. The purpose of this particular mission was to improve their force protection,” said Lt. Aaron Hood, a logistics advisor with the Iraqi Marine Training Team. “This is why they needed these materials.”
"We, together with our ANSF and GoA partners, have helped to thwart the further influence of the insurgency, and have helped to secure the people from the continued threat of terror from the insurgents in the Ganjgal Valley and Sarkani district," said Army Lt. Col. J.B. Vowell, cmdr of 2nd Bn, 327th Inf Regt, 1st BCT. “Ops like this help make the region a safer place for those who live here."Eleven insurgents were killed during the op. “We're proactively clearing this area, which in the future, will enhance coalition and ANSF’ ability to operate freely within the undeveloped region, so that we can focus on a more independent governance,” said Afghan Maj. Shirinagha, PA officer. ”Clearing this terrain also helps to establish essential conditions for more enduring security in the immediate area and beyond.” Ops in the area are ongoing.
Soldiers from Co. C, working alongside AUP, restricted insurgents’ ability to conduct similar attacks, after conducting a search in Chor Village, 4 kms north of the district center. During the op, a local man offered to guide the SECFORs to an insurgent cache.After looking in a qalat, the patrol found a complete 82mm mortar system, 3 mortar rounds, 2 hand grenades, an AK-47 bayonet, AK-47 ammo and a landmine. “Finding the 82mm mortar system is a huge success in disrupting the insurgents’ indirect fire cell operating in and around the Miri District Center,” said Co. C cmdr., Capt. Justin Quisenberry. The patrol then moved to a 2nd structure, which the Ghazni police confirmed to be a safe house for insurgents. In addition, the AUP found a red container with 2 cans of lighter fluid and writing all over the walls. The National Directorate of Security quickly realized that the container was a holding cell for captives. The owner of the container was detained for further questioning.
"In the past," Rahimi explained, "Afghan communities would gather together and clean their own canals. However, since anti-Afghan forces offered money to young men to take up arms against the GoA, it had become more difficult to get workers to clean canals for free. Cash-for-work programs like the one the ADT underwrote," Rahimi added, "made it less likely workers would join insurgents for money. Just as significantly," according to Rahimi, "the farmland irrigated as a result of the project would be much more productive, boosting income for farmers in the district.AF Staff Sgt. Bennett Groth, the ADT’s asst project leader for the Sarkani leader, provided quality control and quality assurance for the canal-cleaning effort. “I knew it would help them irrigate some of their land, but I didn’t really expect, like Noor said, that it could reduce the number of insurgents or anything like that,” Groth said. “That’s a lot of bang for the buck.”
The bn, based at Bamberg, Germany, assumed the task of route clearance in Wardak, Logar, Nangahar, Konar, Nuristan, and Laghman provs., from the Fort Bragg, N.C.-based 27th Eng. Bn., TF Tiger. During its deployment, the 54th Eng. Bn. will be known as TF, a name reflecting the unit’s history as well as its roots in Germany. Dolch is the German word for dagger.During the ceremony, the Soldiers of both TFs gathered to signify the change of the mantle from TF Tiger to TF Dolch. “There's no real permanence to a military org., except for the colors,” said Army Staff Sgt. Angelita Bridges, TF Dolch retention NCO. “It's the colors that bear the history of the unit, its battles, its campaigns, and its accomplishments.” The uncasing of the bn’s colors signifies the completion of the TOA and the assumption of responsibility for route-clearance ops in RC-East. It's an important occasion, one that shows the commitment and dedication of the unit to its new mission in Afghanistan. TF Tiger helped train Soldiers of the 54th Eng. Bn. on multiple tasks ranging from day-to-day ops to using some of the newest equipment in theatre, including the newest 2-passenger Husky route-clearance vehicle. Soldiers learned the tactics, techniques and procedures that were effective for TF Tiger, and how to implement them in their own ops. The learning experience gave the outgoing Soldiers a sense of closure, and the incoming Soldiers knowledge needed to execute properly during their deployment.
His first point was to provide guidance for project focus. “You’re doing a lot of good things here,” Campbell said after hearing plans to establish different programs in Paktya, such as organized sports, and courses on agriculture at Paktya University.Campbell said that he's seen units in the past spread their efforts on too many projects, leading to an overwhelming amount of work for the units, and resulting in unfinished projects. Campbell’s guidance to the members of Team Paktya was to pick a few projects with good potential, and focus to fully develop them. “This will be a more effective way to engage and help the local population in the long run,” Campbell said. The second point Campbell made to Team Paktya was to ensure that the people in control of governance in Paktya are right for the job. To do this, Campbell said that Team Paktya needs to work as a cohesive group. Herve Thomas, a member of USAID on Team Paktya, said that the future of the team is bright. “More importantly,” said Thomas, “there's a good understanding of what each unit is doing, as demonstrated by the way the team comes together to solve issues.” Campbell offered the floor to the members of Team Paktya and listened as the members expressed what they feel needs to be done in the prov., to facilitate progress. Team Paktya as a whole appreciated the opportunity to interact with Campbell, and present their plans to help Paktya prov. progress toward a better way of life.
“The guard at the NE corner in the turret of the Maxx Pro (MRAP vehicle) called me on the radio and said he was seeing movement,” said Sgt. Donald Starks, a fire team leader with C Co. “As soon as he reported, the insurgents initiated contact by firing an RPG at the vehicle, and followed that with a mass amount of small-arms fire.”“I began to lay down suppressive fire, to give Pfc. James Platt a chance to exit the vehicle,” said Pfc. Michael Landis, an infantryman. Once Platt was safely away from the Maxx Pro, the Soldiers assessed the situation, and repositioned themselves to prevent the enemy from maneuvering around and gaining the upper hand. “At this time, the enemy had 30 plus men attacking the OP,” said Landis. “We got into firing positions, so the enemy couldn’t flank us.” The situation happened so quickly that some of the Soldiers didn’t have time to put on all their personal safety equipment, but that didn’t deter them from making an impact on the battle. “Sgt. Starks, even though he didn’t have time to put his boots on or find all his gear, still maneuvered through the enemy, while being fired on,” Landis said. “It was almost unreal for him to keep positions manned, and keep in contact with Margah Base, while engaging the enemy.” With the observation point under attack, the Soldiers down the mountain side at the COP below prepared to defend their outpost. “At approx 1:20 a.m., I woke up to Sgt. Byron Reed Jr. screaming that COP Margah was taking enemy small-arms fire, RPGs and mortar fire,” said Spc. Matthew Keating, a gunner with Co F. “Under heavy small-arms fire, my team immediately ran to the rooftop mortar position, and started preparing rounds to provide suppressive mortar fire for the Soldiers under attack at the observation point (OP).” With the rounds prepared, the Soldiers wasted no time and began raining down mortar fire on the enemy. “Shortly after I reached the roof top, Sgt. Reed and Spc. Keating made their way to the roof, and manned the 60mm mortar system,” said 1st Lt. Christopher MacGeorge, a plt leader with C Co. “I let them know we were taking contact from the valleys to the west and they immediately began dropping mortars in that direction.” Meanwhile at the OP, the enemy was massing more men for the attack, and the 6 Soldiers were giving their best effort to continue pushing them back. “Pfc. Timothy James had ran across open ground under fire to reach the SE machine gun position, which ended up being essential to defending our ground,” said Starks. “While at that position, he was able to fire the rocket launcher, as well as throw 2 grenades in the direction of the enemy.” “Sgt. Starks positioned himself on the light crew-served machine gun, Pfc. James was on the .50-cal on the NW, and Pfc. Platt and I were behind the bunker, waiting on more enemies to come up the road,” said Landis. With the enemy surging, Starks realigned his Soldiers to better defend against the threat.
“Working in the motor pool is fun, and I enjoy working with other CF,” said Pfc. Antonio Araguz, an automated logistics specialist.Every time a vehicle leaves the FOB to conduct a patrol, the first stop upon returning to the FOB is the Dagger motor pool. The mechanics give every vehicle a thorough inspection, called “10 points,” and fix any problems they can on the spot. “The ‘10-point’ inspections are something we used in our last deployment,” said Staff Sgt. Benjamin Cvek, the Dagger Bn’s motor sgt., who's on his 2nd deployment with TF Dagger. “It allows us to fix any issues or problems from the previous mission, and prepares the unit for the next mission,” saying the “10-point” inspections have been a major factor in the high readiness rate of the bn.The Dagger mechanics get the unique opportunity to work on highly specialized military intel, signal and route-clearance equipment for the brigade’s combat engrs. “There are many different and new types of equipment here that many of us have never worked on before, but everyone is adapting quickly and learning even quicker,” said Chief Warrant Officer Willard Blair, the Dagger Bn’s maintenance tech and motor officer. “I believe everyone will leave here knowing a lot more than we did before we left Fort Polk.” The mechanics also have the responsibility of training the bn’s drivers in how to properly operate the equipment. The mechanics just completed a 40-hour block of instruction on one of the new MRAP vehicles the bn received. This training ensures that all vehicle operators have the knowledge to drive their MRAP vehicles safely, potentially avoiding fatal accidents.
August 2006: While attending the University of California, Sacramento, and majoring in religious studies, I converted to Islam.Dec. 11, 2007: I began my first day of AF basic military training. Oct. 19, 2010: I traveled to Afghanistan for my first deployment. Although Islam is the 2nd-largest religion in the world, in the U.S. Islam seems to stay a constant mystery. Many people may believe that being a Muslim in the U.S. military is a rarity. Many people may also believe I receive harassment from my military peers. The reality is I'm not the only Muslim in the military. Americans may not realize that the military is made up of a very diverse pool of individuals from various backgrounds and religions. According to official figures in 2009, approx 3,500 Muslims serve in the military. Servicemembers may put any religious preference on their dog tags, as long as it's an officially recognized religion.
This diversity throughout the military almost forces servicemembers to respect a variety of cultures and religions. Without this religious tolerance, the military work environment would be very uncomfortable, and very little would be accomplished.You may have the misconception that as a Muslim it's easier for me to embrace my faith here in Afghanistan. However, this is not the case. As a practicing Muslim, having earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies, with a minor in Middle East and Islamic studies, in some aspects identifying with Islam in Afghanistan is more difficult. I'm currently located in a very rural part of Afghanistan, and faced with so-called Islamic beliefs that are in actuality deeply rooted cultural, tribal beliefs. Also, the area’s literacy rate is so low that a majority of Afghans are unable to read the Quran, Islam’s sacred book, let alone receive a formal Islamic education. Unfortunately, the lack of Islamic knowledge within the Muslim population itself, helps support the spread of Islamic stereotypes that fuel Islamophobia within the U.S, and around the world. As a Muslim convert it has been an advantage to study Islam without the influences of Islamic cultures. The fact that I was born and raised in the U.S. as a Christian, has, in my opinion, given me the ability to freely interact between the 2 extremes of Islamic and American culture, and ultimately given me great advantages and understanding. It's my wish that one day those who are not in the military will be able to understand and accept Muslims, as the military has accepted me.
Mashuqallah, the agriculture extension mgr. for Chowkay District, expressed delight at the ADT’s reintroduction of mechanized agriculture to the demo farm. “It’s a new technology for our farmers, so they can get familiar with it,” Mashuqallah said. “Although I’m familiar with it, having it here will allow other farmers to learn how to use it.”The ADT production agriculture specialists trained Mashuqallah’s son and several local farmers on the tractor’s operation. The ADT’s project mgr. for the Chowkay District, 1st Lt. Scott Shirk, arranged to purchase the tractor. “We bought a seed drill attachment for the tractor, and what we’re going to do is establish test plots of mechanically planted wheat, and test plots of hand-sown wheat,” Shirk said. “Most farmers around here hand sow their wheat, but we’ll be able to show them how mechanically planted wheat has a more uniform planting depth and seed distribution, and that alone should boost yields a good bit.” For Mashuqallah, the tractor was only the latest agriculture improvement for Chowkay District, brought about by the Iowa ADT. He also pointed to the construction of the demo farm greenhouse, installation of a new irrigation water pump, and recent Veterinary Outreach Sustainment Programs in his district, as examples of the ADT’s positive impact on local agriculture. “The Afghan people are a good nation, and they'll never forget your help,” Mashuqallah said.
“I feel a personal responsibility for each and every one of you, since I sent you here,” Gates said. “I feel the sacrifice, hardship and losses more than you'll ever imagine. So, I just want to thank you and tell how much I love you guys.”
During the ceremony, Gates recounted the unit’s mission, as it embarked upon its first full-on encounter with an organized Taliban enemy. “We're breaking the momentum of the enemy, and will eventually reverse it,” the defense secretary said. But, he added, “It will be a while, and we'll suffer tougher losses as we go.”
The Silver Star awardees were: Army 1st Lt. Stephen Tangen; Army Sgt. 1st Class John Fleming; Army Staff Sgt. Brent Schneider; Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Hayes; Army Cpl. Joshua Busch; and Army Pfc. Richard Bennett.The Bronze Star Medals with Valor were awarded to Army 1st Lt. David Broyles; Army 1st Lt. Douglas Jones; Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Loheide; Army Staff Sgt. McCarthy Phillip; Army Sgt. Andrew Kuklis; and Pfc. Alex J. Norzow III. “It’s huge to have the secretary of defense come out here to recognize these Soldiers who are out there taking the fight to the enemy every day,” said Maj. Gen. John Campbell, cmdr of Command Joint TF-101 and RC-East. One of the Silver Star recipients echoed Campbell’s sentiment. “It was an incredible honor that the secretary of defense would come; it was a little overwhelming,” said Tangen, Scout Plt leader, HHC, 2nd Bn. “FOB Joyce gets attacked almost every day, so just the fact that he would come to a remote FOB like this, and put his life on the line – it doesn’t happen every day,” Tangen said.
“I'm very fortunate to have competent, knowledgeable officers and NCOs who took charge and accepted the responsibility of the mission,” said Palermo. “We took the experience of other deployments from all of you, asked questions, conducted many meetings to develop the best course of action, then implemented change...setting the wheels in motion to make BAF a better place.”Palermo challenged Soldiers of TF Archer to create a new mission and improve upon what they accomplished, quoting an example he used during the relief-in-place briefings held the previous week, of building a pyramid one block at a time. “It's our time to turn this mission over to you, and there's no doubt in my mind that your Soldiers will take BAF to new levels of excellence,” said Palermo. “With the entire community of BAF, teamwork and your leadership, I know you'll carry the tradition of excellence to a new level.”Army Lt. Col. John Perkins, TF Archer cmdr, expressed the extent of TF Archer’s mission changes, but assured Palmero that they'd stay focused on the base ops mission. "Our mission is expanded beyond the Base Ops mission of the 86th BSTB. We've responsibility for that mission, as well as our traditional BSB mission of sustaining brigade ops outside the wire in the brigade’s area of responsibility," said Perkins."The passion and hard work the 86th BSTB put into the base ops mission was evident throughout the RIP process,” said Perkins. "I promise the 86th BSTB, just as you built upon the hard work of your predecessors, TF Cyclone, we'll continue your work with the same passion you've shown, and build upon your successes."
“There was a project proposed by a local leader to help build a mosque in the village,” Army 1st Lt. Benjamin Davis, 2nd Plt leader, explained. “The project was a carryover from the unit we replaced.”Several months ago, Co A, 1st Sqdn, 172nd Cav Regt, TF Morgan - the unit the 832nd replaced - met with local malik Sayad Kareem. Kareem represents 19 villages east of Bagram Airfield. In the village of Bajarwi, Kareem said that the villagers wanted to build a mosque to hold worship services. “The people of Bajarwi didn't have a mosque and weren't able to get together and pray,” Kareem said. “Everyone in the village is happy and appreciative that the coalition has been able to support the construction of the mosque. Our economy is not that good, and that's why we couldn't build it completely by ourselves, and requested the help of the coalition.” Aiding in the construction of a mosque is a rather unique undertaking for CF. “It’s very rare that U.S. or CF would get to participate in the construction of a mosque,” said Army Capt. Tim Creasman, 1st Sqdn, 113th Cav Regt, civil-military ops officer. Creasman said the villages are more likely to approach the coalition for assistance in education and quality-of-life issues, as opposed to religious needs. Both the citizens of Bajarwi and the Soldiers from the 832nd said that they look at the mosque construction as a step in an improved partnership, between the local citizens and CF. During their trip to the mosque Dec. 2, the 832nd took the opportunity to appraise the construction of the mosque, as well as to supervise the delivery of 100 additional bags of cement toward the mosque construction. A local Afghan contractor delivered the cement to the village. The perimeter walls of the mosque are complete. The walls exemplify Ahmad-Zai’s craftsmanship and feature elaborate arches along the sides of the building. “I did it in 5 months, a little at a time, and continued working as I got materials,” Ahmad-Zai said. “This was my first mosque.” Ahmad-Zai also added that members of each household in the village donated money toward construction of the mosque, and those who could not contribute money, sent family members to help with the labor. As they stared at the walls, the Soldiers said they were amazed at Ahmad-Zai’s building skills. To finish the mosque, Kareem said that the building requires 5 tons of 16 millimeter rebar, which Creasman said the coalition will look into helping to provide. Abdul Mazai, Bajawri’s malik, said that the Red Bulls are carrying on the partnership that the village shared with TF Morgan, and he can't express the gratitude he and the villagers feel. “The CF came here and talked to us,” he said. “They listened to our problems and provided us some assistance. This mosque was built by our people through the help of the CF and the Red Bulls with materials. We hope to continue to work together, here and throughout Afghanistan.” Davis said that 2nd Plt meets with maliks and local villagers on an almost daily basis, since they arrived here almost a month ago. The engrs, led by Army Capt. Scott Hansen have assumed responsibility for providing security to 120 villages, all of which fall within a 10-km area of the Bagram District. Davis said that the unit also tries to help the villagers with their daily needs, and to improve their quality of life. “We’re trying to capture the human factor,” Davis said. “We can’t really understand what the people here need and how they operate, without being amongst the people. They're getting more comfortable talking with us, and realizing they don’t need to be scared of us.” The Red Bulls engr’s visit didn't end with the trip to the mosque. From there, the Soldiers walked with the villagers to the school at the opposite end of town. Army Capt. Joshua MacLean, 1st Sqdn, 113th Cav Regt info officer spoke with Kareem on a previous visit to Bajawri. Kareem mentioned there were 2,000 children attending the school, and that they enjoy playing cricket. MacLean acquired 8 cricket sets from the outgoing unit, complete with helmets, pads, balls and racquets, for the children of the school. The engrs delivered the sets to Nassar Ehmad, the school’s principle. “They like to play cricket,” Davis said, “It shows them we're here to help.” Before the Soldiers left, Kareem told them he would set up further meetings whenever they wanted to meet with him, and include the other maliks of the surrounding villages. “We hope to have a great partnership with the Red Bulls,” Mazai said, summing up the sentiments of the Soldiers and his townspeople.
"I wanted to continue the Family tradition as far as being in the Army," Jernigan said. Gibbs, who recited the Oath of Enlistment to Jernigan, said that he always relishes the opportunity to reenlist Soldiers.
"I enjoy doing these reenlistments; today's especially good, because it's someone from my own team," Gibbs said. "We always say that there are 3 things that we get to do that are really fun. One of them is promote somebody, the other one is reenlist somebody, and the third one is give somebody an award. Any time you can do any 1 of those 3 things, it's very rewarding."
Gibbs added that reenlistments mean a lot to him, because his troops mean a lot to him. "Our Soldiers are great. We couldn't do what we do without them; I couldn't do my job without them," Gibbs said. "They do so much that makes me able to do my job without any headaches, especially this team. I've got a good team, I'm really proud of them, and I look forward to seeing them move up higher in the ranks."
After the ceremony, Jernigan expressed gratitude to her boss for inspiring her to continue her military service. "Thank you, sir, for standing behind me, and molding me into who I want to be."
IqAF Brig. Gen. Tamimy, the cmdr of the IAF's 70th Sqdn, hosted the group for lunch, and spoke with the group of Americans who had been wounded in Iraq years before. "I would like to thank you for all the sacrifices that you've made to accomplish our wishes to build a safe and secure and democratic Iraq," Tamimy told the Americans. "We promise you, we are going to work as hard as you did to accomplish these wishes, and we hope to God that he blesses you and blesses us all."
Iraqis traditionally honor their own war wounded on the Day of the Wounded Soldier, with gifts, and with a lifetime salary for the disabled. One Basrawi, who wished to remain anonymous, met the troops and said that he felt indebted to the American visitors with Proper Exit. "I think American wounded Soldiers cannot be honored enough, because what they've done for our country is priceless; they gave us the freedom we, the Iraqis, were dreaming of."
The man added that he personally thanked the wounded warriors who visited, and he believes that Iraq should honor Americans who've made sacrifices, with monuments in every city.
Before dining, Tamimy left the Americans with a final, meaningful message. "I would like you to consider Iraq your second country," Tamimy said. "Without all this work that you've been doing here, we would not be here in front of you, so thank you for all the work that you did for us."
Johanna’s family was originally told that she had a bad case of mumps that would not go away. Her symptoms progressively got worse. Johanna suddenly fell into a coma, due to the rapid spread of her undetected condition. The young girl was hospitalized in an isolation room with the hope that she would recover and come out of her coma.
Buttner, a native of Fulda, Germany, knew he wanted to help the family when he found out what had happened to Jugal’s daughter, even though he did not know him personally. He decided to hold a fundraiser on Bagram Airfield by selling homemade pizzas to Soldiers, in an attempt to help the family with the expenses that were already quickly accruing. He had prior experience with cooking and knew that it would be appreciated by other Soldiers.
“I used to be a chef in a restaurant many years ago, and pizza was one of my biggest sales,” said Buttner. “I used to sell between 300 and 600 pizzas a week made from scratch.”
With ingredients his wife and family sent him, plus some helpful contributions from other people, Buttner and Capt. Melanie Sims, a flight nurse, tackled the pizza-making with high hopes of raising enough money to help the Jugal family’s pocketbook.
“The pizza fundraiser wasn't just an excuse to have great homemade pizza,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nicholas Anderson. “It was for a good cause. We hope the (Co. C) family was able to make a difference for Johanna and the Jugal Family. Sgt. Buttner had his heart in the right place. Not just for hosting an event that boosted morale, but for wanting to help out a fellow NCO and his family.”
After 9 1/2 hours of cooking pizza, Buttner and Sims made 40 pizzas, served about 33 people and raised $1,180 in donations for Jugal’s family. “The suggestion that was made for a fundraiser by Sgt. Buttner rang out as an act of complete selflessness and kindness toward people he hardly knew,” said Richardson. “I wanted to support him in any way I could. People came from all over Bagram Airfield to participate in something they knew would not only help change the life of a fellow Soldier not wounded by combat, but a father who was wounded by an enemy he couldn't see.”
The Soldiers were joined by Army Maj. Gen. John Campbell, cmdr of Combined Joint TF-101 and RC-East, and distinguished visitors from Afghanistan including Gov. Salangi. Also in attendance was Maj. Gen Jalil from the Operational Coordination Center–Provincial, Parwan, and the cmdrs of the 1st Bde, 201st Corps, ANA and the Parwan police district.
“All of these successes were designed to build the capacity and capability of the ANSF and the local govt., so they could meet the basic needs of the Afghan people,” Campbell said. “By creating the most secure provs. in RC-East, TF Wolverine poised the leadership of these provs. for success.”
Campbell wished TF Wolverine a safe trip home, and welcomed TF Red Bulls to Afghanistan, stating his confidence in their ability build on the successes TF Wolverine had while here. “I've seen many of the TF Red Bulls soldiers in my battlefield circulation, and I can tell you first hand that they're well disciplined and well-trained,” said Campbell. “I'm confident standing here today that TF Red Bulls is exactly the right unit to continue the mission and the successes TF Wolverine carried on.”
Col. William Roy, TF Wolverine cmdr, HQ in Williston, Vt., addressed his counterpart Col. Benjamin Corell, TF Red Bulls' cmdr. “It's truly an honor to turn this mission over to you and your team,” Roy said. “We've done all we can in the time we've had, but there's still much left to be done. I can think of no finer brigade to turn this mission over to than the mighty Red Bulls. We wish you the best of luck and Godspeed in the days ahead.”
Corell spoke to the Soldiers about his expectations of the mission ahead, and the importance of working together with the Afghans and other CFs. “TF Red Bulls, we start a new chapter in the history of this historic Red Bull div.,” said Corell. “As we take over the full weight of this mission, we know we can count on our coalition partners and Afghan brothers to help us meet our common goal.”
“If we bring water to the fields, the people will be able to greatly increase production,” agreed Spc. Richard Bogue, the PRT’s agriculture expert, “but they'll have to be able to maintain it.”
The proposed project includes a micro-hydro power plant that would power the district agriculture system and the pumps required to water the fields. The project also has the potential to provide clean water to more than 4,000 residents of Nangaresh village.
“I enjoy trucking for the Army because it gives me the opportunity to play a role in assisting the bigger picture,” said Bartlett. “I prefer to drive for the Army, because I get to share my experiences with my fellow Soldiers, rather than going it alone like I did as a civilian.”
Bartlett has driven Army trucks for 3 years. In the 3rd month of his yearlong deployment, he drives various types of vehicles from MRAP gun trucks to his personal favorite, the 20-ton load handling system.
Troop D is tasked with running combat logistical patrols between FOBs Connolly and Fenty, which is about an hour away, near the city of Jalalabad. Though the drive between the bases may only last a couple of hours - depending on the size of the load he totes - Bartlett said the preparation time for the convoys makes for long days.
“We really have no choice – as our NCOs say, ‘Stay alert, stay alive,’” Bartlett said. “But, talking to the truck cmdr in the passenger seat helps a lot, too.”
The afternoon before the convoy, Nov. 17, Bartlett and his fellow Army truck drivers were found near the motorpool. They kept busy preparing heavy up-armored light medium tactical vehicles, and MRAP gun trucks for the next day’s mission. He said the unit also does daily maintenance checks and services on these vehicles.
Departure time was only a few hours away, so Bartlett and the other drivers tried to grab some precious sleep before the convoy. Since the convoy was leaving FOB Connolly for FOB Fenty in the early-morning hours, Bartlett and his fellow drivers had a long day in front of them.
Before they left, a convoy mission brief was conducted by the troop’s platoon leader to discuss potential threats along the route. Just as some local nationals were stumbling into their bakeries to start making the day’s bread, Bartlett and the other drivers mounted up into their vehicles and headed out the gate.
Spc. Samuel Bradley, who drove the gun truck in front of Bartlett, handed him a muffin and an energy drink scavenged from the chow hall. “Thanks buddy,” Bartlett told his friend. “You’re a lifesaver.”
The streets on his way to Jalalabad were dark and bare, except for a few Afghans on bikes.
“We’re lucky this route is paved,” Bartlett said. “There aren’t many here that are.”
Just before daybreak, the convoy arrived at FOB Fenty. Bartlett took this chance to grab a catnap. He leaned back into his seat, pulled his green fleece cap over his eyes and within minutes he was asleep.
The nap didn't last long, because within an hour Bartlett’s sgt was banging on the heavy LMTV door. He sat up, already knowing they were ready at the supply yard. He took Pfc. Joseph Conlon, another truck driver with the platoon, to help load the supplies. Both Soldiers threw on their helmets and drove to the supply yard.
The yard was a maze of boxes, crates and other random bulky objects like truck engines, all offset by narrow paths and inlets. Conlon pointed to one of the piles. “They need you to pick up all those a/cs,” said Conlon. “You’re going to have to go by and back up to them. I’ll ground guide you.”
Bartlett shrugged and casually backed up his 22-foot truck and 14-foot trailer through junk piles, as if he was guiding a thread through a needle hole. A couple hours later, Bartlett’s LMTV and the trailer it pulled were loaded with a/cs, cups and building materials.
“The load is the responsibility of the driver,” Bartlett explained as he yanked on a cargo strap, making sure it was fastened snug against a stack of boxes in the back of the truck. “You don’t want to be that guy who has something fall out of their truck in the middle of a convoy, who everybody has to stop for.” Bartlett and Conlon swarmed all over the truckbed and trailer until straps were holding the cargo in place in both horizontal and vertical directions.
Around noon, the last of the 8 trucks returned back to the original parking lot on FOB Fenty loaded with supplies. The Soldiers of Troop D were given a little more than an hour to eat chow. Bartlett was content to eat another muffin, settle back into his seat and use the opportunity to take a second nap. He'd been on quick reaction force duty the night before, so he was still a bit tired.
When he awoke, the vehicles in the convoy were doing a radio check calling back and forth to one another. Bartlett chimed in that he could hear everyone “Lima Charlie” [loud and clear]. The trucks rumbled out of the gate at FOB Fenty, and headed back to FOB Connolly.
Just outside of base, the city streets of Jalalabad were now bustling. Motorcycle taxis loaded with 10 or sometimes more people, and even sheep and mules, lined the streets. Bartlett weaved through them in his truck, pausing occasionally to wave at one of the many small children who jumped excitedly in the air, waving, as he drove by.
The convoy returned to FOB Connolly just after 3 p.m., more than 12 hours after they had departed. There was still work to be done. “We’ve still got to unload all this stuff, making sure the right stuff gets to the right people and then refuel,” Bartlett explained.
It was a long and tiring day, but one Bartlett had grown accustomed to, having made this run more than 30 times. In a couple days at most, he would be doing the same thing all over again. But, that’s what Bartlett has always done. Mile after mile, mission after mission, he just keeps on trucking.
PAKTYA PROVINCE – Soldiers of the 2-45th ADTconducted a multiple-stop mission to Paktya University, a women’s center, and a farm in Gardez.
The 1st stop of the mission was the women’s development center. Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jill Graham, ADT administrative officer, met the dir. of the women’s center, and discussed the upcoming installation of a greenhouse.
Spc. Mandy Kennedy, ADT education specialist, conducted an assessment of the greenhouse construction. The dir. also wanted help from the ADT with poultry and beekeeping training, which the ADT plans to address in the coming weeks. “The women’s center dir. would like the profits from the greenhouse to be used to help women in the prov.,” Kennedy said.
Radio is the primary means of communication in Afghanistan, said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Fromm. He issued hand-cranked radios to Afghans at the center. Fromm said, "self-powered radios allow Afghans to listen to the radio without the need for electricity, which is important since most Afghans don't have access to reliable power for television, internet access, or basic needs.
The 2nd stop on the mission was Paktya University, where the ADT assessed the progress made over the past few months. Lt. Col. John Altebaumer, ADT agricultural team chief, and Kennedy, met with the university chancellor of Paktya to discuss improvements the ADT wished to help university officials make over the coming months.
“Some of the future projects at the university include generator power, internet access throughout the buildings, a greenhouse, a faculty exchange program, and incorporating female students,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy talked to the faculty about the university admission testing that recently took place. This year more than 30 Afghan females took the test for admission alongside male students.
“Coed testing is something that didn't occur during the Soviet or Taliban rule,” Kennedy said. “It's a positive sign of improvements made in the prov., over the past few years.”
The last stop of the day was at a local farm. Projects currently under construction include a multipurpose building, generator building, a perimeter security fence, and electrical and sewer projects. Sgt. 1st Class Billy Payne, ADT project mgr., gauged the improvements made since the last visit a few weeks ago.
“The contractors have made steady progress at the farm,” Payne said. “The ADT will work with the contractors to address specific issues that have been encountered during the projects.” Payne said that the mission will allow the ADT to increase agricultural production across the prov., maximizing the resources that the ADT is able to provide, and advise GoA officials in order to strengthen the relationship between the Afghan govt and the local population.
Story and photo by Sgt. Raymond Quintanilla
1st Sgt. Steward Wenino,1-147th AHB, said it boosted the morale of those recognized. "For our maintenance guys, they don't get to see the higher ranking people," Wenino said. "They're the back of the mission nobody sees. It was very beneficial for our Delta Co. to be recognized by a maj. gen., to see the support aspect and receive some recognition."
Staff Sgt. Jay Anderson, a patrol and supply specialist with the 1-147th AHB, said that he was surprised and enjoyed the special lunch scheduled in just for them. "It definitely feels nice to see the general take a little time from his busy schedule," said Anderson. "It feels great that you're being noticed, that someone is actually paying attention to the hard work everybody puts in."
With the mission still in mind, Cannon expressed the importance of the 1st ID's continuing support, and the challenges the 1-147th AHB faces with the downsizing of troops, and new mission of Op New Dawn. "It's not a matter of how much time we have left," Cannon said, "but it's each and every day of making every engagement count, ensuring every effort serves the purpose we're trying to achieve."
Cannon said with downsizing expected to continue, Soldiers such as the 1st ID and 1-147th AHB, are the right troops to get the job done in Iraq. "You're part of the right 50,000," Cannon said. "The right 'can do' attitude to go out and make things happen, get it done, when everybody else thinks this is going to be too hard."
The general said he felt that with all the time the U.S. spent in Iraq, preparing the new democratic govt for success is the most critical, and those involved are sharing a common bond in making history.
"To have planted that seed (democracy) in this part of the world is huge, and that's the destiny of the U.S.," Cannon said. "We want to see democracy in the world, and democracies aren't easy to manage, but it's the right thing to do."
"And, you're all a part of that; you all help make history, especially here as we
get to the end. This is where we have to close the deal, finish strong," continued Cannon. "I'm very thankful to have had the opportunity to be here and to serve with great people like yourselves," said Cannon. "We don't say it often enough, but thank you for stepping up and answering your nation's call, coming into harm's way, setting your personal, professional, and family lives aside, and coming here, doing these great things. From the bottom of my heart, I just want to say thank you to each and everyone."
A U.S. vehicle on a counter-ambush patrol had rolled over and fell 30 feet. The crew was trapped, and several were severely wounded. "I was on guard the whole time while it was happening and just listening to it, wishing I could go out there and help them," said Curtis, now serving as an air missile defense ops NCO. "That's something that has been vividly in my head since."
Spc. Carlos Ortiz was one of the infantrymen on that counter-ambush patrol near Kirkuk. A buddy of his had recently been severely wounded in an attack, and he and his fellow Soldiers were out to prevent something similar from happening again.
With the rollover, Ortiz's mission turned tragic, killing one of his fellow Soldiers assigned to the 1st Bn, 27th Inf Regt, 2nd Bde, 25th ID, and severely wounding the vehicle's crew, including Ortiz.
That was Nov. 16, 2004. Now, thanks to Operation Proper Exit, Ortiz has returned to Iraq, and Curtis, deployed to Basra, was there to greet him.
Ortiz and 6 other wounded service members visited USD-South, Dec. 7, visiting Patrol Base Minden along the Iraq-Iran border, and having lunch at an Iraqi AF cafeteria near the Basra Int'l Airport.
Proper Exit, an initiative of the Troops First Foundation, was created to help Soldiers like Ortiz achieve peace of mind and closure with their experiences. It's also helped younger Soldiers meet the veterans who served before them, and for Soldiers like Curtis, provided a little closure as well.
Curtis saw the incident report next to Ortiz' name on the list of incoming Proper Exit veterans and realized he was part of the crew whose incident he remembered so vividly. He immediately volunteered to be Ortiz' escort for his tour of USD-S. "I'm here to try to help him get on with his life. Maybe it'll bring some closure to some stuff that's going on."
Ortiz said having Curtis there added to the experience. "It feels good. He was on the same base; he remembered me when I came off the bird, so it definitely feels good because we know the same people, and he remembers the whole incident," Ortiz said.
Ortiz said he had heard about the program at a naming ceremony for a Veterans of Foreign Wars facility that was being renamed for one of his fallen comrades. "I heard about this program, and it sounded pretty cool, so I decided I wanted to do it," Ortiz said. "Even talking to my friends, we said, ‘Wouldn't it be cool to go back to Iraq for like a week, instead of going back for a year?' So when it came up, I had to say yeah."
While Curtis and Ortiz left Op Proper Exit, gaining some understanding of their shared experiences, Ortiz also shared some words of wisdom with other Soldiers at Patrol Base Minden. "Don't quit; don't give up; do your best, and we all care about you."
“I am a witness to the pain of these women,” Sadat said. “Women who are routinely beaten, forbidden to attend school, and given away by their fathers to cover gambling debts. Today is for these women.”"It was a day with 2 purposes," said Dr. Bidar, Jalalabad regional program mgr., for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. “First, we want to achieve awareness, especially about the law protecting women from abuse. Second, we want to discuss better implementation of the law in Kunar.”The law Bidar was referring to was passed 15 months ago. It contains 20 specifications of prohibited behavior toward women, from obvious physical abuse to more nuanced, culturally specific prohibitions banning forced marriages, and making it illegal for parents to keep their daughters from attending school.“I am happy to be here and support the fight for women’s rights,” said Gov. Wahidi. “We have a law, and it should be enforced. The women here are fighting so hard for what they believe in.” In a country beset by war, this fight does not call for bombs or bullets, it requires understanding.“Men and women in Islam are the same; they are equal under Allah,” said Imam Mohsin, as he spoke of the ways in which women’s rights are in harmony with Islam, a difficult task in fiercely traditional Kunar Prov. “Peace will never come to Afghanistan until the violence toward women ceases. The violence is a result of not being educated. If you do not educate yourself, how can you pray to Allah and ask for forgiveness?”The women who gathered saw progress made that very day as Wahidi called for a female district sub-governor in Kunar Prov., a notion inconceivable a few months ago. “I'm excited by the attendance I see here today. Kunar has a strong women’s rights movement, and we, the PRT, are proud to support you,” said Navy Cmdr. Brian Goss, Kunar PRT cmdr. “Women, wives, sisters, mothers and daughters are the center of any world, and we're all better because of you.”
For a day born out of sadness, it ended in hope; hope for justice, and for a brighter future for all Afghans.
“Libraries are a critical component in any society, creating a culture of literacy and learning, stimulating change and arming the citizenry with the power and tools necessary to fight corruption in its govt,” said Army Capt. Adam Bushey, a rule of law attorney. “Knowledge is power; with it, the Afghan citizens can hold the government responsible and accountable for their actions.”The ministries project plans for 9 legal libraries in the provs. of Parwan, Bamyan, and the first public library in Panjshir. The library project is intended to educate the Afghan people in the laws and rules that govern their country. This project puts the resources and tools necessary for education in the hands of Afghan people, often for the first time. “Salang is one of the poorer districts, and because of that we didn’t have the same education opportunities in the past,” said Maj. Gul Aba, the chief of police for the Salang District. “We give you the assurance that we're very interested in education. This opportunity is a good start for our youth to have this opening of the library.”
The projects Himat proposed included a demo farm near the district center, refurbishment of a nearby fish farm and, most importantly, construction of an inlet gate at the head of a 7-km-long irrigation canal, a canal that also needs to be cleaned. However, Himat told the ADT members these were not projects he had come up with on his own.“Before I developed this list, I consulted first with my agriculture dept line director, and also met with all the village elders,” Himat said. “They're the ones who best understand the needs of the district, and it's my job to meet those needs as best I can.” Himat was the 1st sub-governor the ADT has worked with to personally lead them to proposed project sites. Col. Craig Bargfrede, ADT cmdr, said that he was impressed.
“We only receive resupply by air,” said Army 1st Sgt. Brian Gemmil, 1st sgt. “This drop system is important and very efficient,” Gemmil said. “These drops reduce the risk to Soldiers, because they don't have to leave the post, and to aircraft, because they don't have to land and unload.”“The LCLA drop is fast and efficient which helps us better maintain mission readiness,” said Staff Sgt. James Summer, a plt sgt. “This most recent drop supplied us with things like toilet paper, MREs, and cold-weather gear,” Summer said."Cold-weather gear is essential for fighter maintenance, and allow patrols to continue conducting night missions," Gemmil added. The LCLA drop is a more recent alternative utilized by the Soldiers at FOB Waza Khaw. “So far, this is only our 2nd supply drop,” Summer said. “So far, it's been working well for us.”
The PRT discussed the possibility of Moshfiq and his team distributing hand-crank, solar-powered, radios to the districts, to increase the number of people listening to radio broadcasts. The DoIC agreed that it was a good idea based on his past experiences. “I've seen a positive effect in distributing radios,” said Moshfiq. “It’s a small thing, but it means a lot to the people.”The director is also responsible for collecting and preserving historical artifacts for the prov. He took the PRT and ADT members to the Gardez Castle, where he discussed some of the province’s rich history. As the tour came to a close, Moshfiq discussed his desire for future meetings, and his areas of focus. “We're always looking for more improvements and development opportunities,” said Moshfiq. “We're hoping to set up an AM radio station soon. All of our journalists and disc jockeys have really low salaries, but they work anyways because they love this community.”
Army Sgt. Maj. Daniel Collins, contracting NCO-in-charge for the Iowa NG's 734th ADT, talks with a furniture store owner and his son in Asadabad, the provincial capital, Dec. 2. The ADT conducted a foot patrol in Asadabad to gain a greater understanding of local markets, tax systems, and the level of merchant satisfaction with govt services. The ADT found 24 of 25 merchants surveyed were better or much better off than they were 5 years ago, and all paid taxes, though a majority thought they were too high.
KUNAR PROVINCE - All of the shopkeepers said they would contact a govt official to address pressing concerns, though opinions on the quality of govt services were mixed. None surveyed identified security as a problem and all described the security situation as good or excellent.One of the shopkeepers the ADT surveyed was Nuuora, a merchant who sells seed, fertilizer and other items. His complaint with the govt sounded not unlike those of businessmen everywhere. “I pay 4,800 afghanis [$106] per year in taxes, and they can’t even keep this canal clean,” Nuuora said, gesturing at the foot-wide gutter in front of his open storefront. Nevertheless, Nuuora, who has 2 wives and 13 children, conceded that he was much better off than just a few years ago, when he was a refugee in Afghanistan. Nuuora’s experience was not unique among the Asadabad merchants surveyed, the majority of whom fled Afghanistan during the Taliban’s rule, and returned within just the last few years. The ADT surveyed a wide range of business owners, from a hand tool dealer, to a sewing machine repair and sale concern, a women and children’s clothing boutique, a high-end jewellery store, a wholesale fruit and vegetable market, a hand-made custom furniture shop, and many more. Army Capt. Pat Birgy, the ADT’s finance officer, organized the Asadabad market survey, the 2nd by the ADT in as many months. “Our first time out, we were mainly looking at food prices, sources and availability,” Birgy said. “This time, we wanted to take a more broad approach, and find out more about how business actually works here.” Birgy admitted to being surprised by the diversity of goods available for sale in Asadabad, and by some of the survey responses, too. Moreover, according to Birgy, the info gleaned from the survey will positively impact his work in mentoring the provincial budget director. “There's no doubt there's a very, very vibrant business sector here, with a lot of economic activity, more than I think any of us thought,” Birgy said. “I wasn’t expecting to find a functional tax system already in place, but clearly there is, and now I can sit down with the finance directorate to get a better idea of what that system is, and we can go from there.” The ADT’s dep. cmdr., Lt. Col. Dave Lewis, took part in the Asadabad business survey. He also is a key leader of the ADT’s initiative to mentor Kunar provincial officials of the GoA.
GHAZNI PROVINCE – TF Iron Rakkasan conducted Op Blade III in eastern Ghazni Prov., Dec. 5. Soldiers of 3rd Bn, 187th Inf. Regt., 3rd BCT, 101st AD, have conducted several ops in the Brimzi area over the past couple of weeks, and Blade III was an extension of those missions.
The missions have come from combined U.S. and ANSF. Blade III had the help of a remote piloted vehicle, and FOB Andar’s Precision Threat Detection System, to find the enemy.“Our presence in the Brimzi area today created a lot of enemy activity,” said Army 2nd Lt. Christopher Farmer, ops asst officer. “Our assets allowed us to follow the insurgents as they attempted to maneuver, and what we learned will help focus future ops.” The Soldiers on the ground used the info passed to them from the controllers of the air assets, to maneuver on the insurgent locations, searching cache sites. One of the insurgents killed during the op was later identified as a mid-level insurgent cmdr in the Deh Yak District. The individual was listed as the 2nd most-wanted insurgent in Deh Yak. “Removing such an important leader from the fight will have lasting benefits in the area,” said Army 1st Lt. Barry Johnson-Rivera, an intel officer. “The insurgents will struggle to replace him this late in the fighting season. We've hindered the entire cell’s ability to operate for the next several weeks.”
Written by USF – Iraq
During the event, Command Sgt. Maj. Arthur Coleman Jr., the senior enlisted advisor for the USF-Iraq dep. comm. gen. for ops, and III Corps command sgt. maj., introduced the service members. Each wounded warrior then talked about their injuries, and what they're currently doing as they heal.Coleman said that the service members and their stories are an inspiration to all who wear the uniform. “These Soldiers decided to not give up on life. Things might have changed, but they drive on,” said Coleman. “Coming here brings closure to the incident, and also really gives them a proper exit from Iraq.” Spc. Alexander Reyes, one of the wounded warriors, told those in attendance that what happens in Iraq is just an obstacle; you work through it to accomplish your goals. “I stand here today to give you my testimony, and let you know that no matter what happens here, you can still overcome any obstacle that comes your way,” said Reyes, who was later surprised by the appearance of his brother, Spc. Euri Reyes, who is currently deployed in Iraq with the 289th QM Co, 13th CSSB, 103rd ESC.At the conclusion of the ceremony, those in attendance were able to meet with the wounded warriors, offering their thanks and encouragement. “Everyone welcomed me back to Iraq,” said Reyes. “They also wanted me to continue to earn my degree and continue with my life.”-30-
Story and photo by Sgt. Shawn Miller
"This is the very first time we've trained Iraqis and U.S. forces together," said Spencer Frazee, a law enforcement professional with the JEFF4. A small group of soldiers assigned to 1st Bn, 27th Inf Regt, "Wolfhounds," 2nd AAB, 25th ID, participated in the class with their IP and IA counterparts.As Op New Dawn approaches the 100-day mark, the U.S. soldiers, who work with their Iraqi partners daily, took a step back, allowing the Iraqis to take the lead in the classroom, as IA and IP forces transition to independent control of ops across USD-North and Iraq. “Our role was to facilitate the training,” said Staff Sgt. Alex Shackleford. “We advised them in the classroom, and then assisted them on the range.”
"As part of the security agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, ISF have control of all crime scenes, unless American personnel are involved in the incident," Frazee said. "Having the ISF leading the class mirrors that standard," he explained."Recognizing what classifies as evidence, and then documenting, collecting and processing that evidence without contaminating it, is the key focus of the course," said Frazee, a veteran detective, with 25 years of experience. "Getting the investigating agents to wear gloves, and not contaminate the scene with their own DNA is vital," he said. “DNA is still magic to them,” said Frazee, noting how it's on the verge of court acceptance in Iraq. “We’ve actually done classes for judges.”"U.S. law enforcement professionals and Army Judge Advocate General officials are training Iraqi judges and lawyers on the importance of DNA and forensics, in hopes that it might build stronger cases against detainees," Frazee explained. “What we’re trying to do is have the police catch up,” he said. “We’re trying to eliminate those reasons for throwing a case out.”"Despite the new knowledge of DNA and forensics, the Iraqi forces still must rely on U.S. facilities to process their findings, since Salah ad-Din lacks any Iraqi-run labs," explained Frazee.
“Basically, what we’re teaching them is what can be done; the right way for things to be done, and what should be done,” Frazee said. “Now it’s up to them to put pressure on their govt to supply them with a lab in Salah ad-Din.”
Army Maj. (Dr.) Patrick Smock, an orthopedic surgeon, 745th Forward Surgical Team, gives a high-five to Abas, a 9-year-old, Nov. 30 at the 426th BSB Aid Station on FOB Fenty. Medics with the 426th BSB, 1st BCT, 101st AD, have been treating Abas for severe burns to both legs.
FOB FENTY - The fair-skinned blonde medic cradled the Afghan boy in her arms, as she entered the coffee shop here. A soldier and another young woman followed them inside. The boy’s legs were wrapped in blankets, and people inside the shop turned their heads to gaze at the boy as the group came in.The medic gently placed the boy in a chair on his blanket. One of his legs slipped out of the blanket, revealing shrivelled, brownish-red skin, the result of a very bad burn. She sat down in the chair beside the boy, adjusting the blanket. The Soldier behind her approached the boy. “Ok, Abas,” he said, bending over to look at his face. “I’ll be right back.”A few minutes later, the Soldier, Army Sgt. Edward Gonzales, HHC, 1st BCT, reappeared with a freshly-made raspberry smoothie. He extended his arm, handing the drink to the boy, who reluctantly took it.“Go ahead, take a sip,” Gonzales, a linguist, told the boy in Pashto, the local Afghan language. The boy crinkled his face in disgust and folded his arms defiantly, unwilling to try the strange-looking drink. Gonzales tried again. He took the straw out and put a drop of the fruity mixture on the boy’s fingers, then lifted the boy’s fingers to his lips. The boy licked off the drop of raspberry smoothie and paused for a second. Soon, a huge, beaming smile filled his face. “He likes it,” the blue-eyed medic said and smiled, as other people in the coffee shop shared a laugh watching the boy.Abas suffered 3rd-degree burns on both legs when he fell into a pit of hot coals that had been used to melt syrup to cook an Afghan treat. One of several Co. C medics who have been taking care of Abas is Army Pfc. Deana Hilburn, the blonde medic. She can often be seen carrying Abas, who is unable to walk, or on occasion, pushing him in his wheelchair into shops and places around the FOB.“He knows all of our first names, and he just yells for one of us,” Hilburn said. Abas is not shy and talks with all the people he meets, especially the medics who care for him. “They're taking care of me,” Abas said. “They bring me food; I like that. I like (Hilburn) because she takes me places outside.”"One of Abas’ favorite things to do on the FOB is to watch the helicopters and planes take off and land," Hilburn said. She said that Abas brings laughter to the aid station. “He’s a big goofball; he’s always doing something,” Hilburn said, before catching Abas puckering his lips at her out of the corner of her eye. “He does that; he makes fishy faces at us.”She made the face back at the boy and they shared a smile. “Who is this?” Hilburn said, pointing to a picture of a neatly-colored cartoon rabbit hanging on the wall beside Abas’ bed.
However, not all farmers shared Abrahim’s view. Abudl Aziz, who also farms about an acre of land not far from FOB Wright, told ADT members that he was satisfied with the provincial govt’s efforts to improve agriculture. “They gave me some shovels and other tools when I needed them,” Aziz said. “I think they're doing a good job overall.”In addition to visiting with farmers, members of the ADT also surveyed the crops currently under cultivation. Alongside relatively large fields of winter wheat, the ADT discovered smaller plots of parsley, spinach, clover, rice and even okra. Army Maj. Dwayne Eden, production agriculture specialist for the ADT led the mission, and expressed surprise at the wide range of crops right outside the base. “We came expecting to find mostly winter wheat, and we did see plenty of that in different stages of development,” Eden said. “But, the farmers here are obviously not tied to any one crop, and appear to try to be making the most out of the climate here, especially in their smaller plots.” The ADT foot patrol continued north alongside a canal leading toward Asadabad, the provincial capital. About halfway to Asadabad, the ADT found a small village, complete with 3 tiny shops and a water wheel the village elder used to generate electricity for the village’s few modest mud-brick homes.Army Capt. Pat Birgy applauded the ingenuity of the nameless village’s elder. He also pointed out the value of spending time getting to know the Afghan people near FOB Wright.
“Knowledge is important for everyone. With it, we can remove discrimination, better connect with nature, and have a good relationship with God,” said Azizurahman Tawab, the Kapisa executive chief, through an interpreter.“We're all very glad that the PRT has helped to build this school, but it’s important to remember that the maintenance of this school is a responsibility for all the Nijrab people, Zargaran villagers, and students,” said Sultan Mohammad Safi, Nijrab District sub-governor. "The PRT is very glad that we were able to work with Gulab Ikhlas Construction Co., to build this project for the people of Nijrab," said AF Capt. Seth Platt, Kapisa PRT civil engr. “We hope that as this school is used, more and more children will receive a quality education that will benefit their future, and build a stronger educational foundation for the entire prov., which will help all the people of Kapisa.”
During the meeting, Mohammad Safi expressed his gratitude for the PRT’s assistance, specifically mentioning the recent construction of the Nijrab courthouse, and his intentions for it to be used to its fullest capacity for the good of the local people.
“My main goal was to check in on the courthouse a few weeks after its opening,” said Jim Morris, Dept of State rep for Kapisa PRT. “Once construction is finished, there's still a lot of work to be done. I was pleased to see that the judge was there, pleased with the facility, and all of the staff hard at work”.
Morris also shared that during their courthouse visit, the judge emphasized how the impressive facility, located in the heart of the district, sent a positive signal about the GoA’s dedication to rule of law.
Bevalian spoke with Mohammad Hassan, an employee at one of the local hotels in the village. Hassan agreed that people should be able to bring their concerns to village elders, who would then bring those issues to the district leaders. But, that doesn’t always happen.“There is some work to do in the governance area,” Bevalian said. “I'm going to work directly with the line ministry directors to focus on good governance, to help the people connect with their leaders. That's really what we want to do.” On the topic of security, Hassan was more positive. “So far, everything is good,” Hassan said. Fazol Rahim, the village baker, agreed with Hassan. “Security is fine in the district,” he said. “Life is easy. I have my bakery and no complaints.” The PRT also handed out copies of the Voice of Freedom newspaper. It's a publication produced bi-weekly by the ISAF in English, Dari and Pashto.
BASRA - The girls, Amber, Camille, Dakota, Giselle, Lindsay and Paige from the Purrfect Angelz elite dance troupe performed at the USD-S Resiliency Campus for the Soldiers and civilians of Basra."This is an amazing experience to be here performing for you," said Giselle.
"The show was awesome," said Sgt. Stephan Nickell, 1st ID., DHHB. Nickell said that he and his battle buddies had been planning for a month, arranging different work schedules to be able to attend the show together. "They really put on a great show," Nickell said. "They lifted our morale so much."
"For the Purrfect Angelz it's an honor to be chosen to come here and provide entertainment for the men and women fighting in Iraq," said Dakota.
"We love you guys," said Giselle, "You guys are truly my heroes."
These crews are especially busy in Iraq, a unit in high demand as the only Apache bn deployed here. "The pilots do the hardest job, flying the long hours, but they couldn't make that mission without their aircraft," says Spc. Sean Hillery, 36.
Hillery, who worked as a construction mgr before he joined the Army 2 years ago, and like most of the bn's crew chiefs, says that he's spent most of his life "tinkering on something or another."
Before they become crew chiefs, the enlisted ground crews work in maintenance hangars as electricians and mechanics, whose workload could intimidate even the most experienced wrench-turners.
Crew chiefs like Hillery and Hart are not only responsible for maintaining the aircraft, but also inspecting its systems, and helping pilots prepare for missions. When an Apache leaves or returns, crew chiefs stand by to help the pilots, perform rapid troubleshoots, and conduct preflight and post flight checks.
"The crew chiefs tend to more than the aircraft's needs," says Hart. "We take care of the pilots, too," said Hart. "We're there to get them out if something goes wrong, and we make sure they're safe when they get in the aircraft."
Outside the Apache's immediate team of pilots and crew chiefs, other enlisted personnel do their part to keep the aircraft in the air. Spc. Alex Knapp, 21, is an Apache armament, electrical, and avionics systems repairer. Knapp and his peers work alongside the Apache crew chiefs, specializing in some of the aircraft's more technical aspects - aspects Knapp says are the "bread and butter" of making the Apache work.
"Sometimes you've got to get down in tight spots that aren't exactly comfortable, but loading rounds into the gun, loading the missiles, the rockets...this is a great job, well worth it," says Knapp.
Robert Wilson, a law enforcement professional, instructs an ANSF student on basic pistol procedures at the Afghan National Police Training Center on Camp Parsa, Nov. 3. (Photos by Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Guffey)
CAMP PARSA -- Afghan forces in the Rakkasan area of ops received a new weapon in the fight against crime, Dec. 1, when 31 Afghan soldiers and policemen graduated from a 2-month training course creating TF Eagle, the Khowst-Gardez arm of the highly-successful TF Reliance.Comprised of ANA and AUP, and trained by U.S. Soldiers and law enforcement professionals, TF Reliance is an undercover org. that targets and tracks criminal activity in its area of ops, according to Robert Wilson, who directed training at Camp Parsa. “Many men came to try out to be a member of the TF, but they're limited to how many they can take, so they go through a selection process based on recommendations from Afghan officials, and interviews with U.S. officials,” Wilson said. “But all of the men volunteered to become part of this new unit that will bring justice to the criminals of Khowst Prov.,” he said. Members of theTF echoed Wilson's statement. “We volunteered to do this, to rebuild and clear the insurgency out of Afghanistan,” said Obaid, a police officer and TF Eagle graduate.
Staff Sgt. Anthony Hillery, an EOD team leader with the 717th EOD Co, teaches a class of TF Reliance members about IEDs, through his interpreter Wahid at Camp Parsa, Nov. 3.
ANA Gen. Oriakhil, EO for 1st Bde, 203nd ANA, speaks to the ANSF class about the importance of ridding Afghanistan of terrorists
RC-East, Bagram Media Center
With no leads on the whereabouts of the parents, the AUP took the boy to COP Zormat to enlist the help of the local RIAB DJs. “We sent out a description of the boy and info about the incident,” said DJ Bostan. “We also included info on where the boy could be picked up by his family.”The radio message proved to be successful when the boy’s parents came to pick him up later that day. “The use of the RIAB in finding the family of the lost boy, shows its potential as an info and outreach tool,” said 1st Lt. Tristan Boddicker of the 415th CAB.
Staff Sgt. William Laster, Sgt. Ian Dupont and Sgt. Nathan Overturf became 3 of the newest SAMC members. Master Sgt. John Taylor, the HQ commandant for the 1st ID, and a former SAMC president considers its members a group of elite NCOs. "The basis of the SAMC is to recognize outstanding NCOs, based on their leadership and professional abilities," said Taylor.
Taylor said that prestige and honor is tied with becoming a member, and wearing the SAMC medallion. "Just to wear one, to obtain one is an honor in itself," Taylor said. "It represents the level of excellence you've achieved."
Dupont is a targeting analyst. He said that being inducted while on deployment added an important element to the honors. "Anybody who wants to learn, better themselves," said Dupont, "better their Army career, SAMC is a wonderful opportunity. The effort you put in will determine the rewards you will reap." Dupont credited his success to Master Sgt. Scott Bosse and Laster. "Without those 2 individuals, I probably wouldn't be inducted today."
Overturf is an infantryman. He said that he realized the challenges of becoming a member of the club, and attributes his success to the division leadership. "I failed the first time," said Overturf. "The 1st ID has taught me a lot, which I didn't learn in my previous unit."
Bosse said that he nominated Dupont for his professional qualities and dedication to his Soldiers. "He's a very hard working, young NCO who cares about the development of his Soldiers, and always looks out for their well being," said Bosse. "He has actively involved himself in the community."Those qualities are what every member of the club should strive to uphold," Bosse said.
Overturf said that Murphy's role in WWII is an inspiration. "His achievements on the battlefield," said Overturf, "to never quit, to demonstrate tenacity in the face of danger. Always keep driving on to the objective; that's what Audie Murphy means to me."
Murphy was a Medal of Honor recipient for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty." He is one of the most highly-decorated Soldiers in the history of the Army.
"It's not stopping here tonight," said div. command sgt. maj., Command Sgt. Maj. James Champagne. "It's not just about wearing the medallion, not just about an ARCOM (Army Commendation Medal) or the accolades. It's all about how they contribute to their communities. It's about how they give back to Soldiers within their unit."
While this is her 3rd deployment, it's the first time she’s been deployed with her husband, Sgt. Anthony Hughes, Jr. He's an S-2 clerk in TF Falcon, 10th CAB. Anthony admits that deploying with his wife makes some things easie, and said that he's proud of Autumn and her sense of duty.“I'm extremely proud of what my wife is doing for our country,” said Anthony. “She has decided to stay in the Army, despite us having a child, and still wants to serve. I think that it takes a very dedicated person to do this when given the opportunity to get out, because of us being dual military,” he said. Autumn said she enjoys her job in the Army, because it allows her the opportunity to meet and get to know a variety of people. As a signal support system specialist, she helps set up the unit’s computer systems. She runs cables, connects printers, manages share portals, and sets up radio sets. It's her responsibility to take care of most things that deal with communication. With more than 7 years in the Army, Autumn is familiar with facing challenges and learning to overcome them. “I take challenges on with a positive attitude,” she said. “If I don’t know how to fix it, I ask questions. I’m never afraid to ask questions.” The Hughes left behind their 11-month-old baby girl, Summer, with Autumn’s mother. It's a new challenge this Army Family is facing, but Autumn maintains her positive attitude. “This is the first time I’ve had to leave my daughter, and I’m going to admit it's hard, but I know what I’m doing for our daughter, and one day she'll understand why I had to do it,” she said. “There are times that are harder than some, but I have to push those feelings onto the back burner, and keep my head in the game – not only for myself, but for my Soldiers.” Anthony, who enlisted in 2002 with the intent of completing 20 years, misses his daughter as well. He acknowledged that he focuses heavily on his job to complete the mission. He said he knows photos and videos of Summer are being taken for them to watch when they return home next fall. His head is fully in the mission here. The Hughes said they know it is not easy to have a dual military Family, when they both plan to support and defend the country for 20 years. However, they said they completely support each other in their career goals.
“It was a great cause to run for … our 13 fallen heroes,” said 1st Lt. Jeremy Hamilton. “It’s cool to see the whole FOB come together, honor our guys, and support the bn.”The engr bn has the tough task of performing route clearance in the northern, eastern and southern command regions. The Army Engineer School defines route clearance as the detection, investigation, marking, reporting and neutralization of explosive hazards and other obstacles, along a defined route to enable assured mobility for the maneuver cmdr.
Directing tribal affairs is no small task, as there are 3 or 4 different tribes represented in each village. The first topic of discussion was Orgun District’s new sub-governor, Khushid Rehman. “The new sub-governor is a great man,” Salim said. “He invited ANA and ANP to keep security.”Salim asked Butler to attend their weekly shura, a meeting where tribal leaders, village elders and govt directors can discuss issues within the prov. "Rehman is also planning to attend the shura," Salim added. “I hope it won’t be any trouble for you to attend,” Salim said. “It would be a huge help to see what the people are thinking. People are hoping for the sub-governor to work to rebuild Orgun.” Salim said education is a priority. “It’s good to keep the young people busy, to keep kids from getting into trouble,” Salim said. “Unfortunately in this culture, especially in these villages, they don’t care about education. I feel, as a govt leader, it's my duty to make education important.” As the meeting with Salim came to an end, Sadim Zoy, the dir. of the Orgun Youth Cultural Union, waited outside to meet with Butler. Butler shook hands with Salim and expressed his thanks for meeting with him, and then welcomed Zoy into the room. Zoy began by describing the nongovernmental org. that he founded. “It started 8 months ago, and we already have 400 members. We aren’t just trying to help local,” he added. “We're trying to bring youths togethe, by starting sports teams, and bringing them education.”
Currently, those 400 members are men aged 18 and above, but, according to Zoy, they also have programs for children and women in mind. Zoy claimed that the Tribal Liaison Org. has agreed to build a cricket stadium at a cost of about $80,000. However, the union is having trouble finding the land.Zoy explained that the people of Orgun usually go to the district sub-governor for help with their problems, but that his org. assists as well. The union has plans for a radio station and magazine, according to Zoy, who thinks education and communication are the keys to addressing corruption in the prov. “The main way we want to educate is through media,” he explained. “We want to talk to people through the radio. We already got the license and approval, but we’re waiting on the name and frequency.” Zoy told Butler that he's seen positive changes since CF arrived in Afghanistan. Butler thanked them for meeting with him. With the info he gathered from both meetings, Butler explained what steps he would take next. “The tribal affairs meeting was for discussing the upcoming shura for elders from eastern Paktika,” Butler said. “With the youth group, we’re going to reach out to the ANA to see if they can help them obtain land for their cricket field. That’s going to be a little tough.” A couple of days after these meetings, Butler met with Mohammed Alam, Orgun dep. dir. of finance. Alam was a refugee in Pakistan for 19 years, and said that there are still about 100,000 to 150,000 Afghans living as refugees in Pakistan. “Little by little they're coming back to Afghanistan,” Alam said. “This is our country. We have to serve our country and our people. We're all brothers.”
Butler spoke to Alam about what his top priorities are for Orgun in the realm of finance. “My main goal is to bring rule and regulation on how to collect taxes,” Alam said. “There are about 500 stores in the bazaar, but right now I don’t have anything on paper that will allow me to collect.”
Noor Alam is the dep. dir. for rural reconstruction in Orgun, and also attended the meeting.
“We ask the people what they need, or what they want, and we tell the govt,” Noor Alam explained. “We know what people need is to fix and build things like clinics and schools.”
Op Check Dam led Reps from the 3-19th ADT, Khowst PRT, USACE, and a civilian forestry expert into a mountainous border region, only 1 km from the Pakistan border. Village elders had voiced concern over a growing wadi in the area, and requested a retaining wall.
Members of the 3-19th ADT called upon the experts from outside agencies to assist in a site survey, as part of a follow-up mission the 2-19th ADT began in May. Army Col. Walter Colbert, 3-19th ADT cmdr, stressed the importance of working closely with all the partners in the area of ops."While the 3-19th ADT possesses a broad range of internal agricultural related expertise, including a hydrologist; a project of this magnitude is better served by calling on the engineering experts located within Khowst (PRT),” said Colbert. “This type of cooperation creates an incredible synergy between the 2 teams, resulting in an increased footprint.” Professor Dr. John Groninger is currently working as a part of a USAID-funded Afghanistan Water Agriculture and Technology Transfer Project, in which he travels throughout eastern Afghanistan in an effort to gather samples of native trees. Through the use of a specialized increment borer, Groninger extracts a cross-section of a living tree to take home for further research. Results of this research assist engrs and agricultural experts in planning future projects. Hydrological data is not currently available for many parts of Afghanistan, but through the work of Groninger, "future projects in this region should have a better understanding of hydrological impacts," he said.
The specific area surveyed by participants of Op Check Dam consisted of a wadi in which heavy flooding in the past was evident. According to Groninger, “overgrazing of livestock has made it difficult for water to infiltrate the ground, thus resulting in more devastating floods for the entire watershed.”
Also speaking at the event was Dep. Gov. Mangal. “The Director of Public Health and the midwives are decreasing the number of women dying during childbirth,” said Mangal. “I want to congratulate you for continuing to decrease this number.”Following Mangal’s remarks, various govt officials and prominent members of the local community handed out certificates to the graduates. They were also given several gifts from govt officials, instructors from the Midwife Training Center, the PRT and family members. Mangal said that the people of Paktya have come a long way in creating a stronger govt, addressing medical needs and increasing development, but there's always room for improvement. “We've done a lot for healthcare and development in our prov.,” said Mangal. “We finished 180 kms of roads and have 80 kms of roads in progress. I hope, in the future, that we can solve all problems in Paktya.”
"We provide installation engineering and light vertical and horizontal troop labor," said Lt. Col. Laura Johnson, sqdn cmdr of the 467th Expeditionary Prime Base Engineering Emergency Force. "Our Facility Engineer Teams use their technical expertise to execute master planning and surveying."
"We're surveying the area that the ISF will eventually be housed," said Tech. Sgt. Andrea Romero, Lead Engr Asst with the Kalsu FET. "We have to account for the total space, to include force protection measures, as well as living and working space."
The Kalsu FET's efforts extend beyond the camp's gates. The engrs are working with the 3rd ACR on a mission plan that will breathe new life into a courthouse in the city of Hillah. "We're surveying and making plans for this courthouse," said Johnson. "It'll get needed refurbishing, and then be turned back over to the Iraqis who will use it."
The courthouse in Hillah will serve as a hall of justice, where Iraqis will be able to exercise rule of law. "I take my job very personally," said Romero. "I know that I've contributed to Iraqi sustainment, and their ability to stand on their own. I can leave here knowing that I made a difference for the Iraqi people."
By Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Smith, 1st ID PAO
"Of course, you've got Little Big Horn, and being in the military, we study some of the Native American wars that we went through, and battles that happened in history." Wells isn't the only one taking more of an interest in Native American history, over the past month at least, as Americans celebrated Native American Heritage Month in November.
Although Wells has taken an increased interest in his Cherokee heritage, he says an unfortunate aspect of his upbringing contributed more to his desire to succeed. Wells, now one of the most senior enlisted Soldiers in the 1st ID, said that his success comes partly from the common socio-economic status of his people.
"Where I grew up, it's not uncommon for many Native American Families to live a little bit below the poverty level, so it always makes you strive for more," he said. "That's not Native American, that's any human being - you always want more than you came up with."
It was Army Staff Sgt. Lucas Kammerer with Bushmaster Co, navigating the treacherous terrain in the dead of night. “There’s a myth, I think, amongst us CF and ISAF that there are some places we can’t go,” said Army Lt. Col. Joseph Ryan, TF Bulldog cmdr. “That's absolutely and unequivocally untrue. We can go anywhere we want to go. We've the technology to support it, but most importantly, our infantrymen are tougher, stronger, more capable, and better trained than the enemy is,” Ryan added.
Dispelling this myth, Bushmaster Co. Soldiers joined forces with ANA soldiers to complete the final phase of Op Bulldog Bite, Nov. 22. After conducting an air assault onto the high ground, Kammerer and his troops moved out. “Picture the rockiest, crappiest terrain you can think of at 7,500 feet, with 75 lbs on your back, taking you down the mountain,” said Kammerer, a squad leader.
As they began the trek down, an AH-64 Apache helicopter screamed overhead, and fired a volley of missiles a few hundred yards away. “About 30 seconds after we landed, the Apaches lit somebody up in the caves we were next to, which is a disconcerting feeling, but it’s all part of it,” explained Kammerer, as the joint patrol moved toward its first objective.
"The area has been a stronghold for quite some time, and the Soldiers were finally glad to be up into the same mountains that overlook their COP" Kammerer said. “It’s frustrating because our base is just south of here, and we get attacked all the time, so we know they’re up here,” explained Kammerer.
As dawn approached, the separate elements arrived at their objectives. Resting on rocky outcroppings that overlook tiny villages perched on the mountainside, the Soldiers were sweating and cursing the terrain.
“It was 600 to 700 meters to reach our first objective, and the terrain was loose, rocky and steep,” said Kammerer. “Our objective was to clear the villages of enemies, caches or weapons.” Silently, the joint patrol moved out and cleared multiple locations at the same time, just as the sun was beginning to silhouette the jagged mountains.
“It doesn’t matter for us and CF about the mountains,” said ANA 1st Lt. Din, an infantry plt leader. “We're always going where the enemy is. Our message to them is to come down and turn themselves in and their weapons, and we will negotiate. We always approach them peacefully, but if they don’t, then we'll come get them.”
As the soldiers moved into the villages, they spoke with the locals and searched every possible hiding place for anything suspicious. “When we started the op, we joined together to search the houses,” said Din. “But, we don’t want to have the villagers look at us with bad eyes, so before we search, we tell them we're here for their security.”
In order for the ANA and U.S. forces to succeed, they need to let the people know that they're here for them. “The large majority of people in this area are essentially indifferent to the fighting between us and the insurgent groups,” said Ryan. “They don’t take sides; they live with it, and have to deal with it day in and day out. They’re farmers, landowners and ranchers essentially. So, we obviously take that into account when we conduct ops such as Bulldog Bite.”
One message ops such as this are trying to send to people, is that even if U.S. forces leave, ANSF will always be here to protect Afghans. “We use this as an opportunity to talk to the people with our coalition brothers,” said Din, who has wanted to serve in the ANA since childhood. “We can’t let the outsiders influence the people to help the enemy. We want to fight their propaganda, and tell them that if we lose one soldier, then there'll be 3 more ready to replace him.”
Ryan agreed and stressed that the ANA are getting more proficient each day, because of their desire to see their country succeed. “Though they may not be technologically or organizationally prepared for the job they have down the road, the willingness is there and the heart is there,” said Ryan. “They’re willing to stand side-by-side with us, and fight for their country.”
After spending a few hours searching the village and talking to Afghan males, the soldiers pressed on. For the next 2 days, they moved at night, and appearing in doorways at dawn, the ANA and U.S. soldiers established a rhythm of pulling security, searching and resting.
“I felt pretty exhausted after resting for a few hours, but I kept going,” said Kammerer. “We don’t have a choice. It’s our job over here. That’s why they call us grunts. It’s supposed to suck, and it’s supposed to be hard. We’re supposed to be dirty, tired and hungry. That’s the way it’s always been, and that’s what we do.”
Carrying essential water, food and clothing on their backs, they had to ration out each meal, and control their impulse to replenish the hundreds of calories burned during every hour.
Though the work was intense and painstaking, the joint patrol cleared every building on the mountainside, taking few breaks.
“I don’t remember where we slept … it feels like a week ago. Where were we?” said Kammerer. “I remember sleeping for an hour and 52 minutes … But, it says to the enemy, ‘Look, we’re not afraid to get up here, walk around and duke it out with you.’ From that aspect, it’s a good thing.”
Ryan echoed those thoughts, but doesn’t underestimate his foe. “I give the enemy full credit. A lot of cases he’s willing to stand and fight; stand and fight and die, but stand and fight,” said Ryan. “I don’t take anything away from his capability or his willingness to fight for his cause. But, we want what’s best for the large majority of the population of Afghans in the Pech. He wants what’s best for a very extremely small minority of Islamic fundamentalists, that see this area as a potential safe haven down the road.”
"Taking away the enemies’ ability to hide themselves and protect themselves in the craggy mountainside, is one of Bushmaster Co. Soldiers’ specialties," said Army Capt. Thomas Whitfield II, co. cmdr.
During the 3rd day, Whitfield and his team wanted to talk directly to the village elders, to let them know their suspicions of Taliban in the area, and to hear their concerns. “We told them we’re not there to disturb their harmony, but if they allow the enemy to use this area as a staging ground or sanctuary, then they’ll be responsible for whatever happens,” said Whitfield.
The villagers nodded solemnly, and added that U.S. and ANA soldiers were easier to deal with than Taliban, because they didn’t beat the villagers and threaten them into making food for them. While the meeting was happening inside a house, the vigilant soldiers peered into the shadows of the mountains. “They’re out there,” said Whitfield, “but the enemy couldn’t find an opening in our perimeter, because of our posture and our ability to provide security.”
Throughout the different phases of Bulldog Bite, the enemy has probed the joint forces’ defenses, resulting in minimal causalities. Yet, the overall mission has produced more than 150 insurgents killed, 2 training camps revealed, multiple weapons caches, and an invaluable intangible.
“Confidence,” said Whitfield. “It gave our guys confidence, because it reminds them that we can go anywhere. The best thing you can have is a confident infantryman, especially a confident Bushmaster, and that’s the worst thing for the enemy.”
The sun went down, and the moon wasn’t over the mountains yet. It was dark again and a few house lights spotted the mountainside. Calm blanketed the Pech River Valley and nothing, almost nothing moved, except for a joint patrol snaking it’s way down to the valley floor.
“They’re never going to be in Chicago and order a pizza, so we did tailor it to make it relevant for them,” said Spc. Robert Dodson. “So, we’ve been able to come up with vocabulary lists or catch phrases.”
Dodson said that he doesn't just stand up in front of the class and teach. He makes sure the ANA soldiers participate in the class. This method of instruction gives him running assessments of how well ANA soldiers are grasping the English language. “What we do is create scenarios, and then pair them up and let them do their thing,” Dodson said. “I definitely try to gear it toward me doing less talking, and them doing more.
The ANA soldiers understand the importance of learning English to work with CF. ANA 1st Lt. Afzal, ANA religious officer in Sayed Abad, speaks 3 languages, and said that he still realizes the impact that learning English has on him and his men.
“I know 3 languages: Pashtu, Arabic and Dari; but right now, I think English is a global language,” Afzal said. “In this situation, the Afghan Army needs to learn English, so that they can solve problems by themselves and not call an interpreter when they need help. If they know the English language, they can solve problems and misunderstandings.”
Cpl. Neil Jones teaches the class with Dodson. Jones believes basic dialogue is the way of making relations easier between ANA soldiers and CF. “My focus in the beginning is to make sure they can introduce themselves to any American,” Jones said. “It’s a ‘Hello, my name is _______. It’s nice to meet you.’"
“We also started off with basic conversation. For us to be able to do that for them, that also bridges the gap for us,” Jones continued. “When you watch the body language of the U.S. Soldier when they're able to greet them, you see the shoulders drop and relax. You see that they're relaxing and they start to smile, because they’re trying. That’s all we’re asking for is an effort. That effort goes for miles.”
When it comes to conducting joint patrols with CF, ANA soldiers understand the need to communicate effectively, especially if they receive enemy contact. Knowing where they are, and where to shoot is critical to mission success.
“We’re teaching them to speak cardinal directions - north, south, east and west. We’re teaching them how to react to an IED, and to react to contact - indirect as well as small-arms,” Jones said. “When you tell them distance in English they'll understand that. When you say the enemy is 500 meters behind cover, you need them to be able to understand that, as an integrated team.
“I can’t imagine being in a country where someone is yelling at you in a foreign language, and you're trying to figure out which way to go,” Jones continued. “We’re just trying to get them on the same sheet of music.”
Everything Jones and Dodson do to teach, combined with the ANA soldiers’ willingness to learn, shows signs for great improvement in the future. They're excited about what they can learn next.
“I see a big difference right now," said ANA 1st Sgt. Louqman. For example, in 2005 in a meeting, I was asked to bring a radio from one of the U.S. guys. At the time, I didn’t know any English. I didn’t get what kind of radio was wanted, and I didn’t know the name of the radio. Since I’ve been attending this class, they've taught me a lot. I can solve my own problems by myself. It’s very important to have classes for all my soldiers to know English.”
The patrol began with a key leader engagement (KLE) in Khani Kala Village. Soldiers walked to a home in the village to meet local elders. To guard the meeting, the patrol placed Soldiers on the roof of the house. During the meeting, Co. C Soldiers validated the concerns, when Soldiers from 2nd Plt. identified 2 insurgents with an RPG launcher moving to a historical ambush location.
Soldiers carefully moved into position and initiated an engagement against the 2 armed insurgents, killing them both. Further investigation of the 2 insurgents revealed that they were also carrying an IED, 3 hand grenades, and 2 pistols.
While maneuvering, Soldiers of 2nd Plt. moved through the home of a local villager in order to establish a position to support other Soldiers by direct fire, if needed. To the Soldiers’ surprise, the villager was trying to hide an AK-47, ammo carrier, 6 mags of ammo, and a radio in his home. The ANA captured the weapons and detained him for further questioning.
As U.S. forces moved back toward FOB Four Corners, they learned of additional insurgents in the area. “There were 2 other insurgents in the village who observed how quickly SECFORs eliminated the first 2 combatants,” said Army 1st Lt. Christopher Grauel, plt leader of 2nd Plt., Co. C. “These hidden insurgents dropped their RPGs and ran away.”
Grauel’s platoon captured an RPG launcher and RPG munitions.
“This past week we’ve been very successful in identifying and initiating contact with the enemy before they were able to ambush us,” said Capt. Justin Quisenberry, cmdr of Co. C, 3rd Bn., 187th Inf. Regt. “Today’s fight was at close range, and we eliminated at least 2 more insurgents from the battlefield.”
“It was clear they'd come to do harm to U.S. Soldiers, as well as the villagers,” said Grauel. “The quick response of the American Soldiers prevented any innocent Afghans from being harmed.”
Afghan Uniform Police (AUP), and ANA units combined with TF Iron’s 3 organic infantry companies to attack the safe haven, in a pre-dawn op. In addition to human-gathered intel, the attacking forces employed remotely piloted vehicles (RPV), close-air support, and other aerial detection platforms to find, fix and finish the insurgents.
During the initial phase of the op, Soldiers from Co C, 3rd Bn., 187th Inf., identified a 40-lb IED, and safely destroyed it with the help of a route-clearance package, and a U.S. AF EOD team. Soldiers on the ground continued to move under the cover of darkness to their respective blocking positions, when Co. C struck a 2nd IED, which caused no injuries.
By morning, 3 companies had maneuvered deep into an insurgent safe haven, enabling ground forces to employ air assets to hunt the enemy. Using a combination of “eyes in the sky,” TF Iron identified and tracked multiple groups of insurgents.
Army Staff Sgt. Erik Padilla, for the 3rd Bn., 187th Inf. Bn., personnel security det plt sgt, worked alongside A Co. “A Co. was very tactically sound,” Padilla said. “They communicated and maneuvered very well amongst themselves, and with the air assets.”
As Co. A moved through its objective, the insurgents began to flee. With help from Army Capt. Edward Peskie, Co. A cmdr, an RPV identified one insurgent with an AK-47 and military binoculars. After maintaining positive ID, attack aircraft engaged the position with aerial munitions, eliminating the insurgent and destroying his motorcycle.
Later, the RPV identified and eliminated 2 more insurgents on a motorcycle, carrying AK-47s and RPGs. Additionally, the aerial detection platforms employed during Op Iron Blade II allowed TF Iron to identify several possible cache locations, and insurgent safe havens to target in future ops.
“The RPV was a huge contributor to the success of today’s op,” said AF Tech. Sgt. Ryan Horton, 3rd Bn, 187th Inf., joint terminal attack controller. “The ground forces flushed the insurgents out, and the RPV finished them. The asset was outstanding at tracking the insurgents and feeding info back to the Soldiers on the ground. This was definitely one of the best coordinated ops I’ve worked.”
"The ANSF and CF searched houses, talked to key leaders, detained an insurgent, and seized 3 RPGs. The combined efforts by all elements of TF Iron made the op a tremendous success, and greatly disrupted insurgent ops in eastern Ghazni," said Army Lt. Col. David Fivecoat, 3rd Bn, 187th Inf., cmdr.
Deh Yak’s AUP Chief, Haji Mohammad, agreed with Fivecoat’s assessment of the mission’s success, and its importance to the people of eastern Ghazni prov. "We had a good and successful mission in Aziz Godale," said Mohammad. "Everyone is pleased that we have Americans in our district. They've brought increased security, by working alongside of the AUP and ANA here."
"Fox Troop is here to train and work alongside the Wasit IP Forces, and enable our Stability and Transition Teams," said Capt. Gerardo Menal, cmdr of Troop F. "Past deployments were more of a kinetic fight."
The troop was brought forward to provide more support to 2nd Sqdn's mission in Wasit Prov. Once given the order, Fox Troop gathered its Soldiers and equipment, and after only hours in an airplane, the unit had arrived, ready to get started.
Early the next day, Soldiers began unpacking all the equipment they had brought on the flight. A wide range of tactical vehicles and other equipment had to be inspected and signed over to Fox Troop from those already on COB Delta.
"We've a lot of preparation and setup to do right now," said Pfc. Zephaniah Martinez, a cav scout, deployed for the first time. "I like it so far, and I'm proud to be here with Fox Troop."
Fox Troop has been at the center of combat ops in Iraq for years, and now takes on this new mission with the same professionalism and dedication.
"This is my 4th deployment with Fox Troop to Iraq," said 1st Sgt. Gary Villalobos, 1st sgt of Troop F. "We're here now in a strictly support role. Before we leave, we have to ensure that the Iraqis have a good hold on things."
Despite having only been in Iraq for 24 hours, the Soldiers of Fox Troop were motivated and getting into the swing of a new mission in a new environment. "Fox Troop will assist ISF, so that they can operate on their own," said Menal. "There'll be an Iraqi presence attached to everything we do."
When Thomas heard Morrell would be visiting Basra Airfield along with 4 other novelists (Andy Harp, Steve Berry, Douglas Preston, and James Rollins), he got permission to fly the 100 miles from Camp Adder to Basra, and meet him in person.
"I haven't been this excited about anything in a long time," Thomas said. "He's the pinnacle of everything I really like. I've met several writers, but he's the one that I've never been able to meet, and the one I've wanted to meet the most."
Morrell said he was surprised by Thomas, who has been exchanging emails with him since 2003, during the Soldier's first deployment to Iraq. "I was stunned when he said he was the person," Morrell said. "The story is an interesting one. He'd gotten in touch with me during the early years of this war."
"When I was here in 2003, I emailed him, asking if he would sign my books if I'd sent them," Thomas said. "He wouldn't. About a month or so later I received 10 of his favorite books he had written, autographed to me," Thomas said.
Morrell said he rarely mails books to fans, but something in Thomas's e-mail made him do so. "I think it was 10 books I sent," said Morrell, "which in itself was very unusual. I remember vividly going down the post office and sending it to him."
On his 6th deployment, and his 4thh away from his wife, Thomas said it was the best thing that has happened during his current tour. For Morrell, going on the USO-sponsored tour is a chance to give back to a segment of the population he has always admired, and perhaps gain some inspiration for a future novel.
Morrell cited retired Army Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, whose book ‘On Killing' has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, as the source of his personal motto. "He says, ‘surround yourself with people of quality and substance'," Morrell said. "That's the way I feel about the U.S. military. They have a degree of selfless commitment, responsibility and professionalism; a stable structure I find admirable."
"There's something powerful about people who are willing to sacrifice themselves for others; it's rare."
Pharris has been a lot of things in his life - a truck driver, a car salesman, a stone mason, and several others, but the 2 things he said that never left his life, were working on a farm and being in the Army.
It has been a winding journey for Pharris, but now, at the age of 48, his life has come full circle, back to the 2 occupations he said he loves the most - farming and the military. Pharris works as a small ruminant specialist and a liaison officer with the Khogyani District ADT in Nangarhar prov. The 13-member team is tasked with returning the once fertile Nangarhar prov., to the farming haven of yesteryear.
"This was once one of the greenest parts of Afghanistan," Pharris said of the land surrounding FOB Connolly, a stretch of mostly barren desert and mountains. "There was so much produce here, that the people exported fruits and other crops."
The once peaceful farming valley fell to the ravages of war when the Soviets invaded. Pharris said, "much of the land was destroyed and many farmers left the country. Now," he continued, farmers in the Khogyani District are trying to hang on, but barely produce enough crops to get by.
"The people here are subsistence farmers, which is a lot like my farm back in Missouri," Pharris said. He said his farm is a 36-acre plot on which sheep and goats graze with a half-acre garden. He said between his sheep, goats and garden, the only thing he buys at the grocery store is milk.
Because of his lifelong experience with farming, and the type of farm he runs in the states, Pharris said he was pulled off a deployment mission to Iraq, and selected to help Afghan farmers as part of the ADT. "I was a week away from leaving to deploy to Iraq as part of a convoy security mission, when I got word I was joining the team," Pharris recalled.
By July, Pharris was at FOB Finley Shields, outside Jalalabad. One project the team started at Finley Shields was growing a small plot of crops using a farming method known as drip irrigation. The team planted a small garden using a 2-1/2 gallon bucket and hoses with holes in them. Water runs from the bucket into the hoses then drips out to the roots of the plants, so no water is wasted.
Pharris said that when he showed the garden at Finley Shields to the Afghan Agricultural Extension Agent, the agent was "absolutely amazed" at the garden's crop output using the drip-irrigation method, which uses much less water than methods currently used by Afghan farmers.
"We want to show them while using half the water, farmers here can double the return they're getting on their crops," Pharris said. He said that convincing the farmers to adopt basic, more effective farming techniques will be challenging, but vital to the mission's success.
"You have to understand that these people are still using farming methods from the Middle Ages," Pharris said. "That's because their whole lives depend on what they grow, and these are the methods used by their fathers, their father's fathers, and so on. If the new methods don't work, they'll starve."
Pharris said that if the team can convince the AEA to get the farmers to try some basic farming techniques, they can drastically increase their crop output and overall quality of life. For example, Pharris explained, "many Afghan farmers plant their crops by tossing handfuls of seeds in an area rather than using the common row-planting techniques." He also said, "the soil is being depleted because crops are not rotated, meaning the soil is not getting fresh nutrients to grow new crops." He said, "by using compost and other techniques, the crop output can be drastically improved.
"Our goal is to work with the AEA to work with the farmers," Pharris said. He's currently identifying some of the larger-scale farmers in the district. He said, "If I can convince these farmers to set aside a small section of their land to try our farming methods, they'll see the success of the new methods, and hopefully start adapting some of them into their farming."
The ADT does not work solely with Afghans to accomplish their mission. They also work with subject matter experts from the U.S. Dept of Agriculture (USDA), and USAID. "We try to keep the lines of communication open, because we're working towards the same goal," Pharris said.
One person Pharris works with is Kelan Evans, a foreign service officer with the USDA. Together, the ADT and USDA are planting 11 demo orchards at schools throughout the Khogany District. There will be orange and almond trees, mixed with Egyptian clover to add nitrogen back to the soil, and provide high quality fodder for farmer's animals.
The orchards will be, on average, between half an acre and an acre, and use ditch and possibly drip irrigation. The orchards will basically serve as an agricultural component to the schools, and according to Evans, "will provide the younger Afghan generation with valuable agricultural training."
"It will be an ongoing project to care for the trees, so future students will learn from the faculty. We targeted middle schools, high schools, as well as some female schools, because they work in the fields quite often, too."
Pharris said that he considers the ADT a 'non-lethal weapons"' team. "We've been killing bad guys here for 9 years now," Pharris said. "But, another part of the mission is the counterinsurgency (COIN) piece. That's why I think what I do here is so important."
"It's the people of Afghanistan who can ultimately win this war. If we can get people on the side of the govt, by bringing them stability through agriculture, they're going to be a lot less likely to turn that over to the insurgency," said Pharris.
This was not the type of mission Pharris, a career infantryman who first entered the Army in 1981, originally saw himself being part of. In 2007, his son was entering the Marines, and Pharris said he felt himself missing the military. He talked with the NG recruiter, and soon, at the age of 46, was back in uniform.
"I see a chance here to really make a difference," he said. "It would be interesting to come back here in 10 years, see a farmer with his crops, a green valley here again, and to have someone tell them they learned that from an Afghan who was taught by an American. How cool would that be?"
“This trial was an opportunity to show the Afghan people that their govt’s judicial system has brought officials like Akhtar to justice, and will continue to do so,” said Zia Bawer, Afghanistan’s Eastern Region Court Chief.
The guilty finding seemed to represent a landmark ruling in the fight against corruption. The case was presented before the public and media, offering the people of Nangarhar an unprecedented view into their judicial system. "The trial is the latest milestone in GoA’s journey to become a stable, competent administration, capable of discharging all the requisite duties to lead Afghanistan," said Shane Kelbley from Philadelphia, and the Nanagarhar PRT’s senior rule of law expert.
“The Afghan public has a very big appetite for justice, for seeing people brought to account for their actions,” Kelbley said. “The fact that the judicial system brought a very powerful governmental official to trial, proves the progress Afghanistan is making.”
"The trial highlights GoA’s aggressive efforts to eradicate corruption amongst its ranks," said AF Lt. Col. Mike Anderson, the Nangarhar PRT cmdr. “This trial, as a result of its transparency, proves to the people of Nangarhar that their govt will not tolerate corruption,” Anderson said. “Open trials in front of the media and population are the best way to empower the population.”
The trial, held Nov. 8, was presided over by Nurgol Chief Judge Rabi, and resulted in the defendant, Abdul Wadood, being sentenced to 6 months confinement for vehicular manslaughter.
Speaking to the elders and govt officials gathered in the Nurgol District Courthouse, Asadabad Primary Court Chief Judge Mohibullah, who travelled to Nurgol for the ceremony, praised the efforts of the district judicial officials, and lauded the people for their support of the process.
“We must continue to work together,” Mohibullah said. “A stick by itself can be easily broken, but a bundle of sticks will remain strong.” Mohibullah went on to extol the virtues of the public judiciary system, rebuffing arguments that it was at odds with traditional tribal and Islamic law. “Islam and rule of law are intertwined,” he said. “Without rule of law, Islam will be weakened.”
“The Supreme Court in Kabul knows that Norgul was the first district to have a public trial,” Sutherland said. To the elders he added, “Your continued participation is important. A public trial lets you make sure your govt is working properly.”
Although the first "American Indian Day" was declared by the State of New York in 1916, a month long recognition was not instituted until 1990, when George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as "National American Indian Heritage Month." Similar proclamations have been issued every year.
"The bigger part of my environment was made up of Native Americans," said Wells. "Not only people, but everything around me from art, to music, to powwows and rodeos. I have Cherokee running through my veins and I'm proud."
Throughout history, American Indians and Alaska Natives have been an integral part of the American character. "From Pocahontas to Sacagawea, there are many Native American leaders that have contributed immeasurable to our countries heritage," said Lt. Col. Christine Pacheco, 1st ID, EO program mgr. "They've distinguished themselves and succeeded as scholars, artists, entrepreneurs and even servicemen and women," she said.
"Through the 'Trail of Tears' we've come a long way," said Wells.
BASRA - Step one is the packing and inspection of the unit's shipping containers to get Soldiers' personal gear from southern Iraq back to home station.
If any unauthorized goods are found in a container, that container and all its contents can be in limbo for up to 18 months, but luckily for the troops of DHHB, they've Sgt. 1st Class Lilia Schoenhofer, the unit's customs program mgr., who's completed almost 1,000 inspections over the course of her tour in southern Iraq.
Maj. Terri Andreoni, the officer-in-charge of one of the shipping containers going back to Fort Riley, said that the info the customs inspectors provide has helped the process go smoothly so far.
BASRA - The plan was an ambitious one: visit 23 dining facilities in 9 hours spread over 9 provs., in southern Iraq, an area the size of Washington State. The 1st ID command team, also known as the "Victory 5," visited almost every camp, base and airfield in the USD-South operating environment, to talk to and eat with USD-S personnel on Thanksgiving Day.
Maj. Gen. Vincent Brooks, Command Sgt. Maj. Jim Champagne, division command sgt. maj., Brig. Gen. Randal Dragon, dep. comm. gen. for support, Brig. Gen. Ricky Gibbs, dep. comm. gen. for maneuver, and Col. Richard Piscal, div. chief of staff, each visited multiple dining facilities, serving food, and chatting with the Soldiers.
"Our Soldiers serve us every day, and we just take this opportunity on a day of thanks, to thank them by serving them ourselves," Brooks said. The locations they served the troops ranged from tiny JSSs on the Iranian border with less than 100 people, to massive U.S. hubs that house several 1000 people.
"This is unprecedented," said Sgt. Maj. Juan Abreu, the 1st ID's food services sgt. maj. "As far as I know, this has never been done before." Abreu and Chief Warrant Officer Eunice Buffington spent months planning the mission with the 1st ID's aviation section. Four sets of aircraft were dedicated for the day, logging thousands of miles to successfully complete the mission.
The visits were appreciated by the troops. "They've done a good job of capturing the feeling and spirit of Thanksgiving here in Iraq," said Pfc. Zack Davidson, while dining on deep fried turkey at Camp Garryowen in Maysan Prov.
"It's one of the best Thanksgivings I've ever had," agreed Pfc. Armando DeLeon. "It's an amazing day for us, having a fun time with all of our comrades." As the 1st ID's command team toured southern Iraq, they weren't alone. The 1st ID Band's brass quintet and rock bands accompanied Brooks and Champagne respectively, setting up, performing 20-30 minute sets, and then racing to the helicopters for the next stop.
"The bands were really the unsung heroes of the day. They played first; they ate last," said Abreu. "They worked really hard, and the Soldiers really enjoyed it."
Cooks also worked overtime to create a special Thanksgiving for the troops. Spc. James Grantham, a cook at JSS Al Sheeb on the Iranian border, stayed up all night before Thanksgiving, preparing the feast and the decorations. "I try to put my heart into it," said Grantham. "It's not easy, but to see their faces after I get the job done - it just makes me feel good. It's not just for Thanksgiving; it's every day when I cook a meal. It makes me feel good to see their faces smile, and no complaints."
By 7 pm, with thousands of Soldiers fed, and thousands of miles logged, the Victory 5 converged on Basra's Fighting First Dining Facility for their final stop, serving the Soldiers of the 1st ID HQ.
While some were glad just for the meal, others enjoyed the novelty of being served by leaders from the various units on FOB Salerno. “It’s good to have the leadership serve the Soldiers for a change,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Dan Kerrigan. “It gives us a chance to say ‘Happy Thanksgiving,’ and to see the smiles on the troops’ faces when they see you serving them.”
For some Soldiers the taste of a traditional American holiday feast brought to mind the things at home for which they’re thankful. “I'm thankful for my wife and kids in supporting me in what I do, and I’m thankful to God to be alive and to live another day,” said Sgt. Ronald Davis, a truck driver with Co A, 626th BSB, 3rd BCT (TF Rakkasan), 101st AD.
For other Soldiers the presence of close friends on the holiday helped relieve the stress of being away from family. “The holidays are always hard on Soldiers and their families with multiple deployments, but we've been together for almost 2 years now, and we're like family,” said Sgt. Carlos Muniz, a heating, ventilating and a/c mechanic from Co B, 626th BSB. “It’s good to have friends like family with you this time of year.”
“It was the first time Wallace went out of the wire,” Timothy said regretfully. "After the round struck," Timothy said, “everything was kind of garbled for a while.” When he came to his senses, however, he heard Braman screaming, and immediately took action.
Braman’s foot was severely injured. Timothy applied a tourniquet to his leg, and applied manual pressure on the wound until medics arrived. The pressure prevented Braman from bleeding to death, even though his right leg still needed to be amputated eventually. Stoner also suffered shrapnel wounds and was knocked unconscious.
“I just kind of held Braman’s hand all the way to FOB Fenty, and told him he was going to be alright,” Timothy said. Timothy suffered significant injuries as well. “I just took a lot of shrapnel,” he said. “To the back of my neck, the side of my face, my right knee, my right foot, my left arm, and I also had a piece in my eye, which had to be removed. I was really lucky.”
"It took a while to recover from the injuries," Timothy said. Luckily, he sustained no vision damage, but was in considerable pain for several weeks following the incident. He walked with a limp for awhile, and still has a lot of shrapnel throughout his body.
“I still have a lot in my leg,” Timothy said, lifting his pant leg to reveal several red marks riddling his right leg. Still, Timothy has been able to make a full recover, and return to duty with his platoon. He was even able to take an Army physical fitness test the day before his Purple Heart ceremony.
Timothy said it’s nice to receive an award from his father, but he wished it wasn’t under these conditions. “It’s awesome to have my father here, but I’d give the Purple Heart back in a second, or do anything to change what happened that day if I could,” he said.
This was the first time William, 44, and Timothy, 23, have physically seen each other during their deployment to Afghanistan, as both are serving at different locations in different units. Both are Soldiers with the 101st AD, out of Fort Campbell, Ky.
Timothy enlisted in the Army after he graduated high school in 2005 when he was 18. His father, then 39, followed him 6 months later. William had already served for 8 years in his first enlistment, and had a 14-year break in service before enlisting again after his son.
“I thought he was crazy when he did it,” Timothy said. “I thought he was too old.” William laughed at his son’s remark. “I definitely wouldn’t have done it had Timothy not joined,” he said. “There were a bunch of different reasons that led me back; though mostly, because I missed it.
William said it's difficult for his wife to have her son and husband deployed for the holidays, but she keeps a positive outlook. “She, God bless her, has trouble with it sometimes, us both being deployed, but she’s a strong woman,” William said. “She’s really supportive, and this is my third time, so she’s had some practice.”
“The U.S. needs to reinforce the relationship between the govt and the Afghans, to provide commitment and the necessary resources to assist in redevelopment of many areas around the prov.,” said AF Lt. Col. Marchal Magee, Paktya PRT cmdr.One area of particular interest to Magee was of youth sports programs in the prov. Magee and other members of the PRT spoke with the local director of sports programs for the prov., to ascertain the level of commitment needed to provide prov.-wide youth sports. The youth sports programs are also important, because the programs will allow women to become more involved, and permit them to assert their role in Afghan society. Women are playing a more important role in the new govt than what was allowed under the Taliban. “My role was to assist and form part of the joint female empowerment team (FET) to provide key leadership advice on matters dealing with the Afghan women,” said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jill Graham, the administrative officer for the ADT.
Story and photo by Sgt. Mary Katzenberger, USD-C
IA Soldiers exit humvees, Nov. 6 after a simulated IED exploded during a live-fire exercise, at the Muthanna range, that culminated 6 months of commando training, provided by Soldiers with 2nd Plt, Co B, 3rd Bn, 69th AR Regt, 1st AAB, 3rd ID, at JSS Old MoD.
BAGHDAD — “It’s interesting when we come to the range, because we can see what they’ve learned when it comes to their weapons qualifications and tactical movement,” said Spc. Joel Watkins, an infantryman. “We can see how well they do, and from there we can correct them and guide them in the right direction.”
Watkins is one of several Soldiers who has helped teach commando training courses to the IA at JSS Old MoD, and the Muthanna Range in Baghdad.Sfc. Christopher Williams, a plt sgt with Co B, and the NCO-in-charge of the training, said that the live-fire exercise on the last day of each training cycle was important to the IA and his soldiers, for 2 reasons:“One, it shows that the IA are learning and that they’re actually listening and taking the training to heart,” Williams said. “Two, with the U.S. Army leaving, and the breakaway that we’re going to eventually get to, it shows that the IA have the capabilities they need.”Williams said that throughout the training cycle, the IA always strove for excellence, and enjoyed being provided the opportunities to sharpen skills they had previously learned. He said he credits the IA soldiers’ dedication to their duty, as well as the hard work of his soldiers, who overcame the language barrier, to provide quality training for the successes the IA experienced during the commando training courses.“They had fun teaching the IA,” Williams said of his soldiers. “To actually give back and pass on that knowledge to someone a little different; they loved it.”Spc. Daniel Brooks said that his favorite part of the training was teaching the IA basic weapons tasks, such as breaking down the weapons and performing function checks. “It makes me feel better, because we’re leaving something behind. They can use it, and they can probably learn to adapt the training, and change the exercise to work out better for them,” Brooks said.IA Pfc. Kasem, serving in his 3rd year with the IA, said that the most important part of the training was the emphasis the Co B soldiers placed on the fundamentals of marksmanship.
Story and photos by Sgt. Raymond Quintanilla
Upshaw said that backpacks filled with school supplies were donated by the IA in an effort to establish rapport between them and the community. “Our intent is to partner the IA with their local schools,” Upshaw said. “To place them in a good light, and be a positive role model for the local children.”“We need to put a positive spin on the IA as a future profession,” said 2nd Lt. Joseph Marshall, Baker Co., 2nd plt leader. “These missions demonstrate the new IA’s willingness and capabilities to assist them through food drops and school supplies,” Marshall said. “It increases community support that will allow them to prosper in the future.”“I believe the mission helps Iraqi children,” Marshall said, “It illustrates the importance of an education, and will be a huge piece of laying the foundation for a free Iraq, that will last for generations to come.”For the IA, although they've done similar missions in the same district, such as food drops, Tahir said that the school was chosen because of its special conditions, with many of the children coming from low income households. “The school is very old and in need of repairs. Some students sit on the floor, because the lack of desks,” said Tahir.Teachers attempted to maintain classroom discipline, but the students were overcome by excitement. Although the mission was spearheaded by the IA, one American Soldier couldn't help but share a special moment with the anxious children and their new school supplies, as he went from room to room.
Story and photo by Wayne Hall, USF-I Deputy CG for Advising and Training
"These teams were formed by USF-I officials in a manner to provide an equal balance of educational strengths at each location," said Carlee Smith, who is the lead USF-I teacher at Rustamiyah.“Prior to the influx of the new teachers, the English language training here consisted of 3 instructors, who were delivering training to company-sized classes,” said Brittish Royal AF Flight Lt. George Thompson. “A company would be split into 2 50-strong classes, working off a syllabus that had been locally produced, based roughly along the lines of the American Language Course."English language instruction is not new for IMAR cadets, but these teachers mark a significant effort by USF-I to renew the manner in which ISF learn, and use the English language.In addition to conducting classes, these teachers will be working to assist in developing a strong, enduring Iraqi-run English language program. “We’re going to be stepping back in a few months, as there will be 30 to 40 new Iraqi teachers coming on board in the spring,” said Smith, who hails from Vancouver, British Columbia. “We will then be shadowing and mentoring them as they take over, and hopefully this time next year we'll be going home and they'll be running the program.”"Much work has been done at Rustamiyah to help ensure the long-term success of this program," Thompson said. An entire facility was renovated, outfitted with classrooms that will accommodate 15-student classes, and then equipped by USF-I with furniture and learning materials.