Dear Interested Reader,
7th ESB brings commerce, growth during Op Eastern Storm. Dreams to reality in 72 hours or less. Forces re-establish presence in Nader Shah Kot. Communities embrace literacy program. ISAF Joint Command update, Nov. 12, 2011.
Iraq: AF bids farewell to Ali Air Base (COB Adder).
7th ESB Brings Commerce, Growth During Op Eastern Storm
Story and photos by Cpl. Katherine Solano
Marines with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Fwd), conduct route repairs along Route 611 in Helmand prov, Nov. 6. The repairs were completed over the span of multiple days in support of Op Eastern Storm.
HELMAND PROVINCE - As Op Tofan Sharq (Eastern Storm) continues in the upper Sangin Valley, Marines and sailors with 7th ESB, conducted multiple route repairs throughout early November. Op Eastern Storm began in Oct., as the Marines of 1st Bn, 6th Marine Regt routed the Taliban from Sangin to Kajaki – the last enemy stronghold in Helmand prov. – in an effort to secure Route 611.
The engrs. moved slowly and methodically along the route between PB Alcatraz and the Kajaki Dam. The area was previously impassable in some areas, due to erosion and IED damage. Not only did 7th ESB help to improve and repair the road, but they also helped to build multiple observation posts (OPs) along the route.
“1st Bn, 6th Marine Regt now mans all those positions, and holds the route from PB Alcatraz to the dam, so we could come in and build and repair the route,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brandon Smith, the officer-in-charge of Heavy Weapons Plt, Security Co, 7th ESB. “Now, commercial trucks can start transporting the proper materials and assets up to the dam for the turbine work they have to do there, to start producing more electricity in the area.”
According to the USAID, this turbine will be the 3d in an ongoing project to bring more reliable power and irrigation to both Helmand and Kandahar provs. "The additional turbine is key to growth in the area, and will allow the dam to provide enough electricity to some of the farther-reaching villages of Helmand prov.," said Staff Sgt. Davison Slivers, the 7th ESB motor transport plt. staff NCO-in-charge, as he explained how important the route improvement project is.
The work the Marines are performing in preparation for the upgrade in the region’s infrastructure has also improved relationships with the local Afghans, as evidenced by their positive reaction to the Marines and convoy ops. “Every day we go out on the road, we see little kids, people waving. We're actually making a difference for the people here, even on a small level. We've made routes to places locals couldn’t even get to before with vehicles. It has improved a lot,” concluded Slivers.
Afghan locals shop, visit and work in a bazaar in Helmand prov. A convoy with Marines from 7th ESB, passed through the bustling bazaar on their way to conduct Route 611 repairs in the surrounding area.
A local farmer carries corn crops past tactical vehicles with 7th ESB, Nov. 3. The Marines spent multiple days repairing Route 611 without disturbing the locals.
Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brandon Smith speaks with locals, while his unit conducts road repairs.
Dreams to Reality in 72 Hours or Less
Story and photos by Sgt. John Ortiz
AF Civil Engrs., assigned to the 577th Expeditionary Prime Beef Sqdn., rest after a partial demolition of the back portion of the 3rd BCT, 1st AR Div, Joint Ops Center, located on FOB Shank. The AF Civil Engrs. consist of structural, electrical and plumbing specialists, who often have worked in the construction industry for more than 10 years, often times have 2 or more construction degrees, and are self-employed - either owning or working in a family–run construction business.
LOGAR PROVINCE – With a cut of a circular saw, a swing of a hammer and the vibrating sound of a reciprocating saw, 7 AF engrs demolished walls and ripped out wooden planks, to make room for an idea. On his many battlefield circulation trips, Col. Mark Landes, the TF Bulldog bde. cmdr., acquired an idea to create an open space in the ops center, so that people could readily hold huddles and discuss current ops, and a way ahead.
“It’s really all about giving the guys in the JOC a way to better track all the units in the battlefield, and have more situational awareness,” said Landes, as he walked in on a flurry of activity. “It’s the sights and sounds of progress.”
“I absolutely get job satisfaction,” said AF Master Sgt. Michael Caume, a resident of Mo., and an electrician who has spent the past decade and half in the military. “People are really appreciative of the work we do. They often times are living out in an austere environment, and it’s great to help them with basic living amenities.”
As a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Caume brings little tips and tricks to get jobs done fast and efficiently, and shares them with other electrical engrs. in the unit. “I love doing this job, because it’s better than just being stuck in one place and becoming complacent. We're always out on missions, tackling different problems and working together to solve them,” he said. “Whenever we get somewhere, we immediately meet with the mayor cell and sgt. majs., and have them show us where we can make the most impact by giving us problems to fix,” said Caume.
“We always look for work wherever we go, fixing pumps or replacing a building’s electrical wiring. It really is all in a day’s work,” said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Romine, a Mo. native and electrical tech with the 577th EPBS. “Sometimes you go out to a COP and there are only 3 of us: a structures guy, a plumber and an electrician, and we just have to help each other finish the job,” said Romine.
For Penn. native Frank Monacelli, a structures specialist on his 2nd deployment, working with a civil engr. unit is all about increasing the quality of life. Monacelli, a veteran of 16 years, joined the AF to see the world, get out of his hometown and skip class for a day. “An AF recruiter came by and told me he could get me out of class for a day, so I did that, listened to what he had to say, and really never looked back.”
His first mission in Afghanistan was to go to COP Blessing. “No power, no running water, no chow hall; eating was an MRE. We did a 2-day assessment; went back to our FOB; grabbed a bunch of materials, and within a week had 10 showers, 6 toilets, 4 sinks, 8 washers and dryers, and established a power grid. We really helped them out, and it was pretty impressive with what we were able to do,” said Monacelli. “The Army guys were really hospitable, and very grateful after we helped fix a lot of damaged equipment.”
With Afghanistan being a landlocked country, almost every construction item is either trucked through Pakistan or delivered by air. Often times, due to weather and cloud cover that obscures 9,500 ft. mountain ranges, helicopters cannot deliver needed building supplies. “We don’t have a Home Depot here,” he said. “So, whenever we've a job to finish, but no construction material, we just look around the FOB or COP, and try and reuse whatever we can, use basic parts and pieces for a short-term fix, while we wait for materials to arrive.”
“One of the cool things we do when we are headed to a construction site is to use the helicopters we fly in as service trucks loaded full of parts, ladders, and equipment, and make a home delivery to where the troops need us the most,” said Monacelli.
An idea from a battlefield circulation to a reality in record time – 68 hours for a remodel of the JOC; a record the engrs. with the 577th EPBS can be proud of.
AF Tech. Sgt. Frank Monacelli uses a circular saw to cut a portion of the back wall.
Forces Re-Establish Presence in Nader Shah Kot
Story and photos by Army Spc. Cody Barber
Soldiers trek along the roads towards another village, during a patrol in the Nader Shah Kot district, Nov. 1.
KHOWST PROVINCE — Flying in under the cloak of darkness, ANSF, along with American soldiers, conducted an air assault into the mountains of the Nader Shah Kot district. The combined force searched for weapon caches and suspected insurgents living in 3 villages, located in the northern part of the district.
Navigating through ankle-breaking terrain, troops with 3rd Bde, 1st ID descended upon the first village at daybreak. Instead of anticipated hostility, Afghan villagers greeted them with welcoming smiles, tea and flatbread. U.S. and Afghan Uniform Police (AUP) discovered possible IED-making material, along with small arms weapons in one of the houses.
“The individual was from one of the houses we were going to hit,” said 1st Sgt. Jason Sager, from Ind. “That individual had more weapons than he was allowed, and he also had more ammo than he was allowed, as well as possible IED-making materials.”
“Even a small discovery like that can make a big difference in the end,” said Capt. Mark Snowbarger, of Ohio. “Finding caches takes equipment off the battlefield from the bad guys. If they don’t have their equipment, no CF or ANSF can be hurt, and they can’t intimidate the locals.”
"Afghan villages haven’t seen U.S. or ANSF personnel for almost 3 years, so making their presence known, and re-establishing contact with the locals in the area was a good thing," said Sager. “We had intel that these areas were supporters of the Taliban, but since we've been to the area, we've confirmed that the reports were wrong,” said Sager. “Letting the people see the ANA and AUP out there working for them is always an important thing.”
As the day and the mission neared completion, the combined patrol heaved on their rucks, and set off back to base on foot. “For me, anytime I can bring my entire troop back to the camp, with no injuries, is a success.” said Snowbarger.
Capt. Mark Snowbarger (far right), sits with AUP and local villagers to enjoy flatbread and tea, during a village patrol.
Communities Embrace Literacy Program
By Combined Joint Special Ops TF - Afghanistan
HERAT PROVINCE (Nov. 7, 2011) – The GoA, working with coalition Special Operations Forces (SOF), recently reintroduced a radio literacy program throughout Afghanistan. Radio broadcasts have been the primary source of news, current events and entertainment, and provide opportunities for citizens to communicate with local law enforcement. GoA is also offering basic-level education over the airwaves.
As illiteracy is common throughout Afghanistan, citizens of all ages and genders are participating in the program. Villagers in provs. throughout the country are tuning in their radios, during scheduled evenings to follow the program.
Over the past 4 months, more than 28,000 companion workbooks have been distributed throughout the country, which is a 350% increase, compared to the same time last year. More books are being produced in Afghanistan, Qatar and the U.S. to meet the ever growing demand.
Radio Literacy Program (RLP) workbooks are distributed to the villagers by ALP, ministers of education, and village elders. Villagers listen to the radio broadcast and follow along with the lessons in their workbooks. Individuals’ progress is tracked by program mentors, who are ALP leaders, teachers, mullahs or govt officials.'
“Some villages focus more on children, due to the lack of regular schools,” said a coalition SOF team member. “However, adults are also encouraged to participate, and do, in most villages.” For some villages, ALP are the main facilitators for the program, by not only distributing the workbooks, but also tutoring participants and mentoring the success of the program in their area.
In the Sanowghan village, Shindand prov., the ALP cmdr. recently addressed education to the public, during a call-in show. “Education is important in the Zerekoh valley,” he said. “Anyone that wants to participate in the program should stop by an ALP checkpoint, and we'll collect the names, so we can obtain more RLP books for them.” The next day, 40 workbooks were immediately distributed, and the ALP were requesting more books to satisfy villagers’ increasing desire to participate.
Meanwhile, in Badghis prov., Aq Murad, the Bala Morghab Minister of Education, distributed at least 50 workbooks to villagers, and a women’s literacy group. “By doing this, the ALP and ministers of education show citizens that the Afghan govt’s concern for improving Afghan lives,” said the coalition SOF team member.
Coalition SOF studies show increased participation in the literacy program throughout the country. More citizens are calling in to their local radio stations to discuss current conditions of the village, as a result of the RLP’s success. “Through RLP, communication and knowledge will increase between GoA and the people of Afghanistan,” said the coalition SOF team member.
“The positive ALP news stories and the cmdrs. talking on the radio, make the locals more comfortable with the ALP,” said the Sanowghan ALP cmdr. “All of the children are very excited about RLP, and it will greatly help their future,” said the Sanowghan ALP cmdr. “The students think education is important, and are committed to finishing the program.
The program teaches basic literacy, but is also intended to instill the desire for further education and its pursuit, through GoA. “Without exception, villagers throughout the country support the program,” said the SOF team member. “They've said that the programs are easy to follow, and all participants intend to stick with it.”
ISAF Joint Command Operational Update, Nov. 12, 2011
By ISAF Joint Command
HELMAND PROVINCE — A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained multiple suspected insurgents, during an op in search of a Taliban leader in Nahr-e Saraj district, yesterday. The leader participates in attacks against Afghan and CF, and coordinates roadside bomb emplacement in the Upper Gereshk Valley, Nahr-e Saraj district.
KANDAHAR PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained multiple suspected insurgents, during an op in search of a Taliban IED facilitator in Arghandab district, yesterday. The facilitator was directly involved in a recent attack against a coalition base in the area.
NANGARHAR PROVINCE -- In Rodat district, a combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained several suspected insurgents, during a security op, yesterday.
----- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor discovered a stockpile of drug-processing materials, during a routine patrol in Mohmand Darah district, yesterday. Acting on a tip, the force found 682-lbs (310 kgs) of ammonium in a nearby storage unit. Two males were detained for further questioning.
----- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor conducted an op in search of a Taliban and Hezb-e Islami Khalis leader in Khugyani district, yesterday. The leader directs Taliban and HIK militants in the district, as well as facilitates the purchase and movement of small arms and IEDs throughout Nangarhar prov.
BAMYAN PROVINCE -- In Kahmard district, a weapons cache was turned over to Afghan and CF as part of a local disarmament program, Nov. 10. The cache consisted of 2 107 mm rockets, 2 82 mm mortar rounds, and 2,600 rounds of heavy machine gun ammo.
GHAZNI PROVINCE -- A combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained multiple suspected insurgents, during an op in search of a Taliban leader in Ghazni district, yesterday. The leader participates in direct-fire attacks against Afghan and CF in the district. A suspected insurgent aimed his weapon at a SecFor member, and was killed.
PAKTIYA PROVINCE -- In Zarghun Shahr district, a combined Afghan and coalition SecFor detained multiple suspected insurgents, during an op in search of a Haqqani network leader, yesterday. The leader directs an insurgent cell in the district, and is responsible for numerous direct-fire and rocket attacks against Afghan and coalition SecFor in the region.
Air Force Bids Farewell to Ali Air Base
Story and photos by Pvt. Andrew Slovensky
AF Maj. Gen. Anthony Rock, Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission – Air director, speaks with Scott Hosking, technical supervisor for Lockheed Martin, at COB Adder, Nov. 5. During his visit, Rock took a tour of the radar facility, built for the IqAF by Lockheed Martin and the USACE.
CONTINGENY OPERATING BASE ADDER – Service members are redeploying from Iraq in a historic drawdown of U.S. forces. Airmen of the Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission (ITAM) – Air must prepare to tell their Iraqi counterparts, 'farewell.' When U.S. troops turn over COB Adder, it will become an IqAF post, Imam Ali Air Base.
The airmen of ITAM-A responsibilities are training the IqAF and army aviation command, to prepare them for the departure of U.S. troops. “We’re honored to have had that opportunity to work with the IqAF and army aviation command,” said Rock.
Rock said that the mission was to train the Iraqi airmen and soldiers in more than just operating and maintaining the aircraft. “It’s about producing power, making sure your medics are ready to take care of your airmen, making sure your runway is taken care of, making sure you can see your airspace through radar control,” said Rock.
Now that the mission is coming to a close, the Iraqis will take on the responsibility of 6 bases; Taji, Kirkut, Tikrit, Balad, al-Asad, and Imam Ali Air Bases will be transferred to the IqAF and army air command, said Rock. “When you think about all of those facilities, all of those runway surfaces, all of those buildings, all of that equipment that is being processed back to the IqAF and army aviation command,” he said, “it’s a lot to take on for a small org.”
"The Iraqi forces are ready for the challenge," said Rock. “We’ve seen a great amount of progress,” said Rock. “The 300 air advisors that I led as part of ITAM-Air were really just the capstone on thousands that have come before us in the 7 years we’ve been at this.”
"In addition to a new state-of-the-art radar facility, Imam Ali Air Base will be the home of a squadron of F-16 military fighter jets, purchased by the GoA from the U.S.," said Iraqi Brig. Gen. Hakeem, Imam Ali Air Base cmdr. He added that by the end of the year, his wing will take full responsibility for the base.
Hakeem said that he appreciates the sacrifice U.S. service members and their families made during deployments to Iraq. “The Americans every time surprise me with support for the IqAF,” he said. “I say thank you, thank you for all the families in the U.S.”
Rock said he has high hopes for the future of Iraqi airmen. “My big dream is that someday I will see an Iraqi F-16 on the ramp at Nellis AF Base, and there'll be an Iraqi mechanic working on that Iraqi F-16,” said Rock. “Out will walk an Iraqi fighter pilot, and he, or perhaps even she, someday, will crawl into the cockpit and go fly their first sortie at the Red Flag exercise on Nellis AF Base.”
When U.S. forces leave Iraq, COB Adder and bases like it are turning over to Iraqi SecFor. The airmen of ITAM-A will leave the nest, and Imam Ali Air Base will become a strategic post to help the Iraqi airmen and soldiers defend their airspace and sovereignty.
Iraqi airmen salute Iraqi Brig. Gen. Hakeem and AF Maj. Gen. Anthony Rock, upon their arrival at the Ali Air Base HQ.
AF Maj. Gen. Anthony Rock and Iraqi Brig. Gen. Hakeem exchange greetings at the Ali Air Base HQ.