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May 31, 2010

Marines Honor the Fallen on Memorial Day

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – The I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd) held a Memorial Day ceremony at Camp Leatherneck to honor America's fallen.



I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd) More Stories from I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd) RSS
Story by Sgt. Heidi Agostini
Date: 05.31.2010
Posted: 05.31.2010 12:04

As of May 30, 2010, the Associated Press reported the 1,000 service member killed in Afghanistan since the war began in 2002, Cpl. Jacob Leicht, a 24-year-old Marine from Texas hill country.

This was Leicht's second deployment. Previously wounded in Iraq in 2007, Leicht, who was born on the Fourth of July, deployed with 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and died May 27.

Jacob's younger brother, Jessie, enlisted in the Marine Corps nine days prior to his older brother's death.

Today, service members remember Marines like Leicht, who sacrificed and fought for what he believed was worth protecting. It's Memorial Day here in Afghanistan, and on Camp Leatherneck it's not just Marines that are honoring America's fallen; its Afghan soldiers, British troops, Navy, Air Force and Army personnel.

Since the transfer of authority in early April, I MEF (Fwd) has suffered the deaths of 15 Marines and one Sailor.

"Today back home, 16 new crosses will be decorated with flags and flowers," said Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, commanding general, I MEF (Fwd). "Sixteen new families will grieve and understand the price of freedom. So today, as we remember all the dead of wars past, I ask that you remember those of this command who paid the ultimate price. But I ask that you remember them for what they are."

The fallen are heroes, not victims, for paying the price so that other people in this world can sleep safe and be free and protected, said Mills.

Some would agree that Memorial Day is a holiday whose true meaning has been lost in translation over the years. It's the unofficial beginning of summer. School days are almost over. There are picnics, barbeques, tanning at the beach, relaxing by the lake and an excuse to take a day off. The original meaning is long gone.

"That meaning was to honor the men and women who have answered the country's calls over the years and who died in our nation's service," said Mills during the ceremony. "Memorial Day is not a day to have fun or to relax instead it's a day to remember and to honor the true American heroes -- those who gave the ultimate sacrifice."

Insurgents Targeted With Precision Airstrikes in Barg-e Matal

KABUL, Afghanistan - ISAF supported Afghan National Security Force operations in Nuristan province by delivering precision-guided airstrikes on known insurgent locations near Barg-e Matal early Monday.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.31.2010
Posted: 05.31.2010 01:14

The airstrikes were requested by local officials and ANSF commanders. Extreme care was given to validating the targets, which were under surveillance for an extended period of time.

The operation was launched in response to significant insurgent activity in the area during the previous week. The precision strikes were designed to degrade enemy positions, command and control, and staging/caches sites in the area.

Insurgents Targeted With Precision Airstrikes in Barg-e Matal

KABUL, Afghanistan - ISAF supported Afghan National Security Force operations in Nuristan province by delivering precision-guided airstrikes on known insurgent locations near Barg-e Matal early Monday.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.31.2010
Posted: 05.31.2010 01:14

The airstrikes were requested by local officials and ANSF commanders. Extreme care was given to validating the targets, which were under surveillance for an extended period of time.

The operation was launched in response to significant insurgent activity in the area during the previous week. The precision strikes were designed to degrade enemy positions, command and control, and staging/caches sites in the area.

Marines See Benefits of 'Hunt and Help' in Helmand

Aid for Locals Seen as Key to Reduced Violence in Taliban Heartland in Afghanistan

Southern Helmand Province, Afghanistan, is the opium capital of the world and the financial base of the Taliban. It is one of the most dangerous parts of country.

Click above link for news video.

MIAN POSHETH, Afghanistan May 31, 2010

"Nightline" visited the province to see Marines Fox Company at work in the town of Mian Posheth. After months of volatility, there are signs that Helmand may be calming -- and the Marines credit their own restraint in engaging in combat, combined with local outreach tactics.

One day we accompanied Marines a few miles south of their base, where the company said they'd found an unexploded roadside bomb. The bomb disposal squad was on site.

The tip was reported by a local Afghan. Such tips are one advantage of the soldiers' living among the people.

We walked a mile through poppy fields, avoiding the road, which was likely littered with bombs.

The bomb squad prepared for the task at hand.

"I have to put my faith life and my trust in his hands and vice versa," said Staff Sgt. Eric Chir of his partner, Sgt. Johnny Jones.

"We either talk a lot or we don't talk at all, but we always know what each other is about to do," said Jones.

This isn't "The Hurt Locker." There are no big bomb suits, and robots can't be used in this terrain.

With painstaking care, the Marines prepared to detonate the bomb.

There was an achingly long silence, and then... the bomb went off.

The blast rang in our ears. We walked to the crater, but suddenly a local resident warned that there were three more bombs in the area.

Hearts pounding, we carefully followed our own footsteps back across a canal.

It was a reminder of how tenuous the progress is here. Helmand has been cleared several times but never held.

And as tense as the experience was, it was a big improvement over the violent situation here just nine months ago.

Helmand Province, Then and Now

Photojournalist Dennis Danfung's upcoming documentary, "Hell and Back," captures Mian Poshteh last year. Fighting was fierce and relentless.

"On a daily basis we fought," said Capt. Scott Cuomo. "The market that you go through was barren, nobody there, no one drove on this road."

On Dec. 1, 2009 Lance Corp. Jonathan A. Taylor was killed by a roadside bomb next to the new base.

The men named it "Patrol Base Gators" after Taylor's favorite football team, the Florida Gators.

"You know we talk about him every day," said Sgt. Eric Finch. "Marines, we are a tight-knit bunch of guys and we don't take things like that lightly."

The soldiers took pains not to lash out at locals, some of whom likely knew the bomb was there. The marines' leadership calls this "courageous restraint" -- a growing mantra in a battle where "the people are the prize."

"I mean, don't get me wrong, when we find the bad guys and they need to die, they're going to die, but when it comes to the innocent people that are just trying to live their lives, we're here to help them do that," said Finch.

Perhaps because of that, these days things are starting to look different, at least in this corner of Helmand Province.

Cuomo, the commander of Fox Company, doesn't seem all that nervous now when he walks the roads.

He greets locals with a handshake and the hearty greeting, "as-salaamu allayakum," peace be with you.

Wearing no body armor, Cuomo strolls through Mian Poshteh.

"The whole west side of this thing was loaded with drugs and weapons, different paraphernalia along those lines," Cuomo explained.

What Went Right in Helmand

The roads of Mian Poshteh are busy and the market is bustling. So why the turnaround?

"Three words: 'Hunt and help.' Period," Cuomo said. "You can go after the enemy every single day, you better come swinging with something else. You better come swinging with some help."

Cuomo began moving groups of Marines to live on small patrol bases in villages, where they could better protect the elders and mullahs who were willing to work with them.

Life on these bases is extremely basic. Marines sleep with no shelter and eat packaged food. There is no running water. Showers are a luxury. And there is no privacy.

And with their June 2011 pullout date drawing ever closer, the men know they have precious little time to turn the tide of the war here.

"Above my pay grade to speculate on whether it's tenable," said Cuomo. "By 2011, I have no idea whether to say yes or no."

The hope is that each day here brings them a step closer to success. When we were with the company, a rare mail delivery brought care packages.

"Twizzlers, iced tea, toothbrushes, and trail mix, deodorant, Nutri Grain bars, Easter bunny," one soldier ticked off. "It's a little bit melted but it will cool down tonight."

It was a much-needed taste of home -- which is the main thing on the soldiers' minds right now.

Memorial Day: What Gold Star families want you to know

Memorial Day is a tough one for parents who have lost a child in Iraq and Afghanistan. But then, they're all tough. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Family gatherings.


By Bonnie Miller Rubin, Tribune reporter
May 31, 2010

"You never know when it's going to catch you by surprise," said Jim Frazier, whose 24-year-old son, Jacob, was killed in Afghanistan in 2003. "I can be driving down the Kennedy and something will hit me … and I'll find myself choking up. You never really get over it."

Since Sept. 11, 2001, 213 Illinois servicemen and women have died in combat. First comes the men at the front door bearing bad news, then the flag-draped coffin, followed by the precision of a military funeral — the snap of a salute, the spit-and-polish of a uniform, the firing of rifles in unison.

But after the crowds go home, grief is rarely tidy, say those who have lost a child in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some people inadvertently contribute to the heartache with awkward talk of closure or a tone-deafness about the significance of Memorial Day.

On this somber holiday, here's what three parents said they want you to know about their sadness: what helps, what hurts and why it's important to remember.

Jim Frazier, father of Staff Sgt. Jacob Frazier, 24, Illinois Air National Guard

"Don't ever use the word 'closure' with me," said Frazier, who lives in Lake in the Hills. "I once threw a reporter out who used that word. It's simply a hole in your heart that is always there … and you learn to live with it."

That was just the first of some well-meaning but clumsy gestures after Jake was killed in southern Afghanistan seven years ago.

Another occurred Memorial Day 2003 — just two months after burying Jake, who grew up in St. Charles and graduated from Burlington Central High School. Jake's parents found themselves on a parade float going down State Street in Chicago. The jarring contrast between the happy, smiling crowds and their own sadness left an indelible imprint.

"When it was over, I said, 'Thanks for having us, but don't ever make anyone sit on a float again.'" It's one reason why he has been involved in the city's parade committee ever since.

He explains his activism this way: "I lost a boy … I can't do anything for him, but I sure as hell can do something for the other young men and women in harm's way. … It's the way recovering addicts help recovering addicts. They're the only ones that understand … and I seek out people who have gone through the same thing."

So what expressions of sympathy are truly helpful?

"The kindest thing you can do is just say, 'Tell me about him,' because if you don't talk, you get sick. I've had some terrible times after Jake was killed, but for me, being of service is the way to go. I'd hope Jake would say, 'I'm proud of you, Pops.'"

Kirk Morris, father of Marine Pfc. Geoffrey Morris, 19

Geoffrey Morris was a 19-year-old Marine when he was killed by a grenade six years ago in Iraq. His father's voice still catches describing all the activities they shared, such as fishing and pheasant-hunting.

"The one thing I don't do is play pool anymore. I have a beautiful table downstairs, but I just can't do it."

Like Frazier, Kirk Morris marched in Chicago's parade on Saturday. Still, he wrestles with ambivalent feelings on Memorial Day.

"It's one of the most important days of the year to me, but it's also unsettling," said Morris, a Gurnee village trustee.

"I don't think that the majority of Americans get it," he said. "It's about remembering those who have fallen. ... I don't want to diminish our veterans, but that's why we have Veterans Day. This day is about all those who never got their tomorrows."

Since Geoffrey's death, he has kicked his activism into high gear, including an unsuccessful run for Congress, a fishing tournament to benefit military families and maintaining a Facebook page dedicated to these "Heroes of Freedom." But he'll call you out if you ask if lending a hand is a means of coping.

"It doesn't help me recover one bit," he snaps. "In fact, it makes things worse because I see so many families in pain. But families have so many questions … and I saw a need and I filled it."

He also has a long list of expressions of sympathy that rub salt in the wound. The worst: "When someone says, 'They're in a better place.' I just want to yell, 'Are you frickin' kidding me?' He was 19 years old. His place was with his daddy.

"There are no magic words, so don't even try coming up with them. Instead, if you see someone serving or a Gold Star license plate, just put a note on their windshield and say, 'Thank you.'"

Sandra Miller, mother of Army Pvt. DeWayne White, 27

The yellow ribbons — faded and tattered — are still wrapped around the trees on Sandra Miller's front yard in Country Club Hills. She can't seem to take them down. It's just one of the many ways she remembers her son DeWayne White, one of three U.S. soldiers killed by a roadside bomb near Baiji, Iraq, in 2007.

Another is the prayer box that she keeps on her bedroom dresser. Every time a member of the U.S. military dies in battle, she writes his or her name on a slip of paper, adding it to the box and praying for the family.

"There's an awful lot of pain in there," she said.

But while Miller, a deeply religious woman, does her part to tend to the legacy of her son, she is baffled that so many Americans do not recognize or even think about his sacrifice, especially on Memorial Day. Even family members, she said, are too busy to mark the occasion, leaving her alone in her sorrow.

"It's not about having a barbecue. It's a day for remembering. … And what's up with all the sales?" she said. "If one TV channel could just put up the photos of all the fallen for just one day, that would make a huge difference."

Miller quit her job in the mortgage business after her son's death and hasn't returned to work. She also stopped painting because "DeWayne loved art," she said. But she hasn't stopped worrying. Another son, DeShaun — three years younger than his brother — is in Hawaii, about to be deployed for a third tour of duty in Iraq.

"All I asked is that he bring back some sand because that's the last place my son touched."

Like Morris, she wishes more people would acknowledge the Gold Star, a symbol used by those who have lost loved ones in battle, which she wears proudly on her lapel.

"Most people have no idea what it's for. When I tell them, they usually hang their head, like they don't know what to say. Just give me a hug. Tell me that you appreciate that my son died for our freedom. Just make it count for something."

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Memories of ‘Forgotten War' linger for vets who were there

Even though nearly 60 years have passed, Jess Meado still gets emotional when he thinks about fellow Marines killed in Korea.


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May 31, 2010 4:59 AM

“Memorial Day is a time to honor our fallen friends,” said a teary-eyed Meado, who served as a sergeant and infantry squad leader with the 1st Marine Division in Korea in 1952-53 and saw many of his friends die in combat.

Meado sat down last week with three other Jacksonville veterans of the Korean War to talk about the war and patriotism.

“We lived too much in the shadows of World War II,” said John Waltrip, a sergeant in the 1st Marine Division in 1951-52. “People didn’t realize what we were doing over there.”

Still, Meado recalled that many young men were eager to serve in the Marine Corps during the Korean War.

“When I arrived at Parris Island [a Marine training base in South Carolina], there were about 18 train cars of new recruits,” he said. “They had no trouble getting young men to serve their country.”

But with World War II still fresh in their memories, some weren’t so excited about going to fight on foreign soil again.

“The reserves from World War II were soured on the war because they got called back,” recalled Leroy “Bud” Barton, who also served as a sergeant in the 1st Marine Division.

Donald Bates, who was in charge of firing 5-inch guns aboard the aircraft carrier USS Philippine Sea in 1950-51, said the general public had less of a stake in the Korean War than in World War II.

“During World War II, people had rationing of tires, sugar and gas, but during the Korean War the public didn’t suffer, so the civilian population was more or less disinterested, unless they had family members over there,” Bates said.
All four men are proud to have served their country and believe that most Americans are patriotic.

Waltrip said that as a Boy Scout leader in charge of an Eagle Scout Board of Review, he has noticed a resurgence in patriotism, especially with respect toward the American flag.

“They are more loyal and respectful to the flag and to our country,” Waltrip said.

Waltrip, Meado and Barton are all members of the West Central Illinois Leathernecks Detachment 1177 of the Marine Corps League, and live by the Marine Corps motto: “Semper Fidelis,” meaning “always faithful.”

“I am very, very proud to be a Marine,” Waltrip said, “and I would do it again if called upon. Once a Marine, always a Marine.

“And we, as Marines, will always appreciate those who were in the background supporting those troops who put their lives on the line.”

Banding Together to Get Better

Banding Together to Get BetterAmputees at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Rely on Each Other For Inspiration to Push Themselves to Walk Again

(CBS) May was a cruel month. The number of servicemen and women who lost an arm or a leg since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began went over 1,000, many of them more than one. They come to the physical therapy room at Walter Reed, reports CBS News correspondent David Martin.



By David Martin
May 31, 2010

Marine Sgt. Maj. Raymond Mackey stepped on a mine in Afghanistan last Dec. 23 and his goal is to be walking again by next Dec. 23. He lost both legs above the knee.

"I just got my legs, my C-legs, my computer legs and I'm learning how to put them on and how to fire it to where the knee comes forward and everything like that," Mackey said.

A computerized knee is one of the many technological advances spawned by wars which no one at Walter Reed ever thought would last this long, but Mackey will tell you technology is not what gets you walking again.

"It's all about attitude and how much heart you got," Mackey said.

He's 20 years older than everybody else here, but by the time he and his wife Vicky knock off for the day, Mackey has spent five hours in physical therapy and left behind a message for all the younger men.

"Ultimately, I think a lot of us tend to feed off each other," said Josh Tuohy. "How else are you going to get better if you're not pushing yourself at least, I mean, use the other people to measure your success."

Tuohy got hit last September by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, and has been walking with a vengeance since January.

"I had a level of physical fitness I was at prior to my injury, and it's just imperative for me to get back to that level," Tuohy said. "I'll settle for nothing less."

After trying a number of different legs, he's settled on one without a computerized knee.

"I was never a firm believer in the concept of having to plug a leg in at night like a cell phone," Tuohy said.

Dave Flowers, who was injured in a landmine in Afghanistan, has been at Walter Reed for a year but only in the past month has he started walking on his own. The combination of one prosthetic leg and one badly mangled real leg was holding him back, until he started playing Wii.

"It tells you how much you favor one side, like if you're standing too much on your prosthetic and not on your other leg," Flowers said.

It worked for him, he thought it mike work for others, so he raised $10,000, and started buying them for all the guys.

It's not just a physical therapy room. It's a band of brothers wise beyond their years.

"The only person holding you back is yourself," Tuohy said. "So, yes, I could just sit there and complain, but at the end of the day, what's the point?"

What's the hardest part of losing your legs?

"The hardest part is knowing that your unit is there with you," Mackey said. "That's the hardest part for me."

So last week, when Mackey's unit came home from Afghanistan, and guess who was there to meet them.

IJC Operational Update, May 31

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international force used a precision air strike to kill Taliban commander Haji Amir, one of the two most senior Taliban leaders in Kandahar province, and several of his fighters Sunday morning in Panjwa'i District.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.31.2010
Posted: 05.31.2010 04:55

Haji Amir and his fighters had been tracked for several days, and when they stopped at a small unoccupied mud hut in a farming area near the village of Zangabad, the combined force called in the air strike.

The Taliban leader operated throughout Dand, Zhari and Panjwa'i Districts. He escaped from Sarposa Prison in a Taliban coordinated prison break in June, 2008.

Most recently Amir had been in Pakistan planning the Taliban's upcoming attacks, and he returned to Afghanistan in April to lead attacks against coalition and Afghan forces.

A separate Afghan-international security force detained multiple individuals while searching a series of compounds in Helmand province last night.

The combined force went to compounds in a rural area north of Lashkar Gar, Nahr-e Saraj District, after intelligence information discovered insurgent activity.

Several of the suspects fled the compound areas but were quickly and safely caught. Weapons and approximately 30 kilograms of wet opium were seized during the search.

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

The Afghan National Police

This responsibility falls on the Afghan National Police, a branch of the Afghan national security forces, which is now some 100,000 members strong and includes the Afghan uniformed police, the Afghan border police, the Afghan national civil order police, and a few other policing and paramilitary entities.


Combined Joint Task Force - 82 PAO More Stories from Combined Joint Task Force - 82 PAO RSS
Story by Sgt. Spencer Case
Date: 05.31.2010
Posted: 05.31.2010 03:44

In many ways, the Afghan National Police have more of an impact on counterinsurgency efforts than the Afghan National Army, said U.S. Army Maj. James A. Ramage, a deputy provost martial for ANP development for Combined Joint Task Force-82.

"If the police are legitimate, if they're out there doing their job providing law and order; that goes a very long way toward de-legitimizing an insurgency," said Ramage, who hails from Hope Mills, N.C. "If people are secure in their homes and their neighborhoods, they aren't going to join an insurgency."

Much has changed with the relationship between ANP and International Security Assistance Forces since CJTF-82 assumed command of Regional Command-East June 3, 2009. The biggest change has been that the regional task forces became directly responsible for ANP progress last fall, an event which allowed for greater opportunities for combined action, Ramage said.

The new relationship between the ANP and ISAF battle space owners, combined with initiatives of the government of Afghanistan, has helped combat two obstacles to developing a professional police force: corruption and lack of adequate training.

"In our rotation we've seen improved training and pay for the police, which in turn helps with the corruption issues," Ramage said. "If you're making a living wage, you're not going to make a buck on the black market or make a buck by fleecing down civilians for illegal tolls or some other racketeering type of crime. So on our rotation, the partnership we've been able to do with the police along with the training, that's helped dramatically in terms of shaping a professional police force."

Ramage's claim that progress has been made with the development of the ANP over the last year is corroborated by the results of a survey conducted by ISAF.

Twenty male surveyors and 20 female surveyors gathered the viewpoints of more than 6,000 Afghans residing in every district of RC-East on issues related to security and development.

According to the most recent quarterly survey completed in April, 88 percent of Afghans in RC-East reported that they agreed with the statement, "The ANP is capable of protecting." Only 10 percent said they thought that they're in danger from the ANP, a 7-percent decrease from April 2009.

Afghan Uniformed Police

The AUP are the largest and most frequently seen face of the ANP and first line representatives of Afghan government.

The AUP is approximately 65,000 patrolmen strong and they are charged with the day-to-day policing of Afghanistan at the district level.

Keeping the force trained and competent is a high priority for the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and ISAF.

To this end, troops in RC-East have increased partnership with the AUP during the course of CJTF-82's deployment. Of the nearly 160 districts in RC-East, troops are now conducting combined action in over 60, Ramage said. Most of this is being conducted by Military Police and other maneuver units who live at forward operating bases and combat outposts near district centers.

The Afghan ministry of interior has sought to build the competence of the AUP through two main training programs: the Focused District Development Program and the Directed Police District Development Program.

The FDPP extracts troubled AUP units from the districts where they operate and places them in a Regional Training Center for a period of eight weeks. While they are away, the ANCOP, an elite federal response force with more than 3,000 members comparable to U.S. police Specialized Weapons and Tactics teams, step in to fill the vacuum.

A newer program, the DPDD, is essentially an inverted version of FPDD. It allows the AUP units to remain in place and has trainers from the ministry of interior embed with the unit to conduct on-site training for a period of 12 weeks. During that period, half the unit trains for six weeks while the other half conducts regular operations; the two halves then switch.

This puts less stress on the ANCOP and allows law enforcement to stay local, Ramage said.

"The local elders, the local villagers, can all see the immediate benefits," he said. "They don't have to become accustomed to an ANCOP or some other police agency coming into their district the whole time."

There are currently more than 50 districts in RC-East whose police are in either the FDDP or DPDD program, of which 18 began training during CJTF-82's tour.

At that rate, the ministry of interior is on track to meets its goal of having all AUP "key terrain districts," which the ministry of interior has selected for focused development efforts, trained by 2011.

Afghan Border Police

The ABP are composed of more than 12,000 police officers and are responsible for providing security at Afghanistan's four international airports and 3,435 miles of border with six countries. The total length of Afghanistan's borders is about the combined length of the U.S. border with Mexico and Canada's border with Alaska.

Afghanistan's border with Pakistan is its longest, stretching 1,509 miles. Of that, 450 miles is in RC-East, a distance about 100 miles longer than Arizona's border with Mexico. The Pakistan border is particularly important because of the threats posed by the narcotics trade and organized crime groups like the Haqqani Network.

Due to other challenges facing Afghanistan, capacity building for ABP has not been a priority over the last few years. However, progress in RC-East has allowed CJTF-82 to focus on the ABP more than predecessors. They have focused on education and partnership.

The ABP have made progress over the course of CJTF-82's deployment.

Many ISAF troops have partnered with ABP. Soldiers from C Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, at Waza Khwa, Paktika province conducted over 100 patrols jointly with ANSF in their first 100 days. These troops found the ABP to be competent partners and loyal servants of their country.

"Working with the ABP is a rewarding challenge and a unique experience," said U.S. Army 1st Lt. Dave Hanson, a platoon leader with C Company, from Endicott, N.Y. "The level of partnership we have been able to develop in such a short time frame demonstrates their willingness to protect their country and the promise of a bright future."

U.S. Army 1st Lt. Scott Harris, the C Company executive officer, gave a similar assessment of the ABP.

"The ABP have been instrumental in our fight against the insurgents," said Harris, who hails from Fayetteville, N.C. "Whether they are working side by side with coalition forces or they are out conducting independent operations, the results are always the same—success."

Education is another area where progress has been made on CJTF-82's watch. When CJTF-82 assumed command of RC-East June 3, 2009, no leadership development program existed for ABP non-commissioned officers.

A March 11 graduation ceremony shows that has since changed. Eleven members of the ABP completed the first iteration of a course run by Afghan instructors.
The course, held at Gardez, Paktya province, included classroom training, weapons instruction and field exercises. All of the graduates were promoted to 3rd sergeant – the equivalent to sergeant in the U.S. Army – upon completion of the course.

"This course was critical to the ABP solving their own professional development needs and reinforces a continued emphasis of development of a professional NCO Corps," said U.S. Army Master Sgt. Jason Dodge of Stanley, N.Y., HHC, 3rd STB, who helps supervise ABP NCOs.

Afghan National Security Forces Secure Barg-e Matal

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan National Security Forces, aided by international troops, secured the Barg-e Matal District center in Nuristan province last night. This operation is in response to the large amount of insurgent activity in the area during previous weeks.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.31.2010
Posted: 05.31.2010 11:43

A sizeable number of ANSF, assisted by a small contingent of coalition partners, is participating in the operation. ISAF units supported the ANSF operation by delivering the troops.

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

"This successful operation by Afghan forces will return governance to Barg-e Matal," said Zemarai Bashary, the Ministry of Interior spokesman. "This operation shows the improved planning and operational capabilities of our joint forces in response to serious incidents even in the most remote locations of Afghanistan."

May 30, 2010

Contract Helicopter Makes Hard Landing in Eastern Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan - An MI-8 contract helicopter made a hard landing in the Jaji district of Paktiya province May 30.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Date: 05.30.2010
Posted: 05.30.2010 03:29

A civilian on the ground was killed when he was struck by debris, and three crew members received minor injuries.

International Security Assistance Forces responded to the incident and secured the site.

There were no reports of insurgent involvement, and the incident is currently under investigation.

Memorial Day 2010

ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. -- This is the place that receives the most attention on Memorial Day, though it is but one of 141 national cemeteries in the United States and 24 others located on foreign soil. Many of our countrymen will observe this "last Monday in May" holiday with travel, shopping and picnics. But those who take the time to visit one of these hallowed grounds will have an unforgettable experience.


By: Oliver North
Examiner Columnist
May 30, 2010

These are the final resting places for more than 3 million Americans who served in our armed forces -- as soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen and Marines -- including the nearly 5,500 who have perished in Afghanistan and Iraq.

A visit to one of these quiet memorials is a tribute to those who made history by wearing our nation's uniform and taking up arms to preserve our liberty and free tens of millions of others from tyranny. In words written on stone markers, these places tell the story of who we are as a people.

Regardless of when they served, all interred in these cemeteries sacrificed the comforts of home and absented themselves from the warmth and affection of loved ones. Since 1776, more than 1.5 million Americans have lost their lives while in uniform.

At countless funerals and memorial services for those who lost their lives in the service of our country, I hear the question, "Why is such a good young person taken from us in the prime of life?" Plato, the Greek philosopher, apparently sought to resolve the issue by observing, "Only the dead have seen the end of war." I prefer to take my solace in the words of Jesus to the Apostle John: "Father, I will that those you have given me, be with me where I am."

My sojourns to this "Sacred Ground," as Tom Ruck calls our national cemeteries in the title of his magnificent book, remind me that among those here are veterans who served with my father and all of my uncles in the conflagration of World War II. Only a handful of those 16.5 million from that "greatest generation" remain. Others resting in these consecrated places were tested just five years later in our first fight against despotic communism -- on the Korean Peninsula. They braved stifling heat, mind-numbing cold and an enemy that often outnumbered them 10 to one.

Here are headstones of those who served in the decade between Korea and Vietnam. More than 12 millions young Americans donned military uniforms in what was called "the cold war." It was only cold for those who didn't have to fight in it. They served on land, air and sea in lonely outposts, dusty camps, along barbed wire barriers in foreign lands, on guard against those who would have done us harm if they had the chance.

Between 1964 and 1975, more than 7 million young Americans were committed to the bloody contest in Southeast Asia. The names of 58,267 who died from that fight are on the wall of the Vietnam War Memorial -- some of them were my Marines and my brother's soldiers. Headstones in cemeteries all across this land testify to more of their selfless sacrifice -- and serve as a reminder that the victory denied in that war should never happen again.

In the three-and-a-half decades since Vietnam, not a single year has passed without Americans in uniform being committed to hostile action somewhere around the globe -- including Grenada, Beirut, Panama, the Balkans and Kuwait. We are not a warlike people. But for more than two centuries, ours has been the only nation on earth willing to consistently send its sons and daughters into harm's way -- not for gold or oil or colonial conquest, but to offer others the hope of liberty.

Since Sept. 11, that great legacy has been borne by volunteers serving in the shadows of the Hindu Kush, along the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, in the Persian Gulf and on anti-piracy patrols in the Indian Ocean. These young Americans are engaged against a merciless enemy who has proven repeatedly that there is no atrocity beneath them -- and that they will do whatever it takes to kill as many of our countrymen as possible.

Those now in uniform deserve our thanks, for no nation has ever had a better military force than the one we have today. And no accolade to those presently in our country's service is greater than honoring the veterans who preceded them on Memorial Day.

Menifee soldier delivers cargo, care packages

The cargo Jesse Karr carries when he pilots helicopters for the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan can vary.


10:00 PM PDT on Sunday, May 30, 2010
Special to The Press-Enterprise

Sometimes the 27-year-old Menifee resident is carrying bandages and bullets from the base where he is stationed to Marines on the ground in small towns.

Sometimes Karr even transports bodies.

But Karr also carries packages in his CH-53E Super Stallion that his fellow soldiers look forward to. He brings cartons, slightly smaller than traditional banker's boxes, sent from the United States with gifts. Some are sent from family members, some are from strangers.

Karr's parents Earl and Terry and his family had sent their son his fill.

So Karr, who's been in Afghanistan since January and is currently at Camp Leatherneck in a southwestern province of the country, a month and a half ago asked his family to start sending packages to his comrades as well.

Karr wasn't available to comment but his father Earl Karr says it started with a couple of Jesse's crew chiefs, the guys who run the back of the helicopters.

"They weren't getting any packages from anybody. There are 50 guys in a post in the middle of nowhere, and Jesse said he and his squadron can personally deliver them," said Earl Karr, whose father also was a Marine. He has another son in the Army in Iraq.

The troops are on the front line in small towns so they can befriend locals and let them know they are allies before the Taliban attempts to gain their favor.

Karr's aunt, Pam Karr, works in the Menifee Union School District where Jesse was a former Paloma Valley High School student. Pam Karr created a flier and spread the word around her office of the care package effort, nicknamed "Outback Buddies." Earl Karr has talked about the packages on radio shows, too.

"I've had several people say 'thank you for letting us know. Our kids and I are going to put together a package,' " Pam Karr said. "My husband is an avid reader, he sends paperback books and candy bars and suntan lotion, trail mix and cans of chili."

What the soldiers miss most, Earl Karr said, are snacks from home. Bags of chips are available at every corner store in the United States but not in the small Afghani towns. Also popular are sanitary wipes. Soldiers may not have access to showers, and the wipes are the closest they get to clean. The troops like cigars, too, he said.

"It's not about me and it's not about my son," Earl Karr said. "It's about the guys out in the middle of nowhere getting something from home."

Local U.S. post offices should have flat-rate boxes available for $10 to $14, Terry Karr said, which can be filled to the brim.

"We're so proud of Jesse and his service to our country," Pam Karr said.

For more information, contact Terry Karr at [email protected]

Some Taliban training in Iran, McChrystal says

By Heidi Vogt and Rahim Faiez - The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday May 30, 2010 12:50:21 EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan — The commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan said Sunday there is “clear evidence” that some Taliban fighters have trained in Iran.

To read the entire article:


Marine was 1,000th Afghan war casualty

By Paul J. Weber - The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday May 30, 2010 9:57:20 EDT

KERRVILLE, Texas — The 1,000th American service member killed in Afghanistan was born on the Fourth of July. He died several days before Americans honor fallen troops on Memorial Day.

To continue reading:


Photo with caption "Eric Gay / The Associated Press
Jonathan Leicht, left, and Jesse Leicht pose with a photo of their brother, Marine Cpl. Jacob Leicht. Jacob Leicht, 24, was killed May 27 while on patrol in Afghanistan, the 1,000th U.S. service member to die in the Afghan war.":


Marines, Romanian forces wrap up initial phase of training

BABADAG TRAINING AREA, Romania — Romanian Marines and soldiers topped off two weeks of peacekeeping operations training with U.S. Marines and Sailors at Romania’s Babadag Training Area with a final exercise, May 27, and a ceremony marking their accomplishment, May 28.


5/30/2010 By Cpl. R. Logan Kyle , Black Sea Rotational Force

Lt. Col. Tom Gordon, the commanding officer of Black Sea Rotational Force, said he was proud of all the hard work put in by his Marines and the Romanian troops.

“I can’t predict the future, but if we, as a band of brothers, find ourselves together in combat, I’ll be proud to serve alongside Romanian forces,” said Gordon, a Boston native, while giving a speech during the ceremony.

Marines participating in the training said the Romanian forces worked hand-in-hand with 1st Tank Battalion’s scout platoon, honing their skills in combat marksmanship, convoy operations, military operations on urbanized terrain, martial arts, nonlethal weapons techniques and other areas. Scout platoon serves as the ground combat element of the Security Cooperation Marine Air-Ground Task Force currently deployed to Eastern Europe for Black Sea Rotational Force.

“These guys worked hard the whole time they were here,” said Cpl. Devin Bullard, an assaultman with scout platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Tank Battalion. “No matter what we threw at them, they were ready, willing and motivated to try.”

During the training, the Romanians logged more than 14 hours of Marine Corps Martial Arts Program instruction, were exposed to Tasers and Oleoresin Capsicum spray, and patrolled the fields and MOUT towns throughout the training area.

Pvt. Marius Dumitru, a Romanian Marine with Amphibious Co., 307th Bn., was given a challenge coin during the ceremony for his exemplary performance and willingness to learn throughout the training evolution.

“I really didn’t expect that to happen,” said Dumitru, referring to the moment Gordon called him front-and-center. “This is a great honor for me. It’s really motivating for me and feels good to be appreciated.”

The commanders of the Romanian Marines and Land Forces soldiers were also presented with plaques, congratulating them on their hard work. But these weren’t ordinary plaques. They were made from fallen trees from the World War I Battle of Belleau Wood, France, the birthplace of the Marine nickname “Teufel Hunden,” more commonly known as “Devil Dog.”

The Marines received the title after the ferocity and relentlessness they exhibited during the battle, and the woods have become known as the "Bois de la Brigade de Marine,” or “Wood of the Marine Brigade.”

1st Tank Battalion is currently deployed to the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions as the core of a Security Cooperation Marine-Air Ground Task Force, known as Black Sea Rotational Force 2010. The Marines and Sailors have the mission to train with partner militaries, provide humanitarian support, promote stability in the region and build enduring partnerships with nations in the regions.

Macedonian forces are slated to arrive at Romania’s Babadag Training Area May 31, for two weeks of peacekeeping operations training, and the Marines and Sailors with scout platoon said they look forward to continue training with partner nations in the region.

Romanian forces are scheduled to continue training with U.S. forces over the coming with weeks, beginning with airborne training with Black Sea Rotational Force’s air combat element, a detachment of KC-130 Hercules aircraft from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452 and VMGR-234.

Female Marines bridging gender gap in Afghanistan

ABDUL GHAYAS, Afghanistan — Two young female Marines trudged along with an infantry patrol in the 102-degree heat, soaked through their camouflage uniforms under 60 pounds of gear. But only when they reached this speck of a village in the Taliban heartland on a recent afternoon did their hard work begin.


PHOTO wtih caption: "Lynsey Addario, NYT
Cpl. Diana Amaya, a U.S. Marine with a "female engagement team," walks a woman and her grandchildren into Marine Combat Outpost Sher in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on May 6.":


By Elisabeth Bumiller
New York Times News Service
Published: Sunday, May 30, 2010 12:21 a.m. MDT

For two hours inside a mud-walled compound, the Marines, Cpl. Diana Amaya, 23, and Cpl. Lisa Gardner, 28, set aside their rifles and body armor and tried to connect with four nervous Afghan women wearing veils.

Three months ago, Amaya was one of 40 female Marines training at Camp Pendleton, Calif., in an edgy experiment: sending full-time "female engagement teams" to accompany all-male foot patrols in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan to win over the Afghan women who are culturally off limits to American men.

Now, just weeks into a seven-month deployment that has sent them in twos and threes to 16 outposts across Helmand, including Marjah and other spots where fighting continues, the women have met with inevitable hurdles — not only posed by Afghan women but also by some male Marines and American commanders skeptical about the teams' purpose.

No one disagrees that the teams have potential and that female Marines are desperately needed, especially at medical clinics, as part of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's counterinsurgency campaign. As his officers say, you can't swing the population to your side if you talk to only half of it. But interviews and foot patrols with Marines during two recent weeks in Helmand show that the teams, which have had gained access to some of the most isolated women in the world, remain a work in progress.

Villagers are often stunned, if not disbelieving, to see women underneath the body armor.

Other cultural gaps exist among the Marines themselves. Along with their male counterparts, the female Marines live on rugged bases, often without showers, bathe with bottled water or baby wipes, use makeshift latrines and sleep in hot tents or outside in the dirt.

But what do all the visits and talk add up to? Master Sgt. Julia Watson, who helped create an earlier version of the female engagement teams in Iraq and has been working in Helmand, said that the women had to move beyond handing out teddy bears and medicine and use what they learn from Afghan women to develop plans for income-generating projects, schools and clinics. "You have to have an end state," she said.

Capt. Jason C. Brezler, a commander who has worked with the female Marines in the village of Now Zad, agreed. "To leverage a relationship, you have to have something of value to the Afghans," he said. "And it has to be more than just, 'I'm a girl.' "

Firefights frequent for Marines in schoolhouse

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday May 30, 2010 8:49:00 EDT

MARJAH, Afghanistan — Shots snapped overhead angrily, and the Marines jumped into canals lining both sides of the dirt trail. Within seconds, the squad was trudging through knee-deep sludge, maneuvering to fire back against four gun-wielding insurgents.

To read the entire article:


McChrystal: Civilian deaths endanger mission

By Sean D. Naylor - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday May 30, 2010 9:54:21 EDT

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Civilian casualties inflicted by coalition forces are on the rise in Afghanistan and threaten to undo the entire war effort, according to Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, senior U.S. and NATO commander here.

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


IJC Operational Update, May 30

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international security force detained several individuals suspected of insurgent activity in Helmand province this morning.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.30.2010
Posted: 05.30.2010 05:29

The suspected insurgents were detained during a search of a compound in Bar Nowzad-e Gharbi, Now Zad district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity.

Another Afghan-international security force detained several individuals suspected of insurgent activities in Kandahar province last night.

The combined force detained the suspected insurgents in a compound near Gondigan, west of Kandahar City, after intelligence information discovered militant activity. The search team found weapons and communications equipment in the compound.

No shots were fired and no Afghans were harmed in the above operations.

An insurgent mortar team was killed by a precision air strike in Paktiya province yesterday.

The mortar team fired on coalition forces from a rural area in the Zormat district. As the mortar team attempted to drive away after the attack, coalition aircraft engaged the vehicle with a precision air strike, killing the insurgents.

A ground search team found a mortar system and mortar propellant in the vehicle.

Afghan and ISAF partners conducted a combined operation early Saturday morning near Sangbor, Helmand province, to disrupt a criminal Taliban group responsible for supplying roadside bomb components.

As the combined force approached the compound of interest, several men were observed fleeing from the compound. One of the men presented a threat to the force and was killed, while the other men were detained. Several women and children were protected in this operation.

May 29, 2010

Battle for Kandahar will be non-traditional

By Anne Gearan - The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday May 29, 2010 10:33:38 EDT

WASHINGTON — In the make-or-break struggle for Kandahar, birthplace of Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency, U.S. commanders will try to pull off the military equivalent of brain surgery: defeating the militants with minimal use of force.

To read the entire article:


Marine Day Comes to Times Square

The Marines of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force New York displayed Marine Corps vehicles, weapons and tactics for passersby during Marine Day at Times Square May 28.


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Story by Lance Cpl. Jad Sleiman
Date: 05.29.2010
Posted: 05.29.2010 10:18

Tourists and local New Yorkers got the chance to watch martial arts and military working dog demonstrations thought the day.

"This whole area was packed with people watching and taking pictures," said Cpl. Caiden Cathey, a motor transport mechanic who demonstrated Marine Corps Martial Arts Program moves for the crowds. "The little kids especially loved hitting the bags; they'd cry when their parents decided to leave."

A drill instructor was on hand with a pull-up bar to give civilians a taste of the Marine Corps' fitness standards.

"The really impressive ones have been the females," said Staff Sgt. Paris Mintz in between counting pull ups and timing flexed arm hangs. "Some females hung for like 130 seconds."

Visitors also clamored aboard a Marine Corp High Mobility Artillery Rocket System vehicle and handled Marine weaponry.

Many took photos with Marines, asking countless questions about life in the Corps.

"I think it's surprising that they're so friendly," said Toronto native Carrie Tersigni after reviewing a photo she took with a group of Marines. "They're always so straight faced."

IJC Operational Update, May 29

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international security force used precision air strikes to kill the Taliban shadow governor of Baghlan province and several of his fighters last night.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 05.29.2010
Posted: 05.29.2010 07:40

Aircraft were called to a rural area in Baghlan-e Jadid district after human intelligence sources confirmed two vehicles were transporting insurgents and weapons through the area. Before engaging, coalition forces waited until the vehicles were well clear of any structures to minimize the possibility of civilian casualties. When the armed passengers left the vehicles they were engaged and killed by aircraft.

A ground security force then entered the area and came under fire from insurgents in a nearby cave. The assault force returned fire, killing several insurgents who were heavily armed with a heavy machine gun, multiple rocket propelled grenades, automatic rifles, hand-grenades, ammunition and communications equipment.

The Taliban shadow governor was responsible for organizing and directing attacks against coalition forces. He was in constant contact with Kunduz and Pakistani Taliban senior leaders, providing updates and receiving guidance. Sources told coalition forces the Taliban forces had been planning an attack on a nearby Afghan National Police outpost.

An Afghan-international security force killed several insurgents and captured several others in Kandahar province this morning.

The combined force moved to a compound and surrounding areas south of Kudeza'I, in the Zharay district, after intelligence information verified insurgent activity. As the assault force approached, several armed individuals took up fighting positions in a nearby wood line and orchard. The combined force called for the individuals to surrender, but the individuals began firing machine guns and rocket propelled grenades at the security force. The assault force returned fire and began clearing the compound and immediate area.

Several insurgents were killed and captured after the lengthy firefight. The combined force found several planted IEDs in the area, as well as rocket propelled grenades, heavy machine guns, multiple automatic rifles, hand-grenades, ammunition and communications equipment.

Another Afghan-international security force detained several individuals suspected of insurgent activity in Khost province this morning.

The combined force went to a building in the village of Shegay, Musa Khel district, after intelligence information found insurgent activity. The men suspected of insurgent involvement were detained during a search of the building and the surrounding area.

The joint force found rocket propelled grenades and automatic rifles at the site.

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

A different Afghan-international security force captured a Taliban weapons facilitator and another militant in Wardak province this morning.

The combined force went to a compound east of Soltan Kheyl, Sayyidabad district, after intelligence information confirmed insurgent activity. The assault force detained a suspected Taliban facilitator believed to be responsible for buying and distributing weapons to Taliban networks, and another suspected insurgent, while searching the buildings.

The security force came under fire from a sniper and returned fire, killing him.

The search team found multiple automatic rifles and ammunition.

A separate Afghan-international security force captured a Taliban commander and several individuals suspected of militant activity in Kandahar province yesterday.

The Taliban commander was captured after the security team interdicted a vehicle in the Panjwa'i district after intelligence information confirmed militant activity. He is responsible for planning and executing attacks against coalition forces and was also involved in kidnappings and weapons facilitation.

The suspects were captured without incident.

Giving Marines a ‘little piece of home’

NORTH COUNTY — Living in a war zone gets tougher when the little comforts of home — an iPod, running shoes, a laptop computer — go up in smoke.


Saturday, May 29, 2010 at 12:04 a.m.

That’s what happened to nearly 100 Camp Pendleton-based Marines serving at a base dubbed Camp Leatherneck in the Southern Afghanistan desert.

A May 16 fire scorched about two football fields of land, burning up office and storage units containing the personal gear of these troops. Press coverage shows flames shooting up from metal containers.

There’s no Target or Walmart Superstore nearby. Just an erratically stocked military exchange shop.

Heather Enriquez of San Marcos, wife of a Navy officer serving at Leatherneck, couldn’t let the Marines fight on without their little luxuries. A few days later, she started a grass-roots push to replace the destroyed items.

“It’s just my effort to try to give them a little piece of home. Most of them have quite a few months left there,” said Enriquez, 35. “A couple of Marines lost everything they had over there. Basically they had the clothes on their back, and that’s all they had.”

Her website is called comfortforoursoldiers.com. (A well-meaning friend set up the moniker, with the soldier reference, even though the people involved are Marines and sailors. Enriquez said it’s too late to change it.)

It provides an itemized list of the items destroyed: Backpacks, cameras, electric shavers, watches, T-shirts and underwear.

She’s already dispatched two sets of boxes, one batch on Tuesday and the other Friday. They could take up to three or four weeks to arrive. Her daughter’s schoolmates helped bring in the first round of donations.

Enriquez is seeking gifts of the other items. Since personal electronics and running shoes dominate the list, she hopes a local high-tech or athletic firm will step up.

“So far, it’s been pretty small. I would hope especially the people of San Diego would band together to do something a little bit larger,” she said.

Spokespeople at Camp Pendleton wouldn’t comment on the fire or the replacement effort. It’s unclear if the Marines will be reimbursed for their losses.

Enriquez’s website quotes one female Leatherneck whose personal items were gobbled up by the fire.

“The things I lost are just material things. I brought a lot of girlie things because even though I can kick butt at a drop of a hat, I am a woman to begin with,” the Marine said. “And the little stuff is what makes you happy when you are in a place like this away from your family.”

U.S. Releases Uruzgan Investigation Findings

KABUL, Afghanistan – U.S. Forces-Afghanistan released its findings today from the investigation into the Feb. 21 civilian casualty incident that killed up to 23 Afghans and injured 12 others in Uruzgan province.


U.S. Forces Afghanistan More Stories from U.S. Forces Afghanistan RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.29.2010
Posted: 05.29.2010 12:29

The extensive investigation report submitted to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, Commander NATO ISAF/U.S. Forces-Afghanistan cites several shortcomings in training, communication and decision-making, and offered numerous recommendations.

McChrystal has directed that certain actions be pursued immediately. "Our most important mission here is to protect the Afghan people; inadvertently killing or injuring civilians is heartbreaking and undermines their trust and confidence in our mission. We will do all we can to regain that trust," he said.

The investigation, led by U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Timothy McHale, Deputy Commander for Support, U.S. Forces Afghanistan, reviewed the actions of a U.S. Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha unit and its higher headquarters, coalition aircraft, and support provided by U.S. Air Force Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle personnel. The report concluded that three vehicles carrying more than 30 civilians were mistaken for an insurgent convoy and engaged by coalition aircraft. The ODA ground force commander believed the vehicles contained a group of insurgents attempting to execute a flanking maneuver to reinforce insurgents in his area.

McChrystal, who offered a personal apology to the Afghan people and met with President Hamid Karzai immediately following the Feb. 21 incident, briefed President Karzai on the findings of the investigation earlier this week.

"This was a deeply regrettable incident and I share the sadness felt by the people of Afghanistan over this loss of innocent life," said President Karzai. "General McChrystal pledged to me that the most exhaustive investigation would be conducted to determine what happened and why, and I believe this has been done. I am also confident that appropriate actions are being taken with regard to those involved in the incident, and most importantly, to ensure measures are taken to prevent such accidents from happening again."

Investigation recommendations approved by McChrystal entail actions to be taken in pre-deployment training, as well as the conduct of operations in Afghanistan.

- U.S. Joint Forces Command, which is responsible for pre-deployment training at individuals' and units' home stations, will review and implement several changes in training. These include a rigorous series of challenging Counterinsurgency training scenarios, use of case studies and vignettes to better educate and train for leading COIN operations, and standardization of
terminology for use in the highly-stressed operational environment, which will be reinforced in pre-deployment training.

- ISAF Joint Command and the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan J7 Training Directorate will develop a Mobile Training Team to evaluate and train unit command posts in the field on COIN operations, and develop an ongoing program to better educate and train for leading COIN operations. This will include intensive training on the process of identifying and engaging combatants in accordance with Rules of Engagement and Tactical Directives that govern operational conduct.

- All units identified in the report are also directed to incorporate or retrain on the appropriate procedures for Civilian Casualty reporting.

"As partners with the Afghan people in our mission, we must always be honest with ourselves about what we do well and what we can do better," said McChrystal. "When we make a mistake, we must be forthright and we must do everything in our power to correct that mistake. I know our actions following this thorough investigation will help us to prevent mishaps that result in harm to the people we are sworn to protect."

The recommendations of the investigation report are responsive to findings of deficiencies that contributed to the accident. These included:

Although the ground force commander displayed tactical patience in letting the situation develop for several hours before the engagement, the UAV crew provided inaccurate reporting and in-country command posts failed to properly analyze the situation.

The ground force commander lacked a clear understanding of who was in the vehicles, the location, direction of travel and likely course of action of those vehicles.

Poorly functioning higher headquarters command posts failed to provide the ground force commander with the evidence and analysis that the vehicles were not a hostile threat.

Information that the convoy was anything other than an attacking force was ignored
or downplayed by UAV personnel.

Following a review of McHale's investigation, McChrystal issued General Officer Memoranda of Reprimand to four officers, including senior leaders at the Battalion and Brigade level. The GOMORs, while administrative in nature, may be placed in the official record of each of these officers once they have had a chance to respond. McChrystal also issued Memoranda of Admonishment to two junior officers involved, which will remain in their local file.

Also included among recommendations adopted by McChrystal is a request to Headquarters, U.S. Air Force to develop command level guidance on tactics, techniques and procedures regarding employment of Remote Pilot Vehicles. He also requested an Air Force investigation of the assessments made and actions taken by the specific UAV crew involved.

Marine Mentors Afghan Soldiers

MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan -- No driver's license, no driver's education courses, no time behind the wheel of a vehicle ever … no problem for one Marine mentor responsible for teaching Afghan National Army soldiers how to drive.


IJC Public Affairs Advisory Team- Regional Command North More Stories from IJC Public Affairs Advisory Team- Regional Command North RSS
Story by Master Sgt. Christopher Dewitt
Date: 05.29.2010
Posted: 05.29.2010 05:26

Sgt. Nathan Brewer, Driver's Training Course lead team mentor, stationed out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz., heads a team of five at ANA Camp Shaheen with the challenging task of training basic driving skills.

Not only is the team in charge of teaching Afghan soldiers how to drive, they are also tasked with ensuring the future of driver's training for ANA 209th Corps, which conducts missions in Afghanistan's northern provinces.

"Our mission is to set up a foundation for the ANA to complete driver's training and then to develop instructors from those students that can teach it to themselves," said Brewer, Marine Air Control Squadron 1 licensing non-commissioned officer in charge. "Basically, we are here to train ourselves out of a job – and to an extent I feel we've done that."

In order to complete their mission, Brewer and his team have instituted some unique curriculum changes to better prepare a select few to become teachers themselves.

"Marines here are the only group that have incorporated literacy training into their schedule by augmenting the program by an hour and a half each day," said literacy site manager, speaking on a required condition of anonymity. "[Marines] are trying to get them to teach [ANA soldiers] and need to be able to read to do that."

Since April 2009, more than 6,500 soldiers have been tested inside the 209th Corps with a resulting 14 percent literacy rate prior to any formal training. Instituting the literacy training has done more than just increase ANA literacy rates.

"Because of the literacy training, Marines have been the first group to have Afghan trainers conducting driver's training with ANA soldiers," said the literacy site manager concerning the one Marine group out of six total stationed around the country.

Marines conducting the vehicle training courses were sent from various bases as individuals, meeting up at Camp Pendelton, Calif., for a two-week training course prior to arrival. Brewer was faced with just two weeks notice prior to deployment but found himself right at home when it came to the task at hand.

"I do licensing day-in and day-out back home, so being here is second nature," Brewer, the 23-year-old, Kansas City, Kan., native said who also put previous deployment experiences to use. "During the hands-on training, we placed them in realistic scenarios versus running them through traffic cones."

Mentoring in Afghanistan isn't without its problems and Brewer and his team often find themselves facing issues other than the obvious language barrier.

"Lack of fuel and other resources was sometimes a problem when we needed to conduct actual driving," Brewer said, also noting that cultural differences such as the Muslim tradition of multiple prayers throughout the day also affect their teaching schedule. "We do what we have to; adapt and overcome. I'm very happy about the progress that we've made – it's over my expectations, especially considering our limited resources."

Working so closely with ANA soldiers has been a challenge for the young Marine who admits that he had to make some mental changes in order to be an effective mentor.

"We can't come here and impose our will, as mentors, we have to help them along," Brewer, the 2004 Washington High School graduate, said. "I think sometimes we have to come down off our pedestal, put our cultural differences aside, and work with them – be a friend instead of an instructor."

As Brewer nears the completion of his team's three-month mission in northern Afghanistan, he is in awe of what they were able to get done during their short time with the 209th Corps.

"Seeing the training unfold, improvements since adding literacy training, and seeing progress shows me they are becoming self-sufficient and lets me know we won't be here forever," Brewer stated. "When I sit back and look at the impact of what we do, it's really humbling."

Brewer added that he was proud of his team because "nothing would have been accomplished without them" and as far as the short-notice of this deployment and trials along the way, "I wouldn't change this for anything."

Lima Company, Snipers Scope Out Washir

WASHIR, Afghanistan – Clearing out compounds and winning the trust and confidence of the local population, Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2 conducted a 14-day operation in Washir, to rid the area of insurgent presence.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 05.29.2010
Posted: 05.29.2010 06:35
Story by: Lance Cpl. Eugenio Montanez

During the two-week operation, Marines resumed normal security patrols and spoke with villagers to familiarize themselves with the local area.

"Some of these locals are really good people and help as much as they can," said Lance Cpl. Allen Murphy, a radio operator with Sniper Platoon, Lima Company, 3rd Bn., 7th Marines.

While conducting patrols throughout Washir, a suburb lying outside Now Zad, the Marines found numerous caches with enough bomb-making material to make hundreds of improvised explosive devices.

"I am really glad that we found all those materials. It could have possibly saved [the lives of] many Marines and even locals," said Sgt. Brian Cofey, a team leader with Sniper Plt., Lima Company, 3rd Bn., 7th Marines.

Marines set up multiple patrol bases and change locations often to keep insurgents guessing.

"We patrol different areas every time to be able to cover the whole [area of operation] and not leave anything uncovered," said Lance Cpl. Alex Small, an assistant team leader with Sniper Plt., Lima Company, 3rd Bn., 7th Marines.

During the patrol, the Marines also captured several detainees to later process and further question.

Capturing the detainees will hopefully help fight the insurgency in Washir, according to Murphy, a Chicago native.

"I think we did a great job tracking them down," added Murphy.

Although the insurgents' in-depth knowledge of the area gave them the advantage during firefights, the Marines overcame a multitude of terrain and weather conditions while facing their opposition, and were able to accomplish the mission, Small explains.

"Most of the time the [insurgents] would be waiting for us to walk around the corner and then shoot," said Small, a Los Angeles-native. "We would adjust to the situation and fight back. Once the day was over, we were totally exhausted because of all the walking around, crossing rivers and all the firefights that came up on a daily basis."

The Marines fought in numerous firefights and secured several areas of Washir.

"I think this was definitely a successful mission, having done all this work in a short amount of time," Small said. "It's been the best work we've done out here."

After 14 days of fighting, the Marines accomplished their mission and are now resting, in preparation to fight again.

"Next time the [insurgents] will have to think twice before messing with us," said Small.

May 28, 2010

Afghans refuse to destroy old, dangerous ammo

By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
Posted : Friday May 28, 2010 15:31:15 EDT

Afghanistan’s defense ministry is refusing to destroy more than 6,300 metric tons of old ammunition that is taking up valuable, climate-controlled bunker space needed for new U.S.-funded Afghan security force ordnance, Army Col. Ronald Green said Friday.

To continue reading:


DEA, Marines and Afghan Police Nab Drug Kingpin in Early Morning Raid

PATROL BASE LITTLEFOOT, Helmand province, Afghanistan- A swift and decisive pre-dawn raid on a known Taliban commander's compound snared the Drug Enforcement Administration's and the Afghan government's primary drug and terrorist target in Marjah, May 18.



I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd) More Stories from I Marine Expeditionary Force (Fwd) RSS
Story by Gunnery Sgt. Matthew Butler
Date: 05.28.2010
Posted: 05.28.2010 11:10

Four other simultaneous hits in Marjah, the DEA, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment and the Counter Narcotic Police of Afghanistan netted other high-value targets and seized narcotics, weapons and explosives as evidence.

The evidence was substantial against the primary target, and six other men arrested during the raids. Approximately 2,344 kilograms of opium, 16 kilograms of heroin, 27 kilograms of morphine, 5 kilograms of suspected methamphetamine, 3 kilograms of hash, 5 kilograms of poppy seeds, 65 kilograms of marijuana seeds, 502 pounds of homemade explosives, more than two tons of ammonium chloride, other HME making chemicals and weapons and cash were seized as evidence.

For two months, DEA special agents from the Kabul Country Office Strike Force partnered with investigators from the Afghan Ministry of Interior's Counter Narcotic Police Sensitive Investigative Unit to build solid cases against multiple terrorist and drug traffickers in Marjah.

Confidential informants, made several buys under surveillance to secure evidence to arrest and indict the narco-terrorist suspects.

The DEA and their confidential sources were gathering intelligence in Marjah prior to the Feb. 13, Operation Moshtarak push to clear the area of Taliban insurgency by Marines of Regimental Combat Team 7 in the fertile, opium-growing belt of the Helmand River Valley. Leading up to the February clearing mission, DEA informants identified 21 pages worth of IED emplacements, Taliban commanders and their headquarters, and pinpointed other threats that the DEA shared with the Marines and the intelligence community. The information was found to be very helpful in avoiding IEDs, according to a DEA special agent.

"I think it's good. The DEA is getting the intel to prosecute targets on opium producers and distributors. We all know they are linked to the Taliban or are Taliban," said Staff Sgt. Stephen Vallejo, platoon sergeant, 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company, 1/6.

"That gives us the foot in the door to prosecute guys in our AO (area of operation) that we really wouldn't know about," added the 28-year-old from Kansas City, Kan.

The Taliban and drug trafficking have long been connected. The Taliban uses the rich and illicit poppy growing fields in Helmand province to fund the insurgency through the profits from the byproduct of poppy opium. Local farmers have long grown the crop because they have been forced to, and because it has proven to be the best way to take care of their family, though be it illegal, explained a DEA agent.

It was Vallejo's company who led the foot patrol, from Patrol Base Littlefoot, under the cover of darkness, to the primary target's compound where informants said they could find the Taliban high-value drug kingpin.

Combined with the Marine patrol were two DEA Special Agents; one was the case leader on the entire case from the DEA's Kabul Country Office Strike Force, and one special agent from the Foreign Advisory Support Team and a team of Afghan Counter Narcotic Police National Interdiction Unit. A Marine dog handler and his patrol drug-detection canine helped complete the search of the compound.

The team of Afghan NIU agents armed with automatic weapons, search-and-arrest warrants led the forced entry in to the compound. The DEA and Marine dog handler and his canine followed directly behind them.

The rest of the Marines from Alpha Company surrounded and secured the outside of the compound, and was ready to provide additional firepower if DEA and NIU required assistance inside.

Soon after the NIU team entered the compound, a bearded man confronted them. He initially resisted the commands to surrender. While the NIU attempted to detain the man, the DEA agents and dog handler and his dog went building to building clearing each room and possible hiding spots for Taliban fighters.

Still unaccounted for was the primary target. Credible sources reported he had spent the night in the compound. With one detainee secured, the NIU and DEA and the Marine canine team continued to search and clear into the main living area of the compound through a second entrance.

Because women and children were present the Afghans took the lead in the main living area. They were quickly whisked into a separate room because of cultural sensitivities and the search continued.

Moments later radio chatter from the 1/6 Marines from first squad, who were securing the perimeter, said they had detained a man who attempted to flee the compound.

The quick action of the Marines had secured the DEA's most wanted man in Marjah. With flexi cuffs on, the man was turned over to the NIU, who brought him back into the compound and continued to search for evidence and drugs.

"They definitely see the value in the rule of law for the country," said one of the DEA F.A.S.T. special agents, who wished to remain anonymous due to the nature of undercover work he does.

"The reason I'm doing this, is you know the drug traffickers and the Taliban are both connected. The Taliban are getting their financing from the drugs," said a special investigator with the SIU. "The case worked. We arrested the guys and got the seizure."

"This is all task and purpose," said Sgt. Patrick Main, 1st Squad Leader, 2nd Platoon, 1/6. "If we've got to set a cordon (perimeter) for the DEA, or another squad, or ourselves, it's pretty much the same."

Main underplayed the importance of their part of the mission because his Marines' cordon nabbed the primary target as he attempted to escape.

This was a joint operation with Marine forces, explained the Afghan special investigator through a translator.

"I'm very happy with the cooperation and success. We were six police officers, represented with the Marines. The good part was the Afghans searched the compounds and the Marines set up the cordon around the perimeter. The search and evidence collection was all the Afghans. This is very good for Afghan culture, and because we did the searches the Afghan people respect the Marines a lot, and there were no civilian casualties," said the SIU agent.

"I think any little bit will help. Especially with the drugs because if you take the drugs you take their money," said Main, a 28-year-old, from Eagle River, Wis., before the raid.

"In the off-season when there is no harvest going, they're broke. They don't have the guns to attack you. They are still putting in IEDs, but everything's at a lower level. We just had the harvest and immediately we picked up machine gun fire and more complex ambushes and things like that because they've got the money to fund that type of activity," said Main, a Purple Heart recipient who had been injured, recovered and returned to combat with his men.

For Main, a 10-year infantry veteran, this mission was simple. The complex part was making sure everyone to include the Afghan army, NIU, DEA and his Marines knew what the plan was. That was clearly laid out during the confirmation brief which spelled out all of the detailed routes to and from the objective, and what everyone's roles would be to on the mission.

"The one guy we arrested was a high-level drug trafficker and he is Taliban connected, so I'm pretty happy about that. The other guy's was also good, because they were also 'TB' connected and work for drug trafficking networks and organizations," said the Afghan SIU investigator, who also requested to have his name withheld.

With the primary target in cuffs and the team's spirits high on that knowledge, the worst fears of everyone that goes on patrol happened. The Marines that were providing rear-end security were hit by an IED. Main, the battle-hardened veteran, had been within five meters of the blast and was down. One of Main's Marines, just feet away, had sustained severe injuries.

Quickly the corpsman began treating the casualties. A 'medevac' was called and additional security was placed around the injured Marines. Because they were close to the base, the attack was even more surprising and brazen.

The corpsman treated Main's wounds, but the Marine that took the brunt of the IED was seriously injured.

Swooping in at treetop level, the medevac helicopter, with its red cross painted on its side, landed in a wheat field next to the injured Marines. The two were quickly loaded onto the aircraft. As soon as the doors closed the green helicopter jumped from the ground racing toward the next level of care facility. An hour later the bad news was sent down to Alpha Company that the Marine had died.

It was Alpha Company's first loss of life.

"It was out of their hands," said Vellajo, about the corpsmen that treated the dying Marine. "They did all they could do."

Alpha company's hearts were heavy, but the Marines maintained the professionalism and resolve to protect the local population.

"I just know that they are linked," said Vallejo with resolve. "I know for a fact he had something to do with the IED emplacement that happened today.

"Right now it's hard for them. It's hard for all of us. The best thing I can tell them is we are out here and we have a job to do. Mourn the loss but we've got to stay focused at the same time. It's sounds very cliché, and you hate to be the one to say that to them. There's still a mission to be done here and that's the truth of it. Stay focused and provide security so nothing else can happen."

"Once we are on the helos, leaving Marjah, we can mourn him then. But we've got to stay focused. I've never wanted to be the one that tells the guys we lost one of our guys. But we all join, knowing what can happen," Vallejo said somberly.

"The Taliban is going to do what the Taliban is going to do. Today we caught one of them and we also saw up close and personal what they do," Vallejo said firmly. "You will hear about a loss over the net, never has it been us, but today it was."

"This was the first operation that we have done in Helmand province and especially in Marjah District. From our sources, all of the drug traffickers keep moving from Marjah to other places and provinces and trying to go to other countries," said the Afghan drug police officer.

With the drugs and evidence siezed, the men are facing a minimum 10-year prison sentence in the Afghan judicial system.

"We will keep working hard to get rid of the drugs and drug traffickers from Afghanistan," said the Afghan SIU agent.

Afghan and International Troops Find, Destroy IED Factories

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan and international partners discovered and destroyed two improvised explosive device factories in Kandahar province recently.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.28.2010
Posted: 05.28.2010 10:07

An Afghan-international security force found insurgents, weapons, and IEDs, during a multi-day clearing operation in the Panjwa'i
district, this week.

A large combined force searched several compounds, buildings and open fields for insurgents and their weapons after intelligence information verified militant activity in an area south of the village of Kudeza'i.

During the two-day operation, the security force found an IED factory with high explosives, mortar rounds, many active IEDs, including one planted inside a house, rocket propelled grenades and multiple automatic rifles and grenades. The illegal munitions were destroyed in place.

While conducting the search, individuals tried to engage the combined force and several were shot and killed. Several suspected insurgents were detained for questioning.

Many women and children were protected during the operation.

Afghan National Army commandos, assisted by U.S. Special Operations Forces, also destroyed a bomb factory in Kandahar province Monday, May 24.

The Afghan-led force went to an area in Kandahar province after intelligence information confirmed insurgent activity. As the combined force searched several compounds, they were engaged multiple times with small-arms, rocket and mortar fire during the 20-hour-mission. The combined force returned fire from their ground positions and from a supporting helicopter, killing several armed individuals.

During a search of the compounds, the combined force found two IEDs rigged to detonate, 16 anti-personnel mines, laboratory equipment and materials necessary for the construction of IEDs, approximately 138 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, as well as other fertilizer used in the construction of IEDs. The combined force also found numerous mines littered throughout a nearby poppy field.

The compound with the ammonium nitrate and anti-personnel mines was determined unsafe and coalition close air support was called in to destroy the materials in-place.

Afghan commandos cleared all areas of civilians before the IED factory was destroyed.

In a separate operation, an Afghan-international security force detained several individuals suspected of insurgent activity in Nimroz province yesterday.

The security team intercepted the suspects in a vehicle in a rural area in the Kash Rod district, after intelligence information confirmed insurgent activity.

Marines Survey Garmsir for New Vocational School

GARMSIR DISTRICT, Afghanistan – Civil-military operations officers from the I Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD) and 1st Marine Division (FWD) staff visited the Garmsir District Center, May 25, to survey a possible site for the construction of an agricultural vocational school in support of the ongoing effort to educate the local populace.



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. Jeremy Fasci
Date: 05.28.2010
Posted: 05.28.2010 10:13

The buildings surveyed for the possible project are being used as one of the many seed distribution centers in the Helmand province. Prior to the Taliban control of the region, the location was a vocational high school.

The new school will allow the people of southern Helmand province to have a vocational school to send their children for secondary education opportunities.

A lack of students qualified to attend the school is another consideration. The literacy rate in Afghanistan is roughly 18 percent and for females in the Helmand province it is about seven percent. Starting from the bottom and working up is the only possible course of action for these types of educational processes.

"Education is the only thing that is going to save this country," said Maj. Nina D'Amato, the I MEF (FWD) education officer, who is also a middle school principal in San Francisco. "Formal schooling and public health systems are integral to the success of this region and this country."

An effort to infuse money into the Afghan economy is a short-term solution to the problem. As coalition forces help train the Afghan National Army and police forces to provide security, the necessity to build their educational system is just as important.

Having the ability to build the infrastructure necessary to sustain progress in the country will allow the economy and the people of Afghanistan to reach new milestones.

"If you think about back home, we are very lucky we have lots of infrastructure and government departments that oversee that infrastructure," said Capt. Thomas A. McAvoy, 31, the civil affairs team leader for 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, from Philadelphia.

Helmand province is the Afghanistan's main agricultural region. During the Taliban rule, poppy fields covered much of the area, and now the progression into cash crops such as wheat helps the people not only support their families and their country, but will soon allow them to push their products to the world markets.

"Any kind of educational system is a testament to progress in a socio-economic area," said Capt. Dina Poma-Barnes, 31, the I MEF (FWD) agricultural officer, from Sterling Heights, Mich. "If the harvests are going well and the city is getting money, a good symbol is that a school will go up to provide for higher education as a sustainment to the society."

Sustainment of security and progression in the region will be helped by the push to educate people. Projects like this vocational school are one of the ways to help the Afghan people continue to sustain and build their infrastructure.

When Afghans Seek Medical Aid, Tough Choice for U.S.

KHAN NESHIN, Afghanistan — Five-year-old Sadiq was not a casualty of war. He was simply unlucky. The boy had opened a sack of grain at his home early on Wednesday morning, and a pit viper coiled inside lashed up and bit him above the lip.


Published: May 28, 2010

His father, Kashmir, knew his son was sure to die. With no hospital anywhere nearby, he rushed the boy to an American outpost to plead for help. By midafternoon, Sadiq’s breathing was labored. Respiratory failure was not long off.

The events that followed unfolded like a tabletop counterinsurgency exercise at a military school. On one hand, the United States military’s medical capacity, implanted across Afghanistan to care for those wounded in the war, could not be used as primary care for the nation’s 29 million people. On the other hand, would the officer who upheld this policy be willing to watch a 5-year-old die?

Since last year, Helmand Province has been the scene of the most intensive combat in Afghanistan. Marine patrols and the Taliban fight daily, and helicopters are needed to evacuate the wounded.

Under NATO rules, any Afghan civilian wounded as a result of military activity is treated in the Western military’s medical system. Black Hawk helicopter crews often scramble and collect them. But each day, Afghans seek help for other injuries and ailments — for heart attacks, for trauma from vehicle and agricultural accidents, for twisted backs, cut hands, spiking fevers, infections, insect bites or dental pain.

For these ordinary medical conditions, unrelated to war but often urgent, Marines and Navy corpsmen in Helmand Province provide first aid. Getting approval for a Black Hawk is another matter.

The helicopters are few. They are spread out. Picking up Afghan civilians with routine ailments puts aircraft and crews at risk. It could also put a helicopter out of position for a gravely wounded soldier or Marine.

Often the decision is made against the patient: helicopters cannot be spared. Many aircrews, and many officers on the ground trying to forge relations with Afghan villages, do not like this. The choice is not theirs; flight approval is made by higher commands.

Maj. Jason S. Davis, a pilot and the commanding officer of Company C, Sixth Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, which provides a detachment of Black Hawks to fly medical missions in central and southern Helmand Province, described two conflicting truths.

“We can’t be Afghanistan’s E.M.S.,” he said. “But right now we are.”

Sadiq’s father appeared with him at a Marine outpost in southern Helmand. It was clear that local care could not save him. The Marines requested an evacuation helicopter.

At the Camp Dwyer airfield, to the north, Major Davis and a co-pilot, First Lt. Matthew E. Stewart, saw the request posted on their operation center’s electronic message board. With an escort aircraft trailing behind, they soon lifted off from Camp Dwyer and headed south, expecting that the mission would be approved.

After flying perhaps 15 minutes, they were called back. The boy was not eligible for care. Sadiq was on his own.

A few hours later, a new request for medical evacuation, or medevac, appeared on the screen, this one from another Marine outpost. A small boy, it seemed, had been bitten on the face by a viper.

Everyone knew what this meant: Sadiq’s father had brought his dying son to the next Marine position and had started over.

There were no other medevac missions under way. While the pilots stared at the message board, wondering whether this time the mission for Sadiq would be approved, an officer at the second outpost issued a blunt challenge: would whoever denied the mission, the officer wrote, acknowledge that they knew the boy would die?

The typed answer came back on the screen. The mission was approved.

The Black Hawks lifted into the air at 2:25 p.m. Soon they were flying through a dusty haze a few hundred feet up. “Ten minutes out,” Major Davis said. Halfway to the rescue, and they had not been called back.

While the desert dominates Helmand Province, the contest between the Marines and the Taliban plays out elsewhere, in belts of farmland along the river and in irrigated villages kept alive by pumps.

The military calls these areas “the green zone,” a nickname derived from how they appear from the air — pockets of vegetated terrain that end abruptly where the irrigation stops. It is in these areas where almost all the fighting takes place, and where helicopters come under fire.

Up ahead, a crosshatched pattern of pale fields appeared. “Entering the green zone,” Major Davis said. “Tell them to pop smoke.”

Beside a fortified compound, a Marine lobbed a smoke grenade.

Major Davis banked the aircraft in a wide circle and landed beside the billowing plume.

Specialist David C. Harrell, a medic, slid open the left-side door. Sadiq, on a stretcher, was placed gently inside. He was wrapped in a poncho liner. An oxygen mask covered his face. His father climbed aboard. He was in the system now.

Dust swirled as the Black Hawk lifted, and Major Davis put it through a series of maneuvers, a fast zigzagging flight low over the village and the fields, and then set a heading toward Camp Dwyer, where a second aircrew was headed with the antivenin.

Sadiq thrashed, his face severely swollen. His breathing was erratic. But he was conscious. Specialist Harrell checked the boy’s vital signs and tried to keep him awake. The boy lived through the flight. Doctors at the trauma center quickly decided to transfer him to a more advanced hospital. He was rushed to his next flight.

Back at Company C’s operations tent on Wednesday evening, a message was posted: “LOOKS LIKE THAT KID IS GOING TO MAKE IT.”

But overnight, the prognosis changed. A doctor told Specialist Harrell that Sadiq had been transferred to Kandahar, and was likely to die.

Sadiq had been given all of the antivenin on hand in Afghanistan, but he was barely alive. The venom was breaking down his blood, and his wounds — where the IV needle entered his arm — were seeping. He was on a breathing machine. The fang marks showed on his face.

Snakebite toxicology was tricky, Specialist Harrell said. The dosage was hard to calibrate, especially for a child of perhaps 40 pounds. And maybe the helicopter reached Sadiq too late.

Friday afternoon, Specialist Harrell called the military hospital at Kandahar. He listened, nodded, put down the phone and called out. “He’s off the breathing machine,” he said. “He’s still in I.C.U., but right now he’s sitting up, drinking juice and milk.”

“And he’s talking,” he added.

What this meant sank in. Stung by a venomous snake in a primitive and isolated corner of a war, helped by a persistent father and a chain of people who heard him, Sadiq had reversed Afghanistan’s cruelest math.

Bravo Battery mixes brains with brawn while supporting 24thMEU

MIDDLE EAST — A common impression of artillerymen is guys pulling triggers on big guns and firing rounds over long distances, but that is only a small part of a job that requires Marines to perform many tasks normally assigned to an infantry line company.


5/28/2010 By Lance Cpl. David Beall , 24th MEU

“It takes a lot of muscle, endurance and always being able to think on the fly in order to be artillery Marine,” said Gunnery Sgt. Matthew J. Haugh, battery gunnery sergeant, Bravo Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The main purpose of artillery is to shoot, move and communicate, which sounds easy, until considering how much effort it takes to break done and then reestablish a battery gun line.

A 7-ton truck drives into position, sand blows from every direction making it almost impossible to see or breathe, yet the Marines of Bravo Battery spring into action. Leaping out of the back of the truck, they quickly unhook a 155mm A777 Howitzer and prepare to sight the gun for accurate firing. Simultaneously a few others dig holes for the support legs or "spades" to dig in when the Howitzer fires.

Two Marines prepare an ammo pit and a powder pit on opposite sides of the truck. Marines then cover any communication wire around their area and dig fighting holes. In a matter of minutes, the gun is ready for action with Marines prepared to load and fire the first round.

"There is much to be done to prepare the gun for a mission, but if the section is working smoothly as a team it takes only a matter of minutes," said Cpl. Dustin A. Berg, cannon crewman, Bravo Battery, BLT 1/9, 24th MEU.

All that is left to do is wait patiently for the command "fire mission." Once this command is announced, the Marines throw on their flak jackets and Kevlar helmets and within seconds they have a round in the cannon and the lanyard, which is what they pull to fire, hooked and ready to go.

"We have to constantly be on our toes out there on the line because at any second we could receive a mission and we have to be ready to fire in no time," said Sgt. Casey Cadet, section chief, Bravo Battery, BLT 1/9, 24th MEU.

On short notice these Marines get their marching orders. They pack up gear, take down the Howitzer, hook it up to the truck, move to another location and start the process all over again.

Occasionally, artillery Marines will have to do a "hip shoot" en route to their new firing location when artillery is needed for immediate support. A hip shoot is when they stop at the first clear area to set up their guns; fire off one round to check aim and make corrections; then the entire battery fires off rounds. The battery quickly packs up and continues on to their scheduled position.

Before a battery can move into position, the new area has to be scouted and prepared. A truckload of Marines, the advanced party, is sent to the new position to reconnoiter and secure the new position. Once secured, Marines place marking posts and a line for the 7-tons to drive into their position and set-up begins.

Artillery Marines may do this several times in one day, including at night, which is dangerous because there are a lot of moving parts and a battery sets up with minimal to no light, said Haugh.

"Although there is a lot of hard work and sweat that goes into our job, the camaraderie and feeling of accomplishment that we have once the mission is completed successfully makes it worth it and keeps us going every day," said Berg.

Aside form gun set-up, these Marines must be proficient in land navigation, security patrols, digging fighting holes and quickly putting up camouflage netting over the truck to conceal their position.

According to Capt. Jason R. Gibbs, battery commander, Bravo Battery, BLT 1/9, 24th MEU every Marine in the battery contributes to the mission one way or another and the job would not be complete without the hard work of each Marine.

"This is my one and only chance at being a battery commander and I couldn't have asked for a better group of Marines, they have proved themselves and I am extremely confident in their abilities as a battery," Gibbs said.

Joint Operation Improves Security in Northern Badghis Province

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan soldiers, supported by ISAF troops have completed a clearing operation aimed at disrupting insurgent presence in and around Bala Murghab, Badghis province, north of Herat.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.28.2010
Posted: 05.28.2010 08:59

After several days of fighting, Afghan National Army soldiers of the 207th Kandak, and their coalition partners, using close air support and mortar fire, removed insurgents from the southern edge of Bala Murghab during Operation 'Subh Bakhair' (Good Morning).

The increased security is allowing Afghan and international forces to distribute food and provide medical assistance to residents.
It's also allowing long-term projects to begin, including the renovation of a bridge on the river Darya-Ye-Murghab, which will link several communities in the area.

Operation 'Sob Bakhair' is the first phase of operations to allow for the completion of Highway One in Badghis province. The section running through Bala Murghab is unpaved, which greatly hinders travel and commerce in northwestern Afghanistan.

U.S. toll passes 1,000 deaths in Afghanistan

By Robert H. Reid - The Associated Press
Posted : Friday May 28, 2010 9:06:07 EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan — The American military death toll in Afghanistan surpassed 1,000 at a time when President Barack Obama's strategy to turn back the Taliban is facing its greatest test — an ambitious campaign to win over a disgruntled population in the insurgents' southern heartland.

To read the entire article:

Marine Cpl. Nicolas Parada-Rodriguez is memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery

The U.S. Marines fired three rifle volleys. A bugler played taps.


By Christy Goodman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 28, 2010

Luisa Parada-Rodriguez placed a heavy hand on the American flag presented to her by Sgt. Maj. Eric J. Stockton on Thursday. When her son Lisandro accepted another flag from Stockton, she grabbed his hand and held on.

Her younger son and Lisandro's brother, Marine Cpl. Nicolas D. Parada-Rodriguez, 29, was being buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

About 150 friends and family members took part in the last burial in Section 60 on Thursday before soldiers began placing flags on every grave in honor of Memorial Day.

Parada-Rodriguez, of Stafford, died May 16 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, the Pentagon said. It was his second tour in Afghanistan with the Marines.

He was a team leader assigned to 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Before joining the Marines, Parada-Rodriguez was in the Navy, his sister Norma said in an article published in the Washington Post on May 19. He briefly held a civilian job before joining the Marines in January 2007, she said.

"He said he just liked defending his country," she said in the earlier interview. "He wanted to do something that people would remember him for."

His family described him as bighearted, family-oriented and always striving to be a leader.

Guy Krikorian and his wife, both of Southern California, flew across the country to attend Parada-Rodriguez's service and to show their appreciation to his family. The parents of one of his friends, they wanted to let the corporal's family know "how much he meant to us and how sorry we are and we appreciate what he was doing for us," Krikorian said.

Lance Cpl. Andrew Krikorian, Krikorian's son, was transferred to Camp Lejeune, where Parada-Rodriguez helped him with the transition into a new base. In Afghanistan, Parada-Rodriguez served as the younger Krikorian's team leader.

"We looked at it from the standpoint of his family and what he meant to Andy," Krikorian said. "It would mean the world if somebody would be able to express something about our son" in a similar situation, he said.

The Krikorian family was able to meet Parada-Rodriguez one night last summer when he visited their home, and they found him to be a "very nice man" who could enjoy a good laugh, Krikorian said.

Parada-Rodriguez and his family moved to the United States from El Salvador when he was a child. They settled in Springfield, where Parada-Rodriguez graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in 1999.

In addition to his mother, sister and brother, survivors include his wife, Shada; another sister, Maria; and several nieces and nephews.

May 27, 2010

Capella Strike: MAG-14 Marines Prep Harriers to Train Aboard Ship

ABOARD THE HMS ARK ROYAL, Atlantic Ocean - More than 150 Marines and Sailors of Marine Aircraft Group 14 are spending nights aboard HMS Ark Royal, the British Royal Navy's flagship aircraft carrier.



Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point More Stories from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point RSS
Story by Pfc. Tyler J. Bolken
Date: 05.27.2010
Posted: 05.27.2010 11:11

The Marines and Sailors began their evolution May 28 to participate in Capella Strike, a multinational training exercise with British counterparts.

The workday aboard HMS Ark Royal begins when a Royal Navy sailor pipes a boatswain's call, a whistle used by the Royal Navy for signaling passing orders. A poster aboard says the method can be traced back to 1248 A.D.

Prior to boatswain's call, night-crew Marines of MAG-14 ensure all preparations are made for the next day's fl ight schedule by first and foremost focusing on the positioning of the 12 AV-8B Harriers aboard the ship, a task which is easier said than done.

"Parking space is a bit tight down the back end because we usually only have nine jets (compared to 12)," said Lt. Paul Morris, the flight deck officer for HMS Ark Royal.

Additionally, an ocean-bound ship can tend to restrict aspects of a work environment that may be taken for granted when on land.

"Everything takes a little bit longer," said Cpl. Ian H. Smith, an avionics collateral duty inspector with Marine Attack Squadron 542.

The aircraft are circulated to achieve an accurate performance assessment of each on top of the fact that certain aircraft entities may be required for specifi c fl ights, depending on the mission, explained Capt. Michael M.V. Park, a Harrier Pilot with VMA-542.

HMS Ark Royal has two interior aircraft lifts, which are basically enormous elevators for bringing aircraft two levels beneath the flight deck to the hangar within the ship's interior for maintenance or storage.

Royal Navy Sailors and Marines work hand in hand each night, using the lifts for the aircraft placements.

Smith said the British Sailors are very helpful, and the Marines haven't come across any signifi cant technical issues because the British have Harriers as well.

Once all aircraft movement is completed, priority moves to maintenance and the Harriers' exposure to the Atlantic comes into play.

"There are static probes on the Harrier, and they get green corrosion from the sea salt," said Lance Cpl. Anthony J. O'Neal, an avionics technician with VMA-542. "It's like the statue of liberty."

The nightly mission as a whole is to have as many fully functioning aircraft as possible for the next day, explained Cpl. Timothy S. Bordner, an avionics electrician with VMA-542.

To sum it up, Naval Airman Jack R. Marriott, an aircraft handler aboard the HMS Ark Royal said, "There isn't much to add. It's pretty basic, and we work well together."

Old Guard Soldiers Put 'Flags In' at Arlington Cemetery

WASHINGTON- More than 1,500 service members from the "Old Guard" and other ceremonial units gathered at Arlington National Cemetery May 27 for a sacred ritual marking the start of the Memorial Day weekend observance.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs More Stories from Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs RSS
Story by Ian Graham
Date: 05.27.2010
Posted: 05.27.2010 07:45

The men and women, representing all the services and Coast Guard, carried rucksacks full of small American flags, performing the time-honored Flags In event of marking the cemetery's more than 350,000 white headstones with the stars and stripes.

"This is one of the many distinct honors entrusted to the Old Guard," Army Maj. Rosy Poulos, 3rd Infantry public affairs officer, said. "They're out here until every flag is placed, whether that's 6:30 or 9:30 [p.m.]"

Sgt. Patrick Smith, from the Old Guard's B Company, has placed flags in the cemetery for the past three years. Though the work is repetitive, he said, he considers it an honor.

"It's a good way to honor the fallen, the ones who gave so many years of their lives, or their life itself, to the service of our country," he said.

Smith said once he starts to see the headstones, and reads as he places each flag, a feeling of respect and reverence takes over.

"Once you start walking, and you see the headstones, there's a certain connection, sort of an esprit de corps," Smith said. "You see them and you get a feeling for how many have given their lives. It doesn't matter what rank they held or what service they were a part of, each are treated as honorably as the other, they each get a flag."

Staff Sgt. Rob Woodring placed flags for the first time today. At first he wasn't sure what to expect, beyond the task itself. But he said it's impossible not to feel a connection when surrounded by generations of service members.

"These people all gave their lives to the military, and to our country, whether they're here because they dedicated their lives to service or gave their lives in service," he said.

Flags-in has been performed annually since 1948 when the Old Guard was named the Army's official ceremonial unit. The Old Guard includes the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Continental Color Guard and all Army funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. The flags will be removed early June 1 before the cemetery opens.

Each flag is centered precisely one foot in front of the headstone. Many soldiers use gloves equipped with wood, plastic, or metal plates to protect their hands as they place, on average, more than 230 flags each. Though some said they'd like a cooler day, none complained about the task itself.

"We're part of something special," Master Sgt. Kristine Zielinski said. "We get to honor our comrades."

Marines Work to Gain Trust of Afghan Locals

When it Comes to Winning the Trust of Taliban-Fearing Residents, Hammers and Shovels areas Important as Guns

(CBS) For Marines in Marjah, counterinsurgency comes down to this: if you build it, they will come.


News Video:

By Mandy Clark
MARJAH, Afghanistan, May 27, 2010

With a tent and some timber, in less than two hours they transformed a vacant lot into a makeshift school -- ready for the children of Marjah to get their first taste of a classroom education, reports CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark.

The first day of school comes the next day, and all the desks are taken. There are even a few girls, in the back row. The question is: How many of these kids will come back to class next week?

These Marines fought hard to take Marjah. They've seen 10 of their own killed here. Now they're on a new offensive -- a charm offensive.

Battalion commander Lt. Col. Brian Christmas spends much of his time walking the streets -- no helmet, no body armor -- reaching out to the people of Marjah, one at a time if that's what it takes.

He sits on the dusty floors with the village elders, trying to inspire them to stand up for themselves.

"If you have three Taliban who come into a village and only one man stands up, you're right, he's probably going to get shot by the Taliban, because the Taliban is only brave against one," Christmas said. "But the Taliban will not be brave against 40."

But Marjah is still a Taliban town. Many of the men gathered around are hardcore Taliban supporters, here to make sure no one speaks too freely.

"If we talk to the Americans, the Taliban will be waiting for us," an elder said. "The Marines can't protect us from them."

About a month ago, a 9-year-old boy was walking home from school and the Taliban grabbed him, beat him and left him tied up. Now the elders are telling the Marines that no one wants to go to school.

By now much of the civilian government should have been in Afghan hands, but the Marines are having a hard time getting local officials to step up and take over.

The Marines organized a ceremony to celebrate the signing of a contract for rebuilding the school.

But Christmas couldn't find the Afghan official who was supposed to lead the ceremony. He hid inside the school, refusing to go outside and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Americans.

"You have to be a leader for those children," Christmas said.

Finally, the official came out and signed the contract. It's a forced celebration, but Christmas is stubbornly upbeat.

"For 30 years they've had good reason to doubt. So we're showing them that doubt and that fear can go away and we're well on our way, but it takes patience and time," Christmas said.

Everything these Marines do is designed to send a clear message that they will be here for as long as it takes. The problem is, no one - not even the Marines - knows how long that will be.

Supreme Allied Commander Europe Visits Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan - Adm. James Stavridis, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, concluded a two day visit to Afghanistan, May 27.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 05.27.2010
Posted: 05.27.2010 02:33

During his visit, the admiral witnessed an Afghan National Army kandak undergoing training and spoke to its soldiers and their Canadian mentors. "I asked all of the Afghan soldiers I met why they joined the army. They all replied that they wanted to defend their country," said Admiral Stavridis.

Admiral Stavridis also met Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, Commander of ISAF Joint Command, Col. Dimitrios Pantelatos, North Kabul International Airport commander, and Sgt. Maj. Darrin Bohn, IJC command sergeant major. The IJC leaders discussed progress of current operations in southern Afghanistan and Afghan-led preparations for the upcoming Consultative Peace Jirga.

"The Afghan flag flies in many provinces; last year that could not be said. General [Stanley] McChrystal and General Rodriguez are hard at work, planning joint operations day-by-day and step-by-step in complete partnership with, and respect for, the Afghan government." he said.

Before departing Kabul, he met with Afghan media. The topics of discussion ranged from Afghan and ISAF operations for security of the people of Afghanistan to the progression of ongoing operations throughout the region, as well as upcoming plans.

"The most important thing I will say today is: we will not deliver peace and security from the barrel of a gun," he said. "I am not concerned with killing Taliban, but I am concerned with protecting the Afghan people."

Admiral Stavridis is the 16th SACEUR and the first admiral to hold this title.

The Surge is On in Afghanistan

If you're wondering when the U.S. Military is beginning it's surge in Afghanistan, wonder no more. It's on.


May 27, 2010 - 9:27 AM | by: Rick Leventhal

If you're wondering why you haven't heard more about battles with the Taliban, it's complicated.

There are tens of thousands of Marines fresh on the ground in Afghanistan, including more than 13,000 in the Helmand River Valley, under the command of Brigadier General Joseph Osterman. Many of these Marines are now laying the groundwork for future operations and establishing relationships with local tribal elders and government officials.

"A lot less kinetic activity (like gun battles)" says General Osterman, in an exclusive interview with Fox News Channel at Forward Operating Base Payne, "and much more on the non-kinetic side, which the Marines have been doing a great job with. Very sophisticated in their approach."

Like developing local governments and local economies. "Not as glamorous or sensational as clearing operations.." the General says, but far more important long-term.

The Marines are working every angle. They're offering seed to farmers at a cut rate price and offering classes on how to better work their land. They're having sit-downs with tribal elders to establish trust and spread the word that they're here to establish security and provide aid, asking in exchange that locals share information on Taliban insurgents.

And the Marines are spreading out across the blistering hot desert in Southern Afghanistan, on twice-daily foot patrols and in their imposing and lethal Light Armored Vehicles like the LAV-25's, stop-checking people and traffic, disrupting insurgent supply lines and gathering intel that can help prevent future attacks.

"It's a slow build of confidence... we'll establish a security presence, patrolling, talking to people and it almost creates a security bubble. Within that we find more and more people will talk to us and it gets harder and harder for the insurgents to work against us."

So far there's been very little push-back from the enemy in this region south and west of Kandahar, but the General expects it's coming.

"The first thing they'll do is try to stand up to us, do attacks and very rapidly realize that's a losing proposition because we end capturing and killing quite a number of them and then what they generally do is move into a more indirect approach, use of the IED's (improvised explosive devices, like roadside bombs), then they start to move into desperation mode... they get into a murder and intimidation campaign."

That's already happening further north in Marjah, but the General says this won't last long. "It's a losing proposition. They very quickly alienate the population..." and that's when the Marines believe they can help the Afghanis stand up and reclaim their country for themselves.

To the critics who point to Marjah as a failure, the General shakes his head in surprise. "My sense of Marjah is that it's a success story. We're less than 90 days since we first started that assault. Too often people forget where we started. Marjah was a Taliban enclave. Completely run by the Taliban, completely governed by the Taliban, completely involved in the opium trade and in less than 90 days we now have a functioning government... we've opened up a number of schools... all the bazaars are thriving... there's two, three thousand people in there at a time. Those are all the indicators that we had that things are moving positively."

"Don't get me wrong," he cautions, "there are insurgents out there that are trying to be disruptive, taking potshots here and there, but frankly the presence we have is continuing to build a very positive security situation."

Counter-insurgency missions take time, the General says. "How long does it take to gain a person's confidence that things are now better and things will continue to be better?"

When the people are convinced, the General insists, they'll be a giant step closer to establishing security, stability and peace.

Marine reservists return to the US

Frederick 's Marine reservists are back on American soil.


Originally published May 27, 2010
By Megan Eckstein
News-Post Staff

Company B of the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion arrived in California just after 2 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time Wednesday, after a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan.

The Marine unit of about 100 men will remain at Camp Pendleton, near San Diego, until the end of the week.

"There's going to be a lot of hurry up and wait," said 1st Sgt. Evan Good, who trains the Company B reservists in Frederick .

Good said that, in addition to sitting through classes for three days, the Marines would have to wait in lines to fill out paperwork and go through evaluations before they could come back home to their families and friends.

The Marines spent Wednesday turning in their gear and supplies and going over what pay and benefits they should have received while deployed.

Today they will be evaluated for physical, mental and dental health. Any issues will be documented to avoid problems with the Tricare military health insurance system.

The Marines will spend Friday in warrior transition classes. While their husbands were away, the Marines' wives had to learn to take care of the house, the cars, the yards and more without their husbands. Returning service members sometimes find it hard to see their wives doing what used to be their work.

"For the last seven months you haven't been the man of the house because you haven't been there," Good said.

Wives, too, will have to get used to their husbands being around as the Marines begin to make the transition from combat to civilian life. The classes should help avoid little spats over day-to-day tasks, he said.

The battalion's Company C, stationed in Utah, also returned to the U.S. on Wednesday morning, along with some members of Company D from Virginia and Company F from South Carolina.

IJC Operational Update, May 27

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international security force detained several individuals suspected of insurgent activity in Kandahar province last night. The security force detained the individuals while searching a series of buildings south of Kudeza'I, Zharay district. Some of the suspects ran from the security force, but they were quickly and safely apprehended.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.27.2010
Posted: 05.27.2010 05:49

A separate Afghan-international security force detained an individual suspected of militant activity in Khost last night. The combined force detained the individual while searching a compound south of Kholbesat, Sabari district. An ISAF patrol detained several individuals suspected of being weapons facilitators, improvised explosive device makers and IED emplacers, in three locations, during an operation in Nad 'Ali district, Helmand province, yesterday. The above operations were carried out after intelligence information revealed insurgent activity. An Afghan-international patrol found a weapons cache In Arghandab district, Kandahar province, yesterday. The cache contained two rocket propelled grenade launchers, 17 blasting caps, a propane tank, numerous AK-47 rounds, an instruction book on IED construction and other IED making components. No shots were fired and no civilians were harmed during any of the above operations.

Faces of War: Capt. Jason Ford

Captain Jason Ford is on his fourth tour of duty with the U.S. Marines, his first in Afghanistan. I met him in 2003 during the buildup to the invasion of Iraq and again on the march towards Baghdad while he was serving with the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, the same unit I embedded with.

Click above link for a news video link.

May 27, 2010 - 9:42 AM | by: Rick Leventhal

Now he's the Commanding Officer of Charlie Company with the 1st LAR, based in a Combat Outpost known as South Station in the Helmand River Valley.

We joined him on a four hour foot patrol into a neighboring village where we sat down cross legged on the floor in the open-air living room of a tribal elder's home. We drank the Chai tea they offered and I listened as the Captain worked to establish a relationship and trust with the elder and the large group of men and boys around him.

“We do these sit downs with them to try and let them know hey yes we’re here, we’re here to help, we’re the good guys and here’s why…" the Captain told me later, "but we’re not going to give you everything because we can’t be here forever. This is your country, your problem, and you guys gotta start addressing those problems.”

“In order to win this war, in order to finally be successful over here, we have to win the people.”

Ford grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, attended the Naval Academy (when I asked how he finished there he laughed and said "I graduated!") and now lives in Southern California with his new wife.

“Before, the Marine Corps was everything. Now it’s the Marine Corps plus a wife so… “

So this may be his last tour of duty?

“When I do get home it will be time to go and start making babies and do that good stuff."

"You got a new boss now?" I ask. "Yeah, absolutely!”

May 26, 2010

Marines brave sniper fire in Marjah

Enemy target patrols with precision fire

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday May 26, 2010 17:23:53 EDT

MARJAH, Afghanistan — As they pushed through dusty farm compounds looking for insurgents, the members of this Marine fire team were wound tighter than a steel spring.

To continue reading:


As Fleet Week Begins, A Shipload of Work for Navy, Marines and Coast Guard

Amid the R&R; festivities of New York’s Fleet Week, there’s a shipload of work for visiting service members.


By Elliott Ramos
May 26, 2010, 8:57 AM ET

Most assume the service members in town are on leave, but many of them are still on duty with strict orders to participate in the more than 300 community outreach events in the five boroughs and Long Island.

A military command center is set up on Pier 88 in Manhattan, offering an unfettered view of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum docked at the adjacent pier. Inside, public affairs officers from the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard sit over laptops and answer calls between meetings, making final preparations for the over 3,000 service members due to arrive for Wednesday morning’s Parade of Ships.

“This is the Super Bowl of Fleet Weeks,” said Michael Salerno, the Navy’s director of Fleet Week, a reference to the many Fleet Weeks that take part around the country, the first of which originated in San Diego in 1935 and is now in its 23rd iteration in New York.

Mr. Salerno is one of the few who work exclusively on Fleet Week throughout the year.

On the surface, it’s a huge spectacle that New York loves, with many residents clamoring to show off the city’s hospitality.

For the military, it’s an all-out public relations offensive.

“We’re here to tell the sea service story; what the Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard team does for us on a day to day basis,” said Beth Baker, public affairs officer for the Navy’s Mid-Atlantic region.

That story may well seem ubiquitous as the military’s presence will be seen by the crowds at Citi Field to traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

The show of force requires intense coordination from high-ranking military personnel. Various flag officers will convene for an Executive Orientation Board, which will meet with numerous city officials during the week.

“This is the largest community outreach event in the United States Navy,” said Baker.

With no event too big or small, communities invite military personnel to religious ceremonies, schools, libraries and performances. “We want to be good guests, we have RSVP’ed for number of events and want to make sure our sailors show up for it,” said Capt. Mark Genung, chief of staff for the Navy’s Second Expeditionary Strike Group.

Dozens, and at times hundreds of military officers and civilians work year-round to coordinate logistics for everything from the docking of ships to free MTA fare for service members.

The military, in turn, pitches in at a number of community outreach events, dispatching service members to soup kitchens, blood drives and visitations to children’s hospitals.

“We all just want to work hard for the greater good. There’s a very specific goal here to say thank you to those that are giving over and above themselves,” said Susan Marenoff, executive director of the Intrepid, which has found itself in the news last week following the abrupt resignation of its chief, Bill White.

Marenoff said she has attended two to three meetings daily the past month in preparation of Fleet Week. The museum works in tandem with the military’s committees, but has a sizable personnel of their own for museum-sponsored events, including 60 volunteers, many of whom are World War II and Vietnam veterans.

The Intrepid will host a gala where former secretary of state Henry Kissinger will present an award to Gen. David Petraeus on Thursday.

Public relations and community events aside, Sailors, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines will have ample time to take in the city, but the week also provides an opportunity to reflect on what happened at the World Trade Center.

“As our ships come in, there will be a salute for what happened there,” Capt. Genung said. “This will be a reminder for our younger sailors who enlisted after 9/11 that will resonate for them… some of them have even requested to re-enlist in front of the World Trade Center site.”

IJC Operational Update, May 26

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force captured a Taliban operations facilitator and other suspected militants in Zabul province last night. The facilitator and other militants were captured at a compound in Kaj Baz, Qalat District, after intelligence information verified insurgent activity.


Iraqi Media Engagement Team More Stories from Iraqi Media Engagement Team RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.26.2010
Posted: 05.26.2010 04:48

The facilitator has ties to several insurgent networks, is known to provide monetary support to the insurgency, and operates mainly in Zabul province. When the security force confronted the Taliban leader he immediately surrendered and identified himself as the targeted insurgent. No shots were fired and no one was harmed during this operation. An Afghan-international patrol discovered numerous improvised explosive device making materials in Chorah District, Uruzgan province, yesterday. The material included 50 military grade detonators, a 107mm mortar round, a 40mm diameter mortar fuse, detonation cord, ball bearings, pressure plates, a small bag of homemade explosives, an IED trigger used to detonate several charges simultaneously, and other IED making materials. Afghan national security forces with ISAF partners conducted a combined operation early Tuesday morning in Shurakay, Helmand province. The intent of the operation was to arrest a Taliban insurgent responsible for supplying aid to insurgents in Helmand province. As the combined force approached a compound where the Taliban commander was believed to be, they were attacked by insurgents with small arms and rocket propelled grenades. ANSF and ISAF responded in self-defense and killed several insurgents. The combined force then surrounded the compound, and Afghan Special Police ensured all residents exited the compound safely. Several were detained, and multiple women and children were protected throughout this operation, in which no civilians were injured.

PMT Patrols Through Now Zad

NOW ZAD, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Marines go on local patrols through villages and rural areas every day to ensure the security of Now Zad, but no patrol is identical to another.



Regimental Combat Team-2, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs More Stories from Regimental Combat Team-2, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.24.2010
Posted: 05.26.2010 05:39
By Cpl. Ned Johnson

Marines with the Police Mentoring Team, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, patrolled a local village and encountered several different situations along the way, May 24.

"We go on patrol every day, but every patrol is still an adventure in itself," said Cpl. Andrew Francis, the day's patrol leader and the operations chief for the police mentoring team, Alpha Co., 1st Bn., 2nd Marines.

This day's adventure would start with a possible improvised explosive device.

"We saw a large fuel tank-like object in the middle of the road," Francis said. "We also noticed there was a wire coming out of the tank."

The Marines moved back a safe distance and began clearing the IED, according to Francis, a 22-year-old native of Columbus, Ohio.

"Once we determined it was not an IED, we moved it out of the road and continued on the patrol," Francis said.

However, the patrol would not go much further before its next stop.

One of the Marines on the patrol, 2nd Lt. Roberto Ruiz, the officer in charge of the PMT, Alpha Co., 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, stopped a local man to ask him a few questions.

"Last time I saw him, he told me he had been having problems with [insurgents]," Ruiz said. "I wanted to ask him if things were better and he said they were."

The patrol would stop again a few more times to search locals on motorcycles and interact with the children.

"One of the important reasons we go on patrol is to establish a good relationship with the people in the area," said Cpl. Alex Smith, the non-commissioned officer in charge of the PMT, Alpha Company, 1st Bn., 2nd Marines. "Talking to the people and children is a big part of that."

The Marines also handed out pens at the local school, Francis added.

The patrol was only slightly different than normal, but Francis said something is always different.

"If we go down the same road at the same time every day, the [insurgents] will learn and plant IEDs," Francis said. "So, we vary our times, numbers and the routes we travel."

These variables can affect more than the enemy though.

"We are always battling awareness and complacency," Francis said. "Mixing things up keeps us from falling into a rut."

Smith, a 22-year-old native of Latrobe, Pa., admits no two patrols are the same, but insists the mission remains unchanged.

"We are outside the wire everyday and we have to be so that people can see we are doing our best to keep the area safe," Smith said. "We will continue to patrol the area and do our job.

May 25, 2010

MARSOC stands up MIB

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command’s Marine Special Operations Intelligence Battalion (MIB) officially activated during a ceremony on May 18, at the MARSOC headquarters building.


5/25/2010 By Cpl. Richard Blumenstein , Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command

The battalion was reorganized from a company in response to the ever-growing capabilities of MARSOC. The mission of the MIB is to train, sustain, maintain combat readiness, and provide intelligence support at all operational levels within MARSOC, and to support MARSOC training and operations worldwide with mission specific capabilities.

“The MARSOC Intelligence Battalion produces the direct support teams, SOTF (Special Operations Task Force) enhancements, and other capabilities as needed by the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, and the Commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command,” said Col. Richard Anders, the commanding officer of Marine Special Operations Support Group. “These intelligence capabilities are integral elements of our operating forces and a critical ingredient of the Marine Special Operations’ concept.”

During the ceremony, Anders addressed all in attendance and gave a special thanks to Lt. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, the commanding officer of II Marine Expeditionary Force, and former commander of MARSOC.

“A special welcome and word of gratitude is in order for General Hejlik, who four years ago, planted the seeds of Marine Special Operations Intelligence,” Anders said. “Sir, the fruit of your vision and labor, along with that of your team four years ago, is before you.”

Lt. Col. Nicolas Vavich, the commander of the MIB, also spoke during the ceremony. Vavich talked about the achievements made by the intelligence Marines of MARSOC since the inception of the command, including their participation in the more than 28 deployments to 13 countries that MARSOC conducted last year.

“In my mind, special operations are really not about going after any target at the first available time. Special operations are about choosing the right target at the time and place of our choosing to shape and influence the battle space in today’s really complex and multidimensional environments,” Vavich said. “It is the exceptional Marines of Marine Intelligence Battalion, both east and west coast, who provide that capability to this component, and make MARSOC’s contribution unique to the special operations community.”

Kilo Company Squads Engage Insurgents After Ambush

COMBAT OUTPOST REILLY, Afghanistan – Last night, I went on my last foot patrol of this embed assignment.


News Video:

May 25th, 2010 | Afghanistan Marjah | Posted by Daniel Lamothe

It was eventful, to say the least.

Military Times photographer Tom Brown and I pushed north from this outpost east of Marjah with Marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines. Two groups – 3rd Platoon’s 2nd and 3rd Squads – left on routine security patrols within a half-hour of each other. Tom and I joined 3/3, the second group – 13 Marines, a Navy corpsman and four Afghan National Army soldiers – as they stepped off at about 4:30.

It was a strenuous walk. The first squad had swept ahead of us to establish security so we could safely cross open terrain, but the land was crisscrossed with canals that needed to be hurdled and boot-sucking fields that had been flooded by farmers earlier in the day. The air temperature had cooled off considerably from its 100-degree peak earlier in the day, but it was still hot enough that our shirts clung to our backs.

For more than hour, the patrol passed uneventfully. Marines interviewed several neighbors along the way to collect census information, and continued to press north into territory they patrolled less frequently. In tandem, the squads worked north within a half-mile of each other, communicating frequently.

It was about 6 p.m. when things began to look sinister. Second Squad detected men running back and forth in a tree line several hundred yards to their north – a possible indicator of a coming ambush. Marines traveling with us in 3rd Squad observed another man 200 yards to the north in a green tunic, pointing us out to another man on a motorcycle, who sped away.

“That’s always how it starts,” said Hospitalman Novice Brandon Echols, 3/3’s corpsman, watching the man in the green tunic. “One guy pointing.”

Ten minutes later, the shooting began. Insurgents wielding a bolt-action 7.62mm Dragonov sniper rifle and a 7.62mm RPK machine gun opened up on the other squad, 3/2, from a two-story building about 250 yards to their northeast. We were about 350 yards away from 3/2 to the west – out of sight behind a compound, but close enough where we could hear gunfire crackling on the evening air. Several sniper rounds narrowly missed 3/2’s Marines when they were out in the open, we later learned.

Third Squad’s Marines scrambled from compound to compound to help, hurdling a canal and keeping themselves out of harm’s way by staying on the west side of many of the buildings, opposite the firefight. Tom and I kept up, body armor rattling up and down on our shoulders as we ran.

“We’ve got to move one compound to the north!” Cpl. Shane Hume, a team leader with 3/3, told his Marines. “They’re pinned down and they need our help!”

Third Squad took over another compound as a second team of insurgents hiding to the northwest opened fire for the first time from about 300 yards away. Gunfire from AK47s snapped overhead, but everyone made it into the building unharmed.

Third Squad eventually engaged the enemy in a tree line to the east using gunfire and high-explosive 40mm rounds fired from an M203 launcher. At least one attacker was hit, Marines said. The firefight tapered off at about 6:30, when two Cobra gunship helicopters roared in overhead. Tom and I spent the majority of the battle out of the way with Echols and Lance Cpl. Michael McCracken, who maintained security on a nearby building, allowing a designated marksman to step onto the roof and survey the situation.

The two squads of Marines fanned through the area looking for clues to what occurred and the bodies of dead insurgents. Spent RPK and rifle rounds were found in a building where the attack was first initiated, Marines said.

Third Squad regrouped in another compound at about 7 p.m. They walked home under cover of darkness, crossing fields and canals along the way.

Faces of War: The Mechanic

Even the toughest military vehicles break down in the harsh conditions of Southern Afghanistan.


May 25, 2010 - 12:34 AM | by: Rick Leventhal

Temperatures are topping 110 degrees daily. There are almost no paved roads in Helmand Province and none in the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion’s area of operation, plus the sand and grit wreaks havoc with many of the moving parts on the LAV’s (light armored vehicles) and the bigger trucks and personnel carriers the Marines use.

That’s why Corporal Rhett Buford and his team are so busy.

The 21 year old from Charleston, South Carolina is known as a “maintainer”, which is Marine-speak for mechanic.

In 14 days at Forward Operating Base Payne, he’d already fixed 12 engines.

“That’s all I’ve ever done my whole life…” he says during a short break on another blistering hot day.

“It’s what my dad and stepdad do, what my granddad did…

“It’s hard sometimes… it’ll test you, it’s a little stressful, but it’s what I signed up for.”

Buford, who enlisted when he was 18, also did a tour in Iraq, repairing the LAV’s Detroit Diesel 6-cylinder Turbos in Anbar Province.

He says he hasn’t decided if he’ll re-enlist next year.

When asked if his family is nervous about him being in a war zone, he says he tells them not to worry.

“I’m a mechanic!” he says, with a big grin.

A very busy mechanic for sure.

Remembering a Marine, Step by Step

— For Marines who have experienced combat together, the many rituals and gestures of bidding farewell to the dead, beginning from the point of medevac and continuing beyond the fallen Marine’s journey to the grave, are observed with a devotion that is at once quiet, fiercely followed and unsummoned. The more formal rituals are matters of tradition, like memorial services in the field and the escorts who accompany a dead Marine through his or her funeral back home. Some Marines are further memorialized in the names of outposts and landing zones; thus, “Combat Outpost Hanson” and the adjacent “Landing Zone Currier,” named after two Marines from Kilo Company, Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, who were killed several hundred yards from here in fighting against the Taliban in February. Other gestures are impromptu, spontaneous and intensely personal, propelled by feelings that take hold within young infantrymen who fight through ambush after ambush together, and who find, as their tattoos often say, that they are bound by blood and then by a set of memories that will be theirs alone for the decades ahead.



May 25, 2010, 3:34 pm

Combat Outpost Lily

Lately, anyone visiting Combat Outpost Lily, a joint American-Afghan post in northern Marja, will chance upon a small token of a grieving platoon, a memorial that is an early marker on the long road to try to sort out what it all means, and what it really cost.

What is this place, Combat Outpost Lily? In the most obvious sense, viewed from the flat and dusty road that it sits beside, it is the home of a contingent of Afghan soldiers, a few dozen officers from the Afghan National Civil Order Police and the Marines of First Platoon of the battalion’s India Company. It also rests on soil adjacent to a long abandoned Russian base. And yet as it happens, for all of this outpost’s martial air and history, Lily, for whom this small cluster of tents and bunkers was named, was never a Marine. She was a date-to-be, the Marines say, a young woman who had stood up a Marine lieutenant who had asked her to the annual Marine Corps ball. These circumstances — a no-show for an officer waiting in dress blues — earned Lily a small measure of fame, if fame could wear a smirk. Once India Company arrived in Afghanistan, her name was recycled as a healthy celebration of an insult, and gave an inhospitable place its name.

Now forget Lily, “that very special lady,” as one Marine said bitingly. These Marines almost certainly will. This outpost has already been dedicated to someone they hold much more dear. He greets all visitors in a way that is understated and yet impossible to miss. Behind the concertina wire at the outpost’s entrance is a piece of bone-dry scrap lumber bearing a small pen-and-ink drawing of an M16 rifle, its bayonet thrust into the ground between a pair of boots, and a helmet resting on its upright butt stock. A four-leaf clover adorns the upper left corner.

The spare lettering reads: “Gone But Never Forgotten, RIP, LCPL Christopher Rangel, 1987-2010.”

Lance Corporal Rangel, a married 22-year-old Marine from San Antonio, was killed on a foot patrol that set out from here on May 6.

Everyone in First Platoon, ambushed repeatedly by now in the farmers’ fields and irrigation ditches and tree lines to the south, knows that what happened to Lance Corporal Rangel could have happened to any of them, and that his story was much like theirs.

The assignment to Marja, the scene of a large Marine offensive in the winter, marked the beginning of Lance Corporal Rangel’s second deployment and what seemed like a promising career and productive life. He had served a tour in Anbar Province in Iraq, where he had impressed his squad leader there, Sgt. Jonathan J. Lopez, 27, as a hustling young man with skills and drive. “He was a Marine who wanted to be good at everything,” Sergeant Lopez said. “He was hard-working. He had a good ethic. He was the kind of guy everyone liked. Everyone wanted to be with him.”

To prepare and to pass the quiet hours, Lance Corporal Rangel conditioned himself methodically. He was short, but became powerfully built, packing on muscle as he passed his months as a grunt. “In Iraq, we both got really strong,” said Cpl. Everett Hudnell, 25, one of his lifting partners, who watched his friend’s bench press climb over 300 pounds. “He beat me, and I had 285. He had at least 315.”

By the time First Platoon had trained for its next tour and been assigned to the offensive on Marja, Lance Corporal Rangel had picked up two duties. He was both a fire team leader and the platoon’s intelligence specialist. The second duty made him responsible for gathering and analyzing the intelligence assembled from each foot patrol or operation, and for handling any evidence collected in the field. The first made him responsible for the lives of three other Marines.

The patrols were dangerous. In less than three months, more than half a dozen of the platoon’s men were wounded. Lance Corporal Rangel walked with charm. His right arm bore the tattoo of a cross. A silver four-leaf clover hung from a leather strap around his neck. “He told me that he always had the luck of winning with him,” Sergeant Lopez said.

‘The Kevlar Chef’

Lance Corporal Rangel was more than lucky. He was resourceful, and he knew that a platoon walks on its stomach. He found a new way to boost his friends’ morale: cooking. He acquired fresh food from the local bazaar, and with a field stove or Afghan cookware prepared all manner of dishes with these ingredients, sharing meals that spiced the bland field-rations routine. He put field rations to good use, too. First Platoon held a competition its members dubbed “the Kevlar Chef,” in which the only condition was that the competing cooks could use any ingredient from a meal-ready-to-eat, and nothing else, to concoct whatever dish they wished. “Nothing out of an M.R.E. tastes that good,” said another sergeant, Ryan J. Taylor, 24, a veteran of three combat tours. “But with what he did any M.R.E. would taste like gourmet.”

The sergeant sat silently in a tent for a moment, arms folded, eyes inward. He knew that Lance Corporal Rangel’s cooking meant more than serving food. It indicated a character trait. “He was just great to work with,” he added. “He saw the best in any of the worst situations.”

The worst situation for Lance Corporal Rangel came on a security patrol south of the outpost not yet three weeks ago, when his team was ambushed. The poppy harvest had just ended, and weeks of quiet had been replaced, quickly, by a resumption of combat. Uneventful patrols were now often turning into running gunfights. As this one began, Lance Corporal Rangel was near another Marine, who leapt into a canal under fire. Lance Corporal Rangel bolted for a compound. The ambush lasted perhaps 10 minutes, his friends said. When it ended, his Marines realized that he had been silent throughout. Then he did not answer his radio. A quick sweep found him. He was against a wall, his friends said, and holding his M16. Its selector lever was set on FIRE. He had been shot in the head, front to back, below the helmet. He had died, they said, in an instant.

Back at the outpost that day, the Marines in First Platoon’s other squads did not know what had happened, except that something was not right. They listened to the radio chatter that accompanies any firefight. The squad in the ambush called in a casualty report, and listed Lance Corporal Rangel’s evacuation priority as routine. That can mean only two things.

“We were like, O.K., it’s either a really small scrape,” said Sergeant Lopez, “or a K.I.A.”

He knew how this story ends: “His squad leader came over the radio and said he was dead.”

Every day in Marja, each platoon stands its posts and walks its patrols, often small patrols, over ground that remains contested. With the arrival of this summer’s Afghan fighting season, small units of Marines and small units of Taliban fighters and gunmen hired by drug traffickers trade shots and sometimes casualties, hunting for each other in patches of flat farmland that are only several square miles across but can have the feel of a maze. As they work, Lance Corporal Rangel’s friends quietly grieve. Some of them say they are so busy that aside from the tears that flowed freely at his memorial service, they have not yet confronted what they feel. This will come later, they said. For now, there is always the next patrol, and for the next patrol each Marine is expected to focus. “A lot of guys really don’t talk about it,” said Cpl. Costin A. Turtureanu, 23, another fire team leader. “We internalize it.”

Corporal Hudnell added a thought almost any veteran can understand. “It hasn’t really hit us yet,” he said.

In the midday heat after another recent patrol, the Marines switched on their cameras and their laptops, and showed pictures and video clips of their friend, the guy from San Antonio with a hefty bench press, an easy smile and luck that buoyed him while he lived, as if he were still right outside the tent, cooking, joking, serving dishes over the plywood table or the piles of sandbags where the Marines often take their meals. Staff Sgt. Edgar O. Alvarado, the senior enlisted Marine in First Platoon, passed out a pamphlet he had saved from the battalion’s memorial service last week.

“He’s the first one I’ve lost,” he said. “I’ve had wounded,” he added quickly, and then seemed to read from a roster before his eyes.

“One, two, three, four, five.” He paused, nodded as he remembered another man. “Six,” he said. Then: “Seven.” He nodded again.

“And Rangel,” he said. “He’s my eight.”

He made a promise. No tribute he could offer here, from Combat Outpost Lily, would ever be enough. “When I get home, I’m going to visit his family,” he said. “His mom, his dad, his widow. I’m going to bring a pamphlet, a flag, some pictures.”

He showed several of those pictures. “The majority of the platoon wants to go visit them, too,” he said.

In First Platoon, everything is clear, even if it is unstated.

This post was named for Lily.

It is Lance Corporal Rangel’s place.

Volunteers refit home for injured Marine

By Casey Cora - (Tinley Park) Southtown Star via Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday May 25, 2010 8:13:15 EDT

OAK LAWN, Ill. — For any potential homebuyer, searching for the right house is a struggle, one fraught with choices over aesthetics, location and practicality.

To continue reading:


IJC Operational Update, May 25

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force killed several individuals in a fierce gun battle in Paktiya province this morning. The targeted individual killed was an Afghanistan al-Qaeda leader, while the remaining individuals were engaging the security force with automatic rifles and hand grenades.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.25.2010
Posted: 05.25.2010 06:12

The combined force went to a compound in a rural area of the Zormat District after intelligence information verified militant activity. As the assault force approached the compound, they came under heavy fire. While moving around the compound the force continued to receive fire by individuals barricaded inside buildings, and returned fire killing several individuals.

A number of armed individuals who ran from the compound were pursued by the force. As they were being pursued, the individuals turned and fired on the security force, which returned fire and killed the individuals.

During a search of the compound the assault force found a large weapons cache consisting of a Chinese recoilless rifle with 25 rounds of ammunition, multiple rocket propelled grenade launchers and rounds, 20 mortar rounds and multiple automatic rifles and grenades. The assault force also protected several women and children from harm.

A separate Afghan-international security force destroyed an IED making factory and detained a suspected insurgent in Kandahar province last night.

The security force discovered the factory, containing explosives and other IED materials, in a building west of Niku Kariz, Kandahar District. Precision weapons were used to destroy the building.

A Taliban IED facilitator and another insurgent were captured by an Afghan-international security force in an operation in Logar province last night.

The IED facilitator and the other insurgent were detained during a search of a compound in Abjush-e Pa'in, Baraki Barak District, after intelligence information confirmed insurgent activity. When confronted, the facilitator immediately surrendered and identified himself as the targeted insurgent.

The facilitator is responsible for several IED emplacements and attacks against coalition and Afghan forces in the Charkh and Baraki Barak Districts.

An ISAF patrol discovered a freshly dug weapons cache at a construction site in the Khash Rod district, Nimroz province yesterday.

The cache consisted of a number of mortars, rocket propelled grenades, anti-tank and anti-personnel mines and artillery shells.

An Afghan-international force discovered 58 152mm artillery shells in Shindand District, Herat province yesterday. The munitions will be destroyed.

Afghan national security forces with ISAF partners conducted a combined operation early Sunday morning in Malgir, Nahr-e-Saray, Helmand province, to arrest a Taliban fighter known to have taken part in attacks against ISAF forces and recruit for the Taliban.

After surrounding the compound of interest, Afghan special police ensured all occupants exited the compound safely. Several men were detained along with a small amount of narcotics and an assault rifle. Several women and children were protected throughout the operation, in which no civilians were injured.

May 24, 2010

Marines battle fire aboard Camp Leatherneck

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — A large cloud of smoke rolled into the air as the Supply Management Unit lot erupted in flames, May 16, — a stomach-churning site, especially in a combat zone.


By Cpl. Justis Beauregard, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Marines from Crash Fire Rescue and Heavy Equipment operators with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 were among the first on the scene. Plowing right into the heart of the inferno, the heavy equipment operators worked hard to contain the fire by pushing dirt onto the blaze.

"The bulldozers played a huge role in containing the fire," said Sgt. Travis Hill, a heavy equipment lot manager for MWSS-274, who drove one of the bulldozers. "The dirt provided a berm to keep the fire from spreading."

The Marines with Crash Fire Rescue also worked to subdue the blaze with water.

"We immediately started doing our jobs," said Cpl. Nathan Corthell. "We laid out the hose and started spraying it down with the roof turret to cool and suppress the fire."

As if the furious fire on the base wasn't trouble enough for the Marines, a massive sand storm hit the base in the middle of the fight, blinding the Marines and stoking the fire.

"Right before the sand storm, we all thought we could get the fire contained and out," said Corthell. "As soon as the sandstorm hit, it started moving the fire around and it immediately became hard to contain. The sand got so thick you couldn't see three or four feet in front of you."

Due to the sand storm, the fire continued to burn and engulfed two of the squadron's P-19 fire trucks. All of the Marines near the fire were able to escape safely and regroup to continue the fight.

A day after the fire started the Marines were still putting out small fires and assessing the damage.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Thanks to the hard work of the MWSS-274 Marines, the fire was contained to the supply lot and never spread to any of the nearby facilities.

Always Walk in the Tracks

“Walk in the tracks,” 1st Sgt Stephen Cummings told me as we walked toward the Helmand River. I was shooting some video, and veered off a little. Then, not looking where I was going, I veered off again.

Click above link for photos.

May 24, 2010 - 1:45 PM | by: Kathleen Foster

“I said walk in the tracks! You know why I say that, don’t you?” He reminded me that any ground that hasn’t been run over by a vehicle could potentially contain an IED. So, I made sure to stay to in the tracks.

1st Sgt Cummings is a member of the Marines’ 1st LAR. The 43-year-old originally from Memphis, oversees the 31 light armored vehicles in Charlie Company that transport passengers and supplies. He’s based at South Station, a remote base south of the river that has even fewer creature comforts than FOB Payne. There is no refrigeration. So, their bottled drinking water comes in two temperatures, warm or hot.

Cummings and his wife Tamara have two children, Sean, 15 and Lauren, 7. But his right hand man, Lance Cpl Brandon Foley is just getting started.

The 25 year old LAV driver got married to his wife, Evilina, on April 5th, exactly one month before shipping out to Afghanistan.

He’s going home in December. But unlike his boss who’s been a Marine for 23 years, Brandon plans to leave the Corps.

“I want to work for the FBI and fight cyber-crimes,” he told me.

He plans to finish up his degree in computer science after his service ends in July.

Marine Prowlers 'Jam' Afghan Skies

(Editor's Note: Military.com editor Ward Carroll and managing editor Christian Lowe are currently embedded with American troops in eastern Afghanistan.)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN – Although the bureau numbers on the fuselages of Marine Electronic Attack Squadron 2's EA-6B Prowlers tell of jets harkening from the Cold War, the venerable jammers have found a new and vital niche in the counterinsurgency of Afghanistan.


May 24, 2010
Military.com|by Ward Carroll

The Prowler was originally designed to fight complex integrated air defense systems like those designed by the former Soviet Union. Through the use of powerful pods slung under each wing, the airplane would "jam" ground-based radars, blinding the enemy and paving the way for attack jets and fighters to hit their targets.

And in the event a SAM site did fire its missiles, the Prowler would launch high-speed anti radiation, or "HARM," missiles to wipe out the air defense site before it could shoot down any of the American airplanes.

But the Taliban have no complex Soviet-style SAM systems; and the closest thing they have to an integrated air defense is when they coordinate their RPGs with their AK-47s. So what are the Marine Prowlers doing in Afghanistan?

"The EA-6 has always been predominantly non-kinetic type of asset," said Marine Maj. Robert "Kid" Kudelko, VMAQ-2's operations officer. "And in a fight that's increasingly non-kinetic in terms of ‘hearts and minds' – not wanting to cause collateral damage – we bring another dimension."

The squadron – that goes by the official name of "Death Jesters" while favoring the classic Playboy magazine bunny as its logo on patches and the jets' tails – is about a month into a six-month rotation at here. They have five airplanes with them, although one of those jets has been "cannibalized" for parts since it severely damaged its landing gear two weeks into the deployment.

The four remaining Prowlers are used to fly an average of four sorties a day in support of coalition forces. Those sorties can last anywhere from two to six hours as long as tankers are available to keep the airplanes airborne. The squadron has a roster of nine pilots and 18 electronic countermeasures officers – "ECMOs" – to carry out those missions. (Each Prowler carries one pilot and three ECMOs.)

The squadron usually gets its missions three days ahead of time, with units on the ground submitting a Joint Tactical Air Support Request asking for some form of electronic warfare – not platform specific.

"[The coalition] has EC-130s, EP-3s, Rivet Joints, MC-12s," Kudelko said. "But if somebody wants some sort of offensive kinetic electronic warfare capability, if jamming is required, we're pretty much the only game in town."

While hesitant to discuss details around the highly classified EW missions, Kudelko explained that the war in Afghanistan is a lot more dynamic than the war in Iraq was for the jammers. He also said those asking for his planes are a lot smarter about the Prowler's capabilities.

"Their mission success revolves around their knowledge of how much we can bring to the non-kinetic fight," he said. "Basically, if the mission involves the electronic spectrum, we can find some means to influence it. The idea is to leverage what we can attack with what the other [electronic warfare platforms] can listen to, and what the guys on the ground desire."

In terms of supporting offensive ground operations Kudelko said, "Our role is to open a doorway by denying early warning and denying targeting."

When asked whether that meant jamming radio transmissions or shutting down television signals, for example, the Kudelko demurred: "There are various things they utilize that we can exploit."

That means if the coalition commanders on the ground want to keep the enemy from talking to one another, the Prowler can help.

Kudelko also mentioned that his squadron was starting to coordinate better with the 4th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, one of the outfits tasked with the passive "listening" mission using the MC-12 Liberty, a highly-modified King Air.

"They probably have better situational awareness than anybody else at times," Kudelko explained "If I'm talking to them I can make sure I'm not jamming while they're trying to listen to something."

Kudelko made no mention of a counter-IED mission for the Prowlers. While that mission was a documented part of the EA-6's role during the Iraq War, more rudimentary triggering devices – pressure plates and hard wire connections instead of electronically commanded detonators – have mitigated the Prowlers ability to be a "route clearance" platform in Afghanistan.

Because of wear on the airframes, Prowler pilots are only allowed to pull 4 Gs during tactical maneuvers, which is 2.5 Gs less than the airplane was authorized originally. And while maintainers deal with a lot of issues newer platforms don't face, for the most part those who fix the jets are pleased with how the jets are holding up.

Gunnery Sgt. Josh Wilson, the airframes division chief with VMAQ-2, said he's been pleasantly surprised how the airplanes have stayed operational and how the rugged conditions here haven't adversely affected them. Squadron officials in maintenance control said the planes have averaged an 80 percent "fully mission capable rate" during their short time here – a number they consider good in light of the Prowlers' years of service.

And although the EA-6Bs generally fly too high to be threatened by RPGs or small arms fire, the Death Jesters got a stark reminder that they are operating in a war zone a few days ago when insurgents attempted to breach Bagram's perimeter during a bold, early morning assault.

A group of insurgents tried to cut through the wire adjacent to the squadron's barracks. A couple of alert enlisted Marines were wounded by a hand grenade after they engaged the infiltrators, Kudelko said.

"After the attack, we built our place into even more of a fortress," Kudelko said.

The insurgents were quickly neutralized; the Marines are now convalescing stateside, expected to make a full recovery.

New 5.56 ammo used sparingly in combat

Deadlier open-tip round slow to be fielded

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Monday May 24, 2010 8:15:06 EDT

CAMP HANSON, Afghanistan — The Marine Corps has fielded its new, enhanced 5.56mm rifle round in Afghanistan, and it’s just beginning to reach thousands of grunts here.

To read the entire article:

Counting the Close Calls

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MARJAH, Afghanistan – I'm not an infantryman, far from it. I'm as much of a 'pog' (meaning person other than grunt) as one can be, but with the Marine Corps being what it is, even Pog's are afforded the opportunity to see combat. While in Helmand province, Afghanistan with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, I've nearly been shot several times. I've wound up pinned down in a muddy canal by sniper fire and have watched stunned as a rocket-propelled grenade spiraled through the air, bounce of a doorframe and skid to a halt, ten feet away.



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: 05.24.2010
Posted: 05.24.2010 05:16

After the first time you take contact, the elation and excitement starts to fade. The next time you don't smile as wide or laugh as hard, and soon after that you've stopped grinning entirely.

Without ever meaning to, I find myself making a mental checklist.

AK 47, RPK fire?
Sniper fire?

You stop looking at what has happened and begin to wonder about what will happen. Based on what you've gone through, what do you have left? How many more close calls do you have in you? Will there be enough?

With this realization, you begin to look at things differently. You take stock of yourself, of what you have accomplished and what you still need to do. In an effort to better explain this, I spoke with other Marines in the battalion about their closest calls and the lasting impressions they left.

An inch to the left – Cpl. Kyle Sutherland

Recently, while conducting a routine census patrol in their area of operations near the district center in Marjah, Afghanistan, the Marines with 81 mm Mortar Platoon, Weapons Company, 1/6, took fire.

Cpl. Kyle Sutherland, on his second deployment, and present during the helo-insertion into the city with Bravo Company, 1/6, was hit by an AK-47 round during the firefight. The bullet impacted his side, slipping between the folds of his flak jacket and grazing the bullet-proof plates Marines wear inside of their body armor. The round came within an inch of his vital organs, but slipped out the other side of his body armor without ever breaking the skin.

"At the time, I thought we were taking sniper fire, but as it turns out, an insurgent put his rifle through a hole in a wall and squeezed off three rounds," said Sutherland. "I heard the first crack and got into cover, taking a knee. I waited a few seconds, to hear if someone was hit, then I heard the screaming. I had to decide if I was going to shoot back or get to the wounded Marine. The corpsman was too far away, so I made my way to [the injured Marine]."

At this point, Sutherland says he felt something, like a heavy pressure on his side and looked down to see a hole in his grenade pouch. One of the Afghan soldiers ran up and made the "?" gesture with his hands, asking if he was hit.

"I had him check me for wounds, putting his hands inside my flak and looking for blood," said Sutherland.

Once he was sure he wasn't hit, he ran to provide security for the incoming medevac, falling at least four times along the way, recounted Sutherland.

Looking back on the incident, Sutherland spoke on the change in perception both during the firefight and afterward.

"Time slowed and the rounds all sounded far apart to me," said Sutherland. "During my first firefight, everyone was just shooting and you could only think to shoot back. Now you can process a few more thoughts, like what should I be doing?"

Do they just not like me? – Cpl. Killian Zahringer

Prior to the invasion of Marjah, Marines with the Personal Security Detachment, Headquarters and Services Company, 1/6 and Marines with Charlie Company, 1/6 went to set up the forward command center. While providing security, Cpl. Killian Zahringer found himself in his first firefight.

"I leaned down for just a moment to talk to my vehicle commander, and a round went through the plates covering the turret, right as I ducked down," said Zahringer, who is on his second deployment. "It makes a big difference, knowing that he's aiming at you and that you're not just at the wrong place at the wrong time, like with an IED."

Zahringer touched upon a thought that is often expressed among Marines. The majority of the time, Marines who are providing security or are on patrol are fired upon, and are forced to react to the situation, rarely being able to take the offensive.

Constantly being the victims of attacks makes you wonder at times, whether or not they simply don't like you, on an individual level. Do the men we're fighting have something personal against me? What did I ever do?

Additionally, it is sobering to realize that all it takes is a few rounds from an assault rifle.

"On the news and television, you always see helicopters, tanks and bombs, but all it really takes is just some guy with an AK-47," said Zahringer.

IJC Operational Update, May 24

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force captured a Taliban commander and several insurgents in Kandahar last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.24.2010
Posted: 05.24.2010 03:23

The combined force went to a compound in the village of Kukaran, in the Kandahar District, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity and captured the insurgents.

The captured commander is responsible for leading Taliban fighters in southern Arghandab, coordinating attacks on coalition forces and distributing rockets, improvised explosive devices, small arms and ammunition to fighters throughout the area.

Another joint security force found materials used to build deadly IEDs in Kunduz last night.

The combined force searched a compound in Suian, in the Chahar Darah district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. During the search the force found explosive materials, a landmine, detonation cord and electrical wiring used in IEDs.

In Logar last night, an Afghan-international security force found a weapons cache and detained several suspected insurgents.

The combined force searched a compound in Qaryeh-ye Dasht, in the Charkh District, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity, and found a cache of several rocket-propelled grenades, multiple automatic rifles, ammunition, grenades and notes on how to conduct suicide bombings. Several suspected militants were detained for
further questioning.

In Zabul last night, an Afghan-international security force searched a compound north of Kalay, in the Shah Joy District, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity and detained a suspected militant for further questioning.

While conducting a search of a mosque in the Musa Qal'ah District of Helmand province yesterday, a joint patrol discovered a weapons cache. After being granted permission to enter the mosque and escorted by the Afghan national army, they found the cache consisting of multiple AK-47s, 90 kilograms (200 pounds) of home-made explosives, pressure plates and a pro-Taliban painting. The cache was removed from the mosque and destroyed.

Also in the Musa Qal'ah district yesterday, an Afghan-international patrol found a weapons cache consisting of 250 kg (550 lbs) of opium and two AK-47s with loaded magazines. Two individuals were detained for further questioning.

A joint patrol found a large weapons cache in a cave and tunnel complex in the Saji Valley of Farah province yesterday.

The cache contained two complete 82mm mortar systems with extra tube and 34 mortar rounds. The cache also contained a 14.5mm anti-aircraft gun with 200 rounds and three spare barrels, two 82mm recoilless rifle rounds, seven RPGs, 175 mortar fuses, 14.5mm and 12.7mm ammunition, and small-arms ammunition. The cache was confiscated.

In the Kajaki District of Helmand province yesterday, an ISAF patrol found a weapons cache consisting of two grenades, two mines, six smoke bombs and various explosive components. The cache will be destroyed.

In the Washer District of Helmand province yesterday, an Afghan-international patrol discovered a weapons cache containing more than 1,200 machine gun rounds, three 82mm mortars and four 120mm mortars. The cache was destroyed.

No shots were fired and no Afghan civilians were harmed during any of these operation.

Afghans: 7 arrests in deaths of Army colonels

By Rahim Faiez - The Associated Press
Posted : Monday May 24, 2010 21:25:17 EDT.

KABUL, Afghanistan — Seven Afghans have been arrested in connection with a suicide bombing last week that killed six NATO soldiers, including three U.S. Army colonels, officials said Monday. A senior official accused Pakistan’s intelligence service of a role in their training

To read the entire article:


McChrystal calls Marjah a bleeding ulcer' in Afghan campaign

MARJAH, Afghanistan -- Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top allied military commander in Afghanistan, sat gazing at maps of Marjah as a Marine battalion commander asked him for more time to oust Taliban fighters from a longtime stronghold in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province.


McClatchy Newspapers
Posted on Monday, 05.24.10

"You've got to be patient," Lt. Col. Brian Christmas told McChrystal. "We've only been here 90 days."

"How many days do you think we have before we run out of support by the international community?" McChrystal replied.

A charged silence settled in the stuffy, crowded chapel tent at the Marine base in the Marjah district.

"I can't tell you, sir," the tall, towheaded, Fort Bragg, N.C., native finally answered.

"I'm telling you," McChrystal said. "We don't have as many days as we'd like."

The operation in Marjah is supposed to be the first blow in a decisive campaign to oust the Taliban from their spiritual homeland in adjacent Kandahar province, one that McChrystal had hoped would bring security and stability to Marjah and begin to convey an "irreversible sense of momentum" in the U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan.

Instead, a tour last week of Marjah and the nearby Nad Ali district, during which McClatchy Newspapers had rare access to meetings between McChrystal and top Western strategists, drove home the hard fact that President Barack Obama's plan to begin pulling American troops out of Afghanistan in July 2011 is colliding with the realities of the war.

There aren't enough U.S. and Afghan forces to provide the security that's needed to win the loyalty of wary locals. The Taliban have beheaded Afghans who cooperate with foreigners in a creeping intimidation campaign. The Afghan government hasn't dispatched enough local administrators or trained police to establish credible governance, and now the Taliban have begun their anticipated spring offensive.

"This is a bleeding ulcer right now," McChrystal told a group of Afghan officials, international commanders in southern Afghanistan and civilian strategists who are leading the effort to oust the Taliban fighters from Helmand.

"You don't feel it here," he said during a 10-hour front-line strategy review, "but I'll tell you, it's a bleeding ulcer outside."

Throughout the day, McChrystal expressed impatience with the pace of operations, echoing the mounting pressure he's under from his civilian bosses in Washington and Europe to start showing progress.

Progress in Marjah has been slow, however, in part because no one who planned the operation realized how hard it would be to convince residents that they could trust representatives of an Afghan government that had sent them corrupt police and inept leaders before they turned to the Taliban.

A hundred days after U.S.-led forces launched the offensive, Marjah markets are thriving, the local governor has begun to build a skeleton staff, and contractors have begun work on rebuilding schools, canals and bridges.

Yet, Marines are running into more firefights on their patrols. Taliban insurgents threaten and kill residents who cooperate with the Americans, and it will be months before a permanent police force is ready to take control of the streets from the temporary force that's brought some stability to Marjah.

The U.S.-backed Marjah governor, Marine officials said, has five top ministers. Eight of 81 certified teachers are on the job, and 350 of an estimated 10,000 students are going to school.

In an attempt to contain the creeping Taliban campaign, Lt. Col. Christmas' 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, in northern Marjah recently ceded direct control of an outlying rural area, collapsed its battle space and moved a company back into the population center, which had been neglected.

"There was no security," said Haji Mohammed Hassan, a tribal elder whose fear of the Taliban prompted him to leave Marjah two weeks ago for the relative safety of Helmand's nearby provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

"By day there is government," he said. "By night it's the Taliban."

Even in Nad Ali, where British commanders have had success holding elections, opening schools and building the beginnings of a functioning local government, there are significant pockets of Taliban resistance. The local police force, the British commander said, is about half the size that's needed to patrol the area.

"What we have done, in my view, we have given the insurgency a chance to be a little bit credible," McChrystal said in one meeting. "We said: 'We're taking it back.' We came in to take it back. And we haven't been completely convincing."

Still, no one proposed sending more troops to Marjah.

McChrystal's top commanders in southern Afghanistan did weigh a suggestion from the top U.S. Marine general in the country, who said the time had come to gamble on turning over some areas to Afghan control more quickly than planned.

"I think if we want to shorten the timelines, then we are going to have to assume more risk in certain areas," said Marine Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills.

In the final briefing of the tour last week, one American civilian strategist told McChrystal that it would be hard to force Marjah residents to shed their skepticism quickly.

"The vast majority of people are going to be on the fence, and they're going to wait," said the U.S. official, who asked not to be identified because the meeting was meant to offer candid advice to McChrystal.

"The hard question for us is: Can we push them off the fence or do we have to wait for them? It will take time, and even if you throw two more battalions in there, it is still going to take months and months."

"It was a long way gone; therefore, I think patience is necessary," said Mark Sedwill, NATO's senior civilian representative in Afghanistan. "But I can quite understand why the sheer amount of attention created a sense of expectation that is hard to fulfill."

The military shares the blame for generating great expectations about how fast the Marjah campaign could turn the tide against the Taliban, expectations that defense officials in Washington, speaking only on the condition of anonymity, said the Obama administration was eager to embrace.

In February, as the intense battles with Taliban fighters around Marjah were winding down, British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, the commander of coalition forces in southern Afghanistan, told Pentagon reporters: "Looking downstream, in three months' time or thereabouts, we should have a pretty fair idea about whether we've been successful. But I would be very cautious about any triumphalism just yet."

Nearly three months to the day after making that prediction, Carter was sparring with McChrystal over whether they'd sent too few troops to seize Marjah.

"I think that we've done well, but I think that the pace of security has been slower," McChrystal said in one meeting. "I'm thinking that, had we put more force in there, we could have locked that place down better."

"I don't agree with you about putting more forces in there," Carter argued, reflecting the inherent tension between defeating the Taliban and winning over civilians. "This is about convincing people."

"You're going to feel that way," McChrystal cut in with a deadpan joke. "It's your plan."

"I am, sir," Carter replied. "You would have to put about five brigades in to achieve the effect you're talking about and, even then, I bet the Taliban would get through, because it's in the minds of people."

Like other commanders throughout the day, Carter pleaded for patience.

"I think what's going to make the difference, whether we marketed it right or not at the beginning, is time," he said. "And it's about persuading people."

McChrystal appeared unpersuaded.

"I think we have let too much move along without overwhelming-enough security," McChrystal said, "and I think we are paying the price for it."

On the flight back to Kabul, McChrystal said he'd intentionally asked provocative questions about troop levels to light a fire under the team and to convey a renewed sense of urgency.

McChrystal now has 13 months to produce some elusive, irreversible momentum before Obama plans to start bringing U.S. forces home - and the president expects to stay on schedule.

"I am confident that we're going to be able to reduce our troop strength in Afghanistan starting in July 2011, and I am in constant discussions with General McChrystal, as well as Ambassador (Karl) Eikenberry, about the execution of that time frame," Obama said earlier this month during a joint news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The tension between political and military timetables was apparent again Sunday, when the foreign minister in Britain's new, Conservative-led government criticized withdrawal deadlines as counterproductive.

"I don't think setting a deadline helps anybody," Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC during a visit to Afghanistan. "I think so much of what we're doing in Afghanistan, setting targets for people then to jump through hoops towards, doesn't help them in their work."

If there's concern in global capitals, said NATO's Sedwill, a former British ambassador in Kabul, it's as much a product of inflated expectations as of unmet promises.

"If there are politicians anywhere in the alliance who are making a judgment that we shouldn't have gone for the surge unless we could have been confident by the end of 2010 it would all look completely different, then we shouldn't have gone for the surge, because that was never practical," he told McClatchy.

(McClatchy Newspapers correspondents Jonathan S. Landay in Washington and special correspondent Hashim Shukoor in Kabul, Afghanistan, contributed to this report.)

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/05/24/1646003_p3/mcchrystal-calls-marjah-a-bleeding.html#ixzz0owVlih6m

Marines Take Final Leap to Become Assault Climbers: 26th MEU Marines Reach New Heights, Part 2

KINGWOOD, W.Va. – Toes to the edge of a cliff in the mountains of West Virginia, Lance Cpl. Luke Turner faced his fears and put trust in what he learned as he leapt from one cliff to another -- about eight feet away.



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Story by Staff Sgt. Danielle Bacon
Date: 05.24.2010
Posted: 05.24.2010 04:55

The confidence jump marked the halfway point for Turner, a student in the Assault Climbers Course. More importantly, the jump was a symbol of his transition from basic to advanced climbing skills in the intensive, three-week class.

Turner, a rifleman from Brunswick, Ga., with Company K, Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and 14 fellow 26th MEU Marines took the Special Operations Training Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, course in May as part of the MEU\'s pre-deployment training cycle.

Assault Climbers took 26th MEU Marines, most of whom had never had any formal rock-climbing experience, and taught them critical skills to negotiate any route regardless of vertical or near vertical terrain. This ability expands the MEU commander\'s options for conducting complex expeditionary operations in challenging terrain.

\"If any of the MEUs were to come up for a beach landing which had a cliff or any sort of compartmentalized terrain that they need to overcome,\" said Sgt. Abraham McCarver from Memphis, Tenn., an SOTG instructor, \"they would be able to implement the assault climbers and make it to the top to set up lanes for their platoon and or companies to get to the objective in a more timely manner than moving around the obstacle.\"

This flexibility helps make 26th MEU an agile force able to project power forward in any environment, according to students in the course.

\"It is important if you have vertical terrain and you need to move your gear in a timely manner - you need Marines who are specialized to move it up,\" said Cpl. Jared Reutter from Gretna, Va., a rifleman with Company K, Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. \"It will be beneficial in places like Afghanistan and you have to move a whole company up the mountain in a timely manner to out-maneuver the enemy who might not have that capability.\"

Early into the \"crawl, walk, run\"-paced training, students learned critical knot-tying, protective gear placement, and basic climbing skills. As the students progressed, they learned top-roping, bridging and how to get their teammates and gear over difficult terrain.

Moving into more complex techniques, the Marines learned advanced lead-climbing and how to apply their skills on a unit level. They learned to analyze the rock face and choose the fastest and safest route.

Their training progressed and the Marines learned multi-pitched climbing, where the lead climber ascends to a certain point, assist\'s the second Marine up, and that Marine then becomes the lead climber. They continued in this fashion up Cooper\'s Rock in the West Virginia mountains until both Marines reached the top. The Marines also learned aide-climbing in which they used protective gear to create artificial hand or foot holds.

All of this knowledge allows 26th MEU Marines to conduct operations at a time and location of their choosing, an advantage in any situation.

Following Assault Climbers, the Marines returned to Camp Lejeune to continue their pre-deployment training cycle. 26th MEU is scheduled to deploy aboard the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group in the fall.

May 23, 2010

600 museums offer free admission to military

By Brett Zongker - The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday May 23, 2010 17:09:16 EDT

WASHINGTON — More than 600 museums nationwide are offering free admission to military families all summer in a new partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

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


Marines' youth sets them apart

Their age, repeated deployments present unique challenges

Nineteen-year-old Lance Cpl. Tyler Underwood is like a lot of Marines.


Posted on: Sunday, May 23, 2010
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

He's young. He's been in the Corps a relatively short time — two years. He's going to Afghanistan. And he's happy to be doing so.

"I've been in training for it, so I'm pretty much ready. I'm excited," said the Hawai'i Marine and radio operator with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.

The West Virginia man and 1,000 other Kāne'ohe Bay Marines packed up and left recently to take on militants and try to build up Afghan governance in southern Helmand province — a daunting task in a country where corruption is rampant and the terrain has flummoxed foreign armies for generations.

In its makeup — and many within the service also say character — the Marine Corps is different. More than any of the four Defense Department services, Marines are young.

According to a study this year by the National Academy of Sciences, nearly 73 percent of enlisted Marines are 24 or younger — far more than the Army, with about 51 percent in that age bracket; or the Navy, with 52 percent; or Air Force, with 42 percent.


At a time when the U.S. has been at war in Afghanistan for nine years and in Iraq for seven with an all-volunteer force, the age demographic has meant unique challenges in the face of repeat deployments, experts say.

"I would say that the young (Marines) have a special burden, which is, they are going from their mommy and daddy's home into conflict — just think about that," said Dr. Judith Broder, a California psychiatrist who treats Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. "And then most of them, if they survive, are coming home to their mommy and daddy's homes."

Broder in 2004 started the Soldiers Project, a nonprofit network of volunteer mental health professionals that provides free counseling and support to Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

The Soldiers Project operates in California, Washington, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts and is expanding into Hawai'i.

Younger service members who go through combat, or repeat combat, are more likely to experience relationship breakups back at home, use drugs and alcohol, get into bar fights and drive their cars or motorcycles too fast, Broder said.

"It's sort of like what teenagers do, times 10," Broder said.

Todd Bowers, a Marine Corps reservist and deputy executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said what young combat Marines need — and what they are increasingly getting — is what he calls "life coaching."

"It does get very overwhelming for these young guys," Bowers said. "I wouldn't necessarily say they are more susceptible (to combat stress), but they haven't had the institutional knowledge and base created to deal with a lot of these things."


The younger Marines haven't had to balance budgets or review leases "or work out the little pieces of life," said Bowers, 30, who served twice in Iraq and got back from Afghani-stan in December.

For the majority of the Afghanistan deployment, he was in Farah province where he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment out of Kāne'ohe Bay.

In Hawai'i, military commands repeatedly have stressed the need for motorcycle safety because of the frequency of accidents involving service members.

Younger combat Marines returning home have a combination of a need to replace the adrenaline high of a combat zone, few bills or family responsibilities, and a fat bank account from serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Bowers said proper financial management would mean hanging on to the money to perhaps one day buy a house. Not all Marines do that.

"They come back home, and they are like, 'Of course I'm going to buy a Ducati (motorcycle) and blow all my money on this thing,' " Bowers said. "They are 20 years old. That's what you do."

Bowers also knows the stress of combat. In Iraq, the top of his rifle was hit by a sniper's bullet, sending fragments into his face.


The organization he now works for, the IAVA, was founded in 2004 by current Executive Director Paul Rieckhoff and fellow Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

IAVA, with offices in New York and Washington D.C., says on its website that it "addresses critical issues facing new veterans and their families, including mental health injuries, a stretched VA system, inadequate health care for female veterans, and GI Bill educational benefits."

Bowers said the Marine Corps has a fairly strict age cutoff at about 30 to join, and that's one of the reasons the Corps' age demographic is skewed to younger service members.

According to figures provided by the Marines, of 201,473 individuals on active duty, 40 percent are low-ranking privates and lance corporals, and 34 percent are junior-grade non-commissioned officers including sergeants.

Approximately 57 percent, or 115,000 in the ranks, have served less than four years. Only about 3.1 percent are currently at 20 or more years in the Corps.

The Corps' Manpower and Reserve Affairs command in Quantico, Va. said late last week that it would need more time to respond to questions about its demographic makeup.

The command of the Hawai'i-based 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines, which just left for Afghanistan, said about a third of the unit has been in a war zone before, and two-thirds haven't.

The Marines pride themselves on making do with less, and the service's recruitment pitch is more about the challenge than the promise of benefits, Bowers said.

"The Marine Corps says, 'What makes you good enough to be a Marine?' " Bowers said. "... The old Marine Corps recruitment poster I think said it best when it said, 'We're not going to promise you a rose garden.' But it still draws people in when you see these 18-, 19-year-olds coming out of high school."

Bowers said some Marines decide to leave the Corps after their first four-year term because multiple deployments and training make for an exhausting physical strain.

"I think reality hits people and they go, 'Wow, this is going to be tough,' " he said. "I'm not sure if I can do this for another 16 years." Some also then rejoin after getting out, he said.

Bowers said the Corps is doing a better job of providing the "life coaching" that he talks about.

He was part of the initial 2003 invasion of Iraq, and when he got back, he says he "kind of got a slap on the rear and went on his way."

On his deployment to Afghanistan, which ended in December, there were programs on financial management, and suicide prevention training, he said.

"They are on the right track," Bowers said. "It's just like anything else, it takes so much time."

Reach William Cole at [email protected]

Two charts - Age by Service Branch & Rank/Years of Service for Active Duty Marines
Click on the charts to enlarge them.

2nd LAR Brings Lasting Security to Helmand Province

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Marines of Alpha Company, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion wrapped up five months of security operations in Helmand province, turning their area of operations over to the Marines of 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.



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Story by Lance Cpl. Benjamin Crilly
Date: 05.23.2010
Posted: 05.23.2010 05:21

The battalion's presence allowed them to provide a unique aspect of security in the deserts and the outskirts of towns by their presence laying the foundation for their successors to build upon.

The company was in the far western deserts of Helmand province, maintaining a screen line and pushing across the deserts. They pushed through the deserts, conducting interdictions and cutting off drug lines. This allowed them to prevent drug smuggling and weapons trafficking to and from Marjah. They were able to prevent Taliban fighters from fleeing to the desert from Sistani.

"Everyone that was coming out of Marjah knew that the tanks and LAVs were out here," said Capt. Jared A. Laurin, the commanding officer for Alpha Company from Xenia, Ohio. "Nobody was able to out run us. We owned the desert with those vehicles."

During Operation Moshtarak, 2nd LAR took a new position, providing security in the Sistani Gap as well as the western and southern fronts. This enabled the company to provide a security presence in the gap that was unique, since their vehicles are so mobile.

The company formed a screen line in the desert, south of Marjah along Route Red, for the later portion of their deployment. Moving their presence to the region and running vehicle checkpoints improved the security of the region, and also afforded Marines the opportunity to establish a connection with the local nationals.

Not being able to distinguish the Taliban from the local population was hard for Marines when conducting operation and turned out to be one of the biggest challenges the battalion faced, said Cpl. Brandon T. Templeton, a team leader with Alpha Company.

The lack of trust with the local population also challenged the battalion. Initially establishing trust with the local nationals was difficult because of the cultural differences and the fact that people had not really encountered Marines before, said Lance Cpl. Matthew R. Murphy, a crewman from Brigantine, N.J.

"You still don't know who the bad guys are," said Templeton, from Garden City, Mich. "They aren't carrying around weapons like we are."

The Marines and sailors of 2nd LAR conducted 2,500 interdictions over their time here, interacting with more than 13,000 local nationals, distributing goods and building trust with the local population. By the end of their deployment, the company had locals who would come through the checkpoints to talk to the Marines there, said Cpl. J. D. Rogers, a scout team leader with Alpha Company, 2nd LAR. This led to the Marines being able to develop a good rapport with the locals in the area.

The battalion also encountered improvised explosive devices.

"Everywhere you go, you have to get your mine sweeper out and search their area," said Templeton. "Anywhere can be an IED."

Using the assets available was not the only thing that enabled Marines to locate IEDs and provide protection for major routes. The presence of the battalion being there and the trust of the local population worked together to keep IEDs from being planted and local even tipped off Marines to the locations of IEDs, said Rogers, from Toomsboro, Ga.

The trust developed and the people enrolled in BATS will continue to improve the security of Helmand province after 2nd LAR is home. 1st LAR Bn. will continue security operations in the area and distinguish Taliban fighters from the population. Marines of 2nd LAR also turned over all their standard operating procedures they developed over their deployment setting their replacements up for success. 1st LAR learned how to run VCPs and conduct interdictions.

"It's winning the trust of the local people. We established a rapport with the local people that has never been established before," said Rodgers. "If 1st LAR can continue that trust, then this area will be Taliban-free."

Marines of Alpha Company, 2nd LAR, spent five months conducting security operations in support of the Afghan national army and can return home knowing that they contributed to the success of 1st LAR Bn. and overall security in the Helmand province.

In the Face of Death: Marine Survives Firefight by 6 Inches

NAWA, Helmand Province, Afghanistan – All Marines endure some risk of serious injury or even death while deployed to combat, but for Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Gray, a few inches and a punctured rifle is all that separated him from a very bad day on the battlefield.



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Story by Sgt. Brian Tuthill
Date: 05.23.2010
Posted: 05.23.2010 05:31

Gray, a 20-year-old rifleman with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, and his Marines are no strangers to direct conflicts with insurgents in Nawa's northern area. On May 15, during the final patrol of his deployment, Gray and his seasoned squad were in a firefight near Patrol Base Poole.

The squad was engaged by approximately eight insurgents from two locations with machine guns and AK-47 rifles. The patrol found cover in a nearby irrigation canal during the battle and Gray, who had his M-16A4 up in his shoulder looking through his rifle combat optics at a nearby building, heard the crack of a bullet and felt a sharp pain in his face.

Gray said he heard and felt shock of the bullet's impact, causing him to drop his rifle to his side. When he noticed blood on his face, he notified his patrol leader, but continued to fight.

It was not until the firefight was over and Marines began to return to the patrol base did Gray notice that the bullet had punched a hole right through the base of his RCO's aluminum housing, sending the metal shard into his cheek.

Only six inches separated his right temple from the bullet's impact on his weapon.

Gray said looking back on the events after they happened made him realize just how close he had come to being seriously injured or killed.

"That was my last patrol before going home," said Gray, a native of Warner Robins, Ga., while shaking his head.

Gray's squad has already endured one of their Marines killed in action in January. That Marine is now the namesake of their patrol base. In total, Bravo Company has suffered three of the battalion's five fatalities during the deployment.

"When I first saw what happened to Gray, I thought it was a little too close for comfort," said 1st Lt. Paul C. Trower, 2nd Platoon commander, Bravo Company, 1/3 "When Gray arrived, he was fine, but a little shaken up and had some adrenaline pumping. He was very calm, considering what had happened."

Trower, 25, from Fort Hood, Texas, said as a platoon commander, hearing about engagements and close calls like that makes him hold his breath, but was relieved that all of his Marines came back alright.

2nd LAR Marines Called Afghan Desert 'home'

HELMAND PROVINCE, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – Cpl. Brandon T. Templeton, a team leader from Garden City, Mich., lived out of his vehicle for five months, conducting security operations in the deserts of Helmand province, Afghanistan.



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Story by Lance Cpl. Benjamin Crilly
Date: 05.23.2010
Posted: 05.23.2010 05:05

Templeton, along with more than 140 Marines and sailors of Alpha Company, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, deployed in December so they could begin desert operations in the cold Afghan winter. Their deployment took them through May, when they worked under the Afghan sun day in and day out.

Living out of a vehicle sounds better than it was for the service members. For the Marines of 2nd LAR, it meant sleeping in the dirt on whichever side of their vehicles wasn't being pounded by the unforgiving desert winds. Their vehicles were laden with backpacks containing all their gear everything they had while roaming the desert. The company combat operations center was housed in one vehicle and only had three seats for Marines to sustain operations throughout the deployment.

"It was like a long family road trip," stated Templeton.

Most family road trips include rest stops and nights spent in hotels. Templeton and his comrades had no showers or bathrooms. Baby wipes and a bottle of water were considered a good shower out in the desert. The Marines had no running water sources, so their water was strapped to the side of a vehicle in makeshift Hesco crates. Resupplies were conducted internally every three to four days. This was when they received their Meals, Ready-to-Eat, mail, vehicle parts and more water until their next resupply.

LAR came and left during an interesting timeframe. They battled the winter chills for the first few months of their deployment. Then they rolled right through the spring and into the soaring summer temperatures. Insects became their closest friends and worst enemies, keeping them awake at night and buzzing around them throughout the days. With just a vehicle in the middle of the desert, the Marines had to rely on camouflage netting and the vehicle to provide any shade.

"The living conditions were horrible, but it had to be done," said Sgt. Peter T. McEntee, a section leader with Weapons platoon, who preferred the cold over the flies.

Marines are known around the world for physical and combat fitness, and LAR was no exceptions. With no weights or equipment available, they found ways to work out off the side of the vehicles with Training Exercise Straps. Bicep curls were performed with ammunition cans on a pipe. Staff Sgt. Jose E. Garcia, the communications chief from Sweetwater, Texas, made his own medicine ball out of duck tape and had developed a workout regimen. Other Marines opened the back of the vehicles and used the entrance handgrips to perform pull-ups. For sit-ups, Marines sat on top of a tire and used the vehicle's leverage to hold them in place.

The only time that the Marines were able to go back to Camp Dwyer to shower and use a computer was when their vehicles needed to be serviced beyond what their mechanics could do in the desert. This only happened maybe once a month for the Marines of 2nd LAR.

The Marines turned over with Echo Company, 1st LAR, May 19, after five months and returned to Camp Dwyer caked in dirt as they readied to re-deploy to Camp Lejeune, N.C.

What's in a Name? Marines of 1/3 in Nawa Honor Fallen Brothers

NAWA, Helmand Province, Afghanistan – Since their deployment to Afghanistan began in November, the Marines of 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, have conducted counterinsurgency operations from dozens of positions throughout Nawa District.



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Story by Sgt. Brian Tuthill
Date: 05.23.2010
Posted: 05.23.2010 04:14

They have lived at these small camps and traveled on roads named by their predecessors, the Marines of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, after their push into the area during Operation Khanjar last summer.

As new positions were erected and new roads established over the past few months, the Marines of 1/3 took the opportunity to name these locations for their five brothers killed during the deployment.

Those five Marines are the honored namesakes of Range Juarez, Patrol Base Swenson, Patrol Base Meinert, Route Pier and Patrol Base Poole.

Marines of Charlie Company, 1/3, also named Combat Outpost Reilly near Marjah during Operation Moshtarak in February, before another battalion took over that area. That base is named for Lance Cpl. Thomas J. Reilly, Jr., the only Marine from 1/3 killed in action during the battalion's previous deployment to Karmah, Iraq.

On May 14, Marines of Headquarters and Service Company, 1/3, delivered a concrete security barrier to a small-arms rifle range just outside of Forward Operating Base Geronimo. One side is painted red with yellow letters, boldly identifying Range Juarez. Cpl. Mark D. Juarez, who served with 1/3 as an armorer, was the first Marine killed during the deployment in January. Although the range has been in use since last year, Marines said it was fitting that it was renamed for a Marine whose specialty was repairing weapons.

Patrol Base Swenson is named for Lance Cpl. Curtis M. Swenson, a Marine from Weapons Company, who was killed in April. Patrol Base Swenson has been designated as a northern hub for Afghan national army and police forces in Nawa. A new batch of ANP recruits are expected to arrive there in a few weeks after their training.

In the northern area of 1/3's area of responsibility is Patrol Base Meinert, named for Lance Cpl. Jacob A. "Slim" Meinert, a fire team leader with Bravo Company killed in January. The post was erected, April 15, and opened by Meinert's squad.

That same squad lost another Marine not long after Meinert was killed, Lance Cpl. Noah M. Pier, and they recently established a new gravel-paved road near OP Meinert and named it Route Pier. The new road allows Marines, Afghan national security forces and local citizens to travel the area more easily.

Large photos of Meinert and Pier are displayed at the entrance to OP Meinert as a memorial to the two Marines.

"I think naming these bases is great way for us to honor our fallen brothers," said Sgt. Steven J. Habon, who was Pier and Meinert's squad leader, with 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1/3. "It really improves morale and makes us proud to serve at a place named for one of our guys.

"Naming these bases lets people know what we left behind here in Afghanistan. These Marines will be remembered," said Habon, 25, from San Jose, Calif. "It's a way for future Marines to know about those who were there before."

In March, Patrol Base Poole was opened in Bravo Company's kinetic western area, and Marines in that area have frequently been engaged in firefights with insurgents. Lance Cpl. Timothy J. Poole, a Bravo Company Marine from 2nd Platoon, was killed in January and Marines from his platoon have held that position since it was established. His photo is also dominantly displayed at the entrance to that patrol base.

"It's good to see his photo up there. Sometimes when I walk by it, I'll stop and say 'what's up?' and offer him a cigarette." said Lance Cpl. Nathan W. Klopp, a fire team leader from Poole's squad and one of his close friends who currently operates from PB Poole.

"I'm proud to be here, we just got into a firefight a couple of days ago, actually," said Klopp, 21, from Vancouver, Wash. "Our platoon and our squad have been in a lot of firefights. We're out here bringing the fight to the enemy. After having one of our Marines killed, it's good to be able to come out here and serve for him and carry on with the mission like he'd want us to do."

Many Marines serving at these positions echoed Klopp's sentiments, said they and their Marines are all proud to serve at a place named for a fallen friend, and hope when the next battalion comes to Nawa that they, too, will continue to honor those who did not return home.

IJC Operational Update, May 23

KABUL, Afghanistan - Several individuals suspected of insurgent activity were detained by an Afghan-international security force in Helmand province last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.23.2010
Posted: 05.23.2010 05:26

The combined force detained the suspects while searching a series of buildings in Khan Kheyl, Lashkar Gah District, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity.

Another Afghan-international security force captured a Taliban commander in Kandahar province last night.

The combined force moved to a small compound northwest of Kandahar City, near the village of Bibi Hawa Kalacheh, after intelligence information confirmed insurgent activity. When confronted, the Taliban leader immediately surrendered and admitted he was the targeted insurgent.

The Taliban commander operated primarily in the southern Arghandab and Dand districts and was responsible for ambushing coalition forces with small arms, rockets and IEDs. He also supported larger operations with men and weapons.

A separate Afghan-international security force detained a suspected insurgent in Zabul last night. The combined force detained the suspect during a search of a compound in Halal Chineh, Sha Joy district, after intelligence information discovered insurgent activity.

An ISAF patrol discovered a weapons cache in the Pul-e Khumri District, Baghlan province, yesterday. Recent heavy rains uncovered the previously buried munitions which local children discovered and reported to an ISAF patrol. The cache consisted of 20 82mm grenades, 15 mines and seven artillery rounds. The cache will be destroyed.

An ISAF patrol discovered a weapons cache consisting of four 82mm rockets, a machine gun and a rocket propelled grenade, in the Panjwa'i district, Kandahar province, yesterday. The cache was destroyed.

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

Insurgents attack Afghanistan base

By Sean D. Naylor - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday May 23, 2010 8:47:07 EDT

KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan - Coalition forces repelled an insurgent attack on this airfield on Saturday evening that wounded a small number of personnel, a Coalition spokeswoman said.

To read the entire article:


U.S. Tries to Reintegrate Taliban Soldiers

MIAN POSHTEH, Afghanistan — The young Taliban prisoner was led blindfolded to a sweltering military tent, seated among 17 village elders and then, eyes uncovered, faced a chief accuser brandishing a document with the elders’ signatures or thumbprints.


Published: May 23, 2010

Capt. Scott A. Cuomo, a United States Marine commander who was acting as the prosecutor, told the prisoner: “This letter right here is a sworn pledge from all of your elders that they’re vouching for you and that you will never support the Taliban or fight for the Taliban ever again.”

After a half-hour “trial,” the captain rendered the group’s judgment on the silent prisoner, Juma Khan, 23, whom the Marines had seized after finding a bomb trigger device, ammunition and opium buried in his yard. Mr. Khan’s father and grandfather, who was one of the elders, were among the group.

“So on behalf of peace, your family, your grandfather,” Captain Cuomo solemnly said, “we’re going to let you go.”

Thus was justice dispensed on a recent Saturday evening, deep in the Taliban heartland of the Helmand River Valley, where the theory behind the American effort to “reintegrate” the enemy meets the ambiguous reality of a nearly decade-old war.

Captain Cuomo, a 32-year-old Annapolis graduate from Long Island who is not related to the New York political family, acknowledged the hazards of the trial and others like it unfolding in Afghanistan. “Do I know that Juma Khan is not going to turn back around and be the Taliban?” he said. “No.” Nonetheless the effort is proceeding.

Even as Washington and Kabul debate their plans to reconcile with senior members of the Taliban, military commanders on the ground in Afghanistan are reintegrating insurgent foot soldiers on their own. The reason is simple, Captain Cuomo said: While Marines are “trained to fight, and we don’t mind fighting, the problem with fighting is that it doesn’t bring stability to your home.”

Six days after Mr. Khan’s May 1 release, another Marine commander, Capt. Jason C. Brezler, got pledges from 25 former insurgents to sign up as police recruits in the northern Helmand village of Soorkano. A week later in Marja, where clashes between the Marines and the Taliban continue in the wake of an American offensive there in February, Lt. Col. Brian Christmas released two young men who admitted to fighting for the Taliban, after the pair and two elders signed pledges promising the men would not fight again.

Acting under military guidelines aimed at persuading low-level fighters to lay down their arms, commanders repeat the mantra that the United States will never kill its way to victory in Afghanistan. They say that in a counterinsurgency war intended to win over the population, reintegration is crucial because the Taliban are woven so deeply into the social fabric of the country.

“I can understand why they’re Taliban,” Captain Cuomo said in an interview after Mr. Khan’s release. “Well of course they are, what do you want them to do? I want to do anything, I had to be part of the Taliban, man.”

Military officials describe reintegration so far as sporadic at best, an interim effort ahead of a more formal process that they hope the Afghan government will adopt at a political summit meeting in Kabul in coming weeks.

Last year, as part of an earlier Afghan push to give jobs to defecting Taliban, the Kabul government said that at least 9,000 insurgents had turned in their weapons. Maj. Gen. Richard Barrons, a British Army commander in Kabul who has helped oversee the reconciliation effort, said the Afghan government now estimated that there were 40,000 fighters to be brought back into the fold, with the 1,000 at the top, including the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, as the most important. United States military officials say they do not have a clear idea of how many Taliban have reintegrated so far, including any who came into the fold during the early years of the war, but that the numbers are small.

Washington has so far endorsed Afghan plans for reconciliation with some Taliban, but has drawn the line at negotiating with Mullah Omar. (Washington and Kabul use the term reconciliation for the Taliban leadership and reintegration for the foot soldiers.) Either way, the plans echo the Awakening movement in Iraq, where tribal leaders from the country’s Sunni minority rebelled against Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and joined forces with the Americans. But there are many differences between Iraq and Afghanistan, not least Afghanistan’s long history of fighters changing sides, sometimes more than once.

The seeds of Mr. Khan’s “trial” were planted last summer, when the Marines pushed into the lush hamlet of Mian Poshteh, part of an initial escalation ordered in the spring of 2009 by President Obama. Surrounded by harvested poppy fields and a network of irrigation canals, members of Company E of the Second Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment met fierce Taliban resistance. (The episode was captured in “Obama’s War,” a PBS Frontline documentary broadcast last fall which opened with the shooting death last July of a 20-year-old corporal in the Mian Poshteh market.)

Captain Cuomo’s Company F of the Second Battalion, Second Marine Regiment arrived in October to continuing fighting and the deaths, by sniper and roadside bomb, of two more Marines. But by early this year, the Taliban had either been killed, chased away or given jobs. The Marines reopened the market, committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to work programs and began plans to build a school and clinic.

he 270 Marines of Company F spread out over a sliver of land, 11 miles long by 5 miles wide, encompassing a string of villages along the Helmand River. From spartan bases, some consisting of only a dozen Marines sleeping in the dirt alongside an armored truck, the Americans moved to build relationships among the Pashtun tribes in the area.

The same Marines patrolled in the same villages each day, getting to recognize the residents. They awarded the elders construction projects and over hours of tea drinking showed them photographs they had taken of virtually every grown male in their battle space.

“Is this guy Taliban?” the Marines asked repeatedly, then poured what they learned into a computer database. Captain Cuomo, who had spent a day with a Los Angeles Police Department countergang unit between two tours in Iraq and his deployment to Afghanistan, called the process “kind of like C.S.I.,” the CBS crime drama television series.

By April, a villager tipped the Marines off about Mr. Khan, who had recently come back to Mian Poshteh from Pakistan. The Marines raided his house, found the ammunition, trigger device and enough opium, Captain Cuomo said, to fill a large American garbage can. They took him to one of their bases, put him in a holding pen the size of a large dog cage, questioned him for two days, got four sworn statements from local residents that he was a member of the Taliban, then held the trial — the 11th such reintegration that Captain Cuomo has conducted since January.

When it was all over, as the elders and Marines crowded around, Mr. Khan said through a military interpreter that he was relieved to be let go. “I think it’s a very, very good thing,” he said. He said he joined the Taliban because “everybody was like with the Taliban, so it’s like the force of the Taliban, I was under pressure.” He claimed he had never made or placed a homemade bomb for the insurgents.

Two days later, Mr. Khan went on Captain Cuomo’s instructions to the nearby Garmsir District center, where he and some of the elders met with the district governor and Mr. Khan formally declared his loyalty to the Afghan government.

But what is preventing him from rejoining the Taliban? The Marines say the village elders who vouched for him will help keep him in check, as will a parole-like program. The Marines will meet with him regularly and pump him for information about his friends. They also expect him to be employed in a canal cleanup project this summer.

“If they realize at some point that the cause they think they’re fighting for is not a worthy one, and we’re here to bring stability to the area, then you have to make an overture,” Captain Cuomo said, then paused before asking: “Will it bite you in the butt?”

He did not directly answer.

May 22, 2010

Insurgents attack main NATO base in south Afghanistan

Taliban insurgents launched a brazen, four-hour ground attack against the biggest NATO base in southern Afghanistan, following up a barrage of rockets and mortars fired at the Kandahar Airfield base, officials said Saturday.


By: CTV.ca News Staff
Date: Saturday May. 22, 2010 6:27 PM PT

Rockets began hitting Kandahar Airfield shortly after dark, at about 8 p.m. local time, said U.S. Navy Commander Amanda Peperseim, a spokesperson for NATO forces at the base.

She said a ground attack was launched soon after at least five rockets and mortar rounds fell on the base.

Peperseim said a number of NATO personnel were wounded, but had no information on the nationalities, number or condition of the wounded. The Canadian Press reported Saturday evening that there were no confirmed fatalities in the attack.

Another official with the NATO force said the casualties included both civilian and military personnel.

As people on the base scurried for cover in bunkers, the boom of artillery and the rattle of gunfire could be heard in the distance. A loudspeaker announcement said the ground attack was coming from the north side of the base.

Maj. Robert Kelly told The Canadian Press that the attack struck closer than anyone could have expected.

"It was loud enough to make you really duck down and say, 'Whoa, that was pretty close."'

Troops had to don flak jackets and grab their weapons during the attack. At least five rockets and mortars were fired, but no insurgents entered the base after troops mounted a counteroffensive.

Maura Axelrod, a reporter with HDNet who was inside the base, said she could hear heavy outgoing fire and that commanders had come into the bunker where she had taken cover to order all U.S. Marines with weapons to help in establishing a security perimeter.

Freelance journalist Tom Popyk told CTV News Channel that the attack was quickly beaten off.

"The coalition spokesperson tells me that was totally unsuccessful. It was just a few insurgents, basically small-arms fire," Popyk said in a telephone interview. "This attack on KAF was not well co-ordinated; it was small and was based on the north side of the sprawling air base perimeter."

"This can only really be described as basically a suicide attack by the Taliban. There was no way they were going to get inside the perimeter and certainly there was no way they were going to survive this attack."

Kandahar Air Field -- known as KAF for short -- is home to an estimated 30,000 soldiers and civilian workers, including more than 2,500 Canadian troops making up a battle group. It's also a headquarters for the southern Afghan region.

It is not unusual for the Taliban to launch sporadic rocket attacks on the sprawling base, built around an airstrip half an hour's drive south of Kandahar City.

Most of these attacks have come in the form of badly aimed Chinese rockets, propped up against a pile of rocks, crudely aimed at the NATO base and fired remotely. They usually do little damage, even when they hit the base.

But the Taliban has largely avoided engaging in head-to-head combat with coalition forces since 2006, when a series of operations by Canadian soldiers culminating in Operation Medusa killed hundreds of Taliban fighters in Kandahar province.

This is believed to be the first ground assault on the heavily fortified Kandahar Airfield since the Taliban was swept from power in 2001.

Alan Bell, an international security analyst based in Toronto, told CTV News Channel that the attack was audacious, but essentially unsuccessful.

"Attacks by rockets are not rare. They usually fire a few rockets from outside the perimeter fence, into Kandahar Airfield … what is new is that they've actually had the audacity to attack it on the ground," he said.

"KAF has such a large perimeter there are places you can penetrate without oversight. But there's so many soldiers, so many people there protecting that base that it'll be a short-lived battle."

The base is the staging area for thousands of additional U.S. forces, which have been pouring into the country over the past few months in preparation for a summer offensive against the Taliban.

This is the third major assault on a NATO base in Afghanistan in the past six days.

On Tuesday, a Taliban suicide bomber attacked a NATO convoy in Kabul, killing 18 people including six NATO soldiers.

Canadian Col. Geoff Parker, the highest ranking Canadian casualty in Afghanistan to date, was among the dead.

On Wednesday, dozens of Taliban gunmen attacked the enormous U.S. military base at Bagram Air Field, killing an American contractor in fighting that lasted more than eight hours.

The attacks came soon after the Taliban announced a spring offensive against NATO forces and Afghan government troops -- their response to a promise by the Barack Obama administration to squeeze the Taliban out of their strongholds in southern Kandahar province.

Bell said the Taliban is likely mounting such attacks just to show that it can.

"These type of attacks are their way of showing the Afghanistan government and the (coalition) forces that they still have the ability to mount these attacks … it's going to get worse as we go through the summer as opposed to better."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the attack shows the danger of the conflict.

"Obviously it reminds us that our men and women in uniform in all capacities over there, including on the airfield, do face constant danger," Harper said, speaking in Dryden, Ont.

In Afghan Fields, a Challenge to Opium’s Luster

COMBAT OUTPOST HANSON, Afghanistan — The annual Afghan opium harvest finished this month with production sharply down from last year, Afghan farmers and American military officers say. Now, growers and smugglers who had long been unchallenged here face tough choices created by the poor crop and new government and military pressure.



Published: May 22, 2010

They describe an industry approaching a crossroads.

As farmers around Marja, the heart of Afghanistan’s opium industry, confront harsh environmental conditions and new interdiction efforts, they are also receiving offers of aid in exchange for growing different crops. Both they and the military said that the start of a shift to other sources of income could be possible by the end of this year, when poppy planting would resume.

That result is a major aim of the American effort. It is also far from sure. The possibilities for crop transition are uncertain and are undermined by persistent fighting and the limited Afghan government presence. This year’s decline in production has also nudged up opium prices, providing an incentive for farmers to consider gambling on future cultivation.

Many Afghan farmers say they grow poppy because it earns them significantly more income than any other crop, and because opium, which is nonperishable in the short term, can be brought to market anytime after harvest, making it an ideal product in the uncertainties of a conflict zone.

Still, several farmers said in interviews that they were willing to plant other crops in the fall, perhaps wheat, and avoid the new risks and perennial turbulence of the opium trade.

To do so, they said, they would need seeds, fertilizer, agricultural equipment or money. “If the government of Afghanistan will help us next year, we will not grow poppy,” said Obidullah, 50, who said he cultivated about six acres of opium-producing poppy this year. Like many Afghans, he uses only one name.

His yield, he said, was just a quarter of last year’s, because of poor weather and blight.

With fighting around Marja heating up again with a seasonal uptick in Taliban activity and what Marines say is an influx of fighters, the state of the area’s opium trade is a central element of the conflict between the American and Afghan governments and a complex insurgent and criminal base. It is also a sector of the Afghan economy that the Obama administration hopes to uproot, and thereby demonstrate progress resulting from the so-called Afghan surge, which thus far has shown mixed results.

Afghanistan’s huge opium crop enriches both the Taliban and corrupt officials, serving as an economic engine for two persistent phenomena bedeviling the country: a resilient insurgency and a government too weak and discredited to defeat it.

The industry has also been a sore point with allies and potential allies in the American-led war, who have been alarmed that opium production soared after the Taliban were chased from power in 2001. Heroin derived from Afghan opium has flooded Europe and former Soviet states, causing public health problems, including addiction and the spread of H.I.V.

Marja and its environs, a network of irrigated farming villages that form a large green belt on an otherwise parched steppe, are now the center of the densest opium-producing zone in the world.

Before the Marines started their much-publicized offensive into the opium belt in February, their commanders recognized that efforts to reduce drug production in 2010 would meet limitations and risks.

Opium is derived from the sap of poppy seed pods, and the year’s poppy crop had already been planted months before the first helicopters touched down. Moreover, while Afghan law bans the opium trade, American military units here do not have the authority to enforce the country’s laws.

Even if they did have a mandate to confront the trade head-on, commanders decided that forced eradication would prove counterproductive, because, as one officer said, “in a population-centric campaign, we don’t want to turn the farmers against us.”

But doing nothing was deemed unacceptable, too. As their patrols fanned out and outposts grew and hardened, the Marines did not want to be seen as a foreign constable service guarding an illicit drug zone, especially if the crop underwrote the insurgents who were firing on them and planting hidden bombs.

What followed was a complicated end of the poppy season and an attempt by Western forces to position themselves and the farmers for a sharply reduced crop in 2011.

Marja is ringed by canals, and Marine units have established checkpoints near all of the bridges leading into and out of the region. American troops now supervise Afghan police officers and soldiers as they search every vehicle passing by.

This has made it more difficult to move opium away from the poppy fields, several poppy farmers said. The Marines have also located and destroyed processing labs as part of their operations.

For these reasons, poppy farmers said, few farmers have sold this year’s harvest. Farmers said they had stockpiled opium instead, hoping that they might more readily sell it later, perhaps after the Marines leave. (Opium, which takes the form of a dark paste, can be stored for years.)

In separate interviews, five poppy farmers from Marja or the fields at its edge said their harvest this year was down, depending on the location of the field, 20 to 75 percent. Cold winter weather, hailstorms and blight were all factors, they said.

The short supply caused by thinner harvests and interdiction efforts has driven up prices from recent lows caused by the production glut of previous years. This March, farmers sold dry opium for $94 per kilogram, compared with $79 one year ago, said Jean-Luc Lemahieu, representative in Afghanistan for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

That 19 percent increase was not offset by the sharp declines many farmers suffered in yields. The American military says these market conditions may have been a factor that led many farmers to participate in a Marine-sponsored program to destroy their poppy plants in exchange for cash payments.

The efforts, known as the Marja Accelerated Agricultural Transition Program, offered $300 to farmers for every hectare (2.47 acres) of poppy plowed back into the dirt. In all, nearly 1,900 farmers tilled roughly 17,000 acres of poppy into the soil by early May, in exchange for $2.1 million in payments, according to the military’s data.

The program required farmers receiving payments to pledge not to grow poppy again. That way, farmers will not be eligible for payments if they replant in the fall and try to collect payments again.

Assessing the program’s effect remains difficult. In many cases, according to Marines on patrols who had to verify that poppy fields were destroyed, farmers were paid based on estimates of a field’s size, which Afghans often inflated.

Marines and poppy farmers also agreed that many farmers waited until the end of the season to register for payments. Then they quickly harvested their opium, plowed under the stalks and collected payments nonetheless.

“That was the only bad thing,” said Cpl. David S. Palmer, who led the squad that provided security for the verification team. “A lot of people were double-taking on us, and there was nothing we could do about it.”

The more sure value of the program, many Marines said, was its role as a steppingstone. Until the program began, farmers were hesitant to meet with the Marines, officers said. The Taliban threatened to punish local men who cooperated with Americans. At least six men had been beheaded and others were beaten or shot for suspected collaboration.

But what began as a trickle of cooperative farmers, a few men registering each day, became a busy queue. By late April, as many as 120 farmers registered in a single day with the Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, one of two infantry battalions in Marja.

“The program has helped us reseize the momentum,” said Maj. James F. Coffman, the senior civil affairs officer in the battalion. “The Taliban’s murder and intimidation program is still ongoing,” he added, but through the subsidies, groups of farmers have begun to meet and cooperate with the Americans and Afghan troops.

Major Coffman also said the harvest-season engagement provided “much-needed assistance to some of the poorest people in the world” and helped prepare for the next phase: distributing seed, fertilizer and equipment to encourage farmers to diversify next year.

The ultimate hope, several officers said, is that if security can be improved as American and Afghan units continue to spread through southern Afghanistan, poppy production will fall further, as it has in other provinces where the government’s presence has grown and alternative programs have been able to operate.

No one can yet say how long it will take for such security conditions to take hold here. Skirmishes continued in the past week, and the sight of civilians moving away from the fighting — in tractors and trucks piled high with their belongings — showed that the Taliban were still a powerful presence in Marja. To succeed, any campaign to counter poppy cultivation may require substantial time, civilians and military officials said.

“If the surge succeeds, that may be the end of opium cultivation in the south,” said Mr. Lemahieu, the United Nations official. “If it doesn’t, there might be three, four years of fighting.”

Body of Marine killed in Afghanistan is flown home

The body of Lance Cpl. Patrick Xavier Jr., a Marine killed in a firefight in Afghanistan, has been flown back to Fort Lauderdale.

Lance Cpl. Patrick Xavier Jr. spoke to his mother Tuesday morning before leaving for the day's military assignment, something he often did while serving in Afghanistan.


[email protected]
Posted on Saturday, 05.22.10

``He wanted to talk to his family before'' he went, his father, Patrick Xavier-Kemp, said Friday.

Hours later, the 24-year-old Marine was killed in a firefight in the Helmand province in southwest Afghanistan, his father said. His body was flown back to Fort Lauderdale on Friday.

In his last posting to his MySpace page, Xavier wrote Jan. 4: ``I'm going to Afghanistan in four days. I'm nervous and excited at the same time, but I'm very confident that I'll be back.''

``He went out there to do what he wanted to do, defending this country,'' his father said. ``Even though I feel the loss, I'm proud of how he conducted himself.''

The young man had ``a child's smile, a smile that you can read his heart through,'' his father said. ``He was a true person, honest, very dedicated.''

An avid reader, he devoured books on psychology and philosophy -- trying to gain a better understanding of the world.

A few weeks ago, his father sent him a package with two books: The Art of War and A Soldier's Story.

He was a private person, with many of his close friends also in the military, his father said.

He also loved playing basketball with his younger brothers, Didi, 22, and Chad, 18.

He had a dream of going to medical school.

A son of Haitian immigrants, Xavier was born in Queens, N.Y.

His father and mother moved to South Florida more than a decade ago.

He graduated from Miramar High School in 2003 and tried a couple of jobs, looking to find his way.

His drive to ``make a difference'' led him to the Marines, his father said.

He advanced to the rank of lance corporal, his father said.

He was based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, according to the Department of Defense.

Said his father: ``He knew the consequences. He knew what he was dealing with, and he chose to go anyway.''

Xavier told his father he saw fellow Marines around him getting hurt, but he continued to work hard training Afghan soldiers.

``He had no fear. He was a fierce fighter, a warrior at heart,'' his father said. ``I'm very proud he gave for the country he loved.''

The defense department release said he died ``while supporting combat operations.''
The Miami Herald

Marines train more Afghan police recruits

By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday May 22, 2010 15:14:16 EDT

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — Mohammad Sarwar doesn’t look like your typical rookie police officer.

To continue reading:


Taliban claim attack on NATO base

It's the third major assault on military base in six days

KABUL, Afghanistan - The Taliban claimed responsibility Sunday for a nighttime assault on NATO's biggest base in southern Afghanistan. Insurgents firing rockets, mortars and automatic weapons tried to storm Kandahar Air Field — the second such attack on a major military installation this week.


Associated Press
updated 9:56 p.m. CT, Sat., May 22, 2010

Several coalition troops and civilian employees were wounded in the assault Saturday night, but there were no reports of deaths, officials said.

A Canadian Press news agency report from Kandahar said artillery and machine gun fire reverberated through the base, about 300 miles southwest of Kabul, several hours after the attack began. Militants unleashed rockets and mortars about 8 p.m. (15:30 GMT) and then tried unsuccessfully to storm the northern perimeter, officials said.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told the Associated Press that its fighters attacked the base from two sides and fired more than 15 rockets.

It was the third major attack on NATO forces in Afghanistan in six days.

Spring offensive
The attacks follow a Taliban announcement of a spring offensive against NATO forces and Afghan government troops — their response to a promise by the Obama administration to squeeze the Taliban out of their strongholds in the southern province of Kandahar.

On Tuesday, a Taliban suicide bomber attacked a NATO convoy in the capital, killing 18 people including six NATO service members including five Americans and a Canadian. The next day, dozens of Taliban militants attacked the main U.S. military base — Bagram Air Field — killing an American contractor in fighting that lasted more than eight hours.

On Saturday night, at least five rockets struck the Kandahar base in the initial attack, said Navy Cmdr. Amanda Peterseim, a spokeswoman for NATO forces at the base. Witnesses said explosions continued through much of the night. There were no reports of deaths and Peterseim did not have the precise number of wounded.

"The alarm has been sounding for several hours, but no insurgents have penetrated the base perimeter," NATO said in a statement. It said "a number" of military and civilian personnel were wounded "and are receiving medical treatment. There are no confirmed fatalities."

NATO said troops and civilians were told to remain in bunkers as a precaution.

American killed
Peterseim did not know how many insurgents launched the attack but said they did not appear to be wearing suicide vests, as had many of those who stormed the Bagram Air Field north of Kabul on Wednesday. In addition to the U.S. contractor's death, 16 militants were killed and five attackers were captured in the Bagram assault.

Rocket attacks against the Kandahar base, located about 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of Kandahar city, are not uncommon. But ground assaults against such large facilities as Kandahar and Bagram are rare. Two attacks in the same week show that the militants are capable of complex operations despite NATO military pressure.

Kandahar Air Field is the launching pad for thousands of additional U.S. forces pouring into the country for a summer surge against the Taliban.

Attacks in the south earlier Saturday killed three NATO service members — one American, one French and one Dutch — and an Afghan interpreter. That brought to 997 the number of U.S. service members who have died since the war began in October 2001, according to an Associated Press count. The Dutch death toll in Afghanistan now is 24 and the French toll is 42.

A loudspeaker announcement at the Kandahar base said the ground attack was coming from the north, said Maura Axelrod, a reporter with HDNet who was inside the base. She said she could hear heavy outgoing fire and that commanders had come into the bunker where she had taken cover to order all Marines with weapons to help in establishing a security perimeter.

Half-hour barrage
An Afghan named Najibullah who works with a private security company on the base said that he heard rockets hitting for about half an hour. He only gave one name.

NATO's current push is aimed at winning over the population in Taliban-friendly areas by establishing security and bolstering the local government. However, each military strike has created potential for backlash amid arguments about who is truly an insurgent.

In the latest such incident, at least a dozen people were killed south of the capital Saturday after U.S. troops spotted two insurgents trying to plant bombs, an Afghan official said.

The two were shot dead in Paktia province, district chief Gulab Shah said. Troops saw comrades drag the two bodies away and called in a helicopter gunship which killed 10 more people, whom U.S. officials said were all militants, Shah said.

Shah said Afghan authorities will investigate to make sure the dead were all insurgents.

Civilian deaths are a flash-point issue in Afghanistan, where President Hamid Karzai has urged NATO to take all necessary measures to protect civilian lives.

More than eight years into the war in Afghanistan, international support is also weakening.

The defense minister of Britain's new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government met with Karzai in Kabul on Saturday and said he hopes to speed the withdrawal of British troops.

Defense Secretary Liam Fox is quoted in Saturday's edition of The Times newspaper he "would like the forces to come back as soon as possible," and wants to see if it is possible to speed the training of Afghan troops.

IJC Operational Update, May 22

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international security force destroyed an explosives factory with a precision air strike in Kandahar last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.22.2010
Posted: 05.22.2010 04:13

A combined security force went to a compound in a farming area northwest of Molla Hasan Nikeh, in the Zharay district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. As the joint force approached they discovered the surrounding area was heavily mined to protect the compound building. In the building the security force found a high explosives factory used by insurgents to produce material for improvised explosive devices and mines.

After ensuring the building was empty, it was decided the most efficient way to destroy the factory and prevent the insurgency from using the explosives against coalition forces or the Afghan people was by a precision air strike. The security force called in the strike, which destroyed the building.

No Afghan citizens were harmed during the operation.

In the Bala Baluk district of Farah province yesterday, an ISAF patrol found eight detonation devices that link several charges to one initiator, four pressure-plate initiation devices, 20 meters of detonation cord, five remote control initiation devices and 40 battery packs. The cache was confiscated to prevent its use in IED's.

In the Murghab district of Badghis province yesterday, an Afghan-international patrol found two pressure-plate IED's. The devices were destroyed in place.

In the Garm Ser district of Helmand province yesterday, an ISAF patrol found two bags of ammonium nitrate. Ammonium nitrate is a common ingredient used in IED's which kill many Afghan civilians each year. The material was confiscated and will be destroyed.

In the Now Zad district of Helmand Thursday, an Afghan-international patrol found two IED's with 10 pounds of homemade explosive each. The devices were designed to detonate when stepped on.

An explosive ordnance disposal team destroyed the devices.

Insurgent IED's kill and injure numerous Afghan citizens each year. Afghan and ISAF forces are committed to providing a safe environment for the citizens of Afghanistan, and seek to find and destroy these devices.

War's painful toll hits Marine's family

Stafford Marine killed in Afghanistan last week is buried at Quantico

Donald J. Lamar II was born on July 4, 1986. His mother, Coleen Lamar of Stafford County, remembers that his grandmother had prepared a sign just for the occasion, also the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.


Date published: 5/22/2010

It said, "Welcome Home, Yankee Doodle Donald."

Nearly 24 years later, Donald Lamar was buried yesterday--draped with a flag of red, white and blue--in a private ceremony at Quantico National Cemetery. The Marine sergeant was killed May 12 in Afghanistan.

He left behind a wife, Stephanie, and 3-year-old daughter Madison, his parents, Donald and Coleen, brothers Stephen and Joseph, and a host of other family and friends who are beginning to understand the true cost of war.

Family members earlier this week talked about Lamar, a precocious child who would grow up to be an accomplished athlete, husband and father, Marine sniper, jokester, friend and free spirit who did much in his short life.

"From the get-go, he knew what he wanted," his mother, a county school bus driver, recalled with a smile. He was always reaching, testing, she said.

At the kitchen stove, "You'd say, 'Don't touch, hot.' Donald was one of those kids who had to stick his hand in the frying pan" to find out for himself. "That was Donald in a nutshell."


Lamar was 2 years old when his family moved to Stafford from New York. He was playing soccer by age 4 and began wrestling by middle school.

"He was very competitive," said his father, who works in technology with the District of Columbia. "He did everything 150 percent."

That was a theme in high school, where he was a wrestler and football player.

"The thing that impressed me about Donald was that he was always willing to do what you asked him to do. You knew he was going to go all out," said Roger Pierce, his football coach at Stafford High School.

Lamar played outside linebacker.

"He was a great personality. He understood his role on the team and displayed that. There was really a sense of family here," said Pierce, now an assistant principal at Brooke Point High.

Those qualities would serve Lamar well in the Marines, which friends and family say became his passion.

After graduating from Stafford High in 2004, Lamar attended Longwood College for a couple of semesters. Around Christmas 2005, he came home and told his parents he was joining the Marines.

"Our first reaction was, what?" his father recalled.

"It wasn't what we would have chosen for him. But Donald did what Donald did and we supported him 100 percent," his mother added.

Stationed at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Lamar served two tours of duty in Iraq. He left March 7 for Afghanistan with his unit, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.

"Other deployments, we spoke to him a lot. The most we ever went was two weeks" with no contact, his mother said.

Afghanistan was different, due to the fact that, as a sniper, he and his team were constantly on the move. And the rugged, remote terrain made communication home difficult.


His younger brother, Stephen, talked to him a week before he died.

"We'd always joke around with each other. He said he was just busy, busy. He said he'd been in fire fights every day. He said that he missed us and loved us and that he'd be home soon."

It wasn't soon enough for Stephanie, the Stafford girl he first met in high school. She was 17, he was 15.

"What attracted me to Donald was his eyes, his smile and his personality."

She smiled, "He made me laugh. He did the most stupid [things]" to impress her. "There was something there, a spark."

But it took awhile for romance to kindle.

After graduation, she moved to Virginia Beach, living there for about five years before moving back to southern Stafford, where her parents live.

Lamar sent her an e-mail just before Christmas in 2007, wanting to reconnect.

The opportunity came at Brock's in Fredericksburg, where Lamar was out with friends.

"We kissed each other right then," she recalled.

"From then on, he came home every weekend," from Camp Lejeune, N.C., to see her.

"I said, 'Oh, my God, that's love.' He'd leave Sunday night, like 2 in the morning" to make it back to the base just in time for duty.


They got engaged on Memorial Day 2008 and Lamar left for his second deployment in Iraq. He returned Feb. 17, 2009, and they were married the next day by a justice of the peace in North Carolina.

During his service in Afghanistan, they talked only four or five times.

"I talked to him the day Stephen talked to him, the Tuesday before he died," Stephanie said as tears welled up in her eyes.

It was small talk, mostly.

"He told me how proud he was of his team and how much he loved me and Madison. It was like he knew--he knew he wasn't coming back."

She received his final letter four days after his death.

The day Lamar was killed in Afghanistan's Helmand province, back home, two pairs of uniformed Marines were preparing to notify his parents and his wife.

Donald Lamar Sr. had left work early for a trip to North Carolina. He had stopped by home on the way to pick up some equipment.

"I dropped a tool, looked up and saw the two Marines. I knew what that meant," he said, shaking his head.

He fell to the ground, numb. His son Stephen was upstairs in the shower, unaware what was unfolding downstairs.

"The Marines helped me walk up to him. They took care of us," the elder Lamar recalled.

Meanwhile, Coleen was turning down the street after finishing her bus route.

"I saw a police car, a white van, and I was thinking it was a couple houses down" in the neighborhood off State Route 3 east."

She was mistaken. They were parked at her house.

"I pulled into the drive to see my husband, who was not supposed to be home." Stephanie and her other sons were there, too.

"I couldn't talk. I couldn't move. I was hyperventilating."

One of the Marines called an ambulance.

"I kept saying, 'It's not real. It can't be.'"

Another pair of Marines earlier had knocked on Stephanie's door.

When she saw the Marines, "I said, 'I'm not answering the door.' I said, 'I'm not doing it.'"

They talked to her mother first, then asked to talk to her.

Seeing a man in uniform, Madison, Stephanie said quietly, "thought it was papa."

Since that day last week, the Lamars say they've gotten hundreds of calls, e-mails, food and visits.

"It's a testament to my son, that he was loved," his mother said.

May 21, 2010

'White Knights prepare for Western Pacific deployment

NAVAL BASE SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Marines and sailors gathered with their families on the piers here Wednesday to bid farewell to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 165 (Reinforced), as they set sail on a Western Pacific tour with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable).


5/21/2010 By Sgt. Deanne Hurla , Marine Corps Air Station Miramar

Over the past few months, the Marines have been preparing for this deployment by training to land on moving ships and working with other elements of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force.

After working on these skills, the Marines completed training to find the quickest way to expedite a fast rope drop of Maritime Raid Force Marines.

“Using this method allows us to figure the time it takes for the first plane to drop its Marines and the second, to be pulling in as the first takes off,” explained Lt. Col. Todd Oneto, the commanding officer of HMM-165 (Rein).

Another aspect of training taught the Marines how to perform a visit, board, search and seizure of another ship.

Not only did the Marines study raid tactics, but they also trained to support humanitarian assistance missions. This training included noncombatant evacuation operations.

“One nice part of being on a MEU is knowing the Marines are on call to do anything at anytime,” said Oneto. The seven-month deployment will kick off with the Amphibious Ready Group splitting up and sailing to different ports.

The USS Peleliu and USS Pearl Harbor will sail for East Timour, and the USS Dubuque will sail for Indonesia to the Jungle Warfare Training Center in Bali.

“I’m just hoping to get to do something real, whether its humanitarian assistance, which is a very, very rewarding mission, or even a [visit, board, search and seizure],” said Oneto, who is looking forward to shipping out like many of his Marines.

“I haven’t been on a MEU before so I’m really looking forward to seeing several different countries in such a short time,” said Sgt. Christopher Ley, a CH-53E crew chief with HMM-165 (Rein).

One of the ports the Marines may possibly visit is Darwin, Australia, where the three ships will potentially re-group. From there, the ships will head for the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility where they plan to split again.

The “White Knights” plan to be home for Christmas but will serve where they are needed until that time.

“This is the most unbelievable group of professionals I’ve had the pleasure to associate with,” said Oneto. “I think it will be a very rewarding tour no matter what we do.”

M4 not suited to warfare in Afghan hills

By Slobodan Lekic - The Associated Press
Posted : Friday May 21, 2010 10:46:04 EDT

KABUL, Afghanistan — The U.S. military’s workhorse rifle is proving less effective in Afghanistan against the Taliban’s more primitive but longer range weapons.

To continue reading:


Officials Provide More Details on Bagram Attack

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Military officials provided more details May 21 on the May 19 attack here that killed a U.S. contractor and wounded several service members.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 05.21.2010
Posted: 05.21.2010 03:02

Sixteen insurgents were killed and five were detained after an estimated 30 to 40 militants launched an attack on the airfield's outer perimeter during the early morning hours. During the attack, coalition forces and Afghan police responded immediately, maintaining security on the airfield and blocking the insurgents' ability to completely breach the base's perimeter, officials said.

Meanwhile, Army helicopters providing aerial security during the attack engaged multiple insurgents outside the airfield.

Coalition forces killed four intended suicide bombers dressed in U.S. military-style uniforms before they could detonate themselves. An enemy mortar pit set up outside the perimeter was destroyed.

Following the attack, Afghan police and coalition forces detained five suspected militants after performing a presence-and-security patrol in a nearby village.

Three of the wounded service members were returned to duty, officials said, while all others were in stable condition. The name of the contractor killed in the attack is being withheld pending next-of-kin notification.

Upcoming battle in south Afghanistan 'our D-Day'

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard of Canada is to direct NATO's potentially decisive campaign in Kandahar City and four nearby districts this summer, including the volatile Panjwaii where troops from the Royal Canadian Regiment will take the lead as the battle unfolds.


By Matthew Fisher, Canwest News Service May 21, 2010 1:02 PM

"On what we and the Taliban both say is the vital strategic ground, Canada is still in charge during this critical time," Col. David Bellon, director of operations for Regional Command South, said during an interview that debunked repeated claims in the U.S. media that Kandahar was now an-all American show.

The U.S. Marine colonel works for British Maj.-Gen. Nick Carter who is running the division-sized operation, which is the biggest of NATO's war in Afghanistan.

The Canadians "have the key task for the division. I cannot overstress that enough," Bellon said of a campaign in the increasingly violent Taliban heartland that has already begun slowly with shaping operations and may last into the fall.

"This conflict is our D-Day," Bellon said of the fight for Kandahar. "This will decide who stays. If we get pushed into the water, it is over."

Drawing parallels with the key role that Canadian troops played during the Normandy landings in 1944, he added: "The first guys on the beach here are the Canadians."

Menard, as the leader of Task Force Kandahar, now has command of several thousand U.S. troops in Kandahar City and in districts abutting the provincial capital and an approximately equal number of Canadians in the city and in Panjwaii, to the west.

"Panjwaii is one of the most dangerous areas," said Bellon who was a battalion commander in Iraq three years ago when the marines helped turned the war around in the so-called Sunni Triangle. Canada has what the colonel described as "a Tier One force." As this was the kind of force required in Panjwaii, the bulk of Canada's combat forces would likely operate there, he said.

An incoming U.S. army brigade will become responsible for Zhari and Arghandab districts, which Canada began to oversee in 2006. As well, two more U.S. brigades are expected to arrive in Kandahar by this fall and a U.S. army Stryker brigade already under U.S. command here is to be replaced by a heavier Stryker brigade when its one-year tour ends this summer.

This massive influx of troops and the order from Ottawa to end Canada's combat mission next July will inevitably lead to changes in areas of responsibility in Kandahar. Sometime during or after the holy month of Ramadan, which ends about Sept. 10, the focus of the Canadian-led Task Force Kandahar is expected to narrow to Panjwaii and two somewhat quieter districts to the south and east of Kandahar City. Even with these changes, some U.S. forces are expected to remain under Canadian command.

"This is a constant learning process," Bellon said of the evolving force laydown, adding that "we are planning forward to the time the Canadians leave . . .

"2011 will be a time of transition in Task Force Kandahar. What we are seeing is proper resourcing of problems."

This was being done to avoid problems that have arisen this year as the Dutch army heeds a decision by its parliament and leaves neighbouring Uruzgan province.

"We are jumping through hoops in Uruzgan that we had not anticipated," he said. "We thought NATO would back fill it and it didn't."

Asked about what effect the transition in Kandahar was having on the Canadians, as more U.S. forces arrive, Bellon said: "There is no doubt that it is frustrating for them. The time was when this (Kandahar province) was all their AO (area of operations) and the Maple Leaf led here."

The colonel praised Canada for the intelligence and counsel its forces have been providing for the incoming surge of U.S. troops ordered by U.S. President Barack Obama.

"We are relying on the Canadians and the lessons that they've paid for through blood and valour for 95 per cent of what we know here," Bellon said. "Just last night I called the Canadian J-2 (intelligence) to pull information from his head.

"When I hit my recall button my calls are always to the Canadians. Their influence is actually growing now."

The explanation for this is not complicated, he said.

"These guys have fought this ground for years. They have deep relations in the city that give them a deep understanding. They will be hugely missed" when their combat mission next July.

"History will write that the Canadians came here and for years fought and struggled as the situation got worse," he said. "Their brigade did what four brigades plus are going to be doing and their hands were full.

"We are very aware that Canada has had more casualties here than any other country. It is ground that has been paid for and there is no intention to lose it."

ISAF Helicopter Struck by Insurgent Fire

KABUL, Afghanistan - An ISAF helicopter was struck by an insurgent-fired rocket-propelled grenade today as it prepared to land at a checkpoint in Nad 'Ali.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 05.21.2010
Posted: 05.21.2010 09:31

No one was seriously injured in the attack.

The helicopter is in a secure site and the damage is being assessed.

Family Finance: War can lead to financial battle

NEW YORK - Maria Del Carmen Del Toro couldn't access her husband Israel's bank account for more than four months while he lay comatose after a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan.


By: The Associated Press | 21 May 2010 | 12:04 PM ET

With no income, she and her son Israel Jr. relied on the Air Force and friends for a place to stay and money for basic necessities. Meanwhile, the car loan, credit cards and other bills went unpaid. Penalties piled up, and the tab totaled nearly $20,000 when the severely burned technical sergeant awoke.

Defense Department statistics show more than 17,000 service members have been severely wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. These troops often face years of complex medical care and extensive therapies. And their finances often become casualties along the way.

— Military programs evolving

Advances in medical care have helped thousands survive injuries that previously would have been fatal. That reality has led to new military programs to help the wounded and their families work through issues that were rare in past conflicts.

Service members now automatically get a life insurance policy, for instance, that includes a traumatic injury provision that will pay up to $100,000 if they receive a disabling injury.

The four branches of the military have also created units to offer assistance throughout the treatment and recovery process.

Among the services offered by the Army Wounded Warrior program, for instance, are advocates who help families access military and Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, and help from nonprofit organizations.

There are currently about 160 advocates working with roughly 6,000 families. The advocates can direct wounded service members to entitlements they qualify for. Among the possibilities are emergency financial help, child care assistance, career counseling and tuition for career education, and even VA grants of up to $50,000 for renovations to adapt homes to accommodate wheelchairs or other needs.

But there are often caveats. Del Toro, injured in December 2005, was eligible for the home renovation grant after he was able to leave the hospital. But the grant requirements didn't address the changes he needed in his Cibolo, Texas, house. Although he was using a wheelchair early in his recovery, for instance, he knew he would walk again and didn't want to build a ramp or widen doorways. Instead he needed to adapt the house to accommodate the loss of his fingers, something that didn't fit neatly into the grant requirements.

"They wanted me to use the money the way they wanted it," he said. "They weren't considering that I was a severely burned guy."

Some of his friends ended up raising $20,000 to do the necessary work, and help replace the sports car he could no longer handle.

— Amid the frustrations there is progress.

After several years of lobbying, families will also soon be able to get paid for the help they provide. A law will take effect in January that allows family members like Christine Schei to earn a salary for working as caregivers, at rates similar to what home care workers would earn.

Christine took on round-the-clock care for her son, Sgt. Erik Schei, after a sniper's bullet pierced his helmet in Mosul, Iraq, in 2005. She gave up her $32,000-a-year job as an office manager. His father, Gordon, also gave up a salaried position for a job with hourly wages closer to the family's Rio Rancho, N.M., home, so he could be more available to help. Together, their income has dropped to about a third what they used to bring in.

The reforms will also help pay for caregivers' own medical care, and provide respite care for temporary relief. "This is going to make a big difference," Schei said.

The next fight: trying to get the VA to modernize a system that requires detailed reports on a wounded veteran's finances, but has no associated software.

"They literally give you a form to fill out," Schei said. While she understands that the accounting is mandated to make sure no one misuses a veteran's benefits, she said the system seems like it hasn't been updated since it was created in the 1940s. "It's tedious, and it's time consuming."

— Families fight on for assistance

The situation is a lot better for service members and their families than it was back in 2004, said Joyce Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association, an advocacy group. "But there are remaining challenges. There's a potential for people to fall through the cracks and not be able to access the resources and benefits they need."

That means getting assistance requires constant effort.

"You need to be informed and active," said Tonia Sargent, whose husband, Kenneth, was shot below his right eye after an ambush near Najaf, Iraq, in 2004, and retired from the Marine Corps last year.

"I can't tell you how much paperwork I've swam in," Sargent said. "People wonder if I'm a hoarder."

Families say they often provide the same information multiple times, and skipping a single form can mean missing out on important benefits — like one that provides extra pay after retirement if an injury was the result of combat.

Sargent has spent six years learning how the system works, what benefits are available and how to access them. A former aerobics instructor who gave up her job to care for her husband, she's an advocate who has very publicly tried to push the military and VA to answer the needs of families.

She also tries to share what she's learned with others. One family she's helping believed they faced homelessness, because the injured Marine is about to retire and they thought they had to leave their base housing.

"His wife was looking for shelters," she said. No one told them they could try to delay his separation from the service, or even if he does retire, they could pay rent on base until they find a place to live. "That buys them time."

NATO Agrees to Split of Regional Command South, Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN - On May 21, 2010, the North Atlantic Council in consultation with non-NATO International Security Assistance Force Troop Contributing Nations, gave final authorization for the reorganisation of ISAF's Regional Command South and the establishment of an additional Regional Command South-West – RC(SW) – in Afghanistan. This new organisation will be effective later this summer.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 05.21.2010
Posted: 05.21.2010 11:43

The new RC(SW) will have responsibility for the Helmand and Nimruz provinces and will be placed initially under the command of the United States. Regional Command South, which is under the command of British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, will retain the provinces of Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul and Daikundi.

The decision was taken upon the recommendation by Gen. McChrystal, commander of ISAF, to optimize the command and control of a Regional Command that has grown exponentially since its transfer to NATO's command in 2006. With more than 50,000 ISAF troops and eight Afghan national army brigades operating in six different provinces, the strain on the span of control would have been too high for Regional Command South in its present configuration. The new structure will ease the burden of Regional Command South and enable more adapted and efficient counter-insurgency operations at the local level.

Supreme Allied Commander Europe has now been authorized to implement the restructuring. Work in-theatre has already started for the new Regional Command to become fully operational in the summer of 2010.

Avoiding IED's in Garmsir, Afghanistan

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.


Sergeant Jim Morse of 3/1's Weapons Company is a big bear of a man. He is from Austin, TX, likes country music, and manages to keep a good sense of humor - even when tension was high in his company as they took some significant contact around their patrol base from the Taliban in the past two weeks.


Posted by Terry McCarthy
May 21, 2010

Last week a patrol was returning to the base across the fields when the Taliban started shooting at them - Morse and the other Marines still inside the base rushed to the roof to see if they could provide covering fire. In fact the gunfire tapered off and all the Marines outside the wire were able to return safely. Then Morse noticed that one Marine had been in such a hurry to get to the roof that he was wearing his flak jacket and helmet on top, but no pants, just a pair of undershorts, over a pair of pale, hairy legs.

"Johnson, that is dead sexy! That rocks," roared out Morse, as the entire group of Marines burst into laughter. "Anyone got a dollar?" he said, as if about to offer a tip to the semi-clothed Marine.

Morse served eight years in the Navy and the Naval Reserve, then joined the Marines where he has served for 6 years. He did two deployments in Iraq, doing mounted patrols searching for IEDs in Anbar province. He calculated from his vehicles' odometers that in total he covered 16,000 miles - and never once hit an IED. Almost every other vehicle in his unit got blown up, some more than once. His secret? "I am extremely paranoid and I look out for everything" he says. "That - and pure blind luck."

Paranoia is not a bad attribute to have in Garmsir, which has one of the most dense concentrations of IEDs in the country. Morse never lets up. On one patrol we heard him telling a first-timer to stop treading on the raised footpaths that run through the fields, because that is where IEDs can be placed. "Step over it," he bellowed from a distance.

He thinks the Taliban are a tougher enemy than the Iraqi insurgents, better at tactical planning. "They are smart enough to learn from the precautions that we take - every time that we move up a step, they find something to counteract, and it's a chess game, it's a constant back and forth between us."

Life, of course, is full of ironies. Even for a Marine Sergeant who survived two tours and 16,000 miles in Anbar province in Iraq without a scratch. In California just weeks before this deployment, Morse was sitting in his car, stationary at a red light, when he was rear-ended. He injured his back, probably needs surgery, and has pretty constant back pain, particularly when he is out on patrol wearing the heavy body armor that is standard. But ask him if he wants a comfortable desk job, and his reply will be...well, unprintable.

3rd MAW Marines in Afghanistan Train to Save Lives

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Marines in Afghanistan face the all too grim reality that their fellow devil dogs could go down at any given moment, falling victim to an improvised explosive device, ambush or sniper attack. If a corpsman is not nearby to render aid, someone will have to jump to the rescue.



3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs More Stories from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs RSS
Story by Gunnery Sgt. Steven Williams
Date: 05.21.2010
Posted: 05.22.2010 02:10

Marines with 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) acquired those vital skills after completing a five-day Combat Life Savers Course here May 21.

"Part of the CLS program was being able to be a first responder if ever outside of the wire – something as far as amputees, or fractures, sucking chest wounds," said Lance Cpl. Felipe Pech, an Oxnard, Calif. native who is serving as an entry control point sentry with 3rd MAW (FWD). "It's something you learn in boot camp, but we built upon it."

The Marines learned how to treat burns, deal with injuries from improvised explosive devices and administer IVs. Pech said the training was also important for Marines who may actually be the ones who are injured.

"It instills a bit of confidence in them, that way they know, hey, this person has been trained by medical personnel to do what they're doing," he explained. "They know what they're doing. They've spent hours learning on it."

All of these skills will carry on with the Marines beyond their combat deployment.

"Some of this information, like splinting or taking care of extremities, can be taken and applied back in the states," said Pech. "Say you witness an accident or something and you're one of the first people on the scene – you can go ahead and do whatever you can for whoever is hurt. It's good general knowledge to have."

The Marines graduated and returned to their normal duties at their various sections, but they will have to remain vigilant – they never know who may depend on them next.

Supplying the MRAP Pipeline: a Constant Reconciliation

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- By air, land, and sea, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles are moving into Iraq and Afghanistan through a network of DOD partners.



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Courtesy Story
Date: 05.21.2010
Posted: 05.21.2010 03:22

Integral to this process are two members of the Central Command Deployment and Distribution Operations Center, U.S. Army Maj. Sharon Felder and Ms. Pam Christian. Through a process of constant reconciliation and coordination, Felder and Christian ensure that all MRAPs are properly accounted for and processed for fielding.

"The priorities are set by the combatant commanders, which in this case are USFOR-A [U.S. Forces Afghanistan] and USF-I [U.S. Forces Iraq]," explained Felder. "They are the ones that determine requirements, locations, and variants of vehicles based on operational needs. We are getting these life-saving vehicles out to Soldiers and Marines by working hand in hand with stakeholders such as U.S. Transportation Command, Army Central Command and Marine Central Command."

Concurrent with the increase of 30,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan this year, there is an additional requirement for the new type of MRAP called the M-ATV or MRAP All-Terrain Vehicle. The urgent requirement of M-ATVs resulted from a need for a smaller and more maneuverable MRAP to take on the mountainous and harsh terrain of Afghanistan.

"We pulled out all the stops to get these vehicles [M-ATV's] into theater," said Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command. "We are doing everything to ensure that they are safe, that the risk assessments are complete, and that they're fully integrated and flown into Afghanistan."

In addition to the constant accounting of MRAP's moving into and out of Iraq and Afghanistan, Felder and Christian monitor the flow of MRAP's throughout the entire supply pipeline. Typically MRAP's are shipped from the manufacture by truck to Charleston, South Carolina. At Charleston, Naval Space and Warfare Command completes add-on specialty items to prepare for shipment. When ready, MRAP's are moved by airlift from Charleston Air Force Base or sealift from the strategic seaport of Charleston.

After moving from Charleston, MRAP's are either flown directly into theater or trans-shipped from a strategic hub in the Middle East. Christian and Felder assist all services in increasing their absorption rate as they compete with other DoD demands. In addition, they must track how many MRAP's are being sent intra-theater from Iraq to Afghanistan. After use in Iraq, many MRAPs have acquired wear and tear that requires maintenance. The MRAP sustainment facility in Kuwait upgrades the MRAP's to prepare them for shipment to Afghanistan.

Daily coordination is vital between Christian, Felder, and multiple agencies to include Joint Program Office MRAP, Marine Corps Systems Command, U.S. Transportation Command, ARCENT, MARCENT and commercial manufacturers. Shipping dimensions, transportation location, MRAP type, and mode of transportation all must be taken into account during the movement process.

Airlift and sealift are not without their challenges. With 34 MRAP variationstheplacement of tie downs on the vehicles vary by type. Thus, it is a difficult process to efficiently stow and secure MRAP's without wasting space on the aircraft or cargo vessel. In addition, MRAP's have varying shapes and sizes that cannot be uniformly loaded onto the vessel.

While airlift is fast, sealift is much less expensive. In addition, a cargo vessel has the capacity to carry more than 300 MRAP's at one time. Cargo aircraft can hold as many as 5 to 7 vehicles depending on the aircraft load weight and type of airframe. To keep the vehicles arriving in theater, however, entails having a steady supply in the pipeline. Thus, the perfect mix of airlift and sealift must be determined according to need, priority, and cost.

In addition, the Pentagon has promised to support NATO partners with the loaning and coordination of MRAP shipments into Afghanistan. So far, the Pentagon has lent or sold 581 new and used MRAP's to allies such as Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Jordan and Georgia. Other countries, including the United Kingdom, are buying theirs directly from U.S. manufacturers.

IJC Operational Update, May 21

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international security force detained two militants as they pursued a Taliban commander in Kandahar last night.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 05.21.2010
Posted: 05.21.2010 04:50

The combined force went to a series of compounds south of Gholam od Din Khan, in the Zharay district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity.

As the security team approached one of the compounds two men ran away. After a lengthy chase they were caught and told the patrol they were Pakistani fighters. They also admitted they had rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles hidden at another location.

In Helmand last night, a combined force searched a small compound in Payan Kala, northeast of Marjah, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity and detained several suspects for further questioning.

While patrolling in the Now Zad district of Helmand province yesterday, an ISAF patrol found 39 large stamped, packaged bags of suspected heroin. The heroin is suspected to have a street value worth $3 million. The drugs were confiscated.

In the Nad 'Ali district of Helmand yesterday, an Afghan-international patrol discovered a weapons cache consisting of an AK-47, small-arms ammunition, five magazines and a bundle of electrical wire.

No Afghan civilians were harmed in these operations.

May 20, 2010

Yuma Marine honored with name on VMA-214 Harrier

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION YUMA, Ariz. — The Marine Attack Squadron 214 Black Sheep honored one of their plane captains by painting his name onto the squadron commander’s AV-8B Harrier, which was unveiled at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, Ariz., May 13, 2010.


5/20/2010 By Lance Cpl. Sean Dennison , Marine Corps Air Station Yuma

Cpl. Jonathan Prince, squadron powerline mechanic, now shares a name on the jet along with Lt. Col. Robert Schroder, squadron commanding officer, Sgt. Maj. Leonard Maldonado, squadron sergeant major, and Col. Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, the iconic Black Sheep World War II ace.

“Not a lot of people get to have their names on the plane,” said Prince, 23, smiling as he looked at the polished Harrier outside the squadron’s hangar.

While a plane captain’s name on a jet is not an uncommon sight, Prince’s name bears special meaning because of its placement on the squadron’s specially printed Harrier.

“Being that it’s our flagship bird, any time we have a static display for air shows, that’ll be the primary aircraft on display,” said Capt. Charles George, Prince’s officer in charge.

Plane captains’ responsibilities are monumental, said George. From the time they step out onto the flight line until they salute the pilot taxiing off, they are in charge of the Harrier. The plane captains go over the Harrier to examine any discrepancies before flying. Their thoroughness can determine whether a pilot makes it back to the flight line.

During his deployment to Afghanistan, Prince, a native of Lexington, N.C., located an engine problem that nearly went undiscovered. The damage was such that the Harrier, and its pilot, may have been lost.

“In my mind, his actions saved the life of a pilot and an asset for the United States Marine Corps,” said George.

The unveiling coincided with an event celebrating the squadron’s heritage.

“The history and success of the squadron is something I am very proud of,” said Prince. “I’m grateful to all the Black Sheep, past and present, who have served and make the squadron what it is today.”

War kills a young couple's dreams

Marine Lance Cpl. Philip P. Clark and his wife, Ashton, were making big plans for his return from Afghanistan this summer.


Photo with caption "Marine Lance Cpl. Philip P. Clark was killed by a mine while on patrol in Marjah.":

By Sig Christenson - Express-News
Web Posted: 05/20/2010 12:00 CDT

“We had a lot of plans and wanted kids. He wanted to have a baby as soon as he got home, and we were talking about that,” she said. “He wanted a girl, and we were going to name her Olivia Marie.”

The Clarks were a very young couple, married in a simple courthouse ceremony with a pair of Marine buddies at their side but sure of where they were headed and so close to each other they could finish each other's sentences.

But their future ended Tuesday when Clark, 19, of Gainesville, Fla., was killed by a mine while on patrol in Marjah.

Ashton Clark, 19, of San Antonio said late Wednesday that his death still was difficult to fathom even after she watched six Marines carry her husband's flag-draped transfer case off a jet at Dover AFB, Del., earlier in the afternoon.

“I can't really still believe it, kind of still in denial,” conceded Clark, a San Antonio native and 2009 graduate of Clark High School. “I just couldn't believe he was inside there.”

Few details are known about the attack, but Clark said two other Marines in her husband's unit also were killed. As an investigation continues, the family is planning services at Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Gainesville.

A native of Jackson, Miss., and longtime Gainesville resident, Clark liked being the center of attention. He was the class clown from grade school though Marine Corps basic training after graduating in 2008 from Buchholz High in Gainesville. Drill instructors would laugh when they were supposed to keep a straight face.

“He was always the life of the party. He was somebody who everybody wanted to be around,” said his father, Mike Clark, 43, a Gainesville sales representative. “If somebody was having a bad day, he could turn their day around just by being around him.”

Humor was an inborn trait, but so, too, was Philip Clark's desire to serve in the military. He came from a military family — a grandfather who was an Air Force colonel and two uncles who also were airmen.

As a toddler, Clark dressed up as a soldier or airman, and in high school he was in Air Force ROTC until deciding to join the Marines in his senior year.

That was a surprise.

“When I asked him, he said, ‘I just want to be the best of the best,'” Mike Clark explained.

Driven by his dream, armed by ROTC drills that began with a ninth-grade summer camp and strengthened by football and weightlifting, Clark was ready when boot camp began in June 2008.

“He had big shoulders, big arms, a big chest, but he was little,” Ashton Clark said. “He was short, but a big guy for a short guy.”

Clark was an infantryman, devoted to his job and a man who liked to be on the point. His dad said that like most 19-year-olds, he lived for the day. But if a jokester, he also was mature and a careful planner.

Before they married Oct. 12 at the Onslow County Courthouse in Jacksonville, N.C., three months after being introduced by a friend, Ashton took a plane from San Antonio to meet him. At the hotel, Clark asked her to go into the bathroom.

“And I came out of the bathroom and there were candles lit and music playing,” she said, recalling the song was “You Had Me From Hello” by country singer Kenny Chesney. “And he got on one knee and said a couple of things and pulled out the ring.”

They kept talking on the phone and via computer. He was expecting to return home in July. They'd put a deposit on a house near Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Ashton planned to get there a month before he got back, furnishing it.

They talked of babies and made a deal. Philip got to choose the first name if they had a girl and the middle name if it was a boy. And they had one other thing on their to-do list when he came home.

“We planned to have a big wedding when he got home next summer, but ...,” Ashton said, her voice fading. “We just got married before he left because we wanted to be married before he was gone.”

Moms help honor a hero

Sharon Ferguson of Spring brought a pair of weathered combat boots to Rosehill United Methodist Church in Tomball on Thursday and asked the reverend to place them next to the flag-draped casket of 21-year-old Marine Cpl. Jeffrey Johnson.



May 20, 2010, 11:01PM

The boots belong to her son, Jack Ferguson Jr., a Marine lance corporal who completed a yearlong tour in Afghanistan last month. He's the same age as Johnson.

At Ferguson's request, the reverend arranged the boots at a 45-degree angle, just as they would be if they were worn at attention, a symbolic act of protection and respect.

“It's our worst nightmare because we all know that could've been our son,” said Ferguson, a member of the Houston Marine Moms organization. “We just have to suck it up. We just have to be strong. We have to dig in as deep as we can, and do whatever we can do to be there for this family.”

Toll nears 1,000

The deaths of Johnson and two other Texans in Afghanistan in the space of a week is a somber reminder of the war's grim toll as the official Department of Defense count of American dead in the Central Asian country nears 1,000. At least 35 Texans have died in Afghanistan in the past year, including seven from the Houston area.

Johnson deployed to Afghanistan last month with the 3rd Marine Battalion from Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Known as the “Thundering Third,” the battalion is part of President Barack Obama's “surge” of 30,000 additional U.S. troops headed for Afghanistan to turn the tide against the Taliban.

This was Johnson's first combat deployment. He had been overseas only about three weeks when an improvised explosive device detonated during a foot patrol in Helmand Province. The blast killed Johnson and another Texas Marine from 3rd Battalion, Sgt. Kenneth B. May Jr., 26, of Kilgore.

A few days later, Navy Petty Officer Zarian Wood, 29, of Houston, was killed by another IED while on patrol in the same area of Afghanistan. The hospital corpsman also had been assigned to 3rd Battalion.

Baby Face'

On Thursday, two of Johnson's fellow Marines spoke to mourners who packed the church in Tomball to pay respects to Johnson, a 2007 graduate of Waller High School.

Laughter rippled through the crowd when Marine Capt. Michael Ercolano revealed one of Johnson's many affectionate nicknames in his platoon: “Baby Face.”

The captain said he would always remember Johnson as “an endearing, quick-witted young Marine who couldn't wipe the smile off his face even if he wanted to.”

He said the corporal was walking point on patrol when he was killed.

“Jeffrey was leading from the front, which few find the courage to truly do in life,” the captain said. “He chose to face danger to protect his brother Marines.”

A morale-booster

Retired Marine Sgt. James Skuce said Johnson was a competent, outgoing Marine whose sense of humor boosted the morale of his fellow Marines during the “shared misery” of tough training days.

“When it was time to work, he was all about work, but he knew exactly when to put out a one-liner to pick everybody's spirits up,” Skuce said. “He was a great stress-reliever.”

Johnson even renamed his team's humvee the “Funvee,” he said.

“Everybody took to this kid, and really warmed to his personality, his character,” Skuce said.

After the service, Patriot Guard Riders and police escorted Johnson's casket to Klein Memorial Park, where he was buried with full military honors.

“I just don't know how his mother is coping through all this,” said Jody Manning, a Huntsville woman whose 26-year-old son is serving his third combat tour in Afghanistan right now.

Manning’s son is a Marine in the “Thundering Third.” He called her from Afghanistan last week at 3:30 a.m. to tell her of Johnson and May’s deaths. A few days later, the distraught Marine called her again. He told her his close friend Zarian Wood had been on patrol when an improvised explosive devise detonated near the corpsman, mortally wounding him.

Little time to grieve

“It just really hurts him,” Manning said. “He can only call home and vent to me and at the same time he doesn't want to vent too much. They just have to keep going.”

In Afghanistan, there's little time to grieve.

“Their mindset is OK, we lost these people, we're going to have a small ceremony for an hour, and then we have to get back on patrol and they're not allowed to process it until they get back, and some of them never do,” Manning said.

Manning drove to Tomball to witness the return of Johnson’s body on Tuesday and the memorial service on Thursday. She also plans to attend Wood’s funeral on Monday.

“It was very nice to see people lining the streets in Tomball. I couldn't believe the turnout and the flags,” she said.

Manning hopes the triple tragedies of 3rd Battalion will convince Texans to start paying more attention to the war in Afghanistan, not just on the days local service members die, but every day.

“So the Thundering Third has lost three more men, and the only positive thing of this is that if something comes of it, and people are aware,” Manning said. “With every death I pray for that, that there's more awareness.”

[email protected]

Marine base to house largest solar-powered residential community in U.S.

For young Marines at Camp Lejeune, green isn't just the color of uniforms anymore.


McClatchy Newspapers
Posted on Thu, May. 20, 2010

On Thursday, the base celebrated its status as the site of what will be the largest solar-thermal-powered residential community in the continental United States.

By using solar thermal power to heat water for 900 homes, the project is expected to prevent the release of 1,035 tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year, the equivalent of taking 255 cars off the road, according to the company that developed it. Ultimately, thousands of homes on the Onslow County base and at other military installations could have similar systems.

FLS Energy, a solar power specialty company based in Asheville, N.C., has begun installation of the systems on new and existing homes at Lejeune. On Thursday, Gov. Bev Perdue visited one home in the Tarawa Terrace II subdivision where the solar system was put in just over a week ago.

"This is really a big deal for North Carolina and America," she told media gathered for the tour. "You don't often in life have a chance to watch some big change happen."

Just as the military has, in the past, made those in its ranks change their behaviors about race, drug abuse or domestic violence, it will now be able to change the way its young recruits treat the earth itself.

The families who occupy these houses, Perdue said, will live their lives as environmental stewards, "because the Marine Corps has said they will."

Sgt. Kirk Paulson and his wife, Jamie, who let Perdue peer into their utility closet at their 40-gallon water heater, are glad to be part of the project.

"I'm kind of excited about it," Jamie Paulson said. "I think it's a great move forward."

It might not be as easy if the couple weren't living in base housing.

The 10-by-4-foot solar panels perched on the roofs of the homes at Tarawa Terrace and the hardware that connects them to the water heater inside cost about $7,000.

These are being paid for through a complex financing arrangement through which FLS borrows money from Bank of America. The bank gets to use state and federal tax credits that come with solar power, and FLS earns income from the systems by selling the kilowatt hours they produce to Duke Energy, which pays for them at a reduced rate compared to electrical kilowatt hours.

And the company that runs base housing gets a break on its electricity bills.

"Everybody wins," said Brownie Newman, director of project financing for FLS.

For now, the company is mostly involved in large-scale projects on properties that won't change hands before the solar systems have paid for themselves.

The systems being installed at Lejeune should be able to produce about 75 percent of the hot water an average house uses in a year, Newman said.

After heating and cooling the living space, heating water is the third-largest use of electricity in most homes, he said.

Antelope-area Marine mourned at high school

A 27-year-old Marine from the Antelope area who died Monday in Afghanistan was remembered at his high school as a fun-loving, responsible person who will be missed.


By Bill Lindelof
[email protected]
Published: Thursday, May. 20, 2010 - 1:01 pm

Staff Sgt. Adam L. Perkins died while supporting combat operations in the country's Helmand province where at least nine Marines have been killed this month.

Hidden roadside bombs -- called improvised explosive devices -- continue to kill Marines and Afghan civilians. Authorities said Perkins died of multiple traumatic injuries received from an IED.

At Center High School in Antelope, the 2001 graduate was part of a long and proud tradition of boys and girls who have joined the military, said English teacher Paul Frazee.

Frazee, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam, maintains contact online with former students who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We have a lot of kids who right now are fighting in the war on terror," Frazee said Thursday.

He said Perkins was a fine student, an Eagle scout and an active member of his church.

"We teach our kids to be thoughtful and productive and responsible members of society," said Frazee. "Adam took that to heart. He was just a fine young man. He will be missed."

School bookkeeper Dana Busath has known Perkins' family for many years. She recalled that Perkins enjoyed a good time and loved life.

Marine Corps officials said Perkins was an explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 1st Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group.

The Marines said Perkins, who was based at Camp Pendleton in San Diego County, was married and had a child.

Under the surge this summer, about 9,000 Marines from Camp Pendleton are among the 20,000 Marines now serving in Afghanistan.

Perkins first enlisted in the Marine Corps in September 2001 and was serving his third deployment when he was killed. He was previously deployed to Iraq in 2006 and 2008.

Perkins has received many awards, including Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a combat distinguishing device, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with a combat distinguishing device, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal second award, Iraq Campaign Medal with two service stars, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Navy Unit Commendation second award, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with one service star.

Revisiting Combat Outpost Reilly

The summer fighting season has returned to southern Afghanistan, which means the Obama administration’s and Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s counterinsurgency effort here will face some of its most difficult tests. Temperatures are soaring over 100 degrees, the opium crop has been harvested and laborers are freed up for fighting in environmental conditions that strain equipment and challenge even the most fit Western soldiers and Marines.


May 20, 2010, 6:11 pm

Simultaneously, more American fighting units are arriving in the country, part of the so-called Afghan surge approved by the White House last year, and units that have been here for months are fighting for areas that remain out of government control. Moreover, NATO and the Pentagon have made no secret that they intend to flow more forces into Kandahar Province, and try to unravel the Taliban’s durable hold on its heartland. Busy months are ahead.

The photographer Tyler Hicks and I returned to southern Afghanistan about two weeks ago with plans to spend much of the summer in the field. We began with updates of the situation in and near Marja, the area of the large American-led offensive this year. We intend to spend time with soldiers and Marines in various settings and on various missions in at least two provinces, looking at counter-poppy programs, trauma care, the state of Afghan security forces, and a range of other themes. As always we will observe many patrols. As time allows, we will post many of Tyler’s pictures here, along with glimpses, insights and vignettes that don’t quite make the newspaper’s pages or the slide shows on NYTimes.com.

One of our early stops in Helmand Province was where we left off in early March – at Combat Outpost Reilly, which sits beside the main road intersection to Marja’s east.

In late February, after Marines from First Battalion, Third Marines had fought to seize and hold the intersection, this hastily made outpost was turned over to Kilo Company, Third Battalion, Sixth Marines. The company picked up the mission of securing Rt. 608, a dirt highway connecting Marja to the provincial capital.

Much at the outpost has changed since its first days. Marines now have tents, and no longer sleep in the open air. It’s not Iraq, with the creature comforts that many troops had there. The place is Spartan in familiar ways: it is bug-infested, the odor of burning plastic and waste swirls on the air, there is no running water. But the Marines are getting mail, and have a cook, and have made the place their home, with a pair of smoke pits and a set of solar showers and a regimen that keeps the outpost clean.

The area they have doted the most attention on – the gym — says something about how Kilo Company thinks. Although they have no barbells and no dumbbells except for a pair of 40-pounders that mysteriously showed up the other day — apparently liberated by a logistics patrol from a unit in the rear – they have made something that more than works. Back on the big bases, many soldiers have full fitness centers and top-shelf equipment. Here, the Marines have made do. Their gym is a roughly made assemblage of timbers, framing lumber, pulleys, pipes and tent poles. For padding, foam sleeves from ammunition packaging has been recycled and put to work. For weights the Marines use chains, filled water bottles, sandbags and ammunition cans packed with dirt. They made a makeshift kettle ball and have set aside a huge tires from an armored vehicles for a range of exercises. The ubiquitous pull-up bar — actually three — are a centerpiece. The inner ring of the outpost has also been paced off as a running track, and some of the Marines, between sets with their makeshift weights, do wind sprints.

The gym at Combat Outpost Reilly – busy even in the searing heat with Marines relaxing between long foot patrols – says something about a sight that unfolded earlier this week roughly two miles to the outpost’s south. On that day, one of the company’s units, Third Squad of First Platoon, laden with water, body armor, weapons and ammunition, managed after several hours of fighting to rush under fire at Taliban fighters in a compound, and overrun a Taliban position with such speed that the last fighters, wearing only a single layer of clothes, barely got away.

IJC Operational Update, May 20

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international security force captured a senior Taliban commander and another insurgent in Baghlan last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.20.2010
Posted: 05.20.2010 04:48

The combined force searched a compound in a rural area of the Baghlan-e Jadid district after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity, and captured the commander and other militant.

The Taliban commander is responsible for weapons smuggling, distribution, passing intelligence reports and direct attacks on coalition forces. When he was confronted by the combined force he immediately surrendered and identified himself. Several weapons were found in the compound.

In Kandahar last night, a joint security patrol searched a compound in Bibi Hava Kalacheh, in the Kandahar district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. During the search the patrol captured a Taliban commander responsible for procuring and emplacing improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and ambushes of coalition force convoys.

An Afghan National Army patrol found a weapons cache in a field in the Nad 'Ali district of Helmand province yesterday.

The cache consisted of 14 grenades, four rocket-propelled grenade boosters, 40 pull pins, 30 rounds 12.7mm ammunition, and an estimated 1,000 rounds of small-arms ammunition. An ISAF explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team destroyed the cache.

Also in the Nad 'Ali district yesterday, an Afghan-international patrol found a cache containing 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of ammonium nitrate and an AK-47 rifle with ammunition. The ammonium nitrate was destroyed and the weapon was confiscated by Afghan authorities.

Ammonium nitrate is a common ingredient used in IEDs, which are responsible for many civilian injuries and deaths each year in Afghanistan.

In the Musa Qal'ah district of Helmand yesterday, a joint patrol searched a compound after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. The patrol discovered 75 kg (165 lbs) of ammonium nitrate, a shotgun, a 22 caliber rifle with scope, along with a significant
amount of heroin, hashish and opium. The owner of the cache was detained by Afghan authorities. The cache will be destroyed.

Marine EOD Community Honors Fallen Fathers, Husbands, Sons

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. - Second Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, held a memorial service at the Protestant Chapel here, May 17, to honor five of their own who made the ultimate sacrifice while supporting Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom from February 2008 to February 2010.



2nd Marine Logistic Group Public Affairs More Stories from 2nd Marine Logistic Group Public Affairs RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.20.2010
Posted: 05.20.2010 03:07
By Lance Cpl. Franklin E. Mercado

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ricky L. Richardson Jr., Master Sgt. Adam F. Benjamin, Gunnery Sgt. David S. Spicer, Gunnery Sgt. Christopher W. Eckard and Staff Sgt. Mark A. Wojciechowski were killed in action while operating in Anbar Province, Iraq or Helmand Province, Afghanistan - two of the most notoriously violent areas U.S. forces have operated in since the War on Terrorism began nearly nine years ago.

Family, friends, Marines and Sailors flooded the Protestant Chapel to attend the service and listen to close friends and fellow Marines read personal reflections in honor of their fallen brothers-in-arms.

"Losing one person in the fight may not be a lot in the big picture," said Lt. Col. William J. Truax, the commanding officer of 8th ESB. "But it feels like 100 if that one is yours."

Solemnly, individual Marines walked up to the lectern and spoke of their experiences and time spent with each of the Marines being memorialized during the event.

"These names are only names to some of you," said Truax. "But they mean a lot more to the rest of us."

Each Marine expressed their feelings and told their stories as family members of the fallen Marines listened.

They told stories about deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, time spent at the Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal and reflected on the responsibilities they accepted when they reenlisted and chose to become EOD technicians.

"We all know the risk of this job," said Capt. Timothy Callahan, who served as the 2nd EOD Company Commander from July 2007 to May 2010. "But these men were among the few to accept that risk because it has meaning."

Marines join the military occupation specialty fully aware of what dangers they are expected to face, but are consoled by the thought that they are helping save the lives of their fellow Marines, Callahan continued.

"Marines such as the five we honor today chose this job," said Callahan. "They chose to be the ones who are called on to handle, disarm and dispose of a weapon that is wounding so many of our Marines."

Callahan also mentioned the many dangers and risks that encompass this job, adding that despite these factors, the men honored during the memorial service accepted the perils and embraced the challenges, earning the EOD pin they wear on their chest.

With the amount of family, friends, Marines and sailors who filled the seats, aisles and walk ways for the service, there is no doubt about the mark these Marines left on their community, the Marine Corps and their country.

Study links weak immune systems, PTSD

By Kelly Kennedy - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday May 20, 2010 13:54:13 EDT

A study shows that there may be a reason that those with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder deal with more physical health issues as they age: Their immune system has been compromised.

To continue reading:


Arriving in Afghanistan

We arrived in Kabul at 7am this morning. We went straight to our bureau, which is part of a house in a compound shared by other news agencies. There, correspondent Conor Powell briefed us and offered to show us around town a bit. We agreed, but then all three of us promptly fell asleep. I crashed on the floor on a mat covered in dirt from one of Conor's previous military embeds. I was woken up every so often by a man outside the window yelling "load!" and "unload!". He was running drills with a private security team. But I still slept hard. We didn't make it out of the Fox house until it was time to go to the military side of the airport to catch our first flight south.


May 20, 2010 - 8:12 AM | by: Kathleen Foster
Thurs May 20th 2010

We checked in with our media office contacts at ISAF joint command. There we were briefed by a British colonel who had just visited the area where we're going.
He applauded the work Marines are doing there and stressed the three big goals in the Afghanistan mission: security, governance and development. He also warned us of the ongoing threat of IEDs and gunfire as part of the resistance in the area.

It's now 9:15pm (the 8.5 hour time difference is really throwing me off). We are checked in and getting ready to board a C-130 for the next leg of our journey. We don't expect to arrive at our next destination (not final) until the wee hours of the morning.
Thursday, May 20, 2010

We left the hotel in Dubai at 12am local time to catch our 3:30am flight to Kabul.

Looking around the gate, the people waiting to board reminded me of the crowd I'd gotten to used to seeing on the flight from Amman to Baghdad: about half locals... the rest western journalists, contractors and private security.

On the bus that took us to our plane, a young woman struck up a conversation with me.

"First time to Kabul?" she asked, and guessed I was "with the news".

31-year-old Rona is an Afghanistan native who is now living in Sydney, Australia. She and her mother, who spoke no English but flashed me wide smiles, told me they were eager to see their family, especially after the car bomb that killed 18 people in Kabul just a couple of days ago.

On the plane, Rona came to visit me at my seat, and told me more about her past, present, and hopes for the future.

Her family fled Kabul in 1998 because of the Taliban. She told me about the day her mother and father packed up their nine children and ran from the country, taking the family first to Iran.

Rona left Kabul with just the clothes on her back. Her parents locked up the house with everything they owned inside. Rona says her mother cried as they shut the door, and didn't stop crying for their first six months in Tehran. The family moved to Australia 5 years ago after the Red Cross helped them get visas.

Rona and her family have come back to Afghanistan to visit several times since leaving 12 years ago. Rona remarked upon how dangerous her home country is right now, saying she expects it to become more dangerous over the next year. But she's not sticking around to find out.

After this brief visit, Rona is going back to Australia where her fiance will soon join her.

Her fiance is her 20-year-old first cousin, but the marriage was not arranged. He pursued her on one of her previous visits home. But Rona fears all he wants is an Australian visa. She has friends who she says were wooed into marriage, only to be left by their husbands a few days after the wedding. Despite this, Rona did her hair and make-up on the plane in preparation of seeing her fiance at the airport. Her family is encouraging her to marry him because it would get another member of the family out of Afghanistan. In Australia, Rona is studying to be a nurse but isn't sure if she will ever work as one. She mainly hopes to settle down with her husband and start a family.

On the ground, I saw several men approach Rona and her mother, but I couldn't tell which one was her fiance.

I caught Rona's eye so I walked over, hugged her and gave her my email. As I was walking away, I heard her yell something about two weddings and coming to Australia. I think I might just get an invitation.

Tuesday, May 19th 2010
6:30am local Dubai
11:30pm eastern

I've been traveling 12 hours so far. But the journey has just begun.

It could take us 4 days to get to final destination: a forward operating base in the southern part of Helmand Province, not far from the Pakistani border.

That's where the Marines we met at Twenty-nine Palms, the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion are set up.

I'm right now flying from JFK to Dubai, experiencing a sort a decadence I don't experience in my day to day life and certainly will not experience once on the ground in Afghanistan.

We have hot food, fruit, champagne and coffee... And widescreen TVs overloaded with movie, music and television choices. I'm listening to calming sounds of whales and dolphins as I read up on the situation in Afghanistan.

May 19, 2010

Marine Corporal Nicolas Parada-Rodriguez, from Stafford, dies in Afghanistan

He was an immigrant, the son of immigrants, who came to the United States 19 years ago, graduated from high school in Fairfax County, and, his sister said, wanted to defend his country.


By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Marine Corps Cpl. Nicolas Parada-Rodriguez, 29, of Stafford, died Sunday in Afghanistan, the Defense Department said.

He had been in the Navy and was deployed to Afghanistan during his service, said his sister Norma. After his discharge, he held a civilian job for a time and then signed up again, this time in the Marines.

When he was sent to Afghanistan in December, she said, it was his second Afghanistan tour with the Marines.

"He said he just liked defending his country," she said Tuesday. "He wanted to do something that people would remember him for."

The Pentagon said Parada-Rodriguez died while supporting combat operations in Helmand province.

After coming to this country from El Salvador in 1991, according to his sister, Parada-Rodriguez and his parents and siblings settled in Springfield.

He went to Robert E. Lee High School, where, she said, he enjoyed being with his friends, "being their leader . . . defending people . . . always looking out for people."

In addition to Norma, survivors include another sister, Maria, a brother, Lisandro, and their mother, Luisa.

His sister said Parada-Rodriguez had no children but loved to be with his nieces and nephews, sometimes telling them war stories, and often telling them to do good things.

He was assigned to the 1st Battalion of the 6th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division of the II Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., the Pentagon said.

It was a long drive between Camp Lejeune and Stafford, but Parada-Rodriguez made it often, Norma said.

When at Lejeune, she said, he "couldn't wait for weekends" to come to Virginia to be with family.

"It's very sad," she said. "We are devastated. We knew that this could happen." But she said, he was due to return in late June or early July, and "we always had that hope" that he would.

USS Peleliu deployment delayed

The dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor is scheduled to leave San Diego Thursday on a regularly scheduled deployment of the USS Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group to the Western Pacific.


May 19, 2010
By City News Service

But due to maintenance reasons, the amphibious assault ship Peleliu will not depart Thursday as scheduled, and instead will leave sometime this weekend, according to Naval Surface Forces public affairs.

The amphibious transport dock USS Dubuque departed on Tuesday.

The Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group consists of more than 3,000 sailors and marines. The Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group recently wrapped up an at-sea training exercise to prepare for the deployment.

Also departing with the Peleliu Amphibious Ready Group are Marines with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Assault Craft Unit One, Tactical Air Control Squadron 11 and a fleet surgical team, according to the Navy.

Signs of Progress in Central Helmand

KABUL, Afghanistan - Three months after the launch of Operation Moshtarak, clear signs of progress are evident throughout central Helmand.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 05.19.2010
Posted: 05.19.2010 03:58

"There are many positive indicators, especially in the areas of development and economic growth," said Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, Regional Command-South commander. "We have roads being built, district centers being reconstructed, and a lot of minor infrastructure projects underway."

Governance and education

Freedom of movement is key to delivering governance - in the form of traditional shuras as well as in health services, education and the judiciary. Since the first day of the operation, shuras called by provincial and district leaders have brought local elders together with government and combined force representatives to provide participants opportunities to raise concerns and discuss local matters.

Election shuras were held in Chah Anjir, the Nad-e Ali district center and the Bolan "T" junction between April 26 and 28. Attendance at the shuras was approximately 1,200, 400 and more than 1,200, respectively, indicating local nationals felt secure enough to begin to engage with their government in large numbers. Nearly 500 squatters from the Bolan "T" turned out to ensure they are represented.

An election shura was held in Nad-e Ali, May 11, to choose new members for the district community council. More than 600 elders elected 45 members to represent the district and said they were happy with the district's new representation.

Governance is taking root throughout the region. A growing number of key government positions are being filled in the districts of Marjah and Nad-e Ali. Additional administrative offices are being built and enhanced services are being offered to residents, including new health care clinics and schools.

Improvements in education have been seen in central Helmand with the opening of new schools and the hiring of new teachers. The first schools, held under tents or in the open air, were established within a week of the commencement of Operation Moshtarak. There are now 13 schools in Nad-e Ali and nine in Marjah with 150 government-licensed teachers providing instruction to an estimated 3,100 students.

Approximately 425 of these students are girls.

Economic growth

One of the most visible signs of economic growth is the re-opening of local markets. Many of them had been closed for years, especially during the time of Taliban rule. More than 20 markets are now open for business, attracting more vendors and shoppers than due to increased security, better freedom of movement and higher quality of goods. Nearly $400,000 has been spent refurbishing bazaars in Nad-e Ali and Marjah. There is a $1 million project getting underway to rehabilitate the Loy Chareh Bazaar, which will employ more than 100 laborers and benefit thousands of local and regional Afghans by improving the variety and amount of goods traded within the southeast Marjah area.

"The basic point is that you're seeing stability and prosperity begin to flourish in central Helmand and what you see is a consumer culture beginning to happen," said Carter.

Programs such as the Governor's Food Zone Program, Afghanistan Vouchers for Increased Production in Agriculture and the Marjah Accelerated Agricultural Transition Program (MAAT-P) help Helmand farmers move from growing poppy to cultivating legal crops. Without these alternatives, farmers find it difficult, if not impossible, to make this important change. At the end of the first week of May, the economic stimulus phase of MAAT-P came to a close, and 7,000 hectares of farm land were registered and verified, representing nearly half of the farmland the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated could be used for poppy.

The provincial government's seed distribution program has proven extremely successful. Seeds have been provided to 20,000 farmers in the area, most of whom were previously dependent on poppy cultivation for their livelihood. These programs have created the required combination of farm preparation and inputs for the next season that gives the farmer a chance to break the cycle of poppy.

"Cash-for-work" programs are employing approximately 4,000 local residents per day, and nearly 80,000 "man-labor" days have been paid out for initiatives. Road construction and irrigation improvements, in particular, will enable farmers to get their products to market and help the Helmand valley reclaim its title as the "breadbasket of Afghanistan."

Security and freedom of movement

Despite notable successes in development and economic growth, there are still challenges to be faced in the region. Insurgents continue to be active in the area, particularly in Marjah, and improvised explosive devices remains a lethal threat to local residents, government officials and combined forces.

Fortunately, the number of IED strikes in central Helmand is declining, while the number of IED finds is rising. This positive trend is attributed to effective partnering of combined forces and the growing number of local residents volunteering information to combined forces about the location of IEDs.

While the decrease in IED strikes is a positive development, it has been accompanied by a troubling spike in small-arms engagements in Marjah. Using hit-and-run tactics that endanger both civilians and combined forces, insurgents have mounted an aggressive intimidation campaign.

"We have been in large parts of Nad-e Ali for at least 15 months at the point at which we launched the Operation Moshtarak," said Carter, "so the project is at least a year further on than Marjah. The point is that by being a year further on and by adopting the approach and the amount of resources that have been applied to it, one will see what will happen in Marjah in due course."

Freedom of movement in central Helmand continues to improve. A recent analysis revealed a dramatic increase in vehicle movements along the main traffic artery, Route 608, which runs from Nad-e Ali down through Marjah. Weekly vehicle flow numbers for local residents travelling this road increased by 440 percent between March 20 and May 8. The latest reports show nearly 40,000 vehicle trips along Route 608 in a one-week period. This is a very encouraging sign that people are more confident in the security situation.

"There is still work to be done in both Marjah and Nad-e Ali," said Carter. "But the trends are positive, and my bet is we're in a good place in terms of the resources available on the ground and in the way in which the campaign is progressing."

Operation Moshtarak is an Afghan-led initiative to assert government authority in the center of Helmand province. Afghan and ISAF partners are engaging in this counter-insurgency operation at the request of the GIoRA and the Helmand provincial government.

IJC Operational Update, May 19

KABUL, Afghanistan - Several suspected militants were detained by an Afghan-international security force in Kandahar province last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.19.2010
Posted: 05.19.2010 05:41

The combined force searched a compound in Kuh-e Kabutor Khan, in the Zharay District, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity, and detained the suspects for further questioning.

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

ISAF forces engaged a large group of insurgents who had attacked Afghan National Security Forces in the Murghab District of Badghis province yesterday. During the fighting, which lasted several hours, Afghan and international forces fired several mortar rounds and dropped two precision-guided munitions on insurgent positions. Multiple insurgents were killed and wounded. There were no ISAF or ANSF casualties in the engagement.

No Afghan civilians were harmed in the operation.

In the Kajaki District of Helmand province yesterday, an ISAF patrol discovered a weapons cache consisting of four grenades, 375 kilograms (826 pounds) of small-arms munitions, two 40mm rounds and five mini flares. The cache was destroyed.

In the Musa Qalah District of Helmand yesterday, an Afghan-international patrol found several daisy-chained improvised explosive devices with various amounts of homemade explosives.

An explosive ordnance disposal team destroyed the devices.

An ANSF patrol found a cache containing 16 pieces of unexploded ordnance in the Nahr-e Shahi District of Balkh province yesterday. The cache will be destroyed.

Village medical outreach provides care to Afghans

NAW ABAD, Afghanistan — Marines and medical officers from Brigade Headquarters Group and 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion, I Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD) and an Afghan national army medic from Camp Shorabak, Afghanistan, set up a village medical outreach, May 15, outside the village of Naw-Abad, to provide medical care to the people of that area.


5/19/2010 By Lance Cpl. Megan Sindelar , I MEF

The Marines and Sailors set up a medical tent and aided over 35 men and children who traveled from their homes down to the medical site.

Lt. Cmdr. Aaron R. Huber, 3rd LAAD Bn. medical officer said his team provided excellent health care and worked to their limits.

Huber from Southaven, Miss., also stated that most illnesses were acute and were treated by the medical staff.

Locals were also given a short class on preventative medicine to encourage district well-being.

Before the villagers left to return home, they were given hygiene items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and lotion to take back to their families. Solar powered radios were also handed out so the villagers would be able to listen to their local radio station for information on upcoming village medial outreaches.

The Naw-Abad village men have little access to health care, but as the women very rarely leave their compounds, most of them have never seen a physician.

Navy Lt. Michelle M. Lynch, medical officer with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, took a female engagement team and traveled inside each compound to give the village women needed health care.

"They are kept away from mainstream culture," said Lynch. "Their needs are easily overlooked."

Lynch noticed a lack of nutrition of pregnant and breast-feeding women while she was out on the last VMO, so this time she was able to bring and pass out Carnation Instant Breakfast to the women when she visited to help keep them and their children healthy.

She was able to look at 17 women, 18 children and two men while she traveled the compounds. The FET entertained the children and interacted with the women while they were waiting to be treated.

Lynch and members of the FET handed out toys, hygiene items and lotion to the children before leaving each compound.

After completing the medical outreach, Marines and members of the ANA distributed corn seed and fertilizer throughout the district.

Huber said that distributing the corn seed and fertilizer shows the local people that the International Security Assistance Force has an interest in what they do.

The ISAF plans to provide medical help around Helmand province and continues to build good relations with the people of Afghanistan.

Scout Platoon heads to Babadag to train with Romanian soldiers, Marines


Marines and Sailors with scout platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Tank Battalion, left their home away from home at Romania’s Mihail Kogalniceanu Airfield, May 17, to begin peacekeeping operations training with Romanian forces at nearby Babadag Training Area.


5/19/2010 By Cpl. R Logan Kyle , Black Sea Rotational Force

“I want to learn the best things I can,” said Romanian Marine Sgt. Tony Adrian, a squad leader with Amphibious Co., 307th Bn., and a native of Tulcea, Romania. “This training will help the U.S. and Romanians work better together in combat, and we will see what the next weeks bring.”

Over the next two weeks, scout platoon and the Romanian forces will sharpen their skills across the spectrum of training for peacekeeping operations, including nonlethal weapons and fixed-site security.

“We’re catering the training to what they want to learn,” said Sgt. Shane Cell, a squad leader with scout platoon, H and S Co., 1st Tank Bn. “We have based the training schedule on the things they are most interested in learning more about, and we added a few classes they were really interested in, like [Military Operations on Urbanized Terrain].

Scout platoon, based out of Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms, Calif., serves as the ground combat element of the Security Cooperation Marine Air-Ground Task Force deployed to Eastern Europe for Black Sea Rotational Force. The force is Marine Corps Forces Europe’s commitment to a rotating presence of Marines in Eastern Europe to meet U.S. European Command’s theater security objectives.

“With the Romanian land forces as well as the Romanian Marines, it’s an opportunity for us to bolster relationships with partner nations,” said 1st Lt. Marc Tucker, the scout platoon commander, H and S Co., 1st Tank Bn. “It’s an opportunity for us to exchange techniques, tactics and procedures that both of us have refined since the inception of the Global War on Terrorism.”

The Marines are working in the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions to promote regional stability, build enduring partnerships and build the capacity of partner nation’s military forces.

“It really is an opportunity for us, as brothers in the fight, to get to know each other’s capabilities and limitations,” said Tucker, a Silver Spring, Md., native. “This training is broken down into 14 different segments - a wide variety of different United Nations and NATO reference-based materials, and ranges from convoy operations and [Improvised Explosive Device] awareness, to fundamentals of peacekeeping operations.”

Marines said despite a difference in language, there’s no doubt Romanian troops of all ranks are highly motivated and ready to train.

“There’s no question that the Romanians are a viable force,” Tucker said. “It’s been very encouraging knowing the willingness and motivation that goes into not just the staff and officer side, but the enlisted Marines and soldiers that are out here.”

Even though the Marines and Sailors of scout platoon will serve as instructors, they said they also look forward to the opportunity to gain knowledge from a partner nation.

“This is a two-way street,” said Cell, a Parker, Colo., native. “We came here to teach, but we also came here to learn. There are always things you can take away from any armed service, and that’s what we intend to do.”

Rt. 9 bridge in Freehold renamed to honor late Marine

FREEHOLD — Though the process to name a bridge after a hometown hero took four years of legislative work and fundraising to come to fruition, the effort to honor Marine Cpl. Philip Reynolds was 60 years in the making.



Reynolds, a Freehold native who died while protecting a fellow soldier in the Korean War in 1950, was honored Tuesday with the renaming of the Route 9 bridge over Throckmorton Street to the Corporal Philip A. Reynolds Memorial Bridge. For his sister, Lucille Dill, and fellow Marine Daniel Savino, who spent four years pushing for the renaming, it was about time.

"This is such a thrill. It was such a long time coming, and I know my parents would have loved this," Dill said following the ceremony, during which state Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, Freeholder Director Lillian Burry, and former Freeholder Director Barbara McMorrow all praised Savino's persistence in getting the bridge renamed.

Savino, part of the Marine Corps League Detachment named in Reynolds' honor, organized efforts to raise money for the signs after the legislation was blocked in the Senate because of cost, Beck explained. The bill was originally introduced to the Senate in 2007.

"Dan Savino never stopped, never gave up," Beck said. "He was a bulldog for this cause."

The triumphant mood of the legislators, Marines, family members and friends of Reynolds — despite being moved indoors to the Freehold VFW because of rain — was a fitting end to more than 60 years of work to honor the soldier.

Following Reynolds' death, it took five years for the Army to return his body to the United States, where he was then buried without a military burial at St. Rose of Lima cemetery, Savino said. He was later awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart and, thanks to Savino's persistence, was given a military burial last November on the anniversary of his death.

"They (the Reynolds) are the kind of family that don't make a fuss, but he got no recognition. It was frustrating," Savino said.

The bill to rename the bridge was finally signed into law last September, and the signs were installed Tuesday.

"We should think about what these men fought for every time we drive past that bridge," Burry said at the ceremony. "This is not just for Corporal Reynolds, but for all the servicemen that fought for our liberty."

In Ambush, a Glimpse of a Long Afghan Summer

BALUCH, Afghanistan — Minutes after surviving the first ambush, Cpl. John M. Boone, a Marine sniper, called over his radio. “We’ve got a civilian here who got shot in his gut,” he said.



Published: May 19, 2010

The civilian, Mohammed, an elderly Afghan farmer, had been shot through his large intestine when the Taliban fired on a patrol from Third Battalion, Sixth Marines. The Marines had just found him curled on the ground. Already time was pressing.

“Hey, this guy is going to die if we don’t medevac him,” the corporal said. “His guts are hanging out.”

It was 7:45 a.m. on Tuesday, just over two hours into a patrol that was turning into a gunfight on turf where the Taliban had a persistent hold. For now, the tree lines from where the Taliban had been shooting were quiet. But everyone expected more gunfire, and Mohammed needed help.

A new fighting season has begun around Marja, a richly irrigated zone of farming villages in Helmand Province that was both the center of Afghanistan’s opium production and a haven for its insurgency. Three months ago, thousands of Marines and Afghan soldiers swept into this area. The goal was to chase away the Taliban, disrupt the drug trade and usher in a government presence that might bring Marja under national control.

After roughly a week of often intensive fighting, the Taliban were unable to prevent the Marines and the Afghan soldiers they brought with them from opening roads, building outposts, importing Afghan officials and starting outreach programs for villagers caught between the two sides.

But with the opium crop now harvested, and temperatures rising with summer’s approach, the Taliban have tried to exert influence anew. They do so not just with hidden bombs and a campaign of intimidation against civilians suspected of collaborating with outsiders, but with more direct clashes with Marine patrols.

Fighting is frequent again. Marines, Afghans and an interpreter have been killed in separate firefights in the past week.

Marine commanders had predicted the rise in violence, saying the Taliban and drug lords, for whom the region is financially and symbolically important, would try to undo initial American gains and inflict casualties that insurgents hoped might erode Afghan and American resolve. The same officers have also urged patience, and they have pointed to signs of engagement with civilians that they say are indicators of progress.

For at least the short term, the experience on Tuesday of First Platoon of the battalion’s K Company, which ventured through vegetation on foot more than two miles from a main road, demonstrated the difficulties of fighting in southern Afghanistan during the hot months.

It also suggested that whatever the anticipated pace of an expected American-led push into Kandahar Province, even the most determined effort to defeat the Taliban and drug traffickers where they are deeply rooted would require substantial resources and time.

Months after the carefully planned offensive here, large areas of terrain are not fully cleared. In these areas, fighting continues. And while clearly punishing for the Taliban, the clashes also test American troops and exact a civilian toll.

Outside the Outpost

The patrol began at 5:30 a.m. with a mission to meet with elders in an area where Marine patrols have rarely gone. As the Marines left their outpost, the enlisted men knew what to expect. “You ready to get some?” asked one, as they loaded weapons.

“Let’s go get shot,” a second Marine answered.

A few dozen Marines were on the patrol. As they moved south they fanned out in small groups. Their formations obscured their numbers and gave them flexibility, making it possible for the platoon to move quickly from multiple angles against any gunmen who attacked any of the fire teams.

Staff Sgt. Matthew P. Dalrymple, 30, the platoon’s senior enlisted Marine, walked with Third Squad. He predicted the course of the day. The walk south through the farmland would be quiet, he said, because the Taliban usually did not fight early in the morning. Fighting would begin as the sun climbed. “Like clockwork,” he said. “Between 8:30 and 9:30.”

Two hours later, after the Marines walked through fields and talked with farmers harvesting wheat or tending new plantings of cucumbers and melons, the first bursts of small-arms fire cracked by. The Marines looked through optical sights, seeking targets.

A fire team and snipers walking along the road had been ambushed from the east. The sounds of exploding grenades and M-4s and M-16s returning fire mixed with the incoming Kalashnikov fire. Staff Sergeant Dalrymple looked at his watch: 7:33 a.m. “They’re an hour early,” he said.

He wanted information. Had anyone been hit?

The opening skirmish was like many small-unit engagements in Helmand Province. Watching from hiding, the Taliban waited until several Marines were exposed between canals that restricted their movements. Then they fired.

The Marines dropped onto their stomachs or leapt into irrigation ditches flooded with dirty brown water, found their bearings and returned fire. The Taliban stopped shooting, either to pull back or take another position. Then fire came from the south.

The Marines maneuvered, pouring sweat and trying to flank. The second Taliban group ceased shooting, too. The Marines were now spread out and ready, but without targets to shoot. Had the Taliban pulled back? Or were they waiting for the Marines to expose themselves again?

A Wounded Farmer

As the Marines maneuvered, they came upon Mohammed, the wounded farmer, beside where the fire team had been ambushed. He had been shot from behind, struck in the left buttock. The bullet had exited his lower-right front side.

Corporal Boone, 22, radioed for help. The staff sergeant, accompanied by Hospitalman Edward S. Harger, 22, a corpsman, jogged to the wounded man. He snapped on rubber gloves.

Lying on his back, bleeding slowly, Mohammed, 50, said he had been working in the field when the Taliban opened fire. The Taliban had shot him, he said.

He moaned and twisted. Hospitalman Harger examined the entrance and exit wounds, dressed them and checked Mohammed’s pulse. “It’s weak, but he’s going to be fine,” he said.

“As long as we can keep him awake and talking,” he added.

Mohammed wanted to sleep. His eyelids drooped. Helicopters had been called but were at least a half-hour away. “Hey!” the corpsman said. “Hey!”

Mohammed barely replied. The corpsman called for an interpreter. “Get his brother out here, or someone from his family!” he shouted. “We need someone to talk to him and keep him awake!”

Gunfire crackled again, this time from the west. The platoon’s Second Squad was under fire. The Taliban had fired now from three sides.

Mohammed’s brother took a place beside him, consoling him and keeping him awake.

At 8:45 a.m., two Black Hawk helicopters roared by. Staff Sergeant Dalrymple tossed a yellow-smoke grenade. One of the helicopters swung back and touched down nearby, blasting the group with hot dust and clumps of dried grass. Medics dashed from the aircraft. Soon Mohammed was gone.

Fierce Exchanges

The patrol continued. As the Marines crossed the fields, their backs to where Mohammed had been shot, the Taliban opened fire again.

“Behind us!” shouted Lance Cpl. Samuel D. Lecce, 20, as he jumped into a watery ditch. The lance corporal was not far from a wall. He stood, lunged out of the water, dashed to the wall and took a firing position at its corner, to cover the Marines farther out in the field.

“C’mon!” he shouted. “C’mon! C’mon!”

They ran toward him in twos and threes. Incoming bullets snapped by. Within a few minutes, Third Squad reassembled in a mud-walled compound. Its leader, Cpl. Raymond F. Charfauros, checked each team. No one had been hit.

The Marines passed around water and cigarettes. A few men swore. “There is no Taliban in Afghanistan, dude,” said Cpl. Ian E. Bradley, 24, crouched against an entryway.

He had been at the back of the squad. Assault-rifle and machine-gun rounds had whipped past him all around, but somehow missed. “Just give us a couple of weeks and we’ll win their hearts and minds,” he said, and shook his head.

Sweat rolled down his face and neck. It was not yet 10 a.m. The temperature climbed toward 100 degrees.

Two more helicopters — this time they were gunships — flew in circles overhead. The Taliban still fired.

The fight settled into back-and-forth exchanges, with the Taliban firing more than the Marines, who waited for clear targets. During a lull, the platoon commander, First Lt. Jarrod D. Neff, 30, crossed the field with Second Squad and issued an order. The platoon would push back, leaving the safety of the walls to sweep separate compounds and tree lines from where it had been fired on.

After Third Squad moved back into the open, it came under fire again. This time, the men rushed into it. Lance Cpl. Niall J. Swider, 20, saw an Afghan with a PK machine gun at a compound doorway fire a burst at the patrol. His team bounded forward, chasing the man inside, and followed him, throwing hand grenades.

There was a brief, fierce exchange of fire within the tight confines. But the compound was open on the back side. Third Squad flowed in. The Taliban flowed out.

Corporal Charfauros ordered the house searched, and an Afghan soldier called inside to the occupants. An adult Afghan man stepped into the courtyard. He stood almost still, emotionless, overwhelmed.

His mother circled him, lifting her veil. She wailed and pleaded with the Marines. “Do not arrest him,” she begged.

The corporals had little time to decide. The man was clean and not sweating — not the condition of a man after several hours of fighting in the heat. Several small children watched from the door. Corporal Charfauros gestured.

Yasin, an Afghan soldier, told the man to return to his home.

Another bullet snapped overhead. The fighters who had run out the back were firing on their pursuers, covering their withdrawal across the open. Then more shooting could be heard, including the distinct sound of American M-16s and M-4s.

By rushing the compound quickly, Third Squad had flushed fighters into the sights of the rest of the platoon. This group of Taliban was scattering under fire.

Eyes in the Sky

Back at the command post, the officers of K Company watched a video feed from a drone aircraft that showed a man set aside a weapon and begin crawling away in a ditch. He was several hundred yards off, moving slowly, apparently wounded. They radioed his location to First Platoon.

Lieutenant Neff ordered Second Squad to search the field and find the man and his weapon. Early in the afternoon, Cpl. Adrian D. Watson’s voice came over the radio. “I’ve got the gun,” he said.

The man had escaped. But his PK machine gun was in Second Squad’s hands. After nearly five hours, the fighting, for these Marines, had stopped. That evening, at their outpost, they heard that a patrol from another company was now fighting, too.

YPF competition tests high school students

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO, Calif. — More than 180 high school students from around the country competed for awards and scholarships during the 2010 Youth Physical Fitness Championship May 14 and 15 at the depot’s track and soccer field.


5/19/2010 By Lance Cpl. Rebecca A. Lamont, Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego

The championship is a five-event competition including sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, broad jump and a shuttle run.

This year’s competition included for the first time high school students from Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps, as well as high school students who participate in the program independently from MCJROTC. The students came from various states including Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.

“This year we added JROTC, and that adds a nice spice to the mix,” said Laurel A. Hull, committee member of Marine Corps Physical Fitness League.

“I am so excited and nervous,” said 16-year-old Whittney J. Neavins, Jean Ribault High School, Jacksonville, Fla. “I know I can do it, but because we are all competing, I know it’s going to be a challenge. I am looking forward to winning.”

Although this is Neavins’ first time, she has already felt the weight of the mental challenge from this competition.

“We have to push ourselves to our limit and keep telling ourselves that nothing will get in our way, that we can do it,” said Neavins.

Neavins got involved in YPF through the JROTC program at her school.

“When I go home, I know I am going to have a boost of self confidence and have increased physical skills.”

Another first-time competitor was 16-year-old Linda G. Fragosa, Tahquitz High School, Hemet, Calif.

“I wanted to do this because it only makes me a better competitor for the future,” said Fragosa. “Competing teaches me what I need to work on. I learned this year I need to work on my pull-ups.”

Fragosa intends to come back next year because of the elevated confidence she receives from competing.

According to www.marineyouthfoundation.org, the National Youth Physical Fitness Program provides a mental, moral and physical challenge and establishes reachable goals. The fitness program also provides important recognition, which leads to pride in the individuals self and becomes a building block for future self-improvement.

Youth organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, the Young Marines of the Marine Corps League, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, high school Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps units and many others use this program to enhance the wellbeing of young adults all across the country. It teaches students to respect their bodies and helps them build and maintain a personal resistance to drugs, alcohol and tobacco.

During the competition, drill instructors monitored the events and encouraged students, ensuring maximum effort. “The drill instructors were very hard, but extremely motivating,” said 18-year-old Ivan E. Nava, Desert Hot Springs High School, Desert Hot Springs, Calif. “The drill instructors motivated all six of us on my team.”

Nava will be back here next month for recruit training. Being part of JROTC influenced Nava to enlist. His master sergeant was an excellent mentor and Nava wants to obtain the same leadership qualities that his instructor possesses.

“I really hope we can bring JROTC from other services,” said Hull. “We would like to see this competition grow.”

It’s very beneficial for students to come to these national competitions because it can help them gauge their physical fitness level with those of students from different places, said Hull.

“Taking the time and being dedicated to their physical fitness, keeps students out of trouble and not doing drugs,” said Hull. “The commitment of the individuals, their effort as a team and the encouraging coach believing in the kids make this all work.”
The JROTC first place male competitor was Jackson Dalby, Catholic High School, Little Rock, Ark. The non-JROTC first place male competitor was Nino Adamo, Emmaus High School, Emmaus, Penn. Ana Figueroa, Oceanside High School, Oceanside, Calif., took first place for the JROTC female individual competition and Julie Crump, Emmaus High School, Emmaus, Pa., took first place for the non-JROTC female individual competition.

Catholic High School took home the gold in the JROTC boys team competition and Jean Ribault High School received the gold in the JROTC girls team competition. Non-JROTC team competition gold winners were Emmaus High School for both boys and girls.

The top teams were awarded $1,000; the top male and top female received $500; second place received $250 and third place received $100. Participants also received plaques and metals.

May 18, 2010

Robots to rove Marine firing ranges

Corps to test autonomous targets

By James K. Sanborn - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday May 18, 2010 11:51:42 EDT

The Marine Corps will begin testing a humanoid target in July that can zip through ranges and mimic the behavior of insurgents, foreign fighters and civilians in a combat zone.

To read the entire article:


Woman Marine pins on second star

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — A woman of many firsts drew a large crowd of Marines as she celebrated her promotion to major general May 12 at The Clubs At Quantico.


5/18/2010 By Cpl. Meloney R. Moses , Marine Corps Base Quantico

Maj. Gen. Angela Salinas prides herself as being the first woman Marine to command a recruiting station. Salinas commanded Recruiting station Charleston, W. Va. Aside from that, Salinas was the first woman Marine to command Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Calif.

Salinas takes pride in her accomplishments, but remains humble and never forgets to let her junior Marines know how much they mean to her and the success of her career.

“Every little glimmer in every little corner of the [chevrons] we wear is because of our young enlisted Marines,” said Salinas, who is currently the director of Manpower Management. “I have worked with some of the best young Americans who served this nation. I owe it all to them.”

Lt. Gen. Richard Zilmer, of Manpower and Reserve Affairs, presided over the ceremony, speaking very highly of Salinas.

“We are absolutely well served by Gen. Salinas,” said Zilmer. “I’m going to make the Marine Corps a whole lot stronger by promoting this Marine.”

Salinas was accompanied to the ceremony by her mother and two sisters, who had the honor of pinning on her second star.

“Family is very important in your success,” said Salinas, who also presented her mother and sisters with a bouquet of flowers.

Salinas enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1974 and was selected for the Enlisting Commissioning Program in 1977.

Salinas spent 36 years on active duty and has commanded at every rank in locations such as Parris Island, S.C.; Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Maintenance Battalion, Camp Pendleton, Calif.; and 12th Marine Corps District, San Diego, Calif.

“I remind myself everyday that it’s a privilege to serve as a Marine,” said Salinas. “I will serve for as long as the Marine Corps will allow me to. My goal is to continue to take care of my Marines and ensure that I exhibit all the qualities that the Marines deserve from their leaders.”

-Correspondent: [email protected]

Strike, stabilize, rebuild: Quantico Viper trains reserve Marines for deployment

MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. — Marines at Quantico rolled toward a foreign town on 7-ton trucks. As they approached the perimeter an improvised explosive device took out one of the vehicles and insurgents opened fire on the Marines. The Marines dismounted and stormed the town in fire teams. Methodically they broke in and controlled each building, until the town was secure.


5/18/2010 By Lance Cpl. Jahn R. Kuiper , Marine Corps Base Quantico

This was one of the many exercises played out during Quantico Viper where Marines of 4th Marine Logistics Group were trained in the basics skills they will require when deployed.

Two-hundred and ninety-three reserve Marines were pulled from 18 different states and now are training for the first time as one team.

This training is essential because it allows these Marines to get familiarized with one another, said Master Sgt. Adrian Virges, director of the Battle Skills Training School. Marines learn their strengths, weaknesses, and are able to account for them when in a hostile situation.

The Marines are put in difficult situations and are expected to solve it through teamwork.

“I basically put them through hell, so they know how hot it can get when thingsare happening for real,” Virges said. “We keep them on their toes by throwing multiple grenades at them or setting booby traps. We don’t want them to feel like they have time to relax.”

“Simulating an intense, stressful life and death scenario can help a Marine prepare mentally, as much as possible, for what combat may be like,” said Maj. Howard Marotto, the officer-in-charge of Quantico Viper.

Though many of the Marines in Quantico Viper have deployed before, for most, Afghanistan is a new challenge they’re ready to take on.

“The Marines have responded to the training well,” Marotto said. “Though many of the Marines have deployed once, very few have deployed to Afghanistan. Because of this, they are very focused on training and preparing for a different culture and environment.”

As well as learning how to take over and stabilize a town, the Marines are shooting at ranges, attending cultural classes, training with the High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle Egress Assistance Trainer, and Virtual Combat Convoy Trainer.

“We’ve received great support here at Quantico and there has been a good variety of training,” Marotto said. “The convoy simulators have been a real force multiplier for us.”

After finishing their training here, the Marines will continue their training at the Intermediate Logistics Operation Center at Camp Pendleton, Calif. From there, many of the Marines will be deployed to Afghanistan and some will be sent to the Republic of Djibouti, in the horn of Africa.

- Correspondent: [email protected]

2nd Radio Bn. receives Puller, linguist awards


Second Radio Battalion was recently honored with two esteemed awards. While the unit received the 2009 Lt. Gen. Chesty Puller Award (Medium Unit for Overall Command Excellence), Staff Sgt. James R. Courteau, a crypto logic linguist with the battalion, was named not only 2009 Marine Corps Linguist of the Year, but also Linguist of the Year for the entire Department of Defense.


5/18/2010 By Cpl. Meg Murray , II MEF

The Puller Award recognizes a unit with II Marine Expeditionary Force who sustained superior performance and overall command excellence in force preservation during the previous fiscal year. In 2009, 2nd Radio Bn. was second to none in their ability to keep Marines safe and ready for military operations worldwide.

Lt. Gen. Dennis J. Hejlik, commanding general of II MEF, presented the award and had encouraging words for the battalion.

“You should be proud that you’re a little bit more mature, you’re a little bit smarter, you know what you’re doing, and you’re sought after,” said Hejlik. “But, now that you have this award, I expect you to do even more – you know that – it’s just the way Marines do things.”

Lt. Col. Jerry Carter, 2nd Radio Bn. commanding officer, said the award was particularly special because since 2003, the unit has been on a rigorous deployment rotation, spending seven months overseas and only five months home each year.

“It takes many people to make a tremendous battalion, and from the staff all the way down to the lowest man in the ranks, we have a number of standout Marines,” explained Carter. “I couldn’t be more proud of the Marines and sailors that serve in this battalion.”

One of the standouts Carter spoke of is Courteau, who speaks, reads and writes Arabic, Persian Farsi and Dari. After being chosen as the top linguist in the Marine Corps for 2009, Courteau went up against the best linguists from each other military service, and was chosen as the DoD Linguist of the Year. This is second year in a row a Marine from 2nd Radio Bn. received the award.

“It was awesome to be recognized for what I’ve done, but to me it’s just doing my job,” said Courteau. “This award is not just for me, it’s for everyone that I’ve worked with in my career…both my leaders since I started in the Marine Corps, as well as the Marines under me.”

Though Courteau and the Marines of 2nd Radio Bn. humbly claim they were just doing their jobs, those who have observed their work know the battalion has gone above and beyond.
“I can tell by watching what you do when you deploy globally that this is a great unit,” said Hejlik. “I believe you are the premier signals intelligence unit in the Marine Corps, and I venture to say the DoD.”

Marines deploy effective artillery to Afghanistan


For most of the Marines with Battery L, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment, the place they were headed only existed in the news and rumor mill.


5/18/2010 By Cpl. Andrew S. Avitt , Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

In a short time, however, Afghanistan will be as real to them as the loved ones they were holding, close in their arms at the Del Valle softball field May 7.

The battery, which is headed to Afghanistan for a seven-month deployment, to support maneuver elements, is made of the right stuff to get the mission done, said Lt. Col. Eduardo Abisellan, the battalion’s commanding officer.

“Lima three-twelve is well trained and well led with a tremendous reputation,” Abisellan said to the departing battery. “I know you’re ready to do what needs to be done.”

The battery began preparing as soon as they heard about the upcoming deployment nearly nine-months ago. Some of their training included split-battery operations, provisional infantry tactics and a slew of other predeployment training.

“We are going to make some good things happen,” said 1st Sgt. Celestine Casias the first sergeant of Battery L. “These Marines know what they are doing. Their fire is accurate, it’s fast and it’s effective.”

“What we have been working on and working for is ethical muscle memory,” Casias said. “So that in combat when we are dealing with right or wrong, we have trained Marines to make the right decision,” he said.

For the majority of Marines with Battery L, the deployment will be a change of pace, since about 90 percent of the battery hasn’t deployed before, Casias said.

“I’ve got mixed emotions right now,” said Cpl. Steven Earnest, a motor transport operator with Battery L. “My wife doesn’t want me to go, but I’ll be back soon enough. The first month or two is always the hardest. I heard where we are going is going to be rugged.”

Rugged or not, Earnest said, he is as confident as his leaders that his battery will do great things while deployed.

Sailor served as ‘Doc,' volunteered for combat

Before he deployed to Afghanistan last month, Zarian Wood visited his father and brother for a week at their home in south Houston. The three men played video games, dined on steak and shrimp and lounged on camping chairs in the driveway.



May 18, 2010, 9:12PM

It was like a mini family reunion, recalled his father, Daniel Wood.

“Just before he left, he told me, ‘Dad, take care of yourself and everything, and I'll be back,' ” he said.

The 29-year-old Navy petty officer third class from Houston died Sunday of wounds inflicted by a bomb blast during a foot patrol in Helmand Province. He had only been in Afghanistan about 3½ weeks.

“He was a good honest Christian man,” said his father, a 63-year-old Vietnam veteran. “He thought he went over there to help children and help the country better itself, and wham.”

The father took a shaking breath, still stunned by the news.

“Ah well, he's with the good Lord, you know,” he said.

Nicknamed “Z,” Zarian graduated in 1999 from South Houston High School, where he'd competed on the wrestling team.

Youth pastor, tutor

He worked as a youth pastor and tutor for troubled kids on Houston's northeast side and a merchandiser for Coca-Cola before enlisting in 2006.

His decision to undergo rigorous training to become a hospital corpsman was very much in character for him, his relatives say.

“He was a very giving young man and my mother taught all of us that when you have nothing to give you have yourself to give,” said his sister, Teresa Robertson.

Zarian deployed to Iraq from 2007-2008. His relatives said he volunteered for his second combat tour, this time a seven-month stint in Afghanistan, where he served as “Doc” on the front lines alongside Marine infantrymen from Camp Pendleton, Calif. He was assigned to India Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.

“He was taking care of other folks,” his father said. “He was doing what he wanted to do, and he was doing it for his beliefs. He didn't want younger men to have to see and do what he'd seen and done over there.”

Zarian was the third Texan and third member of this Marine battalion to be killed in Afghanistan recently. Cpl. Jeffrey Johnson, 21, of Tomball was also killed May 11 by an improvised explosive device while on a foot patrol. Sgt. Kenneth B. May Jr., 26, of Kilgore, also died in that attack. Johnson and May served in Weapons Company.

The close-knit Wood family gathered on Tuesday to make funeral arrangements and remember the fallen corpsman.

“He had a good heart, very outgoing, worked out at the gym every day,” said his older brother, Zachary Wood. “He cared about his looks.”

“He was very meticulous about that,” his father said with a laugh. “He was a handsome man.”

Wanted to be a dentist

He was an honest man, too, even to the point of being blunt, his brother said.

“Yeah, he'd tell you in a flat minute if you were wrong,” his father said. “Then again, he'd stand up for you in a flat minute if you were right.”

He said his son dreamed of going back to school someday.

“He wanted to study radiology and then after he got that degree, he was going to try to become a dentist,” he said.

“He was all about living life, living life to the fullest,” his brother said.

Zarian was preceded in death by his mother, Nellie Sue Wood. He is survived by his father, Daniel Wood, and siblings Zachary Wood, Krista Hamilton, Teresa Robertson, Victor Robertson and Micah Dixon. Funeral arrangements are pending.

[email protected]

Black Sea Rotational Force officially kicks off

MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIRFIELD, Romania — The Marines and Sailors of Black Sea Rotational Force 2010 officially kicked off their three-month engagement in the Black Sea region in a ceremony at Romania’s Mihail Kogalniceanu Airfield, May 17.


5/18/2010 By Staff Sgt. Christopher Flurry , Black Sea Rotational Force

The ceremony featured platoons of Marines and Romanian forces, and was attended by local politicians, U.S. and Romanian military representatives from across the services. Additionally, about 20 representatives from the Romanian press were on hand to witness U.S. Marines and Romanian troops officially begin the deployment, the first of its kind for United States Marines to the Black Sea region.

About 100 U.S. Marines and Sailors departed their home bases for the Black Sea region in the first weeks of May as a Security Cooperation Marine Air-Ground Task Force. The ceremony officially marks the beginning of the Marines mission here, which is expected to continue through July.

“Our mission over the next three months will be to conduct multilateral security cooperation activities with partner nations in the Black Sea, Balkan, and Caucasus regions in order to enhance our collective professional military capacity, promote regional stability, and build enduring relationships with our partner nations,” said Lt. Col Tom Gordon, the commander of the Black Sea Rotational Force Security Cooperation MAGTF, in his opening remarks at the ceremony. “As a MAGTF we will simultaneously engage with the Romanian Land, Naval, Air, and Special Forces though out our deployment.”

Following the ceremony, the Marines of 1st Tank Battalion’s Scout Platoon, which forms the ground combat element of the Security Cooperation MAGTF, and more than 100 Romanian soldiers and Marines, departed the airfield for nearby Babadag Training Area.

At Babadag, the Marines and Romanian forces will work hand in hand in peacekeeping operations training.

“This is a great opportunity for us to know the Marines,” said Romanian Land Forces 1st Lt. Lawrence Diaconu, a platoon leader with the 341st Infantry Battalion. “I expect my men to show they are prepared to fight with America in Afghanistan.”

Training during the peacekeeping operations exercise is scheduled to include combat marksmanship, nonlethal weapons, patrolling, and a healthy dose of Marine Corps Martial Arts.

“I practiced karate for three years and received my yellow belt,” said Diaconu. “So I’m most excited to learn about martial arts.”

Black Sea Rotational Force is a multi-year commitment by Marine Corps Forces Europe to deploy United States-based Marines and Sailors on a rotating basis to installations in Europe. The Security Cooperation MAGTF currently deployed is scheduled to complete 40 percent of Marine Corps Forces Europe’s theater security cooperation requirements over the three-month period.

Additionally, through peacekeeping operations training, military to military familiarization events, and community relations projects, the U.S. Marines and Sailors deployed to the Black Sea are charged with building enduring partnerships with partner nations in the region.

“It is my firm belief that the Black Sea Rotational Force is an engagement that has developed into a partnership to which we hope to grow into a friendship,” said Gordon.

Wait ends for friends, family of 2/2 Marines, sailors

The Warlords are home.


May 18, 2010 8:12 AM

Elements of 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, a Camp Lejeune unit known traditionally as the “Warlords,” returned to base Monday morning from a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan’s Helmand province.

During the unit’s time overseas they established a new patrol base near the village Laki in Helmand’s Garmsir district, stimulated local business in Afghan towns by investing in shopkeepers and meeting with town elders to help them rebuild and provided security to the areas the Marines occupied, according to news reports from the field. As part of 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, elements of 2/2 also advanced into the town of Marjah, one of the last Taliban holdouts in the region.

The battalion also suffered losses. Seven Marines from 2/2 fell on the battlefield: Lance Cpl. Nicholas Hand, on Nov. 22; Lance Cpl. Jonathan Taylor, on Dec. 1; Lance Cpl. Michael Freeman, on Feb 1; Pfc. Jason Estinopal, on Feb 15; Lance Cpl. Adam Peak and Lance Cpl. Eric Ward, on Feb. 21; and Lance Cpl. Jacob Ross, on March 24.

Friends and family waiting at the unit’s headquarters early Monday morning couldn’t wait to reunite with their loved ones.

Blanca Kuberski, of Dubois, Ill., said she passed time waiting for her son, Lance Cpl. Jordan Kuberski to return by participating in Project Warlord, an initiative by a number of 2/2 family members to provide troops with gift baskets and home necessities such as clean sheets upon their return home and to their barracks.

“It was just a bunch of us helping, just family members across the U.S.,” she said. “We raised quite a bit.”

Kuberski waited with her parents, Blanco and Francisco Orta of Houston, enthusiastic even when her son’s return was delayed for an additional four hours.

Special unit “welcome home” T-shirts, designed by Troy Brock of Houston in honor of his younger brother, Lance Cpl. Tracey Brock, became a uniform of sorts for Brock family members.

“They said they needed shirt designs. I’ve been doing graphic art like that ever since I got a computer,” Brock said.

The shirts included the 2/2 crest and, against the outline of Afghanistan, a Marine silhouetted and carrying a saw machine gun, Brock said, in honor of his brother, a saw gunner.

Marty Shefferly, of St. Clair Shores, Mich., said waiting was hard, especially when the homecoming of his son, Lance Cpl. Martin Shefferly, had already been pushed back a few times, once because of a visit to Afghanistan from country music artist Toby Keith.

But his son, he said, had already begun planning his return to the states.

“He’s got a list of stuff he said he wanted to do when he got here,” Shefferly said.

IJC Operational Update, May 18

KABUL, Afghanistan - In the Tarin Kot District of Uruzgan province yesterday, an ISAF patrol discovered a weapons cache consisting of three rifles, a rocket-propelled grenade fuel cell, two recoilless rifle rounds, a machine gun and a pair of binoculars. The items were confiscated for exploitation.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.18.2010
Posted: 05.18.2010 03:16

An Afghan-international security patrol discovered 23 kilograms (50 pounds) of wet opium while conducting a search of a compound in the Nad-e Ali District of Helmand province yesterday. The drugs were confiscated and will be destroyed.

In the Baraki Barak District of Logar province yesterday, a joint patrol found an improvised explosive device consisting of four recoilless rifle rounds and a mortar. They also found an IED nearby with recoilless rifle rounds and homemade explosives. An explosive ordnance disposal team destroyed the IEDs.

An Afghan-international patrol in the Now Zad District of Helmand yesterday, found a cache containing 68 kg (150 lbs) of a substance believed to be ammonium nitrate. The material was destroyed.

In the Kunduz District of Kunduz province yesterday, Afghan children led an ISAF patrol to an 82mm high explosive mortar round. The round was destroyed.

No Afghan civilians were harmed in these operations.

Before Nation-Building Comes School-Building

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.

AMIR AGHA, AFGHANISTAN — Staff Sergeant Adam Smith is in charge of a small outpost built under casuarinas trees in Amir Agha, which is about a mile's walk through wheat fields from the main operating base of Kilo Company in Hasanabad. He has been a Marine for 10 years, was in the invasion force of Iraq in 2003, and this is his fourth deployment.


Posted by Terry McCarthy
May 18, 2010 3:11 PM

He never would have guessed that his principal objective in this war in Afghanistan is . . . to open a school. Life is full of surprises.

Amir Agha is right on the fringe of the desert, and has a much-venerated Muslim shrine adjacent to the Marines' base. It used to have a bazaar when it was a Taliban stronghold, but the Marines leveled the bazaar and pushed the Taliban out. Now the locals seem quite happy to be living with Americans as their immediate neighbors.

Smith, who is "Staff Sergeant" to his Marines, is simply "Adam" to most of the locals, including the kids who mob him for candies whenever he goes out on patrol. He is an easy-going, affable man, and is happy to chat to anyone about whatever problems they have — or say they have — in the area.

On Monday he was stopped on the road by a man who said that he was a supervisor of a road-building project, but who was afraid that he would be targeted by the Taliban for doing his work. He was even nervous about giving his own name in case the Taliban thought he was an informer for the Americans. Smith promised to investigate.

And then he spent some time discussing with an older man in the village the delicate issue of bridge-building (or, more properly, bridge repair) that apparently some Marines had damaged, allegedly . . . but it wasn't entirely clear where the aforesaid bridges were, nor which Marines might have damaged them.

Such is the nature of the counter-insurgency role that has been thrust upon the Marines in Helmand. It may not be the traditional way Marines fight wars, but their commanders are convinced this is the way to defeat the Taliban. And priority number one in Smith's war to win hearts and minds is the Amir Agha school.

There hasn't really been a functional school system in this part of Helmand since the Soviet invasion three decades ago. Some kids got a rudimentary education at the local mosques, but the majority remained illiterate and unschooled, passing their childhood days herding goats and working in the fields.

The Marines helped to build a school in Amir Agha — two solid brick buildings, each with four classrooms — that the Taliban then tried to burn down last year. The roofs buckled and the furniture was all destroyed, but the Marines were determined not to give up, so they hired a contractor to rebuild the school. There are now Marines posted in the school compound around the clock to make sure the Taliban pyromaniacs do not return.

Smith's main problem now is getting the Afghan government to provide the funds to pay the teachers' salaries — a no-brainer, one might think, in most societies. But here in southern Helmand, where the Afghan government is almost non-existent, it is extremely difficult even to find an official to talk to, let alone to appropriate the necessary funds.

The school year starts at the end of August. It will be an uphill battle. But Marines thrive on steep challenges.

May 17, 2010

Thousands of Vietnam vets to gather for thanks

By Todd Richmond - The Associated Press
Posted : Monday May 17, 2010 10:08:25 EDT

MADISON, Wis. — Thousands of Vietnam-era veterans are set to converge on Lambeau Field next weekend hoping for the words they’ve waited 40 years to hear: Thank you.

To continue reading:


In Mud Fort, Marines Handle "Dust Up" with Afghan Locals

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.


It rises up above the Helmand River plains like some fantastic Salvador Dali creation - the mud fort of Barcha, or Castle Gray Skull as the Marines have renamed it. It looks like an enormous hazelnut ice cream cake that has half melted into grotesque curves and overhangs, and then been flash frozen again.


Posted by Terry McCarthy
May 17, 2010 3:42 PM

The huge mud fortress was apparently built by the Soviets after they invaded Afghanistan in 1979. It has multiple caves and dugouts which can be used as firing positions and from the top - about 60 feet above the surrounding fields - you can see 360 degrees over the fields, way out to the desert at the east and the west that flanks the fertile green strip along the Helmand River banks. It is the perfect observation post. And with a 50-caliber machine gun and a sniper right on top, it pretty much controls all the territory around as far as the eye can see.

Lt. John Adams of Kilo Company is in command at Barcha - he says the word means "bayonet" in the local Pashto language - and he proudly showed us around his mud fort. This will be his home for the next seven months.

In the early afternoon we sat down with some of the local elders, who had come to the mud fort to talk to the Marines about their concerns. There were about 12 men, all bearded and wearing turbans, but all deferred to the most influential man, Haji Mohammed Agha. His complaint was interesting - there is too much dust on the road. And, he thought, it was the Marines' responsibility to fix that. Every time the Marines' armored vehicles passed by they left a trail of dust - "it makes the children cough, and everyone turns the same color so you can't recognize anyone!"

It is true that the road in this part of Garmsir has a thick layer of that very fine dust - moon dust the Marines call it - that gets into everything. And it is true that the Marines' heavy vehicles kick up more dust than the small sedans or motorcycles that the locals use for transport. But Lt Adams was not about to sign on as a major road contractor for the district - that is something the Afghan government should be responsible for. But he put it very tactfully.

"Haji Mohammed will remember that when the Marines first came here this road was full of IEDs, and it was too dangerous to travel on," he said. The elders all nodded in agreement. "And he will remember that Marines were injured and killed in the effort to clear this road." Haji Mohammed realized that he was going to lose this argument. "So maybe Haji Mohammed could petition the district government to get the road fixed?"

I happened to be sitting right next to Haji Mohammed, and to save face he leaned over and grabbed the front of my shirt and shook it and said "the last time I was there I grabbed that governor's shirt by the front like this, and he still wouldn't listen to me!" The elders all laughed, Haji Mohammed had not lost any respect, and then to show that he also had not meant any disrespect to Adams and the Marines, he said to Adams "I hope you don't mind if I speak my mind frankly. That dust really is too much."

It was a delicate dance of manners between a young American Marine officer and an Afghan tribal leader more than twice his age, but everyone emerged with honor intact. The Marines are happy that the locals are at least talking to them and not helping the Taliban to shoot at them. The elders are happy that the Marines have brought security to this area around the mud fort, where they can grow their wheat and their corn. And everyone still has to put up with that infernal, choking, eye-reddening dust.

Helmand leaders strengthen bond through Regional Security Shura

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Key leaders representing coalition forces, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Afghan people participated in the first regional security shura throughout Helmand province, Afghanistan, May 12-13.


5/17/2010 By Lance Cpl. Benjamin Crilly , Regimental Combat Team 7

The shura, facilitated by Regimental Combat Team 7, comes at a time critical to stimulating and stabilizing the economic efforts, by strengthening the security of the Helmand districts.

“What this shura allows us to do for the first time is bring the provinces together so these guys can talk about security issues related to their area of operations,” said Maj. Carlos T. Jackson, the future operations officer for RCT-7.

The foundations for district partnership in the Helmand River Valley were laid over the two days, allowing local district governors better use of assets around the province to move ahead in development of Afghanistan through security.

“When you bring these guys together it will allow them to open up that dialogue and really see how their districts work together,” said Jackson, from Detroit. “What we hope to accomplish out of this is a dialogue that lets the district governors know, and the people know, that they need to work together.”

Four security shuras were held over the two days to discuss those districts represented – Garmsir, Khaneshin, Marjah and Nawa. The district governors met with Afghan National Army and Marine generals at Camp Dwyer to brief them and discuss topics raised during the shuras on how to improve the economy and security in their districts. They each handle security in their own way based on the stage of development in their area.

The early stages of the shura consisted mostly of appeasing conversation about the districts, examples of what worked in each and the needs and security of the districts. John L. Gerlaugh, the governance advisor to Col. Randy Newman, RCT-7 commanding officer, attributes this to the culture and unfamiliarity of the district governors, although with time the governors became comfortable with one another and were able to tackle the issues at hand.

The district governors quickly realized that their districts affect one another and they have to work together to achieve security and progression. This point was driven home when Haji Abdul Manaf, the Nawa district governor, stated, “the long-term plan for Nawa security is improving the security in Marjah and Garmsir.”

The shared recognition that each district impacts its neighboring districts allowed them to move forward in conversation. The governors collectively recognized that engaging the population on all levels was critical toward GIRoA success, especially given the reported success of cash-for-work programs which seems to help keep Afghan youths away from Taliban influences.

“Security is defined by the perception of the population,” said Lt. Col. Brian Christmas, commanding officer, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. “Over the past 90 days the people have started to trust Marines in Marjah.”

Sharing of intelligence and information between districts was also discussed toward overall regional security of the Helmand River Valley. This was also tied into the mutual agreement for the need of standardized identification cards and vehicle registrations throughout the province.

Mohammad Fahim, Garmsir District governor, and Manaf both brought up weapons registration and their place in security for local leaders who may be targeted by the Taliban. This led into discussions about the possession of weapons by the population and who should be allowed to maintain a weapon in their home.

In Nawa, the house numbering system was discussed and adopted by the governors as a good way to identify houses, leading to faster emergency service response and development of a better census count. This will enable them to work with GIRoA to obtain more resources and funding for local development.

The subject of Marjah spearheaded the discussion of agriculture and the effectiveness of programs to reduce the amount of poppy in each district. Talking to coalition commanders enabled the governors to see the adverse affects of poppy production on their security and progress.

The people of Khaneshin and their district governor, Masoud Ahmad, have been working with 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion over the past few months and are transitioning to working with 1st LAR over the coming months. Police retention has been an issue in the district. It is also the only of the four districts that has a border police. The district has made progress toward development, but still has more projects in the works, to include their new district center and shura hall. The region is a common location for Taliban operation given its more open area.

Nawa District is heralded as a success story for coalition and Afghan forces. Nawa is where 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment pushed the Taliban out and helped begin the rebuilding process in the summer of 2009. Elements of RCT-7 worked and continue to work alongside their Afghan National Army counterparts to provide the security for economic security in the district. Nawa has seen tremendous progress in both local reconstruction efforts and agricultural advances with an agriculture college in progress.

Garmsir, which saw the transition of power to GIRoA in 2008, has seen the positive effects of partnership endeavors of ANA forces with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment and elements of civil affairs groups over the past seven months. Within the last month, the district has welcomed the youngest district governor to date, and the arrival of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. A hospital and schools have been established in the district.

With Mohammed Fahim, the new district governor, and coalition elements working together, the positive progress in Garmsir continues to spread. Fahim said that they are using social and government law to win the people over to the government and show that it works in that region.

Marjah District, with less than 100 days since Marines arrived to work toward the removal of the Taliban, is the newest local government and has the least developed security infrastructure. Afghan forces and local government are still working with Marines to build up local security. The improvised explosive device threat and small-arms fire still threaten coalition forces. Still, they have made progress in agricultural and are continuing to work toward stability of the district. Their district governor is Haji Zahir who is still working to win the trust of the people in his district and secure their confidence.

The shura concluded with briefs to the commanding generals of the coalition forces allowing both sides to sit down together and discuss the needs and expectations of the districts and how to move forward. Part of this process will include future regional shuras and the continued forward momentum and important dialogue between local leaders in which it facilitates.

U.S. 70 gets Marine designation

A stretch of U.S. 70 between Havelock and New Bern has been designated the U.S. Marine Corps Highway.


May 17, 2010 10:34 AM
Suzanne Ulbrich
Freedom ENC

U.S. 17 from Holly Ridge to Edenton also received the designation.

Retired Marine Col. Bill Ayers, the interim executive director of the Museum of the Marine, began the initiative to rename the highways the U.S. Marine Corps Highway in honor of the Marine Corps, Gombar said.

With the help of N.C. Rep. Russell Tucker, Sen. Harry Brown and others, House Bill 1021, an act to designate these highways as the U.S. Marine Corps Highway, passed April 2.

Tucker said he was honored to be selected by the Museum of the Marine to shepherd the bill through the General Assembly.

“I think it’s great it is coming together. It’s a great way to promote not only the Marines but tourism up and down the coast,” Tucker said.

Rolling Thunder, Marine Corps Motorcycle Club and the Red and Blue Knights drove banners to each location along the highway where the ceremonies were held.

Until Roy Hall, the vice president of the Red Knights in North Carolina and the president of the Jacksonville Red Knights, started researching the history of the area he didn’t realize there were 17 Marine Corps stations along the stretch being dedicated.

“I’m really excited about this,” he said. “It was a long ride but a real honor to take the banner up to Edenton last night.”

Betty Schiefelbein, a member of Chapter N.C. 5 of the Rolling Thunder, said her ride to Pollocksville was “hot but nice.”

“The Marine Corps definitely deserves this recognition I think it’s wonderful,” she said.

Retired Lt. Col. Kim Kimball, a historian and the vice chairman of the Museum of the Marine, said the dedication reflects the Marine Corps’ history.

“The dedication of this highway is a testament to the memory and sacrifices (of the Marines and sailors),” he said.

The Museum of the Marine continues to work with corporate sponsors to find the funds needed to build the museum, said Ayers. About $20 million is still needed.

“We have raised over $8 million so far, but we have 10 years of operating expenses as part of that,” he said. “We’ve got a little over $3 million set aside just for construction — just sitting waiting to be used.”

Ayers said the planning and design is almost finished.

“We should have a viable set of construction documents by the end of summer. We simply need the money to get in the ground,” he said.

Specially-Trained Dogs Help Marines Sniff Out IED's

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.

Lance Corporal Jordan Ridder never owned a dog when he was a boy. But he always liked dogs, and there were plenty around the neighborhood.


Posted by Terry McCarthy
May 17, 2010

So when he joined the Marine Corps and they told him they were looking for dog handlers as part of a new program - a program designed to save Marines' lives - he applied, and was accepted.

The biggest threat to U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan - as in Iraq - is from IEDs, improvised explosive devices. To counter IEDs the military uses metal detectors, ground penetrating radar, electronic jamming signals, mine rollers attached to the front of vehicles and pretty much anything else they can think of that might be an effective counter-measure. Now comes a four-footed addition to the fight against IEDs - specially-trained dogs who can sniff out explosives under the ground before a Marine gets close to the danger zone.

Ridder and the 12 other dog handlers in Third Battalioni, First Marines (3/1) all got Labradors, traditionally used as hunting dogs to retrieve waterfowl. They have an excellent sense of smell and a strong work drive - even, as we discovered, in the 110 degree heat of southern Afghanistan.

The patrol started in the middle of the day with the sun right overhead. Ridder had already given his dog, TIgger, a sub-cutaneous i/v of regular saline solution, injected under the loose skin around his shoulders. Dogs can carry water under their skin and absorb it as they need it quite safely - it works almost like an internal camel back.

We worked our way through fields of wheat and poppy, and then after wading through a canal we walked down a road. Ridder sent Tigger out in front of everyone to see if his nose picked up any scent of explosives. The handlers can work their dogs three to four hundred yards away, so the dogs can cover a huge amount of ground as they dart back and forth.

The relationship between each dog and his or her handler becomes very close - when the weather gets cold many of the handlers have their dogs sleep next to them in their sleeping bags. In fact before he left California to come to Afghanistan Ridder had some push-back from his wife, Caitlin, who accused him of spending more time with his dog than with her. One can see Caitlin's point - some women might indeed feel a little left out if their husband is sleeping next to the dog all the time.

This patrol was uneventful, and no IEDs were found. Tigger had run many more miles than the human contingent, and whenever he got too hot he would just jump into one of the many canals or irrigation ditches to cool off. The biggest fear Ridder has for Tigger are the local Afghan dogs, many of whom are very fierce. They try to steer clear of local dogs.

Dogs are not as unpopular in Afghanistan as they are in Iraq (where dogs are all regarded as unclean) - but there is one local superstition which the Marines have to deal with, concerning black dogs. Like many of the Labradors, Tigger is jet black - many Afghans see black dogs as somehow linked to the devil, and do not want the dogs sniffing inside their compounds. Ridder keeps Tigger out of compounds unless they are specifically ordered to search a particular house.

3/1's dogs have already proved their worth. India company lost a dog last week - Tar - in an explosion that wounded his handler. Had the dog not alerted on the IED, more Marines might have been injured or even killed.

When we got back to the base, Tigger immediately found some shade to lie down in - his black coat absorbs heat and so he seeks out shade whenever and wherever he can. Even though no IED had been found, Ridder was upbeat - "we didn't miss any IEDs either," he said.

The patrols can be long and arduous in the heat, but the Marines are glad to have a dog with them - anything to increase their chances of finding an IED before it explodes. One mark of how high the dogs are valued - each dog is given a rank one degree higher than his or her handler, as a mark of respect for the dog. Lance Corporal Ridder effectively takes his orders from Corporal Tigger, complete with two chevrons on his collar.

IJC Operational Update, May 17

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force detained two suspected militants in Kandahar last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.17.2010
Posted: 05.17.2010 06:38

The combined force searched a compound in north Kandahar City after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. The targeted compound reportedly belongs to a known Kandahar improvised explosive device facilitator. The insurgent is responsible for suicide attacks in Kandahar City.

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 security patrol discovered a weapons cache consisting of one shotgun, two rifles, one pistol, small-arms ammunition and a bag of miscellaneous IED materials. The cache was confiscated for exploitation.

Also in Nad-e Ali district yesterday, another Afghan-international patrol found a cache containing 136 kilograms (300 pounds) of marijuana seed, 6 kg (15 lbs) of poppy seed, 4.5 kg (10 lbs) of hashish, 45 kg (100 lbs) of ammonium nitrate and a small container of an unknown white substance. The cache was confiscated and will be destroyed.

A local Afghan informed a joint patrol of insurgent fighters with possible IEDs and rocket-propelled grenades in the Musa Qalah District of Helmand province yesterday. ISAF forces cordoned off the area while Afghan National Army members went inside the compound to investigate. The search of the compound led to 120 kilograms (264 pounds) of opium, two AK-47s and 500 rounds of ammunition. The weapons and drugs were confiscated and five individuals were detained.

Marines, Afghan National Army Clear Roadways of IEDs

PATROL BASE BUJI, Helmand province, Afghanistan- Marines with 3rd Route Clearance Platoon, Alpha Company, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, have a unique and dangerous mission within the Marine Corps.



1st Marine Division More Stories from 1st Marine Division RSS
Story by Sgt. Shawn Coolman
Date: 05.17.2010
Posted: 05.17.2010 07:46

Their primary job is to locate and safely eliminate improvised explosive devices that are emplaced on the roadways, for the safe travel of coalition forces and the Afghan people.

"We provide mobility to any tactical convoy passing through our area of operations," said Sgt. Chris H. Belcher, a combat engineer with 3rd platoon. "We also escort logistical convoys so they can get supplies to Marines, and infantry Marines so they can have freedom of movement through their area."

On a recent mission, 3rd platoon was clearing IEDs during a 30- mile mounted patrol from Camp Delaram to Patrol Base Buji. During the movement they were able to uncover one IED successfully. Unfortunately along the way three of the vehicles were damaged by IED strikes.

"It's a tough mission, doing route clearance. The find to hit ratio is a lot higher in this area," Belcher said. "We had to overcome different types of low metallic IEDs, which we're running into a lot lately."

Our military vehicles have the ability to 'blaze their own trail,' or travel off the main roads. Other coalition forces and Afghan vehicles don't always have that luxury. Our job is to clear the main route so that coalition forces and the Afghan populace can travel the roads safely, Belcher said.

As with this mission, and numerous others, uncovering IEDs sometimes means inadvertently striking them either on foot or in up-armored vehicles.

"It's always in the back of our minds about what if we get hit with a huge IED, but you have to trust the Marines up front and your detection gear to find the IEDs," Belcher added.

Route clearance has disciplined themselves to meticulously search the section of the road they are clearing for possible IED indicators, but unfortunately many are well hidden.

"We hope we can see some kind of visual indicator so we can go and investigate possible IEDs," said Belcher. "We move slow and methodically to find some of the well-hidden IEDs."

Two members of the Afghan national army accompanied the platoon while they conducted their missions, becoming more familiar with the procedures of route clearance.

"We're training the ANA so they can get an idea of what we are doing so eventually they can create their own route clearance platoons," Belcher said.

The ANA continue to provide a vital link between the Afghan people and the Marines clearing the road, and continue to show an increasing presence to the local Afghans.

"The ANA provide a buffer between us and the locals. Were trying to win over the populace, and were doing that partly with the help of the ANA," said Sgt. Anthony R. Williams, 22, combat engineer, from Safford, Ariz. "With the ANA out there it shows the population that we're willing to work with them, and it instills more confidence with the locals in the ANA."

The two ANA soldiers spoke with local Afghans while the Marines searched the surrounding area, gathering local intelligence on possible IED emplacements.

"We're happy to know we can go out and help clear the roads with the Marines so that the people can be safe. It's our duty," said Mazullah Mazlumyar, 18, an ANA soldier. "The locals are happy we're clearing the roads. The IED emplacers are enemies to both the Marines and the ANA."
However arduous, the Marines and ANA soldiers continue to work, keeping the roads of the province safe.

We're sharing the roads with the Afghan people. We're going to continue doing our job so that both the military and the Afghan people can safely travel the roads, Belcher added.

Corpsman Build on Knowledge of Others

CAMP DELARAM II, Helmand province, Afghanistan - In an ever-changing combat environment, doctors and corpsman are charged with saving lives.


1st Marine Division More Stories from 1st Marine Division RSS
Story by Sgt. Shawn Coolman
Date: 05.17.2010
Posted: 05.17.2010 07:14

To help others expand their knowledge 1st Shock Trauma Platoon, Bravo Surgical Company, 1st Medical Battalion, Combat Logistics Battalion 15, offers medical classes to Navy corpsman and all that are interested.

The Navy doctors and corpsman are in direct support of Regimental Combat Team 2, and the regiments' subordinate units.

The platoon teaches an array of classes that many corpsmen attend daily to refresh themselves, and to learn new procedures that may save a patient's life.

"We go over everything. From symptoms to how to assess certain injuries," said Navy Lt. Hannah A. Castillo, 27, a critical care nurse, from Ijamsville, Md. "The classes are a refresher for the corpsman."

"We see a lot of trauma and emergency cases, and the 'docs' come so they can get a better foundation and understanding of basic anatomy and procedures," Castillo said.

Hospitalman Ricardo A. Sias, senior line corpsman with Alpha Company, 3rd Combat Engineer Battalion, regularly attends these classes.

"The classes cover different parts of the body and how to treat different problems," said Sias, 21. "We're not taught as much as the doctors. I stop the bleeding, open the airway and send them to a higher echelon of care, and these classes help me do that better."

Sias routinely sits down with his company corpsmen and passes what he has learned in the class so that the other corpsmen can also put into practice what he has learned.

"Marines get sick and they tell me this side of my stomach hurts and I think back to what I learned in the classes to treat the Marines," said Sias, from Salinas, Calif.

"I write as much as I can down and when all the corpsmen sit down together to talk I tell them everything I learned in the classes so they can also implement what is being taught in treating their Marines as well," Sias added.

In addition to learning how to diagnose symptoms, the corpsmen also learn how to operate the medical equipment when there is a casualty.

"I've been here for three weeks and every chance I get I go to the classes," said Sias, from Salinas, Calif.

"We have a lot of explosions and a lot of the injuries are due to blunt trauma," said Sias. "These classes teach me more about the human anatomy so I can better treat the Marines if they are injured."

After briefly attending these classes Sias was put to the test when two patients were sent here after an improvised explosive device detonated and injured them.

"We were just starting to go to these classes and I was standing outside. We found out that there was an IED that exploded and a Marine was on his way here, and I was there to help bring equipment and supplies to the doctors."

"Another patient, injured by the same IED blast, had an eye injury, and we watched them use the equipment, take X-rays and saw how they treated the patient."

Sias and other corpsman continue learning so they can better treat their Marines, and others that are brought here.

Q+A: Drugs and Afghanistan's growing insurgenc

(Reuters) - Afghan and United Nations officials say a natural pest has hit the key narcotics producing region of southern Afghanistan, which could result in a major reduction of poppy output, the raw material for heroin, this year.


Sayed Salahuddin
Mon May 17, 2010 2:56am EDT

Controlling the opium trade in Afghanistan, the world's leading producer of the drug, is part of the fight by the West and the Afghan government against Taliban militants, overthrown in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Following are questions and answers about Afghanistan's poppy production, its role in the insurgency and efforts to combat it.


Despite a reduction over the last two years, Afghanistan last year produced 90 percent of the world's opium, a thick paste made of poppy and then turned into heroin, according to U.N. figures.

In 2009, 123,000 hectares of opium were cultivated in the country, compared to 157,000 in 2008.

The 6,900 metric tons of opium it produced last year is far more than the 5,000 metric tons the world's addicts consume, leading to a glut that has depressed prices to lows unseen since the 1990s.

Helmand cultivated 69,833 hectares in 2009, but Afghan officials say Kandahar this year has replaced it as the major drugs producing province of Afghanistan.

Drug mafias have built up stockpiles in the region, an Afghan official last week said.


The fall in price drove the value of Afghanistan's opium crop down to 40 percent to $438 million last year. Opium was said to be worth four percent of Afghan GDP in 2009, compared to seven percent in the previous year.

Its street value fell to $3.4 billion in 2008 from $4 billion in 2007, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2008 Afghan Opium Survey. Most of Afghanistan's drugs end up in European streets, but the country itself has 1.5 million addicts.


The Taliban received about $150 million in funding from the opium trade last year, according to Jean-Luc Lemahieu, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) head in Afghanistan.

The Taliban receives funds from both farmers and from drug traffickers who smuggle opium across Afghanistan's numerous borders, including Iran.


Tackling the opium problem has been a big part of the new counter-insurgency strategy by Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. general leading NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Some 23,000 U.S.-led foreign troops plan in June to launch the biggest offensive yet against the Taliban in southern Kandahar, which officials say has replaced adjacent Helmand as the epicenter of the world's opium growing industry.

McChrystal and other commanders say their new anti-insurgent strategy is designed to win hearts and minds of ordinary Afghans and they do not want to force farmers to stop opium cultivation or destroy their fields.

In Marjah, the scene of a large NATO-led offensive in February, U.S. marines gave cash to farmers to destroy their crops.


To eradicate opium, farmers need to be able to replace it with other crops. But opium has two advantages over traditional crops once harvested - it can often be more profitable and it does not rot after harvest, unlike other crops such as grapes.

In 2007, the gross income ratio for farmers from opium to wheat was 10:1. In 2008, that narrowed to 3:1, although that was partly due to drought.

Eradication is also costly and dangerous. At least 78 people involved in eradication, most of them policemen, were killed in 2008, a 75 percent increase on 2007, according to the


More people have lost their lives in the campaign in 2009 and so far this year, according to Afghan officials.

Supporters of poppy eradication say it is only a small part of a wider counter-narcotics policy and is only carried out on targeted areas where farmers have access to alternative crops.

(Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Megan Goldin)

May 16, 2010

Returnees Find Home in Parwan

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Not too far from here is a government-established returnee village for Afghan refugees who have returned from either Iran or Pakistan and used to call Parwan and Panjshir provinces home. The village is called Barikop, also known as Beni Warsak.


Combined Joint Task Force - 82 PAO More Stories from Combined Joint Task Force - 82 PAO RSS
Story by Master Sgt. Kelley Stewart
Date: 05.16.2010
Posted: 05.16.2010 01:39

Which country these returnees are coming back from depends upon many factors to include their ethnic background and job opportunities.

In Parwan, half the returnees came from Pakistan, and the other half came from Iran. The split in Panjshir is roughly 60 percent from Iran and 40 percent from Pakistan.

The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan began selling 10,000 parcels of land to returning families approximately four months ago. Eight thousand parcels have been sold to date, which includes 1,000 families from Panjshir.

The parcels of land purchased are about 1/10th of an acre and costs $120. Returning families then have to construct their own house.

There are only four working wells out of about 50 in Beni Warsak for the 500 families currently living there. Wells for potable water was the number one issue discussed during a meeting between Mr. Esmatullah Karimi, Director of Refugees and Repatriation for Parwan Province, Engineer Abdul Majid, DoRR for Panjshir, Mr. Haji Sulaiman, the deputy mayor of Panjshir, village elders and members of the Parwan Provincial Reconstruction Team, May 12.

"The lack of potable water and unemployment are two reasons there aren't more families living here," said one village elder. "They're waiting for facilities before they come."

Karimi said he has been asking the government for help for more than five years, and so far nothing has been done. That is why he came to the PRT.

It was important that the PRT see the village after members of the PRT met with the Parwan DoRR twice to discuss this issue.

"The returnees want a chance to live peaceful lives with their families," said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Don Kelling, Parwan PRT executive officer who went on the mission. "It's difficult to do that when you have to worry about basic amenities like potable drinking water."

The PRT plans to work with local government officials to help address the village elders' concerns that also include a road and transportation to Kabul so villagers can find employment.

"We're going to work with [U.S. Agency for International Development] and local government officials to develop a plan to meet the needs of the village," said Kelling, a Minelo, N.Y., native. "We're not going to be here forever, and it's important the government takes a lead in planning for and funding these villages."

According to a USAID report dated April 6, GIRoA estimated the total of internationally displaced population at more than 400,000 people as of early 2010. The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees reports the population of nearly 300,000 at the end of 2009.

Fire Breaks Out at Base in Afghanistan

Crews are keeping an eye on hot spots left over from a fire that broke out in a supply area on Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan's Helmand Province on Sunday.


Updated 12:45 PM PDT, Sun, May 16, 2010

Lt. Col. Chris Hughes, a public affairs officer with the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force (FWD), told NBCSanDiego that the fire was started in an area of the base under heavy construction and that crews from Camp Bastion are assisting in the firefighting effort. He said that no lives were in immediate danger.

"We do have some residents who have been evacuated as a precaution," said Hughes who stressed that the evacuations were part of normal fire safety operating procedures. "We're sure people in Southern California can understand that."

Hughes said the fire is concentrated in an area where supply and storage lot facilities are located. One firefighter is being treated for smoke inhalation.

The blaze is not impacting daily military operations, officials said. The Marine Corps scrambled to get news of the fire out to Southern California news media to try to limit any concerns that loved ones might have had after hearing about the incident through third-hand sources.

"We had someone call home and say the chow hall is on fire," Hughes said. "The chow hall is not on fire."

Right now, just under 20,000 U.S. Marines and sailors are in southern Helmand Province as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Nearly half of those Marines are based at Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, and Twenty-Nine Palms. Camp Pendleton-based two-star MajGen. Richard Mills assumed authority as commanding general of expanded combat operations in the area last month as part of the troop surge ordered by Pres. Barack Obama.

Taliban Hold Sway in Area Taken by U.S., Farmers Say

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan — Farmers from the district of Marja, which since February has been the focus of the largest American-led military operation in Afghanistan, are fleeing the area, saying that the Taliban are terrorizing the population and that American troops cannot protect the civilians.


Published: May 16, 2010

The departure of the farmers is one of the most telling indications that Taliban fighters have found a way to resume their insurgency, three months after thousands of troops invaded this Taliban stronghold in the opening foray of a campaign to take control of southern Afghanistan. Militants have been infiltrating back into the area and the prospect of months of more fighting is undermining public morale, residents and officials said.

As the coalition prepares for the next major offensive in the southern city of Kandahar, the uneasy standoff in Marja, where neither the American Marines nor the Taliban have gained the upper hand and clashes occur daily, provides a stark lesson in the challenges of eliminating a patient and deeply rooted insurgency.

Over 150 families have fled Marja in the last two weeks, according to the Afghan Red Crescent Society in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

Marja residents arriving here last week, many looking bleak and shell-shocked, said civilians had been trapped by the fighting, running a gantlet of mines laid by insurgents and firefights around government and coalition positions. The pervasive Taliban presence forbids them from having any contact with or taking assistance from the government or coalition forces.

“People are leaving; you see 10 to 20 families each day on the road who are leaving Marja due to insecurity,” said a farmer, Abdul Rahman, 52, who was traveling on his own. “It is now hard to live there in this situation.”

One farmer who was loading his family and belongings onto a tractor-trailer on the edge of Lashkar Gah last week said he had abandoned his whole livelihood in Sistan, Marja, as soon as the harvest, a poor one this year, was done.

“Every day they were fighting and shelling,” said the farmer, Abdul Malook Aka, 55. “We do not feel secure in the village and we decided to leave. Security is getting worse day by day.”

“We thought security would be improving,” he said.

Those who remain in Marja voiced similar complaints in dozens of interviews and repeated visits to Marja over the last month.

“I am sure if I stay in Marja I will be killed one day either by Taliban or the Americans,” said Mir Hamza, 40, a farmer from Loye Charahi.

Combat operations in Marja ended at the end of February and the military declared the battle won. But much of the local Taliban, including at least four mid-level commanders, never left, stashing their rifles and adopting the quiet farm life.

A Taliban resurgence was not entirely unexpected, especially now as the poppy harvest ends, freeing men to fight, and as the weather warms up. But the military had seen Marja as a “clear and hold” operation in which the first part, clearing the district of militants, would be wrapped up fairly quickly. In fact, clearing has proved to be a more elusive goal.

By April, life had picked up. People began coming forward to receive government handouts and farmers were happily taking money in return for destroying their poppy crops, whose opium provides a main source of Taliban financing. As villagers saw their neighbors benefiting, more were encouraged to approach the district administration as well, despite Taliban threats.

The change was even more pronounced in the adjacent Nad-e-ali district, where the Taliban have been weakened and security improved thanks largely to the operation in Marja.

But the insurgents’ extensive intelligence network in Marja has remained intact, and they have been able to maintain a hold over the population through what residents have described as threats and assassinations. In April members of the Taliban visited one old man late at night and made him eat his aid registration papers, several residents said, a Mafia-style warning to others not to take government aid.

At the beginning of May, a well-liked man named Sharifullah was beaten to death, accused of supporting the district chief and not paying taxes to the Taliban. His killing froze the community and villagers stopped going to the district administration.

“The Taliban are everywhere, they are like scorpions under every stone, and they are stinging all those who get assistance or help the government and the Americans,” Mr. Rahman, the farmer, said.

The population remains divided in its support for the Taliban, with a portion providing shelter and assistance to the militants and few daring to oppose them. In some places, people are still lining up for aid, indicating a certain resistance to Taliban strictures.

But many repeat the Taliban contention that the Americans are bent on long-term occupation of Afghanistan and seek to eradicate their religion, Islam, and impose an alien, Western-style democracy.

Villagers complained of indignities imposed by the foreign forces, the arrest and killing of civilians, house searches that violate the ethnic Pashtuns’ sense of honor and the sanctity of the home, and checkpoints where they are forced to lift up their shirts, which is deeply shaming for Afghans, to show that they are not carrying explosives.

Yet they also say that the American Marines are good with the people, only shoot at those who shoot at them, and are showing greater restraint than the British forces who came before them. Farmers tell stories of how the Marines pursue Taliban fighters but leave the farm workers alone, and how in the last week four known insurgents have been killed in airstrikes as they were laying roadside bombs at night.

Nevertheless Afghans express frustration that the American military, which defeated the Taliban so resoundingly in 2001, cannot clear Marja, a district of 100 square miles, of Taliban insurgents that residents estimate number no more than 200.

More Taliban fighters have arrived in recent weeks, slipping in with the itinerant laborers who came to work the poppy harvest and staying on to fight, villagers and officials said. Haji Gul Muhammad Khan, tribal adviser to the governor of Helmand Province, said he had reports of Taliban arriving in the area in the last three or four days.

Everyone in Marja knows the Taliban, since they are village men who never left the area although they quit fighting soon after the military operation. Gradually they found a stealthier way of operating, moving around in small groups, often by motorbike or on foot.

They fire several shots at an American patrol and then flee, or throw aside their weapons and pick up spades, posing as innocent farmers. At least three midlevel Taliban commanders were seen operating in the area in recent weeks, moving among the farms, staying in different houses every night, and asking for food and shelter from the villagers as they go.

The villagers do not dare give them away to the Americans because they are local men and can exact revenge, villagers said.

“We know who the Taliban are,” said Muhammad Ismail, 35, a farmer from Loye Charahi said. “When they attack the police or the Americans, they put down their weapons and sit down with ordinary people. We cannot say a word against them, they know us and we know them pretty well. We know Taliban are killing people and threatening people, but we cannot stand against them, or tell Americans or police about their whereabouts.”

Mr. Khan, the governor’s adviser, expects a further exodus of civilians. “People are just waiting for the harvest to be over and then they will leave,” he said.

IJC Operational Update, May 16

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international security force detained several suspected insurgents in Zabul province last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.16.2010
Posted: 05.16.2010 05:00

The joint force detained the insurgents during a search of a compound east of Kakaran, in the Qalat district, after intelligence reports of militant activity.

During all searches, security units strive to avoid using lethal force. No shots were fired and no Afghan civilians were harmed during the operation.

An Afghan-international patrol discovered a weapons and drug cache in Now Zad district, Helmand province yesterday. The cache consisted of five 155mm artillery rounds and 32 kg (70 lbs.) of opium, which were destroyed on site.

A separate Afghan-international patrol discovered a weapons cache consisting of four 82mm rounds and three rocket propelled grenades in Nad-e Ali district, Helmand province yesterday. The cache was confiscated for exploitation.

Another Afghan-international patrol found a weapons cache containing three mines and three rocket propelled grenades in the Tarin Kot district, Uruzgan province yesterday. The cache was confiscated for exploitation.

May 15, 2010

Marine Sgt. Donald J. Lamar II killed in Afghanistan; Stafford High graduate

A Fredericksburg Marine who played football and coached wrestling at Stafford High School has been killed in combat in Afghanistan, according to the Defense Department and family friends.


By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 15, 2010

Marine Sgt. Donald J. Lamar II, 23, a scout/sniper team leader, was killed May 12 in Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold and major opium-producing area, officials said. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Lamar was a 2004 graduate of Stafford High, where he was on the wrestling team and played running back on the football team, friends said. He joined the Marine Corps in January 2006 and had just been promoted to sergeant March 2.

He had been in Afghanistan only since March, the Marines said, but had served two tours in Iraq -- from March to September 2007 and from July 2008 to February 2009. While stateside, he often made the 300-mile drive from Camp Lejeune to coach wrestling at Stafford High, family friend Chris Grey said.

"He was a bright young man, a fun-loving young man and a good athlete," said David Ripley, a principal intern at the high school.

"He was an exceptional leader on the football team, very well-rounded and liked by so many people because he just had a charismatic personality," Ripley added.

Lamar is survived by his wife, Stephanie, and daughter, Madison; his parents, Don and Coleen Lamar; and two younger brothers. Friends said his family was still too upset to speak publicly about him.

A scholarship fund, "Madison in Memory of Sgt. Donald Lamar," has been set up for his daughter at Virginia's Union First Market Bank. Donations are being accepted at any branch.

Marine mourned

LUDLOW - When Frank Evangelista, owner of Frank's Diner on East Street, thinks of the late Marine Sgt. Joshua D. Desforges he remembers a smiling young man in a Santa Claus hat.


Saturday, May 15, 2010
Staff writers

A few years ago around Christmas time, Desforges, a Ludlow native, and a buddy came into the diner to seek donations for the U.S. Marines' Toy for Tots program.

Desforges had a smile on his face and a Santa hat on his head, he recalled.

He was a happy-go-lucky kid ... a nice kid, a good kid," Evangelista said.

Throughout Ludlow, Western Massachusetts and the larger fraternity of Marines, there was a shared sadness as news spread of Desforges' death Wednesday in a remote section of Afghanistan.

Desforges, 23, a six-year veteran of the Marine Corps, died "as a result of a hostile incident while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan," according to a statement issued by the 2nd Division Office of Public Affairs.

He was a squad leader assigned to the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, I Marine Expeditionary Force Forward. He was midway through his second tour in Afghanistan, having been deployed there in December, the statement read. His previous tour was March through September 2008.

A statement issued by his parents, David and Arlene Desforges, of West Street, on Friday afternoon through the office of Sen. John F. Kerry, said "We mourn the death of Sgt. Joshua Desforges, - a son, a brother, a grandson, a nephew, and American hero - but most of all, our best friend."

The statement goes on to ask people respect the family's wish for privacy in the coming days as it grieves his loss.

The statement also notes that Desforges died living his life's dream, which was to be a member of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Command Museum Opens Recruit Training Gallery, Teaches History of Depot

MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO - Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego consistently upgrades its facilities and after years of planning and more than six months of construction, the Visitors Reception Center is host to the new Boot Camp Gallery at the depot's James L. Day Command Museum. The facility's new addition was unveiled and had its first visitors during a reception, Feb 26.


Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego More Stories from Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.15.2010
Posted: 05.15.2010 08:10

By Lance Cpl. Frances Candelaria

The Command Museum was constructed in November 1987, and is one of the base's hot spots on Family Day and at graduations. The new gallery, located on the first, gallery illustrates the recruits' journey through boot camp, as well as the evolution of recruit training throughout history and the depot itself. The gallery even has yellow footprints, a pull-up bar and a weighted pack so visitors can feel how much weight the recruits carry during their hikes. The staff anticipates visitors being more interactive and gaining more insight and knowledge of recruit training.

"Hopefully it will give families a better understanding of what their loved one went through," said Joanie Schwarz-Wetter, education specialist, Command Museum.

Chuck Archuleta, exhibit specialist at the Command Museum, said that the recruits get a tour on training day 56, and in turn can show their families around when they come to visit the depot. He said the museum is open to anyone on base and highly recommends everyone to visit the museum and its new exhibit.

Archuleta pointed out the new PME theater classroom connected to the Boot Camp Gallery, and said once the final electrical touches have been added, the museum will be fully functional.

While awaiting the finishing details of the gallery and the Professional Military Education classroom to come together, the museum's staff strongly encourages anyone and everyone to book the Visitors Reception Center for an event. So far they have hosted one reception and received positive feedback.

"Visitors were very pleased with the space during the event," said Ellen Guillemette, archivist, Command Museum. "It has the right ambiance."

The entire museum staff is excited to see all the long hours of planning and hard work finally come together, said Guillemette.

"Seeing what the team could do working together and the effort put forth by the staff was great, but when the visitors first walk in and say 'Wow', that's what makes it all worthwhile," said Archuleta.

The staff is happy with the outcome of the new exhibit and hopes more people and organizations will use the center for hosting more ceremonies, classes and events in the future.

30 militants dead in Afghan, NATO raids

By Rahim Faiez - The Associated Press
Posted : Saturday May 15, 2010 10:07:11 EDT

KABUL — Afghan and coalition forces conducted sweeps across Afghanistan that left at least 30 militants dead, while insurgents in the east killed five security guards in an ambush on a convoy, officials said Saturday.

To read the entire article:


Afghan effort fruitful but fragile, commander says

Camp Pendleton Marines and other U.S. troops are making inroads against insurgents in southern Afghanistan — cutting poppy production, gleaning intelligence, training Afghan soldiers and repopulating former Taliban strongholds — but the next months are critical in the nearly nine-year war, the commander of Marine forces in Afghanistan said Friday.


Saturday, May 15, 2010 at 12:04 a.m.

“We are making progress,” Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills said in a video news conference from Camp Leatherneck in Helmand province. Then he cautioned, “We have some tough fighting ahead of us.”

Mills, who hails from Camp Pendleton’s 1st Marine Division, took command this spring as a surge of 30,000 additional troops authorized by President Barack Obama cycled into Afghanistan, nearly doubling the force in Helmand province to about 20,000 Marines.

More than 17,000 troops from the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force will deploy there this year.

In the past eight months, the overall military commander in Afghanistan, Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has embraced a counterinsurgency plan with tighter rules of engagement to safeguard civilians.

His relatively new military strategy could be undermined by politics, with overtones of that conflict arising during Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s visit to Washington, D.C., this week. Obama and other White House leaders welcomed Karzai, but the meeting followed a summer re-election campaign marred by allegations of fraud against him and growing tension with the U.S. over rampant corruption in his administration and disagreements about whether to welcome the Taliban into Afghanistan’s government.

McChrystal, speaking at a Pentagon news conference Thursday, echoed Obama’s message in recent weeks that the fight in Afghanistan will get worse before it gets better. “We should expect increased violence as our combined security forces expand into Taliban-controlled areas,” the general said.

Afghanistan had become known as the forgotten war while the previous presidential administration focused on Iraq. The Taliban regrouped, and poppy production soared. Rep. Ike Skelton, a Missouri Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, once wrote Obama a letter describing the approach in Afghanistan as “half-ass it and hope.”

In Mills’ area of operations in Helmand, he has seen nascent signs of success, including significant improvements in security, economic activity and political leadership since his initial battlefield survey in December.

Among those Mills cited:

• Former no-go zones for “the legitimate government of Afghanistan” such as Now Zad and Marjah, both heavily mined scenes of fighting, now have emerging economies and civil services.

• More than 50 percent of authorized government officials in the province have been able to go to work safely.

• About half the poppy production in Helmand has been eliminated. Marines have seized nearly 5 tons of raw opium in recent weeks, and they are promoting a program to encourage farmers to grow wheat instead.

Afghanistan’s poppy fields, many of them in the Helmand region, are a major source of funding for the Taliban. They also account for about 90 percent of the worldwide supply of opium.

• Engagement teams of female Marines have been able to connect with Afghan women, often gaining significant intelligence information. A hotline for anonymous tips also is bearing fruit.

Although progress training the Afghan police forces has been slow, Mills conceded, efforts with the Afghan army are proceeding well.

After a lull during the poppy harvest, the frequency of attacks has resumed and all of his battalions are engaged in regular combat against a “ruthless enemy” whose tactics of choice have been roadside bombs and hit-and-run, guerrilla-style ambushes, Mills said.

Nine Marines were killed in the province this month, including two last week from Camp Pendleton who died in a bomb attack while on foot patrol.

The swelling number of Marines sent to Helmand province has allowed the military to reinforce the main population centers straddling the river valley and push into some new areas such as Musa Qala in the north.

Improvements are steady and noticeable, even if they aren’t happening overnight, Mills said. “Things are better here than they were in December,” he added.

But the Marines, as well as the Afghans, are aware that the clock is ticking.

“We will be here with them as we develop the Afghan security forces to eventually take over our role, so we can leave,” Mills said. The Afghans “have been very, very concerned we may leave them prematurely.”

Defense analysts have drawn differing conclusions in recent months from the broader view of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, with some seeing the glass half empty, others half full.

“It is not at all clear that we have made much progress in the long-term goal of creating a stable, peaceful environment in Afghanistan,” said Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who returned recently from a research trip to Afghanistan.

“This is not a failing of the U.S. military; this is a problem of our Afghan partners. The Afghan government itself is greatly flawed.”

Another problem: “We don’t have nearly enough troops to control and rule the entire country. It is kind of like a balloon. You squeeze it in one place and the insurgency shows up somewhere else,” Bandow said.

The key in this area of the world, Mills said, “is to manage expectations.”

1,000 Hawaii Marines depart for Afghanistan deployment

Battalion back in the fight with 7-month tour in Afghanistan

KĀNE'OHE BAY — Marine Corps Gunner James Law was a tender-talking dad one minute and tough-as-nails Marine the next.



Saturday, May 15, 2010
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

"Be nice to your sister, OK?" the tall Marine said soothingly yesterday to his oldest daughter, Caroline, 5, as the blonde girl clung to his leg.

Once Law said goodbye to his wife, Regina, who is pregnant, and their three daughters, he went into deployment mode. He's been through this many times, and he knows how to switch his focus quickly.

"It's always easy, my friend. You just keep your head on a swivel and you do your job."

Law and about 1,000 other Hawai'i Marines are headed to Afghanistan, and after two previous tours to Iraq and one prior mission to Afghanistan, the 36-year-old's philosophy is simple: Keep your mind on the mission so you can come home to family.

"If you cry and moan about family, you (can) get hurt," the Portland, Ore., man and 18-year Marine said.

"He loves what he does," said Regina Law, who blew a kiss to her husband as he sat on a bus. "He's absolutely made to do what he's doing right now."

About 380 Marines with the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, left yesterday for Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam and a series of flights that will take them to Afghanistan for seven months of duty in Helmand province in the south.

About seven months ago the battalion returned from Iraq.

Since 2004, "America's Battalion," as it is known, has deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq three times, and now back to Afghanistan.

The three infantry battalions at Kāne'ohe Bay now rotate through deployments to southern Afghanistan. The 3rd Battalion will replace the 1st Battalion, which has lost five Marines since it deployed in November.

Afghanistan has become the Marine Corps' main challenge with the Iraq war winding down.

Battalion commander Lt. Col. Jeff Holt, 40, is confident. "We know what we're doing," Holt said at yesterday's pre-deployment gathering of Marines, families and gear near the commissary and base chapel. "We're certainly well trained. We've had a great pre-deployment training workup. So we look forward to going over there and doing what we do as Marines."

Nine years into the war, experts are divided on President Obama's counterinsurgency strategy, which places a premium on protecting the Afghan people.

According to an April report to Congress, as of March 31 there were about 87,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That total is expected to increase to 98,000 by August.

The progress report said polls show that Afghans see security as improved, but violence is up from a year ago. Insurgents perceived 2009 as their most successful year, and the Afghan insurgency "has a robust means of sustaining its operations," the report said.

Nawa, in central Helmand where Hawai'i's 1st Battalion Marines operate and the 3rd Battalion will take over, is seen by some Afghanistan experts as having reached "hold" and "build" phases of the U.S. "clear, hold and build" counterinsurgency strategy.

Helmand is a poppy-producing region and the profits of that trade have financed militants. Holt said the region has about 90 percent wheat and 10 percent poppy production.

Efforts are being made to encourage the growth of crops such as wheat and pomegranates, Holt said.

"That's the challenge of Afghanistan," he said. "They can grow anything ... but to not get taxed on the roads and to get it moved quickly is a challenge that most Afghans have."

Yesterday's pre-deployment gathering showed how many relatively new Marines are part of infantry battalions and are making their first trip to a war zone.

About a third of the 1,000-Marine battalion is made up of returning veterans of overseas deployments, while two-thirds of its members are on their first deployment, Holt said.

"One-third is a whole (lot) of experience — folks that have done Afghanistan before, have done Iraq before and understand the environment of counterinsurgency," he said.

First Lt. Michael Bishoff, 26, has been a Marine for about three years. He's making his first combat deployment.

"This is what I signed up to do, and I'm looking forward to doing it," the Mississippi man said.

Mary Stokes looked on tearfully as her husband, 24-year-old 1st. Lt. Jason Stokes, sat on the white bus that would take him to Hickam.

The Florida couple has been married for nine months.

"Hardest thing I ever had to do," she said. Stokes added she was "just anxious more than anything. Of course I'm worried, but I know he's going to do a good job."

How does her husband feel about going to Afghan- istan?

"He's stoked. He's ready," she said.

IJC Operational Update, May 15

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan-international combined force killed several militants and captured several as they searched for a Taliban leader in Baghlan last night.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 05.15.2010
Posted: 05.15.2010 05:48

The security force went to a compound in a rural area of the Baghlan-e Jedid district after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. At the compound, the Afghan members of the assault force called for the insurgents to surrender, but the individuals refused to lay down their arms and engaged the security force.

The combined force returned fire and several militants were killed. Other insurgents surrendered and were detained. Two of the militants, including one woman who attempted to engage the assault force with an automatic rifle, were wounded. All wounded individuals were medically evacuated to a nearby hospital.

No civilians were harmed, and the search team found multiple automatic rifles, grenades and tactical communications equipment.

In Kandahar last night, a joint security force searched a compound west of Seyyedan, in the Kandahar district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. During the search the security force detained several suspected insurgents for further questioning.

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

In Logar last night, an Afghan-international security force detained a few suspected insurgents as they searched for a Taliban improvised explosive device cell commander.

The combined force went to the town of Sejawand, in the Baraki Barak district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity and detained the suspected militants for further questioning.
No shots were fired and no Afghan citizens were harmed during the operation.

A joint security force yesterday recovered a coalition helicopter that had been on a landing site in Kandahar for 24 hours.

The helicopter was part of an operation Thursday night north of the village of Mian, in the Kandahar district. As it landed the aircraft was damaged. No one was injured and the troops continued their mission.

After landing, it was determined the helicopter could not be flown and despite occasional harassing fire from insurgents, maintenance personnel were able to configure the aircraft to be externally loaded below another helicopter and flown intact back to a base.

Additionally, the coalition helicopter damaged during a hard landing in northern Kandahar province, as reported in IJC News Release 2010-05-CA-057, was destroyed on site by ISAF forces yesterday.

Enemy forces were not responsible for either of these accidents.

Afghan National Security Forces with ISAF partners conducted a combined operation early Thursday morning in Malmand Chinnah, Helmand province. Two compounds were identified as possible locations for a known senior insurgent commander. The operation was conducted in order to search the compounds and locate the insurgent commander.

After the combined force secured both compounds, Afghan Special Police conducted numerous callouts in local dialects. Multiple men, women and children came out of the compounds and were moved to a safe area for the duration of the operation.

The operation resulted in the capture of several insurgents, seizure of a small consignment of narcotics and an assault rifle.

In another operation, ISAF forces found eight IED's in the Kuhak school courtyard in Kandahar province Tuesday. The IED's were found during a security patrol in the Arghandab district conducted in support of Hamkari. The patrol also found 56 kilograms (125 pounds) of homemade explosives and two anti-personnel mines in the schoolyard.

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

May 14, 2010

'First Team' Marines seize day, airfield

TWENTYNINE PALMS AIRPORT, Calif. — Sand blew lightly across a quiet Twentynine Palms’ Airport runway, as the chopping sounds of flying metal beasts echoed throughout the Morongo Basin May 10.


5/14/2010 By Cpl. Andrew Avitt , Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

The Marines, with Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, glided to the soft sand now whirling around their CH-53 Super Stallion helicopters, as shots from role-playing insurgent fighters rang out across the airfield.

Company C’s objective was to seize control of the airfield from a para-military group and hold it until reinforcements arrived to make the airfield completely operational.

“We came in, got out and centered on line,” recalled Lance Cpl. Thomas Freeman, team leader of third platoon, Co. C, 1st Bn., 7th Marines, “I called the squad leader and told him, ‘Hey we’ve got a lot of guys over there with AK-47s.’ At that time they opened fire on us, so we started blasting them.”

Freeman was on the first of three helicopter waves transporting Marines directly to the airfield for the assault and eventual take-over of the installation.

This exercise was just one installment in the battalion’s training for their upcoming role as the battalion landing team with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit this summer. Marines usually try to avoid such a “hard hit” on an airfield in order to harness the element of surprise, but some situations may require it, said 1st Lt. Jeremiah Adams, Co. C’s executive officer.

“Usually the first thing we do when we step into a theater is secure an airfield,” Adams said. “It’s a standard MEU mission that is necessary to facilitate the insertion of the rest of a much larger force. “One of the missions we have been tasked with while on the MEU is airfield seizure, which is something that would be used to insert follow on forces.”

As the first wave returned fire, the enemy fighters retreated into two buildings on edge of the runway.

“They had the advantage, and we were in the open,” Freeman said. “First squad started swinging around to close the gate as our squad started pushing up.

“We have all these small skills you develop as an infantryman, and in a situation like this, you have to combine them all at once,” he said. “We incorporated buddy team rushes, room clearing, calling for fire, setting up a defense, security. It was a culminating event.”

After pushing across the runway and clearing each building, Marines gathered intelligence as they prepared for the follow-on waves of reinforcements.

“It’s a two part operation,” Adams said. “At first you’re being very aggressive, and then you’ve got to flip the switch and sit back and tell yourself, ‘Alright, I’m not assaulting this place anymore, I have to defend it. How do I stop what happened to the people here earlier from happening to me?’”

Follow-on reinforcements included increased firepower, air traffic controllers and engineers to make the airfield operational as soon as possible.

“The whole point is to be able to use the runway and the airfield, so with this in mind we want to preserve it,” Adams said, “The last thing you want to do is add weeks or months to an operation” because the airfield needs to be repaired.

As additional waves made their landings and the raiding force grew, the chances of a successful counterstrike from the enemy greatly decreased. First team was in control and the airfield was open for business.

300 Kaneohe Marines Head Back To Afghanistan

3rd Marine Regiment Most Deployed, Suffered Most Casualties

KANEOHE, Hawaii -- Members of the 3rd battalion, 3rd marine regiment from the Marine Corp Base Hawaii at Kaneohe left Afghanistan Friday for a 7 month deployment.


POSTED: 12:34 pm HST May 14, 2010
UPDATED: 2:00 pm HST May 14, 2010

Couples and families enjoyed their last few embraces, emotions overflowed and some Marines took a few moment for themselves. Military deployments are never easy and for these 300 Marines, this one comes with added burden. The 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment has had the most deployments of any Marine unit. There have been 28 deployments for 15,500 marines and sailors since 2001.

"We've had the least amount of time back home than the others and we've also had the most sacrifice of casualties than any other marine regiment in the Marine Corps. That's a telling story on how much we've given to the war on terror," said battalion commander Lt. Col. Jeff Holt.

The attacks of September 11, 2001 inspired Sgt. Roger Ruiz and his wife, Elizabeth, who is a former Marine, to join the military. Sgt Ruiz has been deployed before, but this trip is different because he's not just leaving behind Elizabeth, but also 11-month-old BreAunna.

"This is one is a little bit rougher than the last time, having to say good bye to both of them," said Ruiz.

"It's really hard. I knew he's going to miss a lot. She's not walking yet, but she's almost there. Father's Day. Christmas. It's tough," said Elizabeth Ruiz.

This is the fourth Middle East deployment for these Marines. They'll be in Nawa in southwestern Afghanistan. They will be patrolling areas, training Afghan security forces and working on reconstruction. Marine commanders said one-third of these marine are war veterans. For two-thirds of them, this is their first deployment. Holt said his Marines are well-trained and ready and he's seen progress already being made in Nawa, but he's worried about post traumatic stress from combat.

"We are infantry. We are grunts so we have the hardest job in the, I think, in the Marine Corp," saidHolt.

But Elizabeth Ruiz said her husband is making personal sacrifices for the freedom of their daughter and all Americans.

"He's a hero, so he went out there to fight for her, and I'm proud of him," she said.

Welcome to 'The Jungle': MALS-16 Marines Keep Warehouse Running, Squadrons Flying

CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan – Ever had to track a dozen things at once? How about a hundred? A thousand? Imagine being responsible for buying, receiving, organizing and issuing more than 16,000 different parts required to keep an entire Marine aircraft wing operational in a harsh combat zone.


3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs More Stories from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs RSS
Story by Cpl. Ryan Rholes!
Date: 05.14.2010
Posted: 05.14.2010 11:23

That is the role of the consumable management division Marines with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 16 – tucked away amidst a maze of storage containers and mountains of equipment and gear here. These warriors serve as the entry point for every piece and part needed to keep 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward)'s birds in the air and our support squadrons rolling.

The process starts with the consumable control branch Marines working at the MALS 16 compound. Two Marines run this integral section, working 12-hour shifts ordering stock items, reviewing order statuses and fixing order errors. Although it may sound it to some, this job is far from easy. These Marines have ordered more than $21 million worth of gear, conducted a massive inventory that recovered $4 million of delinquent gear, raised their computer inventory accuracy from 76 to 98 percent and resolved 3, 641 discrepancies by conducting a wall-to-wall inventory after arriving Feb. 20.

"We don't put your average Marine in this section. This is usually where our best guys end up," said Gunnery Sgt. Maurice Williams, a Columbus, Miss., native serving as the CMD staff noncommissioned officer in charge. "I've never seen a perfect system, so 98 percent accuracy is pretty top notch."

But ordering parts and finding discrepancies in the inventory system is only part of the process. While CCB Marines act like a quality assurance asset, the 18 Marines operating the squadron's warehouse, sometimes referred to as "the jungle," get hands-on with everything that passes through the squadron.

The warehouse Marines serve as the receiving point for 3rd MAW and get as many as 12 deliveries a day, containing anywhere from 50 to hundreds of items. The Marines unload the deliveries in blazing heat with no air conditioner for reprieve, and then begin the tedious process of passing items off, categorizing and delivering items, and storing and logging stock items.

The Marines pass items damaged in transit to the repairable management division. Next, they prioritize items going straight to squadrons into three categories: priority 2, 5 or 12. Priority 2 items are items keeping an aircraft from flying – the Marines deliver them first. Priority 5 items are parts not keeping an aircraft from flying, but need replacing. Priority 12 items are indirect items such as office or shop materials and supplies. The delivery Marines usually deliver 200 to 300 items each day.

"Our delivery Marines are in and out all day and every time they leave and return their times are logged so that everyone can see and make sure they are moving as fast as they can to get this stuff where it goes," said Williams.

While some Marines are categorizing and delivering the direct turnover items, others are responsible for logging and storing the stock items, which are line items needed so frequently by squadrons that the MALS keeps them on hand. A common misconception is that a line item is a single part. However, a line item actually refers to a specific part, meaning that 5,000 of the same type of screw count as one line item.

The process is intricate, the hours long and hot, and the job sometimes thankless, however these Marines serve as the nerve center for the flight line. A helicopter cannot fly without a pilot, but a pilot can't fly a helicopter missing essential parts. A service only possible through Marines brave enough to face "the jungle."

Army Chief Presents Medals at Warrior Games

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., - Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. made a surprise visit to the inaugural Warrior Games here, May 13, capping a pivotal night in medal game play.


Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs More Stories from Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs RSS
Story by Fred Baker
Date: 05.14.2010
Posted: 05.14.2010 10:11

Unfortunately for the Army's top military officer, he had to hang gold medals around Marine Corps teams' necks, as they topped the Army teams in both the sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball competitions.

Following some adrenaline-filled action and before a packed auditorium, the Army landed silver in both categories, but when asked if he minded awarding the top prize to the Marines, Casey replied, "Not at all, not at all."

Casey, who has spearheaded wounded warrior care reform in the Army, received a rock-star's welcome, with troops from all services lining up for photos. He even autographed a few Warrior Games posters, and he presented the medals after the final basketball game.

Casey bypassed the designated VIP section and walked onto the gym floor just after the Army-Marine volleyball matchup, shaking hands and patting shoulders.

"How are you feeling?" he asked one soldier.

"I'm feeling good, sir. I'm feeling real good," was the response.

Casey asked some servicemembers which competitions they were entering.

"I'll see you at the finish line," said one soldier in a reference to the track and field competitions scheduled today.

The general stopped frequently to allow troops and spouses to have their photo taken with him.
"Sir, I'd like to have a picture with you," one soldier asked.

"I'd be honored," Casey replied.

"That'll be on Facebook tomorrow," the Army chief joked afterward.

After the medals presentation for the volleyball competition, Casey took in the basketball finals. After the game, he said he saw pride in each servicemember's face on both teams.

"Why these [games] are so important is they're bringing these young men and women [together], and they're allowing them to compete and allowing them to get those competitive juices going again," Casey said.

Casey said that he thinks these inaugural Warrior Games will spawn future regional competitions to better prepare the athletes for competition in the games.

"I think it's going to be great," he said. "I think it's going to have a huge trickle-down effect all across our warrior transition units."

Because Casey has traveled around visiting troops in military hospitals, he recognized many of the athletes. Army Sgt. 1st Class Jacque Keeslar said he first met Casey while in physical rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

"It was a real honor to receive the medal from the chief of staff of the Army," he said. "It was an awesome experience."

Keeslar said Casey told him, "Good job, old man."

At 40, Keeslar is the oldest member of his team. He was competing on the court against troops nearly half his age.

Keeslar said he believes the Army leadership is doing everything it can for wounded warriors. "Sometimes it may seem like it falls short," he said, "but they're doing everything that they can. When you're in a situation like this, you can't [ever] get what you need fast enough. Our leadership is working the best they can for us."

Keeslar will retire with 20 years of service this year. He has continued to serve in the Army as a double-leg amputee for the past five years as a platoon sergeant for the Army's warrior transition command at the Navy medical center in San Diego.

The Warrior Games wrap up here today with track and field competitions and the swimming finals. The event will end with an awards presentation, where the ultimate champion and the Chairman's Cup awards will be presented.

IED Attack Kills Two Marines

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.

Patrol Base Karma, Afghanistan

About 10 o'clock last Tuesday morning we heard an explosion to the north of Patrol Base Karma - minutes later we heard there were two Marines down - members of a patrol that had left the base at 6 am.


May 14, 2010 1:22 PM
Posted by Terry McCarthy

We went with the Marines that were sent out as a quick reaction force to the scene of the IED.

En route, Staff Sergeant Worley asked for an update on the status of the casualties, and we heard the words "two angels" come across the radio.

Both men were dead.

The Marines used metal detectors to sweep the road as far as the blast scene in case there were other IEDs in place - it took about half an hour to travel the mile and a half. The crater spanned the entire width of the dirt road and was about waist deep - the explosives experts estimated there was about 60 lbs of explosive in the IED.

When we arrived at the site we found an Afghan Army sergeant, Ali Reza Hussein, who was limping - it turned out he had been right behind the two Marines who died.

He said they had just crossed a field to the west and had stepped onto the road. The two Marines who were in front, Sergeant Kenneth May and Corporal Jeffery Johnson, were both carrying metal detectors. They spotted some freshly disturbed earth on the road and went to sweep it - Sgt Ali said he thought it was just camel dung. But as they approached the suspect site, the IED detonated. Both men were killed instantly, Sgt Ali was blown off his feet and hurt his ankle.

The Marines secured the scene, wary of any ambush that the Taliban might have been planning, and recovered the bodies. Both bodies were put in black body bags. Each bag was lifted up by six Marines - three holding each side - and marched slowly away. It was not planned, but it instantly became a very solemn scene, a foreshadowing of the funerals that will be held for both men back in the US. Everybody else stood in complete silence - the only thing one could hear was the crickets chirping in the hot midday sun.

IJC Operational Update, May 14

KABUL, Afghanistan – A Taliban sub-commander and other insurgents were killed, and two insurgents were captured, by an Afghan-international security force in Nangarhar last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.14.2010
Posted: 05.14.2010 02:44

The combined force went to a compound outside the village of Qal'eh-ye Allah Nazar, in the Surkh Rod district, after intelligence information verified insurgent activity.

As the joint force approached the compound they received automatic gunfire. During the firefight the security force attempted several callouts without success. After the fighting ended it was discovered that one of the militants killed was a Taliban sub-commander responsible for rocket attacks and ambushes against ISAF forces.

The two militants captured were wounded, and were evacuated to a local ISAF medical treatment facility. Reports indicate no civilians were harmed during the operation.

The combined force found multiple automatic rifles, a shotgun, pistols and communications equipment in and around the compound.

In Zabul last night, multiple insurgents were killed after intelligence assets tracked a group of insurgents in a rural area east of Chakar Kheyl, in the Tarnak-wa Jeldak district, for several hours. Using precision aerial fires, the armed insurgents were killed.

A joint security force found an anti-tank mine, multiple improvised explosive device components, multiple rocket propelled grenade launchers, rocket rounds, automatic rifles and communications equipment.

Reports indicate no civilians were harmed during this operation.

In a separate operation in Zabul yesterday, two Taliban commanders were killed by an Afghan-international security force after intelligence assets tracked a vehicle in a rural area of the Tarnak-wa Jeldak district after finding indications of militant activity. As the assault force approached the vehicle they received hostile fire. The joint force returned fire and killed the two occupants, both Taliban commanders. These Taliban were responsible for several IED attacks and small arms ambushes on Afghan and ISAF forces. The assault force searched the vehicle and found automatic rifles and communications equipment.

Reports indicate no civilians were harmed during this operation.

Another Afghan-international security force captured a Haqqani-network IED facilitator and several other militants in Khost last night while acting on intelligence information that led the force to a compound north of Mehdi Kheyl, in the Tereyzai district. The IED facilitator is responsible for purchasing and building IEDs used against ISAF and Afghan forces.

The assault force found IED materials, blasting caps and demolition cord at the site. A local madrassa, normally meant for religious instruction, was used as the weapons storage facility.

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

A separate Afghan-international security force captured a Haqqani-network commander and multiple suspected insurgents in Khost province yesterday.

The combined force went to a compound in the Terayzai district after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity and captured the Haqqani-network commander responsible for training and making electronics used in detonating IED's, and the other insurgents.

During the search, an armed insurgent tried to flee the compound. As the assault force attempted to capture the insurgent, he open-fired on the assault force and was shot and killed.

The search team found multiple AK-47's, rifles, grenades and ammunition in the compound. Reports indicate no civilians were harmed during this operation.

An Afghan-International security force killed an insurgent and captured a foreign fighter facilitator and other militants in an operation east of Barakat, in the Ab Band district of Ghazni province last night.

When the assault force approached the targeted area an armed militant was seen running away. As a security force pursued the insurgent, he turned to fire on the joint force and was shot and killed.

Automatic rifles and ammunition were found on site. Reports indicate no civilians were harmed during this operation.

An Afghan-international security force killed multiple militants and captured another in Ghazni province Thursday morning.

After receiving intelligence information of militant activity, the combined force went to a compound north of Qara Bagh, Khanjari district. As the assault force approached, a group of armed militants were observed moving from the compound to a nearby tree line, likely to establish ambush positions. As the security force cleared the area they came under enemy fire. The security force returned fire, killing the insurgents. Examination of the militant fighting positions in the tree line found machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and automatic rifles.

Reports indicate no civilians were harmed, and the weapons were destroyed on site.

A Taliban commander, responsible for planning and executing attacks against coalition forces, and several other militants were captured by an Afghan-international security force in Helmand province last night while searching a small compound approximately five miles west of Marjeh after intelligence information revealed insurgent activity. No shots were fired and no civilians were harmed in this operation.

A coalition helicopter conducting joint Afghan-international security force operation was damaged during a hard landing earlier today in northern Kandahar province.

No one was killed, but several coalition and Afghan servicemembers were injured and were medically evacuated to a nearby ISAF medical treatment facility.

Enemy actions were not responsible for this accident.

Afghan commandos, with coalition partners, have secured the crash site, and the cause of the accident is being investigated.

'Red Cloud' Marines Rub Elbows With Afghan Locals During Latest Logistics Patrol

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- During their latest combat logistics patrol in the region May 7-11, Marines from Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), were able to spend time getting to know the native population on friendly terms.



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Story by Sgt. Justin Shemanski
Date: 05.14.2010
Posted: 05.14.2010 07:30

The multiple-day resupply mission in support of the 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, took the Marines of Bravo Company to several locations in and around Now Zad and Musa Qal'eh. Though these days consisted of long hours and hard work, the Marines were happy to spend some time with the curious groups of locals who gathered around to watch them in action at a few of their stops along their route.

Villagers, including dozens of children, flocked around the Leathernecks as they were eager to voice their wants and needs and discuss security and local issues with the patrol. They also took the opportunity to sell and trade items such as hats, toys, scarves and even food stuffs to include live chickens, turkeys, lambs, bread and vegetables.

The Marines enjoyed the experience perhaps even more than the villagers, as it was a welcome change of pace from day to day operations throughout Helmand province.

Hometown hero honored

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- People are calling Corporal Tyler Southern a hometown hero.

Click above link for an accompanying News Video.

Last Update: 5/14 11:54 pm

Southern joined the Marine's right after graduating from Mandarin high school. He left for Afganistan on March 10th, but his tour ended abruptly last week.

"He's having good days and bad days. Last night was particularly bad with the high fever and infections," says Southern's uncle Andrew Conrad.

The 20-year-old Marine lost both legs and his right arm when an IED went off. He's been in and out of surgery for the past week.

The young man's uncle says Tyler woke up for the first time Thursday morning and noticed his legs were gone. "Pretty dramatic time for the family. He's the first tri-amputee that has survived in his unit so we're lucky he's still here with us," says Conrad.

And now this hometown hero is being honored. Hundreds of fans at Friday night's Sharks game yelled hero as the soldiers family tossed the coin before kickoff.

Though a horrible tragedy has altered his life, Tyler's family says his spirit is strong. He dreamed of fighting for his country, but you can never imagine the sacrifices. "He"s America's hero. He was doing what he wanted to do and deserves our support and prayers for his recovery," added Conrad.

Hard Corps Pipes: Accomplished CLB-6 Bagpipe Player Laces Afghan Air With Musical Motivation

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- Aside from the periodic hum of a hovering MV-22 Osprey in the distance or the muted chatter of the thousands of soldiers, sailors and Marines milling about in front of the stage, all else was silent.



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Story by Sgt. Justin Shemanski
Date: 05.14.2010
Posted: 05.14.2010 05:45

Then, the warm-up began.

At once, the two Marines exhaled deep breathes of air into their respective mouthpieces and the sharp sound of their instruments pierced the air of their darkened position here. A small crowd began to form around them, but it wasn't quite show time yet. The two Marines, Sgt. Mark Matice, a utilities NCO with Marine Wing Support Squadron 274 and Lance Cpl. Rory MacEachern, a military policeman with Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), would perform together as the opening act for the United Services Organization Toby Keith concert May 5.

Unlike most opening acts Keith fans are probably accustomed to, the two Marines marched on stage without guitars or drum sticks, but their own unique weapons of musical motivation - bagpipes.

After belting out a couple of piper classics, including "Amazing Grace," the crowd went wild and this was perfectly okay with MacEachern, a 13-year-veteran of the bagpipe scene.

"This was the biggest crowd I've ever played in front of and it means even more because of where it is," said MacEachern. "The whole experience, from Tobey Keith being here to everyone out having a good time, is amazing."

That statement says quit a lot, considering the North Attleboro, Mass., native has played all over New England and Canada on a competitive level and more times than not, walked away with his band mates as victors.

MacEachern began playing at the ripe age of seven, along with his father and an uncle, after they all made a deal with one another.

"It was all about carrying on a family tradition," said the 20-year-old. "My great grandfather played pipes in the Canadian Army during World War I. My dad, uncle and I were at the Maine Highlander Games one year and all decided we would learn how to how to play."

Though initially he had a little trouble handling the instrument do to his youthful size, he eventually grew into it and hasn't looked back. He has performed with four different bands and won seven of eight competitions. On one occasion, he even bested his uncle's third place award by finishing right at the top.

"Some of the bigger events I have done back home include the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Boston – I'm sure you can imagine how insane that was and I also played along with the chief of police, of Franklin, Mass., for the mayor as part of the 'Blue Brigade,'" said MacEachern. "Ultimately though, my dream is to finish my tour as a Marine and play with the Massachusetts State Police Bagpipe Band."

For the time being though, he is quiet happy playing to his brothers and sisters in arms. In addition to the occasional evening performance here, MacEachern has treated the hundreds of newly-minted Marines and their families to an impromptu performance in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial upon graduating from recruit training aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C. He also played as part of the graduation ceremonies upon completing military occupational specialty school aboard Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

According to MacEachern, it's his personal way to keep spirits up.

"A lot of people are pretty surprised to hear bagpipes playing out here," he said. "I get mixed emotions – people love it or hate it – but, for the most part Marines seem to really like it. I think it helps bring morale up and that's always a good thing out here."

Afghanistan bound

A chance connection and a curious child paved the way for a stack of packages to travel to Afghanistan

A chance connection and a curious child paved the way for a stack of packages to travel to Afghanistan, laden with gifts for a Marine platoon.


Published May 14 2010
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram

Last week, students in Britta DeSutter’s fourth grade classroom at Northern Lights Elementary School teamed up to pack the items for shipping – everything from socks and Chapstick to sunflower seeds and shampoo. In each of the six boxes rested letters from the students.

“Dear Soldier, Thank you for fighting in the war,” write Dillon Ingles-Johnson, 9. “I sent you guys five packages full of gum and a can full of nuts, three bags of sunflower seeds. I am planting seeds in school. The seeds we planted are sunflower seeds, carrot seeds, corn seeds and it’s taking forever to grow. Have you ever planted seeds? If you can write back, please do.”

Appreciation was evident in the short notes.

“Dear soldier, Thank you for serving our country,” wrote Rickey Retelney, 10. “Our class is planting seeds, how about you? Write back soon.”

When students were asked what the Marines will like best, some pointed to the Girl Scout cookies, Tootsie Rolls or signed Spartan football.

“It will remind them of home,” said Dennis Jarvis, 10.

Zach Lego, 9, said the project wasn’t just about items.

“I think they’re going to like that we sent them things to use,” he said. “They’ll know somebody cares about them.”

The project began when Mona Plunkett befriended a coworker at United Health Group. The woman, who was in Duluth to start a new team at the business, has a son serving with the Marines in Afghanistan. Plunkett’s son, Max, was already curious about the conflict in Afghanistan because a family member is heading there soon. Plunkett’s friend forwarded her pictures of the platoon, which sparked more questions from her son – how long they have to be there, whether they can call home, etc.

“Max was so amazed at how young some of the soldiers are,” Plunkett said.

She asked if he wanted to write to them. Then, she asked DeSutter if the teacher wanted to involve the entire class.

“It started out really small and then the kids started getting more and more excited about it,” DeSutter said.

They found connections between the current conflicts and classwork on World War II, the Great Depression and the Holocaust. In their community circle, they shared appreciations for the troops.

“It was a nice time to be able to talk about current events when we don’t do that a lot in fourth grade,” DeSutter said.

More questions came up at home.

“I know my son wondered why they wanted baby wipes and who doesn’t have Q-Tips and those questions led to more in-depth questions of why are our soldiers in Afghanistan, and what are the protecting and how long do they have to stay,” Plunkett said.

For two weeks, the children brought in donations from home.

“I gave them a list of the most needed items and the kids added to that list,” Plunkett said. “I was truly amazed and proud of how much stuff they collected.”

Last Friday, the items were packed up for travel. There were fun items like footballs and a Yahtzee game, comfort gifts like baby wipes and lip gloss, as well as a host of American snack items.

“And fresh socks so their feet don’t stink,” Rickey said.

Tricia Prior, 10, knows how important messages from home can be. Her father, a member of the Wisconsin Army National Guard 950th Engineer Company based in Superior, is serving overseas in Iraq. She was happy to help out the Marines.

“I think it’s important because there’s more soldiers than just my dad and his troop,” Tricia said. “There’s a lot of soldiers. A lot of them are risking their lives for our lives.”

The small project grew into a large outpouring. More than six boxes are now on their way to Afghanistan, filled with gifts and good wishes. Plunkett said it’s important for youth and adults to remember that we have soldiers out there in war zones every day.

“And I am happy to know that at least one military unit will know that we have not forgotten where they are and what they’re doing,” she said.

DeSutter said the project could spark more than questions.

“With the project, my hope is that they’ll remember this and be more inclined to give again,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a big deal every time.”

Inaugural Warrior Games Set to Wrap Up

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The inaugural Warrior Games at the Olympic Training Center here will draw to a close this evening, leaving in their wake a few hundred happy, but very tired troops, family members and volunteers.


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Story by Fred Baker
Date: 05.14.2010
Posted: 05.14.2010 09:22

The week-long series of games drew enthusiastic crowds and reached the level of intensity in the gold medal matchups equal to that of the actual Paralympics, officials said.

"I walked in there and it was dripping with intensity. The game was unbelievable," said Charlie Huebner, chief of Paralympics for the U.S. Olympic Committee. "The crowd, the emotion -- it was just phenomenal. Everything we wanted it to be."

For the past week, about 200 service members from across the Defense Department competed as individuals and in teams in Paralympic Olympic-style events such as shooting, swimming, archery, sitting volleyball, cycling, track, wheelchair basketball, discus, and shotput.

They also competed individually for the "Ultimate Champion" competition in a pentathlon format, and the service team's rallied for a rotating Chairman's Cup. Those awards will be presented at the closing ceremony tonight.

The much-anticipated games were announced at the Pentagon only months ago by the Army and its partner, the U.S. Paralympics. The two organizations, along with other partners, quickly through together the financial and logistical support requirements of bringing those troops to the U.S. Olympic Training Center here, along with many of their wounded warrior units' cadre and medical staff. The services quickly recruited their athlete candidates.

Despite the somewhat rushed start, the games proved to be a hit with the athletes, families and volunteers. Already officials are making plans for next year's games, and talking of bringing in international competitors.

"This exceeded my wildest expectations," said Army Brig Gen. Gary H. Cheek, commanding general of the Army's Warrior Transition Command. "I didn't know that we'd have that kind of emotion and the size of the crowds that are here," he added.

Officials hope that this year's event will spawn year-round efforts at the wounded warrior units to train for the annual competition. It is an effort, they said, to encourage wounded service members to use sports in their recovery programs.

"What we're really looking for is that energy to go back to our units where these service members are recovering and spread that fire. ... That's really what this is all about," Cheek said.

Cheek said next year's event will include more sophisticated preparation, including qualifying competitions held at a regional level.

"There's going to be a lot more focus and energy toward this final event," he said. "Doing it 52 weeks of the year instead of one week a year is what we're really after."

Cheek said wounded service members early on sometimes focus too much on their injuries and what they can't do. These games helped them focus on what they can do, he said.

"They found within themselves things that they didn't know were there, and that's what this is all about," he said. "In the end, it's all about focusing on abilities, not disabilities -- what you can do, not what you can't do."

Both Cheek and Huebner said that the energy from being active in sports spills over into the rest of the troops' lives, making them better spouses, parents and employees.

Huebner said not everyone dreams of becoming a Paralympic athlete, but he that being active is a piece of the rehabilitation puzzle, and sports skills can help them better adapt when they return to their homes.

"We have dreams of winning medals at the games," he said. "But it's also the dreams of hitting that homerun in your backyard."

Huebner said he sees the benefits of integrating physical activity into daily life.

"I see people that have higher self-esteem," he said. "I see people that have lower secondary medical conditions, I see people who are pursuing education, pursuing employment, [and people who] are motivated."

Mills: Marines prepare for wider command

By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Friday May 14, 2010 21:12:55 EDT

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — One month into command in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Maj. Gen. Richard Mills said Friday his force of nearly 20,000 Marines is well prepared to take over a wider area this summer.

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Big Afghan offensive must overcome deadly terrain

LAKO KHEL, Afghanistan — U.S. soldiers had just made it through a dense patch of vineyards to a cluster of abandoned mud compounds when the radio operator let out a shout: "Sir, we are about to be ambushed from three different locations!"


By SEBASTIAN ABBOT (AP) – May 14, 2010

The men rushed for cover, dodging a potential attack and cursing Kandahar province's tough terrain that is tailor made for the Taliban. The deadly obstacle course may haunt thousands of additional U.S. troops pouring into this corner of southern Afghanistan for what is expected to be the make-or-break offensive of the nearly 9-year-old war.

The thick fields, snaking canals and bomb-laden dirt roads in key districts around the provincial capital, Kandahar City, force jittery soldiers out of their heavily armored vehicles into a landscape dotted with towering mud compounds that provide militants with ideal cover.

Finding a way to overcome this terrain will be key to this summer's military operation in Kandahar, where at least 15 coalition soldiers have died since the beginning of the year, according to data compiled by The Associated Press.

The Marines who invaded the Taliban-controlled town of Marjah in Helmand province in February also faced somewhat challenging terrain since the area contained a network of canals that slowed their progress. But the poppy fields around Marjah were flat and were not surrounded by tall mud walls — unlike the vineyards around Kandahar that are used to produce raisins.

"The agriculture and infrastructure of this country seem like they were designed specifically for guerrilla warfare," Lt. Scott Doyle said at the beginning of his platoon's recent patrol in the heart of Taliban country in Zhari district.

Their experience over the next three hours would provide a snapshot of what battle will look like for many troops in Kandahar.

Within minutes of leaving their rugged outpost in the village of Lako Khel, the soldiers intercepted radio chatter indicating the Taliban were monitoring their movements.

Doyle ordered his men to halt in one of the area's many vineyards, which contain rows of dirt mounds up to 6 feet (2 meters) high. The tall mud walls that often encircle the vineyards provide good cover for the soldiers but also make it easier for the Taliban to sneak around undetected.

The troops heard one of the militants say over the radio that the Taliban didn't have the key for the weapons cache nearby, so they would just keep an eye on the soldiers.

"They know we intercept their communications and could be deceiving us," Doyle said, scanning the rugged fields and thick tree cover in vain to catch a glimpse of the militants watching them.

The uncertainty about the Taliban's radio chatter makes it that much more difficult for the troops to navigate the challenging terrain, forcing them to think like chess masters and play out multiple scenarios to avoid an ambush.

The troops, part of the U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, questioned a pair of teenagers lingering in a nearby field.

One of them, 18-year-old Abdul Manan, gave the troops from 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company some information.

"Once you go past that farm to the east, there are lots of Taliban and one of them has a radio," Manan said.

But trying to discern friend from foe in this war is exceedingly difficult, especially in an area like Zhari where Taliban leader Mullah Omar first established the militant group in the 1990s.

"Unfortunately the Taliban use kids as spotters," said Doyle, a 38-year-old from Charlottesville, Virginia. "Even during firefights, they will send kids out to spot our positions."

Suddenly, the platoon commander's radio operator, Spc. Arthur Harris, called out that the Taliban had instructed one of their fighters to "prepare the rocket."

The platoon had taken rocket fire farther north the day before, so Doyle decided to get his men moving and pushed them southeast along a small canal.

As the group approached a cluster of abandoned mud compounds, Harris ran up to Doyle and yelled that they were facing an imminent ambush.

Doyle sent his men in all four directions to seek cover behind mud walls and set up a defensive perimeter. But their location was terribly vulnerable, with 15-foot-high (4.5-meter) compounds to their south and west cutting off all visibility. The line of sight wasn't much better to the north and east, with small fields leading to walls that stopped visibility after about 30 feet (10 meters).

At that point, Harris, the radio operator, sprinted toward the platoon commander, leading another soldier, Staff Sgt. Richard Eifert, to dive for cover.

"What did you hear?" Eifert called over to Harris.

"I thought I heard potshots," Harris responded.

"Dude, it was just me stepping on a twig!" Eifert said.

After waiting 10 minutes, Doyle decided to move his men to the south to avoid the ambushes the Taliban said they set up to the east, one of them at a mosque about 650 feet (200 meters) away.

"It's pretty sketchy going south, but if we go east, we will probably run into something pretty planned," said Doyle.

As the soldiers began to push south on a narrow dirt path bounded on both sides by 10-foot-high (3-meter) walls, Spc. Richard Antonishek muttered to himself, "This is going to be pretty close quarters."

After walking for a few minutes, Sgt. Jon Hendricks bounded over a wall and spotted two men crouched on a dirt road about 650 feet (200 meters) away, possibly inserting a bomb. One was wearing an AK-47 assault rifle around his chest.

"Two men in the road! One AK!" Hendricks shouted, clicking off the safety on his M-14 rifle and firing three rounds.

"Damn, I pulled the trigger too soon," said Hendricks, 27, after he realized the shots had missed and the men had fled.

The troops chose not to pursue the men because the radio chatter indicated the Taliban had inserted another roadside bomb farther to the east, leaving the soldiers with little choice but to push west along a dirt road with 20-foot-high (6-meter) abandoned compounds on either side.

"Remember to watch high on these rooftops for fighters!" Doyle yelled to his men as they began to make their way west.

After walking about 500 feet (150 meters), Hendricks pointed out a possible bomb site, yelling, "We've got a freshly dug hole with an ant trail leading through one of these walls!"

There was an identical site almost directly across the road.

One of the soldiers exhaled an obscenity in one long breath.

"They have eyes on us and will shoot!" Harris suddenly yelled.

The soldiers crouched down and bounded 65 feet (20 meters) across an open space to the cover of a wall surrounding a large field, relieved at having made it out of the tangled web of fields and compounds without stumbling into a Taliban ambush.

"I guess we're not going to wait around for them," Doyle said sarcastically as he ordered his men to begin the journey back to their base. "Just tell the Taliban to leave a message if we're not here."

The Taliban were in a much worse mood after the day's events and cursed the soldiers for not walking into one of their ambushes, said Staff Sgt. Daniel Spencer, who monitors the group's communications.

"May God turn their faces black," the Taliban said over the radio, referring to the soldiers.

US Marine commanding general says his forces hurting Afghanistan's opium trade

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — U.S. forces are dealing a blow to the Taliban's multimillion-dollar opium business by securing deals with farmers to plant legal crops, the commanding general in charge of U.S. Marines in Afghanistan said Friday.


By Julie Watson (CP) – May 14, 2010

Maj. Gen. Richard Mills said during a video conference call at Camp Pendleton that farmers who own half of the poppy fields in Afghanistan's key poppy-growing area have pledged to not reseed next year.

Afghanistan supplies 90 per cent of the world's opium, the main ingredient in heroin.

Curbing the Taliban's drug trade was a major goal when Marines seized the former insurgent stronghold of Marjah earlier this year. But troops have had to walk a fine line in their battle against the country's opium trade: If they destroy the crops, they lose the support of the population. Instead, they are encouraging local farmers to swap their poppies for legal crops, such as wheat.

During the spring harvest that just ended, more than 17,300 acres (7,000 hectares) of poppies were swapped for legal crops around the farming community of Marjah, according to the Marine Corps.

"We've taken almost half of the poppy production land out of production," he said.

Explaining the stretegy, he added: "We offer them employment for money but we do not buy the drugs nor do we eradicate the drugs," Mills said. "We simply educate them and encourage them to find alternative means to gain a livelihood off the soil. We're getting good reception of that both at the local level and governmental levels."

It is hard to say whether farmers will keep their word given that opium prices are going up as a result of blight hurting Afghanistan's yield — which is likely to drop as much as 30 per cent this year.

The blight, which turns the poppy plants black as they apparently rot from the inside, has hit about half of the crop growing in the northern part of Helmand province.

The higher prices could mean more money for the Taliban as well.

Efforts to discourage poppy farming have had mixed results, with the biggest progress in areas largely under government control.

Mills said troops recently seized almost five tons of raw opium headed out of the country to be sold for money to buy weapons and explosives for the Taliban.

Marines are not in the "drug interdiction business," Mills said, but "it's difficult to separate the two here. We target the Taliban, and the drugs are an addendum if you will."

He said NATO troops are making inroads in Helmand Province and slowly gaining support among the population. He said a hotline set up by coalition forces for people to provide anonymous tips about bombs or bomb builders has been getting about 20 calls a day.

U.S. Marines are training Afghan troops and police in preparation for President Barack Obama's plan for local forces to take the lead in 14 months. Mills declined to say whether that deadline will be met.

"We are starting to see an Afghan army rise in strength and capability," he said, adding that police still have a long way to go.

Just under 20,000 U.S. Marines are in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, with money and assistance from foreign forces and donors, is in a race against the Taliban to convince people to turn away from the insurgency.

Success in Helmand is considered key to strengthening Karzai's authority and promoting governance.

"I think this is going to be a critical year," Mills said, adding: "I think we've got some tough fighting in front of us."

May 13, 2010

McChrystal: Months to see results in Kandahar

By Matthew Lee and Pauline Jelinek - The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday May 13, 2010 16:59:18 EDT

WASHINGTON — Shortly after the president of Afghanistan walked among the graves of American military who died for his country, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan said Thursday the success or failure of a push for control of an area considered key to winning the war can’t be judged until the end of the year.

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Another Tomball Marine killed in the Middle East

Tomball has lost yet another of its young men to the War on Terror.


Written by Brian Walzel Thursday, 13 May 2010 09:46

Last week the Pentagon announced that 21-year-old United States Marine Cpl. Jeffery W. Johnson of Tomball was killed May 11 in Helmand province in Afghanistan.

According to the Department of Defense, Johnson was “supporting combat operations” when he was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) while on a dismounted patrol.

Also killed was Marine Sgt. Kenneth B. May, 26, of Kilgore.

Johnson and May were assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Johnson served as an Anti-tank Assault Guided Missileman after enlisting in the Marine Corps July 23, 2007. This was his second deployment.

His personal service awards include the Purple Heart, Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

“The Marines and sailors of the 1st Marine Division mourn the loss of Cpl. Johnson. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family,” the Marines stated in a press release last week.

Johnson graduated from Waller High School in 2007. According to Waller ISD Public Relations Director Marianne Kosik, Johnson enrolled in Waller Junior High his seventh grade year after his family moved from North Carolina.

“Jeffrey’s death reminds us all that life can be brief and of the importance to live our lives to the fullest each day,” Waller ISD Superintendent Richard McReavy said. “Our deepest condolences go to Jeffrey’s wife, Katy Anguish, his family, friends and the entire Waller ISD community during this difficult time.”

McReavy added that, at press time last week, Johnson’s family was at Dover Air Force base in Maryland and funeral arrangements would be made upon their return.

Johnson is the second Marine from Tomball to perish in Helman province in Afghanistan within the past four months. On Jan. 11, Cpl. Nicholas Uzenski was killed during a firefight with militants.

According to the Pentagon’s records as of May 13, 1,056 have been killed in Operation Enduring Freedom, while 4,401 have died in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Overall, 5, 457 members of the United States armed forces have died in the Middle East since the launch of the War on Terror.

From Protecting Obama, to Protecting Fellow Marines

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.

Corporal Dan Rhodes (left) was sitting on the roof of the patrol base, looking out at a treeline from where the patrol base for Weapons Company had taken fire yesterday.


May 13, 2010 1:09 PM
Posted by Terry McCarthy

It was 2 o'clock in the afternoon, about 110 degrees, and he was tempted to take off his Kevlar helmet. But around noon the day before the Taliban had fired a rocket propelled grenade and a long series of automatic weapons' bursts at the roof of the patrol base, and so he wasn't taking any chances.

Rhodes is from Michigan - his dad is a pastor, his grandfather was in the Air Force. He likes to hunt, and he joined the Marines because he wanted to be a sniper. The Marines, he says, have one of the best sniper schools in the military. But at boot camp he got selected to be part of the Marine detachment that provides security for the President. He spent 3 years based in Washington DC - shook hands with both President Bush and President Obama, and even played basketball with the latter.

"I couldn't believe it - I was at Camp David and this Marine asked me if I wanted to play basketball with the President. I said you are kidding, and he said, no, I even have clothes for you to wear". So Rhodes pulled on the T-shirt and shorts, and before he knew it he was standing on a basketball court with the President of the United States. "He asked who the new guy was, and then he shook my hand." Game on.

"President Obama doesn't just talk the talk on basketball - he's really good - it was the President and his Secret Service guys against a team of Marines - they won easily - they crushed us. We stopped keeping count of the score."

Now Rhodes is half a world away from the security bubble that protects the President. Instead he is doing 4 hour posts in the heat of the Afghan sun providing security for the Marines' patrol base, scanning the same treeline over and over with binoculars, looking for any suspicious movement that might indicate another attack is coming. Now and again he blows off the dust that settles on the grenade launcher that is mounted in front of him. It can fire high explosive grenades 2,000 meters - the exploding grenades scare the Taliban, and generally make them fall back. Three high explosive grenades yesterday pretty much stopped the Taliban's shooting from the treeline.

McChrystal: No need for a different medal

By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday May 13, 2010 18:14:23 EDT

The top general in Afghanistan said Thursday he believes the concept of “courageous restraint” should be recognized but that a new medal to do so isn’t the answer.

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Afghan Perceptions Key to Success, McChrystal Says

WASHINGTON - Changing the perceptions of the Afghan people about the coalition, their own government and the Taliban will be key to success in that nation, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. forces in Afghanistan said here, March 13.


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Story by Jim Garamone
Date: 05.13.2010
Posted: 05.13.2010 03:56

Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal told Pentagon reporters that achieving more progress in the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan will be a slow, deliberate endeavor, because changing perceptions is challenging.

Efforts in the country will be directed toward "changing not only the dynamics of security, governance and development, but also the attitudes of a population long pressured by insurgents," he said.

The strategic priority in the country is the development of Afghan national security forces, McChrystal said. "While both the army and police have demonstrated considerable growth," he said, "significant challenges remain. The bottom line is there's much more work ahead to mature Afghan security forces. But I'm pleased with the progress made thus far."

The operational center in the country will be in southern Afghanistan, the general said. The area – including Kandahar and Helmand provinces – is the hub for the insurgents and an economic engine for the country as a whole.

"Ten months ago, we began a series of operations into Taliban-controlled parts of the central Helmand River valley, expanding the Afghan government's influence in key areas," McChrystal said. "There's been considerable progress in security and governance. But as is expected in counterinsurgency, progress is often slow and deliberate."

The operational fight will be centered in and around Kandahar city. The general said there will not be a "D-Day" for the operations to begin in the city, because it is a uniquely complex environment that requires as much governmental and political pressure as military involvement.

"This effort is being led by the Afghans, and will focus on the complex political and governance aspects of Kandahar," McChrystal told reporters.

While Kandahar is the spiritual home of the Taliban, the insurgents do not control the city.

McChrystal said he and Army Gen. David H. Petraeus – the commander of U.S. Central Command – walked through the streets of Kandahar two weeks ago. Still, he added, the Taliban are targeting local officials for assassination, and insurgents are intimidating people.

Many insurgencies use targeted assassinations as a way to intimidate the population and undercut the ability of the government to establish effective mechanisms, McChrystal explained. "That's what I think we're seeing here," he said. "Certainly, some of those murders may be criminally related, but there is a clear insurgent thrust to the primary part of this."

Engaging the population is the way to counter this group of terrorist thugs, McChrystal said, explaining that the coalition must engage the natural leaders – tribal elders and political and economic leaders – so that their participation helps shape the vision, and so they clearly buy into Afghan government and coalition initiatives.

The general began shaping operations with Kandahar leaders months ago. "This is something that's ongoing, and it's a process, not an event," he said.

The process will take time, and Americans should expect increased violence as the coalition and Afghan security forces expand into Taliban-controlled areas, McChrystal said. "Over time," he added, "security responsibilities will transition to Afghans."

Counterinsurgency efforts are long-term and depend more on process, not a sudden event, the general said. Coalition and Afghan troops entering an area have to secure it, and then the Afghan government – with coalition help – must deliver basic services to the people – education, health, transport, electricity, water and so on.

"It's halting and it's challenging," McChrystal said. "In areas where there has been very little capacity before, to introduce that is hard. And to convince the people is even harder, because they watch the change in security, they watch the beginnings of governance, the beginnings of development, and they have to ... see it to believe it.

"But they can't just see it once," he continued. "They have to see it until they believe it's durable, until they believe it's real."

In talking with Afghan groups, McChrystal said, he is sure they want to be convinced.

"I think that that is the challenge over time," he said. "It's really a government-of-Afghanistan challenge, with our help. They must convince the people they have the capability to deliver, and then the political will to follow through."

Boeing's V-22 Osprey starting to show its mettle

While the V-22 Osprey has seen political, financial and developmental battles over its decades old history, proponents of the tiltrotor aircraft say it’s day has come as squadrons on the West Coast are beginning to be outfit with it.


Published: Thursday, May 13, 2010
By KATHLEEN E. CAREY, [email protected]

With the aircraft being pulled out of Iraq after serving troops there for two years and being introduced to Afghanistan late last year, reliability is beginning to take hold.

Bob Carrese, executive director of business development for the Bell Boeing V-22 program, said 112 V-22s are operational.

He said the Osprey has clocked 75,000 flight hours, 50 percent of which were recorded in the last two years, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“As a result, people are looking at it saying, ‘It really does work,’”

Carrese said.

The question of its technical viability was rooted in accidents a decade ago when 23 people were killed in two separate Marine training exercises.

In April, three military members and one civilian were killed after a U.S. Air Force Osprey went down in southeastern Afghanistan.

However, the aircraft made its first combat deployment in October 2007 in the western Al Anbar province of Iraq. In November, the aircraft was sent to the Helmand province of Afghanistan with the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261.

There, the prevailing thought is that the Osprey will be a major presence.

“As long as there were Marines in Afghanistan,” Lt. Col. Jeff Hogan of the Marine Air Ground Task Force said, “there will be V-22s with them.”

Part of the reasoning for that is the Osprey’s expanded capabilities.

“It’s a fixed-wing aircraft and it’s a helicopter,” Carrese said.

The current aircraft, he said, is a fourth generation from a project that formulated in the 1950s. Carrying 24 troops, the Osprey takes off, lands and hovers like a helicopter and can reach speeds of 285 knots and a range of a jet.

It can aerial refuel helicopters and fixed-wing craft, according to Carrese.

“When people ask me about it,” Hogan said, “it’s King Kong out there.”

He gave the example of the Osprey carrying President Barack Obama during his campaign from Ramadi, Iraq to Amman, Jordan and back to Al Asad in Iraq without refueling during the approximate 1,000-mile trip.

Another example Hogan offered was that the Osprey could travel from Boston Common to Chicago, Ill., in three hours.

“If you think of this like a helicopter, you will only get a small percentage of its true potential,” he said.

Carrese agreed, saying that the tiltrotor was conducive for combat search-and-rescue missions because of its speed and range, allowing for casualties to get to critical care faster.

“Medics can do en route care in a V-22 that they could not do in a helicopter,” he said.

First Lt. Ryan O’Rourke of Chicago, Ill., remembers the first time he saw the Osprey at the Marine base in New River, N.C.

“I remember thinking, ‘Holy cow, how did they get those rotors to be so big?’” he said.

After that, he applied to become an Osprey pilot, was accepted and has been flying the craft for six months.

“It’s relaxing,” O’Rourke said of the endeavor. “If something goes wrong, the aircraft will do more than any other aircraft to help you.

It’s almost like a Lazy Boy.”

He also likes the speed.

One of his favorite maneuvers is landing the Osprey at 220 knots.

“It’s when we’re doing confined area landings,” O’Rourke said. “You skim the tops of the trees, put the power out and go down.”

For those apprehensive about it, O’Rourke said give it a chance.

“Get to know it,” he said. “It’s like being afraid of spiders. Once you spend time with them, you’re not afraid of them. If I get shot, I hope an Osprey comes and gets me.”

And, the Marines certainly seem comfortable with it.

“The Marine Corps is our main customer right now,” Carrese said.

He said the Marines have ordered 360 of the aircraft and the Air Force Special Operations Command wants 50, while the U.S. Navy is considering 48.

“What it’s bringing to the warfighter is some more operational perspectives,” Carrese said. “It’s definitely a new way of doing things, but it requires a different way of thinking too.”

The V-22’s success directly impacts jobs here in Delaware County.

About 1,820 employees at Boeing’s Ridley plant are dedicated to building the Osprey’s fuselage, landing gear, avionics, electrical and hydration systems and empennage system.

It is then completed in Amarillo, Texas, at the Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. facility, where the wing, transmissions, rotor systems and engine are installed.

New Surveillance System to Enhance Security at Spin Boldak Border

KABUL, Afghanistan – To better protect the people of Afghanistan and enhance Afghan national security force security operations along the border, ISAF and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan are installing a new security system near the Spin Boldak border crossing in Kandahar province.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 05.13.2010
Posted: 05.13.2010 05:23

The Persistent Surveillance System consists of an aerostat (a "blimp") mounted with camera equipment. It will be flown on a tether several thousand feet in the air to enable around-theclock surveillance of a wide area.

Through the surveillance system, ISAF will provide GIRoA with high resolution imagery, including full-motion video from the Spin Boldak area. This information, together with surveillance data from other security systems, will help security officials better anticipate threats.

The system is also capable of providing immediate coverage to help direct response to ongoing incidents. It has an impressive safety record, is made of strong, durable materials, and is designed to withstand multiple tears in the balloon before it gently descends to the ground.

Surveillance systems such as this have a successful history of integration with security systems to combat threats in eastern Afghanistan since early 2004, and have been used in Kabul and Kandahar City since 2009. Plans are underway to launch aerostats in other areas around Afghanistan, including several along the eastern border, during the coming months.

Marines Answer the Call at Any Hour: Heavy Guns Bring Security

NOW ZAD, Helmand province, Afghanistan – Most Marines wake up knowing how long they will work and what their job will involve, but the Marines with the Quick Reaction Force for Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, have learned to expect the unexpected.



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Courtesy Story
Date: 05.13.2010
Posted: 05.13.2010 03:38
By Cpl. Ned Johnson

"We are the QRF, which means every day we are out in this area doing something different for the company," said Sgt. Eric T. Smith, the QRF and heavy guns anti-armor section leader with A Company, 1st Bn., 2nd Marines.

Smith and the 12 Marines under his charge clear routes of improvised explosive devices, set up security checkpoints, and respond to any type of enemy contact.

"If a unit needs supplies, we'll go up there, drop it off, and then set up a security screen to talk to the locals and try to get information," said Smith, a 26-year-old native of Florence, Ala.

The team consists of several different working parts: vehicle drivers, machine gunners, and scouts, who have to be ready at a moment's notice.

"We're on call, 24-7, so they can call us at any time, middle of the night or during the day," said Pfc. John T. Smith II, a heavy machine gunner with A Company "Basically, if someone is planting IEDs or something goes wrong, they call us and we respond."

The Marines in this area understand the importance of this around-the-clock capability.

"It's proven that if we leave an area unattended, the Taliban comes in and plants IEDs right behind us. Whenever we go on a mission we come right back and set up security so they can't do that," said Smith, of Adamsville, Tenn.

The Afghan villagers even understand how the QRF Marines are helping, Smith said.

"We've asked the children and elders and they say that life is better since the Marines have been here," Smith said. "The Taliban would not let the locals use schools or medical facilities and since the Marines have been here, they have access to the schools and their medical care."

Whether they see the good being done or just have a sense of duty, the Marines are not bothered by the difficult hours.

"It gets tiresome sometimes, but that's part of it," Smith said. "It's fun to get out there and see new things and it doesn't bother me or any of the other guys on the team."

These battle-hardened Marines like their job because they are helping the Marines who need support.

"We have done everything in one day before: cleared roads, responded to troops in contact, dropped off supplies, and talked to the local people," Smith said.

That sense of mission accomplishment pushes the always-ready force through each day and will continue to push the Marines of A Company.

"Our Marines our accomplishing the mission day-in and day-out," Smith said. "You give the Marines here a mission and they will get it accomplished."

IJC Operational Update, May 13

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force killed several insurgents and detained almost a dozen others as the patrol searched for a Pakistani-based Taliban commander in Helmand province last night.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 05.13.2010
Posted: 05.13.2010 05:53

Based on intelligence information, the combined force went to the village of Kheyl Kalizeh, in the Sangin District. As the combined force approached the compound they began receiving fire, and several armed individuals were seen moving to a nearby tree line, and were engaged and killed. The security force captured several other militants as they searched in and around the compound.

Multiple automatic rifles and chest racks were found. Also, a tunnel system in the compound was discovered and cleared.

The targeted militant is a Pakistani-based Taliban commander responsible for attacks against ISAF forces and involved in training and
moving foreign fighters.

In Kandahar last night, a combined force searched a compound south of Bahram, in the Ghorak District, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. During the search they captured a Taliban commander responsible for attacks on coalition force patrols and bases.

He has also been involved in emplacing improvised explosive devices and the movement of foreign fighters.

When the Taliban commander was confronted, he immediately surrendered and identified himself as the targeted militant. Two other militants were also captured.

During the search the security force found multiple automatic rifles and approximately 45 kilograms (100 pounds) of heroin.

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

In Logar last night, several suspected militants were detained by an Afghan-international security force as they pursued a Taliban commander.

The combined force searched a compound in the village of Karut, in the Charkh District, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity and detained the suspected militants for further questioning.

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

The targeted insurgent is a Taliban sub-commander, heavily involved with IED emplacements and small-arms ambushes against coalition forces.

In the Nad-e Ali District of Helmand yesterday, a joint patrol found a weapons and drug cache consisting of an 82mm rocket, a rocket-propelled grenade tail fin, a 105mm shell casing, a 30mm shell casing and 11 kg (24 lbs) of opium. The cache was destroyed on site.

An ISAF patrol discovered a weapons cache containing three rocket propelled grenades, three shotguns, two grenades, and two mortar rounds in the Zharay District of Kandahar yesterday. The cache was destroyed.

More Than Two Dozen Taliban Killed in Kunduz

KABUL, Afghanistan - An Afghan-international security force killed more than two dozen insurgents and captured several others while pursuing a senior Taliban commander in Kunduz last night.


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Courtesy Story
Date: 05.13.2010
Posted: 05.13.2010 02:21

The combined force went to a compound in the village of Kharid-e Olya, Kunduz District, after intelligence information confirmed the Taliban were staging for a large attack. As the Afghan-led element moved into the target area they immediately began receiving fire from a mosque and surrounding woods, and then returned defensive fires.

Shortly after, several armed individuals ran toward and fired on the combined force. They were engaged and killed.

The insurgents were killed as they continued to fire on the combined force with machine guns, automatic rifles and hand grenades.

Close air support was used, but not on the mosque and compound which received minor damage.
No civilians were harmed during this operation.

Joint Afghan-international operations in Kunduz continue to counter Taliban efforts to facilitate movement of fighters, weapons, and explosives into the area to disrupt legitimate government and security in the region.

Marines Earn Gold, Silver in Warrior Games Archery

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 13, 2010 – When retired Marine Corps 1st Sgt. John Fuller was asked how he thought the inaugural Warrior Games archery competition would turn out, his answer was complicated, yet simple. And it was right.


By Marine Corps Cpl. Scott Schmidt
Defense Media Activity – Marine Corps

Marines earned both gold and silver medals in the compound-bow competition at the U.S. Olympic Training Center here yesterday – just as Fuller, the Marine team’s archery coach, predicted.

Cpl. Beau Parra of Wounded Warrior Detachment Hawaii narrowly missed a perfect mark, scoring 119 out of 120 possible points, closely followed by his fellow Marine, Staff Sgt. Matthew Benack, who shot 118. Army Sgt. Robert Price claimed the bronze medal.

Fuller said his prediction was based on observing his team members’ individual strengths, as well as their nerves. The two Marines who captured top honors exemplified those strengths, he said.

“We were all sitting around and talking about shooting, and one of the guys asked me, ‘How do you think it will come out?’” Fuller said. “Well, I answered truthfully and honestly. I said, ‘I think we’re going to have Benack and Parra in the gold round, and I think Parra will win it.’”

Parra said the gold medal solidifies a renewed sense of worth, and means overcoming an injury can be just the beginning for the competitors here.

“No matter how bad your wounds are, and no matter how bad you’re hurt, we can still come out here and do this,” the Prescott, Ariz., native said. “We can still compete and be champions and be winners.” But winning the competition was no walk in the park, he acknowledged.

“The competition was close,” Parra said. “I looked down the line and tried not to let my nerves get to me, because everyone put their heart into the game. This win wasn’t just given away.”

Dozens of servicemembers went head to head, but in the end, the compound-bow competition came down to Marine against Marine. The shootout seemed more like a friendly practice round, as the two Marines encouraged each other and even offered pointers during the final rounds of competition. With a difference of only one point separating the two wounded warriors, the event kept both the audience and the competitors on their toes.

Although medals were on the line, Benack said, something more important was going on. All of the wounded warriors, he noted, share a common past and a common goal to recovery. The best part of the Warrior Games is the camaraderie among the services and the way the competitors help and encourage each other through whatever difficulties they face.

Parra said winning the gold medal gives him the confidence to move on and continue recovering.

“It gives you the mindset to take focus off of [post-traumatic stress disorder] and shift it to the game,” he said.

Marines also competed in the recurve-bow competition, but failed to place. The Army took all three medals, with the Marines finishing a close fourth. Sgt. Michael Lukow earned gold, Staff Sgt. Curtis Winston won silver, and their fellow soldier Sgt. Jeffery Anderson took the bronze medal.

Husband, Wife Coach Marine Shooting Team

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 13, 2010 – The Marine Corps teams competing at the inaugural Warrior Games here have a wealth of coaching knowledge available to their athletes.


By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Graham Benson
U.S Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment

But the Marines on the shooting team have an unusual pair of coaches at their disposal.

Marine Corps Sgt. Mark Windmassenger and his wife, Marine Corps Sgt. Emily Windmassenger, are coaching the Marine shooters in the games. Both coaches are accomplished marksmen on the All-Marine shooting team in Quantico, Va.

“I absolutely love training Marines,” said Mark Windmassenger, a 25-year old Quakertown, Pa., native. “Training the wounded warriors is the most rewarding thing I have done since I’ve been on the shooting team. They are extremely motivated, and are willing to train harder than most.”

Emily, 23, agrees with her husband. “The feeling I get from watching these athletes overcome their struggles and disabilities and execute what I’m teaching them gives me more pleasure than improving my own skills,” the Loves Park, Ill., native said.

Both coaches have been on active duty since 2005. In 2007, they met and married while they were finance clerks before qualifying for the marksmanship team.

Shooting is one of their passions, and they are ecstatic to be sharing it together.

“It’s great that we’re getting to do something that we both love so much and are so passionate about,” Mark said. “I think the athletes are also getting a good deal out of it, because she and I work so well as coaches together.”

Twenty Marine shooters will compete in both air rifle and air pistol events during the Warrior Games. The games feature some-200 wounded servicemembers and veterans competing in a variety of Paralympic-style events while representing their respective services.

Warrior Games give injured vets kinship, strength

An Afghan insurgent's homemade bomb shattered Marc Esposito's lower legs, broke his back and knocked him cold for four days. But the Air Force staff sergeant says the worst part was being torn from his Special Operations teammates who stayed in the field after he was evacuated.


By The Associated Press • Thursday, May 13, 2010

A year later, Esposito says, he's found a new team fighting a different kind of battle _ the U.S. military's first Warrior Games for wounded servicemen and women at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

"Just like you would in a wartime scenario or a battlefield, you want to get back into play," Esposito said Wednesday before winning his preliminary heat in the 50-meter freestyle swimming competition. "This is a new battlefield, really. It's a friendly battlefield _ no one's getting hurt, no one's in a war, but we're competing with each other."

Esposito, 26, from Cameron, N.C., is among nearly 190 servicemen and women competing in the Warrior Games this week. Some use wheelchairs or artificial legs and others have scars from shrapnel or burns. Some, like Esposito, have suffered traumatic brain injuries. Some have left the military but others are still active-duty.

Coached by trainers from the military and the U.S. Olympic Committee's Paraylmpics division, they're competing in cycling, volleyball, shooting, archery, track and field and basketball as well as swimming.

They say the competion renews their sense of brotherhood, gives them goals and motivation and keeps them healthy. For many, it's an invigorating alternative to the anger, listlessness or depression that can settle in after a life-changing injury.

"You had some sort of a plan for your life at some point, and now it's like somebody threw a big wrench in the cog, and now you've got to figure out how to pull that wrench out and how to straighten that cog up so that you can move on with your life and do something different," said Marine Sgt. Michael Blair, who suffered serious knee injuries along with mild traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder from a mine in Iraq in 2006.

"Every one of us, I believe, goes through that where we're (mad) because we can't be with our boys, we can't be with our brothers. We're angry because we can't take the fight back to the enemy who got us," Blair said.

With the anger comes emotional strain, partly because of the constant medication for pain and infections. "There's just a whole lot of psychological stuff that goes on," he said.

Blair, 35, from Dallas, said things began to turn around for him about two years ago when he took up kayaking and again felt the physical exhilaration that exercise can bring, along with an emotional release.

"Thats really what turned all that emotional stuff around for me," said Blair, who's competing in hand cycling and basketball at the Warrior Games.

For Bradley Walker, a 29-year-old ex-Marine from White Pine, Tenn., the Warrior Games are a chance to fold into the Marine Corps' tight-knit brotherhood again.

"As soon as you meet another Marine, its like you have that instant connection," said Walker, who lost his lower legs to an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2006. "I'm enjoying it immensely."

Walker is competing in sitting volleyball, sitting shot put and hand cycling.

For Matthew Brown, an ex-Marine who was shot in the leg in Iraq on Veterans Day 2004, competing with other wounded servicemen and women prods him to to do more.

"I was very self-defeating when I got out of the military," said Brown, a 25-year-old from Loysville, Pa., who is competing in standing rifle, standing pistol and sitting volleyball. "Now I'm meeting a lot more wounded guys (and) going, 'Wow, you guys are injured, either the same as me or worse than me, but you guys are doing more than what I've been doing.' But now I can do all that. There's no one saying I can't."

Esposito, the Air Force staff sergeant, said the being in the company of highly motivated athletes is a kind of medicine on its own.

"Its a very contagious thing. It just spreads. That motivation's what's going to get you better," he said.

Esposito wants to stay in Air Force Special Operations, maybe as an instructor because his injuries might make him a liability in the field. Walker plans to attend the University of Tennesee starting this fall and study computer science.

Blair is still getting treatment at Walter Reed Medical Center but wants to start his own program to help wounded servicemen and women. Brown, who works for the Defense Logistics Agency, says he may try completing a marathon in a hand cycle after his Warrior Games experience.

"Who says I can't?" he asked.

Company offers helicopter rides to raise money for injured Marine

Guidance Helicopters will offer helicopter rides to the public to raise money to help U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Michael Martinez, a 2008 graduate of Prescott High School, who lost his legs in Afghanistan.


By Lisa Irish
5/13/2010 9:56:00 PM
The Daily Courier

The Prescott helicopter flight training school's fundraiser will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 29, close to the main entrance to the Prescott Municipal Airport.

People can buy tickets for $40 per person for the helicopter rides by calling (928) 443-9370, e-mailing [email protected], or in person the day of the fundraiser, said Cathy Mitchell, administrative assistant with Guidance Helicopters.

Half the proceeds from the ticket sales will go into the Chase Bank account set up for Michael by his aunt, Mitchell said.

"We have 35 veterans and many Marines going through our program right now," Mitchell said. "We'd like to give back to Michael's family in his time of need."

People of all ages are welcome to ride the helicopters, but the company does ask an adult to accompany anyone under 18 years of age on the helicopter ride, Mitchell said.

Martinez continues to recover from recent surgeries at Richmond Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center in Richmond, Va., before he starts Walter Reed Army Medical Center's rehabilitation program in Washington, D.C., in several weeks.

Martinez lost one leg above the knee and the other leg below the knee after a remotely-set-off improvised explosive device detonated during a mission March 11 in the Helmand Province of southwestern Afghanistan.

Cartwright: Expect war for 5-10 more years

By John T. Bennett - Staff writer
Posted : Sunday May 13, 2010 14:14:35 EDT

For the next “five to 10 years,” the military likely will remain engaged in the same kinds of conflicts it has been fighting since 2001, said Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright.

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


Marines, journalist caught under sniper fire

MARJAH, Afghanistan — The tension was obvious even before leaving the wire on a 6 a.m. patrol.



May 13th, 2010 | Posted by Thomas Brown

Everyone in the fire team I was traveling with knew that a sniper had ambushed a Marine patrol the previous day in the same area we were traveling. While making our way along one of the canals that cut through Marjah, everyone was nearly silent, on high alert.

We made a turn onto small, dusty road, with only the sound of boots crunching against dry rock cutting the air.

Then the sniper hit.

Chaos followed. There were shouts of, “Where did it come from!” and “Is everyone OK?!” I started my work — mostly to keep my mind occupied. I began shooting video of Lance Cpl. Michael Aguirre, who was closest Marine to me in the ditch.

Within seconds, he shouted, “Let’s go!” I didn’t know where we were going, but I figured he did. Running out in the open along a street when you know a sniper is out there is a humbling experience, to say the least.

Still rolling video, I looked to my left and saw Marines jumping a wall into a compound adjacent to where the sniper fire had originated. It was my turn, and not wanting to be a clear target, I heaved myself over the wall. I misjudged how far the drop was on the other side, but protected my cameras and hoped for the best. Fortunately for me, Lance Cpl. Jedadiah Davis was there to break my fall.

Finally, there was a bit of a relief. I was behind walls and had cover.

Marines and Afghan National Army soldiers did a quick security sweep of the compound as other Marines headed for the roof for a high position. I followed, and the Marines quickly had eyes on the Taliban fire team running through the tree line.

The Marines opened up and lit up the tree line with an M32 multi-shot grenade launcher, the 5.56mm M249 squad automatic weapon and M16A4 rifles. When they inspected the site, they found no Taliban killed.

There was an intense crack and impact. A rifle round hit the road 10 feet in front of me. Instinct took over and I dove for cover with other Marines into the canal.

May 12, 2010

Recon Warriors reveal their endurance during annual challenge

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. — They covered 24 miles of hiking and swimming, while their rest periods consisted of conquering obstacles and shooting weapons.


5/12/2010 By Pfc. John Robbart III , Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

Fourteen two-man Marine reconnaissance teams attempted Camp Pendleton’s 2nd Annual Recon Challenge, May 8, but only seven completed it.

“This is good event for the recon community,” said Sgt. Adam R. Sorensen, radio operator, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. “This is our chance to show what we do as a job, and what is expected of Recon Marines.”

Sorensen and his teammate, Sgt. Duncan G. Shuler spent over 6 months preparing for this event and took first place in this year’s challenge.

“We always push together as a team,” said Sorensen. “And it paid off in the end.”

The challenge included some of the most demanding events the Corps has to offer. It began at 4 a.m. with a 7-mile hike to the beach in full utilities and a 50 pound back pack. After arriving to the ocean the Marines kept their packs on, but swapped their boots for fins and swam for 2 kilometers.

“The pack felt 20 pounds heavier after getting out of the water,” said Staff Sgt. Victor M. Miller, reconnaissance instructor, Reconnaissance Training Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry West.

Next, the warriors strapped on their boots and hiked up the 1600-foot San Onofre Ridgeline.

“It is a treacherous hill,” said Gunnery Sgt. Vincent A. Marzi, instructor, Reconnaissance Team Leader Course, and staff non-commissioned officer in charge of the challenge. “Each step down has to be planned carefully to avoid injury. It’s extremely steep,” added Marzi.

Following the mountain hike, the participants were allowed to drop their back packs, but only to run through Camp Horno’s obstacle course, not once, but twice. And in the spirit of the challenge, participants were required to disassemble a machine gun at the end of the first run through the course, and reassemble it after their second pass.

Then, with little rest, the packs went back on for a short hike to weapon range 218a, where the teams participated in a live fire shoot, utilizing various weapon systems that required high levels of accuracy.

The final event was an rappelling exercise at the 53 Area rappel tower, then on to the finish line at the 52 Area landing zone.

Waiting there, were cheering family members and friends of the participants with lots of food to replenish the exhausted competitors. Once the last team finished, a ceremony was held to award the top three teams of the challenge.

Twenty-eight Marines participated in the event, but almost 200 service members and 20 vehicles were on hand to coordinate and ensure the safety of the challengers.

“The challenge was tough but anything is attainable; you just have to have the will to do it,” said Miller.

Motor T Marines prep for Black Sea Rotational Force 2010

MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIRFIELD, Romania — The Marines and Sailors of 1st Tank Battalion travelled more than 6,000 miles to reach Romania’s Mihail Kogalniceanu Airfield, but the tactical vehicles they will use while serving as a Security Cooperation Marine Air-Ground Task Force arrived by much shorter and unique means.


5/12/2010 By Cpl. R. Logan Kyle , Black Sea Rotational Force

Motor Transportation Marines with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Tank Bn., took time to prepare tactical vehicles at the airfield’s motor pool, May 10, to support the battalion during Black Sea Rotational Force 2010, a 3-month deployment as the core of the first Security Cooperation MAGTF to the Black Sea region.

The vehicles were supplied to the battalion by Marine Corps Prepositioning Program Norway. The Marine Corps and Norway have developed a unique relationship for the storage and care of prepositioned equipment and supplies. The method of storage to support the prepositioned assets for a MAGTF is a series of six caves in the Trondheim region of central Norway.

“We worked pretty closely with the Norwegians in acquiring these vehicles,” said 2nd Lt. Corey McMillen, the assistant logistics officer for 1st Tank Bn. “We went on a tour of the caves, performed the [joint limited technical inspections] together, and any discrepancies we found were fixed right away. I was extremely impressed with their maintenance capabilities on the vehicles we store there.”

Staff Sgt. Troy Ferderer, the Motor Transportation chief, H and S Co., 1st Tank Bn., said receiving the vehicles from Norway has made their job a lot easier.

“It’s been downright convenient for us,” said Ferderer, an Odessa, Wash., native. “We didn’t have to embark these vehicles from California, and we didn’t even have to go meet up at some port somewhere and take them off a ship or anything. Marine Corps Forces Europe handled all the delivery, and they were sitting here waiting for us when we got here.”

Norway relies on the Marine’s prepositioning program as a major cornerstone of the nation’s internal defense plan. With deep-water ports in close proximity to the storage caves, equipment can quickly be loaded aboard available shipping for operations in threatened parts of Europe, Africa or the Middle East. This capability was demonstrated by the supplying of equipment and ammunition in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cpl. Marcus O’Hair, the fuels noncommissioned officer with H and S Co., 1st Tank Bn., said most of the vehicles arrived in excellent condition.

“They are pretty much brand new,” said O’Hair, a native of Cullman, Ala. “None of the 7-tons have more than 500 miles on them. We’ve got a couple humvees that are giving us a little trouble, but for the most part, they’re all in good shape. It has made our a job 100 percent easier.”

McMillen said his Marines have worked hard so far, and he expects nothing less.

“They’re out there to support scout platoon; that’s the most important thing as well as when we come to the rear, being able to provide maintenance on those vehicles,” said McMillen, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native. “We sent our lead sled dogs in terms of Motor T platoon, and I’m most confident they’ll do a great job.”

The Marines are working in the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions to promote regional stability, build enduring partnerships and build the capacity of partner nation’s military forces. The Security Cooperation MAGTF is Marine Corps Forces Europe’s commitment to a rotating presence of Marines in Eastern Europe to meet U.S. European Command’s theater security objectives.

“I think this is going to be a learning experience for both us and the nations we are going to work with,” O’Hair said. “I was in Okinawa, Japan, for three years, and I worked with the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force while I was there. Working with those guys was awesome, and I think this deployment is going to similar because you learn a lot of their culture and customs. You make a lot of friends.”

Black Sea Rotational Force 2010 is slated to officially kick off May 17 and run through the end of July.

26th MEU Marines Reach New Heights, Part 1


The high-pitch sound of clanging metal broke the rhythmic chirping of birds in the foothills of West Virginia as 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines made their way to their classroom -- a cliff-face.


5/12/2010 By Staff Sgt. Danielle Bacon , 26th MEU

The 15 Marines attended the Special Operations Training Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Assault Climbers Course to learn techniques for climbing and moving themselves, other personnel and gear over both man-made and natural obstacles.

The training provides the MEU the ability to negotiate any route regardless of vertical or near vertical terrain. This ability expands the MEU commander's options for conducting complex expeditionary operations in challenging terrain.

"ACC provides Marines the ability to move up to a company-sized element through vertical or near vertical mountainous environments," said Capt. Robert Long, Expeditionary Operations Branch officer-in-charge with SOTG. “It can be employed in many ways, from moving a company up a simple hill to a sheer-cliff face or used to move heavy weapons and gear up a steep hill that couldn’t otherwise be traversed.”

The three-week course began late April and is broken into three parts - crawl, walk, run.

"We have a systems approach to training. We do tactical rope suspension techniques – knots and systems. Then we move into a little bit more advanced training. We work off the tower, then we move to top roping, which is climbing vertical or near vertical terrain, using a very simple and safe method,” said Long. “Finally we move into advanced lead-climbing techniques.”

Most of the students arrive without any training in climbing. Prior to arriving, the Marines learned and were tested on their ability to tie many different knots. With that imperative skill mastered, the Marines began hands-on climbing in the West Virginia mountains, where each lesson built on the lessons before it.

“As far as experience goes, they came with little to none - as far as Marine Corps mountaineering, none of them had climbed before," said Sgt. Jesse Bennett, a course instructor. “They had to show that they were comfortable with the systems and retaining the knowledge to progress from the crawl stage. They had to employ each of their systems the correct way.”

Safety is an overarching priority while on or around the cliffs.

“We have high-risk training. At any given time, I’m climbing on their systems to check their pro placement,” Bennett said. “There are lives on the line everywhere you look. They have to know what they are doing and the people around them have to trust that they are doing the right thing too. We have to depend on the protection they placed.”

Each portion of the course helps build even the least experienced into a strong climber, Bennett explained.

“It’s like everything else. You teach them how to use weapons. Well, out here on the rock face they learn what kind of gear they have and how it works. In the crawl stage we teach them how to use the protective gear. Getting further into the walking stage, they placed protective gear that they didn’t have to rely on. We would go behind them and check to ensure they are placing it correctly," said Bennett.

As the Marines continued to progress, their dependence on the instructors diminished.

“They are now doing the party climb on their own," said Bennett. "They have to pick their own routes. Place their own protective gear that they use without a safety line. They have to move up the cliff and set up their own anchors and system, so they can top-belay their partner.”

Although each Marine came with little to no experience, each says they are feeling more comfortable with their abilities.

“I would say my experience level has jumped dramatically,” said Lance Cpl. John Rasoilo, a rifleman with Company I, Battalion Landing Team 3/8, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, who had no previous rock climbing experience. “They teach you everything you need to know in a short period of time, and you start to master it ‘cause you are doing it so much. The Marine Corps is all about repetition. We get out here and they kind of eased us into safety climbs and top-roping. I feel pretty confident now.”

Protective gear, such as cams, stoppers and hexes are called “friends” and are continuously tested through the course.

"Friends save your life. You want to take care of your friends because they will take care of you," said a special forces Dutch Marine Master Sgt. who is currently an instructor with SOTG.

Each student is required to test their friendships by falling on their own protective gear at least once.

“It is important because they have to learn to trust their gear," said Bennett. "They could be the best climber and get to the top every time, but having never fallen, they could become complacent and the one time they need it, could be wrong. They will always have it in the back of their head, ‘I wonder if that will hold me.’ If they have fallen they will know, and once they fall, they get a better grasp of climbing.”

In addition to gear, the Marines learned different rope systems that could be employed in different ways. In several cases throughout the course, the Marines built one-rope bridges to cross between cliff faces and over water. These bridges were used not only to get themselves and their gear across, but mock casualties as well. In one class, the Marines had to get their squad, a simulated injured Marine and his gear from the bottom of one cliff to the top, across two cliffs and down the other side.

“Should they be repelling on a cliff face and there’s a casualty, they become stuck for any reason, or they need to clear a route, they can tie themselves off on their gear, go hands free to work on whatever they need to fix, or to rescue a casualty, and then continue the descent or ascent safely,” said Long. “The end goal is to be able to get whatever needs to be moved from one place to another while overcoming any obstacle.

"It helps with operational route planning, movement and terrain, time-space appreciation, as well as setting up a number of rope systems with mechanical advantages to move packs and gear through this type of terrain, which most Marines don’t have the opportunity to train in,” said Long. This ability allows the MEU commander to rapidly employ an expeditionary force regardless of natural obstacles – in any clime and place.

“As we continue to operate more and more in places like Afghanistan, we find ourselves in mountainous environments," Long said. "Even if it’s not straight lead climbing up through those environments, the ability to move through time-space planning for a squad, platoon and company sized element is invaluable when it comes to appreciating how difficult it becomes to operate in a mountainous environment.”

Marjah Bazaar Centerpiece for Civic Projects, Work Programs

MARJAH, Afghanistan – Just over two months ago, trash littered the streets and shops made of wood and aluminum stood uneasily, ready to collapse at any moment, at the Koru Chareh bazaar in Marjah, Afghanistan. Today crowds pass through the market place or wait near checkpoints manned by Marines with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, to register for civic work programs, May 5.



Regimental Combat Team-7,
1st Marine Division
By Lance Cpl. James W. Clark

Much of the fear and apprehension that was present during those first several weeks in the city have faded, and now families purchase goods in the bazaar and walk freely past Marine and Afghan forces. In the wake of the fighting to take the Taliban held city, and after a poor poppy season, many locals have turned to coalition forces to find employment through cash-for-work programs.

"There's a lot of traffic around here," said Gunnery Sgt. Brandon Dickinson, Weapons Platoon sergeant, with Bravo Company, 1/6. "A lot of people have come back here because we have a very large security bubble around the bazaar. I'm frequently amazed by how many shops pop up every time we go out. Considering the amount of time that has elapsed since we came here, the progress has definitely been in our favor."

When Marines sit down and talk to people on a daily basis, or city residents see the work that coalition forces have done through civic projects, like mosque refurbishment and repair; it strikes a significant blow against the Taliban, Dickinson explained.

"Our ability to employ these people is huge – we get a lot on our side that way," said Dickenson.

"It's been a wild ride from our very first shura when we had ten people, to one of the more recent ones where about 200 people showed up," said Dickenson, referring to the Afghan equivalent of a town hall meeting.

After the coalition forces took control of the city, locals were wary about cooperating with Afghan army soldiers and Marines, but now there are more and more people willing to stand up to the Taliban, explained Cpl. Douglas Woltz, a Marine with the civil affairs group attached to Bravo Company, 1/6. This is due in part to security being restored in the region as well as the ability of coalition forces to provide work for the city's residents.

"The bazaar is absolutely flourishing," said Woltz. "Most people have returned to the city and pretty much accepted that we're here, having gotten over their apprehensions about us."

"We're employing well over 800 people in jobs ranging from canal cleaning, mosque refurbishing, park construction, well digging and the construction of foot bridges," said Woltz. "The ideas for projects come from both us and [the locals]. The requirements are that the projects benefit most of the community."

Through employing local workers and supporting key community centers, Marine and Afghan forces have been able to earn the most crucial currency in Afghanistan: trust.

"We've already had elders tell members of the Taliban 'no' to taxes, which is a pretty positive sign that people are standing up to them," said Dickenson. "We've sat down with important elders, but getting them to step up has proven to be a challenge due to tribal differences. The elders want to work together, they're tired of war, it's just a matter of getting them to see past their own block," said Dickenson. "However, they are open-minded to the idea of different tribes working together with one another."

However, the long-term goal of having the city's leaders take charge is still in the beginning stages.

"Slowly, but surely we're trying to build a community council to represent the entire population. It's a large project and has a long way to go," said Woltz. "There are a few local leaders that are starting to come out and represent their people openly, but it's a difficult transition here. Before we came in, everyone had ties to the Taliban. Now that the poppy season is over, this is the key time. They know they need to come to us for employment, otherwise they'll be struggling."

Five Fronts in the War in Afghanistan

American military leaders have had to devise multiple strategies to deal with Afghanistan’s complex terrain and an array of enemies. Here is a look at five areas of focus for the American military.


Published: May 12, 2010

The Front Line

Nearly all of the 30,000 additional troops ordered by President Obama will be sent to Helmand and Kandahar Provinces. In February, Marines battled with insurgents in Marja, a village in the lush poppy-growing belt of the Helmand River Valley. The next large offensive will be in Kandahar Province, where several districts are largely under insurgent control

The Front Line Map:

Preparing for the Next Surge

After the next big offensive in the Kandahar area, the military focus will turn to provinces in the east: Paktia, Paktika and Khost. There have been a number of attacks on the Afghan police here as well as assassinations of tribal elders. One of the most audacious suicide bombings of the war was carried out in Khost in December when a Jordanian attacked Forward Operating Base Chapman, killing seven C.I.A. employees and a Jordanian officer. Troops are preparing the eastern areas for battle by finding and destroying weapons, locating pockets of Taliban activity and establishing relationships with village leaders.

Preparing for the Next Surge Map:

The Porous Border With Pakistan

Under a program devised to reduce the flow of insurgents and weapons coming from Pakistan, American advisers teach Afghan police officers how to protect their outposts and close their borders from Pakistan’s tribal areas, where Taliban leaders continue to train and equip fighters for battle against American and allied forces in Afghanistan. The poorly marked border, much of it high in the mountains, is about 1,500 miles long and is still considered to be fairly porous.

The Porous Border With Pakistan Map:

Supporting Afghan Forces

American and allied troops have focused on supporting the Afghan National Security Forces to help them disrupt insurgent bomb-supply networks and protect population centers. They have been able to stay in the background as the Afghan troops have gained confidence, including reacting on their own to two significant suicide bombings and small-arms attacks in Kabul in January and February. The supporting effort has been strong in Kabul and nearby provinces, as well as in some western provinces.

Supporting Afghan Forces Map:

Minimizing Force

In order to undertake the main offensives in other areas of the country, the troop levels in the north and west remain relatively low. Most operations in the area focus on keeping roads open and safe and on training local Afghan security forces. Although with a rising insurgency in the Kunduz area, the 10th Mountain Division is sending about 2,000 troops to assist the German forces already there.

Minimizing Force Map:

Voices from the fronts

A Marine commander describes
leaving for an offensive:

“When the Marines flew in to Nawayi Barakazayi District, we were part of the largest heliborne assault since Vietnam. Marines had gathered for rehearsals since the middle of the day, and the plan was to leave close to 2 a.m. to take advantage of the fact that we can see at night and the enemy cannot. Waiting for the liftoff was a poignant moment the Marines will never forget — you know that your next stop is Taliban-held territory. You think of your training and responsibility and what actions you are going to take. You think of your family.”

Lt. Col. Bill McCollough,
First Battalion, Fifth Marines

A soldier describes
drawing out insurgents:

“I volunteered to be one of five soldiers for a Black Hawk helicopter operation to see if we could draw fire from any enemy forces to help locate them. Within the first five minutes we received fire from R.P.G.'s and continued to fly to draw more fire. After a refuel, we received word that a Delta Platoon convoy had been hit with four I.E.D.'s and R.P.G.’s, and we were needed on-site. We secured the site so our medic could provide aid, which saved a wounded soldier’s life. Myself and one other soldier gave up our seats on the Black Hawk while the soldier was loaded up on the bird to Bahgram A.F.B. hospital.”

Staff Sgt. Raymond Boiano,
1-506 Infantry, 101st Airborne Division

A soldier on how humanitarian
aid can help win the war:

“I delivered humanitarian aid to a Special Forces base along the border of Pakistan so the troops could give the aid to the villages nearby. The Special Forces were working with local police to patrol the mountain pass. The aid — blankets, bags of wheat, canisters of oil, heating fuel, boxes full of clothes and shoes — was to make sure the troops were getting the support of the villages. Part of the mission of civil affairs is to keep residents happy so they won’t harbor Taliban.”

Sgt. Jennifer Hunt, 450th Civil Affairs
Battalion, now project coordinator at Iraq
and Afghanistan Veterans of America

An officer on how the Afghan
police are taking on more:

“After a recent I.E.D. attack on troops near a village, the district chief of police immediately deployed to the village to speak to the elders. This meeting was a success for a few notable reasons. Prior to the clearance of the enemy elements from the area in September of 2009, police presence and influence was virtually nonexistent. The enemy enjoyed complete freedom to conduct both illicit and dangerous activities. Nine short months later, the chief of police is responding, literally within minutes, to security concerns and seeking solutions to future problems.”

Capt. Michael J. Trujillo,
4-73 Cavalry, 82nd Airborne Division

An officer describes a recent
joint mission with Afghan police:

“My platoon was returning to our combat outpost after conducting a combined patrol with the Baghlan Police when we were notified that another Afghan police element was in a firefight in a village north of us. We were ordered to respond and assist the police, but when we arrived, our platoon was ambushed by insurgents with rocket-propelled grenades. We engaged the insurgents, established a perimeter and called for additional Afghan police to enter and clear the compounds. After it was clear, we met with elders from the village.”

First Lt. Kyle Brown, 1-87 Infantry, First
Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division


Source: Defense Department’s “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan” (district assessments)

Corpsmen Keep Marjah Marines in the Fight

MARJAH, Afghanistan— For corpsmen with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, a slow day is a good day.



Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs More Stories from Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Cpl. Skyler Tooker
Date: 05.12.2010
Posted: 05.12.2010 03:47

With a slower work pace since Operation Moshtarak commenced in mid-February, the corpsmen finally have time to catch their breath, throwing their feet up in their new lounge comprised of sandbags. They have earned a little downtime.

It was a busy two months for the corpsmen with 3/6, when the Marines and corpsmen arrived in Marjah, treating the wounded throughout their area of operations.

Seaman Anderson Hernandez, a corpsman with 3/6, and other corpsmen found themselves in harm's way to accomplish their mission of treating the Marines. The corpsmen, at times, even treat the enemy for battle wounds.

"HN Hernandez is as close to a Marine as you can get," said Staff Sgt. Joseph Wright, platoon sergeant for 2nd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3/6. "On numerous occasions he has run under machine-gun fire to aid Marines and our Afghan allies. He is a vital part of the platoon and the Marines respect him. We wouldn't want to go anywhere without corpsmen. It is their guidance and their hand that actually keeps us alive when bad things do happen."

The corpsmen have not been as busy lately, now that the Marines have maintained a strong presence in Marjah.

"Things dramatically slowed down since the clearing phase of Marjah, to the point of we went from sitting by the radio listening for medical evacuation on a daily basis to now, maybe one every other day," said Chief Petty Officer Christopher Silva, 30, the leading chief petty officer for the 3/6 battalion aid station. "We follow the medical evacuations from the line companies and the line corpsmen all the way up to the battalion. A lot of it is just sick calls, so things have slowed down, but not for the corpsmen. Now they are handling things such as medical schooling, new orders and thing of that nature."

The corpsmen ensure all the Marines stay as healthy as possible, and now that the workflow has slowed, the corpsmen have a little time to take care of themselves.

"The corpsmen are coming back up to the battalion, going to the career counselor, getting orders, doing projects around the camp and improving the BAS." said Silva, from Chatsworth, Calif. "We go from being extremely slow, to within minutes, people injured by the Taliban coming into our BAS. Things get hectic pretty quick, but not on a daily basis."

The corpsmen stay vigilant, remembering the mindset of their initial days of fighting in Marjah.

"Usually right before a mission or patrol I am saying to myself, 'I hope no one gets hurt today, I hope no one gets hurt today,'" said Hernandez, 21, from Boston. "The most satisfying thing about this job is to know that you are helping them, and that they can count on you."

Marines Maintain Fitness in Marjah

MARJAH, Afghanistan —Capt. Robert Schotter doesn't want to hear any excuses about the inability to find time or equipment for a workout.



Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs More Stories from Regimental Combat Team-7, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Story by Cpl. Skyler Tooker
Date: 05.12.2010
Posted: 05.12.2010 02:29

Schotter, an intelligence officer with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, lacks access to the state-of-the-art fitness centers he's accustomed to back in Camp Lejeune, N.C. In Marjah, he must adapt and overcome to maintain his level of fitness.

Marines with 3/6 have consolidated enough equipment to create their own personal gym, including kettlebells, a pull-up bar, sledgehammer and spare tires. They also do several exercises with the use of their own body weight.

"There are not quite as many options when it comes to equipment, be we find a way to mix it up," said Schotter. "Maybe we will work out longer, or maybe we will do more of one exercise more than the other. There is enough of a variety that we shouldn't run out of things to do."

While some Marines maintain a high level of fitness patrolling for long distances with a heavy combat load, Marines like Cpl. Sean Huston, works out to stay physically fit, mentally ready and relieve stress.

The Marines don't have much time to themselves. They try and make it a quick, but very fast-paced workout to build their strength and endurance, no more than 15 to 20 minutes long.

"When a lot of the guys are at chow, we come out here before the nightly meeting and get some of the excess energy out," said Schotter, 26, from Lincoln, R.I. "If it is a busy day then we won't work out, but we try to do the workouts every other day or a couple of days on and a day off."

Marines change up their workout every day.

"It doesn't take a whole lot. We can do it with body weight and we can do it with the random equipment that we have," said Schotter. "And even if you took this all away we would still find a way to get a workout. There is not really a valid excuse not to workout."

Marine Cpl. Kurt Shea of Frederick, Md., killed in Afghanistan

The family of Cpl. Kurt S. Shea, a 21-year-old Marine from Frederick, had been planning a party for July 4 to celebrate the end of his tour in Afghanistan. Instead, on Tuesday, relatives were preparing to go to Dover Air Force Base to retrieve the body of Shea, who was killed Monday in Afghanistan's Helmand Province.


By Tara Bahrampour
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 12, 2010

He died doing what he had always longed to do, said his mother, Linda Shea. "When he was 3, he wanted to be an Army man," she said, adding that she probably still has her son's crayon drawings of military men from that time.

The Department of Defense said that Shea, a radio operator assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division Forward, died while supporting combat operations. His mother said preliminary reports say he was killed by a gunshot to the head.

After investigating all the branches of the military during high school, Shea chose the Marines and signed up before beginning his senior year, his mother said.


He was attracted to the discipline and physical rigor. "Kurt did not ever sidestep a challenge," she said, adding that his three years of service had helped him develop. "He was always respectful, he became more respectful; he was always mature, he became more mature."

Shea's friends were reeling from the news, with messages about his death appearing on Facebook and pouring in to the Web site of Maryland DeMolay, a youth fraternity Shea had been a member of since his early teens.

Jonathan Adler, one of his fraternity brothers, said Shea had wanted to study kung fu. "We were going to look into schools in the area so that we could train together," he said. "He demonstrated many qualities that would have made him a great martial artist."

Courtney Duvall, a classmate at Frederick High School, recalled a gesture Shea made when she was a new student at Frederick High. "He was kind enough to invite me to his table with his friends at lunch when I first started," she said.

Shea was to serve one more year in the Marines, after which, his mother said, he was trying to decide whether to continue or pursue a career in law enforcement or criminal justice. "He wanted to protect," she said. "He's a big brother."

His sister Olivia, who is in high school, felt that protection, his mother said. "With the guys that are paying attention to her, Kurt reminded her to remind them that her brother's a Marine."

Shea, who was promoted to corporal in April 2009, was still getting used to overseeing people, his mother said. "He would ask for advice: How do you supervise people?" He would also ask for Girl Scout peanut butter cookies and Hostess banana cupcakes, which his family would send in the mail.

Shea will be buried in Frederick, his mother said.

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.

East Texas Marine dies day after wedding anniversary

KILGORE, TX (KLTV) - It was a sobering day on an East Texas campus and for the city of Kilgore, as a hometown Marine falls in the line of duty in Afghanistan. The Marine was killed only a day after celebrating his second wedding anniversary.


Posted: May 12, 2010 2:05 PM CDT Updated: May 13, 2010 7:14 PM CDT
By Bob Hallmark
Posted by Ellen Krafve

According to his family, Sergeant Kenneth May Jr., 26, served two tours in Iraq, and was on a tour in Afghanistan when he was killed.

"[He was] very giving, very open, very friendly, willing to do anything to help for whatever needed to be done," said Wayne Smith, the Kilgore College band director. "Somebody needs something and he'd help them just a great young man.

May was a Kilgore High School graduate, and was in the choir and played tuba in the band at Kilgore College in 2002-2003. The news of his death is shattering.

"We work so hard to teach service learning and try to get students to learn what a life of service is but here's someone who models that in their own behavior and sets an example for all of us what it means to give an ultimate sacrifice," said Dr. Bill Holda, president of Kilgore College.

Those who knew May at school say they will remember a young man with high character who did not have to join the fight, but made the decision to defend freedom.

"He made the most unselfish of all sacrifices and that is to give up his life for the love and the freedom of others, and that was the person that I think he was," said Smith.

"He had a big heart and lots of friends around him, and my heart weeps as I say this because its just heartbreaking," said Holda.

He is remembered as being tough as boot leather and the best of what this country had to give.

"We probably will never know the full impact of his choice and the difference that it made," said Holda.

May leaves behind his wife, Krystal, his parents, Kenneth and Karen, and his sister Kalynne, all of Kilgore.

Mysterious Blight Destroys Afghan Poppy Harvest

Up to one-third of Afghanistan’s poppy harvest this spring has been destroyed by a mysterious disease, according to estimates revealed Wednesday by United Nations officials, potentially complicating the American and NATO military offensives this summer in the country’s opium-producing heartland.


Published: May 12, 2010

The Taliban’s public relations strategy against the offensives includes trying to convince local residents that Western troops will destroy their poppy crops, and in recent weeks Afghan farmers have started blaming the American and NATO militaries for spreading the disease, United Nations officials say. In many places, the blight has wiped out more than half of individual poppy fields.

The American military — which has decided that widespread eradication can be counterproductive to winning over Afghans — emphatically denies any involvement, and United Nations officials say the disease is naturally occurring.

Besides fueling the propaganda war, the blight might also help the insurgency by giving prices a boost. Reduced production is causing prices for fresh opium to soar as much as 60 percent, after years of declining prices, according to the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa.

While there is no evidence that the disease will return next year, the rising prices may make it harder to persuade farmers to give up the crop, he said.

The price increase is also raising by hundreds of millions of dollars the value of opium stockpiles held by traffickers and insurgents. The opium trade is believed to provide the Taliban with a large portion of their budget.

The disease is expected to wipe out as much as 2,500 tons of opium production, mostly in Helmand, Kandahar and Oruzgan Provinces, Mr. Costa said in an interview in New York.

The United States and NATO have been sending tens of thousands of new troops into Helmand and Kandahar in an attempt to wrest control of Taliban strongholds. Some NATO officials fear that if the military operations do not show significant results this year, President Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan could be doomed.

Before the effects of the disease became clear in recent weeks, United Nations officials had expected this year’s harvest to be little changed from last year’s haul of 6,900 tons. Afghanistan produces 90 percent of the world’s opium.

The disease is likely to have been caused by an aphid, but it could also be the result of a fungus or virus, Mr. Costa said. A similar ailment struck poppy crops in northern Afghanistan four years ago.

He said that Afghan farmers’ fears that Western forces spread the disease were without foundation. While farmers were suffering, he said that if the increased prices persisted, they would deliver “a very significant windfall” for drug barons and insurgents who control thousands of tons of opium stored in Afghanistan and other locations.

A crucial part of the new American and NATO military strategy has been a soft-glove approach to opium cultivation, which dominates the economy of much of southern Afghanistan. The military has abandoned tougher measures like widespread eradication, and now troops are trying to induce poppy farmers to switch to other crops by using financial incentives.

American military officials who have analyzed the issue agree with the United Nations that the disease could reduce yields from this year’s opium harvest by as much as one-third, said Capt. John Kirby of the Navy, a spokesman for Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Would we like to see the poppy trade go away eventually — yes,” Captain Kirby said. “Would we do it this way? Absolutely not. This crop loss is a natural occurrence and absolutely in no way connected to the United States or NATO militaries.”

Obama: Afghan War Will Worsen Before It Improves

President Admits To 'Setbacks'

WASHINGTON -- The war in Afghanistan will get worse before it gets better, President Barack Obama warned on Wednesday, but he declared his plan to begin withdrawing U.S. forces next year remains on track.


ANNE GEARAN, AP National Security Writer
Posted: 11:55 am EDT May 12, 2010Updated: 4:45 pm EDT May 12, 2010

Standing alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Obama said, "What I've tried to emphasize is the fact that there is going to be some hard fighting over the next several months." The two leaders spoke at a White House news conference as U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan prepare to push hard into the Taliban's birthplace in Kandahar Province in June. The campaign for Kandahar, already under way in districts outside the city, is expected to be among the bloodiest of the nearly nine-year-old war.

"There is no denying the progress," Obama said. "Nor, however, can we deny the very serious challenges still facing Afghanistan."

Karzai's warm White House welcome followed months of sniping and frustration over management of the war and about fraud allegations surrounding Karzai's re-election last year. Both leaders said disagreements are normal with so much at stake.

"There are moments when we speak frankly to each other, and that frankness will only contribute to the strength of the relationship," Karzai said with a smile.

The United States has taken "extraordinary measures" to avoid civilian deaths in the war, Obama said, a nod to Karzai's loud complaints last year that U.S. air strikes were killing innocents and making enemies of those who might be friends.

"I do not want civilians killed," Obama said, adding that he is ultimately accountable when they are.

Heavy restrictions on when U.S. warplanes can fire at suspected militants are among the changes to war policy installed by the general Obama sent last year to turn around the war.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, facing Obama and Karzai in the front row Wednesday, has said he is willing to let a few killers slip away if it means saving civilian lives. Insurgents often hide among civilians, taking over homes or using refuge provided willingly by sympathizers. Obama accepted McChrystal's argument that either way, killing the other people in a house only breeds resentment and makes it harder to argue that the U.S.-backed government in Kabul is on their side.

"After all it's the Afghan people we are working to protect from the Taliban," Obama said.

In announcing a major expansion of the war last year -- one that will bring a record 98,000 U.S. forces to Afghanistan by the end of this summer -- Obama also said he would begin bringing some forces home in July 2011. The date was meant to reassure Pakistan and Obama's anti-war supporters at home that the war was not open-ended. It was also intended as a signal to Karzai that the United States expected something for its commitment, namely progress in establishing a real working government and attacking endemic corruption.

"We are not suddenly as of July 2011 finished with Afghanistan," Obama said. "After July 2011 we are still going to have an interest in making sure that Afghanistan is secure, that economic development is taking place, that good governance is being promoted."

Addressing Americans, Obama said they should know "we are steadily making progress. It's not overnight."

At least 982 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. military action since late 2001, according to an Associated Press count.

Billions in aid, roughly 80 percent of it from the United States, has helped provide schools, roads, government offices and impartial judges. The money and the constant presence of U.S. forces have failed to decisively turn the tide of the war, however, and military commanders say time is dwindling to make a difference.

The Taliban have surged back over the past five years to become a flexible army with plenty of resources and wider popular support than the United States has sometimes been willing to acknowledge.

"I've used whatever political capital I have to make the case to the American people that this is in our national security interests, that it's absolutely critical that we succeed on this mission," Obama said.

The war against violent extremism isn't confined within Afghanistan's borders, he said.

Questioned by an Afghan reporter, he said he sees a growing recognition among leaders in neighboring Pakistan that the extremist groups who are based there represent a "cancer in their midst." He said Pakistani leaders are recognizing that the groups that are using Pakistan's frontier as a base are threatening the nation's sovereignty.

Obama's Afghanistan exit strategy depends heavily on propping up a strong central government in Afghanistan. But U.S. military and civilian officials say that won't be possible until the local population learns to trust the new authorities.

Only a quarter of the key regions in Afghanistan support or even sympathize with the government in Kabul, with large swaths of the country still hesitant to swing behind the U.S.-backed authority, according to a Pentagon assessment released last month.

The report found that as of March, much of the country is either neutral to Afghan authorities or supportive of the Taliban insurgency. Only 29 of 121 districts in Afghanistan identified as "key terrain" support or sympathize with the Kabul government. More Afghans did report feeling safer, with 84 percent saying security levels were "fair" or "good."

Afghanistan's top leaders are spending most of the week in Washington for fence-mending and an examination of the war strategy ahead of the Kandahar operation. The visit comes about midway between Obama's announcement last December that he would add another 30,000 forces and what he has said will be a reappraisal of the U.S. battle plan at the end of this year. It also comes weeks ahead of a peace summit called by Karzai to prepare for eventual talks with Taliban and other militants.

Karzai appears to agree with outside analysts who say that senior Taliban, including some with blood on their hands, must be at the table for any serious negotiation to stick. The United States has ruled out discussions with anyone who has not renounced ties to al-Qaida, reflecting the sensitivity of cutting deals with people who were even indirectly responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks. The United States has not spelled out what middle ground it might approve however, and although Obama said the outreach effort must be managed by Afghans Karzai has said he needs U.S. backing before he makes a move.

Initial outreach is directed at Taliban foot soldiers who are not motivated by ideology or affiliated with terrorists, Karzai said. He called them "country boys" driven to the fight by economic hardship. Obama said the two leaders will keep talking about how to approach the larger goal of a full reconciliation that could end the war.


Associated Press Writers Jennifer Loven and Anne Flaherty contributed to this report.

(This version CORRECTS surge announced in December, not January)

Hard Hit Marine Unit Deploys Again

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- An Ohio Marine Reserve unit devastated by losses in Iraq in 2005 has left for its first large-scale deployment since returning from that ill-fated mission.


Posted: 11:53 am EDT May 12, 2010Updated: 11:57 am EDT May 12, 2010

Members of Columbus-based Lima Company departed from the city's Rickenbacker International Airport Wednesday on a yearlong assignment that officials say could include time in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa.

The more than 100 Marines head first for California for training.

The branch of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, lost 16 Marines and seven service members while in Iraq. Nine Marines were killed in one roadside bombing.

Members of the unit say they still think daily about the bad times of 2005 but note that the current deployment involves a new mission and a new group of Marines.

Marines Dominate in Early Competition at Warrior Games

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., May 12, 2010 – The Marine Corps team is on top after yesterday’s first day of competition at the inaugural Warrior Games here, sweeping their opponents and finishing 4-0 in team play.


By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

Team Marine ended the day 2-0 in sitting volleyball and 2-0 in wheelchair basketball at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.

The Marines’ run started on the volleyball court with a victory over Team Army 2 in the opening match. Team Army 2 fought hard, but the Marines took the first two games of the best-of-three series fairly easy.

The second game, against Team Army 3, was a different story. The Marines barely pulled off the win in a 30-28 Game 3 nail-biter. After losing the first game, Team Army 3 took a quick 8-0 lead in the second game. But, the poised Marines patiently clawed their way back to tie the game at 20. The intensity in the bleachers picked up, as bellowing chants of “Let’s go, Army!” and “Marine Corps! Marine Corps!” thundered back and forth across the court.

In the end, the pressure was just too much for the Army, and it was the Marine cheering section that rushed the floor to celebrate victory.

“This is great!” Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Marcus Wilson shouted. “This is what we’ve been training for the last two weeks.”

Wilson gave credit to the Army team. The victory was much sweeter against a strong opponent, he said, and Team Army 3 was a tough squad.

“They were tough, and they did a great job with a lot of heart, but this is what we’ve been training for – this exact situation,” Wilson said. “This type of scenario is something our coaches have been working on with us in practice, so we were ready.”

The Marines also dominated competition the basketball court. With their high field goal percentage and quick guard play, the Marines showed why they are heavily favored to win the gold medal. The Marines routed the Air Force 68-13 in their first game, and followed up that win by beating Army 45-18 in a game that was a little closer than the score indicates.

The Air Force didn’t have an answer for the speed of Retired Marine Corps Cpl. Travis Greene and Cpl. Raymond Hennagir. The two double-leg amputees zipped up and down the floor in tandem, while Air Force defenders could only watch.

The Army, however, made a strong showing again early on in the second game. But their hope of winning slowly began to fade with the loss of smooth-driving point guard Spc. Craig C. Smith to a leg cramp in the second half. The Marines took advantage of Smith’s absence, cruising to victory behind a 20-2 run.

After getting through the first day of competition unscathed, the Marines are going into today’s second day of competition optimistic about their chance to win the Chairman’s Cup, the games’ top award that will be presented to the service with the highest medal count.

“The first day of competition, we rock-and-rolled,” Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Luis Nino, the senior staff noncommissioned officer for the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment, said. “To turn around and see my Marines, my country’s Marines, do so well in competition is highly motivating.”

An avid sports fan, Nino said watching yesterday’s competition was more exciting than sitting in the stands at Yankee Stadium in October, where he watched his New York Yankees come from behind on a late-inning home run from Alex Rodriguez in a playoff game.

“Even that game didn’t compare to the last game we played against the Army in volleyball,” Nino said. “I’ve never screamed as loud as I did or got light-headed from cheering the way I did in that game.”

Although the athletes have proven to be highly competitive, the Warrior Games are about more than victory and medals. Most importantly, the games are about competitors rising to new challenges and gaining a sense of normalcy and renewed confidence.

So far, the Warrior Games have panned out to be better than the athletes and organizers ever could have imagined, said U.S. Paralympian and Army Gulf War veteran John Register.

“I don’t think the first day of competition could’ve gone any better,” said Register, who lost his left leg to a hurdling accident in 1994 while training for the 1996 Summer Olympics. “Even though we’re one team, one fight as a country, when you get the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps [and] Coast Guard in here, it’s a phenomenal experience to see the camaraderie and esprit de corps take over. We’re seeing that right now with our servicemembers.

“When you look around, you see no one harping on disabilities,” Register added. “It’s all about ability and getting into the spirit of the games.”

Official Day 1 results are:

In sitting volleyball:

-- Marines defeated Army 2; 2-0; 25-11, 25-8
-- Air Force defeated Army 1; 2-0; 27-25, 25-16
-- Marines defeated Army 3; 2-0; 25-7, 30-28
-- Army 2 defeated Navy; 2-0; 25-22, 25-13
-- Army 1 defeated Marine 2; forfeit for not enough players
-- Army 4 defeated Marine 2; forfeit for not enough players

In wheelchair basketball:

-- Army 15, Navy 10
-- Marines 68, Air Force 13
-- Marines 45, Army 18
-- Air Force 22, Navy 18

Today, athletes are set to compete in archery, cycling and swimming, as well as the second round of pool play in wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball.

The inaugural Warrior Games, which run through May 14, feature about 200 wounded warriors and disabled veterans from all five branches of military service in Paralympic-type competitions. The U.S. Olympic Committee hosts the games in partnership with the Defense Department and the USO.

Total Force Airlift Delivering in Afghanistan

CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan – At a place where Operation Moshtarek, a NATO-Afghan joint offensive involving 15,000 Afghan, Canadian, American and British troops is still in full swing, military aircraft come in like clockwork.


U.S. Air Forces Central Public Affairs More Stories from U.S. Air Forces Central Public Affairs RSS
Story by Tech. Sgt. Oshawn Jefferson
Date: 05.12.2010
Posted: 05.12.2010 09:43

Airmen from across the force are showing the power of combat airlift and delivering supplies to warfighters on the frontlines of freedom in Afghanistan.

"MATVs are one of the most common things we deliver here," said Lt. Col. Melissa Coburm, a C-17 Globemaster III pilot from the 732nd Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at the Transit Center at Manas, Kyrgyzstan. "I feel important bringing better technology to our troops on the ground. It is good to know that we're making a difference," added the Colonel who is a reservist deployed from McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.

Airlift keeps Airmen from the 451st Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron's Detachment 1 here busy. The unit's air traffic operations center and ramp operations have uploaded and downloaded more than 40,000 short-tons of cargo from almost 3,000 aircraft moving in and out of the airfield here since January 1. Moving cargo off of airframes such as C-17 Globemaster IIIs, C-130 Hercules, Russian-made IL-76s and DC-8s, aerial port Airmen are ensuring Coalition Forces get equipment and supplies they need.

"Every time we land here we see the Aerial Porters and they're on it; we are able to get our cargo offloaded fast," said Senior Airman Glenn Bernier II, a C-17 loadmaster with the 817th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at the Transit Center at Manas, and deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "It's impressive to see and it makes you proud to see your fellow Airmen on the ground when you land. It makes you feel a part of something bigger than yourself. With every delivery we are helping our coalition partners on the ground and Afghan citizens."

While Airmen are aiding in delivering 30,000 troops into the region as part of the plus-up throughout Afghanistan; since Jan. 1, airlifters have ensured more than 25,000 customers got on their way to their various destinations throughout Southwest Asia.

"If we can get people home or to their duty station, we are proud to do it," said Capt. Dominic Conlan, a C-17 pilot with the 817th Expeditionary Airlift squadron at the Transit Center at Manas, and deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "It's an honor to be serving with these Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, fellow Airmen and coalition forces at this time. We are all a part of a team making history at this time in this place."

Airlift doesn't just involve moving passengers and cargo, but at times human remains.

"We hang the flag and carry human remains home with the ultimate respect," said Staff Sgt. Derek Clemons, a loadmaster with the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at location in Southwest Asia and deployed from Charleston AFB, S.C. "It is not a mission we enjoy doing at all, but we are honored when we get the chance to take patriots who paid the ultimate sacrifice back to their families. These people served their country with valor and it is a pleasure to part of an airlift operation that remembers and takes care of our fallen warriors."

One of the most vital airlift missions here is aero-medical evacuation. AE teams carry equipment for nearly every scenario: stretchers, stretcher racks, defibrillators, suction machines, IVs, oxygen tanks … ect.; helping to save lives and move war-fighters to higher medical care.

"I love my job, because the bottom line is we get to help people," said Master Sgt. Marc Maxwell, a C-130 Hercules loadmaster with the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. He is deployed from the California Air National Guard's 115th Airlift Squadron at Channel Island Air National Guard Station in Port Hueneme, Calif. "Getting people to the medical care they need is a great example of airlift. Being a part of this mission in this region is awesome. I get to assist the guys on the frontlines. I may have a small role but I am happy to play it."

As operations continue here, there is no doubt the power of airlift will continue to be felt throughout Afghanistan.

"We are all joint personnel in a worldwide fight," said 1st Lt. Danielle Varwig, a C-17 pilot with the 817th EAS at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, and deployed from Travis. "Together we will move the mission on the air and ground for the security of Afghanistan and our coalition partners."

Marine's Fast Reaction Saves Life

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan - The blast hit just outside his patrol base – a small, concrete schoolhouse in northern Marjah, May 4. The impact, said Cpl. Jason Ducote, made him feel "like all the fillings had fallen out of his teeth."


1st Marine Division More Stories from 1st Marine Division RSS
Story by Gunnery Sgt. William Price
Date: 05.12.2010
Posted: 05.12.2010 01:36

Within an instant, the 24-year-old squad leader with 3rd Platoon, India Company, 3rd Battalion 6th Marine Regiment, was gearing up with his men to find the cause of the explosion.

Just before leaving the patrol base, Staff Sgt. Toben Hill, a civil affairs Marine, had asked Ducote if he needed any help on the patrol. On a normal day, Hill and his CA Marines would be helping local villagers build schoolhouses, dig wells, or repairing damages caused by combat. Today, Hill just wanted to help out. After all, every Marine is a rifleman.

Initial reports said a rocket-propelled grenade had been fired from the south, from a group of compounds, or mud houses, where locals live. It exploded just north of the patrol base headquarters.

Ducote, with his 10-man squad and Hill, encountered a local villager who pointed out two compounds where he thought the RPG had come from. The first came up empty, but inside the second, the Marines found a man in his mid-20's. He claimed to have been asleep the whole time!

Ducote was suspicious. "I immediately knew something wasn't right. How does anyone sleep through all this commotion?" the Reidsville, N.C., native wondered. "We decided to flexi-cuff and detain the man until we could get a proper gunshot residue test on his hands." With the detainee in custody, the Marines continued the patrol, looking for evidence of enemy activity.

Back at the schoolhouse, reports were coming in that another local villager was seen pointing downward to an area in the ground. Thinking this might be the RPG launch tube, Ducote, with Hill behind him, took lead, and the Marines set out to examine the area.

They were patrolling just outside visual range of the schoolhouse when all hell broke loose.

"Over the radio, they tell me they can't see me. As I began to respond, our detainee starts screaming, 'Mine, mine, mine!' in Pashtu, and takes off running," Ducote said. "My first instinct was to recapture the detainee, but that's when I saw it."

Hidden in the tall grass, just a few inches away from Ducote, was an improvised explosive device – a white sandbag, with wires and a white receiver box.

Ducote had only seconds to respond. He quickly spun around, grabbed the Marine closest to him, who was Hill, and threw him down into a ditch. Risking his life, Ducote stood back up, and began screaming to his Marines, "Everyone get back! Get back! GET ... "

Then his words were drowned out by an ear-splitting explosion. The blast knocked Ducote out. When he came to, his first question was, "How are the men?"
The men were fine, thanks to Ducote. "He is one of the best Marines I have had the privilege to work with," Hill said, grateful to be alive and in one piece. "There is no way I can ever thank him enough for what he did for me. He saved my life!"

"We are extremely proud to have Marines like Cpl. Ducote in the company," said Capt. William Hefty, 3/6, I Company, company commander. "Most importantly the Marines in his squad, place their trust and faith in him every day, knowing they can count on him to do it right."

Ducote, who incurred a Grade-3 concussion from the blast, as well as severe trauma to his back, is currently recuperating at Camp Leatherneck's Wounded Warrior Detachment. Even though this is the second time he has been hit by an IED in less than a month, there is only one thing on his mind: "Getting better so I can return to my men as soon as possible."

"These types of actions are occurring all over the area of operations across all the battalions. Marines are continuously doing things that amaze and impress," Hefty added. "The stress that Marines like Corporal Ducote are routinely subjected to and still they are able to maintain their cool and make the right decision under the most extreme situations is a testament to the dedication and professionalism inherent to our Corps."

When asked if he considered his actions to be heroic, the son of a Vietnam Marine and grandson of a World War II Marine had this to say: "I'm just glad everyone was alright. I don't think I am a hero.

Every time I leave the wire, I am in charge of the safety and security of my men. Terms like 'hero' are for those who go above and beyond the call of duty. I just did what was asked of me – accomplish the mission, and bring my men back safe."

After 30-year Absence, Jirga Held in Moqur District

KABUL, Afghanistan - District elders held a Grand Jirga Thursday in Moqur, one of the districts most affected by the insurgency in Badghis province.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.12.2010
Posted: 05.12.2010 05:55

A Grand Jirga is an ancestral convention between Afghan rulers and the population. This Jirga has not been held for 30 years in Moqur due to wars and unrest. It stopped when the Soviets invaded and didn't start again afterward because of a civil war followed by wars with the Taliban and between ethnic factions.

Before the Soviet invasion, each region in Afghanistan used to hold a festival for residents. The festival coincided with the arrival of spring. Elders would outline their political programs for the year and participants would enjoy food, dancing and singing. In some regions, sporting events were also held during the celebration.

This year, the province governors appointed by the Afghan national government participated in these celebrations. Locals said they believe the return of the Grand Jirga is a sign of a return to normality in the governance of the province, and in particular in the Moqur district.

With the presence of ISAF troops partnered with Afghan units at two advanced bases, one in the capital district where mostly U.S. troops are housed and another one in Sang-Atesh where mostly Spanish troops are housed, the security situation has improved. Moqur is a border district between Pasthun and Tajik tribal areas. Its population, at first concerned about the insecurity of the area, is now showing signs of normality and willingness to begin reconstruction.

Karzai meets Obama on plan in Afghanistan

By Matthew Lee and Robert Burns - The Associated Press
Posted : Wednesday May 12, 2010 7:48:32 EDT

WASHINGTON — Afghan President Hamid Karzai is meeting President Barack Obama in the White House after a day of intensive talks at the State Department and a visit with wounded U.S. troops.

To read the entire article:


IJC Operational Update, May 12

KABUL, Afghanistan - Several suspected militants were detained by an Afghan-international security force as they searched for a Taliban commander in Helmand province last night.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.12.2010
Posted: 05.12.2010 06:10

A combined security force moved to a compound near Nangazi, in the Sangin District after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. During the search the assault team detained the suspected militants for further questioning.

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

Yesterday in Malmand Chinnah district, of Helmand province, Afghanistan national security forces with ISAF partners conducted a combined operation. Several compounds were identified as possible locations for a known senior insurgent commander. This operation was conducted to search the compounds and find the insurgent commander.

As the combined force approached the first compound, several insurgents fled the area. One fled to an adjacent compound, which was also occupied by women and children, while the other two hid in a nearby treeline.

The combined force secured a total of three compounds, and Afghan Special Police conducted numerous callouts in local dialects.
Several men, women, and children vacated the compounds and were moved to a safe area for the duration of the operation.

Once they assured the civilians were safe, the combined force proceeded to the treeline to apprehend the insurgents who had fled the first compound. The insurgents ignored numerous callouts by Afghan special police and instead presented a credible threat to the combined force, which consequently shot and killed both insurgents.

This operation resulted in the confirmed death of a leading Taliban commander and suicide attack facilitator known as "Amid," and is expected to disrupt the training facilitation of an active Taliban network in the Malmand District. Additionally, several men were detained in this operation.

A total of eight women and 23 children were protected throughout this operation and returned safely to their homes.

Marines Remember and Honor a Fallen Brother

COMBAT OUTPOST CAFFERETTA, Afghanistan – Marines with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 2, gathered aboard Combat Outpost Cafferetta, to honor their fallen brother-in-arms, May 12.



Regimental Combat Team-2, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs More Stories from Regimental Combat Team-2, 1st Marine Division Public Affairs RSS
Date: 05.12.2010
Posted: 05.13.2010 06:24

Lance Cpl. Thomas Edward Rivers Jr. was born March 19, 1988. He joined the Marine Corps on June 11, 2007 and became an infantryman. On Nov. 9, 2007, Rivers reported for duty with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines.

While serving with 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, Rivers deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from July 2008 to February 2009.

In 2010, he deployed again to Helmand province, Afghanistan, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Rivers, a Hoover, Ala. native, passed away, April 28, while 1st squad was performing a mission to prevent the enemy from firing at Patrol Base Sofla.

Rivers set up security in a compound just north of Sofla after covering watch for a fellow Marine moments before. When he took over watch, he triggered an anti-personnel improvised explosive devise.

His squad quickly held security and cared for Rivers, and Lance Cpl. Matthew Proctor, a team leader with 1st Squad, 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, RCT-2, made his way to Rivers and began talking to him.

Just so happens, two nights earlier, Rivers read Proctor his life verse from Psalms 91. Proctor took it upon himself to recite it to Rivers as they talked before Rivers succumbed to his wounds.

"Rivers was a religious man. He could often be found reading and praying Psalms 91," said Capt. Jeremy Wilkinson, a 34-year-old from Cambridge, Ohio, and the company commander for A Company, 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, RCT-2. "The loss of Lance Cpl. Rivers is tragic, but his efforts will impact generations through lives saved and the good he did."

To many, Rivers was more than a Marine or a fellow brother-in-arms, he was their friend.
"Rivers was one of the best Marines I have ever known," said Cpl. Justin Palmer, a team leader with 1st Squad, 1st Platoon, A Company, 1st Bn., 2nd Marines. "He was also the best at his job, and I have and will always consider him my best friend."

"I thank god for putting Rivers in my life and I'll forever be thankful for all he has done for me and for others," added Palmer, 22, from Enoree, S.C. "I know my friend Rivers is now in a better place and I will see him again one day. He will always be remembered."

While deployed to Afghanistan, Rivers served as the team leader for 1st Squad, 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Bn., 2nd Marines, RCT-2. He is survived by his mother, Charon Rivers, and father, Thomas Edward Rivers Sr.

"He was one of a kind, a true warrior," said his friend Proctor in his final words to Rivers. "Rivers, you will never be forgotten, for people do not forget a brother. You will always be with us in how we carry ourselves, the way we talk, in our smiles and in our tears. You will be with us in all of our actions, our minds, and most importantly our hearts."

May 11, 2010

Hold fire, earn a medal

By William H. McMichael - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday May 11, 2010 19:27:58 EDT

U.S. troops in Afghanistan could soon be awarded a medal for not doing something, a precedent-setting award that would be given for “courageous restraint” for holding fire to save civilian lives.

To continue reading:


FRO publishes book of poetry

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point — When asked what motivates her to get out of bed every morning, Gunnery Sgt. Laura Stanislaw looked down at her desert camouflage uniform through big, piercing blue eyes. Her slender fingers and well-manicured fingernails play with the pen on her desk. “I’m just happy,” she said with a shrug and a smile. The family readiness officer for Marine Aircraft Group 40 describes her job as, “the most rewarding work I’ve done in the Marine Corps.”


5/11/2010 By Lance Cpl. Brian Adam Jones , Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point

Stanislaw’s work, and every other piece of her day-to-day life, has driven her foray into a new field – publishing a book of poetry. “One Heart, True Words” is slated to be published by the end of May and will feature 18 poems she has written since 2005.

It all started with the poem “Passion,” Stanislaw says. She was dating a man and spontaneously decided to write a poem about the relationship. She then easily transitioned into writing about everything in her life, good or bad.

“I’ve been through a lot in my life. Over the years, I’ve learned to turn every negative into a positive,” Stanislaw said. “I’ve been sad and unhappy before, that’s no place to be. It’s unhealthy.”

Stanislaw’s poetry probes every aspect of her life without preference or prejudice, a feature she described as being important to the therapy provided by the poems.

“She is an ambitious and energetic person,” said Dawn Rae, the family readiness officer for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing. “She seems to get great satisfaction from helping people.”

Stanislaw said when she was participating in an advanced course in Quantico, a gunnery sergeant stood up and told a story about a friend of his who was killed in a roadside bomb, and as he stood there and told his story, Stanislaw could see the shrapnel wounds from the event on the Marine’s face. That event was the driving inspiration behind the poem “Sacrifice,” one of her favorite poems from her book.

“Life is not as perfect as a bed of roses,” Stanislaw said. “There are ups and downs, positives and negatives. In the end, stick it out and turn into the person you want to be.”

Rae said she is a big fan of Stanislaw’s poetry and finds it absolutely inspiring.

“Through her words, feelings and emotions come alive,” Rae said.

Lejeune troops learn to win hearts, minds in Afghanistan

Troops from 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment recently began preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan in a way that had nothing to do with PT or weapons training.


May 11, 2010 8:52 AM

Instead Thursday morning, they sat in a classroom and learned about the country’s people, language and infrastructure from Mohammad Azamy, a native Afghan and a culture instructor for the Marine Corps.

Azamy showed the Marines an ethnic and linguistic map of Afghanistan, describing the terrain and the level of development, as well as how to build rapport with Afghans, as they entered new regions and sought to communicate and build cooperation.

“Where the road ends, the Taliban begins,” Azamy told the Marines.

He also spoke of the importance of wasta, or respect, a cornerstone of Afghan community life. Afghans deeply revere their elders, as well as their all-encompassing religion, and expect outsiders to do the same.

“The most important thing is honor, because if I honor you, you will honor me,” Azamy told the Daily News.

Lance corporals Michael Turosk and Jarred Moore, both infantrymen with 3/9 India company, said the classes helped them better to understand both the terrain and the people of Afghanistan before their first deployment to the country.

Because of the classes, “when you’re talking to people, you can kind of understand what they’re thinking,” Turosk said.

Understanding the cultural underpinnings and the experience of the average Afghan is crucial to effective communication, 1st Lt. Matthew Fallon, operations officer for the unit, said.

“A lot of these families that we will work with, their most expensive item is a wheelbarrow,” he said.

The impression that Marines make on the people they encounter could mean the difference between collaboration or opposition as they seek to complete their objectives; but the influence they have could reach even further.

“These guys, these kids, are going to have more influence on American policy than most diplomats do in Washington, D.C.,” Fallon said.

These culture classes are just the beginning of an integrated series of programs that is part of every Marine unit’s pre-deployment work-up: in coming weeks, selected Marines from 3/9 will attend the Survival Level Afghan language Classes, held at Coastal Carolina Community College, and from May 17-22, they will visit the Military Operations in Urban Terrain mock Afghan village aboard Lejeune to rehearse village patrols and other in-country interactions with professional Afghan roleplayers.

Fallon said the unit had just begun its pre-deployment workup, but when it will leave for Afghanistan is not yet clear.

Women’s memorial at Arlington struggling

By Kimberly Hefling - The Associated Press
Posted : Tuesday May 11, 2010 7:06:39 EDT

ARLINGTON, Va. — Garage sales and quilt raffles helped a determined group of female World War II veterans raise money to transform a rundown wall at Arlington National Cemetery into a grand stone memorial to women who served their country. But those women are dying off, even as the memorial runs short of funds.

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Marshall County Marine reserves deploying to Afghanistan

May 11, 2010 · More than 100 Marines and U.S. Navy Reservists based in Moundsville will soon head to Afghanistan. Family, friends and community members gathered at the Marine Forces Reserve for a special send-off.


By Keri Brown

Deployment ceremonies are an opportunity for family and friends to visit with their loved ones and for the troops to hear words of encouragement before their send-off, but Monday’s ceremony at the Marine Forces Reserve Center in Marshall County also included tight security. Visitors had to show an I.D. and were greeted by Marines carrying rifles at the front gate.

Major Alexander Snowden says the recent bomb scare in New York and heightened security alerts are forcing his unit to take extra precautions.

“We don’t want to be alarming to the family members but also let them know that these are important children going and doing great things and to let the family members know that we are trying to keep them safe as well,” said Snowden.

Security is also tight because Company K, 3rd battalion, 25th Marine Regiment is high profile. The battalion lost 48 Marines in 2005, including four from Company K during intense fighting in Iraq.

Corporal Clifford Ryan and Corporal Steve Bennett said they are relying on that experience to help guide them during their first deployment overseas.

“I’m a fire team leader in charge of a group of four Marines and we carry out orders to our squad leaders but I can tell you we have a great group of Marines and experienced leadership, so I’m very confident in going over there,” said Ryan.

“It’s a great benefit having senior leadership that has experience and can pass that knowledge on to us,” said Bennett.

Most of the members from the infantry company are from West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

The send-off celebration ended up outdoors because of overwhelming support from the community.

Company K is an infantry company, but Snowden said its primary job will be helping the Afghan people rebuild their communities.

“They will be performing non-kinetic operations, mostly non-violent to help communities establish confidence to locals so they can get on with there lives. The insurgency has placed fear in the local populous.”

The exact location for the battalion isn’t being released because of security reasons. The rise in violence in Afghanistan has family members like Andrew Love worried for his son’s safety. His son Andrew is continuing a long line of military tradition.

“I have three nephews deployed already and Andrew’s is culminating that. I’m extremely proud of them and all of them. To me, this is the best generation because they are volunteering knowing what they are getting in to so I have a lot of pride in my heart for all of these boys,” said Love.

Many families said technology today is making it easier to stay in touch with their loved ones, but military officials says Internet access will be limited in parts of Afghanistan.

Jennifer Parker said that won’t stop her from trying to contact her boyfriend.

“There is nothing like a written letter and I have bought special stationary and will be sending those and hopefully I will get some from him.”

The unit will head to California for training before heading to Afghanistan.

The tour is expected to last a year.

Combat Tested: UH-1Y Huey Proves Its Effectiveness

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan – Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, "Scarface," arrived in Afghanistan seven months ago with one of the Marine Corps' newest aviation platforms, the UH-1Y Huey.



3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs More Stories from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs RSS
Story by Cpl. Justis Beauregard
Date: 05.11.2010
Posted: 05.11.2010 06:22

Throughout the deployment, Scarface proved the worth of the new light attack helicopter and put its abilities to use, providing close air support for Marines on the ground.

The Huey has provided close air support for Marine Corps operations for more than 50 years. Now with four blades and more power, the Huey can fly further faster and stay in the air longer to provide support that can mean the difference between life and death for International Security Assistance Force members.

"The [UH-1Y] is more maneuverable than the [UH-1N], because of the four blades and the rotor head system that allows us to be more acrobatic than we were in the [UH-1N], which allows us to get out of certain situations if the threat so dictates," said Capt. Mark D. Mirra, the squadron's flight officer.

One of the most important improvements of the new Huey is the strength.

"The biggest difference between the [UH-1Y] and the [UH-1N] is the power margin," said Sgt. Zachary Lucas, a crew chief with Scarface. "It gives us the ability to carry ground guys with all their gear."

While the UH-1N provided the close air support demanded by the troops on the ground, it could not effectively carry troops, with full combat loads, at the same time.

"In the [UH-1N], to carry troops we would have to strip the helicopter down. Now with the [UH-1Y], we can load it up with ammo, fuel and throw people in there without a problem," said Staff Sgt. Jacob Murphy, a Scarface crew chief.

The Marines with Scarface evolved quickly to their new capabilities of the UH-1Y ultimately leading to better support the mission in Afghanistan throughout the helicopter's first combat deployment.

Capt. Bret W. Morriss, a pilot with Scarface, developed the aerial reaction force, which combines the new Huey's ability to effectively carry troops with the concept of the quick reaction force. A QRF is a rapid response force used commonly as a security force. As an ARF, the squadron can work in conjunction with a ground assault force to peruse and capture insurgents that try to run away by putting Marines on the ground and acting as their close air support.

The squadron has passed on lessons learned during its deployment, including the ARF concept, to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, the "Gunfighters."

As Scarface cased its colors and the Gunfighters took their place as 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward)'s light attack aviation unit. They will continue to use the lessons learned and provide aerial support for I Marine Expeditionary Force's ground combat operations.

VMA-231 Wraps Up Deployment, Prepares to Head Home

KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – Almost 200 warriors from Marine Attack Squadron 231 are packing up and preparing to head home after spending six months supporting daily operations despite rocket attacks, extreme temperatures and sand storms.



3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs More Stories from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs RSS
Story by Cpl. Ryan Rholes
Date: 05.11.2010
Posted: 05.11.2010 04:15

The squadron, known also as "The Ace of Spades," is transferring authority to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 later this month before flying back home to Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.

The VMA-231 Marines worked as a seamless team, logging more than 8,000 flight hours and expending large amounts of munitions. They worked in 12-hour shifts to keep as many of their ten AV-8B Harriers in the air as possible. The Marines had to put in ten maintenance hours for each hour of flight while also working around the clock changing flare pods, and loading and arming munitions.

"The Marines have overcome so many challenges out here I wouldn't even know where to begin – the maintenance man hours alone these guys have done is mind boggling," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeffrey Stapleton, the maintenance material control officer for VMA-231. "I can't say enough about the Marines out here. They have done a phenomenal job and it hasn't gone unnoticed."

Stapleton added that his Marines often operated from small forward operating bases, allowing Harriers to land closer to the front to reload and refuel, drastically shortening their turnaround time for getting back into the fight.

Although the Marines proved their and dedication to the combat mission are second to none, they also inherited a unique responsibility starting our fallen heroes on their journeys home. The squadron they replaced was responsible for organizing and performing repatriation ceremonies for fallen Marines and sailors. The Ace of Spades performed more than 27 ceremonies, saying goodbye to more than 40 Marines and one sailor.

"My Marines have done a phenomenal job performing these repatriation ceremonies," said Gunnery Sgt. Reco Crawford, the VMA-231 squadron gunnery sergeant. "What we do on a daily basis is fix and fly aircraft to provide air support for the Marines on the ground. But when we get the call that there is a fallen angel, operations stop and that Marine becomes our priority. No Marines is ever left behind and that is what I instill into my Marines when we do these ceremonies."

Sgt. Maj. Keith Smith, the squadron's sergeant major, gathered his Marines before they performed one of their last ceremonies to tell them he was proud of what they did for the squadron, but prouder still of the professionalism and dignity with which they conducted each ceremony. He equated what they did to the physical embodiment of the Marine Corps' mantra "no Marine left behind."

Pride is an integral part of what makes Marines who they are. These Marines can leave Afghanistan proudly, knowing they have extended The Ace of Spades' century-long trend of outstanding service.

HMLA-369 Assumes Responsibilities From HMLA-367

CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan — Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367, "Scarface," transferred responsibilities as 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward)'s light attack aviation unit to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369, the "Gunfighters," during a transfer of authority ceremony, May 10.



3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs More Stories from 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Fwd) Public Affairs RSS
Story by:
Sgt. Jeffrey Anderson
Cpl. Justis Beauregard
Date: 05.11.2010
Posted: 05.11.2010 12:49

Lt. Col. Michael A. Moore, the Gunfighter's commanding officer, assumed command from Lt. Col. Michael J. Borgschulte, Scarface's commanding officer.

"We conducted 40 strikes, most in close combat," said Borgschulte. "We dished out, 16 hellfire [missiles], 25,000 50-caliber [rounds], 48,000 20-millimeter [rounds], 120,000 7.62 [millimeter rounds] – those are some impressive statistics."

Scarface will now return home to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., after a year away from their families. As the Marines begin their trip home, the Gunfighters will continue support for I Marine Expeditionary Force's ground combat operations.

IJC Operational Update, May 11

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan and international patrols successfully conducted operations in southern and eastern Afghanistan during the past 24 hours that targeted improvised explosive device facilitators and weapons used to attack security forces.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.11.2010
Posted: 05.11.2010 04:16

A couple of insurgents were killed when they fired on an Afghan-international security force as it pursued a Taliban commander in the Ghazni province last night.

The combined force went to an open field southeast of Zarah Sharan, in the Qara Bagh district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. As the security force approached a small camp they were confronted by several armed insurgents. Two of the militants were killed in a firefight.

The search team interviewed one of the tent owners, who said the insurgents were outsiders and had forced their way into the camp. The combined force found rocket-propelled grenades, an automatic rifle and fragmentation grenades.

The targeted Taliban commander is involved in approving attacks against coalition forces and recruiting new militant fighters.

Two suspected insurgents were detained for further questioning.

In Helmand province last night, a joint force searched a compound west of Marjah, in the Nawa District, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. During the search the security force captured a Taliban IED expert and a few other militants.

The Taliban explosives facilitator operates an IED and mine production facility, supplying insurgent networks with IEDs. When confronted by the assault force he surrendered immediately and identified himself as the sought-after militant.

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

Also in Helmand last night, an Afghan-international security force detained almost a dozen suspected insurgents as it searched for a senior Taliban commander.

The combined force searched a series of compounds in a rural area of the Nawah-ye Barakzai District, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity, and detained the suspected militants for further questioning.

The targeted Taliban commander is a member of a commission directing IED attacks and ambushes against coalition forces.

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

In Kandahar last night, a joint security force found explosive components and captured a suspected militant as the patrol pursued a
Taliban commander.

The combined force went to a compound in the village of Maku, in the Zharay district, after intelligence information indicated insurgent activity. While searching the compound the assault force captured a suspected militant and detained him for further questioning.

The search team also uncovered multiple 155mm shells, ammonium nitrate and sulfur, all used to make explosives.

The targeted Taliban commander is involved in purchasing weapons and IEDs for attacks on coalition forces.

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

In Khost last night, several insurgents were killed and one was wounded by an Afghan-international security force searching for a Haqqani network facilitator.

Following a close air support mission, that killed some insurgents, a combined force went to a rural area in the Terezayi District. As the security force approached the area they were confronted by an armed individual. The security force attempted several times to get the insurgent to drop his weapon and comply with instructions. The militant refused, attempted to engage the assault force and was shot and killed.

The targeted Haqqani leader is responsible for facilitating and storing IED making materials, emplacing IEDs for attacks against coalition forces, and giving and receiving reports on coalition force movements.

An IED was found near one of the insurgents and, for safety reasons, was later detonated in place.

Oates: Anti-IED effort needs fewer restrictions

By Christopher P. Cavas - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday May 11, 2010 13:28:53 EDT

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Deployed commanders need greater flexibility and fewer restrictions in sharing tactical information about deadly enemy devices with allies, a key U.S. general said here Tuesday.

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May 10, 2010

Drill Is Life

As the bus pulls through the gates aboard Camp Foster, a faint sound of music plays over the speakers. Conversations echo throughout the bus as the Marines of the Silent Drill Platoon stand, swaying back and forth from the motion of the vehicle.


5/10/2010 By Cpl. Bobby J. Yarbrough , Marine Barracks 8th & I

In the front of the bus, Lance Cpl. Oscar Franquez stares out the window. The expression on his face reveals the amount of dedication and concentration that lies within him. Franquez is part of the inspection team, and although its hours until the performance, he is already visualizing the drill sequence in his head.

He knows the routine must be flawless. The platoon is constantly in the spotlight, being praised and critiqued by everyone they encounter. For this reason, the Marines are meticulous when it comes to, well, being perfect. To them, they represent every Marine in the Corps, so perfection isn’t something to attempt, it’s expected.


For the Marines, travel is day after day. In just one week the Marines have already traveled 7,000 miles and stopped at multiple destinations, including the Marshall Islands, Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

Although they have traveled far, it’s just the beginning. The Marines will travel another 8,000 miles over the next two weeks, making stops in Guam, Hawaii and California. Though the schedule is rigorous, the Marines understand the importance of it.

While on the road, Marines are always armed with the essentials: a BlackBerry, an IPod, a camera, headphones, and a good book. For them, these simple comforts keep them connected to their friends and families while on the road.

The platoon is a brotherhood. Each day they spend almost 12 hours a day together. Even the Marines who are married sometimes find themselves spending more time with the platoon then with their families.

Lance Cpl. Joshua Burke, the rifle inspector, is one of the few Marines in the platoon who is married. Before leaving for the West Coast tour, Burke and his wife had their first child, a baby girl. Being away from his family is tough, but his wife’s constant support allows him to focus on his mission.

"My wife is very supportive of my career," Burke said. "Sometimes traveling is tough; however, we just deal with it. We both understand the bigger picture of what I represent."


The SDP is the hallmark of the Corps. These Marines are depicted in commercials, posters, movies and magazines. They travel year round, spending most of the year touring the nation and abroad, demonstrating the discipline of the Marine Corps to both service members and civilians alike.

Although many people throughout the world have seen them perform, few people actual know how these Marines are selected to be part of the platoon.

Members of the SDP are hand selected from the School of Infantry by senior leadership from Marine Barracks Washington. For a Marine to be eligible to be part of the platoon, he must first and foremost be an infantryman. A Marine must also be between 6’0’-6’3" and meet other general requirements.

After Marines are selected and report to MBW, they will then be enrolled in Ceremonial Drill School (CDS), to learn the basics of ceremonial drill. Following CDS, and before becoming a member of the Silent Drill Platoon, the Marines must complete Silent Drill School, which is a painstaking four months of training.

According to the instructors, the school has one of the highest attrition rates in the Marine Corps. While in school, the Marines practice their precision drill routine, spending up to twelve hours daily perfecting each movement.

"Marines who become members of the Silent Drill Platoon are Marines who have earned it," said Cpl. Robert Dominguez, the drill master for SDP. "These Marines have endured the rigorous schooling and have proved they are capable of performing to the caliber that is expected from us."


The Silent Drill Platoon has become synonymous with the word Marine. The platoon understands that everyone who watches their performance will judge the Marine Corps by what they see. They take pride in this fact, knowing they remain committed to demonstrating the professionalism of our Corps.

"We get to carry on a tradition that was passed on to us," Franquez said. "We put our blood, sweat and tears into this because the Marines before us started a legacy of drill. It is our honor as members of the platoon to get to carry that legacy forward."

U.S. Marines, Sailors arrive in Romania

Black Sea Rotational Force marks first of its kind deployment in region


5/10/2010 By Staff Sgt. Christopher Flurry , Marine Forces Europe

Marines and Sailors put boots on the ground in Romania, May 8, and stepped into history as the first Security Cooperation Marine Air Ground Task Force in the Black Sea region.

The main body of troops forming Black Sea Rotational Force 2010 arrived to Romania’s Mihail Kogalniceanu Airfield; a move Marine officials said will foster an increased friendship between U.S. and partner nations.

U.S. troops are deployed here to participate in cooperative activities with partner nations in the Caucus, Balkan and Black Sea regions. The primary goals of the U.S. rotational force are to promote regional stability, build enduring partnerships with nations in the region, and help those nations build their military capabilities.

Black Sea Rotational Force is scheduled to officially begin May 17, and end in late July. During the rotation, U.S. troops will train with partner nations in peacekeeping operations at training facilities in Babadag, Romania and Novo Selo, Bulgaria, as well as conduct military-to-military familiarization events in nations throughout the region in specialties including nonlethal weapon use, military intelligence and noncommissioned officer development. Additionally, there are scheduled symposiums on subjects including civil affairs, logistics and amphibious operations.

More than 100 Marines and Sailors from across the United States and Marine Corps Forces Europe are formed in the Security Cooperation MAGTF while in the region. In a Marine Air Ground Task Force, command, logistics combat, air combat and ground combat elements are organized under a single commander for a specific purpose.

­The Black Sea Rotational Force MAGTF as described by Marine Forces Europe is a tailorable and scalable force. The MAGTF will be focused on the performance of security cooperation and civil-military operations throughout the deployment.

“What we’re accomplishing here is 40 percent of Marine Forces Europe’s theater security cooperation requirements in a 3-month period,” said Lt. Col. Tom Gordon, battalion commander for 1st Tank Battalion and commander of the Black Sea Rotational Force Security Cooperation MAGTF.

The core of the rotational force comes from 1st Tank Bn., based out of Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif. 1st Tanks Marines and Sailors form the command and logistics combat elements of the Security Cooperation MAGTF, and provide a scout platoon as the ground combat element for training with partner nations. 1st Tank Bn. is slated to remain in the Black Sea region throughout the rotation.

The air combat element of the MAGTF will come from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452, a Marine reserve squadron stationed at Newburgh, N.Y. VMGR-452 and its compliment of two KC-130 aircraft are scheduled to arrive to the region in late May. The detachment will support the Black Sea training by transporting U.S. and partner-nation forces, and participating in bilateral training with Romanian special forces.

Additional support for the Security Cooperation MAGTF comes from Marine Corps Forces Reserve’s 4th Civil Affairs Group. Civil affairs Marines will work with partner-nation forces to conduct community improvement projects and training in the region.

“The people of Romania have been very excited our arrival,” said Staff Sgt. Aaron Weiss, the operations chief for the civil affairs Marines, and a native of Marietta, Ga. “We’re looking at having Marines from around the entire unit going out and interacting with the community.”

For the deployed Marines, learning about Romania’s unique culture and language are on the agenda.

“Everything is just a little different,” said Cpl. Devin Bullard, a tube-launched, optically-tracked, wirelessly guided missile, or TOW, gunner with 1st Tank Bn.’s scout platoon. “The cars, the road signs and the architecture – it’s all really interesting.”

But regardless of the language or location, the Marines said they are ready to do what they came here for, train in tandem with partner-nation forces.

“I’m looking forward to see what we have to offer each other and learning together,” added Bullard.

Gordon said Black Sea Rotational Force is crucial to maintaining valuable relationships between the U.S. and partner nations in the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions.

“We’re engaging with 13 nations, of which 12 have fought by our side, contributing to Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom,” said Gordon, a native of Boston. “Romania is fighting in Afghanistan now, shoring up our flank in Zabul province.”

Gordon explained the partnership between the U.S., Romania and other nations in the region will help ensure success of the Black Sea Rotational Force.

“It’s an engagement, that’s grown into a partnership, that we want to develop into a friendship,” said Gordon. “MARFOREUR hopes to build upon our success for the future.”

1st Tank Bn. deploys to Black Sea region

“Everyone knows our motto, ‘No better friend, no worst enemy,’” said Cpl. Tim Miller, an administrative assistant with Headquarters and Service Company, 1st Tank Battalion. “But Marines aren’t just on the front lines in Afghanistan; we’re all over the world, strengthening partnerships with the nations that support us there.”


5/10/2010 By Cpl. R. Logan Kyle , Marine Forces Europe

Miller and his fellow 1st Tank Bn. Marines and Sailors deployed from Twentynine Palms, Calif., throughout the first week of May, traveling to Romania to begin a 3-month commitment as the core of the first Security Cooperation Marine Air-Ground Task Force in the Black Sea region.

The Marines will work in the Black Sea, Balkan and Caucasus regions to promote regional stability, build enduring partnerships and build the capacity of partner nation’s military forces. The Security Cooperation MAGTF, named the Black Sea Rotational Force, is Marine Corps Force’s Europe commitment to a rotating presence of Marines in Eastern Europe to meet the U.S. European Command’s theater security objectives.

By task-organizing as a Security Cooperation MAGTF, Marines from 1st Tank Bn., II Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Forces Reserve will work together to meet 40 percent of Marine Forces Europe’s theater security cooperation requirements in a 3-month deployment.

I think it’s really neat to do things with these countries which will strengthen our relationships with them,” said Miller, a native of Levelland, Texas. “This is my first time out of the country, and I’m really excited to go see different parts of the world.”

During the deployment, the battalion will train with other military forces, provide humanitarian support, promote stability in the region and carry out other theater security cooperation activities. The battalion’s scout platoon is slated to conduct peacekeeping operations training with forces from multiple nations at training grounds in Babadag, Romania, and Novo Selo, Bulgaria.

“I’m looking forward to working with the Romanians and other militaries,” said Lance Cpl. Joel Hindman, an assaultman with scout platoon, 1st Tank Bn., and an Omaha, Neb., native. “The people we’ve met so far have been really friendly in teaching us their language and culture, and I’m excited to get to know them better.”

The battalion’s commander, Lt. Col. Tom Gordon, said the work of his Marines over the coming months is designed to yield a better relationship with the partner nations.

“It’s an engagement, that’s grown into a partnership, that we want to develop into a friendship,” he said.

Officials Warn of 'Phishing' Scams Targeting Troops

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Strategic Command officials are urging renewed vigilance against Internet-based identity theft after detecting a widespread "phishing" expedition against service members.


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: 05.10.2010
Posted: 05.10.2010 06:18

Phishing is a term used to describe deceiving people into divulging personal information such as passwords or account numbers over the Internet.

Beginning as early as May 2009 and lasting as late as March 2010, numerous fraudulent e-mails were sent to financial customers of USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union, Stratcom officials said in a recent news release.

The e-mails, which appear to originate from USAA and the credit union, ask the recipient to provide or verify personal information such as name and rank, account numbers, date of birth, mother's maiden name, address and phone numbers, online account user name and password, credit card numbers, personal identification numbers for automated tellers, and Social Security numbers.

"While these e-mails may appear to be legitimate, it's important to remember USAA and Navy Federal Credit Union will never ask for [personal identification] or to verify financial institution data via e-mail," the Stratcom release says.

Although the e-mails have official-looking logos, headers and signature blocks, "these are all common cyber espionage 'spear-phishing' tactics used to trick recipients," it says.

USAA posted a notice on its Web site May 4 warning of the phishing attempt.

Phishing scams can reach service members not only through personal e-mail accounts, but also through their official e-mail. Air Force Gen. Kevin P. Chilton, Stratcom commander, told the House Armed Services Committee in March that every commander needs to focus on keeping networks secure.

"It should be the focus of every commander in the field, the health and status of their networks, just as they're focused on the health and status of their people, their tanks, their airplanes, their ships, because the networks are so critical," he said. "So, changing their conduct, training them and then holding people accountable for their behavior on the network is important."

The Defense Department is home to some 7 million computers and more than 15,000 local and regional area networks, Stratcom officials said. The networks are scanned millions of times per day and probed thousands of times per day, with a frequency and sophistication that is increasing exponentially, they said.

The intrusions come from a variety of sources with different intentions, from individual hackers intent on theft and vandalism, to espionage by foreign governments and adversaries, they said.

"This is, indeed, our big challenge in U.S. Strategic Command as we think about how we're going to defend and secure the networks," they said.

Stratcom officials offered these suggestions to keep your personal information safe:

-- Always protect your personal identification and be cautious whom you provide it to, especially by phone or Internet;

-- Be suspicious of any unsolicited e-mail, pop-up, website or phone call in which you are asked to provide personal information;

-- Cross-reference information with the official sites, looking for the "https" secure connection.

-- Do not click on any link provided in a suspicious e-mail, and take caution in opening e-mail attachments or downloading files, regardless of who sends them;

-- Keep your personal computer's anti-virus, anti-spyware, firewall and other security software running and up to date;

-- Regularly review your bank statements for suspicious activity.

Coalition Helicopter Downed in Helmand, Crew Safe

KABUL, Afghanistan - An MH-60 helicopter made a controlled landing after being hit by enemy fire in Helmand province this afternoon. All crewmembers have been safely returned to base.


ISAF Joint Command More Stories from ISAF Joint Command RSS
Courtesy Story
Date: 05.10.2010
Posted: 05.10.2010 03:22

The helicopter was supporting a combined Afghan-international assault force on a targeted compound near Nangazi, in the Sangin District, and had just begun its return flight when it was hit by enemy fire and forced to make a controlled landing.

After landing, the helicopter crew was immediately picked up by additional aircraft. The helicopter could not be recovered and was destroyed in place with close air support. Multiple enemy fighters were engaged by the combined force and several suspected militants were captured at the targeted compound.

The assault force and remaining crew have safely returned to base.

Avon: Father finishes journey for Marine Reservist son

AVON -- A proud father of a recently-deployed Marine Reservist will stand in for his son in a unique way -- graduating from law school.


Eric Mansfield Updated: 5/10/2010 2:57:53 PM Posted: 5/10/2010 2:29:35 PM

LCpl Tom Fisher, 27, deployed Sunday with 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, bound for California and, eventually, Afghanistan.

His deployment came just one week before Fisher was to have received his law degree from Cleveland State University's Marshall College of Law.

In his absence, Fisher's father, also named Tom, will receive the law degree and walk across the stage.

"I certainly think he would liked to have been there," said the elder Tom Fisher. "It'll be very exciting and we're very proud of him."

Anchor Eric Mansfield will have more on a father finishing his son's journey on Channel 3 News at 6.

MAG-26 FRO receives Military Motherhood Award

Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point — Marine Aircraft Group 26’s family readiness officer has been awarded the Military Motherhood Award.


5/10/2010 By Lance Cpl. Cory D. Polom , Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point

Robin L. Schoolfield was given the accolade and presented with a letter of congratulations and a military coin presented by the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing commanding general, Maj. Gen. James F. Flock, at the 2nd MAW headquarters building, April 28.

This nationwide contest started with about 600 mothers and was cut down to a final five before announcing the winner.

“There were 20 of us in the semifinals,” said Schoolfield. “It was humbling to be in the presence of these other women. All their stories were amazing and inspiring.”

The 20 semifinalist all voted for which story was the most touching, and the top five were sent to the finals.

“After reading all these stories, I didn’t want to submit mine for the other 19 women to vote for because I though that I couldn’t win,” said Schoolfield.

Schoolfield’s story was submitted initially by her father.

“My father was a retired Army officer, so I moved around a lot before being married,” said Schoolfield. “I have been through five deployments and nine permanent change of station moves with my husband, and two of those moves were done at eight months pregnant.”

Schoolfield has done many things for her community while balancing her family requirements.

Not only does Schoolfield work as a FRO and help Marines and families of MAG-26, but she also has four kids, one of which was adopted from Russia, and two who are autistic.

“When I found out that I had made the cut for the semifinals, I laughed,” said Schoolfield. “They called me at work, and I sat there and giggled. I am honored to represent all military moms and to receive this award.”

Marines Navigate Poppy Fields and the People in Afghanistan

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 Paul Worley is a tall, deep-voiced Marine from tobacco-farming country in North Carolina.


May 10, 2010 4:05 PM
Posted by Terry McCarthy

When he led a foot patrol out of Forward Operating Base Karma this morning, we didn't come across any tobacco - but there were fields and fields of opium poppies, which have