Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Veterinary care in Yusufiyah gets hairy


Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — In the rural areas south of Baghdad, homes are often made of mud and roofed with sheet metal or mats made of beaten reeds. A cow or two and a flock of sheep in the yard complete the scene. But animals can get sick, and due to terrorism – whether sect-against-sect or against coalition forces - travel is dangerous for veterinarians too.
To begin repairing this, the Multi-National Division – Baghdad veterinarian, Lt. Col. Neil Ahle, and several Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) conducted a veterinary operation in a schoolyard in Al-Taraq, Iraq on Dec. 22.
“One problem of the country at large is the infrastructure,” Ahle said, noting that while schools are opening and water treatment plants coming back on-line, medical and veterinary care in rural areas is still foundering.
“With the lack of refrigeration, vaccines go bad,” Ahle explained. “And with the violence between tribes and sects, veterinarians don’t go out. The animals have suffered, as well as the crops. Meat, milk and wool are very big business here.”
Everyone pays the price for the loss, Ahle added.
“With a lack of veterinary care, the crops go down, the death toll rises, farmers lose money. Maybe they can support their own family, but there’s no cash crop.”
So when Ahle appeared at the Al-Taraq school with his medical kits and Soldiers of Company C, 4-31 announced that free medical care would be given to animals, it wasn’t long before people arrived with livestock in tow.
With no veterinary equipment such as a chute to funnel the animals through, separating those that had been vaccinated from those who hadn’t, the Soldiers went to work with steel pickets and engineer tape to create makeshift fences to guide the animals along.
One man brought a cow, rack-thin and blind in one eye. He asked if Ahle had medication for the eye, but Ahle had to explain through an interpreter that the eye was too far gone. He gave the cow a dose of wormer and a vaccination against some of the endemic diseases in the area.
Two shepherds brought a flock of sheep and goats next – about sixty animals, from a full-curl ram to a tiny brown kid goat born only days before.
Ahle and the shepherds seemed to have a moment of consternation. How to get all of these sheep through the process and not get them mixed up? A moment later, Navy Cmdr. Mike Sanchez, a civil affairs officer with MND-B, had chalk to mark the sheep’s heads when they’d been treated, and the shepherd was holding up his first candidate for a dose of wormer, vitamins and vaccine. He gamely continued, holding up each of the sheep and then the goats.
Ahle told him he had the best-behaved animals he’d ever seen, but the next batch of sheep required the assistance of some Soldiers from Co. C to keep them out of the classrooms or holding still while receiving vaccine.
A cow was mostly healthy except for the horn that had curled around, poised to penetrate the cow’s skull. The woman said she did not know how to help the animal. With six Soldiers holding the animal against a concrete pillar, Ahle borrowed a pocketknife with a saw and cut off part of the offending horn. He explained that if uncut, the horn would first pinch the skin, then slowly penetrate the animal’s sinus cavity, causing pain and infection.
By a little after noon, Ahle and his de facto assistants had treated 95 sheep and five cattle. They had trimmed hooves and horns, wrestled goats, and been dragged through the mud.
“I think we’ve covered everything,” Ahle said. “We did the best we could with what we had. Next time we need more and better equipment, and we need to get Iraqi vets out here.”
Encouraging Iraqi veterinarians was Ahle’s main goal, he said.
“Maybe by doing this veterinary care, we’ll get a vet in the area to step up,” he said. “We put a lot of effort into many areas, but pushing the Iraqi people to step up and do it – well, this is one way to do that.”
Sgt. Joseph Strauch, a radio-telephone operator with Co. C and a native of Buffalo, N.Y., helped wrestle sheep, and said he enjoyed the chance to do something different.
“It was something new,” he said. “It’s not every day you herd sheep. It’s the most interesting thing I’ve done in Iraq.”
Staff Sgt. Frank Hutchinson, a squad leader with the company and a Tampa, Fla., native, said he’d never worked with sheep in his life.
“I just adapt very well,” Hutchinson explained. “I just showed ‘em who’s boss.”
For the next veterinary operation, Ahle especially wants a head-chute to hold cattle still.
“When you’re dealing with a twelve-hundred- or fifteen-hundred-pound cow, you’re going to go for a ride,” Ahle said. “But I think we all had a good time. I heard more laughing than complaining.”

Gen. Peter Schoomaker visits Camp Striker


Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker (left), reenlists (from right) Spc. Joseph Pridgen, a combat engineer with the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), and native of Wimberley, Texas; Sgt. Michael Nichols, a 2nd BSTB combat engineer and native of Joplin, Miss.; Spc. Timothy Montminy, a native of El Paso, Texas, who serves as a truck driver with the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI); Cpl. Sylvia Dangervil, a truck driver with the 210th BSB and native of Homestead, Fla.; and Spc. John Wight of Lovelock, Nev., and an infantryman with the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI), during a reenlistment ceremony at Camp Striker, Iraq on Dec. 23. Schoomaker visited Soldiers of the 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) before the holidays.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie, 2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI))

Students get brighter, better school


Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — As coalition forces and Iraqis work together to rebuild the country after years of corruption, neglect and terror, one of the key focal points to ensure a peaceful, prosperous future is the educational system.
Terrorist operations are often conducted by poor Iraqis, not because they subscribe to the ideology, but simply because terrorist organizations pay them very well if they can prove they have caused damage to coalition forces.
To that end, Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) provided security for the secondary school in Al-Rasheed, Iraq, while the school underwent some needed renovation. The school re-opened Saturday, Dec. 23, to the evident joy of its 500 students, aged 12 to 15, after a month-long renovation.
Headmaster Jumaa Ja’asi Muhammad welcomed Battery Commander Capt. Blake Keil to the ribbon-cutting, as well as Isa, the Al-Rasheed mayor and several soldiers of the Iraqi Army as Soldiers guarded the area.
Muhammad explained that the school, in a mixed Sunni-Shia area, has no sectarian tensions despite those in the country at large.
“We don’t talk about tribes or religion,” he said. “The students are here just to go to school.”
The project was begun by the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, explained Keil, a native of Londonderry, N.H., and the 2-10th took it over when the 101st redeployed to the United States.
“For the last three months we’ve provided security and acted as a liaison between the headmaster, city council, and the contractors. There have been no issues and no attacks.”
Al-Rasheed mayor Isa was pleased by the project’s completion.
“It was our dream to fix up the school, and now we have. Thank God the Americans helped us out. It’s not easy when you need to fix a school in this area.”
The students recited poetry in honor of the occasion in front of a small assembly of American and Iraqi soldiers and their peers.
The Americans then distributed backpacks, school supplies and T-shirts to the pupils.
“We thank you guys,” said student Malik Rahim Mes’out. “You have fixed our school, it’s wonderful.”
Ahmad Shakeir especially liked the new paint. “There’s color now. That’s very nice.”

IED lanes help to protect Provider Soldiers

IED lanes help to protect Provider Soldiers

Capt. Amanda Nalls
210th BSB, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Almost every day in theater sees Provider Soldiers traversing the many roads that link patrol bases across the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division’s (LI) area of operations. Despite the fact that Company A, 210th Brigade Support Battalion “Providers” has led almost 70 combat logistics patrols across the sometimes deadly routes, they have never once detonated an improvised explosive devise or sustained a casualty from enemy activity.
The company owes its success to outstanding leadership, conscientious Soldiers and an unusually high level of training developed and tested by the battalion staff.
2nd Lt. Brandon Stahl, 210th BSB officer, and native of Shiremanstown, Penn., has made it his personal mission to ensure that Provider Soldiers return safe from every mission outside the wire.
Although Stahl’s intelligence section, which consists of only two analysts, is the smallest in the 2nd BCT, he has maximized their effectiveness and developed innovative ways to train the battalion’s Soldiers on the most current enemy techniques.
Stahl’s latest project is an IED training lane, which allows Soldiers to practice their skill at detecting IEDs while on the move. Stahl and his Soldiers have painstakingly gathered and positioned materials that correspond with actual enemy IEDs seen along the routes that Provider Soldiers travel on a daily basis.
As a combat logistics patrol rolls through the lane, they encounter -among other obstacles - crushwire concealed in reeds, artillery rounds hidden in mounds of trash and mud, and “Christmas tree” wire strung across the route.
The patrol must identify at least four of the six IEDs in each lane in order to be considered proficient. “It’s very realistic training,” said Sgt. 1st Class James Felix, the 210th BSB personal security detachment noncommissioned officer in charge and native of Memphis, Tenn. “It’s especially important for Soldier that don’t get as many chances to get outside the wire to see the techniques that the enemy is using to target them.”
Felix and his team were among the first in the battalion to test the lane and will become the battalion’s resident experts on IED lane training and defeat techniques.
“While all of these Soldiers have been out numerous times and are very experienced, this lane is another tool that paints a picture of what they can expect to see out in sector. It helps sharpen their skills so that they do not become complacent,” Stahl commented. As enemy techniques change throughout the deployment, so too will Stahl’s methods of training Soldiers on ways to identify and combat those techniques.
His efforts are just one of the many ways the brigade ensures that Soldiers are highly trained and ready for any situation the enemy can throw at them.
IED lanes are conducted at least two or three times a month.

Security in Mahmudiyah good, getting better, mayor says

Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — The security situation in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, is “one hundred percent better” than it was a year ago, said Col. Ali, commander of the 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division in a conference with Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) Dec. 23.
The mayor of Mahmudiyah, Maayad Fadthil al-Shibli, acknowledged that some people are still fearful, but said that as soon as the Iraqi Army finds problems, they begin offensive operations to put a stop to them.
“Of course I feel safer,” al-Shibli said. “And not just me. The locals do, too.”
Al-Shibli also said that plans are underway to open more businesses in the Mahmudiyah area, including dairy factories that will help farmers sell their milk and bring in more money.
“We can defeat terrorists another way,” he said. “If the people have jobs, they won’t work for terrorists. We must rebuild step by step.”
While the Iraqi army is more capable at this point, the mayor said, the Iraqi police are also a help.
“We’ve had meetings with the IA, the IPs and local government,” he explained. “They’re saving the city. All the ideas are saving the city.”
Ali said that two years ago, the area around Mahmudiyah was known as the Triangle of Death.
“It’s taken a lot of sacrifice and a lot of casualties,” Ali said, to remedy that reputation. People used to be shot and beheaded in the streets.
“Now tens of thousands of people travel these roads going to Al-Hillah, to An-Najaf.”
The Iraqi army is sending a clear message to the terrorists, Ali said, that they are not in control of the city.
“Some sectors were 100 percent terrorist,” Ali said, citing the abandoned Yusufiyah Thermal Power Plant and other areas known as terror hotbeds.
“We’ve done so much, the peoples’ vision is changing,” Ali said. “It’s a hard sector, but terrorist acts are down, and the difference between sectors is huge.”
Still, more remains to be done.
“I cannot tell you that it is complete,” said Ali. “But 75 to 80 percent of the problem is gone. With time, it will improve more.”
“We are always planning. The plan is not just for the city – I will always go after the terrorists, to arrest them. We conduct many offensive operations on all levels, and we’re also helping the local people.”
In response to assertions that people are afraid to come to Mahmudiyah, Ali said that they have not been to the city in a long time.
“Many people come to Mahmudiyah to shop,” he said. “They come from all over. Some people benefit from spreading rumors about Mahmudiyah being unsafe, but we are making it safe. Look at the markets – they’re very busy.”
There are people from everywhere.
“Baghdad markets close down at about two p.m. because people are afraid. In Mahmudiyah, you can still shop at 7:30 p.m., things are still open,” Ali said.
“We are sending a message to terrorists,” said the mayor. “As long as you are here, you will not win. We will always have people chasing you.”

Soldiers celebrate Christmas by candlelight


Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — In a city where most residents must use candlelight because they have no power, Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) celebrated Christmas by candlelight.
Soldiers of the 2nd BCT and the local community gathered in the 2nd BCT chapel for a Community Candlelight Service Dec. 24 here.
The service was opened with an invocation then members of the choir led the audience in Christmas carols.
“It was encouraging to take a break from everything and gather with the other believers to celebrate Christmas,” said Capt. Scott Carow, a 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI), physical therapist and native of Tampa, Fla.
Carow, a member of the choir, played the guitar and sang during the service.
Although the Soldiers were unable to be with their families on Christmas, the service offered warmth of the season.
“The service made me feel like I was at home,” said Pfc. Shana Keenan, a 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) intelligence analyst and native of Steubenville, Ohio. “At home we do this (attend candlelight services) every year,” Keenan said as she recalled memories from home.
While some Soldiers attended the service as part of a home-away-from-home tradition, others rejoiced for the first time.
“This is something different for me,” said Sgt. Brendaliz Morales, a 2nd BSTB intelligence analyst and native of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., as she recalled her Christmas family traditions. “My family would get together and stay up until midnight then open presents,” she said. “But the service allowed me to be with my family here.”
Throughout the ceremony Soldiers united with each other as they lit candles.
“To me, the candlelight service is way of calming down the hustle and bustle of the season and bringing things back to the real meaning,” said Spc. Jenna Maravillas, an information systems operator with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) and native of Lake In The Hills, Ill., as she recalled going to candlelight services since she was a child. “It was nice to see so many people show up to take time to remember the real meaning of Christmas.”

Providers give Soldiers necessary tools to complete missions


Capt. Amanda Nalls
210th BSB, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — While the Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) continue to push farther into sector in order to defeat the enemy, other Soldiers are working behind the scenes to help accomplish missions.
The 210th Brigade Support Battalion’s, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI), Armament Repair Section is developing innovative ways to ensure that the Iraqi Army soldiers have the tools necessary to complete their mission.
In addition to their day-to-day work - repairing and modifying weapon systems within the brigade - the armament section has turned their attention towards repairing weapons in support the Iraqi Army.
After enemy weapons are seized from weapons caches by the maneuver units within the brigade, the weapons are brought to the armament team for inspection and repairs.
To date, the team has inspected 170 weapons, repaired at least 40, and re-issued over 70 back to the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Special Forces.
The project, which will ensure that the Iraqi Army is armed and prepared to defend themselves against Anti-Iraqi Forces, will continue to grow in magnitude as more enemy weapons are captured throughout the brigade’s area of operations.
“My Soldiers are really working hard to complete this mission in addition to their normal job repairing weapons for the brigade,” Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Shaffer, a 210th BSB armament repair technician and native of Alliance, Ohio said. “We have a small section, but they do an amazing job with the resources they have to work with.”
In just a few short months, the Soldiers of the Armament Repair Section have made a lasting contribution to their fellow Soldiers and have made great strides in furthering the fight in the Global War on Terror.
“We’re focusing our efforts forward,” commented Lt. Col. Brian Rogers, the 210th BSB commander, and native of Bozeman, Mont. “This is the critical year in Iraq and the Provider Battalion is going to make a difference.”
With that guidance in mind, the Armament Section has made every effort to ensure that the Soldiers of the 2BCT, as well as their Iraqi Army counterparts, have some of the most accurate and well-maintained weapons in theater.

1-89 CAV hosts town hall meeting to meet Iraqis’ needs

2nd Lt. Zach Alessi-Friedlander
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

BAGHDAD — Soldiers of C Troop “Crazyhorse,” 1st Squadron, 89th Calvary Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) hosted a town-hall meeting for the residents of Abu Sheikan and Al Hillan, Iraq at the El Thawan Elementary School on Dec. 22.
As Coalition Forces attempt to promote an indigenous Iraqi-national government, the Soldiers at the platoon and troop-levels of C Troop and 1-89 CAV are working every day to promote more autonomous government at the village levels.
In so doing, 1-89 CAV hopes to provide forums in which community issues – including local governance, water, electricity and security – can be addressed, managed and ultimately integrated into the regional and national levels of the Iraqi government.
Residents arrived at the school early, enabling them to talk with Capt. Adam Sawyer, C Troop’s commander, Lt. Col. Mark Suich, the 1-89 CAV’s commander and other 1-89 staff members.
A half hour after the first residents began arriving at the school, Sawyer and Suich called the meeting into session. Sawyer explained to those gathered along that he intended the meeting as an “open forum” in which to discuss any and all issues on the minds of the villages’ residents.
Moreover, recognizing that trust between local nationals and U.S. Soldiers is the foundation upon which effective civil-military operations are built, Sawyer said that “I will be honest about what we can and cannot affect; certain things are easier for us to influence than others,” a sentiment reiterated by both him and Suich several times throughout the meeting.
Initially, many of the village residents addressed the fact that, although they felt relatively safe in their respective towns, the imperiled security in other areas has prevented them from traveling to places such as Baghdad and Mahmudiyah, Iraq.
One of the first local nationals, Dooud Yunis Hamid al-Jabori, to address Sawyer and Suich said, “This is our home and we are Iraqis – this is our country – and were are limited to our town…we cannot go anywhere else.”
Some of the residents were concerned about the new – mostly Shia’ – Iraqi National Police checkpoint located just outside of these two Sunni villages. Sawyer offered to conduct joint patrols through both villages.
These patrols will illustrate to the residents of the villages that they should not only trust the NPs with ensuring their security but that C Troop will work hard to teach the NPs the tactics and techniques that they need in order to combat the insurgent threats that they might encounter. Moreover, when several members of the audience explained that they would like to have C Troop re-adjust a series of obstacle controlling the flow of vehicular traffic into the villages, both commanders, noticeably impressed that the village appeared to have a plan about how to better secure their own community, agreed.
Seemingly content that C Troop was not only aware of their security concerns but also actively working to improve their safety, the discussion shifted to questions of local government. Abu Shiekan and Al Hillan are home to two tribes: the Jabori and Humaryi. Most of those in attendance appeared to be members of the Jabori tribe, who occupy the southern portions of these two villages. The local Jabori sheik attended the meeting and was formally greeted by both members of the audience as well as Sawyer and Suich.
The sheik sat in the front row and helped to structure the discussion. He organized his thinking by taking notes and managed the discourse by identifying residents with the experience and technical competence to address specific essential-service concerns. Suich then took the opportunity to underscore the importance of having the village nominate residents to attend the regional council meetings to formally articulate their needs to the appropriate Iraqi-government ministries.
“I will personally accompany and secure any member of the village willing to attend the Nahia- or Qada-council meetings,” Suich said. “Right now, the mayor of Mahmudiyah is addressing Sunni concerns over problems with the IA because of complaints made at the last Qada meeting.”
The final part of the meeting concerned essential services.
Karim Shia’ Hamid al-Jabori, a resident of Al Hillan, who works as the school’s security guard, explained that the school currently serves 200 children. However, the villages have many high-school-aged students, who are currently forced to travel over 10 kilometers to reach the nearest available secondary school. He explained that the school needs approximately 3 additional classrooms.
Suich and Sawyer discussed possible solutions with the audience: in the short term, they explained that temporary trailers could be staged in the vicinity of El Thawan; and that, in the long term, once the villages identified a local builder, a contract could be brokered for the construction of a permanent addition. Members of the audience nodded their approval and murmured a chorus of shookruns -“thank you” in Arabic.
Soon thereafter, a local national named Khamees Asmeel Khadar, took the floor and said “we need three transformers so that we can distribute power more effectively to the entire area. I used to work at the Yusufiyah, Iraq Ministry of Power, and I can install these transformers if you can get them for us,” Khadar said.
Despite the seriousness of the meeting’s tone and the complexity of the topics discussed, the meeting ended in good spirits. The sheik in attendance placed his notes to the side and explained that if (1-89 CAV) does even some of the things we have discussed, then you will have the support of the entire village.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What a Way to Spend Christmas Day

By: David. T Borowicz


Christmas and the holiday season has always been a time for my family to come together from the reaches of the Midwest to enjoy each others’ company and catch up on the latest happenings. That was on my mind as I trudged over to Motorpool #9 at 0630 on Christmas morning. I treasure those family gatherings and wondered how the annual gathering at Aunt Sue and Uncle Dave’s house would be. Without a doubt, I was going to miss the camaraderie and stories, as well as the smorgasbord of desserts and holiday snacks.

I got over to A Co/2BSTB’s area, got my equipment inspected by 1SG Jerod Palmer, and sat down for the operations order. I was headed out on a route clearance mission south of Yusifiyah along Route Peggy, and 1LT Greg Cartier was briefing the final details of the operation. I was assigned a seat on “Andre”, a battle tested Buffalo that had survived multiple IED strikes, grabbed my gear, and climbed the ladder onto the back deck of the giant vehicle. Someone on the ground yelled, “Merry Christmas, sir!” I returned the pleasantries but thought, “What a way to spend Christmas Day.”

I settled in to my seat directly behind the truck commander, SSG Jeffery Ward and buckled in for the ride. The Buffalo driver, SGT Lucas Glover, conducted his final maintenance checks while SPC Jonathan Cadavero, the platoon medic, and SPC James Wilson, the RTO, gave their equipment a final inspection. Wilson conducted a radio check, and the patrol was ready to move. SGT Glover dropped the Buffalo into gear, and we started our journey towards Route Peggy. Along the way, there was some small talk (probably just trying to feel out the “hitchhiking Major”), but everyone seemed rather focused on the task at hand. We arrived at the start point for the mission, the western end of RTE Peggy, and the radio crackled with mission orders. Wilson and Cadavero grabbed their gear and headed for the door at the rear of the vehicle. Since this was a deliberate clearance, portions of the patrol would dismount to aid in the clearance of the route. Cadavero and Wilson were part of this dismounted effort, so they threw open the door, scrambled down the ladder, and rallied with the dismounted patrol leader, SFC Panpradith. As I watched them disperse and disappear into the reed lines, I reflected silently, “What a way to spend Christmas Day.”

As clearance of Route Peggy progressed, the detection vehicle (Husky) and interrogation vehicle (our Buffalo) worked hand-in-hand to find any IEDs hidden along the route. SSG Ward manned the robotic arm of the Buffalo and interrogated a suspicious area on the shoulder of the road. As he worked, SGT Glover monitored the radio and listened to a call from the dismounted element. The dismounted soldiers had reached their objective, so 1LT Cartier made the call for the column to advance further east. SSG Ward stowed “Andre’s” robotic arm, and we prepared to move forward. At that instant, we watched and listened as 1LT Cartier’s vehicle was engulfed in a billow of black and gray smoke. The tremendous “boom” let us know that the lead vehicle struck an IED. SSG Ward tried to establish radio communication with “A36,” but the radio remained silent. SFC Panpradith instructed SSG Ward to move forward and assess the situation, and SGT Glover needed no additional instructions. He maneuvered the Buffalo toward the site of the wreckage, and I jumped into the seat behind the driver to man the RTO position. Suddenly, another fierce explosion rang out. A secondary IED detonated on “Andre” and ground us to a halt. SSG Ward evaluated everyone in the vehicle, and SGT Glover assessed the damage to his faithful companion “Andre:” three flat tires, shattered ballistic glass, and a destroyed RPG cage. No catastrophic damage, but “Andre” was definitely out of the fight for the remainder of the day. SSG Ward radioed our status to SFC Panpradith, and we all breathed a sigh of relief when we heard 1LT Cartier come up on the net and report that while his RG-31 was out of the fight, all the Soldiers in the vehicle were fine. I slumped back into my seat, took a long, deep breath, and said aloud, “What a way to spend Christmas Day.”

The patrol now began the slow and painful process of self-recovery. The Buffalo would be able to limp back to FOB Lutifiyah, so the efforts focused on lead RG-31. We wouldn’t be moving anytime soon, so SSG Ward busted out some homemade cookies his mother had sent him for the holidays. And slowly but surely, the three of us began to open up a bit. We talked about family, hometowns, and athletic events. I learned that it was going to be a tough Christmas back home for the Ward family. SSG Ward’s father had passed just a few months ago, and the family was still feeling the pain of their loss. I learned that SGT Glover and I are “homies”; we both grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and attended rival high schools. I made sure to let him know that my school owned his “back in the day,” and he assured me that changed when he was roving the gridiron for Rufus King High School in the late 1990s. I also learned that SGT Glover can eat more than any person I have ever known. He put a dent in SSG Ward’s cookie stash and demolished his own cache of chips and various other snacks. Not sure if it was the calm after the chaos of the previous activity, but the time I spent talking to those two Soldiers really left an impression on me. And even though we discovered and destroyed an IED as we started our movement back to Lutifiyah, the most fulfilling discovery I made that day was the new bond I had with two very professional NCOs.

As we rolled into Lutifiyah, I anticipated a lengthy delay in getting recovery assets on site to pick us up and deliver us back to FOB Striker. We limped into the ECP, made a hard right hand turn towards the center of the FOB, and prepared for a long stay. To our delight, the Gladiator recovery team was already in place and waiting on our arrival. My two battle buddies, MAJ Doug Mayzel and CW2 Joe Crenshaw, stood in front of the battalion’s HETT and surveyed the damage vehicles. As I climbed down the ladder of the Buffalo, MAJ Mayzel came over and said, “Need a lift?” while Chief Crenshaw stated, “We just couldn’t leave you out here with it being Christmas and all.” I didn’t say much back, but I was very impressed that they personally led a patrol to come out and retrieve us. Both could have stayed at FOB Striker and sent other Soldiers, but they sacrificed their holiday so that other Gladiators could enjoy theirs. I stood to the side and watched the recovery team load the damaged Buffalo onto the trailer and hook the broken RG-31 to the wrecker. Once the recovery crew was finished, I gathered my equipment, listened to our patrol’s movement order, and climbed into the back of the HETT tractor.

As I sat in the HETT while the recovery crew did one last inspection on their secondary loads, I took time to reflect on the day’s activities. I thought about the courageous dismounts out scouring the reed lines for triggermen, and the calm, business-like manner SSG Ward and SGT Glover handled the chaos of contact. I also thought about my family sitting around and opening presents and enjoying each others’ company. I could see my children tearing into presents and my wife snapping digital pictures of the whirlwind that is wrapping paper, ribbon, and boxes. And while I missed my clan dearly, I would remember this Christmas Day as one that rivaled any other. The events of the day: bonding with SGT Glover and SSG Ward, admiring the personal courage of the Soldiers on patrol, the selflessness of my battle buddies reminded me that the Army is my family away from home. Just like my loved ones at home, these Soldiers are the people I rely on when times are tough, and the ones I look to in times of need. I felt proud to be part of this extended family and to be associated with individuals who put the needs of their family ahead of their own. My journey this day had reinforced what I had known all along: that I am lucky to have this second family composed of Soldiers who share common goals, attitudes, and ideals. I leaned back, closed my eyes, smiled, and quietly exclaimed “What a way to spend Christmas Day!”

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Joint Readiness Training Center observers take lessons from Mountain troops on ground


By Spc. Chris McCann,
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — “We’re here on a fact-finding mission,” said Maj. Mike Kimball, an observer-controller for the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, La., visiting the Commando area of operations under the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI).
“We strive to stay relevant because we’re charged with training Soldiers before they deploy. We’re the busiest combat training center, and we must stay relevant.”
To do that, Kimball and the other OCs visit troops downrange in Iraq and Afghanistan, studying what works and what doesn’t in the ever-changing war on terrorism.
“We send a smattering of people from different operations - information, aviation, fire support and others. We converge on a chosen brigade and spread out to see how they’re conducting operations,” Kimball said.
The team of eight officers spent 12 days in the area studying.
“It’s been absolutely invaluable,” Kimball said. The team has spent time with plans officers, company commanders and troops on the ground. Kimball explained that what they learn is put into a trip report which is the genesis of the tactics, techniques and procedures that they coach deploying units on.
Kimball cited the 2nd BCT are not hesitating to get on the ground with Iraqi civilians as a great positive which will be taught to Soldiers preparing to head overseas.
“Dismounted operations are key,” he said. “No matter who you are, get out of the trucks, get out in the villages. Don’t commute to work.”
“We hadn’t actually seen it work,” Kimball said. The OCs were sure that it would be effective, but they had no proof.
“Now we’ve seen it work. We can say, ‘In country, they’re doing this, and it works’.”
Lt. Col. Dwight Duquesnay, the senior OC and native of Pheonix, gave the Commando Brigade high marks for the operations in the south Baghdad area.
“We were very well received by the units,” he said. “The Soldiers and leaders understand the importance of the training at the CTCs, and bent over backwards to integrate us.”
He also said that the brigade is performing very well.
“(The brigade) is in outstanding shape,” Duquesnay said. “Sometimes we come to a newly formed brigade, but this one is at its peak, operating at a very high level. It’s refreshing to see.”
The lessons learned here are critical, he added.
“It will allow us to improve the training at JRTC,” he said.
Having the OCs visit was beneficial to the 2nd BCT as well, said Lt. Col. Daniel Goldthorpe, a native of Dodgeville, Wisc., and the brigade deputy commanding officer.
“It was great to bounce ideas off them – another set of eyes, a different perspective,” Goldthorpe said. “It allows us to put our combat experience back into the CTC so Soldiers can learn from it.”

Rumsfeld's farewell address to troops

FAREWELL MESSAGE TO THE TROOPS

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2006
For these past six years, I have had the opportunity, and, I should add, the privilege to serve with the greatest military the world has ever known. To all of the men and women in uniform, all across the globe: I wish it were possible for me to meet with each of you, personally today so I could look you in the eyes, shake your hands and express my heartfelt gratitude for your service. And to give you some sense of what you have given me: pride in our mission, and an abiding confidence in our country, and in those of you who volunteer to risk your lives to defend us all.
As I complete my second tour as Secretary of Defense, I leave knowing that the true strength of our U.S. military lies not in our weapons, but in the hearts of the men and women in uniform -- in your patriotism, in your professionalism, and your determination to accomplish the mission.
President Abraham Lincoln once said, "determine that the thing can and
shall be done, and then we shall find the way." That remains as true
today as it did during President Lincoln's time. I have seen countless examples of this resolve, when I have met with those of you serving in this long struggle against violent extremists.
I remember visiting a base near Fallujah, where Marines had been engaged in some of the most intense house-to-house fighting since World War II.
It was two days before Christmas. A staff sergeant asked me why there wasn't a way he could extend his tour beyond his unit's service limit in Iraq.
And, I think back to a young man I met at Bethesda Naval Hospital. He was in the very early stages of his recovery from multiple wounds suffered in Iraq. He looked up at me, with a tube in his nose, and said, with force, "if only the American people will give us the time we
need, we can do it. We are getting it done."
And a soldier I met in Afghanistan not long ago, who said, "I really can't believe we're allowed to do something this important." I feel the same way. I can't believe I have had the chance to be involved in something so important to the safety of the American people and the future of our country.
What you are accomplishing is not simply important. It is historic.
When the cause of human freedom required men and women to stand on the front lines in its defense:

* You stepped forward to liberate more than 50 million citizens
in Afghanistan and Iraq;

* You captured or killed tens of thousands of extremists --
taking the fight to where they live, rather than waiting for the extremists to attack us again where our families live; and

* You helped alleviate the conditions that foster extremism --
in places like the Horn of Africa, the Philippines, and elsewhere -- so that your children and grandchildren will not have to face the challenges we face today.
This month has two important anniversaries: the free elections of the Iraqi national assembly, and the seating of the first democratically elected President in Afghanistan's long history. We all remember the images of Iraqis proudly raising purple fingers in the air, after voting in their first free elections; and the images of the Afghan girls singing with joy as their new president took office. Those were historic chapters in the saga of human freedom. And you made them possible.
The long struggle we are in is complex, unfamiliar and still little understood, leading some to believe that there is no need to go on. The enemy is counting on us to falter, and to fail. You are the ones who live the successes, and who endure the setbacks of this struggle, who find your daily missions a personal test of will. And you are the ones who, above all, know that the cause of freedom is well worth the price.
In 10 or 20 years, when you are talking to your children or to your grandchildren, you will look back on your service, at what you have accomplished, with a great sense of pride. You will know that you were part of a truly proud history, indeed, that you were the makers of that proud history, and an inspiration to the generations that followed.
It has been the highest honor of my life to serve with you, the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. You define the American spirit. You have helped millions triumph over tyranny, during this time of great consequence. You have my eternal respect. And you will remain in my thoughts and prayers -- always. May God bless you and your families, and may God continue to bless our wonderful country.


Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

U.S., Iraqi soldiers bond over soccer match


Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, and the 2nd “Commando” Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) gather to watch the Iraq-Qatar soccer match together outside of the Commando’s tactical operations center at Camp Striker, Iraq Dec.15. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Chris McCann, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Camp Striker dining facility becomes No-Spin Zone


Spc. Chris McCann,
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

In a war that has perhaps been even hotter in debates than it is on the streets of Baghdad, the one constant in the media has been “spin.”
It was fitting, then, that Bill O’Reilly, host of the Fox News talk show “The O’Reilly Factor” – dubbed the No Spin Zone - came to visit the Camp Striker, Iraq dining facility Dec. 15.
O’Reilly visited the Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and other units based on Camp Striker to thank them for their service, he said.
“I came to see the Soldiers and say thanks to all the forces ,” he said. “That’s our primary purpose over here.”
O’Reilly had lunch at the dining facility, greeting Soldiers and civilians alike before autographing hats and shirts emblazoned with the title of his latest book, “Culture Warrior.” He posed for photographs with Soldiers as well.
Sgt. 1st Class Vivienne Pacquette of St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands and a supply non-commissioned officer for the 2nd BCT had the opportunity to eat next to O’Reilly and speak with him.
“He was very down-to-earth and easy to talk to,” she said.
“I asked him why he’d come, and I was impressed that he said it was just to say thanks. It’s great to see a person of that stature to have such passion for the troops,” Pacquette said. “He’s in a position to talk to Americans about what we’re doing here.”
O’Reilly said that he found the experience a little different than he’d expected.
“The camp is interesting,” he said. “I’m impressed with the organization here – the camp is a lot bigger than I expected.”
Chief Warrant Officer Shawn Lashbrook, brigade food advisor and native of Conroe, Texas, who arranged some of the specifics of the visit, was pleased with the event, he said.
“Most of the Soldiers seemed to like having him come over and meet and greet,” said Lashbrook. “The reaction was very, very positive.”
“It’s my privilege to come and say hello,” O’Reilly added. “I hope everyone stays safe.”

Friday, December 15, 2006

Polar Bears storm Quarghuli Village by air, land and water



Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

QUARGHULI VILLAGE, Iraq — Quarghuli Village is one of the wealthiest communities in Iraq, mostly because it was funded by Saddam Hussein before his fall of power. Terrorists migrated and settled in the area for money and safe haven.
In the past when the militaries have gone into the village, terrorists used a unique escape route – the Euphrates River.
Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, “Polar Bears,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), were able to stop any terrorists from escaping the village by using air, land and water assets during Operation Polar Valor on Dec. 7.
“In the past no one has used boats to go into the village,” Maj. Robert Griggs, a native of Stockton Calif., who serves as the operations officer for 4-31. “We used boats to travel down the Euphrates in order to seal off any escape routes that the terrorists may use.”
Although the mission was complex, planning the date that it would occur was also a contributing factor in the operation. The Polar Bears chose to launch Operation Polar Valor on Dec. 7, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor.
“We try to pick days that the enemy knows are holidays to the Americans,” Griggs said. “It is during those times that the enemy is less likely to think we are going to do anything.”
The complex operation involved support from Soldiers of many companies and careful coordination to plan.
“In the past units have used helicopters and trucks to get into villages,” Griggs said. “This is the first time the 2nd BCT has used boats in combat operations. They (the boats) give us another way to get into the village.”
While Soldiers of Company A, the 4-31 Military Transition Team, and scouts traveled down the water, Soldiers of Company C. air assaulted from Yusufiyah, Iraq into the village. Meanwhile, Soldiers of Company D worked with engineers to clear a road fromm one strongpoint in the village to their link-up location with the other companies.
The intent of the mission was for all of the companies to meet up and establish a strongpoint within the village and stop any terrorist form escaping.
“It was nice to do something that you do not get to do every day,” said Pfc. Eric Olson, a native of Lon Tree, Iowa, who serves as an infantryman with Co. C. “The mission went smooth and everyone knew what they were doing – to include the Iraqi Army soldiers.”
IA soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, participated in the operation and proved to be successful.
“The IA soldiers did well – they did everything the right way the first time,” said Sgt. 1st Class Dell Rodriguez, the MITT sergeant and native of Redding, Calif. “They have been doing fairly well in everything and are eager to learn.
During the operation one of the IA soldiers had a chance to speak of the experience. “The mission was great,” said Lt. Hesham, an IA officer. “It is good that we are clearing a dangerous area from terrorists.”
It was through the hard work, careful planning and constant communication that allowed the boats and the helicopters to arrive to Quarghuli Village at the same time. They were perfectly synched with one another.
And having them arrive to the village at the same time proved to be successful. The noise of the helicopters masked the boat operation that was happening at the same time.
One of the local nationals stated that he did not know the U.S. Soldiers were coming into the village by boats since all he heard was helicopters.
After all of the companies met up they set up a temporary battle position until they were able to establish a strong point within the village.
The operation did not allow any terrorists to escape the area.
“We expect to find any terrorists in the area within days,” Griggs said. “The boats allowed us to seal off any area that the terrorists may have tried to use to escape.”
During the operation three, non-detonated improvised explosive devices were found , six detainees were captured and Soldiers from Co. D. were able to maintain a permanent presence in the village.
“The Soldiers did a fantastic job,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Alexander Jiminez, the 4-31 command sergeant major and native of Springfield, Mass. “They cleared an area, found a suitable place to maintain and find some stability and established a strongpoint.”
In the end the Soldiers appreciated the experience.
“This was an experience that you could not get anywhere else but here,” said Pfc. James Knight, a 4-31 infantryman from Madison, Ala.

Father, sons reunite in Baghdad



By Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div.

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — During the Civil War and World War I it was normal to see fathers and sons serving together in combat. Since then, over 100 years ago, it has been rare to see them serving together - until today.
Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Mahoney, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, command sergeant major and native of Clarksville, Tenn., visited with his two sons, Pfc. Tyler Mahoney and 1st Lt. Ricky Mandello, Nov. 7 here.
Tyler, a native of Fayetteville, N.C., who serves as a medic with the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, had been in Iraq less than two weeks when he was told that he was going to take a helicopter trip. He had no idea he was scheduled to meet up with his father and brother.
“The 4th Bde., 25th Inf. Regt., commander, was coming to visit our brigade and I asked him if he would bring my son,” Mahoney said. “When I found out Tyler was coming I contacted Ricky to see if he would be able to come.”
Mandello, a platoon leader with the 1st Brigade, 34th Infantry Division, and native of San Diego, was near the end of his one-year tour at Camp Adder, Iraq when he was contacted by his father, Mahoney, to see if he would be able to get to Camp Striker, Iraq for a visit with Mahoney and Tyler.
Mandello was able to get a ride to Striker with one of the convoys that was transporting supplies.
After Mandello arrived at Striker he met up with his father, Mahoney, and went to greet Tyler as he stepped off the helicopter.
“It was an awesome feeling (to see my dad and brother),” Tyler said. “I have not seen them in a long time.”
The three of them, Mahoney, Mandello and Tyler, had not seen each other in about a year.
“The last time we were all together was last Christmas,” Mahoney said.
While together, they visited palaces, took photos and reminisced.
Mahoney recalled memories of the boys when they were younger.
“My sons would dress up in Battle -Dress Uniforms when they were younger – especially Ricky,” Mahoney recalled. “I also remember Tyler being born at Fort Hood, Texas, when I was just a private first class.”
Mandello and Tyler spoke of what it was like having a father in the military having to move from place to place.
“I remember anytime my dad was changing duty stations that it meant we were going on a road trip across country in a pop-up camper,” Mandello said. “We have been from Texas to Alaska and Alaska to Georgia.”
“I developed a lot of character by changing social statuses and making new friends when we moved,” Tyler said.
Mandello and Tyler also commented on their feelings about his father serving in the military for 23 years.
“My father has been in the Army longer than I have been alive,” Tyler commented.
“It takes a lot of courage to come over here (to Iraq) more than one time and my father has come over here numerous times,” Mandello said. “I have seen some of the sacrifices my father has made and (by my brother and me serving in the military) we are paying back some of the sacrifices he made.”
When Mahoney’s sons were old enough, he drove them to the recruiting station and told them to pick which branch of service they wanted to join. Mandello and Tyler both picked the Army and Mahoney’s third son, Jeremy, chose the Air Force.
Mandello joined the Army Reserves originally as an enlisted Soldier and the other two sons chose to serve as enlisted-active-duty service members.
“I don’t expect my children to spend their lives in the military as I have, but I expect them to do their duty while they are in and give something back to the country,” Mahoney said. “I think the military is one of the best methods for allowing men and women to mature and gain some experience. In the military people learn things they do not learn in the civilian world.”
Although Mahoney has been on many deployments and was away a lot he always made time to support his children.
“I was on block leave after my first Operation Iraqi Freedom tour when I attended Tyler’s graduation from Basic Combat Training in Fort Leonard Wood, Miss.,” Mahoney said. “And I attended Jeremy’s graduation from Air Force Basic Training at Lakland Air Force Base in Texas before I deployed to Afghanistan.”
After Tyler graduated from Advanced Individual Training his first duty assignment was the 1st Bn., 501st Inf. Regt., 4th Bde., 25th Inf. Div., formerly known as the 2nd Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment. Mahoney was a charter member of the 1st Bn., 501st Inf. Regt.
“I was a sergeant serving with the 2nd Bn., 17th Inf. Regt., when it was reflagged to the 1st Bn., 501st Inf. Regt., in the late ‘80s,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney also recalled what it was like to have Tyler when he was a private first class and making less than $1,000 a month.
“It was no tougher then than it is today,” Mahoney stated. “You realize you may not have everything you want, but you have everything you need.”
Now that Tyler is a private first class and serving in the military like his father he reflects on the pride he feels while in uniform.
“I think joining the military is something everyone should do – at least for a little while,” Tyler said. “I feel that my father is the best infantryman, my brother is the best engineer and I am the best medic.”
Mandello, who originally was an enlisted Soldier decided to switch to the officer corps so that he would be more involved with the decisions made in the military.
“I enlisted in the military ten years ago and I got commissioned because I felt I could have impact on what the Soldiers are doing. I wanted to be a part of the planning process and help to make decisions,” Mandello said.
Although Mandello has been an officer for two years, he has yet to be saluted from his father.
“I don’t salute Ricky because I like to make him mad,” Mahoney said.
Since Mandello has been in the Army he has been deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He did a tour in Iraq and volunteered as a platoon leader so he could deploy again.
“I think it is a great opportunity (being in Iraq) to bring Democracy to a part of the world that has little experience with it. I am proud to be here,” Mandello commented. “I think serving in Iraq is an honorable thing to do and every American has an obligation to serve their country in some form or fashion.”
Tyler, a first-term Soldier, is on his first tour to Iraq.
“I do not worry about my sons (in Iraq) anymore than I worry about the rest of the Soldiers in the Army,” Mahoney said. “I trust in the training that the Army provides to the Soldiers, to include my sons, and the quality of leadership the Army produces.”
After Mahoney’s sons departed Striker he took a moment to share his thoughts.
“When I see my children who are now grown up and serving the nation in uniform I have a proud feeling,” Mahoney said. “I have the deepest respect for what my sons are doing for the nation, just like the rest of America’s youth serving in uniform.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Sandstorm

The back issues of the Sandstorm are now available in .pdf format!
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Golden Dragons patrol Euphrates by boat


Capt. Dan McConnell
2nd Bn., 14th Inf. Regt. 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) battalion adjutant

CAMP DRAGON, Iraq — The year was 1969; members of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment “Golden Dragons,” were conducting boat operations along the swamps and waterways of Vietnam. An After Action Report, dated March 10, 1969, stated the purpose of the operations were to “destroy enemy forces, interdict movement and uncover supply caches.”
Thirty-seven years later, the Golden Dragon Soldiers are conducting boat operations in combat for the first time since Vietnam. Soldiers from Task Force 2-14, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), will be conducting waterborne operations along the Euphrates River - similar to what the unit did in Vietnam.
This time, the focus of the Golden Dragons will be to prevent the insurgents’ ability to cross the Euphrates River into the battalion’s area of operations and to search for enemy weapons caches on nearby islands and the shoreline on the far river bank which was previously inaccessible.
“Our unique partnership with the 502nd Engineers and its floating bridge MK II boats allow us to apply an innovative approach to surprise and envelop terrorists and prevent them from continued smuggling of weapons and foreign fighters into the Euphrates River Valley tribal lands.” said Lt. Col. John Valledor, commander of 2-14 and native of Fort Drum, N.Y., as he described the aim of the Golden Dragons’ waterborne operations.
The Euphrates River has been an active crossing point for insurgents since the Golden Dragons seized the large Yusufiyah Thermal Power Plant complex southwest of Baghdad, a former safe haven and base of operations for the Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Soldiers of Task Force 2-14 quickly established a strong presence in the area about a month ago, drastically reducing the enemy’s ability to organize attacks against the local Iraqi citizens and coalition forces in the area.
The Golden Dragons continue to use all available means to restore peace in the region setting the stage for a seamless and peaceful transition of authority to the Iraqi Army in the future.
Soldiers from 2-14 constantly interact with the local population in order to defeat the emplacement of roadside bombs, gain actionable intelligence on the insurgency, and find weapons caches. Taking to the water is just the next step for the Golden Dragons in their pursuit of the enemy.
Maj. Joel Smith of Brisbane, Australia, the battalion operations officer, describes the effect the Golden Dragons are having on the area.
“The seizure of the power plant by the Golden Dragons has blocked insurgent movement along the Eastern Euphrates River Valley. Our presence forced the anti-Iraqi forces to flee to the west side of the river,” he said. “These boats will give us the freedom to reduce the last remaining insurgent safe haven in our area and demonstrate to the people of Iraq that we take every measure to eliminate AIF presence in their country.”

Thinking inside the box: Medics create modular clinics


Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — In garrison, a cavity is a minor inconvenience necessitating a trip to the dental clinic. On a patrol base where there are not even portable toilets, however, it can become a major pain – literally – just to get a Soldier medical attention.
Because of the problems of getting Soldiers specialized care in the field, Company C, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) hit upon the idea of the “Doc-in-a-Box.”
The DIAB is simply a doctor’s office built into a large metal storage container, known to the military as a connex, which can be loaded on a flatbed truck and hauled from patrol base to patrol base.
“We can go out, take care of what needs to be taken care of, and come back to refit,” explained Cpl. Jamie Bidwell of Luddington, Mich., who serves as a medic with 210th BSB, while painting the inside of one of the containers. “We want to bring care to the Soldiers. Instead of taking the force from the fight, we’ll take the care to them.”
The container was lined with plywood walls by Kellogg, Brown and Root contractors. The rest of the work is done by Soldiers of Co. C.
“I’m familiar with wiring from previous deployments,” Bidwell said. “I’m a medic of all trades.”
Two of the containers are already out in the field, one fully equipped as a dental clinic; the other is built for physical therapy. Soon to follow will be behavioral health, a laboratory and an X-ray station. The units are completely self-contained and include amenities like heat and air conditioning, sinks, lights and necessary tools like X-ray machines and dental suction devices. Everything is bolted down, Bidwell explained, so that the connex can be picked up using the standard machinery without fear of damage.
When the last three portable clinics are ready – each one takes about a week to finish and furnish – they can be taken as a set to different forward operating bases to treat Soldiers.
“Lt. Col. (Brian) Rogers and I talked, about a year ago, about doing something different,” said Co. C commander Capt. Russell Ritter of Ypsilanti, Mich. “We’re still forcing the Soldiers to come to us. This is an effort to push medical support forward and an attempt by the medical community to push it into sector, because it’s not easy for Soldiers to come in.
“With this capability we can push treatment out to guys who might otherwise not see it for months,” Ritter said.
The portable, self-contained clinics allow the doctors and medics who staff them to make a minimal impact on the forward operating bases they visit. Staffers can sleep in the clinic, removing the need for extra billeting. The set of five connexes runs on a single generator which is transported with them.
“We don’t have to impede on anyone else’s area,” Ritter said.
The modular idea also means that specialized medical care can be conducted to normal standards.
“In the past when dentists and physical therapists went out, they had a level one aid station, and they needed to move things around. I think this is going to help a great deal,” Ritter said.
The company is also experimenting with lining the conexes with Kevlar planks.
“We’re trying to increase the force protection,” Bidwell said.
The plan, Ritter explained, is to send the collection of clinics out on three-to-four-day missions, then bring them back to refit, and send them somewhere else, rotating through the bases so that Soldiers can plan to be treated when the clinics arrive.
“It’s not like sick call,” he explained. “These are specialty areas.”
The Soldiers who staff the clinics will travel with them in shifts.
“Medics always want to be outside the wire,” said Bidwell. “We want to be where the Soldiers are.”
Getting the Doc-in-a-Box clinics fielded will help with that, she said.
“We feel like a valuable asset to the Co. C team, because we’re keeping Soldiers in the fight.”

Mountain Soldiers meet Secretary of Defense



Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) and the 1st Calvary Division had a chance to eat breakfast with the Secretary of Defense, Hon. Donald Rumsfeld at Camp Liberty, Iraq Dec. 10. During the visit the Soldiers had the opportunity to share some of their experiences while in Iraq with Rumsfeld.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nicole Kojetin, 1st Cavalry Division Public Affairs Office)

Monday, December 11, 2006

New! Commando audio

Click here for a brief made-for-radio spot about the 4-31 amphibious assault.

Counterfire mission conducted

2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div.

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) fired four immediate counterfire artillery missions into an area south of Yusufiyah at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 5.
The missions were fired at the point of origin of four 82 mm mortar attacks fired by anti-Iraqi forces into residential areas and areas controlled by the Iraqi Army.
Prior to firing the counter-fire missions the U.S. forces conducted an assessment of the target area to ensure that no collateral damage would be inflicted on the local residents.
No injuries were reported by local residents in the area.

Operation Eagle Track nets two terrorists, cache of weapons

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. PAO

Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah, Iraq – Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division with advisors from 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment., 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division detained 11 suspected terrorists and a cache of weapons at about 11:50 a.m. on Thursday near Lutifuyah, 35 km south of Baghdad.
A patrol from 1st Bn. was searching the area on a tip from locals and discovered components of mortar rounds, two rocket propelled grenade propellant charges, a 130 mm artillery round rigged as an improvised explosive devise and two Russian-made rifles.
The detainees were found in nearby residences.
The detainees are being held for questioning.

Operation Black Eagle

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. PAO

Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah, Iraq – Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division with advisors from Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment., 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division detained 5 suspected terrorists, a cache of weapons and a stockpile of al-Qaeda-in-Iraq propaganda near Mahmudiayh today (Dec.9).
Based on detailed intelligence gathered from previous operations, 2-4-6 IA conducted a raid on a small building complex targeting an improvised explosive device cell, blamed for several attacks against coalition and Iraqi security forces.
As the IA Soldiers raided the objective, they detained two individuals and observed three more attempting to escape.
The IA soldiers, using communication and maneuver, pinpointed and detained the three men in a canal.
Found on the premises were two AK-47 assault rifles, a mortar cleaning kit, a shotgun, and a mortar explosive charge.
Also found were al-Qaeda propaganda and a series of documents indicating that this cell was planning to attack Iraqi Army checkpoints in the near future.
The detainees are being held for questioning.

TASK FORCE 4-31 DISCOVER ANTI-AIRCRAFT WEAPONS

2 BCT, 10th Mountain Division, (LI) Public Affairs

Forward Operating Base Yusufiyah, IRAQ – Soldiers from Task Force 4-31, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Div. (LI) discovered a weapons cache containing a Soviet-made SA-7 Strella surface to air missile launcher and components of a 12.7 mm anti-aircraft machine gun. The weapons were in a state of deterioration and appeared to be unusable without significant maintenance.

IRAQI POLICE FIND CAR BOMB IN MAHMUDIYAH

2 BCT, 10th Mountain Division, (LI) Public Affairs

Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah, Iraq – An Iraqi Police patrol discovered a car bomb at 12:10 p.m. today, near the town of Mahmudiyah, Iraq south of Baghdad.
The vehicle borne improvised explosive device was composed of three 82 mm mortar rounds rigged into the dashboard of a blue Kia mini-van.
An explosive ordinance disposal team was called in and disabled the bomb.
The incident is under investigation.

Friday, December 08, 2006

First Mahmudiyah Qadaa meeting fruitful, peaceable

Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — In the midst of a perception of spiraling violence, the Mahmudiyah Qadaa’s first-ever meeting brought together groups from across the sectarian divide in a positive and fruitful discussion Wednsday.
The meeting, held at the Iraqi Army Compound in Mahmudiyah, Iraq, brought together qadaa representatives from Yusufiyah, Mahmudiyah, Al-Rashid and Lutifiyah, as well as Mahmudiyah Mayor Mr. Maayad Fadthil al-Shibli, , Col. Ali al-Frejee, commander of the 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, Col. Mike Kershaw, commander of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), Lt. Col. Robert Morschauser, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div., and various Iraqi security and coalition forces and Iraqi government representatives.
Col. Ali spoke in regard to the security situation in the Mahmudiyah area, mentioning various examples of security improvements over the last three years, but there is still a long way to go, he said.
“Improving the security situation will require the help of all the people here, and all the civilians that you have influence over,” Ali said.
He also mentioned the numbers of Iraqi soldiers that have been killed and wounded in the defense of their country, and how many terrorists the soldiers have detained – including 81 people targeted by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.
Ali also stated on camera that he wanted to tell the terrorists that the 4th Brigade, 6th IA Division will not stop hunting them down, a sentiment echoed by Brigadier Gen. Ali, division commander.
The mayor discussed national reconciliation briefly, saying that Iraq has suffered greatly in the recent past and that the qadaa meetings are intended to help the people.
“We need to stop talking about religions and follow the initiatives of Prime Minister (Nouri) Al-Maliki,” he said.
Several representatives from the Lutifiyah, Mahmudiyah, Al-Rasheed and Yusufiyah nahias spoke, mostly about the security situation and the fact that unemployment causes people turn to terrorism – because terror cells pay local residents to place improvised explosive devices, to fire upon Iraqi and coalition forces, and other acts of terrorism.
Most of the nahia representatives thanked the Americans for their assistance and called on tribal leaders to control their areas.
Abu Amar, a member of the Mahmudiyah city council and a Shia, spoke at length.
Abu Amar said that his mission is to serve all Iraqis from Mahmudiyah to Fallujah. He asked for help from the tribes with stopping the outsiders from entering the towns to do harm. Once this threat has stopped, there will be no need for armed men within the city.
Abu Amar, however, also said that he was proud of the Gheriri and Janabi tribes – both Sunni – and Anbari tribe, which is Shia, as well as all of the 20 tribes that are covered under the Mahmudiyah qada area.
“I used to go to any area and drink tea with people from any tribe,” Abu Amar said. “We are one chain that cannot be divided.”
He made a point of stating that attacks in Mahmudiyah kill women and children, and so everyone in the town carries a weapon, to protect their areas, although he wished that there would be no militia and no terrorism.
As a good will gesture to the attending members and as an act of reconciliation, Col. Ali presented a list of 17 detainees, both Sunni and Shia. He said that he had expedited the investigations into their arrests. The 17 had been found innocent and were to be released.
The high point of the meeting and perhaps the most cause for hope came near the end, when Col. Ali introduced Lt. Col. Abdul Muhsin, former commander of the 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th IA Division and now commander of the 2nd Battalion.
“What tribe are you from?” someone asked.
Muhsin’s reply brought a round of applause from those gathered.
“Iraqi,” he said.

Clawing for life: Safety officer develops lifesaving tool


Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — One of the top killers of Soldiers in Iraq isn’t necessarily combat-related.
Since operations began in March of 2003, many Soldiers have been killed when they can’t escape a Humvee – often because it has rolled into one of Iraq’s numerous irrigation canals.
When an armored truck is upside-down or on its side, it can take three Soldiers to push a door open enough to get out, and if the doors are sunken into the mud, it can be nearly impossible.
“If you go into a canal, there’s a really good chance you won’t come out alive,” said 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI) Safety Officer Bill Del Solar.
But Del Solar has been working to change that.
Because a Soldier’s chances of being in a vehicle roll-over are relatively high, and the odds of making it out relatively low, Del Solar worked, during his last rotation to Iraq in 2004 and 2005, to develop what is known as the Rat Claw, a deceptively simple tool that lets a Soldier grip the nearly smooth door of an armored Humvee with two hooks, attach them to another vehicle, and pull the door off in seconds.
“We were having trouble with vehicles,” said Del Solar, who is seeing the fruits of his labor on his second deployment to Iraq. “We saw the combat locks, and that Soldiers couldn’t get out.”
Combat locks keep the doors shut in the event of an improvised explosive device detonation, shielding the passengers. But they make the door harder to open – which can be just as deadly.
“The fire chief and I put our heads together to figure out what we could do,” said Del Solar, a native of Erie, Penn. “We realized if you could get your hooks in, you could get the Soldiers out.”
After some experimentation, they developed the Rat Claw, a flat steel hook that attaches to almost anything – the Humvee’s built-in winch or towing hook, a chain set, or aircraft cable. One tug with another vehicle can open the door, or if necessary pull it completely off.
“If you get a little momentum, you can pull anything off,” Del Solar said.
From start to finish, the operation takes less than a minute under ideal circumstances.
“In the worst case, from the time the vehicle goes into the water until they can get the door open, three minutes,” he said. The human brain can go three to four minutes without oxygen before suffering damage, he added. “It’s a reasonable amount of time for a rescue.”
The 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, 10th Mountain Division had to use the Rat Claw recently when a Humvee was flipped over in an IED explosion. The doors were damaged by the force of the blast, but Soldiers were able to open the vehicle and extract their wounded comrades, including Lt. Col. Michael Infanti, the battalion commander and native of Chicago.
“I remember I was pinned inside the truck,” Infanti said. “Fuel was dripping on me, I was in pain. But the Soldiers did extremely well, and the Rat Claw worked. It took one try and I was out of the vehicle. Honestly, I don’t know how they would’ve gotten me out with the equipment we had on hand, if we didn’t have the Rat Claw. I will live to fight again another day.”
The Rat Claw can be used to turn a vehicle over or even pull it completely out of a canal.
“We hope it will save lives by making it easier for fellow Soldiers to rescue each other,” said Del Solar.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Thanksgiving in a former al Qaeda stronghold


By Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div.


CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — The Yusufiyah Thermal Power Plant, southwest of Baghdad, was one of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division’s assignments to seize and hold when the BCT deployed to the area in September. The plant, unfinished and empty, had long been a terrorist stronghold and rallying area. But on Nov. 23, about 150 Soldiers from the brigade had a hot, fresh Thanksgiving dinner among the rusting scaffolding. They were served by Col. Michael Kershaw, the brigade commander and a native of Huffman, Texas, and several company commanders and first sergeants.
“I like it when (brigade command staff) comes by,” said Pfc. Michael Shu, a medic with Company A, 2nd Battalion 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, a Dallas, Texas native. “It shows that they care for the troops. It feels like they’re going to watch over us, and like we have a purpose here.”
Capt. Bernard Vanbrocklin, of Russell, N.Y., commander of Company E, 2nd Brigade Support Battalion, spent time handing out plates and flatware as Soldiers filed by for the meal.
“It’s a pleasure to serve the troops,” he said. “It gives us a chance to give back to the Soldiers what they do for us every day.”
Maj. Kenny Mintz, brigade operations officer and a native of Fallbrook, Calif., agreed.
“It’s an honor and a privilege,” said Mintz. “These guys lay it on the line every day, and they deserve the best.”
“I never thought we’d be in one of the most feared places (in our area),” said 1st Sgt. David Schumacher, of Easton, Penn., first sergeant for Company A, 2-14. “Now we’re serving Thanksgiving dinner here.”
“It really shows they care a lot about the Soldiers,” said Pfc. Joe Branneky, a native of Orlando, Fla., a squad automatic weapon gunner for Company C, 2-14. “It really shows that they’re human too, and that they care about the boots-on-the-ground Soldiers. I think they really appreciate us, and I’m proud to be serving under them.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony W. Mahoney, brigade command sergeant major, said he was pleased to be with the Soldiers for the holiday, although he visits the plant and the troops there about once a week.
“We have Soldiers in this brigade from each of the 50 United States, and an unknown number of countries outside the United States. They have worked here for about sixty days and trained here for a year since our last deployment. Now they’re spending Thanksgiving Day here on the banks of the Euphrates River. Their thoughts are with their families, and they are here with their surrogate family.
“It is a testament to the commitment of these young men and women that we do this. I am extremely proud to be a part of this and to contribute in whatever small measure I am able.”
Kershaw and Mahoney also visited troops at Forward Operating Bases Rushdi Mullah, Al-Taraq, Gator Swamp, and Yusufiyah for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It was a real pleasure to have (command) serve us,” said Pfc. Shane Beagley, a cavalry scout with Troop A, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment and a native of Spanish Fork, Utah. He currently works out of FOB Gator Swamp.
“It made me feel respected as a private first class in the Army. And the chow is delicious.”
Capt. Jeffery Bryan, a native of Springfield, Mo., and the battalion chaplain for the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, spent time talking with the Soldiers under his care especially around the holiday.
“I saw a lot of different Soldiers, and the morale was pretty good,” he said. “They seem to be hearing from home, there’s a lot of communication, and the leadership went out to see the Soldiers that couldn’t be here.”
While the Thanksgiving dinners around the 2nd BCT’s area of operations perhaps weren’t perfect, they seemed to hit the right notes – at least for Pfc. Joshua Sims of Meridian, Miss., an infantryman with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4-31.
“It’s good,” he said. “It feels more like home.”

QRF Soldiers make Yusufiyah a safer place


Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div.

YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — In the town of Yusufiyah, Iraq stores are starting to open again and people are coming out of their homes. The locals are no longer scared.
Soldiers from the quick-reaction-force platoon, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment “Polar Bears,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), have been patrolling the streets of Yusufiyah for the past six weeks in order to reduce the amount of terrorist activity in the area.
“We conduct patrols and recons to disrupt enemy activity in the area,” said Sgt. 1st Class Paul Burk, a native of Lafayette, N.Y., who serves as the 4-31 QRF platoon sergeant. “We knew there were signs of terrorist activity in the area from the graffiti on the walls and information the locals gave us.”
The QRF Soldiers have a good relationship with the locals in the area. Each time they patrol the area they ask the locals how they are doing and what they (the QRF Soldiers) can do to help. They QRF Soldiers know all the families in the area and are often greeted with a smile when they stop to talk to the family members.
“When we talk to the families it makes me feel good that they are able to share the problems they are having within the town,” Burk said.
Although the families feel comfortable when the Soldiers are in the area some of them still receive death threats from the terrorists. The QRF Soldiers make it a habit to check on each of these and other families when they are in the area.
“It is good to see that we are doing something positive (for the local nationals),” said Pfc. Timothy Grom, a 4-31 QRF gunner from Clarksville, Tenn. “Since we have been here we can see that out efforts (to help the locals) have not been a waste.”
Part of the QRF’s mission while patrolling the area is to look for any suspicious activity and check the locals’ identification cards.
One local shares his thoughts about the QRF Soldiers.
“I am happy to see them (the Soldiers) here,” said Mahamad, an Iraqi local national. “They are helping to make the town a safer place and keep the bad guys out.”
Since the QRF has been patrolling the area of Yusufiyah there has been less terrorist activity and the locals seem like they feel safer.
\ “This means we are doing our job,” Burk said.
The QRF Soldiers continually go into the Yusufiyah. Sometimes they get tips from the locals that there are terrorist in the area and when they receive the tips they respond in less than 15 minutes. They area always ready to conduct the mission.
“We stay ready,” said 1st Lt. Alan Vargo, the 4-31 QRF platoon leader and native of Georgetown, Texas. “That’s what we do.”

Polar Bears air assault into terrorist safe haven


Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div.

QARGHULI VILLAGE, Iraq — Qarghuli Village, Iraq has long been known as a safe haven for terrorists. For almost a year the area had not been patrolled by U.S. forces because of the danger it posed. Knowing the high enemy threat in the area did not stop Commando Brigade infantrymen from going in.
Soldiers from the Company D, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment “Polar Bears,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), teamed up with soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, to conduct an air assault mission, Operation Polar Black Diamond, into Quarghuli Village on the early morning of Nov. 25.
As the Soldiers boarded one of the four helicopters that took them from Mahmudiyah, Iraq to Qarghuli Village they shared their thoughts of the mission.
“I think this mission will help to eliminate the terrorist activity in the area,” said Sgt Jereme Brown, a 4-31 infantryman. “We are going in there to make it a safer place for the Iraqi people,”
When the Soldiers landed to their interim destination they found themselves on some of the most unforgiving terrain. They had to push through canals, muddy fields and even across barbed wire while the night-vision goggles offered their only form of sight. Although the terrain was tough and the company found themselves lying in fields filled with cow manure as they pulled security, they stayed focused on the mission.
The (Soldiers) knew that their mission would not be complete until they established the battle position in the village. The battle position established would be the western most outpost in the Polar Bear area of operations.
During the foot march the U.S. and Iraqi soldiers worked together to clear houses in the area. They found a total of three AK-47s and magazines in the houses they searched.
After seven hours of foot marching the Soldiers had finally reached their destination – the battle position they had to establish.

As soon as the Soldiers arrived to their new home they immediately started pulling security and patrolling the local area looking for suspicious activity.
Spc. Katherine Cobb, a female civil affairs specialist attached to 4-31, spoke of what it was like to be a part of the mission.
“I was extremely excited when I found out I was going on the mission,” Cobb said. “I like going on patrols, talking with the local nationals and seeing what they need.”
Cobb routinely goes on patrols with 4-31 in order to help gather information about the locals in the area and to see what they need.
As the Soldiers patrolled the area they saw ten Iraqis placing improvised-explosive devices in culvert locations along Route Malibu. The Iraqi soldiers quickly detained them for further questioning.
“I am happy we found the terrorists who were placing IEDs on the road,” said Lt. Ahmed, and Iraqi soldier with 4th Bat., 4th Bde. 6th IA Div. “I am here because I want to help my country, the Iraqi people and my Army friends.”
Upon further questioning the Iraq soldiers were given information of terrorists and caches in the local area.
“I am confident with the Iraqi Army,” said Sgt. Albert Lopez, a 4-31 infantryman from San Pedro, Calif. “I have worked with the Iraqi soldiers since I have been in Iraq and I am confident about what they are doing.”
One of the detainees led the U.S. and Iraqi Soldiers to the weapons caches where items such as spools of wire, two pressure plates, three portable phones, five manuals about portable phones and a large metal object with wheels buried in the ground. They also uncovered a buried container that terrorists frequently use to hide weapons.
“The Soldiers have performed well on this mission as they do on all missions,” said Capt. Don Jamoles, Company D, 4-31 commander and native of Salinas, Calif. “My Soldiers have been working well with the Iraqi soldiers on this mission. They (the U.S. Soldiers) provided outer security of the area while the Iraqis conducted searches themselves.”
Jamoles went on to describe what it was like working with the IA during the mission.
“Two years ago it was difficult to get Iraqi soldiers onto helicopters,” he said. “Now it is second nature. The Iraqi soldiers have done an excellent job and are showing improvement in taking control of situations themselves.”
Although the Soldiers successfully established the battle position the enemy threat was still present.
“While I was on top of the house I heard a loud bang so I got down on the ground,” said 1st Lt. Thad Wescott, a native of Sterling, Ill., who serves as a 4-31 platoon leader. “I did not realize I was shot until I saw blood. I am thankful I am alive.”
Wescott was shot by an enemy sniper while manning the roof of the house.
Sgt. Sean Sanders, a medic with 4-31 and native of Stewart, Fla., described what it was like to treat Wescott.
“Any time I go on a mission I always hope that I do not have to work … If I do not have to work that means no one got hurt,” Sanders said. “But since I do have to work I am glad that this is all I have to do. I am always worried (about the Soldiers) because I never want anything bad to happen to them.”
The Soldiers of Company D will continue to man the battle position as long until the area is safe from terrorists.
“We will continue to provide force protection for the battle position until there is freedom of movement along Route Malibu,” Jamoles said. “And we will provide security for coalition forces and the people of Qarghuli Village.”

Soldiers clear routes with the Buffalo

By Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div.

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Improvised explosive devices have been a problem for both the Iraqi people and the U.S. military since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
The Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division have been doing their best to reduce the numbers and effects of IEDs – finding caches containing materials for over a thousand IEDs, patrolling roads to prevent placement of them and building civil relations to discourage people from setting them at all – but some still remain. To get rid of them, there is Operation Iron Claw.
Using what is officially known as the Mine Protected Vehicle-Buffalo, or just “the Buffalo,” the Soldiers of Company A, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion and attached Soldiers from Company A, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment patrol roads in slow route-clearing convoys on a regular basis.
“I enjoy the mission,” said said Sgt. Brandon Hasson of Hubert, N.C., a Soldier assigned to Co. A, 4-31 and a Buffalo operator. “It’s a good task, and it makes me feel good, knowing I helped somebody not get injured, whether we find something or not. If we didn’t find anything, it means there’s no bad guys around, and if we do find something, it’s just that much more rewarding.”
Armored Humvees protect the Buffalo and the “Husky,” a contraption that looks like a road grader, said Hasson. But the Husky, instead of a blade, carries a very sensitive metal detector. The Husky passes over the road, and when it senses a metal object that could be an IED, it marks the spot with paint, Hasson said. The Buffalo takes over from there.
Watching on the camera and using the movable iron arm and claw – hence the operational name – the Soldier in the passenger seat of the vehicle carefully digs away whatever is covering the possible IED. When it is laid bare, Explosive Ordnance Disposal moves in and neutralizes the threat.
“This vehicle is able to pinpoint, open up and expose a round for EOD to dispose of,” Hasson said.
But sometimes even the most careful manipulation will trigger an IED, especially those made with volatile homemade explosives. The Buffalo’s thick armor makes it nearly impervious to blasts, but missions can still be a little unnerving, said Hasson.
“When we were out at the Yusufiyah Thermal Power Plant, there were two directional charges up on the wall. I had to go in with the arm to get them and pull them out of the sand piles, and put them out on the road for EOD without them blowing up…. I don’t worry about it too much, because we’re protected. But there’s still some fear, because anything manmade will err,” Hasson said.
Sgt. John Slempkes of Green Bay, Wisc., has even more faith in the vehicle.
“You’re not going to get hurt in a Buffalo,” he countered.
The Buffalo have weathered tremendous numbers of explosions – including anti-tank mines, according to online defense news magazine Defense Update.
The magazine cited an example of a Buffalo in Iraq that ran over an anti-tank round. The blast blew off a wheel and destroyed an axle, but no one was hurt inside the vehicle, and the Buffalo drove to safety on its own, was repaired overnight and back in service the next day.
The 2nd BSTB has discovered and neutralized 21 IEDs since the transfer of authority on Sept. 20, on missions that happen almost every day, rain or shine, said Hasson.
The Soldiers who drive the Buffalo constantly – there are route-clearing missions going on nearly all the time – know that their efforts are critical to the brigade’s safe transport, and 2nd BCT Soldiers who perform the route-clearing missions will go on, as engineer Soldiers do all over Iraq, as long as the 2nd BCT is deployed.
“Without this vehicle,” said Hasson, “The mission cannot go.”

Monday, November 13, 2006

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

MND-B's Senior NCO visits Yusufiyah power plant

Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie
2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div.

YUSUFIYAH, Iraq – With his body propped up against his defensive position, he peers diligently through his scope, looking for terrorists and anyone else who would do his unit harm. He looks through the scope for several hours each day, knowing that the Soldier to his left and right are counting on him. He has not had a shower or a hot meal in six days, and yet he remains focused – ready to defend his comrades.
Spc. Jon Born, a marksman for 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and other members of his unit sit for days at their battle positions anticipating the enemy, but what they do not anticipate is a friendly face showing up to see how they are doing.
Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Riling, Multi-National Division – Baghdad, did just that when he visited the Soldiers Wednesday at the Yusufiyah power plant. The plant is located on the Euphrates River, near Sadr al Yusufiyah, approximately 25 miles southwest of Baghdad.
“I like to get out and visit with our Soldiers as often as I can. I think the Soldiers appreciate when their senior leaders take the time to talk to them and stand side-by-side with them during a mission,” Riling said. “As a leader, I think it is important to encourage them and recognize Soldiers for outstanding performance.”
Having only been in Iraq a couple of months, the Soldiers of 2-14 Inf. Regt., also known as the “Golden Dragons,” have been manning the Yusufiyah power plant since Oct. 23. They originally foot marched to a battle position on nearby highway and provided overwatch on the power plant, took perimeter security and then secured the power plant.
“The Soldiers of 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div., have recently been attached to Multi-National Division – Baghdad, and like their predecessors from 10th Mtn. Div.’s 1st BCT, have shown outstanding dedication, performance and leadership,” said Riling. “They have quickly and seamlessly transitioned into their role and have added to MND-B’s strength and capabilities. This is a testament to the Army’s doctrine of modularity.”
Securing the power plant was important to the 2nd BCT because it (the power plant) was believed that terrorists used the area as a safe haven to stage attacks against the Government of Iraq and MND-B Forces.
Since the power plant was secured, the “Golden Dragons” have been manning the site every day, non-stop. They are looking for possible terrorist activity in or around the area and often do not have interaction with anyone besides their battle buddies – so the MND-B leader’s visit was a morale booster for them.
“It was good to see Command Sgt. Maj. Riling out here,” said Spc. Michael Wahlers, 2-14 Inf. Regt. “We have worked hard to secure the power plant, and it’s great to be recognized for it.”
A fellow Soldier said he thought the visit was important as well.
“It is good to see that other higher-ranking officials are seeing the valuable importance of the thermal power plant, now known as Camp Dragon, and to see how the Soldiers of 2-14 Inf. Regt. are putting in long hours to build up proper security and to keep clearing the site while continuing combat patrols and local route security,” said Staff Sgt. Mike Godlewski, personal security detachment noncommissioned officer, 2-14 Inf. Regt.
During Riling’s visit with the Soldiers, he thanked the Soldiers for the job they were doing and presented his coins to them for their hard work.
“The Soldiers of 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div., are operating in one of the most dangerous sections within MND-B’s area of operations,” Riling said. “Through their diligence and professionalism, they have battled terrorists and recently gained control and strengthened the security of a strategically located power plant. They are dedicated to their mission and working with the Iraqi Security Forces toward a brighter future for the people of Iraq.”
Like Born, the Soldiers of the “Golden Dragons” will continue to operate out of the power plant until it can be safely returned to the Iraqi people.


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