Friday, August 31, 2007

Rural clinic gets early start

By Sgt. Ben Brody

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

Aid station’s doors open to Iraqi children

2nd Lt. Liz Lopez
210th BSB, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)
Multi-National Division – Center

PATROL BASE DRAGON, Iraq — Children play. They get dirty, swim in canals and climb up trees; risk is part of the game.
When accidents happen, it is nice to have a place to go for cuts, scrapes and serious injuries.
For the Iraqi children who live in the countryside just yards from Patrol Base Dragon, near the Euphrates River, that place is the battalion aid station run by Capt. Christopher “Kit” Dominguez, a native of Grand Junction, Colo., and physician’s assistant for Company C, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), out of Fort Drum, N.Y.
“I’ll always treat the kids,” Dominguez said, “I see them almost every day.”
Recently, Dominguez saved a young Iraqi boy’s arms.
It was late in the evening when the patrol base received a message alerting them that some Iraqi army soldiers were bringing in a little boy who had fallen out of a tree and broken his arm. Unsure of the seriousness of the situation, Dominguez stood by to receive his patient.
Minutes after the notification, Iraqi troops arrived at the aid station. Between them was a small boy with bandages wrapped around both forearms, one secured by a blood-soaked sling. Without hesitation, Dominguez set to work assessing the child’s injuries.
As he removed the bandage, Dominguez saw that the child had broken both of the bones in both of his forearms when he tried to catch himself as he fell from a tree. The right arm had a compound fracture – the bones had penetrated the skin.
Although the injuries were not life-threatening, the necessary treatment was beyond the capabilities of the little aid station. Realizing his limitations, Dominguez requested that the boy be air-evacuated to the 28th Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad’s International Zone.
Ten minutes later, Dominguez was finishing re-bandaging the child’s arms and a helicopter was lifting off to come and retrieve the boy. Dominguez gently lifted the child and carried him outside to say goodbye and meet the helicopter as it landed at the patrol base.
“It’s good that we can take the children in and give them care that they might not otherwise receive,” Dominguez said.
With a compound fracture in his right arm, the young boy was at serious risk of infection, and without proper treatment, his bones would not set correctly, impairing future use of his hands. Coming to the aid station probably saved his arms, Dominguez said.
“Simple accidents, if they were to happen in the United States, would not be as traumatic or life-endangering as they are here,” Dominguez said.
Because of the lack of accessible medical care in Iraq, Dominguez has opened his aid station doors to the Iraqi children. It is not much to him, but for one Iraqi boy, it means the difference between climbing another tree or not.

Iraqi doctors, medics treat fellow Iraqis at medical engagement

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

VICTORY BASE COMPLEX,— Since the beginning of the war Americans have provided basic medical care to Iraqis, but more and more Iraqi medics are treating their own countrymen.
Members of Task Force Vigilant, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y., coordinated with Iraqi medics and doctors to conduct a combined medical engagement outside Victory Base Complex Aug. 24.
“We coordinated for medics from the Iraqi army and Iraqi doctors to participate in the operation,” said 1st Lt. Randall Cornelison, TF Vigilant force protection officer, from Moore, Okla. “Having the Iraqis treat their own shows the citizens the capabilities of the (Iraqi army) and doctors.”
Although TF Vigilant hosted the medical engagement, the Iraqis were solely responsible for providing basic health care to their own.
“Today is a good day to show the Iraqi people we can help them,” said Dr. Zetad Tarque, an Iraqi practitioner of internal medicine. “It is my job to help them and I am glad that I am able to.”
The medical engagement was fully staffed with Iraqi medics, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and doctors.
For the families of the Iraqi Family Village the engagement provided basic medical care that had been unavailable.
“Most of the Iraqis who live in Iraqi Family Village have no tribal ties to anyone, so their medical care is limited,” Cornelison said. “And since most of them do not have money they can’t afford medical care.”
Cornelison also mentioned the majority of the people in Iraqi Family Village live in abandoned buildings, schools and offices to make ends meet.
Because many Iraqis cannot afford even basic medical care, dental care for them was never attainable until the medical engagement.
The engagement was also fully staffed with U.S. and Iraqi dentists.
“A lot of the Iraqis do not have the money to practice good oral hygiene,” said Dr. Suhaib, an Iraqi dentist. “We can provide them with basic dental care today and schedule follow-up appointments with the patients who need it.”
Like Suhaib, the other Iraqi doctors at the medical engagement agreed to provide follow-up care to the patients who needed it. They also provided free referrals to their clinics.
As the Iraqis were busy treating their own, U.S. Soldiers stood by their side ready to assist if necessary.
“We need you to check the blood pressure for this patient,” Tarque said to a U.S. medic as he pointed at a pregnant woman. “I think she may have hypertension.”
“The Iraqi medics are very knowledgeable,” said Spc. Christina Baker, a native of Salem, Ore., who serves as a medic with the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT. “Some of them are even more knowledgeable than our own medics.”
After the medical engagement, Iraqis walked away knowing their needs can be met by fellow Iraqis.

Tribesmen for hire: winning the peace one sheikh at a time

By Lt. Col. John Valledor
Commander, 2-14 Inf. Regt.

Our nation’s focus remains centered on Iraq – what is happening, whether the U.S. military presence should continue or end, whether the coalition is helping or harming the country. But for the most part, they have not spent enough time in Iraq to fully understand the Arab culture and the changes our military is making here.
The 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., an infantry battalion organized for counterinsurgency combat, has exploited the opportunities presented by recent provincial reconciliation efforts.
Principal among them is the opportunity to fully win over the trust and support of the traditional leadership – an intricate and interconnected hierarchy amongst the tribes, each with its own distinct leader or sheikh. The 2-14 task force and company leadership find themselves exercising cultural dexterity in an attempt to deepen their close and evolving relationships with the tribal leaders. Persistent engagement on a very personal level has usurped lethal combat as the most effective means of defeating insurgents by persuading sheikhs to reassert their centuries old traditional influence over southwest Baghdad’s tribal lands. The primary venue for engagement is the now daily sheikh meeting.

The Nuances of the Sheik Meeting
Sheikh meetings are as diverse as the number of tribes in Iraq but they all share a common core of traditional norms. My introduction to this experience emerged while mediating talks between Brig. Gen. Faisal, our partnered Shia Iraqi Army commander - himself a sheikh of a tribe near Basra - and Sheikh Alwan, representing a local Sunni tribe, the Ghartani.
The meetings trace their roots to Bedouin traditions, occurring in or near the sheikh’s home. Each home establishes a diwan or large open room, where tribal leaders and their invited guests can gather around in a circle. Similarly, our meeting was set inside the commander’s spacious office within his Iraqi Army compound.
Participating tribesmen mostly arrange themselves in rank order; the elder members of the tribe position themselves closest to their sheikh, with junior members further down the line along the circle. Following tradition, I, as the guest of honor, was seated nearest Alwan and Faisal.
The sheikh is easy to spot in the circle. He is usually adorned with distinctive tribal attire; his head is covered with a white ghutra, held in place by a black, knotted and overlapping headband known as the igal. Sheikhs normally wear a light-colored, long sleeved shirt or dishdasha and drape themselves with a traditional cloak called the bisht that is made of a black open-weave mesh fabric, trimmed with gold embroidery.
These meetings tend to follow a long-established script. Greetings begin with guests shaking the sheikh’s hand, followed by placing the hand over the heart while simultaneously uttering “Salam aleikum” – peace be with you, in Arabic. This, depending on your longstanding relationship with the sheikh, is followed by a series of three or more glancing kisses on the cheeks.
In this culture it is considered impolite to immediately leap into business discussions. Instead, the initial conversations revolve around catching up on insignificant social talk. Within minutes someone always enters the circle with platter in hand offering tea, or chai. Chai is served in tiny shot-like glasses called istikan. Each cup is filled to the brim with extremely hot chai. At the bottom is a thick layer of sugar that must be stirred with an equally tiny spoon. I made the mistake of grabbing the istikan while simultaneously trying to sip from it - only to recoil in pain, spilling the piping-hot chai all over my hand and suffering first-degree burns from what felt like a glass of hot lava.
To be successful in these meetings, you must carefully plan out a discussion strategy beforehand, whereby you patiently introduce your agenda to the tribal elders in a series of small sequential discussions. Open-ended questions following pre-arranged talking points seem to work best.
The midpoint of the sheikh meeting is marked with a traditional Iraqi meal. We stepped out into an adjoining room. Platters of food are brought in, each containing separate courses. Typically the main course is quosi – lamb – with adjoining platters of rice and assorted curries and vegetables. Again, in keeping with Bedouin traditions, western eating utensils are seldom provided; guests, using only their right hand, grab small portions of the meal and consume it. It is considered an honor when the sheikh grabs portions of food for you to consume. Sheikh Alwan, in a scene eerily reminiscent of Fear Factor, reached into the platter of quosi, grabbed a handful of unidentifiable meat and placed it before me. Trying not to appear culturally insensitive, I reluctantly ate it. I quickly learned to keep stuffing my face with food I preferred to avoid a repeat gesture of goodwill.
One must be observant during the course of the meal. Once the elder finishes eating, he steps away to consume the dessert, usually fruit and baklava. This a silent signal to all that the meal is done. In Bedouin culture, the males do not empty their plates; once they leave the leftovers are given to feed women and children separately. In our case, the remaining food was for the enlisted soldiers, junud, who where patiently waiting outside. They quickly ran into the room to eat the leftovers after we finished.
The men reassemble in the diwan where once again, according to an unseen script, another round of chai is served and more opportunities to present your agenda open up. You know you’ve reached the end of the meeting when a round of ghahwa Arabia, a potently strong and bitter tasting Arabic coffee, is served. A tiny cup is passed around by a server, starting with the sheikh and working its way down the circle. The rule here is to sip a tiny amount and pass it along; if you don’t want the cup to be refilled for you, it must be raised and shaken as a signal to pass it to the next member of the meeting. Again, I was clueless about this cultural gesture and puzzled as to why the server kept filling my cup with coffee I really disliked sipping.
In Iraqi culture, smoking is an accepted vice. All sheikh meetings include constant smoking. As a lifelong non-smoker, I found this particular cultural norm the most distressing. I was repeatedly offered cigarettes; these offers continued throughout the discussions. In all cases I politely refused the offer, but that does not stop the rest from smoking and engulfing the room in a dense fog of cigarette smoke. Given that these meetings normally last about three hours, I found myself constantly looking at my watch, gasping for a fresh-air reprieve. Regardless of your personal smoking preference, one must accept smelling like an ashtray at the end of these daily tobacco-rich meetings.
One quickly learns that the real gains occur in the last five minutes of the sheikh meeting. We simply wrap up the previous three hours’ worth of talking points, shake hands on agreements made, and if necessary, meet separately in a less crowded, face-to-face session with the sheikh to close the deal. In fact, successful meetings are almost guaranteed by simply showing up and enduring hours of Bedouin-esque cultural theater. The sheikhs seem to appreciate our genuine attempt to interact with them on their terms and in their unique cultural setting. Sheikh Alwan’s patience in teaching me Iraq’s rich culture has led to a better understanding of the influence tribal leaders enjoy.
After nearly a year of building rapport and now fully indoctrinated on to the cultural nuances of sheikh meetings, we adopted a leader led engagement strategy focused on leveraging tribal power to finish off local al-Qaeda insurgent networks and introduce much needed projects for the betterment of the Iraqi populace.

The Awakening
Local tribal sheikhs mostly sat silent for four years as al-Qaeda ravaged their tribal lands. Those with the courage to resist were either killed outright or coerced into passively supporting them through unrelenting fear tactics and intimidation. It wasn’t until former Iraqi nationalist groups like the 1920s Revolutionary Brigades came on the scene that a course reversal occurred.
Sheikhs began openly turning against al-Qaeda. Local tribesmen, actively hunting down and killing al-Qaeda members, used the tribes as a resource to mass a much-needed grassroots army. Formations of concerned local citizens began to emerge, led by former Baathist Iraqi Army officers that melted into the population soon after the U.S.-led invasion.
These former Iraqi Army leaders did not need permission from the sheikhs to enter and kill al-Qaeda members amongst their tribes; they simply co-opted the sheikhs’ influence over the tribes to sustain momentum. Once the tribal lands became free of al-Qaeda networks, the sheikhs re-emerged to regain their traditional position of power - especially when it came to dealing with coalition forces.
What has emerged is a symbiotic relationship between tribal sheikhs and their appointed concerned local citizens’ operational leaders. Sheikhs don’t really have the muscle to defeat al-Qaeda outright; they rely on their local operational leaders to inspire, organize and if necessary, lead local tribesmen into assaults against the insurgents. The benefit of this relationship is that the increased security arising from the expulsion of al-Qaeda heralds the entry of much-needed and potentially lucrative essential services contracts from coalition forces.

Cautious Relationships
Given the current landscape, our company commanders find themselves persuading their local sheikhs to maintain the peace. To provide incentive, we simply hire sheikhs, along with their tribesmen, through temporary, 90-day security contracts to safeguard critical infrastructure and keep al-Qaeda out of their tribal lands.
This strategy is a temporary solution while the Government of Iraq drafts policy and accepts the prospect of many of these tribesmen formally joining the ranks of the Iraqi police or army. If a local sheikh refuses to cooperate, we leverage the power of sending lucrative contracts to neighboring sheikhs. We might pit him against his local operational commanders - the muscle in this campaign – or even explore the option of replacing him with rivals. So far our campaign of engagement has not resulted in this last option.
Reconciliation presents an opportunity that can’t be ignored. To date, our task force, along with our Iraqi Army partners have benefited from virtually no attacks in the past three months. Lethal coalition and Iraqi security forces-led attacks against al-Qaeda targets of opportunity continue but have truly become less effective. The Iraqi populace in our area of responsibility has outwardly rejected al-Qaeda’s global narrative. Culturally sensitive engagement with the tribal leaders that define the fabric of Iraqi culture has proven to be our most effective strategy for sustaining our current peace dividend. Our young company commanders have adapted to the opportunities presented, and have truly become ambassadors of peace and skillful project managers in southwest Baghdad’s ungoverned tribal lands.

Monday, August 27, 2007

10th Mtn. Div. retention numbers ‘climb to glory’

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

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Retention numbers in the Army remain high as Soldiers choose to re-enlist, even with the current pace of deployments.
The 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., is the most-deployed unit in the Army, but is posting retention numbers that continue to climb – like the unit motto, “Climb to glory,” which recalls the division’s scaling of Italian peaks during World War II.
The Army counts retention by the fiscal year, said Master Sgt. John Cavaliere, of Amsterdam, N.Y., 2nd BCT’s senior career counselor. Soldiers re-enlisting are counted between Oct. 1 and Sept. 30 each year, with goals set according to the Army’s projected needs.
“The 2nd BCT – we made our goal three months ahead of schedule,” said Cavaliere, whose office continues to re-enlist Soldiers. “That’s a huge command-climate indicator.”
Cavaliere says he believes that Soldiers continue to re-enlist – “re-up,” in Army slang – because they believe in their leadership and the mission.
“The leadership has bought into the Commando philosophy,” Cavaliere said. The 2nd BCT is known as the “Commando Brigade.” “If that command climate isn’t there, Soldiers won’t re-enlist. But the senior leadership in this brigade tells their story, tells what the Army has done for them. And that helps.”
"Soldiers who believe in their fellow Soldiers, their leaders and the Army for themselves and their families re-enlist," said Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commanding general, Multi-National Corps - Iraq. "Even in the most complex and difficult combat operations in Iraq, their confidence and pride in their mission and each other are compelling factors in their decision to continue service."
Cavaliere travels around 2nd BCT’s area of operations with brigade commander Col. Michael Kershaw as he circulates among the troops. Travel gives Cavaliere a chance to talk to Soldiers in far-flung outposts around the area.
“I’m always talking about re-enlistment,” he said. “Soldiers come up and ask me about it all the time. And we’re re-enlisting Soldiers daily – there might have been a few days during this deployment when we haven’t re-enlisted somebody, but we’ve re-enlisted more than 800 Soldiers while we’ve been here.”
The 2nd BCT has been deployed for more than a year. Several re-enlistments have been mass ceremonies conducted by visiting generals, such as the one on nearby Camp Victory July 16, in which Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace administered the oath. More than 40 Commandos raised their right hands to re-enlist in that one. The 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) commanding general, Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, will visit the 2nd BCT soon and conduct a similar ceremony.
More than $8 million in bonuses to re-enlisting troops have been paid to Commando Soldiers during the fiscal year, Cavaliere said.
“The Army realizes what keeps Soldiers in the service,” he said. “Choice of assignment, money and stabilization.”
Despite Fort Drum’s deserved reputation for frigid temperatures, which can make it unpopular with troops from warmer areas, Soldiers who have spent time at Drum seem to like it.
“Many Soldiers are re-enlisting to stay at Fort Drum,” Cavaliere said. “And a lot of them are staying with the Commando Brigade.”
Cavaliere said Soldiers realize what they are getting into when they join the Army, especially after Sept. 11, 2001. There are no illusions about deployments. And when Soldiers choose not to re-enlist, he said, there are no hard feelings.
“The military’s not for everyone,” he said. “But after what Soldiers have done, even if they choose not to re-enlist, you have to shake that Soldier’s hand and say ‘thank you for your service.’”
For those who do choose to re-up, he said, it makes him proud to be a part of that choice.
“If I can help one Soldier, that makes me feel great,” Cavaliere said. “We need to take the Army’s needs, and match that to a Soldier’s needs, and if we can do that every day, we’ve done a great service to our country.”

Iraqi doctors, medics treat fellow Iraqis at medical engagement

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

VICTORY BASE COMPLEX,— Since the beginning of the war Americans have provided basic medical care to Iraqis, but more and more Iraqi medics are treating their own countrymen.
Members of Task Force Vigilant, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y., coordinated with Iraqi medics and doctors to conduct a combined medical engagement outside Victory Base Complex Aug. 24.
“We coordinated for medics from the Iraqi army and Iraqi doctors to participate in the operation,” said 1st Lt. Randall Cornelison, TF Vigilant force protection officer, from Moore, Okla. “Having the Iraqis treat their own shows the citizens the capabilities of the (Iraqi army) and doctors.”
Although TF Vigilant hosted the medical engagement, the Iraqis were solely responsible for providing basic health care to their own.
“Today is a good day to show the Iraqi people we can help them,” said Dr. Zetad Tarque, an Iraqi practitioner of internal medicine. “It is my job to help them and I am glad that I am able to.”
The medical engagement was fully staffed with Iraqi medics, nurses, pharmacists, dentists and doctors.
For the families of the Iraqi Family Village the engagement provided basic medical care that had been unavailable.
“Most of the Iraqis who live in Iraqi Family Village have no tribal ties to anyone, so their medical care is limited,” Cornelison said. “And since most of them do not have money they can’t afford medical care.”
Cornelison also mentioned the majority of the people in Iraqi Family Village live in abandoned buildings, schools and offices to make ends meet.
Because many Iraqis cannot afford even basic medical care, dental care for them was never attainable until the medical engagement.
The engagement was also fully staffed with U.S. and Iraqi dentists.
“A lot of the Iraqis do not have the money to practice good oral hygiene,” said Dr. Suhaib, an Iraqi dentist. “We can provide them with basic dental care today and schedule follow-up appointments with the patients who need it.”
Like Suhaib, the other Iraqi doctors at the medical engagement agreed to provide follow-up care to the patients who needed it. They also provided free referrals to their clinics.
As the Iraqis were busy treating their own, U.S. Soldiers stood by their side ready to assist if necessary.
“We need you to check the blood pressure for this patient,” Tarque said to a U.S. medic as he pointed at a pregnant woman. “I think she may have hypertension.”
“The Iraqi medics are very knowledgeable,” said Spc. Christina Baker, a native of Salem, Ore., who serves as a medic with the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT. “Some of them are even more knowledgeable than our own medics.”
After the medical engagement, Iraqis walked away knowing their needs can be met by fellow Iraqis.

Passing on logistics ideas that work

By 2nd Lt. Liz Lopez
210th BSB, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)
Multi-National Division – Center

MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — The Army Materiel Command is committed to providing Soldiers with the best support possible - whatever a Soldier needs, AMC gets it for them.
Of course, being at the forefront of the Army’s support system is not easy. And since two heads are better than one, the AMC relies on the logisticians working on the ground, pioneering superior concepts and better methods of providing for the fighting force.
On August 24, the AMC commanding general, Gen. Benjamin Griffin, spent an hour touring Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah, Iraq to learn more about the support that the 210th Brigade Support Battalion “Commando Providers” give their parent unit, the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y.
Packing a year’s worth of toil and sweat into an hour-long visit is impossible, but it is enough time to demonstrate the most important aspects of the battalion’s tireless support, which ensures the quality of life for the Soldiers who live and work at small outposts in sector.
The tour started with the most basic need: power generation. This vital asset is the root of everything that the Providers do, running everything from computers and communication to lights, air conditioning, refrigerators and water purifiers.
In charge of the power generation for the 210th BSB is Chief Warrant Officer Johnny Upshur. He and his ground support equipment mechanics from Company B, 210 BSB, are constantly at work. With more than 200 generators supplying power to the brigade, there is always some kind of maintenance to be done. They do it living side-by-side with the rifle and artillery companies to ensure that they have what they need.
As the tour progressed, the general visited the Mahmudiyah dining facility, home of the Soldier’s best friend - hot chow. The dining facility is also the arena for the support battalion’s greatest challenge in its battle to provide for the Commando brigade.
In order for a Soldier to survive at a remote location for a prolonged period, he needs to eat. Meals, Ready-to-Eat will prevent him from starving, but what any troop really wants after a long day on patrol is a warm meal.
In order to get this, he first needs some means of storing and refrigerating perishable foods. This is the basis of the Providers’ ongoing – and epic - battle with refrigeration units. Extreme temperatures and a harsh environment have proven the current solutions to refrigeration needs unreliable at best, so the support troops continue to tinker with the system.
Refrigerators also chill water for Soldiers laboring in the 120-degree heat.
“An organization runs on its stomach,” said Griffin, presenting coins to two of the brigade’s cooks.
Almost as important to the Soldier as a hot meal and cold drink of water is purified bulk water. This is the source of great innovation on the part of the Providers.
By doctrine, the support battalion has the capability to purify water at one central location, and distribute it to those who need the water for cooking, laundry, and showers.
However, the 210th BSB have never been known for allowing doctrine to constrict their operations. Of the brigade’s 10 forward patrol bases, four have their own water purification capabilities. Such a use of their resources eases the burden of water production and distribution.
As the tour continued to the motor pool, the Providers took the opportunity to introduce Griffen to Chief Warrant Officer Julio Hall, the officer in charge of the Supply Support Activity, and Chief Warrant Officer Michael Taylor, the officer in charge of maintenance.
Although both of their operations are based on Camp Striker, Iraq, the fruits of their labor can be seen throughout sector. Whether it‘s the wood and nails which built the patrol bases or the upgrades to force protection on the brigade’s vehicles, the work of Hall and Taylor drives operations.
When it comes to supply and maintenance, the Providers are paving the way toward success.
In maintenance especially, the Soldiers in the 210th BSB are proactive in getting their skills to the Soldiers where they are located.
In what the battalion refers to as mobile maintenance teams, the equipment experts have spent weeks on end repairing and servicing everything from the brigade’s weapons to night vision devices. Their dedication has made the forward units more robust and capable of continuous operations.
As Griffin left the motor pool, he stopped by one of the support battalion’s three flail mowers. The mowers, mounted to the backs of vehicles by the welding team, remove the reeds which grow in the canals along the roads. This vegetation has been used to hide roadside bombs, insurgents and weapons. The support battalion’s initiative helps to keep frequent travelers of the roads safer.
As Griffin prepared to leave, he was introduced to the Providers’ two Iraqi trainers, 1st Lt. Alfredo Sanchez and 1st Lt. Jason Schulz. These Soldiers have dedicated their time and resources to expanding the support battalion’s logistics support beyond the brigade to the Iraqi security forces.
The most important mission for the military is training their Iraqi counterparts well; it’s the only way to ensure success as they turn responsibility for Iraq over to Iraqis. It’s easy to overlook during the transition team’s training, but logistics is a big part of that success.
The Iraqi systems can be challenging and frustrating to work with, and successes few and far between. But the Providers overcome every day – it’s why they are leading the way in innovative solutions to logistics dilemmas.
When Griffin boarded his helicopter, he did so with plenty of information on groundbreaking innovations being used to support dynamic counterinsurgency operations. Just as maneuver doctrine has changed to accommodate this new type of war, support doctrine is adapting – and doing it rapidly. The 210th BSB, 2nd BCT is showing the way.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Residents examine homes lost years ago to terrorists

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

LUTIFIYAH, Iraq — A home should be a sanctuary – even in Iraq. But under Saddam Hussein’s regime, homes could be seized or invaded, and since Saddam’s fall, Shia and Sunni extremists have forcibly taken over one another’s homes in efforts to seize religious and political control over these areas.
Now, homes seized years ago are being given back to the owners, through coalition and Iraqi forces’ help.
Capt. Aaron Bright, a native of Austin, Texas, and the commander of Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., helped facilitate the return of 40 men from the Shaka district, west of Lutifiyah, Iraq Aug. 18 to assess damage done over the years their homes were in the hands of al-Qaeda fighters.
The Shaka district was long held by Sunni extremists, who took over homes and removed Shia residents either forcibly, at gun point or by pressuring them to leave through treats and intimidation, said Bright. 2-15 and the 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, however, have been building battle positions in the Shaka area for the last month, and the al-Qaeda-allied fighters have left – pressured out by air assaults and roundups of terror suspects.
“The point of the mission today is getting people back here to assess their homes,” said Bright. “Many of them were a little wary about coming back, but they should see that it’s very secure with all the checkpoints here now.”
The people were not moving in yet; the mission was only to check on the condition of the houses. Nonetheless, soldiers agreed, it was a good start.
“Today is a celebration for Lutifiyah,” said Nakib Foras, intelligence officer for the 1st Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division. “Most of the people in this area lost their families and houses, and they’re coming back because of the work of the Iraqi and American armies.”
Col. Khalet, the 1-4-6 IA executive officer, explained that the battalion now controls the area and will not let terrorists return.
“We will insist that al-Qaeda elements not return,” he said, smiling. “That’s our job – to make everyone safe, regardless of sect.”
He also mentioned that the battalion has more than 100 vehicles and will assist the homeowners with transportation when the families are done with repairs and are ready to move back in.
Kham Jabar Ali, a homeowner, came back from checking his house looking a little dejected.
“It’s destroyed – they stole all our belongings, ruined everything,” he said. “All the vehicles are gone; my father was kidnapped.”
Ali said he left a year and a half ago, when his cousin and uncle were murdered and their bodies dumped in the canal behind the house.
Despite the destruction, however, there was hope.
“I’m very happy to go back,” said Ali. “God willing, we can start over again.”

Commando air assault detains suspected insurgent disguised as pregnant woman

AL-OWESAT, Iraq — Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 14th infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., detained several men during an air assault mission along the Euphrates River, Aug. 20.
One of the men detained was dressed as a pregnant woman.
Crimson Shogun was an operation targeting al-Qaeda-allied terrorist networks in the Owesat and Fetoah areas along the river and brought together more than 100 Soldiers of 2-14 Inf., 50 Iraqi army troops and two local residents who volunteered to help identify terrorists.
Thirteen men were detained for further questioning, one of whom was on the battalion’s list of persons of interest. His brother was also detained, and was found by the Soldiers of Company A disguised as a pregnant woman in an attempt to avoid capture.

Soldier trains Iraqi police on logistics systems

2nd Lt. Liz Lopez
210th BSB, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — The most critical mission for the U.S. military in Iraq is training the Iraqi Army and police to secure their own country.
An often unnoticed, but critical, part of this is training the units to provide their own logistical support.
In a rural area southwest of Baghdad, 1st Lt. Jason Schulz, of Kenosha, Wis., quartermaster, Company A, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., is at the forefront of this essential task.
Schulz began working as the Iraqi police logistics liaison officer earlier this year, when it became apparent that, despite great progress in other aspects of training, the Iraqi police were falling behind when it came to logistics. Since then, Schulz has been spending the majority of his time in close interaction with both U.S. and Iraqi police forces.
The 23rd Military Police Company, 503rd MP Battalion, 16th MP Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps, out of Fort Bragg, N.C., is responsible for all other Iraqi police training in the Mahmudiyah area. Schultz guides their partnered Iraqi units with logistical training.
“I help … with supply requests and projects, and training Iraqi police officers to use their logistics system for everything from office supplies to fuel,” Schulz said.
To accomplish his mission, Schulz divides his time between working with the Iraqi police at their district headquarters in Mahmudiyah and coordinating projects with contractors. He remains busy adjusting to the ever-changing needs of the Iraqi police.
“I don't really have a daily routine,” Schulz said. “Of course, not many soldiers who work with the Iraqi security forces do.”
While at the district headquarters, Schulz spends most of his time with either the station commander or an administrative officer. His role is advisory, helping the Iraqis complete the proper paperwork for one of their projects, or aiding them in determining which supplies they should request.
With contractors, his role is a little more active. Schulz remains hands-on, conducting negotiations and receiving bids for projects which may serve to improve force protection or quality of life for the Iraqi police.
“Right now, I am working on a couple of big projects,” Schulz said.
Among the most important of those is the expansion of the Joint Security Station in Lutifiyah where the Iraqi policemen live and work. The contract includes the addition of new work trailers, building renovations and force protection upgrades.
A second venture has him working with contractors to restore another building to create a new patrol police station. After the station was destroyed by mortars earlier this year, the patrol police have been sharing space at the Mahmudiyah district headquarters. The new location will give the police space to spread out and more autonomy with their missions.
Schulz has also been coordinating renovations and enhancements to force protection at the district headquarters to improve the quality of life for the Iraqi police officers living and working there.
Despite everything that he does to help, Schulz’s mission is not to get the Iraqi police anything and everything they need. His success is measured by the things that they are able to get for themselves.
While the police have made great strides understanding and using their logistics program since Schulz began his work, many of the remaining issues are beyond his power to affect.
“For the logistics system to improve, there has to be better control, which will come with time as the situation fleshes itself out – and good leaders, who are willing to do what's right for the current and future Iraqi security forces,” Schulz said.
Sectarian power struggles play a role in logistics as they do in all aspects of the efforts in Iraq.
“It will take diplomacy, understanding and monitoring at every level to get the controls in place to bring the system back online,” Schulz said.
Along with the Iraqi logistics personnel, Schulz will continue to work with the new system as it develops. However, the day quickly approaches when Schulz will leave Iraq, and his work will truly be put to the test.
If Schulz has any say about it, the Iraqi police will pass that test with flying colors.

MPs help recruit future Iraqi Police

By Sgt. Ben Brody3rd Infantry Division Public Affairs
BAGHDAD - When the U.S. military started working with concerned citizens who had joined the fight against al-Qaeda, many critics pointed out the dangers of aligning with non-uniformed Iraqis with questionable allegiances. Six months later, the program has shown great success in quelling violence south of Baghdad, and Soldiers are taking the nextstep: integrating the volunteers into the legitimate security forces in Iraq. Military Police from 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., helped process Iraqi police applications for about 300 security volunteers at a school south of Baghdad Aug. 21. The application process includes a literacy test, a physical fitness test and a written denunciation of the Baath Party. In the school's courtyard, only about 20 yards square, Soldiers shouted instructions in Arabic as the recruits dashed back and forth to complete the 100-meter sprint. "They've got to do 10 push-ups, 20 sit-ups, five pull-ups, and the run to prove they're in good enough shape to handle the Iraqi Police Academy," said Sgt. Chih-Hsiung Easling, a 2nd BSTB military policeman from Dundee, N.Y. "About two-thirds of them make the cut." The application does not guarantee acceptance into the Iraqi Police Academy - spots are limited and selection is often difficult, said 1st Lt. Jordan Cook, the military police platoon leader for 2nd BSTB. "Once these guys have completed their application packets here, it puts them at an advantage when the Ministry of Interior decides to start hiring more IPs," said Cook, who is from Fort Worth, Texas. "The people who already have complete packets get looked at first for jobs." The volunteers were originally recruited by Soldiers of 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd BCT, who also provided a security detail for the day's event. The number of Iraqi men who stood in line for hours just to fill out an application underscores the scarcity of jobs in the farmland south of Baghdad. "It's great that we are able to gather up hundreds of people who are willing and able to become police officers, just like that," said Lt.Col. Jeff Harrison, 2nd BSTB commander. "These volunteers have done great things for us, and now they're the key to increasing the legitimate Iraqi Security Forces." The mission was a new direction for the 2nd BSTB's military police platoon, said Staff Sgt. William Thompson, a squad leader in the unit. "We've been doing (explosive ordnance disposal) escort for almost a year here," Thompson, of Newark, Ohio. "EOD escort is 24 hours on, 24 hours off, so although it's an important job, it gets old after a while. My guys are having fun working with the people, and really getting into the mission." Thompson turned to shout congratulations to an Iraqi man who, with great effort, completed his fifth and final pull-up. "Zien!" Thompson shouted as he passed the man a water bottle.

Words: They're grammar-licious

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

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — I’m a grammar snob. I admit it. I take pride in it. So I’ll admit I’m prejudiced and harsh on the subject – but it drives me crazy when people butcher English when it is allegedly their first language.
The one that gets me all the time is people, when discussing something at which they’re good, refer to it as a “forté.” Pronounced “four-tay.” This is Italian, and it means “loud.” That’s why in music, the notations of which are written in Italian, a section of a song played loudly says “forté” between the lines. “Forte,” with no accent, is French and pronounced just like for, means strength. But I am assaulted at least once a week by someone who tells me that, say, map-reading is not their loud. Call me petty.
“Cache” is another one; I realize that in the alphabet-soup world of the military, where Soldiers can be sent to a combat support hospital which is called a “cash,” perhaps I shouldn’t argue, because the meaning is clear; you generally don’t find a combat support hospital filled with mortar rounds or what-have-you. But to call a hidden stock of weapons a “cash-ay” is simply brutal. Cachet – sticking a silent ‘T’ onto words is the French way of winning at Scrabble – makes it have an “-ay” at the end. But cachet means prestige, a certain je ne sais quoi, if you will. In a much older form, it can be a tiny folded embossed letter from a nobleman. Unless you have discovered one of these buried in a field near Mahmudiyah, what you found was a cache, with no –ay at the end.
Espresso. It’s also from Italian, and refers to the coffee being squeezed – pressed, even. But maybe because of the caffeine making people go faster, it’s “express-o” as though they fed it to mail-delivery ponies.
The splat-mark on a keyboard is not the singular form of the Gaulish warrior in French comic books; the spelling of the full word that becomes “etc.” does not contain X.
I don’t fault people for not knowing French or Italian; English is the language that lurks in dark alleys, beats up passing languages and steals the vocabulary it finds in their pockets. It is the bastard love-child of German and Latin and steals any words it can get its grubby hands on.
But it certainly doesn’t hurt to know a couple of extra languages.
Then there’s just your standard Army-speak; the military changes words the way small underdeveloped countries change leaders – often and nonsensically.
When I got to Fort Bragg, I had a hard time learning the layout of the post – it’s huge. They sent me to a class to “get orientated.” I know Japanese and I can eat pudding with chopsticks – I’m very well Orientated, thank you. But I can’t find my way around until I get oriented. Literally – and stupidly – it means to be pointed east, but at least that way I’d be able to find Bragg Boulevard.
And of course when landing in Kuwait, the big issue was getting the Soldiers “acclimatized” to the heat. This one has been around long enough to start squeaking into “proper” usage although “acclimated” is older and more sensible. But the military seems to adore longer words as though it makes people sound smarter.
“Canalize” usurped the rightful spot of “channel.” Both mean to direct something in a specific path, but why use a two-syllable word when there’s a three-syllable word waiting to be made up? Better yet, why use perfectly good and useful word when you can drag an inappropriate one, kicking and screaming, into the sentence?
I can’t describe how often I’ve heard someone say “I don’t have visibility on that.” Of course you don’t. It’s an abstract. Visibility is how far you can see; pilots have it, people driving vehicles have it, especially when there are things like snow that reduce visibility. But you can’t have (or put) visibility ON anything. You might have knowledge of it, have heard of it, or know about it, but that is all.
And so, to quote my hero, James Thurber, “a living language is an expanding language, to be sure, but care should be taken itself that the language does not crack like a dry stick in the process, leaving us all miserably muddled in a monstrous miasma of mindless and meaningless mumbling.”
Destruction of grammar is just something up with which I will not put.

10th Mountain Division vets look back

The frail and aging members of World War II's 10th Mountain Division attend what some believe will be the last large national reunion for the soldiers on skis.

By John Ingold
Denver Post Staff Writer

Dick Powers limped on a stiff knee over to an old friend, remembering the days when they ran.

They chatted for a bit about those days, more than 60 years ago now, when they inhaled fear and exhaled courage. About that time in training when they practiced storming a beach near San Diego only to arrive on shore and discover that nobody bothered to warn the surf babes and housewives they were coming.

So clear was the scene in the mind of George Earle, Powers' friend, that he can still see the little boy with a toy gun crouching behind his terrified mother, pretending to shoot at the soldiers.

But when it came to recalling the name of a comrade killed in battle, memory failed them.

"Isn't it terrible," Earle said, "the way that works?"

Thursday was the first day of what will be the last national reunion organized by World War II veterans of the 10th Mountain Division. Descendants and history buffs may plan others, but many at this year's reunion regard it as perhaps the last chance to see so many of their brothers-in-arms. That's because age and frailty have thinned the ranks of the 10th, once 12,000 strong at their camp near Leadville.

Men who once climbed mountains now get winded crossing the hotel lobby. Men who once carried 90-pound rucksacks - even sang while doing it - now stoop with the weight of time on their shoulders. But for those who could make it, this reunion, held at the Denver Marriott Tech Center, is a chance to grip tight the memories of the events that made them who they are, before those disappear too.

"It's good to see these guys here, laughing, talking," Powers, 86, said. "...I don't think things should be - they may be gone - but they shouldn't be forgotten."

Pierre Delfausse was 26, and a father, when he was drafted into the Army and sent to the 10th Mountain Division's Camp Hale in 1943 because he had listed skiing as a hobby.

Being at the reunions, he said, helps him grasp other memories that had nearly escaped him.

"Things flash back you remember from 60 years ago," he said.

Delfausse said he's thrilled to see his old friends but sad too that some couldn't make it and that this is likely the last time he'll see others. This year, he brought his son with him and a list of 34 people he hopes his son can meet.

"He was a member of the greatest generation," Peter Delfausse said of his father. "They saved the world. And he saved it on skis."

Teles Lauzon, 84, also brought his son, Herb, with him.

Up until now, Herb Lauzon said, much of his father's military life had been a mystery to him. "I get to learn a few more things about my dad that I hadn't heard before or was too afraid to ask," he said.

"I never did talk much about it," Teles Lauzon responded. "I didn't want people to think I was bragging."

But at the reunion, Teles Lauzon said, there is a chance to meet people who know what you went through, who maybe even know the fear he felt one cold night in Italy as he desperately tried to dig a foxhole into a frozen mountainside while being shelled.

"Just to sit and talk and b.s. and fight the war again," he said of why he comes to the reunions. "And sometimes not the war, some of the parties we had."

Dick Powers was a teenager when he joined the service and happily volunteered for the 10th Mountain Division because he was eager to be sent someplace where it wasn't hot or buggy.

He told the Army he could ski.

"Which was only 90 percent lie," he said. "I'd skied enough to know which way the skis went."

But after the war, Powers would ski as much as he could - even playing a part in the growth of a young ski area on Mount Hood in Oregon - up until his knee gave him too much trouble, and he had to quit. In the past, Powers has made documentary films about 10th Mountain reunions, but now, he said, he just wants to enjoy this last one.

Early one morning next week, a group will leave from the Marriott headed for the mountains. It will wind through the high passes to Camp Hale. Then Powers will squint up at the slopes above. And just maybe somewhere up there he will glimpse his youth in a time before life got scary.

"It's like going back to the old farm where you grew up," he said. "It matured a lot of people. We were young guys. Hell, I was 20 then. ... This was where a lot of us really grew up."

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Commentary: Doing the right thing

Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Mahoney
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

“Well, you see Willard…In this war, things get confused out there - power, ideals, the old morality and practical military necessity. Out there with these natives it must be a temptation to be God. Because there’s a conflict in every human heart between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil. The good does not always triumph. Sometimes the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Every man has got a breaking point – both you and I have. Walter Kurtz has reached his. And very obviously, he has gone insane.”
The dialogue between the characters Corman and Willard during the opening scene of the movie Apocalypse Now indicates, each of us, as mortals, struggle with temptations of moral and ethical conduct. One may simply acquiesce; citing the original sin from the Garden of Eden as evidence that we lack the ethical sinew to withstand the winds of moral turpitude. Or conversely, one may, to paraphrase Nancy Reagan, ‘just say no’ to conduct which is illegal, immoral or unethical, and therefore prejudicial to the good order and discipline of an organization.
George Washington once noted, “Discipline is the soul of an Army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak and esteem to all.”
Army Regulation 600-20 states that military discipline is founded upon self-discipline, respect for properly constituted authority and embracing of the professional Army ethic with its supporting individual values. Furthermore, discipline is manifested in individuals and units by cohesion, bonding and a spirit of teamwork; by smartness of appearance and action; by cleanliness and maintenance of dress, equipment and quarters; by deference to seniors and mutual respect between senior and subordinate personnel; by the prompt and willing execution of both the letter and the spirit of the legal orders of their lawful commanders.
These characteristics are subjective metrics we use to compare and contrast the discipline of military units; we are all guilty of forming snap judgments as to the discipline of a unit simply by observing it during training or during a walk through of its motor pool areas and billets. For example, a first sergeant may display Army values posters on the orderly room walls, but does he require his subordinates to display those values through their personal conduct? A command sergeant major may require Soldiers to recite the seven Army values during promotion board procedures, but does he demonstrate those values through his personal example? Plainly stated, our actions speak much louder than our words.

Additionally, in the “Army of One” the actions of a few may bring discredit upon the many. We are all familiar with the concept of the strategic corporal. The actions of a few undisciplined individuals at the Abu Ghraib Detention Facility in Iraq resulted in a fury of public outcry around the world and a concomitant decrease in the prestige of the U.S. military, both at home and abroad.
Mao Tse-Tung understood well this concept when he published Basic Tactics. He observes, “Whether or not the military discipline of a unit is good influences the reputation of our whole Army and its ability to secure the sympathy and support of the popular masses.”
Remember, our actions speak louder than our words.
We can bring discredit upon ourselves, our unit and our nation through our own egregious acts of willing misconduct, and through our inaction in the presence of malfeasance. There is no defense or excuse for one’s conduct when you know that the deed is wrong and you proceed anyway.
As Soldiers, we have the general military authority to take action. The road to military dereliction is paved with the deeds of commission, as well as the sins of omission. I am evangelical in my conviction that all failure at the individual level can be attributed to one of three ultimate causes; lack of training, lack of resources or lack of motivation. If lack of these ingredients is a recipe for failure, than if present in the correct proportions, they can also produce delicious success. Knead the mixture with a little “leadership by example,” and the result will be a productive, cohesive unit.
Field-Marshall Viscount Slim records the importance of discipline in the final chapter of his memoir Defeat into Victory. He observes that, “At some stage in all wars Armies have let their discipline sag, but they have never won victory until they make it taut again; nor will they…We found it a great mistake to belittle the importance of smartness in turn-out, alertness of carriage, cleanliness of person, saluting, or precision of movement, and to dismiss them as naïve, unintelligent parade-ground stuff. I do not believe that troops can have unshakable battle discipline without showing those outward and formal signs, which mark the pride men take in themselves and their units, and the mutual confidence and respect that exists between them and their officers.”
Remember, your actions speak much louder than your words and do not ever compromise your honor. The concept of honor, while considered quaint and perhaps old fashioned to some, is the inculcation of those individual and group values we hold dear. Externally, honor manifests itself by deeds, and not words. Martin Van Creveld describes it best when he wrote, “When rewards become meaningless and punishment ceases to deter, honor alone retains the power to make men march into the muzzles of cannon trained at them.”
During the movie Apocalypse Now, Walter Kurtz got off the boat and quickly descended into the dark, decaying abyss of insanity. Good did not triumph and Kurtz allowed the darkness to overtake his better angels. In today’s decentralized operating environment opportunities abound for Soldiers and leaders to discover that they have impaled themselves on the horns of an ethical dilemma.
Much like Dorothy and her companions - the Tin Man who lacked a heart, the Scarecrow who needed a brain, and the cowardly lion - during their journey to find the Wizard of Oz, our Soldiers today must display that same sort of grit in order to navigate their “yellow brick road” on the slippery slope of ethical ambiguity. They must use their intelligence to distinguish legal issues in the fog and confusion of rapidly developing events, their heart to discern moral lassitude and their courage to execute the ethically correct option, even when it may not be the most comfortable personally.
In the final analysis, what matters most in the real world is not the deceptive outward public appearance, but the real man behind the curtain.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Combat logistics patrols send more than supplies

2nd Lt. Liz Lopez
210th BSB, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)
Multi-National Division – Center

CAMP STRIKER, IRAQ — Through the ebb and tide of combat operations, the warfighters’ need for supplies and equipment doesn’t change.
It is this need that Company A, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, “Commando Providers,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., seeks to fill, and the combat logisticians will stop at nothing to succeed in this mission.
A year into their deployment, a combat logistics patrol is just another part of the company’s routine. They perform at least three patrols per week. The importance of the mission does not diminish with its frequency. There will always be a need to provide forward units with new tools for them to accomplish their tasks.
Although the maneuver units who benefit from logistics patrols are grateful for the supplies and goodies they receive, a lot of work goes into each logistics patrol that they will never see. Every CLP is a combat operation that requires hours of preparation and planning to ensure success.
After more than 150 missions in the first year of their 15-month tour, the Soldiers in Co. A’s two distribution platoons are well aware of the work required to execute any mission outside the wire.
“We are the United Parcel Service, the Yellow Cab, the Wal-Mart, and the Home Depot for the entire brigade,” said Sgt. Roosevelt Pringle, a native of Charleston, S.C., a truck commander for 4th Platoon, Company A.
In order to be all this to a brigade of Soldiers, the distribution platoons must treat each movement as a brand new operation. Trucks are checked and rechecked for deficiencies; load plans are carefully examined and routes are scrutinized for recent enemy activity. Gear is inspected for serviceability, and the platoon is re-trained on the rules of engagement, escalation of force, and unit tactics, techniques and procedures.
But even after hours of preparation, the greatest strength of each CLP remains the Soldiers themselves, and their ability to execute tasks as a team.
While on the road, no one job is more important than another. Everyone knows everyone else’s job. With such knowledge and cross-training, the Soldiers do not hesitate to work where the need is greatest.
When downloading air conditioners during a trip to Patrol Base Dragon, Iraq, the Soldiers seemed to swarm to help like ants swarm to a picnic. The daunting task of unloading 63 air conditioners by hand was completed in a matter of minutes.
The spirit of teamwork extends even beyond the company to their relationships with other companies in the battalion. Whether it is a forward support company attached to a maneuver battalion, or another of the four base companies, each CLP is considered a battalion effort.
“We get a little bit of each of the companies,” explained 2nd Lt. Kelly Leugers, a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, a distribution platoon leader for Co. A.
For every CLP, each of the base companies contributes at least one Soldier to the main effort. Headquarters and headquarters company sends a communication technician. Co. B sends a wrecker and crew for recovery assistance. Co. C sends a medic for medical coverage.
The forward support companies are more directly involved in receiving supplies and equipment, as well as evacuating or returning items that are broken or in excess.
With the quick tempo of operations in Iraq, the pace of missions will only increase, and Co. A’s schedule will adjust to reflect this. But the Soldiers say they don’t mind. They enjoy being on the road where they can really do their jobs.
“It’s better than sitting in the motor pool,” one Soldier explained.
So, until they return to home to upstate New York, Co. A will continue to move anything and everything from one end of the battlefield to the other as needs dictate.
Despite their many successes in the brigade’s area of operations, there is only one that really matters to the Soldiers and leaders in Co. A.
“You all take care of each other and come back safe,” said company commander and Augusta, Maine, native Capt. David Cyr as he bid farewell to his platoon on a recent mission.
Regardless of the things they give to the war fighters in their forward locations, it is what they give to each other that mean the most: love and security.

Providers furnish basic survival needs to forward Soldiers

2nd Lt. Liz Lopez
210th BSB, 2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI)

CAMP STRIKER, IRAQ — It has been said that an army marches on its stomach; food is critical to troops in combat.
Perhaps no one knows this better than the Soldiers in Company A, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y.
The team regularly delivers food and water – called Class 1 supplies – to five patrol bases in the Commando brigade’s area of operations southwest of Baghdad.
But before the food can go to those places, Soldiers in the Class 1 yard have to unload it from the trucks in which the supplies arrive. The goods are then stored until a logistical patrol can take it out.
It takes a lot of work just to get the packages out to the bases.
“It’s the most manual work of any section,” Spc. Marcus Lumar said of the packing process.
Putting together a week’s worth of meals takes time and energy.
The standard package contains enough food to supply a patrol base for six to seven days, but packages can be smaller depending on the needs of the unit there. Regardless of the size, a push package is always stocked with Soldiers’ favorite foods.
“Stuff that comes in, like the hot items, we try to ship that stuff out real fast,” said Lumar, a New Orleans native. “We try to ship everything out fast.”
This philosophy is not only good for the Soldiers in sector, but practical for the Soldiers working in the Class 1 yard. Whenever the yard starts to empty of food, it is inevitable another shipment will arrive soon.
“Every time they send something out, they bring something in,” Lumar said.
Every two to three days, a shipment arrives to restock the Class 1 yard’s diminishing supply. These shipments contain a very large and diverse supply of food.
“Almost everything you can imagine comes through here,” Lumar said. “Basically we get what you see in the dining facility. It’s a lot of stuff.”
The responsibility of unloading it falls to the Class 1 team. This task must be done as quickly as possible, so there’s a specific system used to accomplish it.
While the Class 1 yard stores a large variety of food, there are only two categories which really matter , dry goods and frozen goods. Dry goods are nonperishable and can be stored in freight containers. Frozen goods are perishable and are stored in one of the yard’s six refrigeration units.
Since dry goods will not be affected by a few extra hours in the sun, they are unloaded first. As soon as the dry goods are down, the team moves onto the frozen foods.
For these, timing is important. As soon as they are unloaded, they are immediately repacked into one of the six refrigeration units where they can be organized later.
But “later” is not long for these Soldiers; when they have a mission to either send food out or bring food in, they get it done immediately, often staying until late in the night.
“We don’t leave until the mission is done,” Lumar said.
Due to the delicate nature of the foods stored in the refrigeration units, maintaining these mission-essential items is always a top concern in the Class 1 yard. Loss of power to one of these units could result in massive food spoilage.
Unfortunately, this happens; recently, the refrigeration unit at Patrol Base Warrior Keep broke down. With daily temperatures in Iraq well above 110 degrees, all the food inside spoiled. Supply Soldiers are always prepared for such an event, and they were able to send an emergency food shipment to the patrol base.
When it comes to food, the troops have one standing policy: Soldiers living in forward locations always come first.
“They deserve anything they can get,” said Sgt. Shane Harrod, a native of Davenport, Iowa, who serves with the 210th BSB
And when it comes to food, the Soldiers are not stingy.
“If we have it, we’ll give it to them,” said Lumar.
As the most basic necessity for survival, the supplying of Commandos with food and water will never slow down. Still, the Soldiers do not seem to mind the pressures of their job.
“I love doing it,” Harrod said. “It’s a headache sometimes, but to see people’s expressions … to me it’s a morale boost.”
As tedious as working at the supply yard can be, 210th BSB Soldiers realize they play a vital role in combat operations.
“It’s good to know that we are helping those guys downrange, providing for them, and making sure they get what they need,” said Sgt. Andrew Lawrence, a native of Portland, Ore., a supply noncommissioned officer with the 210th BSB.To a Soldier in a support battalion, the “guys downrange” are not just the people they supply; they are their protectors and family.

Packing Up the Polar Bears

By 2nd Lt. Liz Lopez

As a direct result of their success in their mission to train the Iraqi Army and pass off their battle space to those trained units, the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, “Polar Bears,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), is relocating their headquarters from Forward Operating Base Yusufiyah to Patrol Base Dragon.
To facilitate such a large move, Company F, the forward support company assigned to 4-31 Inf., would require some additional help. For approximately one week, 3rd Platoon, Company A, 210th Brigade Support Battalion, has been located at Dragon to assist Company F with their daunting task.
When 3rd Platoon arrived on August 9, they immediately set to work relieving some of the added stress on their sister distribution platoon in Company F. The support they offered ranges from regular supply pushes to the battalion’s numerous patrol bases to visiting Yusufiyah to upload the maneuver battalion’s equipment for transfer to their new home.
With all the work involved in such a move, the platoon has been exceptionally busy. They wake up every morning at 6:00 a.m. and often do not return to their tent until after dark. It is normal for the Soldiers to go on three and even four missions each day. But, they do not complain about the extra work.
When asked about their motivation, the Soldiers are at a consensus. “I love my job” is the typical reply. In a distribution platoon full of truck drivers, they are not doing that job unless they are on the road transporting cargo and personnel.
Shortly after lunch on August 12, the platoon was relaxing in the air conditioning of their tent at Dragon after having successfully moved a tower earlier that morning. They joked and laughed with each other enjoying the spare time between missions.
That spare time was not to last. Even as they spoke, their next mission was already in the works.
Hunched over his computer not too far away, 2nd Lt. Nicholas Ingrao, the 3rd Platoon leader, worked out the manifest for the rest of the day.
It was to be a busy afternoon. The platoon would begin with a quick run to Patrol Base Inchon where they would drop off a refrigeration unit and some fuel, and then move on to Yusufiyah where they would conduct another lift before returning for the night.
As soon as they got the word, the Soldiers sobered up and prepped their trucks and their gear to move out. Unfortunately, that event would be delayed by the fuel truck, which receiving the mission at the same time as the 3rd Platoon had yet had time to fill up with the necessary fuel.
Two and a half hours later, the convoy was finally ready to leave. The drive to Patrol Base Inchon was quick. So quick, that the driver of the Palletized Load System (PLS) carrying the refrigeration unit missed the turn and was forced to back track to the gate.
Backing up a large vehicle with an attached trailer is not always an easy task, especially on narrow roads.
While backing up the PLS, the trailer veered breaking its connection to the truck. Upon entering Inchon the team attempted to recover the trailer. However, with the sun setting, they decided to leave it at the patrol base for the night and continue their mission to Yusufiyah.
The platoon arrived at Yusufiyah just as the sun was dipping below the horizon.
After multiple days of back-to-back moving operations, the base was a shell of its former self. Not only equipment and storage containers had been removed, but trailers and barriers were also missing from their previous locations.
Although it seemed like little could be left to load, the platoon had scarcely positioned their vehicles before they were given directions on how to proceed. Among the items to be transferred where ring mounts for vehicle turrets, a Mobile Kitchen Trailer, and a fuel truck.
The Soldiers got right to work loading this equipment. They already new it would be dark before they returned to Dragon, but they wanted to spend as little time as possible outside the wire at night. A couple hours later, the platoon finished loading and was on its way back.
At Dragon, the Soldiers were tired from their day’s work, but one event still hung heavily over their heads as they drifted off to sleep: the trailer they had left at Inchon would have to be recovered.
That event would be the first order of business the next morning. Immediately upon waking up, the gun trucks and the wrecker crew conducted their battle drills and prepared to move to Inchon. While they waited, the remaining Soldiers were to finish downloading the equipment they had picked up the night before.
The drive to Inchon was just as short as it had been the day prior. Upon entering the patrol base, the wrecker and its recovery crew from Company B finally got a good look at the trailer.
Thankfully, it would not be difficult recover; however, it would require the use of a tow bar, which could be heavy and tedious work. But, they had the full support and cooperation of four gun truck crews at their disposal, so the task did not take long.
After recovering the trailer, the small convoy made their way back to Dragon. Before they could get there, misfortune struck again. The wrecker got a flat tire.
With only a short distance remaining between them and their destination, the convoy decided to limp onward at a slightly slower pace.
As soon as the small contingent returned to Dragon, the wrecker crew headed off to repair their vehicle, and 2nd Lt. Ingrao went to request a replacement wrecker and crew from Company F. Meanwhile, the rest of the platoon remained on standby to move out on their next mission.
The platoon did not have to wait long. As with everything else, Company A moved with a purpose, and was soon ready to make its first trip to Yusufiyah that day.
In the light of day, the forward operating base looked even sparser than it had the night prior. Not surprisingly, most of the items left to move down to Dragon were loose and miscellaneous items which had escaped earlier pushes, including repair parts, light sets, a small forklift, and a cement mixer.
The Soldiers loaded the equipment onto their trucks as carefully as possible. Nevertheless, after they finished tying it down, the array of ratchet straps on the flatracks looked more like spider webs.
“Have you ever played Jenga?” asked Spc. Andrew Abraham, a native of Coolidge, Ariz., a PLS driver. “That’s what this is.”
Despite his allusion to collapse, Abraham was quite adept at picking the right locations to place a ratchet strap. And, as he lifted his load onto his truck, nothing even shifted.
After everything was loaded, the platoon had one more small cargo to pick up before it could return to Dragon. Waiting near the gun trucks were five personnel and their gear needing a lift down to their new patrol base.
In the recent days, this was not an unusual addition in the platoon’s load plan, and it always seemed to be added last minute.
Back at Dragon, the Soldiers downloaded what equipment they could as they waited their turn to use Company F’s single forklift for the rest. While they waited, the Soldiers used the opportunity to get some food. As soon as the trucks were emptied, they would be on the road again.
Their third trip that day passed without incident. When they returned, the Soldiers wearily took their showers and climbed into their sleeping bags for some hard earned sleep. The next day would be just as challenging with three trips to and from Yusufiyah and Dragon.
“It’s pretty repetitive, but important,” explained Ingrao of their current missions.
With the operation scheduled to end in a couple of days, the platoon will return to Camp Striker where they will once again pick up their regular schedule of Combat Logistics Patrols to provide the brigade’s forward units with needed supplies.
Although that mission would be a break from their current one, the Soldiers have not lost any enthusiasm for their current task.
From their forward position, they are making a difference to the brigade’s war fighters that they cannot make from Striker. For that kind of success, the combat logisticians in the support battalion will willingly sacrifice any amount of comfort. They have done it, and they continue to do it every chance they get.

Logistics is a force multiplier

By 2nd Lt. Liz Lopez

The support operations office, or SPO as it is more commonly called, is unique to the brigade support battalion. Staffed by 21 officers and non-commissioned officers, it has the task of developing, coordinating, and executing all of the brigade’s logistical and medical support operations. Such a mission is not easily overlooked, and neither are the Soldiers who carry it out.
A typical day in the SPO shop in 210th Brigade Support Battalion, “Commando Providers,” 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), is a flurry of movement and conversations flying across the room as the Soldiers scurry to deal with the day’s issues. Each day comes with a new mission and a new set of challenges.
Since arriving in Iraq more than a year ago, the SPO shop has been responsible for the successful execution of hundreds of logistical and medical missions in support of the maneuver units arrayed across the brigade’s battle space, including combat logistics patrols, combined medical engagements, and vehicle maintenance.
In order to achieve such success, the SPO shop staffs one of the most diverse groups of Soldiers in the battalion with specialties ranging from automation and maintenance to supply and transportation to medicine. The shop is a veritable cross-section of the knowledge and expertise seen throughout the companies in the support battalion.
That knowledge and expertise is what gives them the capability to provide the right support to the right people at the right time.
In the Provider battalion, the primary objective is to provide support to the war fighters on the ground. When a Soldier needs it, the Providers find a way to get it to him. It is the duty of the SPO shop to figure out exactly how to do just that.
“The philosophy we go by is ‘of course we can, now what’s your question?” said Maj. Glenn Woolgar, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., the support operations officer.
While the answer to every request might always be ‘yes,’ figuring out how to get to that answer is not always so simple.
“We solve puzzles,” said Sgt. 1st Class William Wasik, a native of Morgantown, W. Va., the SPO Transportation NCOIC.
Everybody in the shop has a piece of the puzzle. When something comes up that pertains to their specialty, they handle it. It is this element of teamwork that maintains the steady production flow at all hours of the day.
It is said that support never sleeps. For the Soldiers in the SPO shop that is because it has no time for rest.
“To the unit, everything is always a priority,” said Capt. Anita Trepanier, a native of Dayton, Ohio, the SPO Transportation Officer.
The requests which come through the SPO office everyday may be as simple as replenishing food and water or as challenging as coordinating armor upgrades for all the brigade’s vehicles in sector. But, the difficulty of the mission says nothing about its importance. For this reason, each new mission must be handled with a profound sense of urgency.
Coordination for support is done quickly so that missions do not have to wait on logistics. As the support battalion completes their missions, the individual results may be small, but when added together, they can amount to the brigade’s ability to continuing operating from their forward positions.
Despite such significance to the Soldiers on the ground, it is the goal of the SPO shop to make their support operations transparent.
“Maneuver commanders should never be hindered by logistical constraints,” explained Woolgar.
Such forward thinking requires a great deal of synchronization and communication between the maneuver battalions in sector and the support battalion. To achieve such a high standard, the SPO shop has stretched their assets forward, implanting liaisons at key locations to ease the logistical burden on maneuver units.
“We just track everything,” said 2nd Lt. Elizabeth Parker, a native of Virginia Beach, Va., the medical operations officer.
Every operation conducted since the 2nd BCT arrived in Iraq a year ago has required some semblance of support. Since that time, the SPO shop has had a measured affect on every support operation conducted by the Commando Providers.
“The most rewarding part is knowing that the commander that’s forward on the battlefield has all the materials and equipment he needs to execute his mission and execute it well,” said Woolgar.
At one time or another, every maneuver commander’s logistics need has passed through the 210th BSB SPO shop. Since logistics is the direct support of every maneuver operation, no mission this year could have been conducted without the input of the SPO. They are essential to every operation.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Troops rescue terror hostages

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

LUTIFIYAH, Iraq — Three men were rescued east of Lutifiyah by Coalition and Iraqi forces Aug. 12.
Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., and 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, were conducting Operation Eagle Dive III and found the men in a house about four kilometers east of Lutifiyah.
The house was discovered through a patrol prompted by local resident tips. Residents in the area said al-Qaeda-allied fighters fired shots every day from a series of buildings in the area. One resident volunteered to accompany the Soldiers to identify the perpetrators.
A house near the objective had been reduced to rubble. Upon investigation, the troops found a small shack next to it.
Inside the shack the soldiers found three Sunni men. Two said they had been captive for “a few days.” The other said he had been kidnapped about 10 days ago.
The men all said they had been taken captive by al-Qaeda allied terrorists for cooperating with Coalition Forces, and had been awaiting the al-Qaeda judge, who was expected to behead them that day.
The Soldiers found an al-Qaeda leaflet praising the killing of Coalition Forces, and “God bless the mujahedin” was written on the wall. There were also pieces of electronic equipment and a rusted-out mount for a heavy machine gun.
The former hostages were treated for their wounds and taken to Forward Operating Base Lutifiyah, where they continued to provide information about their captors to Coalition and Iraqi troops.

Troops find suspected torture house

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

MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq — Iraqi and Coalition troops found a suspected torture and execution house near Mahmudiyah, Iraq, and detained six local men Aug. 12.
Soldiers of 2nd Battalion, 4th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division and 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., checked the house, which local sources said was used as a torture facility.
They found wire whips and a short-handled maul in the house, as well as two casings from AK-47 rounds.
Six local men were in the house across the street. When the troops went to speak with them, the house was found to contain Jaysh al-Mahdi, or Mahdi militia, DVDs, what appeared to be mounts for heavy machine guns and rocket adjustment equipment, as well as a 9mm pistol with two magazines and a collapsible police-style baton.
The Soldiers questioned the men, who denied any involvement with Jaysh al-Mahdi and said the house across the street was a local meeting place.
One of the men had a cell phone with text messages concerning the placement of heavy machine guns.
The men all tested positive for explosive residue on their hands. They were detained and taken to the Iraqi Army Compound in Mahmudiyah for further questioning.

Commando leaders thank aviation battalions

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

CAMP TAJI, Iraq — Aviation units who joined the search for three Soldiers who disappeared May 12 received plaques of recognition and thanks Aug. 13 at Camp Taji, Iraq.
Col. Michael Kershaw, a native of Huffman, Texas, commander, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., and brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Mahoney presented the tokens of appreciation in a brief ceremony at the 227th Aviation Regiment headquarters building.
“When we hear certain call signs on the radio, we know we’ll be taken care of,” Kershaw said. “Big Guns and Spear are two of those call signs.”
The 3rd and 4th battalions of the 227th, Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, came to the 2nd BCT’s assistance after an attack left five Soldiers dead and three missing.
“When we got hit on May 12, we were hit hard, and it was a rough day. We went after the bad guys, but a thousand infantry guys and 5,000 Iraqi troops can only get around so far on that terrain. It was good to hear your call signs back on the net,” Kershaw said.
The 2nd BCT fell under Multi-National Division – Baghdad and the command of the 1st Cavalry Division from November 2006 through April 2007. In early April, the creation of the Multi-National Division – Center, under the authority of the 3rd Infantry Division, out of Fort Stewart, Ga., moved the 2nd “Commando” BCT under the 3rd Inf. Div.’s control.
While the Commandos worked with Big Guns and Spearhead, however, the relationship was excellent.
“Splitting up the area south of Baghdad was the right thing to do,” said Kershaw. “But it wasn’t the happiest thing in our time here.”
The brigade made history with the Big Guns battalion.
“As a newly formed battalion – we were flagged only six months before we arrived – our first meaningful mission was an air assault with the 2nd BCT Nov.14, 2006. It was the 41st anniversary of the battle in the Ia Drang valley,” said Lt. Col. Michael Shenk, a native of Carlisle, Pa., commander, of 3-227th. Ia Drang, during the Vietnam War – the first use of helicopters in a battalion-sized mission - was one of the 1st Cavalry’s most famous exploits.
“The Commandos gave us a plaque for that one, which hangs on the wall in our tactical operations center, and we’ll proudly hang this one beside it,” Shenk said. “That first air assault defined our worth, and 94 air assaults later, we ended a very lucrative relationship.”

Camp Striker chapel offers a host of services

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

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Chaplains are always around to provide services to Soldiers and help them be able to worship according to their faith.
There is possibly, however, no chapel in Iraq that offers services to Soldiers of more faith groups than that at Camp Striker, which officially falls under the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y.
With the addition in May of the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade out of Fort Benning, Ga., the options for Soldiers increased.
Fridays alone, for example, there are Catholic services at noon, Muslim prayer at 1:30 p.m., Protestant Bible study at 6:30 p.m., and Bible study for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Jewish services at 7 p.m.
Sundays offer contemporary Protestant, general Protestant, Catholic, Pentecostal, LDS and full-gospel services and Bible studies.
Chaplain (Capt.) Felix Kumai of the 1st Battalion, 3rd CAB, is a Catholic priest from Spring Valley, N.Y. Not only does he celebrate Mass at Camp Striker, he travels to other forward operating bases for the Soldiers out in sector.
“It’s exciting to have all these services,” Kumai said. “We’re one of the blessed units to have everybody able to attend services. It’s a special blessing to have all of this in the same camp.”
Kumai said he usually sees 60 to 70 Soldiers attending services on Sundays – a respectable number, and one of the chapel’s highest average attendances.
Chaplain (Capt.) Andrew Shulman is a native of Boston and serves as the 4th Battalion, 3rd CAB’s chaplain. He also leads Jewish services on Camp Striker.
“It’s really a testament to the freedom America provides,” said Shulman. “That in an Arab country, we’ve got Eastern Orthodox, Muslim, Catholic, LDS, Protestant, and Jewish services – where else in the world can you see that, especially on one day?”
Deployments are tough on Soldiers, and faith is what keeps many of them going.
“One way of dealing with stress is faith through the bad times,” said 2nd BCT chaplain Maj. Lonnie Locke. “Being able to worship in a familiar setting can make that a lot easier.”
While some Soldiers deploy with a religious conviction, others find it in the field.
“Soldiers have just happened to come to services, and either renewed or come to accept a faith,” Locke said. “The majority (of chapel attendees) are probably believers in their faith before they arrive, but that’s not the case all around.”
Chaplains have a moral obligation not so much to practice their own religion, but to assist Soldiers in being able to practice theirs, said Locke.
“Variety is why chaplains are here,” he said. “We are here to uphold Soldiers’ constitutional right to worship as they please. We’re here to support any religion that is accepted by the Army – and there are very few we can’t support.
“I’m not sure that the Order of the Jedi is on the list. But the chaplaincy is all about providing ways for Soldiers to work out their faith.”
Chaplains and their assistants also have a unique opportunity to learn about other faiths.
“Back in garrison, it tends t be just three main services – Catholic, gospel, and Protestant,” said 2nd BCT chaplain assistant Staff Sgt. T. Randall Hansen, a native of Alpine, Utah. “Here, we have the opportunity to participate in the setup of other services. It’s made me more aware of other religions.”
“It’s pretty fascinating just looking at the other religious-supply lockers,” said Shulman. “I’ve learned a ton – and I am surprised at how many similiarites there are. All these disparate religions have a lot of similar aspects and rituals, like time requirements for prayer, or food restrictions, or the holiness of certain days of the week.”
And despite the sectarian strife outside the wire, there is a sense of difference inside.
“In a land where people are being killed over very subtle differences in religion,” Shulman said, “On Camp Striker, we have major theological differences in religions, but we all use the same building.”

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Smoking: a sign of progress

Sgt. 1st Class Angela Mckinzie

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

ZAIDON, Iraq - For nearly two years some Iraqi residents lived in a smoke-free town, but now they have the power to light up again. For Iraqis, smoking is a social tradition. If one were to walk down the streets of any Iraqi village, one would see Iraqis talking, drinking tea and smoking. And when an American is offered a cigarette from an Iraqi it symbolizes an extension of friendship. Due to the overwhelming presence of al-Qaeda living and operating in the Zaidon, Radwaniyah Corridor, located just southwest of Baghdad, residents didn't feel safe socializing and enjoying each other's company. Recently, Iraqi concerned citizens have been coming forward to meet with Soldiers of the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) out of Fort Drum, N.Y., in the hope of ousting al-Qaeda and their restrictive policies. "The terrorists living in the area were not allowing Iraqis to smoke, listen to music or even drink soda. Iraqi women were also being raped in the name of Jihad," said Capt. Rod Robert, a native of Lewiston, Maine, who serves as the 1-89 Cav. Regt. assistant operations officer. "Basically, the terrorists were taking power from the Iraqis so concerned citizens joined together and decided to rid the area of al-Qaeda." Capt. Ryan Liebhaber, a native of Dayton, Ohio, Troop A commander, led the way for Iraqi volunteers to secure their own area. "We knew members of the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade (a former Sunni insurgent group), had a stronghold in the Zaidon, Radwaniyah Corridor,"Liebhaber explained. "From December 2006 until March 2007 we had been targeting them and actually detained one of their leaders, but for somereason the leader was released." Upon the leader's release the Iraqis planned a celebration, but al-Qaeda showed up at the party and killed the leader. The killing of the 1920 Revolutionary Brigade Leaders was just one of several events tipping the balance in favor of Coalition Forces. On April 14, Liebhaber and his Soldiers were on their way to a town hall meeting, but were extremely late due to an improvised explosive device in the road. Luckily, the IED in the road stopped the patrol as the terrorists had planned an ambush at the town hall, and when the Soldiers of Troop A did not arrive as planned, the terrorists lashed out against the public. "Since we were so late the terrorists got angry and started driving around shooting innocent people," Liebhaber said. "This is when the Iraqis saw the true colors of the terrorists and decided to unite against them (the terrorists)." Liebhaber, who hoped to gather information from the volunteers, decided to meet with them. "I started meeting with them and realized how organized and equipped they were to fight al-Qaeda," Liebhaber said of the volunteers. Soon Liebahaber saw the fruits of his labor. "One day we were in the Zaidon area and a volunteer pointed out two vehicles that terrorists were sitting in," he said. "I would have never known they were terrorists." When Liebhaber briefed his battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mark Suich, about the volunteers, he immediately grasped the significance of this opportunity, and realized that this fleeting opportunity may be a way to establish security and control. He decided to meet with volunteer leaders. "Before we started our meetings with the volunteers we learned that the Marines had been working with other volunteers just east of us who wanted to expand into our AO," Robert said. "The volunteers had already set up checkpoints to the east of Zaidon and were securing their own area." On June 9, leaders from eight different tribes spoke about setting up a 100-man force to establish checkpoints in our area, Roberts mentioned. Just two days after meeting with tribal leaders, the leadership of 1-89 Cav. Regt. met with the Marines. During that meeting they discussed how the volunteers wanted to secure the Zaidon, Radwaniyah Corridor area. Suich also spoke extensively with Nazal Abed Jassim, the Zaidon Village leader and commander of the neighborhood watch group to come up with a plan to help the volunteers. During their conversation, Jassim requested permission to take his 80-man force and attack an al-Qaeda stronghold located in the Wolverines' area of operations. After listening to Jassim's proposal Suich agreed to let the citizens defend themselves against al-Qaeda fighters. He mentioned thathe had been wanting to meet with the leaders for some time. "Since we arrived in Iraq I've been saying we need to establish local police forces to secure the villages," Suich said. "Having the locals secure the area will create an atmosphere of security and control which will enable us to sponsor projects to improve essential services and the local government." A plan was put into action on the morning of June 15 allowing the volunteers to fight al-Qaeda in the Zaidon, Radwaniyah Corridor.With Jassim's plan in place, Suich placed cavalry forces in places where they could interdict if the situation started to threaten adjacent areas. "We could not conduct joint operations with the volunteers, but we could conduct operations which compliment their efforts," said Maj.Steve Simpkins, who serves as the 1-89 Cav. Regt. operations officer."And that is exactly what we did ." After the operation ended and the fighting between the volunteers and al-Qaeda subsided, it was clear who won. "We have accomplished all of our goals today," Jassim said. "The al-Qaeda fighters are gone from this area and now we will establish positions to keep them from returning." With similar success, volunteers have expanded checkpoints from the east of 1-89's area of operation to northern parts within the Zaidon area. Volunteers were spotted dismantling roadside bombs and uncovering caches. Within three weeks there were four volunteer programs that were led by Sheiks throughout the 1-89 area. Although the volunteers were taking over their own sector there still was a screening process to make sure they were not tied to al Qaeda. "In order to make sure the volunteers are really on our side, we put all of their names in a database to see if they had any prior arrests or if anyone was looking for them," Robert explained. "So far there have only been a couple of the volunteers who didn't qualify." There are currently more than 1,300 volunteers in the Zaidon, Radwaniyah area. "I think they were tired of the way al-Qaeda belittled Iraqis,"Robert said of the volunteers. "At first the relationship between the Iraqis and the terrorists was just a marriage of convenience, but when they (the terrorists) started taking control away from the Iraqis things started to change." Liebhaber concurred. "The Iraqis see what kind of life they were living with the terrorists and don't want to go back to that again," he said. "I also think they know that the Americans are not going to be here forever and now they want to be part of a larger government." As volunteers continue to secure their own area it is their hope that they will be able to establish local police forces in the area. "I hope that all Iraqis can live in a safe place, but in order to do this we need local police stations," said Abu Abed Alrahmed, the mayor of Zaidon. "We don't need anything fancy, just a police station with the basic facilities." And to assist with the police stations Liebhaber has met with the mayor of Zaidon periodically to discuss how the police stations will be built. "Most of the volunteers are Sunni and the Iraqi government is Shiite," Leibhaber said. "Now we are trying to convince the Iraqi officials that the volunteers want to be a part of the Iraqi government." Since the volunteers assumed security for their own areas Robert noted that IEDs and the casualty rate in the 1-89 AO was down and municipal infrastructure improvements were on the rise. Leibhaber also pointed out the important role the volunteers played in the War on Terrorism. "They led us to a department of motor vehicles that was used to make fake identification cards for terrorist and turned over the 2nd BCT's No. 1 high value individual," he said. "I remember when we couldn't even go into the Zaidon area because there were so many roadside bombs, but now we can drive the roads into Zaidon with little or no terrorism threats." And when Liebhaber's patrol enters Zaidon, the Soldiers see Iraqis living their normal lives - talking amongst one another, drinking tea and smoking. "It may seem trivial, but when you see people smoking again it is a good thing," Robert said.