Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Iraqi Army Soldiers rescue local sheik

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

RUSHDI MULLAH, Iraq — A local Sunni man who escaped his alleged al-Qaeda kidnappers arrived at an Iraqi Army checkpoint pleading for help in rescuing his brother, a local sheik, late at night June 23.
The man arrived at the check point at about 11:30 p.m. where Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division were securing the road from an improvised explosive device.
The IA Soldiers took the man to Patrol Base Shanghai, manned by Company B, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., in the village of Rushdi Mullah.
He claimed he and his brother had been captured by Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists about two weeks ago and had been tortured in a nearby house. They escaped, he said, but his brother was unable to keep up. He left the sheikh in an orchard and went to the nearest Coalition patrol base he could find. He was still in shackles when he arrived at PB Shanghai.
A combined Iraqi and U.S. patrol left the base to find the man, who was still in the orchard. The man and four Iraqi Army Soldiers found the sheik in the orchard.
The men claimed that they had been captured and tortured for cooperating with Coalition Forces and for failure to pledge allegiance to al-Qaeda. They were able to give more than 40 names of people involved in their capture and attack.
Both men had dislocated shoulders and bore other signs of torture. They were treated for their injuries at the patrol base.

Troops aid local residents, build friendships

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

BAGHDAD — Combat medics are seldom short of chances to apply their skills. But as counterinsurgency efforts continue in Iraq, the medical expertise of battlefield paramedics and surgeons is sometimes co-opted to aid local residents.
Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., joined by the 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division soldiers conducted a medical-civil affairs clinic in Cargouli Village June 21.
In the Cargouli Village, Maj. Kenneth Stone, a native of Ames, Iowa, and the 4-31 battalion surgeon, joined by several medics of the battalion and an Iraqi medic, treated mainly aches and pains and stomach illnesses, which the team chalked up largely to poor water quality.
“It’s sad that in most patients that we see, their issues stem from water problems,” said Spc. Erin Byers, a native of Cape Canaveral, Fla.
In these rural areas, the civilians drink, cook and clean from canal water.
Muhamad Sebeh, a resident of Cargouli Village, was one of about 200 people seen by the medics. He came to be treated for arthritis.
“It’s wonderful that the Americans are doing all the things they do,” Sebeh said. “The situation here has gotten much better since the arrests after those Soldiers were kidnapped. We’re free to walk around now, thanks to the Americans. And when people come to harass us, we kick them out.”
Several local women waiting to be seen agreed.
“It’s very, very good of the Americans to do this for us,” said Badriyya Abdullah. “Since the Soldiers got rid of the terrorists, we’ve been able to start negotiations for power and water improvements.”
The operation was hopefully just the start of improvements in the area, locals said. Cargouli Village was long a stronghold of Sunni terrorists, and is not far from the patrol base where two Soldiers were captured May 12. But since the arrests made during the search for the missing Soldiers, villagers have been bolder about pointing out terrorists and improvised explosive devices, and have even booted some passing terrorists from the area.
In the nearby village of Arab Jassim, a former sanctuary for terror, the local sheikh, the leader of a Cargouli sub-tribe, hosted the operation in his guest house.
“It’s good that you Soldiers have come out here,” said Umm Muhammad, one of the sheikh’s daughters. “I’ve seen a few repeat customers for treatment. I think doing these will help relations between the people and the Coalition Forces.”
The sheikh was also very positive.
“It’s great,” he said. “The timing isn’t so good, with the crops coming in right now, but still, we have no clinic and this sort of thing is our only access to medical care. The road to Baghdad is closed off, so it’s wonderful you have come out here.”
Company A, 478th Civil Affairs Battalion Soldiers out of Miami, Fla., also joined the efforts by distributing bags of Iraqi government-issue flour, school supplies, and clothes donated by U.S. citizens at the operations.
Maj. David Hernandez, a 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT medical provider working with the 2-69th, treated many of the patients in Arab Jassim.
“And it does improve relations – they come here to the patrol base as though I’m their doctor. So I’ve seen a lot of the people before, either when they’re sick or they’re bringing an ill family member,” said Hernandez, a native of Eagle Pass, Texas.
“With the amount of kids we see at these, I hope it will influence them to see us in a more positive light in the future,” said Sgt. Jason Lane, a native of Ridgecrest, Calif.
A similar operation was conducted June 22 by Company B, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division from Fort Stewart, Ga., in Arab Jassim, just outside the company’s patrol base. Both villages are in rural areas southwest of Baghdad.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Commando Eagle starts off strong

MAHMUDIYAH — A joint operation geared toward curbing terrorist activity southwest of Baghdad is yielding results almost immediately.Operation Commando Eagle, a mix of helicopter-borne air assaults and humvee-mounted movements, included Soldiers from several battalions of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., and the 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division. The operation, which began today, targeted a series of houses which locals indicated were being used by al-Qaida cells to intimidate locals and launch attacks against Iraqi and coalition forces.Troops of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd BCT, detained three men when their truck was found to contain documents requesting rockets as well as a spool of copper wire, commonly used to build improvised explosive devices.Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, IA Division found a cache containing four AK-47s, a 60mm mortar tube with three rounds, an SKS rigged with sniper optics, three bolt-action rifles, a camcorder with tapes, a roll of copper wire, 20 homemade grenades, four ski masks, 75 CDs of propaganda and terror techniques, methods to commit kidnappings and to shoot down coalition helicopters, and various other IED-making materials. Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd BCT discovered multiple series of caches during the operation.The first cache complex contained five AK-47s with three magazines, a roll of IED wire and a shotgun.A second cache included seven AK-47s.The third complex included an anti-tank mine, an anti-personnel mine, two rocket propelled grenade rounds, an RPG launcher and multiple pounds of TNT.Task Force 2-15 detained 16 individuals.Company A, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment detained nine men and Troop B, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment detained four, all wanted for terrorist attacks or for possessing illegal weapons.Commando Eagle was named after the 2nd BCT, known as the Commandos, and the 4th Bde, 6th IA, called the Baghdad Eagles. This operation was timed in conjunction with a larger Multi National Division-Center operation, coined Marne Torch.The caches were seized and disposedThe detainees are being held for questioning.

10th Mountain Soldiers lend Iraqis a helping hand

MULLAH FAYAD, Iraq — Soldiers of the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment “Polar Bears,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., provided on-the-spot medical care for the citizens at the local school in Mullah Fayad, June 15. After walking through the streets announcing the operation, the medics saw 80 Iraqis for different ailments and pains over a four-hour period. The majority of the patients were children. “Every time we conduct a medical operation, we get a pretty good turnout of people,” said Sgt. Jason Lane, a native of Austin, Texas, and a medic with 4-31. “We try to treat as many people as we can. It makes me feel good when I see a child leave happier then when they arrived.” Although the engagement was primarily for treating minor ailments, an Iraqi male was medically evacuated from the site to Baghdad for further treatment. The medics treated a range of ailments from nausea to headaches. They also checked broken bones that had previously been examined by local doctors. Before the Soldiers departed they handed out toys and soccer balls to the Iraqi children. The Polar Bears are planning to conduct more cooperative medical engagements in Mulla Fayad in the future.

Local citizens join police force in Lutifiyah

LUTIFIYAH – During a time when Iraq needs help the most, citizens are stepping forward and volunteering their services to help make the country a better place.
Iraqi Police from the surrounding areas of Lutifiyah, Iraq, held a recruiting drive here Sunday.
“Lutifiyah needs a local police force and this recruiting event was a good thing to see happen,” said U.S. Army Capt. Eric Daldom, assistant information operations officer with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
More than 100 recruits showed up to the event.
“It was a strong turnout,” Daldom said.
U.S. Soldiers from the 23rd Military Police Company currently attached to the 2nd BCT provided basic assistance for the recruitment.
“The event was strictly an Iraqi initiative,” said U.S. Army Capt. Michael Parsons, the 2nd BCT provost marshal. “We just assisted with general requirements.”
Soldiers and Iraqi Police screened recruits to make sure they met all the requirements before their applications were processed.
The applicants had to meet several requirements which consisted of, but not limited to, having a ninth-grade education, no past security problems, being an Iraqi citizen and being between the ages of 20 to 35.
Dalbom also explained a greater significance of the recruitment.
There are not as many Sunni police as Shia, but this event primarily consisted of Sunni volunteers who will help balance it out, he noted.
After the applicants were screened their applications were taken for further review by the Iraqi Police and U.S. Army military police.
“We will look at them and make sure the applicants do not have any criminal records and that they are Iraqi citizens,” Parsons said.
After the applications have been screened a list of those accepted will go to the Ministry of Interior. The accepted applicants will then undergo a final literacy and physical exam and then attend a two-month curriculum in a police academy.
“It is nice to see new Iraqi Police recruits,” Parsons said. “It shows there is a positive future for the Iraqi people.”

Monday, June 18, 2007

2/10th MTN, 1 ACB kill IED emplacers

2nd BCT, 10th Mountain Division (LI) PAO

AZ ZAIDON, IRAQ – Apache attack helicopters engaged and destroyed an improvised explosive device emplacement team near Az Zaidon, Iraq, southwest of Baghdad, June 7.
The IED emplacement team was observed preparing a site, emplacing, and covering the IED by an unmanned aerial vehicle at about 10:30 a.m.
The UAV, controlled by the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, continued surveillance of the team until AH-64 Apache attack helicopters from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade arrived at the scene.
As the sedan was moving away from the IED site, the Apaches engaged the sedan with a rocket, killing the two occupants and destroying the vehicle.
The Az Zaidon area is known as a safe haven for al Qaeda and as a step-off point for launching attacks into Baghdad.

“Golden Dragons” foil truck bomb attack on patrol base

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

PATROL BASE WARRIOR KEEP, Iraq — Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., thwarted a vehicle-borne improvised explosive attack today at Patrol Base Warrior Keep, near Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, Iraq.
Spc. Brandon Rork, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, and a rifleman with the 2-14th was manning a machine gun on top of PB Warrior Keep and spotted a driver in a dump truck loaded with homemade explosives attempting to break through the base’s perimeter barriers.
Rork and Spc. Charles Osgood, a native of Chesapeake, Va., a rifleman with an M-4 rifle, both fired at the truck repeatedly, until it stopped.
The driver was removed from the truck and found to be wearing a suicide vest. The vest was removed, and the driver was treated for injuries sustained in the attack.
“The Soldier in the machine gun position was very alert this afternoon and able to engage and stop a dump truck suicide bomber bent on destroying the entire patrol base,” said Lt. Col. John Valledor, a native of New York, N.Y., and the commander of the 2-14 “Golden Dragons.”

Saturday, June 09, 2007

2/10th MTN, 1 ACB kill IED emplacers

2nd BCT, 10th Mountain Division (LI) PAO

AZ ZAIDON, IRAQ – Apache attack helicopters engaged and destroyed an improvised explosive device emplacement team near Az Zaidon, Iraq, southwest of Baghdad, June 7.
The IED emplacement team was observed preparing a site, emplacing, and covering the IED by an unmanned aerial vehicle at about 10:30 a.m.
The UAV, controlled by the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, continued surveillance of the team until AH-64 Apache attack helicopters from the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade arrived at the scene.
As the sedan was moving away from the IED site, the Apaches engaged the sedan with a rocket, killing the two occupants and destroying the vehicle.
The Az Zaidon area is known as a safe haven for al Qaeda and as a step-off point for launching attacks into Baghdad.

“Golden Eagles” keep supplies moving, trucks rolling

Sgt. Glen Houghtaling
Co. E, 2nd Bn., 14th Inf. Regt.

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq – For every heroic action that has happened, there are the unsung heroes who keep these Soldiers and their equipment ready for the battle. Company E, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment “Golden Dragons,” of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., has been keeping the battalion’s four companies ready for the fight the past 11 months.
The small distribution platoon within the company has logged more than 73,000 miles since deploying to Iraq in August 2006 to provide supplies to the troops in the 2-14th area of operation. ‘Distro’ is responsible for supplying everything Soldiers’ need to live from food, meals ready-to-eat, bottled water, bulk water for personal hygiene, generators, refrigerated trailers, automotive parts, and all types of fuel.
The platoon also provides 24-hour mechanical support. The mechanics have spent countless hours ensuring the vehicles for the whole battalion are serviced and operational.
Co. E also supports the units with food service specialist who prepare and inventory food for Soldiers on all of the 2-14th patrol bases.
As a company, the Soldiers have completed 280 missions, logging more than 159,000 miles, and delivering more than 5,000 tons of supplies to the troops in 2/14th. Company E also takes part in major operations to include consequence management, detainee transport operations, and emergency re-supply operations.
The Soldiers in the company maintain a 24-hour consequence management team. The team has to be operational within 30 minutes of being notified that a vehicle has been disabled by an attack. The team recovers the vehicle and returns it to Camp Striker for evaluation and maintenance by the maintenance platoon.

Golden Dragon Soldiers awarded Silver Star, Soldier’s Medal

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

PATROL BASE DRAGON, Iraq – The Silver Star is the fourth highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States. It may be awarded to any person distinguishing himself for extraordinary heroism.
The Solder’s Medal is a military award of the U.S. Army that was introduced by law passed by the U.S. Congress on June 2, 1926, and may be awarded to any person distinguishing himself for an act of heroism not involving actual conflict with the enemy. Often, the medal is awarded to Soldiers who risk their lives to save others.
Two Soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment “Golden Dragons,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., received such awards during a ceremony at Patrol Base Dragon, Iraq June 8.
Master Sgt. Eric Gagne, a native of Francestown, N.H., who serves as the reconnaissance platoon sergeant for 2-14, was awarded the Silver Star for distinguishing himself for exceptionally heroic conduct. He has been credited for capturing several improvised explosive device cells, IED caches, weapons and terrorists involved in hostile acts against Coalition and Iraqi forces.
Gagne led the reconnaissance platoon on countless patrols to better seek out and destroy local IED cells. In addition, Gagne captured an IED triggerman and performed other missions resulting in the detention of terrorists throughout the Golden Dragon’s area of operations.
Gagne was also commended for his attention to detail and ability to react to any situation. For instance Gagne, while waiting in ambush, spotted an IED triggerman attempting to move into position to detonate an IED. Moments before springing the ambush, Gagne noticed the triggerman had a small child with him. Instead of using lethal force against the triggerman, Gagne chose to leap out at the terrorist and tackle him, rather than risk the life of the child.
After receiving the award for his many acts of gallantry Gagne shared some thoughts of his own.
“I look at this award as more what the platoon has accomplished. I think the entire platoon takes ownership of this,” Gagne said after receiving the medal.
The former ranger instructor noted that he is just performing standard infantry skills
“We get out and walk,” he said. “So far the old school light infantry tactics are working. It is all basic Ranger School, Field Manual 7-8 tactics.”
Gagne’s platoon has been awarded 12 valorous awards during Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08.
Staff Sgt. Anthony Skirko, a native of Kemp, Texas, who serves as a fire support officer with 2-14, was awarded the Soldier’s Medal for distinguishing himself by rescuing Soldiers from a Humvee that had rolled over in a canal. While Skirko was on a search-and-attack mission in the Shakriyah Triangle, Iraq, he heard that a vehicle in his patrol had flipped over in a canal.
Upon arriving at the site, Skirko threw off his helmet and body armor and submerged himself into the rancid water to open the door to free the trapped Soldiers. After forcing open the re-enforced armor door to the Humvee he crawled into the vehicle and pulled the Soldiers out.
“The task is difficult to do with a Humvee simply parked on the street,” said Lt. Col. John Valledor, the 2-14 commander and native of Weehawken, N.J. “But opening the doors under five feet of muddy water is nearly impossible. Sgt. Skirko, guided by a desire to save his fellow Soldiers, found the strength to, not only pry the doors open, but to remove all the crew members.”
Eleven other Soldiers from 2-14 received valorous awards at the ceremony. Valledor commented about the Soldiers of 2-14 receiving such prestigious awards.
“I am extremely proud of these men. Their actions personify selfless service and valor,” Valledor said of the awardees. “It is our desire that by highlighting the great deeds of these brave men their actions will inspire their fellow Soldiers to do the same.” “Our fight here is far from over and I have no doubt that there will be more ceremonies like this one in the weeks to come,” Valledor added. “Our battalion has a lot of history in front of it … If the actions of these great men are any indicator, the final accounting of our tour here will be simply inspiring. Golden Dragons!”

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Golden Dragons, Strykers clear Radwaniyah area

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

RADWANIYAH, Iraq — The area just west of Baghdad and the coalition forces’ Victory Base Complex is quiet – so quiet that the tiny villages south of Az-Zaidon get very little attention.
But there are fears that this area, just southeast of Fallujah, is a bit too quiet.
“It’s an intelligence gap,” said Capt. Josh Betty, a native of College Station, Texas, and the assistant plans officer for the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y.
The battalion has made several incursions into the area, but hasn’t established a permanent foothold there. The intelligence gap – as well as some tips that two Soldiers captured in a May 12 attack had been taken to the Radwaniyah area – meant another mission in the area was due.
Troops from Companies B and D of the 2-14 were dispatched June 3 to clear several houses in what was dubbed Operation Hermes. But with such a large area, the “Golden Dragons,” as 2-14 is called, needed assistance. They called on Co. C of the 1st Battalion (Stryker), 23rd Infantry Regiment, which had been aiding in the search for the missing Soldiers, to lend a hand.
The 2-14 Soldiers air-assaulted into the area while the Stryker vehicles moved in under cover of darkness.
“It’s an isolated objective area southwest of Baghdad,” said Betty. “Right now, we don’t have a lot of intelligence on the area, so we were gathering intelligence for conducting future operations.”
The area, like most of the 2nd BCT’s area of operations, is pastoral. Children herd sheep and goats while adults work fields of wheat, alfalfa, and vegetables.
The troops of the Stryker battalion cleared many houses as the 2-14 Soldiers provided the security cordon around the area, moving through the scattered groups of homes with Iraqi Army troops. One of the homes had an SA-7 – a shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile system - and two men were detained and taken to Camp Striker for questioning about the weapon.
Having the extra Soldiers was critical, Betty said.
“Due to our current situation, our organic elements are tied up with their own patrols and patrol bases – they don’t have a lot of people to flex one way or another. This gave us the ability to use our own small organic units and a whole company of personnel to actually go in and secure the objective – it let us put a lot more people on the ground.”
The fields and farmlands of the Radwaniyah and Zaidon areas will continue to be patrolled by the 2-14th, Betty said, in an effort to keep terror at bay and the population there safe.
“We’ve been up there a number of times,” said Betty, “and we’re continuing to operate in the area to make it safer for Iraq and get a better picture of what’s going on there.”

Patrol detains two suspects

2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. PAO

RUSHDI MULLAH, IRAQ – As search operations continue for the two missing Soldiers from the May 12 attack, two suspects were detained near Rushdi Mullah, Iraq, June 3.
Local residents alerted Company B, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division that two individuals with ties to the local insurgent cells were in the area.
A patrol from Company B detained the two individuals without incident.The two men are being held for questioning.

Photo of Detour soldier paints a somber picture

For a Detour family, somber photo of their loved one paints picture of soldier's 'fatigue and despair' in Iraq

By Laura McCandlish
Baltimore Sun Reporter
June 6, 2007

In his e-mails and phone calls from Iraq, Army Spc. Joseph Merchant has been circumspect about the risks facing him and the other troops with the 10th Mountain Division deployed in the Sunni "Triangle of Death," south of Baghdad.But a mother knows. And when Elaine Merchant saw the photograph in the newspaper of her only son creeping along the banks of a reedy canal, his M4 assault rifle at the ready, his face in a focused grimace, she found cause for concern.His eyes were haggard, his expression tense. The nail of his index finger was blackened, as though he smashed it."It crushed my heart to see him hurting," she said, sitting on the porch swing of the family home in the tiny Carroll County town of Detour. "He wouldn't tell me because he's trying to be so Army tough."The picture was snapped by an Associated Press photographer and picked up by Web sites and newspapers around the country -- including The Sun on May 25.It shows Merchant, 22, searching for members of his company who disappeared in a May 12 ambush south of Baghdad.The photo became a sensation in Detour, a town of 90 residents at the confluence of the Big Pipe and Little Pipe creeks near the Frederick County line.One neighbor from church asked, "What is he, a poster child for the Army now?" a beaming Daniel Merchant, Joseph's father, said.Daniel Merchant spent much of the afternoon and evening showing the photo to neighbors gathered outside their porch on Middleburg Road, Detour's only street.Their weathered 19th-century wood-frame home is cheerily cluttered with family photos, six computers and children's artwork.Christine Merchant, 11, was distressed by her brother's sadness in the image. "I just really don't want him to die," she said.The soldier's grandfather, Roger Willis, first noticed the photo on the front page of The Sun over breakfast in his home in Baltimore's Hamilton neighborhood."I thought, 'Jeez -- that's my boy,'" said Willis, a retired city firefighter. "It really surprised me."He quickly called his daughter, Elaine Merchant, who sent her husband to the Keymar Citgo around the corner to buy as many copies as he could of The Sun and other papers that ran the photo, including The Washington Post and the Hanover Evening Sun, a Pennsylvania paper.The day before, Merchant had made a two-minute phone call to wish his mother a happy birthday. He sounded uncharacteristically somber, Elaine Merchant said.The expression he wore in the photo meshed with what she heard on the phone, she said."It's just terrible to see those poor guys, to look at their fatigue and their despair," she said.When the picture was taken, Merchant had been on patrol for nearly two weeks with the 2nd Platoon, Delta Company, 4th Battalion of the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team.Merchant and the other soldiers in the photograph are spread out in combat formation, several yards apart -- as they are trained to do to limit casualties in the event of an ambush or bombing.Associated Press photographer Maya Alleruzzo, 37, joined them for the patrol.She had been embedded with Merchant's company in late January and returned after the ambush -- in which a third of one of the company's 30-member platoons was killed or captured -- to record the search."They were out on patrol before dawn every day, in 115-degree heat, on foot," Alleruzzo wrote last week in an e-mail to The Sun from Iraq. "Sometimes they got an hour break to eat and sleep and then they were back at it; ... they were sweating out water faster than they could replace it."In the moments before she shot the picture, she wrote, "They'd just finished searching chicken coops and were looking into a canal for signs of their missing buddies."Alleruzzo focused on Merchant because "he's got striking features, and I thought his body language revealed a mixture of fatigue and determination," she wrote.Later, she was able to show him a copy of The Sun's front page, which a former colleague in Washington e-mailed to her.He smiled when he saw it and asked that it be sent to his wife, who lives in Watertown, N.Y., near the 10th Mountain Division's headquarters at Fort Drum.His wife, Joy, however, had already heard about the photograph from her sister, a Hanover resident who saw it in the paper.Reached by phone, Joy Merchant, 20, said she was taken aback by her generally light-hearted husband's serious expression and the bags around his eyes."He has a very goofy personality, which is why it's kind of weird seeing him with that face," Joy Merchant said. "He looks like he hasn't slept in weeks."The two had been sweethearts at Francis Scott Key High School in northwest Carroll County. The Merchants lived in Frederick County, in Walkersville, before moving to Detour in 1999.An observant military wife, Joy Merchant noticed that her husband wasn't wearing his protective goggles or gloves.The photo reminded her how vulnerable her husband is, and how little she can do to protect him, she said.The family had been especially wary in the days after news broke of the May 12 ambush on Merchant's unit. Four Americans and an Iraqi were initially reported dead in the attack, subsequently blamed on al-Qaida."Oh, my God: It's mind-wrecking," Daniel Merchant said. "I didn't know if he was alive."It's been a difficult tour for the soldier. His three-year commitment to the Army was to have been up last October. But under the Pentagon's "stop-loss" policy, Merchant was prevented from leaving active duty and is now scheduled to be discharged in February.He missed the birth of his child, a son named Valin, because he shipped out on his current deployment in August, shortly before his wife delivered.Merchant didn't see his son until November, when he was home on a short leave. He will likely also miss Valin's first birthday."He feels like he is stuck in limbo," his wife said.Two days after Christmas, Merchant watched his best friend, Sgt. Christopher P. Messer, 28, and another platoon mate, Spc. Nathaniel A. Given, 21, die after an improvised explosive device detonated while they were on foot patrol on the same road near Mahmoudiya where the May 12 attack occurred. Merchant cared for Messer as he was dying.Merchant was part of the May ambush too, in which a throng of gunmen ambushed two of his company's Humvees, abducting three soldiers and killing five others.U.S. forces flowed into the area in a frantic search for their missing comrades that attracted international attention.The body of one, Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr., 20, was found floating in the Euphrates River. The other two are still missing, though a video that appeared on an insurgent Web site this week shows their ID badges and claims they are dead. The Pentagon said it has no evidence of the fate of the soldiers.Joseph Merchant had talked about having a crab feast in Detour when he returned in August. He planned to invite his entire platoon, including Messer, his fallen friend from Michigan, who had never eaten Maryland blue crabs.Now that Merchant won't return until November, it will be too late in the season for crabs."A lot of the plans got messed up for summer," said his wife, who hopes Merchant can leave the service early in the new year.

Insurgents detained after firing at U.S. patrol


RUSHDI MULLAH, Iraq – Two insurgents were detained after firing at U.S. Soldiers south of Rushdi Mullah, Iraq June 5.
Company B, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment Soldiers from Fort Benning, Ga., received fire while conducting dismounted security.
The unit is currently attached to the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y.
There were no Coalition Forces injured during the incident.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Wanted terrorist captured during Operation Eagle Sweep

LUTIFIYAH, Iraq – Coalition and Iraqi forces captured a wanted terrorist during a combat operation near the Karkh Oil Facility, northeast of Lutifiyah, Iraq Friday.
Soldiers of the B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., and the 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division detained the wanted terrorist and other suspected terrorists as part of Operation Eagle Sweep.
“We have been in this area before, but we wanted to go back and do a follow up to make sure terrorists weren’t hiding caches in a previously cleared area,” said Maj. Robert Horney, the 2nd BCT chief of current operations and native of Lebanon, Penn.
The searches resulted in four military-aged males being questioned, one of whom was a wanted terrorist.
Copper wire, commonly used to make improvised explosive devices, was also found during the search.
The Soldiers immediately searched the house near the location of the wire and detained six Iraqis occupying the house.
“The operation was a success,” Horney said. “Finding the wanted terrorists will help keep others safe.”
The detainees are being held for questioning.

Operation Commando Eagle Razor II nabs caches, insurgents

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

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — A Coalition Forces and Iraqi Army air assault operation resulted in the detention of 13 Iraqis suspected in terrorist activities and the confiscation of several weapons caches at a propaganda facility south of the Qaa Qaa weapons facility May 29.
Companies from 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment (Strikers), and the 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division went into an area between Iskandariah and the Euphrates River searching for Soldiers missing since a May 12 attack...
Soldiers of 1-23 Inf. detained four local national men within the first hours of the search. One of the men had a knife and an illegal 9mm pistol in his possession. The men were detained while fleeing from Coalition Forces.
Soldiers from 1-23 also found three AK-47s with magazines, two hand grenades and several blasting caps.
Company A, 2-15 discovered a cache of six fertilizer bags of homemade explosive and other materials for construction of improvised explosive devices. Other teams from the company discovered four cans of 30mm anti-aircraft rounds, two spare anti-aircraft machine gun barrels and a cache of IED-making materials, including copper wire and washing-machine timers.
Nine other individuals were detained in connection to separate incidents of small arms fire exchanged between the Coalition Force and local insurgents.
A very primitive bunker complex built of bricks and camouflaged with dirt and dead vegetation was searched and destroyed.
A terrorist propaganda cache containing a large number of pamphlets, some labeled “How To Kill Americans,” a CD writer, 1,800 blank rewritable CDs, and 300 cassette tapes.
The explosives were destroyed in place; the propaganda was seized for further investigation by Coalition Forces.
One coalition Soldier was slightly wounded from an enemy gunshot. He was treated and released back to duty.
The men were taken to a detention facility for questioning.

CSI: Miami shows support for U.S. troops

Maj. Mark Aitken
1st Sqdrn., 89th Cav. Regt.

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq –The cast from “CSI: Miami” made a unique and lasting impression on here June 1.
The cast and crew of the noted CBS television show donated an autographed original hand-drawn and hand-painted sign to the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment “Wolverines,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., coffee shop, Cuppa Joe’s.
The idea behind the development of Cuppa Joe’s is that all of the supplies, coffee and decorations are donated by the family members and supporters of the squadron. To date, hundreds of people from all over the country provide support to the facility.
A main contributor to the coffee shop is Paul Genderau, from Studio City, Calif. Genderau provides a wide variety of goodies, electronics and autographed pictures. Genderau, the uncle of Spc. Michael Marty of Headquarters and Headquarters Troop 1-89, is the publicist for the television show “CSI: Miami,” and was the driving force behind the development, production and shipment of the sign.
The sign, according to Denderau, is his and the cast’s way of letting the Soldiers know how much they are appreciated and everything that comes out of Hollywood should not be believed.
Genderau also masterminded the production and distribution of a home made trail mix known as Buddy’s Nut’s, a favorite throughout the squadron. One package of each shipment of trail mix contains a special surprise.
Last month Pvt. Robert McKinney of Headquarters and Headquarters Troop was the lucky winner of an IPOD NANO.

“Genderau is a true American patriot who is committed to supporting his nephew, and all the Soldiers of the Wolverine Squadron,” said Andrea Aitken, the squadron’s senior family readiness group advisor.
“Genderau is an important part of the Wolverine family, and all of his donations are greatly appreciated by our Soldiers,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Fred Morris, the squadron’s command sergeant major. “We have all taken to calling him Uncle Paul … he really is part of the squadron.”
The Cuppa Joe’s sign, now a part of the squadron history, will return to Drum where it will be displayed for future Wolverines.
“It (the sign) will be a reminder that family and national support are important to mission success,” Aitken said.

Coalition forces detain suspected terrorists


RADWANIYAH, Iraq – Coalition forces detained six suspected terrorists southwest of Radwaniyah, Iraq Friday.
Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., detained the suspected terrorists during a cordon-and-search operation aimed at capturing key leaders within the local insurgency.
The detainees were taken into custody for further questioning.

Couple re-enlists together while deployed to Iraq

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

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Most Soldiers who reenlist in a combat zone do it without their families. However one military policeman had his wife not only by his side, but repeating the same oath.
Sgt. Chih-Hsiung Easling, a native of Dundee, N.Y., and his wife Spc. Cortney Easling, originally of Moore, Okla., both military police with the 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., re-enlisted Thursday.
Capt. Robert Trent, a native of Roanoke, Va., led the couple in the oath of re-enlistment at the 2nd BCT’s tactical operations center. Trent was formerly the Easlings’ company commander; he now serves as the 2nd BCT’s assistant communications officer.
The Easlings met in July of 2005 when Cortney, newly arrived to Fort Drum after initial entry training, was in the same company as Chih-Hsiung, who had just returned from a deployment to Iraq with the 2nd BCT. They were married on Feb. 17, 2006.
The military is a good fit for them both, they said.
“This is what I do, and this is what I love,” said Chih-Hsiung, a team leader, who enlisted eight years ago as a signal Soldier and changed his military occupational specialty about two years ago to military police.
“I was raised military,” said Cortney, who serves as a 2nd BSTB driver, and has several family members in various branches of the military. “I always said that I’d join the Army. I’ve done what I said I would do, and once I met (my husband), it gave me incentive to stay.”
Cortney’s wanted to re-enlist as a canine unit dog handler, and once that request was granted, she said, it gave her still another reason to re-enlist.
Chih-Hsiung said he plans to make the Army a career and serve 20 years or more. Cortney wants to stay in the military for awhile, but isn’t sure it will be a career.
“I want to stay in so that we can support (children) when we have them. I still may make a career of it.”
Upon their return from Camp Striker, Iraq, to the United States, Cortney will go to dog-handling school at Lackland Air Force Base, near San Antonio, Texas, and the couple will move to their new post.
“They’re two of the best MPs we have,” Trent said. “They both step up and say ‘roger’ when things need to be done.”
“I re-enlisted for my husband and the leadership here,” said Cortney. “I needed help when I first came into the Army, and they provided it.”
Chih-Hsiung, who has been serving for seven years, thanked his wife and the other 2nd BCT Soldiers for their support at the ceremony.
“I hope everyone understands what I’m doing, and why I’m doing this,” he said. “I want to do this – serve in the Army – for the next twenty or thirty years.”