« March 2010 | Main | May 2010 »

April 30, 2010

High operational tempo supports mission readiness

Tactical vehicles play a substantial role in all Marine Corps operations around the world by transporting troops safely to and from various locations in support of their mission.


4/30/2010 By Pfc. Bruno J. Bego, 2nd Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs , 2nd Marine Logistics Group

Any failure during a mission could endanger the Marines’ lives and possibly compromise the objective. That’s why the Marines from Quality Control section, 2nd Maintenance Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 25, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, have such an important task.

As of late, the mechanics from the QC section are working at a higher operational tempo aboard Camp Lejeune supporting the II Marine Expeditionary Force up and down the eastern seaboard since preparations for the OEF surge began March 2008.

Due to the increase of combat preparation exercises for Marines deploying to Afghanistan and other areas of operation, tactical vehicles such as 7-ton trucks, Humvees and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles supporting the training, are being damaged at an escalated rate.

As a result, the main control officer for QC and the Motor Transportation Maintenance section, Chief Warrant Officer David Lewis, explained how his Marines ensure the continuation of training for units preparing to deploy.

“The number of vehicles going through the repair shop has increased 25 percent and so did the efficiency in this shop,” Lewis explained. “ The mechanics are working harder to repair and send off the vehicles to their units.

Consequently, vehicles coming in for repairs have a maximum turn around time of 180 days to support the training and get them back into the field.

“Q.C. is in charge of diagnosing damages in the trucks and then after identifying the damage, the Marines will send the report to the repair shop,” Lewis continued. “After the mechanics receive the report, they will check the truck to see what parts can be fixed and which parts will need to be replaced.”

The Marines of QC work along with mechanics from 2nd Maintenance Battalion to ensure the vehicle parts have been properly replaced and the vehicles are safe to drive.

The section is also is responsible for organizing, placing and categorizing the parts, so the vehicles can be repaired by the mechanics after being diagnosed.

“The job is simple, I work between the mechanics, QC section and the [vehicle parts] providers,” explained Corporal Steven Nancarrow, noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the pre-expanding bins section. “My team and I make sure the parts are here on time so the mechanics can fix the vehicles and send them back to their units, as soon as possible.”

Quality Control’s responsibilities go far beyond a regular vehicle inspection. The mechanics from the QC section have the task to thoroughly examine the repairs in the vehicles, and to make sure the parts have been properly assembled and are safe to operate.

“Each vehicle represents a [motor transportation operator] who is standing by to get his vehicle back,” Lewis explained. “The mission here is critical, we have to keep the equipment mission-ready so Marines can train and be geared up with safe vehicles.”

Safe vehicles mean safe Marines operating throughout II MEF and across the globe into Afghanistan enabling them to more effectively bring the fight to the enemy.

Nine VMAQ-1 Marines meet newborn children for first time

Marines from Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 1 returned from a six-month deployment in Afghanistan to a hangar full of anxiously waiting family members and friends at 1:30 a.m, April 21.


4/30/2010 By Pfc. Tyler J. Bolken , Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point

While on deployment, nine of the Marines missed their child’s birth and celebrated their first day as a new father in the sands of Afghanistan. They all shared in the anxiety as they were about to meet their newborn babies for the first time.

The VMAQ-1 Marines were escorted to the hangar on a white bus, and the sight of it pulling up seemed to give everybody a second wind, including the nine new fathers.

“Oh my god, that’s my baby boy,” said Lance Cpl. Andrew T. Masker, an airframe mechanic with VMAQ-1. “This whole birth process has been life-changing.”

The Marines were able to stay in contact with their families fairly regularly during the deployment, which allowed them to experience the pregnancy from afar, said Mandi M. Moore, the family readiness officer for VMAQ-1.

On top of the family separation, the combination of a pregnancy and deployment can create many hardships.

Cpl. Laura C. Jimenez, a fixed-wing aircraft mechanic with VMAQ-4, and the spouse of returning Cpl. Josue A. Jimenez, an aircraft communications/navigation/radar systems technician with VMAQ-1, said the first month of her son’s life without his dad was the toughest.

“I’d be putting clothes away, and realize that my husband already missed that stage of our son’s life,” said Laura.

The feeling of missing out was common among the families.

“It was hard seeing all the progress my son was making, and not being there for it,” said Masker.

Masker’s wife, Christine noted, “At times it was difficult to go through the pregnancy alone, and it was bittersweet when Hunter was born, to be able see my husband’s face in his.”

Now back from the deployment, the new fathers of VMAQ-1 are acclimatizing back to garrison life and their new lifestyle at home with a baby around.
“It’s kind of a tough transition,” said Masker. “I’m learning to put on diapers and make bottles.”

Logistics Battalion Storms Fort Bragg En Route to Afghanistan

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - More than 500 Marines and Sailors with Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, descended upon a massive training area at Fort Bragg, N.C., April 19 - 27, to conduct essential training for their upcoming seven-month deployment to Afghanistan.



2nd Marine Logistic Group Public Affairs More Stories from 2nd Marine Logistic Group Public Affairs RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.30.2010
Posted: 04.30.2010 05:29
By Gunnery Sgt. Katesha Washington

The battalion conducted the training to help pass on the experience and knowledge from the seasoned veterans to those who have not yet deployed and to ensure everyone had a unified understanding of training, techniques and procedures for operation in a combat environment.

During the exercise, Marines and sailors held a live-fire range, constructed two Southwest Asia huts for students at the Army's Basic Ranger Course, and ran numerous simulated convoys. Water purification technicians also supplied more than 18,000 gallons of purified water to the battalion while training inexperienced technicians on the purification process.

Two companies of Marines from 8th Engineer Support Battalion, who are attached to CLB-2 for their future deployment, provided engineer, heavy equipment and general combat logistics support.

Capt. Christian Felder, the company commander for Engineer Company, 8th ESB, says the opportunity to train for deployment with CLB-2 is invaluable and critical to the success of operations while in theater.

"This is an awesome opportunity for my guys," Felder said. "This training gives them a chance to conduct operations like we would in a combat environment and to make mistakes now, so that when we get to Afghanistan, we are able to seamlessly conduct missions without pause."

For the majority of Marines with the battalion this will be their third, fourth, and for some, fifth, combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. But not everyone in the battalion is combat-tested, so the main focus during the exercise was ensuring the new guys became efficient in their jobs before they deployed.

Lance Cpl. Matthew Wasalaski, a logistics vehicle systems operator, with CLB-2, is trained to drive 7-ton vehicles, Humvees and Logistics Vehicle Systems. He admitted he is nervous about going to combat, but still eager to put the training he's received since boot camp to good use.

"I'm excited to serve my country and to do something beyond my basic combat training, the motor pool and beyond Camp Lejeune. I want to be able to actually get out there and do what I've learned up to this point and to challenge myself," he said.

Although Wasalaski has been in the Corps for only one year, he already has a deep understanding of the importance of pre-deployment training.

"It is important that we not only train hard right now, but this is the time when we develop unit cohesion, camaraderie and a tight bond with each other. This is why I became a Marine, to have that brotherly bond with these guys," he added.

As the training exercise concluded, the Marines and sailors of CLB-2 identified their deficiencies and look forward to follow-on training to correct and refine those shortcomings at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif. The battalion is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan this summer.

Unveiling the Lady Ace 09

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. - Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (Reinforced), the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar joined forces commemorating the 35th anniversary of Operation Frequent Wind and the unveiling of "Lady Ace 09," the CH-46E Sea Knight helicopter that evacuated Ambassador Graham Martin from the South Vietnamese Embassy in 1975.



Marine Corps Air Station Miramar More Stories from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar RSS
Story by Cpl. Aubry Buzek
Date: 04.30.2010
Posted: 04.30.2010 07:43

Hundreds of Marines, their families, local veterans and other guests gathered at the Flying Leatherneck Aviation Museum to view the aircraft that flew the historic mission exactly 35 years ago April 30. The pilot who flew the mission in 1975, Col. Gerald L. Berry (Ret.) was also on hand to celebrate the event.

The aircraft, bureau number 154803, entered service in February 1968 and flew with several squadrons until April 2004 when it was retired and given to the Leatherneck Museum. There it sat with its traditional paint and last squadron's markings.

Lt. Col. Todd J. Oneto, commanding officer of HMM-165 (REIN), noticed the aircraft and its markings in the museum and decided that the aircraft needed to be restored to its Vietnam-era appearance to commemorate the historic mission. Four HMM-165 (REIN) "airframers" were commissioned to repaint and restore the aircraft to its current condition. All paint and markings are exactly the way the aircraft flew in 1975.

After being unveiled, Lady Ace 09 goes back on display in the museum, surrounded by more than 30 other historic Marine Corps aircraft.

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (REIN), part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, will complete its final deployment with the CH-46E airframe. Upon its return, Oneto will personally oversee the squadron's transition to a Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron with the MV-22 Osprey airframe.

Marines invade Beantown

Corps’ version of Fleet Week involves more than 900 leathernecks

By Gina Cavallaro - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Apr 30, 2010 20:18:08 EDT

There are lots of good reasons to visit Boston in the spring. But this year it’s all about being a Marine, as the denizens of Beantown roll out the red carpet for Marine Week.

To continue reading:


Join Shauna Fleming in Giving Our Troops A Million Thanks

Over the past six years, 21-year-old Shauna Fleming and her organization A Million Thanks have collected and sent more than 5 million thank you cards and letters to U.S. troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other parts of the world.


April 30, 2010

Her national call to action started when she was just 15. After 9/11, says Fleming, “You could walk outside and see flags and yellow ribbons on every house. Slowly that started to decline. I wanted our country to remember that we still had troops fighting for us and they deserve to be recognized and appreciated.”

Soon after, A Million Thanks was born and received massive support. Today, Fleming is the spokesperson for National Military Appreciation Month—and that month is May.

The original goal of A Million Thanks was to send 1 million letters to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. After far surpassing a million letters, Fleming’s dedication is geared to ensuring that the numbers continue to rise.

“A lot of people join the military because they do not have much family," says Fleming, emphasizing how much a note of thanks can mean. "A lot of times, their families are not supportive of their decision to join the Armed Forces. That being said, hearing from complete strangers means so much to them.”

Oftentimes, soldiers write back. A letter from a soldier named Chris left a lasting impression on Fleming. Throughout his eight-month tour they stayed in touch. “He had no family back home,” Fleming says. “Virtually the only contact he had with the states was through myself and my family.”

Chris mentioned he was coming home. With the support of her family and without Chris knowing, Fleming flew to the soldier's base in Texas and welcomed him back to the U.S. She says, “He was ecstatic. It was then that I realized what our support means to them."

With A Million Thanks, Fleming has visited many veteran hospitals, including Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Virginia, and witnessed firsthand the aftermath of war. “I saw what these men and women were going through, many of them alone. More devastatingly, I learned about the increasing suicide and depression rates among returning, injured military.”

The trip to Walter Reed inspired the Wounded Soldiers Wish Foundation, which will raise funds to grant wishes to injured military men and women who have fought in the wars since 2002. Fleming's hope is that "these granted wishes will help them realize we do care about them and want to see them enjoying their life."

The wishes can be anything from a vacation with family to a prosthetic device that will make civilian life a little easier. Fleming will place the soldier’s name, story and wish on her website, and you can choose a soldier to help. Check out Fleming’s A Million Thanks website for updates on the progress of this foundation.

In the meantime, there are many ways to help during National Military Appreciation Month. First, take a few minutes and write a letter to the troops. It doesn't take long, and it will make a soldier's day. Take a look at the A Million Thanks website for guidelines, drop-off locations, and example letters.

Fleming also suggests checking out local organizations where you can volunteer to support troops—or visit a military base to deliver cards of appreciation.

After all, whether we're for or against the wars, our troops need us as much as we need them.

Training Begins

FORT CARSON, Colo. – The All-Marine Warrior Games Team training camp kicked off with a dinner for athletes and staff April 27, at the Colorado Inn. The team, guests and staff celebrated the beginning of the training, as well as the mark of a new tradition when the games commence May 10 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.



Marine Corps Forces Pacific More Stories from Marine Corps Forces Pacific RSS
Story by Cpl. Achilles Tsantarliotis
!Date: 04.30.2010
Posted: 04.30.2010 07:02

The inaugural sports competition is a joint effort by the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Department of Defense. The competition includes active duty wounded from each branch of service totaling roughly 200 athletes.

The event is part of the year-old Wounded Warrior Regiment athletic reconditioning program, said Lt. Col. Benjamin Hermantin, Warrior Games officer-in-charge, WWR. The games should help the program's progression as well as perpetuate wounded warriors care and treatment.

"We see this as a little different," he explained. "It's like a natural extension of being a Marine. We're just looking to improve another level of training for them. We take care of our Marines."

Hermantin said the across-the-board support he received from numerous units including the United States Northern Command, and considerable donations from various organizations allowed the Marines the opportunity to acclimatize and train before opening day.

"I have a lot of confidence in our Marines," he added. "They're seeing tons of support from the community – not because of their injuries, but because they're Marines. They're stoked."

One of the biggest outcomes from Paralympics competitions and disabled athletic events is the significant progress athletes witness in more than just their sport, but every aspect of life, said Charlie Huebner, Chief of Paralympics, U.S. Olympic Committee.

"We see the power of sport," he said. "We see the power of healing through sport every single day. It just takes something simple – like playing basketball with a friend to help someone transform in their rehabilitation. To make them realize everything's going to be ok."

Huebner said he's excited to see the Warrior Games come to life and to see wounded service members afforded an excellent rehabilitative opportunity.

"We had a couple of Marines in here the other day," he said. "They were ecstatic to be in Colorado Springs. But our primary focus though is seeing that program available at the community level.

So when a veteran returns home there are everyday programs just like they're participating in the Warrior Games – in their hometowns and communities."

Alicia Heili, an athletic trainer with the Marines with The All-Marine Warrior Games Team said everyone is working together to get the athletes comprehensive training. Heili is an athletic trainer with The Basic School in Quantico, Va., and has worked with the University of Kansas Football Team as an athletic trainer.

"It's definitely different," she said. "But the dedication they have. That competitiveness. They still carry that Marine pride and it shows. It's really just such an honor to be a part of the team and the Warrior Games."

A big part of it for a lot of the competitors is being back with Marines training and competing, said Lance Cpl. Chuck Sketch, a double amputee who fought brain cancer but lost his vision, now competing in the 50 and 100-meter freestyle swim.

"You lose your sight or legs, you think it's over," he said. "But any joker can swim from the age of seven and make their way to the Olympics. When that tragedy comes, you're starting from ground zero – from nothing and working your way back up.

"Now, that means something," he said.

Maj. Susie Stark, head coach and operations officer with the Marine Team said this was a large step forward in the world of veterans competing on a large-scale, official capacity.

"I think it's a groundbreaking initiative," Stark said. "I think you're going to see more people from around the world competing. Every country has their service member's that have sacrificed serving their country. It's something they all have in common."

"It's an honor and a privilege to be a part of this. It's taken a life of it's own."

Lady Gaga's 'Telephone' Has Company: Some of the Best Military Music Videos

If you've been anywhere near a computer for over the past week, you've probably caught a glimpse of the "Telephone" video created by military members stationed in Afghanistan. What first looks like goofing off by two bored soldiers is later revealed to be a big production, complete with costumes, elaborate choreography, and not-bad editing.

Click above link for all videos.

Posted Friday, April 30, 2010 12:47 PM
Kate Dailey

As the Los Angeles Times points out, this is not the first music video made by servicemen and -women overseas. Military life is characterized by long periods of boredom punctuated by either intense fighting or necessary military procedures, and there are only so many ways to pass the time. Big musical productions, captured on film and given a postproduction treatment, have a short but lively history.

The reigning royalty when it comes to goofy military videos are the Sun Kings, a Navy squadron whose sendup of the Black Eyed Peas's "Pump It" has received 2.8 million hits on YouTube since it was posted three years ago. (though "Telephone" has racked up more than a million views in just a few days, and likely will outdo the Navy video.) Shot on an aircraft carrier somewhere in the middle of the ocean, the Sun Kings' video is a combination of break-dancing, lip-syncing, play-acting, and badass military maneuvers.

The video came about much the same way we imagine the others did. "Boredom," says Cmdr. Dan Harwood, who edited the film while aboard an aircraft carrier in 2006. After all, when you’re out on a ship—or, even worse, trapped on a sub—there's a lot of downtime with which to put on a show. And, it must be said, lots of cool props and scenery to use. He says his roommate, Bryant Medeiros, came up with the idea and shot most of the footage over the course of about three weeks. Every two months, says Harwood, the entire ship would convene for awards, announcements, and skits or songs by the various squadrons. The Sun Kings showed their video to great success, which lead to a many other videos, only a few of which were suitable for YouTube.

John Hanson, a spokesperson for the USO, says his organization has provided thousands of video cameras to troops overseas. "For 100 years people have talked about combat being boredom interrupted by a few moments of sheer terror," he says, but notes that soldiers in the current wars have both less downtime and fewer outlets for entertainment—unlike in Vietnam, you can't mosey downtown for a beer. Even for those not stuck at sea, entertainment is often barracks-based, whether it's playing Guitar Hero in a USO tent or making a goofy video with your fellow servicemen. Though the military and the USO try to keep soldiers occupied, there's always downtime. "People fill time, and they tend to fill it creatively," says Hanson.

Both the Navy and the Army have a deeper tradition of video making and elaborate performances; witness the "spirit videos" that play during the annual Army-Navy football game each year. Cadets and midshipman spend time prior to the game coming up with elaborate skits and dance routines, the best of which are shown during breaks in the game on the stadium's JumboTron.

Scantily clad midshipmen thrusting along to a techno song may seem strange to civilians, but as some of the YouTube comments point out, when you're a bunch of young adults living a very structured, contained lifestyle, you do what you can to make one another laugh and break up the days. And when you can't goof around, get drunk, or waste time the way regular college kids do, good old-fashioned skits and humiliation work just as well: dance routines seem to be a popular punishment when plebes lose a bet—they perform in the halls while classmates watch and cameras roll.

Hanson says video plays an even more important role for servicemen overseas. Thanks to the accessibility of quality cameras and the ability to send videos over the Net, enlisted men and women are using video to stay closer to home, not just to entertain themselves. The USO has partnered with a group called United Through Reading that records servicemembers reading a book aloud, then sends a copy of the book and the video back to his or her family, where children can read along with their overseas parent.

While the music videos that make their way to YouTube and the Today show may entertain family back home—as well as strangers who catch them on Gawker or via a friend's Facebook page—they're mostly for the enjoyment of the men and women making them. As the Smoking Gun notes, the soldiers singing Gaga did not intend for the video to become a viral sensation, and are slightly unhappy that it has. But it probably won't stop future servicemembers from messing around with a video camera as a way to stay entertained. "They see music videos, they know a lot of the dance moves, and it's a great way to blow off steam," says Hanson.

Or, says Harwood, "It was humorous. It was just silliness, but it's not really an indication of what life is normally like on the ship."

Water Technicians Supply Critical Resource at Fort Bragg

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - One of the worst things that can happen when conducting a foot patrol or supply convoy while deployed to a blistering climate like Afghanistan, is to put your lips around the drinking tube of your CamelBak hydration system, pull the bite valve open with your teeth and attempt to suck in much-needed water - only to realize there is no more.



2nd Marine Logistic Group Public Affairs More Stories from 2nd Marine Logistic Group Public Affairs RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.30.2010
Posted: 04.30.2010 02:58

Lack of water in high-stress situations such as combat can often mean the difference between life and death. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, if the human body is dehydrated by just two percent, physical and cognitive performance is considerably diminished.

Sgt. Alan Goldstein, the non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the Water Purification section, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, recently participated in the battalion's field exercise where he was responsible for producing 6,000 gallons of freshly purified water everyday for nine days, to 530 Marines and sailors at Ft. Bragg, N.C. The exercise was conducted to simulate combat logistics convoy operations, general engineering, and command and control operations in preparation for their future deployment to Afghanistan.

Goldstein said most people don't think about how important water is to completing the mission, until they become thirsty. By that time, their bodies have already become dehydrated.

"It's important to be able to consistently deliver fresh water to Marines and sailors during training exercises and even more importantly, in a place such as Afghanistan where the temperature can get up to 130 degrees," he explained. "If we don't get the water to them on a regular basis, it could hinder the unit's mission."

Goldstein also used the exercise as a prime opportunity to train his new Marines on the proper techniques and process to purify any water source through reverse osmosis. Reverse osmosis is the movement of fresh water through a semi-penetrable membrane or when pressure is applied to a non-potable water source, such as seawater or raw sewage.

Although the source of the water may be less than desirable, Goldstein said he can take any dirty water and completely purify it within a matter of minutes. He said the water is so clean, it has 60 to 70 percent less total dissolved solids, or dirt, than the majority of bottled water sitting on the shelves in supermarkets.

"The only water that is cleaner than the water we purify, is FIJI water," he said. "Just about everything else that's sold out there is not as clean as our water."

Part of the reason Goldstein and his Marines are able to provide such clean drinking water to the battalion is because of the constant testing they do before and after it goes through the Tactical Water Purification System. Some of the factors they consider when testing water are the level of the tide of ocean water, the amount of chlorine-based chemicals used to achieve correct pH balance, and the level of dirt and bacteria in the water.

Lance Cpl. Brandon Piteck, a water technician with CLB-2, will deploy for the first time when the battalion leaves this summer for Afghanistan. He said the training he has received during the exercise has taught him more than the basic lessons of purifying water he received at his military occupation specialty school and he is ready to help Marines and sailors safely accomplish the mission by providing such a major necessity.

"You need water for everything you do, so I am really looking forward to deploying because I want to do my job to help my unit be successful," he said.

The next step for the battalion on their way to Afghanistan is to complete training at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif. The battalion is scheduled to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom this summer.

"Thundering Third Marines" Deploy

As part of our continuing coverage of "Afghanistan: the Road Ahead," - CBS News correspondent Terry McCarthy follows the Third Battalion, First Marines at home, and abroad in Afghanistan.

Staff Sergeant Nathaniel Dreyer (left) has been to war before.


April 30, 2010 5:45 PM
Posted by Clifden Kennedy

In 2003 he was part of the initial invasion force that went up from Kuwait into Iraq. But for most of the Marines under him, this is their first deployment - and that is a challenge for Dreyer, who has been in the Marine Corps since 2000.

"Typically i won't hold any punches," says Dreyer, who is from San Antonio, Texas. "I'll tell them what to expect when we get there, I think it mentally prepares them for it."

But Dreyer knows that whatever nerves his Marines may have going to war, the real stress is on the home front.

"They're married, they're leaving their family, there's steps that we take to make sure that the family's taken care of not only financially but mentally, they have contacts if they get stressed out they can call," he said.

"There's gonna be times where you're not going to be able to talk to your family for weeks on end, you need to make sure your family's prepared for that."

Since January, CBS News has been following Dreyer and many of his comrades from the 3rd battalion of the 1st Marine Division - "Three One" as they call themselves.

We have watched them training in the desert at Twentynine Palms, east of Los Angeles, and sat with them in Afghan cultural awareness classes at their home base of Camp Pendleton near San Diego. We have met some of their families, listened to their stories, shared meals.

Now, we have followed them to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan as they arrive for a 7 month deployment - part of President Obama's surge of 30,000 U.S. troops this year aimed at winning back momentum in the war against the Taliban.

We will be spending a lot more time with Three One in the coming months, getting to know individual Marines as they come to terms with their slice of the war. And we will stay in touch with some of their families back home - after 9 years of this war, it is getting increasingly tough on the home front.

Dreyer's wife, Becky, gave birth to their baby daughter Macy in January. Just four months old now, Macy will probably be close to walking by the time he gets home at the end of his tour. Dreyer is stoical about that on the outside... But his wife knows how tough it really is for him. "She is his angel," she says. "He wants to protect her."

Staff Sergeant Nathaniel Dreyer has been to war before. But this is the first time he has to leave a four month old baby behind. That is a tough challenge - even for a Marine.

CIA base bomber urges Muslims to wage jihad

The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Apr 30, 2010 12:20:04 EDT

CAIRO — The Jordanian doctor who killed seven CIA employees in a suicide attack in Afghanistan last year has called on Muslims in a posthumous message to carryout suicide bombings and become martyrs.

To continue reading:


Pakistan: Taliban chief survived U.S. strike

By Ishtiaq Mahsud and Munir Ahmed - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Apr 29, 2010 11:44:51 EDT

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan and U.S. intelligence wrongly reported the death of the head of the Pakistani Taliban in a CIA drone strike and the brash, ruthless commander is now believed to be alive, Pakistani spies said Thursday in an apparent propaganda coup for the insurgents.

To read the entire article:


Afghan Soldier Holds Record for Finding IEDs

KABUL - An Afghan national army soldier in Helmand province holds the record for finding the most improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Date: 04.30.2010
Posted: 04.30.2010 08:57

Ajab Han, a sergeant in the ANA working with British troops from the 1st battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland at a patrol base in the Sangin valley, has found 177 IEDs during his three years in Helmand.

"I know where they put them now," says Ajab. "It helps to know the terrain. I can also think like the insurgents, stay one step ahead of them, and keep my soldiers, and ISAF soldiers safe."

While detecting equipment is very useful, he says just staying alert can be equally effective.

"I can just see them," he says. "There might be a tell-tale trace, or something just not quite right, or a piece of wire or wood showing - and that is when I know I have found another one. IEDs often come in many parts so we have to find all the bits in the ground."

His successes are etched on a beam on a watchtower next to the place where he sleeps, along with his army number and the description "IED TEAM Sangin Special Force," written in English.

When asked if British soldiers are getting better at finding IEDs too, he smiles and nods his head, "Yes, they are very good. But they are still very happy that we are here to help them."

The allied forces have awarded Ajab for his efforts with a certificate which he prizes.

"I always have it on me," he said. "They know how much I am doing for them. And I am very pleased they are here, helping Afghanistan, too."

Capt. Will Wright, the platoon commander from 1 Scots mentoring team, working alongside Ajab and his soldiers said, "Patrolling with the ANA gives us such an advantage. They see things we sometimes don't, they are brave beyond words, and we learn so much from them every day. Ajab's skills are definitely much valued within this patrol base."

Ajab is due to end his tour with the ANA in the next few months, but he says he is not ready to go home just yet.

"Now I have so much information about IEDs I want to be a teacher. I want to share my experience with the new soldiers joining the army. I want to teach them all they need to stay safe."

IJC Operational Update, April 30

KABUL, Afghanistan – A Taliban improvised explosive device facilitator and two other militants were captured by an Afghan-international security force in Kandahar province last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Date: 04.30.2010
Posted: 04.30.2010 04:02

The combined force searched a compound in northwest Kandahar City after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. During the search the combined force captured the Taliban IED facilitator responsible for delivering IED components to other local militant networks and securing vehicle-borne IED's. Two other insurgents were also detained.

In the Kandahar City district of Kandahar province yesterday, ISAF forces discovered a weapons cache containing six 102mm artillery shells, six mortars and a rocket-propelled grenade. The cache was destroyed.

While patrolling in the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province yesterday, ISAF forces saw a yellow jug protruding from the ground, which turned out to be a victim operated IED with 40 pounds of homemade explosives. The IED was destroyed.

An ISAF patrol met with Afghan National Police in the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province yesterday to retrieve 42 mines, two receiver/transmitters, and a bag full of miscellaneous IED electronics secured at the ANP checkpoint. The mines were in various stages of disrepair. The materials were destroyed.

In the Now Zad district of Helmand yesterday, an ISAF patrol found a rocket and some homemade explosives in an open field. The materials were destroyed.

In the Bala Morghab area of Badghis province, an Afghan civilian turned in an anti-tank mine to an ISAF patrol. The mine was destroyed.

No shots were fired and no Afghan citizens were harmed during these operations.

April 29, 2010

Weather Forecasters Ensure Smooth Sailing

Marines, Sailors aboard USS Kearsarge work together in preparation for deployment.


26th Marine Expeditionary Unit Public Affairs More Stories from 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Santiago Colon
Date: 04.29.2010
Posted: 04.29.2010 04:59

Most people check the weather to plan their next day's wardrobe. When Marines and sailors check the weather, it is to know how conditions will affect their mission and safety. Weather is a big factor when it comes to amphibious operations from naval vessels, as it can significantly impact many facets, particularly navigation and aviation operations.

Weathermen with 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and sailors of the Meteorological and Oceanographic section with Strike Group Oceanography Team, Norfolk, Va., have teamed up aboard USS Kearsarge to forecast weather during an Amphibious Squadron/MEU Integration training exercise this week.

They use a deployable weather data transmission system, which utilizes a transmitter attached to a weather balloon that sends data to a receiver on the ship. The system organizes the information to create graphs that allow analysts to get a real-time breakdown of temperature, wind pressure, and dew point and also to forecast future weather concerns.

The weather information is then sent to Marine and Navy operational and navigation sections aboard the ship to allow service members to get instantaneous updates of conditions.

"Our ship is really resilient, so it can handle severe weather," said Senior Chief Anthony G. Hafer, a quartermaster with the navigation department aboard USS Kearsarge. "But the weather reports we receive are extremely important, because the best defense on the ship is the aircraft."

The reports are extremely important for flight operations, said Capt. Matthew D. Wilckens, a MV-22 Osprey pilot with Marine Medium Tiltrotor squadron 266, the aviation combat element of 26th MEU.

"The weather forecasts are a big deal for planning purposes," Wilckens said. The speed of the aircraft, the altitude it can fly, and the amount of weight the aircraft can carry all depend on the weather situation, he said. "We rely on accurate weather information."

Hafer added the weather reports that the navigation section receives help them avoid severe weather and prepare the ship's cargo, including aircraft, by securing everything to the ship so it will not move in case of severe pitch and roll caused by storms.

"We get reports from ships located four or five days away in our headed destination, so we can usually avoid severe weather," said Hafer. He added that the information from the USS Kearsarge weather team is also sent out for other ships to use.

Both the sailors and Marines with the weather sections aboard USS Kearsarge provide each other with different perspectives when it comes to forecasting, said Cpl. Steven B. Yates, a weather forecaster with 26th MEU.

"(Marine weather forecasters) do about the same thing as the Navy, but our concentrations are different," said Yates. "We do forecasting for specific locations, usually wherever the infantry will be on land. The Navy has a wider area to consider and it is over water."

Marines use the weather information to prepare for amphibious operations, such as moving those infantrymen from ship to shore, and also for flight operations. Yates said the aviation, ground and logistics combat elements of the MEU all use information he provides in their mission planning.

Overall, weather forecasting aboard the ship during PMINT has helped give Marines and sailors an idea of what each others' capabilities are and how to integrate them with more efficiency as they prepare for their deployment later this fall.

"PMINT was a good opportunity early on to see what we have to work on," said Yates. "We really got to bring what we had to the table and share ideas with each other."

Post-9/11 GI Bill scholarship program begins

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Apr 29, 2010 18:53:58 EDT

Applications will be accepted beginning May 1 for a new scholarship program that lets the children of some deceased service members tap into Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

To continue reading:


Joint Patrol Finds Nine IEDs in and Near Kandahar School

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force recently captured a Taliban cell leader who had emplaced improvised explosive devices in and around an Afghan children's school in Kandahar.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Date: 04.29.2010
Posted: 04.29.2010 02:09

The joint force had received intelligence that a Taliban IED cell was operating around Kuhak, in Kandahar province. During the subsequent operation the security force captured the Taliban IED leader and several other cell members. A search of the area uncovered command detonation wires in a field across the road from the Kuhak children's school. The joint patrol followed the command wires and discovered nine buried IEDs.

Four of the IEDs were buried on the side of the road running beside Kuhak school. Two more of the IEDs were buried outside the gate of the school. Three IEDs were uncovered in the school courtyard, where the students congregate.

ISAF explosive experts said if the IEDs had been detonated while the school was in session numerous casualties would likely have occurred. The roadside IEDs were determined to be too dangerous to move and were blown in place creating large craters. The IEDs immediately around the school and in the student courtyard were dug up and safely removed by ISAF forces.

U.N. reports have noted that a vast majority of civilian casualties are the result of insurgent IEDs. The motivation for the Taliban's decision to emplace IEDs in and around an Afghan children's school remains unclear.

U.S. Must Help Pakistan Beat Insurgency, Officials Say

WASHINGTON - Calling relations with Pakistan vital to U.S. national security, senior Defense Department officials testified on Capitol Hill, April 29, in support of long-term funding for Pakistan's counterinsurgency operations.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs More Stories from Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lisa Daniel

Date: 04.29.2010
Posted: 04.29.2010 04:38

Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy, and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John M. Paxton Jr., director of operations for the Joint Staff, said continued funding of both military and civilian operations in Pakistan is critical to sustain the coalition's counterinsurgency gains in Afghanistan.
"This is a partnership that is absolutely vital to U.S. interests, but it's also complex," Flournoy told the House Armed Services Committee.

The Obama administration has been consistent in its goal of dismantling al-Qaida and other violent extremists in the region, Flournoy said, and Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in ways that extend beyond terrorism.

U.S. operations in Afghanistan "are bearing fruit" in reducing violent extremism, and Pakistan is increasingly helpful in the effort, Flournoy said. Pakistani security forces have made significant gains since fighting terrorists in the Swat Valley in March 2009, persevering in the face of more than 4,000 casualties, she said.

Since then, terrorist attacks in Pakistani cities have caused more Pakistani citizens to support counterinsurgency efforts, Flournoy said. "It galvanized the population to see this as more than just a U.S. fight," she told the committee, "but one in which they have a vital interest."

U.S. support for Pakistan extends beyond security to matters such as energy and water, Flournoy said.

"Their assessment of our staying power is changing," she added. "We've been extremely responsive to their needs in funding and other support. I think they are starting to believe that we are committed to the greater security of the region and that extends their willingness to work with us."

Despite the gains, Pakistani officials recently noted a "trickling in" of Taliban to previously cleared areas, Paxton said. The only way to prevent insurgents from regaining strength in such areas is to support the Pakistani government with military support and civilian projects, he said, adding that the Pakistani people must see government control as enduring.

Funding for Pakistan's counterinsurgency campaign has allowed the U.S. military to supply helicopters and other equipment to the Pakistanis, train their security forces and enhance coordination and intelligence sharing between Pakistan and coalition forces, Flournoy said.

However, Pakistan remains "fraught with challenges," Flournoy said. Three of Pakistan's current challenges, she said, include:

-- Its ability to hold and build areas that have been cleared of insurgents.
-- Its longstanding perception that India, rather than terrorists, is its biggest threat.
-- Its legacy of mistrust toward the United States.

"It is imperative that we support Pakistan," Paxton said. "Their fight is directly aligned with our goals in the region. We must remain steadfast in developing their abilities."

Violent extremist networks in the region threaten not only Pakistan, but "the entire globe, including the U.S. homeland," he said.

The Defense Department shifted control of funding for Pakistan's counterinsurgency effort to the State Department, beginning with a $1.2 billion request in the fiscal 2011 budget, State and Defense officials said. State will transfer $10 million of the fund for the U.S. military to hold cleared areas and respond to acute humanitarian needs in those areas, they said.

As part of U.S.-Pakistan military relations, Flournoy said, it is "absolutely critical" for the U.S. military to resume its training-assistance program for Pakistani military officers. A congressionally imposed stoppage of that program in the 1990s resulted in Pakistan's current mid-level officers having little understanding of the U.S. military.

"We did lose a generation, and we now are scrambling to find other ways to engage them and build that trust," she said. "We will spend a long time recovering from that."

Also, Flournoy said, U.S. military officials are working hard to provide the Pakistani military with helicopters and related maintenance and training programs. To expedite their capabilities, the United States refurbished the Pakistani military's Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters and also has provided some U.S.-made Bell 412s.

Flournoy explained why the United States would refurbish Pakistan's older, Russian-made helicopters. "They have them today, and they know how to fly them," she said. "In matter of weeks, we can have them in the air and return them to flight." Officials are discussing a long-term plan for new Pakistani helicopters, she said.

As the United States continues its involvement in the region, Paxton said, a "whole of government" approach is important.

"Don't lose sight of other side of the border," he said. "Just as we have built an enduring relationship with Pakistan, we need to do that with Afghanistan and make sure they build relations with each other."

Flournoy said there is a clear understanding within the administration "of where we need to go" with Pakistan, and it includes about a 50-50 match of military and civilian support.

A slow journey back for wounded Marine

Marine slowly getting his life back together after being shot in Afghanistan

Lewis Skerry is adjusting to a new, strangely diminished life.



Date published: 4/29/2010

Three times a week, the 23-year-old Marine lance corporal hobbles into an elevator to the second-floor office of Select Physical Therapy in Massaponax with his mother, Janet, at his side.

During his visit yesterday, Jill Hennes, a physical therapist and manager of the center, gently pushed Skerry's left foot from side to side. She was halfway through an hourlong session aimed at restoring movement to a leg shattered by Taliban bullets in Afghanistan.

Occasionally, Skerry grimaced in pain, being careful not to put too much pressure on an orthopedic halo that keeps the bones in his lower leg together, so they can heal.

"The foot's pretty complicated," said Hennes. "There are a lot of joints and you need to keep the joints moving."

She turned to Janet, adding, "He's doing good. It's getting better."

Skerry, in a blue ball cap, black T-shirt and tennis shoes, nodded in agreement.

Just over a month ago, the tall and muscular young man with a love for the outdoors and a pirate tattoo on one arm could not have imagined he'd be back home with his family in Stafford County. For now, his war is over. His thoughts have turned instead to his buddies still in harm's way, wondering about his future, and the medical procedures to come.


He'll never forget March 25--the day two rounds smacked into his left calf in Afghanistan.

"We started out fairly early in the morning when we had our first contact" with the Taliban in Helmand province, a rugged opium-growing region bordering Pakistan, he recalled.

Skerry had arrived in Afghanistan a few weeks earlier with the 1st Marine Battalion, 2nd Regiment out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. He was no rookie, having served a tour of duty in Iraq in 2007.

His last day in combat unfolded much like the others--sporadic contact with an enemy that rarely fights head-on.

"Other than keeping in the back of your mind not to do something stupid, you don't think about [the danger]. You focus on the mission."

His squad was among three groups of Marines hunting for Taliban fighters.

As Skerry and his men moved across a field to trap a contingent of Taliban hiding in a tree line, the Marines got hit with small-arms fire twice more.

The cat-and-mouse contact continued for an hour or two until heavy fire came at the Americans from a large compound.

"We got approval to bring in helicopters," Skerry recalled.

The squad pulled back to a safer distance.

"I got up to run back a little ways and stopped." The bullets--probably from an AK-47--"knocked me over. I thought I had stepped on a small land mine."

Another round nicked his right ankle.

"But my [left] leg was messed up pretty bad. I hollered for a corpsman, rolled over on my stomach and continued firing" to cover the medic who arrived at his side to help.

"I was very lucky. It could have been really bad because there was heavy fire. The whole squad was in the middle of a field."

Wounded along with Skerry that day were two Afghan Army soldiers and a Marine buddy, shot in the leg.


Within half an hour after hitting the ground, Skerry--bandaged and bleeding, a good portion of his calf's skin and muscle gone--was aboard a helicopter bound for Camp Bastion, the main British military base in Afghanistan.

"As soon as I was in surgery, my leg swelled up really bad. They said I was close to losing it. They were able to save my leg and patch it up."

Back home in Stafford County, his father, also named Lewis, mother Janet, sister Heather and brother Michael--had no idea what was happening half a world away.

"I was doing a workshop" at home, Janet recalled. The phone rang and Heather answered. Thinking it was a business call for her father, she left a message for him.

The elder Skerry called the number, reaching a sergeant from Camp Lejeune.

Janet said her husband "called me back to say that Lewis was shot multiple times in the legs."

She paused a moment during an interview last week, tears filling her eyes.

"We didn't know then that he even had his legs. That was the hardest call I've ever received."

For her husband, there was an aching moment of uncertainty.

"You get emotional. You go from everything is OK to he may be dead," he said. "But I was thankful the first few seconds of the conversation" because he knew his son had survived.

"They said he had been shot a few times in the leg and that he was in serious, but stable, condition."


A few hours later, their son called from a hospital bed to say he was OK.

His father wasn't so sure.

"We were nervous, but we said, 'We're going to leave this in God's hands. We're just thankful he's alive and we'll go from there.'"

Skerry was flown to a military hospital in Germany, then to Bethesda National Naval Medical Center in Washington. There, he had an operation to realign his leg bones and attach a skin graft to cover the mangled tissue.

For now, Skerry is on convalescent leave, receiving physical therapy three times a week at the Massaponax clinic.

"Originally, he was going to have to go to a VA hospital in Richmond, but a case manager found a place here that was willing to take him," Janet said. That's made it easier for the family to care for him.

"He's doing really, really good," his father said, adding that his attitude is probably helping in his recovery.

"He's a person you can count on. He's not afraid to tackle anything."

Since he's been home, Skerry has made several trips to Bethesda to visit other wounded Marines from his unit.

"I think it's hurting him because he's not with his buddies. That shows a lot about what type of person he is," his father said.

Skerry will be going back to Bethesda in May for a bone-graft operation. Doctors have told him he'll need five to six months to recover.

"Right now, I'm just trying to keep the therapy going, so I can make a full recovery," he said. "I want to get back to 100 percent."

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
Email: [email protected]

MWSS-274 Marines Survives Near Fatal Accident, Deploys With His Unit

CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan - Unconscious, suffering from hypothermia and tangled in his seatbelt upside down in a ditch flooded with water, survival seemed like a far shot for one Marine from Marine Wing Support Squadron 274.


3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs More Stories from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs RSS
Story by Cpl. Ryan Rholes
Date: 04.29.2010
Posted: 04.29.2010 09:01

But after going several minutes without oxygen, losing his pulse and enduring weeks in a coma, Cpl. Cardell Walker, a Tuscaloosa, Ala., native, battled back from overwhelming odds to live — and took it a step farther by volunteering to accompany his unit to war.

The 21-year-old Marine who drives a semi-truck used to refuel aircraft only remembers parts of what happened when he had a car accident, Sept. 24. Fearing he was late for work and stuck behind a slow driver on 9-Mile Road in New River, N.C., Walker attempted to pass a car in front of him. His memory is hazy from there.

"I remember losing control of my car when switching back to my lane, and I remember pushing on my door trying to get out of the car," said Walker, who was trapped in about five feet of stagnant water.

Luckily, the car Walker passed was full Marines with whom he worked. They immersed themselves into the same water that was drowning their brother, pulled Walker through the back window of his car and performed CPR until an ambulance arrived. Doctors at Craven County Hospital gave Walker a five percent chance of living upon admission. They also feared if Walker lived he would suffer severe brain damage after going so long without oxygen.

Doctors used a barrage of medication to kill an infection spreading through Walker's lungs, inserted tubes into his chest and used a free-moving bed designed to help drain the filth from his lungs. Although in a coma and heavily medicated, Walker does retain one memory from this experience.

"I woke up and saw my master sergeant standing at the end of my bed and I remembering thinking to myself 'I must really be late for work if he is here waking me up,'" said Walker with a smile.

Yet Master Sgt. Mathew Wyandt, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of the MWSS-274 Marines here at Dwyer, vividly remembers staying by his Marine's side.

"Initially it wasn't whether he would have lasting injuries or not, I was just concerned with whether he would live or die," said Wyandt, who served as a liaison between the Marine Corps and Walker's family.

Wyandt flew Walker's mother to the hospital within hours of the wreck, and had the rest of his immediate family there within 24 hours.

"He really has a great family," said Wyandt.

Whether it was his family's presence or his resilience, Walker began to show rapid improvements after about his fifth day. Doctors moved Walker from intensive care when he awoke on his twelfth day, and three days after that he was home. Although he was able to leave the hospital, Walker still had some tough challenges ahead.

"They gave me a cane to help me walk when I left," said Walker. "The first night I went out to dinner with my family, people were staring at me like I was crazy, so I threw it out and never used it again."

While recovering, Walker discovered his unit was deploying and immediately requested to go with them.

"I felt like it was my duty," he said simply.

However, his physical capability was not quite as strong as his sense of duty, and Walker had to redouble his recovery efforts before doctors declared him healthy enough to deploy. Walker also had to extend his current contract. To extend, he had to guarantee his re-enlistment.

"I honestly think he inspired all of us," said Wyandt. "His drive to get on this deployment was impressive. Now, it's as if it never happened, he is the same person he was before the wreck."

After traversing between near-death in a ditch and full health in a combat zone next to his friends, you would think Walker might feel super human. The opposite is true.

"I know I shouldn't be this healthy," said Walker. "I'm just happy I am here."

Some may consider these to be surprising words from a young man serving in arguably the most dangerous region in the world.

Relative of Afghan lawmaker shot in night raid

By Amir Shah - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Apr 29, 2010 8:23:22 EDT

KABUL — NATO and Afghan forces raided a lawmaker’s home and fatally shot the woman’s brother-in-law during a nighttime operation in eastern Afghanistan, sending hundreds of people into the streets shouting “Death to America!” in protest, the lawmaker said Thursday.

To read the entire article:


Afghan-international Force Kills Armed Individual in Nangarhar

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international security force killed one armed individual while pursuing a Taliban facilitator in Nangarhar last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Date: 04.29.2010
Posted: 04.29.2010 02:18

The combined force went to a compound near Nazrabad, in the Surkh Rod district, after intelligence information indicated militant activity. During the operation an individual with a weapon was observed adjacent to one of the buildings. The security force repeatedly attempted to get the individual to lower his weapon by using hand signals, and verbal commands through their Afghan interpreter. The individual ignored the repeated commands, raised his weapon and aimed at the combined force, and then was shot and killed.

ISAF and ANSF will perform a joint assessment to review this operation.

'Falconers' Keep Eyes on the Sky

CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan – A group of Marines helped safely land dozens of aircraft here today – they're neither pilots nor crew chiefs.



3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs More Stories from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Justis Beauregard
Date: 04.29.2010
Posted: 04.29.2010 07:29

They are the air traffic control Marines of Marine Air Control Squadron 1 (Reinforced), the "Falconers," Detachment A, Marine Air Control Group 38 (Forward), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), who control the airspace around Dwyer.

"The pilots flying into Dwyer depend on the calm and clear guidance from the ATC Marines," said Staff Sgt. Louie Cruz, a facility watch officer with the detachment.

The Marines are responsible for relaying vital information to pilots during take off, landing and the hours in between when they're just flying.

That's just the beginning of the list of challenges the ATC Marines face each day. The Marines must memorize massive amounts of information including radar systems, the capabilities of multiple aircraft and the effects of weather. They work through language and terminology barriers with coalition forces and other branches of the United States military. The Marines have to be able to handle a variety of situations ranging from aircraft in duress to multiple aircraft operating in the same airspace.

The detachment also has to prepare for problems with their electronics and communication systems. Although the detachment uses advanced technology to track and communicate with the aircraft, when those systems go down they must have multiple back ups. Even if all of the detachment's computers and communications systems failed, the Marines could safely land aircraft on the runway through visual communication, like a spotlight.

When the wind picks up and pilots finds themselves in a "brown out," unable to see anything trough the thick clouds of dust commonly found in Afghanistan, the pilot must trust the Marines monitoring the radar to guide them to the ground.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the ATC Marines must be prepared for anything.

"At all times we must be alert and focused," said Sgt. Jason Grainger, a radar watch supervisor with the detachment.

If the Marines are complacent and let an aircraft fly over a live range, the results could be disastrous, explained Grainger, a Rockledge Fla. native.

"When weather is bad or the aircraft is low on fuel, the pilot is depending on you to get him down," said Cruz, a native of San Diego. "He is entrusting his life to us."

The MACS-1 detachment Marines are an essential piece of a complex puzzle on the flight line, which must come together successfully to ensure aircraft touch down and take off safely in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

IJC Operational Update, April 29

KABUL, Afghanistan – Two Haqqani facilitators and two other militants were captured by an Afghan-international security force in Khost province this morning.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.29.2010
Posted: 04.29.2010 04:46

A combined force searched a series of compounds near the village of Kurru, in the Terayzai district after intelligence information indicated militant activity. During the search the joint force captured the Haqqani facilitators responsible for the movement of weapons to fighters and improvised explosive device emplacements. One facilitator is involved in funding attacks on collation forces. Two other insurgents were also captured.

The combined force found shotguns, an automatic rifle and a grenade during the search.

No shots were fired and no one was harmed during the operation.

In Nimroz this morning, a combined security force searched a compound outside of Shesh Aveh, in the Khash Rod district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. During the search the security force detained a few suspected insurgents for further questioning.

No shots were fired and no Afghan citizens were harmed during the operation.

In Kunduz last night, an Afghan-international security force went to a compound near Durman, in the Ghor Tepa district, after intelligence information indicated militant activity. As the assault force approached the compound one insurgent left and attempted to maneuver around the security team.

After the combined force told him to surrender the insurgent pulled out a concealed pistol and was shot and killed.

At the compound the security force detained several suspected insurgents for further questioning.
Taliban commanders continually seek to disrupt legitimate governance and establish strongholds to facilitate the movement of fighters, explosives and weapons into the country.

In Kandahar yesterday, a joint security force went to an area north of Khaneh Gerdab, in the Arghandab district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity and captured a Taliban sub-commander. The Taliban leader is known to direct the production, strategy, tactical coordination and emplacement of IED's and ambushes against coalition forces in the area. Several other suspected insurgents were also detained for further questioning.

No shots were fired and no Afghan citizens were harmed during the operation.

In the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province yesterday, a joint patrol received a tip about a weapons cache in a mosque. ISAF patrols cordoned off the area while Afghan national army and National Directorate of Security searched the mosque where they found 32 82mm mortar rounds, six grenades, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a machinegun, an AK-47 rifle, 50 blasting caps, hundreds of rounds of small-arms ammunition, 20 feet of detonation cord and 11 mine fuses. The cache was moved to a safe location and destroyed.

Also in the Nad-e Ali district yesterday, a joint patrol found a grenade, a G-3 rifle, four magazines, 80 rounds .308mm and miscellaneous IED-making materials buried along a compound wall. The items were confiscated.

While patrolling in the Musa Qalah district of Helmand province, ISAF forces received a tip from an Afghan citizen about a cache in a local compound. After a search of the compound they found three 155mm artillery shells, a large number of small-arms shell casings, syringes and medical supplies buried with empty bags of ammonium nitrogen fertilizer. The materials were confiscated.

April 28, 2010

Combat Logistics Battalion 15 Improves on Past Success in CERTEX HAO

During their culminating training event, Marines and Sailors from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted their final Humanitarian Assistance Operation exercise during the MEU's Certification Exercise, the last week.


15th Marine Expeditionary Unit Public Affairs More Stories from 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit Public Affairs RSS
Story by Cpl. Gabriel Velasquez
Date: 04.28.2010
Posted: 04.28.2010 07:04

The Marines and Sailors of Combat Logistics Battalion 15 are the lead element for a HAO. Two previous at-sea training exercises allowed CLB-15 to embark on the mission with a stronger level of preparedness.

It was controlled chaos when the Marines and Sailors arrived at the first HAO site, quickly setting up a perimeter and eventually constructing the distribution site.

"This time around everything was much more organized, even though we had more role players we all knew our job better and we set everything up a lot quicker," said Lance Cpl. Ryan Ritthaler, motor transport operator, CLB-15.

The HAO exercises the 15th MEU did during their last two training periods came with many unexpected problems. This time the Marines were ready to do it better and faster.

"Last time we did a multi-site operation, having adequate resources was a challenge," said 1st Lt. Rachael McKenney, combat engineer officer-in-charge, CLB-15. McKenney explained how this time around, her Marines were better prepared and tackled every problem faced head on to get the mission accomplished.

With the logistics and procedures already branded in their minds, the Marines and Sailors had a chance to learn the people and interact with them more.

"It felt great to be out there, even tough it was training I still played the role, and even tried to learn a few words of the role players' language," said Ritthaler, a 20-year-old native of Detroit, Mich.

The Navy corpsmen were heavily tasked during the exercise, constantly evaluating and treating incoming patients.

"I got bombarded with a lot of patients," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Manuel Arellano, hospital corpsman, CLB-15. "It got really hectic, but because of all the training we had done during the previous HAO's, I was able to help everyone accurately and in a timely matter."

The training was kicked up a notch, with role-players in labor, some suffering from malaria, and others on the brink of death.

"It was definitely more realistic than the other times," explained Arellano, a 20-year-old native from San Bernardino, Calif. "I got to use a lot more of my skill as a corpsman that I could be doing on this deployment."

The ending of the HAO marked the imminent beginning of the 15th MEU's upcoming deployment. The Marines and Sailors knew that in a few weeks they could be doing exactly what they're training for.

"It really affects you to know that we might get sent out and be doing this in real life," said Ritthaler. "That's why I'm glad we had so much training during our workups on doing a HAO."

With all the current world events, a HAO might be one of the missions the 15th MEU is tasked with during its upcoming deployment.

"A HAO is definitely one of the most likely scenarios we will end up doing during this deployment," explained McKenney, a 26-year-old Babylon, New York native.

The warrior mentality is definitely at a Marines core, but can change depending on the mission.

"Doing a HAO mission is all about the mindset that you're there to help them," explained McKenney. "If you can keep that you are definitely going to be successful."

Afghan Air Corps Shows Off for Mujahedeen Victory Day

KABUL, Afghanistan - The Afghan national army air corps demonstrated precision, capability, pride, and a bit of fun when they performed close formations in low level flying above the city of Kabul. The demonstration was conducted as part of the Mujahedeen Victory Day celebration and parade.


NATO Training Mission Afghanistan More Stories from NATO Training Mission Afghanistan RSS
Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Quillen
Date: 04.28.2010
Posted: 04.28.2010 07:31

"I am very happy today and I know many of my friends and the city is happy too," said Mohammad Yousaf Wafa, crew chief on an Afghan Mi-17 helicopter shortly before takeoff.

The air corps used eight Mi-17 assault helicopters, four Mi-35 attack helicopters, two C-27 transport planes, and one AN-32 fixed wing craft. It was the largest demonstration this year of the skills the Afghan air corps has developed.

Joint Patrol Finds 2,090 Kg of Opium

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international patrol confiscated a large drug cache in the Reg-e Khan Heshin district of Helmand province April 28.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.28.2010
Posted: 04.28.2010 11:19

As the joint patrol approached several moving vehicles, the drivers attempted to flee. One of the vehicles became stuck in the sand and was secured by Afghan border police members of the patrol.

The patrol then discovered the vehicle contained 2,090 kilograms (4,600 lbs) of raw opium and approximately 11 kg (24 lbs) of a substance believed to be heroin. A satellite phone and a two-way radio were also recovered.

Two men were detained by the ABP for possessing the drugs. No shots were fired and no one was injured.

The narcotics trade directly funds insurgents, and the Afghan government and ABP are actively engaged in the interdiction of narcotics flow as well as enforcing Afghan laws.

Marines, sailors return to Twentynine Palms from Afghanistan

A group of Marines and sailors based in Twentynine Palms are scheduled to return from Afghanistan this week, military officials say


By Stacia Glenn
Posted: 04/28/2010 07:25:42 AM PDT

The 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment has spent the last seven months in southern Afghanistan conducting counterinsurgency operations to help Afghan national security forces. The forces carried out operations in Nimrod, Farah and Helmand provinces, officials said.

Overseas weather has delayed some flights and the Marines and sailors will be returning this morning through Friday.

Marines face challenge in unstable Helmand

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Apr 28, 2010 15:59:57 EDT

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — U.S. forces face a tough summer in Afghanistan, and the former Taliban stronghold of Marjah and other parts of Helmand province will be among the most treacherous, said a top officer overseeing operations there from the Pentagon.

To continue reading:


Report: Afghans skeptical of new government

By Anne Flaherty - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Apr 28, 2010 19:55:28 EDT

WASHINGTON — A Pentagon report concludes that only about a quarter of Afghans living in densely populated areas and critical regions support or even sympathize with the Kabul government.

To read the entire article:


Savannah-based Marines prepare for deployment to Afghanistan

Local Reservists brush up on rifle skills before leaving for seven months in Afghanistan

PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. - Pop. Pop. Pop.


Posted: April 28, 2010 - 12:19am
By Pamela E. Walck

Pop-pop, pop-pop, pop-pop.


Dozens of Marines lining the Inchon Gun Range at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot aimed at targets 200 yards away and unloaded their 10-round magazines in rapid succession Tuesday morning.

The 60-second cacophony of firing M-16A4s and M-4s mimicked the noise of exploding popcorn kernels. But louder.

Much louder.

"It's kinda been fun," said Sgt. Nicole Bricker, a Marine Corps Reservist from Homestead, Fla., who was preparing to earn her rifleman qualifications with the rest of her fellow Marines from 2nd Beach Terminal Operations Co., 4th Landing Support Battalion, stationed at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah. "This is the first time I've been back on Parris Island since basic (training)."

Her first visit to the island was in May 2005.

Before her deployment to Iraq.

"It's brought back a lot of memories," she said.

For the last two weeks, Bricker and 59 Savannah-based Marine Reservists have been brushing up on their combat skills - from gun ranges and gas chambers to swimming in full battle-rattle.

It's all part of the unit's preparation for a pending, seven month deployment to Afghanistan this summer.

The Marines depart next week for a final training exercise at Twentynine Palms, Calif., with units from Camp Lejeune and Camp Pendleton before departing for the Middle East. The training, called "Mojave Viper," is akin to the Army's pre-deployment training at the National Training Center in nearby Fort Irwin, Calif.

"Morale is especially high," said Maj. John Sattely, the 2nd Beach Terminal Operations Co.'s inspector/instructor. "Everyone is motivated about going. A lot of them have seen rotations in Iraq, so now they are looking at doing something to support the mission in Afghanistan."

Sattely said the unit has deployed five times to Iraq, but this marks its first time in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

On this day, Sgt. James Childers of Brunswick is happy with the way his Marines are performing - and progressing - on the gun range.

"I am real content with my Marines right now," he said.

As the 2nd Beach Co.'s combat arms trainer, Childers is responsible for making sure each Marine is proficient with the equipment they will be using downrange.

For many, it is the first time they are using optical scopes on their rifles after being trained on iron sights during boot camp and using the old-school sights during monthly Reserve training exercises.

"It's a little different," said Lance Cpl. Oscar Fernandez, a Statesboro resident. "I'm not used to the optics."

Fernandez said the four-times magnification makes the targets much more visible, especially at 500 yards, where targets are typically a small, black dot.

The Marines also had to adjust for the second day of blustery winds.

"You'd think it would be easier," Fernandez said. "But it's not."

Many of the Marines cradled their magazines in the crook of their arms in an attempt to steady their shots.

Fernandez said he has become much more comfortable with the equipment after two full days of training.

The unit will qualify on the ranges today, before hitting Table 2, with pop-up and moving targets Thursday and Friday.

Fernandez is also adjusting to the idea of his first deployment.

"I'm a little excited, a little scared," he said. "Basically, a little bit of mixed emotions right now."

Cpl. Lloyd Lesley, from Jacksonville, meanwhile, is ready to go.

"I'm excited," he said. "I've been waiting to go for a couple of years now."

Lesley said he went through boot camp in 2006, after growing up wanting to follow in his uncle's footsteps.

"Yeah, I'm a little nervous, but that's natural for a first deployment," he said.

Sattely said in past deployment rotations the Marines would travel to Camp Lejeune for several weeks of intensive training, prior to Mojave Viper. But with limited training availability at Camp Lejeune, the unit opted to stay in Savannah, utilizing facilities at Parris Island as well as nearby Fort Stewart, home of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.

"We've had a lot of resources available to us, which put us at a better position than a lot of other units," Sattely said. "And working with the Army (at Fort Stewart) has been a great experience. ... They have been very easy to work with."

Marines Man Isolated Patrol Base to Watch Over Known Taliban Hot Spot

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan – From inside of a small compound, known as Patrol Base Khodi Rhom, the Marines of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, alongside a section of Afghan national army soldiers, patrol an area once known for large amounts of enemy activity in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan.



Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs More Stories from Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Dwight Henderson
Date: 04.28.2010
Posted: 04.28.2010 05:40

Marines sleep inside of one-man tents perched on top of cots, some stand post at different corners of the compound. One of the Marines pulls a tab on a unit ration to heat up the squad's breakfast of biscuits, gravy, ham and raspberry swirls-the same breakfast they've been eating the past few days. Some Marines conduct physical training on a makeshift pull-up bar made from a tent pole; they do push-ups and jump rope on a cardboard mat.

On April 20, the Marines, along with their regular duties of post and patrol, had a simple mission; to walk two M-240G machine guns to a nearby observation post known as observation post two.

Normally vehicles would be used to move the machine guns from post to post, but because the road nearby Khodi Rhom had not yet been cleared of roadside bombs, the Marines must move most supplies by foot.

"If something happens like communication gear goes down, we need more batteries or need to move things like crew-served weapons, we have to hump it out there," said Cpl. Aukai I. Arkus, a team leader for Easy Company, 2/2.

Helicopters have brought in food and water lately, but before they made the landing zone safer, the Marines had to carry it in.

To get the machine guns to the OP, the Marines have to move across rough fields full of wheat and poppy and through canals. There are bridges to cross the canals, but the Marines don't use them due to greater risk of encountering an improvised explosive device.

"In that area, explosive ordnance disposal exploited lots of IEDs," said Lance Cpl. Derek A. Tomlin, a designated marksman with Easy Co., 2/2. "They went to town blowing up and collecting IEDs."

Once the Marines have moved the weapons, they return to the PB, crossing over the same kilometer of rough terrain that it took to get there.

The Marines quickly launched another patrol, this time to a small village near the PB, where they had established relationships with local shopkeepers before.

The Marines buy goods from the local shops, which pays off in other ways, since the relationships have been useful for gathering information on the area. They are willing to help out the shopkeepers who are more cooperative by buying more goods from them.

The Marines bring the rice and potatoes they purchase back to the base where a cook from the ANA prepares it, allowing the Marines to take a break from their usual unitized group ration dinner of chicken breast.

"It's a nice change," said Tomlin. "What we'll do is get rice and potatoes and then we'll have the ANA cook for us since none of us know how to cook."

The Marines had manned the position for approximately five days and had planned to be relieved the next.

Though the landing zone has been declared safe, the Marines are rarely moved by air, so they have to walk back to Combat Outpost Koshtay once relieved of their duty by another squad.

They are returning to the relative comfort of Koshtay; though that is not to say that they hated their time spent at Khodi Rhom.

"The best thing about being out there is operating at our own pace," said Arkus. "We can be as aggressive with it as we want. It leaves time for the squad leader to know what's going on and make decisions. Also, being isolated like that allows the squad to pull together in more instances."

The PB has allowed the Marines to saturate the surrounding area causing a significant decrease in enemy activity and an increase in locals' willingness to assist in improving of their villages.

IJC Operational Update, April 28

KABUL, Afghanistan - Several suspected insurgents were detained by an Afghan-international security force while pursuing a Taliban commander in Helmand last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story!
Date: 04.28.2010
Posted: 04.28.2010 03:18

The combined force went to two compounds in a rural area west of Marjah after intelligence information indicated militant activity.

During a search of the compounds the security force detained the suspected insurgents for further questioning.

The search of the two compounds also uncovered multiple rifles, a shotgun and approximately 90 kilograms (200 pounds) of heroin.

Also in Helmand last night, a combined force searched a compound in a rural area north of Marjah after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. During the search the joint force captured a Taliban leader, believed to be responsible for a local intimidation campaign and ordering attacks on coalition forces. Several other suspected insurgents we also detained.

The security force also found more than 90 kg (200 pounds) of heroin.

The narcotic trade funds and supports the insurgency and constitutes a direct threat to Afghanistan.

In Ghazni last night, an Afghan-international security force searched a compound in the village of Bagi Kheyl, in the Qarah Bagh district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity.
During the search the security force detained a couple of suspected insurgents for further questioning.

In the Now Zad District of Helmand yesterday, a joint patrol searched a compound after being fired upon. The joint patrol found 300-400 spent small-arms casings and four 6-9 kg (15-20 lb) bags of opium. A few suspected insurgents were detained for questioning.

In the Garm Ser District of Helmand yesterday, an Afghan-international patrol found 36 kg (80 lbs) of ammonium nitrate in an abandoned building. The cache was destroyed.

In the Murgab District of Badghis yesterday, an ISAF patrol found an IED consisting of 30 40mm grenades. The device was destroyed.

Afghan national security forces in Kabul yesterday found four 107mm rockets. Two rockets and air defense ammunition were also found in Kabul yesterday by workers digging the foundation for a new mosque.

Kabul City police found a cache containing 61 rocket-propelled grenades Monday.

These finds show a growing proficiency among ANSF forces to secure Afghanistan.

No shots were fired and no Afghan citizens were harmed during these operations

April 27, 2010

Funeral picketers now face their own protest

The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Apr 27, 2010 20:13:49 EDT

TOPEKA, Kan. — A Topeka church that has gained notoriety in recent years for picketing the funerals of fallen U.S. service members was itself picketed after turning a group of veterans and their families away from its noon worship service.

To continue reading:


Tourists in Afghanistan Have Place to Stay in Panjshir

PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Panjshir province, Afghanistan, is known for its scenic terrain, fast-flowing river, permissive environment and mujahedeen resistance of both the Soviets and Taliban.


Provincial Reconstruction Team Panjshir More Stories from Provincial Reconstruction Team Panjshir RSS
Story by 2nd Lt. Jason Smith
Date: 04.26.2010
Posted: 04.27.2010 06:46

The provincial government is hoping to add tourism to the list of things people think about when pondering Panjshir.

In an April 26, ribbon-cutting ceremony, Bazarak Municipality Mayor Abdul Khabir, with help from Panjshir Deputy Gov. Abdul Rahman Kabiri; U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Curtis Velasquez, Provincial Reconstruction Team Panjshir commander; James DeHart, U.S. State Department and PRT Panjshir director; Elizabeth Smithwick, U.S. Agency for International Development field officer at PRT Panjshir; officially opened the newest guest house in the Panjshir province.

The guest house, which was funded by USAID, belongs to the municipality. Khabir's office is responsible for the day-to-day operations.

"It's for national and international guests of Panjshir," said Khabir through an interpreter. "The municipality will use the revenue to run the guest house."

The modern facility boasts 15 rooms with flat screen televisions. Eleven of the rooms are single beds, and four have two beds. The guest house also has a conference room.

"Having a guest house close to the provincial center provides a huge benefit by increasing provincial center capacity," said Velasquez, an Abilene, Kan., native. "People can come here to conduct business rather than staying somewhere far away or not coming at all. It enhances the ability to entertain government guests, thus increasing capacity of the provincial government."

The room price is a sliding scale from $20 to $100, depending on the room and reason for the stay. Government officials on government business will be at the lower end of the scale, while tourists can expect to pay a price near the higher end.

"This is the first municipality-run guest house in the country, and it's an opportunity to expand the services of the municipality by having available an attractive, clean and pleasant place to stay in the center of the provincial capital," said Smithwick, a Texas native. "It means individuals will no longer be tied to a limited schedule, but will be able to stay for extended periods of time. This means they will be able to meet with a greater number of government officials to help meet the needs of the Panjshir people."

Smithwick said the Panjshir Municipality Guest House, which was funded through the Afghan Municipality Strengthening Program, will be open to everyone, but is primarily intended for government business.

"We finally have a place for outside guests to stay that's closer than the Astana Guest House," said Khabir. It will certainly help the province, which is one of the most visited places for tourists in Afghanistan, added Khabir.

Following the ribbon cutting, special guests received a tour of the facility and met in the conference room for tea and snacks.

The guest house is now open for business. Tourists hoping to travel to Afghanistan should book rooms soon as space is limited, and Khabir expects to be very busy.

Marines Provide Marjah Farmers With Fertilizer, Seeds During Crucial Harvest Season

MARJAH, Afghanistan – Marines with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, along with members of the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team, are helping Marjah farmers cope with one of the toughest harvesting seasons in southern Afghanistan in recent memory through a food zone distribution program.



Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs More Stories from Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Staff Sgt. Luis Agostini
Date: 04.26.2010
Posted: 04.27.2010 11:34

Right outside the Civil-Military Operations Center at northern Marjah's Camp Hansen, home to 3/6, Marines and members of the Helmand PRT register local Afghan farmers for the distribution program, and supply participating farmers with 50 kilograms each of urea, DAP, raddish, beans and sesame seeds.

"We're helping out local nationals transition from dependence on poppy as primary crop to alternative crops," said Maj. James F. Coffman, civil affairs officer for 3/6, who also heads the Marjah Accelerated Agricultural Transition Program in 3/6's area of operations.

With the combination of combat operations and a harsh winter, the farmers are struggling to maintain their crops to sustain a living.

"The harvest this year has been pretty bad. You can see the negative effects the brutal winter had on the crops. All the farmers are saying this is one of the worst harvesting seasons," Coffman said.

"We give these people something else so they are not strung out, without any money and nowhere else to turn. We are trying to give them different options, different crops so where they don't have to turn to the Taliban," said Coffman, 41, from Rome, Ga.

The participating farmers pay 1,000 Afghanis per package of the fertilizer and crop seeds. One 50-kilogram bag of urea alone can go for as much as 1,000 Afghanis in the local market.

"It's important that they sacrifice something. It's more of a symbolic gesture than anything," Coffman said.

Although not as prominent as a cash crop that poppy has been, Coffman is persistently convincing local farmers that the alternative crops being provided will make them more money in the long run.

"You're going to profit more in the long run, because you're not going to have to give your poppy to the Taliban, or other narco-drug lords," Coffman said.

Similar distribution efforts have been organized in several areas throughout Helmand province, with approximately 16,800 packages distributed to Afghan farmers throughout those areas.

A Taliban murder and intimidation campaign has presented challenges to these programs, but only shows signs of desperation.

Coffman told of one story where the Taliban approached a participating farmer to hand over his fertilizer and seeds. The Afghan farmer refused, causing the Taliban to threaten his life if he continued his cooperation with the Marines. The defiant farmer pledged his continued support of the local NATO forces. The situation escalated to weapons drawn all around. It took the village elders to quell the situation.

"The murder and intimidation campaign shows a desperate Taliban. They are clinging on to this hold that they have on the local populace. And the only way they can hold on to this is to be bullies. Slowly but surely, the light bulb is coming on with the local nationals," said Coffman, a graduate of Sanford University in Birmingham, Ala.

Afghan farmers like Mohammad Aneb continue to seek Marine support and assistance, in the face of mafia-like tactics from the local Taliban.

"It's very dangerous. They do not want us to come here," said Aneb, 30, from Marjah, who is struggling to support his wife and 10 children. "When I come here, I have to make sure my face is covered, and I wear my sunglasses."

The persistent efforts of the Helmand PRT and the local Marine civil affairs group counter Taliban intimidation tactics, and increase farmer turnout and interaction between NATO forces and local Afghan residents.

"We are poor and jobless in the village. I don't have anything for my family. That's why I am happy the Marines are here," Aleb said.

Andre Meyer, the distribution manager at Camp Hansen, has registered and distributed packages of the fertilizer and seeds to 1,066 Marjah farmers, with an ultimate goal of 4,602 farmers reached by the end of the first week of May. Still, Meyer believes the success of the program hinges on the continued security efforts provided by the Marines of 3/6, who cleared the northern portion of Marjah in mid-February during Operation Moshtarak.

"I'm very happy with it. In the long run, it's going to be worthwhile, as long as security is kept up," Meyer said.

Like most counterinsurgency operations throughout southern Afghanistan, the ultimate goal of these programs is the trust and confidence of the Afghans.

"We want them to understand Marines and (the Afghan government) is here to help, not harm," said Coffman. "If we facilitate them being in a better position, and break the perpetual cycle of poverty they are in with the Taliban and drug lords, it will show that we are the good guys, we are trying to help."

Marines Stabilize Afghan Town Of Marjah

U.S. forces have been focused on southern Afghanistan in recent months. Earlier this year, the military drove the Taliban out of their stronghold in the town of Marjah. About 20,000 Marines are trying to make the town and surrounding areas more stable. Marine Major Gen Richard Mills gives Renee Montagne an update on how the operation is going.


National Public Radio
April 27, 2010


And ahead of that Kandahar offensive that Jackie just spoke of, U.S. forces have been focused on southern Afghanistan. Earlier this year, the military drove the Taliban out of their stronghold in the town of Marjah. Twenty thousand U.S. Marines are now trying to make the town and the surrounding areas more stable.

Marine Major General Richard Mills arrived in Afghanistan earlier this month to take over command of all Marines in the country. We reached him in southern Afghanistan to get an update on the Marjah operation.

Major General RICHARD MILLS (United States Marine Corps): If you go to Marjah today, you will find a city that is free of the Taliban, that has schools that are open, a marketplace, a bazaar. I think the other thing that would strike you would be the relative security of the streets. It's certainly not a totally safe place now, but overall, security has improved. So far I think things have gone very well.

MONTAGNE: Well then, what do you say to reporting that some of the people in Marjah say when night falls, many of the streets go back to belonging to the Taliban?

Major Gen. MILLS: There is still a presence in the area. No question about it. And I think when you look at the importance of Marjah to the Taliban; it is the center of, really, their psychological homeland, if you will. They drew a lot of support from the narcotics trade that was there. So I think that some of what you see is a residual effects to the Taliban refusing to give it up. But, I think if you look at the results on the ground, you'd see a different story.

People are more safe and they're really voting with the children, the fact that they're children are free to come to schools, the schools that had been outlawed and closed by the Taliban. The Taliban have been reduced, there, really, to a war of terror. They have really disappeared from the city other than when they come in at night to plant their IEDs and to try to strike fear into the hearts and try to turn the people away. And to date, that everything has not worked.

MONTAGNE: Now, I know youve only been there and taken command in just the last few weeks, but what has been your experience when you've talk to local leaders and both tribal leaders and also elected leaders there in the province?

Major Gen. MILLS: Well, I think from the elected leadership perspective, I think that they are positive about what's happening within the province. Theyve seen great change. Marjah, of course, the one that everybody hears about, but there are towns like Nilesat, the town that was abandoned by over 30,000 Afghans when the Taliban took over. No one lived there. It was riddled with IEDs and mines. It was a fortified position by the Taliban. We took it back from them. People flocking back. And that's not unusual. I could give you three or our other examples of towns here, within the province, where life has come back. Bazaars are open. You hear music in the streets.

Is the fight over? No, not really. But it's headed in that direction. And I think that as the people feel more secure, they are beginning to change sides.

MONTAGNE: When you speak about changing sides, that was, of course, key to the regions in Iraq that were the heart of the insurgency. And youre a veteran of Anbar province. The key though, there, was a movement known generally as the Awakening movement, that really brought together tribal leaders who turned on insurgents. There's nothing that formal going on in southern Afghanistan, either Kandahar or Helmand. Does that make this just that much more of a challenge for you?

Major Gen. MILLS: Not really. I think that you can try to draw too many lessons from our experiences in Iraq, where you had a very, very homogeneous population, a strong sense of tribal belonging and the sheiks who could decide what the tribes would do. You dont have that same set up here in Afghanistan. Here you have the elders who are a little more - they stand back. They're willing to work with us but its not the same dynamic as we found in Iraq. There's a different dynamic here that requires a different approach.

MARTIN: General, thank you very much.

Major Gen. MILLS: Well, thank you, Renee. Thank you very much.

MONTAGNE: Major General Richard Mills, speaking to us from Leatherneck in Helmand province. He is the new commander of all U.S. Marines in Afghanistan and we'll be checking in with him over the next year.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: Youre listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

IJC Operational Update, April 27

KABUL, Afghanistan - In the Arghandab District of Kandahar this morning, an ISAF patrol found an improvised explosive device near the Kuhak school. An explosive ordnance disposal team was attempting to disarm the device when it exploded. No one was hurt.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story

Date: 04.27.2010
Posted: 04.27.2010 05:07

In the Musa Qalah District of Helmand province yesterday, a joint patrol received information from local Afghans about possible insurgent activity in a compound in the area. ISAF forces cordoned off the compound while Afghan national police members went inside to investigate. As ANP members entered the compound, an Afghan civilian told the patrol that there was an Afghan male in the next room dressed in a burka. The individual was found with approximately 25 rounds of small-arms ammunition and was detained.

In the Sabari District of Khost yesterday, an Afghan-international security force saw two individuals emplacing an IED. The patrol was able to capture one of the men and destroy the IED.

While patrolling in the Now Zad District of Helmand province yesterday, a joint patrol found five 60mm recoilless rifle warheads inside a cave. The cache was destroyed.

An Afghan patrol found an IED in the Beshud District of Helmand yesterday. The device consisted of two anti-tank mines. The device was destroyed by an EOD team.

In the Qalat District of Zabul province yesterday, an Afghan-international patrol found three remote-controlled IEDs. The ANP detained five people for questioning near the find. The IEDs were destroyed by an EOD team.

In the Nad-e Ali District of Helmand yesterday, a joint patrol found a cache containing two rocket-propelled grenades. The cache was destroyed.

No Afghan civilians were harmed during these operations.

Key Afghan military operation moves slowly as Washington's political clock ticks

WASHINGTON (AP) — The American-led effort to gain control of southern Afghanistan is off to a slow start and the political clock is ticking as U.S. troops head into what could be the bloodiest fight yet in the eight-year war.


ANNE FLAHERTY Associated Press Writers
April 27, 2010 | 3:53 a.m.

The U.S. and its NATO allies last week set a goal of starting to transfer control of Afghanistan to the central government by the end of the year, and President Barack Obama has said U.S. troops must start leaving in 2011.

But the slow pace of progress makes it less likely Obama can meet these tight deadlines, and it's not clear if he can buy more time: He has struggled to persuade Congress to commit troops based on the current schedule.

The expanded U.S. campaign began in late winter in the small farming hamlets of Marjah, in Helmand Province, and has advanced more slowly than expected, officials said.

Now U.S. and NATO troops face a much more formidable task: securing Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban and the area from which al-Qaida planned the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, has described the campaign in Afghanistan's south as a slowly rising tide that will require time and patience. He and other military officials also have warned of an inevitable rise in casualties.

"I think we've been very clear for months now that this was going to be a very difficult fight in the south, and tried to set expectations, as tragic as it is, for these losses," Adm. Mike Mullen, Obama's top military adviser and head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently told reporters.

The drive this summer to secure Kandahar was supposed to build on the success of the much smaller Marjah operations.

But so far the U.S. and NATO haven't achieved their goals in Marjah, military and civilian officials said, as the government has been slow to provide services and villagers have not rallied in large numbers to the Kabul-based government.

"We're still moving forward more slowly than the people would like," Mark Sedwill, NATO's senior civilian representative, said on a trip to Marjah this month.

Sedwill still sees overall progress, and other civilian reconstruction specialists said it was unrealistic to expect a smoothly operating local government little more than two months after the initial assault on Marjah.

Two senior Pentagon officials who visited Marjah in recent weeks said the Marines who provide the backbone of security in the district are not getting enough tips from the villagers or spending enough time with local leaders.

People are hanging back, afraid to throw their lot with the government even if they hate the Taliban, military officials said, and the opportunity to win their trust is fading.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly.

The worry among military strategists is that if their tactics don't take hold in Marjah, with a population of roughly 80,000, what will happen in Kandahar?

The site of heavy fighting with the Soviets in the 1980s, Kandahar became a command post and spiritual homeland for the Taliban and al-Qaida in the 1990s before the 2001 NATO-led invasion.

If they are not aiding the Taliban directly, Kandahar's 1 million-plus inhabitants are seen as sympathetic toward the militants and skeptical of the new Afghan government.

U.S. special operations forces already have begun arriving in districts surrounding Kandahar's city center, focusing on districts where the Afghan central government has little or no authority.

This June, NATO and the United States plan to greatly expand military operations in Kandahar after the bulk of the 30,000-troop buildup ordered by Obama arrives.

The goal is to make significant headway by August, when the holy month of Ramadan begins. Military officials are betting that the spike in violence and casualties will abate by summer's end, and the Taliban's grip on the city will be loosened.

There are currently 7,800 NATO troops in the region, operating along side some 12,000 Afghan soldiers and police. By early summer, NATO forces should swell to 11,200.

The difficulty of the fight to come was illustrated Monday, when the United Nations told 200 of its Afghan employees in Kandahar to stay home following a wave of violence.

Several foreign U.N. employees were temporarily moved to Kabul hours after three bombings - one aimed at a top police official - shook the city and left two civilians dead.

Worried last year that the Taliban was regrouping, NATO ordered reinforcements to the Arghandab Valley and other areas in and around the city to bolster a small group of Canadian forces in the area.

More recently, checkpoints have been opened around the city and special operations forces are moving closer. A senior military official in Kabul said more than 70 Taliban leaders have been "taken off the streets" in recent months.


Associated Press writer Deb Riechmann in Kabul contributed to this report.

More lethal sniper rifle eyed by Corps

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Apr 27, 2010 11:05:09 EDT

Marine officials are weighing options for a new, powerful sniper rifle that could kill enemies 1,500 meters away, and are closely watching a contract competition launched by U.S. Special Operations Command last month for a similar weapon, a top Marine acquisitions official said.

To read the entire article:


Forces in Afghanistan Find 6 Roadside Bombs

From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL - The discovery of six roadside bombs, including one that insurgents were in the process of planting, highlighted operations in Afghanistan yesterday and today, military officials reported.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs More Stories from Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs RSS
Date: 04.27.2010
Posted: 04.27.2010 12:03

In Kandahar province's Arghandab District this morning, an International Security Assistance Force patrol found a roadside bomb near a school. It detonated when an explosive ordnance disposal team was attempting to disarm it, but no one was hurt.

An Afghan patrol found a roadside bomb made from two anti-tank mines in Helmand province's Beshud District yesterday. An EOD team destroyed it.

In Zabul province's Qalat district yesterday, a combined Afghan-international patrol found three remote-controlled roadside bombs. Afghan police detained five people for questioning, and an EOD team destroyed the devices.

A combined Afghan-international security force saw two insurgents planting a roadside bomb in Khost province's Sabari District yesterday. The patrol captured one of the men and destroyed the bomb.

In other news from Afghanistan, a combined patrol in Helmand's Musa Qalah District received information from local Afghans about possible insurgent activity in a compound in the area. ISAF forces cordoned off the compound while Afghan police went inside to investigate. As police officers entered the compound, an Afghan civilian told them that an Afghan man was in the next room dressed in a burka. He was found to have 25 rounds of small-arms ammunition and was detained.

Elsewhere, a combined patrol in Helmand's Now Zad District found five 60 mm recoilless rifle warheads inside a cave yesterday, and another combined patrol in the province's Nad-e Ali District found a cache containing two rocket-propelled grenades.

No Afghan civilians were harmed during these operations, officials said.

Thundering Third Arrives, Trains to Take Over Operations in Afghanistan

CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan – Marines and sailors of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment hit the ground running with Reception, Staging, Onward movement and Integration training here, April 24-25.



Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs More Stories from Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Benjamin Crilly
Date: 04.27.2010
Posted: 04.27.2010 01:58

Throughout the training, elements of the Thundering Third received an array of classes and conducted practical application directly related to their area of operations.

According to the US Army Transportation School webpage, "RSO&I; consists of those essential and interrelated processes in the AO; required to transform arriving personnel and materiel into forces capable of meeting operational requirements."

Despite the fact that the Marines may have had similar training while stateside as part of their pre-deployment training package, these classes are derived from operations conducted by and the experiences of those Marines who they relieve. With this core foundation, Marines learned what worked or did not work for their predecessors, the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, and how to conduct future operations.

With the knowledge from these classes, the Thundering Third becomes a force both equipped and capable of overcoming the demanding challenges they face in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, said 1st Lt. Eric V. Kjono, the commanding officer of Headquarters and Service Company, 3/1.

Since this training is current and area specific, Marines need these classes so they will be able to develop new tactics, techniques and procedures for their Afghanistan mission, said Sgt. Chase P. Sheda, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Camp Dehli detainee facility with H&S; Co., 3/1.

The battalion will be conducting combined operations with the Afghan national army as much as possible to strengthen the local infrastructure, therefore it is important that Marines safely employ TTPs to protect themselves, their Afghan counterparts and minimize collateral damage, said Kjono from Ramona, Calif.

"Knowing the material from RSO&I; will save lives," said Sheda from Estherville, Iowa.

Armed with this newly acquired knowledge, the Thundering Third is prepared to roll into their area of operations being both safe and successful as they work closely with Afghan forces to create a secure environment for the Afghan people.

Afghan Civilians, Government Join Forces to Defeat and Remove Taliban

KABUL, Afghanistan - Gizab District, locked centrally in the Hazarajet region of Afghanistan, recently was the scene of community resolve and determination when citizens took action to remove a Taliban threat from their village. The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, with minimal involvement by coalition forces, is assisting Gizab residents in their effort to purge the Taliban from the area.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Date: 04.27.2010
Posted: 04.27.2010 08:35

With harassment by the Taliban increasing, local villagers held a shura and decided to establish a road block Wednesday in an effort to detain insurgents. This action led to the apprehension of several insurgents as well as their weapons and motorbikes. A Taliban commander, responsible for coordinating attacks against coalition special forces in the area, was among those apprehended at the road block.

Later that afternoon, Taliban insurgents armed with small-arms and rocket-propelled grenades were preparing to attack the village. Local citizens, defending their homes and families, engaged the insurgents in a battle that lasted more than three days.

A combined patrol of Afghanistan national security force and International Security Assistance Force partners was conducting an operation nearby and responded, enhancing security at the village stronghold.

After three days of fighting, the insurgents were defeated and driven out of Gizab. Between the villagers and combined patrol, several insurgents were killed and four were arrested.

In the subsequent days, hostile action in the area has diminished, providing an opportunity for the governor of Dai Kundi, the provincial governor of neighbouring Uruzgan province, the local Malik and 20 other community leaders to travel to Gizab District for a meeting to announce their support for GIRoA and elect a district chief of police.

The combined force also attended the meeting Saturday to demonstrate their support for the people of Gizab and GIRoA. The combined force was warmly received by the villagers and leaders who said they were grateful for GIRoA's support.

During the meeting, the deputy governor placed a phone call to President Hamid Karzai, who spoke to local elders and leaders and voiced his pleasure with the cooperation between the different elements, which ultimately removed 50 active Taliban fighters from the region.

"The villagers' decision to react was fueled by Taliban members routinely exerting their influence and control over the people in the southern District of Gizab," said Capt. Rebecca Lykins, a Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan spokesman. "Their reaction is a testament to their confidence in GIRoA's ability to protect and serve the populace."

More vets eligible for service dog benefits

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Apr 27, 2010 13:33:37 EDT

Disabled veterans with sight, hearing and mobility limitations who might benefit from having a service dog at their side are being encouraged by a major veterans service organization to apply for government reimbursement of some dog-related expenses.

To continue reading:


Lynn Visits Simulation Center, Marines at Pendleton

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDELTON, Calif. - The rocket-propelled grenade that exploded over his head served as an effective attention-getting device during Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III's visit to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force's battle simulation center here yesterday.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs More Stories from Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs RSS
Story by Jim Garamone
Date: 04.27.2010
Posted: 04.27.2010 07:02

The deputy secretary had a walk-through of the simulation center before going through it for real. Thomas Buscemi, chief of the center, demonstrated what an RPG sounds like for Lynn.

"The first time they hear this, the Marines say, 'What a neat pyrotechnic.' The second time they hear this, they are on the deck, which is where we want them," Buscemi said.

The simulation center is where fire teams and squads go to get a taste of what they will face when they deploy to Afghanistan. Scenarios include not only kinetic encounters that simulate combat engagement, but also situations that require dealing with local tribal and religious leaders.

"They do not know what scenario they will face when they enter the center," Buscemi said, "just as they won't know what's confronting them in Afghanistan."

The center is in an old tomato packing plant on this sprawling base, and Marines have tried to make it as realistic as possible. The smell – a mixture of sewage, rotted flesh and animals – is straight out of parts of Baghdad or Kabul.

"Some of the veterans have flashbacks as soon as they catch the smell," Buscemi told Lynn. "We need them to tell the younger Marines that the last time they caught this smell, someone was shooting at them."

Squads and fire teams run through a series of scenarios as they prepare to deploy. "We want them to see the things they will face in combat here, long before there are actual bullets flying," said Marine Sgt. Samuel Walton of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines, a combat veteran who now works at the center. The young sergeant has deployed to Iraq four times, and soon will deploy to Afghanistan. The center was up and running for his last deployment to Iraq, and it was "extremely helpful," he said.

The cadre ran Lynn through the center. Lynn and his party wore special masks to protect themselves as they got a taste of what young Marines go through.

The deputy secretary came away impressed with the center.

"We spend the vast majority of our simulation funds on airplanes and tanks and such, but 85 percent of our casualties are in small-unit actions," Lynn said. "This is certainly something we should be looking at."

The simulation center is only part of the training that Marine units go through before deploying. Company- and battalion-level exercises are part of Mojave Viper – a larger exercise at Twentynine Palms, a Marine base near Palm Springs.

In addition to going through the simulation center, Lynn also visited with members of the 1st Marine Division and stopped in at the wounded warrior battalion's new barracks.

The deputy secretary continues his California trip today with a visit to Vandenberg Air Force Base and a speech to the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles.

XO's Road Show Brings a Little of Everything to 3/6's Marines

MARJAH, HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Marines and Sailors from a variety of military occupational specialties stepped out of their normal routines April 23-25, to contribute to the XO's Road Show. The mobile exhibition toured each of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment's, company operating bases in Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan.


Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs More Stories from Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde
Date: 04.27.2010
Posted: 04.27.2010 08:01

The XO's Road Show is comprised of service members from 3/6's Headquarters and Service Company who bring valuable services to each of the battalion's line companies. It also serves as a resupply to the companies.

Different assets were on hand with an array of tasks to perform. Administration clerks were at the event to get paperwork signed. Corpsman assessed the status of the company aid stations and sprayed various tents with insect repellant. Armorers repaired and inventoried weapons and optics. A mechanic was on scene to perform preventive maintenance on generators, the battalion's career planner assisted Marines thinking of re-enlisting and many other service members on the convoy helped contribute to the event.

"We basically provide a variety of resources into one convoy and what you end up with is a one-stop shop," said Maj. Billy Ray Moore, the executive officer for 3/6.

At each stop, the companies also received a resupply of items such as food and water, which were quickly unloaded by Marines when the supply vehicles pulled into place.

Other services provided at the event included the United Through Reading Program, which allowed Marines and Sailors around the battalion to be recorded reading books to their children, siblings, nieces and nephews. Religious sermons and counseling sessions were also performed for the benefit of the companies' troops.

"I pray with [the troops] and it picks them up," said Lt. Cmdr. Paul Rumery, the battalion chaplain. "I think that coming out to the companies is good for the morale of our Marines and Sailors."

The leadership from the line companies agrees that the XO's Road Show is a great asset for their Marines.

"The road show brings the commodities to us," said Kilo Company first sergeant, 1st Sgt. Jason C. Petrakos. "It allows the Marines to get with various assets to help them out."

The XO's Road Show, which moves from place-to-place via ground convoy, made its second go-around the battalion since arriving in Afghanistan. The battalion is committed to getting its Marines the supplies and services they need to be successful and the XO's Road Show will continue to play an instrumental part in making that happen.

"[The road show] lets the companies know that we have a concerted effort to take care of their issues that are out there on the ground," said Moore. "Taking everything out at one time really serves to reinforce to the companies that what they need out there on the ground is what they're going to get."

April 26, 2010

Farmers Transition to Different Crops, Marines, Afghan Forces Provide Aid

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MARJAH, Afghanistan – Through a joint effort, the Afghan national army, non-governmental organizations and Marines are overseeing the Marjah Accelerated Agricultural Transition program, which has moved into its next stage, April 22.


Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs More Stories from Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. James W. Clark
Date: 04.22.2010
Posted: 04.26.2010 07:36

The program is part of a coordinated effort to assist Marjah residents as they transition away from poppy and switch to legal, alternative crops. Participants in the program receive financial assistance, as well as much needed tools and supplies if they meet the required criteria, the foremost being; ceasing to harvest and grow poppy.

Whether or not participants have destroyed their poppy crops is verified by Marine and Afghan national army patrols that are actively on the lookout for participants in the program. Those taking part are required to show the patrol their progress so far. If there has been a valid attempt at changing one's crop, the patrol will sign the farmer's vouchers, which are turned in at the government center where they will receive 3,000 Afghanis, as well as fertilizer and farming equipment, explained Maj. David Fennell the civil affairs team leader attached to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment.

"The verification process is starting to speed up," said Fennell. "But, you run into the realities on the ground, like the scope of the operation and the amount of footwork it takes."

The Marine's who carry out the verification process, due so in addition to their regular security duties and census work. The responsibility to judge whether or not the residents who signed up for the program have made a genuine effort to change their crops falls on these Marines, most of whom are in their late teens and early twenties.

"Some of [the farmers] have harvested the poppy and then cut them down," said Cpl. Timothy B. Stark, squad leader with 81 mm Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, 1/6. "Poppy season has been horrible this year due to a harsh winter. They view this as a great way of us helping them and know that what they're doing is good, but they are wary of the Taliban. Now that we've started signing the vouchers, word travels fast and people come from all across the city."

"As long as they've killed off poppy and have made the effort, we've signed the voucher," said Stark. "Once crops are destroyed they get their money as well as the fertilizer, seed and tools."

To date, 400 vouchers have been signed out of approximately 1,500 registered participants. Those who have turned in their vouchers to the government center have received payment and fertilizer and have begun to plant their new crops and make plans for the future harvest.

"The companies are doing a great job of hitting the dirt and meeting people, inspecting the crops and signing off on vouchers," said Fennell. "The Marines on the ground need to go out and judge whether or not a credible effort has been made to change. It's trying work; a program like this does not happen without a lot of blood sweat and tears. Any time you're dealing with locals and money, it can be a very complicated venture. These Marines manage a lot of different expectations. The number of things that need to happen to make this work is astounding."

Logistics battalion storms Ft. Bragg en route to Afghanistan

More than 500 Marines and sailors with Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, descended upon a massive training area at Fort Bragg, N.C., April 19 - 27, to conduct essential training for their upcoming seven-month deployment to Afghanistan.


4/26/2010 By Gunnery Sgt. Katesha Washington, 2nd Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs , 2nd Marine Logistics Group

The battalion conducted the training to help pass on the experience and knowledge from the seasoned veterans to those who have not yet deployed and to ensure everyone had a unified understanding of training, techniques and procedures for operation in a combat environment.

During the exercise, Marines and sailors held a live-fire range, constructed two Southwest Asia huts for students at the Army’s Basic Ranger Course, and ran numerous simulated convoys. Water purification technicians also supplied more than 18,000 gallons of purified water to the battalion while training inexperienced technicians on the purification process.

Two companies of Marines from 8th Engineer Support Battalion, who are attached to CLB-2 for their future deployment, provided engineer, heavy equipment and general combat logistics support.

Capt. Christian Felder, the company commander for Engineer Company, 8th ESB, says the opportunity to train for deployment with CLB-2 is invaluable and critical to the success of operations while in theater.

“This is an awesome opportunity for my guys,” Felder said. “This training gives them a chance to conduct operations like we would in a combat environment and to make mistakes now, so that when we get to Afghanistan, we are able to seamlessly conduct missions without pause.”

For the majority of Marines with the battalion this will be their third, fourth, and for some, fifth, combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom. But not everyone in the battalion is combat-tested, so the main focus during the exercise was ensuring the new guys became efficient in their jobs before they deployed.

Lance Cpl. Matthew Wasalaski, a logistics vehicle systems operator, with CLB-2, is trained to drive 7-ton vehicles, Humvees and Logistics Vehicle Systems. He admitted he is nervous about going to combat, but still eager to put the training he’s received since boot camp to good use.

“I’m excited to serve my country and to do something beyond my basic combat training, the motor pool and beyond Camp Lejeune. I want to be able to actually get out there and do what I’ve learned up to this point and to challenge myself,” he said.

Although Wasalaski has been in the Corps for only one year, he already has a deep understanding of the importance of pre-deployment training.

“It is important that we not only train hard right now, but this is the time when we develop unit cohesion, camaraderie and a tight bond with each other. This is why I became a Marine, to have that brotherly bond with these guys,” he added.

As the training exercise concluded, the Marines and sailors of CLB-2 identified their deficiencies and look forward to follow-on training to correct and refine those shortcomings at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif. The battalion is scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan this summer.

3 explosions rock Kandahar, kill 2 civilians

By Noor Khan - The Associated Press
Posted : Monday Apr 26, 2010 10:40:33 EDT

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A wave of violence that has swept the southern city of Kandahar has forced the United Nations to tell more than 200 of its Afghan employees there to stay home, a U.N. official said Monday. Several foreign U.N. employees have been temporarily moved to Kabul.

Please go to the following link to read the entire article:


Ospreys Flying High, Fast Supporting War in Afghanistan

CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan – "You guys ready to go fast?"



3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs More Stories from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs RSS
Story by Gunnery Sgt. Steven William
Date: 04.24.2010
Posted: 04.26.2010 10:46

Those are the last words from the pilot before the MV-22 Osprey catapults in midair and in one fluid movement switches from a vertical-lift aircraft into a horizontally-propelled airplane within seconds. You're strapped in with shoulder harnesses and a lap belt, but you can't help but hold on to your seat as the aircraft jettisons out on its next mission.

The Marines of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), here, are used to it now. While other Marines onboard, especially first-timers, are in for a wild ride, the Osprey crew is focused on the mission-at-hand.

"We fly all over Helmand province, and sometimes further, in support of ground operations, taking people to and from the fight, and fast," said Staff Sgt. John Godwin, a Loxley, Ala., native serving as a flight equipment technician and aerial observer for VMM-261.

That's more than 260 knots fast, or nearly 300 mph. The Osprey can move troops and gear much faster than the CH-53E Super Stallion – the Corps' 29-year-old, war-tested veteran for some of the same tasks.

"This aircraft obviously brings the speed and distance that no other assault support aircraft has," explained Godwin. The Osprey's impressive capabilities "shrink the battle space" according to many leaders here – a valuable attribute when dealing with the expanse of the baron and rugged terrain the birds fly over.

It's a mission Godwin and the other VMM-261 Marines take a lot of pride in.

"It feels good to get back off a seven-hour flight knowing that all of our tasking for that day was completed. There are so many moving parts and setbacks that come into play in a day's worth of tasking, but we somehow manage to work through them on a daily basis and get the job done. That's what I like."

It seems almost wrong to call this "hard work" as the Marines enjoy the job so much and have the opportunity to fly on an aerial roller coast of sorts. But the effort the VMM-261 Marines put into getting the Marines, supplies and gear delivered across the region is undeniable. It's just an added workplace benefit when the Marines can give the pilot the thumbs up when he asks "you guys ready to go fast?"

Rain doesn’t hamper memorial run for Cherry Hill Marine

The day Jeremy Kane's friends and family laid him to rest in January was cold and snowy. On Sunday, when the weather was chilly and misty, they gathered once more to run two miles in his memory.


April 26, 2010

"I think Jeremy has a great sense of humor, making it rain like this," said Bryan Adams, president of the Veterans for Education, a Rutgers-Camden student advocacy group that supports veterans and active military personnel.

The money raised by the 350 people who signed up for the run will go toward a memorial at Rutgers that will honor Rutgers graduates who died in combat during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, including Kane.

Kane, a lance corporal in the Marines, was killed in January by a suicide bomb attack while on patrol in the Helmand province in Afghanistan. He was 22.

Kane was also a criminal justice major at the Camden campus of Rutgers.

The run had special significance, starting from Cherry Hill High School East, where Kane graduated, and ending at Congregation M'kor Shalom, which was Kane's place of worship.

The two-mile path between the two was also the path the funeral procession went down on that cold day in January, said Adams, 26, a former Army Sniper who was awarded the Purple Heart.

"We want his mom to remember this run and not the funeral procession," said Adams. "This is a positive way to honor him."

Melinda Kane said she was honored when she heard about the run.

"So much had already happened when the idea was presented to me and I asked how I could help," Kane said. "And they said, "This is a gift to you.' "

"Working with them gives me a glimpse of who Jeremy's friends were," said Kane, who also felt the fact the run brought attention to veterans who are also pursuing higher education was equally as important as honoring her son's memory.

According to Mary Beth Daisey, associate chancellor for student affairs at Rutgers-Camden and adviser to the student group, about 100 veterans are students at the campus.

The runners made their way down Kresson Road and Evesham Road led by a motorcycle honor guard and ended with Melinda Kane, surrounded by several of her friends and family.

The military members were the first in to M'kor Shalom, jogging down the road in formation while shouting cadences about running in the rain and having enough energy to run to Philadelphia. As they gathered preceding the run, one member shouted out, "If it ain't raining, we ain't training."

Adams said the run had special significance to a lot of the veterans, who not only also lost friends, but went through difficult physical challenges.

"It's just fitting that it's raining and it's cold."

After the run, Matt Steffan, a veteran of the 82nd Airborne Infantry and one of the organizers of the run, told the members of the Veterans for Education that runs like this are important. The event lets the community know that one of their own has given his or her life and also allows people to share in the grieving process.

Julia Smoot, Kane's girlfriend, ran with several of her friends, who were also friends of Kane. She said she thought Kane would've appreciated the run in his honor.

Mike Bornfreund, 21, who went to high school and college with Kane, said it was nice to see so many people from the community attend the run.

"It shows how many people cared about him," Bornfreund said.

Reach Shruti Mathur Desai at (856) 317-7828 or [email protected]

Marines get support from the homeland

At Lake Mission Viejo, grateful civilians who've 'adopted' a Camp Pendleton battalion give the Marines a day of fun to remember before they deploy.

When she deploys to the violence of Afghanistan, Marine Lance Cpl. Sarah Hogg, 20, of Fort Worth, Texas, will remember a sunny day of food and friendship on the shore of Lake Mission Viejo.


By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
April 26, 2010

So will hundreds of other Marines from the headquarters battalion of the 1st Marine Division who attended a festive gathering Saturday hosted by a Mission Viejo group that "adopted" the battalion seven years ago.

Although support groups for military units are common near bases throughout the U.S., some of the most active are those in Orange County that sponsor activities for the Marines and sailors of Camp Pendleton.

The Mission Viejo group arranges farewell parties before the troops deploy and welcome-home parties when they return. Volunteers visit Marines at the Wounded Warrior barracks.

They gather furniture for young married couples (93 truckloads at last count). They collect ball gowns for female Marines and the girlfriends and wives of male Marines to wear at the annual Marine Corps birthday bash.

In a few weeks they'll host a baby shower for several dozen pregnant wives of Marines

At Christmas, they gather toys for Marine children. And when the troops are in Iraq, Afghanistan or other overseas locations, the Mission Viejo group sends them hundreds of boxes of home-baked cookies and other goodies.

"It's the least we can do for them after all they've done for us," said volunteer Joanne Hiebel, 73.

The effort is nonpolitical. Volunteers may, or may not, support U.S. foreign policy, but they definitely support the troops.

Support groups from Buena Park, Dana Point, Huntington Beach, Irvine, Laguna Hills, San Juan Capistrano and other cities have adopted other battalions and regiments from Camp Pendleton.

At the Lake Mission Viejo party, the food was free and the band lively. Marines, their spouses and their children spread out blankets on the grassy shore; some played sand volleyball.

Hogg enjoyed spending a day away from the base, being casual. "It's nice not to have to worry about being proper," she said.

A.J. Summa, 65, a member of VFW Post 6024, remembered when he served in the Navy during the Vietnam War and young sailors would wear wigs and hats when they ventured off base in hopes that civilians would not realize they were in the military.

"This is so much better: This shows these young people that America is proud of them and supports them," he said.

Most of the Marines will deploy soon to Helmand province in Afghanistan — a former Taliban stronghold where 85 Marines have been killed and 877 wounded in the last 12 months. A few of those at the party had visible injuries from previous tours in Iraq and Afghanistan; some had tattoos with the names of Marines killed in action.

Under a warm Southern California sky, thoughts of the war-zone dangers ahead seemed, at least momentarily, out of mind.

"Today is all about morale and camaraderie," said Cpl. Shauna Toth, 20, of South Carolina.

Afghan airfield named for Iron Range Marine

A 2-million-square-foot airfield in southern Afghanistan has been named in honor of a Marine from the Iron Range who was killed in action in October while fighting the war on global terrorism in that country.

A 2-million-square-foot airfield in southern Afghanistan has been named in honor of a Marine from the Iron Range who was killed in action in October while fighting the war on global terrorism in that country.

Cllck above link to find news video.

Published April 26 2010
By: Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune

Staff Sgt. Aaron Taylor, who graduated from Greenway High School in Coleraine, died Oct. 9 in the Helmand province of Afghanistan when hit by an improvised explosive device while on foot patrol.

Taylor, 27, was a Marine’s Marine, and to hear Taylor’s former commanding officer tell it, there is no better reason to bestow such an honor on his former team leader.

“I wish I had my whole unit comprised of Staff Sgt. Taylors,” Lt. Col. Matt Puglisi said in a telephone interview from Camp Pendleton, Calif., where Taylor’s former Marine Wing Support Squadron 372 — the Diamondbacks — is based.

“He was a guy we could look to to get the job done,” Puglisi said. “We could look to him to take care of the junior Marines, train them and mentor them. There was something about Aaron that, when you met him, Marines wanted to be around him. He had that special quality. Everybody who knew him knew that there was something special about Aaron. He was smart, articulate.

“He was the best of the best.”

Taylor’s father, Cliff, of Two Harbors said the pride he has in his son somewhat softens the pain of his loss.

“We are extremely proud of Aaron to be honored in such a way,” Cliff Taylor said. “But it comes with a heavy sigh. We miss him and think of him every day. He was a good man, a fine son and an outstanding Marine.”

For security reasons, Puglisi said the exact location of “Taylor Expeditionary Airfield” is classified. A bronze placard on aluminum matting listing Taylor’s name, and details of his service are posted at the airfield.

Staff Sgt. Taylor, formerly of Bovey, was patrolling the Helmand Province in southwestern Afghanistan, the world’s largest opium-producing region and the scene of fighting between NATO forces and the Taliban. His job was explosive ordinance disposal. He already had served a tour of duty in Iraq and had been in Afghanistan about six weeks when he was killed.

In December, Taylor was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal for heroic achievement under combat conditions.

Puglisi had a hitch in his voice when he related that Taylor was the only Marine of the 750 in his squadron to lose his life during a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan.

“The loss of Aaron was the most difficult thing I ever had to go through as a commander; he was the only one I lost,” Puglisi said. “It’s a significant airfield, and we want everyone who comes to that airfield and leaves from that airfield to know who Staff Sgt. Taylor was and of his heroic achievement and outstanding dedication to duty and the U.S. Marine Corps.”

Cliff Taylor and his wife, Cindy, traveled to Camp Pendleton on Easter weekend to greet their son’s unit as the Marines returned from Afghanistan.

“Meeting Aaron’s fellow Marines was bittersweet,” Cliff Taylor said. “We were glad they made it back safe, but there was one missing. They felt the same way. They had lost a brother. It was very emotionally difficult, but at the same time, somewhat healing. You could not meet a finer group of young men.”

Staff Sgt. Taylor was a 2000 graduate of Greenway High School, where he was manager of the hockey team, wrestled, participated in the pep, jazz and concert bands, as well as drama, his father said.

“All the Marines we’ve met since Aaron’s passing have treated us with the utmost dignity and respect at all times,” Cliff Taylor said. “We are honored to know each and every one of them. We hope they all come back safe.”

Taliban Reintegrated in Baghlan

KABUL, Afghanistan - Eight Taliban insurgents walked up to the gates of a forward operating base in Puza-i-Eshan Saturday to turn themselves in to Afghan national security forces.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.26.2010
Posted: 04.26.2010 04:50

The departure from the Taliban came in the midst of Operation Taohid II, an Afghan-led operation in the north designed to defeat the insurgency, provide humanitarian supplies to the people and enable development projects in the area.

Gen. Murad Ali Murad, Afghan national army 209th Corps commander held a shura with the Taliban members to negotiate the terms of their reintegration. Brig. Gen. Frank Leidenberger, Regional Command-North commander also attended.

"This is your country, when you fight against us here you fight against your own country," Murad said. "An hour ago, you were part of the black name of the Taliban, but now we welcome you back as our brothers."

Operation Taohid II is the largest operation the ANSF have led in the north. About 1,000 combat-ready Afghan national army troops are taking part in the operation, supported by ISAF troops from Germany, the United States, Sweden, Finland, Croatia and Belgium.

One indicator of the operation's success was the securing of the Kuk Chenar (Dutch) Bridge and the return of large groups of civilians who had been frightened away by insurgents.

Civilian freedom of movement is now being further improved as work continues around the bridge's base along the river. A large number of trucks have been removing loads of the river's sludge to aid the flow of the river. Guard posts have been stationed on either end of the bridge to provide safe passage for residents.

IJC Operational Update, April 26

KABUL, Afghanistan - A senior militant commander of Kunduz province and two senior advisors were killed in a precision air strike in northern Kunduz this morning.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.26.2010
Posted: 04.26.2010 04:52

The senior insurgents were driving through a rural desert area approximately 18 miles northeast of Kunduz City when they were struck by precision air fire, killing all three.

The senior Taliban commander was involved in all aspects of military operations in Kunduz province. He was responsible for setting target priorities, weapons distribution and directing attacks against coalition and Afghan forces.

In Kandahar this morning, an Afghan-international security force searched a compound in northeast Kandahar City after intelligence information indicated militant activity. During a search of the compound the security force detained several suspected insurgents for further questioning.

In the Nad-e Ali District of Helmand province yesterday, a joint patrol found a cache containing one AK-47, magazines, 130 rounds of ammunition and 13 kilograms (30 lbs) of homemade explosives. The hazardous items were destroyed and the non-hazardous items were recovered for exploitation.

While patrolling in the Dzadran District of Paktiya province yesterday, coalition forces discovered a weapons cache containing 17 rocket-propelled grenades, nine fuses, four rear stabilizers and 300 heavy machine gun rounds. One individual was detained. The cache was destroyed.

April 25, 2010

Elite U.S. Units Step Up Drive in Kandahar Before Attack

Small bands of elite American Special Operations forces have been operating with increased intensity for several weeks in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan’s largest city, picking up or picking off insurgent leaders to weaken the Taliban in advance of major operations, senior administration and military officials say.


Published: April 25, 2010

The looming battle for the spiritual home of the Taliban is shaping up as the pivotal test of President Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, including how much the United States can count on the country’s leaders and military for support, and whether a possible increase in civilian casualties from heavy fighting will compromise a strategy that depends on winning over the Afghan people.

It will follow a first offensive, into the hamlet of Marja, that is showing mixed results. And it will require the United States and its Afghan partners to navigate a battleground that is not only much bigger than Marja but also militarily, politically and culturally more complex.

Two months after the Marja offensive, Afghan officials acknowledge that the Taliban have in some ways retaken the momentum there, including killing or beating locals allied with the central government and its American backers. “We are still waiting to see the outcome in Marja,” said Shaida Abdali, the deputy Afghan national security adviser. “If you are planning for operations in Kandahar, you must show success in Marja. You have to be able to point to something. Now you don’t have a good example to point to there.”

The battle for Kandahar has become the make-or-break offensive of the eight-and-half-year war. The question is whether military force, softened with appeals to the local populace, can overcome a culture built on distrust of outsiders, including foreign forces and even neighboring tribes.

More than a dozen senior military and civilian officials directly involved in the Kandahar operation agreed to discuss the outlines of the offensive on the condition that they not be identified discussing a pending operation. But in general, the military under Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the senior American and allied commander, has been willing to talk about operations in advance to try to scare off insurgents and convince the local population that their government and its allies are moving to increase security.

Instead of the quick punch that opened the Marja offensive, the operation in Kandahar, a sprawling urban area, is designed to be a slowly rising tide of military action. That is why the opening salvos of the offensive are being carried out in the shadows by Special Operations forces.

“Large numbers of insurgent leadership based in and around Kandahar have been captured or killed,” said one senior American military officer directly involved in planning the Kandahar offensive. But, he acknowledged, “it’s still a contested battle space.”

Senior American and allied commanders say the goal is to have very little visible American presence inside Kandahar city itself, with that effort carried by Afghan Army and police units.

Stepped up bombings and attacks against foreign contractors, moderate religious leaders and public officials are viewed as proof that Taliban insurgents are trying to send a message to Afghan tribal leaders not to cooperate with the American offensive. Last Monday night, gunmen killed Azizullah Yarmal, the deputy mayor of Kandahar, as he prayed in a mosque in the city.

American and NATO officials are not eager to speak publicly about one of their biggest challenges: the effect of the continued presence of Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Afghan president’s brother and head of the Kandahar provincial council, whose suspected links with drug dealers and insurgents have prompted some Western officials to say that corruption and governance problems have led locals to be more accepting of the Taliban.

And while allied officials say they will be relying heavily on Afghan forces to take the lead in securing the city, that same tactic has so far produced mixed success in Marja, where Marine Corps officers said they ended up doing much of the hard fighting.

To shape the arrangement of allied forces ahead of the fight, conventional troops have begun operations outside of Kandahar, in a series of provincial districts that ring the city. American and allied officers predict heavy pockets of fighting in those belts. Kandahar, according to a senior military officer, is “infested” with insurgents, but not overrun as was Marja.

The plan has echoes of the troop “surge” in Iraq, when additional American forces were sent to attack the insurgents who were operating in the belts outside the Iraqi capital, planning attacks, constructing roadside bombs and launching assaults.

Other similarities to Iraq include the plans to woo local tribal leaders in and around Kandahar, similar to the way soldiers and Marines in Anbar Province courted the tribal Sunni sheiks in Iraq to fight insurgents. The United States and its allies in the Afghan government will try to unite local tribal leaders in and around Kandahar to turn in Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. As in Iraq, officials said, the strategy will include monetary incentives in the form of economic development money for local leaders and tribal officials who support the government’s security efforts.

As the military pace increases, the centerpiece of the offensive’s political effort will be a series of “shuras” — Afghan-style town hall meetings between tribal leaders and government officials to try to convince locals that they will get a better deal from the government than from Taliban administration. The aim of the shuras, said Mark Sedwill, the senior NATO civilian in Afghanistan, will be “firstly to get their support for security operations to go ahead, and secondly, to identify their needs for security, governance and development.”

The next step after the security operations and the shuras will be to roll out squads of Afghan civil administrators with Western advisers, who, in theory, will try to bring government services and resources to districts. This may be the most difficult hurdle, since there are doubts among Western officials about the ability of the Afghan government to supply an ample number of effective and qualified civil administrators.

Rather than civil assistance, many residents fear only military action. Already in Kandahar, many locals view Afghan and NATO checkpoints and convoys as great a danger on the roads as Taliban bombs and checkpoints.

“Instead of bringing people close to the government,” cautioned Haji Mukhtar, a Kandahar Provincial Council member, more combat “will cause people to stay further from the government and hate the foreigners more.”

While the overt parts of the Kandahar offensive will begin in coming weeks — several dozen platoon and company-size outposts for American and allied forces have already been constructed in recent weeks along the approaches to Kandahar — military officials warn that securing the city could take months. Military commanders say their goal is to show concrete results by late summer or early fall, in advance of Ramadan and national parliamentary elections.

While the officials stressed that they will limit civilian casualties, an increase in operations will put more residents in the cross-fire. The fighting already under way in the province is putting at risk the sharp drop in civilian casualties that followed General McChrystal’s orders to strenuously avoid them. Recent episodes of civilian casualties, including an attack on a bus, have undermined trust for NATO operations.

Officers already are also preparing for a spike in attacks with improvised explosives. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has traveled to NATO capitals to offer allies access to American-made armored transport vehicles and a host of technology and surveillance measures to find and defuse roadside bombs.

Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting from Kabul.

Local Projects Help to Better Infrastructure, Economy

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan – As Marines of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, continue to push Taliban forces out of Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, certain areas have begun to rebuild.


Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs More Stories from Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Dwight Henderson

Date: 04.23.2010
Posted: 04.25.2010 06:01

One such area is that near Combat Outpost Koshtay where there were high amounts of fighting just months ago. But as the fighting has moved further south and the locals feel more comfortable, there has been an increase of interest to build schools, bridges, sluice gates, and other structures needed to better the infrastructure here.

Civil Affairs Marines currently attached to 2/2 offer to pay contractors for any projects that will better the area; like building schools or fixing canals. However, local contractors and local laborers were hesitant to work at first because they feared possible repercussions from the Taliban.

Since local contractor would not work with them, the Marines had to hire an outside contractor, who repaired a road just outside the COP and proved to the locals that they could safely work in the area.

"Two months ago I was excited to have one contractor," said Sgt. Brian Friedman, a civil affairs Marine currently attached to Easy Company, 2/2. "Currently there are five large contractors bidding on different projects and I'm helping many village elders to do small projects in their villages."

This has set off a chain reaction as locals are now bringing Friedman new projects daily.

These recent projects, such as the repairing of a nearby culvert and reconstruction of a small bridge, has employed local laborers.

Just up the road from Koshtay, a school is being reconstructed which is employing approximately 15 men for 25 days. When done, the school is expected to have over 100 kids attending.

Haji Mobikon, a local village elder, is now planning to employ 20 men for a month building a sluice gate, bridge, and cleaning a canal that runs alongside their village. This should help bring business to the shops within his village.

"[A worker] immediately takes his days wages and goes to a local store to buy rice, beans, and chai for his family," said Friedman.

Another elder, Haji Mohommad Abdullah, within the same village, plans on building a school inside his own compound which he expects approximately 50 students to attend.

"I teach in the summer, the children will come," said Abdullah when asked if the students would come during the traditional vacation surrounding the poppy harvest and summer months.

Many of the village elders who come to Friedman with projects are usually willing to do the projects themselves with a little financial assistance. They hire their own villagers and manage the build themselves.

"It's pretty simple cinder block construction," said Friedman. "Most farmers are capable of doing a decent job. The biggest impact is relationship building and getting cash into people's hands. That is why we prefer to have local elders be in charge of simple projects."

The increased willingness to work seems to coincide with the increased willingness in the locals cooperation with Marines and Afghan national security forces. For instance, locals have started to divulge important information about the area such as location of roadside bombs and enemy forces.

Though these projects are not everlasting, there is still plenty of work to be done that could keep the local laborers and contractors employed for the foreseeable future.

Afghan troops train for water polo while at war

By Tony Lombardo - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday Apr 25, 2010 10:53:15 EDT

Afghanistan may be landlocked, and pools may be scarce, but soldiers with the Afghan National Army aren’t letting these minor obstacles put a damper on their Olympic water polo dreams.

To read the entire article:


Kandahar push depends on politics: Afghan official

KABUL — Afghanistan will not allow foreign troops to move against the Taliban in Kandahar unless they guarantee that civilians will be protected and governance pushed into target areas, an official said Sunday.


By Sardar Ahmad (AFP) – April 25, 2010

NATO and US troops have been waging operations against the Taliban in the southern province of Kandahar for the past few months, following a major offensive against rebels in Marjah, in neighbouring Helmand province.

Military officials have said operations in Kandahar and its capital of the same name will escalate as more troops arrive from "shaping," or preparatory activities, with the aim of eradicating the militant threat by August.

Waheed Omar, a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai, said the Marjah push -- launched on February 13 and billed as the biggest NATO operation against the Taliban since 2001 -- was a "pilot operation to learn" how to combine military and political efforts to win public support.

"Marjah was one pilot operation where we were to learn from the past and go on into an operation with a package," Omar told reporters.

The package included military operations, consultations with local people, avoiding civilian casualties and winning the confidence of residents, he said.

Delivering services to the people and improving security in the areas taken from the Taliban were "components" of the Marjah operation that would be used in Kandahar, he said.

"The president (is) committed to make sure that all these components which are part of a successful military operation are in place before we go and do anything in Kandahar," Omar said.

"The president has openly talked about it and the president remains committed to ensure all these components are included in an operation when it comes to Kandahar," he said.

Kandahar, the capital of the 1996-2001 Taliban regime, is seen as the key battleground for reversing the escalating conflict, which is taking an increasing toll on foreign forces and Afghan civilians.

Military planners say operations against the Taliban in the restive province have already begun and will escalate in the coming months as thousands more troops deploy to Afghanistan under escalated counter-insurgency tactics.

The number of troops under US and NATO control is set to rise from 126,000 to 150,000 by August, by which time military planners intend to have Kandahar under Afghan government control.

The Marjah operation was a set-piece assault on one of the world's biggest poppy-producing regions, where Taliban militants had held sway in concert with drugs gangs for years.

US Marines led as assault force of 15,000 US, NATO and Afghan troops into the region to push out the militants and establish Afghan sovereignty.

Pockets of resistance remain amid intense danger posed by innumerable crude bombs and mines planted by retreating fighters.

The Red Cross has said these bombs -- cheap and easy to make, and sown across a large area -- have led to an increase in the number of civilian deaths and injuries in Marjah.

NATO officials have said the success of current operations will not be obvious for months as regions emerging from Taliban control need to start administratively from scratch.

Military operations are to be followed up with the establishment of police and security forces, as well as other civic services including health and education.

Omar said the objectives Karzai set for Marjah had yet to be achieved.

"We make sure that an operation does not remain an operation but that it brings to the people in Marjah better security, services... and good governance," he said.

"That's something we're still trying to do in Marjah. By no way we have reached the point of satisfaction when it comes to Marjah."

The US and NATO together have more than 120,000 troops in Afghanistan helping to defeat the Taliban. That number is expected to peak at 150,000 by this summer, under White House's new military strategy for Afghanistan.

IJC Operational Update, April 25

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force killed one militant and detained a few others as they pursued a Taliban leader in Kunduz last night, April 24.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.24.2010
Posted: 04.25.2010 10:52

The combined force went to a compound near the village Mulla Quli, in the Archi District, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. As the combined force approached the compound they were confronted by an armed individual, who upon displaying hostile intent, was shot and killed. Reaching the compound they conducted a call out and other suspected insurgents were detained for further questioning.

In Helmand province yesterday, a joint security force went to a rural area of the Nowzad District after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. They attempted to stop a vehicle driven by the suspected militants. The driver was non-compliant and tried to escape. Shots were exchanged and three insurgents were killed.

Among those killed was a Taliban commander responsible for assigning fighters and setting attack priorities in his area and involved in weapons delivery and battle damage assessments after attacks on coalition forces.

A search of the vehicle uncovered an automatic rifle and multiple grenades.

In the Washer District of Helmand yesterday, an Afghan civilian directed a joint patrol to a cache containing 11.33 kilograms (25 pounds) of refined opium, an AK-47 rifle, several magazines and a chest rig. The cache was destroyed.

In the Nad-e Ali District of Helmand yesterday, an Afghan-international patrol found a cache containing five 60 mm mortar rounds. The cache was destroyed.

No Afghan civilians were harmed during these operations.

Afghan-international Force Captures Taliban Commander, Kills Insurgents in Logar

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international security force captured a Taliban sub-commander and killed several insurgents in Logar this morning.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.25.2010
Posted: 04.25.2010 02:32

The combined security force went to a compound in the village of Nagar, in the Pul-e Alam district, based on intelligence information of militant activity. As the assault force conducted a call out they were confronted by armed individuals. When the individuals displayed hostile intent they were shot and killed. The force also captured two militants.

One of the militants captured is a Taliban sub-commander, involved in planning suicide attacks. He immediately surrendered and identified himself as the targeted insurgent.

A search of the area found several weapons, including an automatic rifle and pistols.

April 24, 2010

Lawmaker wants inquiry into chow hall contract

Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., cites Sodexo food safety problems

By Tony Lombardo - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Apr 24, 2010 11:06:21 EDT

A member of the House Armed Services Committee has called for an investigation into the Marine Corps’ primary food services provider, Sodexo, raising both cost and health concerns.

To read the entire article:


Memorial restoration drive launched in memory of Marine

For Gerald Fuller, the thought of accomplishing something that his son had talked about before passing away in 2009 brought tears to his eyes Friday.


POSTED: April 24, 2010

"He wanted it restored," Fuller said of his son, Craig T. Fuller, while standing before the Iwo Jima Statue outside Eco Park in the early afternoon sunlight.

Craig T. Fuller, 33, was ambushed and killed on April 25 in a roadside attack in Afghanistan. He had served overseas in the U.S. Marine Corps before going back to the country to work as a private contractor. Fuller had worked as a security and construction contractor for five years before he was killed.

"He made the ultimate sacrifice, by his own choice," Gerald Fuller said.

Fuller was a graduate of Cape Coral High School.

After his death, family and friends tried to figure out how best to honor Fuller's memory. His stepmother, Roberta Fuller, said he was not a flowers type of guy. What the group's focus snapped to was the Iwo Jima Statue.

"This was important to him," Roberta Fuller said.

According to his family and friends, Fuller would honk at least three times every time that he would drive past the statue. He constantly talked about restoring the monument, and even purchased a memorial brick for himself after he left the Marines. The bricks are found at the base of the statue.

"The statue is where his heart was," Joe Sabella, a family friend, said.

The statue, created by sculptor Felix de Weldon, is modeled after a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph by Joe Rosenthal that is called "Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima." De Weldon created a life-size model, which is located at Arlington National Cemetery, and three smaller models, including the one in the Cape.

The other two are located in Parris Island, S.C., and Quantico, Va.

The Cape statue was built is 1955 for the Rose Garden. According to Commandant George Colom, of the Marine Corps League's PFC Paul E. Ison Detachment No. 60, the statue is one-third the size of the life-size model. The life-size one stands 60 feet, but 32 feet for just the figurine soldiers.

The base that the Cape statue stands on is 9 feet wide, 18 feet long and almost 6 feet tall. The monument weighs 68,000 pounds, and the statue is constructed of concrete with a rebar frame and it is mostly hollow, Colom said. The piece was restored in 1980 and 1997, then moved to Eco Park.

According to Colom, the statue currently has more than 150 cracks and one of the figurine soldier's legs is being held together with zipties. Details on the soldiers, like their fingers and hands, need to be reworked and the monument needs to be repainted. It could return to its original, green color; it is bronze.

"It's important to the Marine Corps," he said. "It's important to the city."

In an effort to restore the statue, Fuller's family and friends partnered with the Cape Coral Community Foundation in 2009 and created a fund. To donate to the Craig T. Fuller Iwo Jima Statue Restoration, visit the website online at: capecoralcf.planyourlegacy.org. Donors can also check out: craigtfuller.com.

On Friday, Fuller's family and friends gathered at the statue to inform the public about their mission and to announce three upcoming events designed to raise funds for the restoration project. According to one organizer, Joe Sabella, it will cost more than $85,000. The restoration fund currently contains about $7,000.

The following events are scheduled:

n May 2: Scavenger hunt at Harley-Davidson/Buell of Fort Myers, at 2160 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers. Register at 9 a.m. Cost is $10 per driver and $5 per passenger. The grand prize is a $250 Harley-Davidson gift certificate.

n May 15-16: Guitar Hero tournament from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at DT Designs and OutStanding Car Care, at 877 Cape Coral Parkway E. Registration fee is $25.

Finalists have chance to win gaming gift certificates of $300, $100 and $50.

n May 22: For the Love of Our Soldiers, the main fund-raiser, from 5-9 p.m. at Jaycee Park at 4125 S.E. 20th Place. The opening ceremony will honor all branches of the military. There will be an ending ceremony with a candlelight vigil and a video presentation as well. Admission to the event is free for all.

There will be a Guitar Hero tournament for ages 7-12, 13-17 and 18 and up. Finalists have chance to win gaming gift certificates of $300, $100 and $50. Other activities will include a dunk tank, rock wall climb, D-Box simulated car race, corn hole competition, blow-up slide, caricatures and face painting.

Freedom Bracelets can be purchased for $15 at the event or for $12 in advance. The bracelet allows participation in the on-site activities. Pay $5 more for a Bonus Bracelet for unlimited turns on the D-Box Auto Racing Simulator and one temporary freedom tattoo.

Also involved in the project are the Marine Corps League, Invest in America's Veterans Foundation and Oasis Elementary Charter School, as well as others.

Gerald and Roberta Fuller said the community involvement means a lot.

"They've all really stepped up and they're doing great things in his name," Roberta Fuller said. "He'd be really proud of them."

Gerald Fuller added that the restoration of the statue is important to more than just his son's memory and those involved in the project.

"It's not just for him, but for all the men and women in Cape Coral," he said. "It's for all of us. It's for the whole community. It's a natural treasure."

For more information or to purchase Freedom Bracelets in advance, call Joe Sabella at 470-3661 or visit online at: craigtfuller.com.

What Makes a Hero

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – "Lance Cpl. Burson did an extraordinary thing. He saved a life. He saved a Marine in distress. He acted. He is a hero."



I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd) More Stories from I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd) RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar
Date: 04.24.2010
Posted: 04.24.2010 11:44

Sgt. Maj. Micheal P. Barrett, Sgt. Maj. of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD), spoke with confidence while speaking of Lance Cpl. Jonathan T. Burson's recent actions.

Twenty-one-year-old, Burson, from Pensacola, Fla. and assigned to 1st Intelligence Battalion, I MEF (FWD), was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal April 17 here for preventing a Marine's suicide.

It all started April 4 at the chow hall on Camp Leatherneck.

"I sat down and started eating. About halfway through my sandwich I noticed a Marine sitting over at a table by himself and he was crying," said Burson. "I walked over there and asked him what was up."

Burson goes on, "We talked about what was going on in his life, what's going on back home and what he was doing out here."

Burson and the Marine talked for several hours and set up a time to meet for dinner the next night. As they talked for the second time, the distressed Marine trusted Burson enough to show him a piece of gear he had and what he was planning on doing to himself with it.

"That's when I got worried," said Burson. "I asked for him to give me the thing he was going to use. He did."

Even though Burson had basic suicide prevention training, he made the decision to report the incident and get the Marine help.

"I'm glad he is getting the help that he needs," said Burson.

Burson said that he has been able to talk to that Marine since the incident and the distressed Marine is happier and better off now than when he had first met him.

Suicide is not uncommon in the Marine Corps. In 2008, 42 Marines took their own lives, in 2009, 52 Marines committed suicide and 12 Marines already this year.

More Marines died in 2009 of suicide than combat related deaths in Afghanistan.

"One is too many. There are 203,000 Marines right now standing ready to help their buddy," said Barrett.

Marines who take their own lives cause massive setbacks within their commands and everyone around them.

Barrett says that a suicide in a command affects troop readiness, morale, motivation and espirit de corps. That unit's world stops spinning as they all wonder what went wrong and what they missed. Each command works hard to let their Marines, their sailors, and their buddies know that they are there for them.

"Some Marines fight different battles," said Burson.

He hopes that this situation will help Marines in the future to be more perceptive to what is going on around them and become more compassionate toward others.

"You see a Marine in distress. If you see something that's not right about a Marine, just stop, listen and give him all the support you can give. That's all it takes," said Barrett.

Burson's heroic actions earned him his Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. While other Marines passed him by, Burson stopped, and with a few simple words, ended up saving a troubled Marine's life.

"I know a lot of Marines might think it is a weakness to cry or try to seek help in situations like that, but at the same time, we all need help in one way or another," said Burson.

Dakota, Improvised Explosive Device Detector Dog, Survives Firefight

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – The black labrador retriever named Dakota, laid on the floor with a blood-seeped gauze taped to her hip, letting out a melancholic cry when her handler moved out of her sight.



I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd) More Stories from I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd) RSS
Story by Sgt. Heidi Agostini
Date: 04.24.2010
Posted: 04.24.2010 11:19

Military policeman and dog handler, Lance Cpl. Eric Devine, from Reading, Pa., sat next to his pure-bred dog and smiled a little when a relaxed Dakota affectionately placed her paw in his hand.

It was only 24 hours ago when Dakota, an improvised explosives detection dog, and a panic-stricken Devine were rushed to the hospital. While on patrol on a mission to clear compounds on April 15, in the western edge of Marjah, 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment was ambushed. Both dog and handler were caught without cover. Seconds later, Devine heard his dog screaming in pain, yelping and running in circles. Dakota was shot in the hind-end.

The firefight continued and Devine and dog were stuck in a low ditch. Devine packed gauze in Dakota's wound while he fended off her bites and held on to her until the firefight ceased and the medical evacuation arrived.

"My initial reaction – it tore me up pretty bad," said Devine. "I pretty much started crying when I heard her scream. I couldn't believe she got hit."

Once the medevac arrived, the dog and her handler traveled to Camp Leatherneck where the team at the 72nd Medical Detachment, Veterinary Services, began to treat her immediately after arrival. The X-rays were promising and the surgery went well.

"My initial reaction led me to wonder what the extent of the wound was and how much bone injury was included," said Army Capt. Michael Bellin, the veterinarian who treated Dakota. "I was hoping that it was mostly a soft tissue injury and not bone involvement because my expertise in surgery is more soft tissue, not orthopedics. The bullet took a funny turn as they sometimes do, and we both ended up kind of lucky that night."

The wound is keeping Dakota and her handler grounded, future unknown. IED detection dogs work an average of seven years. Dakota recently celebrated her fifth birthday on March 1. If her time as a bomb detector is finished, she'll return home with more than 11 confirmed IED's she found, countless number of lives saved.

"She saved my butt on a couple occasions," said Devine, who is on his first deployment. "She saved lives. I know that for sure. There were times she would find IEDs and it's a good feeling knowing those guys were safe because of her."

Devine and Dakota are together 24 hours a day. They sleep side by side, sometimes on the same bed, sometimes she manages to kick him off it. The two have only been paired for five months, but the bond is immeasurable. Devine hopes to adopt her, but traditionally, the dog is adopted by their first dog handler. An exception might be made to this rule considering the pair has been through hell and high water together.

"When she got hit we're still taking fire and the rounds were snapping over head," said Devine. "I completely stopped caring at that point and wanted to get her out of there. It was one of the hardest things I ever saw."

Time will heal this wound. Dakota is doing well and is recuperating on Camp Leatherneck. She is very responsive and becomes alert at the sight of her favorite red chew toy. She is hungry and eating well and is constantly supervised.

"When the bullet exited, the wound was pretty hefty and took a lot of muscle with it, said Bellin, a graduate of Iowa State University. "Right now she's in some pain and uncomfortable, but it'll take a while for it to heal. The biggest thing right now is to make sure she's comfortable and has the proper pain medicine. It's a waiting game now."

IJC Operational Update, April 24

KABUL, Afghanistan – In Kunduz last night, an Afghan-international security force went to a compound near Aka Khel, in the Archi district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. The security force moved into the compound and made a call out. The individuals, who had barricaded themselves in the buildings, did not come out and engaged the combined force with small-arms fire. The joint security force returned fire killing several insurgents and detaining a few others.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.24.2010
Posted: 04.24.2010 03:25

Two of those killed were Taliban commanders, one of them being the targeted militant responsible for distributing insurgent funds, designating targets and planning bombings.

Though there were women and children in the compound buildings, none were injured during the operation. The homeowner told the joint patrol the Taliban had forced their way into the compound for the night. International forces will reimburse the homeowner for minor damages caused to his property.

During a search of the buildings the security force found multiple automatic rifles, a machine gun, a rocket-propelled grenade, hand grenades and other weapons.

In Khost this morning, a joint security force detained a suspected insurgent while hunting for a Haqqani network commander.

The combined patrol searched a compound in Trakay, in the Terayzai district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. During the search the security force detained one individual for further questioning.

No shots were fired and no one was harmed during the operation.

In the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province this morning, a joint patrol found a cache containing two shotguns, 18 kilograms (40 pounds) of opium, small-arms ammunition and various electrical components. The cache was destroyed.

In Nad-e Ali yesterday, a joint patrol found an improvised explosive device (IED) consisting of two pressure plate initiation devices and 18 kg (40 lbs) of homemade explosives. An explosive ordnance disposal team destroyed the device.

No Afghan civilians were harmed in these operations.

A Firsthand Look at Firefights in Marja

During the initial American-led assault earlier this year into Marja, the last large Taliban-dominated population center in Helmand Province, Marines in several companies encountered something unusual in the American experience of the Afghan war – insurgent snipers.


April 19, 2010, 1:57 pm

For several days, and in several places, competent and deliberate marksmen fired on Marine patrols. A video today presents one such event, a firefight between the Marines of Kilo Company, Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, and Taliban fighters, including at least one Taliban gunman the Marines considered to be a sniper. The footage shows the effects of incoming gunfire that is much different from the normal experience of Afghan shooting.

The Ineffectiveness of Taliban Riflery

Now and then over the years, there have been reports of well-trained Taliban marksmen in different parts of the country. But credible reports have been few. Taliban rifle fire, in the main, has been largely ineffective.

How ineffective? Through April 3, the number of American troops killed by gunshot wounds in the entire war in Afghanistan, according to the casualty summaries compiled by the Defense Manpower Data Center, had reached 188. That includes wounds caused not just by rifle fire, but also by the more powerful PK machine guns and any other firearm present in the war.

This number — 188 — merits consideration, for what it tells us about the Afghan war and much of the public conversation about it. To put things in perspective, fewer American troops have died of gunshot wounds in more than eight-and-a-half years of war in Afghanistan than in almost any single month at the height of the war in Vietnam. Many factors contribute to this – better medical care in the minutes after injury (the so-called golden hour); improved body armor and helmets; the prevalence of bullet-proof plates and glass on most American military ground vehicles; the longer ranges of typical engagements in lightly vegetated Afghan environments, as opposed to the short ranges that were common in engagements in tropical jungles and deltas; the Taliban’s shift to a greater emphasis on explosives, including against foot patrols; and others.

Yes, the comparison is imprecise, for reasons both obvious and subtle. Troop-strength levels for both sides were higher in Vietnam (there is no Taliban equivalent of the massing of N.V.A. battalions south of the demilitarized zone, and nothing remotely like Tet), and the lethality of bullet wounds to American troops has declined sharply in recent years, compared with the experiences of past wars. Yet the raw data is still remarkable. It serves to keep this war in martial perspective. And it underscores that impressions created by much of the public chatter about the Taliban as a fighting force – they are natural fighters, the fighting is constant, come warm weather they will be back strong in the “spring offensive” etc. – often do not align with what the war actually looks like on the ground, and need fine-tuning.

Enter the Snipers

Taliban gunmen have been adept at exerting influence over the Afghan population. They are an enduring and effective political force. Their numbers seem large and their support substantial. They are skilled at intelligence collection, and have integrated bomb-making and emplacement into their operations. But their success as gunfighters against the American military has been episodic, as in Wanat, and local, as in the Korangal Valley, and often related to questionable tactical choices by American commanders as much as to Taliban skill. In all, the Taliban’s gunmen have proved to be a modest threat.

Enter the snipers, who are an exception.

In recent months, there have been cases of better Taliban marksmen harassing American patrols and wounding and killing American troops. The operations in and near Marja were a prominent example. The phenomenon deserves closer examination, to try to gain a richer perspective than is often possible while reporting in the midst of fighting.

Let’s look at what is known.

First, what exactly is meant by “sniper”? Like many terms used to discuss war fighting, this is a slippery word. In the context of Afghan fighting, American troops tend to talk about a sniper when they encounter an insurgent rifleman who is obviously more skilled and disciplined than the norm, someone who fires with reasonable accuracy at medium and longish ranges, usually using a rifle-and-ammunition combination that can be effective out to 400 or 500 meters or more. But while the Taliban’s “snipers” are not the usual class of Kalashnikov-carrying Afghan fighter, they typically are not what a conventional soldier might think of in relation to the term.

The available evidence suggests that many of them are not highly trained shooters, with advanced optics, premium ammunition and precision high-powered rifles, who can be reasonably expected to hit a man with a single shot at 700 or 800 or 1,000 meters or more. One way to understand them, based on the experience of Marja, is to say that these better gunmen could usually hit a sheet of plywood at 400 yards, but most of them could not hit a sheet of copy paper at that range. This is very good shooting for Afghanistan. It’s not especially impressive shooting by a higher standard. (Note: A few Taliban marksmen can hit a sheet of paper from 400 yards. One fighter with that level of skill is the Taliban gunman in the video.)

The Rifles

Second, how are they equipped? Kilo Company’s battlefield collections, along with reviews of recent photographs of armed Taliban fighters and information shared by an officer who gathered data from across Helmand Province, offer insights. Among the captured rifles were two variants of the Lee-Enfield rifle line. These are bolt-action rifles with design roots reaching to the late 19th century, when conventional armies favored heavier, long-barreled rifles that fired more powerful ammunition than what is predominant in military use today.

One of the rifles had been manufactured at the Long Branch arsenal in Toronto in 1942. The other was manufactured at the Government Rifle Factory in Ishapore, India; its date was not clear. Photographs of the Taliban have also shown a few of their gunmen carrying old Mosin-Nagant bolt-action rifles. These were a similar czarist (then Soviet) arm of the same era.

These rifles belong to class of weapon often referred to as “battle rifles” and differ markedly from the assault rifles in widespread circulation today. They have longer effective ranges, are less concealable and fire heavier bullets than assault rifles. The shooter loads them manually, by manipulating a bolt that ejects the spent cartridge and then slides the next cartridge into place; they have no automatic or semiautomatic features.

Battle rifles have had their champions for decades, in part because their slower rate of fire keeps ammunition consumption low and encourages disciplined aiming, but also because they were manufactured for much of the 20th century in large quantities in several countries. Their abundance meant that after the shift by most conventional forces to assault rifles — which began on a small scale in Hitler’s army and by the 1960s and 1970s was spreading through conventional armies most everywhere — the old battle rifles, which gradually fell from service, became available in huge surpluses and at inexpensive prices. They are also well suited to desert fighting or any other shooting involving open vistas, because of their longer effective ranges. Not surprisingly, Lee-Enfields were distributed to the Afghan anti-Soviet resistance by the C.I.A., via the Pakistani intelligence service, in the early 1980s. They also can still be found on arms markets. In the opening of the Marja assault, it was clear on many days as bullets passed by that these kinds of weapons, or similar ones, were in use by the Taliban. The round makes a distinctly different sound. The battlefield collections then confirmed the hunch.
The Ammunition and the Shooting

Third, the ammunition. Caches in Marja turned up ammunition – dated Mark 7 British .303 cartridges from several different factories — that matched Lee-Enfield rifles. In two caches captured by Kilo Company, some of the British .303 cartridges dated to 1941.

Many held bullets that were jacketed in steel – which marked them as original British World War II-production ammunition from Churchill’s time. (The British used steel for bullet jackets to save copper and zinc for other wartime uses.) A small portion of the ammunition in the sample appeared to have been older still — a few cartridges were round-nosed Mark 6 rounds, which British forces were phasing out before the First World War.

Last, several rounds were 7.62×54R cartridges, which match Russian Mosin-Nagant rifles or the SVD line, the Soviet-designed semiautomatic sniper rifles of the former Eastern bloc that were often used by insurgent snipers in Iraq. (Curiously, there are very few recent reports or images of SVD rifles in Afghanistan. They are not absent from the war. But they seem not to be widely used. This is in some ways surprising, considering the expansive distribution in Afghanistan of the standard arms of the former Eastern bloc – the AK, PK, DshK and Makarov lines, as well as 82-millimeter mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and F1 pineapple-style hand grenades.)

Fourth, the shooting itself. Often the Taliban’s snipers fired near misses, one after another, separated by 30 seconds or more. Mixed with the incoming automatic fire, the firefights in Marja would be punctuated by the occasional single round that would pass by just overheard, or thump into the soil or at a door frame or the surface of a wall beside a Marine. These rounds were attention-getting, to say the least. At times, and the video captures some of this, it appeared that more than one Taliban fighter with battle rifle was firing, which may have signaled not so much the presence of a single “true” sniper, but that some of these Taliban units had multiple fighters who preferred to carry Lee-Enfields. This might make them no different from the American grunts who prefer to carry M-14s, arguing that their larger cartridges have greater range and stopping power than the rounds fired by the M-4 and M-16 line, and thus have a real value in Afghan fighting.

But among whoever was firing on the Marines, there were several instances of skilled and accurate shooting. The officer who gathered data (and asked not to be named here) said there were times during the operation when a Taliban sniper killed a Marine, as well as instances in which Marines survived after being hit on their bullet-proof plates or, once, after a glancing shot that hit a helmet. In Kilo Company, the Marines present in several engagements also felt that at least one of the Taliban gunmen shooting at them in this particular area might have had a telescopic sight. Their feeling was that the distances were long enough that it would be hard to make shots like this with the naked eye. Moreover, the day after I recorded the video footage above, an Afghan National Army soldier was killed while walking in the open during a lull in fighting. He was felled by a single shot, at a range the Marines estimated at 500 to 700 meters, and the bullet struck his neck. Whoever made that shot was, absent extraordinary good luck, not the run-of-the-mill Taliban fighter.

What does it all mean? To gain some distance on this, broader casualty numbers are again helpful. But we’re out of space for today. Tomorrow we’ll publish data that put the snipers of Helmand Province in a fuller context. We’ll for now hint at what the statistics seem to show: Taliban fighters with traditional battle rifles have made Helmand Province more dangerous. They present an interesting phenomenon, and bear close watching. On the national level, they do not appear to mark a profound shift in the war.

That’s not to say that they do not create harrowing moments. As the video shows, Lance Cpl. Travis Vuocolo was a very lucky man.

April 23, 2010

Clinton: U.S. has assurances on Manas

The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Apr 23, 2010 10:51:30 EDT

TALLINN, Estonia — Kyrgyzstan’s new administration and Russia have given Washington assurances that the United States will be able to continue using a crucial air base for the war effort in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday.

To read the entire article:


Corps may field infantry auto-rifle this fall

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Apr 23, 2010 13:39:54 EDT

The Marine Corps could be ready to order large quantities of the front-runner in its infantry automatic rifle competition this fall, but only if the commandant is convinced it’s a good idea.

To continue reading:


Marines and Sailors Train, Deploy Side-by-side

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - When a corpsman goes down, Marines need to be as prepared to treat their medical needs as the sailors. When corpsmen are attached to Marine units running convoys, going on patrol or called to simply "go outside the wire," they need to be as prepared as the Marines when it comes to interacting with the local populace and reacting to enemy contact.



2nd Marine Logistic Group Public Affairs More Stories from 2nd Marine Logistic Group Public Affairs RSS
Story by Cpl. Meghan Canlas
Date: 04.23.2010
Posted: 04.23.2010 03:35

To ensure the Marines and sailors of 2nd Medical Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 25, 2nd Marine Logistics Group are prepared for upcoming deployments to Afghanistan, Navy Capt. Efren S. Saenz, commanding officer, 2nd Medical Battalion, directed the unit to conduct a field exercise aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C., April 12-18. The exercise focused on improvised explosive device training, basic urban skills training and Afghan cultural training where they implemented Afghan role players.

"For me, taking the Marine Corps Common Skills Test once a year doesn't make you a better Marine," Saenz said. "Using that knowledge in the field does."

Saenz explained that about 20 percent of the battalion is deployed at any given time and likely to experience similar situations as the scenarios carried out during the field exercise. Due to the high likelihood of reliving these situations in combat, the training is extremely important for sailors who have never served with Marines or had the opportunity to deploy before.

"Exposing new corpsmen or corpsmen who have never deployed before to this training is important because the several hundred corpsmen who have deployed before can share the training and experiences with those who have not," he said.

Planning the exercise with those same ideas in mind, Navy Lt. Tina M. Plaggemeyer, the assistant operations officer, 2nd Medical Battalion, used her experiences from previous deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan to guide her in developing the training modules.

"I used experiences from my deployments where I saw areas lacking training and tried to create scenarios that would address those subjects," said Plaggemeyer, who is stationed with her first Marine unit as a nurse. "I knew the more training and knowledge [the Marines and sailors] had, the better the chance of them coming home safe."

While most of Medical Battalion works with either the Shock Trauma Platoon, the Forward Resuscitative Surgery System, or other medical duties on a forward operating base, as of November 2009, the duties for 2nd Medical Battalion grew. The battalion recently employed the up-armored Mobile Trauma Bay, a fully operational emergency room, which was first developed by a forward-deployed medical officer in Afghanistan during 2008.

"It's an ambulance on steroids," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Chris E. Viers, a field corpsman who deployed with the MTB to Now Zad, Afghanistan. "It literally cuts the time [for medical personnel to provide care] in half. If an ambulance would have to drive 20 minutes to reach a victim and then drive 20 minutes to the STP, that's 40 minutes they aren't receiving care."

With the MTB, the corpsmen can do basic steps like stop the bleeding, start IVs and get the victim ready for the next level of care, he said.

After training with the MTB, working on BUST and improving convoy operations, the Marines and sailors of 2nd Medical Battalion are equally prepared for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan as their Marine counterparts, whether they will be working on base or going outside the wire.

IJC Operational Update, April 23

KABUL, Afghanistan – One militant was killed and several others captured by an Afghan-international security force as they pursued a Taliban facilitator in Ghazni last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.23.2010
Posted: 04.23.2010 07:25

The combined force went to a compound in a rural area of the Nawah district after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. As the joint force approached, several individuals ran away. One insurgent moved towards the security force in a hostile manner and was shot and killed. Several other suspected insurgents were captured.

No Afghan civilians were harmed during the operation.

In Khowst last night, a joint security force searched a compound in the village of Peshay Kala, in the Terezai district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. During the search the security force captured a Haqqani network improvised explosive device facilitator. The individual believed to be responsible for laying mines and attacks on coalition forces identified himself when captured. Another suspected insurgent was also captured. Ammonium nitrate, aluminum powder and rifles were found on site.

No shots were fired and no one was hurt during the operation.

In Kunduz last night, an Afghan-international security force went to the village of Aq Shakh, in the Chahar Darah district, after intelligence information indicated militant activity. During the search the security force detained one suspected insurgent for further questioning. An armed individual ran from the compound and later fired on the security force. He was engaged and killed.

In Nangarhar last night, an Afghan-international security force searched a compound north of Sangaray, in the Khogyani district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. During the search the security force captured a Taliban sub-commander responsible for directing remote-controlled IED and rocket-propelled grenade attacks on coalition forces. Taliban commander immediately surrendered and identified himself. Another suspected insurgent was also captured during the search.

In the Reg-e Khan Neshin district of Helmand province last night, a joint force received information about an IED cell in a compound there. The combined force went to the compound and found an IED, three IED power sources, five spools of copper wire, an intelligence radio, two AK-47 rifles with ammunition, brass knuckles and 40 kilograms (88 pounds) of raw opium. After coordination with the village elder, the combined force detained the more than 20 men in the compound. There were no casualties or damages from the operation.

In the Garm Ser district of Helmand last night, an Afghan-international patrol received a tip from an Afghan civilian about a cache in the area. The joint patrol went to the location and found 50 chest rigs and 19 magazines. The items were collected for disposal.

In the Chorah district of Uruzgan province yesterday, a joint patrol found a cache containing nine grenades, four rocket-propelled grenades, small-arms ammunition, homemade explosives, a timer and detonation cord. The cache was destroyed.

NATO to begin Afghanistan power handover

NATO agreed to begin handing over control of Afghanistan to the Afghan government this year, a process that if successful would enable President Barack Obama to meet his target date of July 2011 for starting to bring U.S. troops home.


Apr 23, 2010 2:22 PM | By Sapa-AP

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned of a rocky road ahead, but said she was pleased with progress toward eliminating the shortage of allied trainers for the Afghan army and police. She offered a generally sunny outlook for Afghanistan and said the government of much-criticized President Hamid Karzai gets too little credit for progress in building a viable democracy.

“We believe that with sufficient attention, training and mentoring, the Afghans themselves are perfectly capable of defending themselves against insurgents,” she told a news conference. “Does that mean it will be smooth sailing? I don’t think so. Look at Iraq.”

NATO is still about 450 short of its target for a training force to assist the Afghan security forces, and while that gap apparently was not filled during Friday’s session, Clinton said she was not discouraged.

“We have a relatively small gap that we’re still working to fill. I’m very convinced we’ll get that filled,” she said, adding:

“For me, the glass is way more than half full.” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the 28-nation alliance is on track with its new strategy for winding down the war in Afghanistan, despite security setbacks and a continuing shortage of foreign trainers for the fledgling Afghan police and army.

“Our aims in 2010 are clear: to take the initiative against the insurgents, to help the Afghan government exercise its sovereignty, and to start handing over responsibility for Afghanistan to the Afghans this year,” he said.

He said a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, including U.S.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, agreed on what it will take to create conditions enabling Afghans to assume control of their own country. He was not specific about what those conditions will be, but said progress in that direction is important in order to avoid further erosion of public support for the war effort.

“Where it occurs, the transition must be not just sustainable but irreversible,” Fogh Rasmussen told a news conference at the conclusion of the two-day meeting.

“Citizens in Afghanistan and in all troop contributing countries are demanding visible progress, and they are right to insist on that,” he added. “We should have no illusions. Making progress will not be easy and will not be quick. But based on what we see on the ground now, it is happening.”

He added that looking ahead to a winding down of the war does not mean the allies will leave before the mission is accomplished.

“It will not be a run for the exits,” he said.

In earlier remarks, Fogh Rasmussen offered a mostly upbeat assessment to the gathering.

“Increasingly this year the momentum will be ours,” he said.

Fogh Rasmussen asserted that the Afghan government, which has been hampered by a Taliban insurgency, political corruption, a dysfunctional economy and a dependence on foreign assistance, is starting to take more responsibility for running the country’s affairs.

“We are preparing to begin the process of handing over leadership, where conditions allow, back to the Afghan people,” he said. “The future of this mission is clear and visible: more Afghan capability and more Afghan leadership.”

During Friday’s meeting, which was closed to the press after Fogh Rasmussen made brief introductory remarks, Clinton was expected to press other NATO nations to provide more trainers for Afghanistan’s police and military forces as part of preparations to withdraw Western troops from there by summer 2011.

Fogh Rasmussen said Thursday that an additional 450 trainers are needed for Afghanistan’s security forces. Insufficient numbers of foreign trainers has plagued the U.S.-led war effort for years, although the shortfall has narrowed in recent months.

Friday’s session also was focusing on a NATO initiative aimed at stimulating the Afghan economy by making it a priority for all foreign contingents operating in Afghanistan to hire Afghan contractors and purchase Afghan goods and services whenever possible.

This “Afghan First” policy, as NATO calls it, has been deemed “the most important step in promoting the development of the Afghan private sector and supporting the economic development of the country,” according to a NATO statement issued Friday.

To underscore NATO’s effort to coordinate all aspects of its strategy and operations with the Afghan government, Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul was participating in the Tallinn meeting.

NATO’s assessment of its exit strategy comes just five months after Obama sharply escalated troop strength in the rugged mountain nation to challenge a resurgent Taliban movement.

NATO has struggled, in some cases, to coordinate military operations with Afghan civilian authorities and agencies.

In a speech Thursday before the two-day NATO meeting began, Fogh Rasmussen called Afghanistan the most challenging military operation undertaken by NATO in its history.

NATO was founded 61 years ago this month with the signing of a treaty of collective defense against a feared land invasion by the Soviet Union.

Today, Fogh Rasmussen said, instability in places far from Europe can threaten NATO member states.

“We all want to see a stable and secure Afghanistan - an Afghanistan that is no longer a threat to its region and to the rest of the world,” he said in his speech Thursday. “We will stay in Afghanistan as long as it takes to achieve that goal. We want to continue to empower the Afghans. And gradually hand over to them greater responsibility for the security of their own country when conditions permit.”

During Thursday’s talks, Clinton ruled out an early withdrawal of about 200 short-range U.S. nuclear weapons from bases in five European countries.

She said any reductions should be tied to a negotiated nuclear pullback by Russia, which has far more of the weapons in range of European targets.

No such talks are in the offing, and Moscow has shown little interest thus far in bargaining away its tactical nuclear arms.

Clinton also said the Obama administration wants NATO to accept missile defense as a core mission of the alliance.

The U.S. sees anti-missile systems as part of a broader effort to combat the dangers posed by nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and the rockets that can deliver them.

Some European members of NATO, including Germany, have said it’s time for the U.S. to withdraw its remaining Cold War-era nuclear weapons from Europe and cite Obama’s pledge in Prague last year to seek a nuclear-free world.

Late last year, Germany was joined by NATO members Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Luxembourg in requesting that the nuclear issue be put on the agenda of the Tallinn meeting.

But some newer NATO members in central and eastern Europe, which lay within Moscow’s orbit during the Cold War, oppose a U.S.

nuclear withdrawal. They argue that the presence of the weapons is the surest guarantee of their territorial integrity.

Fogh Rasmussen told reporters here that U.S. nuclear weapons play a vital defensive role in Europe and should not be removed as long as other countries possess them.

“I do believe that the presence of the American nuclear weapons in Europe is an essential part of a credible deterrent,” Fogh Rasmussen said.

Afghan-International Force Kills Five Insurgents in Logar

KABUL, Afghanistan – During a joint Afghan-International security force operation in Logar province last night, the combined force killed five insurgents after receiving heavy and sustained gunfire from a compound.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.23.2010
Posted: 04.23.2010 05:21

The joint security force went to a compound in Qal'eh ye Seyyedan, in the Pul-e Alam district after intelligence indicated insurgent activity. As the combined force approached the compound they began receiving hostile fire from different points including heavy machine gun fire. The security force returned fire and maneuvered through the compound buildings. The buildings were barricaded and the force began exchanging gunfire with the personnel inside.

A search of the compound by the security force found multiple automatic rifles, armor piercing rounds, IED materials and blasting caps. A Taliban suicide attack commander, with ties to the Haqqani network, was killed in the firefight, along with four other insurgents.

Two US service members subsequently died of their wounds suffered in this firefight.

No civilians were reported harmed in the operation.

Heavy Guns, Anti-Armor Platoon Crushes the Enemy's Will to Fight

SALAAM BAZAAR, Afghanistan – Rapidly trekking though the rugged terrain and mine laden country side of Salaam Bazaar, the Marines of 3rd Squad, Heavy Guns, Anti-Armor Platoon, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, took the fight to the Taliban April 14, during Operation Rising Tide.



Regimental Combat Team-2, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs More Stories from Regimental Combat Team-2, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by 1st Lt. Barry Morris
Date: 04.23.2010
Posted: 04.23.2010 01:19

Providing instantaneous fire power and maneuverability to 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment's scheme of maneuver, the Marines of 3rd Squad, Heavy Guns, Anti-Armor Platoon, continue their mission in seeking out, closing with and destroying the enemy, in order to support their fellow Marines during the operation.

In support of Operation Rising Tide, 3rd Squad, Heavy Guns, Anti-Armor Platoon, supported the battalion's efforts in conducting a partnered operation with Afghan national security forces. During the operation, both Coalition forces and the ANSF worked together to disrupt Taliban activity throughout Salaam Bazaar and Shir Gahzay in order to allow the Afghan government and civilian leadership to have freedom of movement and to increase economic trade throughout the area.

"Our squad is in direct support of the battalion; we rapidly employ our weapon systems to deliver effective fire and mobility throughout our area of operations in order to provide the battalion flexibility when engaging the enemy. Flexibility is key out here [Afghanistan]," said 1st Lt. Sam Tacke, a Springfield, Miss., native, is the Heavy Guns, Anti-Armor platoon commander, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.

Mounted with M2 .50-caliber heavy machine guns and MK19s, the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected – All Terrain Vehicles used by 3rd Squad, Heavy Guns, Anti-Armor Platoon, packs a heavy punch, delivering an array of munitions to include Javelin rockets, all designed to obliterate the enemy.

With fire power and mobility on their side, the Marines of 3rd Squad, Heavy Guns, Anti-Armor Platoon, can easily transport and patrol with these weapons systems over longer ranges, allowing them to reach out and touch the enemy with greater standoff distances.

"Our squad has the freedom of movement to swiftly operate within our battle space," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Boehm, a Portsmouth, Ark., native, is a Javelin section leader, 3rd Squad, Heavy Guns, Anti-Armor platoon, Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment. "We go where the friction [enemy] is and reduce it or eliminate it completely, breaking the enemy's will to fight."

Coming together as a team, 3rd Squad brings a variety of skills and specialties to the battlefield. Effectively converging their capabilities, these Marines operate as a mobile assault unit, coining the phrase, 'shoot, move and communicate.'

Cpl. Andrew Hass, a Brockton, Mass. native, is a guided missileman with 3rd Squad, Heavy Guns, Anti-Armor Platoon, Weapons Company, 1/2, provides the communications aspect for his team. Although a guided missileman by trade, Hass has been crossed trained in all communications systems mounted aboard his MATV, maintaining constant communication with the battalion headquarters and adjacent squads operating within the same battle space.

In addition to operating the communications systems within the vehicle, Hass steps in and serves as the driver or operates the heavy machine guns, when required. "The best thing about our squad is everyone knows everyone else's job," stated Hass. "Anyone of us could jump in the driver's seat or gunner's turret and perform just as well."

Acting as the eyes and ears of the vehicle as the turret gunner, Pfc. James Hall, a St. Louis, Miss., native, is a machine gunner for 3rd Squad, Weapons Company, 1/2, continuously looks for and identifies potential enemy threats, continuously maintaining the situational awareness of the truck, while manning his MK 19 Grenade Launcher, a belt-fed automatic grenade launcher.

"My primary job is to put effective rounds down range," said Hall. "I love the MK19; I think it's the greatest weapon in our arsenal."

"It's like an automatic hand grenade thrower, except my arm doesn't get tired," explained Hall. "Everyone in our truck has a job to do, and I just want to do my part."

Pfc. Kirk Blackburn, a Queencreek, Ariz., native, serves as the MATV driver and is trained as a guided missileman, with 3rd Squad, Heavy Guns, Anti-Armor platoon, Weapons Company, 1/2, he keeps his team going in the right direction. "I take our weapon systems where it needs to go, ensuring our team remains mobile and can effectively maneuver them [weapon systems] into the fight," said Blackburn.

"I'm extremely proud of my Marines and the unique capabilities they each bring to the fight," said Tacke. "Our ability to do anything from foot patrols to long-range reconnaissance is something to be proud of."

With the mobility and fire power possessed by this team, there isn't any wonder why the Taliban go running when the Marines from 3rd Squad, Heavy Guns, Anti-Armor Platoon arrive on the scene.

1/7 Marines storm beach during raid training

All was quiet on the shores of San Onofre, Calif., the night of April 14, except for the sound of waves crashing on the shore as the tide rolled in and out.


4/23/2010 By Cpl. Andrew Avitt , Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

The scene was still - almost surreal - until two Marines rose from the water slowly and aimed their rifles toward the sandy beach ahead. Their objective – find a safe landing zone for an amphibious raid force tasked with taking out a simulated lightly-defended enemy force three kilometers inland.

For the Marines of Company B, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, this kind of training was far from what they’re use to. There were no doors to be kicked in or rooms to be button-hooked, no calls for fire support or vehicles to be dismounted. Just a quiet beach and a group of heavily-armed, pumped-up Marines waiting patiently at sea for the signal to raid.

Co. B trained in numerous maritime tactics during the last two-and-a-half months in preparation for the battalions’ deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. This is the first time the unit will deploy with a MEU in more than a decade. The final step in the battalion’s transition back to amphibious operations will be a large scale exercise designed to fit all the working pieces of what they learned together.

“This is a great opportunity for our guys to learn what it takes to operate on ship, and get to see another side of the Marine Corps,” said 1st Lt. Derek Rey, the assistant operations officer for the battalion.

Some of the classes taught to the Marines of Co. B included maritime navigation, coxswain skills, scout swimming, combat rubber reconnaissance crafts and maritime leading course, all of which are essential for the missions they will conduct as the 31st MEU’s battalion landing team. The unit will provide the unique capability to insert a sizeable clandestine force into enemy-infested areas.

The exercise started an hour after dusk, using the low visibility of night as cover to start the reconnaissance of the beach landing zone.

A Landing Craft, Air Cushion dropped 17 F470 Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts 15 nautical miles from shore to begin the raid.

“We were on the water for a while,” said Lance Cpl. Jacob King, a wave leader with Co. B. “The cold was a different type of cold – the wind just blows away your body heat.”

The crafts navigated approximately 500 meters from the shore. Eight scout swimmers took to the water and finned to the landing zone to gather information about the beach. They assessed potential obstacles, the best landing area for the raid force and enemy presence in the area.

After determining the area was safe, the scout swimmers signaled to the rest of their platoon to come ashore.

“Communication is very important,” Rey said. “Radio might not always work, infrared signals might not always work, but as long as the two types of communications overlap, the message will get there.”

On cue, waves of Marines from Co. B poured onto the ashore. They moved to quickly secure their water crafts from the surging tide and quietly pulled their boats out of the surf.

“Once we hit land, we trained so much that everyone knew what they had to do, so there wasn’t need for much talking,” King said. “But that’s not to say things went smoothly.”

As the Marines came ashore, their boats and gear gained additional weight from the brisk water crashing over them.

“The boats were so heavy 12 Marines couldn’t lift them, let alone 6, which made us realize the need to carry something in the boats to bail out the water once ashore,” said Capt. Roberto Rodriguez, the commanding officer for Co. B.

“Its good to train in horrible conditions, though, because that’s the way it could really be, and they can only get better because of it,” he said.

With all the gear and personnel accounted for, they left a small security element with the boats as the rest of the company geared up and headed for the objective just three kilometers away from the beach.

After completing an exercise almost identical to their mission aboard the 31st MEU, the Marines headed to their boats, and as quickly and quietly as they had appeared, they disappeared out into the sea.

Letter to Marine touches his mom

For one middle school student and her teacher, a simple school assignment has become a poignant lesson about life and death.


Laurel Walker
Posted: April 23, 2010

Judy Schatz, a business education teacher at Templeton Middle School in Sussex for the past 20 years, drew inspiration and an idea from Patricia Fry, a fellow teacher. Fry is the mother of a Marine and has become a pillar of support in an organization called MarineParents.com - her way of coping with the stress of her only child's 2005 deployment to Iraq and of connecting with other parents of Marines.

The idea is one that has been repeated probably thousands of times in classrooms across the country. Students write letters to random members of the military, a way to say thank you and to give some small taste of normalcy to those in war. Fry is one of those who helps prepare care packages - including letters from home - that are shipped overseas.

Schatz thought that in teaching her sixth-graders about letter writing, they might as well make the letters really count.

Melissa Martincich was a sixth-grader at Templeton and among the first batch of Schatz's students to write in late 2008. Melissa told me she sort of forgot about the letter, but remembers writing about her love of Irish dancing.

One or two Marines replied to students through their teacher that first year. Most didn't. When Schatz returned to school last fall, she was gratified to find a stack of about 25 letters that had arrived from Marines over the summer. She hunted down each student - Melissa was not among them - and passed the letters on to them.

"I thought it was really cool," Schatz said. "I left it up to the students and parents if they wanted to respond again." Now the anonymity was gone, and each of those Marines had a name.

The letter assignment has continued each quarter since with new groups of students.

In March, a letter arrived for Schatz from Laurie Hayes of Massachusetts, "Proud Marine Mom," as she signed off.

The letter started with words of gratitude.

"I am the mother of two young Marines. I am thankful to you for taking the time to talk to your students about the military. The importance of what they do every day to keep our country free. The sacrifices are sadly not even realized by some. It's nice to know that people like yourself support our Marines and soldiers by sending letters."

Schatz felt good as she read on, that her assignment was having an impact. Then, the unexpected.

"My oldest son Lance Corporal Kevin T. Preach was in Afghanistan. He was with 3/8 Weapons Company. He was a machine gunner. He was 21 years old. He was severely injured on Jan. 24, 2009, and died on Feb. 7, 2009.

"Two months or so later, I received his belongings from Afghanistan. Among his things was a letter from a little girl at your school. I finally just read it. I know my son Kevin must of loved getting a letter like that. I am sure he enjoyed reading it."

The letter was from Melissa M., she wrote. It was full of questions and excitement about dancing, "so funny and cute."

Schatz said she was shocked by the heart-wrenching news and, as sensitively as she could, shared the letter with Melissa, who was emotional as she read about the young man's death.

Melissa told me this week she was happy he held on to the letter.

"It was kind of sweet," she said. She's glad he was able to read words of appreciation for his service, and that his mother knows those words were written.

Melissa's mother, Manuela Martincich, called her daughter an emotional girl, a "deep soul" who gets it - understands the meaning of freedom and the sacrifices made to protect it. Even more so now.

Melissa said she feels grateful for that, but sorry for the sacrifice.

Both Melissa and Schatz wrote to Laurie Hayes again, and her response last week included a picture of Kevin in Farah Province, Afghanistan - thumbs up, as if all is OK.

Hayes, in her earlier letter, said Melissa's last question in the letter to her son was, "Do you want to come home?"

"Well, Kevin won't come home, but I got to read this letter," she wrote.

"I miss my son and wished he didn't suffer as he did, but it is heartwarming to me to know people like you and your students cared enough to write him a letter. Thank you so much for doing that. I will always keep this letter."

"Please tell your students a Marine mom said thank you."

She added that her younger son, Daniel Preach, is a Marine Reservist in Massachusetts and an emergency medical technician in his civilian life. Overseas deployment may be in his future.

And if it is, maybe letters from grateful strangers will follow.

Call Laurel Walker at (262) 650-3183 or e-mail [email protected]

3/7 takes charge of battle space

COMBAT OUTPOST NOWZAD, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – The Marines of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment are going home after seven months of training and operating alongside Afghan national security force.


Story by Sgt. Tai Williams

The Marines of 3/4 carried out a transfer of authority ceremony with Marines from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, April 16, handing over responsibility for the battalion's area of operations.

During the ceremony, 3/4 cased the colors and the unit colors of 3/7, were raised, symbolizing the transfer of authority over all operations conducted by coalition forces in Area of Operation Tripoli, a segment of space occupied by coalition forces within Helmand Province, to the Marines of 3/7.

"Lt. Col. Tipton and I have been friends for the last 20 years," said Lt. Col. Martin F. Wetterauer, commanding officer of 3/4. "I couldn't be happier to turn over this battlespace to another 7th Marines unit."

The Marines of 3/7, are taking over training and operations with Afghan National Army and police forces.

Over the last seven months, Marines with 3/4 trained and operated alongside their Afghan counterparts. Now that 3/7, has assumed control of operations, their Marines will witness the progress made by the Afghan army and police forces, and build upon their success.

"To the Marines of 3/4, you have done a tremendous job from the time you arrived to now as you are leaving," said Lt. Col. Clay C. Tipton, commanding officer, 3rd battalion 7th Marines. "3/7, it's an exciting time as we get here and are partnered up with a Kandak Infantry Battalion, and bring exciting new dynamics with that partnership to the area of operations. It's an opportunity to make an immediate impact to this area."

As the Marines and Sailors of 3/4 start the transition home, after a job well done, the men of 3/7, continue the mission to bring stability to the area of operation.

April 22, 2010

2nd MEB Marines return

About 100 Marines and sailors of 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade returned home to Camp Lejeune very early Thursday morning after a year of supporting operations in Afghanistan. The troops were due to return Monday morning, but their homecoming was delayed multiple times.


April 22, 2010 6:15 PM

Commanded by Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, 2nd MEB deployed to Afghanistan in April 2009 to support counterinsurgency efforts in the country’s Helmand province. The 2nd MEB spent 11 months prosecuting a highly effective campaign against Taliban and other anti-government forces in the south-central Asian country.

At its peak, more than 18,000 Marines were assigned to 2nd MEB, including a number of Camp Lejeune units still serving under the auspices of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), which replaced the MEB on April 12.

Facing Danger, Overcoming Fear

SALAM BAZAAR, Afghanistan – Adrenalin was rushing the morning of April 14th, 2010 as Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2 and members of the Afghan National Security Forces approached the Salam Bazaar in Helmand province.


1st Marine Division More Stories from 1st Marine Division RSS
Story by Cpl. Daniel Blatter
Date: 04.14.2010
Posted: 04.22.2010 01:04

The Marines of Alpha Company, 1/2, were tasked with securing the bazaar, known as a haven for Taliban activity, including heavy weapons and focal point for the drug trade.

All reports indicated enemy contact was imminent.

By mid-afternoon, the Marines had secured the bazaar, but things would not stay quiet for long. By the day's end, many heroic deeds would be accomplished, but the actions of one Marine would leave his fellow brothers-in-arms calling him a hero.

Staff Sgt. Robert K. Kesterson, the platoon commander for 2nd platoon, Alpha Company, 1/2, and many of his Marines were disappointed with only finding several homemade explosives and scattered amounts of drugs. They were prepared for anything. The day had dwindled down and the atmosphere was calm and controlled, the raid of the bazaar was over, or so they thought.

That's when all hell broke loose.

"We started taking heavy contact from RPG, indirect, small arms and machine gun fire and an improvised explosive devise destroyed one of our vehicles," said Capt. Jeremy S. Wilkinson, the company commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.

"It was a pretty complex situation out there," said Kesterson, "but, with all the training we had, our reactions became second nature."

Initially, there were no injuries until the lead vehicle, loaded with Marines, rolled over an IED.

Although Kesterson was in the third vehicle, nearly 100 yards to the rear of the detonated IED, he was there in an instant.

"Our vehicles received a lot of debris from the explosion," said Kesterson. "We could tell it was a big IED. Dust was everywhere and I could not see anything for what seemed like an eternity."

The lone casualty at the time was Lance Cpl. Justin Shaw, an assaultman in the squad. He had suffered a serious concussion, requiring immediate medical attention. Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Pagan, the lead vehicle commander, quickly gathered his wits, ordered his Marines to provide security around the downed vehicle, while he called for the 'medivac.'

Once Shaw was carried out of the vehicle and loaded into the ambulance vehicle, Cpl. Brent Larimer, also an assaultman in the squad, jumped into the turret and began to lay down suppressive fire.

What happened next was a true test of Kesterson's courage.

Kesterson, known to his men as Staff Sgt K, glanced back and saw Larimer was engulfed in flames.

"When I looked back, I realized that Larimer and the vehicle were on fire," said Pfc. Shane W. Barlow, the team leader and driver of the lead vehicle. "I jumped out and ran around and saw him laying on the turret stand. He was on fire and because of the intense heat rounds were cooking off inside the vehicle."

Immediately, Kesterson ran up to the truck where Larimer was and reached in, ripping him from the vehicle. Kesterson then threw himself on top of Larimer to put out the flames.

"When I saw the vehicle catch fire and a Marine was in serious trouble. That's when I jumped into the burning vehicle and pulled Cpl. Larimer out," said Kesterson, 34, from Greenberg, Tenn.

"I reached in and grabbed the Marine," Kesterson said. "His left arm and left rib cage was on fire. I pulled him out and patted him down and threw dirt on him to get the fire out."

Kesterson stayed there with Larimer until the 'medivac' arrived.

"I couldn't believe it," said Barlow. "He jumped in a burning vehicle while rounds were being cooked off, to save the life of a Marine who was burning alive. To me, the man is a hero."

But like many of the heroic deeds by Marines throughout our proud history, Kesterson was quick to downplay what had transpired. He humbly confided that he was just glad to have been in the right place, at the right time, to help a fellow Marine in need.

"I just did what I think anyone else would have done in that kind of situation," said Kesterson. "I just reacted."

Better Prosthetics Coming for Wounded Warriors

FORT DETRICK, Md., - From developing a new microprocessor-controlled prosthetic leg to a non-chafing socket device, the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center here is making big strides in advancing prosthetic science to improve wounded warriors' quality of life.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs More Stories from Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs RSS
Story by Donna Miles
Date: 04.22.2010
Posted: 04.22.2010 02:50

The center, tucked away at this western Maryland post, reaches out to a broad spectrum of researchers at universities, hospitals, and small businesses to promote next-generation, cutting-edge prosthetic technologies.

"The objective is to help amputees and traumatically wounded service members return to the highest level of functionality that they are capable of," said Troy Turner, who manages the center's advanced prosthetics and human performance portfolio.

"We do this with the understanding that it is really their initiative and their motivation that gets them there," he said. "But we want to make sure that there is nothing we can do to help them get there that is left undone."

One of the center's biggest triumphs to date is the X2 microprocessor leg, developed by Otto Bock HealthCare with TATRC funding. The new "C-leg," being tested by above-the-knee amputees at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, uses a microprocessor to control the knee's hydraulic functions. This, in turn, gives the wearer more flexibility to change speeds or directions without sacrificing stability.

The device takes the advanced computerized leg to a new level, Turner explained, enabling users to walk backward or up and down ramps, and even to swim.

"In its latest iteration, somebody would actually be able to wear it water-skiing and even surfing, because of how weatherproof and amenable it is to hostile environments," he said.

Focused primarily on the lower extremities – which Turner said account for 80 percent of wounded warriors' limb losses – the center is funding a variety of research programs aimed at improving not just leg, but also knee, ankle and foot prostheses.

One promising program is aimed at developing a robotic ankle that will give users more flexibility to move over different types of terrain, with a motor that provides a "spring" after each step.

Other programs are tackling what Turner calls the biggest gap in prosthetic development: the socket itself.

The hard, plastic cups currently used as socket devices can be painful to wearers, chafing when the surrounding muscles swell or the wearer sweats. "Even the best-fitting socket can be painful," Turner said.

No one-size-fits-all solution is available, because every limb is different. "So there is a universal problem, but the way it's addressed has to be individually," Turner said.

Along with the socket, researchers are exploring new liners and sleeves that provide a better, more comfortable fit for prosthetic devices. "Any time you are going to put a body part into a hard plastic cup and leave it all day, you are going to have chafing and swelling, and the introduction of moisture in there will cause additional friction," Turner said.

Two promising research programs under way, one in Los Angeles and one in Boston, are exploring ways to provide more comfortable sockets that use breathable or wicking materials to prevent moisture buildup.

"Both of these projects, if successful, will result in sockets that are very nontraditional, and in some cases, don't operate or even look like traditional sockets," Turner said. Among concepts being explored is a socket that's pliable and flexible when there's no weight on it, but goes rigid to provide support when the wearer stands.

As the Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center advances these technologies, Turner said, the ultimate goal is to provide comfortable, adaptable prosthetics that operate almost intuitively, recognizing what the user wants them to do and responding on cue.

"We want to try to create the capability of the device to behave the way the user wants it to behave, and to understand what the user wants it to do," he said.

The center is exploring different approaches toward achieving what Turner calls "user intent control." One involves putting a miniature sensor on the muscle or even injecting it directly into the muscle to pick up electrical signals and relay them directly to the prosthetic device. "If we are able to do that, we can tell that prosthetic device to do something," Turner said.

"Achieving that is a matter of integrating all these capabilities [being developed] into a system and putting it all together," he said. "And that's a lot of our job – creating awareness and serving a little bit as an information clearinghouse to help bring it all together and help [researchers] understand what other people are doing."

Bringing together a research community can add up to big promise for wounded warriors, he said. "If you put yours with theirs," he said, "this one-plus-one could equal three."

With a vast portfolio, and many research efforts under way simultaneously, Turner conceded that sometimes it seems "like we are going in a lot of directions."

"But the thing that binds it all together is our mission of bringing together as much as possible – whatever revolutionary concepts and technology we can – to help the warfighter achieve the highest level of functionality possible," he said. "Our goal is to help them come back to as close to a normal life as possible."

Marine Sgt. Adam Kisielewski, who lost his left arm and his right leg from the knee down during an explosion at a booby-trapped school near Fallujah, Iraq, in August 2005, said he's excited about the possibilities the center is opening up for him and his fellow wounded warriors.

Kisielewski served until recently as a project officer in the center's prosthetics department, providing unique, personal insights into the projects under way.

"It's great to provide input, to be able to get the broad picture of everything that is going on [in the research arena] and to see what is going to be available in the next couple of years," he said.

"When I see some of the stuff coming out, I get really excited," Kisielewski added. "It is going to do a lot to increase the standard of living that the guys are going to have when they come back from war with really serious wounds."

26th MEU Trains Aboard Ship, Builds Rapport With Sailors

NORFOLK, Va.– Marines and Sailors with 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit took another big step in their training schedule by traveling more than 150 miles to Norfolk, Va., to participate in an Amphibious Squadron/ Marine Expeditionary Unit Integration Training exercise with the Sailors of PHIBRON-4 aboard USS Kearsarge, USS New York, and USS Carter Hall, this week.


26th Marine Expeditionary Unit Public Affairs More Stories from 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Santiago Colon
Date: 04.22.2010
Posted: 04.22.2010 08:03

More MEU Marines and sailors boarded the ships via amphibious craft and helicopter from Camp Lejeune, N.C., after the ships left Norfolk, Tuesday. This was the first time since their 2009 deployment 26th MEU service members have trained aboard the decks of amphibious vessels.

During the three-week training evolution, MEU Marines will be introduced to life aboard the ships and will participate in training exercises that will require working side-by-side with the sailors of PHIBRON-4.

"One of the big goals of this training is for the Marines and Sailors to learn to work together to develop good working relationships between the blue and green," said Gunnery Sgt. Jeremiah R. Warnick, fires chief for command element, 26th MEU.

MEU Marines plan to conduct rapid response planning, live fire raids, landing qualifications for MEU pilots and crews, and amphibious operations from the ships' well decks. During PMINT, PHIBRON-4 sailors will provide invaluable support to Marines during their training, including logistical coordination, movement of troops and support aboard the ship.

"PMINT is a chance for Marines to get in touch with their roots as soldiers of the sea," said Warnick. "For a lot of Marines this is their first time aboard ship and this is their chance to gain their sea legs." Warnick said that conducting missions from ship adds complexity to tasks Marines normally conduct ashore. Some new considerations include working in tighter spaces, adhering to different time and safety considerations, logistical needs and other factors.

The Camp Lejeune-based 26th MEU is comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/8, Combat Logistics Battalion 26, and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 266. Following PMINT, the MEU will continue to train for deployment aboard the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group this fall.

Another Navajo Code Talker passes away

The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Apr 22, 2010 5:43:36 EDT

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — George Chavez Sr., a member of the Navajo Code Talkers who confounded the Japanese during World War II by transmitting messages in their native language, has died. He was 85.

To continue reading about George Chavez Sr, WW II Marine and Navajo Code Talker:


Marine Corps Active Reserve program seeks applicants for upcoming board

The Marine Corps Active Reserve program is looking for qualified applicants for their upcoming officer accession board, which is scheduled to convene May 17.


4/22/2010 By Maj. Paul Greenberg , Marine Forces Reserve

In accordance with requirements and references contained in Marine Corps Administrative Message 136/10, active and reserve component Marine Corps warrant officers, lieutenants, captains and select majors are eligible to apply.

The Active Reserve program is comprised of a small cadre of about 2,200 Marines, primarily seasoned officers and staff noncommissioned officers. This team is instrumental in the mobilization and deployment of reserve units and the day-to-day operations of Marine Forces Reserve.

AR Marines enjoy the same pay, medical care and retirement benefits as their active component counterparts. AR officers qualify for a federal retirement at 20 years of active duty or may continue serving, depending on promotion and standard service limitations.

The only real difference between active component and the AR program is the AR Program’s Title 10 mandate that stipulates active duty service must be performed in support of the reserve component.

Officers in the AR program are stationed across the globe, but a majority of billets are at Headquarters Marine Corps in Washington, D.C. and Quantico, Va., as well as at Marine Forces Reserve Headquarters in New Orleans.

There are currently about 350 officers in the AR program representing 16 military occupational specialties.

Selection to the AR program is competitive for officers. Typically, less than 25 percent of applicants make the cut. Selection is, at present, based primarily on the applicant’s MOS and their past performance and fitness as a leader of Marines.

“I was drilling in the SMCR when I applied,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Ryan, a CH-46 helicopter pilot who left active duty after serving for nine years. “I was in the civilian world, and I really just missed being a Marine. There was no return to active duty board at the time, so I applied to AR program.”

Ryan was accepted and entered the program in 2001. Since that time he has worked as operations officer for Marine Aircraft Group 42, Detachment B in Atlanta, Ga., and as the as the MFR G-3/5 operations officer in New Orleans.

“I recommend the AR program because I think it’s a great experience for Marines who want to stay connected to what’s going on in the Corps,” said Ryan. “It’s a logical cross-over. It enables you to stay in your career field and stay operationally engaged with your counterparts on active duty.”

“I’ve stayed in the AR program for a variety of reasons,” said Ryan. “The biggest thing for me is that you have more responsibilities and see a lot more things than on active duty. In the AR community, you help keep the (Select Marine Corps Reserve) focused and operationally relevant. The role of SMCR has changed since 9/11. People today join the Marine Reserves to go out and do stuff, to deploy and remain a Marine. Active Reserve officers are the conduit from a planning standpoint. In addition to mobilizing reserve units for OIF and OEF, we have theater security cooperation exercises like LF CARAT (Landing Force Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training) and the teams we provide to the Marine Corps Tactical Advisory Group. They send small units of reserve Marines out to conduct training packages to partner nations in various combatant commander (areas of responsibility) in AFRICOM (U.S. Africa Command) and PACOM (U.S. Pacific Command), and we’re working on sending some to CENTCOM (U.S. Central Command).”

The FY 10-02 board, which convenes in May, is primarily looking for aviators. Officers of any MOS are welcome to apply, but those with specialties identified in MARADMIN 136/10 are most competitive for selection. The program seeks candidates with a high degree of experience and expertise within their specialties.

Officers of the following rank and MOS are highly encouraged to apply:

Captain/Major 0302, Infantry
Captain/Major 0403, Logistics
Captain/Major 7523/7557/7562/7563/7565/7566 (various aviation fields)
Captain 0180, Adjutant
Captain 0202, Intelligence
Captain 1302, Combat Engineer
Captain 0602, Communications
Captain 3404, Financial Management
Warrant Officer 0170, Administration
Warrant Officer 6004, Aircraft Maintenance
Warrant Officer 6502, Aviation Ordnance

Selectees incur a three-year commitment at their first duty station and will typically be eligible for rotation at three or four years.

The same permanent change of station rules and service limitation criteria for active component Marines also apply in the AR program.

The AR program also provides the opportunity to attend seminar professional military education programs and/or full-length PME schools at both the company grade and field grade officer levels.

AR officers may be selected to attend full-time resident PME at Marine Corps University in Quantico, Va. Additionally, they can apply to joint resident PME courses at various locations throughout the United States. To enhance professional growth and chances for promotion, officers can both complete seminar Marine Corps PME and apply to attend a resident PME course.

Many of the joint services’ PME programs have a master’s degree option in conjunction with a certificate of course completion.

Some programs, such as the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, have cooperation agreements with civilian universities, wherein students take classes at both the military college and at a nearby civilian state university simultaneously. This will earn them a master’s degree from the civilian school, such as Kansas State University.

Regardless of which joint school AR officers are selected to attend, they all come back to the Marine Corps Reserve with different perspectives that expand the level of expertise in the reserve community.

“As senior field grade Active Reserve officers, we must be able to critically think and analytically attack solutions to various challenges,” said Lt. Col. Francis Piccoli, a career AR officer who is currently a student at the U.S. Air Force’s Air War College.

“Top level school certainly provides a great basis for one to develop, enhance or enrich these cognitive skills. Second, top level school broadens one's horizon to think and act in a strategic manner, which is so very important for field grade Active Reserve officers who are responsible for administering the Marine Corps Reserve or who are responsible for integrating the Marine Corps Reserve in the Total Force Marine Corps. Third, it provides the Active Reserve program with an intellectual capacity that enables superb decision making on a plethora of strategic and operational issues that affect the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and its relevance for the Total Force Marine Corps.”

Piccoli, who entered the AR program as a captain in 1998, spent several years at Headquarters, Marine Corps and most recently served as director of the Marine Forces Reserve Public Affairs Office in New Orleans from 2007 to 2009. He is on track to graduate from Air War College in June with a master’s degree in strategic studies and return to Marine Forces Reserve for another tour.

”The Active Reserve program has enabled me to serve in an active capacity in support of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve,” explained Piccoli. “I find tremendous personal and professional satisfaction in that. The Active Reserve program also offers a certain level of consistency and balance in life that I contend overshadows that of the active component. For example, most of our senior field grade billets are in the Northern Virginia, D.C. or the New Orleans area. In fact, in my 12 years on the program, six were spent in the Northern Virginia and the D.C. area and five were in the Greater New Orleans area. I've lived in two houses in the past nine years.”

Because the Marine Corps has reached its goal of 202,000 active component Marines ahead of the fiscal year 2011 benchmark, the AR program is the best bet for those veteran officers who have gotten out and want to come back into the Marine Corps and work toward an active duty retirement.

The application deadline for the upcoming AR accession board is May 3.

For more detailed information about the application procedure, see Marine Corps Administration Message 136/10 at: http://www.usmc.mil/news/messages/Pages/MARADMIN136-10.aspx.

Single Marine Program use in Yuma up 500%

With shifts toward community service and greater Marine participation, the station’s Single Marine Program recently reported a more than 500 percent increase in participation over the past eight months.


4/22/2010 By Lance Cpl. Jakob Schulz & Cpl. Austin Hazard , Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

More than 2,900 Marines participated in SMP events since August 2009.

“We’ve had about 10 more people participate per day,” said Jude Crouch, SMP coordinator. “Rates have gradually increased.”

While the participation increased primarily for the program’s recreation events and trips, the number of Marines taking part in volunteer efforts through the program revealed new depths for its potential.

“Since August, Marines here have volunteered a total of 608 hours through the SMP,” said Crouch. “I think that comes from just making Marines aware of the volunteer opportunities. It demonstrates their attitudes, that they’re willing to sacrifice their personal time to help the community.”

In fact, the station’s SMP was named Volunteer of the Year by Yuma Elementary School District One on April 13.

“The SMP competed against 220 other volunteers to win,” said Dawne Lee, administrative assistant to the superintendent. “We looked at the nominations, then at the contributions they made. It was clear that the SMP was the winner by how much time they have given up to helping.”

The focus of the volunteers’ effort was Palmcroft Elementary School, where they helped run two track meets and an annual fall carnival, as well as read to children during the Read Across America event.

“The Marines have helped so much,” said Patrick Koppinger, Palmcroft’s principal. “I just hope we can continue to receive their support in the years to come.”

The SMP offers three to four volunteer opportunities in the local community per month for Marines to support.

“That puts us out in the community and shows the positive impact we can make,” Crouch said. “I’m really proud of the progress the Marines have made.”

The overall participation boost is attributed to the fact that Marines are more involved in the decisions of the program, choosing what it does and where it goes.

“It’s gone through a total overhaul,” said Lance Cpl. Lindsay Beaulieu, SMP council vice president. “Before, it was just about the rec center and getting it set up. There wasn’t as much focus on events or the Marines’ input.”

In August, the SMP restructured its meetings, giving more power to the program’s council comprised of Marines from all units on base.

“We put decisions back in the council’s hands. So now the SMP council has a say in everything the program does,” Crouch said.

The program is administered by Marine Corps Community Services personnel, who coordinate events.

“You guys tell us what you want to do and we try to make that happen,” Crouch said.

On April 12-16, unit representatives Cpl. Alexandra Aponte from Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 and Lance Cpl. Marvin Bolanos from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13, along with Sgt. Maj. Terry Stanford, station sergeant major, attended the annual Joint Single Services Conference in New Orleans, where they met with other SMP chapters throughout the Corps.

No Marine Left Behind: Mortuary Affairs Specialists Bring Angels Home

CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan – Service members who make the ultimate sacrifice while serving in a combat zone are known as Angels. Those troops who lose their lives on the battlefield are brought home so they may be honored and laid to rest.



1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs More Stories from 1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Khoa Pelczar
Date: 04.22.2010
Posted: 04.22.2010 04:07

It is the job of the Marines with the Personnel Retrieval and Processing Detachment, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) to take care of the Angels and return them to their families.

"Our primary job is to recover the remains of fallen troops, bring them back, inventory their gear and send them home," said Cpl. Matthew A. Sarkis, mortuary affairs specialist with PRP, 1st MLG (FWD).

There are a few different ways they can retrieve the Angels, explained Gunnery Sgt. Scott A. Barnett, staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Mortuary Affairs Collection Point Bastion, PRP, 1st MLG (FWD). They can receive the Angels from the medical facility or from the unit directly via air or ground transport. The unit can also request PRP come to the incident site in order to conduct the recovery of Angels.

Mortuary affairs specialists are proud to be able to uphold adage "No Marine left behind."

"This is probably one of the most honorable missions a Marine can have in the Marine Corps," said Chief Warrant Officer Kim T. Adamson, officer in charge of the MACP Bastion and Dwyer, PRP, 1st MLG (FWD).

Even though it's difficult to see one of their own make the ultimate sacrifice, for Sarkis, 26, from Crofton, Md., it's an honor to be able to send the Angels back home with honor and dignity, while bringing closure to their families.

"I always thought that if it was my child over here that had died, I would want somebody like me to take care of him and send him home to me," said Adamson, 56, from Salt Lake City. "That's how much of a connection I have with this job."

The process in which an Angel is taken from a forward operating base to the aircraft flown back to the United States is called a dignified transfer, explained Barnett, 36, from Frederick, Md. As a show of respect to the Angel, service members arrive at the flight line and form up on each side of the ramp leading to the aircraft. Prior to loading the Angel on the plane, the Chaplain gives a final prayer to the Angel.

"From there, we would carry the transfer case from our vehicle to the plane, this is known as the rendering of honor," said Barnett. As the Angel is carried to the aircraft, Marines pay their final respects by saluting the transfer case as the Angel passes by, he added.

"It's difficult to see the remains of the people in the same uniform as us, who believe in the same thing we believe," said Adamson. "You have to detach yourself from the emotional part of doing the job or you'll never get through it."

Embodying the phrase "Once a Marine, always a Marine," the Fallen Angels have served honorably, for which their sacrifices will never be forgotten. These mortuary affairs specialists are proud and honored to be able to bring their fallen brothers and sisters home to their final resting place.

IJC Operational Update, April 22

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force killed several insurgents as they pursued a Taliban facilitator in Zabul province this morning.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.22.2010
Posted: 04.22.2010 03:13

The combined force went to a compound in the village of Jonubi Garay, in the Shahjoy District, after intelligence information indicated militant activity. As the security force searched the buildings they began taking hostile fire and several insurgents, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles, ran from the buildings. The security forces pursued them and in an exchange of gunfire in and around the compound several insurgents were shot and killed.

A search of the area revealed several weapons caches of automatic rifles, RPGs and explosive materials.

In Helmand last night, a joint security force searched a walled-in field in a rural area of the Nad-e Ali district after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. During the search the security force detained a few suspected insurgents for further questioning. During the search the security force also found several bags of unrefined heroin.

In Kandahar yesterday, an Afghan-international security force went to an open field, in the Maywand District, after intelligence information indicated militant activity. The security force surrounded the targeted insurgent, who subsequently surrendered. The individual is a suspected Taliban commander and facilitator responsible for acquiring weapons and directing fighters to specific networks.

Afghanistan national security forces with ISAF partners conducted a combined operation west of Nad-e Ali, Helmand province, yesterday morning. The operation was intended to continue disrupting links between insurgent suicide bombers and narcotics networks.

After surrounding the compound in which several suspects were located, Afghan special police were able to get all residents to exit the compound. Several men were detained, and 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of opium were found. The opium was destroyed in place.

Four women and 15 children were protected throughout this operation, in which no civilians were injured.

In the Bagram District of the Parwan province yesterday, an ISAF patrol found a cache containing seven 155mm artillery rounds, nine 60mm rockets, six submunitions and four RPG propellants. The cache was destroyed by an explosive ordnance disposal team.

In the Ghazni province yesterday, an Afghan national police patrol found a cache containing three rockets and 9 kg (19 lbs) of homemade explosives. The cache was destroyed by an ISAF EOD team.

In the Nad-e Ali District of Helmand yesterday, an Afghan-international patrol found a cache containing 1,225 kg (2,700 lbs) of a substance believed to be ammonium chloride, 4.5 kg (10 lbs) of wet opium, 600 kg (1,322 lbs) powdered charcoal, scales and processing equipment. The materials were confiscated.

No Afghan civilians were harmed during these operations.

Troops Use Darth Vader-Like Mask in Virtual Reality Training

(The Times of London) - A Darth Vader-style mask is being used to help train American troops for battle, The Times reported Thursday.


Updated: Thursday, 22 Apr 2010, 8:42 AM EDT
Published : Thursday, 22 Apr 2010, 8:41 AM EDT
By Michael Evans

It is the very latest in virtual reality.

The headset, reminiscent of the mask worn by the major villain in the science fiction film "Star Wars", is designed to immerse the soldier in the sights, sounds and smells of Afghanistan -- even virtual reality death comes with a jolt.

American forces have begun to use the most complex combat simulator so far created and the Pentagon hopes that it will transform the training of troops being sent to Afghanistan.

The wargame video program sees various combat scenarios being fed into the headset and the wearer is expected to react. He can use the replica grenade launcher or a machinegun that he carries, each programmed to display a realistic effect.

While each participant goes through the 30 to 60-minute simulation, his heart rate is monitored to measure not only his state of health but also how immersive the experience is proving.

To create a realistic environment a generator pumps out smells, including military cordite (like gunpowder) and the odour of animals. The experience even simulates injury or death through a low-voltage jolt.

“These soldiers and Marines are in a very complex combat environment, and this program is about how they can detect anomalies and make proper decisions,” Jay Reist, a former officer and the operations manager for the Future Immersive Training Environment project in Norfolk, Virginia, said.

Source: The Times of London

Building Up Afghan Capacity Seen as Key Challenge

QUANTICO, Virginia (Reuters) - When U.S. forces went in to clear the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in February, the hope was that local Afghan government could step in fast, but that has proved tough and underscores a countrywide challenge.


Published: April 22, 2010

At a conference at the Marine Corps University in Quantico, Virginia, U.S. and Afghan officials listed dozens of obstacles in building up "Afghan capacity" and boosting credibility of a government seen by many as inefficient and corrupt.

The Afghan government's past inability to deliver services and provide basic security in areas where the Taliban has been pushed out is seen as an important threat to the Obama administration's counterinsurgency strategy.

In many districts, more than half of government jobs were still vacant as officials faced constant security threats and more educated candidates chose safer, more lucrative private sector work, said Jilani Popal, head of the Afghan agency seeking to boost government effectiveness.

"There is an urgent need for an improvement of the human resource situation in the provinces," Popal, director of the Independent Directorate of Local Government in Afghanistan, told Marines and officials at Wednesday's symposium.

In an extreme example, he said, only five out of 75 positions were filled in one district late last year, six provinces still did not have buildings for governors and others had no power.

In addition, Taliban have targeted local officials -- as they did on Tuesday when a deputy mayor in Kandahar was killed after gunmen burst into a mosque while he was praying.

"We have a lot of difficult days ahead of us, especially in terms of the issues of governance," said Brigadier General John Nicholson, head of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Coordination Cell at the Pentagon.

Another problem weighing on confidence in local government was the performance of the police force which U.S. and other allies are trying to boost in order to secure areas where the Taliban are being cleared out.

Nicholson said of an estimated 102,000 police in the country's force, only about 30 percent were trained.

"We have a fielded force out there carrying guns that are completely untrained -- the majority of them," he said. "We are just getting out of the starting gates. We are years behind."


Retired Colonel Jeff Haynes, who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2008 and is now doing research and analysis there, said the Afghan Army also needed to step up and be given a stronger leadership role.

He said there was often cronyism and it was hard to punish or reward people in that environment, adding that corrupt officers should be removed.

"These guys are smart, they are clever people, they can do more and they are playing us. We need to stand up to that," Haynes said.

The State Department's top civilian representative in southern Afghanistan, Frank Ruggiero, said the United States was working hard to create a "connection" between the people of Afghanistan and their government.

In the former Taliban stronghold of Marjah, the U.S. government prepared what it dubbed a "government in a box" to extend the reach of central government to the southern town.

However, that has been tough going, and Ruggiero said freedom of movement was difficult to establish in Marjah. The route into the area was still "relatively insecure" and government capacity was slowly being built up.

Asked what lessons had been learned from Marjah before an expected major push in neighbouring Kandahar province this summer, he said there was a need to better prioritize which officials were needed fast and to ensure they were trained in time.

"If you are going to clear the area, you need to work out what the services are you need to provide soon thereafter clearing, so that those people are trained, hired and ready to go," Ruggiero said.

The blame for poor governance could also be shared among allies and donors who had not focussed enough on this during the eight-year war, several speakers at the conference said.

Grant Kippen, who chaired the electoral complaints commission for the flawed election in Afghanistan last year, said there had been a giant lack of voter education from the officials taking part to those who voted.

"I think a huge effort needs to go into educating public servants at all levels," he said.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Court throws out Hamdania conviction

Appellate ruling sets aside murder conviction of Camp Pendleton Marine Sgt. Larry Hutchins III

A military appeals court on Thursday overturned the murder conviction of a Camp Pendleton Marine who had been found guilty of leading his squad in the 2006 kidnapping and slaying of an Iraqi man in the village of Hamdania.


By MARK WALKER - [email protected] | Posted: April 22, 2010 3:38 pm |

The U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Appeals said Thursday that it made the ruling because an attorney for Sgt. Larry Hutchins' was improperly dismissed prior to the man's 2007 trial.

That act alone is sufficient to set aside Hutchins' conviction for the April 2006 incident and erase his 11-year prison sentence, the nine-member court found.

"I'm just so happy," said Hutchins' mother, Kathy, when reached at her Boston-area home Thursday afternoon. "After everything that's happened, I just can't believe it."

Hutchins, 26, was told of the court decision during a telephone call from his attorney, Marine Capt. S. Babu Kaza.

"He is pretty happy," Kaza said. "He was surprised to get good news because it's really the first time it's happened since he got put in confinement."

Hutchins has been serving his sentence at the U.S. military prison in Leavenworth, Kan. Thursday's ruling means he will likely be released and reinstated as a sergeant while prosecutors review their options. Hutchins was reduced in rank to private after he was convicted.

The office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy can appeal the ruling or send the case back to Camp Pendleton for a rehearing before a new convening authority.

The latter would put Hutchins' fate in the hands of Lt. Gen.Joseph Dunford, who has the option of ordering a new hearing that could lead to a fresh prosecution.

Kaza said he is highly doubtful that will happen. Recent comments by the Secretary of the Navy regarding Hutchins' case and that of seven co-defendants has highly prejudiced any further legal action against him, Kaza maintains.

"That's tainted the entire military justice system as it applies to Larry," Kaza said.

In an exclusive interview with the North County Times last year, Hutchins said he never would have hurt someone he did not believe was intent on killing U.S. troops.

"I never would have knowingly harmed any innocent Iraqi," Hutchins told the newspaper. "If I knew for sure to this day that the person that was killed was an insurgent, I would sleep a lot better at night."

"I love the Marine Corps. If I could put the uniform back on today and go back to Iraq, I would do it in a heartbeat," he said.

It was while he was sitting in a palm grove on an overnight patrol to hunt for insurgents planting roadside bombs in the Anbar province village that prosecutors say Hutchins, on his first combat assignment, led a plot to kidnap and kill a man they suspected was most culpable for a series of bombings.

Hutchins was the leader of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment squad that included six other Marines and a Navy medical corpsman.

When the squad went to the suspected insurgent's home and discovered he wasn't there, prosecutors say, they kidnapped a man from a nearby house instead.

The Iraqi was bound, gagged and shot by the squad, who then tried to make it appear the victim was planting a roadside bomb when he was killed, according to the testimony of several co-defendants in the case.

As the lead defendant among the so-called "Pendleton 8," Hutchins was the primary target of military prosecutors.

He went to trial before a panel of Marines, some of whom later told his attorney that they convicted Hutchins because the defense failed to convince them that the man who was killed was an insurgent.

Initially sentenced to 15 years, his term was later reduced to 11 years.

Most of his co-defendants brokered plea deals that allowed them to stay in the service. But last November, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ordered the four that were still in removed from the military.

"None of their actions lived up to the core values of the Marine Corps and the Navy," Mabus said when he issued that directive. "This was not a 'fog of war' case occurring in the heat of battle. This was carefully planned and executed, as was the cover-up. The plan was carried out exactly as it had been conceived."

Call staff writer Mark Walker at 760-740-3529.

Assassination Shows Taliban's Values, Petraeus Says

WASHINGTON - The assassination of the deputy mayor of Kandahar, Afghanistan, as he prayed in a mosque this week reflects the values of a barbaric enemy, the commander of U.S. Central Command said in a statement released, April 21.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs More Stories from Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs RSS
Story by Jim Garamone
Date: 04.22.2010
Posted: 04.22.2010 11:29

Azizullah Yarmal was attending evening prayers, April 19, when a death squad entered the mosque and shot him dead before escaping.

In his statement, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus said the murder "demonstrated the Taliban's barbarism."

"That they would kill this Afghan leader while he was attending services in a mosque illustrates the Taliban's callous disregard for Afghanistan's values and for Islam itself," the general said. "Through this action, the Taliban demonstrated once again that it is an enemy of Afghanistan that seeks to impose through violence its extremist ideology and oppressive practices on the Afghan people."

Yarmal's assassination was the second cold-blooded Taliban murder of a local Afghan leader in a week. Taliban gunmen also killed Lal Mohammad Khan, a tribal leader in neighboring Helmand province, last week.

In Kabul, NATO Ambassador to Afghanistan Mark Sedwill noted that Yarmal was always pushing for roads, electricity and services for his people.

"That's a man who's trying to serve the people of Afghanistan, and he was killed deliberately by the insurgents in what is no less than a terrorist attack," he said.

The murder came as the Afghan government and security forces, along with coalition forces, seek to make Kandahar secure. The city is the second-largest in Afghanistan, and is the spiritual home of the Pashtu-dominated Taliban.

Officials said operations in and around Kandahar don't constitute an offensive in the military sense of the word. Rather, they explained, the Afghan government and coalition personnel are working bring services and infrastructure improvements to the city. The hope is that Afghans will see the Taliban are trying to stop progress and will side with the government.

Regional Command South is the focus of operations in Afghanistan this year. British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter commands the more than 54,500 coalition troops in the region. The bulk of the U.S. 30,000-troop surge will operate in Regional Command South.

April 21, 2010

Combat Logistics Battalion 13 Toughens Up for Deployment

Marines and Sailors with Combat Logistics Battalion 13 have a chance to sharpen and advance their skills as they prepare to deploy with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.


1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs More Stories from 1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.21.2010
Posted: 04.21.2010 01:56

By Cpl. Shannon E. McMillan and Lance Cpl. Kenneth Jasik

Not knowing what is in store for them when they deploy, CLB-13 has been conducting different scenarios during their training exercise here.

Training for the service members began at Camp Wilson. Since the morning of March 18, they have completed several training missions, which include convoy operations, helicopter support and mass casualty exercises.

The training operations are to help CLB-13 be ready for any obstacles they may see as a Marine Logistics Group unit that sustains combat units with supplies on the front lines.

"[In Afghanstan] we focus on doing what we can to support the battalions out there," said 1st Sgt. Dennis J. Collins, battalion sergeant major, CLB-13.

The Marines and Sailors are gaining and reiterating essential information and skills to assist them in any number of the infinite situations they may face while on deployment.

"This training has covered everything we could face in Afghanistan, whether it's improvised explosive devices, indirect fire or small arms fire," said Cpl. Brenton F. Sangster, communications calibrator, maintenance, Combat Logistics Group 13.

The purpose of the field training operation is to give the Marines and Sailors the opportunity to gain experience outside of their daily routine.

Service members were given an opportunity to throw live grenades. For some, it was the first time they have thrown explosive ordnance since Marine Combat Training.

"It's good training, you learn something new everyday in your job and much more," said Seaman Anthony Weber, corpsman, motor transport, health service detachment, CLB-13.

During the exercise, service members not only improved their job skills but in addition to that, they provided support in building the forward operating base. Individuals took part in maintaining the security positions around the forward operating base.

Marines and Sailors gained crucial experience and knowledge that will further assist them, not only for the up coming deployments, but for future operations as well.

During the exercise, service members not only improved their job skills, but also provided support in building the forward operating base. Individuals also took part in maintaining the security positions around the FOB.

Marines and Sailors gained crucial experience and knowledge that will further assist them, not only for the up coming deployments but for future operations as well.

"I look forward to deploying with this unit, this battalion is going to be strongly successful," said Collins. "I'm proud to be a part of this unit."

No Place to Run: HMLA-367 Marine Helps Locate, Close-with, Destroy Enemy

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Afghanistan — When Marines kick in doors and begin to put rounds down range, some insurgents flee — a Huey pilot helped create a way to stop them before they slip through the cracks.



3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs More Stories from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Justis Beauregard
Date: 04.21.2010
Posted: 04.21.2010 08:51

Capt. Bret W. Morriss, a pilot with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, "Scarface," 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), used the capabilities of the new UH-1Y Huey to create a concept to aid in the capture of insurgents.

Capt. Kevin Kinkade, the platoon commander for B Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Detachment, worked with Morriss to develop a way to effectively peruse insurgents who flee.

It can be dangerous for troops on the ground to chase fleeing insurgents because the enemy uses mines and improvised explosive devices to protect their routes of escape, explained Morriss.

Morriss and Kinkade created a concept called an aerial reaction force by adapting the concept of a quick reaction force. A QRF is a rapid response force commonly used to reinforce or investigate areas of interest. By combining the time-tested tactics of the QRF and the capabilities of the new Huey, the Marines created ARF — a force with strength in a couple of prime areas.

"ARF proves the capabilities of the Huey," said Morriss. "It improves abilities of the [ground combat element] giving the Marines more flexibility and maneuverability."

The new Huey can keep up with the demands of the ARF concept because of the improved lifting power of the helicopter. It can carry 6-8 combat-loaded Marines, plus the helo's crew, into and out of tactical zones at high altitudes and in hot weather. The previous helicopter the Marine Corps used was the UH-1N Huey that did not have the power to carry such a load. Morriss' squadron is the first HMLA to use the new Huey in combat.

The new helicopter provides outstanding economy of force, giving close air support and reconnaissance support for the Marines that it inserts. Historically, Marines used a heavy or medium lift helicopter to bring in the reinforcements, and flew attack helicopters for close air support.

By employing these new Hueys, Marines can use ARF to quickly capture a person of interest or small group of insurgents, or they can be used as an addition to a larger ground operation. The UH-1Y has brought back true utility to the Marine Corps supporting a wide variety of assault support missions.

When HMLA-367 heads home to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., in the next few months, they will pass on the new tactics to the incoming squadron, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, the "Gunfighters."

"What Capt. Morriss developed keeps Marines safer by giving them the flexibility to close with the enemy with less risk of hitting a mine or being ambushed," said Maj. Thomas Budrejko, the operations officer for the squadron. "It also improves the operational capabilities of the units on the ground."

Morriss, a graduate of Virginia Tech, received a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his part in creating and executing ARF.

Just as Marines have done throughout history, Morriss and Kinkade adapted to the war at hand and developed new Marine Corps tactics that will likely save Marines' lives and ensure the capture or elimination of the enemy.

Forces Detain Suspected Insurgents, Find Weapons

WASHINGTON - Afghan and international forces detained numerous suspected insurgents and seized illegal weapons in recent operations throughout Afghanistan, military officials reported.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs More Stories from Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.21.2010
Posted: 04.21.2010 02:27

In Kandahar province's Arghandab District April 20, a combined Afghan-international security force captured a suspected Taliban bomb expert believed to be responsible for building and emplacing roadside bombs himself and leading a roadside-bomb cell. Nearly a dozen other suspected insurgents also were captured in the raid.

In Kandahar's Spin Boldak District April 20, an Afghan border police unit discovered a significant amount of ammonium nitrate and other bomb-making equipment while inspecting vehicles. The border police recovered more than 3,200 pounds of ammonium nitrate - a banned fertilizer often used in making homemade bombs - as well as 12 sticks of a substance believed to be TNT and 800 blasting caps. They detained a man in connection with the find.

East of Marja in Helmand province April 20, Afghan forces working with International Security Assistance Force partners conducted a combined operation to continue disrupting links between insurgent suicide bombers and narcotics networks. After surrounding a compound in which a man associated with suicide bombing attacks was believed to be located, Afghan special police were able to get all residents to leave. One man was detained, and the patrol found an assault rifle, a shotgun and 66 pounds of opium. One woman and four children were protected throughout this operation, in which no civilians were injured, officials said.

On April 20 in Kandahar, an ISAF patrol found a cache containing four rocket-propelled grenades, an RPG launcher, 20 grenades, three rifle grenades, a machine gun, four assault rifles and a large quantity of small-arms ammunition.

In Kunar yesterday, an Afghan-international combined force captured a Taliban facilitator who also is associated with the Hezb-E Islami Gulbuddin terror organization. The combined force established a roadblock northeast of Karbun, along the border of the Shaikal Shate and Dangam Districts, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. The combined force surrounded an approaching vehicle and captured the facilitator, who identified himself and surrendered when confronted.

In Helmand's Nad-e Ali District April 20, a combined patrol found eight grenades, three claymore mines, four artillery rounds, 22 grenades and an RPG.

No shots were fired, and no Afghan civilians were harmed during these operations, officials said.

In other news from Afghanistan, ISAF Joint Command officials released a statement backing off from part of its official account of an April 19 incident in which four people were killed.

"The term 'insurgent' should not have been used to describe two occupants of a vehicle involved in an escalation-of-force incident in Khost province Monday," the statement said.

Based on initial operational reports, two of the four people killed in a vehicle that approached an ISAF convoy were described as "known insurgents" in an ISAF Joint Command news release about the incident, the statement continued. Officials explained that their fingerprints matched identities contained in a biometric database for previous insurgent activity, and that while it is accurate to say they were in the database, that fact has not yet been determined to be relevant to the incident.

"We sincerely regret this tragic loss of life. Commanders at all levels are increasing efforts to protect the Afghan people affected by our operations," Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Mike Regner, deputy chief of staff for joint operations at ISAF Joint Command. "Additionally, we are deploying training teams from this headquarters in the coming days to travel throughout Afghanistan to ensure all our troops understand the commander's guidance and implement critical lessons learned from previous incidents."

An assessment team made up of ISAF and Afghan forces continues to review the incident in Khost, officials said, and a formal, more thorough joint investigation also may be conducted.

Pipes Playing in Afghanistan

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan - From remembering people from the past to relaxation and even shaping the war atmosphere, one man has found a way to use bagpipes to fulfill many different needs



I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd) More Stories from I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd) RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Jeremy Fasci
Date: 04.21.2010
Posted: 04.21.2010 01:41

Patrick J. Carroll, the governance and cultural advisor for the I Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD) Civil Affairs Group, plays the bagpipes for many different reasons, and brings its tunes to all different parts of the world.

Through his experiences he has found something that brings back memories, allows him to give back to his brothers in the Corps and keeps him working toward something better as he immerses himself into learning new songs and other types of bagpipes.

"Most people say they can't believe that I bring it with me, but once you remove the bass drum you can actually fit it in a normal-size gun case," said Carroll. "It fits conveniently in a seabag, so if I can take a seabag somewhere, I can take the pipes with me, and I pretty much take them everywhere I go."

Carroll retired from the Marine Corps as a lieutenant colonel in September 2009 and has continued working as a civilian contractor. He began as an infantry officer but was also a middle eastern foreign area officer, helping him with the job he is doing working with the civil affairs group as a contractor.

"I went to certain schooling during my career to become an expert on the history, politics, language and culture of the countries that fall within the Central Command," said Carroll.

Speaking mainly Arabic, Carroll also knows some Pashto and farsi after studying the Middle East for over 17 years.

The bagpipes are not an instrument most people would think to pick up. Carroll had a little more motivation than just the personal drive he has had throughout life.

"At the same time I thought about playing the pipes, I ran into the father of a Marine who was playing bagpipes at a dining out event, and asked him if it was difficult to play it. He not only encouraged me to play, but gave me some advice on how to get started," said Carroll. "My father also encouraged it. He loved the pipes. He didn't play, but he played the music a lot."

After receiving the advice Carroll bought a chanter and a book tutor to begin practicing.

Carroll had another reason for continuing to put in the work to play and to take them everywhere possible.

"My mom passed away about the time I picked it up," said Carroll. "My mother loved Ireland, she had been to Ireland numerous times. My dad went to school in Ireland for a portion of his youth and it was kind of a way to remember her. That makes it easy because you always want to play it and think of your parents."

As with any Marine, the sense of brotherhood has never left Carroll, and being around the Corps has allowed him to continue helping fellow Marines.

"I actually play for any Marine who wants me to play. I'll play at the drop of a hat. So I play at retirements, and unfortunately I play at memorial ceremonies and funerals," said Carroll. "I'm very honored to play for Marines. I do it because I never learned to do it for money. It was simply for the joy of the music and I don't do it only for Marines, but of course I would do anything for my brother Marines."

Carroll feels the sound of bagpipes is something most service members like to hear played while they are deployed.

"I also play it because it is an instrument that combines a martial sense to it, a war-like presence, but also has a soothing side at the same time," said Carroll. "I think that the Marines, any servicemen, even if they are not Irish or Scottish like the martial aspect of the pipes, so I think it goes well with the atmosphere."

Just as many Marines and other servicemembers find it relaxing to hear him play, it also allows him to break away from the difficult work that he performs daily basis as himself and the Marines from the civil affairs group help the people of Afghanistan have a better way of life.

"You need something to completely break free, some type of hobby that completely takes you away," said Carroll.

Carroll will continue to play while he finishes out his six months working with the civil affairs group, and when he returns home to Virginia, where he is part of a band called the Northern Virginia Firefighters Emerald Society Pipe Band.

"I would encourage anyone to start playing. The only regret that I've had in life so far is not starting to play a musical instrument earlier," said Carroll.

29 militants die in fighting in north Afghanistan

At least 29 militants, including two commanders, have been killed over four days of intense fighting aimed at protecting supply routes through northern Afghanistan, the Interior Ministry said Sunday.


The Associated Press
Wednesday, April 21, 2010 | 12:22 a.m.

Elsewhere, a foreign soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, NATO said, the third foreign death that day following an earlier announcement of the loss of two Dutch marines in the southern province of Uruzgan. The third soldier's nationality and other details of the incident were being withheld pending family notification, it said.

So far this month, 24 foreign soldiers have died in Afghanistan, where foreign troop levels are climbing toward 130,000 in a push to cripple the resurgent Taliban insurgency. An Afghan policeman was also killed during mine clearance operations in the southern province of Kandahar, the Interior Ministry said.

Afghan and international forces launched an offensive last week in the northern province of Baghlan to push the Taliban out of a number of districts, including the outskirts of the provincial capital, about 120 miles (190 kilometers) north of Kabul. Insurgents had stepped up attacks in the formerly calm province as part of efforts to disrupt a key northern overland supply route for international forces.

NATO air strikes bombarded insurgent positions, killing 29 and wounding 52, said Zemeri Bashary, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, which oversees the Afghan police force.

At least three Afghan police and four German soldiers have been killed in the fighting. Bashary said the operation was continuing on Sunday.

Among the Taliban killed were two important commanders, Bashary said, without giving their names or other details. He said he had no information on deaths or injuries among civilians.

"The goal of the operation in Baghlan is to bring peace and stability where it was under the threat of the militants," Bashary said.

Maj. Marcin Walczak, a spokesman for international forces, said Afghan troops were leading the fighting with foreign militaries providing reconnaissance, air support and medical assistance.

The Interior Ministry's Bashary also said authorities were working to free five Afghan workers for the U.N. Office of Project Services who were taken hostage Thursday in Baghlan. The U.N. has said it is working with the Afghan Ministry of Interior to seek their release.

Separately, the Afghan authorities released three Italian medical workers Sunday who had been detained in southern Afghanistan for a week on suspicion of collaborating with insurgents, Italian and Afghan officials said.

The three employees of Italian non-governmental organization Emergency hadn't been heard from since being taken into custody April 10 in Helmand after explosives and handguns were found in a raid by Afghan police and British troops on an Emergency hospital.

Officials in Helmand have alleged to the media the three were bribed by insurgents to smuggle weapons into the hospital in preparation for an assassination attempt on the provincial governor. Emergency strongly denied the accusation and the Afghan intelligence service said in a statement that the three had been cleared of any wrongdoing. Five Afghan workers for Emergency detained with them were also released, while a sixth Afghan employee continued to be held.

Also Sunday in the northern province of Faryab, one person was killed and 14 wounded when a remote-controlled bomb exploded in a busy market in the town of Dawlatabad, according to Ahmad Jawed Bedar, spokesman for the provincial governor. It wasn't clear who set the bomb or what its intended target was. While Faryab has been relatively quiet, it shares a border with volatile Baghdis province.

Joint Afghan and NATO patrols also discovered weapons and drug caches in Kandahar and neighboring Helmand province, including more than 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms) of raw opium, 1,875 pounds (851 kilograms) of processed opium, and 615 pounds (279 kilograms) of hashish. The occupants of the trucks were held and the drugs were to be destroyed, NATO said.

Afghanistan produces the raw material for 90 percent of the world's heroin, much of it drawn from the opium fields of Kandahar and Helmand. Profits from the drug trade fill the Taliban's coffers.

Violence in the north has proved an increasing distraction from NATO's main focus on Kandahar, the largest city in southern Afghanistan, where Afghan and international forces are conducting operations in preparation for a major push against the Taliban in the group's spiritual heartland.

The operation's aim is to reassert central government control in the region ahead of parliamentary elections in September.

Afghanistan's Western backers have insisted that the military offensive must be complemented by efforts to reform the flawed electoral system, in order to regain Afghans' trust in their leaders.

President Hamid Karzai on Saturday named a respected former judge to head the Independent Electoral Commission, an organizing body, and ended his bid to exclude international representatives from a separate independent fraud-monitoring group.

The moves meet long-standing international demands that the electoral process be cleaned up after massive fraud in last year's presidential balloting.


Associated Press writer Christopher Bodeen contributed to this report.

More-accurate artillery concerns general

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Apr 21, 2010 15:00:19 EDT

Mortars and rockets fired at forward operating bases in war zones are rarely aimed with precision, but the Marine Corps’ top combat development officer is concerned they could become a bigger threat in the future.

To continue reading:


Taliban moves onto abandoned U.S. base

By Elizabeth A. Kennedy - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday Apr 21, 2010 12:44:02 EDT

KABUL — Taliban fighters swarmed over a mountaintop base abandoned last week by the U.S. military following some of the toughest fighting of the Afghan war, according to footage aired Monday by a major satellite television station.

To continue reading:


Nearly 1,500 Pounds of Donated Supplies Shipped to Middletown Marine in Afghanistan

MIDDLETOWN – Nearly 1,500 pounds of supplies and snacks donated by locals are on their way to Afghanistan to USMC 1st Lt Nicholas Abbate.


Wednesday, 21 April 2010 10:21

The Middletown Support the Troops Program was reactivated in March to collect supplies for the township native and his 80-plus infantry unit. “The immediate outpouring of support from the community was impressive,” said Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger. “Cases of ramen noodles, Girl Scout cookies, drink mixes, teas, toiletries and batteries were among the items donated by businesses, community groups, schools and families from Middletown and surrounding towns.”

Two pairs of military-issue boot socks for every marine was included in the shipment thanks to the collaborative efforts of Middletown Elks 2179 and Lawrence Fuchs, a long-time resident who served nearly four years in the Marine Corps. The Elks Veterans Committee worked with Fuchs at his request to acquire the socks along with cases of snacks and toiletries. The Army & Navy Trading Hut, Keyport, provided the socks at a discounted rate in support of the collection drive. Fuchs, who has lived in Middletown since 1962, also supports the Marine Scholarship Foundation and Middletown Arts Center.

Area businesses, community groups, schools and township offices also organized their own collections. Regal Pointe Senior Living, Tonya Keller Bayshore Recreation Center, Emergency Management Office, St. James Elementary School and the Monmouth Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution were among those who organized their won collections. Local Girl Scouts donated cases of their prized cookies.

”Equally as impressive as the mountain of donations is the dedication of the many volunteers who manage collect drives and undertake the Herculean task of readying tons of supplies for shipment overseas,” said Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger. Middletown is fortunate to have so many generous people willing to donate their time to help others.”

Key program supporters were commended at the April meeting commended for making the driving a resounding success. Middletown Supports the Troops is managed through the Office of Emergency Management with cooperation from the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department. OEM volunteers gathered at the central collection point on the evening of April 6 at Parks and Recreation Offices at Croydon Hall to pack nearly 80 boxes. Middletown VFW 2179 donated the shipping costs. The supplies were shipped through the New Monmouth Post Office.

1st Lt Abbate, a weapons company platoon commander, and his 80-plus member infantry unit are dispersed throughout the Helmond Province. He’s a graduate of St. James Grammar School and Christian Brothers Academy. Abbate graduated in 2006 from the Naval Academy with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and a minor in French and received a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. In 2007 he graduated from the Basic School and was recognized on the Commanding General’s Honor Roll for superior achievement. After completing the Infantry Officer Course he was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment Marines stationed in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. Abbate served a tour of duty in Iraq before heading to Afghanistan.

Approximately three tons of supplies generously donated by local businesses and families have been shipped to soldiers serving in the Middle East since 2007. Middletown’s Support the Troops Program, spearheaded by Mayor Gerard P. Scharfenberger, previously adopted paratroopers from Charlie Co., 1BSTB, 82nd Airborne Division during their 2007-2008 deployment to Iraq and Army Sgt. Eric McCoy, Delta Company, 404th Civil Affairs Battalion during his 2008-2009 deployment to Iraq.

April 20, 2010

IJC Operational Update, April 20

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force captured a suspected Taliban commander and several other insurgents in Kandahar last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.20.2010
Posted: 04.20.2010 05:38

The combined force searched a compound east of Maqbareh-ye Mirvays Baba, in the Kandahar district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. During the search the security force captured a suspected Taliban commander responsible for buying, distributing weapons, and handling militant cell financial

In Zabul last night, a joint force searched a compound east of the village of Garmam, in the Qalat District, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. During the search the joint force captured a Taliban IED facilitator responsible for attacks on coalition forces, who also has close ties to other insurgent networks.

When confronted the facilitator identified himself and surrendered. A few other suspected insurgents were also detained.

In the Now Zad District of Helmand province yesterday, an ISAF patrol found an improvised explosive device consisting of more than 45 kilograms (100 pounds) of home-made explosives and a pressure-plate initiation device. The IED was destroyed.

In the Nad-e Ali District of Helmand yesterday, an Afghan-international patrol found four IEDs. Two of the IEDs consisted of pressure-plate initiation devices and 9 kg (20 lbs) of homemade explosive each. The other IEDs had remote-controlled detonators and 18 kg (40 lbs) of homemade explosive each. All explosive devices were destroyed.

No shots were fired and no Afghans were harmed during these operations.

Sowing Seeds of Support; Marines Facilitate Crop Change Through Agriculture Transition Program

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MARJAH, Helmand Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — A little more than a week since it first began, the Marjah Accelerated Agricultural Transition program has begun to gain momentum in Marjah, Afghanistan, April 14. The program is one of several others, including programs provided by non-governmental organizations, which the Afghan government and coalition forces are conducting in order to foster agricultural growth.



Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs More Stories from Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. James W. Clark
Date: 04.20.2010
Posted: 04.20.2010 05:50

The programs are designed to assist farmers and landowners in their transition to alternate and licit crops. In many, but not all cases, this involves the switch from opium, the illicit product of poppy cultivation, to other crops that will allow participants to make a living, legally.

Designed as a short term solution meant to give the city's citizens a leg to stand on, MAAT is aimed specifically at residents of Marjah and only for the current harvest season, in order to stabilize the city's market and provide residents with a viable and legal source of income.

"We are trying to ease the transition from illicit crops to licit in order to prepare for next year," explained Maj. David Fennell the Civil Affairs team leader attached to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. "We want the Afghan people to understand that we're trying to help them transition even though we're interfering with [the opium] market."

The registration for the program is a multistep process where those wishing to participate first sign up with the NGO's, from whom they will receive seeds and fertilizer. Next, they can choose to participate in the Marjah Accelerated Agricultural Transition program. If they decide to take part in MAAT, they will register where they live, the amount of land they farm on, and what crop they grow.

Participants will be issued ID cards as well as vouchers, which will be used later on when they run across Marine patrols, who will look in on those who have signed up for the program, in order to gauge whether or not they have made the change to their target crop.

If MAAT-registered land owners make the change to licit crops, they will then receive payment, 3,000 Afghanis and new tools, including wheelbarrows, shovels, and a new water pump.

To date approximately 1,000 people have registered for the program, Fennell explained, adding that although the turnout wasn't as large as was first anticipated, it is seen as a good sign in light of reports from locals stating that residents have received threats from the Taliban. Many of which came in the form of night letters, which are written warnings delivered in the evening, forbidding locals from interacting with coalition forces.

"We're here to make a good will gesture," said Fennell. "The thing I personally like about [MAAT] is that the Taliban don't like it. Once we started this, reports of night letters and death threats arose, and engagements with the Taliban in the area increased. Once that happened, it was a sign that this was working."

"The Taliban haven't had the effect that they wanted," said Fennell when he referenced a protest that broke out in front of the government center a few days prior. "The protest wasn't the end goal for the Taliban, it was meant to be a catalyst designed to create a riotous event, but the Marines, through strength and discipline kept it from happening by defusing the situation. At that moment, they fought the Taliban and won."

Projects of this nature affect the insurgency on two fronts. The first is by challenging one of the core aims of the Taliban, which is the interaction of coalition forces with locals.

"Any contact you have with a local national is a good thing," said Fennell. "The goal of the Taliban is to keep us from engaging with the government or populace in any way. This program creates another opportunity for us to interact with them and vice versa."

The second front is more direct. By assisting farmers and land owners in changing their crops, it allows many of them to switch from growing opium, which is one of the Taliban's primary sources of income, explained 1st Lt. Michael Thatcher, the platoon commander for 81 mm Mortar Platoon, Weapon's Company, 1/6.

"This provides the opportunity and incentive [for farmers] to move away from illicit crops and denies the Taliban money to fight as well as benefiting the local populace," said Thatcher.

Face of Defense: Father, Son Serve in Afghanistan

CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan, April 20, 2010 – An Afghan National Army Air Corps C-27A Spartan cargo aircraft took off from Kabul International Airport to conduct an International Security Assistance Force mission transporting weapons and cargo for Afghan National Police.


By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Oshawn Jefferson
U.S. Air Forces Central

Marine Corps 1st Lt. Benjamin Boera, a 5th Battalion 11th Marines High Mobility Artillery Rocket System Tango Battery platoon commander here, watched the cargo plane land. He swelled up with pride, because one of the pilots on the mission was his father, Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael R. Boera, commander of the NATO training mission’s Combined Air Power Transition Force and the U.S. Air Force’s 438th Air Expeditionary Wing.

As the aircraft taxied on the flightline, the general greeted his son with a wave and a smile from the cockpit, and his son returned the greeting.

As the doors of the C-27 opened, Lieutenant Boera entered the aircraft and said something he has uttered countless times: "Hey, Dad." His father answered, "How you doing, Ben?" The Boeras are on the front lines of transition and kinetic operations in Afghanistan.

Since September, General Boera has led a joint and combined organization to mentor, train and to assist Afghan aviation units. He conducts strategic-level coordination with U.S. Central Command, ISAF, and Afghan defense and interior ministry officials to develop the presidential airlift, battlefield mobility, attack, command and control, counter-narcotics, police aviation, security and reconnaissance capabilities of the Afghan air forces.

Lieutenant Boera, deployed from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., in January. His unit has been an active participant in Operation Moshtarek, a NATO-Afghan offensive involving 15,000 Afghan, Canadian, American and British troops. His platoon directly supports the 1st Marine Division and provisional rifle companies with artillery.

But for a few moments, it was just a parent catching up with his son. The general introduced his son to the aircrew, and they talked.

"So this is the C-27," Lieutenant Boera said. "Is this the first operational mission?"

"No, that was a couple of days ago," General Boera said. "We have an Afghan airman getting his check ride, and we are delivering weapons for some of the Afghan police here."

The Marine lieutenant and the Air Force general drove off to share some private time, now just father and son, before returning to the flightline to the waiting C-27.

"I am proud of you,” General Boera said to his son. “Keep up the good work and stand tall."

For troops, a happy meal is relative

(CNN) -- When Command Sgt. Maj. Michael T. Hall of the International Security Assistance Force announced that fast-food offerings like Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen and Orange Julius were being shuttered in Afghanistan, he was blunt about it


By John DeVore, Special to CNN
April 20, 2010 1:32 p.m. EDT.

"This is a warzone, not an amusement park," he wrote on the ISAF blog.

These mobile restaurants and others that can be found on large bases in Kandahar and Bagram, are "nonessentials" and are being shut down to streamline delivery of much-needed battlefield supplies.

However, according to some soldiers and Marines -- all of whom have served in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan -- access to the familiar hometown mall fare isn't as important to morale as many civilians may have thought.

The veterans and active-duty troops all said that access to healthy foods, local cuisine and packages of snacks sent by friends and family trumped military base fast food as morale boosters.

The announcement of the fast-food outposts' shuttering inspired a lively debate on CNN's Afghanistan blog about morale and the amenities afforded servicemen and women serving overseas -- often in harm's way. Those affected, however, didn't seem very concerned.

"The big things that improve morale in a combat zone are lots of letters and packages from loved ones," Marine Cpl. David Brian Crouch said.

Especially appreciated in these care packages are sweet, sour, salty and spicy condiments, such as Tabasco, sugar packets and seasoned salts for enlivening the military's frequently derided Meals Ready to Eat -- individually packaged rations for service members stationed away from meal preparation facilities.

These high-calorie MREs, which have long drawn criticism for depressingly bland flavors and textures, are precisely what Crouch, who served two tours in Iraq, says drove his fellow troops to seek out more flavorful, familiar fast food.

Others look a little closer to their temporary home, sampling the local fare. While many soldiers out on combat patrols were, according to Army Capt. David Swaintek, "too tired and drained to care much about their meal," he developed a taste for Iraqi flavors during his tour, which lasted from 2002 to 2008.

While he stands up for food on base, calling it "decent" and "healthier" than fast-food alternatives, he still misses his favorite flatbread, which he'd buy while out on patrol, and he laments not being able to find anything like it stateside.

Similarly adventurous, previously deployed Marines now at California's Camp Pendeleton don't have to venture far from their barracks to indulge in the Middle Eastern-style specialties they've come to love. According to the Marine Corps Times, DedeMed's Shawarma House now serves the eponymous gyro-like sandwich -- as well as hummus, tabbouleh salad and baklava -- to Marines who'd been stationed in Iraq and the Persian Gulf.

Swaintek, while lauding the indigenous cuisine, also cried foul about fatty U.S. fast foods, saying that "overweight soldiers are a problem."

Army Sgt. Paul Williams, who is serving in Iraq, agrees with the captain but indulges in "the occasional pizza from Pizza Hut, burrito from Taco Bell, or maybe even a sandwich from Subway," citing the virtue of being able to enjoy a pizza in the middle of the desert and escape for a few minutes to talk with fellow soldiers about their homes, sweethearts or future plans.

Ultimately, though, the military is a culture of intense physical fitness, and access to nutritious meals at mess halls helps servicemen and women maintain their physical and psychological. edge. And Williams says that "a soldier has a responsibility to maintain himself."

While deployed troops can certainly take the reins of their physical health, friends and family stateside can still boost morale and offer a taste of home with much-appreciated care packages. The Department of Defense maintains a list of links to groups coordinating care packages for overseas soldiers.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, most foods that are tightly prepackaged and immune to mold or bacterial growth are safe for sending to soldiers. They recommend dried proteins, like beef and turkey jerky, as well as dehydrated soups, dried fruits and even dense baked goods like fruitcakes.

Just make sure to seal it all up with a kiss.

Gunmen kill Kandahar official praying in mosque

The deputy mayor is not the first area dignitary to be targeted. The assassination by suspected Taliban members comes as Western forces are poised to strike militants in the southern Afghan city.

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan
Suspected Taliban gunmen burst into a mosque and gunned down the deputy mayor of Kandahar at his prayers, officials said Tuesday -- a brazen attack that underscored the immense challenges faced by Western forces as they push to restore law and order in the volatile southern city.


By Laura King Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
April 20, 2010 | 3:23 p.m.

Kandahar and its surrounding districts are the focus of an expected drive this spring and summer to try to expel the Taliban and establish credible governance in Afghanistan's second-largest population center. The operation is already in its early stages.

In the meantime, serving as a municipal or provincial official in Kandahar has become one of the country's most hazardous occupations. Azizullah Yarmal, the deputy mayor killed Monday night, was the latest in a roll call of local dignitaries marked for death in recent months by insurgents.

"Measures are being taken to strengthen the government system in Kandahar; therefore the enemy is trying to target government officials to slow this process," said Zalmai Ayubi, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

The assassination took place during evening prayers at the Sadozo Mosque, near one of the city's most crowded markets. Dozens of worshipers were present, but Yarmal was clearly the target. He was shot multiple times, witnesses and officials said. The assailants escaped.

"He didn't have any enemies," said Ayubi. "He was a devout and sociable person."

The attack came less than two months after the slaying of Majid Babai, a popular cultural affairs minister for Kandahar province. Gunmen on a motorbike cut him down Feb. 24 as he walked on a Kandahar street.

Many of the attacks on government officials and installations wind up killing bystanders while missing their targets. Hours before Yarmal's assassination, attackers strapped a remote-controlled bomb onto a donkey and detonated the device as the animal approached a police checkpoint. Three children under the age of 12 were killed, provincial officials said.

Most of the 30,000 troops arriving in Afghanistan under President Obama's buildup are being deployed in the country's south, a longtime bastion of the insurgency. Previous offensives by U.S. Marines have sought to dislodge Taliban fighters from havens in Helmand province, and at least some are thought to have taken refuge in Kandahar.

Many senior Afghan officials in the south have already escaped more than one attempted attack by insurgents, and lower-level officials are being targeted as well. Lal Mohammad Khan, a tribal elder in the Gereshk district of Helmand province, was killed last week in circumstances chillingly similar to Monday's slaying; he too was shot dead in a mosque.

Those who are targeted do not even have to hold positions of any authority. Mere association with the government is enough to earn a death sentence. Municipal officials said last week a janitor at a government building in Kandahar was killed.

NATO forces, in turn, have been trying to tighten a noose around the city, hunting insurgents in its outlying districts. On Monday night, a force made up of Afghan and Western troops captured a suspected Taliban commander they said was responsible for weapons procurement and paymaster duties for a local militant cell in Kandahar district.

Those mourning Yarmal on Tuesday included the city's mayor, Ghulam Haider, who described his deputy as a trusted advisor and friend.

Haider, who himself has been the target of nearly constant threats, said the insurgents' campaign of violence was intended as a show of strength -- and a message to the government.

"Such miserable things are happening in Kandahar," he said.

[email protected]

April 19, 2010

IJC Operational Update, April 19

KABUL, Afghanistan - Initial reports indicate that an Afghan-international security force killed several insurgents and captured one while the force was searching for a senior Taliban commander in Ghazni this morning.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.19.2010
Posted: 04.19.2010 06:44

The combined force moved to a compound in the village of Bagi Kheyl, in the Qarah Bagh District, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. As the security force approached the compound, multiple insurgents engaged the force with machine guns, small arms, grenades, and rocket-propelled grenades. The combined force returned fire killing several insurgents.

As the combined force secured the target compound, they continued to receive small-arms fire, grenades and heavy machine-gun fire from insurgents throughout the village.

A search of the target area revealed a vehicle-mounted 12.7mm heavy machine gun, heavy-machine gun ammunition, multiple automatic rifles, grenades, RPGs, RPG launchers, and communications equipment.

In Kandahar province this morning, an ISAF patrol found 30 ammunition cans full of Russian-made ammunition and weapons parts. The cache was destroyed.

In Khowst province yesterday, an Afghan-International security force went to a compound south of Mejles, in the Sabari District, after intelligence information indicated militant activity. As the joint force neared the compound, the suspected insurgents departed in two directions. While pursuing them, the security force was engaged by one of the insurgents. The security force returned fire and killed a suspected Haqqani facilitator responsible for coordinating and procuring weapons and grenades for Sabari Haqqani network leaders.

During a search of the immediate area, the security force found a machine gun, magazines and grenades. Another suspected insurgent was detained for further questioning.

In Kandahar yesterday, a combined force targeted two suspected Taliban insurgents in a vehicle in a rural area of the Daman District after intelligence information indicated militant activity. The two insurgents demonstrated hostile intent and were shot and killed. A search of the militants found 10 blasting caps and a probable improvised explosive device.

In the Nad-e Ali District of Helmand province yesterday, an Afghan-international security force found a cache containing two RPG boosters, an 82mm mortar, nine pressure plate initiation devices, eight blasting caps, 100 feet of detonation cord, a 4.5 kilogram (10 lb) bag of aluminum powder, a 23 kg (51 lb) bag of home-made explosive, IED making materials, 200 rounds of small-arms ammunition and a disassembled anti-aircraft gun.

Another joint patrol in the same district yesterday found a cache containing six PG9 fin-stabilized, rocket-assisted warheads; two PG9 boosters; nine chest rigs; a pressure plate initiation device; a 22 kg (50 lb) jug of homemade explosive; miscellaneous shrapnel and a night letter. The hazardous items were destroyed by an explosive ordnance disposal team.

A third Afghan-international patrol in the Nad-e Ali District yesterday found a cache containing 68 kg (150 lbs) of homemade explosive and a 45 kg (100 lb) drum of ammonium nitrate. The cache was destroyed by an EOD team.

No civilians were harmed in these operations.

Maintaining the Fight; 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Headquarters Personnel Provide Much Needed Support

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MARJAH - What began with the tedious process of filling sandbags, laying concertina wire and constructing posts from strips of wood, hammered together by nails scrounged up from the sand, has developed into the large scale construction and upkeep of Forward Operating Base Marjah. Nearly two months have passed since the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment began the offensive to take the Taliban stronghold, and now, standing where coalition forces took rocket and assorted small-arms fire, is the battalion's new home.



Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs More Stories from Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. James W. Clark
Date: 04.19.2010
Posted: 04.19.2010 05:10

But the struggle to take the city has been replaced by the struggle to keep the Marines and their Afghan national army counterparts in the fight, as they move into more of the holding phase of their operations.

During the first several weeks of fighting, supplies were delivered to Marines by helicopters during airdrops at night, now however, convoys pass through the gates of the base and along roads that are frequently mined with explosives in order to supply those outside of the wire, explained Gunnery Sgt. Steven Ellison, the logistics chief with Headquarters and Service Company, 1/6.

"We support and provide everything from; chow, water, ammunition, cooks, combat trains, resupply and equipment," said Ellison. "At the [forward operating base] it's the same concept as anywhere else, but we support everyone outside of the walls as well."

One of the key obstacles for logistics Marines is getting the supplies to the FOB, so in turn, they can get them out to Marines spread throughout the city, explained Ellison.

"Another challenge comes in the form of Helo drops," said Ellison. "Sometimes the loads don't [survive the drops] and Marines have to retrieve the pallets at night time."

In addition to dealing with the delivery and transportation of supplies, the Marines must make do with a shortage of man power. The 80 Marines who make up the logistics element of the battalion are responsible for supporting the entire battalion and its attachments. In effect, just one of those Marines is directly responsible for feeding, arming and supporting at least ten others.

Although the work can be grueling, some find comfort in the ability to make life a bit easier on their peers.

"We started providing hot chow for Marines in Marjah around mid-March," said Cpl. Andrew J. Koesling, a field mess non-commissioned officer, with H&S; Company, 1/6. "We have to prepare food for approximately 400 people, plus Afghan National Army soldiers and attachments."

"It feels pretty good to be doing this, these Marines have been eating [meals, ready-to-eat] for over a month and a half," said Koesling who is on his second deployment, after serving with 1/6 on their previous tour in Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan. "It makes a big difference to have a cooked meal; that and a cold soda. It helps make their day; at least a little."

Deal reached on family caregiver benefits

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Apr 19, 2010 16:36:46 EDT

People caring for severely disabled veterans would be eligible for a host of new benefits — including payment for some — under a compromise reached between key congressional committees, the Veterans Affairs Department and the White House.

To continue reading:


Taliban Prepping for Kandahar Battle

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- The Taliban are moving fighters into Kandahar, planting bombs and plotting attacks as NATO and Afghan forces prepare for a summer showdown with insurgents, according to a Taliban commander with close ties to senior insurgent leaders.


April 19, 2010
Associated Press

NATO and Afghan forces are stepping up operations to push Taliban fighters out of the city, which was the Islamist movement's headquarters during the years it ruled most of Afghanistan. The goal is to bolster the capability of the local government so that it can keep the Taliban from coming back.

The Taliban commander, who uses the pseudonym Mubeen, told The Associated Press that if military pressure on the insurgents becomes too great "we will just leave and come back after" the foreign forces leave.

Despite nightly raids by NATO and Afghan troops, Mubeen said his movements have not been restricted. He was interviewed last week in the center of Kandahar, seated with his legs crossed on a cushion in a room. His only concession to security was to lock the door.

He made no attempt to hide his face and said he felt comfortable because of widespread support among Kandahar's 500,000 residents, who like the Taliban are mostly Pashtuns, Afghanistan's biggest ethnic community.

"Because of the American attitude to the people, they are sympathetic to us," Mubeen said. "Every day, we are getting more support. We are not strangers. We are not foreigners. We are from the people."

It is difficult to measure the depth of support for the Taliban among Kandahar's people, many of whom say they are disgusted by the presence of both the foreign troops and the insurgents. Many of them say they are afraid NATO's summer offensive will accomplish little other than trigger more violence.

Mubeen said Taliban attacks are not random but are carefully planned and ordered by the senior military and political command that assigns jobs and responsibilities to its rank and file. The final arbiter is the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, who heads the council, or shura, that decides strategic goals which are passed down the ranks to commanders in the field, he said.

"We are always getting instructions from our commanders, what suicide attacks to carry out, who to behead if he is a spy," Mubeen said, gesturing with a maimed hand suffered during fighting in 1996 when the Taliban were trying to gain control of the capital of Kabul.

Then, like now, his enemies were members of the Northern Alliance, dominated by Afghanistan's minority ethnic groups and returned to power by the U.S.-led coalition following the Taliban's collapse in 2001.

Mubeen, a native of Zabul province, worked with the Taliban's civil aviation minister, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, during the Taliban's five-year rule. In the final days before the Taliban abandoned Kandahar in 2001, Mubeen played a crucial logistical role, helping move weapons and supplies to hideouts outside the city.

Mullah Mansoor was one of two senior Taliban figures named by Mullah Omar to replace the No. 2 commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Barader, who was arrested in Pakistan in February.

Mubeen said that in the first years after the Taliban were routed, fighters had to survive in the mountains, rarely making forays into Afghan towns and villages. He attributed the Taliban comeback to deep resentment -- especially among ethnic Pashtuns -- to the presence of foreign military forces and public disgust with the Afghan government.

"Our brothers are already here and ready," he said. "Our people are skilled now. They know a lot of things, how to make things more difficult and to be more sophisticated in our attacks."

Mubeen said Taliban fighters had received better training, although he would not say where and by whom.

"But we were interested to get the training and we understood that we needed the training," he said.

Mubeen said the Taliban's main goal in the war is the establishment of sharia, or Islamic law, in Afghanistan. When they ruled the religious militia enforced an antiquated and regressive interpretation of Islamic law that appalled the West, including publicly amputating hands and feet for theft and carrying out public executions.

"We want sharia. That is first. Everything else comes after that," he said. "People want sharia and then development."

Mubeen said he was confident that efforts by President Hamid Karzai and his international partners to win over rank-and-file members with promises of amnesty, jobs and money would not succeed in undermining the insurgents.

"The government and the Americans did a lot of work to make disputes in the Taliban and to give money to the Taliban," he said.

He also said peace negotiations with the Taliban leadership would not take place without the blessing of Mullah Omar.

"The world community should leave our country and then we are ready to negotiate," he said.

April 18, 2010

Family of fallen Scranton marine helps design addition to Nay Aug Park's Heroes Memorial

Johanna Thomas Johnson will never forget the succession of telephone calls from home she received on a cold morning earlier this year.


by stacy brown (staff writer)
Published: April 18, 2010

When military officials knocked on her door, Ms. Johnson, a Scranton resident, was at work in Carbondale and she was not aware that the repeated calls were desperate attempts by her family to reach her and break the worst of news.

The military officials had already given the terrible news to Ms. Johnson's daughter, Ashley, whose cries were heard by her younger brother, Matt, who was in an upstairs room when the officials visited.

Marine Lance Cpl. Larry Johnson, Ms. Johnson's 19-year-old son, had lost his life in combat on Feb. 18 in the Helmand province of Afghanistan.

Devastating call

The Marines who visited the Johnson home had asked her children not to contact their mother, they wanted to do it face to face and offer the comfort of a safe ride home from work.

"The phone rang and rang and, when my son, Matt, told me that Larry was dead, I just couldn't believe it," Ms. Johnson said. "I just thought about how the Marines had changed his life and how he had grown up and became a man after joining the Marines."

Lance Cpl. Johnson was a fun-loving young man who liked to party and like to make others laugh, his sister, Janice Johnson, said. "Before he went to boot camp, we threw a big party and he just loved to party," she said.

"He loved animals," Larry Johnson, the fallen Marine's father, said. "He once tried to rescue an injured skunk; of all the animals, a skunk. He didn't care that it was a skunk, he just wanted it to live. He wanted to save it."

The last conversation between Lance Cpl. Johnson and his sister, Janice, was one she'll never forget.

"He said was going to send a puppy in the mail for my daughter because he loved animals and thought it would be a great gift," Janice Johnson said. "We'll never forget him."

Now, Ms. Johnson is on a mission to make sure that the memory of her hero son lives on. On a recent afternoon, she was joined at Nay Aug Park by her husband, Jeff Whitney; her son, Matt; daughter, Janice; Larry Johnson Sr., Scranton Parks and Recreation Director Mark Dougher, Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty and architect Joseph Rominski.

The meeting was for the Johnson family to start the process of helping to design a monument to the fallen Marine at the park with the help of Mr. Doherty, whom the family said has been supportive of their ideas and has offered assistance in the project.

"It's not only important to remember those who gave so much, but it's important to remember that this is a lesson for our community and our country that this is what Lance Cpl. Johnson and others did for us," Mr. Doherty said. "This is a drive-by war and people have a tendency to watch it on television, but not realize the impact."

Honoring sacrifice

Putting together a memorial for any fallen soldier is and always will be difficult for a family, Mr. Doherty said. Honoring soldiers' legacy should be a priority for all, he said, adding that the effort does provide a small amount of comfort for the families.

"Sometimes talking about my son makes me feel better," Ms. Johnson said as she gazed upon the monuments of six other area soldiers who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Larry was such an outgoing person, he loved to do things with his friends and family and he loved being a Marine."

Additionally, Lance Cpl. Johnson was compassionate, good-hearted and a person of good will, Mr. Whitney said. He indicated the Marines provided him with tools to improve self-discipline, add structure to his life and define goals.

"The Marines turned him around in just a little over a year and we were all proud of him," he said. "We still are proud of him."

The flag-adorned Heroes Memorial to fallen area soldiers, which lines Davis Trail in the park, brought Ms. Johnson and her family to tears as they discussed with Mr. Doherty their wishes for Lance Cpl. Johnson.

The six monuments already in the park, honor Sgt. Jan M. Argonish of Peckville, Staff Sgt. George A. Pugliese of Carbondale, Staff Sgt. Steven R. Tudor of Dunmore, Sgt. Eric W. Slebodnik of Greenfield Twp., Master Sgt. Scott Ball of Carlisle, and Lance Cpl. Dennis Veater of Jessup.

Now, a seventh will honor Lance Cpl. Johnson. "What can I say," Ms. Johnson said as she carefully examined Heroes Monument.

Each of the soldiers' families played a role in designing the monument, personalizing it with the outline of a soldier and quotes or poetry.

"I know that every mother says their kid was the perfect kid," Ms. Johnson said, choking back tears. "He was. The Marines made him that way and in all of his letters to me, he would say that he was so glad to have me as his mom and he would say that he now understood why I was so protective of him. He said he was so glad I stood by him through good and bad times. He was a good kid and he really wanted to serve his country and that is what he did. He's in a better place and he's not fighting anymore."

Contact the writer: [email protected] Heroes Memorial

Architect Joseph Rominski designed the Heroes Memorial, which sits at the entrance of Davis Trail in Nay Aug Park. The memorial consists of a series of 15-foot-high steel plates, each embedded in a concrete slab or step that runs alongside the trail. Each steel plate is engraved with a personalized message customized to each of the fallen soldiers. The memorial honors Sgt. Jan M. Argonish of Peckville, Staff Sgt. George A. Pugliese of Carbondale, Staff Sgt. Steven R. Tudor of Dunmore, Sgt. Eric W. Slebodnik of Greenfield Twp., Lance Cpl. Dennis Veater of Jessup and Spc. Jonathon Luscher of Scranton. A plate memorializing Marine Lance Cpl. Larry Johnson of Scranton will be added this summer.

IJC Operational Update, April 18

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-ISAF patrol discovered two trucks containing a significant amount of narcotics in the Garm Ser district of Helmand province yesterday. The patrol found a total of 926 kilograms (2,040 lbs) of raw opium, 851 kg (1,875 lbs) of processed opium and 279 kg (615 lbs) of hashish in the vehicles. The occupants of the trucks were taken into custody. The narcotics will be destroyed.


ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.18.2010
Posted: 04.18.2010 05:51

Also in the Garm Ser district yesterday, a joint patrol found a cache consisting of a 120mm projectile, five completed victim operated improvised explosive devices, three incomplete VOIED's, three battery packs, spools of wire, a bag of carbon rods, rubber tubing and other parts for VOIED construction.

In another operation, Afghanistan National Security Forces with ISAF partners conducted a combined operation that resulted in the detention of several men and seizure of high-value material used in the construction of improvised explosive device detonators. Yesterday near Mali Kheyl, east of Lashkar Gar, Helmand province the joint team seized two assault rifles with 15 magazines, material used to construct IED detonators, a pistol, two grenades, and 75 kg (165 lbs) of liquid opium.

Based on a tip from an Afghan civilian, an ISAF patrol found two caches containing a barrel full of mortar rounds, a tactical vest and wire, two 155mm artillery rounds, a 155mm shell and three empty casings in the Panjwa district of Kandahar province yesterday.

Yesterday evening an ISAF patrol in southern Afghanistan found 200 lbs (91 kg) of marijuana seed near Helmand River in Reg-e Khan Neshin, Helmand province. The drugs were destroyed.

No civilians were harmed in these operations.

"I Just Graduated Yesterday and Now I'm in the Middle of a War!"

MARJAH, Afghanistan – Upon graduation from recruit training and the School of Infantry, infantry Marines usually go to their permanent duty stations where most experience life in the Marine Corps operating forces for months or even years before deploying overseas. While in the operating forces, they are able to practice and improve at their military occupational specialties in a controlled environment. Very rarely will they get to their duty stations and deploy to a combat zone almost immediately after completing SOI.


Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Tommy Bellegarde
Date: 04.18.2010
Posted: 04.18.2010 05:13

For Lance Cpl. Joshua Kusar, Pfc. Carson Dodd and Pfc. Justin Gomez, all with Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, that is exactly what happened. Gomez arrived to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 11, 2009. Kusar and Dodd got there Dec. 22. The next thing they knew, the three were fighting insurgents in the dusty fields of southern Afghanistan.

The Marines were told they were going to 3/6 when they arrived at Camp Lejeune. They were aware the battalion was deploying, but didn't know if they were going with them.

"We end up going to the fleet and no one knows if we're going to deploy or not because we're so new," said the 18-year-old Kusar. "Some people [thought] we're going to stay back and work on base and others [thought] we're deploying. I called my parents and told them, 'I don't know if I'm deploying or not' and my mom was a wreck."

But the Marines were in fact heading to Afghanistan. Before leaving Camp Lejeune Jan. 5, they hastily prepared themselves by taking pre-deployment classes and receiving issued gear.

"While everyone was on pre-deployment leave, they had a few Marines left over who were [getting out of the Marine Corps] in a few months that weren't deploying," said Gomez, a machine gunner. "They took us to classes, cross-trained some riflemen and had machine gunners do more room clearing. "We learned whatever we could before we had to leave [for Afghanistan]."

Kusar and Dodd had to learn a completely different MOS when they got to the operating forces. At SOI they were trained to be tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire command-link guided missile operators, better known as TOW gunners. When they arrived to Camp Lejeune, they were informed they would be utilized as assaultman in Afghanistan.

"We have a week basically before we deploy and we're trying to cram all this knowledge," said Dodd, from Riverview, Fla. "We were taught (breaching tactics), learned how to blow a door of its hinges and dimensions of a [shoulder-launched, multi-purpose assault weapon] and everything."

While the rest of 3/6 was on block leave, the battalion's newest Marines weren't sure if they would get to see their families before heading overseas. On very short notice, they were granted four days of liberty and went home to be with their loved ones for the last time in a long time.

As if the Marines didn't have enough on their minds already, they still had the enormous task of helping to clear Marjah, the area of Helmand province, Afghanistan that 3/6 was to assault Feb. 13 to begin Operation Moshtarak. Nobody quite knew the type of resistance the Taliban would offer and gossip spread rampantly throughout the battalion about what the coalition troops would face in combat. The new Marines didn't know what to think.

"The worst part [for us] was all of the rumors," said Kusar, from Austinburg, Ohio. "We didn't know what to expect or know anyone we could ask about what a deployment was actually like."

Nevertheless, the Marines quickly learned what Afghanistan had to offer and have accumulated their fair share of memories from the Marjah offensive.

During the initial days of the push, Gomez, from Long Beach, Miss., was trapped in the waist-high deep water of one of Marjah's many irrigation canals when he and his fellow Marines were pinned down by small-arms, heavy machine-gun and indirect fire.

"It was such a bad experience because there was nowhere to move," Gomez said.

In another instance, the 19-year-old Dodd had to run further than the length of a football field under enemy machine-gun fire.

"I thought there was no way I was getting across that field," he said. "Then Staff Sergeant turned to me and said, 'you have to go, you have the SMAW.' I thought, 'Oh. Oh, god!"

"I just got up and ran with every bit of energy I had, pounding across the field," Dodd added. "Machine gun rounds were pouring by. It was unreal."

Now that the push of Marjah is complete, the Marines have taken control of the city. After the early days of Operation Moshtarak, the fighting has slowed down significantly in the area.

Nevertheless, the Marines still have several months remaining in Afghanistan before they return to the United States. Based on what they have experienced so far, they are happy they were able to deploy so early in their careers.

"I just graduated yesterday and now I'm in the middle of a war!" said the 19-year-old Gomez humorously. "It's been a good first taste of combat."

"The thing I really like about (having deployed) so soon is that we'll probably end up getting three deployments [during our enlistments]," said Dodd.

For these Marines, Afghanistan has simply been the latest adventure on a whirlwind journey that has been surreal more times than not.

"This whole experience has felt like one of those movies where [the Marines] go to boot camp in the first scene. The second scene is more training. Then in the third scene, they're in Vietnam," said Kusar. "It's been one big blur."

April 17, 2010

Marines Establish New Patrol Base in Southern Afghanistan

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Marines and Sailors with Weapons Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, established a new patrol base in the area of Laki, Garmsir District, Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 30.



Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Dwight Henderson
Date: 04.17.2010
Posted: 04.17.2010 07:27

A platoon from Weapons Co., known as Combined Anti Armor Team 1, moved into the large, concrete compound that was a former hospital, to more easily conduct patrols and operations in the more southern portion of their area of operations.

"Right now we control the open fields that we had to move through to fight the enemy," said Cpl. James P. Peterson, a section leader with Weapons Co., 2/2. "They like to have distance between us and right here they don't have distance between us."

One section departed in the middle of the night, the stalks of the poppy plants cracked underneath their boots as they crossed through fields and over canals. They occupied the building and waited for the second section to bring the vehicles.

"It's all about the path of most resistance," said 2nd Lt. Samuel E. Moore, a platoon commander with Weapons Co., 2/2. "They always put an IED right in the middle of the terrain you'd want to walk through because everything else sucks."

The following morning, the other section, along with support from Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians, moved with five vehicles down a road known as Route Giants. Route Giants is known for large amounts of IEDs that made the road unusable.

The Marines slowly moved down the road while using metal detectors to sweep the road ahead of the vehicles. They found a total of four IEDs during the ten hours it took them to clear Route Giants.

The Marines reached the new patrol base without incident even though they expected to be engaged by enemy fighters.

"I was very surprised," said Moore. "The experience we've had down here, every time we've come down here it's been a ghost town and all it was, was just a firefight every single time."

After arriving, they unloaded their gear, but before completely moving in they unfurled an American and Afghan flag over the side of the building.

"I think it shows the local populace that we have pride in our nations and we're here to stay and we're here to help them," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew D. Garrison, a corpsman with Weapons Co., 2/2. "It's just a big symbol saying hey we're here."

With thick concrete walls, multiple rooms, and accessible roof top, the compound has offered the Marines great force protection and observation of the surrounding area.

"This is the nicest patrol base we've had so far," said Lance Cpl. Stephen M. Earwood, a squad leader with Weapons Co., 2/2. "We're sleeping with a roof over our heads which doesn't happen very often."

The Marines hope that the patrol base will further the success they have seen in Laki so far.

"I define success in Laki as a lack of firefights," said Moore. "I totally expected it to be a brawl when I got down here; and there have only been a few shots fired. That's how we measure our success is the days without firefights.

Postal Marines Keep Morale High

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Aghanistan -- The Marines at the postal warehouse persevere through extreme heat and vicious sand storms to ensure they complete their mission of delivering mail to the Marines and sailors of Regional Command South.


1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Jerrick J. Griffin
Date: 04.15.2010
Posted: 04.17.2010 01:32

The process starts at the flight line, where a Marine signs and accounts for all the mail that arrives. After the mail is retrieved from the flight line it is then brought back to the warehouse where the Marines sort through truckloads of packages and thousands of letters. To ensure safety of Marines and sailors, some packages are sent through x-ray machines and some are hand inspected for any prohibited items like drugs and alcohol.

The process of receiving mail from the states can take up to 10 days, but there is a quicker alternative called Moto Mail. A family member or friend can setup an account at MotoMail.us and enter a Marine's information and mailing address, type the letter and click send. The letter is then sent to postal Marines at the forward operating base to print and be delivered.

"[Moto Mail] is a quick and easy way for [friends and family] to get messages to the Marines out here," said Lance Cpl. Tiffany Webster, a postal clerk with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).

The postal Marines never give up on their mission of ensuring each letter and package gets to the intended recipient.

Combat Logistics Battalion 1 Marines, Sailors 'will Go Down in Marine Corps History,' General Says

CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan – Combat Logistics Battalion 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), transferred authority to Combat Logistics Battalion 5 in a ceremony here April 16.



1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs RSS
Story by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Brofer
Date: 04.16.2010
Posted: 04.17.2010 10:49

CLB-1 Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Michael Rohlfs and Battalion Sergeant Major Sgt. Maj. Richard Charron cased the CLB-1 colors, completing their seven-month tour in Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey Jarosz, CLB-5 commanding officer, and Sgt. Maj. Brian Cullins, CLB-5 sergeant major, uncased the CLB-5 colors, signifying the start of their mission in Afghanistan.

Brig. Gen. Charles L. Hudson, commanding general of 1st MLG (FWD), spoke of the accomplishments of CLB-1 Marines over the past seven months. CLB-1 provided tactical logistics support to Regimental Combat Team 7 during Operation Moshtarak in February, where Marines fought to secure the former Taliban stronghold of Marjah, a pivotal move in the war in Afghanistan.

"That will go down in Marine Corps history," said Hudson to a crowd of Marines and sailors after the ceremony. "As we celebrate the Marine Corps birthday for years to come, when we think about the first and second Battle of Fallujah, when we think about Lebanon ... Khe Sahn and Hue City ... Marjah will undoubtedly flow into the conversation as well."

CLB-1 Marines and Sailors also conducted more than 275 combat logistics patrols, noted Hudson.

"I couldn't be prouder of the performance of my Marines over the last seven months," said Rohlfs of the CLB-1 Marines. "They endured a lot. From the nights they worked 24 hours continuously in the cold, or whether it was out on a recovery mission, or working to get vehicles up for the following day's missions, I couldn't ask for more of them. Many a times I asked a lot, and they always came through."

Jarosz looks forward to building on the success of CLB-1 during their tour.

"CLB-1's dedication, their professionalism, their endurance, fighting through all the unique challenges they had ... I expect we'll perform in the same way CLB-1 did to meet the expectation of the supporting units, RCT-7 and the other [I Marine Expeditionary Force Forward] units that are out here," said Jarosz.

Jarosz said CLB-5's main tasks throughout the deployment will be the transportation of supplies to ground units through combat logistics patrols, air delivery and helicopter support teams; improving roads and trafficability for units moving throughout Helmand Province; and maintaining vehicles and equipment that constantly take a beating in the dust-covered rocky Afghanistan terrain.

As challenging as it may be, the CLB-5 Marines are up to the task, said Jarosz.
"These Marines have trained hard," he said. "I think they're confident going into their mission, now we just have to live up to the expectations."

First Afghan National Army Recruiting Event Draws Dozens in Nawa

PATROL BASE JAKER, Afghanistan – More than 60 citizens from Nawa District gathered at Patrol Base Jaker, near the district center area, for Nawa's first-ever Afghan national army recruiting and information event April 12.



Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Sgt. Brian Tuthill
Date: 04.17.2010
Posted: 04.17.2010 05:58

Attendees and ANA soldiers displaying automatic weapon systems mounted atop their trucks, watched a squad of soldiers conduct a close order drill demonstration, passed in review of Afghan and Marine officers, and marched around a group of citizens.

"Look at these soldiers, they are not from here," Col. Ali Ahmad, an ANA cultural and religious adviser, said to the crowd, pointing out physical differences in the soldiers who hail from various parts of the country. "If you join the army, you will travel and serve the entire country, not just the town you're from or the tribe you belong to – but all of Afghanistan."

Men young and old nodded their heads in agreement as Ahmad described the benefits the army offers each individual, and how military service was important to the future of an independent and free Afghanistan.

"One message Col. Ahmad delivered in particular was to dispel myths and counter Taliban propaganda about religion," said Maj. Ramon Garcia, the Marine officer-in-charge of Embedded Partnering Team 1-1-215, which helps train the ANA battalion based in Nawa. "The Taliban said the ANA is very secular, that it's against the five pillars of Islam, and soldiers are not allowed to pray. He explained how they pray five times a day, and the ANA encourages their soldiers to practice the tenets of Islam. I think it dispelled a lot of the propaganda, especially since he's a religious leader within the battalion."

Many of the attendees to the event were local farmers or laborers, but most of whom were outside the qualifying ages of 18-32 for military service. Despite that fact, Garcia said having so many elder males attend the event to hear about serving their country was beneficial, since those men have influence in the local communities.

"I was pleasantly surprised at how articulate Col. Ahmad was in talking to the people about the ANA and its significance to the future of Afghanistan," said Garcia. "He didn't conceal anything. He was very upfront and forthright with them in everything he talked about. That's especially important because most of the front row was elders, who will help spread the word, and the spoken word is very powerful here."

Even though 15-year-old farmhand Mohammed Shah attended the event at the encouragement of a local elder man, he said he was not particularly interested in joining the army, but would share the information he learned at the event with friends.

"Today I learned about the army and how soldiers work and help the country," said Shah. "I don't think I will join, but I'll tell others what they said here today. We need a good army."

For those men who were of age at the event, most said service in the army was not necessarily appealing because they had successful farms, businesses or families to care for in Nawa. Although nobody came forward to sign up for service that day, Garcia still considered the event a success and hopes to make future recruiting events larger, more frequent, and better advertised to have more military-aged males in attendance.

Marine’s running marathon to honor his fallen friend

Marine Maj. Gus Biggio will run 26.2 miles in Monday’s Boston Marathon with a friend.


By Katy Jordan
Saturday, April 17, 2010

But Sgt. Bill Cahir, who was killed in action in Afghanistan while serving with Biggio, will only be there in his heart and mind.

When the going gets rough, the 39-year-old Marine said, “I think of Bill telling me that pain and discomfort are relatively temporary.”

And pain will surely be there when Biggio, along with roughly 24,000 other determined athletes, races in the 114th Boston Marathon.

“I wanted to do Boston someday, there’s a prestige and mystique to it. Losing Bill really gave me a little more drive and push to run,” Biggio said.

Cahir, 40, a Pennsylvania native whose sister Ellen lives in Newton, was killed in combat while serving with Biggio in Afghanistan in August.

Cahir, a former Washington, D.C.-based newspaper reporter, also served as an aide to the late U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. He joined the Marines as a reservist just before his 35th birthday in 2003.

“Bill was a great inspiration and leader,” Biggio said. “I think I’ll be running this one a little bit slower, but I’ll know I can’t quit. A lot of people have supported me.”

And Biggio, too, has worked to support others. He has raised more than $5,000 in marathon pledges for the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund, which aids families of the fallen.

He already is anticipating the finish line. “Exhilarating. It will be pretty significant for me,” he said.

Looking for the ‘Marine of the Year’

Staff report
Posted : Saturday Apr 17, 2010 9:36:20 EDT

Marine Corps Times is accepting nominations through May 20 for our 10th annual Marine of the Year Award.

To continue reading:


Cpl. first blind double-amputee to re-enlist

By Natalie Bailey - Medill News Service
Posted : Saturday Apr 17, 2010 9:42:40 EDT.

Three years ago, Cpl. Matt Bradford lost both legs and his vision after a bomb blast in Iraq. Despite these devastating injuries, Bradford had no interest in retreating to civilian life. He wanted to continue his Marine career

To continue reading about Cpl. Bradford continuing his Marine career:


Marine Joins the Fight Doing What He Loves

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- In a small town in Wisconsin called Menomonee Falls, a kid named Michael J. Weiland grew up dreaming to become a police officer.


1st Marine Division RSS
Story by Cpl. Skyler Tooker
Date: 04.17.2010
Posted: 04.17.2010 06:29

Soon after graduating from Wisconsin Lutheran High School, Weiland went off to pursue his goal of becoming a law enforcement officer by attending college for criminal justice.

During my first year of college I started talking about joining the Marine Corps with a few of my buddies, so we went to the Marine Corps recruiting office, and I talked to a recruiter about becoming an MP (military policeman), said Weiland, 21, an ammunition technician with 1st Marine Division (Forward).

Weiland committed to the Marine Corps with an open contract, meaning 'the corps' would determine his specialty following basic training.

Right after graduating boot camp, Weiland found out that his aspirations of becoming an MP weren't going to happen right away. He was told that he was going to be a supply clerk with Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

"When I found out I was going to be supply, I was a little bummed out, but was still extremely proud to know that I was a United States Marine," Weiland said.

Just a year and a half after graduating from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Weiland, now a corporal, found out that his unit was deploying to Afghanistan. He was very excited, but didn't know if he would make the cut. Many of the Marines in his office wanted to deploy just as much as he did.

"I was going to volunteer to go, but I found out my name had already been pulled to go as an ammunition technician," Weiland said.

Like any good non-commissioned Marine officer would, Weiland rose to the challenge of taking on a new position.

"When Weiland takes on a new job he doesn't just say, 'forget it.' He takes an interest in it right away and excels, said Cpl. Chanceton R. Murphy, 25, transportation clerk for 1st Marine Division (Fwd). "Weiland likes to learn about his new job and become the best he can possibly be at it."

Weiland was very curious to what exactly he would be doing over the course of his deployment. So he went to the armory to talk to some of the armorers to find out.

"When I talked to the armorers, they said I would be running 'ammo' out to ranges, and keeping accountability for it all," Weiland said.

Weiland quickly found out what an 'ammo tech' does, but what got him really excited was when he found out that he was going to work with the Provost Marshall's Office for a couple of months during his deployment, doing some of the same things he went to college for.

All of a sudden, Weiland was deploying and would be working with MP's. His dreams were becoming a reality.

"He is interested in learning new things, and whether it is being an ammunition technician or working with PMO he will learn the job, and do his best to succeed," Murphy added.

"I am really excited to see the kind of work PMO is going to have for us," Weiland said.
Thanks to his strong work ethic and perseverance, Weiland's dream job was waiting for him in Afghanistan, during his deployment with the 1st Marine Division (Fwd).

Keeping Marines in the Fight

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan. – Many have heard the phrase "every Marine is a rifleman," but, how would that long-standing creed hold up without armorers?


1st Marine Division RSS
Story by Cpl. Daniel Blatter
Date: 04.17.2010
Posted: 04.17.2010 06:25

"Every Marine is a rifleman, but not without a rifle," said Sgt. Ryan B. Deleveaux, the platoon sergeant for the 1st Marine Division (Forward) armory.

Meticulous maintenance of weapons has always been a vital factor in the success of the Marine rifle squad, which is why these Marines work around the clock to keep Marines in the fight.

In the states, a Marine could go to most armories between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. and have access to their rifle, but here in Afghanistan the work day is a bit longer.

"Unlike some of the other sections, this is a 24-hour manned post," said Deleveaux, 25, from Miami. "At the end of the day when others go home, we leave a Marine armorer posted through the night."

Although the armory staff is small, their mission is anything but. These Marines are responsible for tracking and maintaining more than 2,400 weapons and 'optics.'

"We make sure that all the weapons here are fully operable," said Cpl. Anibal G. Sanchez, the maintenance chief at the armory. "Without an armorer or someone to repair the weapons, what are you going to return fire with?"

The Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division (Fwd) armory is shared with 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Bn. and 1st Intelligence Bn.

"We have accountability and security for all the weapons and 'optics,' plus we do maintenance on all the weapons," Deleveaux added. "We make sure that all the weapons that leave the states with our commands, perform in combat and make it back in good working order."

The infamous 'moon dust,' a very fine, sand powder created by extremely hot and dry weather conditions, makes that job a lot more challenging, but as Sanchez explained, that's no excuse for neglecting a weapon.

"It is hard to keep a weapon clean out here," said Sanchez, 25, from Killeen, Texas. "There is a lot of dust out here that causes wear and tear on your weapon, but simple weapons maintenance can keep it in good working order."

Over the course of the next year, 1st Marine Division (Fwd) will count on these Marines to help them uphold the Marine mantra spoken by R. Lee. Ermey's Marine character, Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in Full Metal Jacket:

"The deadliest weapon in the world is a MARINE and his RIFLE!"

IJC Operational Update, April 17

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international security force captured a Taliban improvised explosive device commander and other militants in Helmand province this morning.


ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.17.2010
Posted: 04.17.2010 05:40

The combined force searched a compound in north Marjah after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. During the search the joint force captured the Taliban commander who is believed to be responsible for IED, mine defenses and the transfers of weapons and explosives. When captured he immediately surrendered and identified himself as the targeted insurgent.

Several other militants were also detained.

No shots were fired and no Afghan citizens were harmed during the operation.

In the Garm Ser district of Helmand this morning, a joint patrol found a cache containing a Russian-made 122mm projectile, three incomplete IEDs, five pressure-plate triggering devices and other IED materials. The cache was destroyed by an explosive ordnance disposal team.

In Kandahar province this morning, an ISAF patrol found a cache containing five blocks of plastic explosive, a rocket-propelled grenade and three RPG propellant charges. The cache will be destroyed.

In Ghazni last night, an Afghan-international security force searched a small compound outside of Pereval Chala, in the Gelan district, after intelligence confirmed insurgent activity. During the search the security force detained a few suspected insurgents for further questioning.

No shots were fired and no Afghan citizens were harmed during the operation. Afghan and international forces continue to place an emphasis on avoiding use lethal force whenever possible.

Over the past several months many coalition operations have been conducted with no shots fired by anyone.

In Kandahar last night, a joint security force went to a farming area in the Khakrez district after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. As the security force approached the area they came under small-arms fire. They returned fire wounding an insurgent.

During a search the security force captured a suspected Taliban commander responsible for leading approximately 20 armed fighters in attacks against coalition forces, and the movement of weapons and supplies. When confronted he surrendered and identified himself as the targeted militant. Several other insurgents were also detained.

The combined force found automatic rifles and a shotgun.

In the Registan district of Kandahar province yesterday, an ISAF patrol came across a burning truck. From the remnants left after the fire, the patrol deduced the truck had been filled with bags of drugs. The force estimated it contained 226 kilograms (500 pounds) of hashish and heroin. A vehicle matching its description had been seen earlier avoiding a checkpoint. The remaining drugs will be destroyed.

In the Sarobi district of Kabul yesterday, an ISAF patrol found a cache containing 43 anti-personnel mines, 20 rockets, five mortar rounds, an anti-tank mine and 40 boxes of 12.7mm rounds.

An ISAF patrol in the Gelan district of Ghazni province found a cache yesterday containing five RPGs, 12 mortar grenades, two AK-47's, a shotgun and more than 5,000 rounds of ammunition.

In the Arghandab district of Kandahar province yesterday, an Afghan civilian pointed out an IED to an ISAF patrol. The IED consisted of an 88mm mortar round and three shape charges. The device was destroyed by an EOD team.

No Afghan civilians were harmed during these operations.

April 16, 2010

Flying in the Shadow of the 'valley of Death': Task Force Falcon Airlift U.S. Soldiers From Korengal Valley

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan– The sound of rotor blades broke the silence of night as air crews descended on a combat outpost blanketed in darkness. Staring through their night vision goggles crew chiefs guided Chinooks to their landing zones, ready to receive Soldiers and equipment as U.S. forces pulled out of the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan.



Combined Joint Task Force - 82 PAO RSS
Story by Spc. Monica K. Smith
Date: 04.16.2010
Posted: 04.16.2010 05:37

"Task Force Mountain Warrior had multiple bases in areas in the Korengal Valley where villages were sporadic and the population uncondensed," said U.S. Army Maj. Mike Reyburn, plans officer for the 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, TF Falcon. "Task Force Falcon worked in support of (Regional Command East) in relocating Task Force Mountain Warrior Soldiers as part of efforts to focus on areas of higher Afghan populace. We assisted by being the main transport element, moving equipment and personnel out of the various combat outposts swiftly and safely from the so-called 'valley of death.'"

The terrain conditions of the Korengal valley are so treacherous that many of the locations can only be reached by air, making TF Falcon's aviation assets essential to the success of relocating personnel and equipment.

The operation, called Operation Mountain Descent II, resulted in moving more than 500 Soldiers and nearly half a million pounds of equipment. TF Lighthorse, a battalion-sized element within TF Falcon, led the charge and successfully completed 76 flights to support the operation without incident.

"We suspected that we would be in for a tough fight," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Thomas von Eschenbach, commander of TF Lighthorse. "Taking every measure possible our planners dedicated an enormous amount of time and work in planning and synchronizing an incredible array of assets to support the conduct of Operation Mountain Descent. Flying helicopters around the clock Task Force Lighthorse executed flawless aviation operations over a four-day period, ending with a single Chinook departing with the last load of Soldiers at 3 a.m., April 14."

The Korengal valley is six miles long with one way in and one way out and the enemy owns the high ground, said U.S. Army Col. Don Galli, commander of TF Falcon. The valley maintains a reputation of being one of the most dangerous locations in Afghanistan, and for aviators the conditions were made more perilous due to what is called, "red illum" conditions.

Red illum conditions occur when illumination is less than 25 percent. For aviators who operate with night vision goggles, this poses a problem because NVG's heighten ambient light such as starlight or moonlight enabling them to see. With a lack of light, air crews must strain to see the faint outlines of small landing zones and towering mountains making their missions increasingly hazardous.

"The aviators didn't have it easy. This was extremely dangerous and (the aircrews) were incredibly vulnerable to enemy fire," Galli said.

To deter the enemy from firing, attack and scout teams of Apaches and Kiowa Warriors flew around the clock prepared to defend the air and ground units as they withdrew.

"During the day we worked to deter movement and flooded the valley with attack assets, making it incredibly difficult for the enemy to move around and set up for an ambush," said U.S. Army Maj. Daniel Rice, plans officer for Task Force Knighthawk, another subordinate battalion of TF Falcon. "We denied the enemy freedom of maneuver during the day and guarded our lift assets at night."

Task Force Knighthawk provided extra muscle to TF Lighthorse, who led the overall missions from Forward Operating Base Jalalabad. Plans were synced each night ensuring the flight crews understood the intent of each mission. In addition to the primary flight roles, Soldiers from both TF Lighthorse and TF Knighthawk served in contingency roles as the quick reaction force, the downed aircraft recovery team and stood ready in case of a mass casualty situation.

"I was up there every night and saw firsthand what my crews did," said Galli. "Words cannot explain the skill and bravery of our aircrews. They knew the danger and I have never been more proud in my military career than to see what Lighthorse and Knighthawk did in the Korengal valley."

VMU-1 Deploys to Afghanistan

Children ran throughout Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1's headquarters Tuesday while parents, spouses and friends stood with their Marines and Sailors, spending as much time as possible with their loved ones before the service members loaded the buses and departed for Afghanistan.



Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms RSS
Story by Cpl. Monica Erickson
Date: 04.16.2010
Posted: 04.16.2010 04:41

Despite the knowledge of the seven-month deployment to the Helmand Province, morale was high as people laughed, children played in a Jupiter Jump and explored VMU-1's facilities.

VMU-1's mission during the deployment will be to provide support to the Marine Air Ground Task Force by using their unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol the sky and report their findings to help service members patrolling the ground know what to expect.

Capt. Dave Lemke, the UAV mission commander for the battalion, said they will be implementing two UAVs, the RQ-7B Shadow and the Scan Eagle, throughout the deployment.

"I know my Marines will perform exceptionally," said Lemke, a Hales Corners, Wis., native. "We conducted all the required predeployment training necessary, which prepared my Marines for what they are going to experience while in country."

Cpl. Nicholas Root, a communications technician with VMU-1, said he is excited to go to Afghanistan, but had misgivings when he first heard of their deployment.

"I really didn't understand how important our mission was until I went to corporals course," said Root, a Fort Collins, Colo., native. "I met a grunt during the course, and we started talking. He told me about all the times his platoon was saved because a UAV had found an ambush in front of them.

"After I spoke to him, I knew our deployment was necessary. He told me how they always feel better knowing a UAV was backing them," Root explained.

The mood dimmed as officers called the Marines to the buses. Spouses hugged and kissed their Marines and children grabbed one last piggy-back ride before saying their goodbyes.

"I just want to get over there, do a good job, then turn around and come home to my family," said Staff Sgt. Travis Zell, the data chief for the communications element of VMU-1, and a Bellefontaine, Ohio, native.

Zell's wife, Christine, said the hardest part of the deployment is having to be a single parent while missing their other half.

"We just have to take it day by day," said Christine, also a Bellefontaine, Ohio, native, while hugging their son, Ethan, whose father will miss his second birthday. "It is difficult trying to keep a normal semblance of life."

VMU-1 is scheduled to return to the Combat Center this winter, and many family members hope it is before the holidays.

N.J. Marines Train Junior Leaders

The Marines of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, focused on the cornerstone of infantry leadership during a field exercise here, April 10.


Marine Corps Public Affairs Office New York RSS
Story by Sgt. Randall Clinton
Date: 04.16.2010
Posted: 04.16.2010 11:42

"The clear lesson of our past is that success in combat, and in the barracks for that matter, rests with our most junior leaders." -- Gen. Charles C. Krulak, 31st Commandant of the Marine Corps.

The Marines of Company G, 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, focused on the cornerstone of infantry leadership during a field exercise here, April 10.

"For some Marines this is their first field exercise with us, so it's important to quickly build relationships with their fire team, squad and platoon," said Gunnery Sgt. Tobin Eckstine, company training chief.

As a reserve unit they have a unique advantage to building team cohesion because most of them are from the same area. A number of the Marines enlisted after becoming friends with people from the unit. "We're not trying to mix people from all over the country. We all go to the same places and went to the same schools," said Cpl. Jonathan Gaudet, squad leader.

The small unit tactics training centers on a fire team. The team of four Marines is required to think, act and react fluidly on a battlefield. The senior Marine in most of the teams had only a few years of Marine Corps experience, but were veterans of the unit's 2009 deployment to Iraq.

In their secluded training area the Marines rotated between informal classes, practice drills and live-fire fire team movements.

Repetition after repetition, Marines sprinted then dove to the ground. As the line of Marines advanced, the commands came screaming from junior Marines across the training grounds -- "MOVING," "COVER ME," "SET," "SHIFT RIGHT."

Cpl. Rick Tichenor, also a squad leader, studied each of his Marines as they went through the course.

A perfectionist to his Marines, he has a critique for every one of them.

"It's not enough time," he said. "I'm trying to teach them everything I was taught, but the clock keeps ticking."

One of the most important lessons was to use training time to the fullest. During the unit's predeployment training for Iraq, Tichenor's noncommissioned officers had the least amount of down time possible, and after seeing the training pay off during a successful deployment the lesson stuck with him.

The Marines finished their training well after the sun had set. They stood in formation waiting to board the busses for a long trip to their headquarters in Dover, N.J. Tichenor had other ideas; he gave a quick class on night vision optics and then led a patrol through the woods using the new equipment.

It was one more patrol exercise; one more chance to teach his Marines, and Tichenor wouldn't let it go to waste.

Marine Forces Reserve Fast Facts:

-- Approximately 40,000 drilling Marine reservists.

-- Marine Forces Reserve augments and reinforces active Marine forces in time of war, national emergency or contingency operations, provides personnel and operational tempo relief for the active forces in peacetime, and provides service to the community.

-- There are 187 Reserve Training Centers across the U.S.

-- MarForRes, the largest command in the Marine Corps, has four major subordinate commands: the 4th Marine division, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, 4th Marine Logistics Group and Marine corps Mobilization command.

-- Reserve Marines participate annually in numerous large exercises in places such as south Korea, the Blakans, Central America, Thailand and Africa. Most recently, Marines attended Cold Response 2010, a joint training exercise with 15 countries in Norway.

-- Spearhead the annual Marine Corps Toys for Tots program.

Regimental Combat Team-2 Puts Boots on Ground in Afghanistan

CAMP DELARAM II, Afghanistan – While gentle winds blew through the rotors of a CH-53 D helicopter, the final group of Regimental Combat Team 2 Marines and Sailors dismounted, completing the unit's transition into Camp Delaram II, Feb. 27.



Regimental Combat Team-2, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Sgt. Dorian Gardner
Date: 04.16.2010
Posted: 04.16.2010 02:47

Marines with RCT-2 deployed to Afghanistan in support of the troop-surge in Helmand Province, working by, with and through the Afghans and Afghan national security forces to rid outlying areas of insurgent groups and Taliban presence.

Though a large threat lies outside the rows of concertina wire and dirt barriers that surround Camp Delaram II, regimental personnel are prepared to dig in, and begin their year-long deployment. While 12 long months lie ahead, RCT-2 has big plans for the province.

"The RCT exists to provide operational guidance and logistical support to the subordinate units so they can fight the enemy," said Capt. Larry R. Iverson Jr., Headquarters Company commanding officer, RCT-2.

The regiment can support an infantry battalion in many ways, from providing food and water, to ammunition and fuel for their vehicles.

Within the unit, it is the job of the Headquarters Company to ensure Marines within the RCT are receiving the support they need so they can conduct their daily operations to support other units, according to Iverson.

At the moment, Marines are focused on finishing construction and connectivity, ensuring Marines can communicate through the phone lines, radio equipment and emails.

Pfc. Christopher Tillett, a 24-year-old field radio operator, is one of the many Marines who ensure other units as well as Headquarters Company, have those capabilities. Fairly new to the Fleet Marine Force, Tillett is happy to deploy as quick as he did.

"I've always thought of combat deployments to be a good learning experience," said Tillett. "A lot of Marines don't deploy straight out of school. It's good to learn in the states, but you learn more in a deployed environment."

The communications section not only wires the base for phone lines and computer connectivity, but ensures infantry battalions and artillery batteries have the same capabilities, according to Tillett.

"We keep [communication] up and get it done as fast as possible," said Tillett.

Nearly settled in, RCT-2 is working hard to ensure upcoming units will have what they need in order to continue the fight. With a full staff ready to assist Marines throughout the province, RCT-2 looks forward to the upcoming year with high expectations of success.

2/1 Marines take new approach to military operations in urban terrain

Marines with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment participated in a week-long Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) training exercise at the Kilo 2 MOUT training facility here Apr. 4 - 11.


4/16/2010 By Lance Cpl. John McCall , 2nd Battalion (2/1)

“This training is for us to prepare for urban encounters that we may face in Afghanistan,” said Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Renn, 21, a team leader from Athens, W.Va. “We are learning how to work with the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police in order to build up security so that locals will feel safe in their homes.”

Fox Company Marines have been operating in a mock Afghan village complete with role players that act as inhabitants. “The role players definitely make it more realistic. A lot of them are actually from Afghanistan and speak the local Pashto language,” said Lance Cpl. Dallin Marshall, 21, a rifleman from Elma, Wash. “Even though we are only using blank rounds and we’re still at Camp Pendleton, it makes the training a lot better.”

Marines said they have learned to adjust to less aggressive tactics that are geared towards talking to local Afghans and building rapport.

“A lot of the stuff we’ve been doing has been focused more on interacting with the local populace. Seeing what they need and how we can help them, things like that,” Marshall said. “We want them (local Afghans) to know we are here to help and that they can come to us if they have any problems.”

The training is set up so that whatever decisions the Marines make, there is some type of consequence.

“Everyone knows that Marines can fight, but essentially what we are trying to do with this training is to have every Marine be able to act as a diplomat,” said 1st Lt. Jerome Lowe, executive officer for Fox Company and a native of St. Petersburg, Fla. “The training is designed to change according to the way they handle each scenario. If they are too aggressive the locals won’t want to help them. If they communicate with the people and build a relationship, things will go a lot smoother.”

Marines said they found the training to be very helpful in getting them ready to deal with whatever challenges may arise once in Afghanistan.

“I think the training is very useful since we are going to be doing a lot of this stuff once we actually get in country,” said Lance Cpl. Angel Morocrespo, 23, a grenadier from Bridgeport, Conn. “If we get used to doing it now then once it is actually happening in real life it will be like muscle memory.”
With this particular training exercise complete, 2/1 Marines will continue to train and build on the lessons they have learned in preparation for their upcoming deployment.

IJC Operational Update, April 16

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international security force detained several suspected militants in Helmand province this morning. The combined security force went to a farm area in northeast Marjah based on intelligence information and detained the suspected militants for further questioning.


ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.16.2010
Posted: 04.16.2010 04:01

No shots were fired and no Afghan citizens were harmed during the operation.

In the Tarini Kot district of Uruzgan province this morning, a joint security force found a cache containing a 105mm artillery round, a grenade and four mortar rounds. The cache will be destroyed.

In Kandahar City last night, ISAF forces assisted Afghanistan National Security Forces in evacuating and treating wounded after a large explosion. ISAF forces airlifted nine civilians to a medical treatment facility at Kandahar Airfield. No ISAF service members were killed or injured in the incident.

Also in Kandahar last night, an Afghan-international security force went to a compound in the village of Hajji Mohammad, in the Panjwayi district, after intelligence information indicated militant activity. As the security force approached the compound they were met with small-arms fire. The joint force returned fire and killed one insurgent. Later another armed insurgent attempted to maneuver on the combined force and was killed.

During the search of the compound the security force captured a Taliban improvised explosive device cell leader, responsible for building and emplacing IED's in the area. When confronted he surrendered and identified himself. Several other individuals were also detained.

A search of the buildings uncovered a rocket-propelled grenade and 2,000 rounds of small-arms ammunition.

In Marjah yesterday, ANSF with ISAF partners conducted a combined operation in the continuing effort to eliminate suicide improvised explosive device networks.

The intent of this operation was to capture a Taliban commander known to facilitate suicide attacks against Afghan and international forces and facilitate weapons shipments to insurgents throughout central Helmand.

Responding to intelligence information, the combined force surrounded the compound where the Taliban commander was located. When people inside the compound refused to answer the Afghan forces calling for them to exit the compound, Afghan special police led the combined force into the compound. One insurgent presented a threat to the combined force and was killed. Another insurgent was detained by Afghan authorities.

Three women and four children were protected throughout this operation, and no civilians were injured.

In the Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province yesterday, a joint patrol found a cache containing 10 anti-personnel mines, a claymore mine, seven mortar rounds and small-arms ammunition. The cache was destroyed.

Tuesday, ANSF with ISAF partners conducted a combined operation in the continuing effort to neutralize SIED networks.

Responding to intelligence information, the combined force located the SIED facilitator they were looking for approximately 10 kilometers northeast of Lashkar Gah, Helmand province. The SIED facilitator was killed during the operation, in which no women or children were involved and no civilians were harmed.

April 15, 2010

Sgt. Eddie Ryan training to roll in fall marathon

Retired Marine will help paralyzed vet achieve dream

ELLENVILLE — It began with an impossible wish, a wish to run. And though he's paralyzed from the waist down, nobody who knows Marine Sgt. Eddie Ryan, his friends and especially his family should ever have doubted that wish would come true.



By Jeremiah Horrigan
Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM - 04/15/10
Last updated: 10:19 AM - 04/15/10

Ryan's life has been full of impossible wishes fulfilled, beginning with the day exactly five years ago Tuesday when he took two bullets to the head on a desolate rooftop in Iraq.

Eddie Ryan should have died that day. But there he was at his parents' home in Ellenville two weeks ago when a total stranger came knocking at the door, offering to make another impossible wish come true.

"I want to be Eddie's legs," the stranger told Ryan's mother Angie when she answered the door.

Angie Ryan welcomed the stranger into her home.

Nearly three years before, retired Staff Sgt. Bryan Purcell saw an HBO documentary in which Eddie Ryan predicted that one day, he'd not only walk, he'd run.

The minute Purcell heard that, he knew what he wanted to do.

He made a proposal to the Ryan family after introducing himself: he and Eddie would enter the 35th annual Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., this autumn.

Eddie Ryan's impossible wish was on its way to coming true.

On Tuesday, Purcell, a 36-year-old airline pilot, made good on his promise. He returned to the Ryan household to help celebrate Ryan's Alive Day — the fifth anniversary of his survival — and to take a very preliminary run, pushing Ryan in his wheelchair up and down the country road outside his parents' tucked-way-back in the country home. Purcell was excited about the plan he'd literally set in motion.

"This way, I get to say thank you in a more than verbal way," he said.

Eddie didn't need words to describe the way he felt after his steps down the marathoner's road. A big grin and a thumb's up sign said it all.

Eddie's father Chris is thrilled with the way things are working out. He knows the value of providing goals for his son.

"He's going into training, he's going to lose 15, 20 pounds, he's going at it just like the Marine he is," his father said.

Of course, taking off those pounds won't be easy for his son, since Angie Ryan is Italian "and she's great with the pasta."

But nothing's ever been easy for Eddie Ryan. Only impossible.

[email protected]

New Air Traffic Control Tower Opens at Afghanistan's Busiest Airport

KABUL, Afghanistan– The new air traffic control tower at Kandahar Air Field is significantly improving efficiency and safety for both military and commercial aircraft operating from the country's busiest airport.


ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.15.2010
Posted: 04.15.2010 01:12

The $145 million project included all the necessary air traffic management equipment such as radars, precision navigation equipment, and meteorological systems.

The tower became operational March 30 after nearly two years of planning and construction. It was funded by NATO as part of the alliance's commitment to the economic development of Afghanistan.

Col. Don Groves, the deputy commander for operations at KAF, is "very happy with the much improved working environment" for the U.S. civilian air traffic controllers employed there, "moving them from their expeditionary facilities to more permanent ones."

The airfield has become one of the busiest single-runway airports in the world. In 2009, more than 325,000 takeoffs and landings occurred, and data from the first quarter of 2010 suggests KAF operations have again increased by 50 percent compared to the first quarter of 2009. The increase is due, in large part, to the increased number of coalition forces deploying to Afghanistan as part of the troop increase announced by U.S. President Barak Obama in December.

Standing more than seven stories tall, the tower is one of the largest freestanding, habitable structures in southern Afghanistan.

"The height alone provides immediate operational advantage. There are no longer any blind spots – we have tremendous visibility across and within KAF," said Richard Aguirre, chief of tower operations at the new facility. "This facility is on par with what might be found at any major military or civilian airfield in the U.S. or Europe."

The increased visibility will allow the controllers to safely control the ever-increasing levels of air traffic using the airfield.

The tower is staffed around-the-clock by a team of 34 civilian contractors from ATC Midwest until the Afghan authorities can recruit, train and field local air traffic controllers.

While predominantly a military airfield, there are a number of commercial airline flights to and from KAF.

"There are currently three Afghan airlines flying 10 to 15 flights per day from KAF," Aguirre said.

The Afghanistan national army Air Corps also operates Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters from KAF and will soon have fixed-wing aircraft based there. While it is yet to be seen whether the new ATC facility will prompt increased commercial use of KAF, the new tower is a lasting legacy that will benefit the Afghans for years to come.

Military testing high-tech dirigibles in Utah

By Mike Stark - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Apr 15, 2010 16:50:20 EDT

SALT LAKE CITY — The skies over the Utah desert are becoming the test site for a new fleet of hulking high-tech dirigibles the military is hoping will provide battlefield commanders a bird’s-eye view of cruise missiles and other threats.

To read the entire article:


Marines in Nawa Pass Torch to Embedded Partnering Team to Train ANA Soldiers

NAWA, Afghanistan – Transforming a battalion of Afghan soldiers into an effective and independent combat unit is no easy task, and the three-man team from 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, knows the recent arrival of an embedded partnering team here means a bright future for Afghan soldiers in Nawa.


Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Sgt. Brian Tuthill
Date: 04.14.2010
Posted: 04.15.2010 12:03

The 21 Marines and sailors of EPT 1-1-215 are volunteers of 3rd Marine Division from Okinawa and Hawaii, who will call upon their training and varied military occupational specialty backgrounds to enable the Afghan National Army battalion to flourish. They arrived at Forward Operating Base Geronimo the first week of April, and will take over training responsibilities from 1/3's team in coming days.

The EPT Marines have already begun interacting with their ANA counterparts on a daily basis in order to build trust and rapport with the soldiers. This is one of the first challenges they must overcome, since Afghan culture has a strong tribal background and most are initially weary of outsiders, said 1st Lt. Michael V. Butler, an EPT team leader.

"This EPT is a fully-trained team who will take over what we've been doing here," said Gunnery Sgt. Phillip Veracruz, the staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge of 1/3's ANA mentoring team. "They will work much more closely with the battalion than we have had the opportunity to do, and their training has been specifically tailored for the mission of training ANA battalions."

During their nine-month mission, the EPT will break into smaller teams and embed directly with ANA company-sized elements already partnered with Marines of 1/3 at various positions throughout Nawa District.

Until recently, Marine EPTs were known as embedded training teams, and saw success with other ANA battalions throughout Afghanistan. Over the past few years, they traditionally operated alongside U.S. Army companies to train the ANA in areas east of Afghanistan's Helmand province, but are now focusing on southwestern Afghanistan as Marines reclaim the province from Taliban insurgents, said 1st Lt. Anthony M. Herbold, an EPT team leader.

Unlike Marines of 1/3, who partner with the ANA soldiers to conduct counterinsurgency operations, the Marines of the EPT will actually embed themselves as part of the ANA unit to mentor them from within.

"The difference is our teams will live, sleep and fight with these soldiers," said Herbold.

The EPT's longer deployment also allows them to bridge the rotations of Marine battalions operating in Nawa and provide continuity for the ANA soldiers here, who initially came to Nawa with 1/3's predecessors, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, in July 2009 during Operation Khanjar.

Now, Marines of 1/3 are preparing to return to Hawaii in coming months as they await the arrival of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, who will continue counterinsurgency operations in Nawa. The Marines with the EPT expect to stay in Nawa even after 3/3's departure from Afghanistan and their replacements arrive.

"The ANA are here for the long run," said Butler, from Boston. "Right when [Marine battalions] start building a solid relationship and get comfortable, a new unit rotates in and that can be very frustrating for the ANA. We'll help bridge that gap and our intent is to make sure the turnover goes as smoothly as possible and we maintain the unity of command."

As the "clear-hold-build" phase campaign concept continues in the "build" phase in Nawa, there is an additional phase in which the EPT efforts fit – the "transition" phase – which will help Afghans to operate independently of Marines and other NATO forces, and which is the ultimate goal in Afghanistan, said Butler.

"We're here to serve as a catalyst for the ANA soldiers to be able to operate independently," said Butler, a combat engineer who attached to the EPT from 3rd Marine Division's Combat Assault Battalion in Okinawa, Japan. "The security which 1/5 and 1/3 has established here in Nawa will allow us to better strengthen the ANA here."

One of the catalysts for success is to train and mentor not only the soldiers who will conduct security patrols and combat operations in Nawa, but to maintain a "whole battalion" mindset and train the ANA from the battalion's top leaders all the way down the chain of command.

By training leaders at all levels within the ANA battalion, EPT Marines say they will eventually shift from Marine-led, partnered operations, to those planned and executed by the ANA soldiers with minimal Marine mentoring.

"I think we might even see the ANA take over some battlespace from 3/3 in the future. That would be a huge landmark for the ANA here," said Veracruz, 34, from San Antonio. "I feel this ANA battalion has a very bright future. There will be some speed bumps, but 3/3 is a good unit and this EPT is set up for success. This unit has so much potential, I almost wish I could stay to see how far they will go."

Suicide blast kills 3 foreigners, 3 Afghans

Attack is aimed at compound for workers in Kandahar

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Two powerful bombings rocked the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Thursday, killing three foreigners and three Afghan soldiers, according to President Hamid Karzai's half brother. Meanwhile, four German soldiers were killed in fighting in the north.


Associated Press
April 15, 2010

NATO forces are gearing up for a major operation this summer in Kandahar — the largest city in the Taliban-ridden south and the birthplace of the hardline Islamist movement.

But the burst of violence in widely separated areas of the country underscores the reach of the Taliban beyond their southern homeland, even as the U.S. sends more forces to ramp up the war.

The more powerful of the two explosions in Kandahar occurred after sundown when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle at the inner security barrier of a compound shared by several Western companies, according to Ahmad Wali Karzai, the president's half brother and the main power broker in southern Afghanistan.

Karzai, chairman of the local provincial council, told The Associated Press he did not know the nationalities of the three foreign dead, but Britain's domestic news agency Press Association quoted the British Foreign Office as saying it was looking into reports that several British nationals had been killed.

At least 16 people were wounded, including one foreigner and four in critical condition, according to Dr. Mohammed Hashim of the city's Mirwais Hospital.

The blast blew out windows as far as 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) away, including those at Karzai's home. The compound includes the offices of the international contracting company Louis Berger Group, the Afghanistan Stabilization Initiative and the aid contracting company Chemonics International.

Earlier Thursday, a remotely detonated car bomb went off in front of the Noor Jehan Hotel, which includes the offices of several foreign news organizations, wounding eight people and shattering windows in the four-story building.

Kandahar, with a population of about 500,000, has been shaken repeatedly by attacks in recent weeks. On March 13, a suicide squad detonated bombs at a newly fortified prison, police headquarters and two other locations in a failed attempt to free Taliban prisoners. At least 30 people died in the blasts.

The Germans were killed when a rocket slammed into their "Eagle" armored vehicle during heavy fighting Thursday with Taliban militants in Baghlan province about 120 miles (190 kilometers) north of the capital, Kabul, the German Defense Ministry said. Five other German soldiers were wounded.

It was the biggest single-day loss of life suffered by the Germans since June 2003, when four soldiers were killed and 29 wounded in a bombing near Kabul airport.

Baghlan provincial police spokesman Habib Rahman said three Afghan policemen were also killed in Thursday's fighting, which included airstrikes and heavy weapons.

Later Thursday, five Afghans working for the U.N. Office for Projects were missing after insurgents carjacked their vehicle in Baghlan, the U.N. mission said.

The German deaths were the second blow this month to the 4,300-member German force, the third largest contingent in Afghanistan after the United States and Britain.

Three German soldiers were killed in a firefight April 2 in Kunduz province. German troops accidentally killed six Afghan soldiers in the same battle.

The spike in bloodshed has fueled opposition to the Afghan mission among the German public, which supported the operation when it was promoted as a reconstruction and humanitarian effort. Support has dropped as German soldiers become involved more deeply in combat.

On Wednesday, Germany's Stern magazine reported that a record 62 percent of the 1,004 Germans polled by the Forsa Institute want to bring the troops home. The margin of error for the survey taken April 8 and 9 was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

At least 43 German soldiers have died in Afghanistan since Germany sent troops here in 2002.

Despite the growing opposition, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said last week she still believes her country's soldiers are needed in Afghanistan but will not stay a day longer than necessary.

"The soldiers fell in a difficult deployment," Merkel said Thursday during a visit to San Francisco. "It is a difficult deployment, but it serves the security of our country."

Merkel added that "we must continue this deployment."

Click for related content
Obama reaffirms 2011 Afghanistan withdrawal
Read more news from around the world

Northern Afghanistan, where the Germans are based, was relatively peaceful when the German force was sent there in 2002. But fighting increased last year after NATO opened a new supply route from Central Asian countries to the north, hoping to avoid ambushes that plagued roads coming in from Pakistan to the south and east.

The rise in violence, especially in the south, has led to a sharp increase in the number of Afghan civilians wounded by roadside bombs, the international Red Cross said Thursday.

The Red Cross said a hospital it supports in Kandahar treated nearly 40 percent more patients wounded by bombs in the first two months of the year compared with the same period in 2009.

At least 2,412 Afghan civilians were killed in fighting last year, an increase of 14 percent from 2008, according to the United Nations. About two-thirds of the civilian deaths were a result of actions initiated by the insurgents. The percentage of civilian deaths attributed to NATO and Afghan government forces fell.

Karzai’s brother mends ties with U.S.

By Kathy Gannon - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Apr 15, 2010 7:54:33 EDT

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — He’s the consummate symbol of Afghan cronyism — the president’s wheeler-dealer half brother and main power broker in the Taliban-ridden south. With the American military facing a showdown with insurgents here, Ahmad Wali Karzai said Wednesday that he’s mending fences with the U.S. and its international partners.

To read the entire article:


Stranded troops at Manas return to U.S.

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Apr 15, 2010 16:06:33 EDT

Hundreds of U.S. troops who had been stranded for days at a key air base in Kyrgyzstan following riots there last week boarded flights to return to the U.S. on Thursday, ending an uncertain wait for transportation.

To read the entire article:


MWSS-274 Tests Its Skills, Makes Leatherneck Safer for Fellow Marines

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Twenty one Marines with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 finished a four-day, 24-hour operation to move an entire helicopter landing pad to a more remote location, April 15.



3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs RSS
Story by Cpl. Ryan Rholes
Date: 04.15.2010
Posted: 04.15.2010 11:38

Marines originally built Camp Leatherneck's VIP landing pad on what used to be the edge of the base, but the installation rapidly expanded to accommodate an influx of inhabitants and made the original location a potential safety risk.

The Marines used eight dump trucks capable of moving 5 cubic yards of material to remove a 5-foot deep layer of dirt from the new 90,000 square-foot landing pad. The devil dogs then trucked in 1,800 cubic yards of dirt and gravel, 1,100 from the old site and 700 from the flight line, and used a D-7 bulldozer and road grater to evenly spread the material.

As the Marines spread gravel onto the new pad – built with a slight slope to allow for water runoff – other support Marines moved and staged several dozen concrete barriers, six barriers at a time, at the new site.

"My guys really did a great job," said Webber, who is serving on his third combat deployment. "There were times when I had to force Marines to go home after their shifts were over because they wanted to stay and finish whatever task they had started."

Although MWSS-274 initiated the move to reduce the risk created by having helicopters land in such a densely populated area of Leatherneck, it turned into a valuable training opportunity.

"This was a great chance to watch my junior Marines fresh out of school and get a good idea of their skill level," said Gunnery Sgt. Justin Webber, a Havelock, N.C. native serving as the operations chief for MWSS-274.

The support squadron tested its ability to rapidly complete large scale missions while making Camp Leatherneck safer for its fellow Marines.

N.C.-based combat engineer supersedes her peers

A female Marine who hails from the South American country of Brazil is shattering all myths about what it means to be a female Marine.


4/15/2010 By Gunnery Sgt. Katesha Washington , 2nd Marine Logistics Group

Lance Cpl. Soraya Silva, a combat engineer with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, earned the title, U.S. Marine, just one year ago and is already on the cusp of becoming a noncommissioned officer. Her outstanding performance can partly be attributed to her level of maturity. She is a few years older than the average lance corporal, but it is her drive to take charge and lead Marines that has garnered the attention of her staff noncommissioned officers.

She has impressed the command leadership so much that when she was nominated as the battalion's Marine of the Quarter for the first quarter of fiscal year 2010, she won. When she was nominated as the regiment's Marine of the Quarter, she won and when she was nominated as the Marine of the Quarter for the 2nd MLG, she won that too.

Now her leadership is just waiting until she has a little more time and experience under her belt to submit her package for a meritorious corporal promotion. Becoming an NCO, she said, would be a big and very welcome step for her.

"I am very ready to step up to the plate and lead Marines," she said. "I want to be a positive example of not only what it means to be a female Marine, but what it is to be a leader of Marines."

One of the major steps Silva took to prove her worthiness and willingness to lead was the help she provided her command in preparing for their upcoming deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. She volunteered to attend the Southwest Asian Language Aptitude Course to learn to speak Pashtu, the official language of the Afghan people.

She hopes to pass on the language skills she learned to her fellow Marines in order to help her command better communicate with the local people when they need an interpreter.

"I am so excited to do what I can to help out in any way when we get to Afghanistan," she said. "I want to be a part of history and know that I made a difference in the unit."

Although Silva specifically requested to attend SLAC to provide her command with language assistance, her true goal in life is to build upon her Associate's Degree in Civil Engineering by earning her bachelor's degree from Broward College in southern Florida.

Her platoon sergeant, Sgt. Christopher Ivester, noticed Silva's drive and determination from the time she joined the platoon.

"She supersedes everyone else in the platoon," he said. "She is first in everything she does and even inspires NCOs in the platoon to be better Marines. She is truly an outstanding Marine."

Silva attributes her strong character to the strength and influence of her mother. She says her mother taught her and Silva's brother, who is also a Marine, to always be honest and to maintain a strong faith in God.

"My mother is the most influential person in my life. It is because of her that I am the person that I am today. She taught me to always work hard and to be honest, above all," she noted. "When I have kids one day that is exactly how I want to raise them."

For now Silva is preparing for a combat deployment that will be her first and hopefully, she says, not her last.

IJC Operational Update, April 15

KABUL, Afghanistan – A Taliban improvised explosive device expert and two other militants were captured by an Afghan-international security force in Nangarhar last night.


ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.15.2010
Posted: 04.15.2010 03:49

A combined force went to a compound in the village of Jawarah, in the Khogyani district, after intelligence information indicated militant activity. As they approached the compound the security force observed an armed combatant climbing onto a building roof. The combatant displayed hostile intent and was shot and killed. After securing the area the combined force discovered the combatant was a female.

During a search of the compound a Taliban IED sub-commander and IED expert was captured. The Taliban leader is responsible for manufacturing, emplacing and training other militants in IED tactics.

Two other militants were also captured.

The security force recovered automatic rifles and ammunition during a search of the compound.

In Ghazni province yesterday, a joint patrol found a weapons cache containing 37 rocket-propelled grenades, 27 RPG fuses and 24 grenades. The cache was destroyed by an explosive ordnance disposal team.

In Nad-e Ali district of Helmand province yesterday, a joint patrol found a cache containing an 82mm mortar base plate, a chest rig for carrying ammunition, an AK-47 rifle, magazines and ammunition. The items were seized by the Afghan national army.

No Afghan civilians were harmed in these operations.

3 Significant Weapons Caches Found in Southern Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan - In three separate incidents yesterday, combined Afghan and international security patrols discovered significant insurgent weapon caches.


ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.15.2010
Posted: 04.15.2010 04:19

The first cache, consisting of 108 107mm rockets and approximately 60 meters (200 feet) of wire, was found in the Arghandab District of Kandahar province.

The second cache in Uruzgan province was turned over to international forces by an Afghan civilian. The cache consisted of five anti-tank mines, 38 rocket-propelled grenades, 20 launchers and six boxes of 7.62mm ammunition.

The third cache was discovered in Nad-e Ali District, Helmand province, and included two AK-47 machine guns, magazines, more than 12,000 rounds of ammunition, and three chest rigs for carrying assault rifle magazines. Also found was a bag of rubber, often used in pressure-plate-operated improvised explosive devices.

All of the equipment found is to be destroyed.

The insurgent attacks against Afghan and coalition forces often also intentionally endanger the civilian population. In working together, Afghan and international security forces are increasingly able to prevent these attacks, delivering security for governance and development.

Marines pay Afghan farmers to destroy opium

(Reuters) - With heavy fighting in the former Taliban stronghold of Marjah now largely reduced to sporadic gunfights, U.S. Marines in the area have turned their focus toward eliminating the insurgents' cash source: opium.


Mark Chisholm
MARJAH, Afghanistan
Thu Apr 15, 2010 5:10am EDT

But instead of eradicating the illicit poppy fields themselves, the Marines have begun piloting a new method over the past week -- paying farmers cash to destroy their own crops.

In February, thousands of U.S. Marines pushed into Marjah, an insurgent enclave in southern Helmand province. Weeks of intense fighting ensued as militants wrestled to hold on to a vital area where for years they had virtual free reign.

What makes Marjah so important is its strategic location. Lying just west of the provincial capital and surrounded by lush farmland crisscrossed by canals that water the opium poppy crop, it has become a hub for the narcotics trade in central Helmand.

Last year, Afghanistan produced 90 percent of the world's opium, the raw ingredient of heroin, with some 60 percent grown in Helmand alone. The Taliban are said to siphon off hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the trade of the drug.

Now, with harvest time only a few weeks away and up to 60,000 migrant workers expected to flow into Helmand to work the poppy fields, the Marines have launched a new scheme in Marjah where farmers are paid to plough their own fields under.

"We've come up with this program, it's a completely voluntary program, that's the most important aspect. I'm not going to touch their poppy," said Major Jim Coffman, a Marine civil affairs officer who oversees the new project.

"If they choose to destroy or to clear ... their fields, we will give them $300 (per hectare)," he said.

Under the scheme, started just over a week ago, farmers enroll at one of the Marine outposts and are given a week to plough their fields. Once the empty fields are checked, farmers are paid and given fertilizer and seeds for alternative crops.

"So far it's been a pretty good reaction, a tempered reaction," said Coffman.

"We've seen about eight to ten guys here today. We're over 1,000 jeribs total just for our site here," he said, referring to the traditional unit of land measurement in Afghanistan equal to one fifth of a hectare.


The scheme marks a wider shift in policy by U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, away from forced poppy eradication which officials said only ended up hurting impoverished farmers. Eradication has largely been seen as a failure by the West.

According to the United Nations, less than 4 percent of poppy planted in Afghanistan over the last two years was eradicated, and at a great human and economic cost. Military commanders say it also drives farmers to join the insurgency.

The scheme in Marjah has caused some controversy though, with critics saying it amounts to buying drugs off the farmers with U.S. taxpayers' money. Coffman disagreed.

"The American government is not in the habit or process of paying anybody for drugs, so that's not what we're here for. It is an agricultural transition program," Coffman said.

"I'm really essentially paying money for the land not for the crop. So if they have wheat or cotton or poppy or anything else on their land, if they choose to destroy it, then they'll get the money ... they'll get the fertilizer and the seed," he said.

Coffman stressed the scheme was a one-off and that next year farmers would "not be allowed" to grow poppy, but did not say what would happen if farmers did revert to the illicit crop.

The Marines acknowledge the money they are paying the farmers per hectare is considerably less than they would get for selling the drug, but with troops allowed to seize the poppy once it is harvested, some farmers are cutting their losses.

"This is a very good program. I am sure this will succeed," said one farmer, Gulabuddin Khan.

Other farmers who trickled in to enroll for the scheme at Combat Outpost Hanson over the weekend, shied away from journalists, a sign of the Taliban's still influential presence in the area. A baker in a nearby village was recently beheaded by insurgents for selling bread to Afghan soldiers.

But despite the modest turnout since launching the scheme, Coffman remains optimistic.

"This whole society is based on word of mouth and I guarantee you, once the first group, once they clear the land, they get their money, they get their fertilizers and seed, this place will be inundated with folks," he said.

(Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Marines to be honored with BBQ in San Juan Capistrano

U.S. Marines from the 1st Battalion, 11th Marines (1/11) at Camp Pendleton will be deployed to Afghanistan at the beginning of May, and the city of San Juan Capistrano is sending them off in style with a barbecue for its adopted Marines.


By Cheryl Pruett, OCLNN
Thursday, April 15, 2010

The barbecue will be held Saturday, April 17, from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Historic Town Center Park, 31806 El Camino Real, in the heart of downtown.

The celebration is intended to show the city’s support for the Marines and their families, said Cathy Salcedo, senior executive assistant to the city council and city manager.

Salcedo said a barbecue the city held in summer 2007 to welcome Marines home from Iraq drew 450 Marines and family members and about 250 to 300 additional people. She anticipates as many as 600 Marines will attend this year’s event.

The April 17 event includes entertainment by the band Mark Liddell & the Wildcat Wranglers, a pie-eating contest and other activities. The 1/11 also will display a M777 Howitzer cannon.

The 1/11 Adoption Committee and city staff organize the events. The chair is Jed Pearson, a retired Marine major general. Also on the committee are two city council members, Sam Allevato and Tom Hribar, a former Marine captain.

All proceeds from the event will benefit the families of 1/11. Donations can be made by check, payable to the “City of San Juan Capistrano 1/11 Marine Fund.” Checks may be sent to Salcedo at the city manager’s office, 32400 Paseo Adelanto, San Juan Capistrano, 92675. For more information, call 949-443-6317.

The 1/11 unit, which has more than 675 personnel, has seen duty in World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm and the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

U.S. doubles anti-Taliban special forces

Secretive buildup of elite teams reflects view that time is short to degrade Afghanistan opposition

Reporting from Washington
The Pentagon has increased its use of the military's most elite special operations teams in Afghanistan, more than doubling the number of the highly trained teams assigned to hunt down Taliban leaders, according to senior officials.


By Julian E. Barnes
April 15, 2010

The secretive buildup reflects the view of the Obama administration and senior military leaders that the U.S. has only a limited amount of time to degrade the capabilities of the Taliban. U.S. forces are in the midst of an overall increase that will add 30,000 troops this year and plan to begin reducing the force in mid-2011.

Operations aimed at Taliban leaders have intensified as the military also gears up for an expected offensive this summer in Kandahar, the southern Afghan city that is the Taliban's spiritual heartland. Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants to negotiate with the Taliban, and U.S. and allied forces are trying to lure rank-and-file fighters away from extremist leaders. By hunting Taliban leaders, the specialized units hope to increase pressure on foot soldiers to switch sides.

With such an abbreviated timeline, the elite manhunt teams are the most effective weapon for disrupting the insurgent leadership, senior officials said. The officials contend that stepped-up operations by teams inserted in recent months already have eroded the Taliban leadership. Defense officials specifically single out the work of special operations forces in eliminating mid-level Taliban leaders before the February offensive in the Helmand province town of Marja. They say the forces have begun similar operations in nearby Kandahar province.

"You can't kill your way out of these things, but you can remove a lot of the negative influences," said a senior Defense official. "A significant portion of the leadership has fled over the border, been captured or removed from the equation."

But the buildup carries risks. Special operations forces have been involved in some botched strikes that ended up killing civilians, mistakes that Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, has said could undermine the overall mission. For years, Karzai and other officials have complained bitterly about civilian deaths in military actions by the U.S. and its allies.

A raid Feb. 10 in the Gardez district in southeastern Afghanistan, led by a unit assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command, left two Afghan officials and three women dead.

The Joint Special Operations Command, or JSOC, encompasses special mission units such as the Army's Delta Force and the Navy's SEAL Team Six, as well as troops temporarily assigned to the command, such as Army Ranger units.

Neither Delta Force nor SEAL Team Six were involved in the Gardez raid, according to one government official, suggesting that Army Rangers or another unit temporarily assigned to the command was responsible.

Some Afghan investigators have accused U.S. forces of covering up evidence of the attack, a charge the military disputes.

The size of the military's Joint Special Operations Command is a highly classified secret. Officials would not discuss the number of covert teams or troops sent to Afghanistan.

Villagers fear special operations forces, who often strike in the dead of night, and speak of them in whispers. But special operations forces pride themselves on knowing and respecting local customs. And some units have developed close ties with Afghans.

The special SEAL and Delta Force units and others work in teams of as few as three. They operate in secret, often out of uniform and without regard to the military's strict regulations regarding hair length and beards.

Army Ranger units, working in larger numbers, often provide security for the special mission units, but also conduct their own capture-or-kill operations.

In the past, critics have charged that special operations forces were responsible for a preponderance of the civilian deaths caused by Western forces. Although officials concede that the number of civilian deaths caused by the teams has been damaging, the military command in Afghanistan does not believe that the elite forces are "running amok," said a Defense official.

Some of the incidents, according to officials, are a result of the high operational tempo. Special operations forces, including the JSOC teams, account for half or more of the missions being carried out by military forces in Afghanistan.

The secretive Joint Special Operations Command task force is a classified subgroup of the military's overall United States Special Operations Command. The overall command has 5,800 troops in Afghanistan on a mission to train Afghan security forces and conduct joint missions with Afghan commandos.

It is not clear whether that number includes the more highly specialized teams, which by some estimates number only in the dozens and were described last month by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, as a handful of troops compared with the overall U.S. and allied force, which is increasing to more than 140,000.

McChrystal, a former head of JSOC, has supported the secret buildup, even while imposing restrictions on the use of air power as well as new rules on night raids. He was not given direct control of the teams, but as their former commander, he retains a large amount of influence over them.

Pentagon officials recently have realigned the command structure to give McChrystal control of the U.S. Marines and special operations forces that are mainly involved in training.

The Defense official said that with the new buildup, there will be more of the special operations forces in Afghanistan than there were in Iraq at the height of the U.S. troop buildup there in 2007.

"Although we will have less general purpose forces than we had in Iraq, we will have more special forces," the official said.

Within the military, some consider the work of the Joint Special Operations Command units in Iraq to have been key to calming the violence at the time.

Some of the additional JSOC teams sent to Afghanistan have been shifted from Iraq, where they worked to root out extremist cells aligned with Al Qaeda. Despite the recent flare-up in violence, officials say the number of extremists being sought in the Mideast nation has declined precipitously. Describing the change in the idiom of the secret units, a senior official said: "Hunting season is over in Iraq."

In Afghanistan, the special units have been following a playbook similar to the one they used in Iraq, and Defense officials hope the elite teams will have a similar effect on the overall level of security.

Defense officials emphasize that even the teams not under McChrystal's direct control are bound by his tactical directives.

"Rules are rules for everybody," said the Defense official.

"McChrystal holds them to a higher standard than conventional forces. When things go wrong, he is extremely aware of what the costs are."



Obama reaffirms 2011 Afghan withdrawal plan

By Rohan Sullivan - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Apr 15, 2010 16:34:43 EDT

SYDNEY — President Obama on Thursday reaffirmed his plans to start withdrawing U.S troops from Afghanistan in 2011, saying they “can’t be there in perpetuity.”

To continue reading:


April 14, 2010

HBO series ‘The Pacific’ stirs Marine’s memories

Vancouver man endured decades of nightmares

Rudy Podhora has relived images of World War II combat plenty of times over the last 65 years.


By Tom Vogt
Columbian staff writer
Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The former Marine is seeing those scenes again, but without the anguish. A television show is a lot easier to take than decades of nightmares.

On April 1, 1945, the Vancouver native was part of the invasion of Okinawa, which set the stage for almost three months of fierce combat on the Pacific island.

When the battle for Okinawa was winding down, the war in Europe had been over for a month.

In the last couple of days of combat, Podhora was part of what he thinks was the final infantry charge of WWII.

Podhora traces his nightmares back to that event.

The 82-day battle for Okinawa also is part of a television series from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. Their earlier collaborations — “Saving Private Ryan” and “Band of Brothers” — explored the war in Europe.

Now, “The Pacific” is looking at Podhora’s war.

It’s a pretty good look, says Podhora, who has been watching the HBO series.

“I’m trying to make sure they don’t mess up,” he said. The characters “are careless about keeping their helmets on. But with a helmet liner and the full steel helmet, they’re heavy,” Podhora said in the home he shares with his childhood sweetheart, Betty May.

They were married in 1946. Betty May says she can’t remember when she didn’t know Rudy, even though she grew up in Portland. The Podhora family had a farm near what is now the Five Corners area. Betty May’s family ran a Portland restaurant and came to Vancouver to buy vegetables for their kitchen.

Rudy left the farm in 1943 to enlist. He was part of the invasion of Peleliu, another battle shown in “The Pacific.”

“I was throwing up on the way in,” he recalled.

The invasion of Okinawa with the 1st Marine Division has a special place in Podhora’s combat résumé. Victory meant the Allies could establish a base less than 350 miles from the Japanese mainland.

Podhora has written about the closing push in a memoir he calls “Okinawa, the Last Charge.”

Podhora was a forward observer for an 81 mm mortar platoon and part of a Marine assault on the rugged southern end of the island, where defenders dug in for a last stand.

On his way up a hill, Podhora saw a Japanese machine gun emplacement dug into the rise. Two Japanese soldiers were sprawled on the ground.

Podhora wriggled through an access trench and crawled inside the bunker, where another Japanese soldier appeared to be dead.

There was no sign of blood on any of the three Japanese soldiers, Podhora realized later.

When he started to search the bunker, the enemy soldier kicked him in the face. Podhora pulled out his knife and stabbed him, tried to cut his throat, and then hurried back out the trench to join several other Marines outside the emplacement.

A grenade popped out of the bunker, exploding in the trench just after Podhora jumped out. Podhora then aimed his .45 caliber pistol into the bunker and emptied the magazine into the Japanese soldier.

He doesn’t know what happened to the two Japanese soldiers he’d seen sprawled outside the bunker.

Even though much of that day is a blur, it has haunted him for years, Podhora said. He went right past three enemy soldiers — “Why didn’t I realize they were alive?” — who were waiting for the chance to kill him.

And that’s how Podhora’s nightmare kept playing out.

“It was the same dream, four or five of them with drawn bayonets, and I could feel the bayonets go into my stomach,” he said. “That lasted a long while.”

A couple of Podhora’s comrades never made it off the hill alive. As the attack continued, Podhora heard the sound of a light artillery piece returning fire and he hit the deck. The artillery shell didn’t explode, but it went right through the guy who’d been standing next to Podhora.

“His head was missing,” Podhora said.

Another Marine was sent up to serve as the platoon’s forward observer later that day. Defenders shelled the area where Podhora had been, and his replacement was killed when a shell fragment sliced through his throat.

The battle ended a couple of days later when the Japanese general who commanded the island’s 120,000 defenders killed himself. About 110,000 of his troops fought to the death.

An estimated 100,000 Okinawan civilians also died.

Podhora still has a leaflet telling enemy soldiers and civilian residents how to surrender: “Come slowly with your hands raised high above your head and carry only this leaflet. Come one by one. Men must wear only pants or loin cloths. Women and children may come dressed as they are.”

Other keepsakes include several black-and-white postcards, portraits of pretty young Japanese women. He found them in that machine-gun emplacement.

Podhora still has that .45 Colt pistol — and the documentation proving it’s his weapon.

“Only officers were issued pistols,” Podhora said.

He wanted a sidearm, too, so his father bought one for $50 — almost two month’s wages for the young Marine — and mailed it, along with the bill of sale.

“I kept the receipt with me all the time,” he said, “so officers wouldn’t think the pistol was theirs.”

Afghan city fears greater Taliban presence

Kandahar residents have seen a surge in militant violence and fear a planned Western offensive to rout the Taliban will instead boost its presence in their city. Authorities get little cooperation.

Reporting from Kandahar, Afghanistan
Her children tell her they see her dead in their dreams. Friends are afraid to come to her home. She shows a visitor chilling text messages in neat Pashto-language script on her cellphone: Do you want to die? We will kill you for what you've said.


By Laura King
April 14, 2010

Roona Tahrin, 38, a women's rights activist and mother of six, believes she is in the Taliban's sights. Her predecessor as director of this city's department of women's affairs was killed; in late February, three days after a provincial cultural official was gunned down by assailants on motorbikes, she received a text telling her she was next.

Disciples of the Taliban never abandoned Kandahar, the city they consider their spiritual home. After the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 that ended the Islamist movement's harsh five-year reign in Afghanistan, many of its adherents simply melted into this dusty southern metropolis.

These days, though, the insurgents' presence is more keenly felt than at any time in recent memory. Assassinations, threats and kidnappings are rife. Swaths of the city are off limits to the police. At dusk, people glance at their watches and cut short conversations; it is dangerous to be out after dark.

The Western military is planning a massive offensive in Kandahar this spring and summer that will dwarf the campaign led by U.S. Marines this year in neighboring Helmand province, centered on the farming town of Marja.

But many here are afraid that the military operation to secure Kandahar's outlying districts, already in its preliminary stages, will simply drive more insurgents into the city proper and put its 1 million residents in even greater peril.

Tahrin believes she was marked for death after she told a women's gathering that Islamic teachings do not dictate that women must cover themselves with the burka, the billowing head-to-toe garment that almost all women in Kandahar now wear in public.

Her life grows more circumscribed by the day. She keeps her children home from school. She varies her routes to work and back again. Even a doctor's appointment seems too dangerous. No one wants to travel with her to events such as weddings, the familial lifeblood of this tribal society.

"We live like prisoners," she said. "We are terrorized."

Because the Taliban is so entwined in daily life in Kandahar, many here doubt that a military operation alone can dislodge its loyalists.

"The Taliban can do anything they want here," said shopkeeper Suleiman Shah Agha, who sells clothing in a bazaar mainly frequented by women. His spangled, glittery wares hung all around him, a stark contrast to the few burka-covered women hurrying past, eager to finish their errands and get home.

In the city itself, the occasional presence of Western troops, mainly Canadian, inspires more nervousness than confidence.

On a recent day, a convoy of armored vehicles drove slowly through a central market, gun turrets swiveling. Passersby shrank back into shops selling wicker bird cages and inflatable toys, watching and waiting for the foreigners to move on.

In mid-March, after insurgents staged synchronized bombings one evening that killed at least three dozen people in and near Kandahar, the central government promised to rush in 900 more Afghan police officers to form a protective "band" around the city. An additional 1,000 police are to be deployed elsewhere in the province this spring and summer.

But Taliban fighters have been working to sap the morale of the police. Before the March bombings, insurgents methodically attacked lone police officers wherever they could find them, brazenly gunning them down in the heart of the city.

Jamaluddin, a 25-year-old driver who uses only one name, is mourning the death of his older brother Kairuddin, a police officer who was shot and killed last month in a crowded downtown bazaar.

"He was shot four times, and everyone was afraid to come near him, and he lay there all alone," Jamaluddin said, twisting his hands together.

Jamaluddin put off his upcoming marriage because he does not know how he will financially support a wife as well as his widowed sister-in-law and her two children.

"They are my responsibility now," he said bleakly.

Although some police officers perform their jobs bravely, corruption is rampant on the force, particularly in its upper ranks. Most people are reluctant to report suspected insurgents to the authorities; the police, they say, will either do nothing, or pick a suspect up and quickly let him go again.

Residents said an arrest in their neighborhood or district can have deadly repercussions. After such detentions, Taliban foot soldiers sometimes stop people at random and demand to see their cellphones, apparently to find out whether the list of calls includes any contact with the authorities.

As the North Atlantic Treaty Organization operation draws near, anyone with a connection to the government or to foreigners feels in particular danger.

An Afghan working for an international aid group, who asked to be identified only by his nickname, Fawad, said he broke into a cold sweat when he saw three men reconnoitering his office on a recent morning.

He drove around the block a few times, waiting for them to leave, but also trying to steady his nerves.

"I don't tell anyone where I work, only my closest family members," he said. "I feel watched, and I'm afraid. But I need this job to support my family."

One centerpiece of the planned Western offensive is an intensive series of shuras, or consultative tribal gatherings, meant to hold out a promise of better governance once the militants' grip on the city is broken.

Haji Aghalalai, a Kandahar provincial council member, said people at one such gathering in Panjwayi district, on Kandahar's outskirts, said they were afraid that the Taliban, even if driven out, would soon return.

"They were saying if this operation moves the Taliban out permanently, it is fine," he said. "But if the troops leave so the Taliban come back, they don't want it."

Aghalalai, who has served as an intermediary with the insurgents, said the Taliban operates freely in at least three districts close to the city -- Argandab, Maiwand and Panjwayi -- despite a large Western military presence.

Afghan authorities say even a decisive military victory in such troubled districts will do little good unless the government can win over a war-weary populace.

"More troops aren't the solution. We need jobs and development," said Kandahar Gov. Tooryalai Wesa, who spends his days sequestered in a fortress-like compound surrounded by security guards.

On a recent day, the complex was nearly deserted, devoid of the turbaned tribal elders and leathery-faced village leaders who used to flock there for aid and consultation. It is too dangerous for them to travel now, the governor said.

Tahrin, the women's activist, said one day soon she may have to heed the warnings to abandon her work.

"Everyone says to me, 'Just quit your job, it is not worth your life,' " she said. "It is so sad, because I want to help women. But I don't know who can help any of us now."

U.S. Forces Close Post in Afghan 'Valley of Death'

KORANGAL OUTPOST, Afghanistan — The last American soldier left the base here Wednesday, surrounded by tall cedar trees and high mountains, a place that came to be called the Valley of Death.


Published: April 14, 2010

The near daily battles here were won, but almost always at the cost of wounded or dead. There were never enough soldiers to crush the insurgency, and after four years of trying, it became clear that there was not much worth winning in this sparsely populated valley.

Closing the Korangal Outpost, a powerful symbol of some of the Afghan war’s most ferocious fights, and a potential harbinger of America’s retreat, is a tacit admission that putting the base there in the first place was a costly mistake.

It is also part of a new effort by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of forces here since last summer, to consolidate and refocus his forces in places where they might change the momentum of what had become a losing contest.

Fighting for isolated mountain valleys like this one, even if they are hide-outs for clusters of Taliban, was no longer sustainable. It did more to spawn insurgents than defeat them. Better to put those soldiers in cities and towns where they could protect people and help them connect to the Afghan government, he reasoned.

“There’s never a perfect answer,” General McChrystal said as he visited this outpost on April 8 for a briefing as the withdrawal began. “I care deeply about everybody who has been hurt here, but I can’t do anything about it. I can do something about people who might be hurt in the future.

“The battle changes, the war changes,” he added. “If you don”t understand the dynamics you have no chance of getting it right. We’ve been slower here than I would have liked.”

Forty-two American service men died fighting in the Korangal and hundreds were wounded, according to military statistics. Most died in the three years from 2006 to 2009. Many Afghan soldiers died there as well and in larger numbers since they had poorer equipment. In a war characterized by small, brutal battles, the Korangal had more than its share, and its abandonment now has left soldiers who fought there confronting confusion, anger and pain.

“It hurts,” said Spc. Robert Soto of Company B, First Battalion, 26th Infantry, who spent 12 months in the Korangal Valley from 2008 to 2009. “It hurts on a level that — three units from the Army, we all did what we did up there. And we all lost men. We all sacrificed. I was 18 years old when I got there. I really would not have expected to go through what we went through at that age.”

During the period Specialist Soto served there half of his platoon was wounded or killed, according to the unit’s commanding officer. “It confuses me, why it took so long for them to realize that we weren’t making progress up there,” he said.

The Korangal Outpost was the third area of eastern Afghanistan where combat outposts closed: In 2007 and 2008 two posts and a smaller satellite base were closed in Kunar’s Waygal Valley, and in 2009 two posts were closed in Nuristan Province’s Kamdesh region. Along with the main Korangal outpost, five small satellite bases have closed, at least two of them, Restrepo and Vimoto, were named for soldiers who died there.

Perched on a steep hillside, scattered with gnarly trees, the Korangal outpost consists of little more than a dozen structures made of stone and wood and is heavily sandbagged. It is a primitive-looking place built into the hillside, like the nearby villages. Further down the valley tower the Deodar cedars, which the Korangalis cut down to make their living.

The vulnerability of these combat outposts was hardly surprising. Though sparsely populated, Kunar and Nuristan Provinces have a long history of strident resistance to outsiders. Kunar was the first places to rise up against the Soviet occupation in the 1980s, giving the area the moniker “cradle of jihad.”

Much of the American mission in the last couple of years has centered on trying to get the reclusive people who live here to recognize the Afghan government and work with it. In some places that is reaping modest results. Not so in the Korangal.

The Korangalis speak a language unrelated to Pashto and Dari, the two main Afghan tongues; they practice a conservative brand of Islam; and they have repeatedly rebuffed American offers of aid.

The area remains under the influence of a Taliban shadow governor along with two Taliban leaders, Haji Mateen and Nasrullah, who make their money off the valley’s lumber.

The sawmill and lumberyard run by Haji Mateen was seized by Marines to build the Korangal outpost in April 2006. The troops had set out to penetrate the six-mile-long valley, but never made it more than halfway.

There have been only two missions to the valley’s southern end since 2005, said Maj. Ukiah Senti, the executive officer of Second Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment Task Force Lethal, which oversees Korangal and neighboring areas. He said the antagonism from local Taliban and insurgents was so great that it would take a battalion-sized force to make a foray there.

The Korangal Outpost was opened to root out Taliban fighters who were hiding deep in the mountains, according to soldiers who fought there. Even before then, it was apparent the valley’s inhabitants were hostile to outsiders.

In June, 2005 a four-man team of Navy SEALs was ambushed on a ridge above the valley; three were killed and a helicopter sent to rescue them was shot down, killing eight more Navy SEALS and eight other servicemen, making it one of the worst single losses of the war.

While there were Taliban in the valley and Qaeda operatives passed through the area, Korangal was not a major haven, said Maj. James Fussell, a former Army Special Forces soldier who spent nearly two years fighting here, from 2004 to 2005 and again from 2008 to 2009. He recently co-authored a detailed analysis of the mission in Kunar and Nuristan for the Institute for the Study of War.

“Occasionally a Taliban or Al Qaeda member was transiting through that location, but the Korangalis were by no means part of the insurgency,” he said. “Unfortunately, now they are because they were willing to accept any help to get us out.”

American commanders sporadically discussed closing the base almost since it was put there, but over the last 18 months the plan was pushed by Col. Randy George, who commands Task Force Mountain Warrior, which is responsible for the four easternmost Afghan provinces: Kunar, Nuristan, Nangarhar and Laghman.

“We’re not going to go deep into these valleys and bring them into the 21st century in a couple of months,” said Colonel George, who determined early on that keeping forces in the Korangal and in the Kamdesh region of Nuristan was not an effective way to use resources or win over locals.

Major Senti concurred. “Realistically no one needs to be there,” he said. “We’re not really overwatching anything other than safeguarding ourselves.”

The current company commander, Capt. Mark Moretti, Company B, Second Battalion, 12th Infantry regiment, said he still hopes that his efforts to connect the Korangal elders to the district center in Nangalam, will bear fruit, but other soldiers expressed skepticism.

“They are connected to the district government now a little bit,” said First Sgt. Bryan Reed, Company B, Second Battalion, 12th regiment. “But it’s not one of their priorities.”

Looking back, soldiers say the effort shows how choices made from a lack of understanding or consultation with local people can drive them into the arms of the insurgents.

“We had the best intentions, but when you don’t fully understand the culture” it is impossible to make the right choices, said Major Fussell.

A number of the infantrymen who fought here ruefully accept that the time has long passed for the military to spend lives and resources in a small and isolated valley that could not have been won without many more troops.

“It is frustrating, because we bled there and now we’re leaving,” said Capt. John P. Rodriguez, who as a first lieutenant served there with Company B, First Battalion, 26th Marines.

“So you question: were those sacrifices worth it? But just because you lost guys in a place, doesn’t mean you need to stay there.”

Afghanistan war readiness forces tradeoffs

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Apr 14, 2010 17:07:11 EDT

Equipment and supplies for the 30,000 U.S. ground troops surging into Afghanistan is there waiting for them as a result of an all-out logistics effort, senior military officials said Wednesday.

To continue reading:


Kyrgyz unrest strands troops at Manas

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Apr 14, 2010 12:50:10 EDT

Hundreds of U.S. troops are still stranded at a key air base in Kyrgyzstan following civil unrest there that resulted in personnel flights to Afghanistan being diverted through other countries, officials said.

To read the entire article:


IJC Operational Update, April 14

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force in pursuit of a Haqqani facilitator in Ghazni detained two suspected militants this morning.


ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.14.2010
Posted: 04.14.2010 03:07

The security force searched a compound in the village of Dand, in the Nawa District, after intelligence information indicated militant activity. During the search the security force detained the suspected militants for further questioning.

In Paktiya province last night, a joint security force searched a compound in Qal-eh-ye Seyyed Hasan, in the Orgun District, after intelligence information indicated militant activity. During the search the security force detained a few suspected militants for further questioning.

In the Bagrami District of Kabul yesterday, Afghan national security forces found a bag containing 34 rocket-propelled grenades. The cache will be destroyed.

In the Nad-e Ali District of Helmand yesterday, an Afghan civilian turned in an improvised explosive device to ISAF forces.

The IED contained five kilograms of homemade explosives. The device will be destroyed.

In the Muqer district of Ghazni province yesterday, an Afghan national army patrol found an IED consisting of two RPGs, a 72mm artillery shell and homemade explosives. The IED was destroyed by an ISAF explosive ordnance disposal team.

In the Zarghun Shahr District of Paktika province yesterday, an ANSF patrol found an IED consisting of four 100mm artillery rounds. The IED was destroyed by and ISAF EOD team.

No shots were fired and no Afghan civilians were harmed during these operations.

Hawaii Marine recounts Wanat: 'I wasn't going to be taken alive'

Kāne'ohe Marine recalls deadly battle of Wanat

In a now-famous battle in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, Marine Staff Sgt. Luis Repreza had a dwindling supply of rifle ammunition and one grenade — which he intended to use on himself if his position was overrun by enemy fighters.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

It was that bad in the village of Wanat, with about 200 militants pounding a much smaller force of U.S. troops with a fusillade of rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire.

"I wasn't going to be taken alive," the 31-year-old Kāne'ohe Bay Marine said yesterday at a Rotary Club meeting in Waikīkī.

The California man was one of three Marines — the other two were out of Okinawa — who fought in the battle of Wanat in eastern Kunar province on July 13, 2008.

It was largely a U.S. Army fight, and 1st Lt. Jonathan P. Brostrom of 'Aiea was one of nine soldiers killed in what remains the single largest loss of American life from direct combat in the nearly 9-year-old war in Afghanistan.

U.S. command decisions leading up to the firefight have since come under criticism, and prompted a review of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.

Repreza spoke to the Rotary Club of Honolulu during a luncheon at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel at the invitation of Brostrom's father, David, a Rotarian and retired Army colonel.

"A lot of people don't understand what's going on in Afghanistan," David Brostrom said afterward. "A lot of people don't know the sacrifices that our young people are making, and Sgt. Repreza kind of brings that home."

The 2008 battle in the remote Waigal Valley wasn't the only deadly encounter of its kind.

On Sept. 8, 2009, five U.S. troops were killed in Kunar province, and on Oct. 3 of the same year, eight were killed in an attack on a small U.S. outpost in neighboring Nuristan province.

Repreza was one of 49 Americans at Wanat. There also were 24 Afghan National Army soldiers that he and two other Marines were helping train.

The U.S. troops were told to start setting up a new combat outpost on low ground with a hotel, mosque and other buildings surrounding them. Those structures were used to fire on U.S. forces in the surprise pre-dawn attack.
real war story

Repreza had been to Iraq twice and he said, "I never thought I'd picture myself" in the type of fierce firefight that occurred in Wanat, which he likened to stories from World War II or Korea.

Repreza marshalled fire from about 14 Afghan soldiers who were dug into foxholes and semi-protected by some sandbags, while Cpl. Jason Jones and another Marine sprinted through fire to reinforce an observation post where Brostrom was killed.

Repreza received a Bronze Star with valor, and Jones was awarded a Silver Star.

Repreza later helped with the U.S. casualties, which was "probably one of the hardest things I've seen," he said.

An Army analysis of the battle later concluded that the single platoon sent to Wanat was insufficient combat power to establish an outpost in the hostile region. The unit also was low on water and lacked heavy equipment.

Repreza said about 150 Americans eventually were fighting back at Wanat after the base was reinforced. He said in his opinion, "this (number) is what I would have wanted to start off with."

David Brostrom, who questioned command decisions leading up to Wanat, was instrumental in the Army reinvestigating the battle.
officers disciplined

Three Army officers who commanded Jonathan Brostrom's company, battalion and brigade have since received letters of reprimand. But the families who lost sons at Wanat are still waiting to be briefed about the results of the second investigation, the elder Brostrom said.

David Brostrom said he doubts any general officers will be sanctioned because "general officers don't go after general officers. They protect one another."

Brostrom said Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr., who formerly commanded the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks and who now is in charge of an Army "lessons learned" command at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., has laid out a plan for Army-wide change.

"It's everything from senior leaders being held accountable to company commanders and battalion commanders being too risk averse because they are afraid they are going to get punished to change tactics, techniques and procedures," Brostrom said.

Repreza said he remembered the 24-year-old Brostrom as a "big kid at heart, very happy, high-spirited, a lot of practical jokes," but someone who was tactically very proficient.

Repreza and David Brostrom projected photos of Wanat for the Rotary audience to see, as well as a CBS News segment portraying the shortcomings of the Wanat mission.

The stories of valor received two standing ovations from the approximately 100 people attending the luncheon.

Rotarian Al Linton, 51, said the presentation was emotional and revealing about today's U.S. military troops.

"I think we now have a new greatest generation," he said.

LAPD officer killed in Afghanistan is honored in somber memorial

SWAT Officer Robert J. Cottle was on Marine Reserve duty when he died March 24 in an explosion. He was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star in services at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

A somber procession on Tuesday morning snaked its way through downtown Los Angeles as thousands honored LAPD SWAT Officer Robert J. Cottle, who was killed March 24 in Afghanistan while on Marine Corps Reserve duty.



April 14, 2010

During a private service at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, Cottle was posthumously awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star.

Cottle's casket, covered in an American flag, was carried in a horse-drawn carriage from Los Angeles Police Department headquarters to the cathedral, accompanied by law enforcement officers, including Chief Charlie Beck.

Onlookers lined some street corners, watching as the procession passed.

Cottle, 45, was traveling with three other Marines in the Marja region of the country, which has been the focus of an intense U.S.-led offensive against Taliban forces in recent weeks.

Their armored vehicle struck an improvised explosive device, killing Cottle and another Marine reservist and seriously wounding the two others, said LAPD Capt. John Incontro, who oversees SWAT operations.

The procession jammed traffic in downtown Los Angeles, as several major streets were closed and many bus lines were rerouted.

Local Marines inspire collection for troops in Afghanistan

Two local Marines are the inspiration for a collection campaign to send donations to Marines serving in Afghanistan.


April 14, 2010

A Marine flag flies in the front window of Hedges Designs Inc. store on North Franklin Street in Chagrin Falls, where the collection is taking place.

Two Hedges employees, Becky Crowley and Kelli McLellan, have sons serving in the Marines in Afghanistan.

Cpl. Jantzen McLellan is a 2007 graduate of Chagrin Falls High School and already has served a tour in Iraq. Lance Cpl. Darin Crowley graduated from Kenston High School in 2008. They were deployed to Afghanistan within a month of one another in 2009, however, they are in different Marine battalions. Both are stationed in the desert.

Mrs. Crowley, whose brother is also a Marine, said the Hedges campaign started when she and Ms. McLellan were talking about sending items to their sons.

Other Hedges store employees asked about what they needed, and that was the start of the collection project. Items most requested and appreciated by deployed Marines will be sent overseas.

Every spring, the store employees take on a charity and so they decided to send much-needed items to the two Marines, who then share everything they receive from home with their fellow Marines.

They appreciate the most-simple items, including things like socks, soft wipes and Ramen noodles, Mrs. Crowley said.

"They don't have showers or laundry facilities," Mrs. Crowley said. "They wear socks and underwear and then have to throw them away for hygiene reasons."

When the word got out that the store was calling for donations, people started bringing items in, Mrs. Crowley said.

"Everyone seemed to care about this," Mrs. Crowley said. "It's exciting." And the United Service Organizations is willing to pay for the shipping, she said.

She talked to her son three weeks ago. They sleep in the sand, with no tent.

They are delighted to receive peanut butter crackers, single-serving tuna and Fruit by the Foot. "It is so simple, but they think it is wonderful," Mrs. Crowley said.

When she mails a package, it can take up to four weeks, she said.

Hedges store manager Sharon Garofolo said a significant dollar amount already has been donated to buy items as well.

"It's touching and heartwarming," she said. "It really feels great to do something." And the military personnel share everything, so mail days are some of the happiest for the Marines.
"I just think what we're doing is the right thing, and we're so excited," Ms. Garofolo.

Ms. McLellan said the Marines are in the desert in conditions most people can't imagine.
They have no kitchens and the meals are pre-packaged military issued. She sends her son tuna for protein.

They shower with bottled water and wipes, she said. Their clothes are not being laundered, so she regularly sends her son socks and underwear for hygiene reasons, Ms. McLellan said.
"They look forward to getting anything from home," Ms. McLellan said. "And they share it with everyone. It boosts their morale," she said.

Donated items can be brought to the store between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 13 N. Franklin St. Anyone who donates items will receive a free raffle ticket.

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 17, the store will host a Heather Moore jewelry trunk show and the raffle will be held during the event. Winners need not be present.

A wall of well wishes at the store displays all the personal notes of encouragement to the Marines brought in by customers and visitors. The notes will be included in the boxes shipped to the Marines.

Food items that are enjoyed by the military personnel include any pre-packaged food such as tuna and chicken in easy-open cans, beef jerky, protein and granola bars, small bags of nuts, candy, dried fruit, hot chocolate packets and instant oatmeal packets.

Practical items include white crew socks, eye drops, lip balm, sun-block sticks, dental floss, travel-size mouthwash, soft packages of Wet Ones wipes, bug-repellent wipes, AAA and AA batteries and AT&T; international phone cards.

Paperback books, magazines, disposable cameras, hand-held electronic games and miniature board games are also appreciated by the military.

A complete list of much-needed items is available at the store. For more information, call Hedges at (440) 247-2344.

April 13, 2010

Marines try unorthodox tactics to disrupt Afghan opium harvest

CAMP LEATHERNECK, AFGHANISTAN -- U.S. Marines are mounting an intensive effort to disrupt the opium harvest in the former Taliban enclave of Marja by confiscating tools from migrant workers, compensating poppy farmers who plow under their fields and collaborating with Drug Enforcement Administration personnel to raid collection sites.


By Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The steps amount to one of the most novel U.S. attempts to crack down on a key part of Afghanistan's drug trade while seeking to minimize the impact on individual farmers, many of them poor sharecroppers who face economic peril if they cannot harvest or sell their crops.

The plan to pay farmers, who will receive $120 for each acre of tilled fields, prompted a tense debate among Marine officials and civilian reconstruction personnel, some of whom argued that it provides preferential treatment to those in Marja who planted an illegal crop.

But the Marines' program eventually won the approval of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. In a March 30 cable to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, she called the effort "the best decision in the face of an array of less-than-perfect options."

The Obama administration ended a program to eradicate poppy fields, saying it would drive farmers into the hands of the insurgency. Instead, the military and DEA operations here have been directed toward catching traffickers and drug kingpins and toward interdicting shipments of opium and processed heroin.

"When we went into Marja, we didn't declare war on the poppy farmer," said Brig. Gen. Lawrence D. Nicholson, commander of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

But the Marines were left with a dilemma: The poppy crop they think is providing significant income to the Taliban again began to increase after a significant drop last year.

Marja, a 155-square-mile area in Helmand province, remains home to the country's largest concentration of poppy fields. Leaving them alone did not make sense to the Marines.

Even if the Marines had done nothing, the farmers would probably have faced serious difficulties. In the past, an estimated 60,000 migrant workers descended upon Marja to help with the harvest, but many might not come this year because more than 3,000 U.S. and Afghan forces are in the area. Also, the opium bazaars, where farmers sell their crops, have been shuttered.

The Marines have said they will block main roads and turn back migrant workers arriving for the harvest, due to begin within a matter of weeks.

To avoid discriminating against those who did not plant poppies, the new program is open to all farmers in Marja. But poppy farmers do not have to prove they did not harvest their opium, only that their fields have been plowed under. Marine officials believe cash-strapped poppy farmers will be the program's principal beneficiaries.

Those are people the Marines need to win over if Marja is to become stable. "If we hadn't done anything, we'd be fighting farmers at a time when we need to establish governance," said John Kael Weston, the State Department political adviser to the Marine brigade.

Weston, who helped to develop the program, said the payments are designed to provide farmers some of what they would have made from selling their crops had the Marines not entered the area. The funds are also intended to help farmers transition to planting other crops.

"We've disrupted the economic cycle of Marja," he said. "If the farmers don't have money, it will affect the shopkeepers and everyone else."

Some officials at the Helmand provincial reconstruction team, which is run by Britain and the United States, argued that the Taliban would levy taxes on farmers who accept the payments. They also said the payments would create "a disequilibrium" with other parts of the province.

Marine officials insisted the payments are a one-time program because of the unique circumstances associated with the military operation. "If you don't do something special, we would have lost a very small window of opportunity," said Col. Michael Killion, the brigade's operations officer.

The Marines expect to spend about $12 million on the initiative, which will be paid for with funds from the Defense Department's Commander's Emergency Response Program.

As of Sunday, 730 farmers had signed up, Marine official said. Payments will be made only after U.S. or Afghan security forces verify that the land has been plowed.

Afghan soldiers and police, backed up by Marines, have begun setting up checkpoints on access roads to Marja to dissuade migrant harvesters from entering the area. The security forces intend to confiscate any harvesting tools, Marine officials said.

The DEA, which has steadily increased its presence in Afghanistan over the past year, intends to work with Afghan counternarcotics forces to identify and target buyers and traffickers seeking to smuggle opium out of Marja. That effort, which will involve extensive aerial surveillance, will be the agency's largest-ever operation in the country.

Interim Kyrgyzstan leader: Manas will stay

By Yuras Karmanau - The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday Apr 13, 2010 13:28:52 EDT

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan — Kyrgyzstan’s interim leader told The Associated Press on Tuesday that her government will extend the lease of a U.S. air base key to the war in Afghanistan.

To continue reading:


Marine celebrates "Alive Day"

A local Marine who survived a devastating injury during a tour in Iraq marks a milestone with a new plan to complete a marathon. Lori Chung has more on how a fellow Marine is helping him to make his mission.

ELLENVILLE, N.Y. -- Marine Sergeant Eddie Ryan is used to defying the odds.

Click above link for inspiring news video.

By: Lori Chung

Now five years after surviving a devastating injury during a tour in Iraq, Ryan sits next to the man who will help him conquer his next challenge, taking part in the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.

"This is an adventure, this is something we never thought would come to happen in our lives, especially Eddie," said Angie Ryan.

Five years ago, Ryan was shot twice in the head during a tour in Iraq. His injuries were so severe, doctors didn't expect him to live. He survived the shooting but suffered a major brain injury that left him unable to walk or talk.

Ryan's life became the subject of an HBO documentary. When fellow Marine Bryan Purcell watched Ryan's story, he said he had to do something to help. He decided to get on a plane and come to see Ryan in person and offered to be his legs in the marathon.

"It's a brotherhood, it's a family. We take care of each other and when a Marine needs something, you do what you need to do to take care of them and their family," said Purcell.

Here at the family home in Ellenville, friends gathered to celebrate Ryan's "Alive Day," the anniversary of the shooting that nearly took his life. Now that Ryan has regained his speech and some limited movement, family members are hoping the marathon will keep him optimistic about his recovery.

When asked what his strategy will be come game day...

"Just sit there," Ryan said with a laugh.

"From what I heard from his friends and family, his humor is still there and everything is still there. He just has some work to go and physical therapy and training and I'm more than happy to be a part of that," said Purcell.

The Ryan family says the outpouring of support has been overwhelming. His mom, Angie, says she'll be front row and center when her son crosses the finish line, a day that will mark another milestone in an incredible journey.

"Here's a Marine who wasn't expected to live and had he lived, the doctor said he would be a vegetable, he would never remember his parents or when he lived or any of that and he remembers it all and just hearing those words in the morning, 'hi mom,' makes everything, all the hard work, just worth it," Angie Ryan said.

Landing Force Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training 2010 Prepares for Embarkation

The last training week before the Landing Force, participating in Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training 2010, will start its embarkation on ship and set sail to their first CARAT exercise, April 12-16.


Landing Force Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Colby Brown
Date: 04.13.2010
Posted: 04.13.2010 11:38

Since early March, the LF has trained as an infantry unit, completed jungle warfare training and planned exercises with four different countries in preparation of its participation in CARAT-2010. Now, they are planning a multi-national exercise while conducting training as a unit for the first time.

"We have pulled from over 33 different sites across the globe, from Japan to Hawaii, to everywhere in the continental United States," said 1st Lt. Christopher Troken, operations officer, Command Element, LF CARAT-2010. "It's fantastic to finally be together as a unit. Putting faces to names and personalities to faces – it's great to finally be able to work as one force."

The main unit providing Marines for the LF is 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, a United States Marine Corps Reserve unit based out of Chicago. The force also includes Marines from Marine Forces Pacific, Marine Forces Reserve, 4th Assault Amphibious Battalion and 4th Combat Engineer Battalion.

Initial planning started in Sept. 2009 and has continued since with planning conferences with participating countries. The LF is scheduled to conduct training with Brunei, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and South Korea.

In each country, exercises are tailored to the nation's size and capabilities and include amphibious assault operations, urban warfare, jungle warfare and small unit training operations. This year, the LF's visit to Cambodia will be the first bi-lateral training exercise the Marine Corps has ever conducted with the Cambodian armed forces.

"It's a huge opportunity for the Marines participating," said Maj. Charles Hawthorne, landing force commander, LF CARAT-2010. "Building relationships with out fellow warriors is the primary mission. Learning from our partners and having the opportunity to impart some of out warrior skills – that's the best way to build relationships."

This exercise is a theater security operation in the Southeast Asian Pacific and helps maintain the relationships with Southeast Asian countries. It helps strengthen skills at every level and allows the participating forces to have a better understanding of how each other completes their mission. This is necessary if they were ever to work together in a real world scenario.

With the embark date drawing near, the Marines of the LF continue to train and prepare themselves for their upcoming bi-lateral exercise. This week, Alpha Company, LF CARAT-2010 will conduct a final training exercise which includes AAV integration, Military Operation in Urban Environment and combat town exercises.

The LF builds unit camaraderie with each finished training exercise and will continue to cohere as a unit through out their participation in the CARAT-2010 exercise.

"As Marines, we're going to these different countries to represent the Marine Corps and America and to make and build relationships," Hawthorne said. "We will show them the kind of professionals we are by being good teachers and good students. We look forward to learning from our partners – because they are professionals as well."

International Medics Treat Injured Afghans

KABUL, Afghanistan - Four Afghan citizens received medical aid from international forces in Afghanistan recently.


ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.13.2010
Posted: 04.13.2010 09:30

Two Afghans were brought to Forward Operating Base Farah in Farah province for treatment by a forward surgical team after an improvised explosive device detonated near a civilian bus in Bala Baluk, yesterday.

One of the patients suffered major injuries to the chest and is currently in critical condition; he was medically evacuated to the Herat Regional Military Hospital. The second patient was treated and released for minor injuries.

Both patients were brought to FOB Farah because a military unit assigned to that base was en route when the IED detonated, and witnessed the incident.

"News like this is always sad, but we would rather spend all day taking care of the patients here, than letting them go without treatment," said U.S Navy Chief Petty Officer Benjamin Hodges, senior enlisted leader, FST Farah. "It gives us a chance to show that we are the good guys."

The details of the incident are still being investigated.

In a separate incident, Afghan national police assisted by U.S. Special Operations Forces provided air medical evacuation for two Afghan children in Uruzgan province, Saturday.

A 2-year-old boy was diagnosed as having a fluid build-up in his lungs, and an 8-year-old suffered from an open elbow fracture after falling from a donkey. The two children, along with their parents, were taken to a U.S. medical treatment facility near the city of Tarin Kowt.

The 2-year-old was transferred to Kandahar Air Field for treatment, and the 8-year-old was treated and has returned home.

Both children are expected to make a full recovery.

Afghanistan Uniform Police Graduate 84 New Recruits

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The Afghan uniform police bolstered its force by 84 new officers following graduation from the Joint Security Academy Shorabak at Camp Leatherneck. This graduation illustrates the progress that Afghanistan is making toward gradually taking full responsibility for its own security.



Courtesy Story
Date: 04.13.2010
Posted: 04.13.2010 10:50
By Petty Officer 1st Class Charles A. Isom, Jr.

JSAS is a U.S. Marine-driven academy designed to train both Afghan Army and police personnel for the Afghan National Security Forces. The fast-paced, eight-week training program offers basic training, as well as advanced training in leadership and technical skills.

"I am very happy I graduated from the academy, it was a very good experience for me and I learned a lot of things," said Abdul Ghani Khaksar, a graduating police recruit.

One of the primary mission objectives of JSAS is to assist the Afghan national security forces with increasing the number of police officers within Task Force Leatherneck, and the Helmand Province, to establish better security, stability and the rule of law in in local communities.

"These students, with the help of a specially selected staff of Marines, have met the standards that overcome the challenges of the highest quality instruction available to them," said Gunnery Sgt. Cody L. Harding, academy first sergeant.

The Marines worked hard to instill pride and patriotism in the new recruits. At the heart of it all, the basic lesson learned was professionalism.

"The instructors were trying to make us professionals ... now I am a professional [officer], I can go to my home and serve my people," said Khaksar.

The road to becoming a member of the ANSF requires a commitment to personal health and fitness, a desire to learn established policing tactics and adherance to the rule of law.

Recruits are medically screened and given a physical fitness assessment. In the early days of training, learning objectives focus on established policing methods, ethics, the rule of law according to the Afghan Constitution, and weapons familiarization.

"Basic ethics classes are provided to the students to eliminate corruption in the Afghan police forces as much as possible," said Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Morh, Academy gunnery sergeant. "Our goal is to give them the background to help them become more reliable and trustworthy police officers," he said.

According to Harding, JSAS modified its curriculum to better train the Afghan police officers. Instructors are focused on developing a well-trained force of professional peace officers who, depending on their level of training, may serve alongside NATO forces and the Afghan national security forces.

The Marines now provide more firearms demonstrations and assess recruits understanding of the learning objectives, especially with regards to ethical issues.

"Now we're giving them a formula, a survivability element for more success," said Morh. "Because of this training, I believe police corruption will decrease," he said.

Recruits must demonstrate proficiency with weapons safety and proper weapons handling skills with the ANSF's weapon of choice – the AK-47. The recruits must also complete range qualifications prior to being taught advance weapons education by the Marines. Advanced training builds on the fundamentals of shooting and provides scenario training to handle situations commonly found in urbanized areas and the battlefield; so that recruits know how to operate between the two possible situations.

"In the past, the extent of training a police officer received was basically, here is your weapon, your badge and what area to patrol... and good luck," said U.S. Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jeffrey Shilansky, the Range Chief.

The last two weeks of the course builds on the principle learning objectives and recruits learn advanced patrolling, shooting, police survivability and policing skills.

The training is considered a real partnership between the Afghan instructors from the National Police Academy in Kabul and U.S. Marines. Instructors placed special emphasis on teaching modern and proven police tactics to the recruits such as how to conduct effective searches, making an arrest, shooting while minimizing exposure in the line of fire, and community policing.

"The Afghans perform the majority of police training because they speak the local languages, while the Marines are the overseers and provide mentoring," said Morh. "When it comes to Corps Values and Ethics though, the Marines take the lead," he stated.

The ceremony honored the 84 recruits for passing all of their learning objectives and signified the beginning of a new era for the recruits in that they are now part of an Afghan security force that comes from different cultural or tribal backgrounds and is joined together to protect all Afghan citizens. For those in attendance at the ceremony, there was a sense of pride for the new Afghan police as evidenced by a look of accomplishment and respect in the faces of the Afghan police officers.

"The pride seemed to develop very quickly in eight short weeks," said Morh.

Rep.: Hold rules of engagement hearing now

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Apr 13, 2010 9:39:03 EDT

A congressman whose district includes Camp Lejeune, N.C., wants fellow lawmakers to review the rules of engagement used by NATO forces in Afghanistan, saying “they have proved too often to be fatal” to U.S. troops.

To continue reading:


Pocket-Sized Pieces of Mind: Deployed Marines Keep Reminders of Home, Luck and Faith Close to Their Hearts

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan - The young Marine checked his gear for the last time just a few hours before he was to depart friendly lines. The plan was to leave under the cloak of darkness, bound for yet another remote outpost in need of resupply deep in the heart of Helmand province. Regardless of the somewhat safer guise of night, the Marine knew the enemy would be watching ... waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike, as they had so many other times during his last few combat logistics patrols.



1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs RSS
Story by Sgt. Justin Shemanski
Date: 04.13.2010
Posted: 04.13.2010 07:09

He wasn't nervous though.

In addition to the hundreds of other well-trained Marines equipped with an arsenal of some of the world's most advanced weapons systems, he had a couple more personal items to include. Perhaps even more powerful than any rifle or rocket, he made certain these items accompanied him on every mission outside the wire – reminders of home.

Wrapping a brown leather-strapped watch around his wrist and stuffing a tattered letter into the right cargo pocket of his desert Marine Pattern Utility Uniform – both gifts from a loved one back home – were always the final actions the Marine performed before heading out. As far as he was concerned, these simple reminders of life beyond the combat zones of the Middle East were all he needed to keep mission accomplishment in his sights. Upon a closer look, it appeared he was not the only one who carried such items so close to the heart.

Warriors have carried personal tokens into battle since wars have been waged, and the practice continues among the Marines deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Dangling from a piece of lightly "moon-dusted" trim within a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected All-Terrain Vehicle, a set of dog tags accompanied by a small silver and green cross and a photographic metal tag with an inscription that reads "Semper Fidelis – I will always love you" is found.

The items belong to Lance Cpl. Zech Stimson, a motor transportation operator with Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), who figures it never hurts to have a piece of home around for good luck.

"My wife got it made for me right before I left," said the 19-year-old native of Lapeer, Mich. "I told her I would keep it with me at all times and so far it hasn't left my sight. I also keep a photo of her with me too."

When asked why troops carry such things with them, Stimson noted memories of friends and family as a strong motivation to press through the hardships common throughout combat tours.

"I think it's a comfort thing," he said. "When things get hard, or you get a little scared, it's good to have something familiar with you to put things into perspective; reminders of good times."

Fellow CLB-6, 1st MLG (FWD) Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas Randolph, a logistics vehicle system operator, wears a pendant given to him by his mother for good luck.

"When I was home on pre-deployment leave, my mom noticed that I had two dog tags on the same chain and she asked why," said the 21-year-old native of Wayne, W.Va.

Randolph proceeded to spin the somewhat prolific yarn to her which details how the first tag is left attached to the primary chain around the neck, and the second "bag tag" is placed within a fallen troop's jaw for recovery at a later point in time. Naturally, his mother wasn't too thrilled to hear this, so she made him a deal.

"She offered to trade a pendant that she had always kept for good luck for my second dog tag, and when I get home, if all goes well, we will trade back," said Randolph. "I haven't taken it off since. We've always been really close and by keeping it with me, it feels like she is watching over me in some way. It makes me feel more secure out here doing what we need to do."

In addition to luck, some Marines, like Lance Cpl. James Vanvalkenburg, a motor transportation operator with Bravo Company, CLB-6, 1st MLG (FWD), look no further than their own faith to safely guide them through the valley of the shadow of death.

Two religious challenge coins, which he received during pre-deployment training at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., have accompanied him on each of the dozen missions he has participated in since touching down in country in late January.

"I've always been pretty religious. I attend church often back home, and as often as I am able to out here depending on operational requirements," said the 28-year-old native of Athens, Ga. "This is an easy way for me to always carry the Lord's blessing with me."

"It's easy to lose touch with your faith out here and this is a durable, tangible reminder for me."

To Lance Cpl. Mark Malarkey, a heavy equipment mechanic with Alpha Company, CLB-6, 1st MLG (FWD), trusty pieces of gear in the form of haggard boots and recruit training-issued dog tags provide him with more peace of mind than any higher power or gift of good luck.

"I wore these boots during a deployment to Iraq last year which included being mortared [several] times in one month, so I make sure I wear them every time I head out here," said the native of Brooklyn Park, Minn., as he kicked his visibly worn boots against his truck. "So far, so good..."

The variations of these precious items found here are endless, but they all seem to represent one common theme. Whether it's a symbol of a higher power from the Heavens or something a little more worldly in the form of well-worn combat boots, it appears nothing is ruled out when it comes to a safe passage through Helmand province and beyond.

Gates Expresses Confidence in Continued Manas Access

ABOARD A MILITARY AIRCRAFT, April 13, 2010 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates expressed confidence today that political upheaval in Kyrgyzstan won’t cause the United States to lose use of an air base that’s critical to supplying operations in Afghanistan.


By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Gates told reporters traveling with him to Peru he has no reason to believe that Krygyzstan’s new leader, Roza Otunbayeva, will renege on the lease for the transit center at Manas. Otunbayeva took power during unrest last week that ousted President Kurmanbek Makiyev.

“Everything I have been able to see or read suggests that there is a willingness to leave Manas open and to continue allowing our use out of it along the lines of the terms of the agreement,” Gates said.

He emphasized, however, that the United States has other options to supply troops in Afghanistan in the event that the agreement falls through. “We looked at a lot of alternatives last year when we were negotiating new base arrangements,” he said.

The United States renegotiated its lease for the base last year, tripling its rent when Kyrgyzstan threatened to cancel the lease agreement.

“There are other alternatives” to Manas, Gates said today. “I don’t want to get into the details, but there are other approaches … and facilities that we can use.”

Gates expressed hope these alternatives won’t be needed, noting that they would be more expensive and logistically challenging than the transit center at Manas, just outside the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek.

Gates also noted the opening of the northern distribution network, which, along with ground routes through Pakistan, now provides much of the logistics support for Afghanistan operations.

“We have now delivered over 10,000 containers by the northern distribution network, which is a huge accomplishment,” he said.

Officials Explain Afghanistan's Complexity

WASHINGTON - The hurdles to be overcome in Afghanistan are no simple matter, the director of communications for NATO and U.S. forces there told reporters traveling with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen when the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited earlier this month.
"Afghanistan is a complicated place," Navy Rear Adm. Greg Smith said.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs RSS
Story by Jim Garamone
Date: 04.13.2010
Posted: 04.13.2010 11:51

Smith and others working in Kabul spoke of the complex "human terrain" of Afghanistan and the challenges facing the coalition as forces work to provide security and to train Afghans to take over responsibility for the mission.

Knowing the players and how they relate to each other is tremendously important, Smith said. The family is the center of life in the nation, he explained -- not the nuclear family of Western thought, but the extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins twice-removed, and so on.

Families form the basis of the country's tribal culture. Tribal leaders are the law-givers and judges in most rural parts of the country, the admiral said. Each town has tribal elders who work together to run the area. The concept goes back to an earlier time, and these traditional ties are important to the very traditional population.

In many parts of the country, it is a world lit only by fire. Scenes of village life seem unchanged from biblical times. Afghanistan has an agrarian economy, with little evidence of progress in planting, fertilizing and irrigation techniques. On the surface, it's as if 2,000 years just didn't happen. Blood feuds can last through generations. In winter, the animals live in the homes with the families. The literacy rate is about 28 percent for men and 5 percent for women.

A bazaar with men slaughtering lambs on one side of the street will have a stall selling cell phones on the other. Straight down the middle of the street travels a motorcycle with three young men on it. The people want schools and medical facilities and roads – and they want them now.

And the way to do it, Smith said, is through building on traditional Afghan methods. Shuras are the way the people get their concerns aired and discussed and acted upon. The shura is like a New England town meeting, where all can come and speak. The leaders of the local shuras then move to district meetings, and so on up the line.

"This is how governance is done in southern Afghanistan," said Frank Ruggiero, the top U.S. civilian official in that region.

No constitution governs how shuras are composed or when they must be held. A shura can be truly representative of an area, Ruggiero explained, or it can be manipulated by warlords, elders or tribal leaders. "The more [people] you include, the more likely there will be a body addressing the complaints of the people," he said.

But the traditional process has problems, he said. In some parts of the country, 30-plus years of war has obliterated the traditional ways of doing things and the people who could implement them. In others, certain tribes have taken over the process and frozen out people from other tribes.

Generally, Ruggiero said, the areas with workable shura systems had good contacts with the provincial and national government. Other areas, he added, "are the areas susceptible to Taliban intimidation and rule."

Shuras are the way forward, Ruggiero said, and security is necessary for the system to work. "The tribes on the fence want security, access to justice and economic activity," he explained. "If you provide those things, the tribes on the fence will be less supportive of the Taliban."

Officials throughout southern Afghanistan referred to a "thirst for security" in the region. If the national and provincial government can't or won't provide it, a senior military official said, speaking on background, the people will turn to the Taliban. "If it's a choice between a brutal warlord or a corrupt official or a police chief that's shaking them down or the Taliban," he explained, they'll opt for the Taliban, because they can deal with the Taliban."

That's because the Taliban are overwhelmingly local, he explained. "Three quarters of Taliban fight within just a couple of miles from their homes," he said.

The problem, officials said, comes down to a lack of government capacity to provide services. The population is disenfranchised, and the lack of good governance contributes to this problem. Local, provincial and national government has only spotty success in establishing the rule of law and justice and in delivering basic services. If the government cannot do this, officials said, various power brokers will step in and fill the vacuum.

Given that security is necessary for progress, training the Afghan security forces is a priority for coalition forces. Police have a terrible reputation in Afghanistan; officials in Kabul and Kandahar said the police were "taken off the street, given a badge and told to police the area," an official said. The pay was not enough to support a family, so the local police turned to extortion to make up the difference.

In Marjah, the site of the latest offensive against the insurgents, the people insisted that the government get the corrupt local police out of the area as one of the preconditions for allowing operations to take place.

Operations in Marjah, and now in Kandahar, are conducted by Afghan Civil Order Police – a national force based on the Italian Carabiniere model -- and the people trust them. The training effort in Afghanistan also is addressing the shortfalls in the police, and officers now must be trained before walking the beat. In addition, the police now have pay parity with the Afghan army.

8-year-old Afghan woman slain in campaign of fear

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A gunman lying in wait shot and killed an 18-year-old woman as she left her job at a U.S.-based development company Tuesday, casting a spotlight on a stepped-up campaign of Taliban intimidation against women in this southern city where U.S. troops plan a major operation in the coming weeks.


By KATHY GANNON (AP) – April 13, 2010

Although there was no claim of responsibility and police said the motive for the attack was unclear, Taliban militants have been particularly harsh with women who work for foreign organizations or attend school. Bands of thugs are increasingly harassing women who want jobs, education and their own style of clothing, women and aid workers say.

In Tuesday's attack, the gunman emerged from a hiding place and shot the woman, whose first name was Hossai, after she stepped out of her office building, said deputy police chief Fazle Ahmed Shehzad. Hossai died at the hospital, and the assailant escaped.

Hossai worked for Development Alternatives, Inc., a Washington-based global consulting firm that "provides social and economic development solutions to business, government, and civil society in developing and transitioning countries," according to its Web site.

Eight years after the U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban from power, fear again dominates the lives of many young women and girls in the violent south, the stronghold of a revived Islamist insurgency that curbed women's rights when it ruled most of the country until the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

"Every day the security situation gets worse and worse," said Ehsanullah Ehsan, a clean-shaven man who has devoted the last 16 years to educating girls, first in the remote border regions of Pakistan and since 2002 in Kandahar.

Ehsan is head of the Afghan Canadian Community Center, which provides vocational training and schooling to men and women. He says each day brings another story of threats against his female students. While many of the threats come from the Taliban, others are from criminals and even police.

Harassment of women comes against the backdrop of a general deterioration of law and order in Kandahar, a city of nearly a half million people.

The aim of the upcoming operation by NATO and Afghan troops is to clear Kandahar of Taliban fighters, who threaten and intimidate those who do not follow their strict interpretation of Islam, and to bolster the local police force, which appears incapable of stopping petty crime that is rampant in the city.

In the best of times, lives of women in conservative Afghanistan are far more restricted than in the West, especially in rural areas where a woman's place is in the home and beneath the all-encompassing burqa. Since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, however, women in urban areas like Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif and Jalalabad have more choices — with some in parliament, government and business.

Even in Kandahar, the major city of the ultraconservative south, women say restrictions eased in the first years after the Taliban were gone. But as the Islamist movement began to rebound in 2003, pressure on women to adhere to strict Islamist and Afghan traditions increased — with little protection from the ineffectual and corrupt Afghan police.

Ehsan told of one student whose family was warned by a shopkeeper to keep their daughters indoors and to let them leave only if they are wearing a burqa.

"The shopkeeper knocked on her parents' door and said: 'If you let her go out with her face showing and something happens to her, you have been warned and it will be her own fault,'" recalled Ehsan. "Why is it that every time it is the girls and the women who are targeted in our society?"

He said some threats come from uniformed men and young thugs who "tease the girls and make sexual demands." In the last six months, he believes more such threats have come from the Taliban, who warn women and girls not to go to school or work for foreign organizations.

Sara, 34, said her family is demanding that she quit her $1,300-a-month job with an international organization because the risks are too great, even though her salary is about six times what a policeman in the city earns. She refused to allow her surname or employer to be identified because of fears for their safety.

Ironically, Sara had been one of the few women allowed to work in Kandahar when the Taliban ruled. She taught at one of the handful of girls' schools the Taliban permitted. The school trained nurses for the city's Mir Wais Hospital.

Now, Sara thinks her job as an office worker is just too dangerous.

She and other women interviewed at the Afghan Canadian Community Center were largely skeptical that the coming NATO-Afghan offensive in Kandahar would succeed where eight years of military operations against the insurgents had largely failed to bring a lasting peace.

"In eight years they have done nothing. How is it that they couldn't find (the Taliban) with all their equipment? I heard they had equipment that could see people in a room but they can't find the Taliban," said Gila Bibi, a business management student. "Corruption is in every group, and every group is our enemy — the Taliban, the government, the police."

Hella Popal, a pretty 20-year-old who studies English at the center and dreams of becoming a doctor, says she has been threatened but she doesn't know whom to blame.

"Sometimes we have threats. The thing is there is no security here. I don't know who is making the threats," she said. "I am confused and I am afraid."

Saqina Sikanderi, a feisty teenager taking online courses at the center, criticizes the government, NATO and the Taliban.

"This situation is bad because we have corruption in our government, and teachers don't get paid enough. The police need more salary so they aren't corrupt. But we still say they are better than the Taliban," she said. "I am here. It is dangerous but I am here and I am getting an education. I couldn't before. The Taliban wanted women only to stay inside their home and get married."

But Sikanderi is not convinced she can ever thrive as an educated woman in Afghanistan.

"Maybe though I will go to a foreign country when I get my education if it is still not secure here," she said.

Associated Press Writer Noor Khan contributed to this report

FROM ONE TROOP TO ANOTHER: Girl Scouts sending giant care package to Destin Marine in Afghanistan

A Destin Marine deployed to Afghanistan is about to get a sweet surprise from Girl Scout Troop 304.



April 13, 2010 1:19 PM
Tosha Sketo, The Destin Log

The scouts, all students at Destin Elementary School, have been working hard for months to treat Sgt. Jeffery McDowell and his platoon to a shipment of their famous cookies. The girls have been knocking on doors, making calls and sitting outside of Wal-Mart with their wares since Jan. 1, asking people to buy cookies and donate them to the soldiers.

“It was cold and fun,” 4th grader Jordan Flint said of hawking cookies outside of Wal-Mart last winter. “But it was definitely worth it.”

The scouts sold a total of 2,600 boxes of cookies this year, selling their last box on March 21. All their leftover cookies, as well as those people bought and donated to the platoon, will be shipped out at the end of this week. The marines will also get a stack of handmade cards from the girls.

“I think they’ll be really happy,” Jordan said. “I feel thankful that they do so much for us.”

And McDowell has done much for his country. He entered ROTC in high school, graduated at 17 years old and convinced his mom to sign him into service.

“He would have it no other way than for us to sign him into the Marines at 17,” said McDowell’s mom and Destin Water Users accounting clerk Sandra McDowell. “He was just dedicated to the country, and to God and his family. He had that from an early age, the desire to help.”

The 23-year-old Destin Middle School grad, who Sandra describes as a guy who is funny and likes to laugh, was deployed for the second time in November of 2009. His first deployment was to Iraq.

“I’m very proud of Jeffery,” Sandra said. “He’s very caring… and a natural leader.”

While the cookie sales are over, the scouts are still taking donations from anyone who wants to make the Marine’s package a little sweeter. To make a donation, call troop leader Tracy Flint at 850-424-5419.

“It’s a community effort,” said troop mom Monica Autrey.

‘Soldiers of the sea’ return to county

Marines go back to basics with amphibious deployment


Published April 13, 2010

The beach at Camp Pendleton was so close they could have swum it Tuesday, but the Marines were not distracted by the welcome sight of home. Inside the belly of the Rushmore amphibious assault ship floating offshore, a tank crew maneuvered its steel war machine onto a hovercraft parked inside the open mouth of the well deck.

Cpl. Frank Valli, the 23-year-old gunner, popped his head out of the front hatch to steer the M1A1 into position. The look of concentration on his face belied his excitement about the close of a seven-month deployment with the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group and the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

When Valli and more than 4,300 of his fellow troops left San Diego in September, they didn’t head to Iraq or Afghanistan to battle insurgents. They refocused on what the Marine Corps has traditionally done best — operating from Navy ships as a nimble force that can maneuver quickly to help stabilize areas in crises, be it a political uprising or a nation needing humanitarian relief.

“Amphibious operations have always been a core competence of the Marines,” said Col. Gregg Olson, commanding officer of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit at Camp Pendleton. “But after almost a decade of operations ashore, that has caused us to lose a bit of our amphibious expertise. Our commandant has asked us as a Corps to regain that capability.”

That commandant, Gen. James Conway, looked beyond the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts when he envisioned a renewed emphasis in the next 15 years on security activities in unstable regions by his “soldiers of the sea.”

The Bonhomme Richard group spent much of its tour dispersed on independent missions, with each ship operating separately under the command of the Marine Air Ground Task Force and Navy Amphibious Squadron 7.

Tasks included participating in jungle survival exercises in Indonesia, visiting an orphanage in Thailand, operating dental and medical clinics in East Timor, conducting raids and live-fire exercises in the Persian Gulf, and training with the French Foreign Legion in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa.

The Marine Corps is focused on expanding its ground mission in Afghanistan, as about 17,000 troops from Camp Pendleton and supporting bases deploy to that war zone this year.

But eventually, the Corps plans to reconvene its larger, brigade-sized amphibious training operations, honing its amphibious heritage that sets it apart as a combat force.

“Our ships are sovereign U.S. territory. There are plenty of places in the world where we have friends. In places where we don’t, it is useful to have that piece of the U.S. floating over the horizon, with its embarked combat power,” Olson said.

Valli and other Bonhomme Richard Marines’ thoughts had begun drifting homeward as they transferred their floating arsenal from ships to land all day and night Tuesday.

A Navy crew from Assault Craft Unit 5 out of Camp Pendleton secured the M1A1 tank with chains and briefed the Marines on board: You barf, you clean. Then the craft’s massive propellers whirred to life, the air cushion inflated, and the service members roared out of the Rushmore toward the beach.

As the craft glided over the ocean spitting plumes of seawater into the air, the tank commander, Sgt. Joshua Flesher, texted his wife, “Are you here yet?” and anticipated a reunion with their 10-month-old daughter, Destiny.

Then with a gentle bump as the landing craft hit the sand, Flesher and his group ended their multidimensional deployment.

Helicopters and landing craft unloaded other troops at Camp Pendleton or flew them to nearby bases, including Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. The remaining crew of the Bonhomme Richard, Rushmore and Cleveland are expected to dock in San Diego this morning.

As he bobbed on the ocean waiting for his next load, Chief John Meacham, 33, a Navy hovercraft driver, paused during the landing round-robin to admire the view — sunny skies illuminating aquamarine swells rippling around the Rushmore.

“It is a nice day to welcome them home,” Meacham said.

Back at a parking lot on Camp Pendleton, adults grilled hot dogs and children ricocheted off a “bounce house” castle, waiting for the next wave of returning Marines.

“There it is!” a woman announced, pointing to the white bus heading their way. Two young girls cooed in chorus: “Daddy!”

Maj. John Hackel didn’t bother to remove his heavy backpack before kneeling on the pavement and scooping his sons into his arms. Nathan, 6, and Davis, 3, had insisted on wearing their head-to-toe camouflage costumes, making them look like pint-size Marines in their father’s arms.

After giving several hugs and tossing his boys into the air, Hackel finally asked, “Can I hug Mommy now?” Then he stood and kissed his wife, Cristin, while tears streamed down her face.

Nathan and Davis stayed close, holding small American flags that fluttered in the breeze.

Gretel C. Kovach: (619) 293-1293; [email protected]

IJC Operational Update, April 13

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force detained several suspected militants while pursuing a Haqqani facilitator in Khowst this morning.


ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.13.2010
Posted: 04.13.2010 05:06

The combined force went to an open area in Alaqehdari, in the Terezai District, after intelligence information indicated militant activity. During the search they detained the suspected militants for further questioning.

Haqqani commanders have sought to establish strongholds in Khowst province, disrupt the local government and facilitate the movement of fighters, explosives and weapons into the country.

In the Lashkar Gah District of Helmand province this morning, an ISAF patrol found a suicide vest. The vest was destroyed by an explosive ordnance disposal team. In Zabul province last night, an Afghan-international security force searched a compound in Seyyed Jan, in the Qalat District, after intelligence information indicated militant activity. During the search the security force detained two suspected militants for further questioning.

In the Daman District of Kandahar province yesterday, a joint security patrol found a cache containing more than 1,000 anti-aircraft rounds, nine 105mm artillery rounds, two 120mm artillery rounds, 20 mortar rounds, six anti-personnel mines, several grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, 100 cans of 30mm rounds, 10 Afghan national army uniforms and four Afghan national police uniforms. The cache was confiscated by the ANP.

In Helmand yesterday, an Afghan-international security force went to an area near Wazir Kalay, in the Nahr Surkh District, after intelligence information indicated militant activity. The joint force located the man they sought. As the security force approached the him, he threatened the security force and was shot and killed.

The militant was an improvised explosive device facilitator and Taliban sub-commander for the area.

In the Nad-e Ali District of Helmand yesterday, a joint patrol found a cache containing a recoilless rifle, an AK-47 rifle, a Springfield 1903 sniper rifle and hundreds of rounds of small-arms ammunition. The items were confiscated.

In Kunduz yesterday, an Afghan-international security force killed two militants and discovered 60 pounds of drugs. The security force was pursuing a Taliban commander in the Archi district after intelligence information indicated militant activity. During the operation the security force stopped a suspect vehicle. The two vehicle occupants exited the vehicle and the security force assessed their actions as hostile. The militants were shot and killed. A search of the vehicle revealed 60 pounds of opium gum.

Taliban leaders conduct operations in conjunction with other Islamic militant groups with similar goals and interests. The network, like most militant organizations, has direct ties to drug trafficking.

The Taliban use drug smuggling profits to buy guns and explosives to
attack Afghan and coalition forces.

No Afghan civilians were harmed during these operations.

April 12, 2010

Graduation: Carolina in the morning

PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- "Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina in the morning."


April 12, 2010
Staff Writer

As the Parris Island Marine Band played the appropriate song Friday morning, Jan. 15, at the Parris Island graduation ceremony of six platoons, not one of us in the group of educators attending a workshop at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot would have disagreed with the description.

"Pay attention to the parents and their kids and their faces;" note the pride, Maj. Greg Jones had told us before the ceremony.

Having internalized three building blocks of success -- absorbing a foundation of values, ethics and morals; enduring hardships, and taking advantage of opportunities, their reward will be the responsibility of helping others, we were told by military personnel.

"We've been training Marines here since World War I," said Brig. Gen. Frederick Padilla.

"There is a lot of history at Parris Island," he said. "There is almost a mystique here not replicated anywhere else. There is a transformation that occurs ... (recruits) are looking to belong to something bigger than themselves.

"We have the largest percentage of forces deployed," he said. "We make sure that they are ready."

Watching graduation was a privilege, many educators thought, particularly observing first-hand "the pride Marines have, the pride families have, the excitement," University of Akron Wayne College's Carol Pleuss said.

"That was really thrilling. I felt it sitting there," she sad.

"They really did accomplish a great deal," she said, sobered by "what they have to achieve in those 13 weeks. It's just inspiring."

We had evolved with them, as much as possible, in four short days, from standing on the "yellow footprints" to observing components of the Crucible -- a culminating "rite of passage" conducted over 54 hours and involving sleep and food deprivation (just three ready-to-eat meals distributed), 48 miles of travel on foot around the island, a grueling load of gear to carry and 29 problem-solving exercises at 36 stations.

We were allowed to witness part of the Crucible at an event called the Battle of Fallujah, in which we watched recruits fight their way through barbed wire under "enemy fire," simulated by the sound track from the beach landing in the movie "Saving Private Ryan" and an ignited chemical mix.

Finally, at graduation we joined family and friends of recruits in the bleachers as new Marines marched with precision onto the parade grounds.

I had expected something with a lot of pomp and circumstance, along the lines of an Ohio State University commencement ceremony, in which a massive United States flag is raised in dramatically incremental steps over the stadium.

Instead, the formal ceremony featured drills and marching with perfect pivots and seemingly nary a misstep.

The announcer proclaimed graduates had "met and mastered" academic instruction and a rigorous physical training program, while at the same time leaders had instilled core values in them -- "492 success stories," he said, as a single seagull flew carelessly above the grounds.

Bayonets were raised and lowered, and leaders of battalions, one by one, declared, "All present, all accounted for."

They were called Marines for the very first time and wished, "Semper Fidelis, and God bless."

Then, just as if it were a high school commencement, family members and friends stormed the field to be reunited with their sons and daughters and embrace their graduates.

The Way Ahead for Civilian and Military Efforts in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan - On April 11 and 12, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command, and the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan co-hosted an intense interagency review of U.S. civilian and military efforts in Afghanistan for the coming year.


International Security Assistance Force HQ Public Affairs RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.12.2010
Posted: 04.12.2010 02:11

Dubbed a "Rehearsal of Concept Drill," the two-day session brought together senior U.S. officials from Washington, Tampa and Kabul with their partners in Afghanistan, including senior Afghan officials and representatives of key allied nations, to discuss shared challenges and opportunities ahead.

President Karzai met with the group April 11 to offer his government's support to the exercise. Throughout the two days, senior U.S. civilian and military leadership co-chaired working sessions focused on U.S. support for Afghan efforts to improve governance, agriculture, communication, and civ-mil coordination, among other priority areas.

Senior U.S. officials including Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah also participated, as did leaders from 11 Afghan ministries and the Afghan Supreme Court, the military and civilian leadership of NATO-ISAF, and international officials from 11 embassies, the European Union and the United Nations.

Deputy Secretary of State Lew said "We spent the day with our partners listening to their advice as to what we need to do with them in order to be effective. It will and already has changed our thinking and it will continue to."

The ROC Drill enabled U.S., Afghan, and international officials to jointly review implementation plans and resources required for the coming year and provided an opportunity for detailed discussion of our work together to advance critical U.S., international and Afghan priorities. The participants agreed these discussions will make the joint efforts in Afghanistan more effective for the Afghan people.

"These two days were about partnership here in Afghanistan - with U.S., international, and Afghan leaders working together to achieve common objectives, with emphasis on inclusiveness and transparency in all endeavors. We were pleased to have President Karzai join us on Sunday afternoon, along with a number of his Ministers for both days. These were invaluable, very productive sessions," said Central Command Commander Gen. David H. Petraeus.

Summing up the ROC Drill, Special Representative Holbrooke stressed "we made a significant advance in relations between the Afghan government and the United States and our international partners."

Married to the sea: Lewes’ Parker Powell

Wharf deckhand joins Marines

Like the rest of the deckhands at Fisherman’s Wharf, Parker Powell came off the big, white-hulled fishing boats with his arms full. He carried rods in bundles; he helped lug coolers full of ice and dead croaker for out-of-state recreational anglers. With his Sunday-school smile and his yes-ma’am, no-ma’ams, one might think he was just trolling for tips.



Mon, Apr 12, 2010
By Rob Kunzig

That wouldn’t give him enough credit. More often than not, Powell loved being there. Something about him is more at ease being near the sea; someplace like Lewes, where you can clock life by the ebb and flow of the tide.

These days, Powell has traded the wharf’s signature red polo for mottled camouflage and a corporal’s chevrons in the U.S. Marine Corps. On leave from Okinawa, his regulation high-and-tight haircut has grown a little unkempt, curling naturally, making him look boyish and civilian. He hadn’t even been home a week but he cut through the fog of jet lag with the ease of a fish returned to water. “Lewes is always going to be home for me,” he said, “no matter where I live.”

Powell was born in Reading, Pa., but he quickly dismisses his birthplace. He grew up in Lewes, where his grandfather, Dale Parsons, owns Fisherman’s Wharf, one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.

Powell’s worked the boats for longer than he can remember.

“I’ve been pestering people on the boats since I was tiny,” he said. When he was old enough to turn his cultivated charm into tip revenue, Powell learned the knots necessary to rig a fishing line and secure boats to dock pilings.

“You do whatever Dale tells you to,” he said. Some days, that means fishing; others, it means sweltering in an engine room, emerging covered in grease and smelling like diesel fuel.

The normal day – if one could call any day at the Wharf normal – starts with Powell crawling out of bed at 5:30 a.m., dragging himself to the docks and getting yelled at for wearing flip-flops. After a game of musical boats, the crew settles on a vessel and loads the day’s anglers. Then they get underway, the diesel engines grumbling below deck, dawn breaking slowly over the sleepy canal.

When they clear Roosevelt Inlet and enter Delaware Bay, something generally breaks or malfunctions. Unworried, the mates fix it with duct tape.

Under the rising sun, families would drop lines in the water and pull up the bay’s bounty: croaker, weakfish, flounder, oyster crackers, skates – fish. The mates use pliers to unhook the fish and drop them in coolers and buckets, or, if undersized, back in the bay.

“The families make it fun,” Powell said. “You get everything from someone who’s never seen a fish, to the tree-hugger who fishes, but doesn’t like to, you know, catch fish. You get a variety.”

Tips are appreciated, he said, and sometimes help justify a long day under the sun. But really, he said, it’s about the company.

“It’s about being out on the water,” he said, “and working with your best friends. We get paid to catch fish, make people happy and play with kids.”

With such an idyllic setup, one might wonder why Powell ditched it for the Marine Corps. He shrugs it off.

“I joined so my kids could drink at the Legion,” he said, smiling. “Really, I think if you want to have any say in things, you have to fight for what you believe in.”

He realizes his mission statement – which his fellow Marines might rib as “moto,” slang for overly motivated – is a far cry from the kid he was four years ago, a disorganized student determined to flunk out of Massachusetts Maritime Academy. He didn’t gel with the strictly regimented ethos. He recognizes the irony. “I didn’t like the military aspect of it,” he says, smiling tightly. “I’m not lying.”

The difference between the regimented lives of a Mass Maritime student and a Marine, he said, is he couldn’t see any purpose in the former.

“This doesn’t apply to me,” he said. “I mean, I’m not getting shot at.”

Rudderless after finally parting with the academy, Powell mulled the Marine Corps. Helping out at the Wharf was fine enough, and he loved Lewes, but where was he going? When a Marine friend offered to take Powell to a recruiting station, he acquiesced.

He doesn’t necessarily believe in fate, he said, but this was as clear a sign as any.

“When I got there, I said, ‘Just give me the papers,’” he said.

Boot camp sucked, he said, but it could have been worse. The physical punishment and psychological stress a recruit endures at the Marines’ Parris Island, S.C. training grounds is a mind game.

“It’s all mental,” he said. “I kept my mouth shut, learned to laugh at everything and not smile while I was laughing.”

He was selected for Military Occupational Specialty 2887 – Artillery Electronics Technician. Powell can repair nearly anything, he said, but he specializes in a radar system that tracks hostile artillery fire. Within seconds, combat Marines can know where incoming mortars are being fired from, and respond in kind.

He’s a POG, he explained – a Person Other than Grunt, the derisive term applied to anyone who isn’t an MOS 0311, or rifleman.

But every Marine is a rifleman, Powell said, and he proved the point during a live-fire exercise before he left Okinawa, qualifying as expert with a 237 out of 250 on the rifle range.

The score gives him a certain peace of mind – within a month, Powell deploys to Afghanistan, far away from the sea indeed. Surprisingly, he isn’t worried. Like all Marines, he trains for combat, and the promise of danger might be a welcome break from the tedium of Okinawa. But the island was, at least, close to the sea.

“It’s beautiful, dude,” he said. Whenever he had a chance, he’d slip into trunks, strap goggles and a snorkel to his head and slide into the topaz sea, warm as bathwater.

He’d bring a 6-foot long spear, but he never used it. He was fascinated by the reef far below and the way the island shelf plummeted like a canyon into the Pacific. When the whales migrate, he said, you can see them swimming below you, big as submarines.

“I’m good at what I do,” he said. “I like what I do. But it’s not me. I need to be out on the water.”

'First Team' Marines continue training for MEU mission

Pilots and their crews undergo rigorous training to prepare themselves in the event of a crash in a combat zone, but they are not the only personnel who train to be ready. Marines and sailors on the ground and at sea also train to answer the call.


4/12/2010 By Lance Cpl. Benjamin Crilly , Regimental Combat Team 7

Marines with 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, conducted a Tactical Recovery of Aircraft and Personnel exercise at the K2 Military Operations in Urban Terrain facility here March 25.

The Marines trained for the two types of TRAP missions, ground and helicopter, with the Special Operation Training Group here in preparation for deployment with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa, Japan.

Helicopter TRAP missions are essential to the battalion’s mission and are important to expanding the capabilities of a MEU, said Staff Sgt. Robert P. Kerman, the TRAP section leader for 1st Bn., 7th Marines.

“We may have a small fire power base, but we are quick on our feet,” said Kerman, a Klamath Falls, Ore., native. Helicopters are the primary mode of transportation for TRAP missions, and the MEU will be able to use this capability to quickly insert Marines to recover aircraft and personnel.

This training enables the section to establish capabilities and develop multi-mission standard operating procedures for engagements the battalion could face on deployment, said 2nd Lt. Mark S. Edgar, the TRAP force commander.

At SOTG, the goal is to make this training as realistic as possible so the Marines are able to experience stress and chaos as they insert, locate the crews and extract them, said Sgt. Neftaly Estremera, an SOTG instructor from Murphy, N.C.

“The bottom line is when those pilots take off to do their job they have that confidence that no matter what happens, Marines are trained and ready to bring them home,” said Lt. Col. Todd P. Simmons, the battalion commander, and a Watervliet, N.Y., native.

The Marines and sailors of 1st Bn., 7th Marines, continue to expand their operational capabilities in preparation for an upcoming deployment with the 31st MEU later this year. The deployment will mark the battalion’s first sea service expedition in more than a decade.

To connect to and interact with the Combat Center, visit our Facebook page.

Revolving door of multiple tours linked to PTSD

By Sharon Cohen, The Associated Press
Stars and Stripes online edition, Monday, April 12, 2010

It wasn't his first tour in Iraq, but his second and third when Joe Callan began wondering how long his luck would last — how many more months he could swerve around bombs buried in the dirt and duck mortars raining from the skies.

To continue reading:


Key Afghan town still at risk, U.S. general says

Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson says the work to secure Marja, site of a massive February offensive against the Taliban, is far from over.

The safety situation for Afghan villagers remains precarious in Marja, where U.S. Marines and Afghan soldiers mounted a massive assault in February to oust the Taliban from control, the Marine general who led the assault said late Sunday.


By Tony Perry Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
April 12, 2010 | 7:56 a.m.

Speaking by telephone to reporters in the U.S., Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson said that while there are hopeful signs in Marja -- schools reopening, Afghan police patrolling, farmers signing up to grow crops other than opium poppy -- it will be months before the Marja mission can be considered a success.

"It's still a fragile security situation," Nicholson said. "…I think we're off to a good start, but the success or failure of Marja will be determined in the next six months."

Helmand Province Gov. Mohammad Gulab Mangal, speaking after Nicholson, said Taliban fighters continue to threaten residents of Marja.

"They are using the local civilians as targets," he said. "It is very important that we take care of the local civilians."

Two Marine battalions remain in Marja along with Afghan security forces. But insurgents continue to plant roadside bombs in hopes of killing Marines and to intimidate civilians by visiting their homes at night.

Until February's assault, Marja, a collection of farming communities, was considered a Taliban sanctuary. Marja is thick with poppy fields, providing the substance that makes heroin; drug profits help fund the Taliban.

With Marines in the forefront, thousands of U.S. and Afghan troops swept across the area in February, engaging in dozens of prolonged firefights with Taliban fighters barricaded inside houses and hiding in irrigation canals. A dozen Marines were killed, along with several hundred Taliban fighters.

Once the shooting stopped, the U.S. shifted into a counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes winning the support of civilians by strengthening the presence of their local and national government.

For the battle of Marja to influence the overall struggle for control of Afghanistan, the U.S. and Afghan governments will have to move quickly to improve the lot of its citizens, officials have long conceded. The residents of Marja appear more suspicious of the U.S. motives and constancy.

Before the Taliban took control, government in Marja was known as weak and corrupt. As a result, Marja residents are skeptical to the point of hostile toward the provincial government in Lashkagar and the national government in Kabul.

"Right now, it's pretty thin," Nicholson said of the governmental presence in Marja. "We need to do more. … A better test will be 90 days from now, six months from now."

The Taliban, while brutal in its methods, brought a measure of rough justice to Marja that allowed disputes to be settled. The U.S. is pressuring the Afghan government to establish a court system in Marja and the rest of Helmand province.

"It's the one thing that the Taliban has been able to provide that we haven't: immediate rule of law," Nicholson said.

Nicholson's comments came just hours before a formal ceremony at Camp Leatherneck, where he relinquished command after a year of being in charge of all Marines in Afghanistan. Under Nicholson, Marines wrested control of several villages in central Helmand province from the Taliban and assisted efforts to establish civilian governments.

Under the "surge" approved by President Obama, the number of Marines is nearly doubling to 19,000. Nicholson's successor, Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, said Marines will be able to expand their presence.

"We're going to push the insurgency in places that have not been cleaned," Mills told reporters.

Nicholson is set to return to the U.S. within days. He said he is eager to see his family and to visit with wounded and injured Marines.

In the last 12 months in Afghanistan, 85 Marines have been killed and 877 wounded in action.

"Any success we've had in Helmand, we've paid a pretty high price," he said.

2nd MEB Transfers Authority of Southern Afghanistan to I MEF (FWD)

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan – I Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD) assumed command of all Marine operations throughout southern Afghanistan during a transfer of authority ceremony here, April 12, making it the largest Marine command in Afghanistan since the war began nearly a decade ago.



I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd) RSS
Story by Sgt. Heidi Agostini
Date: 04.12.2010
Posted: 04.12.2010 02:02

Brig.Gen. Larry Nicholson, commanding general, Marine Expeditionary Brigade – Afghanistan, transferred his authority to Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, who now serves as the commanding general of I MEF (FWD).

Since spring 2009, MEB-Afghanistan conducted counterinsurgency operations and combat offensives including Operation Khanjar in July 2009 and Operation Moshtarak in February.

The guest speaker was Helmand provincial Gov. Gulab Mangal. Mangal, an ally to coalition forces, had been an instrumental piece in the construction of Afghan national security forces in Helmand province.

"The security situation has been changed," said Mangal. "People have new hope for a bright future. To bring security, peace in Helmand, Marines tried the best to get the trust and confidence of Afghan people. On behalf of the Afghan government and Helmand people, I would like to pay my condolences to family members in the United States for the sacrifice they suffered so that Helmand province can have security and peace. MEB-Afghanistan will be remembered in the history of Helmand and Afghanistan."

Through persistent, personal interaction, the brigade's leadership developed and maintained a high level of trust with the provincial leaders.

"I consider you the coach of this entire team," said Nicholson."You endure tough days. Being the governor of Helmand is hard work. I salute you and your great leadership from all of us who call Helmand home."

Mills praised all service members who fell under MEB-Afghanistan and reminded them of their success, which will have lasting effects on the security of Afghanistan.

"Helmand province is a different place because of their efforts," said Mills. "It's different because of the tactics and success they had on the battlefield. It's different because of the success they had in the governance and economic area. They have truly changed the lives of the Afghan people and they have done that by paying with blood, sweat and tears required to accomplish a great tough mission."

While true success must be achieved by, with and through the Afghan people, MEB-Afghanistan has laid the groundwork for a transition of authority to the Afghan government, in what has been described as one of the most challenging provinces in the nation.

"Fair winds and following seas," said Mills. "Have a safe trip home. Although I know that you truly won't go home. You'll leave a part of yourself here in the province. You'll leave blood of the casualties you suffered, you'll leave the love you had for the Afghan people and the love they had for you. You'll leave appreciated."

Former ‘Idol’ Contestant Serves in Khost

KHOST PROVINCE, Afghanistan, April 12, 2010 – Join the Marines and see the world? Check. Enlist in the Army to serve with the famous Rakkasan Brigade from the 101st Airborne Division? Check. Sing on American Idol? Check. Have a mother who’s a movie star? Check.


By Army Maj. S. Justin Platt
Task Force Rakkasan

Almost unbelievable, these events are part of the life story of Army Pfc. Cody Anderson, 25, a communications equipment operator for the 101st Airborne Division’s Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 3rd Brigade, stationed at Forward Operating Base Salerno here.

As a member of the operations section for the brigade tactical operations center, Anderson’s primary duties include operating a variety of secure radio systems and managing information from the computer system that keeps Task Force Rakkasan up to date with the latest tactical information. But that’s just his day job.

Anderson also has other talents that reach far beyond typical ideas many people have of soldiers. He learned to sing at an early age, a credit to the creativity of his family when he was growing up in Hemet, Calif., just north of San Diego.

“I love to sing,” he said. “I come from a very talented family. My mom was an actress, and my dad sings - my siblings [too].

It’s no surprise that Anderson a recording artist.

“A buddy and I came out with a CD about six years ago while I was going to school,” he said. “It wasn’t too big, but it did pretty well. I was into acoustic pop, you know, just me and a buddy and a guitar. We used to do little gigs and shows around Salt Lake [City].”

The CD, titled “The Assumptions That Will Fail Us,” was inspired by the duo’s challenges in “dealing with new emotions and new relationships -- stuff we hadn’t dealt with before,” Anderson said. “We were both getting over heartaches at 19 years old, so that phrase had to go along with love and relationships.”

In July 2008, Anderson and his sister, Jenna Anderson, tried out for “American Idol” when the hit TV show conducted auditions in Salt Lake City, but they didn’t get the “golden ticket” to Hollywood.

“I believe we did good, but as far as I know, we were not featured on the televised episode,” he said. “We weren’t featured guests, but my parents called me up screaming one day that they had seen us [on television],” he said. “I had already been kicked off, so I really wasn’t excited.”

But since his mother had been on television before, her joy was understandable. His mother, Dana (Kimmell) Anderson, became known while starring in the 1982 horror film “Friday the 13th, Part 3” as the person who killed Jason.

Though he’s a talented singer with an actress as a mother, Anderson decided to forgo a career as a performer to join the military. His desire to serve his country was so strong he joined the Marines at 17 while still in high school. He was medically discharged from the Marines after two and a half years, he said, but he knew his military service wasn’t complete.

“My obligation to the nation wasn’t fulfilled yet, so since the Marines weren’t accepting the prior service back, I tried for the Army,” he said. “I had nothing against the Army, and I was infantry in the Marines and I wanted to be infantry again.”

Between his service in the Marines and joining the Army, Anderson enrolled at LDS Business College in Salt Lake City, but transferred to Brigham Young University after a year. He stayed in school for awhile, but the call to return to military service was hard to ignore, he said.

“It was really itching me that I needed to fulfill my obligation, and I kind of left before I finished [school],” he said. “But I’m going to go back and finish.” With about three more semesters to go before completing his bachelor’s degree, he added, he plans to return to school at Utah Valley University to study history, with an emphasis on American military history.

Anderson said his parents have been very supportive of his second military career as an infantryman, a fact that gives him strength as he reflects on his accomplishments so far. He doesn’t regret his time in the Marine Corps, he added, but sees his new job here with Task Force Rakkasan as a challenge he readily accepts.

“I never deployed with the Marine Corps, so that’s one of the reasons I’m [in Afghanistan] right now,” he said. “I still had a sense of duty that I needed to fulfill. I’m very grateful to be here. I feel like every person should serve their country, and so I gave up my cozy little lifestyle just so I can be here and contribute to this cause,” he said.

Commander looks to maintain momentum

Mills wants to keep Taliban ‘on their heels’

By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Monday Apr 12, 2010 8:59:49 EDT

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — As thousands of Marines continue flowing into Afghanistan, their eventual commander, Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, is busy organizing a new Marine-led command to oversee coalition forces operating in the southwestern part of the country.

To continue reading:


Combat Docs: 'We Fix Them Up and Get Them Back to Duty'

CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan – When service members are injured in a combat zone, a group of medical professionals work tirelessly to keep them alive.



1st Marine Logistics Group Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Khoa Pelczar
Date: 04.12.2010
Posted: 04.12.2010 08:20

Corpsmen and doctors with Alpha Surgical Company, 1st Medical Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), continue doing what they do best, treating and aiding injured service members, local nationals, Afghan National Army soldiers and enemy combatants, through the use of Shock Trauma Platoons and Forward Resuscitative Surgical Systems.

A Shock Trauma Platoon is a field trauma center with an emergency room of four beds, two surgery suites and a pre and post-operating room, allowing injured troops to get the medical care they need as quickly as possible. A Forward Resuscitative Surgical System is the operating room connected to the Shock Trauma Platoon. Together, the team provides medical care and treatment for service members at forward operating bases until they're strong enough to get back into the fight.

"Our job down here is life saving, limb saving surgery," said Cmdr. Kevin E. Mann, the officer in charge of a FRSS for Alpha Surgical Co., 1st Medical Bn., 1st MLG (FWD). "When we have patients come in here, we bring them to the emergency room area and treat them until they [begin to stabilize]. Then we take them to the operating room where they undergo surgery. Once we stabilize them in the operating room, we'll fly them to one of the higher level of care hospitals. We usually don't even wake them up from their anesthesia before they get to the next hospital."

According to Mann, 41, from Boise, Idaho, as a field trauma center, they stabilize the patients until they are evacuated to a higher level of care at Camp Bastion or in Kandahar province.

In addition to treating service members, they also treat wounded local nationals, including children.

"We're the busiest Shock Trauma Platoon," said Lt. Cmdr. Wendy Stone, senior nurse with Alpha Surgical Company, 1st Medical Bn., 1st MLG (FWD). "We've had several children with burns. On two different occasions, little kids have brought [improvised explosive devices] into the house, thinking they're toys and [the IEDs have exploded in the house]. We have to hold them for a week or two so we can treat the burn because there's not a lot of alternative for us to send the families."

They even treat wounded insurgents.

"Fortunately, it's our moral obligation to try to serve the enemy just as much as the United States Marines and sailors," said Lt. Cmdr. William S. Byers, a trauma nurse with Alpha Surgical Co., 1st Medical Bn., 1st MLG (FWD), 41, from Port Huron, Mich.
The doctors and corpsmen have seen nearly 500 patients since Nov. 15, 2009, said Stone, 44, from Green Bay, Wis. Not all of the patients have had traumatic injuries. Some of the patients treated had shoulder injuries, non-life-threatening gunshot wounds and other injuries.

"It's nice to come out here and be available to these young men and women, not only Marines but Afghan nationals, soldiers and [the] Afghan [National] Army," said Blackwell, 42, from Mobile, Ala. "They come in injured, hurt and scared. I feel like I can bring a calming influence to them, ease their suffering and give them reassurance that they're going to be okay."

The doctors and corpsmen help the patients go through the surgery safely and pain free, said Blackwell. Keeping the patient's body and mind stabilized is an important part of a surgical operation, he added.

"I like my job," said Mann. "I like being out here because it's where I am really needed. We fix them up and help them get back to duty. It's a satisfying job knowing you're helping people."

U.S. seeks to ease strained relations with Afghanistan

The Obama administration realizes it has little choice but to mend differences as there is no obvious leadership alternative aside from Karzai -- and it's a particularly bad time for a diplomatic spat

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan
Senior American officials on Sunday sought to smooth over a sharply quarrelsome interlude in U.S.-Afghan relations, with the special U.S. envoy to the region describing President Hamid Karzai's administration as "a government we can work with."


By Laura King
April 12, 2010

Speaking to reporters in Kabul, Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, pointed to Karzai's participation in a major planning conference with Afghan, American and coalition officials.

"We have a good relationship with this government," said Holbrooke, who has verbally clashed with Karzai in the past.

Using strikingly consistent language, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates delivered the same message in talk show interviews taped Friday and aired Sunday.

After months of tension, acrimony between Karzai and the Obama administration flared into the open this month. The two sides engaged in a tense weeklong exchange that culminated in a pointed White House hint last week that an invitation to the Afghan leader to visit Washington in May might be withdrawn if his angry outbursts continued.

Karzai had publicly criticized the West for what he characterized as meddling in Afghanistan's internal affairs, and blamed foreigners for massive fraud in last summer's presidential election. If such pressure continued, he said in what some listeners in a closed-door meeting described as a rhetorical flourish, he might just join the Taliban.

The White House called Karzai's comments disturbing, which seemed to further inflame the dispute. In recent days, though, U.S. officials have gone out of their way to alleviate ill feeling, describing Karzai as an important partner.

The effort to turn down the temperature appears to reflect the knowledge that the United States has little choice but to mend its differences with Karzai, in part because there is no obvious leadership alternative, and because this is a particularly bad time for a diplomatic spat.

A major Western military offensive is already in its early stages in the Taliban heartland of Kandahar province, and Karzai's cooperation is regarded as key. He has visited Kandahar in the company of U.S. Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of Western forces in Afghanistan.

In his remarks Sunday, Holbrooke pointed to a series of joint appearances by Karzai and McChrystal.

Gates, on ABC's "This Week," touted Karzai's "very positive relationship" with McChrystal, and noted that the Afghan leader had a "domestic audience" to consider -- suggesting that might account for stridently anti-Western language.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Clinton said not only the U.S. but Karzai also faced "a very difficult situation" in Afghanistan.

Park offers taste of freedom to women in Afghan capital

It’s a place for learning as well as play, with on-site classrooms teaching sewing and farming

KABUL — On a recent day when the sun was finally strong enough to dry the Afghan capital’s muddy streets, Habiba Sarwe sought her husband’s permission to visit a spot that her daughter and all the neighborhood wives were talking about: a park, with swings, benches, flowers and a gazebo. A park for women only.

Click above link for photo.

By Emily Wax / The Washington Post
Published: April 12. 2010 4:00AM PST

“Please, let me go,” begged Sarwe, who is 44 but whose tired eyes make her look far older. “It’s a good place.”

Her husband decided it would be OK. So that afternoon, Sarwe put on her favorite fitted gray wool suit under her shapeless, head-to-toe burqa and set out with three of her children for the dusty park on the edge of Kabul.

Once inside the two metal gates, she pushed up the visor of her burqa and stood still, the sunshine warm on her face, while her two daughters and youngest son raced to the swings. She smiled as they soared higher and higher.

A place of their own

“This is the one place that’s ours,” said an out-of-breath Fardia Azizmay, 19, Sarwe’s older daughter, as she jumped off a swing and looked over a pile of a dozen blue burqas, tossed off by women as they entered. “For us, home is so boring. Our streets and shops are not for women. But this place is our own.”

The small park, protected by a half-dozen gun-toting guards, has become a favorite destination for Kabul women wanting a safe, quiet place to meet with friends, complain about their husbands, discuss their kids, line one another’s eyes with black kohl or just shed their burqas and play, female activists here say.

But play is not the only draw. The park, paid for by the country of India, also feels like a miniature college campus. India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association, which runs it, has set up a training center on the grounds for mothers and daughters who may never have been to school.

In classrooms overlooking the park, women learn embroidery and organic farming. They pickle tomatoes, bottle jam and sew at a row of new machines under a poster proclaiming, “Need Is Ability.” It is all part of a $1.3 billion Indian aid program for neighboring Afghanistan that includes building roads and power plants as well as reaching out to women and girls through clinics and classes.

‘No women feel safe’

Although women make up more than half of Afghanistan’s population, fear of fundamentalist militant groups has caused them to nearly disappear from public life, especially in the rural south, where U.S.-led forces are trying to root out Taliban fighters. Some of those insurgents still pressure women to cover up, and to avoid schools and workplaces, defying the Afghan constitution’s guarantee of equal rights for both sexes.

“I get threatening calls almost every day asking why I think I am important enough to work in an office,” said Fouzia Ahmed, 25, a government secretary in Kabul. “The truth is, no women feel safe here. We are always threatened. That’s why we need the eyes of the world.”

Several foreign governments seeking to exert influence here are focusing on Afghan women in the face of what some activists say is the neglect of their needs by President Hamid Karzai’s administration.

This month, 40 female Marines will deploy to Afghanistan as the first full-time “female engagement teams” — four- and five-member units that will visit rural women in their homes. Typically, Afghan women are not allowed to speak to men other than their husbands or relatives.

Germany and Italy also have helped fund computer schools for girls and family health programs.

India steps in

But it is India, with its long-standing cultural ties to Afghanistan, that has done the most.

“Our classes and our park are so busy — but only because India went to the Kabul slum areas and talked to the women about coming,” said Tamana Ghaznewil, 19, an Afghan who works at the park. “For many women, having someone come from another country and offer this little garden was really new. Some asked me, ‘Why would they see me, an Afghan woman, as important?’”

On a recent afternoon, Sarwe described what the park represents to her. “It means a break from cooking and cleaning,” she said. But it also represents opportunity.

Sarwe’s husband lost a leg in a suicide bombing several years ago and is unemployed and depressed, she said. During the factional fighting of the 1990s, the family fled to the refugee camps in Pakistan, where Azizmay learned English and graduated from high school. The family returned to Kabul because they missed home.

Today, Sarwe stays home to care for her husband. The family urgently needs money to send Azizmay to college, so her mother wonders whether she should take an embroidery class to earn a little extra.

“This park has been a few minutes of freedom for my mother,” Azizmay said, coaxing Sarwe onto a swing and pushing her into the air. “That freedom can be addictive.”

IJC Operational Update, April 12

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force captured a Haqqani improvised explosive device facilitator and several other militants in Paktiya this morning.


ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.12.2010
Posted: 04.12.2010 05:05

The combined force went to an open area west of Rabat, in the Zurmat District, after intelligence information indicated militant activity. As the joint force approached, several militants tried to run. One of the militants turned and charged the security force, and was engaged and wounded. The rest of the militants were quickly cornered by the security force and surrendered.

Among those captured was a Haqqani IED facilitator responsible for attacking coalition convoys and killing Afghan troops. A search of the militant's tents uncovered multiple automatic rifles, grenades and ammunition.

The Haqqani uses indiscriminant bombings and small-arms attacks, kidnappings, and intimidation to achieve their aims. Afghan and coalition forces work to protect innocent civilians from this threat.

In Nad-e Ali District of Helmand province this morning, a joint patrol found a cache containing seven rocket-propelled grenades, two mortar rounds, 30 artillery rounds, eight 60mm shells and other ammunition. The cache was destroyed by an explosive ordnance disposal team.

In Kandahar last night, an Afghan-international security force searched a compound in south Kandahar City after intelligence information indicated militant activity. During the search the joint force detained two suspected militants for further questioning.

Also in Kandahar last night, another joint security force searched a compound west of Kandahar City after intelligence information indicated militant activity. During the search the security force captured a Taliban IED facilitator involved in IED emplacements, defenses and assignments. Several other militants were also captured in the operation.

The assault force also found explosive materials during the search.

In the Tarin Kot District of Uruzgan province yesterday, an ISAF patrol found a cache containing two RPG rounds, an RPG rocket and three boxes of small-arms ammunition. The cache was destroyed by an EOD team.

No Afghan civilians were harmed during these operations.

April 11, 2010

Faces of the Marine Corps seen from many levels, stages of life

PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- For Todd Bowers, a teacher at Waynedale High School, the educators' trip to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island was "a college visit."


April 11, 2010
Staff Writer

His son, Drew, a senior at Orrville High School, joined the Marines through the early enlistment program and will start basic training in Parris Island in August.

"I was able to go to basic training before my son will, and allowed to see the type of training he will receive," Bowers said. "I visited the barracks he will sleep in and the cafeteria he will eat in.

"We marched in formation, not very well, I might add, on the same grounds that he will be learning to march on. I watched recruits train and talked to new recruits halfway through their training," he continued. "I watched drill instructors in action and even talked with and went to dinner with some of them."

Beyond that, he was able to ask questions of "the highest-ranking officials who administrate over the island," learn about educational opportunities available to Marines, participate in obstacle course challenges, and engage in hand-to-hand combat training.

Others in our group also experienced a close connection to loved ones who are Marines.

Wayne College counselor Carol Pleuss' son-in-law, Staff Sgt. Jeremy Lash, already was in the Marines when her daughter, Emily, met him. Lash joined the Marines right out of high school, Pleuss said, and always wanted to concentrate on explosives -- "one of the most dangerous occupations."

The Academy Ward-winning film "Hurt Locker" documents "exactly what my son-in-law does (as) an explosive ordnance technician, or EOD specialist, for short," Pleuss said.

"This is Jeremy's fourth tour of duty; he has been deployed three times to Iraq," said Pleuss, whose father served in the Navy in World War II, giving her "a respect for those who serve our country."

"I certainly enjoyed the trip to Parris Island and learned so much and have the deepest respect for what (Marines) do and their dedication and commitment to service and country," Pleuss said.

"Many times people forget that the U.S. military are the first responders to natural disasters, such as the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile recently, as well as disasters that happen on our own soil," she said.

"So it is not just that they protect our freedoms and fight on foreign soil, but they also serve the victims affected by natural disasters."

"It's hard to pinpoint one most meaningful experience, but on the first day, standing on the 'yellow footprints' became an emotional moment for me, as I thought about my brother standing there in 1968," Linda Smucker said.

"I wonder if he was thinking, 'What have I gotten myself into?'"

Maj. Greg Jones, now from Cleveland, knew what he was getting into.

His grandfather, his father and his brothers all attended The Citadel to prepare for military careers.

"(The Citadel) is a tradition; we're from South Carolina," he said.

While his career path may have been a given, he seemingly has no regrets with where it has taken him, including several deployments to Iraq.

Sgt. Martin Harris, a Cleveland area recruiter, acknowledged joining the Marines at a difficult period in his life, following the death of a fellow wrestling athlete in an automobile accident.

"I didn't want to get stuck like him -- not have the opportunity to do something bigger," said Harris, who has been a Marine for 6 1/2 years.

"Hands-down," it was the right decision, he said. "I didn't want to waste $50,000 of my parents' money (on college)."

Harris' recruiter "never tried to sell me on the Marine Corps," said Harris, who told the Marines he wanted a career in broadcast journalism. "The travel and adventures sold me."

Discussion among personnel at Parris Island rarely, if ever, focused on hardship or battle.

But those who attended the workshop got a mere glimpse of what it takes just to prepare for war.

"We were all very proud of those young Marines because we now understood what they went through to earn the right to wear the uniform and be called a Marine," Bowers said.

"I am very proud of my students who have chosen to go off and serve in our Armed Forces," he said.

And even though he expressed concern and some a little bit of apprehension "where (my son) will go and what he will do because he will be a soldier," Bowers said, "I am mostly proud of (him) and his decision to serve our nation as a U.S. Marine."

Eyes in Sky Give Advance Notice to Ground Troops

If knowledge is power, than gathering information about enemy forces is crucial. Observing the movement or posture of the enemy greatly aids in battle planning.


III Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs RSS
Story by Sgt. Rodolfo Toro
Date: 04.09.2010
Posted: 04.11.2010 08:09

Unmanned aerial vehicles are one tool that continues to offer innovative ways to provide military commanders on the ground with near-real-time imagery of areas of interest since developers spearheaded the program in the early- to mid-20th century.

According to Fleet Marine Force Manual 3-22-1 UAV Company Operations, "A UAV is a powered, aerial vehicle that does not carry a human operator, uses aerodynamic forces to provide vehicle lift, can fly autonomously or be piloted remotely, can be expendable or recoverable and can carry a lethal or nonlethal payload."

The success of UAVs stems from its wide range of useful and versatile capabilities.

Unmanned aerial vehicles can perform both reconnaissance and combat missions.

According to the manual, "In addition to aerial reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition and airborne assaults, UAVs can also assist in search and rescue and tactical recovery of aircraft and personnel operations and provide information to assist adjusting indirect fire weapons," such as mortar and artillery systems.

The vehicles are maintained by unmanned aerial vehicle squadrons called VMUs. Their mission is to provide unmanned aerial reconnaissance support to all Marine Expeditionary Forces units. The squadrons are comprised of several sections that maintain, operate and transport UAVs.

Flying at altitudes above enemy-controlled territory, away from U.S. troops, UAVs are able to relay vital information about enemy targets and troop activity without risking the lives of pilots.

"The fact we are not pushing personnel through forward lines for intelligence takes the risks away from the individual Marines themselves," said Gunnery Sgt. Craig Harris, operations chief for Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

The Marines of 3rd Bn., 3rd Marines, recently completed exercise Lava Viper in Hawaii using the RQ-7B "Shadow" 200, an unmanned aerial vehicle currently used by the Marine Corps and U.S. Army for aerial reconnaissance.

The intent behind the exercise was to introduce and familiarize non-aviation Marine Corps units with UAV operations and capabilities, said Capt. Rich Rybolt, mission commander and Detachment A officer in charge, Marine VMU-1, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I MEF.

The Marines of 3rd Bn. are scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Understanding their on-hand capabilities will greatly enhance their combat effectiveness, according to Harris.

"UAVs are a huge plus," he said. "It gave us an awesome birds-eye view before sending troops through areas of interest. It gave us almost exactly everything we needed to know before going into hostile areas," Harris explained.

"The great range of approximately 70 miles proved to be helpful in gaining knowledge quickly, otherwise it could take days if you were to push out personnel," he added.

The UAVs seemed to be an all-around success during the exercise.

UAVs continue to play an integral role in military operations, according to Gunnery Sgt. Jimmy Shields, the weather chief for Marine Wing Support Squadron 171, Marine Wing Support Group 17, 1st MAW, III MEF.

Shields said he was impressed with the benefits UAVs provide troops on the ground. He likened it to having a forward observer constantly looking ahead.

"It was the first time a UAV was used in that type of training environment," he said, referring to its integrated use with infantrymen and artillery assets during the exercise.

UAVs such as the "Shadow" offer peacetime applications as well.

According to the manual "During military operations other than war, a UAV provides the Marine Air Ground Task Force with useful information about an area of operations and forewarns of any emerging threats in the vicinity by loitering overhead and providing real-time intelligence."

The relatively fast setup for take-off and landing capability of UAVs and their different types adds to their tactical appeal.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Damon Hines said the MWSS-171 heavy equipment officer who oversaw construction of a UAV landing strip, "An airstrip for a UAV can basically be built almost anywhere, assuming you have the materials to meet the specified requirements."

Hines explained that different types of UAVs require different airstrip lengths and ground composition densities.
UAV sizes range from the average hobbyist planes to full-size jets.

The technology enabling these remotely-piloted vehicles to successfully carry out military operations has progressed since its inception.

Cpl. Mathew Mantooth, an intelligence analyst with 3rd Bn., said UAV platforms are becoming more diversified and are only limited by current technology and human imagination.

Rocket range tests skills, develops leadership for assaultmen in Djibouti

(March 28, 2010) The Marines don’t just let anybody fire high explosive rockets intended on destroying enemy bunkers and penetrating armor. But with the training Weapon’s Platoon received in the desolate landscape of this east-African country, the Corps can rest assured that some of their up and coming warriors are prepared to deliver.


4/11/2010 By Sgt. Alex Sauceda , 24th MEU

Young Marines, most between the ages of 18 and 23, many on their first deployment since joining the Marines, learned the skills and mindset to handle the Shoulder-fired, Multipurpose, Assault Weapon, or SMAW, rocket launchers during a live-fire range here March 28, 2010.

The range not only tested shooting skills, but also served as a leadership building exercise for many of the Marines involved.

Senior ranking members of the assaultman section from Weapons Platoon, Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit used the exercise to not only test shooting skill, but also used the opportunity as a leadership building exercise.

“The team leaders and squad leaders of the section ran the range almost entirely on their own,” said Staff Sgt. Leon Howard, section leader for Alpha Company’s Weapons Platoon. “It was great to see the Marines stepping up and making the range run as smooth as it did.”

For most of the junior Marines, those who are currently on their fist deployment, it was the first chance to shoot their SMAWs since leaving the U.S. back in January. The novice Marines were paired with each other, as their squad leaders closely supervised, maintaining an eyes-on, hands-off policy.

As each team prepared to fire their rocket, they made sure their sights were aligned by first firing 9mm tracer rounds, called spotting rounds, at the various targets. Once the SMAWs’ battle sights were honed to provide pin-point fire, the section traversed one of the many mountainsides of the Djiboutian range to find the perfect ambush positions.

Rehearsal after rehearsal, Marines practiced aiming down range to guarantee a direct hit. Such rehearsals also allowed the junior Marines to practice effectively communicating with their teammates across the range, which is a critical skill the training helped develop.

“It was good practice and the range was more realistic compared to ranges we had in the [pre-deployment exercises],” said Lance Cpl. Jordan Saini, an assaultman assigned to Weapons Platoon. “The area is more mountainous, which made us work harder to get our rockets downrange. But seeing firsthand how my partner and I would actually fire at an enemy made it worthwhile.”

The coordination and development showed throughout the day. With every successful hit, excitement and celebration followed.

“Just by taking these guys out to a range and letting them go at it on their own, you can see these guys grow and learn more about themselves,” said Lance Cpl. Richard C. Fisher, one of the team leaders. “Seeing all the smiles on the younger guys’ faces and how their excited about their job really makes me feel proud, like an older sibling would for his younger brother.”

After successfully firing all their allotted ammunition the unit logged an 80 percent accuracy rate with their rockets - a success that all levels of leadership were pleased with.

“The range ran smoothly and relatively fast compared to other ranges,” said 1st Lt. Daniel Runzheimer, platoon commander for Weapons Platoon. “The one thing I was impressed with was the unselfishness of the senior Marines of the platoon. As much fun as it can be shooting rockets at tank hulls, these guys stepped aside and let the younger Marines have some fun and grow in their specialty, which is something that will go a long way in the future.”

This was the final range for the platoon's training exercises in Djibouti. They have since loaded back on the USS Ashland and are continuing on their deployment preparing for future training exercises as part of the 24th MEU.

Augments Depart Iraq Early to Mentor Afghan Army

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Ten Afghan national soldiers, armed with M-16's, lie in the prone position shooting downrange while their company commander barked orders for muzzle awareness.



I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd) RSS
Story by Sgt. Heidi Agostini
Date: 04.11.2010
Posted: 04.11.2010 05:40

Minutes later, a cease fire was called. A soldier attempted to stand up and accidentally pulled the trigger. Not even a second went by when the soldier found himself surrounded by his officers, accepting the repercussions of his careless mistake.

Closely monitoring the situation were Marines assigned to the embedded training team for newly activated 1st Kandak, 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps of the Afghan national army, based at Camp Leatherneck. The team is responsible for mentoring and training the Afghan army to function on their own, to take over security in Helmand province. The mentoring group, comprised of active and reserve duty Marines from 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines and Combat Logistics Battalion 46, was sent from their deployment in Al Asad, Iraq to Afghanistan to help form part of the new ANA Corps. The Marines filled a critical gap on short notice with 13 Marines with varying military occupational specialties.

Some of the Marines mentored the Afghan battalion in fields outside their military occupational specialty. KC-130 pilot, Capt. Eric Brown, officer-in-charge of the mentoring team, fulfilled a spot meant for a combat arms major. Prior to landing in Afghanistan, Brown was the forward air controller for 3/24. Lance Cpl. Daniel Gierling fulfilled the job of two captains. Although an intelligence specialist by trade, Gierling was tasked to train the entire kandak on communications as well.

"It wasn't easy," smiled Gierling. "Most of the Afghan soldiers are illiterate and they don't all speak just one language. So I had to figure out how I was going to teach them using translators. I had the interpreters relay everything I said to the class, but it was time consuming. Some of the soldiers spoke languages that my interpreters didn't know."

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brian Sheppard, who originally deployed to Iraq as an individual augment assigned to the detention center, was transferred to Afghanistan to serve as the mentoring team operations and executive officer.

"Gierling did a phenomenal job," said Sheppard. "He had about five different languages present in his class and yet he still managed to successfully accomplish what he was tasked to do."

The team was armed with infantrymen from 3/24 and proved to be invaluable to the mission.

Using mostly hands-on practical application to train the soldiers, the Marines structured the kandak to mirror the Army and Marine Corps.

"We taught them how to operate as an infantry battalion with the numbers they had," said Sheppard. "We tried to train them to shoot, move and communicate."

The task wasn't easy for the Marines. The ratio between Marines and the men they mentored was 50-to-1. The team would stay up late after training to plan where each Marine and interpreter would be at the following day.

"It was very challenging," said Brown. "We had to plan which company was going to do what, and which Marine and interpreter would be best for that mission. Sometimes I had one Marine for three companies, and sometimes I had one Marine per company."

Their days were long, filled with frustration and challenges but were equally rewarding. The largest challenge the Marines faced was the language barrier. Armed with five interpreters who had never spoken to Americans before, the mentoring team had to clean up their English.

Phrases such as "let's rehash this morning's lessons," and "pick up your trash," could not be translated because the interpreters didn't understand military vernacular.

"Any time I say something to the interpreter, he has to translate that to the soldiers, and that takes up time," said Brown. "It could take ten minutes to have a one minute conversation."

Brown believes the reason his team was successful is because they agreed early on they were not going to fix problems the Afghan soldiers had. They were going to train whichever soldiers showed up whenever they showed up. Choosing not to get wrapped up around the axle, the Marines did their best to maintain composure amidst the frustrations of negligent discharges, soldiers who would go on unauthorized absence, and no sense of time. A large amount of their success is invested in personal relationships with the Afghans.

"We learned that they are their own country, their own army," said Brown. "They have their own customs so we can't impose our own on them. We give our heart and soul to this job and they can see it. We were never the limiting factor, and the soldiers sensed that."

Maj. M. Yasin, an Afghan soldier with 22 years of military experience, appreciates the mentor's patience and said the respect is mutual. Although he would like to see more Marines on the team, Yasin said he is grateful for the mentors. Fellow Afghan officer, Maj. Jawed Alkozay, is content with the training and mentoring. He is receptive to his trainers and hopes his soldiers are successful on the battlefield.

The battalion will soon be evaluated on their performance. Once the soldiers are certified they will join Regimental Combat Team 2 and be partnered with Marine combat units.

Blue Diamond Marines Partner With Security Forces for Afghanistan's Future

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan –
The 1st Marine Division (Forward) recently arrived in southern Afghanistan and wasted no time gaining ground in operations here.



1st Marine Division RSS
Story by Sgt. Dean Davis
Date: 04.11.2010
Posted: 04.11.2010 04:21

Arriving in late March, the Division Marines and sailors have already made significant progress in the fight against the Taliban by uniting with Afghan security forces to help the Afghan people secure peace and freedom, explained Brig. Gen. Joseph L. Osterman, commanding general of 1st Marine Division (Fwd).

"This is really the first major step in President Obama's intent to bring in additional forces in order to make a difference here and bring us up to a point where we have very effective counter-insurgency," Osterman said. "Insurgencies take a long time to defeat. It requires a lot of resources. Their government is just beginning, but they have already made tremendous progress."

The 1st Marine Division (Fwd) will control all Marine ground forces in southern Afghanistan as they operate both independently and alongside their Afghan counterparts. The relationship between these forces will be a key element in reaching success, at all levels of leadership, Osterman explained.

"It's really impressive to see the young Marine out there, able to handle such a wide scope of responsibility," Osterman said. "They are able to apply the appropriate judgment so that they can do the right thing all the time."

Officials acknowledge that victory over the Taliban cannot stem from U.S. forces alone, and that Afghanistan's future rests in the hands of its government, security forces and ultimately, its people.

"We've established a partnership with the 215th Corps of the Afghan National Army, which has been very positive," Osterman said. "They are learning a lot from us; we're learning a lot from them, and it creates a synergistic effect that allows us to get the most out of both forces to fight the insurgency."

The 215th Corps, a unit comprised of more 1,000 ANA soldiers, is the first to be activated in nearly six years.

The Marines of the "Blue Diamond" and Afghan forces will aggressively target Taliban insurgents, but the road ahead won't be trouble free, explained Sgt. Maj. Phillip Fascetti, sergeant major of 1st Marine Division (Fwd).

"There are going to be a lot of challenges ahead ... " Fascetti said. "Marines are resilient and I know we're up for the challenge. We are going to accomplish great things here."
The Marines and Afghans will work to root out insurgents to not only improve the lives of local citizens, but thwart the Taliban's ability to spread violence in other parts of the world.

"We must never forget why we're here," Fascetti added. "This is important not only for what's presently going on here in Afghanistan, but also throughout the world. What we accomplish here will have an effect on terrorism everywhere."

IJC Operational Update, April 11

KABUL, Afghanistan - The Afghan national army detained a man with improvised explosive device materials and pictures of ISAF vehicles in the Sabari District of Khost province yesterday. An ISAF unit had seen the man emplacing an IED. An Afghan-international patrol responded and stopped him. The IED materials were destroyed by an explosive ordnance disposal team.


ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.11.2010
Posted: 04.11.2010 05:30

Last night, a joint security force searched a compound in north Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, after intelligence information indicated militant activity. During the search the joint force detained two suspected militants for further questioning.

Today, an ISAF patrol found a rocket-propelled grenade and a fuel cell under a hay stack in the Tarin Kot District of Uruzgan province. The cache was destroyed by an EOD team.

No shots were fired and no civilians were harmed during these operations.

MWSS-274 Keeps Critical Base Opertational

CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan - There are no gun shots, no explosions, no confusion or chaos – only a thick, enveloping dust that mixes with sweat on exposed skin leaving a thin film of mud, and settles in the lungs making it difficult to breathe. This is Camp Dwyer, where a vast expanse of nothingness stretches to the horizon. The only activities across this deserted landscape are aircraft buzzing in and out and the Marines who live on this patch of desert, supporting the base.



3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs RSS
Story by Cpl. Ryan Rholes
Date: 04.10.2010
Posted: 04.11.2010 12:39

Approximately 115 devil dogs with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 live and work in this austere environment. Although they are not in daily fire fights or dodging improvised explosive devices, their work here building and maintaining the flight line is as critical to the war as the aircraft they support. Recently, the MWSS-274 Marines began a project to repair a portion of an expeditionary airfield here that supports the camp's main fueling point, which will soon see a flux of activity now that the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) has taken over for Marine Aircraft Group 40.

Ironically, in middle of this vast desert, the problem all started with water. Rain trapped under the matting that makes up the expeditionary airfield, mixed with dirt and formed pockets of mud. Pressure from aircraft taxiing across the flight line caused that mud to seep to its surface leaving small voids under the matting and creating dangerous debris. Slowly, the matt began to slant inward on the center taxi line, creating an uneven and unsafe surface. Because Afghanistan is dangerous enough, the MWSS-274 Marines decided to eliminate this additional hazard.

Approximately 20 Marines from the detachment spent a backbreaking day removing a section of matting that measured 580 feet long by 72 feet wide. The Marines then grated the soil, added gravel to help stabilize it and trucked in 1,500 90-pound bags of cement, which they unloaded and spread by hand.

The Marines then used a road grater to mix the cement with the top 4 or 5 inches of soil, used a water truck, sporting a 2,500-gallon tank, to wet the mixture and then used two compactors to pack it tight and remove air pockets. After the surface dries the Marines will use the road grater once again, let the surface re-harden and then replace the matting. The hard-working Marines will undoubtedly finish this estimated 17-day process a few days early.

Their handiwork will pay dividends. Not only did the Marines get hands-on experience that will aide them in future projects as 3rd MAW (Fwd.) extends its reach throughout Helmand province, it will also keep Dwyer, a strategic staging area for dispersing ground units and a perfectly placed refueling location for air assets, in the fight.

"This base is surrounded by hot spots, so we get a lot of infantry units stopping here before pushing out and we have a lot of aircraft who need to refuel so they can stay on station longer and be closer to where they are needed," said 1st Lt. Andrew "Mike" Lowry, the officer-in-charge of the detachment.

Even though they are living in a desolate region in Spartan conditions, thousands of miles from their families, they do it without complaint. Without these men, troop transports would be severely limited in the area, support aircraft would arrive later and have to leave earlier because of fuel issues and medical evacuation aircraft would lose critical time getting to and from calls. So, although they are not the trigger pullers on the front lines, they are an absolute and unarguable necessity in the war.

Troops exchange weapons for pens for lesson in geopolitics

Deploying Camp Pendleton Marines spend day studying dynamics of world conflicts

Five dozen troops from Camp Pendleton's 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit put down their weapons one day last week and picked up pens instead for a crash course in geopolitics.


By MARK WALKER - [email protected] | Posted: April 11, 2010 5:55 pm

The troops-turned-students gathered in a UC San Diego lecture hall and peppered lecturers from the university's School of International Relations with questions about the strategic landscape of Afghanistan and the surrounding region.

They listened intently to the answers, often scribbling notes in the margins of their workbooks.

In a few weeks, those same troops head to sea and a possible assignment in war-torn Afghanistan as the U.S. ramps up the war against the insurgent Taliban.

While most of their recent training has centered on combat, about 55 troops took part in the daylong academic exercise to hone their understanding of the countries and region they're expected to see during their seven-month deployment.

And even if they don't wind up in Afghanistan, they were reminded that their actions will be closely watched wherever they go.

"Each company, each platoon, and each Marine is the instrument of national power," said Professor Russell Burgos, an expert in Middle East military security. "Whatever you do in the places you visit will be what the people in those regions know about the U.S."

That was a central component of many of the lectures, which covered the political, economic and social climate in the Indian Ocean region, the Persian Gulf, Korea, Southeast Asia, the nexus between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a look at China.

"In the past, we may have not paid as much thought to the political and cultural aspects of the countries we might visit and not been as aware of the background of the people we interact with," said Lt. Col. Todd Oneto, 47, a pilot with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165. "This certainly broadens our perspective."

The troops were particularly attentive to David Karl, an expert in the political and economic landscape of South Asia, including Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Karl said there are increasing signs of a political accord being reached between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Pakistan is positioning itself to play a key role in brokering a settlement that could end the 9-year-old conflict, he said.

"Pakistan is trying to become part of the solution in Afghanistan," said Karl, an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California. "The government believes it is in the driver's seat and can dictate terms of a political settlement."

Pakistan believes a peaceful Afghanistan has to include some elements of the Taliban in the government, Karl said, and has been sending a clear message to Washington: We can help you cut a deal, but it has to be on our terms.

It was the eighth time since 2006 that the university has conducted the seminars for local troops about to deploy.

Capt. Adam Potter planted the first seed for the series. He suggested to his commanders and school officials that tapping academic expertise for lessons on the complexities of the places Marines visit and are stationed can be invaluable.

"It really helps the leadership as we prepare to go into Asia," said Potter, who dropped in on last week's session. "And I guarantee you, most of what these guys were doing before today was preparing for war."

Marine Expeditionary Units generally have a set itinerary of countries they will visit for joint exercises and related activities. They also are often the first to respond to natural disasters.

The scheduled ports of call for the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit aren't available yet.

For young Marines such as Sgt. Randdy Flores, an artilleryman, learning about the cultures of countries he may see was invaluable.

"I'm really taking everything in," he said. "I try not to have any biases when I go into a new country for the first time, and this has helped give me a good understanding of what to expect."

Retired Rear Adm. Stephen Loeffler, who provided an overview of Indonesia, stressed that any humanitarian and civil affairs projects the troops take part in can have profound consequences.

"It can literally change the entire dynamics of a region," he said. "You are the ambassadors of the Marine Corps, the military and for the entire country."

Call staff writer Mark Walker at 760-740-3529.

April 10, 2010

The Proud: Once a Marine, always a Marine

PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. -- She said she has never seen anything quite like it.


April 10, 2010
Staff Writer

Carol Pleuss, a local educator who attended the workshop on Parris Island, has often witnessed the common bond formed among people sharing a common mission in a variety of organizations.

"I can see how it is lifelong," she said, but for the Marines, the link goes even beyond that parallel.

"It's taken a step further" than churches and community organizations, Pleuss said. "It struck me as being very special and unique. I understand they have that very, very strong bond," she said.

It starts with the simple things -- procedures recruits follow and coping mechanisms they learn.

"Everything is done for a reason on Parris Island," Master Sgt. Robert Haywood said, even "blousing" trousers.

Earning the right to "blouse" one's trousers -- make a kind of cuff -- "was a big deal," he recalled from his own boot camp days, and actually one of the disciplinary tools used with recruits.

Losing the right once it has been given is demoralizing, according to Haywood, pointing out "you've got to remember, they don't have a lot here."

Other distinctions during training incorporate different uniforms and flag colors, he said, depending upon the phase.

When male recruits arrive at Parris Island, one of their first assignments is to get a haircut.

Females don't get haircuts, but they do get instructions from drill instructors on how to wear it, a technique demonstrated by our drill instructor Rose Suarez -- that involves wrapping long hair into a doughnut -- a bun twisted around a rolled-up sock.

All recruits who need glasses wear regulation models, dubbed "birth control glasses," Haywood quipped.

"It's not feasible to wear contacts (in training)," Suarez said.

Meal plans are not created equally. While it may seem counter-intuitive, females actually can gain weight during the physically stressful training
periods, according to Suarez. Because of this anomaly, male and female recruits are given lunches with different caloric values, meaning female recruits probably won't get a cookie.

Sgt. Martin Harris described female Marines as "tougher than nails," no matter what their caloric intake.

But when their voices don't endure, especially if they serve as drill instructors, there is an antidote.

"Hot tea with honey or lemon," said Suarez, whose voice was raspy throughout her tenure as our drill instructor.

The recruits are "actually more afraid of me when I don't have a voice; they move faster," she told our group of educators.

They're all so young, Wayne County Schools Career Center guidance counselor Cheryl Koehler observed, with seemingly no one under 35 years of age except in upper echelons of command, she said, marveling over "the youthfulness of these people in charge."

"These are kids," she exclaimed.

And yet, "They're up before dawn every day, constantly being told what to do until an hour before the day is over; and they do that for three months, seven days a week, with no breaks (except a part of the day on Sunday)."

"That would crack me," Koehler admitted.

Instead, recruits and their leaders were "so polished, so professional, so grown up," she said.

What meant so much to Orrville High School guidance secretary Linda Smucker was "all the traditions practiced over the years," adding to the link joining Marines past and present.

"I learned through the workshop that the young men and women enter the Marines for many different reasons," said Waynedale High School teacher Todd Bowers, "and that the young men and women are very different."

"Some are very physical, athletic kids," he said. "Some never played a high school sport in their lives."

"Some are Eagle Scouts, and others were in a lot of trouble and searching for a new direction. Some are looking to be part of something bigger than themselves and serve others."

Still others "are seeking a career in the Marines, and others seeking the financial resources to pay for their college."

But in the course of training they become part of a cohesive whole.

"Throughout the entire time they're there," Pleuss said, they're being taught core values -- honor, courage, commitment.

"They have each other's back. Once a Marine, always a Marine," she said. "You understand that after you've been to Parris Island."

"What I learned at Parris Island is that Marines take care of other Marines," Waynedale High School Teacher Todd Bowers said. "It is their code of conduct."

"If you cannot live by their code of conduct, you will not make it in the Marines," he said. "They will weed you out very quickly."

"It is a higher calling -- service to country, sense of duty," Pleuss said. "They're building leaders for life."

Flights diverted from Manas amid turmoil

By Peter Leonard - The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday Apr 10, 2010 11:59:13 EDT

JALAL-ABAD, Kyrgyzstan — U.S. personnel flights in and out of Afghanistan are being diverted from a key air base in Kyrgyzstan to Kuwait, while resupply flights out of the central Asian base are taking place only on a “case-by-case” basis, a U.S. military official said Saturday.

To continue reading:


Marine helps save couple after hippo attack

Corporal: ‘Any Marine would have done the same thing’

By James K. Sanborn - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Apr 10, 2010 9:03:00 EDT

Hippopotamus attacks aren’t covered during standard Marine training, but that didn’t stop one corporal from rushing to the aid of a married couple while on safari in Zimbabwe after their inflatable canoe was flipped and the husband mauled.

To read the entire article:


Police Mentoring Team, Afghan National Police Conduct Joint Patrols

COMBAT OUTPOST CASTLE, Afghanistan- It wasn't quite yet noon, but the sun was sweltering down on the Police Mentoring Team and Afghan national police here, as they set out for a presence patrol of the surrounding area.


I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd) RSS
Story by Sgt. Shawn Coolman
Date: 04.10.2010
Posted: 04.10.2010 04:45

As the coalition partners exited the COP they passed dozens of Afghans at the local bazaar, stopping frequently to speak with them before continuing on.

The mentoring team conducts daily patrols searching for improvised explosive devices, looking for Taliban influence, and interacting with the local populace while mentoring the ANP.

"We monitor the ANP to get them ready to go out on patrols on their own so they don't have to rely on us," said Cpl. Brian J. Jenkins, 22, a military policeman.

"We're now letting them take the lead so maybe the next PMT will let them go out on patrol by themselves which makes them look better and have a good face with the locals," said Jenkins, from Lapeer, Mich.

Tazah Gul, one of the ANP soldiers on the patrol, searched and questioned motorist and pedestrians.

"By patrolling with the PMT and working with other Marines I have become a better listener and better at finding out what the peoples' problems are," said Tazah Gul, 30, after the patrol returned to the COP.

"I spent two months at the police academy and two months patrolling with the PMT," he said. "I studied at the academy, and now I'm implementing what I have learned while out on patrol."

A noticeable difference between the old ANP and the ones that now serve is prevalent.

"The old ANP out here used to steal from the people, and most of them got fired for testing positive for opium on drug tests," said Jenkins. "The (new ANP) are a lot more professional in the peoples eyes now, and they take their job a little more serious."

In front of a poppy field the Marines and ANP stopped to talk with a family elder and asked him what problems he knows about in the area.

The family's major concern was the searching of Afghan females by males. The elder said it was disrespectful for a male to search an Afghan female, and when possible have females conduct the searches.

The Marines do adhere to cultural sensitivities of males not searching female Afghans.

"If there is a vehicle and a female in it we will ask for the female to get out and then search the vehicle," said Jenkins.

The patrols have light-hearted moments when the ANP and PMT come to rough terrain explains Jenkins as he recounts a previous patrol with the ANP.

"We came to a wide canal that was very hard to cross on foot," Jenkins recalled. "One ANP tried to cross but fell in. He laughed and dropped his rifle, instead of getting out on the other side he tried again, and he made it that time."

The ANP and PMT keep their partnership so that one day the ANP can be self-reliant and conduct operations on there own.

The PMT and ANP continued patrolling through poppy and wheat fields crossing earth footbridges and jumping across canals before making it safely back home.

Afghan Students Getting Green Thumbs in Ghazni Province

GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Approximately 5,000 Afghan students at Sanayee High School in Ghazni province, are learning not only about math, history and geography, but also about agriculture.


Combined Joint Task Force - 82 PAO RSS
Story by 2nd Lt. Katherine Roling
Date: 04.10.2010
Posted: 04.10.2010 08:10

The Agribusiness Development Team in Ghazni, whose members are from the 36th Infantry Division of the Texas Army National Guard, led a small team of U.S. service members to the all-male high school where they spoke to the assistant principal to verify the completion of a school project, April 8.

The project, which is similar to Future Farmers of America, uses small square-foot gardens and aims to give students a chance to work with the soil.

"Once we show the students physically how to plant trees and seeds, it will encourage them," said Abdul Sabur, the school assistant principle.

The ADT also learned that agricultural teachers were scarce. They offered to train the current agricultural teachers, and suggested a field trip for the students to Jungal Bagh farms, where they could see the work of agricultural experts in progress.

"Really, what it comes down to, is that agriculture is very important to the Afghan people, and we need to reach them at a very young age," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Rodney Robinson, agribusiness marketing specialist . "What better way to reach them than through high school, because agriculture is one of the main sources of income for the Afghan people.

During their discussion with the assistant principal, the ADT discovered that the school was very popular with its students.

"About 350 students will graduate this year, and 90 percent will be going to a university," said Sabur.

The school, one of 20 to 25 schools in Ghazni City, encourages its students to become teachers.

"About seven students from here who went to the university came back here to teach," said Sabur. "We have some students who teach at the university in Ghazni now."

However, the faculty faces challenges inherent to a war-torn country. During the time of the Soviet occupation, their library books were burned, said Sabur.

The library is now used as a classroom to accommodate overcrowding.

Despite these challenges, the school, maintains its popularity and prestige.

"This is a very popular school in Ghazni City," said Sabur. "When people graduate from here and go to Kabul, they will ask the students if they graduated from Sanayee High School."

Flying a Lifeline With the Silent Heroes of Aeromedical Evacuation

AGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan-- Effective medical care in a combat zone can be a challenge. Remote locations and unsafe driving conditions can become almost overwhelming difficulties when trying to get patients from a field hospital at one of the forward operating locations in Afghanistan to the medical care they need.



455th Air Expeditionary Wing RSS
Story by Staff Sgt. Richard Williams
Date: 04.10.2010
Posted: 04.10.2010 07:28

The 455th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight takes the challenges of Afghanistan and ensures those who need the care get where they need to go.

"Aeromedical evacuation is the movement of patients injured and sick, combat and noncombat related from the area of responsibility to a higher echelon of care," said Maj. Richard Foote, 455th EAEF, flight nurse. "Whether it is from Camp Bastion to Kandahar Airfield or from Bagram to Landstuhl Regional Medical Facility, Germany we try to get our most serious patients from here to home in 72 hours."

Maj. John Jordan, 455th EAEF, medical crew director added, "When we say patients, they are not just U.S. servicemembers; we provide care for coalition military and local and foreign nationals as well."

Foote, deployed from the 908th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., said, it doesn't matter if friend of foe are loaded onto their aircraft, when the AE team receives them, they become patients and top level care is provided to all.

Jordan, also deployed from the 908th EAS, took time to explain the evacuation process, which has many moving parts on the ground to ensure maximum efficiency when aircrews take off.

A flight surgeon validates a patient in an automated system, which means the patient needs to move from point A to point B. Once the patient is approved for travel, the AE operations team receives notification of the movement.

Jordan, Auburn, Ala., native added, "The AEOT builds a package with all of the information on our mission. This package assists us in creating the mission plan of equipment and teams needed for a successful flight." Which he added can change at a moment's notice.

Once the medical crew director gets the call from the AEOT, he contacts the on-call crew who has one hour to report for pre flight preparations, which could include a standard AE crew, a critical care team or even a plus up in crew based upon patient numbers, said Tech. Sgt. Kim Price, 455th EAEF, flight medical technician.

"We show up, preflight our equipment, get our intelligence and crew briefings, load our truck, and head to the aircraft to prepare it for the mission," she added.

With equipment loaded and mission objectives set, the AE crew departs the airfleld on a C-130 aircraft heading to forward operating locations to bring patients from a lower level of care to a higher level of care, explained Major Foote.

The standard AE crew is a five person team however, this can change from mission to mission depending upon the number of patients to be received and their needs, explained Jordan. He also said the mission can change and often does in flight and the medical crew director and the flight nurse must constantly evaluate the situation and sometimes adjust patient loads and crew requirements based on the medical needs of the patients.

After the crews land and begin the patient transfer process, the medical technicians ensure the proper equipment is coordinated for patients and everything is working properly, explained Price. "Typically there are three technicians on the aircraft to assist the flight nurse and the MCD with patient care."

There are challenges with completing the AE in the joint service/coalition medical environment explained Jordan. "When we are dealing with coalition forces some of the medical equipment and procedures are not standardized and that can cause some difficulties at times but we haven't had any issues so far."

"Sometimes there can also be a language barrier to overcome," added Price. She pointed out although this can sometimes make care difficult, the bottom line is the AE crews are equal opportunity care givers so everyone gets the same top class care.

The importance of their mission cannot be stressed enough, added Jordan, who pointed out the team he worked with were all members of the Air Force Reserves and only Major Foote was an actual AE nurse in his civilian job.

"We all deployed because we want to help people," added Price, who works at a mental health clinic when she is not performing AE for the Air Force. "We chose our job because we love what we do. I just reenlisted here because I want to continue what I am doing."

"Most people think we are the typical one weekend a month and two week a year Airman," added Jordan, who is an Air Reserve technician when not deployed. "As an AE team we are required to fly three to four times a month and on the average, with training requirements we spend about 14 days a year not performing this mission in some form."

Foote summed the Aeromedical mission up when he said, "We take people home who have been injured serving their country and get them home to their family."

Local Bazaar Stimulated by Marines

COMBAT OUTPOST CASTLE, Afghanistan- The U.S. dollar is a powerful ally in improving the local Afghan economy and the Marines quality of life.



I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd) RSS
Story by Sgt. Shawn Coolman
Date: 04.10.2010
Posted: 04.10.2010 05:00

The 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Marines manning the COP frequent the bazaar (local market) to buy produce, livestock and commodities that normally wouldn't be available to them.

The Marines here established a good rapport between themselves and the locals who allowed them to purchase goods at economic prices.

"It's a good relationship that we have with the Marines here. They buy most of the things we sell here which helps us a lot," said Nyaamatula, a local bazaar shopkeeper. "When the Marines come in here they have a great relationship between the locals and the shopkeepers," said Nyaamatula, through an interpreter.

It hasn't always been that way. When 4th LAR arrived here the bazaars' shops were not regularly open or had nothing to sell to the Marines.

"When we got here in November, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Marines told us about the bazaar," said Cpl. Jesse J. Hurtado, 23, a food service specialist with 4th LAR. "There wasn't much out there when we got here. Not a lot of the shops were open, but we still could buy a few personal items from the shops."

Now with more Marines coming from the COP the shops are open to more Afghans and Marines with a wide selection of goods to be bought.

"There's a lot of variety now. We can go out to the bazaar and buy fresh produce, lambs and chickens which are much more available," said Hurtado, from Los Angeles.

"It's gotten a lot better now that the Marines are here, because we can buy things cheaper using money we got from the Marines, and that means we have more variety of things to sell the Marines for cheaper," said Abdeljamil, another local shopkeeper.

Now that there is abundance of produce at the bazaar, more Marines are buying and cooking their own food and spending money to help the local Afghan economy.

"I think a good 60 percent of the Marines here don't eat at the chow hall. They buy all their food from the bazaar," said Hurtado, father of one.

"The Marines buying from the bazaar helps the local economy out a lot," said Hurtado. "The produce is more in demand now, and the farmers will actually bring in more produce for the Marines which both helps the Marines and themselves by making more money."

During the holidays, 4th LAR Marines were able to get a large amount of lamb and produce which allowed them to have a big Christmas dinner.

"During Christmas, Marines with Bravo Company, (4th LAR) bought three lambs and some produce from the market, and that's what we made for Christmas dinner," recounted Hurtado.

Even with prices going up at the bazaar, as the interpreters say, everything still seems cheap to us, and the Afghans are making more profit so in the end it still helps all of us, said Hurtado.

President Karzai Visits ISAF Headquarters

KABUL, Afghanistan – President Hamid Karzai visited the International Security Assistance Forceheadquarters April 10 to view the Commander's Update Brief, meet senior leaders and have lunch with officers from several collation partners.


ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.10.2010
Posted: 04.10.2010 12:35

Karzai received an update on the Kunduz province demographic situation, conflict dynamics, and security situation and participated in a brief question and answer session with senior ISAF leaders. The CUB is a regular update to the ISAF Commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and covers a variety of topics related to the ISAF mission.

Reuters Kabul Bureau gathered pool footage and photos and will make them available through normal pool channels.

IJC Operational Update, April 10

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force captured a Taliban improvised explosive device facilitator and several other militants in Kandahar April 9.


ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 04.10.2010
Posted: 04.10.2010 11:09

The security force searched a compound west of Kandahar City, near Deh-e Kowehay, after intelligence information indicated militant activity. During the search the joint force captured a Taliban IED expert responsible for leading IED emplacement teams and fixing detonators.

The capture of this expert should degrade the Taliban's IED capabilities in and around Kandahar. The detainee may also have knowledge of local militant networks. Several other militants were also captured.

In Helmand April 9, a joint security force searched a compound in a rural area south of Marjah, in the Nawah-ye Barakzai district, after intelligence information indicated militant activity.

During the search the joint force detained several suspected militants for further questioning.

In the Parwan province April 9, an ISAF patrol found a cache containing a 155mm artillery round, a 60mm mortar round, a 75-mm round and other ammunition. The cache will be destroyed.

In the Nad-e Ali District of Helmand province yesterday, an Afghan-international patrol found a cache containing 1,025 kilograms of urea, a .50 caliber weapon, a machine gun, a wooden board with eight different mock-up grenades and mortars on it, small-arms ammunition, a medical kit and IED-making materials.

No shots were fired and no Afghan civilians were harmed during these operations.

USS Ashland Captures Pirates

USS ASHLAND, Gulf of Aden (NNS) -- At approximately 5:00 a.m. local time, the USS Ashland (LSD 48), was fired upon by a skiff manned by suspected pirates in the Gulf of Aden, approximately 330 nautical miles off the coast of Djibouti.


Story Number: NNS100410-08
Release Date: 4/10/2010 11:44:00 AM
From U.S. FIFTH Fleet Public Affairs

During the attack, the Ashland received small arms fire on the port side from the six man crew of suspected pirates aboard the skiff. The Ashland, in accordance with her rules of engagement, returned fire.

USS Ashland fired two rounds at the skiff from her MK-38 Mod 2, 25mm gun. The skiff caught fire and the suspected pirates abandoned the skiff. The Ashland deployed her rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs) to assist the pirates who were in the water near their skiff.

Once it was verified that the suspected pirates no longer had weapons on their person, all six were brought on board the Ashland where they received medical care. There is no apparent damage to the USS Ashland and there were no injuries to any members of her crew.

Captain John Bruening, commanding officer, Nassau Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), expressed the commitment of the ships in the Nassau ARG to ensuring the success of creating a stable and secure maritime environment.

"This is why we are here," said Bruening. "It is so much more than just putting a stop to the illegal activities of only one pirate skiff. It is about fostering an environment that will give every nation the freedom to navigate the seas without fear of attack."

Three events over the past ten days have allowed the U.S. Navy to capture a total of 21 suspected pirates. Two of these events were precipitated by attacks on the U.S. vessels, while the third was in response to a fellow mariner's call for help. USS Nicholas (FFG 47) was attacked late in the evening by pirates on March 31, resulting in the capture of five, while today's attack on USS Ashland netted an additional six. The third event, USS McFaul (DDG 74) responded to the distress call from M/V Rising Sun on April 5, helping thwart the attack and capture an additional ten suspected pirates. The U.S. Navy is now reviewing multiple options regarding these suspected pirates' legal dispositions.

Ashland was conducting routine Maritime Security Operations in the Gulf of Aden, when the ship was attacked. Currently, Ashland is supporting 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit sustainment operations in Djibouti.

The Nassau ARG is comprised of ships from Amphibious Squadron Eight (PHIBRON 8) including the Tarawa-class multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4), the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) and the Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48). Marines from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (24 MEU) complete the group.

April 9, 2010

US troop flights at Kyrgyz base suspended: military

WASHINGTON — The US military has suspended troop flights out of its base in Kyrgyzstan and will instead transport forces to and from Afghanistan via Kuwait, military officials said Friday.


(AFP) – April 9, 2010

Amid political upheaval in the strategic Central Asian nation, US commanders at the Manas air base decided late Friday "to temporarily divert military passenger transport flights," Major John Redfield, a spokesman for US Central Command, said in an email.

Decisions on continuing other military flights "will be made on a case-by-case basis," he said.

The suspension came after the Americans spotted armored vehicles on the civilian side of the airport, a defense official told AFP.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said details were still unclear and there was no sign of tensions with the civilian authorities at Manas, a crucial hub for the NATO-led war in Afghanistan.

The suspension of troop flights -- which were diverted to a US base in Kuwait -- would remain in effect for at least 72 hours, the official said, but aerial tanker aircraft were continuing to use the runway.

Kyrgyzstan's interim leader Friday offered president Kurmanbek Bakiyev safe passage out of the country, but only if he first resigns.

Bakiyev, however, remained defiant. He told AFP in an interview that he would not resign and accusing the opposition that ousted him of having blood on their hands over this week's uprising that killed at least 75 people.

NATO has increasingly relied on the Manas base amid a surge of US forces in the Afghan war, with an influx of 30,000 troops due by August.

But the US military presence has irritated Russia, placing Kyrgyzstan at the center of a big power rivalry for regional influence.

Kyrgyzstan last year threatened to close the base after receiving a promise of more than two billion dollars in aid and loans from Moscow, which many saw as a sign of Russian resentment over the American operation.

Bishkek eventually agreed to keep the US base open after Washington more than tripled the rent paid to use Manas.

The US base operates round-the-clock, carrying out mid-air refuelling missions and medical evacuations while transporting tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of tonnes of cargo every month.

In March, about 50,000 troops passed through Manas, en route to or out of Afghanistan, according to US Central Command.

Marine unit headed to Afghanistan

WOLF PACK: Hemet’s adopted battalion going to Middle East for sixth time, accepts key to city.

It was a sunny, pleasant day when the battalion commander and sergeant major of the Wolf Pack, the Marine Corps unit adopted by Hemet, came to town to accept the key to the city and present Mayor Eric McBride and City Manager Brian Nakamura with the unit’s challenge coin.


By CHARLES HAND/The Valley Chronicle
Published: Friday, April 9, 2010 5:27 PM CDT

But it will be a cold day in winter when the 3rd Light Infantry Battalion heads back to the Middle East in November, this time to Afghanistan.

This will be the sixth time the Wolf Pack has been sent to the Middle East, but the first time to Afghanistan.

Lt. Col. Ken Kassner and Sgt. Maj. John Elliott did not come to Hemet just to swap pleasantries with city officials.

“We treasure our relationship with Hemet,” said Kassner, who said those returning to the Middle East in the fall will appreciate the kind of support provided by the community during earlier Iraq assignments.

Residents of Hemet, individually and in groups, sent everything from books and magazines to durable, portable snack food to the Marines.

And that was welcome, said Kassner, but “more than that was the contact with people back here.”

“When a Marine has a bad day and don’t have close family, he knows somebody cares about him,” Kassner said. “Not everyone has family he can turn to.”

And Marines can have a bad day in a war zone.

Kassner has collected two Purple Hearts. His wife will not let him earn another one, he said.

In Iraq, the Wolf Pack trained and supplemented the police and security forces.

In Afghanistan, the Marines will relieve the 1st Light Armored Battalion, which is on a similar assignment.

Among the commodities that help send the message of support is coffee, said McBride, and, when one group found out ground coffee would spoil by the time it reached the Marines, they bought coffee grinders that could run off the light armored vehicles assigned to the unit and sent them with the whole beans.

Kassner said the Marines also liked snack — even junk — food, “anything you can put into your pocket as you’re conducting a day-long or night-long operation. Marines love jerky.”

They also love books, magazines, journals, nuts, anything that will survive the grueling journey to Afghanistan and the tough field conditions when it gets there.

“Our gratitude is beyond expression,” Kassner said.

Kassner offered to return the favor by sending some of the unit’s vehicles and personnel to civic functions, particularly during the centennial year.

McBride, himself a former Marine, said he will look into ways the unit can visit the community with its vehicles.

Elliott, who has 22 years in the Marine Corps, said he does not mind arriving in Afghanistan in winter.

In fact, he said, as a native of North Dakota, he rather appreciates the opportunity to escape the heat of the unit’s Twentynine Palms base.

Kassner was not quite as sanguine.

On one of the unit’s Iraq deployments, they were in the northern part of the country in winter and “that’s the coldest I’ve ever been,” he said.

On the other hand, the Iraqi summers can be as brutal as those in California, he said.

Kassner, who has been with the Marine Corps 19 years, said this could be his last trip to Afghanistan.

The Texas native expects to be assigned to war college when he returns.

As the Marines and city officials exchanged mementos, Kassner concluded, “On behalf of all the Marines and sailors of the Wolf Pack, we offer our deepest thanks.”

New Kennel on Okinawa Expands Working Dogs' Capabilities

A new facility for military working dogs had its official opening April 5 on Camp Hansen.


III Marine Expeditionary Force Public Affairs RSS
Story by Lance Cpl. Aaron Hostutler
Date: 04.09.2010
Posted: 04.08.2010 10:08

The kennel, built to house military working dogs assigned to III Marine Expeditionary Forces Headquarters Group's newly formed Military Police Support Company, provides specialized and general military police services to units throughout III MEF, according to Gunnery Sgt. Greg Ashby, the new facility's kennel master.

Most of the dogs attached to III MHG, III MEF, are currently located at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif. The new kennel will allow about a third of those dogs to be stationed on Okinawa, according to Ashby.

The Hansen kennel can house up to 24 dogs, all of which are valuable assets in the war on terrorism according to Ashby.

"Having MWDs in this area of operation will benefit Marines through increasing training opportunities with MWDs and having more MWD support during actual deployments and operations," Ashby said.

The dogs provide valuable assets to deployed Marines especially with the large threat improvised explosive devices pose in current operations, according to Lt. Col. J.D. Troutman, the III MEF Provost Marshal.

"The assistance MWDs provide in detecting weapon caches and explosive materials, thus removing them from enemy use, is extremely important," Ashby agreed. "MWDs are a great asset for commanders to have during many types of combat operations.

"The explosive detector dogs and specialized search dogs are being heavily relied on in our current conflicts to combat IEDs. These MWDs are a psychological and physical deterrent to our enemies and provide a sense of comfort and reassurance to our war fighters," Ashby added.

In addition to their combat effectiveness, the group of dogs and handlers coming to Okinawa will take some of the pressure of deployments off the Marine Corps Bases Japan Provost Marshal's Office K-9 units and allow them to focus on their mission, according to Troutman.

"This is a significant deal," said Troutman. "This will relieve the installation MWDs and their handlers of their deployment requirements and allow them to focus fully on the safety and security of the bases and stations on Okinawa."

Rebecca's War Dog of the Week: It's a bird, it's a plane...

This story that came out in the Times of London a couple of weeks ago is truly a war-dog wonder: parachuting dogs being sent on secret missions in Afghanistan. (The photograph is pretty unbelievable, too.)


Posted By Thomas E. Ricks Friday, April 9, 2010

By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent

These daredevil dogs (and their handlers) are part of Austrian special forces that are "[joining] Nato's Operation Cold Response, one of Europe's biggest military exercises, in Narvik, Norway. ... Commandos from 14 countries, including British special forces and Royal Marines, took part in the Nato exercise. The use of dogs in High Altitude High Opening missions was pioneered by America's Delta Force, which trained the animals to breathe through oxygen masks during the jump."

Dropping from 10,000 feet in the air these dogs "glide in" to land "unnoticed" and they "often carry cameras and are trained to attack anyone carrying a weapon."

I'd be curious to speak to a veterinarian about this but the dog handler interviewed for this piece claims that:

Dogs don't perceive height difference. ... They're more likely to be bothered by the roar of the engines, but once we're on the way down, that doesn't matter and they just enjoy the view. ... "It's something [this dog] does a lot. He has a much cooler head than most recruits."

After a little digging, I found this is hardly the first time the military -- in the United States or elsewhere -- has attempted to get its war dogs airborne.

The November 1935 issue of Popular Science Magazine ran an article about the Soviet army was experimenting parachuting dogs out of planes with a new invention -- the "cylindrical coop," which was:

provided with a parachute that opens automatically when it is tossed from a plane. The shell of the coop, locked closed during the descent, springs open of its own accord when the device strikes the ground."

In 1980, The Ocala Star Banner, ran this story about how the army was training a "crack corps of 40 German shepherd dogs" who were accustomed to jumping off 8-foot towers so that they "would be able to withstand the rigors of parachute jumping."

But perhaps most famous of all is the legendary SAS Rob, a collie and parachuting war-dog hero of WWII. Rob was awarded the animal's Victoria's Cross in 1945 for saving British soldiers' lives by "licking their cheeks to wake them at signs of danger" and for making a remarkable 20 parachute jumps. But in 2006, this amazing parachute-jumping lore was revealed to have been a hoax. Apparently, when the dog's owners requested Rob be discharged and returned home, the dog's SAS handler, Tom Burt, was said to have been so "upset at the prospect of losing him" he concocted the story to keep Rob in the regiment. Can we blame him?

U.S. military aims to save more civilian lives in Afghanistan

KABUL — Amid renewed outrage over the conduct of American forces overseas, the U.S. military is preparing to broaden the scope of battlefield rules in another attempt to better protect innocent Afghan lives.


* Posted on Friday, April 9, 2010
By Dion Nissenbaum | McClatchy Newspapers

A year after Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal issued a tactical directive meant to minimize civilian deaths in Afghanistan, the U.S. military is soon expected to expand an order that provides guidance on how and when to use airstrikes and helicopter support in battle.

"Whereas before, the rules were focused on the problem we had, which was dropping bombs on residential compounds, now they're focused on any area where there might be a civilian," said Army Col. Rich Gross, McChrystal's chief legal adviser in Afghanistan.

Gross declined to discuss most details of the classified revisions, but he said the goal was to give coalition forces more direction on how to fight insurgents without needlessly killing civilians.

The revision of the tactical directive comes as the U.S. military is facing renewed scrutiny of its battlefield policies after the release of graphic video footage of a 2007 assault by an Apache helicopter on a group of men in Iraq.

A dozen men were killed in the attack, including two Reuters news staffers who were covering fighting in the Baghdad neighborhood.

The leaked video, which has been viewed more than 5 million times since it was released last weekend, has prompted calls for a new investigation of the attack and sparked an intense debate over U.S. military policy.

However, it isn't expected to have an impact on the new rules for Afghanistan, which were completed in February and are awaiting final approval before being released in the coming weeks.

Since he took command of U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan last year, McChrystal has made reducing civilian deaths a top priority.

One of his first acts was to issue a tactical directive that called on the military to take extra precautions when targeting residential compounds. He's also placed limits on night raids.

Night raids have been criticized because of a recent admission by the coalition that its forces had killed five civilians, including three women, in a botched night raid two months ago. Afghan investigators have alleged that U.S. forces tried to cover up the killings, and NATO was forced to backtrack on initial reports that implied that insurgents had killed the women.

McChrystal's focus on minimizing civilian casualties sparked some emotional blowback, with critics arguing that the general was endangering American lives unnecessarily to protect Afghans.

McChrystal long has argued, however, that coalition forces are better served in the long run by doing all they can to reduce civilian deaths in Afghanistan. Military strategists refer to it as "insurgent math."

"You may have killed five insurgents, but created 10 more," Gross said. "Or 20. You have an entire village that has moved over to the side of the insurgency."

The U.S. military is pointing to a new academic study that bolsters that argument.

In briefings based on military data, academic researchers who were advising McChrystal recently presented officials in Kabul with groundbreaking analysis documenting a dramatic spike in violence after Afghan civilians were killed in coalition attacks.

In a PowerPoint presentation that McClatchy obtained, the researchers concluded that violence jumped by 25 to 65 percent for five months after Afghan civilians died in such attacks. The researchers documented a smaller spike in violence after insurgent attacks killed civilians.

Gross called the findings a "light bulb" moment that offered concrete proof to bolster McChrystal's directives for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

"Civilian casualties in the long run actually increase the risks to our forces, and so by managing the tactical risk ... carefully and making sure you're shooting the right people and not dropping bombs on the wrong people that really, in the long run, you're reducing violence to our forces overall," Gross said.

Academic researchers who are familiar with the study cautioned that the results are preliminary and said the information needed more analysis before they could draw any significant conclusions.

"At least in the short term, strict ROE (rules of engagement) shift risks from civilians onto coalition forces, so ISAF has very strong reasons to understand the long-term implications of stricter ROE and reduced civilian casualties," said Jacob N. Shapiro, an assistant professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University who's studied counterinsurgency strategy.

McChrystal's stance has received unexpected support in the United States.

"They've turned the corner on how they think about civilian casualties," said Sarah Holewinski, the executive director of Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, a Washington-based nonprofit group that pushes for protecting civilians trapped by war.

Holewinski recently co-authored an opinion piece for The Christian Science Monitor in which she hailed a 30 percent drop in civilian deaths in Afghanistan.

"Protecting the population isn't political correctness; it's a vital military objective and a distinct advantage over an enemy that uses civilians as shields," she and former Army Capt. James Morin wrote in the piece. "The drop in civilian casualties is a mark of success."

Marine officers who were involved in ordering air support during the recent offensive in Marjah backed that view.

"I can count at least four times when the ROE caused us to ID that a suspected bad guy wasn't a bad guy," said U.S. Marine Capt. Benjamin Willson, who admitted to voicing obscene frustrations at times during the Marjah offensive when his requests for air support were denied.

"We were never in a situation where the ROE got a Marine killed," Willson said. "The ROE, in effect, saved more innocent lives than it put Marines in danger."

The checks already in place were evident at a Marine combat outpost in southern Afghanistan during a recent response to insurgent gunfire.

As the military patrol called in information on the attack, Willson stood in front of the video screen and squinted at two figures hiding behind a wall. He and the other Marines who were watching the live aerial feed at the outpost seemed certain that these two suspicious figures were part of the attack.

As the patrol closed in, the Marines at the base put in a request to launch a Hellfire missile at the shady characters. While they were waiting for approval, they kept searching for proof that these were the men who'd hit the patrol.

Word soon came back from the higher-ups: no missile strike. It would violate the military rules of war because the two men were too close to a mosque.

Instead, with Willson's guidance, the Marine patrol sneaked up on the men and detained them without much fuss. Under questioning, the suspicious pair said they were startled pot smokers hiding in a field.

After reviewing the aerial footage, the officers with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment seemed to think the guys might be telling the truth.

General Provides Update on Afghan Police Training

WASHINGTON - The importance of developing Afghan police forces is equal to that of raising a strong military there, a senior officer involved in that effort said, April 8.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs RSS
Story by Ian Graham
Date: 04.09.2010
Posted: 04.09.2010 11:24

Canadian army Maj. Gen. Mike Ward, deputy commander of police training for NATO Training Mission Afghanistan provided an update on the Afghan National Civil Order Police during a "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable.

Despite recent successes in Marja and gains in popularity among civilians, Afghan police have much to overcome, Ward said.

"Everyone's aware, I'm sure, of how fragile the Afghan National Police are," Ward said. "They have the worst reputation for a national institution in the country -- the highest level of corruption."

But that reputation tends to overshadow a lot of positive actions in the police force, he added, especially plans coming down to the police from the Afghan interior minister.

"He followed [a broader national police policy] with the first of a series of five one-year plans," Ward said. "He's gone on notice to identify where he wants to take the ministry, and what ... he expects the police to achieve during that timeframe."

The NATO training command has implemented strategies in recent months to reduce Afghan-police attrition, improve training and improve leadership and operations effectiveness. By employing measures such as operational deployment cycles, personal asset inventory, pay parity and literacy training -- as well as fulfilling partnership commitments with coalition forces -- Ward said officials expect to stabilize, reinforce and enable the force.

Embedded partnering has been a big part of the training of Afghan police as well as soldiers. Ward said the intent is to create a "warrior bond" in which the trainers provide a good example and the trainees learn to work in sometimes do-or-die situations.

"This notion of getting closer to the Afghans so they can be successful in the battle space is progressing," Ward said. "It can never happen fast enough, but what the [troops] are learning with their Afghan counterparts ... is if the model is successful, the issue of nationality is almost invisible. If you have people who respect each other and are fully committed to the mission, what you get is a positive experience in professional and warrior terms for both sides."

Ward acknowledged that the command suffers from a shortage of trainers to pair with trainees. Afghan army commando units have the most 1-to-1 training pairs and the highest retention and lowest attrition rates, he noted.

Having that same trainer-to-trainee ratio with the Afghan police, Ward said, would bring about a "quantum improvement" in performance, ethics and retention.

At least 600 more instructors are required across the 30 or so training centers the NATO training command has established in Afghanistan, Ward said, which now have only about 400 instructors, including contracted police instructors.

Ward said the shortage of instructors is a concern, citing the priorities established by Army Gen. William V. Caldwell IV, who commands NATO Training Mission Afghanistan.

"General Caldwell's commitment is to quality and quantity, in that order, and we don't want to miss the opportunity to make sure these people are well-trained, and safe, and that the Afghan people are proud of them," Ward said.

Best military installations honored

One from each branch honored with annual award

WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates Friday announced the winners of the 2010 Commander in Chief's Annual Award for Installation Excellence.


Updated: Friday, 09 Apr 2010, 5:05 PM EDT
Published : Friday, 09 Apr 2010, 5:05 PM EDT

* Armed Forces Press Service

The Army's Fort Bragg in North Carolina; Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif.; Naval Base San Diego; Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska; and Defense Distribution Depot Susquehanna, Pa., will receive the award at a May 5 Pentagon ceremony, Defense officials said.

The award, started by President Ronald Reagan, recognizes outstanding and innovative efforts of the people who operate and maintain the installations.

Fort Bragg, under the command of Army Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick, is receiving the award for keeping the Army's airborne and special operations forces – more than 10 percent of the service – mission ready, while also absorbing the first of nearly 10,000 additional soldiers who will be assigned to the base by 2013, officials said.

The post's leaders "employed creative solutions to address this growth head-on, focusing on sustainability and long-term viability" in new construction and transportation projects, officials said. They also expanded family satellite programs and offices in the local community to serve the 80 percent of families living off post while saving millions of dollars through strategic planning and new business processes.

Twentynine Palms, under the command of Brig. Gen. Herman S. Clardy III, was cited as the Marine Corps' premier live-fire and maneuver training center, providing training to more than 45,000 Marines and sailors who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2009. Also, the combat center improved the quality of life for families even while dealing with funding and work force cutbacks, officials said.

Naval Base San Diego, commanded by Capt. Ricky L. Williamson, was named for using proactive and creative management practices to enhance readiness, business processes and quality of life last year. Base leaders synchronized initiatives to realize unity of effort, leveraged technology to improve communications and improved contract requirements for significant cost savings, officials said.

Elmendorf, under the command of Col. Thomas K. Bergeson, was recognized for being the first installation to implement a Veterans Affairs itemized billing process, serving as a model for others, while also executing the largest construction program in base history last year. Elmendorf's hospital was rated best in the Air Force for the second consecutive year, and it was named as having Pacific Air Forces' best environmental program, officials said.

Defense Distribution Depot Susquehanna, under the command of Navy Capt. J.G. King, was recognized for its service in providing commodities to all armed forces, federal agencies, and other defense depots in the eastern half of the United States, as well as Central and South America, Europe, North Africa, and Southwest Asia.

As the Defense Department's largest distribution center, the depot last year built more than 28,600 air pallets, filled more than 9,990 sea containers, loaded more than 6,300 trucks for delivery to more than 50 military installations, officials said. At the same time, the depot completed "massive re-warehousing" in preparation to receive material repositioned from the Base Realignment and Closure process, giving it stewardship of more than a million different stock items.

Afghanistan: Live Explosives Removed From Soldier's Scalp

Explosive Device Lodged in Scalp of Soldier at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan

Risking a deadly explosion in the operating room, doctors at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan surgically removed an explosive device from the head of an Afghan National Army Soldier last month, according to the Air Force News Service.



ABC News Medical Unit
Apr. 9, 2010

The 2.5-inch unexploded ordnance became lodged in the patient's scalp during an improvised explosive device attack. But when the patient arrived for treatment, doctors thought it was only a piece of scrap metal, the Air Force reported.

"Initially, I thought it was a spent end of some sort of larger round," Lt. Col. Anthony Terreri, the radiologist at the Craig Joint Theater Hospital who checked the patient's CAT scan, told the Air Force.

"I saw that it was not solid metal on the inside," he said. "I then looked at the [CAT scan] image and could see there was an air gap on one end and what looked almost like the tip of a tube of lipstick at the end and decided this didn't look quite right."

Unnecessary personnel were immediately evacuated and an explosive ordnance disposal team was summoned in preparation for surgery, Maj. John Bini, the 455th Expeditionary Medical Group-Task Force Medical East trauma director, told the Air Force.

Several patients and personnel had to stay on, however, because they could not be evacuated for medical reasons.

"It was kind of a case of Murphy's Law coming into play," Tech. Sgt. William Carter, a medical technician at the hospital, told the Air Force.

"We had an [operating room] full of trauma cases and we had people in other rooms who were busy taking care of patients and it was really an all-hands-on-deck event."

Donning body armor and crossing their fingers, the trauma team at Bagram went to work to remove the ordnance. Luckily, things went off without a hitch, Bini told the Air Force.

The ordnance safely removed, neurosurgery on the patient commenced.

"The images available on the CT scan shows a depressed skull fracture involving the right front part of the brain," said Dr. David Palestrant, director of neurocritical care at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

"The good news is that the [ordnance] did not penetrate the skull, [but] the force of the impact can still cause significant injury to brain structures that may not be apparent at first."

Trauma director Bini told the Air Force, "The patient does have a traumatic brain injury but his neurologic condition continues to improve on a daily basis."

Given that the device did not penetrate the skull, added Dr. Antonio Chiocca, chairman of Department of Neurological Surgery at Ohio State University, "his prognosis should be relatively good."

Marine with local ties injured in Afghanistan

FRANKLIN—Franklin’s Jeane Brown says her 25-year-old grandson, Bobby Brown, is her hero.


By Gwen Albers (Contact) | Tidewater News
Published Friday, April 9, 2010

A lance corporal stationed in Afghanistan with the U.S. Marines, Bobby Brown was credited with saving his fellow soldiers’ lives after following insurgents into a building, where he tossed a hand grenade at them.

Brown paid the price. The Edenton, N.C., man suffered first-degree burns to his face and second-degree burns to his neck and torso. Taken to Germany for treatment, he is expected to be transferred to a hospital in San Antonio, where he will remain for three to four months.

“He was caught on fire and was knocked unconscious,” Jeane Brown said. “At (Marine headquarters in) Quantico, they said he saved a lot of lives.”

The flash from the grenade’s explosion caused Bobby Brown’s burns, according to his 71-year-old grandmother.

Bobby Brown is the son of former Franklin resident Robert “Bobby” Brown and his wife, Linda, of Edenton, N.C. Bobby’s aunt and uncle are Lewis and Renee Brown of Franklin.

A graduate of John A. Holmes High School in Edenton, Bobby Brown dropped out of college four years ago to join the Marines, Jeane Brown said. He had been in Afghanistan for a month.

Jeane Brown also thanked the Daughters of the American Revolution for their efforts.

“They give the military calling cards so they can call home,” she said. “He has talked to his parents every day since the day he was hurt.”

Automation to Improve Post-9/11 GI Bill Processing

WASHINGTON - With 153,000 veterans enrolled in the Post-9/11 GI Bill this semester, and new automation tools to arrive this month to improve processing procedures, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki declared the program "on track" and headed toward greater efficiency.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs RSS
Story by Donna Miles
Date: 04.09.2010
Posted: 04.09.2010 09:23

Shinseki acknowledged during an interview with American Forces Press Service that the Post-9/11 GI Bill got off to a rocky start after it took effect Aug. 1.

He said he was surprised when many colleges and universities took months to submit the student enrollment certificates VA needed to begin cutting checks to the schools as well as enrollees.

"They must be well-endowed," he said of schools that covered the up-front costs of students' tuition, room and board without seeking prompt reimbursement. "But because I don't have that certificate, I haven't paid them tuition. But neither have I paid kids their monthly living stipend or their books, because they are all tied together."

By the second week of December, the end of the fall semester, VA was still receiving 1,500 to 2,000 certificates of enrollment a day for students who had been attending schools since August, he said. In fact, some are still trickling in to VA.

"We learned a lot. We learned we had to talk to 6,500 schools and say, 'We have got to do better,'" Shinseki said. "We needed to work with them and explain to them that 'Whether you think it is important or not, the veteran doesn't get paid until you send us this certificate of enrollment.' So for the veteran's sake, we need to do better."

Shinseki credited the VA staff with stepping up to the plate, contacting schools directly to solicit those enrollment certificates, then going into overdrive to manually process thousands of certificates a day. He convened a late-night meeting in November, bringing together the education directors from VA's regional offices to come up with ways to further speed up the processing.

"We took out steps that were redundant," he said. "In the process, we have simplified and reengineered the business process. ... We have worked the bugs out of an imperfect system."

By the end of the fall semester, he said, all 173,000 enrollees were being paid through this new process.

As of Feb. 1, 131,000 of the 153,000 students enrolled in the system were being paid, and VA was "knocking down" the remaining certificates at the rate of about 7,000 a day, he noted.

"So I feel pretty good about how this is going," Shinseki said. "Our numbers are up and our payments are up, and we still don't have an automated tool."

The first of those new tools is set to come online this month, with more capabilities to follow in July, November and December. By the year's end, Shinseki said, the system will be fully automated.

"I think we are on a good track," he said. "Now, when automation comes, we are going to have a tremendous gain."

Shinseki said he's counting on lessons learned implementing the Post-9/11 GI Bill to carry over as VA tackles its major challenge this year: reducing the disability claims backlog.

Shinseki called the Post 9/11 GI Bill a generous investment in the future of veterans who have served the country in uniform since 9/11.

"I feel good about the GI Bill. That is an accomplishment," he said. "I think that, long-term, this is going to be a huge return for the country. And it is a huge step for [veterans] and their lives."

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides veterans seeking an undergraduate degree a full ride at any state institution at the highest in-state tuition rate, by state, along with a semester stipend for books and a monthly living stipend.

For the first time in history, service members enrolled in the Post-9/11 GI Bill program can transfer unused educational benefits to their spouses or children.

The living stipend does not extend to active-duty service members receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

Marines to dispose of bomb kept inside home for 40 years

By David Allen and Chiyomi Sumida, Stars and Stripes
Online Edition, Friday, April 9, 2010

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A live anti-tank explosive that was displayed in a home for 40 years and has sat in an Okinawa woman’s backyard for the past five months will be destroyed soon by a U.S. Marine Corps disposal team.

To continue reading:


How Sweet It Is

KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan- Anybody that has seen Afghan women caring for their families, trekking up and down mountainous roads, and toiling in the fields knows that they are not strangers to playing the role of worker bee.


Combined Joint Task Force - 82 PAO RSS
Story by Staff Sgt. Whitney Hughes
Date: 04.09.2010
Posted: 04.09.2010 09:11

However, with the help of the Task Force Wolverine's Kentucky Agricultural Development Team, Afghan women are now putting the bees to work for them.

The Kapisa Honeybee project began by supplying four beehives each to 25 women in Kapisa, and teaching them how to manage, care for, and harvest the honey from the hives.

On April 1, the Kentucky ADT, who is currently assisting the Kapisa women with the project, paid a visit to key leaders to discuss how to proceed now that spring, the peak honey season, is upon them.

"The women are recognizing problems in the hives and know to contact the Director of Agriculture Irrigation and Livestock office for assistance. This is our biggest accomplishment with the project, as we are trying to help the people trust that the government will assist them. The beneficiaries [or hive managers] are contacting the DAIL and the Director Of Women's Affairs offices with issues in apiculture, this indicates they are seeing they need to rely on their government," said U.S. Army Sgt. Jo Ashley, from Eubank, Ky., the non-commissioned officer in charge of aiding the women with the project.

The Kentucky Soldiers took over the project from the Nebraska ADT who began the project in 2009. The idea behind the project is for it to eventually be self-sustaining. The benefactors, or hive managers, will manage their four hives for three years, splitting them to increase production and the number of hives. At the end of three years, they expect double the amount of hives and return the original four hives to the DAIL. The original four hives will then be redistributed to 25 other women, starting the process all over.

In addition to the materials that the ADT provides, they also provide training, which the women then disseminate to other women. So, much like the hives themselves the project scope is constantly expanding.

"I have a plan to help 1,000 women on this project," said the director of women's affairs for Kapisa, Suhaila Kohistani (through a translator), who has been involved with the project since its inception in 2009. "I have 10 to 15 women applying for this project each day," added Kohastoni during a telephone interview while she had three applicants standing in her office.

It is easy to understand why there is so much interest in the project.

One bee hive can produce up to six pounds of honey per year, and in local markets it is selling for 400 to 1,000 AFG (Afghani) per kilo, or about $6.60 per pound. So, one bee hive is worth about $39.60 per year.

To the average American this might not seem like a lot. But for the average Afghan household, whose income is about $400 (according to the UN); this is almost 10% of their income. However, in addition to the immediate financial benefits the Kapisa Honeybee Project also brings more long-term benefits.

Bees from a single hive can pollinate up to a three mile radius, so one woman with four hives can also have a significant impact on the agriculture on a larger scale.

"The women are all excited about the project and their involvement. From the DOWA to the children of the beneficiaries, all have gained knowledge that not only helps them manage their own hives, but also to allow them to teach others. They know they have a monumental role in Afghanistan's agriculture," said Ashley.

The project allows the women to play a pivotal role in their families, communities, and ecosystem, but its impact doesn't end there. The women also gain a new sense of independence through economic development, according to U.S. Army Maj. Jim Rush, a member of the Agricultural Development Team.

Ashley agreed, and stressed the social significance that the project carries with it.

"The women are rebuilding the self confidence that was lost in the thirty years of war tearing their families and social status to pieces. With projects such as this the women are working their way back up via the country's agriculture foundation to show they too are instrumental in the reconstruction of a war-torn country," she said.

With the help of ADT Soldiers, the women of Kapisa are using the project to harness the potential of these minute workers to make an enormous impact on their future, changing their role from worker bee to queen bee.