Monday, March 26, 2007

Listening With Your Eyes: A Commentary

By Lt. Col. John Valledor
Commander, 2nd Bn., 14th Inf. Reg't.

Dawn fades on another bright, warm and dusty day in Iraq’s Euphrates River Valley. A solitary 10th Mountain Division infantry rifle squad nears the end of a nightlong security mission on Battle Position F-205-U. This traffic control point, manned by nine battle-hardened Soldiers, seasoned by three successive combat tours in Iraq, sits on a narrow, elevated levee road that parallels the Euphrates River.
Coalition Forces know the road by its military designation, Route Pinto. Bravo Company, the squad’s parent unit, uses this checkpoint in its counterinsurgency fight to screen tribal farmers hauling produce from the canal-laced vegetable fields that define the Village of Sadr Al-Yusufiyah to Baghdad’s street markets. Informant networks reveal to the company commander that Sunni extremists operating in his assigned operational environment seek the anonymity of the populace to hide and for the illicit trafficking of suicidal foreign fighters and their bomb-making materials.
The squad leader finalizes pre-combat checks prior to mounting their three up-armored Humvee gun trucks for what has seemingly become a short, routine patrol back to their forward operating base—Patrol Base Warrior Keep.
The four-kilometer trip normally takes around 10 minutes to complete, but this deceptively short patrol is seldom routine.
This past year Route Pinto has been the site of persistent and deadly insurgent improvised explosive device attacks. On Christmas Day, this squad’s platoon lost a highly respected team leader to a hidden IED, buried deep in the crater of a previous attack.
As the squad leader readies his patrol for movement, he notices that the normal traffic jam of produce-laden vehicles is conspicuously absent. Normally this checkpoint is teeming with impatient farmers backed-up 20 vehicles deep behind a serpentine set of concrete Jersey barriers trying to race to Baghdad’s markets by first light. This day, the squad sees no traffic.
The squad leader radios the start of his patrol to his company at PB Warrior Keep and begins his short journey down this now familiar winding stretch of well-worn and grooved asphalt.
The thick smell of burning straw fills the air as the patrol passes crater after crater that pock the road from previous IED attacks. Eyes peeled on the perilous course before him, the squad leader cautiously scans the periphery of each crater as well as the shoulders of the road for recent signs of electrical command wires used by insurgents to detonate freshly buried IEDs.
Equally daunting is the difficult task of finding “pressure switch” IED initiators well camouflaged by insurgents. These thin, homemade, Christmas-tree-wire initiators resemble veins emanating from the sides of the road that the victims set off by simply running over and crushing the connections, completing the deadly circuit.
As the patrol passes a familiar S-curve lined with numerous market shops, the squad leader once again takes note that today they are all curiously closed. Moreover, the now recognizable sight of teenage boys spending their entire day sitting next to stacks of makeshift benzene containers, Iraq’s version of roadside gas stations, are also gone.
The patrol snakes past the last curve on their final stretch into their destined patrol base.
The Humvee’s turret gunner, peering over the barrel of an M-2 .50 caliber machine gun, glances over to the north side of the road where local Iraqi women are normally seen tending to the fields. He notices only one single woman scurrying with a child in tow.
She quickly darts behind the door of a nearby home as the patrol drives by.
The gunner makes a quick mental note and alerts his truck commander using the gun truck’s intra-vehicular intercom; “something doesn’t look right.”
As the patrol nears a final set of IED craters that straddle both sides of the road, unconsciously, something in the squad leader’s mind, again, tells him that this does not seem right.
Suddenly and without warning, the Humvee catapults aloft, engulfed in a brilliant flash of searing heat, instantly frosting its thick ballistic glass windows.
The dense coating of dust that was previously covering the inside surfaces of the vehicle is simultaneously lifted into the air and the deafening sound from the enveloping blast is immediately followed by dense, black, and choking ammonia-scented smoke.
Injured, and in a slow motion, dreamlike state, the squad leader succumbs to the agonizing pain and slips into unconsciousness.
The six-ton, hardened steel Humvee completes its astonishing barrel roll and crashes to earth from its split-second moment of flight.
Moments later, a fellow Soldier riding in the patrol’s last gun truck grasps his radio’s hand mike and reports; “Barbarian Tango this is Barbarian one-six, IED strike, nine-line report follows, over”.
The story above illustrates the power of unconscious hyperawareness resident in all of us. In this real world case, the patrol members were bombarded with tell tale visual cues from their environment alerting them to impending danger, but they failed to trust their unconscious instincts and act accordingly.
In Iraq, survival demands that the foot Soldier master this innate ability, often involving instantaneous, life or death decisions. Our Soldiers serve as living, breathing sensors continuously processing verbal, non-verbal and visual cues from their environment. They unconsciously process information relayed to them from their surroundings. Acting on that information is a matter of confidence borne out of experience.
One of the biggest challenges to our Soldiers in Iraq’s counter-insurgency is separating the insurgent from its host—the populace.
The first step in defeating the insurgents is gaining the trust and confidence of the very population both opposing forces are vying to win over. This is done by getting out and meeting people. Engaging people regardless of culture and language on a personal face-to-face level is essential in winning them over.
In Iraq’s ungoverned tribal areas, infantrymen best accomplish human interaction by conducting good old-fashioned foot patrols.
An enabling tool available to the foot Soldier is the embedded interpreter otherwise known as “terp”, abbreviated to simplify radio reporting. Although limited in number and availability, terps facilitate Soldier’s direct communication with the people.
The degree to which we measure success in communication through a terp depends on several factors including their command of the English language, the recognition of a wide array of slang terms, their native knowledge of Iraqi versus Middle Eastern cultural norms, as well as their ethnic or sectarian bias.
The importance of the terp and their deciphering skills was recently demonstrated at a company-level tactical questioning event.
A rifle platoon returned to their forward patrol base after concluding a targeted raid with a dozen detainees suspected of participating in attacks in the area. The company commander began the process of tactically questioning the gathered detainees with his assigned terp. Several Soldiers providing security at the detainee collection point noticed that, although the entire set of detainees looked similar in manner of dress and appearance, something about this group was out of the ordinary
Within the group were several local Iraqis that were undoubtedly only guilty of being near the site of the raid. Intermixed was a second group of actual Sunni extremists. The challenge for the commander was distinguishing the two separate groups.
The commander along with his terp immediately began the tedious question and answer process that would eventually lead to the elimination and separation of innocent Iraqis from the Sunni extremists.
The terp was immediately able to identify some within the group as foreign fighters based on language dialects; to the US Soldiers overseeing the process, oblivious to Arabic dialects, they completely missed the nuance and importance of this action.
Simultaneously, all participants began receiving non-verbal visual cues from the faces of the remaining detainees. Although all maintained a common story line in response to the tactical questioning, something about their eyes and body language inexplicably revealed a sense of fear from a minority within the group. Subtle body language cues seemed to expose fear in some, not towards the US questioners, but rather at a nearby subset of fellow detainees.
These cues caught the attention of the Soldiers providing security. They trusted their instincts and passed their perceived hunch along to the solitary terp busily questioning the detainees.
In time, the commander and terp were able to differentiate the innocent from the guilty. By focusing their questioning on the individuals unconsciously recognized as foreign by the majority, they were able to crack their short-lived cover stories and connect them to previous insurgent attacks.
In this case, our Soldiers were able to cut through the fog of culture and language and hone in on seemingly innocent local nationals that were in fact hardened terrorists based on recognizing and acting on non-verbal visual cues. They deduced by listening with their eyes.
Terps serve a vital function of translating language and cultural subtleties for the patrols. They understand the nuances, gestures and local mannerisms that they see and hear. American Soldiers will never fully comprehend these cultural nuances but they continue to gain more and more insights with each successive deployment and as they gain experience.
In some cases, patrols must rely on other means to engage the populace without the aid of a terp. It is in these terp-free patrols where unconscious hyperawareness moves up in the order of importance.
Challenges in Iraq are many. Much of the public discourse lately has centered on the negative effects of repetitive combat tours by our Soldiers. However, most have ignored the hidden benefit to the nation that battle-hardened Soldiers bring to the American arsenal. Combat experience is good.
Our Soldiers are gaining the upper hand in Iraq’s ungoverned tribal lands due, in part, to their ability to harness an instinctive, often unconscious, and seasoned ability to read their operational environment. Life-saving snap decisions, founded on the recognition of visual cues can transcend the cross-cultural challenges inherent in winning the counter-insurgency fight in Iraq.
In some cases, terps serve as a vital bridge in enabling Soldiers to connect with the populace they are trying to influence. In the absence of this critical enabler, Soldiers must rely on trusting their instincts in the face of environmental change.
Our sustained experience in Iraq has honed the discriminating, instinctive skill in the American Soldier.

Golden Dragon troops find large weapons cache

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

RADWANIYAH, Iraq — A large cache of weapons was found by coalition forces near here March 22.
Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) were moving as part of a security operation when they discovered two 81mm mortar tubes and a 68mm mortar rocket with an electronic launching system southwest of Radwaniyah.
Upon searching around the tubes, the Soldiers found more cache weapons hidden in two 50-gallon drums.
The first drum contained 1,500 rounds of 7.62mm machine gun ammunition, 1,000 rounds of RPK machine gun ammunition, a black load-bearing vest, an ammunition drum for a machine gun, a roll of detonation cord, 75 blasting caps, two rocket-propelled grenade launchers, a grenade, a roll of electrical wire, and a mortar charge.
The second drum contained three RPG launchers, an RPG night sight, three RPG-7 rounds with accelerators, 500 rounds of PKM machine gun ammunition, five RPG-9 rounds and two unknown RPG boosters.
“This is a significant find,” said Maj. Web Wright, a spokesman for the 2nd BCT. “Taking mortar tubes out of the terrorists’ hands removes their ability to launch indirect-fire attacks. Additionally, the seizure of the detonation cord, blasting caps, and wires means that those things cannot be used in the construction of improvised explosive devices.”
The cache was destroyed by an explosive ordnance disposal team.

Wolverine troops discover cache of weapons

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

MUSHADAH, Iraq — A cache of weapons was found by Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers near here March 22.
Soldiers of the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment “Wolverines” of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) discovered the cache in an area known as the “mixing bowl” due to its position at the junctures of three major highways.
The cache contained a wooden crate and two ammunition cans full of AK-47 ammunition, 100 blasting caps, eight rocket-propelled grenade rounds, a dozen 122mm mortar rounds, 46 60mm mortar rounds, six fuse tips, two mortar tailfins, a barrel for an RPK machine gun, 200 primers, two burlap bags each containing 50 mortar charges, and two M6 mortar fuse tips.
“Discovery of caches like this impedes the terrorists’ ability to harm coalition forces and Iraqi civilians,” said Maj. Web Wright, a spokesman for the 2nd BCT. “Indirect fire by terrorist forces often injures innocent Iraqis. The Soldiers’ vigilance in finding caches like this protects not only themselves, but the Iraqis as well.”
The cache was destroyed by an explosive ordnance disposal team.

Military working dogs keeping troops safe

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

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — The terrorist is quiet during the search, letting Sgt. Harold Corey pat him down all along one side. But when Corey gets to his right hip, the terrorist shoves at him. It’s less than a second before Wandor’s huge mouthful of teeth is clamped around the terrorist’s arm and Corey is out of danger, telling him “away!” to make him release the man’s arm.
It’s just a simulation and a chance for Wandor to play; “the terrorist” - actually 1st Lt. Timothy Owens, the executive officer for Company A of the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) – is just trying out the “bite suit” used by dog trainers.
But even playing, Wandor, a Belgian Malinois shepherd, can take down a grown man in seconds, running at 30 miles per hour and exerting 1,400 pounds per square inch of bite pressure. When a military working dog is in the field at work, he is a formidable force.
“It was really cool,” said Owens, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas. “It was surprising how the dog looks so lean, but one twist, and he took me down. They’re a great asset for enforcement and detection.”
Corey, a native of Newport News, Va., has been working with dogs for three years now with the 529th Military Police Company based out of Heidelberg, Germany.
“I enjoy it,” Corey said of the March 19 practice session, which was attended by several 210th BSB Soldiers. “It’s never not exciting to watch a dog take someone down.”
The 2nd BCT, based at Camp Striker, Iraq, has several attached handlers with dogs that accompany brigade missions every day.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael Hart, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., and the BCT’s provost marshal, explained that most of the dogs that work with the brigade are trained to seek explosives. But they are also adept at combat tracking. While a human usually requires hearing two shots to pinpoint the direction of origin, dogs can point to the origin after only one shot – a skill that is critical when a sniper is shooting. Once the dog finds the shooter’s hiding place, he can track the person and even pick him out of a lineup.
There are also patrol narcotics dogs, said Hart, used during health-and-welfare inspections of troops, and dogs trained to seek bodies.
The dogs are well-trained and well kept, Hart explained.
“They have veterinary coverage twenty-four seven,” he said. “And there’s medical evacuation coverage as well, just like there is for humans. They’re out their risking their lives too – it’s only fair.”
The handlers know basic first aid and life support skills for the dogs, and a veterinarian is at the helipad waiting if a dog comes in injured.
So far, said Hart, they haven’t needed to medically evacuate a dog. One was killed in the line of duty while searching a house; an air-conditioning unit he jumped onto had an exposed high-powered wire on it. Other than that, he explained, they have had only minor injuries like cut paws.
And while the handlers haven’t had to ‘let slip the dogs of war’ for take-downs, the animals have provided very tangible benefits for the brigade, sniffing out explosives and weaponry.
“They’re a force multiplier,” said Corey. “They can do the searching of five or six Soldiers and do with their nose what a Soldier has to do by prodding and digging. They make the job easier. Also, they’re a visual deterrent – the local nationals are scared of them, so they’re more cooperative.”
Corey said that Wandor has found several weapons while helping on cordon-and-search missions.
“He finds weapons in houses even before the homeowners turn them over to us. Instead of having to move everything in a house, he just sniffs around, and when he finds something, he sits. Then we just have to move one thing to get to the weapons.”
Petty Officer 2nd Class Shannon Bragg, a native of Denver, Colo., and assigned to a San Diego, Calif.-based deployable canine unit, is also attached to the 2nd BCT. While Bragg has been working with dogs for several years, the one assigned to him now – “Don,” a German shepherd, is fresh from school at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas.
“He’s a ‘green’ dog,” Bragg explained. “His detection skills are much better than his aggression – he’s got a great nose on him. But he’s young, only three, and he’s still in the puppy stage.”
Don showed his prowess at finding pieces of detonation cord hidden in the 210th BSB’s supply yard, hunkering down as he caught a whiff of explosive and then sitting as soon as he found the source.
All of the hard training works, Corey explained, because the dogs think of the job as a game.
“A dog is like a five-year-old child,” he said. “To get a kid to do something, you make it fun.”
The object of the game for Wandor – as it is for almost every other military working dog – is a beehive-shaped rubber toy called a Kong. If he finds explosives, he gets to play. Corey explained that the dogs are trained to understand that finding the object of their search might take awhile, but if a mission is fruitless for too long, he’s prepared with a piece of detonation cord.

“I’ll hand it to someone else and ask them to hide it for me,” Corey said. Wandor can then find the cord and win some quality time playing with his Kong before moving on and continuing the quest.
“I always carry training aids to refresh his interest,” said Corey.
Athough it may be like a game for the dog, the perspective is different on the other side of those sharp teeth.
After being bitten through the padded bite suit, Chief Warrant Officer Julio Hall, a native of Grafton, N.H., and a supply systems technician with the 210th BSB, said he had more respect for the dogs’ power and for the capabilities they provide against terrorists.
“The dog took me down right away,” he said. “The dog itself is pretty intimidating. If I was an insurgent, I’d be petrified.”

Dining facility on Victory Base Complex marks opening

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

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — After months of construction and waiting, the largest dining facility on Iraq’s Victory Base Complex opened to cheers and a flood of Soldiers and civilians March 20.
The executive officer for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Lt. Col. Frank Andrews, a native of Apex, N.C., thanked the employees of Kellogg, Brown and Root, the food service Soldiers of the 2nd BCT and the others who assisted in the construction and opening of the new facility. Andrews also cut the ceremonial ribbon stretched in front of the building.
“It’s a significant event for the brigade,” said Andrews of the facility’s opening. “The previous dining facility couldn’t handle the number of troops.”
The camp’s old dining facility – a wooden building that had several trailers attached to it by way of additions – had been intended to serve for six months, but Soldiers had used it for over three years.
The new building is expansive – a critical quality in view of the ongoing “surge” of troops in the Baghdad area.
“One of the great things about the U.S. Army is how they spare no expense to support the Soldiers,” Andrews said. “Even in Vietnam, they were flying ice cream to the forward operating bases.”
Ice cream – several pallets of it, in fact – is just one of the new dining facility’s offerings. With about 300 workers, including third-country nationals from places like Sri Lanka, American civilians, and Soldiers, the facility can provide more food, faster, to the troops in combat. Six one-megawatt generators power the building, which has been serving about 9,000 people at each meal during its first week of operation.
The workers, used to the cramped conditions and limited menu at Camp Striker’s earlier dining facility, are getting used to the place.
“They’ve jumped up to a 9,000 man-per-meal DFAC,” said Chief Warrant Officer Shawn Lashbrook, a native of Conroe, Texas, and the 2nd BCT’s food service manager. “They’re a little overwhelmed.”
Lashbrook plans to expand the menu even more, adding to the potato, pizza and pasta bars sections with stir-fry, gyros, fruit and international foods.
“We’ll give (the workers) a month or so, and then start bringing those on line,” he said. “They need to get the basics down first.”
Christian LeMoine, a native of Antwerp, Belgium, and a classically trained chef, is now a contractor with KBR and is the dining facility manager on Camp Striker.
“I speak four languages – and none of them are ones the workers speak,” LeMoine said, laughing.
The employees of the Gulf Catering Company hail from many countries, and the dining facility’s kitchen seems to be a well-placed reference to Iraq’s historical tower of Babel. Hindi, Urdu, Nepalese, Tamil, Bahasa, Tagalog and Arabic vie with the U.S. military’s standard English and Spanish to be heard in the building. The employees still know enough English, however, to serve the Soldiers and accomplish their missions.
LeMoine has worked tirelessly on the facility for months, said manager Howard Romano, a native of Bangkok, Thailand. “He’s plumb worn out,” Romano said, laughing.
LeMoine seemed to take it in stride.
“It’s a challenge, but I like challenges,” he said. Moving from being the head chef at a posh Belgian restaurant in New York to an Army dining facility was one of the challenges he likes, he added.
“I have always enjoyed working with different types of cuisine….I’m very proud of the new facility,” he said. “We have had a lot of great support.”
The facility offers several options to help Soldiers out, Lashbrook said, including a specific room where Soldiers can pick up large to-go orders for units going out into sector for the day, or large insulated containers of food called “mermites” to be used at field dining facilities.
Sgt. William Wary, a native of East Stroudsburg, Penn., and a team leader with the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd BCT’s personal security detachment, said he liked the changes.
“It’s pretty nice here,” he said during the grand opening lunch. “The food is better prepared than at the old facility, and the T-bone steak is definitely great. It’s very open and inviting – it’s great for morale.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Golden Dragons capture mortar team

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — A 120mm mortar system and terrorist cell were captured southwest of Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, Iraq, March 19.
Soldiers of Company A, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) ran into four terrorists with AK-47s at about 1:30 p.m. local time. The terrorists fled.
The men had seemed to be guarding a home; Soldiers entered and questioned 13 local nationals in the home while other Soldiers of the team pursued the fleeing terrorists.
In the house, the Soldiers discovered two 120mm mortar rounds and three 82mm rounds, as well as a number of hand grenades.
Approximately a half-hour later, the Soldiers found a 120mm mortar tube in a truck parked at a house nearby. In the truck were also found two 120mm rounds, a loaded PKC machine gun with 200 rounds of ammunition, a mortar sighting device, nine 120mm charges, and 30 Russian-made shape charges.
As the terrorists fled, they left many objects in a nearby reed-line, which the Soldiers seized. The objects included four 82mm mortar rounds, two load-bearing vests full of loaded magazines, two hand grenades, two 82mm mortar charges, a video camera, a black ski mask, a DVD and a bag of tools.
In the second house, the Soldiers discovered five 82mm mortar fuses, two AK-47s, seven full magazines for AK-47s, a new global positioning system unit, a mortar compass, a calculator, a piece of paper with mortar tables on it, two notebooks, a video cassette, an unknown rifle, and a bag of electrical components.
“We’ve been targeting this mortar cell for awhile,” said Maj. Web Wright, a native of Annapolis, Md., and a spokesman for the 2nd “Commando” BCT. “They’ve been launching attacks throughout our area of operations, aimed at (coalition forces) but in a lot of cases they have been injuring civilians as well, so we’ve put a lot of priority on capturing them.
“Capturing 120mm mortar system is significant,” Wright continued. “When you find the tube it strips away their capability to attack, whereas if you find a cache of rounds, although it takes ammunition from them, that tube can still be used again. This time we captured the tube and the people who are trained to use it. This is a very significant event.”
The cell was suspected to have attacked Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, earlier that day.

Iraqi Soldiers aid one of their own

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — Iraqi and coalition forces responded to a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device at the Mahmudiyah Marketplace here March 17.
Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division 2nd Battalion and from the 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) responded to the car bomb.
During the detonation of the VBIED, one Iraqi policeman was wounded.
The policeman was taken to the local hospital and the incident is under investigation.

Cavalry Soldiers discover weapons cache

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

AL RASHEED, Iraq — Coalition forces discovered a weapons cache near Iraqi Highway 1, just south of Baghdad March 18.
Soldiers from Troop C, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) discovered the cache during a combat patrol.
In the cache was a 120mm mortar round, 42 82mm mortar rounds, 79 60mm mortar rounds and an anti-personnel mine.
The contents of the cache were destroyed during a controlled detonation conducted by the explosive ordnance disposal team.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Monday, March 19, 2007

NPs bent, not broken by terror attack

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

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — A savage attack on an Iraqi national police checkpoint on the Iraqi highway known as Route Tampa that left eight policemen dead and wounded several others on Feb. 23 left scars on buildings and Iraqis alike, but did not dim the Iraqis’ spirit.
Soldiers of the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment and Soldiers of Company A, 210th Brigade Support Battalion's combat logistics patrol platoon and Co. B, 210th BSB, all of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) and U.S. Marines of the 6272 National Police Transition Team reacted swiftly and assembled at the checkpoint Feb. 26 to help with the aftermath of the attack.
Two terrorists were killed in the skirmish with the 2nd Battalion, 72nd National Police Brigade. The attack damaged the building and guard shacks, leaving walls pocked with holes.
“The attackers had very good weapons,” said Sgt. Nadam Na’if. “They wore ammunition under their clothes, so we couldn’t see that they were so well-armed.”
The assault was insulting considering that the police were trying to be receptive to the neighborhood.
“We had just gotten an order to be especially kind to civilians,” said Sgt. Ali Jassim. “We said ‘welcome,’ and they started shooting.”
“The soldiers that work here just want to care for their families,” Na’if said. “We’re not out here to hurt anyone. We took fire from everywhere, and there was nowhere to hide. The terrorists are polite to the American Soldiers that patrol, because they know they’re outgunned. But on us, they’ll open fire. We want get this area under control and peaceful, we just need help.”
To provide that help, the U.S. and Iraqi forces combined their efforts to make the post safer and more livable. While the checkpoint was functional even right after the attack, force protection and improvements like showers will make it safer and more comfortable for those who live there.
Several ideas were proposed by Lt. Col. Hassan, the battalion commander for 2/72 NPB, the Marines and the 210th BSB Soldiers, and in the end, a mixture of the ideas was adopted.
Soldiers of the 210th BSB brought concertina wire, gloves, huge, steel-wire, fabric-lined cages to be filled with dirt and rocks, and concrete barriers to surround the post and protect the national police inside from small-arms and even rocket-propelled grenade fire. Soldiers of the 210th BSB used an M88 Hercules tank recovery vehicle to move the heavy concrete walls into place as Marines fine-tuned the placement of the dangling slabs.
Later in the day, Sgt. Steven Willard, Sgt. Caleb Welsh, and Spc. Tiffany Pinkerton hit on a better idea - using the Palletized Load System and Load Handling System with its specialized hook - to move the barriers.
"They did an outstanding job," said Capt. Anita Trepanier, Co. A commander. "They used their ingenuity to accomplish the mission."
A shower trailer has been ordered for the police as well – many of whom now have to go to battalion headquarters in Baghdad just to shower. The kitchen, destroyed by a grenade, will be restored, and sleeping quarters improved.
“We’re turning this into a combat outpost for housing a battalion of national police,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Gregory Kniell, a native of Baltimore and a radio-telephone operator who works with the transition team. “We’re building an outer wall with concrete barriers. Hopefully, a safer post will help them in their mission.”
The training provided by the transition team should help them recover as well. They are training them on weapons handling and firing.
“We’re training them to be an organized unit,” Kniell said. “They’re getting better. They’ve got more to learn, but that’s always the case with any unit – you can always improve.”
Kniell said he enjoyed spending the day working with Soldiers and Iraqis.
“It’s been a really interesting experience, working with the national police and the U.S. Army,” he said.
1st Lt. Wessam Jassim, a platoon leader with the 2/72 NP, brought several of his soldiers to help with the improvements.
“It’s great, I’m very glad,” he said of the work being done. “I’m very happy that the Army and Marines support us so much. This will help; we’ll be much safer here now.”
The policemen seemed to enjoy having the American troops around, laughing and joking in pidgin Arabic and English as they built new guard shacks with re-used lumber and stacked sandbags.
Pfc. Chad Davidson, a medic with the 1/89 Cav and a native of Sacramento, Calif., spoke at length with some of the Iraqi men through an interpreter while he treated them for wounds received in the attack and illnesses.
“I really like helping the Iraqis and making friends, talking with them. Sometimes it’s not even Soldier-to-soldier talk – just person-to-person,” he said.
“It’s a positive development that we as the U.S. can aid in supporting the Iraqis and helping them make their country their own, said U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Steve Wright, a native of Jacksonville, N.C., and a trainer. “The Army has been treating us very well, and they have more assets as far as the equipment. What we’re doing here is a very positive thing.”

Thursday, March 15, 2007

From Stars and Stripes

Monte Morin, who embedded with the 2nd BCT, published several photos and stories about the Commando Brigade. An assortment of photos is here.

Suspected IED emplacer arrested in Rushdi Mullah

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

RUSHDI MULLAH, Iraq — Coalition forces arrested a suspected improvised explosive device emplacer north of Rushdi Mullah, Iraq March 14.
Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment “Golden Dragon,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) arrested the individual after receiving a tip from an Iraqi civilian.
When the Soldiers searched the house that was believed to be the insurgent’s hideout, they discovered eight local nationals, one of whom was arrested.
The seven other men were held for further questioning.

Polar Bears find bomb, unexploded ordnance

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — Multi-National Division – Baghdad and Iraqi forces discovered an improvised explosive device and an unexploded ordnance just southwest of Yusufiyah, Iraq March 14.
Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment “Polar Bears,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) discovered the bomb during a combat patrol.
In a separate incident, Soldiers following a tip from an Iraqi civilian found an 122mm artillery round.
The IED and round were destroyed during a controlled detonation conducted by the explosive ordnance disposal team.

Reunion in Iraq: Father, son spend time together

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

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — When deployed, most Soldiers spend almost a full year away from their families, communicating by e-mail and telephone except for two weeks of leave. Chief Warrant Officer Johnnie Upshur, the engineer technician for the Army’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) prepared for the same when he deployed to Camp Striker, Iraq, August of 2006.
But in January, his son, Airman 1st Class Jonathan Upshur deployed to Iraq as well. He is stationed at Sather Air Base right next door, where he serves as a services apprentice, emplacing force protection measures.
Johnnie, a native of Birds Nest, Va., did not know his son would be so close. In fact, Jonathan himself did not know where in Iraq he would be stationed until just a week before he arrived.
Jonathan, a native of Nassawadox, Va., was attending college, aiming for a degree in computer programming, when he decided to do something else while he got his degree. He chose to enlist in the Air Force.
“I wanted to set myself apart,” he said. “I didn’t want to just be an average college graduate; I wanted to do something honorable.”
Jonathan is still working towards his degree, coding in the computer language C++ when he isn’t on missions.
Johnnie, who is on his third deployment to Iraq, worries about his son like any father does.
“I don’t like that he’s here, but in a way I’m glad he is, so I can see him. And I’m glad I’m here to support him,” he said. “I’m pleased he’s nearby – but if I had my way, he wouldn’t be deployed.”
Jonathan has found the closeness of his father a boon during the difficulty of deployment.
“It makes the transition a lot easier for me,” he said. “Being able to visit, and having someone so close who understands the ins and outs of daily life in Iraq is very nice.”
Johnnie has just passed the 20-year mark in the Army, and was deployed in 1991 for Operation Desert Storm. Jonathan enlisted just 10 months ago, knowing he would be deployed.
“I volunteered to come over here,” he said. “But I had no idea my father was going to be right here.”
“I’m extremely proud of him, and of his commitment to his country,” Johnnie said. “I’m glad I’m here for him. I didn’t have anyone to teach or mentor me; my first deployment, I didn’t have anyone to talk to, except in letters with a two or three-week turnaround. And even now, I find I need to talk to him too, especially when I come off a mission, just to clear my head.”
Jonathan gets most Saturdays off work, and he makes the 10-minute drive to Camp Striker to visit his father.
“We try to play basketball or watch a movie, or just talk,” Johnnie said. Jonathan is the oldest of his five children.
“We share a lot of interests,” Jonathan said. “He’s like a father and a brother – we both like keeping up on sports, shopping and investing. We’re very close – and competitive.”
Jonathan said he has always looked up to his father.
“Growing up, my father deployed to Desert Storm; I looked up to him as my hero. I didn’t understand what price is really paid for being in the military and serving my country. That gives me even more respect for him, that he’s been doing this for 20 years.”
“I’m no hero,” Johnnie said. “I just want to be a good role model for (Jonathan) and my other kids and show them that they can do anything if they apply themselves.”
Jonathan’s siblings and mother worry, too.
“Everybody’s nervous, with everything they see in the news,” Johnnie said. “They don’t want us here, but they understand that we have a mission, and they support us one hundred percent.”
Johnnie and Jonathan are already planning to work together when they leave the military.
“Our long-term plan is to give back to the community,” Johnnie said. “We want to give what we didn’t have, growing up.”
Both are interested in real estate in addition to investing – and the common interest is a critical part of their plan.
“We want to get into real estate,” said Johnnie. “We’d like to give homes to people who can’t afford their own, and give people a better life than what we had … we’d like to build a recreation center for kids.”
The father and son plan to spend as much time as they can together, they said. Despite the unusual situation, it sounds like that plan is working.
“This is the most time we’ve been able to spend together in about five years,” Johnnie said. “It’s great.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Analysis: New Hope In 'Death Triangle'

From UPI:

By Pamela Hess
Mar 9, 2007

First of two parts: Standing at the painted iron gate blocking cars to the newly named Martyrs Market in Mahmudiyah, one of the capital cities in the so-called "Triangle of Death" south of Baghdad, you would not know the carnage this place has seen.
On July 17, 2006, the market was even more packed than it is today, and women and children were everywhere. The street was choked with cars, as usual.
Two of them exploded. Men appeared on the rooftops towering over the narrow street and threw grenades into the panicked crowd, and opened fire on them with rifles.
Forty innocent people were murdered that day. Another 100 were wounded.
Within a few weeks the debris was cleared, and the people came back.
The market would be attacked six more times by vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, or VBIEDs, by February. Blocked to cars, in October bombers packed C4 explosives into the metal frames of seven bicycles and left them in the market. Five of them were detonated, triggered by cell phones secreted under the seats.
"We got to the point you'd have a VBIED and two hours later, people would be back on the street. It's a message: you're not going to disrupt our life," said Lt. Col. Dan Goldthorpe, deputy commander of the 2nd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division.
"These guys will have family members killed. They're very solemn about it and then they move (on). We're more shaken up by it than the community is. But they've lived with that their whole lives. We don't experience that. It's a huge sense of loss for us because that's what we're accustomed to," Goldthorpe said. "They're like, that's another day in this neighborhood."
On this bright, cool winter day, the market street is packed with shoppers and produce.
At the entrance to the pedestrian market there is a painted sign. It is red, green and black, Iraq's national colors, and like many memorials in the United States, it recites a litany of the dead.
The July attackers were believed to be Sunnis trying to provoke a fight in a town that used to be half Shiite, half Sunni. It worked.
"We're sitting on a sectarian fault line here," said Lt. Col. Robert Morschauser, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment.
"It's tough. It's been the most challenging -- this is my third tour in Iraq -- and it's the most challenging so far," he said as he walked down market street to the ribbon cutting.
Most of the town's Sunni residents have moved out to farms on the outskirts of the city. In Baghdad, as many as 100 victims' bodies turn up at the morgue every day. In Mahmoudiyah, there have been 22 in the last two months, said Gen. Ali Jassim Muhamad Al-Frejee, the commander of the Iraqi Army's 4th Brigade, 6th Division.
Morschauser is quick to credit Col. Al-Frejee for the security in town. "He is very smart, very intelligent, tactically sound. He demands respect and gets it," he said.
No Americans are guarding Mahmudiyah city; that is left to the Iraqi army. The local police are not yet a real factor in security.
Like many in the new Iraqi military, Col. al-Frejee was in the old Iraqi army. He remained on post at the Baghdad International Airport until April 9, 2003 and then he went home.
"I stayed in the military all the way up to April 9 not because of Saddam, but only because I'm in the military. My duty made me stay," he said.
Gen. al-Frejee had a friend working for the Coalition Provisional Authority who tipped him off in June 2003 that the Iraqi army was being reformed. He immediately volunteered. "Because we are born here, we live here, our kids are here, our family is here, our tribes are here, the minimum thing we can do is to serve our country," he said.
Though language, culture, two wars and a decade of enmity would contrive to separate men like al-Frejee and Morschauser, their core beliefs as professional military men bond them together.
"Isn't it amazing? And now we're best friends," said Morschauser.

Monday, March 12, 2007

‘Wolverine’ Squadron finds two IED caches

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Coalition Soldiers discovered two caches of improvised explosive devise ordnance and materials within their area of operations southwest of Baghdad, March 11.
Troop C, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment ‘Wolverines”, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) discovered a cache while on a security patrol in the village of Kuresh, two kilometers to the north of Route Tampa, the major highway leading into Baghdad.
Included in the cache were 11 57mm anti-aircraft rounds, three rocket propelled grenade projectiles, a 122mm artillery round, five 120mm artillery rounds, three 60mm mortar rounds, two 81mm mortar rounds and a 105mm artillery round.
In another event, Troop A, 1-89 Cav. discovered a cache of IED-triggering devices including detonation cord, two blasting caps, two hand-held radios, six washing machine timers and assorted wires and batteries near the village of Radwaniyah, southwest of the Baghdad International Airport.
Both caches were disposed of by explosive ordnance detachments.

Iraqi Army Battalion discovers weapons cache

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — Iraqi Army Soldiers discovered an improvised explosive device and mortar round cache five kilometers northwest of Mahmudiyah, Iraq, March 11.
Soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division discovered the cache at approximately 3:20 p.m.
The cache was comprised of seven 120mm mortar rounds, 68 82mm mortar rounds, 57 60mm mortar rounds, 44 blasting caps and one-half kilo of TNT.
The ordnance was destroyed in a controlled detonation.

Meditating in the field: Chaplains bring higher power to combat

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

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — It has been said that there are no atheists in foxholes. The stress and life-and-death situations of combat can make the most hardened Soldier look toward a higher power.
In order to provide that counsel and communion, that hope and holiness, there are chaplains.
Chaplain (Maj.) Lonnie Locke, a native of Dothan, Ala., and chaplain for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), oversees his brigade’s six chaplains.
“A chaplain’s main purpose is to be a representative between Soldiers and the commander,” said Locke. “The religious program is the commander’s, we just run it.”
“We have a responsibility to see that each Soldier has his constitutional right to worship as he sees fit,” Locke said. “We’re ultimately here to uphold every Soldier’s privilege of worship.”
Aiding each chaplain in his duties is a chaplain’s assistant, an enlisted Soldier trained in the myriad necessities of the administrative part of the chaplain’s work.
“I think chaplain’s assistants do not receive enough credit for what they do,” said Chaplain (Capt.) Jeffery Bryan of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT. “Mine is excellent. Although I don’t carry a weapon, I don’t feel any need to, because he does such a great job.”
Locke agrees that chaplain’s assistants play a critical role in unit ministry.
“Chaplain’s assistants have special skills as enlisted Soldiers,” Locke said. “They have the training and are able to see people’s problems and do ‘triage’ for us. They support us not only by being our protectors, but also providing technical help.”
“We set up services for the chaplain,” said Sgt. Michael Frickie, a native of Cache, Okla., and assistant to Chaplain (Capt.) Danny Wilson. They serve the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd BCT. “During the week we screen people who come in for counseling, do paperwork, whatever the chaplain needs done. And off the forward operating bases, we’re bodyguards, since the chaplain is a noncombatant.”
The assistants, besides training on common tasks and Soldier skills, coordinate with units for training, environmental leave and deployment briefings, prayer breakfasts, and retreats.
Staff Sgt. Randall Hansen, a native of Alpine, Utah, and assistant to Locke, explained that the chaplain’s assistant position also carries some heavy burdens.
“We’re trained to recognize the symptoms of combat stress and suicide,” he said. “And we know basic intervention. We’re also the funds clerks. The chaplain’s assistant gathers offerings and deposits them into sub-accounts for each denomination. We keep accountability of each group’s funds.”
Many assistants are drawn to the military occupational specialty because they are religious, but the only requirement is that they demonstrate a “higher moral character” than other Soldiers.
“I’m the most irreligious guy you’ll meet, especially compared with my comrades who go to church every week,” Frickie said. “But I like being around the different people. I’ve learned a lot about different faiths since I’ve been in the Army.”
Perhaps the toughest aspect of being a chaplain’s assistant is that the chaplain and his assistant are seldom of the same religious affiliation.
“You have to be flexible enough to work with any chaplain and his religious preference,” said Hansen. “It may not be the same.”
The job also comes with rewards, he added.
“Out in the field, we’re able to move around and visit Soldiers to provide them with some small spiritual enhancement,” Hansen said. “They’re in the trenches and their spirits can get low. Any spirit we can bring them, enhances them.”
The chaplains are perhaps most visible while conducting religious services, but that’s not their primary workload, Locke said.
“Seventy to seventy-five percent of our work is done in counseling, depending on where we’re at,” said Locke. “Back in the rear, most of it is about relationships and marriage counseling. Here it’s about death and dying, coping with grief …making sense of ‘why God allowed my friend to die.’ Depending on where we’re at, the type of counseling changes.”
“Chaplains and their assistants help Soldiers by befriending them in battle and comforting them if they’re hurt,” Bryan said. “And we help bring closure by conducting memorial ceremonies.”
Providing care for Soldiers in such trying circumstances can be trying in itself, Locke said, and it can be draining. That is where downtime comes in.
“We have to do self-care,” said Locke. “I like reading, prayer, exercising. And talking to other chaplains…it’s good to have a battle buddy to vent and talk to. Sometimes, just having alone time. It’s how I recharge.”
Bryan has had his share of tough experiences, he said.
“One Soldier said, ‘Sir, I am terrified of being killed by an (improvised explosive device), but when I’m with you, I’m not afraid.’ A few months later, he was killed in an IED explosion, and the fact that he was this close to me was life-changing for me. But the worst part is dealing with casualties,” said Bryan. “I have been with Soldiers who have (been injured.) I have shoved them into air medical evacuation helicopters, and I have memorialized many of them.”
But he isn’t going to give it up.
“I’m wired for counseling,” he said. “It’s part of my job that I really enjoy. And it’s amazing how people’s problems fall into two or three different categories. On the spiritual side, people get frustrated with their lives, and they’re seeking something in the physical world that can only come through a strong spiritual relationship with God. They need to redirect their attention from filling that void with other stuff and realize that God is the only one who can fill that.
“On the other side, we do a lot of counseling about relationships and deployments. Many people don’t know how to communicate well. They need to prepare their relationships for long periods of separation. They deploy and leave their spouses behind with little support.”
Spirituality, as well as communication, is critical in combat, said Locke.
“In order to be ready as a Soldier for combat, you must be preparing mentally and spiritually to (deal with death.) That’s part of the mix – the reality of life and death is very obvious in combat and religion speaks about what there is after life.”
“Most Americans are religious,” said Bryan. “Soldiers are no exception, and war causes many participants to consider life and death. Not only does freedom of religion help Soldiers deal with the issues of war, it helps support the very freedom of religion they fight for.”
Trying to provide hope, though, can sometimes be frustrating, said Locke. Making sure that all Soldiers are taken care can be difficult.
“My frustration as the brigade chaplain – it’s my responsibility to see all denominations cared for. It’s more and more difficult see how few Catholic priests, for example, are in the military. It’s very difficult to supply what the Soldiers need. We need Catholic priests, rabbis – the ‘minority’ faith groups are in dire need of chaplains.”
In many cases, Soldiers can fill in as lay leaders for worship services. In others, religious doctrine forbids full services without the presence of ordained clergy.
“Catholics allow lay leaders to do the Liturgy of the Word, but not the full Mass,” Locke explained, citing an example. “It’s a matter of recruiting and getting priests and rabbis in, and the Army chaplaincy doing a good job of dispersing chaplains where they need to be to minister to faith groups in different places.”
Despite the frustrations, said Locke, he loves his job. Enlisted for four years in an aviation job, he planned to become a warrant officer and pilot before his life changed course.
“I met a chaplain in Germany who really made me think,” he said. “I felt God calling me – but was the Army preparation for a mission, or was it my mission?”
Looking back, he says, now he knows.
“This is my mission. God intends for me to do what I do. And it’s the best job in the Army.”

‘Polar Bears’ take fire, detainee

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — Multi-National Division – Baghdad troops patrolling near a canal here detained a terrorist March 7 at approximately 1:30 p.m. after he fired at them.
Soldiers of the 4th “Polar Bears” Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) spotted two local national men digging in an improvised explosive device near the canal. One was armed with an AK-47.
The Soldiers fired a single warning shot, but the armed man returned fire. The Soldiers returned well aimed fire and wounded the terrorist in the shoulder and leg. The other man fled.
The wounded man was medically evacuated for treatment. He will be held for questioning.

Golden Dragons detain man, weapons after taking fire

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

RADWANIYAH, Iraq — Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers arrested a man and confiscated a weapons cache in a house near here, March 10.
Soldiers of Company D, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment “Golden Dragons,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) received small arms fire from the house Feb. 23. Marking the building as a potential site for future search, they returned to search the house and found a cache.
Among the weapons found were a Mauser rifle, 38 rounds for the Mauser, four AK-47 fully loaded magazines, 300 loose AK-47 rounds, over 200 9mm pistol rounds, copper wire (typically used to trigger improvised explosive devices) and a camera.
The Soldiers detained the resident of the house and confiscated the weapons and ammunition.
The man is being held for questioning.

Iraqi citizen leads Polar Bears to IED

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — Coalition and Iraqi forces discovered an improvised explosive device here March 10.
Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment “Polar Bears,” 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) and the 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division discovered the bomb after an Iraqi citizen approached them at the newly established Joint Security Station in Yusufiyah.
The Iraqi Army disarmed the explosives and immediately called the explosive ordnance team.
The IED was destroyed in place during a controlled detonation.

Civilians Lend Soldiers a Helping Hand

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

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — On almost every camp, forward operating base and patrol base renovations are being made to improve the quality of life for the Soldiers who work and reside there.
To assist with the many renovations, there are civilian contractors in country to help Soldiers get the job done.
Recently, civilians from Kellogg, Brown and Root, a company that assists the military, have helped to make the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) Tactical Operation Center feel more like home.
“I am here to help the Soldiers,” said Randy Frnka, a KBR carpenter and native of Austin, Texas. “My main goal is to make them feel like they are at home, and I like seeing them happy.”
Frnka and his crew, Carlito Salvador and Felix Remocaldo, who are both carpenters, spend at least 12 hours each day making and installing items for the Soldiers.
“We have made memorials, cabinets, desks and adjustable shelves,” Frnka said. “We do it all.”
With Frnka’s deep passion to help the military, he decided to leave his own business in Texas and deploy to Iraq.
“I have been a carpenter for 37 years,” he said as he installed cabinets in the operations center. “But I wanted to do something else to help.”
Frnka even asks his friends in the United States to help him out sometimes.
“I had one of my friends send me a bunch of stuff that I wasn’t able to get here,” he said of the supplies he uses to build things. “I have also taught the guys who work for me how to build things by hand.”
Frnka and his team’s work can be seen throughout the center.
“Randy and his crew have been tasked to do various projects for the brigade,” said Sgt. Maj. Johnny Kea, a brigade future operations sergeant major and native of Rose Hill, N.C. “He has received excellent reviews on the quality of the products … His great skills supports the Soldiers in Iraq.
Frnka also makes it a priority to complete all tasks given to him. If there is something that needs to be fixed then he will make sure he does it.
“Randy has seen all projects form start to finish,” Kea said. “He takes great pride in his work and supporting the Soldiers.
Although Frnka has been a carpenter for 37 years, his team is new to the trade. However, Frnka takes time out to train them.
“These guys are like my sons,” Frnka said of Salvador and Remocaldo. “I taught them everything they know.”
The team is also responsible for projects around the Camp Striker, Iraq area. They have built all the cabinets for the Sather Air Base, Iraq dining facility. And they do specialty work as well.
“The unique thing is that I do not use tools to measure things,” Frnka said and he showed Soldiers some of his products. “I use my eyes to calibrate things.”
Frnka’s calibrated eye gets the job done according to the Soldiers who have seen his work.
“The projects the civilians have done in the (operational center) look really nice,” commented Sgt. Anthony Fusco, the 2nd BCT engineer noncommissioned officer in charge and native of Avon, N.Y. “They are friendly and will help in any way they can.”
Frnka’s team plans on continuing supporting the Soldiers as much as they can.
“I am glad I can help and I like to,” added Remocaldo. “Helping the Soldiers makes me happy.”

‘Wolverines’, Apaches engage, kill terrorists

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — A combined operation between ground forces and Apache attack helicopters engaged and killed a platoon-sized element of enemy fighters west of the Baghdad International Airport Complex on Iraqi Highway 1 at approximately 9 p.m., March 7.
A patrol from Troop A, 1st Battalion, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division reported enemy tracer fire in the area known as Az-Zaidon. As they moved toward the firing, they detected armed insurgents in an ambush position along both sides of a canal road. A truck was parked nearby.
After clearing the area of friendly forces, the patrol called for close air support from nearby AH-64 Apache attack aircraft.
The helicopter engaged the enemy fighters, killing 12 and destroying the truck, which had an anti-aircraft heavy machine gun mounted in the bed.

Civil affairs team, ‘Allons’ battalion aid wounded pilgrim

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — Iraqi police brought an injured woman traveling to the holy sites during Arbaeen to a civil affairs team inspecting a hospital here Mar. 7.
The Soldiers, of the 413th Civil Affairs Battalion, were checking up on the facilities at the Mahmudiyah Hospital when a patrol of Iraqi police brought a local woman with a gunshot wound to the chest in for treatment.
The woman said she had been shot by a sniper who was apparently targeting people walking south in the village of Dora.
The hospital did not have the capability to treat the woman, and the civil affairs team contacted the 2nd “Allons” Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), based at the nearby Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah.
Soldiers from 2-15th requested air medical evacuation for the woman, who was taken to the 28th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad. She is currently undergoing treatment for her wound.
Many roads in the 2nd BCT’s area of operation are filled with pilgrims traveling south to the shrines at Karbala for the Shia Muslim commemoration of Arbaeen - the martyrdom of Husayn bin Ali.

‘Triangle of Death’ now a safe passage for pilgrims

From Stars and Stripes
By Monte Morin, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Sunday, March 11, 2007

MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — They called it the “Triangle of Death,” a bloody, 330-square-mile expanse of canal-veined farmland and low-rise towns that hosted the wedding of terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and saw cash bounties paid for the murder of local officials, foreign journalists and Iraqi and American soldiers.

Today however, this infamous piece of real estate straddling the Sunni-Shiite fault line south of Baghdad has earned the reputation of being Iraq’s most secure passage for Shiite pilgrims marching south to Karbala for the Arba’een holiday.

It is also the proving ground for the U.S. military’s new method of training and shepherding Iraqi army troops. Whereas previous efforts involved the embedding of 12-man training teams with Iraqi army units, U.S. forces now are devoting entire battalions to supporting and training Iraqi soldiers, launching routine patrols and massive operations on a joint basis.

While scores of pilgrims traveling through Hillah and Baghdad were killed last week by suicide bombers and drive-by gunmen, this area immediately south of the capital has, so far, escaped any serious incident.

After an aggressive and costly campaign waged by units from the 101st Airborne Division roughly a year ago and the arrival of thousands of new and well-equipped Iraqi army soldiers, both U.S. and Iraqi commanders here say the old Triangle of Death label no longer fits.

“Three years ago they called this the Triangle of Death, but that is the past,” said Col. Ali Jassim Mohammed Al Frajee, an Iraqi army commander here. “Iraqi army and coalition forces paid a lot of sacrifices here over the last three years and now we have 4 million pilgrims passing through here without anything happening. That is awesome.”

To be sure, cells of militants still salt the lush fields and palm groves that skirt the Euphrates River, but commanders with the Fort Drum, N.Y.-based 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and the 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division say they have all but cleared enemy fighters from the towns of Mahmudiyah, Yusafiyah and Latifiyah, known collectively as the “fiyahs.”

In the last six months, overall attacks have dropped, commanders say, and the lethality of these episodes has plummeted. Most significantly, enemy rocket and mortar attacks have been cut in half and commanders credit an aggressive, joint Iraqi and American campaign of air assaults, river landings and foot patrols for uncovering significant caches. In one week alone, U.S. and Iraqi troops uncovered more than 100 stashes of rockets, mortars, bombs and other weapons.

Previously, Iraqi army units were prone to defending static patrol bases or checkpoints, a posture that virtually invited attacks, U.S. commanders said. Now, Iraqi troops under Ali are far more aggressive and have taken to searching for insurgents and weapons stashes beyond their bunkered positions.

“They see what effect it’s having,” said Lt. Col. Bob Morschauser, commander of the 10th Mountain’s 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment. “They see how being offensive has reduced indirect-fire attacks.”

Iraqis making progress with new training

From Stars and Stripes

By Monte Morin, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Monday, March 12, 2007

LATIFIYAH, Iraq — When Staff Sgt. Barry Belles stumbled unwittingly into a sniper’s kill zone in this Sunni town south of Baghdad, it was an Iraqi army soldier who grabbed his body armor and yanked the 33-year-old Wilkes-Barre, Pa., native to safety.

It was, he said, just one of many episodes in which Iraqi army soldiers have risked their lives to help U.S. soldiers who are training them to one day assume full responsibility for Iraq’s security.

A member of Bravo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, a unit of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, Belles is part of the U.S. Army’s new approach to training Iraqi Army units.

Instead of embedding a 12-man Military Transition Team or “MiTT” with an Iraqi unit, the 2-10th Mountain has devoted an entire artillery battalion to the effort.

U.S. and Iraqi commanders say that the new strategy has speeded up the development of Iraqi army units, like the 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, and focused on joint operations. While the 4-6th Iraqi Army Division participated in only one brigade-level operation prior to the 2-10th Mountain’s arrival in Iraqi seven months ago, it has participated in roughly two dozen since.

“We don’t see ourselves as advisers, we see ourselves as partners,” said Maj. Matt Zimmerman, operations officer for the artillery battalion. “It’s a true partnership.”

While top U.S. commanders have long discussed “partnerships” with the Iraqi military, U.S. soldiers on the ground have often looked toward their Iraqi counterparts with equal parts of hope and mistrust.

That however, is not the case for soldiers like Belles, who say they view their Iraqi counterparts as members of their own unit.

“I honestly believe they care about us,” Belles said recently. “They’ve saved our lives at least a dozen times. We call them ‘our guys’ because they are.”

Belles, like many Iraq veterans who have served previous tours here, recalls working with soldiers of the Iraqi National Guard, a precursor to today’s Iraqi army. It was not a good experience, Belles recalls, and it left him somewhat sour on efforts to train up Iraq’s new military.

He was amazed, he said, when he returned to Iraq and saw Iraqi army soldiers driving up-armored Humvees and Russian-made armored personnel carriers known as BMPs. He said he was also surprised to see how organized the new force had become since his last visit, and how Iraqi soldiers and commanders were launching their own operations based on intelligence they had gathered.

“I was skeptical at first, I admit it,” Belles said. “But I have a better respect for the Iraqi people after working with these guys. I would trust any one of them with my life.”

The Iraqis’ initiative was on prominent display recently during the Arba’een pilgrimage, when millions of Shiite faithful trekked to Karbala. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense drew up its own security plan, and Iraqi army soldiers were out in full force.

While suicide bombers and gunmen killed scores of pilgrims to the north and south, the 4-6 Iraqi Army Division’s area of operations did not experience any significant incidents.

The unit’s gains have come at a price. Many Iraqi soldiers died in efforts to combat insurgents in this mixed Sunni-Shiite area once dubbed the “triangle of death.”

“When we first got here it was tough,” said Bravo battery commander Capt. Andrew Visser, 30, of Indianapolis. Visser said that Iraqi army outposts to the west, near the Euphrates River, saw frequent attacks and U.S. supply runs to the stations encountered many powerful roadside bombs.

The threat has tapered off tremendously though, due in part to numerous joint operations that have uncovered hundreds of weapons caches in this largely rural area.

“Now they’re using more trickery instead of brute force,” Visser said of the enemy. “Now the enemy says, ‘I’m going to make you go through all this debris along the road and see if there’s an IED.’ Maybe we’ll just find one, where we used to find six.”

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Wolverine Squadron finds cache near Radwaniyah

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

RADWANIYAH, Iraq — Coalition soldiers discovered a weapons cache along the main highway into Baghdad, Mar. 5.
Troop A, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, “Wolverines” found the cache near the village of Radwaniyah, adjacent to the western side of the Baghdad International Airport.
The cache contained ten fragmentation hand grenades, 165 mortar primers, eight 12.7 mm machinegun rounds, two bags of bulk explosives with blasting caps, a box with 100 blasting caps, 1,000 9 mm pistol rounds, six hand grenade fuses, a bag of plastic explosives, 1,000 AK-47 rounds and an improvised explosive devise.
The ammunition and explosives were collected and destroyed by an explosive ordinance detachment.

Golden Dragons defeat IED cell

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

SADR AL-YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — Coalition soldiers killed four terrorists planting improvised explosive devises near a village near the banks of the Euphrates, Mar. 5.
The Scout Platoon of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, “Golden Dragons” discovered five terrorists emplacing IEDs and engaged them with small arms fire, killing four of them.
Found with the dead terrorists were two AK-47s.
The bodies of the terrorists were turned over to the local authorities and the weapons confiscated.

Iraqi Army, Commando Brigade find rockets, mortar tube

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

YUFUFIYAH, Iraq — Iraqi Army and Multi-National Division – Baghdad troops found a series of caches containing weapons and ammunition, two miles southwest of Yusufiyah, Iraq, March 4.
Soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division and Battery A, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd “Commando” Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) discovered the three weapons caches at approximately 11 a.m. while conducting security patrols.
The caches, hidden in blue air-tight buckets, buried and camouflaged, contained 22 rockets, 13 rocket-propelled grenade rounds, a 60mm mortar tube, 2 full drums of PKC medium machine gun ammunition and 12 rolls of detonation cord.
“This is another significant find in our area of operations,” said Maj. Web Wright, brigade spokesman and resident of Annapolis, Md. “We find lots of mortar rounds in this area, but finding the mortar tube is important because the tube is the only way to launch the rounds. Without the tube, the enemy loses a not just a weapon, but a capability.”

Monday, March 05, 2007

Golden Dragons discover six more caches in operation

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn.
Div. (LI) Public Affairs

YUSUFIYAH, Iraq - Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldiers continue to find weapons caches along Mullah Fayad Highway during an ongoing operation southwest of Baghdad, Feb. 28.
As reported earlier, Soldiers from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) found a massive cache along the highway as part of Operation Commando Viper, an operation intended to deny terrorists' freedom of movement in southwest Baghdad.
After continuing to scour the area, the 'Golden Dragons' found an additional six caches along the highway, just west of Yusufiyah, March 1.
The first cache consisted of 12 mortar warheads, 28 tear gas grenades, 150 cassette tapes, a 200 round ammunition drum, 20 feet of wire, 29 mortar charges, three rocket propelled grenade sights, a rifle scope, an AK-47 magazine, four chest-rigged AK-47 kits, four small cloth bags of gun powder, 250 loose 7.62mm rounds, a battery charger, an alternating current adapter, three rifle slings, and various bomb making materials.
The second cache, smaller than the first, included 22 rocket propelled grenade rounds, 300 feet of detention cord, a 62mm high-explosive anti-tank rounds and a 106mm anti-tank round.
The third cache had two unknown aiming tools, three AK-47 magazines (two full and one empty), 100 7.62mm rounds, a box containing 1,000 7.62mm rounds, 11 cloth bags filled with gun powder, 20 feet of time fuse, 20 feet of detonation cord, two RPG-7 rounds, 10 blasting caps, a 57mm warhead, an AK-47, a bottle of unknown liquid, a spotting scope, four cell phones, two mortar sights, an RPG sight, an unknown electronic site, various digital and paper archival equipment, and initiators for improvised explosive devices.
In the fourth cache were four RPG-7 rounds, 22 81mm warhead rounds, 39 60mm warhead rounds, 25 mortar charges, an 81mm mortar round, three high-explosive assembled warhead rounds, two RPG-9 rounds, 55 various grenades, 16 blasting caps, five AK-47 chest kits, six AK-47 magazines, a set of binoculars, an RPG sight box, a machine gun rod, an unknown aiming device, a mortar sight and a test light.
The fifth cache had three AK-47 magazines, a two-way radio, a plastic grenade, 300 7.62mm rounds, a spool of wire, a camera bag, a tripod, a hand drill and an improvised explosive device kit.
The last cache included five RPG-9 rounds, two 81mm mortar rounds, three blasting caps, a mortar site, a warhead, a homemade rocket launcher, 22 boxes of mortar charges, an 81mm warhead, two 60mm warheads, a ammunition can, 20 feet of detonation cord, a set of binoculars and a cell phone battery.
"The Soldiers of 2-14 are putting a huge dent in the terrorists' capabilities," said Maj. Brock Jones, the 2-14 Inf. executive officer and native of Lakewood, Ohio. "Each large caliber round is one less (improvised explosive device) the enemy can emplace."
The Soldiers will continue to search the area in hopes of finding more caches.
An explosive ordnance detonation team destroyed the contents of the caches and the operation is still ongoing.

Soldiers search roadsides after explosions

Command Sgt. Maj. Clyde Glenn (foreground), and the senior noncommissioned officer for 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), and Staff Sgt. Laurencio Lopez (background), and a medic with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2-14th, emerge from the reeds along a canal near the village of Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, Iraq, after checking the canal for terrorists and weaponry after two improvised explosive devices exploded near their convoy March 3. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Chris McCann, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs)

Task Force Iron Claw finds booby-trapped vehicle

2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — A burned-out vehicle on a rural Iraqi road proved to be a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device when it was investigated by Soldiers March 1 near here. The vehicle was found along a road outside Yusufiyah, Iraq, near a settlement known to coalition forces as Janabi Village.
Soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry)’s Task Force Iron Claw noted wires leading out of the trunk of the vehicle at approximately 1 p.m. and called for an explosive ordnance disposal team to investigate further.
The vehicle was destroyed by EOD with a controlled detonation. The ordnance in the trunk could not be identified.
“This vehicle was rigged to detonate for no other reason than to kill the Iraqi security forces or U.S. Soldiers,” said Maj. Web Wright, 2nd BCT spokesman. “Attention to detail by the Soldiers of Task Force Ironclaw saved lives today.”

Men captured while emplacing explosive device

2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Two men were arrested while attempting to emplace an improvised explosive device on a major Iraqi highway Feb. 27 near Camp Striker, Iraq.
Soldiers of Troop A, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) were patrolling Route Tampa, the main highway running in and out of Baghdad, at approximately 10:30 p.m. when they spotted two men crawling in a canal on the south side of the road.
The troops stopped the men and searched them, discovering that they had a U.S.-made night-vision tool. A further search of the area revealed an IED ready to be emplaced.
IEDs are commonly placed on Route Tampa due to its central location south of Baghdad and the heavy traffic, both civilian and military, that it supports.
The IED consisted of six 57mm rounds in a white bag about 200 meters from the road, as well as a video camera, a washing-machine timer, a pressure plate and a blasting cap.
The men were detained for further questioning.

Iraqi, U.S. troops unearth large weapons caches

2nd BCT PAO, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — Military operations southwest of Baghdad snared extensive weapons caches March 1 near Yusufiyah, Iraq, hindering terrorist activity.
Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) and the 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division conducted search missions into an area known to coalition forces as Janabi Village, uncovering multiple caches and detaining several Iraqis suspected of being involved in or having knowledge of terrorist operations.
The caches included five AK-47s and 19 magazines, 60 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, four bandoliers for ammunition, a flare, an unknown type of machine gun, an Iraqi Army-issued radio, a radio tuned to the Iraqi national police frequency, four false identification cards, three rolls of copper wire, a garage-door remote control, a log book and paperwork documenting terrorist operations, a collapsible baton, two sniper rifles, an 82mm mortar system with 64 rounds and 400,000 Iraqi Dinar – about $312 in U.S. currency.
Also found were two 155mm rounds, 46 105mm rounds, a directional charge, a roll of detonation cord, eight 120mm rounds, three 60mm rounds, an Iraqi soldier’s load-bearing vest, a bag of unidentified powder, a remote timer, altered identification papers, a camera, two lengths of crush wire, two long-range cell phones and command detonation wires.
The Iraqi and U.S. troops also found a Dragonov sniper rifle with telescopic sights, 800 rounds for a PKC machine gun, a pressure-wire improvised explosive device, a rifle with a telescopic sight, two shoulder-fired rocket launchers, a receiver for a Dishka machine gun, a bipod, a bottle of homemade explosive, 20 shotgun shells, two gas masks, two air-delivered bombs, 70 unidentified fuses, a used rocket shell, two Katyusha rockets, 44 60mm mortar rounds, three small artillery charge bags and one large artillery charge bag, two 70mm rockets, two video cassettes, two hand grenades, five electric switches, a Japanese-made grenade, 46 mortar charges, 19 155mm mortar fuses and a destroyed camera.
“The caches found by the 4/6 and the 2-15th Soldiers will definitely have an impact in the Sayyid-Abdullah corridor,” said 2-15th executive officer Maj. Douglas Mayzel.
The two units are working together as part of Operation Commando Viper, said Maj. Web Wright, a spokesman for the 2nd BCT.
“The mission is being conducted to deny the enemy freedom of movement in southern Baghdad,” he said. “We have found multiple caches throughout the area of operations.”

Mosque opens for first time since terrorist attack

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

YUFUFIYAH, Iraq – To most Iraqis, a mosque is a sacred place, but to terrorists it can be a target for sectarian violence.
Iraqis celebrated the re-opening of a Yusufiyah mosque as Soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), the 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division and the Iraqi Police secured the area for the event Feb. 23.
The mosque had been closed since it was attacked by terrorists last October. Since then, the Iraqis have been working diligently to reopen the mosque.
“This is a good day for the people of Iraq,” said 1st Lt. Ali Kudair, an Iraqi police officer. “There are a lot of mosques opening in the area and it shows that we are progressing as a nation.”
Although the Yusufiyah area is primarily Shia there has been tension with neighboring Sunnis. The opening signifies the unity of the sects.
“Both tribes are welcome to the mosque,” Kudair explained. “This opening shows that we can get along since we are brothers.”
With the history of the violence in the area, the opening of the mosque was conducted under tight security. Soldiers of Company A., 4-31 secured areas around the mosque ensuring the safety of the Iraqi people.
As the mosque opened, Iraqis began to pour in and begin worship. A couple of fist fights broke out, but the scene was otherwise peaceful.
“This is good for the Iraqi people,” said Capt. Chris Sanchez, a 4-31st staff planner and native of Los Angeles. “I hope this (the unity) continues and in time things will get better.”

Golden Dragons discover massive cache southwest of Baghdad

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — Multi-National Division – Baghdad troops found and seized a massive weapons cache along one of Baghdad’s main highways Feb. 28.
Soldiers from Company A, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment “Golden Dragons,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) discovered the cache while conducting a combat patrol along Mulla Fayad Highway, west of Yusufiyah.
The cache consisted of two Sanger missiles with launch tubes, 200 meters of fuse, 1000 12.7mm Dishka rounds, two 122mm rockets, 18 60mm mortar rounds, 80 hand grenades, six rocket stabilizers, 10 120mm mortar tail fins, 100 60mm mortar fuses, five 106mm artillery rounds, one 57mm rocket, one rocket-propelled grenade, one 57mm anti-aircraft round, two RPG-9s, 60 120mm mortars, two unknown mortar rounds, one RPG launcher, one 60mm mortar illumination round, one Dishka heavy machinegun receiver, 20 canisters, 10 cylinders of homemade explosives, 2000 7.62mm rounds, 14 57mm rockets, 40 pounds of homemade explosives and 200 ZPU-1 anti-aircraft rounds.
“The (find) will put a dent in the terrorists’ ability to make improvised explosive devices,” said Maj. Brock Jones, the executive officer with the Golden Dragons and a native of Lakewood, Ohio. “The Soldiers did well today – their familiarity with the area of operations allowed them to locate the cache”
The battalion continues to search the area for more caches. The cache was destroyed during a controlled detonation conducted by an explosive ordnance team.

Food service specialists keep Soldiers mission ready

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

YUSUFIYAH, Iraq — On every forward operating base, the dining facility is the center of a Soldier’s life. No matter what operational specialty or job they perform, there’s only one place to sit down to a hot meal. Oftentimes overlooked by the troops as they pass through meals times are the people who put the food on the table – or on the serving line, at least.
Food service specialists from the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) work each day to prepare food for their fellow Soldiers at the base camp here, and while their job is not always glorious they enjoy what they are doing for their brothers and sisters in arms.
“Getting to cook for the Soldiers makes me feel like I am contributing,” said Pfc. Tiffany Batiste, a food service specialist with 4-31st and a native of New Orleans. “I think it is great that I get to feed the Soldiers who just come off of missions and who are getting ready to go on missions.”
Food service specialists like Batiste can spend up to 15 hours each day in the kitchen.
“While most Soldiers are asleep, we are busy cooking,” said Pfc. Chris Reeves, a food service specialist from New Smyrna Beach, Fla. “We are awake each morning before dawn preparing breakfast for everyone.”
These food service specialists do more than just cook. Their job is more complex since they do not have “kitchen police” to help them run the DFAC.
“We do it all – take out the trash, order the food, download food and clean all the dishes,” Batiste said as she prepared dinner for the Soldiers.
The food service specialists make sure there are three hot meals every day and send two hot meals to locations near Yusufiyah where there are no DFACs.
“The food service specialists are doing a great job – they are hard working people,” said 1st Lt. Joe Nussbaumer, a platoon leader and native of Dalton, Ga. “The food is delicious.”
Nussbaumer was one of many Soldiers who ate at the DFAC before going on an air assault mission.
After one day of cooking, cleaning and ordering food is over, the food service specialists wake up to do it again, but they know they are doing something good for their fellow Soldiers.
“It makes me feel good to know that I am helping them,” Reeves added.