Friday, December 07, 2007

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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Mejias remembered

By Col. Anthony Cruz

Soldiers join the Army for many reasons. David A. Mejías’ reason was simple—he had to do something. He had to do something after watching our nation being attacked by terrorists. He had to do something about the loss of innocent lives. He just had to do something. That’s why 48 hours after the September 11th attacks, just a couple of weeks after his 21st birthday, David Mejías joined the Army.
A few months later (in December 2001), while I was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division
in Germany, I received a phone call from David. “Guess where I am?” he began. To this, I replied that I had no clue.
“I am at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, just starting field artillery advanced individual training.”
David’s announcement was unexpected, but it should not have been. After all, his parents had both served in the Army. In fact, they were stationed in Germany in the early 1980s, when David was born. David was destined to become a Soldier. It was his calling.
In February 2002, David was assigned to the 1st ID as a forward observer in a field artillery battalion in Bamberg. Although we served together in the unit for only six months, the time that we shared was priceless.
While assigned to the “Big Red One,” David, who was then a staff sergeant, was deployed to
Kosovo and Iraq. But for David, being a Field Artillery Soldier was not very exciting. It was during his deployment to Iraq that he began considering leaving the Army. However, he knew that I was a Military Police Soldier, and that piqued his interest. “Talk to me
about being an MP,” he implored. I described the branch and told him that if he decided to reclassify, he would surely be deployed to Iraq again. But deploying to Iraq was the least of David’s worries. He did not mind that.
About that time, David fell in love with Specialist Caromi Rodriguez, a supply specialist assigned
to the 630th Military Police Company, Bamberg. They were a match made in heaven. Following in the footsteps of his parents, David married the love of his life while on leave in Denmark.
In 2005, David reenlisted; requested a reclassification to the Military Police Corps Regiment;
and was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York. In April 2006, Caromi
gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Leila Mejías-Rodriguez. David missed her birth, as he was at the National Training Center preparing for another deployment to Iraq.
In August 2006, David deployed to Iraq for the second time. As a squad leader assigned to the Military Police Platoon, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2d Brigade Combat Team, David
excelled as a natural leader and was emulated by his peers and subordinates.
On 1 April 2007, Staff Sergeant David A. Mejías made the ultimate sacrifice when his life and the lives of three of his fellow squad members were violently taken by an improvised explosive
device. He was only 26. I had the honor of escorting David on his final journey home to Puerto Rico, where he was laid to rest at the National Cemetery.
David loved the Army and all it stands for. He also loved Soldiers and leading them into battle. He knew exactly what he was doing and why he was doing it. And he wouldn’t have had it any other way. Staff Sergeant David Mejías was a great Soldier and a great American. But above all, he was my beloved nephew and my hero.

Polar Bears discover 9-11 propaganda in Iraqi home

QARGHULLI VILLAGE, Iraq — Coalition Forces discovered a cache which contained Sept. 11, 2001 propaganda in a house in Qarghulli Village, Iraq, Sept. 26.
Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment “Polar Bears,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) discovered the cache while conducting Operation Rock Sweep V and VI.
The purpose of the mission was to target specified al-Qaeda operatives identified to be planning and coordinating attacks against Coalition Forces and concerned local citizens in the area.
While conducting the operation, Soldiers searched the targets’ houses looking for illegal weapons.
In one house they discovered a cache that consisted of three blasting caps, a ski mask, a terrorist manual which included directions on constructing vehicle improvised explosive devices, propaganda featuring the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, two cell phones and a card to activate the cell phones.
The propaganda was a small booklet featuring images of the attacks and a script praising the attacks.
“Our assessment is that these guys were getting ready to launch attacks during the Ramadan celebration,” said Lt. Thomas Ceislak, battle captain for 4-31 Inf. Regt. “We got the intelligence for this raid from earlier questioning of detainees and from tips provided by our source network”
The owner of the house was detained and is being held for questioning.
The blasting caps were destroyed during a controlled detonation and the other items are being inspected for further intelligence value.

Drum troops find IED cache

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
BAGHDAD - A Coalition patrol discovered a cache containing four 130mm rounds and a 155mm round, presumably for making improvised explosive devices Sept. 28. Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment "Golden Dragons" of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LightInfantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., discovered the rounds, along with two barrels of black powder and another barrel filled with an unknown substance, near Az-Zaidon, Iraq, just 15 miles southwest of Baghdad. The unknown substances were sampled for testing, and the cache was destroyed with a controlled detonation by explosive ordnance disposal technicians.

Citizens lead Soldiers to IED-making cache

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division - Center

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Coalition Soldiers received a cache turned in by Iraqi concerned citizens at about 3:30 p.m. Sept. 29 in Qarghuli Village, Iraq.
Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., working at a patrol base near the village, were approached and led to a cache by several citizens.
They found an empty water tank buried n the ground, which contained 30 empty shape-charge forms and 30 60mm mortar rounds.
The cache was destroyed with a controlled detonation by an explosive ordnance disposal team. However, the explosion was larger than the team expected, leading them to believe that there was more explosive material triggered by that detonation that had not been reported.

Provider battalion names NCO and Soldier of the year

Sgt. 1st Class Angela McKinzie2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAOMulti-National Division - Center
CAMP STRIKER, Iraq - Recently the Provider Battalion honored its noncommissioned officer and Soldier of the year at a ceremony in the Camp Striker Dining Facility.The Soldiers, who serve with the 210th Brigade Support Battalion "Providers," 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LightInfantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., were the first to be named NCO and Soldier of the year at the battalion level."I asked a Soldier who had been in the unit for five years if there had ever been any battalion NCO and Soldier of the year," said Command Sgt.Maj. Spencer Gray, 210th BSB, native of Thomaston, Ga. After realizing there had never been a battalion-level competition Gray decided to change the policy. He started holding NCO and Soldier of the month boards upon the unit's arrival to Iraq last August."I wanted to do something different that would inspire the Soldiers to reach for excellence," Gray said. "And why have quarter boards and never allow the winners of the quarter boards to compete amongst themselves?"With Gray's vision in mind, the NCOs and Soldiers began studying to be the first Provider NCO and Soldier of the year.However, winning the title while serving in a combat zone required a little more from each of the competitors."In combat, leaders tend to make excuses of what they can do and what they cannot do due to the mission," Gray said. "I wasn't going to use this excuse to put Soldiers' development on back seat even under the illusion that they didn't have time to read one book - an army regulation or even a field manual." Soldiers were tested on physical fitness, military knowledge, current events, their appearance and hands-on demonstrations such as clearing a weapon and performing a functions test.After a year of competitions, the NCO and Soldier of the year were finally named.Sgt. Esther Kamondo, a native of Nyeri, Kenya, who serves as a squad leader for the 210th BSB's light equipment section, was named NCO of the year. Spc. Farrah Hunkin, a native of Long Beach, Calif., who serves as a training noncommissioned officer with the BSB, was named Soldier of the year."I didn't see me as winning," Kamondo said as she smiled from ear to ear. "I couldn't believe it. The feeling was great."Kamondo, who grew up in Kenya said she had always wanted to be a U.S.Soldier. She moved to the United States in 2003 and worked as a cashier at Burger King. Later she found an Army recruiter and joined the military - as she always wanted to do.Kamondo explained the discipline and time it took to become the NCO of the year."When we came back from missions everyone got to sleep while I was awake studying for the board," she said. "I think the hardest part of the board was cleaning my weapon - that is seven hours of labor for a board."And to ensure her weapon was top notch, Kamondo would walk from her trailer to the place where the board was being held with a cover on her weapon."I didn't want it to get dirty since I just spent so much time cleaning it," she said.And when asked how she earned the NCO of the year title Kamondo simply replied, "When you do something, you should always do it excellently."Hunkin, the Soldier of the year, shared how she felt after finding out she was the winner."I didn't know I was going to do as well as I did," Hunkin said. "I was shocked when I found out I won."Hunkin, who will be promoted to the rank of sergeant Oct. 1, was thankful she attended the boards."I am happy because attending boards has helped me to get promoted," she explained. "Now that the board is over I am being held to a higher standard than the rest of the Soldiers."Gray commented about the winners."Sgt. Kamondo is a very sharp and decisive NCO. I remember when she appeared for the quarter board, I thought, 'oh my'. I've never seen an individual come to a board so sharp with such an enormous level of confidence," Gray said. "She blew me and the board members out of our seats.""Spc. Hunkin is quite smart and a very hard working young Soldier - I would hear her sometimes studying in her office to prepare for the board," Gray said. "She often told me she was going to win the board - positive attitudes get positive results. I'm very proud of their achievements."Despite what others may think about holding boards in a combat environment, Gray realizes the importance of the proceedings."I grew up in the Army under this type of telescope that competition was a morale booster" Gray said. "It entices Soldiers to feel good about being a part of the unit." Each of the winners received a glass Climb to Glory statue, a 10th Mtn.Div. coin, a 2nd BCT coin and a 210th BSB coin."I would like to personally thank the many Soldiers and NCOs who came out and supported our Soldiers during this very special moment for the battalion and to the Soldiers," Gray said.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Coalition Forces find caches with help from concerned citizens

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center

BAGHDAD — Concerned local citizens led coalition troops to a series of weapons caches southwest of Baghdad Sept. 21 and 22.
Soldiers from Company B, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, out of Fort Benning, Ga., who are currently attached to the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., worked with the concerned local citizens to seize the caches.
The first cache was discovered Sept. 21 after concerned citizens alerted Soldiers of weapons in the area.
The cache contained several pounds of TNT, 28 rocket-propelled grenade rounds, six 82mm mortar rounds, several boxes of 12.7mm heavy machine-gun rounds, 7.62mm rounds, and seven rockets of an undetermined size.
Then the concerned citizens led Co. B to another cache nearby. The second cache contained a 60mm mortar tube, an 82mm mortar tube, 18 82mm mortar rounds, a 60mm mortar round, two 120mm mortar rounds, 50 12.7mm heavy machine-gun rounds, a 1-liter container filled with gunpowder, and eight blocks of homemade explosives.
The third cache, which was pointed out by an Iraqi man, included a Dragonov sniper rifle, an RPG launcher, five RPG warheads, 200 pounds of homemade explosive, an AK-47 assault rifle, 38 incomplete improvised explosive devices, 30 boxes of various small arms ammunition, two boxes of 12.7mm heavy machine-gun ammunition, five tear gas grenades, four fragmentary hand grenades, six 60mm mortar rounds and fuses and five rockets of various sizes.
The Soldiers also discovered an underground bunker in the vicinity of the third cache site.
In a separate incident, a concerned citizen led elements of Company D, 2-14th Inf. Regt., to a weapons cache south of Zaidon, Iraq, Sept. 22.
The cache contained 11 120mm mortar rounds, eight anti-personnel mines, a collection of ammunition of various calibers, and seven rockets.
The weapons, ammunition and bunker were all destroyed in controlled detonations by an explosive ordnance disposal team.

Personnel Soldiers: behind-the-scene enablers

Sgt. 1st Class Angela McKinzie
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Getting promoted, awarded, going on leave and receiving mail are some of the morale boosters of being in the Army, especially in a combat environment.
But like most things, these things do not come automatically – it takes a lot of behind-the-scene work from Soldiers who are often not recognized for their contribution to the fight.
Soldiers from the personnel shop of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., have spent countless hours during the past 14 months of their deployment in Iraq processing, awards, evaluations, casualty reports, leave forms and writing letters of condolences.
“Since we have been deployed we have processed well over 4,700 awards for Soldiers in the brigade,” said Sgt. 1st Class Joshua Harvey, the 2nd BCT personnel noncommissioned officer in charge and native of Binghamton, N.Y.
From an outside view processing awards may seem like an easy job, but a lot of preparation goes into the award before and even after the award is approved.
“We check for any errors, accept awards submissions and review each Soldier’s file to make sure he is eligible for the award,” Harvey explained. “After the award is approved we make sure it is uploaded to the Soldier’s Official Military Records Brief and is listed on the Enlisted or Officer Records Brief.”
Spc. Pamela Hutchinson, a native of Watertown, N.Y. who serves as the awards clerk with the personnel shop is in charge of adding all awards to Soldiers’ files.
Like awards, promotions is another area that doesn’t happen without the expertise of the personnel Soldiers.
“We accept all semi-centralized promotions, review promotion packets, enter promotion points into the Enlisted Distribution and Assignment System, monitor cutoff scores and publish promotion orders,” Harvey said.
But promotions are not possible without Soldiers’ records being updated – another personnel function.
Spc. Christina Breeden, a native of Oak harbor, Wash., who is in charge of updating Noncommissioned Officer and Officer Evaluation Reports, has forwarded more than 1,125 evaluations to the Soldiers Data Records Center and the Human Resources Command since she has been deployed to Iraq.
“Evaluations help monitor who and who doesn’t get promoted and get into military schools,” Breeden explained. “If a Soldier of officer does not have the proper evaluation report in their records than they probably will not get picked for promotion.”
Sgt. 1st Class Jerry Moses, the senior supply sergeant for the 4th Brigade, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT and native of Bishopville, S.C., admits that if his records were updated before than he probably would have been promoted to the rank of sergeant first class earlier in his career.
“My personnel shop made sure that all my awards and schools were on my ERB and my OMPF,” Moses said of the 4-31 personnel shop. “I doubt I would have been promoted if they would not have updated my records. Before my records weren’t updated – it is probably why I was not promoted sooner.”
Aside from updating records, the personnel shop is responsible for sending casualty reports to higher headquarters to the family members of the wounded of deceased Soldiers can be notified as early as possible.
But with the casualty reports comes letters of condolences which the personnel shop also ensures that family members receive.
“We usually get the casualty report to higher headquarters within the hour and the letters of condolences out within 24 hours,” Harvey said.
And since no one knows when a tragedy will occur, the personnel shop must be manned 24 hours each day.
Although Harvey enjoys being the personnel NCOIC, he admits that, at times, it is a little frustrating.
“You get tired of staring at the same computer screen and looking at the same paperwork each day, but you do it for the Soldiers,” he said. “Occasionally someone thanks you for the difference you have made in their life- even if it is only for a second- and it makes you feel good.”
Breeden agreed.
“I like being able to help people,” she said. “This really is a people’s job and my main goal is customer service.”
Like most jobs, there is a down side to being in personnel.
These Soldiers must take Red Cross Messages and ensure that the Soldiers get them.
“I took a Red Cross Message one time and it said that the Soldier’s child had died,” Harvey said. “That kind of stuff makes you feel bad.”
Even though the clerks hate being the bearers of bad news they still ensure the job gets done in a quick and professional manner.
“As soon as I type the Red Cross Message I immediately notify the unit that the Soldier belongs to,” Breeden said.
Since the deployment the personnel shop has taken more than 800 Red Cross Messages.
“The only thing that frustrates me about Red Cross Messages is that families assume that the Soldiers will be able to come home,” Harvey said. “But there are rules and regulations that govern which circumstances will allow a Soldier to go home. Most people don’t understand that.”
Aside from office work, the shop also ensures Soldiers’ get their mail. They must pick up mail for the units and ensure that it gets delivered to forward operating bases. Every day Soldiers from the shop drive to the post office and load all of the mail – which most of the time it is well over 200 packages – and ensure it gets to the units. Most of the time the Soldiers who load the mail come back drenched in sweat from standing in the 120 degree Iraq heat.
Like mail, going on leave puts a smile on Soldiers’ faces. Harvey and his team were responsible for tracking all environmental and morale leaves for the Soldiers in the brigade.
“You know sometimes people may complain about us not going out in sector, but they are happy when they are getting mail and going on leave,” Harvey said.
And being a part of an infantry brigade can make support military occupational skills less glamorous, but it takes the work of all MOS’s together to make the Army work.
“You can’t have an Army with just one job,” Breeden said. “It just won’t work.”

The final step to being healed – a gift for Tebarek

2nd Lt. Liz Lopez
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)
Multi-National Division – Center

YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — Miracles do not happen every day, but for one Iraqi girl and father, they seem to happen often enough.
It has been more than two months since Sgt. William Ludlow, a native of Fort Smith, Ark., and a combat medic with Company C, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., was first introduced to Tebarek, an Iraqi girl wounded in a mortar attack near the city of Yusufiyah, Iraq.
The whirlwind of events that followed changed each of their lives.
In response to Tebarek’s story of healing and love, the 31st Regiment Association, made up of retirees and former members of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, to whom Ludlow is attached, raised $2510 for her to receive a surgery to reverse the colostomy which had once saved her life.
With the cast now off her leg and her health improving, she and her family are ready to get back to a normal life.
Reversing the colostomy will enable Tebarek to do that by returning her normal intestinal function.
“Basically, this surgery is the last step in her being healed,” explained Ludlow.
On Sept. 1, Ludlow returned to Forward Operating Base Yusufiyah from Patrol Base Dragon, where he moved in August with the majority of 4-31 Inf., to present the money to the little girl and her father.
It would be the last time Ludlow would ever get to see this young patient who has inspired him to focus his future medical aspirations in pediatrics. Yet initially, he was not expecting to go.
“I had already said my goodbyes,” said Ludlow. “But, I changed my mind at the last moment.”
It was a short and simple ceremony, in which the medic presented Tebarek’s father with enough of the money raised to cover the surgery - $1000. The unit saved the rest of the money for another Iraqi child who needed heart surgery to correct a congenital defect.
Due to combat operations which coincided with the presentation, Arabic translators were limited, but, words were not really necessary.
When Ludlow presented the money to Tebarek’s father he already knew what it was for. And his gratitude was immeasurable.
Although he has no way of knowing, Ludlow assumes Tebarek has already had her surgery. Her dad seemed anxious to get it done even before he received the financial help.
“You don’t see many fathers react to their kids the way he reacted to her,” said Ludlow sounding impressed.
There was a lot of love surrounding Tebarek, and that is what saved her life.
Though he admits to missing his sessions with the little girl, Ludlow agreed that it was time for them both to move on.
Tebarek will be starting school in a couple months, and with her latest surgery, she will be just another normal child.

Commandos start prepping to redeploy

Sgt. 1st Class Angela McKinzie
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Redeployment is filled with happiness, a sense of pride and, of course, inspections.
In order to redeploy Soldiers must undergo a series of customs inspections to ensure nothing illegal is brought to the United States.
And to make sure nothing illegal is shipped to the United States, military policemen from the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., have been going through customs training with other 2nd BCT Soldiers on Camp Striker, Iraq.
“We are teaching them how to look for contraband, prohibited and restricted items,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hart, the 2nd BCT provost sergeant and native of Syracuse, N.Y.
Although customs training is typically an eight-hour block of classroom instruction, Hart decided it needed a little more to be truly effective.
“I added a hands-on portion to the class so the Soldiers can learn how to look for contraband,” Hart explained. “I don’t think any class is effective if it does not offer hands-on training – that is how people learn.”
The hands-on portion of the class introduced the students to common scenarios they may encounter during an inspection – typical hiding places for illegal items and having too many people in the inspection area at a time which could lead to the smuggling of items because of limited supervision.
“A common place for Soldiers to hide contraband or illegal items is in the pockets of their assault packs,” Hart said. “One year someone tried to smuggle a 9mm pistol, but he was caught.”
The training also showed Soldiers how to look at typical items with a different eye.
For instance, customs inspectors have to look inside a bottle of foot powder to make sure there is nothing illegal in there. And they have to look under boxes where items may be laying.
During one demonstration, a bomb sniffing dog came out and detected gun powder underneath a box. Using different types of dogs to detect illegal items is common during inspections.
“I learned that you have to check every possible crevice of all items,” said Sgt. Tuyen Nguyen, a signal noncommissioned officer with the 2nd BCT. “I wouldn’t have thought to look in some of the places for contraband. The class has taught me a lot.”
And although customs inspections may seem like a pain, there is a reason why they must be done.
“Inspecting items going into the United States from foreign countries allows us to protect our nation’s borders from threats,” Hart said.
The units will begin customs inspections this week in preparation for redeployment to Fort Drum.

Cavalry Soldiers help make Al Dhour a safer place

Spc. Christopher Tucker
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)
Multi-National Division – Center

AL DHOUR, Iraq — The village of Al Dhour, Iraq has come a long way since the initial arrival of a small troop of Soldiers.
Since the arrival of Soldiers from C Troop, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., the village, originally a safe haven for Al Qaeda forces in the area, had no true town leadership.
Recently, the citizens of Al Ahour have been taking control of their own future.
During the latter part of July 2007, concerned citizens established volunteer check points in order to provide their own security. Soon after, leadership began with several citizens moving forward desiring to establish a security council.
The leadership of C Trp. met with the concerned citizens and aided them in establishing the council, even providing office furniture, supplies and generators for the newly established town hall.
Rapport between coalition forces and the Al Dhour citizens continued to build culminating in a resident discovering a cache and immediately turning it over to 1-89 Soldiers.
On Aug. 30 an Iraqi citizen, who had recently moved into an abandoned house, noticed the room dimensions did not match those of identical houses in his part of town. After further investigation he discovered an opening in a wall large enough to crawl through. In this hidden room he found materials to construct several improvised explosive devices. Immediately he contacted 1-89 Soldiers.
The Squadron Mortar Platoon, which is currently attached to C Troop, responded to investigate the report and confirmed the cache which consisted of a 105mm artillery round, fifty pounds of homemade explosives, fifteen 57mm mortar rounds, six bars of explosives, one suicide vest, three grenades, two machine gun barrels, five rolls of IED command detonation wire, one roll of IED crush detonation wire, sixteen rocket propelled grenade fuses, eight RPG accelerators, 40 12-gauge shotgun shells, a high power rifle scope, small arms ammo, 15 long range communications transceivers and communication equipment.
“This is just another example of Iraqis taking charge of their area and making it a safer place,” said Capt. John Breslin, the mortar platoon leader.
Just one week later the local concerned citizens found additional munitions which they turned in to coalition forces.
With both coalition forces and concerned citizens working together, the town of Al Dhour will continue to move forward and become an even better community, one that will become a model for other communities within the 1-89’s area of operations.

Forward Support Fixing Equipment Where It Breaks

By 2nd Lt. Liz Lopez

Regular maintenance prevents equipment from breaking. In combat, a Soldier cannot afford for his equipment to break. It keeps him safe. It gives him advantages his enemies do not have.
In Iraq, constant exposure to dust and heat alone will cause damage to Soldier’s mission essential equipment. However, factor in the battering equipment takes from daily use, and Soldiers have the potential for a lot of broken stuff.
Nevertheless, when things break, combat is not always the easiest place to get it fixed. And, sending it to the rear for repairs is not always a feasible option.
For this reason, the Soldiers in the Communications and Electronics, or C&E, Section of Company B, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), routinely pack up their shop and take to the roads with the mission of providing these war fighters with the maintenance assets they need, where they are.
“The C&E maintenance team provides forward support, fixing equipment where it breaks,” said Chief Warrant Officer Paul Williamson, a native of Nippinnawassee, Calif., the Communications and Electionics Technician.
On September 14, the team was finishing up a week on the road conducting biannual services on night vision devices belonging to the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment.
Their goal for the week was to ensure 90 percent of the maneuver battalion’s night vision devices were fully mission capable. Their efforts would ease the burden on Company F, the Forward Support Company, whose three specialists are responsible for the maintenance and repair of all the battalion’s electronic equipment scattered to four patrol bases and several strong points.
Night vision devices require biannual services to check for functionality and clear the device of accumulated moisture. Although built to be durable, a year of hard and continuous use can render some of the equipment combat ineffective if no preventive measures are taken.
So, the mobile maintenance team set out in search of those night vision devices whose functionality they had not yet inspected, spending two days at each Patrol Base Dragon, Patrol Base Shanghai, and Patrol Base Inchon, where the majority of the maneuver battalion’s Soldiers live.
The Company B Soldiers did not travel alone. They brought their counterparts in Company F with them.
By including Company F personnel, two purposes were served. The more junior Soldiers in the Forward Support Company gained from the mobile maintenance team’s knowledge and shop experience. And, the mission was made more efficient with an extra set of hands.
“You always get a payoff in the end,” said Williamson.

Soldiers find caches, detain wanted terrorists

Sgt. 1st Class Angela McKinzie
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center

SAID ABDULLA CORRIDOR, Iraq — Since July, Coalition and Iraqi forces have been working with concerned local citizens to rid the area of al-Qaeda.
Recently, concerned citizens provided information to Coalition Forces working in the area.
After receiving the tip, Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), out of Fort Drum, N.Y., and 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, teamed up for Operation Eagle Chancellorsville Sept. 21 in the Said Abdulla Corridor.
The operation, which was intended to deny enemy safe haven within 2-15 FAR’s area of operations, yielded multiple caches and the capture of suspected al-Qaeda members in the area.
“The local population has pledged its support by moving alongside IA and U.S. forces,” said 1st Lt. Dave Kendzior, a platoon leader with 2-15 FAR. “They have been instrumental in leading us to caches and buildings that al-Qaeda have been hiding in.”
Since the increasing support of the concerned local citizens, al-Qaeda has continued to try to hide weapons in different places, but they have not been successful.
During this mission, U.S. and Iraqi Soldiers discovered weapons caches hidden in cemeteries.
The caches consisted of 12 rocket-propelled grenade rounds, a 152mm artillery round, an improvised explosive device, three PKC machine guns, two AK-47 assault rifles, a Dragonov sniper rife with a scope, four RPG launchers, five mortar sights, 70 mortar primers, 20 mortar charges, a 60mm mortar round, a camera flash IED initiator, three Iraqi army uniforms, three Kevlar helmets, 11 mortar fuses, 19 RPG boosters, two bolt cutters, an aid bag, a hand-held radio charger, three Global Positioning Systems, 3,000 rounds of PKC ammunition, various IED components, a roll of copper wire and two ammunition vests.
Significant in the cache finds were the IA uniforms that al-Qaeda members use to confuse the concerned local citizens.
“In our area we have noticed an increase in the local populace’s willingness to assist Coalition Forces in ridding the area of al-Qaeda,” said Cpt. Blake Keil, a battery commander with 2-15 FAR.
Aside from finding the caches, Soldiers detained three terror suspects who were on the IA and U.S. target list.
“Concerned citizens have not only led us to caches, but to members of al-Qaeda,” Kendzior said.
With the increasing numbers of concerned local citizens, 2-15 FAR and 4-6 IA will coordinate to rid the area of any further terrorist activity.
“Because of the true partnership between 2-15 FAR and 4-6 IA disrupting al-Qaeda in the area, we have forced them to find refuge somewhere else,” Kendzior said.

Homecomings may take a little getting used to

Sgt. 1st Class Angela McKinzie
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)
Multi-National Division – Center

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Returning home from a deployment can be a time full of excitement with hopes of getting back into normal life and reuniting with loved ones.
As Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., prepare to redeploy from their 15-month tour to Iraq, they are attending Battlefield Mind Training to help them reintegrate with their families.
“The concept behind the name of the training is that when Soldiers are deployed to combat environments they develop a battlefield mind – they are more hyper vigilant and aggressive,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Lonnie Locke, the 2nd BCT chaplain and native of Dothan, Ala. “The class is to help Soldiers make the switch from the battlefield mind to home – a battlefield mind will not work at home.”
Soldiers are taught they must take things slow and learn to adapt to their spouse and children again.
“The process of reintegration does not happen overnight,” Locke explained. “Spouses must be patient and willing to forgive one another for mistakes that may have been made during the deployment.”
The class teaches Soldiers that they should be aware that things have changed since they have been gone. Family members have had to take on additional responsibilities and may seem more independent than before.
Soldiers are encouraged to appreciate the sacrifices their spouses have made and not to automatically change how the household has been run.
Soldiers are also learning how their children may react upon redeployment.
“Children under six years of age may be a little hesitant at first,” Lock explained. “It is common for the children to migrate to the one who has been the caregiver – whether that is a parent or other family member – for the past 15 months.”
As for older children, they may express their feelings differently than younger ones.
“Older children may be angry at the parent who has been deployed,” Locke said.
Locke also explained that spending time with children is important to reintegration.
“It is important to spend one-on-one time with your children to let each of them know they are special,” Locke added.
Another aspect of reintegration deals with finances.
“Soldiers and family members are used to the extra money so they may have been accustomed to a different lifestyle for the past 15 months,” Locke said. “They must realize that they will not make as much money and adjust to the decrease in pay.”
Soldiers and family members are encouraged to resist spending a lot of money upon redeployment.
Like the Soldiers, family members of the 2nd BCT are being offered redeployment classes from the Fort Drum Army Community Service Center.
The classes are designed to teach family members some of the things Soldiers may experience upon redeployment.
“When Soldiers return home it is also a big adjustment for the families as well,” Locke said. “Families should be patient and understanding.”
Locke said that most families will experience issues – if there are any – within the first 90 days of return.
“If families are having trouble there are a number of places where they can get help – the chaplain, ACS and the Community Mental Health Center,” Locke said.
“But the most important thing to redeployment is to take things slow and enjoy the time you have together,” Locke said.

An open letter to citizens of the United States

Spc. Tracy Cunningham
2nd BSTB, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)
Multi-National Division - Center

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Here we sit in a combat zone, conducting tasks that we have been taught since our first day of basic training. We raised our right hand knowing that there was a great possibility of going to war. Well, here we are, face-to-face with what some people call “war” and some call a “civil war.” There are different opinions on whether or not we should be here, but it is all the same to the military - we are here fighting for what is right.
Like other workers in the civilian world, we are just following orders that come straight from our boss – in our case, the president - whether we agree with it our not. It does not matter if we agree; it only matters if we get the job done. As a Soldier, I feel that we are making a difference in more ways than one. I believe that the U.S. Army are the protectors of the world. Every day lives are put on the line for the simple little thing that people take for granted - freedom.
Sadly, people have lost their lives during this hard time, but with war comes death. War doesn’t only bring death, though; it also brings life - life for others that may have not been able to live their lives the way they may have wanted.
Freedom in Iraq is what you could call a rumor, and we are here to make it a reality. These people need our help in order to have a life of freedom and normalcy. We as soldiers ask the American public not to look down on us, but to understand that we signed up for this job, and it has to be carried out.
There have been incidents where Soldiers in uniform come into contact with civilians who tell them that war is a horrible mistake. There is not really much we can say to that; only that we are doing our job, as they would if their boss told them to. Civilians must understand that we did not start this war, but we do have to be involved. We do not require their opinion.
Americans owe thanks for the right to do almost anything they want. Soldiers throughout our history have fought for that right, and that is what we are doing today. It may not be for freedoms in our own country, but when another country is being brought down by “evil,” then it is our duty to lend a helping hand. The people in Iraq may or may not want us here, but we are here to assist them in becoming as free of a country as we can. Although we may not understand their beliefs, we cannot just stand by and watch innocent people be killed for wanting freedom.
America must also understand that we raised our right hand to join the U. S. Army, and that was our decision to make. We should not be denigrated for our decision to do so – don’t we live in a free country? Those who have never served in the military have no right to judge those who have.
I ask Americans to understand that we have a job over here; don't look down upon us for doing it. We make a living and support our families with our jobs, just as civilians do.
We all remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and in many cases, it was our motivation to join the military. Others just wanted to better themselves or learn new skills or because it provided something better than they were headed for.
We only ask for all the support you can give us - and if you can't bring yourself to do that, then – ask we all learned in school – if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Let us not forget: a commentary by Col. Kershaw

Col. Michael Kershaw
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)
Multi-National Division – Center

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Sept. 21 is designated Missing in Action / Prisoner of War Day by the president of the United States. This remembrance is a nationwide symbol to the nearly 88,000 Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airmen missing in wars past.
The remembrance was designated by presidential decree in order to focus the attention of the citizens of the Unites States on all of our nation’s warriors who have not made it home yet.
Through the signing of this decree, President Bush will declare the commemoration of nearly 78,000 service members missing from World War II, nearly 8,100 from the Korean War, close to 1,800 from Viet Nam, 125 from the various operations during the Cold War, one from Operations Desert Storm and finally four from Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This event is observed on the third Friday of September, each year.
This year MIA/POW day is Sept. 21. It symbolizes – the Nation's concern and commitment to achieving the fullest possible accounting of Americans who, having been prisoners of war or missing in action, still remain unaccounted for; and, the Nation's commitment to achieving the fullest possible accounting for Americans who in the future may become prisoners of war, missing in action, or otherwise unaccounted for as a result of hostile action.
This day has special meaning to 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry as it brings a first hand accounting to the 3,300 Soldiers deployed to Southwest Baghdad.
Somewhere out there two of our own remain. Despite the tireless efforts, resources, analysis and searching, Spc. Alex Jimenez Jr., 25, and Pvt. Byron Fouty, 19, are still missing. Their official status changed from Duty Status, Whereabouts Unknown to Missing/Captured July 1.

As we strive to find them, I ask all of the Commandos, to keep our missing comrades and their families in your prayers. This day of remembrance may not relieve the pain they feel, but I hope that it can extend our sympathy and support to them in this time of need that has gone on for so long.
The search for our two Commandos continues. We have resolved to find them and that mission remains the number one priority for this BCT. We continue to bring the full weight of our intelligence assets – signal, open source and human intelligence assets – to bear in the search for Jimenez and Fouty. Our patrols continue to search for any lead that will bring us closer or will connect the dots of other leads that will shed light on this mystery.
To date we have arrested over a dozen al Qaeda affiliates involved in either the planning or the execution of the May 12 attack. We continue to question these detainees and the residents of Qargouli Village, who until recently lived in the shadow of fear of the al Qaeda tyranny. The locals are coming forth in droves, identifying the terrorists, often at great peril to themselves and their families. They are beginning to cast out the enemy and side with us.
The attack along Route Malibu not only resulted in the capture of Jimenez and Fouty, but also left five other Soldiers from Company D, 4th Battalion 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT and an Iraqi Soldier killed in action. As we reflect on those missing, I ask that we also keep these Soldiers and their families in our prayers as well.
To take risks is a matter of honor. These Soldiers risked everything to accomplish their mission. We can do no less on this day than to remember them. As we pause to reflect on their sacrifice, we can reaffirm ourselves to our Soldiers Creed, our mission here and our teammates.
This day is a way to remember the heroism and bravery that each of these service members displayed. I ask that you reflect on this aspect as well.
Remember each of these service members, particularly those closest to us. Take time on Sept. 21 to reflect upon their memories. As the slogan imprinted on serene black MIA/POW flag states – you are not forgotten!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Police Call on a Grander Scale

By 2nd Lt. Liz Lopez

Soldiers drive along the roads of Iraq everyday. As they go, their eyes search the roadsides for signs of anything out of the ordinary. And, with trash and vegetation littering the sides of the road, such indications can be almost impossible to spot.
It is for this reason that Army engineers embark on route sanitation missions. In these operations, the Soldiers participate in something akin to a police call, but on a much larger scale.
The two principle tools for this task are a bucket loader and a grader. These two vehicles clear the debris and cut out the vegetation along with the top layer of soil eliminating potential hiding spaces for roadside bombs.
On September 12, the Personal Security Detachment, or PSD, from the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), was tasked with providing security for the 875th Engineer Battalion during this routine mission.
The day began without incident. Upon arriving at the site, the PSD set up an outer security cordon around the engineer assets blocking off all commercial traffic in the northbound lane of Route Tampa.
As the security team settled down to watch the roads, the engineers set to work advancing slowly north clearing the median as they went.
Barely a half hour into their mission, the grader began experiencing hydraulic problems and would not move. There was a sinking feeling as radio traffic confirmed that the vehicle would need to be recovered. Without an operational grader, the mission would not be able to continue.
Unfortunately, the site the engineers were clearing was approximately an hour’s drive from Camp Striker and its recovery assets. And, although they began spinning up as soon as the Soldiers put in the call, it would still take approximately two hours for the help to arrive.
Unable to move and unable to continue their mission, the Soldiers had no choice but to settle down and wait for the recovery team.
But, sitting motionless on a heavily trafficked road for hours is not anyone’s idea of a comfortable morning. Without hesitation, the security team executed one of the many tactics, techniques, and procedures they practice and review prior to every mission: setting up a tactical control point.
In minutes, the PSD Soldiers were done and set up again in their trucks to survey the roads for anything suspicious.
Almost exactly two hours later, the recovery team arrived from Striker and made quick work of loading the grader onto a Heavy Equipment Transporter for movement back to the camp.
Regrettably, the broken grader called a halt to the entire day’s mission. But, when situations arise against a mission, Soldiers never quit. They will repair their equipment and return to finish the job in a couple days.

Showing Support to the Mountain Top

By 2nd Lt. Liz Lopez

The 10th Mountain Division’s command team, Maj. Gen. Michael Oates and Command Sgt. Maj. James Redmore, spent the first week of September with the Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team in Iraq. While they toured the battlefield, the pair took the opportunity to meet with troops and gain knowledge from the expertise of these highly successful troops.
Each of the six battalions in the brigade was given the opportunity to host the command team, show them around their battle space, and discuss with them their operations over the last year. The 210th Brigade Support Battalion, “Commando Providers,” was fortunate enough to host the division command team twice.
The commanding general’s first visit was at the beginning of his stay. On September 5, the battalion had the chance to give Maj. Gen. Oates a quick overview of their many support operations in the past year prior to giving him a tour of the Supply Support Activity, or SSA, and motor pool.
During the brief, he was given a short introduction to the multitude of missions conducted by the battalion in order to supply, maintain, and care for the brigade. Under the leadership of Lt. Col. Brian Rogers and Command Sgt. Maj. Spenser Gray, the Providers have activity pushed all of their capabilities and assets to the brigade’s war fighters. In its effort to do so, the battalion has practiced some rather unconventional tactics and been responsible for spearheading many bright innovations.
After his introduction, the general and his sergeant major headed to the SSA where they were shown the vast storage and ordering capabilities. Although it appears less familiar to the untrained eye, the yard is the brigade’s Wal-Mart and Home Depot. If a Soldier needs something this is where he goes to find it. They may not have everything, but the SSA prides itself on customer service and what they do not have immediately they order.
As the general finished his tour of the SSA in their brand-new warehouse, he paused in order to preside over an awards ceremony. During the ceremony, he presented two Bronze Star Medals, 12 Combat Action Badges, and 14 coins to some of the battalion’s best Soldiers. As an added treat, he promoted Pvt. Brendon Caudill to the rank of private first class in a rarely seen battlefield promotion.
Following the ceremony, the general and sergeant major continued their tour in the Company B motor pool where they were introduced to the unit’s five shops. Each of these shops is actively engaged in maintaining the brigade. Four of the five are equipped to conduct prolonged missions forward in Mobile Maintenance Teams, which sends not only the Soldiers, but their equipment forward.
Although they do not participate in mobile maintenance, the automotive section keeps busy with an on-call recovery mission. With this mission, the Soldiers can be ready to roll out the gate in 40 minutes seven days a week.
As the general completed his tour of the motor pool, he headed to the Commando Café Dining Facility to eat dinner with the battalion’s senior leadership. During the meal, the general spoke to the men of his philosophies and gave them his impression of the battalion’s successes.
With the evening over, the men disbursed for the evening to ponder the general’s words.
On September 9, the Provider’s senior leadership was once again arrayed to greet Maj. Gen. Oates and Command Sgt. Maj. Redmore. This time, they met at the Commando Pickup Zone in order to show the division leadership some of their efforts in the brigade’s area of operations.
First on the agenda was Patrol Base Shanghai, a small company-sized base belonging to Company B, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment. This location has long been an example off which the Providers hope to model all their support.
Among the sites visited at the outpost was the aid station, run by Maj. Theodore Llanso, a doctor with Company C, 210th Brigade Support Battalion. Llanso has been at Shanghai for just over two months creating at the aid station what Rogers describes as a “basic platform.” With a doctor at the patrol base, the Soldiers there are less restricted by medical care.
Another crucial stop for the general at Shanghai was the tower. In one of the battalion’s ongoing projects, the welding shop in Company B has been upgrading the force protection on all of the towers in sector, adding shields to the windows, a pulley system to lower possible casualties, and an extra ladder to ensure safety when reaching the top.
After completing the rounds at Shanghai, the team once again boarded the helicopters for the short jump to Patrol Base Dragon.
At Dragon, the general was introduced to the members of Company F, one of the four Forward Support Companies attached to the brigade’s maneuver battalions. From their forward location, Company F provides 4-31 Inf. with distribution and maintenance assets at the battalion level.
Also at Dragon, the division command team had the opportunity to meet view the physical therapy and dental “Doc-in-a-Boxes.” This “DIABs” are mobile clinics allowing the physical therapist and the dentists to move to different locations in the brigade’s sector in order to treat Soldiers. Their presence has eliminated the need for Soldiers to be evacuated for routine care.
From the DIABs, the general made one final stop at Dragon’s aid station, which has been augmented with lab and x-ray capabilities to create a Level II(-). Like the DIABs, the additional medical assets ensure Soldiers are not evacuated for routine reasons by expanding the doctor’s capabilities to diagnose and treat from a forward location.
The aid station was the final stop on the general’s tour. From there he boarded the helicopter again for the flight back to Camp Striker.
Overall, Maj. Gen. Oates seemed impressed with the ingenuity and dedication of the battalion to support operations forward. But, it is the Provider’s philosophy that no mission is big if it supports the war fighters in the front.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Soldiers honor POW/MIAs; search for missing comrades continues

By Sgt. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

YUSUFIYAH — World War II left nearly 100,000 Soldiers missing in action, leaving families back home no evidence as to their fate.
It doesn’t happen so often anymore; less than 2,000 Soldiers were listed as missing in action after Vietnam, and only one, Capt. Scott Speicher, after the Persian Gulf War.
But four years into the war in Iraq, there are four Soldiers missing. They cannot be listed as “missing in action” until a year after the war is concluded, but their absence hangs heavily over their unit and all Soldiers in Iraq.
Until that time, they are listed as “missing/captured.”
Two of the Soldiers still listed as missing/captured are Spc. Ahmed al-Taie, 41, an Army Reserve Soldier who was kidnapped outside Baghdad’s Green Zone Oct. 23, 2006 and Staff. Sgt. Keith “Matt” Maupin who was part of a fuel convoy that was ambushed near Abu Ghraib April 9, 2004.
The two most recent Soldiers to go missing, Spc. Alex Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass., and Pvt. Byron Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich., were both infantrymen assigned to Company D, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y.
They, along with five other U.S. Soldiers and an Iraqi soldier of the 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, were attacked just before dawn May 12, near Qarghuli Village. They were guarding a section of Route Malibu, preventing terrorists from planting improvised explosive devices.
The terrorists – several of whom were captured in the following weeks – planted IEDs further down the road from the Soldiers’ position. Then, the terrorists ambushed the Soldiers with grenades and small arms fire. Soldiers at the base less than 800 meters away became worried at the lack of radio communication, and tried to respond, but were slowed by the IEDs that lay between them and their comrades.
Sgt. 1st Class James Connell, Sgt. Anthony Schober, and Pfc. Daniel Courneya, as well as the Iraqi soldier, died in the attack. Spc. Christopher Murphy got out, but his body was found not far away; the terrorists had shot him. Jimenez, Fouty and Pvt. Joseph Anzack Jr. simply disappeared.
The search began immediately; thousands of Soldiers encircled the area.
Route Malibu and Co. D’s area of operations lie in the rural southern part of Baghdad province; date palm groves, apple orchards, and even banana trees line the roads. Canals crisscross the territory, making the roads wind around them, and the reeds that grow near the water can grow twice a man’s height, reducing visibility.
Helicopters from the 3rd Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division swarmed over the land, trying to see from the air what could not be seen from the ground.
“I don’t care about eating or sleeping,” said Capt. Chris Sanchez, an infantry officer with the 4-31 plans staff, in the days after the attack. “We just need to find these guys.”
Eleven days later, Anzack’s body was found in the Euphrates River south of the attack, near Musayyib. But despite the best work of intelligence analysts, search parties, interrogators and translators, Jimenez and Fouty remain missing.
Constant patrols continued for weeks; two Soldiers were killed in the efforts. Although after a few weeks, as it had to, the focus returned to combat operations, the Soldiers continue to look for their brothers-in-arms, goaded by occasional breakthroughs.
A month after the Soldiers disappeared, their personal effects, including identification cards and wallets, were found by Soldiers of another unit operating near Samarra when they searched an ad-hoc video production studio. The objects were shown in an al-Qaeda propaganda video.
Such finds bring hope.
“You don’t want to leave a buddy just out there,” says Pfc. Clayton Peterson, of Aiken, S.C., who has been in the same company as Fouty since basic training. “You feel like you left them behind.”
Every patrol searching for caches, every meeting with local sheikhs, every mission to distribute supplies to schoolchildren could be the one that puts Soldiers at the right place at the right time to find the missing men.
“The families back home need to know that we are not going to stop searching for the Soldiers until they are found,” said 2nd BCT commander Col. Michael Kershaw. “They (the families) need to know the Soldiers in this brigade are doing everything they can to find these Soldiers.”
Part of that effort is the constant search for further information about the men.
“After three months, the missing Soldiers remain our first priority,” said 2nd BCT intelligence noncommissioned officer in charge Master Sgt. Paul David Adkins, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “The desire for their recovery drives our operations across our area of responsibility.”
They may not officially be MIAs or POWs, but they are honored just the same.

Memories of Sept. 11, 2001 still recalled in Iraq

Sgt. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division - Center

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq — “These men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home….”
These words, spoken in a radio-broadcast prayer by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the eve of American forces’ entry into the European theater of WWII, were played loudly in the al-Faw Palace at Camp Victory, Iraq, in memory of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Hundreds of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines gathered in the rotunda of the palace built by Saddam Hussein to remember the events of that day and why they serve in Iraq.
Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, commander of Multi-National Corps – Iraq, spoke first during the ceremony.
“Certain events will remain fixed in our minds for the rest of our lives,” Odierno said. “Many people remember where they were when they heard that the Berlin Wall came down. Most people who were alive at the time remember what they were doing when President John F. Kennedy was shot. And I am sure there’s not a person here who doesn’t remember exactly what they were doing and where they were and what they thought when they saw the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the remains of United flight 93. The world would never again be the same.”
While Iraq wasn’t directly involved, the events of that day taught the United States a valuable lesson, said Odierno.
“On Sept. 11, we found we could not rest peacefully within our borders…Extremists declared open war on our way of life. Freedom is the most important thing – freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to be yourself. The Iraqis want the same freedoms; they suffered first under a brutal dictator, and then under the dark cloud of al-Qaeda-allied terrorists. They want a better way of life.”
Spc. Travis Bishop of LaGrange, Kent., a personnel specialist with the 3rd Signal Brigade, III Corps, out of Fort Hood, Texas, played his guitar and sang “Have You Forgotten,” a country song memorializing the events of Sept. 11, 2001. He received a standing ovation. “They asked me to sing this song,” Bishop said with a laugh. “I was very nervous at first. But I couldn’t believe the standing ovation. People were yelling!”
The guest speaker at the event was Ch. (Maj. Gen.) Doug Carver, U.S. Army chief of chaplains, who extolled the outstanding character of Soldiers, calling them the new “Greatest Generation” – a name coined by Tom Brokaw for those who came of age during the Great Depression and fought in WWII.
“Your character is displayed against an enemy who observes no rules of engagement. We’ve done the right things. Our high moral standards enable Soldiers to endure three deployments, to endure 15-month deployments, to keep that young military police Soldier from retaliating against being drenched by a detainee with a cocktail of urine, semen and feces….You have shown yourselves to be men and women of extreme character.”
Lt. Todd Reighly, a firefighter, rang a large bell in memory of the fallen. In the days before hand-held radios, firefighters used telegraphs and bells to communicate over long distances. The “four fives” - five strikes, repeated four times – have been used to memorialize fallen firefighters since the 19th century.
Chaplain’s assistant Damien Mobley, a native of Columbus, Ga., who serves with the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., said he enjoyed the ceremony.
“The chaplain’s speech was the best,” said Mobley. “It was really heartfelt. The whole ceremony was beautiful, it was really nice.”
Capt. Jason Anderson commands a company with Task Force Vigilant, detached from the 2nd BCT to guard the Victory Base Complex.
“It’s nice to know that even at the tip of the spear, we’re still remembering our fallen, here in Iraq,” said Anderson, a native of West Lafayette, Ind. “It was beautiful and moving, and it really reminded me why we’re here.”

Support for Soldiers doesn’t go unnoticed, unappreciated

Sgt. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Deployments can be long and difficult, but Soldiers across Iraq and Afghanistan have seen an incredible outpouring of support from people all over the United States, both in cards and letters and in packages of snacks and comfort items.
Especially for those in forward posts and battle positions, these have been a tremendous morale booster. AR 600-8-3 states that the “military postal program exists to move and deliver personal mail in the deployed force and on the battlefield, to contribute to the fighting will of soldiers.”
In any unit, when a Soldier gets a care package, the other troops gather around to see what’s inside. Soldiers always share – what they don’t want, they will gladly give to someone who does want it.
So many organizations have generously supported troops that it would be impossible to name them all, but a few stand out.
“Bear Hugs from Mom” was started by Sara Dutton, the mother of a Soldier in the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y. The 4-31 “Polar Bears” inspired the program’s name; Dutton and her family and friends make individual care packages for the Soldiers in Company C, 4-31.
“I joined the Adopt-a-Unit program, now the Adopt-a-Platoon program, after reading an article in the Fort Drum Blizzard,” said Dutton, mother of Sgt. Thomas Dutton, a rifleman and a native of Wadsworth, Ill., who is serving his second tour in Iraq. “We were visiting my son at Fort Drum during Memorial Day weekend of 2006 when I read about it. I e-mailed (former 2nd BCT commander) Mike Plummer and asked if I could adopt my son's platoon. I think he thought it was a little daunting for an individual, but I convinced him I could do it.”
The Adopt-a-Platoon program is usually joined by large organizations such as churches, businesses, and scouting groups, but Dutton took the bull by the horns and began contacting large corporations for donations. A friend of the Dutton family began passing a bucket at the bar he owns, she said, and she’s even gotten friends and neighbors involved.
Another group which has given unwavering support is – which allows people in the United States to send care packages to any Soldier without compromising security or having to have a specific name or address.
From new socks and boots to magazines, cookies, sunscreen and lip balm, Soldiers across our area of operations have felt the support of the American public.
Sherry McDonald, who has a daughter serving in the Army, sends packages not only to her daughter but to other Soldiers, including a platoon in the 2nd BCT.
“I have been taking care of the scout platoon in 4-31, which I really enjoy. I also have adopted the 514th Maintenance Company,” said McDonald, who joined the program “because of a deep dedication to and admiration of everyone that is currently serving in Iraq.”
In total, McDonald supports about 60 Soldiers, she said.
“I’ve sent ‘my’ platoons CD's, movies, T-shirts, snack items and other assorted goodies,” she said. “It is my greatest pleasure to be what I consider an ‘adoptive mother’ for the Soldiers, and what I am doing means a great deal to me. Every day I think of everyone, and am thankful for the opportunity to support them in any way I can.”
The Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd BCT family readiness group also goes out of their way to let the Soldiers know that they are loved – even the single Soldiers who don’t have family in the group.
For Christmas of 2006, the FRG sent a stocking stuffed with holiday goodies to every Soldier in HHC. The group, headed by Tanya Potter, wife of Capt. Chip Potter, the company commander, has also created banners and other items to boost morale, turning group meetings into a chance to write, draw or fingerpaint on a large sheet. The sheets are then sent to Camp Striker and hung on the outside of the building where most HHC Soldiers work.
“Over the course of the deployment, the FRG has made two banners for our Soldiers,” Potter said. “We wanted to express how much we appreciate their sacrifice and how much we miss everyone. It is always hard to put into words the magnitude of respect we have for our Soldiers, but we thought a few banners could help try and get that message across.”
The FRG tries especially to remember their Soldiers over the holidays.
“Being away for the holidays is not easy on anyone, so for Christmas, the FRG made stockings for the single Soldiers, and at our holiday party we made a video with family members sending a message to their Soldier,” said Potter. “For Valentine’s Day, we sent our Soldiers a small heart-shaped box of candy with a Valentine’s Day card.
“We just wanted to send some love to our Soldiers so they know they are always thought of. And now, we are preparing a wonderful welcome home for of all our Soldiers.”
From the earliest days of war, messages and notes of encouragement have kept Soldiers fighting, reminding them who they fight for.
It is a tradition well-represented – and well-executed – during the war on terrorism.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

9-11 isn't a symbol

“The men on the plane decided to attack the hijackers. They learned what had happened in New York with the other hijacked planes; they figured their lives were lost already. They fought back. What it’s like to swallow your terror and act is beyond the imagination of most ordinary folks - but the point is, they were ordinary folks.” – James Lileks

James Lileks, a favorite author of mine, wrote prolifically in his blog – as he does anyway – in the days following Sept. 11. Observations posted in the heat and gloom of those moments have remained untouched on his Web site; the surprise at hearing an airplane overhead, the way usual office banter seemed nauseatingly trivial. It amazes me how much America has let those feelings pass, returned to the mindless everyday.
It couldn’t have lasted; everything ground to a halt for a few days as people, numb, went through the motions of work and school. But as a nation we spent very little time in shock. Americans – arguably some of the most adaptable people in the world – adapted to the seismic shift and moved on.
Even Soldiers.
Maybe we remember more than the average person; the song “Do You Remember” says “I’ve been there with the Soldiers who’ve gone away to war; you can bet that they remember just what they’re fighting for,” and I hope it’s true. We are in a battle of ideologies which will be to the death, whether we like it or not. Terrorists have shown us in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, England, Spain and Kenya that they are perfectly willing to die for their beliefs. Those of us who enlisted or were commissioned after that fateful day have also laid our lives on the line - but unlike the enemies we face, we’d prefer not to have to do it.
We see coworkers injured and killed regularly by Islamic fundamentalists and militias. We attend memorial ceremonies and wear engraved bracelets and search endlessly for Pfc. Byron Fouty and Spc. Alex Jimenez. We keep faith with Staff Sgt. Keith Maupin and Cpl. Ahmed al-Taiyye, and Lt. Cmdr. Scott Speicher, who ditched his crashing jet over Iraq in 1991. But as we live in detail, fighting on the ground for our buddies, do we forget to think in generalities and remember that our very culture and lifestyle hang in the balance? Or have we let that blur in the background, a memory of “Twin Towers, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bush administration, terrorism, and here I am sweating in a village named something I can’t pronounce”?
We cannot allow the memory of the terrorism being inflicted across the world to get too far from us, to let “9-11” become merely an emblem of something. It isn’t a symbol. Destruction of life and liberty in the name of Islam is an event that will almost certainly happen again.
In the Marine Corps’ Hymn, “the shores of Tripoli” are remembered. That was America’s first skirmish with Islamic terror.
In 1786, after years of paying tribute and ransom for hostages kept by North African countries of the Ottoman Empire, then-ambassador to France Thomas Jefferson and John Adams went to negotiate with Tripoli's envoy to London, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman. They asked him by what right he extorted money and took slaves. Jefferson reported to Secretary of State John Jay, and to the Congress: “The ambassador answered us that [the right] was founded on the Laws of the Prophet (Mohammed), that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Muslim who should be slain in battle was sure to go to heaven.”
Congress did not take kindly to this, obviously.
The battle of Derne, in 1805, dealt a stiff blow to Tripoli, and the second Barbary War, in 1815, brought an end to Islamic piracy and hostage-taking. Derne was the first American battle fought on foreign soil, and the fledgling nation proved that it was every bit as capable of overseas operations as the mightiest in the world.
But the Barbary Wars were fought over a few hostages and money, an ocean away. Islamic militancy has struck our own shores – not once but several times – and the American people seem loath to acknowledge that it is truly a war of ideas, of lifestyles.
Initially, when the video of collapsing towers and the flaming Pentagon was everywhere, there was a steely resolve in Americans to fight back. Only six years later, there seems to be a ‘see no evil, hear no evil’ refusal to acknowledge the threat that looms to our way of life. The only exceptions are those who have served overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan and seen firsthand the alternative.
Soldiers in Iraq find torture houses and murder victims on a daily basis; people are killed with incredible brutality for the slightest dissent or difference in religious opinion.
People in the United States complain about the criminalization of actions that harm no one, such as a stiff fine for use of marijuana. In Iraq, people are beheaded for having beards that do not conform to Wahhabist standards. Their fingers are cut off for smoking because it is a “Western” habit. They are executed for complaining about criminalization.
There is a moral gap here; there are many shades of grey in morality, but there are also absolute goods and absolute evils. It is to maintain that distinction and to fight those evils – even to the death – that Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines have sworn.
The people on United Flight 93 were ordinary folks who took the reins, knowing that their lives were almost certainly forfeit. They fought – unsuccessfully, but by all accounts heroically – anyway.
We, too, are ordinary folks. By choice, we have signed a blank check for “up to and including my life,” payable to the people of the United States. Let us fight heroically.
We are on those planes, too.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Building Bonds Between Nations

By 2nd Lt. Liz Lopez

Nestled half inside and half outside the “wire” of the Victory Base Complex, the Civil Military Operations Center is a safe haven for the Iraqi people to come to gain information about someone who was detained, to settle claims against the military, or to receive free medical treatment from Iraqi medical personnel.
A short distance away, the Area Defense Operations Center, for Camp Striker is run by the Force Protection Platoon from Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y. These Soldiers are responsible for safeguarding the installation’s inhabitants while they conduct operations.
Despite the relative distance between the CMOC from Camp Striker, the force protection platoon and the CMOC compound are unquestionably tied together. Ever since they arrived in Iraq a year ago, members of the platoon have been rotating through in order to provide security for the compound and its daily visitors.
The Soldiers love the opportunity to interact with the local population. Considering the majority of their other missions do not require them to leave Striker, it is a great change of pace from typical operations.
“CMOC is their favorite,” said 2nd Lt. Anton Frishberg, a native of the Bronx, N.Y., who serves as the force protection platoon leader.
The platoon may have fun working at the CMOC, but that does not mean that the mission less demanding or shorter than their other duties. In fact, the operation requires them to use infantry tactics not typically seen in a support battalion, whose primary missions keep them more in trucks than on foot.
Among their other duties, the force protection Soldiers are responsible for controlling the entry and exit of personnel into the CMOC. Although it is not physically demanding, ushering the local nationals onto the compound is still the most difficult task the platoon faces.
In spite of its admirable mission to assist the Iraqi people, the CMOC has its limitations. Although the platoon does their best, they can usually accommodate fewer than 100 Iraqis on a typical day.
“It is a helpless feeling,” said Frishberg. “These people look to you for help, but you can only help so many.”
Nevertheless, the CMOC operations are truly a success. Every day, the people come back. They have learned patience for the Americans who are giving them aid. Every Iraqi assisted at the compound builds trust between the military and the local national population. The 210th BSB force protection platoon is a big part of that.
The Soldiers enjoy their work with the Iraqi population. They hope this small gesture will contribute to the Army’s overall goal of returning such capabilities to the Iraqi people, but they understand mission success may still be a long way off.
Until then, the force protection Soldiers will continue to attend the CMOC everyday, and do their part to build bonds between nations.

Innovative initiatives, sending the flail mower forward

By 2nd Lt. Liz Lopez

To a casual observer, the Wednesday morning mission seemed no different than any other regularly scheduled combat logistics patrol. But this movement from Patrol Base Dragon from Camp Striker had one very important difference: prominent in the line of trucks was a five-ton truck with a flail mower mounted on it.
The flail mower began as an initiative of the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, “Commando Providers,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y. For the last two months, it, along with two others, was assembled and field tested by the welding section of Company B.
During the field tests, the mowers have already proved useful cutting down the tall reeds growing along canals and bordering the highly trafficked roads of the brigade’s battle space. The purpose behind this carefully manicured vegetation was to allow Soldiers’ eyes to penetrate beyond farther off the road beyond the reed wall to search for improvised explosive devices, caches, and insurgents.
On August 29, the flail mower in question was being transferred from its creators in Co. B to Co. F, the forward support company attached to 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment. The change will allow Co. F to cater future reed-removal operations to their maneuver battalion’s specific needs and requests.
“The only thing that’s constant is change,” said Capt. David Cyr, a native of Augusta, Maine, the commander for Co. A, and the platoon responsible for the movement.
Change is what the transfer of the flail mower represented to the Soldiers. And the mower forced change before it even left Striker when it was downloaded from its uploaded position on a contracted truck in order to be driven to Dragon.
The change occurred after seeing the mower mounted. Left on top of the lowboy, it would be too tall to traverse the low-hanging power lines along the route.
Dismounting the mower did not take long, and the convoy made it to its destination without incident.
Once the mower was safely delivered to Co. F, the second stage in its transfer began.
Accompanying the flail mower to Dragon that day was Spc. Brian Cagle, a native of Claremore, Okla., one of Co. B’s trained operators. His mission was to train Soldiers in Co. F on the use of the mower. At Dragon he got right to work.
With a little help, he assembled most of the maintenance section of Co. F and gave them a class on operating the flail mower.
“It’s like playing a big video game,” said Pfc. Timothy Souza, a native of Barstow, Calif.
As Souza implied, the controls to the mower are not challenging to learn, and the class was completed within an hour.
“If you know how to use a forklift, a flail mower is easy,” explained Cagle.
Despite the rapidity with which the skill of handling the flail mower can be learned, proficiency takes a little more time. So, after his class, Cagle left the Soldiers to master their techniques in preparation for their first mission to “cut the grass.”For the Commando Providers, the transfer of the flail mower is a big step in empowering the maneuver battalions with their support by pushing equipment and supplies and innovative ideas to the forward units. Every reed successfully cut down by the mower reflects on the creativity and originality of the battalion in their quest to support a brigade scattered across an expansive battle space.

Support for the Support

By 2nd Lt. Liz Lopez

We do not always think too much about them. Their presence fades into the background. They are accepted and expected parts of Soldiers’ everyday lives. But civilian contractors are not so easy to overlook. Without their support and the work they do, Soldiers would be unable to carry out some of their most critical missions in Iraq.
For the Soldiers in the Supply Support Activity, or SSA, of Company A, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, “Commando Providers,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), civilian contractors work beside them every day. With their help, the SSA has the capability to not only sustain prolonged re-supply operations, but remain available to assist in various other missions as needs dictate.
When the SSA deployed to Iraq little more than a year ago, they were just over 50 percent strength for personnel. Although they now have a full platoon of Soldiers, only 75 percent work fulltime in the SSA. The remaining 25 percent were pulled to fulfill other operational requirements within Company A and the battalion. With the additional burden of supplying two battalions from a neighboring unit, there are simply not enough Soldiers to sustain the fast pace of operations. But that is exactly why the SSA has contractors.
“What we are doing out here takes the weight off the Soldiers, and allows them to focus on other things,” said Mr. Phillip Lee, a native of Killeen, Texas, a civilian contractor with Blackhawk Management Corporation.
The Blackhawk Management Corporation partakes in a logistics civilian augmentation Program, or Log CAP. In the Provider SSA, there are six civilian contractors working side-by-side with the battalion’s supply specialists to receive, process, and distribute supplies and equipment to the Commando Brigade. Their presence fills the void left by the Soldiers reassigned to other duties, including combat logistics patrols, force protection, and logistics training for the Iraqi Army.
The civilians permeate every section of the SSA. Their presence helps to keep the flow of supplies and equipment moving seamlessly into and back out of the warehouse and adjoining supply yard.
They are there everyday. They have no other missions that take precedence. They are a constant when nothing else is.
“We are basically the permanent parties of these sections,” said Phillip Lee.
With such stability in a place where nothing else is stable, it is easy to see why the Soldiers give these men and women such respect.
“The civilians are great to us,” said Sgt. Lemarkisha Hill, a native of New York City, N.Y., the non-commissioned officer in charge of stock control operations. “We are very lucky to have them here.”
The respect and appreciation is mutual.
“I get full satisfaction out of my job,” said Phillip Lee. “It’s about relationships. Civilians and military, we are all one.”
In the SSA, as in the rest of the support battalion, every mission is focused on providing the brigade’s war fighters with anything they need to conduct operations from forward locations. The Log CAP contractors have adopted this mission as their own.
“It doesn’t matter how small or how big,” said Phillip Lee. “If it comes through this warehouse and it belongs to you, you’re going to get it.”
Deployment is hard, and the fast pace of operations can be challenging to maintain. It is nice to know that the supply specialists in the SSA have a little extra help when they need it.
“We’ll be here as long as the mission is here,” said Phillip Lee.
And, most will be there long after the Provider’s mission is gone.

The Weld Team at Dragon

By 2nd Lt. Liz Lopez

On a hot September afternoon, three sets of eyes were riveted upon a tower at Patrol Base Dragon. They were searching for issues. There are always issues.
“Let’s go see if there are any other interesting challenges,” said Spc. Travis Yaggy, a native of Cedar Falls, Iowa, as he moved into the tower.
For the past couple of months, the welders in Company B, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, “Commando Providers,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), have been ranging the battle space, upgrading the force protection on the maneuver battalions’ many towers.
The enhancements include shields in the windows, ladder additions, and a pulley system which allows Soldiers to raise and lower heavy burdens into and out of the tower with ease.
With at least one tower at every patrol base and multiple towers at some of the larger forward operating bases in the area of operations, this task is mammoth.
On a good day, it takes the team between four to five hours to complete a single tower. On a bad day, they might be lucky just to finish one.
Although to an untrained eye, the towers look like standard structures, each tower is different. With this to contend with, the weld team has no choice but to custom-build all of the enhancements for each of the towers.
“Every last one is a different ‘uh-oh,’” explained Sgt. Benjamin Wormsby of Pittsburgh, Pa.
There is no cookie-cutter solution to completing the project. Every improvement must be built on site, fitted and perfected to the individual specifications of the structure.
“They are all pretty big projects,” said Spc. Juan Andino, a native of Houston, Texas.
The team has come a long way from their first tower, which took them days of work and multiple trips from Camp Striker to the site to complete.
The team has grown quite a bit more experienced since that first tower. Nevertheless, they still like to look at their mission as only one tower at a time.
“This one is going to be an adventure,” said Wormsby as he walked back to the truck after the tower survey.
It may be a challenge, but it is nothing the weld team cannot handle. When something needs to get done, they find a way.
They do not do it for themselves, but for the young war fighters who sit up in the towers everyday to provide protection for their comrades below. There is always a way to make these Soldiers’ lives better. In the end, that is the Providers only mission. It is a mission in which they’ve had many a success.

Troops detain 16 suspected Shia extremists

By Sgt. Ben Brody
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div.

MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq – In a predawn raid on a large apartment complex in Mahmudiyah, Coalition and Iraqi troops detained 16 suspected Shiite extremist members Sept. 1.
Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), out of Fort Drum, N.Y., along with their Iraqi counterparts from 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, conducted the combined air assault and ground operation.
Mahmudiyah’s al-Qa Qaa apartment complex is about a square mile of three-story buildings housing thousands of residents, mainly lower-income Shiites.
After an Iraqi army company commander was killed by Shiite Extremist in Mahmudiyah Aug. 28, U.S. and Iraqi forces have worked together to bring the perpetrators to justice, raiding Shiite safe houses and homes.
Soldiers in UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters landed in the darkness and quickly surrounded the target buildings, ensuring no one fled the scene.
A few minutes later, U.S. and Iraqi troops arrived in Humvees and Badger armored troop carriers to search the buildings.
The force swept through the buildings, and brought all military-age males down to a central point for questioning as OH-58 Kiowa helicopters circled the area.
After the males were in military control and a cursory search had been conducted, Soldiers with bomb-sniffing dogs thoroughly cleared the apartments and put evidence into plastic bags marked with the apartment’s number.
Although the dogs did not sniff out any explosives, among the items confiscated were two Iraqi police pistols, 120 Iraqi-style gas masks and an AK-47 assault rifle.
“It was a well-executed mission – we quickly isolated the objective and surprised our targets,” said Capt. Nick Ziemba of Battery A, 2-15 FAR. “The Iraqi soldiers have made great progress acting professionally and getting the job done.”
Ziemba, from Wilbraham, Mass., said his unit has a good rapport with the Mahmudiyah soldiers and that they are growing together as a joint force.
“By operating alongside us, they pick up a lot of our tactics, while we pick up on their cultural knowledge,” he said. “They remind us that we’re not always dealing with the enemy – a lot of the people in Mahmudiyah are becoming familiar, friendly faces.”
After 16 suspected Shiite extremists were identified by informants and Iraqi troops, the rest of the men were released to their apartments.
“One of the guys we picked up today is wanted for multiple murders and forcing people from their homes,” said Capt. Dustin Walker, intelligence officer for 2-15 FAR. “Within two hours of the operation, I received five phone calls from Iraqis asking us not to release him. The people of Mahmudiyah do not support Shiite extremists and just want to live in peace.”
The 16 men detained were taken into Iraqi army custody for further questioning.

Soldiers help legitimize concerned citizens

Sgt. 1st Class Angela McKinzie
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center

PATROL BASE WARRIOR KEEP, Iraq — Local police forces are vital to order and safety in Iraqi villages, but some communities have not seen a law enforcement presence for years.
Coalition troops are helping concerned citizens fill this gap, paving the way for them to become legitimate Iraqi police officers.
To assist in the process, Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, and 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, both from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), out of Fort Drum, N.Y., tested Iraqi police recruits at Patrol Base Warrior Keep Sept. 4-6.
More than 700 Iraqi men from each of the seven tribes within Sadr al Yusufiyah showed up for the drive, but only 412 made the cut.
The recruits were selected from a group of concerned local citizens by Sheiks and other operational leaders to become official members of the Iraqi police.
Concerned citizens, who have been working with Soldiers for nearly three months, have not been allowed to act as an official part of the government before, but IP recruiting represents change within the 2nd BCT’s area of operations.
“Having the government recognize these concerned citizens will help to build grassroots security within the local populace,” said Lt. Col. John Valledor, of Weehawken, N.J., commander, 2-14th Inf. Regt. “Before, the concerned citizens had no real authority to enforce the law, but getting them legitimized will enable them to enforce the rule of law.”
Choosing the candidates did not come easy. Each candidate was selected based on physical fitness, age and basic literacy skills.
After candidates were screened at the local level, their names were submitted to the Iraqi government with the intent of manning the new IP station forming in Sadr al Yusufiyah.
“There has not been a local police station in Sadr al Yusufiyah in four years,” Valledor said. “But we are on the road to establishing governance within this area.”
The police station, which is scheduled for completion within a year, will be built on a piece of land donated from a private land owner and supported by a local sheik.
The new police station will house newly transitioned concerned citizens when they become official members of the Iraqi police.

Why I serve: Capt. Rich Thompson

Sgt. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Soldiers serve for a number or reasons – out of patriotism, a desire to learn new skills, or to protect loved ones at home.
For Capt. Rich Thompson, a battle captain and soon-to-be commander in the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., it is a combination.
Thompson, a native of Londonderry, N.H., began contemplating a military career when he was just a child.
“I wanted to be in the Marine Corps when I was little,” he said. As he grew up, however, the Army began to exert a stronger pull.
“There were a lot of people who influenced me in my life, especially Army officers at school. I decided that the choices in the Army offered me more control over my future.”
Now, it’s not just the future he thinks of; it’s the friends he has made while serving in the U.S. Army.
“I like the people,” said Thompson. “There’s definitely more of a closeness with co-workers than in the civilian world. We spend a lot more time together, more hours at work, and we’re in more life-threatening situations than someone who works at, say, IBM.”
Thompson holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science, but said he thinks a degree in management might have been better in his work as an officer.
“There are a lot of interpersonal skills learned,” he said of management. “Dealing with senior noncommissioned officers who are old enough to be my father – it’s intimidating, especially as a new lieutenant, to be in charge. It can be overwhelming.”
As his skills have grown, however, he finds it less so.
“The Soldiers keep me motivated,” he said. “Growing up, my role models were mostly current or retired military. They instilled a lot of patriotism, which caught on.”
Thompson attended a military high school, which he credits with changing his life.
“That was the turning point,” he said, laughing, “that’s when I went from being a potential inmate to a contributing member of society.”
His parents have been pleased with his growth, he said.
“My parents and my girlfriend have been very supportive,” said Thompson. “Of course, they don’t want to see me get hurt, but they’re proud. I’m sure they’d rather I had a safer job, but I tell them I don’t get outside the wire much.”
People – at home or at Camp Striker, Iraq, with him – continue to keep him focused on his career as he prepares to take command of Company D, 2-14 upon the 2nd BCT’s redeployment to Fort Drum.
“The best part about this job (as a battle captain) is that I get to observe the field-grade officers on a daily basis, and see how the commanders of our five companies work – the different things they’ve done, what’s worked and what hasn’t. It’s given me plenty of time to contemplate how to work with my company when we return to Iraq in a year.”
Being in command, he said, will help him continue to hone his skills.
“As a commander, I’ll have a wonderful opportunity to influence Soldiers. It’s a job not many people are willing to do, and that not everyone is deemed capable of doing.”
And while each day is preparation for the next, Thompson tries to have fun.
“The people I’ve met, and the camaraderie I’ve developed with the Soldiers and the other officers – it’s definitely completely different from the civilian world.”

Vehicle-borne explosives fail to cause injury, damage

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center

BAGHDAD — A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near a traffic overpass southwest of Baghdad Sept. 4, but failed to cause any damage.
Soldiers of 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, were manning a security checkpoint near the overpass on a major Iraqi highway when the bomb-laden truck was spotted.
The vehicle exploded while still too distant to cause any harm.
Soldiers of 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, and 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), out of Fort Drum, N.Y., responded and assessed the destroyed vehicle but could not determine whether or not the driver remained in the vehicle.
In addition to the explosives that detonated, the vehicle contained a 120mm and a 155mm mortar round that had not exploded. An explosive ordnance disposal team was summoned to destroy the remaining explosives.

Golden Dragons detain five suspected insurgents

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) PAO
Multi-National Division – Center

BAGHDAD — Coalition Forces detained and questioned men suspected of working with al-Qaeda-allied Sunni extremists Sept. 4 near al-Taraq, southwest of Baghdad.
Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), out of Fort Drum, N.Y., detained five men after they were stopped by concerned local citizens on suspicion of being associated with local al-Qaeda terrorists.
The 2-14th Inf. Regt. “Golden Dragons” also discovered a cache further north, near Radwaniyah containing 40 60mm mortar rounds and two bags of homemade explosive.
The mortar rounds were destroyed in a controlled detonation.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Rural clinic gets early start

By Sgt. Ben Brody

BAGHDAD – For more than two years, Zaidon Village, 15 miles south of Baghdad, was an al-Qaeda stronghold.
An anarchic atmosphere and constant bombings left Zaidon with little electricity, clean water or medical facilities.
In the last six months, Sunni tribes working with U.S. troops have pushed out the insurgents and brought a new peace to the area.
Farmers’ tractors still weave carefully through side streets that are more bomb crater than roadway, but the Zaidon Market is bustling on a Saturday morning and nearby a new clinic is under construction.
In the empty clinic building, medics from 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, out of Fort Drum, N.Y., treated about 250 Zaidon residents for minor ailments Aug. 25.
“We treat a lot of cases of worms, infections, some typhoid fever, the usual consequences of poor cleanliness and poor diet,” said Spc. Marek Marczynski, a medic with 1-89 Cav. Regt.
Marczynski and Pvt. Travis Bellew, with the aid of an interpreter, saw about 130 people with complaints ranging from headaches to cerebral palsy.
“A lot of the people just want to get some free meds to have on hand,” said Marczynski, from Syracuse, N.Y. “At the other end of the spectrum are people we’re just not equipped to treat, like the guy with shrapnel in his leg from the Iran-Iraq War.”
While the building is still under construction, regular medical operations are scheduled to begin in the next two to three months, said 2nd Lt. Max Smith, 1-89 Cav. Regt. medical officer.
“Sheiks and local leaders came up with the idea for this project, and the Army bought a bunch of medical supplies to get them started,” said Smith, from Grand Haven, Mich. “After that, the Ministry of Health in Baghdad will keep them supplied.”
Medical professionals are often in short supply in rural Iraq, but Zaidon is fortunate enough to have a married couple who are both doctors. They have agreed to run the clinic when it is complete, Smith said.
Present at the clinic was a small team of residents who played a large role in driving al-Qaeda from the area earlier this year. They assisted in providing security at the event..
“The tribes in this area were revolted by al-Qaeda beheading local people and imposing Sharia law, and they rose up,” said Capt. Ryan Liebhaber, commander, Troop A, 1-89 Cav. Regt. “There is very little Iraqi army or police presence here. In the instances when the local security has come into conflict with the Iraqi army, we have worked with both sides to de-escalate the situation.”
Liebhaber, from Dayton, Ohio, said people are eager to see projects aimed at rejuvenating Zaidon, which has been neglected for decades. With the local tribes heavily invested in their own security, the projects are less likely to fall victim to sabotage.
“They are definitely excited about all the attention they’re getting,” Liebhaber said.